Tsotsi (2005): Similar Brutality

From: South Africa, United Kingdom

Director: Gavin Hood

I bought this DVD in my most favorite discovery in Taipei, eslite, and somehow it got lost in all the rubbish that surrounds the movie system in my house. I guess it reappeared when it should have.

I think of South African cinema as quite similar to that of the Philippines, mostly Manila. Most themes circle around the city streets and slums or oppression from crime and poverty. Does that mean we somehow have a similar thread in culture? I’ve never been anywhere in Africa, hence I cannot say. But if that’s true, then perhaps the brutality in its culture is also the source of its spirit, just as it is in Manila.

Tsotsi is a South African word describing a dodgy character, a gangster. He steals and fights to survive. He steals cars with babies, torments blind men in wheelchairs, beats up his friend to a pulp. I don’t want to say that despite these, he’s still has a heart inside blah blah. Because the good guy inside does not survive being a good guy given his circumstances in life. His hidden heart is not permitted to come out from hiding when the world it grew in does not allow hope. He surrenders. He steals and fights.

That world is bleak. That world is raw. And I love that the thoughts it gives you are as raw and as bleak as the non-actors themselves.



What this film holds for me:

What: ambiguous ending which turns out has 2 alternate endings – must get copies of these


Pretty Woman (1990): Mine are broken

From: USA

Director: Garry Marshall

Most people’s favorite scene is the Rodeo Drive one I think. The “Big Mistake. HUGE” one. Rightly so, that’s just iconic. It has all the makings of a fairy tale complete with the title theme song. I love that scene myself, but sadly, that’s not my favorite. My favorite is the opera one. Not on the way to the opera-giving-quarter-of-a-million-necklace scene, but the one where the binoculars were broken. FRICKIN LOVE THAT SCENE. And to add to my adulation, some genius even created a YouTube video for that scene alone. Genius.



What this film holds for me: 

What: These are broken. Mine are broken. 

Who: Patrick Richwood as Night Elevator Operator Dennis

The Sound of Music (1965): Island-Stranding Tunes

From: USA

Director: Robert Wise

Saw this again a few days ago while browsing the TV. Thought I’d just see a little bit to refresh my memory, but then not realizing, found myself watching it til the credits started. Couldn’t just stop the happy this movie brings. Tunes are unforgettable, scenes are dreamlike.

Dad said it best: If I ever get stuck in an island and just have one movie to bring with me, I’ll bring this. Makes it easier to survive.


Didn’t realize was writing without beginning prepositions.


What this film holds for me:

Who: Maria, how do you solve a problem like Maria? You don’t.

What: tunes that will make you sappy and happy


Amores Perros (2000): Less humourous Pulp

From: Mexico

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

It was released as its original title, but loosely translated, it means Love’s a Bitch. Appropriately so since it touches both on the canine theme and the love theme organically. It doesn’t seemed forced or somewhat.

A lot of reviews describe it as the Pulp Fiction of Mexico, backed up by the theory that Quentin Tarantino’s magic has swarmed to countries even outside America at that time. Maybe so. As a personal opinion though, I don’t think it’s even near the Pulp Fiction league. Plot, acting, and cinematography are all superb. The way the three stories overlap and interject with one another is fluid and does not feel forced. It’s cohesive and overall impressive, but what I think it lacks, that alternatively lends Pulp Fiction its power is one important thing: humor. Pulp Fiction is funny, in the violent sarcastic kind of way (the best way!) and that just pushes the limit of movie-making for me. Quentin Tarantino is one hell of a joker and that’s why he is master of violence.

It’s the first in Iñárritu’s trilogy of death, followed by 21 Grams and Babel, so let me watch those and I’ll get back to this.


What this film holds for me:

Who: Gael García Bernal. That man can never do no wrong

What: dogs and blood. I’ve never seen so much together. 


The White Ribbon (2009): Terrorism, perhaps forever

From: Germany

Director: Michael Haneke

Rarely does a film stay with you forever. Okay, maybe not yet forever, maybe only two days as of now, but this has the forever potential. It says something about the film when my dad spontaneously utters philosophies about the film over dinner or while driving, even after two days. He cannot get over it. I cannot get over it. It’s the kind of film that secretly steals your brain while you are watching it, stays there, and without warning, reveals itself as an impetus of dumbfounding theories while you’re ordering a cup of coffee or looking for a parking space. Trust me, it happened to me. Two days it has been doing that and I therefore bravely conclude, this movie will stay with me forever.

On a more serious note, The White Ribbon is bleak and haunting. I read somewhere that Mr. Haneke wanted to represent in some way the root of evil, and a less subtle way of depicting it would be to set it against the eve of World War I. These kids will be the ones following Hitler during his term. Why? Perhaps The White Ribbon can help elucidate. Perhaps not. Nonetheless, it speaks of terrorism, abuse, cruelty, and disempowerment. What makes it doubly haunting is that it deals with children. What makes it triply haunting is that it is shot in black and white.


What this film holds for me:

Who: the children, both the characters and actors – it disturbs me that they are so good in being evil

What: black and white – things are black and white and things are not black and white

How (I felt): searching for answers still after a few days, which I am truly happy about



The Graduate (1967) : That time when I was drifting

From: USA

Director: Mike Nichols

I am Benjamin. I am Benjamin Braddock a few years late, one gender different. Why, you ask? See below.

To sum up what state I think Benjamin’s in, I shall take one of my favorite conversations from the movie:


Benjamin’s Dad: Ben, what are you doing?

Benjamin: Well, I would say that I’m just drifting. Here in the pool.

Ben’s Dad: Why?

Benjamin: Well, it’s very comfortable just to drift here.


Dear self, remember that on that day, at that moment in your life when you saw that movie again, you felt like Benjamin did. You were a drifter. and you were drifting. because it’s very comfortable to drift. But you were confused because you were also worried about your future. For Dustin Hoffman to have related to your circumstance must have meant something. Goddamn,  it did! Here’s more proof:

Remember that the genius of Dustin Hoffman  in the movie was that he could reveal the world inside him without even speaking. Every shot of his face told you more about what he’s going through than any dialog. You too had those looks. If you would make a montage of your facial expression in the past year or so, people would say you got it from Dustin.

9shot - the graduate

And the geniusXgenius of this movie remember, was the last scene. REMEMBER. A photobooth strip of it would prove to you how fleeting emotion was, how uncertain everything was. See that ecstasy – happiness – relief – calmness – worry – fear. That was all in less than 5 minutes. Genius but sadly, true.

photobooth the graduate

What this film holds for me:

Whole entry is a letter to my future self. See above. 

Hopefully you’re not drifting anymore.

Silent Film: Phantom of the Opera (1925)

From: USA

Director: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney

This was just awesome. Beaver and I had the almost-hopeless chance of seeing this film as part of the SIlent Film Festival last week. We took the risk since it was first come first serve and we literally were the seventh to the last patron to be let in. We were anxiously chattering, pretending we weren’t sweating buckets on the inside.

When we got in, we were blown away. It already started and Razorback were already engrossed in their set. In my last silent film post, I mentioned there were two kinds of musicians in this specific context. Now in the case of Phantom + Razorback, Razorback’s both. They laid down a breathtaking score – seamless, fluid, and cohesive. Didn’t hurt that they created all new material just for this feat. It was the first time I’ve attended this festival where someone sang actual lyrics. Weirdly, it worked. It could very well have been a contemporary soundtrack for the film. What was amusing though was that they added skillful details adn sound effects as well – the haunting laugh, the tiny screams, the thought bubbles. It was uncanny but it worked.

Now besides the two kinds of musicians, I think there are also two kinds of viewers of silent film festivals of this kind: the audience who go for the film, and the audience who go for the music. Shamelessly I always go for the film, rarely really knowing who the musical act is. But I go home always with a new musical discovery. Practically a win-win for me everytime.




What this film holds for me:

What line: If I am the phantom, it is because man deems me so.  -sad

Who: ugly scary phantom with exagerrated hand gestures

How (I felt): triumphant!! seventh to the last will never give up hope!