Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

I’m Making A List And Checking It Twice: Towards a List of My Favorite Movies of the Decade.

Sep 06 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized

Laiya, Batangas, August 2009.

Is it time for a Best Films of the 2000s list yet? (Because if not, I’ll be reposting this at the end of 2010, and removing the two films below from 2000.)

The list will probably undergo numerous revisions — obviously because the films from the second half of the decade will get short shrift, and I’ve probably forgotten a title or two, plus I can’t make up my mind about Mysterious Object at Noon or Linda Linda Linda just yet, and I’ll probably sneak in a Favorite Horror Movies sub-list — but in any case, here’s my list, in alphabetical order:

- Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
- The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
- Evolution of a Filipino Family (Lav Diaz, 2004)
- In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
- The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)
- Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
- The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)

I’m a little wary of including anything I haven’t seen at least twice, but Diaz stays up there. (Oh, what I’d do for a second viewing…)

I was also surprised to find that the other movies that immediately came to mind — Goodbye, South, Goodbye; Irma Vep; Magnolia; Dead Man; Satantango; Taste of Cherry; The Matrix; and A Brighter Summer Day (only seen once) — were all from the previous decade! Nuts. (But hey, along with Trust, Life Is Sweet and Reservoir Dogs, that’s a mighty fine Best Films of the Nineties list right there.)

Anyone else out there making lists yet?

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RIP Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc.

Sep 02 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized

The first impulse is always one of love.

The more films I saw, specifically local independent films, the more I wanted to see. The deeper I got, the more responsibility I felt, the stronger the need to do something, to share that which I found beautiful.

Writing in English, I never felt much of a need to write about foreign (non-Filipino) movies—though I’m often asked to, and mostly of Hollywood fare. While I love cinema in general, a passion that has grown exponentially over the years, I feel no need to put myself in service of that which doesn’t need it. The feeling has always been: why write about Juno when I’ve hardly read anything incisive put to print about the great animation of Roxlee? Why write about No Country For Old Men when there’s the brilliantly charming films of Antoinette Jadaone waiting to be discovered by readers?…

One thing has slowly progressed into another and, what began as a simple curiosity pursued with sincerity, has evolved into a commitment.

Philippine cinema has given much to me, and one must pay back one’s debts.

- Alexis A. Tioseco, July 15, 2008

I didn’t know them personally, but I knew Tioseco’s work — not just his intelligent writing for Criticine (which he edited), or for his Concentrated Nonsense blog, but also as a fierce fighter for Philippine independent cinema. How can one read his characteristically eloquent essay love letter for Rogue, excerpted above, and not be moved by the depth of his commitment?

It’s a letter one wishes he could still read to any one of us in person, and I am deeply saddened that he never will.

The tributes are pouring in from all over the web, and here are some:

- Richard Bolisay, at Lilok Pelikula

- Oggs Cruz, at Lessons from the School of Inattention

- Geologic, at Prometheus Brown

- Jason Sanders, at Filmmaker Blog

- Noel Vera, at Critic After Dark

- Wise Kwai, at Thai Film Journal (see many other links and updates here)

- and a short film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, “For Alexis”

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Some Thoughts after Seeing Lee Isaac Chung's “Munyurangabo”.

Jun 26 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized

Lee Isaac Chung’s Munyurangabo (2007) has been one of the more critically-acclaimed releases of the year so far, and the rave reviews alone should have spurred viewers into theaters. But surely its “exotic” provenance – made by a Korean American director, filmed entirely in the language of Kinyarwanda, written by two Americans (Samuel Anderson, the co-writer, is white), with a cast entirely made up of nonprofessional actors – was also something of a draw.

This implicitly raises the question of why the film’s origins would be of interest at all. Perhaps the unspoken assumption is that the challenge of making a film in “unfamiliar” locales makes for a more interesting movie. Or is the director’s Korean ethnicity seen to impart a different directorial sensibility on the material? I can’t read the viewers’ minds, of course. I was there, however, for a slightly different reason.

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Thirty Random Things.

Jun 10 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized

The most-read page on this blog, which I find kind of odd, is the About page. (Second is my entry on Slumdog Millionaire.) The About page is something that WordPress attaches automatically when you make a page for the first time. I never gave much thought to it, just pasting a post from my other blog into the placeholder.

But now I figure people clicked the link for a reason — if only to figure out who this fool writing about movies is — and there’s really nothing “about” me there. And so I thought I’d have some fun with it, like that horrible “25 Things” Facebook meme which I never did get to answer.

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Around the Bay, April / May 2009.

Mar 31 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized

Oh how I love the SF International Film Festival. What I’ll be watching, in alphabetical order (and I’d probably add more if it weren’t for a vacation, commuter insanity, and a 9-5 job in the way):

- Chiang Hsiu-chiung, Artemisia
- Dante Lam, The Beast Stalker
- Lee Anne Schmitt, California Company Town
- Ruel Dahis Antipuesto and Jerold Tarog, Confessional
- Joe Berlinger, Crude
- Ursula Meier, Home
- Gerald Peary, For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism
- Fernando Eimbcke, Lake Tahoe
- Michelangelo Antonioni, Le Amiche
- Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World (with the coolest band in America, Dengue Fever, accompanying the silent film; more about my Dengue Fever fever, here)
- Aida Begic, Snow
- Hirokazu Kore-eda, Still Walking
- Olivier Assayas, Summer Hours [see my lukewarm review of Boarding Gate]

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Around the Bay, February / March 2009.

Feb 11 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized


The 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival schedule is finally out! But a quick Filipino film-related aside first: You can get a good heady dose of Filipino cinema the weekend of March 20, as Brillante Mendoza’s Serbis is opening at the Embarcadero, with Lav Diaz’s monumental 10-hour In the Land of the Encantos at the Yerba Buena Center the following day, on the 21st. How cool is that? (I wasn’t the biggest fan of Mendoza’s Tirador, but Foster Child was a powerful piece of work; I can’t make it to Diaz’s film, but his ten-and-a-half hour The Evolution of a Filipino Family was staggeringly good, and this new one shouldn’t disappoint either.)

The SFIAAFF program this year looks pretty good, including a Kiyoshi Kurosawa retrospective, but here’s what’s bubbling up for me, in calendar order (I live in the East Bay, so I’m very PFA-biased, but who wouldn’t be?):

Friday, March 13 (both at the PFA):
- Adolfo Alix Jr., Adela
- Jennifer Phang, Half-Life

Saturday, March 14 (both at the PFA):
- Jia Zhangke, 24 City (here’s my short entry on Still Life as well)
- Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tokyo Sonata

Wednesday, March 18 (both at the Kabuki):
- Jeff Adachi, You Don’t Know Jack: The Story of Jack Soo
- Bong Joon-Ho, Leos Carax and Michel Gondry, Tokyo! (and here’s my entry on Bong’s The Host)

Thursday, March 19 (PFA)
- Heiward Mak, High Noon

Friday, March 20 (PFA)
- H.P. Mendoza, Fruit Fly (Mendoza is the co-writer and star of Richard Wong’s Colma: The Musical, which I loved. I can’t go to the Castro premiere, unfortunately, because I’m going to a concert that evening, which is uncannily similar to what happened a few years back (I never tire of linking to this): here he is hassling me about not going to the Colma premiere, and when I introduced myself to Wong and Mendoza a couple of years later, Mendoza actually remembered.)

- Na Hong-jin, The Chaser

Saturday, March 21 (PFA)
- Peng Lei, The Panda Candy
- Ryosuke Hashiguchi, All Around Us

Elsewhere (and I’ll keep adding to this list as more programs come in), Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light is showing for a week (Feb. 27 – Mar. 5) at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.

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A Brief Announcement.

Jan 13 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized

Berkeley, July 2006.

Readers who know me only through this blog (and there aren’t that many readers anyhow) may be interested in my old blog, The Wily Filipino, which I’ve just imported into WordPress. Almost all of my movie-related entries have been imported into film, eyeballs, brain, with the exception of those that generated some interesting comments — basically because I didn’t want to delete the discussion that followed. (They all happen to be about Filipino and Filipino American works: Gene Cajayon’s The Debut, Ian Ganazon and Neill dela Llana’s Cavite, and Ramona Diaz’s Imelda.)

I also have a surprisingly popular entry from 2006 on the Filipino director Rico Gutierrez, entitled My Cousin, the Pornographer.

And finally, a couple more shameless plugs. My second book, Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City, has just been published by Temple University Press. It’s not about movies at all — if anything, my first book, Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th-Century Philippines, had a little more to do with visuality — but there is a brief sociological discussion of Efren Jarlego’s Home Sic Home and Olivia Lamasan’s Sana Maulit Muli, and the contradictions within these depictions of Filipino immigrant success.

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Around the Bay (January / February 2009).

Jan 04 2009 Published by Benito Vergara under Uncategorized


A brief pause from the movie reviews while I geek out and set up my tentative East Bay-biased big-screen schedule for the next two months:

Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley will be premiering Che and Waltz with Bashir on Jan. 16; Scott Walker: 30 Century Man and Wendy and Lucy follow the weeks after with one-week engagements each.

Jean-Pierre Gorin is curating a film series at the Pacific Film Archive (one of the best reasons to live in the East Bay) called “The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema”, and bubbling up to the top of my list are Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (Jan. 22), Dziga Vertov’s The Man with a Movie Camera (Jan. 29), and Kidlat Tahimik’s Mababangong Bangungot (Feb. 10). [EDIT: Just got replaced with Japan Dance Now at the Yerba Buena Center.)

If, by any chance, a Godard weekend is something you crave, the cinema stars have aligned and scheduled La Chinoise at the Yerba Buena Center on Jan. 30 (also showing on the 29th), and Godard and Gorin's Letter to Jane: An Investigation of a Still at the PFA the following evening on Jan. 31. [UPDATE: Also at YBC -- and it's sad that I won't be able to make it -- is Lav Diaz's Death in the Land of Encantos.]

On Feb. 1st, the Castro Theater is presenting, as part of its Noir City series, an unbeatable double bill: Robert Siodmak’s The Killers and Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success.

Okay, maybe not “unbeatable”, because the Feb. 12 Shanghai Express / Blonde Venus double-header at the PFA (as part of their “Josef von Sternberg: Eros and Abstraction” series) looks damn good too. The one I really want to see, though, is The Saga of Anatahan, on Feb. 22.

[EDIT: I also just discovered -- thanks to Hell on Frisco Bay for linking to my site! -- that Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is playing on Feb. 26 and 28.]

And lastly, in an act of what might well be monumental folly, I (and two other movie buddies — thanks Barb and Oscar) have purchased tickets to see almost ten hours of Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition on Feb. 15 — just the day before I see all four hours of Philip Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts.

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