Film Log: January 2016 February 8, 2016Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Hollywood, Noypi, Oscars.
Wenn Deramas has built an empire. Not everyone is happy about it, but it’s futile to deny its existence and power, considering that five of the top ten highest grossing Filipino films of all time are his. There comes a point when dissing his movies becomes unwise — when complaining about his sensibility and brand of humor only ends up as noise — because he continues making films all the same. He doesn’t care. He knows the game. He doesn’t get sick of it. He has developed a formula for attracting people who are willing to give their money and feel good about it. Beauty and the Bestie fulfills its audience because it is what they expect it to be: histrionic, exaggerated, self-aware, ridiculous, tactless, insensitive, full of antics that gloat in its silliness, with Vice Ganda as the ambassador of tackiness. In his empire, the tackier the better. There is hard work and skill in doing all of this, in creating a circus orchestrated for the sake of entertainment, in furnishing Coco Martin with comic timing, which many people don’t care about or don’t care about knowing as long as they are laughing, and clearly there is something Deramas can do that other directors cannot. I enjoyed Beauty and the Bestie because I knew what I was getting. It’s not a dumb movie. Dumb is when you felt stupid after. I didn’t.
The hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens, based on my social media feed, gave an impression that I might die if I didn’t catch it in its first week. I managed to see it only after the New Year, and I’m still alive. That it passed the Bechdel test is pretty much the only semblance of insight I had while exiting the theater. If you are not a fan of the franchise, where else would you latch on? Would you be engaged in a discussion? Aside from saying, “it’s decent, but its action sequences look limp and unexciting,” what else would light the bulb? Perhaps Internet boyfriend Oscar Isaac?
Macbeth was shown with English subtitles because the Scottish accent and language could come across as gibber to some moviegoers. Too bad reading them didn’t prevent me from dozing off — as I had, a couple of times, despite my ethical resolve not to — but fortunately not when Michael Fassbender, as the king, finally realizes he needs to take a bath in the open water, letting the audience take a quick peek of his kingdom. He and Marion Cotillard, unquestionably, are fine actors, but as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the struggle is real. They seem detached from the core. Honestly, could one really say the cinematography is good if it didn’t make the tragedy as compelling as it should?
It fills me with dread to talk about Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin because it means I would have to grant it time and energy. A double whammy — thinking how it made me sit through it and feel every nuance of dismay and agony, without any moment in any of its three episodes that merits reconsideration, despite my innate optimism that it could have something of value after all. It looks like a rough cut. It misunderstands comedy — its idea of humor is all cheap display of cheap slapstick, and its execution always leans toward making things cheaper (dialogue, plots, acting, skit). The effect on me crosses between wanting to cringe and wanting to leave. It might have been intentional to put Chris Martinez’s episode at the end, as it is the most bearable, but even his attempts at camp couldn’t save it. It’s a mistake to let Bob Ong think his material should be films.
Charles Schulz’s beloved characters have moments to show their quirks in The Peanuts Movie, the familiarity rubbing warmly and taking on a cordial tone right at the onset: light, harmless, childish and childlike at the same time, almost pure in its recall of intimacy. Just seeing Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, Snoopy, and Woodstock on the screen is already worth the while, and the deliberate lack of ambition (or ambitiousness) is endearing, especially since it’s obvious it’s targeting a much younger demographic. The film, however, is unable to capture that tacit complexity one feels when reading the strip — a miniature world that reveals a universe of rich overtones in its simple document of everyday interactions — the wisdom in its seemingly random observations and dialogue that makes the reader feel literate. Could having such depth been avoided on purpose?
Everything About Her has good and bad parts. This can probably be said about most Star Cinema movies — as the fulfillment of formula has made these qualities distinguishable, knowing where it goes well and where it nose-dives — but with Vilma Santos and Joyce Bernal, the desire to endorse it, and make a good case for it despite its inevitable shortcomings, is strong. It is convincing at first, from the start when the characters and conflicts are established and all the way through the piling up of challenges for both female characters. But in an effort to close it with something remarkable and leave the audience with warmth, it decides to be generic and resort to platitudes that dilute the inspired moments, in turn weakening what could have been a moving depiction of female (and maternal) strength. Ate Vi gets away with the many times she repeats herself (her approach and sentiment) from her previous movies, and this showcase of recognizable maternal roles makes her iconic in this regard. But Everything About Her does not find its soul in her but in Angel Locsin, delivering what could be one of the best Star Cinema characters in years.
The Big Short is sophisticated, but nothing in it is new — the subject, the storytelling, the dramatic arc, the pacing, the heroic stance, the wires getting tangled and loosened, the moralism — they’ve all been the stuff of American movies endorsed by critics almost every year. Nevertheless it’s interesting to follow the buildup and downfall, especially when it diverts and draws on pop culture, bringing in Margot Robbie, Richard Thaler, Selena Gomez, and Anthony Bourdain to explain the financial concepts and make them sound enticing. The two-hour nonstop talk isn’t off-putting. In fact, the sound of greed, as it passes from one person to another and reaches its peak, is quite delightful.