Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

89th Oscar Foreign Language Film: What Should the Philippines Submit?   6 comments

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It’s the time of the year! By September, the Film Academy of the Philippines will submit one movie to the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences (AMPAS) that will be our bid to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards. This will be our 28th participating year and we are yet to receive a nomination.

To qualify as an eligible submission, the Academy’s rule states that “The motion picture must be first released in the country submitting it no earlier than October 1, 2015, and no later than September 30, 2016, and be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor.

Currently nine countries have already announced their submissions with our likely winner, Germany’s Toni Erdmann, in the longlist already. So which film will be our best bet to advance forward? I’ve divided them in three different categories.

DISCLAIMER: It has to be cleared that this ISN’T the final shortlist from the Film Academy of the Philippines yet, and are just mere speculations and recommendations.

FRONTRUNNERS:

anino sa likod ng kahapon

ANINO SA LIKOD NG BUWAN
Director: Jun Lana
Screenplay: Jun Lana
Cast: LJ Reyes, Luis Alandy, Anthony Falcon
Philippine Release Date: July 20, 2016

Amidst conflict between the military and communists, three people are confronted with a difficult dilemma.

Jun Lana, no stranger from Oscar representative (he directed our 2012 submission Bwakaw), is in contention yet again for his latest effort which is a one-long two-hour take staged just like a play with only three characters interacting all throughout the movie. The film also has participated alongside many different international festivals both in Asia and Europe (though none in the Big 4 major film festivals). That said, the film is unanimously considered as one of the best from 2015 among local critics.

felix manalo

FELIX MANALO
Director: Joel Lamangan
Screenplay: Bienvenido Santiago
Cast: Dennis Trillo, Bela Padilla, Gabby Concepcion
Philippine Release Date: October 7, 2015

Felix Ysagun Manalo is a sprawling historical epic that traces the origin of Iglesia Ni Cristo (The Church of Christ) which is established in the Philippines from its humble beginnings in 1914 through the present day.

Definitely one of the most divisive films of last year, Felix Manalo is epic in its landscape detailing one of the most important personalities among Iglesia ni Cristo’s history. This almost three-hour movie boasts so much of its lavish production design and staging, that it would tick all boxes in an “baity Oscar film” checklist. But beyond the grandeur is a straightforward storytelling, and one that was considered as “weak” and “safe” by most critics. That said, never underestimate the taste of the FAP to include this in the shortlist, as they’re one easily swayed by buzz regardless if those were organic or fabricated.

hele sa hiwagang hapis

HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS
Director: Lav Diaz
Screenplay: Lav Diaz
Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, Susan Africa
Philippine Release Date: March 26, 2016

In the midst of revolution, a young poet and the man that ruined his life travel through the jungle in search of safety. At the same time, a grieving widow encounters mystical beings on a mountain while searching for the body of her beloved revolutionary.

Winner of the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year (with jury president Meryl Streep awarding them), there’s no doubt that this is one of the two most-buzzed films we have in world cinema for this year. Imagine if we submitted this and have Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Oscar nominee Clive Owen campaign this right? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves as that’s a bit of a reaching. The thing with Hele is that we have already attempted to submit a Diaz film back in 2014 via Norte which is half the running time of this one and arguably his most universal effort thus far, and yet the Academy didn’t give in to it.

honor thy father

HONOR THY FATHER
Director: Erik Matti
Screenplay: Erik Matti, Michiko Yamamoto
Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Meryll Soriano, Tirso Cruz III
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2015

A family is caught in a financial ruin after being involved in a ponzi scheme.

With an Erik Matti film in contention yet again, it reminds me of probably the biggest miss we had not submitting On the Job back in 2013. What made that more infuriating was the committee’s response that they don’t want to submit a film that shows a negative image of the Philippines. Yeah, right. Anyway, Matti is back again this time with the MMFF entry Honor Thy Father which made its premiere a year ago at the Toronto International Film Festival. Honor‘s best shot is that I can see the film appealing to the Western crowd with its theme and execution. That said, the film feels bit of an after thought by now, but with every controversy that the film has encountered, it just ended up soaring higher. Maybe, FAP atones to Erik Matti this time around?

ignacio de loyola

IGNACIO DE LOYOLA
Director: Paolo Dy, Cathy Azanza
Screenplay: Paolo Dy
Cast: Andreas Munoz, Javier Godino, Julio Perillan
Philippine Release Date: July 27, 2016

In 16th Century Spain, a soldier born of nobility gives his life of luxury to become a pilgrim devoted to God and his people.

Watch out Felix Manalo, there’s another religious biography in contention. Kidding aside, I can already imagine the FAP members creaming themselves over this one. For one, the casting of a foreign star in lead role will make them think it can add extra buzz to our own entry (this isn’t an Oscar rule after all. Lots of foreign actors starred in films from other countries which ended up as submissions. Case in point: French star Emmanuelle Riva in Austria’s Amour, Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal in Chilean film No, and even our own Angeli Bayani in Sinagpore’s Ilo-ilo). Plus, the religious theme somehow gives it more importance and a “good image” per se in representing the country (which apparently is an unwritten rule; see: On the Job again in 2013).

ma'rosa

MA’ROSA
Director: Brillante Mendoza
Screenplay: Troy Espiritu
Cast: Jaclyn Jose, Andi Eigenmann, Julio Diaz, Felix Roco, Jomari Angeles
Philippine Release Date: July 6, 2016

A poor family scrambles to find the money to pay off the corrupt policemen that have arrested the parents for dealing drugs.

Sure it was one of the least buzzed entries at Cannes main competition this year, until the great Jaclyn Jose earned the coveted Best Actress win and the rest, as they say, is history. Ma’Rosa is currently participating now at Toronto International Film Festival and I think it has the most buzz for any Filipino film competing for this year when it comes to foreign exposure. And at this stage, after all his trips to Cannes and Berlin and Venice and TIFF, isn’t Brillante Mendoza overdue for a Filipino Oscar submission? I lobbied that Taklub was our best shot last year, but they can make up for it with Ma’Rosa this year.

pamilya ordinario

PAMILYA ORDINARYO
Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Screenplay: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Cast: Ronwaldo Martin, Hasmine Killip, Sue Prado, Moira Lang
Philippine Release Date: August 31, 2016

Jane and Aries are teenage parents. They make a living out of stealing on the streets… until fate hits back at them.

After sweeping major awards at the recently concluded Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival including wins for Best Picture, Best Director for Eduardo Roy Jr., and Best Actress for newcomer Hasmine Killip, this runaway favorite is getting an instant cinema release in time for the Oscar cutoff. Add the fact that it’s also heading to Venice under the “Venice Days” sidebar (think of it as their answer to Cannes’ Directors Fortnight section), and it’s on the right track. This also has the makings to appeal to an international audience,

POTENTIAL SHORTLIST MENTIONS:

tier 2

Don’t be surprised to see any of these films in this group make it in the final shortlist.

DUKOT
Director: Paul Soriano
Screenplay: Froilan Medina
Cast: Enrique Gil, Ricky Davao, Christopher de Leon, Shaina Magdayao
Philippine Release Date: July 13, 2016

With Paul Soriano helming it (one of the producers of our 2013 Oscar submission “Transit“), this suspense drama about an abducted son also brags of an ensemble composed of some of the biggest names in the country both newbies and veterans.

ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI
Director: Gil Portes
Screenplay: Enrique Ramos
Cast: Aljur Abrenica, Louise delos Reyes, Enzo Pineda, Menggie Cobarrubias
Philippine Release Date: September 21, 2016

In the tradition of our love for hero films — some of which are deserved (last year’s Heneral Luna), some of which are good (Supremo), and some which are just flat out terrible (El Presidente), let’s say hello to Hermano Puli.

MAGTANGGOL
Director: Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez
Screenplay: Henrie Enaje, Henry dela Cruz, Sigfreid Barros Sanchez
Cast: Dina Bonnevie, Ejay Falcon, Joonee Gamboa, Tom Rodriguez
Philippine Release Date: June 8, 2016

Only because of its serious topical theme (with them even doing special screening this National Heroes Day), I can see this political themed film making a (not so) surprise appearance in the shortlist. Think of how Kamkam by Joel Lamangan made it to the Top 4 in 2014.

A SECOND CHANCE
Director: Cathy Garcia-Molina
Screenplay: Henrie Enaje, Henry dela Cruz, Sigreid Barros Sanchez
Cast: Carmi Raymundo, Vanesssa Valdez, Cathy Garcia-Molina
Philippine Release Date: November 25, 2015

We have that one slot, almost always reserved to those box office hits that tackle more serious topics than the usual. Not to say that they aren’t deserving since most of them actually are, but they  happen to end up in the shortlist. Examples include 2008’s Caregiver, or 2010’s Sa’yo Lamang, maybe even last year’s That Thing Called Tadhana can somewhat be considered.

TANDEM
Director: King Palisoc
Screenplay: Zig Marasigan
Cast: JM de Guzman, Nico Antonio, Rochelle Pangilinan
Philippine Release Date: February 17, 2016

As for starters, the producers of this film were also the producers of our previous submission Heneral Luna, so if anything, they;d sure be willing to campaign. This film got good to great reviews with solid performances from the leads, but if you compare it to other entries, it’s a tad low-key (in terms of buzz and not of film quality). And if it’s already low-key here, can you imagine how it would fare to the foreign market?

WALANG FOREVER
Director: Dan Villegas
Screenplay: Paul Sta. Ana
Cast: Jennylyn Mercado, Jericho Rosales, Lorna Tolentino
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2015

For an MMFF film, this one got solid reviews and even swept the Gabi ng Parangal of last year. This is also from the Dan Villegas and Jennylyn Mercado team-up, which reminds us that English Only Please, was part of the short-list that year.

ELIGIBILITY ISSUES:

tier 3

So these movies have appeared in different indie film festivals but haven’t fulfilled the seven-day commercial distribution yet. This does not mean that these movies are bad obviously they’re not because there have been buzz for some of them to be submitted. Well, they still have the whole month of September to book a screening if they plan to be considered eligible. Or they can wait for next year instead. For what it’s worth, some films who made it in the shortlist the previous years aren’t from the same year where they participated in festivals. As for examples, the 2008 Cinemalaya film Boses only got a commercial screening in 2012, and thus was included in the shortlist for the 2012 Oscars. Same goes for Ian Lorenos’ Alagwa which gave Jericho Rosales his Urian in 2012 but was in the 2014 shortlist.

FINAL VERDICT:

For this year, I think we can trim it down to three films which would all be decent submissions by any means. For starters, there’s the John Lloyd starrer Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis with its Berlin victory, but is simply hindered by the 8-hr running time. Not that Lav Diaz needs Oscars anyway to validate his impressive work; it’s just that sometimes the Academy just doesn’t fit into a certain director’s style. Then there’s the other John Lloyd starrer Honor Thy Father, which I can see a scenario with it connecting to a foreign audience, if they’re gonna push it hard and run aggressive with it. That’s a big if, by the way. In the end, maybe Jaclyn Jose’s Cannes win can also be Brillante Mendoza’s first RP submission to the Academy. It’s doing its assignment by participating in TIFF and its Cannes win, but us submitting a Mendoza film for once won’t do us any harm, regardless of the end result if it gets in or not.

Share your thoughts with me! You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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39th Gawad Urian Winner Predictions   Leave a comment

The Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) are bound to reward their picks among the best of 2015 local cinema with the 39th Gawad Urian Awards this Tuesday, June 21. But who are poised to take home those huge silver trophies? It’s a strange year in predicting, but here’s where I’ll bet my money on.

best picture

BEST PICTURE
“Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
“ARI: My Life with a King”
“Bambanti”
“Da Dog Show”
“Heneral Luna”
“Honor Thy Father”
“Imbisibol”
“Taklub”

Unlike previous years when there’s one clear frontrunner to win the top award (2003’s Magnifico, 2005’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, 2009’s Kinatay, and 2013’s Norte), this year, the race is a bit up in the air. As for starters, there’s the now iconic pop culture effect of Heneral Luna, which dominated critically and commercially. Then there’s also Taklub, which was Brillante Mendoza’s comeback to Cannes (albeit in the Un Certain Regard competition) since 2009. Anino sa Likod ng Buwan and Imbisibol both live up to the name of their previous stage adaptations. And Honor Thy Father got pretty much the same enthusiasm that Matti’s (also Best Picture nominated) On the Job received. The three other films nominated are much low-key in nature, but I can also foresee a case of the Manunuri going with the cultural importance of the arts in “Ari.” I guess I’ll go with Jun Lana’s “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan“, as I find its one shot narrative up right the Manunuri’s alley. Besides, Lana is someone I see who’s finally breaking through with the Urian considering they also went gaga with Barber’s Tales last year (despite ending with a 0-11 shutout).

PREDICTION: “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan
ALTERNATE: “Heneral Luna

best director

BEST DIRECTOR:
Carlo Enciso Catu, “ARI: My Life with a King”
Mario Cornejo, “Apocalypse Child”
Zig Madamba Dulay, “Bambanti”
Lawrence Fajardo, “Imbisibol”
Ralston Jover, “Da Dog Show”
Jun Lana, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
Erik Matti, “Honor Thy Father”
Brilliante Mendoza, “Taklub”
Kidlat Tahimik, “Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment”
Jerrold Tarog, “Heneral Luna”

I have this previous theory (which I shared last year) that when someone is up for the Best Director award yet the film isn’t nominated for Best Picture, that totally eliminates the director’s chances to win at all. After all, no director has won in this category without the corresponding film being nominated for the top award too. That said, if there’s one filmmaker who can defy that statistic, it’s Kidlat Tahimik. After all, the narrative is there already. I’m sure the Urian won’t shy rewarding him especially now that the opportunity is there. Then again, I noted two years ago that in a field of 12 Best Director nominees, the only ones with no Urian are Erik Matti and Hannah Espia and while I predicted the former, it’s the latter who won. Thus, I’ll reserve my alternate this time for Matti to nab his first Urian here.

PREDICTION: Kidlat Tahimik, “Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment”
ALTERNATE:
Erik Matti, “Honor Thy Father”

best actor

BEST ACTOR
Luis Alandy, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
John Arcilla, “Heneral Luna”
John Lloyd Cruz, “Honor Thy Father”
John Lloyd Cruz, “A Second Chance”
Ricky Davao, “Dayang Asu”
Anthony Falcon, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
Francisco Guinto, “ARI: My Life with a King”
Sid Lucero, “Apocalypse Child”
Junjun Quintana, “Water Lemon”
Jericho Rosales, “Walang Forever”
Dennis Trillo, “Felix Manalo”
Lou Veloso, “Da Dog Show”

While it’s a strong year for lead actors with everyone getting in meaty roles here and there, this is one category where the Manunuri channels their inner Oprah and hands out nominations like Santa Claus. From this bunch, chances are we won’t see a repeat winner so that leaves out Ricky Davao, Sid Lucero, Junjun Quintana, Jericho Rosales, and Lou Veloso already. In the event that it will be though, bank on John Arcilla’s prominent pornstache to win this. That said, the double nominations signify strong support for our perennial frontrunner John Lloyd Cruz to finally receive his first Urian. Only once in the history of Urian did an actor compete against herself that lost (FYI it’s Nora Aunor x2 (both ‘Merika and Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit) losing to Vilma Santos in Sister Stella L.). So unless Manunuri trolls out in the end, it’s John Lloyd’s to lose.

PREDICTION: John Lloyd Cruz, “Honor Thy Father”
ALTERNATE:
John Arcilla, “Heneral Luna”

best actress

BEST ACTRESS:
Nora Aunor, “Taklub”
Angeli Bayani, “Iisa”
Mercedes Cabral, “Da Dog Show”
Alessandra de Rossi, “Bambanti”
Anicka Dolonius, “Apocalypse Child”
Jennylyn Mercado, “Walang Forever”
Ces Quesada, “Imbisibol”
LJ Reyes, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”

Last year, it was easy to dismiss Nora Aunor’s chances simply because she’s already winning the Natatanging Gawad Urian and if there’s one thing that Urian loves, it’s to spread the wealth. This year however is a more difficult one to predict. That said, Taklub is minor Aunor, and I don’t think this is the performance that will tie her with rival Vilma Santos for the 8th Best Actress win. Both Angeli Bayani and Alessandra de Rossi won Urian the past few years, so I don’t see the Manunuri rushing to give them second wins (they have no problem giving out nominations but a win is a different talk). Quesada, Dolonius and Cabral are all borderline supporting characters in terms of screentime or story, though Ces Quesada, a veteran with no Urian win yet can easily overcome this narrative as compared to the two others. Jennylyn Mercado, a previous Urian nominee for Blue Moon back in 2005, is nominated for #WalangForever, seems more of a statement on the Manunuri’s part that they also acknowledge romance/commercial format stories. I mean if Angelica Panganiban couldn’t win with Tadhana last year, I doubt they’re touching this. That leaves me with LJ Reyes, and while in any other year, I wouldn’t have made this prediction, maybe the “boldness” of the role would be enough for her to take home the trophy.

PREDICTION: LJ Reyes, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
ALTERNATE:
Ces Quesada, “Imbisibol”

best supp actor

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
RK Bagatsing, “Apocalypse Child”
Bernardo Bernardo, “Imbisibol”
Tirso Cruz III, “Honor Thy Father”
JM De Guzman, “Imbisibol”
Julio Diaz, “Taklub”
Alion Ibanez, “Da Dog Show”
Micko Laurente, “Bambanti”
Lou Veloso, “Taklub”

Opposite of the Oscars where they reward the older vets in Supporting, the Urian likes them young and fresh with up and coming actors winning here going as far as 1986 champ Aga Muhlach up to last year’s Martin del Rosario. The only one who fits the bill is 4x nominee JM de Guzman for Imbisibol. But then, I think this is one year where they can skip that as I think it’s a battle of the three vets: 1980 Best Actor Bernardo Bernardo, 1992 Best Supporting Actor Tirso Cruz III, and still Urian-less Julio Diaz. I have a hunch they’re going with Tirso’s over the top religious zealot in here to give him his overdue second career Urian.

PREDICTION: Tirso Cruz III, “Honor Thy Father”
ALTERNATE:
Julio Diaz, “Taklub”

best supp actress

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Liza Dino, “Toto”
Mylene Dizon, “Heneral Luna”
Rio Locsin, “Iisa”
Anna Abad Santos, “Apocalypse Child”
Tessie Tomas, “Water Lemon”
Cecil Yumol, “ARI: My Life with a King”
Gwen Zamora “Apocalypse Child”

I can’t remember the last time they rewarded a supporting performance from a full comedy movie, so I feel that Liza Dino’s nominations is the reward itself already. Same goes for Urian winner Mylene Dizon. I personally prefer Ana Abad Santos over Gwen Zamora in Apocalypse Child, but a part of me thinks that it’s a film they showered with acting nominations but will give no wins (which in Urian history isn’t always a bad thing. There’s a long list of films that reap 4-5 acting nominations that will lose all of its acting bids. Case in point, last year’s Best Picture Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon, or Barber’s Tales.). I’ll call this a race between two underrated veterans: Rio Locsin vs. Tessie Tomas, and I’ll give the edge to the latter just because she have more Urian losses, so maybe the Manunuri might make up for it.

PREDICTION: Tessie Tomas, “Water Lemon”
ALTERNATE:
Rio Locsin, “Iisa”

Now as for the rest of the nominations:

SCREENPLAY:
Prediction:
Herlyn Gail Alegre  and John Paul Bedia, “Imbisibol
Alternate:
Michicko Yamamoto, Honor Thy Father

PRODUCTION DESIGN:
Prediction: Harley Alcasid, “Bukod Kang Pinagpala
Alternate: Ben Payumo, “Water Lemon

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Prediction: Ber Cruz, “Honor Thy Father
Alternate: Pong Ignacio, “Heneral Luna

MUSIC:
Prediction: Jerrold Tarog, “Heneral Luna
Alternate: Diwa de Leon, “Taklub

EDITING:
Prediction: Lawrence Ang, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan
Alternate: Kats Serraon, “Da Dog Show

SOUND:
Prediction: Mikko Quizon, “Heneral Luna
Alternate: Mikko Quizon, “Honor Thy Father

The 39th Gawad Urian Awards will be shown live on Cinema One this June 21 at 8PM.

69th Cannes Film Festival Winner Predictions   Leave a comment

2016 Jury

Another year has gone by, as the world’s most prestigious festival comes to a close. The 69th Cannes Film Festival has been a whirlwind of some sort. This year featured a bad Woody Allen joke during the opening ceremony, a barefoot Julia Roberts in the red carpet, and probably the most low-key Un Certain Regard competition in a long time.

As for the Main Competition, the consensus is that it’s a bit frontloaded with the latter half of the festival ranging from underwhelming (Dardennes), to bad (Dolan), to really bad (Penn), and sadly, to the no1curr (Mendoza). That said, this is one of the hardest to predict since there isn’t any specific basis as to what the jury will go for (and the jury changes every year!), but here’s a stab at possible winner predictions.

Screenplay

PRIX DU SCÉNARIO

PREDICTION: Cristian Mungiu, “Bacalaureat (Graduation)
Mungiu has already won this award four years ago with Beyond the Hills, but I can see him being the first person to win this twice. A previous Palme d’Or winner for 4 Months, 3  Weeks, 2 Days, this slow burner story about a father and his daughter is the type of thought provoking film that usually wins this category. He can find himself against the other Romanian, Cristi Piui, for equally talky film Sieranevada

ALTERNATE: Asghar Farhadi, “Forushande (The Salesman)”
Prior to the beginning of the festival, this one is touted as one of the major frontrunners especially since it was a late minute addition. While it can still happen in this jury, the relatively silent reactions around it makes me think that it can settle for a Screenplay award instead.

Actor

PRIX D’INTERPRÉTATION MASCULINE

PREDICTION: Dave Johns, “I, Daniel Blake
Mostly known as an English stand up comic, “I Daniel Blake” is Dave Johns’ first foray into movie acting. And if it’s any indication, he should be doing more of it. His commanding turn as the title role in Ken Loach’ entry this year reportedly broke a lot of hearts and had everyone praising him. Seems fitting in this category.

ALTERNATE: Adam Driver, “Paterson
The Jim Jarmusch film in competition this year is said to be in his upper tier of works, and if the Jury loves it so much, an award to its lead actor can be one way of rewarding it. In the event it happens, it’s quite delicious since Driver has just won the Volpi Cup two years ago for Hungry Hearts, and for him to have 2/3 of the major trifecta for a relatively short career yet is astounding, to say the least.

Actress

PRIX D’INTERPRÉTATION FÉMININE

PREDICTION: Sonia Braga, “Aquarius
Locks rarely do happen at Cannes of all people (heck even unanimously raved Blue is the Warmest Color in 2013 wasn’t a sure thing as we entered the awarding ceremony), but if there’s one performance that was continuously raved from its premiere up to now was that of Sonia Braga’s in Aquarius. It also helps that the film has received great word too, so it can be hitting two birds with one stone in this one.

ALTERNATE: Kristen Stewart, “Personal Shopper
To be frank, this is probably the most competitive lead actress year in Cannes for quite some time. There’s Isabelle Huppert gunning a third win for “Elle” and Sandra Huller for “Toni Erdmann” but I think both are also gunning for higher prizes. There’s also Ruth Negga who was consistently praised for “Loving“, the two women who played the title roles of”Julieta” — Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte, Adèle Haenel of “The Unknown Girl“, Sasha Lane of “American Honey“, Juliette Binoche of “Ma Loute“, Jaclyn Jose of “Ma’Rosa“, Elle Fanning of “The Neon Demon“, but maybe Kristen Stewart’s lead role in Oliver Assayas’ “Personal Shopper” is one that can appeal to this particular jury.

Directing

PRIX DE LA MISE EN SCÉNE

PREDICTION: Andrea Arnold, “American Honey
I’m sure politics isn’t the be all-end all of everything, but in the history of Cannes, only one woman has won the Best Director trophy (that would be Soviet director Yuliya Solntseva 55 years ago way back in 1961). The buzz for American Honey has managed to stay throughout the rest of the competition, and while I don’t think it was unanimously raved, this type of divisive response is perfect for a Best Director trophy.

ALTERNATE: Paul Verhoeven, “Elle
Sure he is no highly heralded auteur, but Paul Verhoeven’s comeback is enough narrative for him to win this. This is the man who gave us Starship Troopers and Basic Instinct, so winning a Cannes Best Director for his first film in ten years is something I can see the jury acknowledging.

Jury Prize

PRIX DU JURY

PREDICTION: Park Chan-Wook, “Agassi (The Handmaiden)”
Winner of the same award back in 2009 for “Thirst“, Park Chan-Wook’s comeback film in competition can also be his third-award winning one following 2004 Grand Prix winner “Oldboy” and the aforementioned Thirst.Agassi” surely isn’t the unanimous raved entry for this year, but between its feminist tones and deliciously looking visuals, this can be enough of a formula to win a Jury Prize.

ALTERNATE: Bruno Dumont “Ma Loute (Slack Bay)”
It’s a bit weird to see no French entry be rewarded with a win especially since this is the Cannes after all, but if there’s one, this Bruno Dumont comedy is my best guess to have a chance.

Grand Prix

GRAND PRIX

PREDICTION: Paul Verhoeven, “Elle
Saving the latter half of the competition, Verhoeven’s comeback vehicle “Elle” was met with raves from critics and was considered as the perfect closer to the festival. Its humorous and atypical take on a serious subject matter, as well as the combination of star power and potential wide appeal is definitely right up Miller’s alley. One reason why I’m not predicting it  for the Palme d’Or though is that I think it’s a tad controversial and boundary pushing for the top prize.

ALTERNATE: Andrea Arnold, “American Honey
American press kept on harping that this is the next Palme d’Or, but I have my reservations with that. I think it’s too divisive and not even the type of divisive that will have enough champions in the group. It’s more fitting for a Jury Prize or a Directorial one for Andrea Arnold. But who knows? Maybe they know something I don’t.

Palme d'Or

PALME D’OR

PREDICTION: Maren Ade, “Toni Erdmann
It’s really the breakout of this festival. This strange comedy from female filmmaker Maren Ade really had all the critics raving about it. As for starters, it’s one of the consistent performer across all different critics poll series. Then, George Miller hinted about wanting to reward/prefer a comedy. Add the narrative of only one female director winning the Palme d’Or (that would be Jane Campion’s “The Piano” back in 1993 but it won in a tie). Unless the jury really wants to go on a different direction, I think we’re looking at our Palme winner already.

ALTERNATE: Ken Loach, “I, Daniel Blake
Well this is the other direction I’m referring to. If they’re not in the mood for some comedy, then this heartwarming drama which was reported as having the jury really ecstatic about it can be our Palme winner. Ken Loach won this exactly a decade ago unanimously with “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” (in a competition that included Bruno Dumont, Nicole Garcia, Andrea Arnold, and Pedro Almodovar too) so maybe history’s for rewriting this one.

As for that highly regarded film that ended up with no win, I’m leaning towards Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” and Cristi Piui’s “Sieranevada” as the likely victims for this year. I’m excited to see the Maren Ade, the Jim Jarmusch, the Paul Verhoeven, Asghar Farhadi, and I guess the Brillante Mendoza among the competition, but titles in other sidebars such as Pablo Larrain’s “Neruda” and “The Red Turtle.” Oh and for the sheer lulz of it, I hope we get to see Sean Penn’s “The Last Face” too!

Talk to me about it on Twitter: @nikowl

89th Oscars Predictions: May Edition   2 comments

It’s that time of the year! As Cannes is currently going, here’s my first stab at predictions for the 89th Academy Awards. Ten years ago, The Departed won in the tightest Best Picture race (prior to the one early this year), Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren steamrolled through critics and televised awards, an Idol reject named Jennifer Hudson took Oscar glory, and an overdue Martin Scorsese finally can call himself an Oscar winner.

This year, we might have Marty coming back again, the birth of a nation, Ang Lee at another shot to a Best Picture win, as well as Meryl Streep getting nod #20, and Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert? Here’s my take on the top six races.

Picture

Directing

Actor

Actress

Supporting Actor

Supporting Actress

Talk to me about it on Twitter: @nikowl

Sinag Maynila 2016   Leave a comment

Sinag

So yesterday I did a marathon of all Sinag Maynila entries. Sinag Maynila is a project close to me since I worked on it in its initial year up until the announcement/selection for this batch (before I left my previous work). I was really interested with the movies this year particularly because I already have a clue with these entries, so to see them translated in the big screen is what made me excited. Anyway, here are short thoughts on the 2016 batch.

  1. TPO (Joselito Altarejos)
    Probably the best in this bunch, Altarejos managed to capture in less than 80 minutes the pain, the process, the aftermath of domestic violence and how this goes beyond the victim and the abuser. Characters weren’t one-dimensional and the use of long shots made the situation linger. If anything, TPO shows how people cope up with this illness and how it’s reflective of our society.

    4/5

  2. Expressway (Ato Bautista)
    Everything in Expressway is flamboyant from its full opening credits to its choreographer stunts. One can make a case that it has a tendency to go style over substance for a paper thin story that’s predictable and excessive, but it was a joyride to see Alvin Anson and Aljur Abrenica navigate through it – the former to get a leading role like this, the latter to totally embrace the batshit character he’s portraying (even if in some scenes, he went full retard). Oh, and for some reason, setting the film during Christmas season somehow added to its appeal.

    3/5

  1. MRS. (Adolf Alix)
    MRS. is a character study for its lead Virignia (what a comeback for the always dependable Elizabeth Oropesa) as she deals with everything happening around her – her older sister wanting to sell the lot of her house, her loyal house helper who’s getting married, her daughter who has joined a cult, her missing child. She’s living in a house situated on a fault line thus her house has cracks and looks old which probably signifies where she is in her life right now. The film contains really powerful moments, and I acknowledge the intent more than I appreciate it. That said, Alix continues to bring out the best in his actors.

    2.5/5

  2. Dyamper (Mes de Guzman)
    What’s exciting about Dyamper is director Mes de Guzman’s humor obviously present in it. When following about the lives of these so-called “dyampers”, the movie is at its peak. The back story of Alchris Galura’s character however, while not cringe-worthy and him totally selling it, felt a bit disjointed than the “dyamper” storyline. It’s not actually bad, but I think there’s a lack of smooth transition between these two parts that’s a tad jarring.

    2.5/5

  3. Lila (Gino M. Santos)
    Philbert Dy summed it best when he said that “Lila feels like a script that Regal rejected.” For what it’s worth, the film was stylishly done and everyone involved seemed so committed with it. That said, not only is the lead character one of the more clueless leads in recent horror film memory, but probably one of the slowest readers… ever? Like if I discovered someone’s thin diary, you bet on it I’m done with it by the second hour, notes and all. Heh.

    1/5

Since the Gabi ng Parangal happens tonight, I’ll offer my personal choices on this batch’s winners. Picture and Directing obviously goes to TPO and Joselito Altarejos. Actor I give to Aljur Abrenica (give or take his really over the top scenes, but playing that annoying young character seems right up his alley). Actress is obviously Elizabeth Oropesa (no contest!). Screenplay and Editing go to TPO, Cinematography is Dyamper, Production Design is MRS, and Score goes to Expressway. Lila probably gets best outfits for Enchong Dee.

Sinag

While we’re at it, I still invite you to watch all five films from this year’s Sinag Maynila. And (heh), avail the Sinag Maynila ePLUS Festival Kit Card because trust me, it’ll save you a lot of money (I think a movie is at Php280 each if I’m not mistaken). Until next year! #SinagMaynila2016

88th Academy Awards Winner Predictions   Leave a comment

Every time we say that a certain year is the craziest season ever,  the coming season proves to be more insane than the previous one. And that fact holds true for this year, as momentum shifted all throughout the season. Between  #OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoStraight, the Spotlight/The Big Short/Mad Max/The Revenant momentum shift, the existence of Jacob Tremblay, and Diane Ladd being “upset and chagrined”, we’ve finally come to the near end of the awards season a.k.a the pitstop which is the Oscars!

And as you figure out if you’re Team Ryan vs. Rachel, bear vs. Brie, spies vs. space, and Saoirse vs. Furiosa, let me present my predictions in all Oscar categories.

Original Screenplay

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

The screenplay categories are usually reserved for Best Picture contenders unless there’s something so groundbreaking that comes along (such is the case for Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in 2004 or Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her in 2002). This year’s nominees however had a small crossover with the Picture category as it’s only Bridge of Spies and Spotlight that got in here (for the record, the other six nominees are all ineligible here). That said, this one is the token award for Spotlight for many reasons: it’s a really good screenplay, it tackles an important topic, and it’s a consolation for being the frontrunner back in October – November. Ideally, Bridge of Spies is the runner-up, but it just feels like a filler nomination here. I’d probably go with Inside Out because the complexities of it is just something the writers would probably acknowledge.

PREDICTION: Spotlight (Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer)
ALTERNATE: Inside Out (Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen)

Adapted Screenplay

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Using the same logic above, all but Carol here were nominated for the Best Picture category, which is a shame basically. But enough about my personal feelings. The strongest contender here is The Big Short with its WGA and BAFTA win under its belt. Just like Spotlight, the director is also one half of the film’s writers, it’s also tackling an important and very American issue, and it’s a consolation for being the frontrunner back in early January. The closest to an alternate is probably Emma Donoghue as she translated her own work from a literary piece to the big screen, and Room is that little film that could ignite real passion.

PREDICTION: The Big Short (Adam McKay, Charles Randolph)
ALTERNATE: Room (Emma Donoghue)

Supp Actor

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

What was supposed to be a really messy category ended up a really safe one as we enter the Oscar nomination stage. Remember when the Globes, SAG, BFCA, and BAFTA have different lineups in this category? And while it’s a bit unusual that Sylvester Stallone missed both SAG and BAFTA (and by miss, we mean he wasn;t even nominated), he still remains as the frontrunner here. The thing here is after his Globe win (okay his BFCA but really lol), his next stop is directly at the Oscars, and for things to work his way, both the SAG and the BAFTA must have different winners so that no one can gain momentum. The only two people nominated for both were Christian Bale and Mark Rylance. Luckily for him, the un-nominated Idris Elba won SAG (and while Elba was excellent in it, it’s basically an answer tot he diversity issue) while Mark Rylance won BAFTA. It also didn’t help that Rylance basically uncampaigned for himself the whole season — only attending the Globes when he lost that one. Watch out for Mark Ruffalo though especially is Spotlight comes strong at the Oscars. But alas, come Sunday night, we’ll be living in a world where we have acting Oscar winner Rocky Balboa.

PREDICTION: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
ALTERNATE: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Supp Actress

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

In a year when we can finally call both Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Rachel McAdams as Oscar nominees, it’s rather unfortunate that the win isn’t between the two of them. Like Ruffalo, McAdams has a small chance as I think she’s the dark horse in this category. Then there’s Rooney Mara (or as Diane Ladd calls her, Rooney Moore) who won the Cannes (again, as Diane Ladd calls it – the Carn) Best Actress award for Carol. By now, Carol just feels like an afterthought at the Oscars, and I don’t see it winning anywhere here. The race here is basically between GG + BAFTA winner Kate Winslet vs. BFCA + SAG winner Alicia Vikander. In previous instances, the former is the stronger case than the latter (see wins by Marion Cotillard, Christoph Waltz in Django, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady). However, it has to be mentioned that in the two instances that Kate won, Alicia Vikander was nominated for her turn in the low budgeted sci-fi Ex Machina. The two wins of Vikander where she beat Kate Winslet was for The Danish Girlthe same performance that’s nominated here. I think that’s a very important detail in this discussion, and add the fact that Vikander is an ingenue playing a suffering wife role (in short, this category’s two hard-ons), and voila, you have your Oscar winner!

PREDICTION: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
ALTERNATE: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Lead Actor

LEAD ACTOR:

Leonardo di Caprio. End of discussion.

Welp I’m joking. With the end of the discussion part I mean. But yes, it’s time to say goodbye to the memes. Leonardo di Caprio is finally winning an Oscar. And I can already imagine the standing ovation. It’s gonna be long, and there’s gonna be tears, and a camera will be panned to Kate Winslet crying as if it wasn’t Rose’s fault why Jack died in that obscure little movie they starred together 19 years ago called Titanic (do you remember that one?). And I’m happy for Leo, as we know that’s one off his bucket list. He knows this is the closest chance he had at winning, and he milked every moment of it surpassing all his co-nominees. As for starters, he went all the way to the Pope. I mean he has God on his side already (sorry Matt Damon but God is farther than the space you’re stuck with in The Martian). Second, di Caprio is so intense as an actor that you have no idea he almost died getting that Oscar shooting The Revenant (did you experience that too Bryan Cranston? No? Oh better luck next time). Third, he knows how to choose the roles that will finally net him the win (There’s a reason why he passed on that Jobs role, Fassbender). And lastly, he even sent a prepared Skype video of his speech at the BFCA  when he can’t attend (Not even Eddie Redmayne thought of doing that last year). Basically what I’m saying is that it’s time.

PREDICTION:  Leonardo di Caprio, The Revenant
ALTERNATE: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Lead Actress

LEAD ACTRESS:

There’s one performance that swept all the precursors in this category this year, and obviously it’s the same performance winning on Sunday night. Brie Larson will walk away with an Oscar for her riveting performance in Room. There really is a strong support for the movie (as proven by director Lenny Abrahamson’s surprise Directing nod), and Brie is this award season’s darling with trades calling her as the next big thing already. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s friends with some of the it girls in Hollywood (co-nominee Jennifer Lawrence as for starters, Amy Schumer too, and then Rooney Mara as well). It’s basically a coronation of another Hollywood it girl, and we can’t be happier enough as she deserves it.

PREDICTION: Brie Larson, Room
ALTERNATE: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Directing

DIRECTING:

History is about to be rewritten as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will win his consecutive Best Directing Oscar for The Revenant. With the narrative of how much it was difficult to make The Revenant, he’s about to be rewarded with a second Oscar in here especially since he also won the Directors Guild which is the most accurate precursor in this category. Both McKay and McCarthy will be getting their dues in the Screenplay category, and Abrahamson is the unique passion vote that has no chance of winning. Miller could have had the momentum on his side had he won the DGA which unfortunately he didn’t. At this stage, no matter what happens in the Best Picture race is different, as this one’s a lock already.

PREDICTION: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
ALTERNATE: Adam McKay, The Big Short

Animated Feature

This is a really strong category, and I applaud the Academy for going with films like When Marnie was There and Boy and the World here. That said, this is Inside Out‘s award, as it probably won 99% of all the Animated Feature awards given throughout this season (and deservedly so). It’s a bit sad when you think how the film didn’t fare stronger outside of this category (except for that weak Original Screenplay one.)

PREDICTION: Inside Out
ALTERNATE: Anomalisa

Foreign Language Film

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

Ever since the Academy changed the voting winner of the pattern here (they’re up for grabs for the whole membership instead of a small panel of voters who will sign they’ve watched all five movies nominated), the winner has always been the most buzzed film of the group. Son of Saul is that movie this year. Coming off from a Jury Prize winner at Cannes, winning countless Foreign Language Film mentions one after the other, Hollywood can’t resist this Holocaust story. That said, there were rumors that this didn’t make it the shortlist in a popular vote. In that case, watch out for crowd-pleasing Mustang as France aims another win in this category. That said, I’d still give Son of Saul the advantage.

PREDICTION: Son of Saul
ALTERNATE: Mustang

Documentary Feature

The documentary about the late Amy Winehouse seems like the frontrunner here as it won majority of the precursors in this category. That said, it’s really not the type that wins here if we’re basing it at history. Interestingly enough, the closest contender is about another musician – Nina Simone, as Netflix campaigned the hell out of What Happened, Miss Simone? Netflix has been very eager to duplicate their TV domination at the Oscars, and the all around snubbing of Beasts of No Nation will just pump themselves up further in this category. That said, I wonder how the great Joshua Oppenheimer feels, that every time his documentary is nominated here, it loses to a musically-themed film (flashback to The Act of Killing losing to 20 Feet from Stardom two years ago).

PREDICTION: Amy
ALTERNATE: What Happened, Miss Simone?

Now here are the rest of the technical categories (which is difficult because Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant are competing in eight of this (save for Score and Song) and we really don’t know how the Academy will vote here:

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Remember when we used to be upset before when we feel like the Academy doesn’t recognize the greatness of Chivo Lubezki? I guess the Oscars make up for it so much that he’s now a shoo-in to win his third consecutive Academy Award in this category for The Revenant.

PREDICTION: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
ALTERNATE: 
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

COSTUME DESIGN:

While Sandy Powell is competing against herself in this category, I think it’s Jenny Beavan is the one to win the Oscar as part of the semi-sweep by Mad Max in here. That said, we really can’t dismiss the really showy costume work done in Cinderella.

PREDICTION: Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road
ALTERNATE: Sandy Powell, Cinderella

FILM EDITING:

While a nomination here is crucial for a movie aiming for a Best Picture win, only one of the last five winners of this category has won Best Picture (that would be 2012’s Argo). Lately, they’re into really showy and flashy editing which makes me think it’s between The Big Short and Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ll be giving the edge to the former.

PREDICTION: Hank Corwin, The Big Short
ALTERNATE: 
Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road

HAIRSTYLING AND MAKE UP:

And here’s another Mad Max/Revenant showdown. People have really been amazed by the makeup in The Revenant especially that of the close ups of di Caprio’s face, but I think the overall work in Mad Max: Fury Road will prevail.

PREDICTION: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, Damian Martin, Mad Max: Fury Road
ALTERNATE:
Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert Pandini, The Revenant

ORIGINAL SCORE:

It’s time to give the legendary Ennio Morricone a competitive Oscar. Sure he won an Honorary one nine years ago, but this is one of the times AMPAS is playing catch up. The great thing is that he actually deserves it. That said, don’t underestimate the nostalgia that Star Wars brought to the voters as it’s done by the most nominated person in the history of this category.

PREDICTION: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
ALTERNATE: 
John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

ORIGINAL SONG:

To quote the mighty Diane Ladd, “I am upset and chagrined” with what happened to this category this year. While this has given us the delight of calling 50 Shades of Grey an Oscar nominated film, this year seems to be the most problematic. You know shit just happened when you’re rooting for Wiz Khalifa song, but See You Again was snubbed here. For what it’s worth, both Simple Song #3 and Manta Ray are great songs, and the producers have fucked up not giving the performers the right to perform their song in whole just because they are not mainstream artists. Sadly, the race is between two drecks: Sam Smith’s abomination of coming up with a Bond song, then there’s the pairing of Diane Warren and Lady Gaga who’s campaigning desperation combined made Leonardo di Caprio look like Joaquin fucking Phoenix. In a fair world, none of these two messes should have been nominated in the first place, but I guess an overdue win for Diane Warren will happen just so the Academy can finally be over and done with her. 

PREDICTION: Til It Happens to You (The Hunting Ground)
ALTERNATE: 
Writings on the Wall (Spectre)

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

Just for completely setting up a whole world in the entirety of the film, I guess Mad Max will win this one over The Revenant which is mostly criticized for it being an “outside shoot.” Don’t underestimate Bridge of Spies as this type of traditional production design has its passionate supporters, as proven by Lincoln‘s upset in 2012, incidentally another Spielberg film.

PREDICTION:
 Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson, Mad Max: Fury Road
ALTERNATE: 
Jack Fisk, Hamish Purdy, The Revenant

SOUND EDITING:

What I’ve noticed here is that when different films end up winning Editing and Mixing, it’s because the winner in Mixing (which tends to go to musicals) aren’t nominated in Editing instead of the other way around. But when the Mixing winner is eligible for both, it wins both (the only time in the last 15 years it didn’t happen is when Slumdog Millionaire and The Dark Knight won one apiece). This same scenario can happen to both The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, but I doubt the majority of the voting body cares more than us, so let’s just say The Revenant will be winning both Sound categories.

PREDICTION: The Revenant
ALTERNATE: 
Mad Max: Fury Road

SOUND MIXING:
PREDICTION: 
The Revenant
ALTERNATE: 
Mad Max: Fury Road

VISUAL EFFECTS:

The golden rule here is that when there’s a Best Picture contender here, count on it to make it a part of the sweep. That is unless you’re competing against another contender (see: District 9 losing to Avatar in 2009 or Master and Commander losing to Return of the King in 2003). As a matter of fact, you have to go all the way back to 1970 to see a Best Picture contender lose here with Patton. So what happens when you have three of the five nominees here are Best Picture contenders too? Then there’s the other fact, one where in all three Star Wars films won this category too. And among the prequels, two of those are nominated as well. This category could really go to many directions; thus, I’ll just be going with another Star Wars win. The Revenant can upset this as part of the sweep and because the much-talked about bear rape scene is the stuff that wins you Oscars here.

PREDICTION: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
ALTERNATE: 
The Revenant

There you ha..oh wait. We have Best Picture left.

best picture

PICTURE:

What a crazy year for this category. As for starters, it seemed like Spotlight had the momentum all throughout the season being the uniter of critical choices as well as the populist one. It was a movie that has a strong message, it had a great ensemble, and it conveys a sense of “importance.” That is until, we’ve seen its televised awards performance dwindle. Remember when Michael Keaton was supposed to be nominated too? And then there’s the ACE Editing snub which made it seem like Spotlight was a weak frontrunner all along. Then came The Big Short getting in all the momentum as it got nominated among all guilds where it was predicted to receive. After all, it’s about an important time in America, it’s timely, it’s political, and it’s about white dudes. Then there was the Mad Max: Fury Road contingent as well; basically revived by the critics and hitting in precursors left and right.

Come Golden Globes, The Revenant ends up sweeping, and we’re all probably like “hey it’s just a makeup win because they snubbed Birdman last year.” Which was half true. But the other truth is that it’s from the current Best Director winner starring the likely Best Actor champion who is also the biggest star in the world. And while we’re at that, they snubbed both Spotlight and The Big Short whose total wins is zilch. The BFCA stayed safe and went with Spotlight again. At the Oscar nomination announcement, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight, and The Big Short all performed well, some more than others. But  come Producers Guild Awards, which uses the same voting practice as the Oscars, The Big Short ended up with the win; thus making it the frontrunner again. After all, it’s about an important time in America, it’s timely, it’s political, and it’s about white dudes.

At the SAG Awards, current frontrunner The Big Short was expected to win the Ensemble award, which is mostly the equivalent of Best Picture then. So when Demi Moore (are we in the 90s?) announced “the cast of Spotlight“, oh wait we have a new frontrunner again, and it’s Spotlight. It was a movie that has a strong message, it had a great ensemble, and it conveys a sense of “importance.”

When the DGA awarded it to The Revenant, it’s getting clearer that Mad Max is a clear fourth in this race. Maybe The Revenant was the frontrunner all along. It topped the nomination tally, it has the Best Actor winner (which has a good crossover with Best Picture), and they really seem to buy its narrative of “we almost died for this film!” The BAFTAs follow suit but unlike the Globes, we can’t say “hey it’s just a makeup win because they snubbed Birdman last year.” Which was still half true.Again, it’s from the current Best Director winner starring the likely Best Actor champion who is also the biggest star in the world.

Now think about it. If The Revenant is winning this, then why it didn’t win PGA? How come The Big Short won there? Remember that it’s the one that used the same voting patterns as the Oscar. A movie with few #1s can still benefit if it has more #2s and #3s than a film with #1s yet has #9s as well. So which among between Spotlight (It was a movie that has a strong message, it had a great ensemble, and it conveys a sense of “importance.”), The Big Short (It’s about an important time in America, it’s timely, it’s political, and it’s about white dudes.), and The Revenant (It’s from the current Best Director winner starring the likely Best Actor champion who is also the biggest star in the world) will prevail?

PREDICTION: The Revenant
ALTERNATE: Spotlight

The Oscars happen on Monday here in Manila at 9AM! Happy Oscars day! Tweet to talk to me about the Oscars: @nikowl

88th Academy Awards: Best Picture Rankings   2 comments

titlecard

This has been some sort of a tradition here at Tit for Tat, wherein I rank all the Oscar Best Picture nominees. This is the closest I can come to filling out a ballot, so imagine how yours would look like. It’s also rather unfortunate that the best American film of the year (among those that legitimately has a chance to get nominated) was criminally snubbed. In case you didn’t get the reference, that was for Todd Haynes’ Carol. The other snub this year is Pixar’s Inside Out, getting lost in the shuffle once guild and critics season began. That said, this season also has the widest Best Picture race since 2006, so that makes up for it at least.

Moving on, in 2012, it was Michael Haneke’s “Amour” which ended up as my #1. The following year, Spike Jonze’s “Her” was my top pick for 2013. Last year, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” was my personal choice among the 2014 nominees. Which film will join the list? Here’s my take from The Big Short to Spotlight.

The Martian

08. THE MARTIAN (Ridley Scott, director)

Decent popcorn thriller, yup. But Oscar Best Picture caliber it ain’t. In what is deemed as the “comeback” of Ridley Scott to form, we find Matt Damon growing potatoes in space. Of course, it’s really much more than that, and one thing that made The Martian work was how it managed to make its case separate from the two other “space” films of this decade (Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar). In hindsight, this light approach also ended up as a double edge-sword as it was so pedestrian in its predictability. There isn’t really anything to hold your attention here because the movie didn’t have anything at risk. With all the talks about how this was Ridley’s comeback, I’d make a case on how it was more of Matt Damon’s comeback. He’s certainly the star of this show, and the film bogs down whenever he’s not on screen. It’s a performance that relies heavily on an actor’s charisma, and he sure brought a lot to Mars in it. Anything outside of him suffers (all the NASA scenes in particular) and whoever thought that Donald Glover’s character suddenly saving the whole NASA group would surely make Abed from Community shake his damn head off. Even the big ‘saving’ scene in the end pales in comparison from all the other space films. Let’s just be thankful Matt Damon didn’t have a backstory so at least in that aspect, they’re redeemed. The Martian is as direct as one can get that it’s hilarious when it tries to present ‘conflict.’ For that alone, I’m good with its Comedy placement at the Golden Globes.

2.5/5

Brooklyn

07. BROOKLYN (John Crowley, director)

Home is where the heart is, but in Brooklyn‘s case, heart is where the home is. John Crowley’s Brooklyn goes straight to the point in its simple tale of a young immigrant coming to America in the 50s. There is so much heart in it that you can’t help but be swept away by the old-fashioned approach of the movie. But its simplicity is not without flaws. To an extent, it tends to go overboard with its saccharine sweetness. I also had issue with the film’s uneven pacing where there is a clear divide between acts with the last part losing the previous ones’ momentum. I’m also a tad bothered by the faux green screen in some scenes (especially the one in the liner. That said, Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan is a very gifted actress, and her performance is an integral part of why this film worked. Co-star Emory Cohen was such a delightful surprise though; at times, even providing the scene stealing performance in the movie.  With Brooklyn, simplicity is beauty and boy did it elevate that simplicity to certain heights.

2.5/5

The Revenant

06. THE REVENANT (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, director)

As for starters, let me say that I’m really not a fan of Iñarittu’s previous works in general, but I really have some conflicting thoughts about this. Suffice to say, Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography remains to be the highlight of it. It’s ironic that a film as “gritty” as this can look so glowing, thanks to Chivo. The Revenant started out really strong with its first 15 minutes or so, but as the movie progresses, so do the themes it tried to tackle. There’s revenge, there’s survival, there’s spirituality and it would have benefited by trimming at least one of those. Leonardo di Caprio’s physical commitment in the film is really admirable, but when you think of the works he has churned out in the last ten years alone (such as his underrated work in Shutter Island, or in Revolutionary Road and The Departed) or against his previous nominated performances in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Aviator, winning for this is a bit anti-climactic. But then again, it is probably for the better as we can finally put a rest to the internet’s claim on how he is the most overdue actor for an Oscar. Also, rearranging Tom Hardy’s name would lead you to DORTY HAM which is probably what he was serving in his performance. As much as the film has impressive moments here and there, my usual gripe with Alejandro’s works is present yet again, as he can’t seem to avoid the overindulgence in his movies.

3/5

Room

05. ROOM (Lenny Abrahamson, director)

There are those films that bring such discomfort while watching them that you find it real hard to revisit, and to a certain extent, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room fits the bill. Based from Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same title, the film is about a young mother and her son trapped and living in a small.. well.. uhm… room. The movie wasted no time in making the audience feel what was going through with Ma and Jack (played to perfection by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, but more of them later) that you’re already invested with the film and their situation. A film like this benefits from having these very detailed small scenes later building up to a huge bubble of emotions just waiting to explode, and as a viewer, there’s just no turning back anymore. At the risk of not being a spoiler, I’d leave the rest of what has happened in the movie, but let me say that this was gut wrenching throughout in a way that isn’t manipulative or forced (except for the musical score in some key scenes which were overdone). Brie Larson is expected to win the Best Actress Oscar at the end of this month, and deservedly so. Her performance is one you’d appreciate not right off the bat, but moreso for its lasting impact. And while I usually have reservations with performances from child actors, Jacob Tremblay is simply a revelation. What a find. Seeing his personality this whole awards season and that being so different than what was showcased in the movie can also be credited to the focused direction by Lenny Abrahamson.  Room is a film that resonates well even after the credits rolled already, and its effect lingers with you.

3.5/5

The BigShort

04. THE BIG SHORT (Adam McKay, director)

I’m probably one of the last persons to be personally affected by the American financial crisis back in 2008, but Adam McKay’s The Big Short was a joyride to watch from start to finish. Where the film’s main strength lies is its energy, outpouring with its quick cuts and use of loud soundtracks and memories of the 2008 fiasco that even if you’re not totally aware of the subject matter, it easily lures you in. What it makes up for its technicality with all its economic jargon thrown here and there are random celebrities ranging from Margot Robbie in a bathtub up to Selena Gomez breaking the fourth wall explaining to you what was really happening. From there, it’s a confident piece of work from someone who probably knew that a film whose theme is as heavy as this must be done in an opposite yet still skillful approach. That’s why when the film suddenly tries to go all in on the dramatic aftermath of the tragedy, the impact, while still there, stales a bit. Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, a film many has compared to this one, has done a much better job in injecting the balance to its energy. The ensemble was good and serviceable, with no one having a huge standout moment (except for the horrible wigs). The one thing that The Big Short excellently accomplished is that it delivered this relevant, thought-provoking message from a tragic time in America by simply capturing your attention to look in it.

3.5/5

Bridge of Spies

03. BRIDGE OF SPIES (Steven Spielberg, director)

When you’re a director as accomplished as Steven Spielberg, sometimes you’d wonder if they still have anything left to prove. Then there will also be those instances when you know they just want to tell a story. That’s how I viewed his Cold War drama Bridge of Spies. This latest Tom Hanks starrer is something that we’ve seen already many times in the past, but Spielberg puts his touch in it and turns into a solid and engaging time at the movies. It’s traditional, but it’s definitely the approach that this film needs. If this was done in the 90s, it probably would have won Oscars for everybody. It was solid and safe throughout from your usual Spielberg staples: Kaminski’s cinematography, Hanks in the lead role. I even find delight in the screenplay written by the Coens, as the output of line readings were enjoyable. If anything, I somehow missed John Williams’ score here (Thomas Newman just doesn’t cut it for me).  Oh and if anything, Mark Rylance was such a hoot, giving the classic supporting actor performance in the movie. Like The Martian, this is a film where you already have an idea on how it will play out in the end, but unlike that one, Spielberg makes it compelling all throughout the duration of the movie. But, he really just can’t help it with the last scene though, no?

3.5/5

Spotlight

02. SPOTLIGHT (Tom McCarthy, director)

Call it whatever you like — straightforward, text book approach, procedural, by the numbers. But these aren’t really negatives when it comes to Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. As a matter of fact, rare is such an instance when someone manages to make these words sound great in the context of a movie. Spotlight is compelling in its topic, its scope, screenplay and its direction but what made it more effective is the restraint it had to avoid obvious tropes just to make it preachy and over dramatic. I understand, however, that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and what I might consider as good can be someone else’s serviceable. The movie also benefits from its ensemble of actors, from Michael Keaton’s low-key subtle leader to the team’s newest member Liev Schreiber. There’s also Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (oh boy I love saying that!) contributing to the whole group. The only one who stands out differently for me was Mark Ruffalo, and while I feel that there are really people like his character, it’s a bit too outlandish for this usually dependable actor. Having the interest in journalism back from high school also appealed to me and probably is a factor with how I like Spotlight, but one can’t deny that it’s a assured, smart, and tight piece of powerful work.

4/5
Mad Max Fury Road

01. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (George Miller, director)

Only few films take you into one helluva ride, and George Miller’s comeback along with the Mad Max series just sweeps everyone off its feet, dusty sands and all. It’s really insane that a franchise as dated as this one can breathe life even topping its predecessors (though one really doesn’t need to watch all the previous films to identify with this one). As for starters, it’s a visual spectacle on all levels, with its attention to the details a highlight — making you feel as if you’re a part of the whole journey with them. THE.FUN.JUST.WON’T.STOP. But more than anything else, it presents a very important take on feminism (with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa on the forefront) in this time and age when Beyonce has probably overused the same word to death already. Mad MaxFury Road never gets contented with just fulfilling our visual hunger with its polished colors, guitar players, and endless car chase scenes one after the other; with it, it also thrives to weave moments of tender sincerity and proclaim bold statements both in the world where these characters existed and to the audience’s as well. Everything about this projects seems risky on paper, but it all paid off. Indeed, it’s one of the best moments in cinema this past year (and of the decade too).

4.5/5

So how does your ranking look like? How many have you seen from this year’s batch? Which are your favorites? And who would you be rooting for come Oscar night? Talk to me about it by tweeting me:@nikowl