Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

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

Entertainers of the Year 2015   Leave a comment

Better late than never, but here are the stars who shined the most last 2015.

EOTY 2015

I’ve started doing this in 2011 in the vein of Entertainment Weekly’s “Entertainer of the Year” tag to those career-defining years of some pop culture/entertainment personalities. In previous years, the title has been given to Anne Curtis (2011), Nora Aunor (2012), Joel Torre (2013), and Antoinette Jadaone (2014). This year, these 13 (well technically, 18) personalities made the cut.

13. PEPE DIOKNO
Six years since his breakthrough with “Engkwentro”, Diokno had a great 2015 finally releasing his much-awaited follow up “Above the Clouds” which has been a steady presence in local and international fests. He quickly released another film, the Q Cinema entry “Kapatiran”, and has invaded the boob tube with the first Cinema One series “Single/Single” starring Matteo Guidicelli and Shaina Magdayaowhich was met with great reviews.

12. EL GAMMA PENUMBRA
While luck wasn’t on their side when they joined the third season of Pilipinas Got Talent back in 2011, little did this shadow play group know that they’re bound for bigger things as they brought pride to the county after winning Asia’s Got Talent in 2015 beating representatives from other countries such as Mongolia, China, Thailand, and Japan.

11. JANINE GUTIERREZ
Born with a showbiz connection can be a double-edged sword, but not for Janine Gutierrez whose 2015 can be summed up by being one of the new magazine muses as proven by the multiple covers she had this year. Plus, it’s also the year of her film breakthrough starring alongside her mother in the MMFF entry “Buy Now, Die Later.”

10. JUAN MIGUEL SEVERO
Spoken word poetry has never been as prominent into the mainstream pop culture since Juan Miguel Severo’s viral video of “Ang Huling Tulang Isusulat Ko Para Sa’yo” appeared on our Facebook timelines last year. This has led to multiple TV appearances and interviews and recurring roles on primetime soap “On the Wings of Love” and an MMFF movie via “Walang Forever.”

09. COLEEN GARCIA
Once seen as wallflower with a pretty face, 2015 was probably the career best year for Coleen Garcia, as she breaks out of her own shell appearing on multiple magazines this year, her first primetime lead role as part of the “Pasion de Amor” ensemble, and her first movie lead role “Ex with Benefits” that has made more than a hundred million in the box office.

08. JENNYLYN MERCADO
Jennylyn ended 2014 on a good note winning her first MMFF Best Actress for “English Only Please.” But that was just the beginning of a great year ahead as she also topped the FHM 100 Sexiest list this year as the “Philippines’ Finest.” But what’s more amazing with the trajectory of Jennylyn’s career is how she can shift from sexy to sweet in a snap, as 2015 was the year when she cemented herself as the queen of romance movies this year with her hits like The Prenup and Walang Forever (where she bagged her second consecutive Best Actress MMFF trophy).

07. TONI GONZAGA and PAUL SORIANO
It was the celebrity wedding of the year if there ever was one. It was in February when they announced to the world about their engagement, and four months later, she was already walking down the aisle. Their love story has transpired a lot of “awws” and has become the ideal relationship to a lot of hopeless romantics out there. And their personal careers have been excellent as well with Paul directing the critically acclaimed “Kid Kulafu” while Toni earned another box office hit with “You’re My Boss.”

06. JO-WA-PAO
People say they’re following the footsteps of the iconic triumvirate of Tito, Vic, and Joey as the next landmarks in comedy. The group of Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, and Paolo Ballesteros has equally brought energy to the whole Kalyeserye phenomenon and thus should be equally credited for the success of such.

05. JOHN ARCILLA
After starring in thankless supporting roles in mainstream offerings, John Arcilla showed that his biggest break will come at a later stage of his career. Sure he had his share of lead roles in different independent films such as “Sa North Diversion Road” and “Halaw”, but his turn as the underrated Filipino hero Antonio Luna in the biggest surprise hit of the year “Heneral Luna” has definitely made him a household name. Not only that, but his performance in it is now one of the most iconic ones in recent local movie history. Expect his name in the local awards derby this year.

04. JOHN LLOYD CRUZ
Proving that he’s a talent that’s for keeps, John Lloyd Cruz owned the last two months of the year in local entertainment. In November, the follow up to the pop culture staple “One More Chance” premiered after seven years of waiting, and it has now claimed the record of the highest grossing movie of all time with more than half a billion earnings. Then in December, he showed another side of himself as an actor in a career best performance in the MMFF entry “Honor Thy Father”, where he also shared producing credits. It’s clear that John Lloyd is in control of the trajectory of his career and a talent like his is really admirable.

03. PIA ALONZO WURTZBACH
After three tries, not only did Pia Wurtzbach nab the Miss Universe Philippines title, but she went all the way and ended the 42-year drought of the Philippines in conquering the Universe. While this was done in the most dramatic and telenovela-like fashion, one can’t discredit the amount of effort and hardwork Pia did in order to give glory to the country. Probably the most beautiful thing during the three hour telecast was her genuine reaction after the mishap when it was revealed that she was the actual winner showing the world – the universe, rather – that she is confidently beautiful inside and out.

02. JAMES REID and NADINE LUSTRE
What could have been a one-hit wonder ended up as one of the biggest loveteams of 2015. James Reid and Nadine Lustre, collectively labeled as Jadine, have moved into the big leagues and have probably made all the other pairings be wary of their presence. 2015 was the premiere of their first dramatic movie “Para sa Hopeless Romantic”, but more than that, it was their debut to primetime teleserye that sealed the deal for them via “On the Wings of Love” which is probably considered as the most refreshing show on primetime in years. We’re certain that we still haven’t seen the best of Jadine yet, and that bigger things await them this 2016.

01. ALDEN RICHARDS and MAINE MENDOZA
Some of the world’s best discoveries happened via accident. One can probably add “AlDub” to the list, as the accidental pairing of Alden Richards and Maine “Yaya Dub” Mendoza has taken 2015 by storm. Whether it’s the hundreds of millions of tweets with the hashtag #ALDUB in it, the endless amount of commercials, billboards, and advertisements with their faces in it, their daily kilig shenanigans on Kalyeserye, and their first MMFF movie that’s likely to be this edition’s topgrosser, no word has defined 2015 local pop culture scene than Aldub.

5 Best ABS-CBN Christmas Station IDs   Leave a comment

xmas

When we think of Christmas, we’re reminded of a lot of things: completing the simbang gabi, the smell of fresh puto bumbong and bibingka, colorful Christmas decorations in Ayala, and endless shopping mall sales. Oh, and the  launch of ABS-CBN’s annual Christmas-themed station ID. Starting back in 2003, ABS-CBN’s tradition of producing these videos definitely adds more excitement to the holiday season. A dozen years later, it’s clear that they aren’t competing anymore with anyone when it comes to station IDs; as a matter of fact, they’re running this game already. ABS-CBN has already mastered the art of producing such that launching it is considered an event of its own already. Last week, they’ve finally released the one for 2015 with the theme “Thank You For the Love!” (which you can watch here) and sung by their triumvirate loveteams Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo, James Reid and Nadine Lustre, and Enrique Gil and Liza Soberano, alongside The Voice Kids 2 champion Elha Nympha and her coach Bamboo.

Let’s do the perfect holiday throwback as we go back at five of their best Christmas station ID outputs yet.

5. “Lumiliwanag ang Mundo sa Kwento ng Pasko” (2012)

2012 was when ABS-CBN started the tradition of incorporating their different advocacy in their station IDs. When previous years would simply focus on doing reenactments of the different Christmas traditions, they’ve now included snippets of the actual gift giving and helping to the victims of the different typhoons, as well as interviews to the survivors. Consider it tacky or exploitative if you like, but no doubt it started the trend of the heart tugging stories that makes the holidays feel really more about love.

Highlights:  Dawn Zulueta putting up her lantern in her US grapevine house, a shot of an old Ivatan couple setting up their lantern, and Gerald Anderson visiting a barangay severely affected by the typhoons.

4. “Magkasama Tayo sa Kwento ng Pasko” (2013)

2012 was the trial year, but 2013 was when they fleshed out more of these different human Christmas stories of Pinoys all over the world. It started with Gemma, an OFW based in Hong Kong narrating that she would miss the holidays to earn more money for her family. Then there’s a habal-habal driver in Cebu, Kim Chiu’s “family” that she visited for a reality show years before, and a married old couple based in the US now among many others. This year’s jingle, sung by The Voice Philippines coaches and top four, is also one of their catchier ones.

Highlights: Piolo Pascual surprising the OFW in Hong Kong, Judy Ann Santos visiting survivors in the Woman’s Crisis Center, and John Lloyd Cruz giving tribute to a loyal ABSCBN employee.

3. “Angat ang Ligaya ng Pasko” (2006)

Now if you’re fed up with the current format of the dramatic ones, the 2006 is a perfect throwback to the heydays when the station ID is less than four minutes, and Christmas is mostly seen as a purely festive celebration. Using APO’s Christmas classic “Tuloy Na Tuloy Pa Rin ang Pasko“, only this time sung by Orange & Lemons, this station ID is probably what detractors of the current format prefer. It’s short but it’s starstudded, it’s colorful and still celebratory, and those network wars fanatics can’t accuse it of being self-serving.

Highlights: That Church scene with Sharon Cuneta “reading” probably a Bible verse to the audience (also filled of the different Kapamilya celebrities), the late Johhny Delagdo dressed as Santa Claus giving gifts to children, and that final shot of the late Comedy King Dolphy, Susan Roces, Maricel Soriano, and Judy Ann Santos (talk about star power) leading other celebrities off the church.

2. “Star ng Pasko” (2009)

This is probably the greatest Christmas jingle ABS-CBN has ever produced. Fresh off the wounds of Typhoon Ondoy that year, combined with the “Bro” fever from their then primetime series May Bukas Pa, this is the song that we can safely call as the Christmas theme of 2009. Literally all the choirs in the country have included it in their repertoire of songs, and whether you visit malls or schools, this is the only song that’s being played. And you’d understand why. This has captured the essence of the Filipino spirit, and how Christmas is still seen as a day of love, a tradition that will never fade. The actual video delivers as well, with everyone waving their own star shaped lanterns, nevermind if they’re all singing the chorus for more or less, nine minutes.

Highlights: The little kid in the beginning pulling a set of lanterns from the mud, the lanterns forming a star-shaped creation in the middle, Kris Aquino with her new born son Bimby in the video.

1. “Isang Pamilya, Isang Puso Ngayong Pasko” (2002)

They say that the first one is really hard to beat, and in this case, that’s really true. The first Christmas-themed station ID they’ve made would probably put any other station IDs to shame when it comes to star power wattage. You have the late Comedy King Dolphy and the Action King Fernado Poe Jr., as for starters. Then fans of those so-called actressing would be delighted, as this also featured Superstar Nora Aunor, Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos, Diamond Star Maricel Soriano, and Megastar Sharon Cuneta in it. If I have to list the 100+ Kapamilyas in it (ranging from teleserye actors to musicians to the News & Current Affairs people), we’d probably never reach the end.

Highlights: Vilma Santos dancing with a student in the classroom, Nora Aunor lighting the huge candle, FPJ doing his trademark salute before Dolphy releases the lantern on top of the huge Christmas tree.

What are your favorite Christmas station IDs?Happy Holidays everyone!

Let’s talk on Twitter: @nikowl

81 Images from the 88th Oscar Best Foreign Language Film Submissions   1 comment

Earlier today, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences has released the final tally of the submissions for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. As per Academy rules, only one film can be submitted per country. Now here are 81 photos from the 81 submissions all vying to win the Oscar title which is currently held by Poland’s “Ida.

*all images are screen grabbed from the movie trailers from YouTube or Vimeo
*all descriptions are taken from summaries online

Afghanistan

1. Afghanistan (“UTOPIA”, directed by: Hassan Nazer)

It follows an Afghan woman as she travels to the U.K. for artificial insemination. Complications arise when a British student at the infertility clinic decides to swap the donor semen for his own and the woman finds out that he is from a family with a long history of military conflict in her homeland.

Albania

2. Albania (“BOTA”, directed by: Iris Elezi, Thomas Logoreci)

The story of Beni, a petty criminal and ladies’ man, and his beautiful young mistress, cafe waitress Nora, is set in an isolated café named Bota, located in a litter-strewn parched surroundings  once used for locking away opponents of the Communist regime, and serves as a bleak background for a richly creative tale woven with enduring images.

Algeria

3. Algeria (“TWILIGHT OF SHADOWS”, directed by: Mohammed Lakhdar Hamina)

1958 – Entrenched in its city in the heart of the Grand Erg, the Saintenac commander leads his ferocious war. Lambert’s arrival is perceived by Saintenac like a worm in the fruit, and the only way for the commander to beat it is to: “break the beak”. Lambert morally physically torturing Khaled, the son of the desert outraged by colonial injustice which is fighting for his dignity as a free man. Lambert refuses to execute Khaled and disarms the commander. Beyond this dark page of history, between beliefs and doubts, in the chaos of the war in Algeria, the men face their destiny.

Argentina

4. Argentina (“THE CLAN”, directed by: Pablo Trapero)

The true to life story of the prominent and highly feared Puccio crime family in Argentina as it recounts the astonishing true story of a seemingly normal middle-class family that trafficked in the kidnapping, ransoming and murder of the wealthy.

Australia

5. Australia (“ARROWS OF THE THUNDER DRAGON”, directed by: Greg Sneddon)

Set in the 1970s, the story follows brother and sister Kuenphen and Jamyang where in a remote Bhutanese village, they learn traditional archery from their old warrior grandfather. The respected but eccentric old man uses a heavy hand and strict discipline to train the young Kuenphen in the art of traditional archery. It becomes clear Kuenphen has opportunities to further his interests while sister Jamyang must stay home to weave, cook and get married; a fate the young woman is not willing to accept without a fight. When Kuenphen has to leave the village to take his mother on a 3 day walk to the old castle for medical treatment, Jamyang’s own desire to explore a wider world other than the norm of following her mothers traditional life is stimulated.

Austria

6. Austria (“GOODNIGHT MOMMY”, directed by: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala)

Twin brothers welcome back their mother who just underwent a cosmetic facial surgery. However, they noticed the changes not only in her physical demeanor which led them to be suspicious of her real identity.

Bangladesh

7. Bangladesh (“JALAL’S STORY”, directed by: Abu Shahed Emon)

This is the story of an infant, a child and teen named Jalal. The first story begins with Miraj, who rescues an abandoned baby from the river and raises him, calling him Jalal. However, after a series of misfortunes the villagers considered the baby to be a curse on their village. Poor Miraj has to abandon the baby yet back in the river again. The second story starts off with the nine-year-old Jalal who lives as a dependent of a large landowner, Karim, who desperately needs a baby to keep up his prestige informant of the villagers. As time passed by even after the series of incidents Karim’s Newly married wife was unable to conceive and eventually Jalal was bizarrely considered as a cause of the couple’s infertility problem by the clever Shaman hired by Karim. Jalal was thrown back in the river again. In the third story we see Nineteen-year-old Jalal works under a gang leader and budding politician named Sajib, who has kidnapped and impregnated Shila. He makes Jalal keep an eye on her, but Shila dies during a childbirth. Afraid that this child would affect his reputation and influence the result of the upcoming election, Sajib orders Jalal to throw the baby in the river. These three stories strangely connect and flow together as one.

Belgium

8. Belgium (“THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT”, directed by: Jaco Van Dormael)

The movie is a religious satire in which God exists and lives in Brussels, where he treats his wife and his young daughter very badly. In revenge, his daughter publishes everybody’s dying day on the internet.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

9. Bosnia and Herzegovina (“OUR EVERYDAY STORY”, directed by: Ines Tanović)

The film tells the story of a middle-class Sarajevo family struggling with their everyday problems.

Brazil

10. Brazil (“THE SECOND MOTHER”, directed by: Anna Muylaert)

Val has been a devoted live-in housemaid for a wealthy family in São Paulo for 13 years. From serving impeccable hors d’oeuvres at dinner parties, to keeping track of the father’s medicine regimen, to covering up for the teenage son (with whom she shares a deep emotional bond) when he gets in trouble, Val is a strong maternal figure in the household. One day, her daughter Jessica arrives from their hometown to take university entrance exams and has to stay with Val temporarily in the maid’s quarters. Ambitious, intelligent and with a rebellious streak, Jessica blatantly disregards previously unspoken, yet inviolable rules of the house—she frequents the family’s living and dining spaces and helps herself to the expensive ice cream. To Val’s despair, Jessica acts like a houseguest rather than the hired help’s kin. Slowly, strain in the household starts to rise as the matriarch’s initial polite acceptance of Jessica’s presence morphs into thinly veiled intolerance.

Bulgaria

11. Bulgaria (“THE JUDGEMENT”, directed by: Stephan Komandarev)

In a small and poor village in Bulgaria, located close to the border with Turkey and Greece, Mityo loses his job and is forced to accept to work for his former commander in order to keep his house and pay his loans. His job is to smuggle illegal immigrants from Syria through the Bulgarian-Turkish border into the EU. Since the death of his wife, the relations between Mityo and his son are strained. The revelation of a terrible secret will force Mityo to face the past, in order to regain his internal peace and find forgiveness from his son.

Cambodia

12. Cambodia (“THE LAST REEL”, directed by: Sotho Kulikar)

The Last Reel tells the story of a forgotten film discovered beneath the Killing Fields, revealing different versions of the truth. In an abandoned cinema, a rebellious teenager named Sophoun discovers an old film starring her mother, offering her the chance to dictate her own destiny, but at the cost of uncovering some dark secrets about her parents’ lives during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Canada

13. Canada (“FELIX AND MEIRA”, directed by: Maxime Giroux)

The story of a love affair between Francophone Quebecer Felix and a young Hasidic Jewish mother, Meira.

Chile

14. Chile (“THE CLUB”, directed by: Pablo Larrain)

The film draws us into the troubling world of Catholic clergymen living at the edge of the continent — and far beyond the moral boundaries of their faith, as they’re living their cozy exile disturbed by charges of molestation.

China

15. China (“GO AWAY MR. TUMOR”, directed by: Han Yan)

Based on the famous Chinese comic series created by online cartoonist Xiong Dun chronicling the  darkest hours of her life in a lighter and more amusing way. While fighting a malignant tumor, she wrote what became an explosively popular story and inspired millions of people with her optimism and courage.

Colombia

16. Colombia (“EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT”, directed by: Ciro Guerra)

The black-and-white film spans 40 years in the relationship between an Amazonian shaman and two
European scientists (played by Brionne Davis and Jan Bijvoet) as they search the jungle for a sacred healing plant in the early 20th century.

Costa Rica

17. Costa Rica (“IMPRISONED”, directed by: Esteban Ramírez)

A young girl gets involved in a family drama when she starts a secret friendship with a prison inmate. All parts involved, inside and outside, will have to deal with the consequences of such kind of relationship and what’s necessary to preserve it.

Croatia

18. Croatia (“THE HIGH SUN”, directed by: Dalibor Matanić)

A compassionate look at the recent history of war-torn Yugoslavia seen through the lens of the three different love stories, set in three consecutive decades in two neighboring villages.

Czech Republic

19. Czech Republic (“HOME CARE”, directed by: Slavek Horak)

Set in a Southern Moravian nursing home, the film tells the story of a nurse’s search for a cure for her own ailments that sets her off on a path of alternative medicine. The nurse Vlasta is helped in her quest by the daughter of one of her patients and her esoteric mentor.

Denmark

20. Denmark (“A WAR”, directed by: Tobias Lindholm)

“A War” is a drama about the consequences of war. It follows army officer Claus Michael Pedersen, who is stationed with his men in an Afghan province. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy crossfire and in order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that has grave consequences for him — and his family back home.

Dominican Republic

21. Dominican Republic (“SAND DOLLARS”, directed by: Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas)

A Dominican Republic-set drama that follows the long-time relationship between a beautiful and impoverished young local girl and her wealthy European lover, which is put to the test as issues of class, inequality and exploitation are introduced.

Estonia

22. Estonia (“1944”, directed by: Elmo Nüganen)

The story of a country torn apart as the Red Army advances from one side and the Nazis conduct a fighting retreat from the other, the film tells the story of two brothers forced into choices that put them on opposing sides.

Ethiopia

23. Ethiopia (“LAMB”, directed by: Yared Zeleke)

When an Ethiopian boy moves in with distant relatives, he takes his pet sheep with him. But the upcoming holidays spell danger for his beloved friend.

Finland

24. Finland (“THE FENCER”, directed by: Klaus Härö)

A thriller based on a true Cold War story of an Estonian fencing champ on the run from the Soviet secret police, the film tells the story of fencing master Endel Nelis, who finds himself teaching children in a remote small town while on the run. When the kids push for their fencing team to take part in a national competition in Leningrad, he realizes exactly what he wants to do with his life.

France

25. France (“MUSTANG”, directed by: Deniz Gamze Ergüven)

The film follows five Turkish sisters who have their basic freedoms stripped from them as they become women.

Georgia

26. Georgia (“MOIRA”, directed by: Levan Tutberidze)

Moira tells the story of a poverty-stricken family living in a seaside city struggling to rise above the temptations of crime to make an honest living. After his release from prison, Mamuka is determined not to fall back into a life of crime, taking out a loan to buy a small fishing boat he and his unemployed younger brother name after Moira, the goddess of fate. But with a mother working abroad and a wheelchair-ridden father, the brothers find fate can be blind and merciless.

Germany

27. Germany (“LABYRINTH OF LIES”, directed by: Giulio Ricciarelli)

A young public prosecutor, Johann Radmann, sets out in the 1950s to expose the full story behind the mass killings at Auschwitz. This led to the first Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, in the face of great political and social opposition in West Germany.

Greece

28. Greece (“XENIA”, directed by: Panos H. Koutras)

It centers around a gay Cretan teen and his brother who seek their future and their estranged father in Greece.

Guatemala

29. Guatemala (“IXCANUL”, directed by: Jayro Bustamante)

The story of a young Mayan woman, living in a community of Kaqchikel-speaking coffee farmers, whose unwanted pregnancy brings her into final — and shocking — contact with the modern world she dreamt so much about, “Ixcanul” delivers a sucker punch about what Bustamante has called one driving theme of “Ixcanul”: the “impossibility of an underage woman, who is Mayan and lives far from a big city, to determine her own destiny.”

Hong Kong

30. Hong Kong (“TO THE FORE”, directed by: Dante Lam)

The sports drama caters to a team of cyclers whose team spirit gets put to the test by their competitiveness and pursuit of personal glory.

Hungary

31. Hungary (“SON OF SAUL”, directed by: László Nemes)

Son of Saul is set in Auschwitz in 1944 and follows, in a claustrophobic manner, Saul Auslander, a Jewish Hungarian enlisted to assist the Nazis in their mass killing. While working in the crematoriums, Saul sees the body of a boy he believes to be his son. He starts what seems to be an impossible task: to try and rescue the body to ensure it receives a proper Jewish burial.

Iceland

32. Iceland (“RAMS”, directed by: Grímur Hákonarson)

Set in a remote Icelandic farming valley where two brothers live side-by-side, but haven’t spoken in 40 years. When the entire valley comes under threat because of a lethal sheep disease, the brothers are forced to work together to save their prized flocks.

India

33. India (“COURT”, directed by: Chaitanya Tamhane)

It narrates the story of the trial of an ageing folk singer accused of performing an inflammatory song that may have incited a sewage worker to commit suicide in a manhole to expose the flaws of the Indian judicial system.

Iran

34. Iran (“MUHAMMAD: THE MESSENGER OF GOD”, directed by: Majid Majidi)

The film is a historical epic focused on the formative years of Islam’s last prophet and it’s the first installment in a three-part project about Muhammad’s life.

Iraq

35. Iraq (“MEMORIES ON STONE”, directed by: Shawkat Amin Korki)

The movie is about the struggles of a film crew while shooting a film in postwar Kurdistan after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Ireland

36. Ireland (“VIVA”, directed by: Paddy Breathnach)

The film tells the story of Jesus, an 18-year-old Cuban working in a drag bar in Havana whose life is shaken by the return of his long-lost father, a renowned former boxer who served 15 years in prison for murder.

Israel

37. Israel (“BABA JOON”, directed by: Yuval Delshad)

Yitzhakis proud to maintain the same turkey farm that his father built when the family moved from Iran to Israel. Now that Yitzhak’s son Moti is thirteen, the expectation is that he will learn the familial trade and, in his own time, take over the business. But Moti is more interested in reconstructing old cars and trucks, a trade for which he obviously has a tremendous talent. The rebellious boy is not at all shy about letting his father know that he has no interest in turkeys, but for Yitzhak this rejection isn’t just a matter of personal interest — it’s an insult to all the values he holds most dear.

Italy

38. Italy (“DON’T BE BAD”, directed by: Claudio Caligari)

Detailing the high-partying life of two young friends, the film explores the life of excess in 1995 Ostia. In a life filled with clubs, cars, cocaine and booze, Vittorio and Cesare can’t be separated. When the call to find a greater purpose threatens to pull them and their lifestyles apart, they struggle to keep their bond strong.

Ivory Coast

39. Ivory Coast (“RUN”, directed by: Philippe Lacôte)

We follow Run who has just killed the Ivoirian Prime Minister. To accomplish this, he transforms himself into a madman, lying in wait until the precise moment when the politician emerges in public. Using his “madness” as a cloak of invisibility, Run assassinates the leader and escapes with the help of fellow dissident Assa, played by Isaach de Bankolé, the latter of whom pays the ultimate price for his subversion.

Japan

40. Japan (“100 YEN LOVE”, directed by: Masaharu Take)

The film tells the story of a directionless singleton who becomes inspired by watching a middle-aged boxer at the local gym and decides to start training in the sport.

Jordan

41. Jordan (“THEEB”, directed by: Naji Abu Nowar)

Shot in the vast sandstone valley of Wadi Rum, Theeb is set in 1916 and tells the story of a young Bedouin boy struggling for survival in the midst of WWI as Ottoman forces fight to keep a grip on their crumbling empire.

Kazakhstan

42. Kazakhstan (“STRANGER”, directed by: Yermek Tursunov)

The film is the story of a young man, Ilyas, who survived the famine of the 30s, Stalinist deportation and WWII by retreating in a cave to live off the land, and finds himself battling society in a bid to retain his freedom. His secluded and nomadic life has not prepared him for the dramatic developments in his Soviet-era community, even though he tries his best to connect with the villagers.

Kosovo

43. Kosovo (“BABAI”, directed by: Visar Morina)

The movie tells the story of a 10-year-old boy after his father leaves to search for a better life in Germany.

Kyrgyzstan

44. Kyrgyzstan (“HEAVENLY NOMADIC”, directed by: Mirlan Abdykalykov)

An elderly herdsman, his wife, their daughter- in-law Shaiyr and their 7-year-old granddaughter, live together, occasionally visited by Shaiyr’s eldest son, Ulan, who studies in the city. Shaiyr’s husband has died many years before, swept away by the river, but she remains, unable to leave the bond of earth and beauty of the beguiling land. When a meteorologist Ermek moves to live nearby, Shaiyr’s measured life will never be the same again.

Latvia

45. Latvia (“MODRIS”, directed by: Juris Kursietis)

Based on a true story, the movie describes a conflict between a young man and his mother, and its dramatic consequences.

Lebanon

46. Lebanon (“VOID”, directed by: Naji Bechara, Jad Beyrouthy, Zeina Makki, Tarek Korkomaz, Christelle Ighniades, Maria Abdel Karim, Salim Haber)

Six Lebanese women representing three generations, each one still waiting for the man in her life who was kidnapped during the Lebanese Civil War and is still missing. Their hidden emotional wounds are opened once again, one day prior to a protest in Beirut to keep their cause alive.

Lithuania

47. Lithuania (“THE SUMMER OF SANGAILE”, directed by: Alanté Kavaïté)

A bitter-sweet story of 17-year-old Sangaile’s desperate desire to learn to fly, balanced by a neurotic fear of flying and her unfolding relationship with artistic dress designer Auste.

Luxembourg

48. Luxembourg (“BABY(A)LONE”, directed by: Donato Rotunno)

Adapted from Tullio Forgiarini’s novel “Amok,” Baby(A)lone” takes place in an affluent, contemporary Europe and centers on a girl and a boy who forge a unique partnership which involves violence but is meant to help them find love and hope.

Macedonia

49. Macedonia (“HONEY NIGHT”, directed by: Ivo Trajkov)

The film is a family and political drama focused on the night a senior government minister and his wife mark their 10th wedding anniversary. Set in Skopje in the early 1990s, the story of deputy minister Nikola and his wife Ana is an adaptation of 1970 Czech movie The Ear.

Malaysia

50. Malaysia (“MEN WHO SAVE THE WORLD”, directed by: Liew Seng Tat)

The film revolves around a group of comical villagers who spring into action after the owner of an abandoned house decides to restore it as a wedding present for his daughter. Through a series of unfortunate events, the house attracts what the men believe to be a spirit, and they band together in an effort to protect their village. The ensuing action includes everything from a missing camel to cross-dressing sequences.

Mexico

51. Mexico (“600 MILES”, directed by: Gabriel Ripstein)

An American ATF agent gets kidnapped by a young Mexican man who works smuggling weapons across the U.S./Mexico border. The odd friendship that develops between them attempts to humanize the complicated relationship between the two countries.

Montenegro

52. Montenegro (“YOU CARRY ME”, directed by: Ivona Juka)

The film tells three loosely connected stories that intertwine in the workplace of three characters – namely a soap-opera set.

Morocco

53. Morocco (“AIDA”, directed by: Driss Mrini)

A music teacher living in Paris battles a malignant tumor. Convinced that her days are numbered, she then decides to return to Morocco to reconnect with her roots and regain forgotten childhood memories.

Nepal

54. Nepal (“TALAKJUNG VS. TULKE”, directed by: Basnet Nischal)

The film follows a village laborer who dreams of regaining his former aristocratic identity. A revolution sets off a chain of events that forces him to the city and he returns armed with the tools that will allow him to seek revenge on those who had wronged him and his family.

Netherlands

55. Netherlands (“THE PARADISE SUITE”, directed by: Joost van Ginkel)

The depiction of the lives of six people (young Bulgarian woman, an African woman, Serbian war criminal, a Bosnian man, a Swedish piano protege and his father) from different places and backgrounds who become inextricably linked in Amsterdam.

Norway

56. Norway (“THE WAVE”, directed by: Roar Uthaug)

The film is based on the 1934 real-life tsunami in Norway’s Tafjord, which left 40 people dead. Set at Geiranger Fjord, one of Norway’s top tourist attractions, it takes place in contemporary Norway and centers around a geologist who realizes the inferno is about to hit.

Pakistan

57. Pakistan (“MOOR”, directed by: Jami)

Focusing on the country’s declining railway system, the drama revolves around the story of a station master and his son after the sudden death of the station master’s wife.

Palestine

58. Palestine (“THE WANTED 18”, directed by: Amer Shomali, Paul Cowan)

It tells the true story of a Palestinian committee in the town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, that purchased a herd of cows from a friendly kibbutz owner and used them in a bid to undermine Israeli control.

Paraguay

59. Paraguay (“CLOUDY TIMES”, directed by: Arami Ullón)

A documentary film directed by Arami Ullon about her relationship with her ageing mother, who suffers from epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Peru

60. Peru (“NN”, directed by: Héctor Gálvez)

A Peruvian forensic team, tasked with exhuming the remains of a group of people who were made to “disappear” some 25 years earlier, finds an unexpected additional John Doe, the only clue being small photograph of a woman found on his person. Fidel undertakes the long, complicated work of identifying the body, and must navigate the still-raw emotions of the families of the disappeared.

Philippines

61. Philippines (“HENERAL LUNA”, directed by: Jerrold Tarog)

Set during the Philippine-American war, the film covers the period from the time Filipino hero General Antonio Luna was assigned to be the head of the revolutionary army as general in the Philippines to his assassination.

Poland

62. Poland (“11 MINUTES”, directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski)

The movie narrates the stories of several characters (an American film producer plays cat- and-mouse with a young actress while her husband tries frantically to reach her in the hotel room where the “audition” is taking place; a hot-dog vendor sells sausages in the street; a motorcycle courier pulls off near-miracles trying to dodge another jealous husband; a young man plans to break into a pawnshop) over the course of eleven minutes on a single day in Warsaw.

Portugal

63. Portugal (“ARABIAN NIGHTS: VOLUME 2, THE DESOLATE ONE”, directed by: Miguel Gomes)

Three tales are told by the mythical narrator Scheherazade — that of an escaped murderer who ended up being a hero, a courtroom fiasco over a unique case, and a Maltese poodle shuttled among multiple owners.

Romania

64. Romania (“AFERIM!”, directed by: Radu Jude)

Set in Eastern Europe in 1835, two riders cross a barren landscape in the middle of Wallachia. They are the gendarme Costandin and his son. Together they are searching for a gypsy slave who has run away from his nobleman master and is suspected of having an affair with the noble’s wife. On their odyssey they encounter people of different nationalities and beliefs. Each harbors prejudices against the others, which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Russia

65. Russia (“SUNSTROKE”, directed by: Nikita Mikhalkov)

Based on a short story by Ivan Bunin, the first Russian author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 1933, the film tells a love story, set against the backdrop of the Russian civil war of the late 1910s and early 1920s.

Serbia

66. Serbia (“ENCLAVE”, directed by: Goran Radovanović)

Focused on a tiny Serb community living in a UN- protected enclave in Muslim Kosovo, Enclave looks at the legacy of ethnic cleansing and internecine conflict through the eyes of a small boy, Nenad. Every day Nenad is taken to school from his father’s farm in a KFOR armored car to study alone in a school with no other pupils. Like any other boy of his age, all Nenad wants are some friends his own age. Each day, through narrow observation slits in the military vehicle he sees two Albanian boys and a shepherd boy – who has lost his father in the war and hates Serbs.

Singapore

67. Singapore (“7 LETTERS”, directed by: Royston Tan, Kelvin Tong, Eric Khoo, Jack Neo, Tan Pin Pin, Boo Junfeng, K. Rajagopal)

An omnibus anthology of seven different short films tackling the identity and culture of Singapore.

Slovakia

68. Slovakia (“GOAT”, directed by: Ivan Ostrochovský)

Former boxing great Peter – played by Peter Baláž, part of Slovakia’s 1996 Olympic boxing team – is in a bind. His girlfriend is pregnant but they can’t afford another child and now they need to find the €400 required for an abortion. Out of options, Peter decides to make a return to the ring, but up against unscrupulous promoters and boxers half his age, it’s all he can do just to survive.

Slovenia

69. Slovenia (“THE TREE”, directed by: Sonja Prosenc)

The Tree is a drama centered on a family that finds its safety behind the walls of their own house. As time goes by, their shelter slowly turns into a prison, but nothing can keep the children from yearning to be free.

South Africa

70. South Africa (“THE TWO OF US”, directed by: Ernest Nkosi)

Set in Alexandra, South Africa’s largest township, “Thina Sobabili” tells the story of two siblings who escape tragedy in the impoverished slum to build a life together.

South Korea

71. South Korea (“THE THRONE”, directed by: Lee Joon-ik)

The film is about the brutal tale of a prince who was deemed unfit to rule and was locked in a rice chest by his father.

Spain

72. Spain (“FLOWERS”, directed by: Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga)

In the film, a woman named Ane mysteriously receives flowers regularly. After her secret admirer is unexpectedly killed in a car accident, she discovers the truth of his identity. When she begins to leave flowers at the site of his death once a week, it catches the attention of the man’s widow and mother, who discover there was more to him than they knew.

Sweden

73. Sweden (“A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE”, directed by: Roy Andersson)

The last in Roy Andersson’s trilogy about quiet desperation, the film consists of a series of comic vignettes tied together through the misadventures of two traveling salesmen peddling novelty items.

Switzerland

74. Switzerland (“IRAQI ODYSSEY”, directed by: Samir)

Director Samir tells the story of his globalised middle-class Iraqi family, scattered between Auckland, Moscow, Paris, London and Buffalo, New York. It shows Iraqis as secular, cultured and open to the world in contrast to how they are normally portrayed in the media.

Taiwan

75. Taiwan (“THE ASSASSIN”, directed by: Hou Hsiao-hsien)

The movie is set in 9th-century China, where a young woman is abducted as a child from a decorated general and raised by a nun. She is trained in martial arts and returned as an exceptional assassin, after 13 years of exile, to the land of her birth, with orders to kill her betrothed husband-to-be.

Thailand

76. Thailand (“HOW TO WIN AT CHECKERS (EVERY TIME)”, directed by: Josh Kim)

Adapted from a book of short stories by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, the film is set in a small Thai town and tells the coming-of-age story of an 11- year-old boy who tries to prevent his gay older brother from being drafted into the military.

Turkey

77. Turkey (“SIVAS”, directed by: Kaan Müjdeci)

The story about a boy and his dog with a brutal twist set in the archaic world of rural eastern Anatolia, the movie unfolds in the violent world of dog-fighting with its pint-sized antagonist and his faithful friend Sivas, the film depicts the harsh world it lives in.

United Kingdom

78. United Kingdom (“UNDER MILK WOOD”, directed by: Kevin Allen)

Residents of a fictional Welsh community share stories and poems of their life in their seaside town in an adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ much loved classic of modern British poetry.

Uruguay

79. Uruguay (“A MOONLESS NIGHT”, directed by: Germán Tejeira)

A divorced cab driver shows up with a black eye at the home of His ex-wife’s new family; he’s Been invited to dinner and I desperately wants to reconnect With His young daughter. A professional magician’s car breaks down and I ends up spending an emotionally intense night with a young, widowed toll booth worker. A singer-songwriter serving a lengthy prison sentence is released for one night to perform at a local community center. These three deeply Engaging Stories About unfold yearning for connection in parallel, one New Year’s Eve in a small town in Central Uruguay.

Venezuela

80. Venezuela (“GONE WITH THE RIVER”, directed by: Mario Crespo)

Dauna is subject to the rigid conventions of an ancient culture. For her, life on the Orinoco delta cultivated a strong curiosity for what lies beyond the river. Her natural talent for language and learning was always nurtured by her family and Father Julio. Tarcisio, her childhood sweetheart, also patiently supports her, but doesn’t know how to deal with social pressure in the Warao community. Dauna is sure of her love for Tarcisio but fears he will succumb to what tradition dictates, thwarting her ambition for academic development.

Vietnam

81. Vietnam (“JACKPOT, directed by: Dustin Nguyen)

The film is based on the real-life story of a poor, southern Vietnamese lottery ticket seller named Lanh. One day in 2011, Lanh made a casual verbal agreement to sell some tickets to a deliveryman who promised to pay and pick them up later. Lanh later learned that one of the tickets she had set aside for the driver, which he hadn’t yet paid for, had won $300,000. Instead of cashing it in herself, she tracked down the unknowing driver to inform him of his good fortune and hand over the winner.
To check out the trailers of the entries this year, head over to Nathaniel R’s The Film Experience as he compiled it there.

Talk to me about it on Twitter: @nikowl

Five Best Kate Winslet Performances   Leave a comment

Happy 40th, Kate!

Kate Winslet turns 40 today! And she’s welcoming this new decade with a career comeback. Her seventh Oscar nomination as a supporting actress for Danny Boyle’s new film Steve Jobs is almost assured at this stage, and it will be her first since winning the top plum for The Reader back in 2008. As such, it’s time to revisit Winslet’s career, as I list five of her best performances.

But first, here are three ones that almost made the list: Her Emmy nominated turn as a nun in Extras in 2006 which correctly hinted that her Oscar winning performance would be in a Nazi related movie, the third party mistress Tula in 2005’s Romance & Cigarettes playing third fiddle to James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon, and her Golden Globe nominated performance in Roman Polanski’s Carnage in 2011 that showcases her impeccable comedic timing. As for the actual list…

05. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008, director: Sam Mendes)

It’s rather unfortunate that her baitier performance that same year won her the Oscar, when Winslet was much more magnificent as the lonely suburban housewife in her then husband’s feature “Revolutionary Road.” As April Wheeler, one can consider this as the second of her unofficial “problematic bored housewives” series (starting with 2006’s “Little Children” and ending in 2013’s “Labor Day“. WInslet was full on theatrics in this one, which can be considered as a turn off, but was matched with equally loud Leonardo di Caprio. How Winslet portrayed the once hopeful, young housewife and her slow realization of hopelessness because of being with him was impeccably played to great heights in this film.

04. HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994, director: Peter Jackson)

Considered as Kate’s breakout performance, Winslet played beautiful music (literally and figuratively) with co-star Melanie Lynskey in this 1994 Peter Jackson film, long before he decided to do his Middle Earth trilogy. Based on a real life 50’s scandal, Winslet portrays the beautiful Juliet, fresh from England, with such vibrancy that you’d be hooked to whatever she’s hooked to — may it be literature or music or art. She crosses the line between innocent at one moment then switches to seductive the other, that you’d be lying if you weren’t seduced into the little world they’re building.

03. HOLY SMOKE (1999, director: Jane Campion)

There is something about the way Kate Winslet exudes and defines sexuality during her early heydays as proven by previous entry “Heavenly Creatures.” This was further heightened in her performance in 1999’s “Holy Smoke” where she plays the Australian Ruth, whose views of her own spiritual awakening has impacted the way she lives her life. Campion poses a lot of challenges to  Ruth here: her firm beliefs, her seducing ways, her views on relationship up to her controlling ways, but WInslet was very much up to the challenge.

02. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995, director: Ang Lee)

Receiving her first career Oscar nomination two decades ago for Ang Lee’s take on this Jane Austen novel (with a screenplay penned by co-star Emma Thompson), Winslet’s Marianne Dashwood was full of charm and charisma, one character you’d easily root for. It’s a performance full of life, and Kate was exuberant in it you’d think she literally came out of the novel to portray the character. While Mira Sorvino was underrated for her accomplishment in Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite“, I would have preferred if WInslet won her Oscar for this performance instead.

01. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004, director: Michel Gondry)

Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine.

Still what I consider as the peak of Kate Winslet’s career, it’s easy to label her Clementine Kruczynski as her best one uet.. And looking at her career standpoint now, I don’t think we’d be seeing a performance as captivating as what she did in this one. This is probably a character that’s against type for Kate — mostly stuck on period films (Jude, Quills, Titanic) or even playing younger version of other character such as her portrayal of the young Iris Murdoch in 2001’s Iris. Thus, not only is it refreshing to see Winslet in this type of role, probably even rarer by the fact that it was very much complexly written that watching her being discovered by Jim Carrey’s Joel directly affects us as well. Sure, one can credit that Clementine is the product of a greatly written character, but Kate’s performance certainly contributed to why she’s memorable. Like I said in the initial post, Winslet’s comedic timing is rarely seen (more so in her personal interviews rather than her on screen portrayals) that seeing her in this was as much delightful as it was melancholic.

What are your thoughts on Kate Winslet? What are your favorite performances of her? Tweet and talk to me about it: @nikowl

15 Oscar Bait Flops starring the last 15 Oscar Best Actress Winners   Leave a comment

vlcsnap-2015-09-30-13h10m44s22Take a good look at that Best Actress Oscar, Cate!

An actor’s career won’t ever be complete if he/she hasn’t had that one film perceived as his/her Oscar vehicle only for the movie to not live up to its expectations and its Oscar chances ultimately ending up in a crash and burn in situation. Today, we’d be revisiting the last 15 Oscar Best Actress winners, and while all of them have ended up with Oscar statues in their mantles already (some even more than one, coughMerylcough), these are some films that were perceived to be the one.

2000: Julia Roberts

Then America’s Sweetheart Julia Roberts was unstoppable that year sweeping all televised precursors leading to the Academy Awards for her sassy superstar performances as the title role in Erin Brockovich, and while she obviously “loved it up there” in the podium, her post-Oscar career has mostly focused on doing favored works for her director friends (such as Steven Soderbergh and Ryan Murphy) or actor friends (such as Tom Hanks). However, in 2007, she starred alongside Hanks and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson‘s War as Texas socialite Joanne Herring donned with a big blonde wig and her signature wide grin. While she picked up a Golden Globe nomination for this, her real Oscar comeback came seven years after in August Osage County.

2001: Halle Berry

After her historic win in 2001, Berry remains to be the only African-American actress who have won the Oscar in a leading performance for Monster’s Ball. However, most of her post-Oscar career has been panned left and right specifically during her turn in Catwoman. While the actress have fared better in television (with her Emmy nominated performance “Their Eyes Were Watching God“), Berry still tried to prove her win was no fluke by starring in different Oscar vehicles such as “Things We Lost in Fire” in 2007. For this list though, nothing is as baity as her attempt for a comeback in 2010’s “Frankie & Alice” where she played a 70s stripper suffering from a dissociative identity disorder. Berry picked up a filler Globe nod for it, but the awards failure performance caused the film to be shelved only to be revived four years later for a theatrical release to the knowledge of… nobody.

2002: Nicole Kidman

Winning on her second consecutive nomination, Nicole Kidman was the biggest movie star on the planet during her win as author Virginia Woolf in Best Picture nominee The Hours. And while everyone thought this would be the start of the Academy’s love affair with the Australian actress, the opposite happened with her starring in low-key indie films (Dogville, Birth), flop mainstream attempts (The Stepford Wives, Bewitched), or Oscar baits that simply didn’t materialize (Nine, Australia). That said, her worst Oscar bait flop happened in 2013 when she played another Best Actress Oscar winner Grace Kelly in “Grace of Monaco.” Issues over cuts and versions between screenwriter Arash Amel, director Olivier Dahan, and distributor Harvey Weinstein all contributed to the tragic fate of this film (which as of this writing, has apparently three different versions). While Grace opened the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, it was panned by critics there losing any chance for a theatrical release. It ended up premiering on TV via Lifetime earlier this year, though that ended up as a blessing in disguise as that decision earned it an nomination for Best Television Movie at the Emmy Awards earlier this month.

2003: Charlize Theron

After her unanimously praised performance of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, Theron easily received another Oscar nod two years after for the movie North Country. That said, Theron stayed low key with her movie choices tackling supporting roles mostly or really, small films. While her comeback in 2011 for Young Adult didn’t fruit to Oscar nom #3, it can’t be considered an Oscar bait flop considering the nature of the film doesn’t seem like the type that will get its actress nominated. However, after the success of Gone Girl last year and its lead actress Rosamund Pike receiving a nomination for it, studio A24 tried to ride on its success by releasing another Gillian Flynn novel turned to movie “Dark Places” starring Theron as the only survivor of a town massacre. Suffice to say, this was released in limited theaters and VOD killing all its chances to get Theron nominated.

2004: Hilary Swank

Only five years after receiving her first Best Actress Oscar, Hilary Swank easily snatched her second after starring as the female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in the Best Picture Oscar winner of that year “Million Dollar Baby.” That’s why her third bid for an Oscar nomination (exactly ten years after her first and five years after her second), was for playing the great, late Amelia Earhart in Mira Nair’s 2009 take on the life of the prominent figure. Unlike her first two vehicles though, Swank quite received the flak for portraying yet another character leaning on the masculine strengths for another shot at Oscar. So despite Fox Searchlight handling the campaign for this film, not even that is enough to save this critical and commercial flop. Surprisingly enough, her next Oscar bait came in 2014 for “The Homesman“, but again to no avail. Maybe Hilary decided to plot her Oscar vehicles every time a year ends on 9 or 4 no?

2005: Reese Witherspoon

Her Oscar-winning role was that of the late country superstar June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line.” In this 2007 thriller however, Reese joined forces with Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Alan Arkin, as well as Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal. Back in 2007, films dealing with the CIA and terrorism have been as baity as one can expect, so Witherspoon’s role as a pregnant woman involved in some terrorism actions seem like a shoo-in Oscar contender. Add the fact that this was Witherspoon’s foray into straight drama territory and this seemed anything but an Oscar flop. Until it was. Luckily for Reese, she managed to come back in the Oscar race earlier this year for her turn as Cheryl Strayed in Wild.

2006: Helen Mirren

Usually when a woman in her sixties win an Oscar, it’s mostly an indirect lifetime achievement award of some sort. But not for Dame Helen Mirren. Since her win for The Queen in 2006, this has led her to receive more leading roles and she has been the go-to British actress even surpassing Dame Judi Dench and Dame Vanessa Redgrave to name a few. She easily picked up an Oscar nod in 2009 for The Last Station, and we’re certain that she came close in 2012 for Hitchcock after receiving Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nominations for it. Mirren is an easy name check for nominations too, as proven by her Golden Globe nomination (yet again) for The Hundred Foot Journey. However, Woman in Gold was a different story. It’s a great feat that the movie earned four times its budget, but with the topic of a Jewish refugee fighting for a painting of her aunt by the Nazis, this is the type of role that can easily skate its actress to awards talk… only that it won’t happen anymore.

2007: Marion Cotillard

Among all the Oscar flops in this list, The Immigrant is that one film that really doesn’t deserve its placement. It’s a great film and its number of accolades received could certainly prove it. However, after acquiring this film at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Harvey Weinstein certainly did not know how to market or simply, what to do with this film and he ended up throwing it to E-One, the smaller right hand company of The Weinsteins which is an indication that they won’t be pushing this film for any awards consideration. But when Cotillard started to pick up steam for her performance in “Two Days, One Night“, Weinstein made a sudden last minute play of giving Cotillard and its cinematography some push hoping it can get her the nomination. Of course it didn’t, and Marion ended up getting that overdue second nomination for her better performance. Sadly, Marion has yet to be nominated for an English performance, and this could have been it had it been handled properly.

2008: Kate Winslet

For quite a period in the late 2000s, Jason Reitman has been the Academy’s catnip. His films have ended p receiving Oscar nominations for Ellen Page in Juno, and George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air with Golden Globe nods for Aaron Eckhart in Thank You for Smoking and Charlize Theron in Young Adult. However, all streaks will come to an end, as Reitman’s one began with the Kate WInslet-starrer Labor Day. Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, Winslet plays another lonely suburban housewife (as if Little Children and Revolutionary Road weren’t enough) who had an encounter with convict Josh Brolin. The movie was met with horrible reviews, but hand it to the Golden Globes for still name checking Kate Winslet giving her a Best Drama Actress nomination for it.

2009: Sandra Bullock

2009 ended up as the start of a career renaissance for Sandra Bullock. Not only did she star in two movies of that year with grosses combined a 600+ million dollars, she ended up with the Best Actress Oscar for her turn as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side. What could have been the pinnacle of an actor’s career only was the beginning for Sandra who followed it up with box office hits like The Heat and Minions or critically backed films like that of Gravity. This year, however, she dons her blonde wig yet again (just like in her Oscar winning performance) to headline David Gordon Green’s “Our Brand is Crisis.” While her awards chances have yet to be determined, you can mostly count her out since the movie received mixed to negative reviews since it premiered at Toronto International Film Festival this year. At least her personal reviews weren’t tragic, but count no Best Actress nomination for her this year.

2010: Natalie Portman

Portman’s road to the Oscar was for her performance as the ballerina in Black Swan, but only a year before that, we saw her closest attempt to follow up her 2004 nomination for “Closer” in Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers“, based on the 2004 Danish film of the same name. As the woman who was left in between the characters of Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire, Portman was given the tough position of acting upon two other contemporaries. Sadly for the film, it has gained little to no traction at all that year, mostly for the U2 song “Winter” and a Golden Globe nod for Tobey Maguire.

2011: Meryl Streep

Yes, even Oscar’s favorite actress takes a break from being Oscar nominated. Grunt all you can as Meryl enjoys her 19 career Oscar nominations and three statues at home (her latest for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady), but every now and then she takes on flop Oscar vehicles such as this one directed by Robert Redford and had her starring with Tom Cruise. Streep plays liberal TV journalist Janine Roth who thinks the government is using her position to be an instrument of their plans. Here’s another film that tried to combined issues of journalism, terrorism, and war ending up with zero awards traction, rotten reviews, and a disappointing box office performance.

2012: Jennifer Lawrence

After starring in Best Picture nominees Silver Linings Playbook (for which she won her Oscar) and American Hustle, it seemed like the pairing of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence is one that seems to have find its footing in the Academy. Their third pairing, however, is from Oscar winning director Susanne Bier from the 2008 novel of the same name. While this costume drama seemed like it would continue the trajectory of both actors getting nominated, too many issues surrounding the film’s release ended up losing all momentum for the movie. It finally was released in the US last March which is enough reason to say that the movie’s intention to get any awards consideration is already killed.

2013: Cate Blanchett

At this stage in her career, Cate Blanchett is already infallible with everything she touches is suddenly critic proof. She has reached that stage in her career already where she has the respect and admiration of her peers and critics alike, as proven by her great comeback in 2013 because of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine for which she won her second Oscar and her first one in Lead. But before any of those happened, she has been starring in one flop bait after the other in the early 2000s, particularly this Ron Howard film in 2003 entitled “The Missing.” It was Howard’s comeback after winning for “A Beautiful Mind” and starred Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones. Good for Blanchett though because the year after, she finally natched her first one for “The Aviator.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

2014: Julianne Moore

Lastly, we have current Best Actress Julianne Moore. Before winning the Oscar this year for Still Alice, Julianne’s last visit to the Oscars as a nominee was still way back in 2002 when she was double nominated for The Hours (losing to Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Far From Heaven (losing to The Hours co-star Nicole Kidman). While we all have probably thought that Julianne would end up being forgotten (as it’s harder to win an Oscar when you’re in your 50s), she proved it otherwise. The journey to 2014 was a long wait though appearing in Oscar contenders where her co-stars got nominated but not her (such as The Kids Are All Right and A Single Man) or low key Oscar flop baits (The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio and Savage Grace). What stood out was the one directed by Fernando Meirelles though. As the opener of the 2008 Cannes Film Fest, Blindness was destined to be a real Oscar contender with its great ensemble, and the reputation of the people involved. After all, it was one of the most prominent best selling novels that time, and this was a challenging role. Alas, the bad reviews killed any of its perceived Oscar chances.

There you have it. What are your favorite Oscar flops? Which Oscar bait ones did you secretly enjoy? Talk to me about it on Twitter: @nikowl

The Cumulative Ranking of Taylor Swift’s Albums   Leave a comment

QUEEN!

Deity Swift just released her fifth studio album (earlier in some parts of the world than the US), and it is said to be her departure to the country genre to fully embrace her pop sound. And if we’ll based it on her first single this era, the infectious “Shake It Off“, it is indeed a major crossover. Is it a risk worth doing, or is it a step back to her glorious streak? In order to gauge how 1989 fared as compared to the rest of her discography, we revisit Taytay’s memory lane and rank all five of her albums.

Taylor Swift

5. TAYLOR SWIFT (2006)

It was eight years ago when Taylor Swift entered the music scene with her self titled debut album. Just like all ingenues to the music industry, Taylor’s first offering was mostly about her dreams, giving a safe offering. But if there’s one thing that’s particularly striking about her, it’s her potential for song writing. Even in her debut album, T.Swift was already giving hints of introducing her self on a deeper level with her song writing. I think she entered the country scene in the right time as there’s no solo teen country girl that has made some name for herself since Leann Rimes in the mid-90s. While she didn’t become as huge as Rimes was when she entered the scene, it is without a doubt that when it comes to Swift and this album, the rest is simply history.

Favorite tracks:Our Song“, “The Outside“, “Teardrops in My Guitar

Speak Now

4. SPEAK NOW (2010)

The follow up the the critically lauded and commercial hit Fearless will always be a crucial for any artist, but two years after, Swift comes up with “Speak Now.” If Fearless made Swift bank and bask in her youthfulness and the feeling of such, there’s certainly no place to move on but go further on her next album. Speak Now had Swift writing songs referring to Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer and Kanye West to name a few, and what one might consider as petty can be Taylor’s view of finally letting her guard down and translating her frustrations as inspirations. And to the surprise of no one, it actually works. At this stage in her career, Swift needs to prove that Fearless isn’t just a fluke, a one-album wonder and she knows that her follow up will start to solidify the great start her previous album had. But like any Taylor related story, she ends up winning having the last laugh.

Favorite tracks:Enchanted“, “Back to December“, “Mean

Fearless

3. FEARLESS (2008)

Officially making her entry known to the rest of the music industry, Fearless is what made Taylor the youngest winner of the Grammy for Album of the Year back in 2009. Coming from where her initial album left off, she followed it with something that is a mix and match of a lot of things. Her sugary stuff was still present, but not only does she make herself relateable with the young girls, she also served as an older sister to them giving them pieces of advice (like that in Fifteen) or being message specific (like that in Hey Stephen.). She still gives homage to her country roots while simultaneously testing the water with them pop beats which probably is an indication of a crossover she’ll be doing in the future years of her career. And for an 18 year old country lady in the business, her album title can probably signify to that shift as well. If anything, in Fearless, Swift is still enjoying both worlds talking about puppy love and romance with a charm that only she can pull off.

Favorite tracks:You Belong With Me“, “Love Story“, “Hey Stepehen

Red

2. RED (2012)

The thing with Taylor’s albums is that the previous one can be connected with the succeeding one especially with the personal details that she shares behind the meaning of her songs. Red, which became her second album to be nominated for the Grammy Album of the Year, follows the same suit. Red is definitely her larger than life album tackling themes and topics in her songs so bluntly and partnering it with big beats and loud thumps making you feel as if every finish of a song is the closing of a different story. Her songwriting details are more aggressive and detailed this time around including a top notch favorite of mine “All Too Well.” In this album, Swift plays a teenager, a heartbroken woman, a cool girl, a hopeless romantic and lots of other facets making the listening experience more enjoyable. In Red, she acknowledges that she is mature already but that she’d still be petty every now and then. This is also her first (and still her only) album where she did collaborations (to the likes of Ed Sheeran and Gary Lightbody), and I think one that never fails to give you all the “feels.”

Favorite tracks: “All Too Well“, “The Last Time“, “Begin Again

1989

1. 1989 (2014)

Yep. You’ve read that right. Well you can freely accuse me of having knee-jerk reactions, but I was just slayed by it. In Taytay’s latest, she officially announced that she’s going full throttle to pop territory. While the pop sound was already present in Swift’s previous albums, one could still hear the country twang every now and then. Yet such is the risk that she decides to take with her fifth album. And boy does it pay off big time. 1989, mixing 80s synth pop in it, is probably her most cohesive effort to date. While other songs can sound annoying as stand alone tracks (like that of album opener Welcome to New York), it is perfectly fitting in the context of the whole album. One moment you’re hearing some Lorde realness, then the other you’re hearing Lana and Tegan and Sara. But the difference is that she’s not really ripping them off, but she’s putting her own spin on them. The succession of songs from Blank Space to Out of the Woods is pure pop perfection, and she does that with probably majority of the songs in this album. 1989 is definitely 2014’s pop-gasm album if ever you have to single out one, and DeiTay knew exactly what she had in mind by assuring she’ll deliver with this pop venture.

Favorite tracks: Uhm almost everything? Lol. But “Blank Space”, “Style“, “Wildest Dreams“, “Clean

1989 will be digitally available via iTunes Philippines starting October 28. For the meantime, just keep on bopping to Shake It Off or watch her totally actressing performance of Out of the Woods over at Jimmy Kimmel Live (maybe she got tips from her The Giver co-star Meryl Streep? :))

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl