Wednesday, April 16, 2008


This is what happens when you have too much time in your hands. You go home at 5PM and stay up until 2AM to watch five movies on DVD. Sigh. Anyway, I totally enjoyed the selections last night. Starting the series was TICKETS, a singular work by three directors: Ken Loach, Ermanno, and Abbas Kiarostami. Of the three, I am most familiar with the works of the latter since I also have his A Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us, and Ten. Anyway, TICKETS tells the story of three groups of people all of whom are on the same train to Rome. The first is about an old Italian pharmacologist who day dreams about a writing a love letter to a young woman he's met in the office; totally heartbreaking. The second is about Filippo, a ex-soldier doing community service by assisting a bossy widow on her way to her husband's memorial service (he ends up leaving her), and finally about three supermarket workers from Glasgow who are on their way to watch a match in the Eternal City. Weaved into these three stories are a family of Albanian refugees who switch trains and steal a ticket. It's a roller coaster of heavy drama and comedy, but the former on most parts. It's a seamless weave of storytelling that's worth really watching.

I don't know why I saw this again but maybe I liked it the first time and it's always a pleasure to recall how fantastic Ryan Gosling was in this drama, The Believer. Daniel Balint (Ryan Gosling) has always been known to have his own ideas. He was expelled (or shall we say, he left) from school because he believed that God was being bossy and was ego tripping when he ordered Abraham to sacrifice his favorite son, Isaac. Daniel opines that because of this singular act, the Jewish people (of which he is a member) is scarred forever. Fast forward, Daniel joins a fascist group who wants to resurrect Neo-Nazism in New York and spread hate against the Jewish community. Daniel became the groups spokesperson and fund raiser, but he is tormented by his past and sense of belonging. His Jewish friends continue to invite him to their gatherings. The film is terribly existential and requires an intelligent audience, and by this I mean those who are able to separate their faith from simple story telling without the former being tossed to the wind. The Believer won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance.

After FUR and after watching KISS KISS BANG BANG, I realized that I like Robert Downey, Jr. I totally love the lines in this film - witty and sharp. Released in 2005, it also starred Val Kilmer as Gay Perry (there's too much "gay" references but it was a delight to watch). Kiss Kiss Bang Bang reveals the scenes behind the camera in this tinsel town of Los Angeles. The title pretty much says it all. Pauline Kael, whose book's title was used as a reference for the film's own, describes it as "perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of the movies." Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr) uses the self-aware style in his narration. In short, he speaks directly to the audience. He is a small-time crook who finds himself in a movie audition by accident and was brought to Hollywood to study how a detective works for a role. This he does under the tutelage of undercover Gay Perry (Val Kilmer). He met his childhood crush, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monagham) in one of LA's many parties and both relish their past. If you think it all ends there, you're wrong. The three characters found themselves involved in a real murder similar to the stories Harry and Harmony read when they were kids. It's a nightmare come true. Data showed that this was one of America's most overlooked films and it's a pity because it's so much fun to watch! Rogert Ebert, of course, has something else to say about it.

Seriously, nothing could beat the English in wit and Gosford Park is required watching for those whose lives have been deadened flat by life's boring routines. This is a film best enjoyed with friends over red wine and cheese.
Of course, one must end with the evening with a bang and how! 2008 is the 9th year anniversary of The Pang Brothers and they are marking it with a Hollywood remake of their first film, Bangkok Dangerous. I think this was shown in Manila during an edition of the Cinemanila International Film Festival but I didn't have the chance to catch it. I am not keen on watching the new version since I am not a fan of what's-his-name, ah, wait... Nicolas Cage and also because his character is reportedly NOT deaf, which I think is the essence of the original. The original film tells the story of Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit) who grew up to be an angry young man since he was always taunted by the other children as being deaf-mute. By some smart design of the universe, Kong ended up being a gun for hire because he showed excellent skills in shooting (he grew up watching target practices as his mother worked as a janitor in one such shop). Together with his friends, Joe and Aom, they all exist on a rather daily basis and with almost no bright future in sight that's why it's no surprise that all of them would eventually go down in the end. Very sad. Of the Pang Brothers' other works, so far I have seen only The Tesseract (by Oxide Pang; filmed in Bangkok). Too bad that it wasn't shot in Manila which was its original setting. Anyway, I am not sure if the Brothers' The Eye was the same The Eye I've seen back in med school, but it was also in Thai. Well, what do you know? It is. Shoot.

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