Beyond the Limits

The Wachowskis, 1996

Although The Matrix is not really my cup of tea (it's too sci-fi for my taste), I am convinced that The Wachowski Brothers The Wachowskis have an impressive talent to create flawlessly entertaining, kinetic films. The Wachowskis, comprised of Andy and Larry (who is now called "Lana"), know how to equilibrize different genres in one film; in The Matrix movies, they successfully fused action, romance, sci-fi, and thriller.

Three years before the Wachowskis entered The Matrix, they made their directorial debut with a sexy neo-noir crime thriller called Bound. Stylishly photographed, well acted, and intelligently written, Bound is about two women who go beyond the limits to f*ck over the f*ck-worthy mafia — not in a literal sense, get your head off the gutter! :P


Starring Geraldine Chaplin

(Photo belongs to its owner/s. I don't own or claim to own this photo.)

Yes, she has her father's surname. Looks a lot like him. But there's more to Geraldine Chaplin than being Charlie's daughter.

The lovely actress turns 67 today. The eldest of Charlie Chaplin's eight children with Oona O'Neill, Geraldine first mesmerized audiences with her breakthrough performance in 1965's Doctor Zhivago.

With more than 100 films to her credit, Geraldine surely made a name for herself. She has established a prolific career in Spain, France, and Hollywood. Geraldine has also worked alongside celebrated directors like Robert Altman, David Lean, Alain Resnais, Carlos Saura, and Almodovar.


A Fusillade of Passion

Luchino Visconti, 1969

Fellini. Antonioni. Bertolucci. De Sica. Pasolini. Rossellini. And Visconti. Italian cinema would practically be nothing hadn't those names existed.

Among those filmmakers, Luchino Visconti is the one whose works I find very exciting. Most of his films are fearless; yet underneath that audaciousness lies a certain touch of overwhelming tenderness.

Death in Venice is Visconti's most popular work. (That film is a tearjerker.) While The Damned is, in my opinion, his best and sadly underrated opus.


Fave Movie Quotes: Network

Television is not the truth. Television's a goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a travelling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business. So if you want the truth, go to God. Go to your gurus. Go to yourselves! Because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. But, man, you're never gonna get any real truth from us. We'll tell you anything you wanna hear. We lie like hell. We'll tell you that Kojak always gets the killer, and that nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker's house. And no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry. Just look at your watch. At the end of the hour he's gonna win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true.

- Howard Beale


Sings a Rare Tune

"Commerce should adapt to art, and not art to commerce."
- The Diva

Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1981

The 1980s saw the emergence of cinema du look, it's kinda like the decade's nouvelle vague. "Youth versus the authority" is one of cinema du look's basic themes. Diva signaled the birth of this new era in French cinema.

Diva's hero is Jules (played by Frederic Andrei), a young man who suddenly finds himself in imbroglio. Jules doesn't look like the type of guy who'd get into any kind of trouble; he is polite and lanky. He also makes an honest living as a postman.


Cinematography: Days of Heaven

Director: Terrence Malick
Cinematographer: Nestor Almendros

When one says "great cinematography," beautiful landscapes, tight close-ups, perfectly balanced colors, and Days of Heaven come to mind.

Days of Heaven, featuring a young Richard Gere, was directed by Terrence Malick. It's a love triangle set in early 20th century America.

The film is notable for its better-than-brilliant cinematography, which was mostly shot by Nestor Almendros. Days of Heaven is visual magnificence.

The film's iconic locust attack sequence.

Cinematography: The Seventh Seal

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cinematographer: Gunnar Fischer

Last June 11, acclaimed cinematographer Gunnar Fischer passed away. He was 100 years-old. Fischer is best known to film enthusiasts as the man who preceded Sven Nykvist as Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer. In fact his most notable works are the ones he did for Bergman: The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, etc.

The Seventh Seal is the most parodied among Bergman's films. It is set in 13th century Sweden, during the Black Plague. After a crusade, Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), along with his squire (Gunnar Bjornstrand), makes his way back home. Along comes Death (Bengt Ekerot). Antonius, not yet ready to leave this world, makes a deal with Death; if Antonius wins the game of chess, Death will leave him alone.

The Seventh Seal wouldn't be the same without Fischer's haunting cinematography.

Death vs. Antonius


A Superb Drink Up to the Last Sip

Carlos Saura, 1967

Geraldine Chaplin radiates grace in almost every film she's in. That's why I forgive her for taking part in that junk called BloodRayne. I've always been entranced by Chaplin's screen presence. And after watching Cría cuervos, I was intrigued to see more of Carlos Saura's films. So I checked out Peppermint Frappe, his first of nine films with Chaplin.


Cinematography: The Spirit of the Beehive

Director: Victor Erice
Cinematographer: Luis Cuadrado

Cuadrado was already going blind during The Spirit of the Beehive's production. Cuadrado, along with Nestor Almendros, is considered to be one of the greatest Spanish cinematographers who astounded audiences around the world with their breathtaking visions. Both Cuadrado and Almendros went blind later in their careers. Both also died under tragic circumstances; Almendros succumbed to AIDS, and Cuadrado committed suicide. But their works will continue to inspire audiences and filmmakers alike.

Cuadrado's work for The Spirit of the Beehive is one of his best. Victor Erice's film tells the story of a dreamy seven year-old girl who wanders into her own fantasy world after watching Frankenstein. I've always thought that The Spirit of the Beehive somehow inspired Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

The Spirit of the Beehive is one of the most astonishing films I've ever seen; thanks to Erice's flawless storytelling, Ana Torrent's raw but engaging performance, and Cuadrado's splendid photography.

Wow. Just wow.


Favorite Movie Moments: The Mirror Crack'd

Just like the other film adaptations of Agatha Christie's works, The Mirror Crack'd has a star-studded cast. This time it includes Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Geraldine Chaplin, Edward Fox, and Angela Lansbury. A then-unknown Pierce Brosnan also makes an uncredited appearance. This 1980 crime/mystery/thriller was helmed by Guy Hamilton, a director best known for his James Bond films.

Despite being a murder mystery, the film is packed with hilarious one-liners like:


My (Criterion) Top 10 List

The Criterion Collection is a video distribution company that publishes "the greatest films from around the world." (In DVD and Blu-ray formats.)

In other words, if a film gets a "Criterion treatment" then it must be great. Every month, Criterion asks "a friend — a filmmaker, a programmer, a writer, an actor, an artist — to select their ten favorite movies available from the Criterion Collection and jot down their thoughts about them."

I love their Top 10 Lists, which include lists by Steve Buscemi, Jane Campion, James Franco, Guy Maddin, Paul Schrader, etc. Criterion doesn't even know I exist so I made my own Top 10 List. I wrote it in alphabetical order, so I wouldn't have to go insane thinking which film is my most favorite.

Stanley Donen

From Maurice Binder's glorious title sequence (accompanied by Henry Mancini's gorgeous music) to the clever denouement; everything about Charade is pure entertainment. And then there's Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, two of the classiest actors in the history of cinema. Hepburn's beauty is enchanting. Most critics call this film as "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made."


My Favorite Cinematic Moms

Being a mother is one of the best things that can happen to a woman. And a mother's love is one of the best things that can happen to a person.

Every day should be Mother's Day, because a day is not enough to thank and celebrate the most wonderful woman in our life. If it weren't for our mothers, none of us would exist.

Cinema has been a very good medium in showcasing different shades of mothers; from Bambi's mom to Mommie Dearest. Below are some of my favorite movie moms.

Mary, The Passion of the Christ

Maia Morgenstern as Mary.

The Blessed Virgin Mary herself is the epitome of motherhood and genuine love.


Childhood Through a Child's Eyes

Carlos Saura, 1976

Most adults, especially the depressed ones, describe childhood as the happiest stage of their life. It is a time when innocence is in full bloom. A time when almost everything is a mystery to our then-innocent eyes. A time when stupid vanity does not exist. And a time when every day is an adventure.

I don't mean to sound cynical, but childhood is not always stress-free. For some it is perhaps the most uncertain period of their life. As children, we don't have enough capacity to decide for ourselves. Somebody else decides for us. Acclaimed Spanish director Carlos Saura described childhood as "a time of terrible indecision."


Women in Turmoil

They say that behind every man's success is a woman. And my favorite Beatle, John Lennon, once sang: "And woman I will try to express. My inner feelings and thankfulness. For showing me the meaning of success..."

Whether she's a mother, a sister, a wife, a lover, or a friend, a woman is truly an inspiration to a man. But what will happen if a man's inspiration suddenly finds herself battling her inner demon? Will the man still love her? (Just wondering.)

There are many depictions of women in turmoil; but few I found really outstanding. Here they are:

Ingrid Thulin, Cries and Whispers


On the Set: Directors and Actresses

Romy Schneider and Andrzej Zulawski on the set of
L'important c'est d'aimer

I love being on the set of a film, even though the closest thing I can get to an acting experience was a supporting role in a very amateur film (a college project). Or that accidental job for an educational TV program (I was in third grade). Seeing how the actors and directors act behind the camera has always been fascinating for me. The candidness of these people might even be more interesting to watch than the film that they're making.


Was Zulawski possessed by Bergman?

It's quite possible that some of Ingmar Bergman's visceral yet outstanding works inspired Andrzej Zulawski's nerve-racking but impressive 1981 film, Possession. Here are my reasons why.

1. The monologue of two Annas. Zulawski's Anna talks about faith and chance, cancer, madness, and her dissolving love for her husband. Bergman's Anna discusses the man in her life, her relationship with that man, and a ghastly accident. They may not talk about the exact same thing but their monologues are somehow identical. These women invite us to look into their soul. Both also look at the camera as if they're talking to the audience.

Bergman film: The Passion of Anna (1969)

Left: Isabelle Adjani in Possession.
Right: Liv Ullmann in The Passion of Anna.


Silence is Golden

John Cassavetes once said that "silence means death." Cassavetes is one of the greatest filmmakers to ever walk the earth. He is also one of my favorites. (Shadows is a groundbreaking film.) But I have to disagree with him because silence is not necessarily synonymous with death. Most of the time, silence can be one's friend. It can give a person an adequate room for wisdom. We need silence in order to listen, not just hear.

I've always been fascinated with silent characters in talkies. There's usually an air of mystery attached to them. And I love mystery. They might deprive us of their voice, but they can sure leave an echo in our mind.

Here are some of my favorite silent characters. Characters that completely blew me away with their silence.

Elisabet Vogler, Persona

As Elisabet Vogler, Liv Ullmann effectively communicates with the audience through the gestures she's tremendously good at: facial expressions. Elisabet is an actress who just won't talk. Her silence attracts Alma, a nurse assigned to take care of her. For me (and probably for Alma), Elisabet's silence is both frustrating and haunting.


"Gone with the Wind" of music videos

Andrew Morahan, 1992

I'm not really a big fan of Guns N' Roses. (I don't really dig guns or roses, I'm more into Nirvana.) But I find their music video for November Rain truly remarkable.


Cinematography: West Side Story

Directors: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
Cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp

West Side Story is a film adaptation of the hit musical. Set in 1950s NYC, West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet with a whole new twist. Most audiences remember West Side Story because of its remarkable songs and choreography, but the film is also noted for its groundbreaking cinematography. Daniel L. Fapp won an Oscar® for his astonishing work in this film.

Fapp is a fan of silhouettes, and it is evident in quite a lot of scenes.


Beauty and Madness

Go Muskies!

Michael Patrick Jann, 1999

"This isn't an American Teen Princess Pageant. This is... this is... this is Nazi Germany!"
- Amber Atkins

Every year the American Teen Princess Pageant is held; it's one of the oldest and most prestigious beauty pageants in the US. Sponsored by Sarah Rose Cosmetics, the pageant embodies the dream of an "American-made" girl: personal growth, scholarship, travel, and (eventually) fame.

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