’52 Films By Women Challenge’ 2021 Recap

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One of the movie-related challenges I try to complete every year is 52 Films By Women challenge…. that is to watch at least one film directed by women per week. Seems pretty easy right? Especially since there is better female representation behind the camera than ever before, though of course we still have a long way to go. Well, I wish I could say I’ve completed the entire challenge, but I’ve only managed to complete 70% of it, which means I have to do better next year!

Here are the list of films I saw. Though I haven’t reviewed them all, I briefly talked about most of these in my monthly recap.

  1. Promising Young Woman
  2. Raya and the Last Dragon – review
  3. One Night in Miami
  4. Where Hands Touch
  5. Orlando
  6. Things Heard and Seen
  7. Love It Was Not (doc)
  8. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
  9. Antoinette dans les Cevennes
  10. The Assistant
  11. Rita Moreno (doc)
  12. Black Widow – review
  13. Last Letter From Your Lover – review
  14. Love Sarah – review
  15. CODA – review
  16. The Girl In The Book
  17. Reminiscence – review
  18. The Souvenir
  19. Love & Basketball
  20. Our Kind Of Traitor
  21. Worth – review
  22. My Name is Pauli Murray – review
  23. Good On Paper
  24. Proxima
  25. I Am Woman
  26. I’m Your Man – review
  27. Sounds Like Love
  28. Eternals – review
  29. Forty Year Old Version – review
  30. Passing – review
  31. The Power of the Dog – review
  32. The Matrix Resurrections – review
  33. The Zookeeper’s Wife
  34. Ron’s Gone Wrong
  35. The Lost Daughter – review

TV SERIES/LIMITED SERIES CREATED/WRITTEN BY WOMEN

  1. Dix pour cent AKA Call My Agent (S4) – Netflix
  2. The Nevers – 2021 (S1) – HBO Max
  3. The Pursuit of Love – 2021 (Miniseries) – Amazon Prime
  4. Gold Digger – 2019 (Miniseries) – Sundance Now

I highly recommend all of these and they’re available to stream in various platforms listed above. I’d say my fave out of the four is definitely the French series Call My Agent, which sadly ended with season 4. It’s absolutely hilarious and likely pretty accurate too given it was created by actual former talent agents. I might have to rewatch the whole thing all over again… it’s so binge-worthy!


So out of the 35 films by women, here are my picks of the 10 Best:

Top 5 favorite new releases:

CODA

Black Widow

I’m Your Man

The Power Of the Dog

The Lost Daughter

I’m glad to see such a great variety of genres amongst these female-directed films… from superhero movie, sci-fi comedy, to psychological dramas, these films couldn’t be more different from each other but they show the sheer talent behind the camera. In addition to being directed by women, The Lost Daughter + The Power of the Dog both have female DPs, enhancing the female gaze storytelling perspective even more.

Top 5 favorite older movies:

Love & Basketball

Forty Year Old Version

Proxima

Our Kind Of Traitor

Orlando

I don’t know how I could’ve missed Love & Basketball which is such a terrific love story! Proxima is an underrated sci-fi drama about a female astronaut trying to balance her mission and being apart from her 8-year-old daughter, Eva Green is really good in the lead role. Our Kind of Traitor is a suspenseful spy thriller from British filmmaker Susanna White, highly recommend it for spy movie fans. I’ve reviewed Forty Year Old version which would’ve made my top 10 of 2020 if I had seen it sooner. Lastly, Orlando is Sally Potter’s adaptation of a Virginia Woolf novel starring the one and only Tilda Swinton.


I found this great link from BFI – The female gaze: 100 overlooked films directed by women

I’ve already added a few films to my watch-list, fortunately some of them are on streaming like Netflix or HBO Max. So no excuse not to watch more films by women 😉


Which of these films have you seen and which are your favorites?

FlixChatter Review: The Power of the Dog (2021)

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This is the kind of film that is best experienced when you have very little information about the story. So with that in mind, I’ll skim on details about the plot and let you discover them on your own.

At the center of the story is a wealthy rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) who lives in Montana with his brother George (Jesse Plemons). Right away it’s evident these two have contrasting personalities. Phil is dominant, crass and brutish while George is a mild-mannered, sensitive soul. The two are close, they even sleep in the same bed in their ranch house, but their bond is thrown off after an encounter with a widow, Rose, who owns a restaurant that he ranchers visit one day. 

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There is immediate strain between Phil and Rose’s teenage son Peter, who often helps his mom at the restaurant, starting with Phil insulting Peter’s paper flowers that drive him to tears. As fate would have it, George falls for Rose and the two got married. While Peter is away in school and George is on business trips, it’s Rose who has to bear the brunt of Phil’s overt bullying. 

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The film is the quintessential slo-burn drama with not much action in the first act, but there’s layers upon layers being peeled for those who pay close attention. In fact, I feel like this is the kind of film that’d be more rewarding on subsequent watch as it’s packed with a plethora of details that one might miss the first time around. Jane Campion wrote and directed the film based on Thomas Savage’s novel with such a masterful stroke. There’s an unsettling mood and tension permeating every minute that takes hold of you and wouldn’t let go.

The performances are excellent all around. Starting with Cumberbatch, a refined English gent of an actor who at first glance is a really odd choice to play a tough American cowboy. Yet the fact that he seemed ‘unfit’ for the role actually works in the character’s favor… let’s just say Phil is someone who isn’t comfortable in his own skin, which Campion exploits in Cumberbatch’s performance to great effect.

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It’s so great to see the talented Kirsten Dunst in a prominent role, I feel like I haven’t seen her on screen in a while. She embodies the brittle role of a mother so beautifully… and the way she crumbles under Phil’s terrorizing ways is painfully palpable. Kodi Smit-McPhee is an actor I’m not that familiar with but he’s absolutely terrific here in a subtle yet impactful performance. His svelte figure is integral to the story as he becomes the butt of jokes for Phil and the male workers at the ranch who think ranch-living are only for scruffy, brawny men. Jesse Plemons doesn’t have much screen time here but he’s a reliable actor who always deliver a memorable performance.

I love how the film plays with our expectations and in many ways. Phil’s machismo is so exaggerated as if he’s trying to impress that on Rose and Peter, yet the way he practically worships at the altar of late cowboy Bronco Henry whose saddle sits like a shrine in his barn is very telling. The scene where he cleans the leather with such tender loving care is also very telling. I appreciate the subtle and nuanced way things are revealed in due time, a heart-wrenching deconstruction of toxic masculinity by an astute feminist lens.

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The visual aesthetic is meticulously crafted in such a way that even the texture and scale tell a story. Earlier in the film, there’s a close shot of paper being strung up in Peter’s room as he’s making those paper flowers, then later in the third act, we see a close shot of sliced-up cow hide hanging which is later used as rope. The visual parallel is absolutely brilliant and literally made me gasp when I realize its significance.

Glad to see a female DP here and Ari Wegner lensed the film beautifully, it’s both elegant and harsh in equal measure, filled with covert visual clues that informs the narrative. I had to look away when Peter stumbled on a decaying dead cattle during a hike, which proves to be an important clue that he’s not as fainthearted as Phil assume him to be.

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The setting of 1920s Montana with its vast open land, majestic mountains and lakes is so picturesque it could sub for the state’s travel vlog, except it’s actually filmed in Campion’s hometown of New Zealand. It’s one of those films where the location itself is a character in the film. Johnny Greenwood complements the visuals with his ominous, brooding yet melancholic score. I didn’t realize Greenwood is Radiohead’s guitarist whose score for Phantom Thread was nominated for Oscar.

The Power of The Dog is one of the most potent and haunting psychological drama that really gets under my skin. I find myself thinking about it even weeks after I watched it and recounting some of its layered mystery and meaning. A quiet but tremendous film with plenty of undercurrents beneath the surface. It’s simply exquisite, a word I don’t usually use to describe most films. SPOILER ALERT The title itself refers to a Bible verse (Psalm 22: 20), which is interesting given Campion compared what happened between Peter and Phil to the David vs Goliath story. 

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This is Campion’s feature film in over a decade (after Bright Star in 2009). I’m not sure why it took her that long in between film projects (apart from her directing work in Top Of The Lake series), but I really hope we won’t have to wait too long for her next one.

4.5/5 stars


Have you seen The Power Of the Dog? I’d love to hear what you think!

December 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) Of The Month

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Happy New Year, everyone!! Well, congrats on surviving 2021… may this new year bring you more peace, joy, love, success and good health!!

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I honestly think last year felt like a breeze, especially the last half with Thanksgiving and Christmas gone by so quickly that it practically had time to digest it. Though initially we were going to spend Christmas in Arizona, we decided not to travel during the holidays, especially since my cousin actually got her Quebec trip canceled by her hotel a couple of weeks before her stay. I certainly hope we can start traveling again by Spring at least [fingers crossed!]

Ok, now on to the movie report… 

 

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Nightmare Alley

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Full Review

3.5/5 Reels


A Boy Called Christmas

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I wanted to watch a Christmas-themed original movie and this one intrigued me because of Maggie Smith‘s casting. It turns out to be just okay, nowhere near as good as Klaus which I saw last year. I find it amusing to hear Stephen Merchant‘s voice as the little mouse, but Sally Hawkins plays a really weird and awkward villain. Overall it has enough going for it to make for a good family movie, but doesn’t have enough oomph to make it a classic.

3Reels


Tragedy of Macbeth 

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Full Review

4.5/5 stars


The King’s Man

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I’m not sure if I’ll have time to do a full review of The King’s Man but let’s just say it’s such a baffling movie that’s tonally off… it started out serious but then became kind of a parody, especially the scenes involving Rhys Ifans as Rasputin (I was laughing and cringing at the same time). If a movie could suffer from an identity crisis, then this would be a perfect example. Ralph Fiennes is still so committed to the role however, which is commendable but also bewildering given the bizarre script. Quite a disappointment from Matthew Vaughn as I enjoyed the first two Kingsman movies.

2-half Reels


Sing 2

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Full Review

4/5 stars


Being The Ricardos

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Full Review

3.5/5 Reels


The Power of the Dog*

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Review to come…


Spiderman: No Way Home

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Full Review

4.5/5 stars


Matrix Resurrections*

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Full Review

2Reels


The Movies That Made Us: ROBOCOP

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I quite enjoyed this docu-series that presents the behind-the-scenes look into how great classics got made, as well as the impact of its release, which often beats expectations. Having just seen ROBOCOP on the big screen earlier this year, it was fun to see the journey of how this sci-fi hit got made. Peter Weller was truly perfect for the role, and Paul Verhoeven‘s antics was pretty hilarious to watch.

4/5 stars


Don’t Look Up

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Full Review

2-half Reels


Non-Stop

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My hubby and I really enjoy the Liam Neeson action franchise (yep, he is practically his own franchise, ahah). This one was enjoyable, I guess I didn’t expect too much out of his action flicks and I always find him watchable despite the movie’s flaws. I have about 3 more Neeson-In-Action flicks to watch before I do a recap post of all of them.

3Reels


Pig

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I haven’t seen a Nic Cage movie in a while as there’s nothing he’s done that interested me of late, but I was intrigued by the good reviews of this one and it lives up to the hype. You could say this is a career-best performance. I really like his subdued, almost passive role in a character-driven drama that deals with someone’s fraught legacy. Michael Sarnoski is a filmmaker to watch in his feature directorial debut. I like his story telling style that takes its time in the way it reveals the character’s journey, and the payoff in the end is an emotional one.

4/5 stars


Zookeeper’s Wife*

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3.5/5 Reels


Ron’s Gone Wrong*

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The trailer somehow didn’t wow me but I decided to give it a shot and I ended up enjoying it! Setting the story of a malfunctioning digital device in the form of a cute bubble bot is so clever and hits so close to home even for adults like me. I’d think parents of teens who are constantly on Tik Tok would be amused and terrified at the same time, ahah. The dark side of tech allegory obviously has a not-so-subtle jab against big tech giants like Apple and Facebook, especially the latter given its blatant disregard of privacy concerns. Makes me even more glad I’ve quit using that darn app!

3.5/5 Reels


The Lost Daughter*

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      Review to come


52 films by womenMovies indicated with * (asterisk) indicates those directed by women. I saw five films directed by women this month, so below is my tally of the year for the 52 Films By Women challenge.

  1. Promising Young Woman
  2. Raya and the Last Dragon
  3. One Night in Miami
  4. Where Hands Touch
  5. Orlando
  6. Things Heard and Seen
  7. Love It Was Not (doc)
  8. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
  9. Antoinette dans les Cevennes
  10. The Assistant
  11. Rita Moreno (doc)
  12. Black Widow
  13. Last Letter From Your Lover
  14. Love Sarah
  15. CODA
  16. The Girl In The Book
  17. Reminiscence
  18. The Souvenir
  19. Love & Basketball
  20. Out Kind Of Traitor
  21. Worth
  22. My Name is Pauli Murray
  23. Good On Paper
  24. Proxima
  25. I Am Woman
  26. I’m Your Man
  27. Sounds Like Love
  28. Eternals
  29. Forty Year Old Version
  30. Passing
  31. The Power of the Dog
  32. The Matrix Resurrections
  33. The Zookeeper’s Wife
  34. Ron’s Gone Wrong
  35. The Lost Daughter

Well, I’ve only managed to complete about 70% of the 52 total… which means I have to do better next year! I might do a separate post of my top 5 favorite movies directed by women I saw last year.


TV SERIES

I finished season 1 of these two series that I quite enjoyed…

Hawkeye (Disney+) & The Wheel of Time (Amazon Prime)

I have to admit that one of the main reasons I tuned in to Hawkeye was because Florence Pugh was going to appear as Yelena. Wish they had her in at least half of the episodes instead of just two. She’s SO phenomenal as Yelena and was definitely the scene stealer of Black Widow. She deserves her own standalone series and movie!! In any case, I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Kingpin in the MCU!

As for Wheel of Time, well I like the first season enough that I’m anticipating more from this series. I sure hope there are more Daniel Henney as LAN in future episodes though, he’s got such a strong screen presence that demands to be showcased more.


REWATCHES

Spiderman: Far From Home

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Avengers Infinity War

Avengers Endgame

My rewatches are clearly inspired by Spiderman: No Way Home, ahah. I saw the previous Tom Holland version w/ Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio to prepare for the new one. The Winter Soldier is my fave MCU movie so far that I usually watch at least once a year. I started watching Infinity War on a whim and of course once you watched that, you gotta finish it up with Endgame. The death of Black Widow and Tony Stark still hit me hard even on repeat viewing, which is a testament to how good the character development has been in the MCU, bravo Kevin Feige!


DECEMBER MOVIE(s) OF THE MONTH

POWER OF THE DOG + THE LOST DAUGHTER

It’s another tie this month as I can’t choose between these two excellent films that are both directed by women. Jane Campion is a true auteur who’s been making films since the mid 80s, while Maggie Gyllenhaal has just ventured into directing, but I was equally impressed with Power of the Dog and The Lost Daughter … both are supremely-crafted and have a haunting effect long after the film is done.

Full reviews coming in the next week or so.


Well, what did you watch last month and what’s YOUR favorite film(s) you saw in DECEMBER?

Rest in Peace BETTY WHITE – Remembering her best moments

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Oh wow… I wasn’t expecting to be posting this today. I was out and about most of the day and heard about her passing while I was driving in my car. I think everyone is ready to say goodbye to 2021 and losing such a legend like Betty White is another blow to an already tough year 😭

She’s just about two weeks shy of her 100th birthday. In fact, there’s a big plan to commemorate her birthday on January 17 with a special theatrical screening of Betty White: 100 Years Young for one night only. Per Deadline, the documentary will proceed as planned which includes highlights from White’s unprecedented TV career, her telling inside stories about her life, and clips of the funniest moments from various shows such as The Golden Girls, SNL, Hot in Cleveland, The Proposal and The Mary Tyler Moore Show among others.

Here’s the trailer:

I hope this will be shown in my local cineplex, but I definitely would watch it when it’s available on streaming. I’ve actually just seen the documentary on her called Betty White – The First Lady of Television just this past April which is on Netflix. Not many people have had a phenomenal career spanning eight decades, but she was truly a one of a kind talent who’s genuinely hilarious on and off screen.

My first intro to Betty White was in Golden Girls when I was still living in Jakarta. She’s definitely my favorite of the four Golden Girls and how funny that I end up living in Minnesota where her character Rose Nylund is from (St Olaf, MN to be exact!). Here are some of her funniest Scandinavian quips from her show:

On films, I think most contemporary audience are most familiar with her role in The Proposal where she effortlessly stole the show every time she came on. She developed a friendship with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds and they seem to have similar sense of humor. I love that she’s not afraid to play against type and show her ‘nasty’ side… as evident in this prank video Reynolds himself posted on her 99th birthday.

“When Betty White asks for a coffee you get her a f****** cup of coffee” LOL!

This particular scene is a hoot and you could tell her co-stars could barely contain their laughter.

The dancing scene is just so absurd but made me laugh and truly, we could have more Betty White scenes in this movie!

As for her TV appearances, her opening SNL monologues are definitely one of the funniest of the show and I love how she’s always game with poking fun at herself. And as I’ve quit Facebook for over a year now, I agree wholeheartedly how dumb it is to waste your time using that app, ahah.

This census skit with Tina Fey made me laugh so hard every time! Her dead-pan expression makes the whole thing even more hysterical.

Oh my… I’m laughing and crying at the same time watching these clips. Betty White was truly a charming comedic genius and an absolute gem of a human being… she will be sorely missed by everyone she’s touched through her 80+ year in show business.


Rest in Peace, Betty White.

THANK YOU FOR THE MEMORIES + LAUGHTER!


What’s YOUR favorite memories of Betty White?

FlixChatter Review: The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

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Besides Hamlet, I think Macbeth is the most popular Shakespeare adaptations. There have been SO many adapted for the big screen lately that I wasn’t initially interested to see this one. But with Denzel Washington in the title role and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth, I couldn’t resist. The early screening was packed even though it was on a Sunday, I see a lot of young people of color which clearly is a testament to Denzel’s appeal as a movie star.

In case you’re not familiar with the story, Macbeth is a Scottish general who becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland, and his ambitious wife supports him in his plans of seizing power. Any old tale can feel new and fresh if it’s developed by a visionary filmmaker. Joel Coen in his debut without his filmmaker brother/partner Ethan tackled the material with a minimalistic approach that really makes you focus on the story and character.

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First thing you notice is the visuals, shot in striking black/white with stark set pieces that resemble a stage play. I love that Coen honors the fact that the story originated on stage by stripping the film down as if you’re watching a play on screen. It opens with the scene of the trio of witches telling Macbeth that he will be King. That prophecy immediately takes hold of him, and with the boost from his ambitious wife, it spells trouble for King Duncan. 

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I’ve seen quite a few Macbeth adaptations, even a modern retelling version like Shakespe-retold with James McAvoy as an ambitious chef. The latest one was the Justin Kurzel version in 2015 with Michael Fassbender which was gorgeous and atmospheric but also tedious. Thankfully I didn’t find this version boring at all, though it’s a slow-burn film that’s more reflective rather than action-driven. In fact, I actually find this film makes the narrative more digestible.

The lack of frills of set design or elaborate costumes etc bring the Bard’s classic tale to life in almost hypnotic way. I was mesmerized by every little detail of what the character is doing and even the normally unapproachable Shakespearean dialog easier to follow. It’s a dialog-heavy film, again inspired by the stage play, but it feels dynamic not dull. The brief action scenes are staged creatively and uses the limited space to great effect.

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It’s not a case of style over substance however as the acting is a triumph. Again, Denzel commands the screen like nobody’s business. He has an inherently regal aura about him while the ruthless ambition is subtler, more seething underneath rather than full-on. Frances, in her ninth time working with her husband proves to be another fruitful collaboration. She’s no stranger to playing a powerful woman and there’s a certain icy-ness to her Lady Macbeth mannerism as she wields her influence on her husband. Her guilt-ridden soliloquy is one of the film’s highlights. 

The stand out supporting cast are Kathryn Hunter as the three witches (and later as an old man), Brendan Gleeson as King Duncan, Alex Hassell as Ross, Corey Hawkins as Macduff and Harry Melling as Malcolm. It’s wonderful to see an ethnically diverse cast extending beyond just the lead actor, and the ensemble cast were terrific all around.

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I can’t say enough about the stunning visuals, shot by Bruno Delbonnel who has collaborated with the Coens a few times (Inside Llewyn Davis, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs). He’s been nominated for Oscar five times and hopefully next year will be his year and he absolutely deserved it. I think the cinematography is one of the best I’ve ever seen, the noir, austere visual aesthetics made more impression to me than The Green Knight which is also stunning. There are so many perfect shots that you can frame from this film. The use of shadows, fog, visual contrast, etc. is just masterful. One of my favorite scenes is when Macbeth was sitting in a room in his home where the floor transforms into water and the ceiling opens up to reveal the sky. It’s such a fantastic surrealist moment.

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The sound department is to be commended as well for the phenomenal sound design that really envelopes you. The superb use of sound is crucial here, especially since a lot of what’s going on with Macbeth happens inside his head. The claustrophobic nature of the set combined with that pulsating sound drives the point of the character’s ‘unsoundness of mind.’ 

Joel Coen made an intriguing choice with shooting the film mostly on sound stages, instead of going with a more realistic approach to the setting. Given Macbeth is plagued by illusions and false prophecy, this dreamlike or should I say nightmarish style is an effective storytelling technique to illustrate his mental misinterpretation of what is real. Hence the title with the word ‘tragedy’ is spot on for a character so preoccupied with his blind faith that his inability to see truth leads to his own downfall. I find Macbeth’s descent into madness emotionally devastating, though obviously his tragic end is brought about by his own doing. In a way, it’s a timeless cautionary tale about greed and unbridled ambition that resonates even four hundred years after it’s written.

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I’ll be rooting for it at the Oscars for Best Picture. I think Denzel and Frances could be a shoo-in in the Best Actor and Actress category, and I think Kathryn Hunter also deserves a nod for such an effectively-eerie performance that’s quite hard to shake. The Tragedy of Macbeth exceeds my expectations in every respect and definitely one of the absolute best films of the year. The film is on AppleTV so I highly recommend you to check it out, I know I plan to rewatch it at some point.

4.5/5 stars


Have you seen The Tragedy of Macbeth? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: DON’T LOOK UP (2021)

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In the climate we live in today, with global warming, political unrest AND pandemic wreaking havoc practically everywhere, do we need an apocalyptic movie about an extinction level event? I actually have been avoiding depressing apocalyptic movies these days, though sometimes I’m curious to see something because of the cast. Well, Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up is as starry as it gets.

We’ve got Leonardo DiCaprio as an astronomy professor Dr. Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as grad student Kate Dibiasky who discovered a huge comet the size of mount Everest (deemed the planet killer). The scariest part is that the comet is hurtling towards earth at such velocity that humanity only has mere 6 months to deflect it or we’d all be blown to smithereens. It’s a topic that hits uncomfortably too close to home, not just in terms of how divided out nation is in terms of the environment, but also in regards to the pandemic. The ‘sit tight and asses’ approach and then later using ‘don’t look up’ as a campaign slogan are so absurd yet sadly not-so-outlandish given Trump’s initial reaction to Covid.

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McKay’s script hits a few nerves, especially in terms of the growing rise of scary misinformation that’s gotten more and more out of control to the point of humanity survival’s self-sabotage. Now, even if one agrees with every point he’s making here, it doesn’t mean the film is automatically an enjoyable one. I think even a small dose of nuance would’ve worked in its favor, but then again, subtlety and restraint have not been McKay’s biggest strength.

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There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, many of them involving Leo’s character. But for the most part, it tries too hard to be funny as a lot of the jokes don’t land. Some are so way over the top it felt like I was watching an experimental variety show sketch written by interns. Besides, impending doom isn’t exactly funny business, so even when I was laughing, there’s always that nagging unsettling feeling. 

My biggest issue is how McKay writes his characters. Regardless of which side they’re on, they are borderline caricatures that none actually has a semblance of a relatable human being. Leo and Jen are the face of the ‘sane, intelligent humans’ who trust science and use crucial findings to help save humanity. While Meryl Streep as president Orlean and Jonah Hill as her chief of staff son Jason are basically Trump-inspired buffoons who can’t get their heads out of their @$$es long enough to face anything, no matter how dire, if it does not fit their agenda. Jason is definitely modeled after Eric Trump and his character is stupendously irritating.

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The film sure has star power though I can’t say it amounts any of the stars’ best work. Leo and Jen fare better here and McKay allow each of them to shine, which in this case equals to having a moment of ‘going completely berserk.’ This is Lawrence’s first big movie after a few years hiatus and her character reminds me a bit of her role in Silver Lining’s Playbook. 

Meryl and Jonah’s characters are meant to make viewers angry at their blatant ignorance and banality, so in that sense they succeeded. There are moments where I just want to throw stuff at my TV every time Orleans and Jason are talking. Same with the two morning show hosts (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) with their trivial feel-good programming. The moment Dr. Mindy just completely lost it during live TV is definitely a highlight here (it must be in Leo’s contract to have at least one freak out scene in his films).

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The most bizarre acting is courtesy of Mark Rylance who admittedly is quite inspired casting as Peter Isherwell, an amalgamation of all of the tech billionaires Jobs/Musk/Bezos combined. Rylance is a brilliant actor and while I understand his character is meant to be peculiar, it was so off-the-wall that it was cringe-worthy. But perhaps Rylance is the only actor in this ensemble who understood the assignment so well that he was actually satirizing his own character.

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The great Cate Blanchett is reduced to playing a variation of Fox News-type, sexy blond anchor. I usually love seeing Cate playing unsympathetic characters but not when her role is stripped off wit nor any kind of charm. Character actors Rob Morgan and Melanie Lynskey have a brief but memorable turns as a NASA official and Leo’s stay-at-home-mom wife, respectively, while Timothée Chalamet plays a skater boy who’s raised as an Evangelical Christian who hasn’t turned away from his faith. The praying scene towards the end is perhaps McKay’s blunt jab against a popular poll findings that even non-believers turn to prayer in the face of death.

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Most doomsday/apocalyptic movies, even the most clichéd-ridden and bombastic ones, still show a slice of humanity’s triumph against adversity. McKay on the other hand, seems to have a very pessimistic view of people as a whole. He deliberately aims for a gloom and doom approach here with no room for even a sliver of hope. As it the whole thing weren’t depressing enough, we’re subjected to a garish Ariana Grande‘s music video [aghast]. I actually have never listened to anything she’s done until now, but I have to give props to her for being a good sport about poking fun of her own pop-star persona.

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At 2hr18 min it’s also too bloated with a bunch of unnecessary scenes that don’t drive the story forward. The first hour was certainly promising, but it quickly became repetitive and verbose. The thing is, nobody likes to be hit over the head with anything, especially a topic so glaringly obvious. At the end of the day, the movie is just too pretentious and self-congratulatory for its own good. It also thinks most viewers lack the intellect to discern its allegory that he spoon fed us to the point of gagging. It’s a far cry from McKay’s previous work like The Big Short which is a biting satire of the financial crisis.

The characters are saying a lot on both sides, but in the end doesn’t the film really offer more insights than what most viewers already know. Though it may seem that way, Don’t Look Up is not as shrewd nor smart as it obviously think it is.

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Have you seen DON’T LOOK UP? Well, what did YOU think?

Merry Christmas! Five Favorite Christmas Songs in Movies 🎄

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Happy Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas, everyone! Like many of you, I’m not traveling anywhere this Christmas… it’s just too cumbersome to plan for traveling, even domestically, given this Omnicron surge. Basically the pandemic is far from over, and you know what, I’m feeling blessed that my hubby and I are in good health and we have roof over our heads … things we should never take for granted at any time, but especially these days.

Well, I’m taking a bit of a break from review writing this weekend and I thought I’d post the last Music Break post for the year. I grew up listening to Christmas music as my late mom had piles of Christmas CDs around the house. Hey, it doesn’t even have to be December to appreciate great Christmas songs.

So let me highlight some of my favorites, both from classic and contemporary movies that never fail to put me in the Christmas spirit!

HOME ALONE 2 – Somewhere in My Memory

Well, since I just saw John Williams in concert this past Fall, we’ve got to start with one of the maestro’s best and most enduring Christmas scores. I’m gonna pretend there wasn’t a remake of Home Alone that exists today… I think the first two Home Alone are as perfect a family Christmas movie as you get.

The one song that stuck with me forever is this lovely, heartwarming song that appears in a scene when Kevin is walking on a Wintry suburban street and saw a family gathering through the window and he misses his family. We all miss our loved ones at Christmas… so this song always hits me hard year after year.

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ELF – Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Elf is one of my fave Christmas comedies and there’s something so goofy yet innocent about this oversized green elf in this fish-out-of-water story. Like Kevin in Home Alone 2, Will Ferrell‘s character too is lost in New York. Zooey Deschanel has such a gorgeous voice! She’s singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside in this clip, one of the three songs she performed in this movie. I love this song and the duet is pretty cute, though I probably would totally freak out like her too if I saw a man sitting in the bathroom while I was showering!

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LAST CHRISTMAS – Last Christmas 

I just saw this movie last year and though it’s not perfect, it’s not as bad as the critics made it out to be. The London setting itself is absolutely adorable. The movie’s got its charm and Dame Emma Thompson wrote a bittersweet love story inspired by the classic song by WHAM! As an 80s kid and a big fan of George Michael, it’s one of my all time favorite Christmas songs. I thought the ending with Emilia Clarke dressed as an elf singing the song is a lovely and sweet finale.

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SCROOGED – Put A Little Love In Your Heart 

I actually saw this 1988 modern-day retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol not that long ago. Bill Murray is perfect as Scrooge, this time portrayed as a selfish and callous TV executive. After being visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, he’s transformed into a kinder man in a rousing finale.  I love this song, sung by Annie Lennox and Al Green, which became a huge hit around the world. Even though it wasn’t an original song written for the movie, the lyrics suits the story so perfectly.

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White Christmas – Irving Berlin

White Christmas is the quintessential classic holiday song and one of my personal favorites, but I didn’t realize it was featured in not one but TWO classic films.

Written by Irving Berlin, he won an Oscar for Best Original Song for the musical Holiday Inn in 1942, performed as a duet by Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds.

Well, the song is featured again a decade later in 1954 in another musical White Christmas, also starring Bing Crosby, co-starring Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety, only clips of them, especially this one featuring the namesake song.

Apparently this movie is neither a sequel nor a remake of Holiday Inn as the storyline and characters are completely different. Both have scenes during Christmas Eve however, but White Christmas‘ setting is around WWII.

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Now that I’ve shared mine, what’s your favorite Christmas song(s)? 


Here’s wishing you all

a BLESSED & JOYFUL CHRISTMAS…

Stay safe + healthy, everyone!


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