A Knight in Shining Wonder

Patty Jenkins, 2017

Superman saves the Metropolis. Batman saves Gotham. Wonder Woman saves the world.

I am not exactly a fan of superhero movies, although I've seen quite a lot already. I don't read comic books either. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see Wonder Woman.

Created by William Moulton Man-Whore... oops, I mean, Marston, Wonder Woman was based on his wife (Elizabeth Holloway) and his mistress (Olive Byrne). Marston and his playthings, I mean, his women lived together as a threesome.

Anyway, Jenkins' Wonder Woman is said to be a refreshing take on superhero movies. Finally, here's a superhero movie about a super strong woman with supernatural powers. Super! In such a superior way, our female superhero (otherwise known as Diana Prince a.k.a. Princess of Themyscira) superbly fights the super bad guys because that's what superheroes do, right?

Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman. Basically, Wonder Woman is Xena: the Warrior Princess on steroids. Allegedly molded out of clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana grows up in a land that only exists in my sapphic dreams — the all-women island of Themyscira. A world so heavenly... until men ransacked and destroyed it. Thanks, but no thanks, Steve Trevor! (Why must men ruin everything? Such vermin!)

An American spy for the British intelligence, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane into the island of Themyscira. Princess Diana fishes him out of the water, saving him just like Miho (Devon Aoki) saved Dwight (Clive Owen) in Sin City. Afterwards, the bad guys transcend into Themyscira, hunting Steve and eventually clashing with the Amazons.

Driven to save the world from Ares a.k.a. the god of war, Diana leaves Themyscira for our self-destructive planet called Earth. Accompanying Steve in London, Diana learns the ugly truth about Earth, which is currently under the wrath of World War I. Diana must help Steve in stopping General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Isabel Maru a.k.a. Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) from spreading a chemical weapon. At the same time, Diana learns the truth about herself.


Cinematography: All That Heaven Allows

Director: Douglas Sirk
Cinematographer: Russell Metty

One of the most beautifully shot films, I believe, is Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows. Starring Jane Wyman and gay icon Rock Hudson, this romantic drama has an upper-class widow (Miss Wyman) and a younger nurseryman (Hudson) falling in love with each other.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder remade All That Heaven Allows as Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, while Todd Haynes paid homage to Sirk's masterpiece via Far from Heaven.

The film that put Sirk on the Hollywood map, All That Heaven Allows is armed with well-written screenplay and notable performances (especially by Miss Wyman). But the thing that made this a standout classic is Russell Metty's cinematography, which heavily inspired Edward Lachman's work in Far from Heaven.


The Male-Inspired Lesbian Orgasm

April Mullen, 2016

Below Her Mouth was marketed as "a lesbian movie that finally has the female gaze." And then there's Erika Linder as one of the lead characters. I was excited to watch the film because of its alleged female gaze and the androgynous beauty of Miss Linder. Unexpectedly, my lezzie excitement turned into dykey disappointment.

Allow me to explain why.

Jasmine (Natalie Krill) and Dallas (Miss Linder) are two women on the opposite sides of everything. If we're talking about stereotypes, Jasmine is the femme and Dallas is the butch. Jasmine works in the hyper-feminine fashion industry, while Dallas has an uber-masculine carpentry business. Jasmine is engaged to a man, while Dallas just broke up with her girlfriend. Want labels? Okay. Jasmine is straight (or so she thought), and Dallas is a lesbian (with a certain fascination for the phallic — f*ck that sh*t).

The moment their horny worlds collide, Jasmine and Dallas begin a salacious love affair. From there, we watch and listen as the film stumbles and mumbles its way into boredom and underachievement. To begin with, the film has the usual "straight-girl-falls-for-a-lesbian" plot. Nothing new. Audiences have already seen Piper Perabo fall for Lena Headey in Imagine Me & You. And if you're a well-versed lesbian, chances are you've already seen such plot in Desert Hearts.

Nevertheless, such tale as old as time could've been less predictable and more exciting if the director only knew how to tell it in a different, more original way.


Beauty and the Boy

Giuseppe Tornatore, 2000

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

- Lord Byron, She Walks in Beauty

Filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore explores the theme of beauty and heartbreak in Malena. Set in Sicily during World War II, the film is a coming-of-age story about unrequited love and the curse of being beautiful.

Played by Italian goddess Monica Bellucci, Maddalena Scordia a.k.a. Malena is the main attraction of Castelcuto.* She is the wife of a soldier who is presumed dead. Men lust after her. Women envy her. The world becomes a lonely place for Malena. Because of loneliness, Malena's beauty becomes her tragedy. Little does she know she has a stalker/secret admirer, an adolescent boy named Renato Amoroso (Giuseppe Sulfaro). Through the eyes of Renato, we see and experience the tragic world of Malena. With Renato as a careful observer, Tornatore humanizes the objectified Malena.

Malena serves as a catalyst to Renato's transition from puberty to adolescence. He fantasizes about her, imagining movie scenes with him as the main actor, and Malena as his leading lady. Most people confuse strong sexual desires with love. So, was it love? Yes. He loved every inch of her... from a distance.


Top 13 Favorite Title Sequences

Title sequence is that part of a movie (or TV show) wherein the title and key cast and production members are listed, often incorporating creative visuals and compelling music. Most title sequences aim to set the mood of a film. Some title sequences come before or after a prologue, while some serve as the prologue itself, giving you a glimpse of what the film is about.

It may include a simple series of drawings (e.g., The Spirit of the Beehive), live action (Lord of War), animation (Pink Panther, Catch Me If You Can, etc.), a montage (e.g., Persona), or a combination of live action and animation (e.g., Juno). Sometimes, a simple Jack-o'-lantern on the corner and some creepy music will do (case in point: Halloween). Some movies choose not to have a title sequence at all and just display the title without music (e.g., Citizen Kane).

Title sequences have evolved over the course of cinema's history. From the deep South ambiance of Gone with the Wind to the iconic James Bond title sequences to the multilingual title sequence of Enter the Void, most title sequences have been effective in immediately grabbing the viewer's attention.


An Appointment with One's Dirty Mind

Ryan Staake, 2014

Human sexuality has always been a selling point in any medium --- may it be television, cinema, music, literature. Sex sells. Admit it or not, majority of the human race are racy creatures. Filmmaker Ryan Staake knows this. That's why he came up with a naughty music video for Freak, a collaboration between Steve Aoki and a bunch of other millennial DJs.

Made with clever camera shots and skillfull editing, Freak features six characters in scenes that are seemingly sexual in nature. It is sexual innuendo in moving images. The characters are the Wallpaper Woman (Lara D. Wolf), the Scrubbing Girl (Grace Marie McGookey), the Trampoline Woman (Ashley Blankenship), the TV Man (Gus Renaud), the Gym Man (Paul Fears), and the Cereal Man (Samuel Shurtleff).

I suggest watching the video first before reading my commentary.


Fave Movie Posters: The Yakuza

If The Godfather is to mafia, The Yakuza is to, well, yakuza. The '70s saw the rebirth of gangster movies. (Thanks, Corleone.) Among the best ones included Sydney Pollack's The Yakuza. This Robert Mitchum-starrer tells a lifelong friendship between two men, Harry Kilmer (Mitchum) and Ken Tanaka (Ken Takakura). Both men love the same woman (Keiko Kishi), but circumstances turned hate into honor.


Dancing Towards Emptiness

Dom&Nic, 2016

Along with other '90s techno badass such as Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, and The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers are the pioneers of the big beat genre. (Dig Your Own Hole is probably one of the greatest albums in music's history.) Infusing raw bassline with exhilarating electro beats, The Chemical Brothers offer adrenaline rush for the ears and the mind. That's why I've followed their career since I first heard Block Rockin' Beats.

The other thing that makes The Chemical Brothers endearing is their love for intriguing visuals, which can be seen in their music videos. The group has worked with acclaimed filmmakers such as Michel Gondry (Let Forever Be, Star Guitar, and Go) and Spike Jonze (Elektrobank).

Wide Open is taken out of The Chemical Brothers' latest album, Born in the Echoes. It features Beck on vocals. (He kinda sounds like Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan on this track.)

Shot in a single take, Wide Open focuses on a female dancer (Sonoya Mizuno) in an empty warehouse. As she dances her emotion to the song, Sonoya transforms into trypophobia-inducing animation until there's nothing left of her human self.


Caging Libertine

Jennifer Chambers Lynch, 1993

Nick: You're everything to me.
Helena: You're nothing to me.

Boxing Helena is what happens when Fatal Attraction makes love with Misery. After seeing the greatest f*ck of his life once again, brilliant surgeon Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) decides to leave everything behind: his career, his girlfriend, his sanity, his everything – all just to be with Helena (a stunning Sherilyn Fenn), the woman of his wet dreams. Helena is everything to Nick, just as much as Nick is nothing to Helena.

To be closer to Helena, Nick moves in to the house he inherited from his recently deceased mother. And so he feeds his obsession by stalking Helena from his car, from the tree, from every corner of his timid existence.

Nick later invites Helena to his house party, to which Helena obliges. After leaving her purse, Helena is forced to go back to Nick's house. A terrible accident would later leave Helena at the hands of Nick's mercy (and obsession), making her a captive in Nick's mansion.

Boxing Helena is very much like Helena the character. Helena is essentially a libertine and a drifter, the kind so aloof no one can ever have her for themselves. Such personality is what attracted Nick to Helena. He knows he can't have her, so he wants her that bad. (Even though they only had a one-night stand.)

Venus de Milo, mother, and Helena – these three women would play a vital role to Nick's manhood.


The Code of Silence

Michael Haneke, 2000

Ah. The feeling of wanting to say something but can't say it. This dilemma is what Austrian auteur Michael Haneke explores in Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages (otherwise known as Code Unknown).

It all started with a piece of thrown garbage. From there we see a series of vignettes about various lives, people who are trapped in various worlds of silence.

Jean (played by Alexandre Hamidi), an angst-ridden farm lad, is sick and tired of his emotionally distant father (Sepp Bierbichler). He runs away to live with his brother, an out-of-the-country photojournalist (Thierry Neuvic). Instead, Jean finds his brother's girlfriend, Anne Laurent (Juliette Binoche), who gives Jean the key to their apartment. Being the douchebag that he is, Jean throws a piece of garbage at Maria (Luminița Gheorghiu), a foreigner begging on the street because she just lost her job as a newspaper vendor. Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke), a Frenchman of African origin, sees Jean's rudeness and demands Jean to apologize to the old lady; when Jean refuses to do so, the two guys fight, causing the police and Anne to enter the scene.

Communication, or the lack thereof, takes the center stage in Code Unknown. In this film, Haneke shows us different kinds of muteness: physical, foreign, forced, and self-inflicted.

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