The difference between Ebert and real critics

From The Atlantic online forums:

My point was that I, an anime virgin, would not have sought out Totoro and begun my love of Miyazaki's work were it not for Ebert's enthusiasm all those years ago

Chris was threatening to hold me to my statement re: Miyazaki because Ebert was an early champion. Yeah, people find out about Studio Ghibli sooner or later; I think it's as obvious as night and day.

I do believe Ebert had kind words for the first two Harry Potty movies over the third one tho. Now that's the mark of a moron.

In fairness, is there any reviewer that you agree with 100% of the time - yourself excluded?

I enjoyed Agee, Kael, Bazin, Warshow among others. Often didn't agree with them, but I enjoyed them, and for three reasons: first, they can write; second, they can defend their choices, however much I disagree; third, they don't so obviously whore for the major studios.

Oh, and fourth, they don't devote the majority of their articles to plot summaries that give away major plot twists. And they don't do that ridiculous ratings thing.


"In The Halls of the Mountain King" theme in "M"

Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of Mountain King theme from Peer Gynt, as used in Fritz Lang's M.

The tune is impish, lively, magical, just the sort of tune you would use to enchant a child away from her parents--or, looking at it a different way, the kind of tune that would run through the mind of a childlike killer, one whose life bears uncomfortable parallels with the hero of the opera from which the song is taken (about a man who at one point in his aimless, chaotic life, is fascinated by trolls--a race of magical creatures).

It's the kind of melody that can put a smile on the listener's face. Which is why Lang's chilling use of it in M is so memorable, because it turns all connotations upside down and instead suggests fairy innocence being stalked by dark and shadowy monsters.


More supersizing

Spurlock was definitely stating the obvious, but it was scary just how quickly his health deteriorated when he ate only McD's products.

It wasn't just the amount of food, it was the numbers. The doctors were shaking their heads--they were looking at a liver of an alcoholic. They never thought anyone could do this to their livers on fast food.

And the comparison to drug addiction seems apt. A lot of obese people overeat because they can't seem to stop. Being raised to recognize Ronald McDonald from childhood doesn't help.


Most Memorable Scenes in Lino Brocka's Films

From pinoydvd:

Bembol Roco's face frozen in a scream in Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon).

The streets of Manila, in the silent opening sequence of the same film.

Mona Lisa having to endure Hilda's reproachful face as she squats to urinate in Insiang.

Hilda in the same movie, threatening to iron out Mona Lisa's face.

Mario O'Hara, holding out a rattle, luring Lolita Rodriguez away in Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged and Found Wanting).

Gina Alajar holding Philip Salvador in her arms while photographers click away in Bayan Ko (My Country).

Bembol Roco firing straight into the priest's face in Orapronobis (Fight for Us).

Lolita Rodriguez, finally confronting Mary Walters in the Bukas, Madilim, Bukas (Tommorrow the Darkness) segment of Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa (Three, Two, One).


Supersize Me

Supersize Me is the horrific story of a man who for thirty days tries to kill himself with McDonald's fastfood.

It's not a pretty film; his first Supersized meal, with a double cheeseburger, he pukes it all out. The camera glances outside to capture the steaming vomit.

The numbers are chilling. To give the documentary medical credibility, the filmmaker sees three doctors and a health nutritionist before embarking on his suicide binge. Blood pressure shot up from 120/80 to 150/90; cholesterol level from 165 to 230; weight from an optimum 185 to a gross 230. He suffered mood swings, depression, and (most painful of all, in my opinion) a drastically reduced sex life.

The bigger picture is even more sobering: the food industry spends 200 million to 1 billion per company to sell their sugar-rich, fat saturated products; the US government spends a measly 2 million dollars to promote a healthy vegetable and fruit-rich diet...

And you just have to see the people in the streets. One in four people who walk by in WalMart aren't just plump, but incredibly huge; some can't even walk properly any more. The final solution to extreme obesity is a gastric bypass, where the stomach is sliced up and tightened to 20% of its size...but who wants to go to that extreme measure (which works, by the way), when you can just cut down and exercise?

A fine horror story (funny too, in the Michael Moore populist tradition), and one of the most frightening films I've ever seen in recent years--and that includes dull music-video pretenders like 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake.


Potty growth

from pinoyexchange:

"I agree that Alfonso Cuaron is a good director, but he had taken too many liberties, and there was no character growth shown in the movie."

I don't agree that there was no character development. I pointed out above that Potter is angrier and more irritable (that's a change right off), that his concept and attitude towards Black changes throughout the film, that he develops a friendship with Lupin, and that towards the end, he cries out that nothing's been achieved. That level of bitter awareness and disillusionment is something he did not have at the end of the previous Potty movies. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is the only Potter movie to have any character development--at least any that's believable, or even moving.


Potty development

from pinoyexchange:

Originally posted by jdlc
That's the problem with most of the die-hard fans.  They usually hate the adaptation kasi madami ang nawala.

In fact one of the things I like most about Cuaron's HP is the liberties he took in adapting the story.  That's not to say he did a perfect job cause he didn't but I did find Prisoner of Azkaban refreshing and reasonably entertaining.  It was better than the first two movies which lacked spark and imagination.

Agreed on all of the above except one: I think it's the ONLY film of the three that has any spark or imagination.

I mean--Home Alone?  Wasn't that the movie John Hughes keeps remaking ad nauseum to the point that the latest went straight to video?

Not exactly something to be proud of.

Stepmom, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone 2, the first two Potty movies? All this says to me: "hack! hack! hack!"

And it's not cigarettes. I quit smoking. Grin


Breakwater and Magnifico win Urian Best Picture

From pinoydvd:


It's a tie for MAGNIFICO & BABAE SA BREAKWATER for Best Picture category.

Other winners...

Best Supporting Actor- Albert Martinez (Magnifico)
Best Supporting Actress- Gloria Romero (Magnifico)
Best Director- Maryo J. delos Reyes (Magnifico)
Best Screenplay- Michico Yamamoto (Magnifico)

There must be something about Babae sa Breakwater...

Well, to be awfully blunt about it, I saw the Cannes Director's Fortnight programmers' expression when I asked them about Magnifico. I like the film a lot, but after all is said and done, it's conventional filmmaking.

And I'm surprised they even gave Breakwater anything. The Manunuries have never been big fans of O'Hara; the only people who like his work in that group are Lito Zulueta and Hammi Sotto--incidentally, the only two people in the group whose opinions I really respect (one is the youngest of the lot and the other is dead). The pressure of not looking stupid by ignoring Breakwater's Cannes screening must have been enormous... Grin

Rosemary's Baby

from pinoydvd:

llanesmark777: Rosemary's Baby was dragging and im not satisfied on the outcome of the story. Lack of spice should i say.

It's not shot MTV style and accompanied by gallons of fake blood and a loud soundtrack, but I thought Mia Farrow's smile was the most moving and most evil in all of cinema. How can it not satisfy?

And dragging? It's called character development. The long introduction of their apartment, for one, is laden with clues as to what the previous occupant was like, and her relationship with her neighbors. That's what's called subtlety.


Exchange re: Gibson and the Academy Awards

From Pinoyexchange:


He (some other idiot) doesn't like Cuaron, that's why. In the same way that you don't like Gibson.

Cuaron is an artist. Gibson is a hack and idiot. There is a difference.

See?! How he (me) hates Gibson? Calling an Academy Award winner a hack and an idiot?

I rest my case.

Did I ever deny that I think Gibson's win is a matter of group of idiots voting for a hack and an idiot?

I rest my case.


Glad you agree!


Potter's nemesis

Didn't think the Dementors or Black needed to be any more menacing than they are--the way I see it, Potter's biggest nemesis was himself.

The key for me was that Boggart (sp?) thing--it's more than just a creature that feeds on fear, it's a device to expose one's innermost thoughts. Potter was most afraid of the Dementor, who represents authority, ergo: he's afraid of having to go against authority in a more open and rebellious manner. Yeah, he's bent the rules once in a while before, but setting free Black and the hippogriff (come to think of it, their stories sort of run in parallel--the hippogriff's fate is a metaphor and foreshadowing of Black's) is in defiance of established law. He's taken a step beyond; hasn't been caught yet, but he's taken one step closer to being every bit of an outlaw as Black himself.


Potter 3 and the kids

Well, just like Harry, that kid won't get what he wanted from this movie. If you can't please your core market, what good is the flick ?

What good is it? Screw the kids.

Those that can't respond to this kind of filmmaking were fed on very loud Disney movies and endless episodes of Cartoon Network. Degraded sensibilities.

This is where education should begin, with kids. Start with Miyazaki, continue to Roald Dahl  and The Brothers Grimm (unexpurgated).

And get rid of all the Disney stuff. Rots the mind.


Buffy Musical (Once More With Feeling)

Missed this on FX, saw it on DVD; helps to put on the subtitles, you don't worry about the lyrics.

It's fun; I'd argue it's the single best Buffy I've seen. It certainly is the most difficult, I'd guess. I love it that Whedon got to showcase the best voices--Amber, Anthony, James, Emma, and even got Amber and Anthony to do a number together AND present a turning point in their respective relationships AND push the plot of the particular episode forward at the same time. 

Oh, and Alyson, despite not being able to sing, has the single most hilarious line "this is filler, isn't it?"

Okay, Sarah can't really sing either. But she does act her final song well, where she asks for a reason to stay alive. I also like it when Anthony comes in and says she needs backup (which Amber and Emma provide, handily). 

Pretty good. Minor flaws; I wish the camerawork of all the numbers were as classic in style as in "I'll Never Tell." And the plot point that you burn up if you dance too much is kind of clumsily introduced. 

But yeah, it could be my fave Buffy to date.


Mike de Leon vs. Kubrick

from pinoydvd:

Obviously he doesn't have the budget to do a hundred takes...but I think that speaks well of de Leon in comparison with Kubrick. That hundred take thing, I think it's more self indulgence than anything. To do it well and right on at least the first few takes requires discipline and balls.

That said, de Leon is a perfectionist. You can see it in his films, where everything is technically and visually perfect. His films are even technically better than Brocka's, Bernal's, O'Hara's. It helps that he has his own lab.


I'm Moby Dick!

You're Moby-Dick!
by Herman Melville
You've spent your whole life seeking something grand and elusive. What this is seems clear to you, but is hopelessly confusing to everyone else. You see it as a simple hunt, but others have called it a metaphor for just about everything in the world. Weary of metaphors, you are quite concerned that this quest will be your undoing. Make sure any ship you board is well-built. Pursuant to your request, people call you

Take the Book Quiz at http://bluepyramid.org/ia/bquiz.htm



Gibson = Reagan

From Forum With No Name:

still hard for me to think of him as evil

Reagan in politics is a lot like Mel Gibson in filmmaking. They never think they're doing evil. Heck, Adolf Hitler, Mao and Stalin thought they were doing great good. By their fruits you shall know 'em.

Even more Potty

"napapaadmit nga ako na, "nah, LOTR isn't really the best""

(I  had to admit, LOTR isn't really the best)

As fantasy? I don't think so. Try EB White, try CS Lewis, try, heck, try Homer.

"and you say it's a faithful movie. naku, kung ganun ba (if that's the case) it has failed twice?"

I thought it failed three times.

"but yeah, it really is hard to turn a book into a movie especially if it's a big thick one"

I think a filmmaker has to forget trying to please fans, come up with a vision, stick to it, and hope it's a good vision. That's what Boorman did with Excalibur, and to a lesser (but still successful) extent, that's what I think happened with Cuaron here.


Quick Hitchcock survey

From pinoydvd.com

"Vertigo is of course his best, indeed, one of the best ever by anyone"

Sight and Sound 1990, one of the 10 Best Films ever made. I agree.

"Rear Window was the film that hooked me on Hitch, and just as Vertigo, one capable of infinite of readings."

Check out Michael Powell's last film, Peeping Tom, which effectively ended his career.

"I am looking forward to rewatch his first version The Man Who Knew Much, which I remember primarily for Peter Lorre."

Who is great there.  Check out the reenactment of a Sydney Street seige at the end of the film.

"I agree that The Birds could have been a very great film, but the first thirty minutes are a deadly bore, interesting only when the birds start foreshadowing their attack."

I think it IS a great film.  The first thirty minutes are problematic, but I'm usually sufficently entertained by Robert Taylor and Tippi Hedren's banter, the efficient way Hitchcock whips things along from San Francisco to apartment to Bodega Bay (I had the chance to go there, I didn't--damn) to the boat (it's something like the chase Novak gives Stewart at the start of Vertigo, only without the lush music). But feathers really do start to fly when the birds start misbehaving.

"Psycho is marvelous in how it forces the audience to identify with Norman Bates through a few point-of-view shots."

See, the horror of Psycho isn't the thriller setpieces (tho I think people do still grip their armchairs the first time Martin Balsam steps up the stairs) but Bates' character--a man we totally like but who is eventually revealed to us to be a monster.  It's that devil-next-door quality that gets you.

"Notorious is of course, Bergman at her most radiant, you can't believe that she's as slutty as she is being made out to be. Notorious is also, perhaps, the best translation into film of the notion that "true love conquers all""

Also please note that Cary Grant is an unregenerate SOB here, and that it's not a love affair, it's a love triangle--with Claude Rains sounding the most tragic notes.  That ending is remarkable, with Rains turning to, literaly, face the music.

"North by Northwest is a sheer delight."

The easiest to love. Wouldja believe Hitchcock broke the law when he filmed Grant getting off in front of the UN building? (He did it without permission, under the nose of the UN security guards that you can actually see in the shot).

"But of course, there are a few Hitchcocks I'm not to fond off. Dial M For Murder is a crashing bore"

It's ingenious and it whips along, but it doesn't have the hallmarks.

"The Trouble With Harry, I should have liked, but it seemed forced"

Putting it mildly.

"Family Plot is pretty much what-the-hell, and makes one wish he stopped with Frenzy"

I like to call Plot an old armchair, comfy and familiar, no surprises.

Frenzy is what Hitchcock could do in more recent times, with a London setting and a little nudity. He didn't waste his chance.


Still more Potty

From pinoyexchange:

I don't know...Potter in this movie has a real attitude; he's angry when the Muggles oppress him, he shows real antagonism towards the whatchamacallem, the rival group he keeps fighting with all the time? (Slithern, right?) Plus there was real anger when he learned who helped kill his parents.

I never saw anything like that in the previous two movies. There Potter was a cutey nice guy, always polite, always self-sacrificing and sweet and gentle and and heroic and all. Very dull.

In the end, he says nothing really happened, which is a bitter thing to say; it has to be pointed out to him that saving lives is not nothing.

He seems to have learned that you can't have a happy ending in all your adventures, and not all problems can be solved at the end of the school year. Very adult lessons, actually.

This Potter looks like his hormones are starting to pump, are maybe a little out of his control. He's starting to look interesting, actually. Napagising ako.

More Potty

From pinoyexchange:


"the movie was alright in a technical point of view"

Technically speaking...well let me repeat some of the things I said:

As to music, John Williams (gasp!) does something OTHER than repeat the Potter theme over and over again. He throws in different stuff, even jazz.

As for tired CGI cliches---the rollercoaster POV in the Quidditch game, the way the magical creatures are presented well-lit and front-and-center (because they're so expensive)--you don't see any of that here. No, they don't look any more solid or realistic than in the previous Potter movies, but like with the hippogriff, Cuaron distracts you with the creature's performance. It may not look fully real, but it acts so wild and frightening it persuades you that it's real. With the other creatures, we see them through the heads of fellow students, or off-center in the screen, or quickly and casually in a handheld shot...in other words, they're shot and treated like the actors and props and sets, and no more special than they. This gives them equal status and (strangely enough) makes them seem more real.

Several times Cuaron moves through glass and walls from one room to another. It's a nice little transition, and usually in your standard Hollywood movie the director finds a computer cable or air duct to justify this move; Cuaron just passes through wood and stone and glass, period. More, he seems to have thought out the transition; when the camera passes through glass, for example, it's like ice melting and solidifying again. And sometimes he ends the shot with a little flourish, a movement to suggest it's really a camera and not a computer doing it.

None of this really cures the flat CGI look, or makes me finally love CGI. But it's interesting that Cuaron works against the CGI effects and tries as much as possible to make them part of the the film's look and style.

It's all in the mind, and Cuaron understood this. Columbus--eh, you could fill a Cray supercomputer with what he doesn't understand about filmmaking.

As to costumes--I love it that they dress more casually; it brings them closer to our world, and that's important. In Columbus' films, the costumes look like they were taken out of their boxes the day they started shooting. In Cuaron's film, they look like the characters have been wearing them for a while...

As for cinematography--did I say pure poetry? Radcliffe notes in an interview how fond Cuaron is of long shots and a camera that moves in or trucks around. Cuaron's more stylish, among his many other virtues. He just doesn't shoot the scene as if it were a poster; he treats it as a space to dive into and explore.

More, he lends an emotional tone to the visual style. When he moves the camera or angles it, or lights the characters and sets just so, it's to make you feel something. As for Columbus--well, what I said about him and supercomputers.


More on Potter

Something I posted on Pinoyexchange:

It's funny trying to compare this to Back to the Future...I love the Back to the Future movies, I like the way they just pile on the complications, just see how much plot twist and thrill setpieces they can insert into three ninety minute movies. It's fun, and the best work Robert Zemeckis ever made till he went soft in the head with Forrest Gump.

But I have to agree with what someone said abovethread, this third Potter is so much better than the first two it isn't even funny. Whether it's better than the Back to the Future movies is a matter of taste. If you like cartoonish acting and funny complications involving time travel for the sake of funny complications involving time travel, they're definitely for you.

If you like, however, a touch of poetry with the filmmaking, and some real human interaction to go with it, then you'd probably like Potter.

Incidentally, it isn't as if Back to the Future invented the time travel paradox, or even the paradox of a person looking at himself--check out La Jetee, check out Robert Heinlein's short stories on time travel, check out Pirandello, check out Cervantes who inspired Pirandello.

Also agree with what someone said about the Quidditch. Better you give them a taste of it and leave them wanting more than you bore them to death with it. The Quidditch here looked different, and it never outstayed its welcome.

Actress or robot?

Something I wrote to the Nora Aunor egroups thread, in reply to the charge that she's eccentric and inconsistent:

I understand where the wish that Nora would be more sociable and cooperative is coming from and I sympathize; in a perfect world, we would have Nora with all her passion and volatility wrapped in a perfectly malleable package...just like a lot of actors and actresses out there with proven staying power but just not that much talent, who have careers because they do what their agents tell them to do, say what their agents tell them to say. It's a career...but is it living?

But...let me put it this way: how do you bottle a bolt of lightning? How do you tame an earthquake, or keep the high tide on the shore? Nora is just like any other great artist, she has this incredible talent, and she has flaws and foibles just like any other human being; if anything, flaws and foibles are worse in a great artist, maybe because they have this power in them that they always (but not always successfully) have to manage, to control.

So she's eccentric and inconsistent; the way I see it, that comes from her insecurities, from the demons inside her, and I suspect so does her great talent; take away the demons, and you probably take away the talent.

I'm not saying my reading of her is true, just that I suspect it is. So what do we want? An inconsistent, eccentric star actress who also happens to have given us some of the greatest performances in Philippine cinema, or a professional hack who performs like a robot? I don't know, but I personally prefer the actress to the robot.


Great battle scenes (re: Troy)

Quote from: llanesmark777 on Jun 03, 2004 at 12:42 AM Im satisfied the fight scenes. I dont know if there are flaws in the film. To tell you honestly im not familiar with Greek Mythology.

If you want great fight scenes, check out Legendary Weapons of China, Drunken Master 2, Once Upon a Time in China 2, The Hidden Fortress, Bullet in the Head, The Quiet Man, Goldfinger, Kastilyong Buhangin (Sand Castle) to name a few. What I saw in Troy were a few halfhearted fumbles.

Just curious. Am wondering if the fight scenes in Hidden Fortress can measure up to the desperate action of Seven Samurai. My VHS copy of Hidden Fortress is all fungus coated and I have no way of checking right now...

Well, if you mean one on one duels, Mifune's in Hidden Fortress is more elaborate, while the ones in Samurai are shorter, more realistic. If you mean battle sequences, the one in Hidden Fortress, the opening, is more expensively staged, but the one in Seven Samurai, the final battle, is more brilliantly edited. Overall, I much prefer Samurai's climactic battle--Troy's battles look like aerobic sessions in comparison.

But the greatest battle sequence I ever saw was the Battle of Shrewsbury in Chimes of Midnight. Nothing matches that--not Samurai, not Intolerance, not those silly hobbit movies...


Porterhouse steak

Thought I'd use the oven today. Asked for a two-inch porterhouse steak specially cut at the butcher's, which was massive, something like over two pounds (it cost an arm and a leg, but I thought we needed a special occasion or something). Brought it home, let it warm up for an hour to room temperature.

For side dishes, I put potatoes, roma tomatoes, Vidalia onions on a tray, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper, and had them broiled on the upper rack at 350 degrees (the potatoes for an hour; the onions for around a half-hour; the tomatoes for around fifteen minutes). Roasted four ears of corn on the bottom rack, thirty minutes at 350 degrees.

Also had portabello mushrooms on a different tray, drizzled extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper over it, broiled for around twenty minutes at 500 degrees.

Finally took the steak, slathered it with a mixture of butter and canola oil that had been sitting for a few nights with minced garlic in them (leftover from the last time I made garlic croutons), laid a crust of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on top, bottom, and sides, and set it in a cast-iron pan that had been heating in the oven for twenty minutes at 500 degrees (yep, while the mushrooms were broiling). Cooked the steak 8 minutes each side for medium rare (broiler turned off--didn't want it to cook too fast), let it rest for five minutes.

Desert was some old Fuji apples and Asian pears I found in the fridge and baked (350 degrees, thirty minutes) and served with a sauce of condensed and regular milk.


More Potter

Talking about flavor, I think this is the first Potter movie to have any. It feels more open, with more possibilities, and for once it looked like the children could get hurt, physically and emotionally.

Other things I noticed: In the first two Potter movies, Hogwarts looked liked Cinderella's Castle in Disneyland (or world, pareho lang yan), and it was situated in what looked like a golf course or garden. Here, the school building has real character, rather ominous looking with the Dementors floating about, and the surrounding landscape is wilder, more unsettled (it was shot in Scotland, I hear).

Also, more ethnic students in view--Chinese, Indian. They were mostly background fodder in the previous movies.

I don't know how good an adaptation this is of the Potter books--haven't read them. I do acknowledge the plot is as confusing as ever, and that, as Potter points out, nothing is really resolved.

But I'm not looking at the movies as adaptations; I'm looking at them as movies. This one, for once, works.

Incidentally, not only do I think this is a better film than any of the hobbit movies, I think Cuaron's A Little Princess is better than this movie. But I do like this very much.


Harry Potter 3

High expectations coming into the third Potter movie, and Cuaron, thankfully, in my opinion, doesn't disappoint. People like to mention how unlikely a filmmaker he is for this material, considering he did the erotic road comedy Y Tu Mama Tambien; think of him more as the filmmaker who did the remarkable adaptation of Burnett's A Little Princess--Potter 3 has the same sparkling atmosphere and sense of mystery.

Well, maybe a little Y Tu Mama did seep through: the opening scene does have Harry in his Muggles room hiding under the bedsheets, playing with his magic wand and hoping his uncle doesn't find out.

Most of the film takes place in clouded days, with only an occasional ray of sun breaking through the gathered clouds. The effect is of a rather ominous light, bright but oppressive, almost painfully so, and not a little malignant. Columbus, in comparison, never thought to shoot in anything other than a bright blue sky--probably never entered his bright blue brain that more varied weather would have been more interesting...

The music score is still John Williams, but it's almost as if he grew a sense of taste overnight; we don't get the Potter theme repeated over and over again, ad nauseum; instead, the score is more eclectic and subdued, even jazzy.

The wonder of the special effects is that in Cuaron's hands, they aren't all that special; they're seen offhand, caught almost by accident, and no more attention is paid to them than to any other element in the film or image. Contrast this to the way Columbus would almost always put CGI effects front and center, probably with the absurd reasoning that if it costs so much money audiences will want to see as much of it, in blandly bright lighting, as possible.

The Quidditch game--something I've never been a fan of in the movies--is blessedly truncated, and shot (as is most of the film) in interestingly inclement weather. The cliche CGI shot--that of the camera following the Quidditch player from behind, as if in an amusement park ride--is (thank god in the highest!) absent; instead we have long shots of the players flying about, which I would imagine is the way a filmmaker really would try to film a game where people flit around hundreds of feet in the air...

Most of all, there's real poetry in the movie's images--the hand against the quickly frosting windowpane; the passage of the Dementor amongst withering flowers; the hippogriff's wing dipping into the lake water; the use of the Whomping Willow as a motif to indicate time's passage--leaves shed in autumn, snow mantle shaken off in spring, a heave of its heavy shoulders to indicate boredom.

The magical creatures, both animal and vegetable, generally show more distinct personalities--the scene where Potter approaches the hippogriff has real tension, mainly because Cuaron succeeds in making us believe that the CGI construct is a real animal, only half-tamed.

As for the characters...it's a bit of a shock to see Potter show real attitude, especially to his Muggle relatives (Radcliffe may fall a bit short, actingwise, but I didn't mind this so much); the rivalry between Hogwart students seem to have the bite and antagonism of emerging adolescents. Much of this comes from the book, I suppose. Michael Gambon is a more energetic, even crafty Dumbledore--I feel as if this is the first time I've seen the character awake, much less with a working brain. The humor is more understated--less slapstick, more actual wit.

The film ends inconclusively, and I hear huge swathes of detail have been removed from the book en route to the big screen, but for me that's a minor quibble. I wouldn't have cared if the film print had snapped--it's the feel of the ride that matters.

Easily the best of the Potter movies to date (probably the best ever--Mike Newell, the hack that did Four Weddings and a Funeral directs the next one), and the first to exhibit any real magic. I actually prefer this to the supersized hobbit movies--it's relatively shorter (a mere two and a half hours), it shows a budding awareness of the opposite sex, and it contains genuine lyricism, a feel for genuine enchantment.


Breakwater article in Sentieri Selvaggi

CANNES 57 - The poverty of the Philippines and the return of the manga


Simone Emiliani, Sentieri Selvaggi


"The strange modernity of Mamoru Oshii's "Innocence" and the neorealist love and misery in Filipino filmmaker Mario O'Hara's "Babae sa Breakwater" (Woman of the Breakwater)."


(excerpt from the article)


The surprise of the festival comes from the Director's Fortnight, Mario O'Hara's "Babae sa Breakwater" (Woman of the Breakwater). The film follows Basilio and his brother, who come to Manila looking for a better life. Basilio meets Paquita, a girl forced at a young age into prostitution; she in turn is being threatened by a gang boss, a former policeman who had been crippled by a bullet wound, and is reduced to terrorizing the breakwater area. A Neorealist look at poverty in the Philippines (41% of the population lives below subsistence level), where people carry on their faces the signs of disease (the sores on Paquita's skin) and hunger, it 's a hard film full of cruelty and no concession to hope that echoes Bunuel's Mexican films (particularly "Los Olvidados"); it also has a (Cesare) Zavattinilike flavor in its presentation of the different characters who haunt the strip of beach. O'Hara suggests the vitalizing strength of the element water in his repeated use of the image (not just the water of the sea, but also the water of one's birth), and inserts songs in the narrative that relieve the tension, a device that evokes not just opera but also some kind of hybrid form of the musical comedy and the fable.


Blood of the Vampire

It's not listed in imdb.com (correction--it's under its Tagalog title, Dugo ng Vampira), and there's little mention of it when googled, so I doubt if it's that well known; yet it's available on Netflix!

Strange, strange vampire movie...old man in a huge hacienda has been keeping his wife (Mary Walter) chained and locked in their basement, because she's a vampire. First the son (a young Eddie Garcia), and the sister (a beautiful Amalia Fuentes--now I know why she's known as the "Elizabeth Taylor" of the Philippines) find out, and they too fall under the vampiric curse.

Gerry de Leon's stately pace of storytelling and highflown dialogue, which seems so odd in his modern dramas, comes into its own here, combined with the gothic atmosphere (that's why his dialogue is so perfect for El Filibusterismo (The Filibuster)). There are oddities--the servants are all in blackface for some strange reason (it seems meant to be set somewhere other than Spanish Manila, possibly the Caribbean), and the budget is noticeably low (particularly with the burning house at the end). 

But the cast is good, with the standouts being Mary Walter as the sorely tried vampire matriarch, and Eddie Garcia as her antihero son. The real star of the story, though, is de Leon's sumptuously graceful visual style, which makes up for the lack of shock effects and budget with plenty of atmosphere and foreboding. Plus the way the relationships work out--there's a touch of incest here--is wonderfully understated.

Overall, I think I much prefer this to de Leon's collaborations with Romero--Brides of Blood and Mad Doctor of Blood Island. Which were fun, but in a cheesy way. This one I can take seriously.