Thursday, December 31, 2009

There Will Be Lists

Lisa Schwarzbaum has picked her 10 Best Movies of the Decade:

1. There Will Be Blood (2007)
2. Sideways (2004)
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
4. Yi Yi (2000)
5. The New World (2005)

6. Zodiac (2007)
7. The Dark Knight (2008)
8. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)
9. Moolaade (2005)
10. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Owen Gleiberman has listed his 10 Best Movies of the Decade:

1. Far from Heaven (2002)
2. Sideways (2004)
3. The Century of the Self (2004)
4. Gladiator (2000)
5. Chuck & Buck (2000)

6. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
7. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
8. Munich (2005)
9. Lilya 4-Ever (2003)
10. Casino Royale (2006)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Report

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune has selected his 10 favorite movies of the decade:

1. There Will Be Blood
2. Ratatouille
3. Climates
4. Once
5. Y Tu Mama Tambien

6. Zodiac
7. United 93
8. Mulholland Drive
9. Gosford Park
10. Minority Report

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mad Men in a Modern Family

The nominees for the 16th annual Screen Actors Guild awards have been announced.

The nominees for film are:

best cast-
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire

best lead actor-

Jeff Bridges in
Crazy Heart
George Clooney in
Up in the Air
Colin Firth in
A Single Man
Morgan Freeman in
Jeremy Renner in
The Hurt Locker

best lead actress-
Sandra Bullock in
The Blind Side
Helen Mirren in
The Last Station
Carey Mulligan in
An Education
Gabourey Sidibe in
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire
Meryl Streep in
Julie & Julia

best supporting actor-
Matt Damon in
Woody Harrelson in
The Messenger
Christopher Plummer in
The Last Station
Stanley Tucci in
The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz in
Inglourious Basterds

best supporting actress-
Penelope Cruz in
Vera Farmiga in
Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick in
Up in the Air
Diane Kruger in
Inglourious Basterds
Mo'Nique in
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire

best stunt ensemble-
Public Enemies
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The nominees for television are:

best drama series cast-
The Closer
The Good Wife
Mad Men
True Blood

best comedy series cast-
30 Rock
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Modern Family
The Office

best actor in a drama series-
Simon Baker in
The Mentalist
Bryan Cranston in
Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall in
Jon Hamm in
Mad Men
Hugh Laurie in

best actress in a drama series-
Patricia Arquette in
Glenn Close in
Mariska Hargitay in
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Holly Hunter in
Saving Grace
Julianna Margulies in
The Good Wife
Kyra Sedgwick in
The Closer

A tie yielded six nominees in this category.

best actor in a comedy series-
Alec Baldwin in
30 Rock
Steve Carell in
The Office
Larry David in
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Tony Shalhoub in
Charlie Sheen in
Two and a Half Men

best actress in a comedy series-
Christina Applegate in
Samantha Who?
Toni Collette in
United States of Tara
Edie Falco in
Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey in
30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in
The New Adventures of Old Christine

best actor in a movie or miniseries-
Kevin Bacon in
Taking Chance
Cuba Gooding Jr. in
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
Jeremy Irons in
George O'Keefe
Kevin Kline in
Great Performances: Cyrano de Bergerac
Tom Wilkinson in

best actress in a movie or miniseries-
Joan Allen in
Georgia O'Keefe
Drew Barrymore in
Grey Gardens
Ruby Dee in
Jessica Lange in
Grey Gardens
Sigourney Weaver in
Prayers for Bobby

Stunt ensemble-
The Closer
The Unit

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Big, Mad, True Love

The nominees for the Golden Globe Awards for television are:

best drama series-

"Big Love" (HBO)
"Dexter" (Showtime)

"House" (Fox)
"Mad Men" (AMC)
"True Blood" (HBO)

best musical or comedy series-
"30 Rock" (NBC)
"Entourage" (HBO)
"Glee" (Fox)
"Modern Family" (ABC)
"The Office" (NBC)

best actor (drama)-
Simon Baker in "The Mentalist"
Michael C. Hall in "Dexter"
Jon Hamm in "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie in "House"
Bill Paxton in "Big Love"

best actress (drama)-
Glenn Close in "Damages"
January Jones in "Mad Men"
Julianna Margulies in "The Good Wife"
Anna Paquin in "True Blood"
Kyra Sedgwick in "The Closer"

best actor (musical or comedy)-
Alec Baldwin in "30 Rock"
Steve Carell in "The Office"
David Duchovny in "Californication"
Thomas Jane in "Hung"
Matthew Morrison in "Glee"

best actress (musical or comedy)-
Toni Collette in "United States of Tara"
Courteney Cox in "Cougar Town"
Edie Falco in "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey in "30 Rock"
Lea Michele in "Glee"

best miniseries or movie-
"Georgia O'Keeffe" (Lifetime Television)
"Grey Gardens" (HBO)
"Into the Storm" (HBO)
"Little Dorrit" (PBS)
"Taking Chance" (HBO)

best actor (miniseries or movie)-
Kevin Bacon in "Taking Chance"
Kenneth Branagh in "Wallander: One Step Behind"
Chiwetel Ejiofor in "Endgame"
Brendan Gleeson in "Into the Storm"
Jeremy Irons in "Georgia O'Keeffe"

best actress (miniseries or movie)-
Joan Allen in "Georgia O'Keeffe"
Drew Barrymore in "Grey Gardens"
Jessica Lange in "Grey Gardens"
Anna Paquin in "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler"
Sigourney Weaver in "Prayers for Bobby"

best supporting actor (series, miniseries or movie)-
Michael Emerson in "Lost"
Neil Patrick Harris in "How I Met Your Mother"
William Hurt in "Damages"
John Lithgow in "Dexter"
Jeremy Piven in "Entourage"

best supporting actress (series, miniseries or movie)-
Jane Adams in "Hung"
Rose Byrne in "Damages"
Jane Lynch in "Glee"
Janet McTeer in "Into the Storm"
Chloe Sevigny in "Big Love"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Glorious and the Precious

Nominees for the Golden Globe Awards were announced yesterday by John Krasinski, Diane Kruger, and Justin Timberlake. "Up in the Air" has a leading six nominations, followed by "Nine" with five nods. Each movie has three acting nominations.

The finalists for film are:

best picture (drama)-

Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, Up in the Air

In general, "Up in the Air" is thought of as a comedy, so its inclusion in the drama category is surprising. This may help its Oscar chances since comedies do not fare as well as dramas with the Academy. "Up in the Air" was reportedly submitted by its distributor Paramount to the Globes in the musical or comedy category.

best picture (musical or comedy)-
500 Days of Summer, The Hangover, It's Complicated, Julie & Julia, Nine

best director:

Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker"
James Cameron for "Avatar"
Clint Eastwood for "Invictus"
Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air"
Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds"

Cameron is in the running against his ex-wife Bigelow.

best actor (drama)-

Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart"
George Cloone
y in "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth in "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman in "Invictus"
Tobey Maguire in "Brothers"

The biggest surprise in this year's announcements may have been the inclusion of Maguire in this category.

Fox Searchlight submitted Crazy Heart as a musical, but Bridges nabbed a nod for best actor in a drama.

best actress (drama)-

Emily Blunt in "The Young Victoria"
Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren in "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan in "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

best actor (musical or comedy)-

Matt Damon in "The Informant!"
Daniel Day-Lewis in "Nine"
Robert Downey Jr. in "Sherlock Holmes"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "(500) Days of Summer"
Michael Stuhlbarg in "A Serious Man"

best actress (musical or comedy)-

Sandra Bullock in "The Proposal"
Marion Cotillard in "Nine"
Julia Roberts in "Duplicity"
Meryl Streep in "It's Complicated"
Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia"

Streep, Bullock, and Damon are double nominees. Streep is nominated twice in the same category, and so are both of her movies.

best supporting actor-
Matt Damon in "Invictus"
Harrelson in "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci in "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds"

War movies did well, with nominations going to Brothers, The Messenger, and The Hurt Locker.

best supporting actress-
Penelope Cruz in "Nine"
Vera Farmig
a in "Up in the Air"
Anna Kendrick in "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Julianne Moore in "A Single Man"

best foreign-language film-

Baaria, Broken Embraces, The Maid (La Nana), A Prophet, The White Ribbon

best animated film-

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, Up

best screenplay-

Neill Blomkamp for "District 9"
Mark Boal for "The Hurt Locker"
Nancy Meyers for "It's Complicated"
Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air"
Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds"

Inglourious Basterds's four nods seem like a surprise.

best original score:

Michael Giacchino for "Up"
Marvin Hamlisch for "The Informant!"
James Horner for "Avatar"
Abel Korzeniowski for "A Single Man"
Karen O, Carter Burwell for "Where the Wild Things Are"

best original song:

"Cinema Italiano" (written by Maury Yeston) for "Nine"

"I Want to Come Home" (written by Paul McCartney) for "Everybody's Fine"

"I Will See You" (written by James Horner, Simon Franglen, Kuk Harrell) for "Avatar"

"The Weary Kind (Theme from 'Crazy Heart')" (written by Ryan Bingham, T Bone Burnett) for "Crazy Heart"

"Winter" (written by U2) for "Brothers"

The Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Martin Scorsese.

The awards are to be presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is comprised of about 85 critics and reporters for overseas publications and other media.

The Globes will be presented on January 17, six days before the Oscar deadline for voting on nominations. Therefore, the awards may help in landing an Oscar nod.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Fierce, The Fearless, and the Heartless

Beyonce led nominations for the 52nd Grammy Awards announced Thursday with 10 nods.

Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" is nominated for Song of the Year, but was not submi
tted for Record of the Year. She is represented in this category, however, by "Halo." This is her fourth nod for Record of the Year, having been nominated before for "Say My Name" (when she was still with Destiny's Child), "Crazy in Love" (with Jay-Z), and "Irreplaceable."

She is nominated for Album of the Year for the first time with "I Am... Sasha Fierce," her third solo album.

Beyonce and Taylor Swift are competing for the top three categories, along with Lady Gaga. Madonna did n
ot get bids in the top three in the same year until "Ray of Light" (1999).

Swift is second with eight nominations. She is the first female country solo artist to be tapped for the top three since Shania Twain in 1999 (for the album "Come on Over" and the song "You're Still the One). She is also the youngest solo artist ever to be a finalist for Album of the Year (for "Fearless," the best-selling album of the year). She will be 20 years and one month old on Grammy night. The record was previously held by Janet Jackson, who was 20 years and n
ine months old in 1987 when she was in the running for "Control."

The nominees for Album of the Year are:

I Am...Sasha Fierce (Beyonce)
The E.N.D. (Black Eyed Peas)

The Fame (Lady Gaga)
Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King (Dave Matthews Band)

Fearless (Taylor Swift)

This is the first time that the Black Eyed Peas have been nominated for Album of the Year. Dave Matthews Band has been one of the best-selling artists in the last 15 years, but this is their first Album of the Year nomination. Kings of Leon could have been nominated for Album of the Year, but "Only by the Night" was released before the eligibility period (October 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009).

The nominees for Record of the Year are:

Halo (Beyonce)
I Gotta Feeling (Black Eyed Peas)
Use Somebody (Kings of Leon)
Poker Face (Lady Gaga)
You Belong With Me (Taylor Swift)

This is the third nomination for Black Eyed Peas in this category, having been previously nominated for "Where is the Love?" (with Justin Timberlake in 2004) and "Let's Get It Started" (in 2005).

The nominees for Song of the Year are:

Poker Face (Lady Gaga and RedOne)
Pretty Wings (Maxwell Musze and Hod David)
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) [Beyonce Knowles, Thaddis Harrell, Terius Nash and Christopher Stewart]
Use Somebody (Kings Of Leon)
You Belong With Me (Taylor Swift and Liz Rose)

Lady Gaga could have been nominated for best new artist, but was ineligible because she had been nominated for best dance recording last year for "Just Dance," when her album was not yet eligible.

The nominees for Best New Artist are:

Zac Brown Band, Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups, The Ting Tings

David Cook, the latest American Idol, did not get nominated for best new artist. Carrie Underwood won the category in 2006, the only one to be nominated from among eight American Idols. Also not making the cut are Owl City, who had a number one single recently with "Fireflies," and the Lonely Island, the comedy troupe of Adam Samberg (he of Sat
urday Night Live).

Black Eyed Peas, Maxwell, and Kanye West each received six nods. Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and DJ David Guetta each have five.

Surprisingly- perhaps not- Kanye West was shut out of the top three. Surprising because his first three albums all won best rap album and were nominated for Album of the Year. "808s and Heartbreak" is not even a finalist for best pop vocal album. The year saw his hit "Heartless" covered by The Fray and Kris Allen, yet it was snubbed for Record of the Year. However, it may not be much of a surprise if his poor showing is read as a backlash from the MTV Vid
eo Music Awards fiasco.

Others passed over were Bruce Springsteen for best rock album ("Working on a Dream"), Diana Krall for best jazz vocal album ("Quiet Nights"), and Whitney Houston for best R&B album ("I Look to You").

The Grammy Awards will be held January 31.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti won the top Golden Horse Award in Taiwan yesterday. It won best picture, best director for Leon Dai, and best original screenplay in the 46th edition of the awards.

Presenters of the best director statue were Hou Hsiao-hsien, Stanley Kwan, Ang Lee and Johnnie To.

The best actor award went to Nick Cheung (Hong Kong, for "The Beast Stalker") and Huang Bo (China, for "Cow")- the first tie in Golden Horse Awards history. Cheung also received the best actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards earlier this year.

Best actress is Li Bingbing (China) for The Message, winning over co-star Zhou Xun.

The award for best supporting actor went to Wang Xueqi (China) for Forever Enthralled. Best supporting actress is Wai Ying-hung for At the End of Daybreak.

The documentary KJ: Music and Life surprisingly won three awards: best editing, best sound effects, and best documentary.

Jurors and entries come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

The lifetime achievement award was given to Ming Ji, the retired general manager of Central Motion Pictures. A special contribution award was given to George Wang, 92, who has had a career of 55 years.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Something to Give Thanks For?

The Swedish director Lukas Moodysson has a new movie. Reminiscent of Babel, the film Mammoth stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams as a New York couple who leave their eight-year old under the care of a Filipino nanny. She is played by Marife Necesito.

It remains to be seen how Filipinos will be depicted in this movie, and the reception it will get around here and over there.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dreaming of a Golden Horse

Finalists in Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards have been announced.

The nominees for best
feature film are:
No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti, Cow, Crazy Racer, Face, Like a Dream

The nominees for best director are: Clara Law for "Like a Dream;" Leon Dai for "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Guan Hu for "Cow;"
Tsai Ming-liang for "Face"

"Like a Dream" has nine nods; No "Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti" has eight; and "Cow" has seven.

The nominees for best actor are:
Daniel Wu in "Like a Dream;" Chen Wen-pin in "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Huang Bo in "Cow;" Nick Cheung in "The Beast Stalker"

For best actress: Sandrine Pinna in "Yang Yang;" Yolanda Yuan in "Like a Dream;" Zhou Xun in "The Message;" Li Bingbing in "The Message"

for best supporting actor: Cai Zhennan in "Ending Cut;" Huang Chien-wei in "Yang Yang;" Zhang Hanyu in "The Equation of
Love and Death;" Wang Xueqi in "Forever Enthralled"

for best supporting actress: Liou Yiin Shang in "Sleeping with Her;" Lu Yi-ching in "A Place of One's Own;" Wai Ying-hung in "At the End of Daybreak;"
Zhang Ziyi in "Forever Enthralled"

for best original screenplay: Leon Dai, Chen Wen-pin for "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Cui Siwei, Xing Aina, Wang Hongwei, Wang Yao, Zhou Zhiyong, Yue Xiaojun,
Zhang Cheng for "Crazy Racer;" Cheng Wen-tang, Cheng Jin-fen, Chang I-Feng for "Tears;" Eddie Fong, Clara Law for "Like a Dream"

for best cinematography
: Song Xiaofei for "Cow;" Sion Michel for "Like a Dream;" Zhao Xiaoshi for "Wheat;" Cao Yu for "City of Life and Death"

for best editing: Cheung King-wai for "KJ: Music and Life;" Leon Dai for "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Kong Jinlei for "Cow;" Zhang Yifan, Du Yuan, Tang Hua for "Crazy Racer"

Blockbusters such as Ip Man, Red Cliff II, and Shinjuku Incident were passed over. Chen Kaige's "Mei Lanfang" was also snubbed.

Winners will be announced on Saturday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Battlefield Coals

The subtitle of the book "In the Can" (Emmis Books, 2005) announces what it is about: "The greatest career missteps, sophomore slumps, what-were-they-thinking decisions, and fire-your-agent moves in the history of the movies." Whew! what a subtitle!

The authors Lou Harry and Eric Furman choose the biggest critical and commercial duds for many of contemporary Hollywood stars. There are box-office champions (Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson) and master thespians (De Niro, Streep, Hoffman, Lange); there are old favorites (Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand) and there are new players (Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore).

In their introduction, Harry and Furman first note that James Dean and John Cazale (above) are the only actors to have a perfect record in the movies. Consider:

James Dean-
Rebel Without a Cause; East of Eden; Giant

John Cazale-
The Godfather Parts I and II; The Conversation; Dog Day Afternoon; The Deer Hunter

Not a clunker for each of them. May I add that Cazale's filmography consists of three best picture Oscar winners, and the other two were nominated in the category (
The Conversation and Dog Day Afternoon).

Harry and Furman clarify that they are not out to make a list of the worst films of all time, but one that declares the worst movie for each actor. For example, there is
Town & Country for Warren Beatty; Beyond Borders for Angelina Jolie; The Adventures of Pluto Nash for Eddie Murphy; and Waking Up in Reno for Charlize Theron.

Of course, there are the usual suspects: Kevin Costner in
The Postman; Jennifer Lopez in Gigli; Demi Moore in The Scarlet Letter; Adam Sandler in Little Nicky; and, naturally, Madonna in Swept Away.

Some of their select entries:

On Michael Keaton in Jack Frost- "Actors: Don't take a role that has you die in the early stages of a film and then brought back as something that doesn't look at all like you. Rarely- and, by rarely, we mean occasional parts of
Robocop- will the results be anything but embarrassing."

On Keanu Reeves- "Here's a strategy: If you have a reputation as one of the stiffest actors in movies, perhaps appearing in a movie with even worse actors might help. Problem with that strategy: It doesn't work. Case in point:
Johnny Mnemonic...."

On Vin Diesel in
The Chronicles of Riddick: "In the case of most actors in this book, there's an expectation of quality- otherwise, how could one be disappointed? Vin Diesel is a different matter."

On the one hand, you might be disappointed that some stars are not included when many A-listers are. Like, where's Leonardo DiCaprio or Susan Sarandon? On the other hand, it is comforting that they do not make this particular list.

"In the Can" also deflates the notion that Brad Pitt and Drew Barrymore have been some of the biggest movie stars in the last two, three decades. On Pitt: "It's hard to give him credit for bringing viewers in to
Interview with a Vampire or Seven. Other factors (Tom Cruise; graphic, gimmicky serial killing) held more sway. And when he was paired with other big, big stars [The Mexican, The Devil's Own, Twelve Monkeys, Sleepers], the films actually underperformed." And, of Barrymore: "(She) was more of a cultural icon than an actress for most of her first 20 years."

If you cannot take their word for it, they turn to reviews by critics like John Simon, J. Hoberman, Manohla Dargis, and Kenneth Turan. For example, in their entry for Kevin Spacey, they quote John Anderson from Newsday: "The real problem seems to be that Spacey has caught might be called Kevin Costner-itis - a sense that he thinks he's doing the audience a favor every time he appears on screen. He isn't doing anyone a favor with
Beyond the Sea and that, sadly, includes Bobby Darin."

For a book that thrives on actors doing bad movies, it is somewhat surprising that some are mentioned only in passing. No main entries for Dan Aykroyd, Garry Shandling, or Michael Caine, for instance. The book throws in some praise, though, for such players as David Paymer.

Harry and Furman also take note of some guiding principles that Hollywood- and you- should already know about. In the entry for Gwyneth Paltrow, they write of Huey Lewis: "Watching
Duets, you start to get an idea as to why smart directors, like Moulin Rouge's Baz Luhrman (sic), use real actors who can kind of sing (e.g., Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor), as opposed to real singers who can kind of act (Neil Young, Tom Petty and Ric Ocasek in Made in Heaven anybody?....)

"In the Can" also notes that TV stars probably ought to stay TV stars, that actors who make bombs will most likely bounce back, and that even the best directors like Martin Scorsese and Billy Wilder can stumble. As for Robert Altman, it is possible to make a flop out of a John Grisham (
The Gingerbread Man).

The book, though, could have used some more proofreading. The factual errors are most noticeable, as in spelling (Jon Voigt?) and history (Bruce Davison did not get an Oscar for
Longtime Companion- or any other movie).

Harry and Furman claim to have learned a few lessons while doing the book, the biggest one being, "...we can't help but appreciate how hard it must be to make a decent film. Hell, look at all the terrific actors and directors involved in these turkeys. If they can't figure out a formula that always works, then who could?" But when they spend the next 158 pages taking glee at these failures, it is hard to take their word on that one.

Other than that, this is an enjoyable collection of reviews of bad movies, even when you can't agree with a few of the choices.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ang Demonyang Fashionista

It is regrettable that Hollywood got to make The Devil Wears Prada first.

If it didn't, it would have been nice to see Vilma Santos play Miranda Priestley. Yes, Vilma Santos. Naturally, we're going to have to fashion (ahehe) a local name for her, and we will adapt it to local sensibilities. Or Star Cinema will.

Andie's adventures in the city can be translated into the travails of the working girls in Makati. I'd like to see Angel Locsin play her, and Luis Manzano her boyfriend. Then this would have been Vilma and Luis' first movie together, although they wouldn't share a scene.

Think about it: Vilma will boss Angel around, pushing her to her limits as only in-laws would. Then, when Angel goes home, she screams at Luis: "She's not happy when people around her are happy. She wants everybody to be miserable just like her." Short of yelling, Why is your mother such a monster?

Vilma is a good match to Meryl Streep, as Angel is to Anne Hathaway. Vilma is as towering a presence as Meryl, and Angel is as much a beginner as Anne is.

What is most thrilling is to see Vilma without the hysterics. It will be a challenge to the Star for All Seasons not to raise her voice for the entire movie. Please do not think that I am a Noranian (even though I admire Nora as well), especially since I like Vilma more than the Superstar. Can you see Vilma delivering these lines: "I told myself, Go ahead, hire the smart, fat girl. But you ended up disappointing me more than the other girls did." Is it not exciting to see Vilma for two hours up on the big screen without the wailing and the flailing of the arms?

It is regrettable that Hollywood got there first.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Devil Wears Rajo

Nanghihinayang ako at nauna ang Hollywood sa paggawa ng pelikulang The Devil Wears Prada.

Kung hindi sana iyon naisalin sa puting tabing, masayang isipin na ang papel ni Miranda Priestley ay napunta kay Vilma Santos. Oo, si Vilma Santos. Siyempre, babaguhin natin (o ng Star Cinema) ang pangalan ng bida sa ating bersyon, at iaangkop natin sa ating kultura ang kuwento.

Naisip kong ang mga pakikipagsapalaran ng bidang si Andie ay maaari nating ihalintulad sa working girls ng Makati. Gusto kong ibigay ang papel na ito kay Angel Locsin. Pagkatapos, si Luis Manzano ang gaganap na nobyo niya. Disin sana'y ito ang unang pagkakataon na magkasama ang mag-ina sa isang pelikula, kahit pa wala silang eksena na magkasama sila.

Isipin n'yo na lang: Uutus-utusan ni Vilma si Angel, pahihirapan na para bang sinusubok ang pasensya ng isang mamanugangin. Pagkatapos, magdadayalog si Angel kay Luis pag-uwi ng bahay: "Hindi siya natutuwa nang masaya ang mga tao sa paligid niya. Gusto niya miserable ang lahat ng tao." Kulang na lang itanong niya, Bakit ganun ang nanay mo?!

Sakto ang tambalang Vilma-Angel sa parehang Meryl Streep-Anne Hathaway. Kung anong tayog ni Meryl ay siya namang taas din ni Vilma. Si Angel, tulad ni Anne, ay nagsisimula pa lang sa pag-arte. Wala silang sinabi sa mga reyna ng pelikula.

Pero ang mas magpapasabik sa mga tao ay ang makita si Vilma na hindi sumisigaw o humihiyaw. Isang bagong hamon sa Star for All Seasons ang hindi magtaas ng boses sa kabuuan ng pelikula. Huwag po ninyong ipagkakamali na ako ay isang Noranian (kahit pa humahanga din naman ako kay Nora), lalo pa at mas gusto ko siya kaysa Superstar. Naiisip ba ninyo kung paano sasabihin ni Vilma ang linyang ito: "Ang sabi ko sa sarili ko, Sige, kunin mo 'yung matabang babae na matalino naman. Pero ang nangyari, mas na-
disappoint pa ako sa 'yo kesa sa mga nauna sa iyo." Hindi ba masarap isipin na dalawang oras na hindi lilitaw ang mga litid ni Vilma sa malaking tabing?

Sayang talaga at nauna na ang Hollywood.

'Yun lang.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Let the American Salvage Spin

Finalists for the National Book Award were announced Wednesday.  

Fiction nominees are:

American Salvage -  story collection by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Let the Great World Spin -  Colum McCann

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders -  stories by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Lark & Termite -  Jayne Anne Phillips

Far North -  Marcel Theroux (son of Paul Theroux)

The finalists in young people's literature are:

Claudette Colvin -  by Phillip Hoose

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith -  Deborah Seligman

Stitches -  David Small

Lips Touch - Laini Taylor

Jumped -  Rita Williams-Garcia

Poetry nominees are:

Versed -  Rae Armanytrout

Open Interval -  Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Or to Begin Again -  Ann Lauterbach

Speak Low -  Carl Phillips 

Keith Waldrop -  Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy

The winner in each category will be known November 18 in New York and will get $10,000.

Gore Vidal and Dave Eggers are honorary awardees.  

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Passport on One Leg

Herta Mueller, 56, was tapped Thursday to receive this year's Nobel Prize in Literature.

Many observers believe her selection is in accordance with the commemoration of the 20th anniversay of the fall of communism, although Peter Englund denies this. Englund is the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

The prizes have been given to European writers in the last three years. 

Last year Horace Engdahl said Europe remains the literary center of the world and that American writers are not at par with them.

This year Englund has said he thinks the Academy finds it easier to pick European authors because the Academy is comprised of Europeans, and therefore share the same sensibilities. Mueller was born in Romania, and she and her husband emigrated to Germany in 1987. 

Mueller is the 10th German to receive the prize, the latest being Gunter Grass in 1999. Her body of work is mostly in German, but there have been translations in English, Spanish, and French.

Mueller began in 1982 with "Niederungen" (Nadirs), a short-story collection. Her most recent novel, "Atemschaukel" (Swinging Breath) is in contention for the German Book Prize tomorrow. It would be interesting to see how it fares.

Mueller is also the 12th woman to cop the Nobel in this category, the latest being Doris Lessing in 2007 .  This year marks the first time four women have taken the Nobel in the same year, with two of them from the United States and another one from Israel.

The Nobel Prize in Literature includes 10 million kronor (equivalent to $1.4 million), and will be awarded December 10 in Stockholm.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mantel's Mantel

Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" has won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction on Tuesday.

Mantel, 57, has written film criticism, a memoir, novels, and short stories. Her novel "Beyond Black" (2005), was a finalist in the races for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

The prize comes with 50,000 pounds (or $80,000). Last year's recipient was "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Collected Fiction of NBA

Organizers of the National Book Awards want to know the best fiction in their 60 years.

On Monday the finalists were announced:

Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" 

Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow"

"The Stories of John Cheever"

"Collected Stories" by William Faulkner

"The Complete Stories" by Flannery O'Connor

"The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty"

The American public may vote online up to October 21. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wowza! That's Legen-

Wasn't he awesome?

Yesterday's Emmy ceremonies were amazing, and the tone was set wonderfully by Neil Patrick Harris singing "Put Down the Remote," composed by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman (Hairspray).

One of my favorite moments was when a team of three accountants walked to the stage to explain how the votes were tallied- only to be interrupted by Harris showing up as Dr. Horrible

Another one was a clip of Family Guy with re-recorded dialogue involving Brian the talking dog voting for How I Met Your Mother for best comedy series. Stewie the baby beats him up, only to say in the end, "Hey, suit up."

Just like the Oscars this year, the montages focused on genre highlights in the past year (e.g., the year in comedy, the year in drama, etc.), and the In Memoriam segment was set to a live musical performance. Sarah McLachlan sang- fittingly- "I Will Remember You."

The one segment I always tune in for is the presentation of the nominees for outstanding writing for variety, music, or comedy series. This year's standout was that of Conan O'Brien's, with him ignoring on Facebook friend requests from his writers.

In the drama category, the winners were:

series: Mad Men, AMC

lead actor: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), AMC

lead actress: Glenn Close (Damages), FX

supporting actor: Michael Emerson (Lost), ABC

supporting actress: Cherry Jones (24), Fox

For comedy, the trophies went to:

series: 30 Rock, NBC.

lead actor: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), NBC

lead actress: Toni Collette (United States of Tara), Showtime

supporting actor: Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), CBS

supporting actress: Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies), ABC

miniseries: Little Dorrit, PBS

made-for-TV movie: Grey Gardens, HBO

variety, music, or comedy series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Comedy Central.

reality-competition program: The Amazing Race, CBS

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How I Handicap the Emmys

In the drama categories, here's who should win:

best series- Mad Men (AMC)

directing- Battlestar Galactica (Syfy)

writing- Mad Men (AMC)

lead actor- Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), but Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment) has a good chance, and Hugh Laurie (House) is overdue.

lead actress- Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), but Glenn Close (Damages) is going to take it.

supporting actor- John Slattery (Mad Men), but Michael Emerson (Lost) should have won it two years ago.

supporting actress- Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy)

In the comedy categories, here's who will win:

best series- 30 Rock (NBC), but I'd like to see Entourage (HBO) take it this time.

directing- 30 Rock (NBC)

writing- 30 Rock (NBC) is the prohibitive favorite.

lead actor- Steve Carell (The Office), but I'd like Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) get the trophy.

lead actress- Tina Fey (30 Rock), but I'd like to see Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds) this time.

supporting actor- Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), but it should be Rainn Wilson (The Office). Or Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother).

supporting actress- Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live). Vanessa Williams should have won last year, but how about Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds) this year?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Quickening Race

Finalists in the Man Booker Prize were announced Tuesday. 

They are:

A.S. Byatt- for "The Children's Book"

J.M. Coetzee- for "Summertime"

Adam Foulds- for "The Quickening Maze"

Hilary Mantel- for "Wolf Hall"

Simon Mawer- for "The Glass Room"

Sarah Waters- for "The Little Stranger"

Byatt received the award for "Possession" in 1990. Coetzee has won the award twice previously, for "Life & Times of Michael K" (1983) and "Disgrace" (1999). If he wins again this year, he will be the first to win the Booker thrice. Reportedly, though, the favorite is Mantel. All the finalists are British, aside from Coetzee.

The chair of the judging panel this year is journalist James Naughtie. The winner will be known on October 6.

The prize comes with 50,000 pounds ($82,000). To be considered for the award, the writer must be from Britain, Ireland, or the Commonwealth of former British colonies. The awards started in 1969.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Separate Peace

Aren't you glad we have men in unform?

They go to battle so we can fight our own little private wars in peace.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is There Gonna Be Cake?

Organizers of the Thurber Prize for American Humor announced Wednesday the finalists for the prize. 

They are:

Sloane Crosley- for "I Was Told There'd Be Cake"

Ian Frazier- for "Lamentations of the Father"

Don Lee- for "Wrack and Ruin"

Laurie Notaro- for "The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death"

The prize will be awarded in October and it  comes with $5,000. Frazier won in the year the prize was founded (for "Coyote vs. Acme," 1997).

Monday, August 10, 2009

There Will Be Frogs

Magnolia (1999) is a movie about TV people dying of cancer and kid champions in quiz shows, but it is also a movie about adults broken by troubled marriages and adults reeling from childhood memories.

It begins by talking about coincidences: First, a man in Greenberry Hill is murdered by three men named Green, Berry and Hill. Then, a blackjack dealer in a scuba diving suit is found dead hanging on a tree. A few days before his death, he gets into a fistfight with a pilot playing in the casino he is working for. This coincidence pushes the pilot into committing suicide. How he gets involved in the dealer's death, you have to see. 

Another coincidence concerns a teenager trying to take his own life by jumping off their apartment building. He would have lived, but how his parents become responsible for his death- and how he has become their accomplice- has to be seen to be believed.

In the next three hours, we will meet the lonely and the desperate across Paul Thomas Anderson's universe. 

Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) is a smart kid, one of the contestants in the quiz show "What Do Kids Know?" In one episode, he badly needs to go the bathroom, but he is not allowed to. This screws up his game.

Donnie (William H. Macy) was a big winner on the show in the 1960s. Now he is being fired from the department store he is working in. 

The host, Jimmy (Philip Baker Hall), has found out he has cancer. He tries to talk to his daughter Claudia (Melora Walters) about it, but she flies into a rage. In one of her cocaine-sniffing days, she gets a visit from police officer Jim (John C. Reilly).

The show's producer, Earl (Jason Robards), is dying of cancer. Because of his terminal illness, his wife Linda (Julianne Moore) is having a hard time putting herself together. He asks his nurse Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to try to get in touch with his long-lost son TJ (Tom Cruise).

Here in Magnolia we have outcasts and infidels, and we are treated to their awakenings.

Stanley is driven too hard by his father, and in Donnie we see a probable future that awaits him. Donnie wants to get braces he does not really need, and he also wants to get the bartender with braces. He has so much love to give, but there is nobody to receive it- just like Jim. Until Jim meets Claudia, anyway.

Claudia may or may not have been a victim of her father's abuse, and the father himself attempts a last shot at redemption. Earl confesses his sins to Phil, and Linda unravels at seeing him on his deathbed. 

The bravest performance here is that of Tom Cruise. His megastardom is more than toyed with: it is thrown out the window. The first time TJ meets Phil, Hoffman holds the door open but Cruise is kept out of our view. Anderson stills his shot, so for minutes we are looking at the character actor and not the superstar.

Cruise has made a career out of playing the same character: the cocky hotshot who gets his comeuppance and emerges a better man (Days of Thunder, Rain Man, Jerry Maguire, The Last Samurai, Minority Report, etc.). This is still a variation of that same character, with a twist: We are forced to re-evaluate his character as we gradually learn what made him the cocky hotshot that he is. Is it a defense mechanism, a smokescreen? 

Cruise plays a wounded kid, and is one of the children in the movie failed by their parents. These children pay for the sins of their fathers, and what sins they are. These people may have thought they have left their transgressions behind, but the specter of the past will still haunt them.

In the end, we are treated to a sing-along and a most improbable rain, but Anderson moves his camera and his music so quick and so well that we are swept along. Improbable, but these things happen.

Like magic, perhaps?

And the narrator happens to be Ricky Jay.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The One with the List-making

Here are three books I've been reading lately:

I've been going over the Greatest Films of All Time list from Blockbuster (the video rental store). In its second edition, released in 1991, it enumerates more than 800 titles Blockbuster considers most important. It indicates Oscar honorees, and covers movies produced up to 1989.

Another is Scorsese by Ebert (University of Chicago Press, 2008), in which the reviewer reconsiders movies by the director such as New York, New York, The King of Comedy, and Kundun. The book covers movies dating back to I Call First up to The Departed and Shine a Light. He lists five of Scorsese's movies which he considers his best, and re-reviews them. I absolutely agree with the inclusion of The Age of Innocence.

Scorsese himself writes the foreword, and in his introduction, Ebert notes his affinities with Scorsese. There is a lengthy interview as well conducted in Wexner Center, and we get a feel of the rhythms of a Scorsese talk. 

Another is The Reel List (Delta, 1995) by Lynne Arany, Tom Dyja, and Gary Goldsmith. It identifies some of the more popular subjects explored by the movies, including animals, sports, and holidays, and professionals such as teachers, butlers, and taxi drivers. It has literary adaptations and ways to kill your spouse (Double Indemnity, for one).  

Andrew Sarris writes an illuminating foreword in which he enlightens us on the rationale for lists. (Interestingly, the section on auteurs includes cinematographers and composers, and Sarris thinks the book is more Kaelian than Sarrisian.) He recounts an encounter with Pauline Kael in which she asks, "Why are you such a list queen?" He did not have a riposte at the time, but now notes that Kael was the only major reviewer he knew who did not draw up end-of-year lists of bests.

Essentially, Sarris contends that list-making is an endeavor engendered by differences in gender. List-making simply comes naturally to guys.

This, on the same year as the Friends episode "The One with the List." That's episode eight of the second season, aired November 16, 1995. Ross's dilemma here is who to choose between Rachel and Julie. Joey and Chandler try to help him out by making a list of what each girl is good for, and not. Rachel finds out about the list, so she becomes angry with Ross. 

Ross defends himself by saying that while there are many con's against Rachel, the one against Julie is "She is not Rachel." Rachel ends the episode by saying, "See, if that were me, there wouldn't be a list." 

Of course, the writers are on Rachel's side, but if Ross's crime was so unpardonable, they would not have permitted Ross to do that. They would not have allowed him do something so unforgivable that he would not be worth Rachel's time anymore.

It's just a matter of gender differences. 

So there. A list of books I've been reading lately.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

You Can Read This Book

Pamela Wallace is one of the Academy Award-winning screenwriters of Witness (1985).

In her book "You Can Write a Movie," Wallace captures the power of the basic idea, especially by pointing to the ratio between cost and profit in making a movie.

She gives us the conventions and expectations that override genres, with the love story getting special mention. She explains why the logline is necessary, and the strengths and flaws in a premise.

She demonstrates how theme determines the success of a movie, pitting Good Will Hunting against Rounders (Matt Damon movies both).  

How to write a screenplay? Wallace shows how to format a screenplay, and samples her CBS movie Borrowed Hearts. She submits that a writer's age and sex will help- or hinder- the writing. She suggests questions to ask in writing a treatment, showing what one should look like. 

"You Can Write a Movie" will guide you in conceiving and personalizing your characters. It asks, Why is a defining moment necessary? What does it provide a character? It takes on villains and supporting characters, as well as relationships and triangles.

Wallace takes up types of conflict, and how to create internal conflict. Here she is on how to play out the struggle between characters:

"The goals of the protagonist and antagonist must be seen to be diametrically opposed. Conflict must be expressed in the strongest possible visual and emotional terms. It isn't enough for your hero to say to the villain, "I'll do my best to see to it that you're defeated." Instead, he must vow to stop him, no matter what the cost."  

Wallace explores the elements of scene design, exposition and speeches, and subtext. She also quotes other professionals, like Joseph Campbell, Robert McKee, and Ron Bass. 

She reflects on how to adapt a book, from securing the rights to fashioning it to cinematic form. She cites her own difficulties in having adapted books, supplying tricks such as axing a character, modifying an arc or subplot, and changing professions to magnify a role.

On top of this, Wallace gives tips on how to pitch a story, and shows a sample for it. She also shows an unproduced work of her own to underline the importance of a coverage (or a written critique of a screenplay). She answers questions on how to get an agent, and how those agents work and what they look for. 

Curiously, "You Can Write a Movie" lacks gravitas, even though it is written by an Oscar winner. That can be attributed to its easy language, but it does prove to be helpful to anyone interested in the craft and the business.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fighting Fair- or Not

Will Turner: "You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I'd kill you."

Jack Sparrow: "That's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?"

-Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Alien Nation

We're seeing Star Trek soon. I have not seen any Trek series or movie, except one from my childhood. All I remember is that there is some time travel involved, and a whale figures in the story. I saw it on local TV light years ago.

The reviews say you do not have to have been a fan to get it. Hindi ka naman daw ma-e-alienate.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Greatest Thing

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn... is just to love, and be loved in return."

- Christian to Satine in Moulin Rouge (2001)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Not Returning Your Call

The talent agent Sam Cohn died at 79 Wednesday in New York  after having had sickness.

His clients at International Creative Management (which he co-founded io included Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Lily Tomlin, Sigourney Weaver, Kathleen Turner, Jackie Gleason, and Woody Allen . Other clients included Robert Altman, Mike Nichols, Bob Fosse, Nora Ephron, E.L. Doctorow, and Arthur Miller.

Cohn retired this year and was known not to return phone calls. He graduated from Princeton and Yale.

Cannonball Blazes

Dom DeLuise passed away in his sleep on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 75.

He co-starred with Burt Reynolds in such movies as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and the Cannonball Run movies. He also worked with Mel Brooks in many projects, including Blazing Saddles.

He hosted "Candid Camera," appeared on "The Carol Burnett Show," and authored cookbooks.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Going Upstairs

The writer Marilyn French died at 79 of heart failure. She died Saturday in Manhattan.

Her first novel, The Women's Room (1977), turned her into a controversial leader of the feminist movement.  

She was an academic and she wrote essays and literary criticism. She studied philosophy and English literature.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Right Idea

"Personally, I think alligators have the right idea. They eat their young."

- Ida Corwin in Mildred Pierce (1948)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Duffy, the poet/slayer

Carol Ann Duffy, 53, was selected Friday as the British poet laureate, the first woman to hold the job.

She is also the first openly gay poet laureate, and evidently she is taught in schools.

The laureate is expected to write about major royal and state occasions, such as weddings and funerals.  Previous poets who filled the post included Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth, Ted Hughes and John Dryden. Her annual salary would be 5,700 pounds. She says she intends to donate it to the Poetry Society.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Full Wit

General Murray: "I can't make out whether you're a bloody madman or just half-witted."

TE Lawrence: "I have the same problem, sir."

- from Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wonderful Lives

"One man's life touches so many others. When he's not there, it leaves an awfully big hole."

Clarence the angel in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Emperor Goes Into the Night

JG Ballard died in London yesterday at age 78.

No cause of death was given, although in 2006, he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer.

He was born James Graham Ballard in Shanghai but he moved to Britain in 1946.

His novel Empire of the Sun (1984) was filmed by Steven Spielberg, which was shown in 1987. His novel Crash (1973) was filmed by David Cronenberg.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Star Mocker

reporter: "Are you a mod or a rocker?"

Ringo Starr: "No, I'm a mocker."

- from A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dream Team

Michael Jordan heads this year's class of inductees to the Basketball Hall of Fame. The class (the 50th anniversary team of the National Basketball Association) includes his teammates in the Dream Team: David Robinson and John Stockton (Yes!).

Jordan had the third-highest total points in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. He also had the best career average of 30.12 points, topping Wilt Chamberlain's 30.07. He was league MVP five times and helped secure six championships for the Chicago Bulls.

Stockton the point guard stayed with Utah Jazz throughout his career and holds the league records for assists AND steals! -Among other records.

Robinson spent 14 years with the San Antonio Spurs, with two championships. He was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a 10-time All-Star, and a season MVP (1995).

Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is also an inductee. Among head coaches, he is the longest tenured in major league sports with a single franchise. He is the only NBA coach to win more than 1,000 games.

Jordan received two of their titles over Sloan and Stockton and the Jazz. 

The ceremonies are to be held in September in Massachusetts. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Enter Inductees

Metallica and Run-DMC were inducted Saturday to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Other inductees were Jeff Beck, Bobby Womack, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.

Bassist Jason Newsted, who left in 2001, joined Metallica in a performance onstage. Ray Burton, father to Cliff Burton, their original bassist, accepted the award along with the band. Cliff died in 1986 after a bus accident in their tour in Sweden.

Connie Mizell accepted the award for her son Jason (Jam Master Jay), who was shot to death in 2002.

Beck had been inducted in 1992 with the Yardbirds.

The ceremony was held in Cleveland, after 12 years in New York. It was also the first time it was open to the public.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shudder at the Infinitely Inferior

After a drinking session with his friends, Tun and his girlfriend Jane hit the road. They are driving through a dark highway when an obscure figure in a dress crosses their way. The car goes to a halt, Jane tries to step out, but Tun dissuades her. They flee, but they return to the scene the next day, only to be told by the traffic police that there is no body or a reported accident. 

Days later, shadows and fogs turn up at their photographs. Tun's drinking buddies commit suicide one by one. How are they related?

The distortions can be explained away as bad film, but what about those taken by Polaroid?

Shutter (2004) is a movie from Thailand that should be included in film syllabi everywhere. The makers have a vision of what they want to say, and they sure know how to say it. See how a ghost pursues Tun on a fire escape ladder, or how a friend of his jumps to his death from a building.

Moreover, this is one movie with no unnecessary shots or scenes. Everything is needed. Yes, even the bathroom scene. It not only leavens the proceedings with humor, but it also makes a sly characterization of the producing country.

Shutter is also laced with spirituality, and I'm not just referring to scenes in the temple or burial beliefs. The concept of justice, of the innocence of children, and the immutability of karma. And love that endures: in Jane's case, and Natre's, and yes, even in the case of Natre's mother.

So who is Natre? If you haven't seen it yet, that you have to find out for yourself.  

Shutter knows its metaphors and places them well. The praying mantis applies not only to Natre, but also to her mother. Because we get to know the mother first, her subplot acts as a foreshadowing of the final reveal.

The twist in the end is also well-earned. The pieces of the puzzle are presented early and when the last piece drops, it's as satisfying a finish as in The Others (2001).

In 2008, Shutter was remade into an American movie, perhaps an inevitability. Starring Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor, it was transported into Japan, and henceforth lost all of its original identity without assuming a new one. It is so faithful to the original that it has become almost a shot by shot remake for a good part of the movie.

They could have done away with a lot of the shots, and to cite one sequence: You remember the one where Tun goes into the dark room and receives a call from the other room? In the remake, they show us the new Jane getting out of the apartment, walking around the city, and actually making the call. Comparing the two movies is a lesson in economy and precision.

Also, the new version presents a more helpless version of Natre in Megumi. Where Natre had tried to resist her tormentors with all her might, Megumi was all weakness. Ben even says that Megumi was the one throwing herself at him; where Tun and Natre did share something special. An Asian latching onto an American; the American forcing himself on her; the Asian girl being vengeful. It's tempting to have a political-sexual reading on this.

The remake was a critical and commercial dud, both in theaters and on video. Now that's the immutability of karma.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Brad Pitt on Robert Redford:

"I'm drawn to his strength, his classiness, his introspectiveness, and his sadness."

Nicole Kidman on Dustin Hoffman:

"He's always saying, 'Let's try that scene again.' When a scene starts to fly, unpredictable things start to happen."

Monday, March 23, 2009

She Was a Teenage Bride

Betsy Blair died March 13 at age 85.

She married Gene Kelly in 1941 when she was 17, and he 29. They went to Hollywood and the choreographer became a big star. On the other hand, she took parts but her career went to a halt because her leftist leanings got her into the Hollywood blacklist. 

Blair was nominated for a best supporting actress Academy Award for Marty (1955), and two years later, she and Kelly divorced.

She refused to say something bad about Kelly, saying only, "... it just came to an end."

She was known better in Europe an took roles there. She moved to London and married Karel Reisz, the Czech director of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. He died in 2002.

Blair is survived by her daughter, Kerry, with Kelly.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Obscene, Indeed

Here are some of the words heaped upon an actress whose death Richard Corliss calls as "obscenely early":

"For everyone who knew and loved her, Natasha's death is a terrible, devastating loss. She was a star. A great actress, a beautiful woman, a fiercely loyal friend, a brilliant and generous companion. She was an adoring and loving wife and mother. She was unique. ... I cannot imagine a world without her wit, her love, her mischief, her great, great talent and her gift for living. I loved her very much. She was a supreme friend. I shall miss her deeply." - Ralph Fiennes.

"Tasha is irreplaceable. I cannot think of anyone kinder, more generous, thoughtful, smarter or more fun." - Mia Farrow, whose two children were Richardson's godchildren 

"Natasha was brilliant, beautiful, funny, talented beyond measure, as emotionally raw as she was razor sharp...." - Jodie Foster, co-star of Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson in Nell (1994) 

"She was one of a kind, a magnificent actress.... She was also an amazing mother, a loyal friend and the greatest and most generous host you could ever hope to meet." - Sam Mendes, her director in "Cabaret". She received a Tony Award in 1998 for the Braodway musical.

"She was quite careful about what she did. But what she did, she went into with a full heart and a passion. She was very discerning, very serious about the film roles she chose. It's absolutely tragic that somebody with so much to offer, and of course from this great acting dynasty, should be taken at this time of her life, and tragic of course for her family." - Michael Coveney, British theater critic

"As a stage actress she was really coming into her own, she was becoming a major star and taken extremely seriously on the stage and also her film work ... was excellent. She had a sort of luminous presence on the stage, but offstage she was a very shy, very easygoing, almost self-deprecating character who didn't like being made a fuss of." - Tim Walker, theater critic for the Sunday Telegraph, a British newspaper

Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Heiress Named Natasha

Natasha Richardson, 45, died Wednesday in New York.

She fell during a beginners' ski lesson at a resort in Quebec, and suffered a head injury. She was brought to a hospital in Montreal, and then to another one in New York.

Her theater resume included Patrick Marber's "Closer" (1999), and revivals of "Anna Christie" (1993), where she co-starred with her future husband Liam Neeson, and "A Streetcar Named Desire" (2005).

She received a Tony Award for best actress for a revival of "Cabaret" (1998).

She came from generations of actors that included her mother Vanessa Redgrave, with whom she appeared this year in "A Little Night Music" as mother and daughter.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bad Day

The screenwriter Millard Kaufman died March 14 of heart failure. He was 92.

Kaufman was nominated for an Academy Award twice- for Take the High Ground (1953) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955).

Kaufman was one of the creators of Mr. Magoo, the cartoon character. He wrote the short film Ragtime Bear (1949), in which the character appeared for the first time.

He had his first novel, "Bowl of Cherries" (2007), published at 90. The publisher McSweeney's- known for younger authors- intends to release a second one later.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

American Pastor

The American writer Philip Roth celebrates his 76th birthday today. 

He has won three PEN/ Faulkner Awards: for Operation Shylock, The Human Stain, and Everyman.

He has received two National Book Awards: for Goodbye, Columbus, and Sabbath's Theater.

He got a Pulitzer Prize (for American Pastoral) and a National Book Critics Circle award (for The Counterlife). 

Several others were awards finalists.

In 2006 The New York Times Book Review released the results of their poll of the best American fiction in the last 25 years. Of 22 books, six were his: American Pastoral, The Counterlife, The Human Stain, Operation Shylock, The Plot Against America, and Sabbath's Theater.

The critic Harold Bloom ranks him alongside Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, and Thomas Pynchon as the best American novelists of our time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Gene Kelly on Judy Garland:

"The finest all-round performer we ever had in America was Judy Garland. There was no limit to her talent."

Adolphe Menjou on Shirley Temple:

"She knew everyone's dialogue, and if you forgot a line, she gave it to you. We all hated her for that."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Novels of Interest

"Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill won the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction on February 26. The finalists were "Serena" by Ron Rash; "Lush Life" by Richard Price; "A Person of Interest" by Susan Choi; and "Ms. Hempel Chronicles" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. The award comes with $15,000.

On March 12 the National Book Critics Circle chose to give their prize to "2666" by Roberto Bolano. Bolano was an author from Chile who died in 2003. The book's translator, Natasha Wimmer, received the award in his behalf.

The prize for criticism went to "Children's Literature" by Seth Lerer. The awards, though, do not come with cash.

They gave the lifetime achievement award to the American center of PEN. Yes, PEN.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

James Purdy Begins

The author James Purdy died Friday in New Jersey at 94.

His works divided reviewers, but "Cabot Wright Begins" and "Eustace Chisholm and the Works" are stil considered classics. Susan Sontag praised the former, and compared it favorably to  Voltaire's "Candide." The latter gained respect over time, enough to be given the Clifton Fadiman Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Among his supporters were Dorothy Parker, Dame Edith Sitwell, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Angus Wilson, and the businessman/critic Osborn Andreas.

La Dolce Vita

The screenwriter Tullio Pinelli died March 7 at age 100 in Rome. 

He committed to film work in his late 30s and wrote or co-wrote more than 70 movies in his career. He was Federico Fellini's co-writer of 8 1/2, I Vitelloni, Juliet of the Spirits, La Dolce Vita, La Strada, and Nights of Cabiria- certainly one of the best working relationships in movie history. They started together for directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Pietro Germi, and Roberto Rossellini. They had a fallout in 1965, but got back together

Pinelli was a close friend of the poet Cesare Pavese and had fought for the Resistance in World War II. He is survived, among others, by his second wife Madeleine LeBeau, who appeared in Casablanca.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This Man's Life

The discussion over who should have won the best actor Oscar has led us to wonder: For what movie role could Leonardo DiCaprio snatch an Academy Award?

DiCaprio is beloved by a good number among my college friends. We have been watching him even before the ship sailed. My own favorites are Marvin's Room, This Boy's Life, and his unbelievably astonishing turn in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

Lamplighter's favorite DiCaprio is The Man in the Iron Mask, and so it is with darkspark. Withavengeance insists he should have been nominated for The Departed.

Darkspark strongly believes Leo will win it; it's just a matter of time.

I have no doubt that collecting nominations will be easy. Remember that he has three already, while it took Brad Pitt 13 years to get his second one.

He has worked with actors such as Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, and directors such as Steven Spielberg, Baz Luhrmann, Lasse Hallstrom, and James Cameron. His working relationship with Martin Scorsese is the subject of envy, and he attracts talents such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Connelly, and Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road).  He has done Shakespeare, dual roles, the gay, and the mentally handicapped.

I think he has his best shot if he plays a flashy part, preferably in a biopic. A grandstanding political firebrand. 

On the more commercial side of things, I'd like to see him in a spy movie, something like Mission: Impossible and The Bourne trilogy. I'd also like him to do a thriller in a limited setting, like the Jodie Foster vehicle Panic Room.

Can't wait to see what lies ahead.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

No Bad Rap for Rap

Here's from a batang Mandaluyong to a batang Mandaluyong:

Francis Magalona, 44, has moved away from this kaleidoscope world.

We remember the man and the music, how he urged us not only to tolerate diversity, but to accept it and embrace it as well. 

Plus, lines like these: "You can’t talk peace and have a gun."

Coming from a showbiz family with a good name, he lent that image to a music form born and cultivated in the streets- music that did not have much respectability in these parts at the time. Music that was still considered a novelty by many in the early '90s.

Francis M made it hip to be patriotic while using that violently majestic form of American music: rap. He attached swagger to where it would have been corny to proclaim your nationality.

In the process, he gave rap a good name. He did not do it singlehandedly, but his approach, his path, was singular.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wrestling Over Oscar

Midnight at a coffee shop. (No, it's not Moby Dicks.)

Over coffee me and my college friends discuss who should have won this year's Academy Award for best actor. It's been two weeks already, and the aftershock still reverberates.

While Sean Penn received the precious paperweight, darkspark feels it should have gone to Mickey Rourke- the star of such movies as Diner, Rumble Fish, 9 1/2 Weeks, Barfly, and Angel Heart.

Withavengeance agrees: He wonders how Penn could have won when he had taken it home already five years ago.

Lamplighter thinks it's because of Proposition No. 8. Penn is the respected actor they can look to who can give a voice to the Hollywood community.

I think Penn had a lot of advantages over Rourke. He was in the bigger movie- a studio movie- with more earnings and nominations, and better machinery.

Penn was already on his fifth nod, while Rourke was just having his first. Recently, we saw Alan Arkin (three-time nominee) go away with the Oscar, beating front-runner Eddie Murphy (who was on his first nod).

And more than anything, the win is rooted in their respective personas as celebrities.

Because The Wrestler is like art imitating life (Rourke's back story), a lot of voters might have thought, "Is this acting?"

On the other hand, Penn is seen as the brash macho who plays it gay. Now, that's acting. Hence, the Oscar.