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89th Academy Awards Nominations Predictions   Leave a comment

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With months and months of speculations, all predictions will finally be decided upon as the Academy unveils its 89th Academy Awards nominations tomorrow night, Manila time. This season, just like the previous one, brought in lots of crazy moments as we progress the past few months. Frontrunners like Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation both sizzled mid-way. Viola Davis competed in Supporting after talks of being in Lead a year before, and who knew that Mel Gibson can still do a Hollywood comeback after all these years? Anyway, here we go, I’ll share my predictions in all 24 Oscar categories.

BEST PICTURE

As you may know, Best Picture is a fluid category which can have as many as ten and as low as five nominees. We have a really strong triumvirate heading to Oscar season with Damien Chazelle’s LA-set musical La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan’s small drama Manchester by the Sea, and critically acclaimed Moonlight from Barry Jenkins. All three led the season in terms of critical acclaim and precursor performance. Consider three all set and locked in.

Next up, two films which really overperformed all season, overcoming doubts and possible barriers throughout their campaigns. The Amy Adams-starrer Arrival has managed to sweep both critics, audience, and guilds off its feet, beating possible “genre bias” against it. And despite all the behind the scene shenanigans over The Weinstein Company, Harvey Weinstein proves he still has it in him pushing Lion to a distant but comfortable fifth place spot.

And then it gets tricky. I’d say that Hell or High Water is sixth, with its whirlwind of a performance, getting remembered when it was very low-key, and getting snubbed for guilds when it started to pick up some steam. That said, I think it’s one of the few films that target the dude-bros/majority of the AMPAS membership so I think it’s safely in. next up are two POC led films whose sequel Hidden Fences has been repeated a lot this season (sadly, not in jest). Fences, directed and starred by Denzel Washington is a film adaptation of a Broadway winning play, while Hidden Figures, who defies box office expectation each week peaks at the right time during voting. While I won’t be surprised if one of these two gets snubbed (because these + Moonlight and Lion will mean half of the eight nominees are about POC and as much as Hollywood claims they are embracing, the past two years proved otherwise), I’m still sticking them both in and close my predictions at eight.

In the event that these surpass the eight, I think Mel Gibson’s sorta Hollywood comeback Hacksaw Ridge which surprisingly did well the last few weeks, can fill in the AMPAS membership quota targeted at old, white grandpas. After Clint Eastwood’s Sully sizzled, this can be their feel good movie of the year. Then there’s also Martin Scorsese’s opus Silence which was a victim of Paramount handling three strong films this season; thus coming really late to the party.

Predictions:
• Arrival
• Fences
• Hell or High Water
• Hidden Figures
• La La Land
• Lion
• Manchester by the Sea
• Moonlight

9th (but not predicted): Hacksaw Ridge
10th (but not predicted): Silence

BEST DIRECTOR

It’s really not safe to stick with the DGA five considering that the only time that happened was back in 2000. That said, the last time it also happened was a group of all first-time nominees, which also reflects this year’s batch. Well, it only becomes a problem when you consider that the biggest spoiler to this group is welp… another first timer. I think Damien Chazelle, Kenneth Lonergan, and Barry Jenkins are all safe here, while Denis Villeneuve strikes me as one who’ll finally get his welcome to the club mention. After all, his previous films have been slowly getting Oscar nominations, so it’s just a matter of time to finally get one for him. Last spot I see is between Garth Davis who pulled off that surprise DGA nod (over favorites such as Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and Mel Gibson) or David Mackenzie (whose film did not submit for the DGAs.) Toss a coin to get your answer and mine right now says Garth Davis.

Predictions:

• Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
• Damien Chazelle, La La Land
• Garth Davis, Lion
• Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
• Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

SPOILER: David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water

BEST ACTOR

Casey Affleck is back nine years after receiving his first nod for The Assassination of Jesse James, but not only is he back as a nominee, moreso a frontrunner to win the Oscar this year for Manchester by the Sea. Two of his closest contenders include Denzel Washington, on his way to pick up his seventh career nod for his role in Fences and Golden Globe winner Ryan Gosling, the effortlessly charming pianist in La La Land, whose only Oscar nod was exactly a decade ago for Half Nelson. With two major films this year, more exposure can only help Andrew Garfield to finally include “Oscar nominee” before his name, but with Silence coming in too late in the game, all his previous mentions were for his role as the lead soldier in Hacksaw Ridge. The last spot can go to Joel Edgerton in Loving, or maybe a late gamechanger Jake Gyllenhaal for Nocturnal Animals, but I’d play safe and predict Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic, as he has earned Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nods for this already.

PREDICTIONS:
• Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
• Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
• Ryan Gosling, La La Land
• Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
• Denzel Washington, Fences

SPOILER: Joel Edgerton, Loving

BEST ACTRESS

If we’re being diplomatic about it, it’s a “good” problem to not figure out the Best Actress lineup this year when it was the easiest to do so the last few years. That means great roles for women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s have all been receiving great ink for their memorable performances. But for prediction’s sake, it’s still difficult to pin down how this category will be like. I guess we better start with Emma Stone then, as she’s probably the safest here and the likely recipient of this award come Oscar night. As much as we salivate over the possibility of a Portman snub (after those really career-best notices), it’s not gonna happen. Pencil Natalie’s turn as Jackie Kennedy another sure contender here. After that, I’m tempted to say Meryl Streep is third. This role, in another “transformative” performance is something the members of the Academy will eat up. Add the fact that her iconic Golden Globe speech came right during voting period just surely helps her more. Now this is where it gets tricky. I’d put Isabelle Huppert for Elle in fourth, and while I think it’s the pessimist in me talking, I’m still open to the idea of a possible snub. After all, it’s a movie that’s not a priority watch with an actress in her 60s carrying the film in one of the strongest years of this category. I really should comfort myself with the fact that she earned the critics trifecta, the Drama Globe upset, and SPC’s priority but I;m just preparing myself for the worst here. Then there’s Amy Adams, who’s some sort of a name-check but not in a Meryl or C/Kate level yet. This will be her sixth nod in 12 years and that ratio is good to predict her. That said, we had an extra week of voting which could help Annette Bening in the little and underseen 20th Century Women or Taraji p. Henson as the face of Hidden Figures to spoil the party, and in the event that happens, I’d say Adams is the first one good to go.

PREDICTIONS:
• Amy Adams, Arrival
• Isabelle Huppert, Elle
• Natalie Portman, Jackie
• Emma Stone, La La Land
• Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

SPOILER: Annette Bening, 20th Century Women

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Proving to be the category that provides the clusterfuck, Supporting Actor can either be as easy as 1-2-3 or as confusing as that Math lady meme we’ve all used by now. I feel like Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali, Hell or High Water‘s Jeff Bridges, and Lion‘s Dev Patel are already sure locks here. Hugh Grant feels like it can go eitherway. He fits the bill of someone nabbing precursor nods only to come short in the end, but then he also fits the bill of a filler, carried over nod. But when the one who drags your nod is none other than Meryl Streep, then I guess he’s in too. Now that last spot is indeed very tricky. The obvious option is Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson who also picked up a BAFTA nod for his turn in Nocturnal Animals. If not him, then maybe Lucas Hedges of Manchester by the Sea. But then this is the category that has provided us Jonah Hill in Wolf of Wall Street and Tom Hardy for The Revenant, so a coattail is very much in talks here. Possible performances that fit the bill are Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals, Issei Ogata for Silence, and Ben Foster for Hell or High Water.

Predictions:
• Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
• Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
• Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
• Dev Patel, Lion
• Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

SPOILER: Ben Foster, Hell or High Water

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Probably the most “boring” of the four acting categories, this one seems like it’s set in stone. Davis, Harris, Kidman, and Williams have appeared in all precursors by far. Critics went for Lily Gladstone whose film isn’t even being campaigned. The BAFTAs went with Haley Squire of I, Daniel Blake which is the BAFTA-est pick they can go to at BAFTAs. Thus, it benefits Oscar winner Octavia Spencer who picked up GG and SAG nods for Hidden Figures. I don’t see a scenario of Greta Gerwig spoiling the race especially considering that her possible coattail Annette Bening is struggling to get hers too. Maybe Spencer’s co-star Janelle Monae is the only alternate here, as she’s helped by starring in both Hidden Figures and Moonlight. That said, Octavia is the more established name here, and a good narrative to boot as the first black actress to receive a nomination after her win.

Predictions:
• Viola Davis, Fences
• Naomie Harris, Moonlight
• Nicole Kidman, Lion
• Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
• Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

SPOILER: Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Count on the Writer’s branch to revive the lesser buzzed films in contention this year, and I think The Lobster has that slot all filled up. Thus, as much as I, Daniel Blake makes sense as an Oscar morning surprise, I’ll stick with the consensus of La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water, and Captain Fantastic in here.

Predictions:
• Captain Fantastic
• Hell or High Water
• La La Land
• The Lobster
• Manchester by the Sea

SPOILER: I, Daniel Blake

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Yes I’m predicting a Fences snub here which makes sense and doesn’t make sense simultaneously. First up, I think Moonlight, Lion, and Arrival are semi-locks here already. While Hidden Figures surprisingly got in a nice haul of Adapted Screenplay mentions from the BAFTAs to the WGA up to the USC Scripter and BFCAs. The last spot can easily go to Fences (which is the safe choice to be frank about it), or to Silence (which was once perceived as the frontrunner here). I went with Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals here instead because the baity adaptation can probably overcome the writers’ judgment of Ford being a writer.

Predictions:
• Arrival
• Hidden Figures
• Lion
• Moonlight
• Nocturnal Animals

SPOILER: Fences

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

I think at this stage it’s already hard to deny that Toni Erdmann is probably winning this one, so a nod is already assured for this FLF frontrunner. Denmark has a successful streak in this category this decade as well, and Land of Mine appeals to such an AMPAS demographic I think it’s getting in. Sweden’s A Man Called Ove strikes the perfect balance between comedy and drama, and is reminiscent of the other nominees in this category the past few years. Paradise is a bit of an  out of the box pick, but I guess they can’t resist another World War II film in contention from the Venice Best Director of last year. And the only reason I had The Salesman in here is because of Asghar Farhadi’s 2011 victory in this category that we’ve had some sort of reception already to his works. That said, don’t be surprise to see Xavier Dolan joining the race as this type of family melodrama and him working with a lot of Hollywood actors can certainly push him to a nom.

Predictions:
• Land of Mine (Denmark)
• A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
• Paradise (Russia)
• The Salesman (Iran)
• Toni Erdmann (Germany)

SPOILER: It’s Only the End of the World (Canada)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Still ahead of this race is Zootopia which had both the critical and audience backing to be one to beat in this race. Hot on its heels though is Kubo and the Two Strings which has overperformed a tad during this previous guilds run. I actually can see a scenario of them pitting it as the non-Zootopia vote. With it hitting both the Foreign Language Film and Best Animated Film shortlist, I expect My Life as a Zucchini to at least nab one, and since I’m not predicting it in FLF, I’ll go ahead and insert it here. Moana, which was supposed to be a last minute challenger to Zootopia just fell short in the end and while its decent box office performance and pop culture impact push me to predict it, I won’t be surprised to see it get snubbed on Oscar morning.Lastly, The Red Turtle seems more of a personal preference than a prediction here, but we’ll be needing the traditional animated representative in this category and I’m leaning to it by a hair over the hit animated film Your Name.

Predictions:
• Kubo and the Two Strings
• Moana
• My Life as a Zucchini
• The Red Turtle
• Zootopia

SPOILER: Sing

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

At the start of the season, O.J.Made in America can suffer a bit of a backlash since its a seven hour documentary feature that originated from TV. But it seems like it has the support now to not only get nominated, but even go all the way to a win. Joining it willbe the foreign documentary Fire At Sea, two films that will probably speak close to the voters due to their “cinematic” themes: Cameraperson and Life, Animated. And in the race (no pun intended) for that last spot are two documentaries that tackle about race — Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro and Ava Duvernay’s 13th. The latter seems like one who’s bound for a snub so I’m going with the former.

Predictions:
• Cameraperson
• Fire At Sea
• I Am Not Your Negro
• Life, Animated
• O.J.: Made in America

SPOILER: 13th

Now as for the rest of the technical categories…

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
• Arrival
• La La Land
• Lion
• Moonlight
• Silence

SPOILER: Nocturnal Animals

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
• Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
• Florence Foster Jenkins
• Hail, Caesar!
• Jackie
• La La Land

SPOILER: The Dressmaker

BEST EDITING
• Arrival
• Hell or High Water
• La La Land
• Manchester by the Sea
• Moonlight

SPOILER: Lion

BEST HAIRSTYLING & MAKE UP
• Deadpool
• A Man Called Ove
• Star Trek Beyond

SPOILER: Florence Foster Jenkins

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
• The BFG
• Kubo and the Two Strings
• La La Land
• Lion
• Moonlight

SPOILER: Jackie

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
• “Audition” (La La Land)
• “Angel by the Wings” (The Eagle Huntress)
• “City of Stars” (La La Land)
• “How Far I’ll Go” (Moana)
• “A Minute to Breathe” (Before the Flood)

SPOILER:  “Drive It Like You Stole It” (Sing Street)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
• Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
• Hail, Caesar!
• Jackie
• La La Land
• Silence

SPOILER: The Handmaiden

BEST SOUND EDITING
• Arrival
• Deepwater Horizon
• Hacksaw Ridge
• Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
• Sully

SPOILER: Hell or High Water

BEST SOUND MIXING
• Arrival
• Hacksaw Ridge
• La La Land
• Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
• Sully

SPOILER: Silence

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
• Arrival
• Doctor Strange
• Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
• The Jungle Book
• Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

SPOILER: Passengers

MULTIPLE NOMINATIONS:
13: La La Land
9: Arrival
8: Moonlight
7: Lion
6: Manchester by the Sea
4: Hell or High Water
3: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Fences, Florence Foster Jenkins, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, Jackie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2: Captain Fantastic, Hail Caesar!, Kubo and the Two Strings, A Man Called Ove, Moana, Nocturnal Animals, Silence, Sully

Philippines’ 89th Oscar Submission: Ma’Rosa   Leave a comment

ma-rosa-posterYesterday, the Film Academy of the Philippines announced Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa as the country’s submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards that will happen on February 2017. The film bested nine other entries which includes Berlin winner Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis, Cinemalaya Best Picture Pamilya Ordinaryo, and the last minute addition Ang Babaeng Humayo by Lav Diaz.

This is the first time for director Brillante Mendoza who has been shortlisted thrice before (2009 for Kinatay, 2013 for Thy Womb, and 2015 for Taklub). Mendoza has also won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival back in 2009, also for Kinatay. In a way, he’s – for lack of a better term – overdue for an Oscar submission. Why he hasn’t represented us thus far is really surprising.

Ma’Rosa, tells a day in the life of a poor family, headed by their matriarch Rosa (played by Jaclyn Jose), as they scramble to find the money to pay off the corrupt policemen that have arrested them or dealing drugs. Back in May, it competed at the Cannes Film Festival Main Competition section where it pulled off the historic Best Actress win for Jose, being the first Filipina and Southeast Asian actress to do so. Certainly, it has the clout and the festival exposure.

Now let’s dissect its chances. Can Ma’Rosa pull off that elusive first nomination for the Philippines? For those counting, we’ve submitted 27 times in the past — back from our very first in 1953 for Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan up to last year’s Heneral Luna from Jerrold Tarog) to no avail. No nomination and no shortlist mention.

As mentioned above, one of the things going for Ma’Rosa is its festival exposure. Not only did it take a home a prize at Cannes, it also played at the Toronto Film Festival. It has partnered with sales agency company Films Distribution which also distributed current Best Foreign Language Film winner Son of Saul. Impressive, right? Well not in the sense you’re thinking of. It has to be clarified though. Films Distribution is not an Oscar-campaigner studio per se. It’s not the same as Focus Features or Fox Searchlight or even The Weinstein Company. Son of Saul‘s win last year was due to being campaigned by Focus Features which handled its whole awards run campaign. Ma’Rosa doesn’t have that.. yet. In reality, the most Films Distribution can do is to help the movie gain more festival exposure. Going by a quick search shows that after Toronto, it’s also heading to BFI London, which is good. More festival exposure is always better.

Reviews by foreign critics is always a factor too. It has to be mentioned first that Mendoza is really as divisive when it comes to foreign critics. Remember when the late Roger Ebert mentioned that Kinatay surpassed Vincet Gallo’s The Brown Bunny as “the worst film in Canes history?” So it’s a  bit of delight that Ma’Rosa is probably one of the better-reviewed films in his filmography. While critics still had reservations, they were more welcoming than the usual. THR mentioned “Thankfully, and as in his other features, Mendoza again manages to turn his locations into a character in its own right. ” Variety’s Maggie Lee summed it best when she said “Boasting a simple, coherent plot shot with real-time, handheld verismo, it’s a work of understated confidence that will not disappoint his festival acolytes, but probably won’t win many new converts.

A lot has been mentioned about how we, at a certain extent, can be helped by our own country’s narrative right now. As the world probably knows already, we’re very vocal in our battle with the issue of drugs. And many feel that the movie is timely and that can help buzz. Historically, not really. This category really doesn’t care about that, to be frank. A year after Brokeback Mountain lost Best Picture, a significant amount of queer films were submitted for Best Foreign language Film including our own Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. The total number of gay films nominated that year? Zero. In 2010, an election year in many countries, a lot of them rode that narrative, again including us when we submitted Dondon Santos’ Noy and Brazil went with Lula. Number of election themed nominated movies that year? Zero. This whole controversy reminded me just three years ago when we went with Transit as our submission (make no mistake, still a great film, just not a great Oscar entry) over the snubbed On the Job and the FAP’s reasoning was that they don’t want to submit a film that showed the negative side of the country. Submitting Ma’Rosa I guess is a huge leap to the other direction, if that means something.

The biggest factor that can probably help Ma’Rosa is its Cannes win. Sure its only Best Actress (and by only I mean that in the hierarchy of Cannes wins, its in the lower tier alongside Best Actor and Best Screenplay. This sentence, by no means, does not intend to take anything away from the marvelous Jaclyn Jose), but a win is still a win. And that it’s still buzz. For a movie that was perceived as a non-event of some sort at Cannes (it was one of the least buzzed films of the competition, but then it’s pretty understandable since he’s competing with the likes of veterans and/or those with Hollywood cast), how it ended up going home with a win is a win itself already.

Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Three days ago, it was announced that Lav Diaz’ Ang Babaeng Humayo will go for a September 23 release, which would make it eligible for this year since it’ll be meeting the necessary requirements to contend. The huge amount of buzz over its historic Golden Lion win (the highest honor ever received by a Filipino movie in history) is too much to ignore. Sure, it’s a Lav Diaz film which means it runs for more than three hours, and that didn’t help Norte two years ago. That said, foreign critics being unanimously positive about it, plus the film being called as his most accessible (especially since Diaz is another name that’s divisive to foreign critics), with a sure huge company to back its campaign (Charo Santos was the president of the biggest TV network in the country), it’s basically a decision too obvious to make by that time. That’s why it’s a tad surprising that the announcement happened yesterday. This prompted Humayo to move back to a September 28 screening, which will make it ineligible for next year’s submission too. That, and the buzz over Golden Lion and the Toronto inclusion will be old news by then. Let it be clear though that none of this should be pointed against Ma’Rosa, Mendoza, or any of his team, since decision wasn’t really theirs.

A few weeks ago pre-Venice Film Fest, I wrote about the possible submissions and strongly felt that none of the films would do the trick. In that case, why not throw a bone to Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa. But the whole Golden Lion win affected everything. My final verdict says that nope we ain’t getting that nomination nor that Top 9 mention.  If anything, my takeaway with this year is that we’ve finally acknowledged and submitted Mendoza’s work (which was already beyond deserving back in 2009 when we had that tragic Ded na si Lolo submission), but at the expense of a stronger contender. I’d love to be wrong though.

Off to next year.

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

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

85th Academy Awards Best Dressed List   Leave a comment

And with the Oscars wrapping up the awards season yesterday, it is safe to say that the fashion and the red carpet ended with a bang. As actresses walk the red carpet at yesterday’s Academy Awards, we got a good representation of the glitz and the glamour that is Hollywood. Here are my picks for this year’s best dressed list at the Oscars.

Once again, you can click the photos to enlarge them. All photo credits go to: Yahoo! OMG coverage

Amy Adams

12. AMY ADAMS in Oscar dela Renta

This design has been done a lot of times at the Oscars (more notoriously by the ethereal Charlize Theron in baby blue back in 2005 ), but what makes this light gray Oscar dela Renta creation work was that Amy sashayed this on the red carpet very effortlessly. I’m liking the natural look both with her hair and make up too.

Jessica Chastain

11. JESSICA CHASTAIN in Armani Prive

There is an unwritten rule in red carpet fashion to not wear a dress that perfectly matches the color of your hair, with black being the sole exception. With that said, Chastain’s Armani Prive gown is an exception to that rule as she gave a throwback to early Hollywood in this very sexy and classic ensemble.

Queen Latifah

10. QUEEN LATIFAH in Badgley Mischka

It has been exactly ten years when Quene Latifah herself was nominated for the Oscar, but she’s still looking every inch a winner in the red carpet. This clean white Badgley Mischka creation that she wore last night quickly trumps both her Chicago co-stars Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta Jones.

Sandra Bullock

09. SANDRA BULLOCK in Elie Saab

I just love it when Sandra ditches sexy for fab. Well, it does seem like she managed to hit both in this lacy black Elie Saab dress which revealed enough skin, but at the same time, showed movie star vibes too. Plus points for that hair brooch she wore.

Naomi Watts

08. NAOMI WATTS in Armani Prive

The second Best Actress nominee in the list, Naomi Watts, is also wearing Armani Prive. This metallic ensemble with some very unique details need some warming up to do, but for an event such as the Oscars, it worked for Naomi who’s looking fresh and fab in it.

Charlize Theron

07. CHARLIZE THERON in Dior

Though not nominated this year, Oscar winner Charlize Theron was a hoot all night. One of the reasons definitely is this white Dior dress that looked simple but elegant to her. I imagine this as the better version of what Anne Hathaway wants to achieve at the Golden Globes.

Jennifer Garner

06. JENNIFER GARNER in Gucci

She might not be going home with an Oscar, but she’s going home with an Oscar winner. That, and some fabulous remarks with her purple Gucci gown that had some very interesting back details. Garner didn’t just look like a plus one that night; she’s definitely a star in her own right.

alicia vikander

05. ALICIA VIKANDER in Elie Saab Couture

Supporting her nominated film A Royal Affair is such an easy task when you have the lovely Alicia Vikander, here in an intricately beaded blue Elie Saab creation, to grace the event.

Nicole Kidman

04. NICOLE KIDMAN in L’Wren Scott

While it was husband Keith Urban who chose this dress for her, Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman proved that the best way of responding to an Oscar snub is by going up to the event in this head turning L’Wren Scott creation that playfully gave the viewers a glimpse of her sexy body. How one achieves that at 45 is simply astonishing.

AManda Seyfried

03. AMANDA SEYFRIED in Alexander McQueen

Third time seems to be the charm for Les Mis star Amanda Seyfried, as she finally hit it right the red carpet at her third Oscar appearance. Wearing this Alexander McQueen gown bearing these dragonfly design that fits her like a glove is her easy way en route the best dressed list.

Corinne Bishop

02. CORINNE BISHOP

Just eight years ago, we witnessed this young woman at 11 seated beside her father who won Best Actor for Ray. Fast forward to now, Corinne Bishop isn’t just a companion to her father, but she’s also showing signs of fashion greatness when she stepped out the red carpet in this teal blue gown.

Jennifer Lawrence

01. JENNIFER LAWRENCE in Dior Haute Couture

Who said you can only win one at a time? Aside from taking home the Oscar Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence is also red carpet’s best dressed woman yesterday as she stepped out of this Dior Haute Couture ensemble yesterday. You know how some Best Actress Oscar frontrunners just look “winners” in their coronation night? That trend continued yesterday with J.Law. As far as Oscar appearances go, J.Law is 2/2 for me (that red dress in 2010 was also loooove).

That’s it! Who are your best dressed picks at yesterday’s Oscars? Did you also fall in love with J.Law’s Oscar dress?

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

85th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress Rankings   6 comments

suppactress

Hi everyone! It’s been a week since I last did any blog post here, and I’m kinda swamped with work. But enough about that, I guess. First up, I’m so happy because I’m already done seeing the 20 nominated acting performances for this year’s Oscars. So to continue the rankings special that I did the past few weeks (I’m already done with Picture, Animated Feature, and Original Song), here comes the first acting category for this season. If I’m an Oscar voter, here’s how I’ll rank the five female supporting performances for 2012 (according to the Academy).

05. JACKIE WEAVER, “Silver Linings Playbook”

While I’m already past the stage of heartbreak over those who weren’t nominated (Legend Kidman! Ann Dowd! Dame Dench!), I still don’t see anything special with Jackie Weaver’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook. It’s pretty clear that she was just carried along the Silver Linings Playbook love train seeing that she did not get any major precursor prior to the Oscar nod. Don’t get me wrong, as I’m not hating on Jackie Weaver. As a matter of fact, she’s my personal winner from 2010 (her Animal Kingdom performance is still a tour de force show), and it’s amazing that she received a follow up nod when everyone quickly labeled her as a one hit wonder just two years ago. But I still don’t see how many thought of this performance as anywhere Oscar worthy. I’d say that she cracks me up though every time she mentions crabby snacks in the film.

Suggested Oscar clip: a montage of crabby snacks would have been perfect, but “You lied to me Pat! Danny’s not allowed to come.”

04. SALLY FIELD, “Lincoln”

It’s nice to see that the fruits of Sally Field’s labor has finally been recognized. Back from the fighting of this role up to her consistent Oscar snubs since her infamous speech 27 years ago, it’s probably bittersweet for Mama Gump to finally be back in awards traction for her movie performances (remember Legally Blonde 2? barf!). As for her turn in Lincoln, I like that she toned it down a bit, especially since most of her performances suffer from criticisms of going too over the top. Her Mary Todd was indeed a supporting presence above anything else, though most of her scenes involved her just sitting and watching in court. Field was able to capture Mary in a way that she knows her boundaries in the film. She knows when to limit it as per usual, but she also knows how to push all buttons when the scene calls for it. It’s a controlled performance that does not go beyond that, but in Sally’s case, that’s also how her performance reaches its greatest heights.

Suggested Oscar clip: I’ll show what heartbreak. Real heartbreak looks like…”

03. AMY ADAMS, “The Master”

Amy Adams is probably one of the actresses that the Academy loves to nominate, but not give the win to. Among her four nominations, the closest she was in terms of chances was back in her first nom for Junebug where she was clearly third in line after Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. All the succeeding noms were pretty much filler (Doubt) to no chance at all (sadly, The Fighter). The same can be said for her performance in The Master. But it’s also noteworthy that she got two major critics wins for this performance. Truth be told, I don’t see this as an Oscar winning performance as well, let alone a nominated one. But what I like about her in this was that despite not being given too much to work on (she was clearly the third best in show in terms of screen time and in storyline too), she made her presence felt. Most of her scenes required her to play second fiddle to on screen husband Philip Seymour Hoffman, but her presence was clearly there despite just sitting down or standing behind him. It’s also one of the times where she used her doe eyes feature to her advantage, as it’s a perfect fit especially during the times when she’s not talking (which is most of the time). Also, just props for giving Philip Seymour Hoffman a “hand.” What a daunting task. LOL.

Suggested Oscar clip: And this is where we’re at! At the lowest level. To have to explain ourselves. For what!?!?”

02. HELEN HUNT, “The Sessions

15 years after her first nomination (and win), Best Actress Helen Hunt comes back for a second nomination to prove her win is no fluke via The Sessions. Hunt takes the award for most number of nude scenes in a long time among all Oscar nominees, and in any other year, this could have been a bonafide frontrunner. After seeing the film, I’ve always felt that Hunt is one of those that can go either lead or supporting, but I think she was much better in Lead. With that said, this is one of the surprise performances of the season, as I don’t think that I will like it that much, only to take it back because I actually did! As Cheryl, she already made it clear that she is a sex therapist and not a prostitute, but either way, she gets to take all of her clothes off for the most part in the film. However, thanks to Hunt’s astonishing performance, it is clear that a woman (or in this case, a sex therapist) does not need to take away her dignity with her when she takes her clothes off. Hunt made it pretty transparent how much what we want to  know about Cheryl, and she answered all of this with this vulnerability that made her, like all other else, a person that is not devoid of attachments and emotions. And I find this as one of the better acting nominations of the year.

Suggested Oscar clip: Car scene in the end after the last session

01. ANNE HATHAWAY, “Les Miserables”

While this win was already bestowed to her the moment she was announced to play this role, Anne Hathaway definitely delivered to all the expectations with her performance in Best Picture nominee Les Miserables. As Fantine, Anne is definitely one of the few bright spots in this mess of a movie, and the one who benefits from the live singing as well. But before that, let’s clear some facts first. Anne Hathaway is not the best singer in the world, and I’m certain that even she is aware of that. But she is a more capable one. And she only needs one song to nail this performance, and she definitely crushed it! Her I Dreamed a Dream is one of the standout moments of the film, as she was able to make the most out of her limited screentime. In this number, she puts all these emotional gravitas of Fantine’s suffering and bursts it out in a heartbreaking and highly emotional manner that will put most viewers to tears (guilty as charged). Yes, it was brief, and yes, she disappears for most part in the film, but she already built enough momentum and impact that by the end,hers is one of the moments you’d remember the most. So regardless if you felt that Hathaway is self absorbed and narcissistic and self entitled, I’d give her a free pass with this performance as she gave justice to it, and than an Oscar is really warranted.

Suggested Oscar clip: I Dreamed a Dream. Duh.

How will you rank these performances? Who would you have voted in this category? And do you think Jackie Weaver really deserve her nod?

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

 

85th Oscar Predictions: December Edition   11 comments

With less than a month to go before my final predictions will be posted, I’ll be giving to you now my December predictions. The race is clearer now than ever because three of the four major critics have already released their winners. Also, televised awards show such as the Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice have also unveiled their nominees. The BAFTA while still possible to see some trends, will not factor much at all since the by the time they announce their nominees, the deadline for voting of Oscar nominees have been mailed already. Here are my December predictions for the 85th Academy Awards:

picture

director

actor

actress

supporting actor

supporting actress

foreign language film

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl