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Monday, September 24, 2012

In-Flight Movies # 002

The Montevideo assignment is almost over and the last in-flight film I saw was around two months ago. Just the same, there’s an urge that I have to finish this entry. This is a way for me to remember stuff. And ponder upon, both on the films that I saw and the rare chance to be flying with Emirates (thanks, dear company).

Flights from Manila to Dubai take around eight hours. That means two to three movies per trip. Unfortunately, the flight leaves from NAIA at close to midnight so the first thing I usually do after the hot towel part is sleep. From Dubai to Manila, the plane leaves at 3am so it’s pretty much the same movie viewing challenge. There’s also the luck of having upgraded to Business and it means more comfy seats and more options for alcoholic drinks (read: more prone to sleep). Dubai to Sao Paulo is a different story. It’s a 14-hour trip. That means I have the luxury to sleep, eat properly and enjoy movies as many as I want. It’s actually one of those trips that you are forced to watch films just to kill boredom.

Anyway, here are the 17 in-flight films I have seen since the start of the year:

Manila – Dubai (January 2012)

Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011) Ryan Gosling should have been nominated at least for this Taxi Driver-esque film about a stunt double who tried to help his lady love neighbor. His earnest take of the title role is an example why popcorn films sometimes work. Actually, the acting from the ensemble is standout. It’s a Hollywood film but it resorts to quiet moments and intensity.

Dubai – Sao Paulo (January 2012)

Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011) Brad Pitt is good here but I think his slot on the last Oscars belongs to Ryan Gosling or Michael Fassbender. It’s more of an Aaron Sorkin film, complete with an Aaron Sorkin ending (read: The Social Network). The very last frame, right before the conventional title card, is just mindblowing. I’m not a sports buff but this one doesn’t alienate me. Direction is light and focused. It doesn’t resort to tricks that a film about sports should be fast-paced and adrenaline booster.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, 2010) Never mind that some of Herzog’s early films that I saw involved the wilderness. His attempt to explore and document the intriguing Chauvet caves in France is just enchanting on its own. I am thrilled to know that early life forms had the sense of what’s called a quasi-cinema. It’s monumental, something that requires more programs and government aid to preserve and rediscover. I can say that this is the most important film for 2010.

Footloose (Craig Brewer, 2011) This is a deconstruction of the 1984 musical film that made Kevin Bacon a household name. Stripped with the iconic musical numbers, the film is down to the story of a small town boy who’s attracted to a girl from a very conservative family. At times effective if seen as a Nicholas Sparks material but it would be more fulfilling if the musical numbers are adapted for a present-day audience. Not to totally scrap the reason that the original film became famous, songs are used as background music to some of the scenes (e.g. little girls singing and dancing to Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” and more).

Sao Paulo – Dubai (May 2012)

Life Without Principle (Johnnie To, 2011) When I saw it, I had this inkling that the film belongs to the same box where Johnnie To’s rom-com “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is. Only this time, the genre is more of a definitive Hongkong gangster film. By looking at a different perspective, it tackles further the universal issue of economic downgrade and how it affects the modern day citizen (the bank employee, the cop and even the hooligans). There’s a pivotal scene that involves the stock figures and that alone shows how the crisis can serve as a timebomb for the locals. I am not sold to some of the acting but maybe it’s a part of the Hongkong triad film language.

Cinema is Everywhere (Teal Greyhavens, 2011) This film branches into four small documentaries about film in different locations. In Scotland, Tilda Swinton and Marc Cousins attempt to raise cinema awareness through a mobile movie house. A young and struggling actress in India is followed by a camera as she juggles her time with auditions and a date for a possible future husband. In Hongkong, a group of young students are making a film in what looks like an abandoned building. Another filmmaker in Tunisia is making his way to a prestigious international film festival. There’s actually no coherence in the film and the interviews (with Fruit Chan, etc.) most of the time do not help but I love the passion from its subjects. The title is just appropriate.

The Rescuers (John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman and Art Stevens, 1977) When I was a kid, my brother who was eight years older than me would make it a point to tell his early moviehouse adventure. With wide-eyed wonder, he would recount how fascinated he was watching this animated film from Disney with my mom and my uncle. I was actually transported back to that time when I saw this hand drawn classic. It felt good to bring back those memories while onboard a trip that would detach me from family and friends for three good months or so. The film, by the way, is a tale that involves rats who are commisioned to rescue an orphan. In the middle of a film, the all too sweet song “Someone’s Waiting for You” is played. Instantly, the song became the theme song of that leg of my onsite assignment.

Dubai – Manila (May 2012)

The Muppets (James Bobin, 2011) The premise is undeniably very Hollywood but it’s an enjoyable one even if you’re not a muppets fan. On the side is the team-up of Oscar winner Amy Adams and funnyman Jason Segel as they provide a bit of a romance and some sugary musical numbers. For me the best scenes are when the muppets do some stroke of metafiction.

Thelma (Paul Soriano, 2011) It’s good that I saw the film before it garnered an award for Best Actress in the recent Gawad Urian. Well, I have to admit that Maja Salvador did a great job in the film. That’s actually the only saving grace for me from this Elma Muros-inspired material. But I don’t think she’s at par with the likes of Fides Cuyugan Asensio for “Niño” or even Eugene Domingo for “Ang Babae sa SepticTank”. Past the titular acting goodness, the film felt like an episode of a teleserye, unusually mixed with melodrama acting and a distracting cinematography from Odyssey Flores. I have nothing against Mr. Flores but it just feels like he should have toned it down a bit.

Manila – Dubai (June 2012)

Haywire (Steven Soderbergh, 2011) This action film is probably Steven Soderbergh’s most physical. There’s nothing much but it’s totally entertaining. Glad that the director can pull off a breather like this one. More!

Dubai – Sao Paulo (June 2012)

Romancing in Thin Air (Johnnie To, 2012) This is my third Johnnie To film that I saw onboard a plane. It’s a romance drama between a famous actor (Louis Koo) and an inn manager (Sammi Cheng) turned sour set in the Yunnan Province in China where altitude sickness is eminent. Plot is like borrowed from a Julia Roberts film but the running time of 111 minutes has an added flavor. Maybe I was overreading it but I liked the metaphor between romance and catching one’s breath.

My Week with Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2011) Hands down, this is another underrated film from 2011. Michelle Williams did a wonderful job in owning the Marilyn Monroe character. The impersonation works but it is how the larger-than-life celebrity becomes human through Ms. Williams’ take that turns the film into an engaging treat. Kenneth Branagh did a similarly exceptional performance as he breathed to life Sir Laurence Olivier’s character. Premise is a bit trite but forgiveable since it’s more of a memoirs.

Sao Paulo – Dubai (July 2012)

Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011) It’s a delight to come up from time to time a film from the US that is quiet, slow and very reflective. This film about a family man (Michael Shannon) who’s about to face a mental illness by bearing some apocalyptic hallucinations is a perfect example. When I stayed in Frankfort, Kentucky for close to two months sometime in 2008, it made an impression to me that living in a rural area is a bit depressing. Maybe it has something to do with the houses being built far from each other but I am just theorizing from a Third World perspective. Only the film does not stick to the depression per se. It’s a character study of an everyday American citizen and how a family reacts to a similar dilemma. The last sequence of the film actually questions the heart of its premise. It charges back to the audience the possible prejudgement that is fueled from the start. It’s a celebration of humanity and its flaws, or the beauty of nature that is sometimes overshadowed by its own catastrophes.

Moy Papa Baryshnikov (Dmitry Povolotsy, 2011) I believe this was the first Russian film I have seen onboard. A colleague once said that probably Filipinos were Russians on their past life as both races are very family oriented. This film is about a young male student named Borya in a prestigious ballet school in Moscow. It is set in the late 80’s when Mikhail Baryshnikov became an iconic figure in the world of ballet. Borya who lives with his mom in what looks like a working class neighborhood doesn’t know who his real father. He claims one day that his father is actually Mr. Baryshnikov. This resulted to a slight gain of confidence from the kid, making a commentary about the absence of a parent to a family. It’s a feel-good coming-of-age film and looks very mainstream as we know it. I was expecting a Hollywood ending but it rerouted to a resolution that is more fulfilling and satisfying.

The Lorax (Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, 2012) I must have been really happy when I saw it because I got teary eyed during the last part for no apparent reason at all. Maybe I was just excited to be home. The film, coincidentally, is about home or the preservation of it. It’s about family and it’s about sticking with them even if the outside world has evolved into something disastrous or corrupted. It’s also about the environment, about keeping it pure no matter how flawed and limiting sometimes. There’s actually nothing much from this Hollywood spectacle. Voice talents from Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and the good Danny DeVito are just fine with me. I think it’s the way the message got across that’s admirable in the most kid-friendly way, especially in this age that animated features started to get darker and darker.

Dubai – Manila (July 2012)

A Ghost of a Chance (Koki Mitani, 2011) Based from the note in the film selection menu, this one’s the highest grossing Japanese film in 2011. It would be really unfair but I made a comparison in terms of sensibility to the highest grossing Filipino film during that year. Though Wenn Deramas’ “Praybeyt Benjamin” has a commentary on homosexuality and its acceptance to the society, it drowned in the middle of the film in the most dim-witted way possible. This Japanese film, also a comedy, is more situational than a social commentary. It tells a story of an incompetent female lawyer (Eri Fukatsu) who’s last chance to live up to her father’s legacy is by having a ghost as a witness in a murder case. The premise is actually stupid but I got the hang of it the moment the film takes it seriously. Its resolution is both satisfying and uplifting. Even if the film runs for a whopping 142 minutes, I enjoyed every turn without having the nagging feeling that it’s undermining my intellect.

Beremennyy (Sarik Andreasyan, 2011) This Russian film is totally different from the other one that I saw. It’s a comedy in the most reachable way possible and I wouldn’t be surprised if this film made money at the tills. It’s about a male news anchor that’s married to a pretty lady but doesn’t have a baby yet. He conversed to the universe one day to become a dad and ended up being pregnant himself. Maybe it’s another statement on how family oriented the Russians are but the film is very lousy on its delivery. It runs for about 84 minutes anyway so I didn’t mind being stuck in that jam for a while.

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