Wednesday, February 26, 2014



10. Octavia Spencer as Wanda Johnson - Fruitvale Station
In Fruitvale Station, Octavia Spencer showed that there's no need to burst out crying to depict a sorrowful mother mourning for her son's loss. Her restraint and calmness in the midst of a family crisis is admirable. Octavia Spencer after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress two years ago seems like she now knows how to stand out as an actor and there's no looking back, Spencer got my respect.

9. Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia - The Wolf of Wall Street
I love how Margot Robbie introduced herself in the movie world in such a huge way last year. Appearing in two of the best films of 2013 -- About Time and The Wolf of Wall Street, she morphed into the who-girl into the it-girl. Of course she still has more to prove but her performance as Jordan Belfort's wife Naomi showed her promise as an actress. Her Brooklyn accent is brilliant and to be quite honest, I didn't see that she's capable of a worthy performance when I watched her in About Time.

8. Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps - 12 Years a Slave
Like Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave, Sarah Paulson gave something appealing in a role we're supposed to be detesting. As a wife seething with jealousy towards one of their slaves, Paulson channeled this role with absurdity behind a great amount of elegance. Paulson proved in 2013 that she can succeed even outside television. Her work in Mud and 12 Years a Slave are good enough for her to hopefully land a future lead role.

7. Melissa Leo as Holly Jones - Prisoners
Damn, I LOVE Melissa Leo in Prisoners! The fact that she's not getting a lot of recognition for her work here as an old mysterious suburban lady with a dark motive I would never understand. Solely through Melissa Leo's acting, she can make us scared, laugh, sympathize, provoked, name it. And even if she's kinda awkward in real life, there's no doubt that Leo is one heck of an actor.

6. June Squibb as Kate Grant - Nebraska
I'm not crazy about June Squibb's performance in Nebraska but I find it impossible not to be smitten by her. With the help of Bob Nelson's screenplay and Payne's direction, they made the most out of June Squibb's potential. I think Squibb's personality in real life made Kate Grant a little more charming and hilarious rather than annoying and shrew, making her the most memorable in Nebraska.

5. Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld - American Hustle
I may be unimpressed with Jennifer Lawrence's Jersey accent but only fools can deny the incredible talent of this woman. She's unstoppable. She has swag in real life but also translates it in films. Rosalyn turned out to be the most awesome character in a film with many OTT characters and that's because of JLaw's ability to steal every scene she's in. For me, she still hasn't surpassed her performance in Winter's Bone but I know that she's still capable of topping it. I'm looking forward for her return in doing serious roles instead of comedies.

4. Scarlett Johansson as Barbara Sugarman - Don Jon
It's sad that ScarJo is getting more recognition for her voice over role when she's better in the greatest role of her lifetime in Don Jon. :( She's impressive as a voice actor in Her but her everything in Don Jon is miles better. It's unbelievable how she can change her accent so natural and believable like how Meryl Streep does her millions of accent. Only few actors can achieve that and ScarJo is now one of them. Funny thing is, I don't think that she tried hard and she just enjoyed her role or she's just really good at it that she made me think that way.

3. Annika Wedderkopp as Klara - The Hunt
 I've campaigned my ass off to put this young but INSANELY ASTONISHING actress to spotlight but I failed miserably. Wedderkopp, in my book, brings a lot of mature actress to shame because she can portray maturity better than most actors. The fact that she seems like she knows what she's doing in a film involving molestation, penis and other mature stuff, that's just WOW.

2. Léa Seydoux as Emma - Blue is the Warmest Color
Léa Seydoux is frickin fantastic in Blue is the Warmest Color! Knowing that she's actually a very feminine person makes her even more fantastic because in Blue, she's believable as a lesbian, the manly lesbian. She carried some of my favorite scenes in Blue, one of which is when she first met Adele in a gay bar. She's striking and as I am typing this, makes me want to watch Blue is the Warmest Color all over again. Oh yes I will!

1. Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey - 12 Years a Slave
Lupita gave us one of the most unforgettable scenes ever! Patsey's whipping scene still astounds me to this day for how brutal it was. The emotions and the pain she brought to Patsey during that scene was so raw and out of this world. And with that, I think she easily blows everyone away. I also love the tiniest details in her acting. Her dance, her way of holding the macaron, her way of eating it, her whistles, her passionate delivery of her lines. Her acting screams passion and while that doesn't always translate to a great performance, it's something that she possesses that helps her portray a character that deserves to have one. I hope Lupita wins come Oscar night.

Other Rankings:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


10. Paul Giamatti as Theophilus Freeman - 12 Years a Slave
Paul Giamatti making the top 10 of any Supporting Actor ranking is probably ridiculous for some, especially that this is for 12 Years a Slave and not for Saving Mr. Banks, in which he has more airtime. There's Gandolfini, Bo Larsen, Rockwell & Carell in Way, Way Back and more, but am I the only one who thinks Giamatti is a really effective villain? 12 Years a Slave has a lot of loathsome characters but Giamatti managed to be the most provoking and believable for me. To hell with the fact that he has a very little role, he's remarkable.

9. Bradley Cooper - FBI Agent Richie DiMaso - American Hustle
I'm probably the only one who thinks Bradley Cooper in American Hustle outacted his own performance in Silver Linings Playbook. Aside from his hilarious imitation of Louis C.K. in Hustle, he also managed to make an annoying FBI Agent Richie become fascinating. It also helps that he's depicting a character that's complex and vulnerable. I see more future for him if he's wise in choosing roles.

8. Dane Dehaan as Jason Glanton - The Place Beyond the Pines
One thing I can say about Dehaan's performance in The Place Beyond the Pines is that he's really good at playing the rebel. It's easy to say that he has strong facial features that can easily convey anger, but that would probably be unfair to his bold and brave depiction of a young man fighting the shadows of his father.

7. Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff - The Wolf of Wall Street
Perhaps being a huge star's sidekick is the perfect role for Jonah Hill. He's good in Moneyball, he's even better in Wolf. He perfected douchebaggery just like what he did as a sports nerd proving that Hill is a versatile actor. There's a huge potential of him being this generation's Joe Pesci and if he picks more awesome roles, he probably could surpass his reputation.

6. Tom Hanks as Walt Disney - Saving Mr. Banks
I just can't imagine the difficulty of playing a popular character like Walt Disney but Tom Hanks made it seem it's a walk in the amusement park. :3 He managed to match the level of Emma Thompson's PL Travers and I don't think any actor other than him could do that. Well, probably some could but it's just appropriate that these two 90's Oscar stars made a huge comeback with this film. It's just unfortunate that both fell short to nab an Oscar nod.

5. Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps - 12 Years a Slave
I find Michael Fassbender's psychotic villain Edwin Epps as entertaining. Don't judge me but it's true. In a sense that despite doing vicious things to his slaves, there's something vulnerable and lovable with his character that's just hard to hate. If there's any character to hate in 12 Years a Slave, it's Giamatti and Paul Dano's character not Fassbender.

4. Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki - Prisoners
Jake Gyllenhaal's character is probably one of the most ordinary characters in this category. I wouldn't say that he made his character interesting or give him more credit for it but I find his performance in Prisoners as very calculated, balanced and humane. He's been true to his character without trying too hard and it paid off as he undeniable became Prisoners' rootable unsung hero as a cop who sacrificed his own profession, and life to an extent, to find the truth in a suburb where danger looms in.

3. Barkhad Abdi as Muse - Captain Phillips
Muse, as the main antagonist in Captain Phillips is a character who is simply despicable but also lovable and appealing because of Barkhad Abdi. Considering that this is Barkhad Abdi's first role as an actor from being a limousine driver, it's hard to not put him on top of this category. But it's easy to give him all the support he deserves when we seem him savor the spotlight he's receiving presently. If ever he doesn't continue his acting career or if it fails, there's nothing to be ashamed of because his work in Captain Phillips alone is memorable enough for him to be remembered and more importantly, to be proud of.

2. James Franco as Alien - Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine gave James Franco one of the most complex and iconic characters of 2013 in Spring Breakers. Alien, an illegal drug and firearm dealer/user seems like the perfect role for James Franco who we often see as someone who's always zoned-out. But Franco brings this difficult character with such commitment and braveness that it's hard to ignore his work for this film. Respect for the gun blowjob. Plus, who wouldn't give this man credit for singing Britney Spears' Everytime?

1. Jared Leto as Rayon - Dallas Buyers Club
Need I say more? Jared Leto was Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. His portrayal of a transvestite with AIDS is not only a complete transformation, but also offers one of the best performances of 2013. After a 6-year hiatus in acting, he's back definitely in a huge way as his chances of winning the Oscar for a Supporting Role is as big as his name. And if in case he doesn't, at least he's number 1 in my ranking. lol

Other Rankings:

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Not too keen about screenplays whenever I watch films but this year, they're just so good that they left a mark in me. :3

Original Screenplay

5. Spring Breakers - Harmony Korine

4. Nebraska - Bob Nelson

3. Short Term 12 - Destin Daniel Cretton

2. Crystal Fairy - Sebastián Silva

1. Frances Ha - Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig

Honorable Mentions:
The Past - Asghar Farhadi
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen

Adapted Screenplay

5. Captain Phillips - Billy Ray

4. 12 Years a Slave - John Ridley

3. The Wolf of Wall Street - Terence Winter

2. Blue is the Warmest Color - Abdellatif Kechiche & Ghalia Lacroix

1. Before Midnight - Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke

Honorable Mention:
Philomena - Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope

Other Rankings:


It's been a great year for Cinematography. All 10 films in this ranking are exquisitely shot.

10. All Is Lost - Frank DeMarco

9. Cutie and the Boxer - Zachary Heinzerling

8. 12 Years a Slave - Sean Bobbit

7. Prince Avalanche - Tim Orr

6. Prisoners - Roger A. Deakins

5. Spring Breakers - Benoît Debie

4. Inside Llewyn Davis - Bruno Delbonnel

3. Nebraska - Phedon Papamichael

2. Her - Hoyte van Hoytema

1. Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki

Honorable Mentions:
Frances Ha - Sam Levy
Ain't Them Bodies Saints - Bradford Young

Other Rankings:

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Days before the 86th Academy Awards, here I present my Top 5 Original Scores of 2013.

5. Prince Avalanche - Explosions in the Sky & David Wingo

4. Her - Arcade Fire

 3. Saving Mr. Banks - Thomas Newman

2. Gravity - Steven Price

1. Before Midnight - Graham Reynolds

Honorable Mentions:
All Is Lost - Alexander Ebert
Ain't Them Bodies Saints - Daniel Hart

The Monuments Men -- 'The Great Gatsby' of 2014?

The Monuments Men

Director: George Clooney
With: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville

Last year, before the awards season bloomed, The Monuments Men project of George Clooney and his co-producer Grant Heslov seems like a great subsequent for their Academy Award winning film Argo -- the arts, Hitler, World War 2, Clooney are good ingredients for a Best Picture recipe. Then its trailer came out and it looked like a huge misfire of a great opportunity. Interviews of the cast about the film also made it seem like it's more of an Ocean's 11/A-Team than your usual 'serious' Holocaust-related films. Finally, it was announced that the release has been pushed back to this year and it's bound to be a disaster.

Saw this last night and I must say, that it's not as bad as it looks and it's actually a little entertaining. But while it is enjoyable, this historical comedy-drama is a hit-and-miss in its punchlines and tender moments. It started a bit off with its humor but eventually hits some of the right punches in the second half to the end. Dramatically and historically, it does not leave a huge impact as the film is bombarded with funny skits, it's a little hard to take the film seriously. There are some sentimental moments that are really touching but while it's at it and the buildup is great, it finds its way in cheesy and cringe-worthy scenes that its impact becomes not as great as its potential.

George Clooney's attempt of making the subject matter light is fair and dignified, but most of the time, he misses the right calibrate. I could honestly say that George Clooney is not that good of a joker. He also included a number of unnecessary and forced scenes, one being a jab at Russia, and it's possibly the reason why it's considered a drag by some.

Having said these, this film is perked up by its charismatic ensemble. With a group of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville as 'The Monuments Men', it can never go wrong that even with the bad script, their charisma makes up for its shortcomings. It's also good to see the current leading Oscar Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett attack an entirely different role than her Jeanette/Jasmine in Blue Jasmine.

The Monuments Men
could be my The Great Gatsby this year wherein critics find it distasteful while I find it fine and enjoyable. I could also see some of its aspects to be very competent and should be recognized come awards season -- like its fun, lively and sometimes poignant score by Alexandre Desplat and its production design that aptly encapsulates its time setting. Overall, I learned some from this but it could have been better.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

MOVIE WRITEUPS: The Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska and Philomena

The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese
With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Based on a true story, The Wolf of Wall Street tells the rise and fall of one of the most infamous Wall Street loco of our generation, Jordan Belfort. This is Martin Scorsese's 49th feature film and 5th collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island)but this seems like one of the freshest and liveliest he's ever made. No one would think that this highly energetic film was directed by a 71-year-old man but knowing Scorsese's reputation, this film's actually a mark that he's going back to his roots after making the adventure film Hugo, a George Harrison documentary and a TV episode of Boardwalk Empire. This is a good sign that he's still got it!

Leonardo DiCaprio gave his all in this film. With over-the-top acting he's known for, it works adequately here. Radiating all the arrogance, douchiness and a whole lot of charisma to portray the young Belfort. It's obvious that he really wants an Oscar. His sidekick Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff is also a douche to the highest level and Hill characterized him very well. They're very much reminiscent of the duo of Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci.

It's probably been mentioned hundreds of times but the almost 3-hour movie didn't feel like it as the entertainment contained in this film was in full force all throughout. Sex in the office is allowed, drugs all over the place, hot ladies, sports cars, helicopters, parties, every man would love to work with Belfort and every lady would love to sleep with him... except not really. The negative effects of these filthy-rich deeds might not be elaborated in the film but only stupid people would think that they idealized these things.

If you're into films that depicts complete atrocity, douchebaggery and total obscenity, choose this film as this is probably the superior one of them all.


Director: Alexander Payne
With: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stace Keach

Alexander Payne directed yet another satirical road trip film and I'm starting to love how his filmography is becoming like a collection of roadtrip dramas which are geographically specific, focused on human relationships and human behaviors emphasizing the characters' imperfections. In Nebraska, he tells the story of Woody, a crotchety old drunk living in Montana, who's convinced that he won a million dollar prize which can be claimed in Nebraska. This forces his son David to accompany him in fulfillment of his wish and this begins the journey that made them learn more about each other and their family.

It sounds dramatic but what I love about Payne is that sentimentality is a dirty word for him. There are some scenes in this film that would be melodramatic if it was directed by other directors but Payne remained firm with making his touching scenes more personal and authentic. That is by not associating these scenes with maudlin musical score or emotional pauses just to convey the message he wants to come across and the result? Fantastic.

The subtle humor is also what I adore about Nebraska. It's filled with smart and snarky comments that most often peels his character's flesh. It's effective in displaying the personalities of his character and then when we thought we've figured them out, we'll find out more about the complexity of the characters through twists.

Perfect example is Kate Grant, June Squibb's character. It's by the third half of the film when we realized that the old crude lady has more depth to her. Speaking of which, June Squibb is one of the best things in this film. The cemetery scene alone never fails to make me laugh. She's on a roll in that scene; from the words she say, the actions she does and her puffy cheeks are insanely cute. Thank you Payne for giving her this role. Not that I think that she's perfect for it as I can name a few other actresses who can portray Kate Grant to a tee but the fact that she garnered an Oscar nomination at her current age simply touches me. Cheers to achievements at an old age! After all, one of Nebraska's themes is the contentment and satisfaction of old people through achieving whatever they want, simple, shallow or whatever they are.

Bruce Dern is also commendable in this. Without having so many things to do in the film, he acted subtly and naturally. We all felt the agitation, frustrations and despair of Woody Grant, all through his expressions alone. Praiseworthy! He made Nebraska a bit iconic especially the last act when he finally achieved the thing he most wanted to accomplish. His victory seems like a victory to the viewers as well. We're all touched by Woody Grant.

I'm glad that Alexander Payne is back. I dislike The Descendants so much and with Nebraska, he has redeemed his name so well. As it turned out, Nebraska is my favorite Payne film to date.


Director: Stephen Frears
With: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Philomena stars Judi Dench as Philomena Lee, whom after 50 years of silence decided to seek out her long-lost son. Her son, who was taken from her during her days in the convent by strict nuns who judge early pregnancy out of wedlock as a sin beyond forgiveness. Meanwhile, an atheist journalist played by Steve Coogan, was looking for redemption after losing his job in the government. He was reluctant at first by the idea of writing a human interest story but eventually, he meets with Philomena and decides to help her after hearing her story.

Philomena is not groundbreaking in terms of film making - tonally inconsistent and I'm pretty sure they used some green screen in some of its scenes :/ - but with Philomena Lee's story alone, this film is bound to touch a lot of people. Despite its imperfections, the film is not bad at all.

It's so timely that this film came out just recently because we're living in a world where even our current Pope allows new angles with the old Christian teachings. And whatever religion/belief you have, Christianity or atheism, this film may affect your stance as a believer/non-believer.  Reminds me of the documentary Deliver Us From Evil. The story is so heartbreaking that it's hard not to sympathize with Philomena. It's hard because aside from her incredibly nice nature, what she went through under the nuns is just harrowing.

Judi Dench played her so earnestly. Just when I thought that she can't portray an angelic character because I didn't find her effective in her calm and pleasant role in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (lol I just found out that a sequel for Marigold Hotel is already in the works), she suddenly owned this lovely role. I feel like she's becoming the opposite of Meryl Streep where the latter is now accepting more villainous or strong-willed characters and she is choosing the softer ones. Can't complain too much though, because I actually find her speaking voice to be too composed and proper to portray HBIC characters. Her features, however, are really strong but those terrorizing eyes and eyebrows are replaced with lovely smiles and virtuous dialogues. She's really angelic and saint-like in this film. Philomenal! Steve Coogan is also solid. I love the fact that their characters are polar opposites but both touch you in different and good ways.

I don't know how faithful this film is to Philomena Lee's real life story. Apparently, I read some articles that they're indeed not faithful. But still, this film is nothing short of charm and impact even with fabrication. I can't think of other films that portrays forgiveness so well than Philomena. It teaches us compassion and how important it is in our daily lives.