Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Homesman

Director: Tommy Lee Jones
With: Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner, Meryl Streep

Set during the American frontier, a religious woman Mary Bee Cuddie made a deal with a claim jumper on the brink of his death, to help her transport three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa.

Hilary Swank hasn't been in the awards circuit ever since what? 2010 for Conviction? And that was a surprising SAG nod for that matter. This year, there might be an improvement or should I say a comeback, in her career as her work in The Homesman as Mary Bee Cuddie is terrific, portraying a bossy and independent woman whose longingness for love and settlement is one of a kind. She brought epicness to this character that despite being unappealing and a little comical, she shifted the audience's gear from detached to sympathetic. Tommy Lee Jones' George Briggs is similarly endearing. Both characters are not the most congenial character you'll see, but it's impossible not to be touched by them at the end of the movie.

It's not only their character that's compelling, but it's their relationship that struck me the most. We've seen contrasting characters before that end up being nice together but this one's pretty different as the Western era factors in their condition and relationship. Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto and Sonja Richter played the 'three insane women' and despite not having dialogues, they effectively depicted their roles with such poignancy.

Feminism is a huge theme in The Homesman. The characters of Mary Bee, the three insane women, and Tabitha played by Hailee Steinfeld each showed the differences of women during the Western era. Mary Bee could not find a husband, the three crazy women became insane because of the wrongdoings of the men in their lives, and Tabitha showed how she values herself in choosing her husband. Tommy Lee Jones also showcased Briggs' personality and his relationship with Cuddie as an instrument to define how men treated women during their era, and how women should behave in order to find a man. It's a very obvious theme but the story is what matters to me because it's strikingly touching. And rarely do Western dramas interest me which leads me to ponder that I probably have seen 5 Western themed films maximum.

What I adore more about The Homesman is its cinematography and score. Marco Beltrami provided a very pleasant score for Cuddie and George's journey, that it's so far my favorite score of the year. He's on a roll as I also like his score for Snowpiercer and The Giver. I think The Homesman's only fault is its inconsistency in tone, but it's pretty much easy to ignore because it's really beautiful and affecting.

As one of the films I anticipated early this year, The Homesman didn't disappoint. For a Western Drama, it's certainly likable but it's seldom for me to love films from a foreign period or era, so I'm not really wow'd by the film. The story however, added with Swank and Tommy Lee Jones's craft, made this film good, shocking and sentimental overall.

SURVIVOR SAN JUAN DEL SUR Premiere Ranking

Image from CBS | Survivor San Juan del Sur Cast
Survivor is back and I couldn't get any happier! For the first time in 14 years and 29 seasons, I watched it with true Survivor avid fans and man, it was super awesome. We laughed at the random scenes, we guessed who's going to get voted out or who's gonna win, we read past Survivor tweets, we reacted in every possible way. I think the worst part is that we're so noisy while watching that there are scenes that we couldn't hear or watch what's going on. But it's all good! Point is, there's nothing better than watching Survivor with friends who know the show by heart. It sucks we weren't able to take a video of our reaction during Tribal Council because it was pretty bonkers as you know. Nadiya, one of the Twinnies, one of the players I pegged to go far, is the first player voted out of Survivor San Juan del Sur!

Nadiya, who almost everyone expected to see go far. Good thing is I predicted Natalie to go further than her. Well okay, I gotta come clean here. I read a fake spoiler that the Twinnies are going to reach the merge and I fell for it. It reminds me of when Danielle was voted out in HvV because there was also a rumor or a spoiler that she's going to be in the end. But oh well, it served me right and it got me good. I was flabbergasted when one of the Twinnies got voted out.

If you check my Survivor SJDS Cast Assessment, I pretty much butchered the premiere...NOT. I sucked! -- predicting Alec to be the Jason and Drew being the Malcolm when it looks like it's the other way around, Val to be the first boot because of her weakness and not being able to fit in with her tribe and it turns out it's actually the opposite and she was able to fit in well, started an alliance even, Dale being a dud and look what happened, he's actually one of the stars of the episode. I really did suck but I like it when I do because it means that Survivor is unpredictable. Or no, I really just suck and there are no excuses.

Anyway, the Survivor Premiere is pretty much...average. Average not because it comes after a terrific season in Survivor Cagayan, I thought that reasoning is getting old and lame, but it's average because there's really nothing interesting, or hilarious, or groundbreaking or outstanding that happened. Survivor nowadays is about jawdropping moments and Survivor SJDS' Premiere did not deliver that. But with this cast, I must say that it exceeded my expectations. It reminds me of a random sports team who doesn't have a lot of fans but when they play, they still tried to fight and it turned out that they're actually rootable. Yes, I think this season is rootable and I'm actually interested on how this season will play out. I got no clue what's going to happen, I can't read the players' psyche, the editing is balanced, and these players seem like the kind who will surprise you just because you don't expect anything from them. Should be good.

Anyway, I'll continue giving Plummies this season! And this time, I won't necessarily give it to my favorite so they won't be at my top spot. I have my Power Ranking for that which I'll publish in my social media too. Stay tuned for that!

So original right? First Plummy, a ripoff of Stephen Fishbach's Fishy, next Power Rankings, pretty much the same thing as Gordon Holmes' Power Ranking at xfinity.com, except way more humorous and awesome. :3

There is no doubt in my mind that Dale wins this Premiere's Plummy. He exceeded every expectations I got from him. He was never boring. He channeled Lisa Whelchel by being the odd man out, but he made fire for his tribe using his ultraelectrolaser double lenses, he claimed a random necklace on their water well which we're still uncertain if it's a Hidden Immunity Idol, he targeted Nadiya using a ridiculous reason and even if it's ridiculous, it's necessary because he would have gone home instead if he didn't go aggressive and mention any player's name for a target and lastly, he smiled like a true villain when Nadiya finally got voted out. He's go every reason to win this Plummy and no one came close. 


Here's my SJDS Premiere ranking:


18. Jaclyn
She's so beautiful but my goodness she's also invisible. Please don't be a Jefra.

17. Reed
Looks like I was wrong about him. Wrong in the sense that I thought he's going to receive more airtime than his boyfriend Josh. But it's just the first episode and Coyopa lost the Immunity so Josh had more time to shine. We'll see what Reed has to offer when his tribe goes to Tribal Council.

16. Nadiya
I like the Twinnies because they're feisty and energetic. We need that with this kind of cast. But c'mon, she kind of dug her own grave in her short stay on the island by not being extra sensitive about others. Still, I'm bummed that she's the first player voted off especially when the main reason is her reputation in The Amazing Race 'coz Survivor is a different game and I think she's got more to offer and wouldn't it be awesome to see Natalie and Nadiya duke it out in a wrestling match? We, the audience, loses here.

15. Wes
Wes doesn't annoy me anymore. I think he's actually pretty likable, chill and soft.  It's just that the other players remain more likable than him.

14. John
John is alright this episode. For some reason, his interaction with Val felt like it's a little forced. We can all see that he's trying his best to seem tolerable but you just know, that once the agitation kicks in that he's going to be madness. The promos already prove that.

13. Kelley
I like Kelly, I think she's going to be strong and she already has an alliance in Hunahpu. But she's also so invisible that I can't support her any further.

12. Missy
Same with Missy. She's in the same alliance in Hunahpu, and she got the divorce quote, which could be a winner's quote but she's still not a boss bitch I'm pegging her to be. We'll see.

11. Val
Val is a pleasant surprise. I was sure that she's going to be the first player voted off but despite the circumstances of being at Exile Island and missing the get-to-know-your-tribemate phase in the game, she was able to fit in, she didn't share the clue to Keith, she started a women's alliance and all of those signs that she's capable of playing the game. I still think that she's not going to win though.

10. Drew
The resident douche prince this season. Ha! He's my winner pick and don't get me wrong, I still think that he has a chance to win even with the negative edit that he got. But I believe Alec has more chances now than Drew.

9. Natalie
The only reason Natalie is this high is because I'm a fan of the Twinnies and I think she's going to play better now, now that her Twin is gone. But based on this episode solely, she's got more chickens to fry.

8. Alec
Alec is this cool quiet guy that everyone will probably love. He fits in with the boys, and with the youngings. I don't see him bonding with the older players though so we'll see but for now he's doing great and I think he has a chance to win. Fan of the show and he's got the eye on the prize as according to him, winning the title of Sole Survivor is much better than winning the money. Totally agree!

7. Julie
Julie is another pleasant surprise. I expected her to be primadonna but she seems very on the go. From challenges, to working at camp, she's there doing her best. It doesn't hurt that she looks stunning on the island. I thought she's going to get ugly without make up but she got more beautiful when she's deglamorized.

6. Jeremy
Jeremy is fun fun fun. I don't know about making a deal with numerous players is good but one thing Tony Vlachos taught me from last season is that being aggressive actually puts you on top and making deals with most of your tribemates doesn't always mean it's negative. Tony Vlachos won and I can see Jeremy following his lead. Not to mention, he's also more likable than Tony. I just don't know if Jeremy can play the game more strategically.

5. Dale
Dale is not a favorite but he impressed me so much it's unfair to put him lower than this spot. He did everything he could to survive the first Tribal Council even if the odds are not on his favor but he was able to turn the game around and proved that he could be a power player. Can he win? I'm not sure. Can he go further than the merge? It's likelier now.

4. Josh
He's so jolly and happy to be on Survivor. So cheerful but when it came to strategizing, he also proved that he's serious in the game especially he's put on a tough spot being the swing vote. It's great to be on that spot probably come merge time but first Tribal Council, I'm not so sure. I'm also not sure if he did the right thing, we'll find out once they go to Tribal Council again but this premiere, he sticked to his guns and provided a good headscratcher at Tribal when he voted Baylor. I'm excited to see Josh deliver.

3. Jon
Jon is unexpectedly so likable. I thought he's going to be boring and invisible but he's got moments of fun and lightheartedness in all of her scenes in the premiere. His sarcastic comment about their utensils, his weird liking for monkeys, his talk about his father, and his Exorcist performance in the Immunity Challenge. I'm scared he's going to quit though for his father ala Jenna Morasca in All Stars. If he doesn't, then I think he has a huge chance to win.

2. Baylor
I thought for sure Baylor is going to be invisible but she's one of the few players who got more than 3 confessionals. Some about commentaries, one narration and one for strategy. It's crazy because she's not the more visible player outside confessionals but the editors still choose to give her time to say her insights. I think she's going to go far and I think she's going to be edited as a ruthless player too. I.am.excited.

1. Keith
Keith is fun, fun, fun and he's currently my favorite this premiere. His dry humor is amazing. He's like the father you never had. I love him mainly because of his personality but game wise, I'm pretty sure that he's going to leave early. Too bad, I actually like the guy but I think he's too nice and chill for the game that those won't help him go far in the game. Sigh.

WINNER PICKS
1. Alec
2. Jeremy
3. Baylor
4. Josh
5. Jon

Next week, I can't wait to see Natalie's reaction about Nadiya being the first player voted off. Then we'll have the wrestling match, then we'll probably have John Rocker's volcano eruption. Follow me on Twitter: @jaynormouskid

Monday, September 22, 2014

Palo Alto

Director: Gia Coppola
With: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, James Franco, Zoe Levin

I haven't heard of Gia Coppola before but since she's part of the Coppola film dynasty, it's safe to assume that she's got some skills from his grandfather, aunt, uncle, you name it. Filmmaking is basically in their blood. After watching Palo Alto, the film itself affirmed where her last name came from. Gia Coppola's first feature film adds to the roster of stylistic films of the Coppolas. It depicts an honest portrait of adolescence, exploring the insecurities and faults of modern teenagers.

The three main characters are -- April played by Emma Roberts, a young student who shows interest in her football coach played by James Franco, Teddy played by Jack Kilmer, a shy artist, and his buddy Fred played by Nat Wolff, who's probably the resident douchebag of their batch. These characters are tangled into a series of chaotic encounters with their fellow students and themselves, while April gets tied up in a secret affair with her football coach. It's bonkers.

Coppola knows how to put her audience in the shoes of these characters that you can't help but get affected by their continuous wrongdoings and confused emotions. It's also matched with the bleak cinematography of Autumn Durald that gives an eerie atmosphere to the surroundings of the cast. Plus, the gloomy slash indie inspired musical score of Devonté Hynes and Robert Schwartzman adds to the youthful and stylish texture of the film, that I can't help but associate Gia Coppola's choices of songs to her aunt's keenness in music.

It's also a film very reminiscent of Harmony Korine's Gummo and to an extent Spring Breakers, wherein both are dark and astonishing. It doesn't hurt that this film also stars James Franco whom despite being normal and looking sane, his portrayal of April's football coach is nothing short of creepy. I'm having flashbacks of Franco's Alien in his character here, not because they're similar. In fact, they're very different but there's something about Franco these days that's alarmingly weird and it shows a lot in Palo Alto. The three young leads, Roberts, Kilmer and Wolff each provided a semblance of distinctiveness depicting different attitudes of teenagers nowadays. Nat Wolff is a standout for how annoyed I was with his character. It's crazy how he turned from being funny and likable in The Fault in Our Stars to being extremely aggravating in Palo Alto. Talk about effective acting. He's giving Ezra Miller's Kevin a run for his money.

For its darkness, I think it affected my opinion on the film. The three main characters never gave the audience reasons to like them which is understandable. The theme boasts of relevance, the visuals and sounds are brilliant. As for the plot and the main characters, they are well written, but I'm afraid it didn't leave any space for the audience to care about any of them. Thus, it ended up having so much promise but also sort of unfavorable.

30 Songs To Slow Dance To


When we think of a perfect slow dance, we think of the perfect slow dance song 'Wonderful Tonight' by Eric Clapton. Then we have other love song classics such as The Way You Look Tonight, Unchained Melody, Lovers Moon or Can't Help Falling In Love With You.

But if you want to go unconventional this rainy day season with your loved one? I compiled a list of love songs perfect for slow dance. Some are perfect after a romantic candlelit dinner, some creates a mood for love making, and some are just perfect to slow dance to. Enjoy!


Ain't Love Something by Sam & Ruby


Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran


You Got What I Need by Joshua Radin


Sword in the Stone by Odd Us


Heart Door by Paula Cole


Stay With Me by Sam Smith


Sweetheart Like You by Bob Dylan


Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer


Bobby, King of Boystown by Cass McCombs


A Slow Dance by Explosions in the Sky


Birthday Song by Ben Lee


Love Will Tear Us Apart by Broken Social Scene


Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine


Beneath Your Beautiful by Labrinth Ft. Emeli Sande


Kissing You by Des'ree


Come On Up To The House by Tom Waits


Strange and Beautiful by Aqualung


Take Care by Beach House


Song for Zula by Phosphorescent


All We Are by Matt Nathanson


One and Only by Teitur


So Close by Jon McLaughlin


Northern Sky by Nick Drake


I Need You by Vonda Shepard


This Year's Love by David Gray


Come Away With Me by Norah Jones


Calendar Girl by Stars


Colors by Amos Lee


Ashes by Ben Harper


Let Me In by Mike Francis



Saturday, September 20, 2014

They Came Together

Director: David Wain
With: Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd

The idea of Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd teaming up for a comedy is something to be excited about. Poehler is a comedic genius and Rudd, he may not be as funny as Poehler but he also has some fair share of comedic skills and let's face it, the man is pretty likable.

In They Came Together, Poehler and Rudd parodized romantic comedies in a very quirky approach. Like I mentioned, these two actors are great but they do not work effectively as romantic partners on screen. God knows how much I like Poehler as a comedian but she looked so mature compared to Rudd even though the latter is actually older than her. Point is, they don't have a great chemistry and it only lessened the charisma of the film. Strangely enough, Poehler wasn't outstanding here too and Rudd completely owned the film.

It's like a very long SNL skit (which is probably on purpose) that somehow turns out to be effective for me. It has its fair share of smiles but it also has a lot of head-scratcher because of its failed jokes and messy executions of scenes. The numerous cameos throughout the film is fun though but it's not enough to fully appreciate the film. Everything felt like a sketch and it's hit or miss in its whole duration.

They Came Together is either probably too smart that I didn't fully grasp its intention or just plain stupid, the reason why I'm not fully into it. Either way, I've got some chuckles from it that it's enough for me to say that one hour and a half of  my life wasn't wasted.

Night Moves

Director: Kelly Reichardt
With: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard

The first movie I've watched that is directed by Kelly Reichardt is Wendy and Lucy. Its plot, on paper, is something that will make me go crazy for it but Reichardt's way of directing tends to go beyond mainstream's way that it didn't translate to being likable and engaging. That movie is so slow and Night Moves is no different.

Night Moves is a story about three environmentalists who executed a plan to blow up a dam due to their uncompromising environmental beliefs. The plot sounds like it doesn't make sense to be made for a film but the film actually rather explores more on the three environmentalist's characters persona right after they executed their plan. Conscience, guilt and threat are three themes that are subtly displayed here and at the end of it all, it still leaves a question on why Reichardt chose to make this kind of film. The film boasts on its beautiful cinematography but the suspense that it evokes is not that effective. I was rather bored watching it and it gave me a flashback of my same reaction while I was watching Wendy and Lucy.

Great thing about this film are the performances of Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard.
Eisenberg is still stiff as usual but he fearlessly leaves his conventional likable characters for an eco-terrorist who probably is the most ruthless of the three. Fanning can be relied on the dramatics just like how she was as a child actress but she also managed to portray a mature character with such grit and delicacy. Saarsgard on the other hand looks like a young Jack Nicholson here. But he didn't exceed my expectations when I watched him in the film's trailer.

But who cares really, as nothing really exceeded my expectations for the film. I obviously missed out on something but it's a film that I really don't care if I missed out on anything. I'm afraid that the thrilling buildup for the blow up is the best thing about the film but the catch is, it happened right in the middle of the film and it quickly went downhill right after the potency of its peak. So down and quick, it wasn't able to improve again.

Neighbors

Director: Nicholas Stoller
With: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco


Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a young couple with a newborn baby living a quiet suburban life until a group of noisy fraternity boys (Zac Efron, Dave Franco) moved adjacent to their house, whose goal is to throw a massive end-of-the-schoolyear party.

Not the biggest fan of this kind of comedy but Neighbors is one of the few of its kind that provided legit chuckles (and cringe as well). From Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne's trying-to-be-cool couple to Efron and Franco's bromance filled antics, plus their non-stop bickering of who should be the boss of their area -- it's the competition that makes this comedy an enjoyable ride coupled with the lovely display of Byrne and Rogen's characters inexperienced parenthood.

It's also not short of touching moments. Albeit those moments sometimes are forced, the addition of them especially at the end showing the couple's decision to stay to their quiet lives to which they refer as their kind of party is heart-melting.

Seth Rogen is on a roll. If there's one actor who continuously produces comedy mainstream films, it's him. The great thing about him is that he's everywhere even in some dramatic films like 50/50 and Take This Waltz. Aside from acting, he also produces, writes and directs, etc. The guy has talent and to some degree, a little underrated.

The same thing I can say about Rose Byrne. I've always been a fan of her since Wicker Park but her choices of projects lately I must say even though they're not as serious as her TV series Damages, or Dannny Boyle's Sunshine, or The Place Beyond the Pines and other weighty stuff, she's choosing roles that puts her on the mainstream map. She's been in X-Men First Class, Insidious, Bridesmaids, and here Neighbors, and then she's also in This is Where I Leave You and the upcoming reboot of Annie. I must say she's having a great career which I hope will continue until she gets awards recognition.

Zac Efron here also added to his credentials of leaving the pretty boy reputation that he's got from his Disney days. He's always been a great actor, and a comedian to boot so he's got great future in any genre that he chooses. Even one of my friends declared that he's going to have a career the same path as Matthew McConaughey. I could see that happening with him. Dave Franco is a great newbie and he's one of the characters that provided outrageous laughs from me. With the current condition of James Franco, I think he's going to be a promising actor that could possibly surpass the reputation of his brother. That depends if James Franco won't get his shit together. Oh well, James Franco is still receiving great projects anyway. That's good for the Franco brothers. Can I also say that Lisa Kudrow was great in this? With only having two scenes as a ridiculous dean, she added yet another lulzy character to her filmography. It's starting to become a collection for her.

Neighbors is a simple comedy without any groundbreaking material, but with the good showing from the leads, a good clash to follow, a decent amount of comedy and cute moments here and there, it's much better than the tryhards we often see in comedy nowadays.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Begin Again

Director: John Carney
With: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener

Not too many years ago, John Carney wrote and directed Once, a musical film set on the streets of Dublin starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova. The film produced the beautiful Academy Award winning Original Song, Falling Slowly. Years later, he's back with Begin Again. Way more contemporary, much brighter and fun than Once. This time it's set on the streets of New York. Starring Mark Ruffalo as Dan, a struggling record label producer on the brink of depression after being fired from his job and having a broken family. One night at the bar, he encounters Gretta played by Keira Knightley, an independent song writer whose music saved Dan from his suicidal self. Together they formed a friendship reminiscent of Bob and Charlotte in Lost in Translation wherein the line between lovers and friends become blurry as they get to know and help each other with their situations.

I am not the biggest fan of Once, thought it was kind of boring, so when I heard good things about Begin Again I was nonchalant about it. I am not the biggest fan of Keira Knightley either. I've never liked her. But everything changed after I finished the movie. No, in fact, she instantly allured me right when she started singing A Step You Can't Take Back in the first scene of the movie. First scene. Her voice and her presence in that scene is THAT lovely.

Carney has not changed much since Once because in Begin Again, he still featured lots of side-walking and sidewalk singing which is very Once-sque. The difference this time is the choices of melodies, actors, and scenes. He's become more artsy and mainstream. Heck, just the fact that he cast popular celebrities like Keira Knightley, Adam Levine and Mark Ruffalo alone, along with Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener showed his mainstream vision for the film.

The story is more engaging too! It's much less poignant but it's still pleasing as he tackled lots of relationship layers from strangers to lovers, to boyfriend girlfriend, ex-couple, father and daughter and friendship. And each of these relationships are incorporated with LSS inducing songs. Songs I'm still crazy about even after a week of watching it. Who am I kidding? The songs here are the main reason why I am so pumped up about this film. I like most of it, if not all. They are the kind of songs that I'd love to play during rainy days, or before going to sleep after a long day of work. So chill and relaxing. Then again aside from the songs, it's also a combination of Keira Knightley's elegance here that hooked me. So it's quite surprising when she revealed that she hates singing in one interview.

It's the ending that sealed the deal for me though. Carney intelligently chose an ending that will be memorialized that even if he didn't end it with the happiest result possible, one can still label it as a feel-good movie. The scene of Keira Knightley biking on the streets of New York pondering about the direction of her life and relationships, along with the montage of Adam Levine singing Lost Stars as he showed that he has changed from his douchey ways, and Mark Ruffalo finally stitched his family back together -- it's perfection and unforgettable. There's something about bike scenes at night that's beautiful. It reminds me of Brie Larson's bike scene in Short Term 12 and that after party scene in Oslo: August 31st.

There's no doubt that Begin Again will end up being one of my favorite films of the year. Begin Again is a feel good movie, sound good movie that I'll certainly watch again for a relaxing time.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Norte, the End of History)

Director: Lav Diaz
With: Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Juana Change, Hazel Orencio, Soliman Cruz, Angelina Kanapi

How can I miss Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan when this film is more likely to be the Philippines' submission for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars? First, it screened in Cannes, and then it got UK and US distributors, it won Best Picture in Gawad Urian and it won other several awards in many film festivals. Plus, the raving reviews and hype everywhere. It's got the blessing of so many critics and these are good enough reasons to be our country's ace at the Oscars.

The catch is it runs for 4 freaking hours. O_O

Four hours. Not many people have that time for a single film. It's scary. With my age, it's not wise to spend four hours in a movie especially if there's a chance that it would be torture. It's also longer than Manila to Singapore travel time. That kept bugging me upon deciding if I should watch this so-called masterpiece by many. But it was a Friday night after a long day at work and I've got four hours to kill before fully embracing the weekend. I told myself to just relax and enjoy it. Besides, I've never experienced watching a 4-hour film in a cinema before, so I looked at this as a new experience. No pressure. If I didn't like it, then I'll just leave the movie house in the middle of the film. It was an option but when I watched it, I never even thought about it. Norte is compelling.

Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan tells the lives of three characters -- Fabian (Sid Lucero) who is a law school dropout, Eliza (Angeli Bayani) and Joaquin (Archie Alemania), a couple living in the brink of poverty. When Fabian killed Eliza's creditor Magda, Joaquin takes the blame and receives a life sentence leaving Eliza and their two children behind. Lav Diaz explores so many themes like religion, philosophy, government, politics, war, etc mixing these with this coercive story and it creates for a depressing film beyond belief.

At first, I thought it would be a little pretentious because in the beginning, Fabian's character have these numerous substantial and deep conversations with his friends and ex-professors from law school. But then I remembered, I've encountered some people who actually talks about these serious matters with their straight faces. They exist, and I've come to terms with it. Especially that in the end, it didn't matter much anyway. The devastating story triumphs these themes and it's what matters to me and it's the reason why I liked the film. The aftermath of Fabian's crime that put the three leads to the edge of their beings is what kept me on watching the film. It's as if I'm a masochist who lives to keep on finding out what heartbreaking scene will occur next.

Sid Lucero as Fabian Viduya
photo from www.filmcomment.com
These themes and storylines wouldn't be as effective if not for the top notch acting of the ensemble, wherein each of them are champions to me because of how unbelievably tremendous they are in this film. I just can imagine Diaz pushing these actors to the end of their limits with all the emotions they had to induce and all the long scenes without cuts that they had to endure. It's unbelievable. Sid Lucero is intense as Fabian who's trying to escape the demon in him where his conscience, knowledge and goodness battle within him which evokes all the shattering actions that he make after he committed the crime. His outlandish commitment to his character, I bet took its toll on him while they're filming is . It's a character that required so much from him but he depicted it so well. Angeli Bayani as Eliza is like the opposite of Lucero yet she's nothing short of magnificence. This is the first film I've watched from Bayani. I wasn't able to watch Ilo Ilo and Bwaya, but now I want to see them because her acting gave me life throughout the film. Her authenticity made the film so much more powerful as she has the ability to elicit emotions just through her facial expressions. She didn't have much dialogue but she demanded the grief and loneliness to be felt as her look alone pierces beyond the power of words. Archie Alemania as Joaquin is the best I've seen him after so many years of absence in films. This is a great comeback that will surely open new doors for him. He's going to excel in indie films I suppose. The subtlety in his performance is so wondrous especially I've known him as a comedian but here, he showed no ounce of comedy. The supporting characters such as Juana Change, Soliman Cruz, Hazel Orencio and Angelina Kanapi also deserve praise worthy mentions as they each provided distinctiveness and depth to their respective roles. Personal favorite is Kanapi's Hoda Viduya, Fabian's mentally challenged sister. This film is indeed a glorious instrument for actors. Amazing.

I guess by now it would be cliche to say that it didn't feel like I've watched four hours of depressing stuff because for one, it DID feel like I've watched hours of depressing stuff. It's undeniably slow but I commend Diaz for sticking to his guns and pushing his vision. That's what film making is about. But I wouldn't call it a masterpiece like what most people ought it to be. Thank goodness for the acting because it made the film so much more raw but there are some aspects of it that are sloppy -- those pesky fake tattoos, fake call, flaws in subtitles (or probably minor hiccups in the script). I wish I didn't notice those but I did and these small details bug me even though overall, the film is acceptable even with these mistakes.

With all these wrongs and rights, Norte is a film that I can sincerely label as a journey or an experience. It's a film that exudes emotions and thoughts in every frame. It's a film that shows the good and dark sides of humanity. A film that showcased the beauty of simple life. It's also a film that took risks that there's no way it's plain. It's a film that boasts the strength of artists. Therefore, it's a film that needs to be watched by many. It's not for everyone, but as I've mentioned above, it's worth the four hours.