Everybody’s Chattin’ and Music Break: John Wick Soundtrack

HAPPY [almost] FRIDAY!! I’m gonna combine this month’s Chattin’ post with Music Break as I missed it the past couple of weeks. I’m getting a bit of a blog fatigue lately and I’m behind on a bunch of reviews, so I might do more mini reviews in the next few weeks. I also have two fantastic guest posts from my pals Jack Deth & Daveackackattack on David Mamet and great TV recommendations, so stay tuned!

Well, since Interstellar opens this weekend, I most likely will go see that on Saturday. It’s nearly 3 hrs long, so I don’t feel like seeing it after dinner or I’ll doze off before the first half is over.

So here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

Michael eloquently talks about his love for film photography which is increasingly become a lost art today.

OnlyLoversLeftAliveImgI can’t believe I still haven’t seen Only Lovers Left Alive, especially after such a glowing review from Mark , but fortunately I have seen Fight Club, and another Mark, as in Mark Walker illustrates why it’s definitely one of Fincher’s finest

Margaret reviewed Begin Again, which sounds lovely and I can see why she’s crushing on Mark Ruffalo 😉

Stu just caught up on The Act of Killing and I’m glad he appreciated that documentary despite not being the easiest film to watch

Drew on the other hand, is lamenting on how boring and pointless The Rover was, I had no idea Joel Edgerton wrote it!

PrinceSwitching gear to a music post, check out what makes Chris‘ list of Top 10 Songs by Prince 

Lots of new trailers are released this week, check out what you’ve missed on Terrence‘s Trailer Time Thursday

Now this is a list I can get behind… Tom lists 10 actors he avoids in pretty much anything. Wow, I agree with ALL of them, though I still don’t mind Timberlake in a small supporting role

Last but not least, Dan and Ryan have already set their minds on 2015 Blindspot lists, and they’re asking your help to choose 12 movies that you believe they must watch next year

 


Now time for some awesome music …

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… and John Wick’s puppy, cutest movie dog you’ll see this year!

A lot of you already know I love the movie but one of the things I love about it is this cool and dynamic score from Tyler Bates and Joel Richard. It fits the mood and tone so perfectly and it’ll make for an awesome dance party soundtrack! I can’t help tapping my feet and groovin’ to the beat as I’m listening to it. Screencrush said in their John Wick review that Keanu Reeves is “…the kind of star who is still partying like it’s the mid-to-late ’90s, and that’s totally more than okay…” Y’know what, the music certainly has a 90s vibe to it to match the 90s-style action sequences of shooting guns mid air and the likes.

My fave track is the Shots Fired one at the club scene, followed by Red Circle and a slower one about Willem Dafoe’s character, Old Friend Marcus.




Well have a great Friday, everyone! What are you gonna see this weekend?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & Musings on BAFTA Awards 2014

Hi everyone! Did you have a nice weekend? It’s another long weekend for me as I got Monday off for President’s Day. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as Winter storm is brewing as I’m typing this, glad I didn’t have to drive in this Wintry condition.

Before I get to my thoughts on BAFTA, here’s a summary of what I saw this weekend:

How’s your Valentine weekend? Hope you didn’t have to endure see Winter’s Tale. If you’ve read my review, then consider it a warning. I know it’s early, but it could easily end up being one of the biggest duds of 2014.

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On V-day, my hubby and I opted for a simple dinner and a movie, home cinema to be exact. I’ve been wanting to re-watch Austenland since I saw it last August and so that’s what we did. I still enjoyed it and my hubby liked it, too, there’s a reason I love my man 😉

On Saturday night, we went to see RoboCop, a second time for my hubby as he went with Ted last Monday. He liked it well enough he didn’t mind seeing it again with me. Y’know what, I quite enjoyed it. It’s not as violent as the first one, and it’s not an all-out action movie either. In fact, there’s quite a lot of backstory for the character that made me care about the ‘man inside a machine.’ There’s a lot of heart in this reboot, the humanity aspect as well as his relationship with his family is explored quite well I think. Joel Kinnaman is pretty good in the lead role in that he’s got a commanding presence and effortlessly likable. I might actually give this 3.5/5 if I were to review it, and I agree with Ted that Gary Oldman is my favorite performer in the ensemble, he just always elevates everything he’s in.

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I completely missed seeing this LIVE yesterday. I was out and about that by the time I realized BAFTA’s on, it’s already too late. So this morning I was playing catch up on the winners via The Guardian. Let’s start with the acting honors:

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

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Thrilled to see Chiwetel Ejiofor and Cate Blanchett in the Best Leading Actor/Actress category. Both did a superb performance in 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine respectively. I had been rooting for Sandra Bullock before I saw the Woody Allen film, but once I saw Cate’s performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that she should be sweeping all the awards. Classy Cate paid a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman … “Phil, your monumental talent, generosity and unflinching quest for truth in art and life will be missed by so many people. You raised the bar continually so very, very high and all we can do in your absence is try to continually raise the bar. Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud.” [per Deadline] We truly missed a great talent, but it really took one to know one.

Congrats to Barkhad Abdi, what a year it’s been for the former Minneapolis limo driver! Though I think he did a fine job opposite Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, I had wished that Daniel Brühl would get the honor. Same with Sally Hawkins who should win instead of Jennifer Lawrence who’s absent from the festivities. I’m more disappointed in that than Brühl not winning. I’m REALLY hoping the Academy does right by Hawkins and give her the well-deserved honor.

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Oh… one of my top 3 favorite British Dames Helen Mirren was honored the BAFTA Fellowship Award, yay!! I LOVE that Prince William joked that he should call her ‘Granny,’ referring to her award-winning portrayal in The Queen. I read about her charming speech in that she offered her gratitude to a great teacher who encouraged her to be an actor.

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Now to the question of Best Film of the Year.

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best British Film: Gravity

Seems that there still is no clear winner and come Oscar I think it’ll still come down to a thriller set in space and a slavery drama. Interesting that there’s a Best Film and Best British Film category, which went to 12 Years a Slave and Gravity respectively. As quoted by Deadline, Alfonso Cuarón said backstage that, “There are rules that make a film eligible for Best British Film. Gravity definitely has all the requirements, except a couple of Mexicans that came here — legally! — and a couple of American stars. It was shot in this country, developed in this country, and with cutting-edge technology developed by British artists.” I have no qualms about the eligibility stuff, obviously the BAFTA deems it eligible and that’s that. Gravity deserves all the kudos, it won six out of the possible 11 noms, including Best Original Score, Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Visual Effects, Sound AND Best Director honor for Alfonso Cuarón. It’s my number 1 film of the year so I’d be happy if it sweeps the Oscars as well!  

Other BAFTA winners I’m thrilled about: 

Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby
Best Costumes: The Great Gatsby

BAFTA_JoshuaOppenheimerHuge congrats to Joshua Oppenheimer for winning Best Documentary!! It’s the only documentary that I included in my Top 10 films of the year, and Joshua was gracious enough to grant me an interview. I told him I would be rooting for him come award season, so I’m super thrilled that he’s also up for an Oscar! I love that he dedicated his award to his anonymous crew, “I dedicate this award to them. This film couldn’t be made without people who risked their safety and changed their careers to work on it. Professors, human rights leaders. … They stopped everything they were doing to work on the film, knowing they couldn’t take credit for their work.”  [per Deadline]

Yay for FROZEN, another one of my Top 10 favorites! It’s no contest they will win Best Animated Film at the Oscar, it’s a shoo-in at this point. The production design and costumes of The Great Gatsby are definitely the major highlights of the film so kudos to Catherine Martin! Seems that she’s gotten far more honors in her husband Baz Luhrmann‘s films than Baz himself.

So this is the last major award ceremony before the Oscars on March 2nd. BRING. IT. ON!


So what did you see this weekend? Thoughts on the BAFTA winners?

TOP 10 FILMS of 2013 and The Worst/Most Disappointing Films of the Year

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It took me a while to finally publish my Top 10 list, but my plan was to post this sometime in January anyway. Now, when I say ‘top movies’ it’s sort of a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Rewatchability is a factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types (for me anyway), but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

Last year I did something different where I posted my Top 10 of the First Half of 2013 back in July, though only one of the films I listed there made it to this FINAL list. Yeah, I’m quite surprised by that as well, but I guess a lot of great films were released in the latter half of the year. 2013 has been a pretty good year for movies so I couldn’t resist actually making a Top 20 (scroll down to read it), as well the unfortunate WORST list that we moviegoers are likely to be subjected to year after year [sigh].

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. Captain Phillips (full review)

Ten_CaptPhillipsUnder a lesser director than Paul Greengrass, this film could’ve easily been a run-of-the-mill action film. Fortunately, even when you already knew the story did end well for the Captain, Greengrass and screenwriter Billy Ray managed to deliver one heck of a thrill ride.

Tom Hanks once again proved he’s one of the most consistently accomplished actors of his generation with his astute portrayal. The genius casting doesn’t stop there, as  newcomer Barkhad Abdi is quite a revelation in portraying a villain that’s so much more than a caricature. The direction, performance, cinematography and score all made for a taut, cerebral thriller from start to finish.

9. August: Osage County

Nine_AugustOsageCounty It’s especially challenging to adapt from a stage play, but somehow director John Wells did an admirable job making it work. The ensemble cast worked wonderfully and it manages to be both hilarious and moving. There’s beauty amidst all that chaos and it’s quite amusing that at times the madness of the Weston family actually hits pretty close to home. It’s no surprise that Meryl Streep can pretty much play ANYONE, and as the pill-popping matriarch Violet, she made even the Prada-wearing Miranda Priestly seems warm and fuzzy! I’m especially impressed by Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale and Julianne Nicholson are especially worth-noting. Oh and Benedict Cumberbatch also proved his versatility playing a role that’s a complete opposite of Sherlock. Plus he sings, too!

8. The Act of Killing (review + interview w/ director)

Eight_TheActOfKillingIt’s truly one of THE most harrowing films I saw in a long time and not only because it involved my home country’s history. As if all the re-enactments of the gruesome genocide wasn’t enough, the perpetrators went even further in making an elaborate theatrical performances of their past that’s as surreal as it is disturbing. Major kudos to director Joshua Oppenheimer for tackling a subject matter that not many people know about, and made it in such an inventive way. Though it’s really tough to watch, I still would recommend people to give it a shot. It’s an essential viewing in that this incident isn’t just about Indonesia, but it speaks volumes about our humanity and what we humans are capable of

7. Nebraska (full review)

Seven_NebraskaThis film was an absolute surprise when I saw this at TCFF as I hadn’t heard much about it. Like August: Osage county, this one also deals with a quirky family. I feel that this one has a more compelling character development as I felt an odd kinship with Bruce Dern‘s Woody and his son David (Will Forte). I think the ending is one of my favorites of the year as it’s hilarious but also full of heart. This is one family road movie that you’d be glad you tag along.

6. The Hunt (full review)

Six_TheHuntFew films I saw last year got me as riled up as this one. It’s another film festival gem that I’m glad I got to experience, though not something I’m keen on seeing again. The way the story unfolds is most unsettling, made even more eerie by director Thomas Vinterberg‘s minimalist but atmospheric style. He found the perfect actor for the protagonist in fellow Dane Mads Mikkelsen who also subscribed to the less-is-more principle in delivering maximum impact with subtle nuances. Superb in every sense of the word.

5. 12 Years A Slave (full review)

Five_12YearsASlaveI finally get what the fuss is about with British director Steve McQueen. This is only his third film but he’s certainly made an indelible mark in the filmmaking industry. The story of Solomon Northrup, a former free man who was tricked and sold into slavery, made the darkest chapter of human history so hauntingly personal. Glad to see the talented actor Chiwetel Ejiofor getting much-deserved attention for his eloquent and stirring performance. A powerfully-breathtaking work of art, in more ways than one.

4. MUD 

Four_MUDThis is the film that got me so upset I couldn’t see it at the MSP film fest as it was snowing so hard. I’m glad I finally saw it when it’s out on rental and what a gem it is! Like McQueen, this is my intro to Jeff Nichols which is also his third film. I really like the story of unlikely friendship and this is one of the roles that brings about Matthew McConnaughey‘s career transformation. I also got to discover Tye Sheridan as one of the boys who befriended Mud. The stunning cinematography of Arkansas’ Mississippi river banks could be a character in itself, it definitely adds to the beauty of this film.

3. Frozen (full review)

Three_FrozenIt may seem like a traditional Disney princess movie as it’s also set in a Kingdom in a far-away land, but fortunately there’s more to it than that. I absolutely adore the story and the characters, with the funny and kind protagonist Anna being one of the most enchanting character that kids and adults alike can look up to. There are much fun to be had watching this film, but it’s also got so much heart. It’s certainly one of my favorite 2013 films I’ll watch over and over again.

2. HER (full review)

Two_HER2013 turns out to be full of surprises in terms of movies, and this one is at the top of the GREAT surprise. There’s barely any buzz surrounding this when I saw it, but it absolutely mesmerized me. It’s the most bizarre exploration of love in the modern world, but also one of the most emotionally-gratifying. It’s the kind of film that makes you ponder about the possibilities and effects of technology in our daily life, but more profoundly, it makes us reflect in what really makes us human. I’ve only seen one film by Spike Jonze but after this I’m real curious to see what he’ll tackle next. As for the performances, Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson made the most arresting couple in recent memory despite the latter not being physically present in the film.

1. Gravity (full review)

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I saw this last October and I knew it would top my Best list. I kept wondering though if in the next two months there might have been another film that might dethrone it. Well, as of today, it still reigns as THE best film of 2013 for me. Her comes pretty darn close but overall I think Alfonso Cuarón‘s work is still more deserving to take the top spot. I have always loved Sandra Bullock and her outstanding performance here has become a career’s best even in her long filmography. As I said in my review, I ran out of adjectives to describe this film. It’s an exceptional kind of work that people will be talking about for years and people study about in film schools. A pretty simple story set entirely in space, yet it’s a feast for the eyes, ears, mind and soul. Plus, it boasts a finale that makes you want to get up and cheer. Can’t top THAT!


These 10 would likely make my Top 20:

It’s a testament to a pretty strong year of movies last year was that I have a long list of Honorable Mentions. Now, before I get to the general list of Honorable Mentions, I should prioritize films that I thought were excellent but for one reason or another, they just didn’t make it to my top 10 (in random order):

  1. Lee Daniels’ The Butler
  2. RUSH
  3. The Kings of Summer
  4. American Hustle
  5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  6. Pacific Rim
  7. Saving Mr. Banks
  8. Stoker
  9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  10. Man of Steel

You might be surprised that Man of Steel didn’t make my Top 10 considering how much I had been anticipating it. Well, upon third viewing (3rd time being on Blu-ray), somehow I just wasn’t wowed by it anymore. In fact, I found myself picking faults with it that I either overlooked or didn’t mind at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the film and I probably will watch it again, but I just don’t think it deserves to be on my Top 10.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Now some of these films are on my list from the first half of 2013. They’re definitely worth your while when you’re looking for something good to rent:


MOST DISAPPOINTING:

The Wolverine (full review)

It’s not quite a terrible movie so I don’t think it deserves to be on the WORST list, but I was expecting SO much more from this. It’s not enough that it’s better than the original Wolverine movie. Plus it had so much promise the fact that it’s set in Japan and we’re supposed to get a compelling back-story into one of X-Men’s most bad-ass mutants. Alas, apart from a few exciting scenes, I find myself feeling quite bored by this movie. I expected a great deal of emotional gravitas from the story, but I didn’t connect with Wolverine’s Japanese journey as much as I had hoped.

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WORST OF THE YEAR:

Ok I’m glad that at least my bad list is shorter than my good list and thankfully I saw less horrible films in the latter half of the year. In any case, my initial Top Five Worst List from last July still stands (listed first), with two more that I saw after that. So avoid these if you can help it, you’ve been warned!


So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2013. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀

The Act of Killing review and Interview with director Joshua Oppenheimer

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Before I review this film, I think it’s important to give a bit of background on how I came to know about this film. I first heard of it from an Indonesian friend of mine when I went back to Jakarta last December. At the time I hadn’t even heard of the film, but she said it was about the events in 1965, when the Indonesian government led by the first president Sukarno was overthrown in a military coup. Every Indonesian in my generation was subjected to brainwashing by the Suharto regime that the communist party (PKI) is evil and that they pose a mortal threat. Every year we had to watch a propaganda film that’s broadcasted in every single TV network so there’s no way we could’ve escaped it, whilst there’s not a single mention of this brutal massacre anywhere in our history books.

What this film exposes is that the new military dictatorship basically used any means at their disposal to get rid of anyone presumed to have any association with the communist movement. The killings resulted in one of the most brutal genocide in history, with nearly a million people slaughtered within a year. The Act of Killing is a documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish. It’s obvious some of the scenes they re-enacted are inspired by Hollywood films, as the perpetrators of the killings themselves admitted that they’re big fans of violent Brando and Pacino movies. In fact, some of the perpetrators who were ‘premans’ (street-level gangsters) used to be ticket scalpers preying on fans of Hollywood movies at their local cinemas.

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No doubt this is one of the most bizarre and frightening films I’ve ever seen, but also one of the most inventive. Most documentaries I’ve seen usually have talking heads or footage of the subject matter, but in this case, we not only get the first-hand account of the event, but the perpetrators themselves willingly re-enact the brutal events on camera. I enjoyed the fact that the dialog is in Indonesian, so that fact, along with the setting of film, gave me a sense of nostalgia. But the film is so disturbing I had to watch it in two parts. I’ve never felt so many conflicting emotions running through me as I’m watching it, and even days later, it’s all I could think about.

The documentary is so well-crafted as it really transported me to another realm. Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent nearly a decade working on this film, which grew out of another project he was working on in Indonesia [more on that in the interview below]. The Texas-born filmmaker [who currently resides in Copenhagen] had been fluent in Indonesian whilst filming this (you could hear him speaking Bahasa Indonesia to the actors in the film), and it’s apparent that he cares very deeply about the story. I’m amazed at how candid the former death squad leaders were in revealing the acts of killings they did four decades ago, down to the most gruesome details, both in words and in the form of the various re-enactments. It’s interesting that in some of the scenes they’re playing the ‘victim’ of the torture and execution. At one point Anwar said to Joshua that perhaps he could feel what his victims felt when they were subjected to such horrifying terror, but the director wisely but politely rebuked him. Obviously he could never felt what his victims felt, given that what Anwar took part in was only fiction, not the real deal.

The word ‘amusing’ perhaps isn’t what you’d expect in a documentary about mass killings… yet the re-enactments that were inspired by various Hollywood genres ranging from Cowboy movies, crime drama, and bizarre musical numbers where a member of Indonesian paramilitary Pemuda Pancasila was dressed in an ornate drag costume. Some of the scenes are actually funny, I guess maybe because they’re speaking in my native tongue I was able to pick up some of the gestures/jokes that might’ve been lost to non-Indo speakers. Yet I found myself feeling guilty when I laughed at some of the scenarios, because obviously it’s revolting that these guys are in such good spirits and joking around whilst filming such horrific acts. It’s one thing when an actor has to act out a fictional violent film, but every scenes they depicted here are based on true acts of killing that they themselves performed to hundreds of thousand innocent victims.

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Adi (left) and Anwar being made-up for one of the re-enactment scenes

The film focuses mainly on two of the most notorious death squad leaders in North Sumatra, Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry. It’s interesting to note the different reactions between the two in how they cope with their past sins. Anwar seems somewhat remorseful and honest about being haunted by his past, in the form of nightmares and psychological torment, whilst Adi is more defiant and in denial about how his past doesn’t really affect him. There’s an absurd conversation between the two when they’re talking about seeing a shrink to help alleviate their psychological issues. Ahah yeah, as if THAT would help anyone escape their conscience! One of the most intriguing character in the film is Herman, who’s dressed in drag for a good part of the film. He wasn’t actually involved in the massacre at the time as he was only about 10 years old then, but he played a prominent part in this film. His evolution throughout the film is striking as he starts out as someone who greatly admires his friend Anwar. As the film progresses, it’s as if his eyes were opened to the reality of evil that he’s somehow being shielded from all his life.

Despite all the grisly depictions, the most affecting scenes to me are surprisingly those when no words are spoken. Whether it’s a scene of Herman playing drums while wailing and screaming uncontrollably, or the deafeningly quiet moment when Anwar simply stops at the stairway as he’s going down from the rooftop where a lot of the killings happened. Both scenes rendered me speechless. But really, there are too many breathtaking moments to mention in this film. It’s truly a film one must experience, I don’t think my review does it justice as it barely scratch the surface of the depth of what’s being depicted on screen. Harrowing, shocking, and at times unbearable to watch… but it’s also surprisingly poetic and beautiful. There are few films out there that I’d call essential viewing, but I think this documentary is one of them. I’m not just saying that because it pertains the darkest history of my homeland, but as Joshua told me during the interview, this incident isn’t just about Indonesia, but it speaks volumes about our humanity and what we humans are capable of.

I hope you’d check it out when it’s out in your area or available to rent. Be sure to seek out the 159-min director cut whenever possible. I’m sincerely hoping that The Act of Killing would get a nod for Best Documentary at the Oscars, as well as other kudos come award season.

FCInterview

Below is my interview with Joshua Oppenheimer. He was so gracious when we met at the lobby of W Hotel, and when I greeted him in Indonesian, he immediately started speaking Bahasa Indonesia to me so he’s obviously still quite fluent in my native language. As we sat down, he told me that I was the very first English-language interviewer who’s Indonesian. What an honor that is indeed!

Josh, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU so much for taking the time in speaking with me. Terima kasih seribu! 😀

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Photo courtesy of MPR

Please note that I had to break up the interview clips to make it more ‘digestible,’ but I did not edit anything that was being said. Click on the arrow to take a listen.

What makes you interested in this story about Indonesian history as an American?

This is not a story about Indonesian… this is a story about all of us. It’s how we as human beings commit evil, how we tell stories to justify… to lie to ourselves … So it’s not some distant reality. It’s the underbelly of our reality.

My father’s family and my step-mother’s family narrowly escaped the Holocaust. I grew up with the slogan, in the name of all culture, to prevent these things from happening.

How the film of The Act of Killing come about… which is a direct result from making ‘The Globalization Tapes’ documentary in 2001/2002:

Please come back and make a film about what happened in 1965… and about the oppression, fear, corruption, and impunity that was based on that.

The challenges in getting this film made:

The killing was the most important thing they [the perpetrators] have ever done in their whole life… and the basis for any career they’d ever have … What the perpetrators were boasting and telling things that was far more incriminating than anything the survivors could’ve said.

I felt like I’ve wandered into Germany, forty years after the Holocaust and somehow the Nazi’s still in power. And yet I recognize it’s a horrible situation, an important situation, but it’s not an unusual situation.

How did the re-enactments in the film come to be? Was it the perpetrators’ idea?

It grew organically… the whole method was a response to their openness.

When the audience see the perpetrators’ boasting, they’ll understand why we’re so afraid and the nature of this whole regime.

Photo courtesy of the AV Club
Photo courtesy of the AV Club

Filming the perpetrators… and their reaction about being the subjects of this film

Anwar was the 41st death squad member that I filmed. All of them were open and boastful, and they wanted to take me to the places they killed and show me how they did it. I was trying to understand what is the function of this openness… why and for whom are they so open?

What do you want people to get out of seeing this film?

I want the audience to see for one second… I want them to recognize a small part of themselves in Anwar. Because the moment you do that, the whole fantasy that the world is divided up between good guys and bad guys has to collapse… in that moment you can recognize that we’re much closer to these perpetrators than we’d like to think.

* The t-shirt Josh is referring to here is the $6 t-shirt he got from H&M that was made in Bangladesh, where the factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers made news back in April.

How did Werner Herzog become exec producer of this film?

Werner saw the director’s cut and said ‘do not cut this.’ But I’d be happy to watch cuts of the film, make sure you didn’t remove any ‘vital organs’ of the film.

It turns out that Joshua knew Herzog through one of the exec producers, British producer Andre Singer, has produced Herzog’s films in the past.

Did you get nightmares from filming… which part affects you the most?

It’s so irreversible what he’s done… Life is one way. That’s why we have to treat it with such care as something so precious, as we have only one chance.

The day after the interview, I attended a masterclass at Walker Art Center where Joshua did a 2-hour Q&A session about the film. I wish the recording had been available for me to link to, but I learned a bit more about the filmmaking process and how the film’s received in Indonesia, both by the perpetrators and the survivors of the victims of the massacre. If you see the end credits of the documentary, you’ll see that many of the names are listed as ‘anonymous.’ That’s because this film is such a controversial and risky endeavor for the people involved in making it. Even Joshua himself admitted that if he were to go back to Indonesia, he’s probably allowed in but not sure if he could get out safely. There are still powerful people who aren’t too keen that he made this film, nor did they ever thought this film would get such an International attention. I for one am thankful that Joshua made The Act of Killing and exposes the injustice and indescribable cruelty the perpetrators did. Even if they’d never get persecuted for war crimes, I sure hope some kind of justice will come out because of this.

Lastly, in response to my question about how the victims’ survivors respond to the film, Joshua revealed that a follow-up film is in the works on that topic. No details are available yet but for sure I’ll be on the lookout for that.


Thoughts on The Act of Killing, either the review and the interview? If you’ve seen the film, I’d love to hear what you think.

Five for the Fifth: AUGUST 2013 Edition

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Hello folks, welcome to the 8th Five for the Fifth of the year!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item, observation, trailer, actor/director spotlight, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. August 5th is Neil Armstrong‘s birthday. The first man on the moon would’ve been 82 today. When he died almost exactly a year ago on August 25 (see my music-themed tribute here), some articles (like this one) reported on an [inevitable] biopic on his life. Not sure what have become of that project, which is baffling to me as Hollywood LOVES biopics, and Armstrong seems to have a story worth telling, aside from his accomplishments in space engineering.

NeilArmstrong

This Guardian article from 2008 had some casting ideas, but I think some of those might be moot at this point. One name they threw out was Viggo Mortensen, which would be awesome, even if at 54 he’s too old to play Armstrong when he first landed on the moon, which was 38.

Thoughts on this project? Who do you think would be a good fit to play Neil Armstrong?


2.  In my June Five for the Fifth, I mentioned about 2 Guns in my question about Mark Wahlberg. Well, that movie tops box office this weekend with $27 mil. Not bad considering its budget is only $61 mil. I guess both Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg can open a movie on their own, so combine the two together, I’m not surprised the film does well.

2GunsWashingtonWahlberg

The movie is more of a rental to me though. Terrence gave it a 3 out 5 stars, so it’s not horrible, but not something I have to see on the big screen. I quite like buddy action flicks though, that’s a tried-and-true genre that relies on the charm and chemistry of the cast. Some of my fave buddy action/comedy flicks are Lethal Weapons, Tango & Cash, The Other Guys, Hot Fuzz, and most recently, 21 Jump Street.

How about you, what are YOUR favorite buddy action flicks?


3. Some of you who’ve read my July Recap knows that The Act of Killing documentary is my Movie of the Month. I’m still mulling it over after seeing it last week.

JoshuaDirectingTheActofKilling

After chatting with the filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer and attending his Q&A at Walker Art Center this weekend, I have a better appreciation of the filmmaking process, though it’s certainly a film one would be hard pressed to comprehend. I will post my review and interview w/ Joshua later this week, but here’s the trailer:

So far the film has garnered all kinds of accolades and awards from all over the world. It’s Rotten Tomatoes rating is currently 97%, the summary reads like this: Raw, terrifying, and painfully difficult to watch, The Act of Killing offers a haunting testament to the edifying, confrontational power of documentary cinema. Trust me, it’s no hyperbole and it’s easily THE most haunting documentary I’ve ever seen, and I’m not saying that because the subject matter focuses on my homeland Indonesia. I can’t recommend this enough folks, especially if you like history or simply compelling stories that’s told in an inventive way. I certainly hope it’d be nominated for an Academy Awards next year.

Speaking of recommendations, what has been the most memorable documentary you saw in the last 12 months?


ChrisEvans_incar4. Actors venturing into directing films are nothing new. We’ve certainly seen some movie stars garnering accolades for directing AND starring in their films (George Clooney, Ben Affleck, etc.), and now Chris Evans is attempting to do just that. Per SlashFilm, the Captain America star reportedly will direct and star in a romantic drama called 1:30 Train. Here’s the initial plot of the film:

Two strangers who meet in Manhattan and spend one night together as the conflicts in their own lives become the basis for their exploration of each other and themselves.”

Some sites are describing it as being in the vein of Richard Linklaters’ Before Sunrise, which intrigues me, Hollywood needs more compelling romantic dramas instead of rom-coms. Now, I’m warming up to Evans as an actor, I mean he’s not a stellar actor by any means but I like that he tries to mix up different genres. He’s fitting in an apocalypse thriller Snowpiercer (hopefully it’ll get a US release date soon), and now this, in between his Avengers gig. Curious who’d be cast as the love interest, but in any case, I wish him the best of luck on this project!

What do you think of Chris Evans’ directorial debut idea? Does the film appeal to you?


5. Now, I know it’s only August, nominations isn’t going to start for another four months. But hey, since they’ve already announced that Ellen DeGeneres will host the Oscars next year (which is awesome as she’s FUNNY without being mean-spirited!), I think it’s fair game to talk about Oscar predictions… or wish list.

The one film that’s a shoo-in come award season is Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years A Slave. 

12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.  Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.  In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

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The cast is incredible, but I’m especially thrilled to see Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role!! I’ve been championing the talented Brit for years, he was on my list of foreign actors to watch (along with his co-star Michael Fassbender!). I’m sincerely hoping that this film would come to Twin Cities Film Fest in October (ahead of its limited release on December 27), as MN-native Bill Pohlad is one of the film’s producers.

Oh man, I cried just watching the trailer! I better pack a box of tissue when I watch the film. I LOVE that Benedict Cumberbatch is in this as well, this is the second time he’s doing a slavery-themed film, the first one was Amazing Grace, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen yet.

Our resident Oscar expert Josh @ Classicblanca has put up his Oscar predictions last week, and I’m thrilled to see he’s predicting Ejiofor under the Best Actor noms. I’d love to see Fassy get a nom in Best Supporting Actor category too, since he was overlooked last year, but I REALLY want Ejiofor to finally get his dues after years of memorable, supporting performances. I know that after seeing him in Endgame, he’s definitely a capable leading man.

P.S. In the Best Actress category, I’d love to Cate Blanchett get a nom as well. I mean, just from seeing a trailer and clip of Blue Jasmine, she’s certainly in top form being the chameleon actor that she is!

Well, now my last question to you is: Which actor (or actress) would you love to getting a nomination come award season?


That’s it for the AUGUST 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these subjects.

JULY Movie Watching Recap and Movie of the Month

MonthlyWatchingRecap_July

Happy August everybody! I missed June’s recap because it was such a whirlwind month for me, but it’s back now!

Whoah, it’s the last month of the year before we get to the ‘–ber’ month (or brrrrrr month if you’re in Minnesota!)… and that also means the end of Blockbuster Movies is near. I think there are only a couple of Summer movies left, Smurfs 2 this weekend, and We’re The Millers & Elysium next weekend.

Now, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from this past month:

New-to-me Films Watched:

ACatinParis

A Cat in Paris (2010)

PacRim

Pacific Rim

DespicableMe2

Despicable Me

Tremors

Tremors

RED2RED 2

TheWolverine

The Wolverine

WereTheMillers

We’re The Millers (review next week)

ActOfKilling

The Act of Killing (2012)


Rewatches:

MansfieldPark1999

Mansfield Park

XMen

X-Men (2000)

BatmanYearOne

Batman: Year One

BatmanBegins

Batman Begins

VicarsOfDibley_ChristmasSpecial

The Vicars of Dibley (Christmas Special)

July seems to have gone by pretty quickly. I didn’t see any film the first weekend of July, but I guess I was able to see quite a bit of movies in about three weeks. The surprise film of the month for me has been Pacific Rim, which I saw twice in a month, with The Wolverine being the most disappointing.


Movie of the Month:

JulyMovie_TheActOfKilling

I was going to put down Pac Rim as movie of the month but that was before I saw this film.

The Act of Killing is a chilling documentary that recounts the mass-killings in 1965, which is the darkest moments in my homeland Indonesia’s history. I saw this a couple of nights ago and well, all the adjectives you’ve probably heard about this film: harrowing, disturbing, shocking, brutal, mind-blowing, etc. are no hyperbole. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before and one that I won’t soon forget.

This is what Werner Herzog, who was one of the producers of the film, said about it:

“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, & frightening in at least a decade.”

I’ll be interviewing director Joshua Oppenheimer tomorrow afternoon, so stay tuned for my review and the interview post next week!


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in July?