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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John Woo, "Red Cliff, Part 1" (2008).

Dec 29 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under review


2008 saw the release of two Chinese historical action dramas by two major Hongkong directors not previously known for the genre: one, the first half of a four-hour epic; the other, a re-edited version of a 1994 original. It’s probably safe to say at this point that Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time Redux (2008) is a better film than John Woo’s Red Cliff, Part 1 (Chi bi) — unfair, yes, because only the first part of Red Cliff has been released. But as befitting genuine auteurs, both films are in fact not unlike their respective directors’ previous work: the first, smeared and aleatory; the second, blood-spattered and bromantic. The latter is surely the most spectacular of Woo’s films though; it is unfortunate that it feels rather inert.

Red Cliff is based on the 3rd-century historical text “Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms”, and I am unclear, unfortunately, as to whether the general plot line would be familiar to its Chinese audiences. This may explain why the exposition, at times, is curt and compressed when, to a non-Chinese viewer like myself, one thinks it should linger, if only to clarify people’s relationships with each other. Instead, Woo chooses to dwell lovingly on the blossoming friendship between the two main characters — that, and numerous shots of hundreds of soldiers marching in formation, as if to say, “Look, someone paid for this!” (Red Cliff is the most expensive Chinese-financed film to date.)

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Richard Wong, “Colma: The Musical” (2006).

Sep 02 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under review


Richard Wong’s exhilarating movie Colma: The Musical (2006) is set in a town south of San Francisco most famous for its cemeteries and the fact that it has more dead residents than there are alive. Colma‘s writer and actor, the ridiculously talented H.P. Mendoza, who plays Rodel, gets a lot of mileage from this central metaphor. The suburban deadness that infects the characters — fresh high school graduates with nary a clue about what to do with themselves — is only a little more vital than the graveyards all around them.

Colma revolves around the lives of three characters: an aspiring actor working “the highest-paying shit job” he can find at the mall, an aspiring writer thrown out of his house by his homophobic father, and a woman — well, it’s not really clear what she does, but as the emotional center of the film, the lovely Maribel (L.A. Renigen) does have the best monologue (and taste in interiors, for that matter).

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2046 / Broken Flowers.

Aug 23 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under notes

Or, a lesser film by one of my favorite directors, shot by one of my favorite cinematographers, featuring a disaffected emotional cipher of a Don Juan who is unable to truly connect with people around him and is on a quest for something he is not entirely sure about, with laconic dialogue, strict attention to interior detail, and a series of stunning women who drift in and out of his life, all more interestingly wrought than the lead character.

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DVD Tag.

Aug 20 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under notes

Total Number of Films I Own on DVD And Video:

A lot. The number of DVDs I have that are still in shrinkwrap is embarrassing.

The Last Film I Bought:

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear. My justification was that the Criterion edition just went out of print.

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Movie Roundup!

Aug 19 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under notes

- Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill
Finally got to see both parts in one sitting, and it was well worth the wait. It isn’t Reservoir Dogs, but it’s certainly his most entertaining film so far, with no apologies for his film-geekery. But now I’d like to see his next flick be a little more original.

- Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face
Seen this amazing movie a couple of times before, and the newly-minted Criterion edition blows the murky video version (from Kino?) out of the water. (The scene when the nurse looks up to see the plane in the cloudy night sky is finally clearer, and I still don’t know what it means.) As for extras, there’s the surreally beautiful The Blood of Beasts, but I can’t imagine seeing it more than once: it’s a documentary about abattoirs in post-World War II Paris. The gorgeous shots of the city rival Atget’s (but the shots of decapitated lambs, well…).

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