Film Review: Ma’Rosa (2016)

Directed by: Brillante Ma Mendoza ma-rosa-poster
Written by: Troy Espiritu
Produced by: Larry Castillo


In Brillante Mendoza’s latest feature, Jaclyn Jose stars as the tituar character, the Reyes matriarch running a small sari-sari store (term for a Filipino retail store mostly located in front of the owner’s house) who makes ends meet by selling meth in small doses. Things go wrong when she and her husband are taken by corrupt policemen. For the police not to press charges against them, Rosa is forced to reveal her drug supplier as well as to pay 200,000 pesos (roughly 4,000 USD) as bribe. With Rosa and her husband locked down in the police station, her three children are compelled to produce the bribe in the span of the weekend.

Despite its lukewarm reception at its Cannes premiere, the film suddenly bagged a surprise Best Actress win for its lead Jaclyn Jose come awards night, rising above more popular contenders like Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Sonia Braga (Aquarius), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper).

Despite the seemingly dark horse win, it is no fluke – Jose’s performance is right there with previous winners Rooney Mara (Carol) and Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy). I even prefer her over strong wins like Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars), Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia), and Berenice Bejo (The Past).

Known for her campy and over-the top performances in her recent works, Jaclyn Jose deserves to get this kind of lead role that plays with her strength in a surprising way. Removed of any form of vanity or self-consciousness, she moves around and delivers her dialogue like a natural. She makes the docudrama feel of the film work (and not the shabby cinematography). She hits no false note; everything about her performance slow boiling until it reaches its delicious pay-off in the end.

It’s a performance that haunts not because of how much is happening in her character, but how much she tries to keep herself intact until she crumbles down. In a delicious story of the titular character’s fall, Jose shines beyond her film. If only the film stayed with her for more. The rest of the cast work well in sync with the film’s entirety, but none shines other than Jose.

As with Mendoza’s other features, one of its most evident successes is building a tangible milieu where everything comes to life, whether it be the rural life in Tawi-Tawi (Thy Womb) or the constricted captivity inside a travelling vehicle (Kinatay).

Inching in details of the characters’ impoverished lives and their wayward means to survive serves the nuance in bringing them into a non-judgemental light. The discomfort in watching this (mostly by the aforementioned cinematography) somehow works in the context of the film-going experience, together with its concise editing, atmospheric music (by the ever-reliable and frequent Mendoza collaborator Teresa Barrozo), and haunting sound design.


However, two things are holding me back from being totally won over by this film.

Firstly, while the film’s first half brims with palpable tension that is breathtaking in execution and pacing, its uneven structure in the second half somewhat distracts the film from its over-all power. While the first half invests on Rosa’s plight as a struggling mother, once she was jailed, the film decides to take the route of following her three children in pursuit of getting their bribe money. This would have been the logical route to take given the narrative’s turn of events, but this also served the film its own disadvantages.

Veering away from the character we empathized for the first half is probably not the smartest choice. Though the family’s over-all plight in desperation is effectively depicted, the film throws away its potential to let the audience stay with Jaclyn Jose, the film’s most potent asset. She is so good and effective as the lead character, she deserved to at least be seen more at the film’s second half. There is also the possibility of exploring the character’s psyche, especially Rosa’s, and that would have been a deeper exploration of the themes. Alas, the film focuses on the external experience of the characters; that’s an observation, not really a mistake.

Here comes my second qualm: the ending. Without spoiling the ending, the already iconic ‘fishball’ scene is probably what secured Jose’s best actress win at Cannes. It’s an enthralling actressing moment that serves the film its final emotional punch, a delicious display of how raw and real acting in film could get. Here, Jose gives it all. In quietness, she throws away any sense of artifice that brings out the rawness in this drama. This might probably be the single crowning moment of her career, a scene that packs power, proving Jose’s strengths as an actress…

…until the film overdoes the message by staying on its very final shot way too long. I wish the film had the confidence to stay on Jose’s face and use it as the final image that we see because frankly, her shot while eating could have been the powerful ending we needed. Alas, the film went too long in stating its message by showing another shot. True, we’re talking about a single shot. But when you have the film’s strongest scene, and it’s in the very ending, you wouldn’t want to ruin it by overstaying.

If you would notice, almost half of my review is all about how great Jaclyn Jose. This is mainly because aside from Jose, this is middle-tier Mendoza: I still think his best film was Thy Womb while Captive and Kinatay are stronger outings than this one. But so as not to take away anything from the film, this film has its evident strengths.

In terms of its Oscar prospects, I do think that while Ma’Rosa stands a better chance as one of the more high-profile films from the 85 submissions accepted by the Academy, this year has its more known contenders that might drown Ma’Rosa’s buzz. I’m not going to discuss whether Ma’Rosa will fit the Academy’s taste because they have done some surprising choices in this category (2010’s Dogtooth immediately comes to mind) so it’s never safe to just conclude. Here’s hoping for the best, though.

Grade: B+



RANKED: Academy Award-Nominated Performances (2010-2015)

As you may have noticed, the blog has been in an indefinite hiatus (are you still there?). Now having some free time, I’ve decided to take things slowly and start writing a bit more. I haven’t stopped watching films, but I’ve ventured on a project that went way out of control (specifically, the Annual TFO Awards).


Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience have posted his personal ranking of all the 120 Academy Award-nominated performances from 2010 to 2015. For your enjoyment, here is the (very well-edited) video ranking of Ali Benzekri posted on Vimeo accompanying his post:

After reading their fascinating rankings, I was like “why not?” I have seen all 120 performances, and here is my ranking as of August 22, 2016; I’m quite sure this ranking would change any other day.

Here is my personal ranking of the nominated performances:



  1. Cate Blanchett as Jeanette “Jasmine” French in Blue JasmineWINNER
  2. Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron LadyWINNER
  3. Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne in Gone Girl
  4. Marion Cotillard as Sandra Bya in Two Days, One Night
  5. Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird in Carol
  6. Jean Dujardin as George Valentin in The ArtistWINNER
  7. Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers in Black SwanWINNER
  8. Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in The Master
  9. Emmanuelle Riva as Anne Laurent in Amour
  10. Michelle Williams as Cindy Heller in Blue Valentine
  11. Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet in Carol
  12. Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark in The Help
  13. Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson in Birdman
  14. J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher in WhiplashWINNER
  15. Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone in Gravity
  16. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street
  17. Naomi Watts as Maria Bennett in The Impossible
  18. Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers ClubWINNER
  19. Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome in RoomWINNER
  20. Jacki Weaver as Janine “Cody” Smurf in Animal Kingdom
  21. Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey in Brooklyn
  22. Bradley Cooper as Patrizio “Pat Solitano, Jr. in Silver Linings Playbook
  23. Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer in 45 Years
  24. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd in The Master
  25. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass in The RevenantWINNER
  26. Nicole Kidman as Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole
  27. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave
  28. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network
  29. Javier Bardem as Uxbal in Biutiful
  30. Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans in BoyhoodWINNER
  31. Edward Norton as Mike Shiner in Birdman
  32. Sally Hawkins as Ginger in Blue Jasmine
  33. Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener in The Danish GirlWINNER
  34. Meryl Streep as Violet Weston in August: Osage County
  35. Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les MiserablesWINNER
  36. Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote in The Help
  37. Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Creed
  38. Melissa Leo as Alice Eklund-Ward in The FighterWINNER



  1. Julianne Moore as Alice Daly-Howland in Still AliceWINNER
  2. Demian Bichir as Carlos Galindo in A Better Life
  3. Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald in The Revenant
  4. Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano in Joy
  5. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  6. Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech
  7. Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings PlaybookWINNER
  8. Bradley Cooper as Richard “Richie” DiMaso in American Hustle
  9. Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave
  10. Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston-Fordham in August: Osage County
  11. Jessica Chastain as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty
  12. Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman
  13. Max von Sydow as The Renter in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  14. Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in Wild
  15. Helen Hunt as Cheryl Cohen-Greene in The Sessions
  16. Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s SpeechWINNER
  17. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables
  18. Christoph Waltz as King Schultz in Django UnchainedWINNER
  19. Mark Ruffalo as Michael “Mike” Rezendes in Spotlight
  20. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs
  21. Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers ClubWINNER
  22. Matt Damon as Mark Watney in The Martian
  23. Melissa McCarthy as Megan Price in Bridesmaids
  24. Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser/Edith Greensly in American Hustle
  25. John Hawkes as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone
  26. Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in LincolnWINNER
  27. Annette Bening as Nicole “Nic” Allgood in The Kids are All Right
  28. Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey in 12 Years a SlaveWINNER
  29. Gary Oldman as George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  30. Bruce Dern as Woodrow “Woody” Grant in Nebraska
  31. Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs
  32. Amy Adams as Charlene Fleming in The Fighter
  33. Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The FighterWINNER
  34. Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson in The HelpWINNER
  35. Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans, Jr. in Boyhood
  36. Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street
  37. James Franco as Aaron Ralston in 127 Hours
  38. Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone
  39. Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
  40. Benedict Cumberbatch as Aaron Turing in The Imitation Game
  41. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball
  42. Barkhad Abdi as Abduwali Muse in Captain Phillips
  43. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight
  44. Christopher Plummer as Hal Fields in BeginnersWINNER
  45. Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild
  46. Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game
  47. Jacki Weaver as Dolores Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook



  1. Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde-Hawking in The Theory of Everything
  2. Judi Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena
  3. Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of EverythingWINNER
  4. George Clooney as Matthew King in The Descendants
  5. Laura Dern as Bobbi Grey in Wild
  6. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight
  7. Meryl Streep as The Witch in Into the Woods
  8. Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper
  9. June Squibb as Kate Grant in Nebraska
  10. Steve Carell as John Du Pont in Foxcatcher
  11. Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs in Albert Nobbs
  12. Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle
  13. Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn
  14. Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln
  15. Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in True Grit
  16. Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn
  17. Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller in The Artist
  18. Denzel Washington as William “Whip” Whitaker, Sr. in Flight
  19. Robert De Niro as Patrizio “Pat” Solitano, Sr. in Silver Linings Playbook
  20. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit
  21. Mark Ruffalo as David Schultz in Foxcatcher
  22. Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech
  23. Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon in Warrior
  24. Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle



  1. Amy Adams as Margaret “Peggy” Dodd in The Master
  2. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln
  3. Christian Bale as Michael Burry in The Big Short
  4. Jeremy Renner as James “Jem” Coughlin in The Town
  5. Mary Rylance as Rudolf Abel in Bridge of SpiesWINNER
  6. Janet McTeer as Hubert Page in Albert Nobbs
  7. Mark Ruffalo as Paul Hatfield in The Kids are All Right




  1. Robert Duvall as Joseph Palmer in The Judge
  2. Jonah Hill as Peter Brand in Moneyball
  3. Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo
  4. Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel in Argo



Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (# 1)
Highest-ranked  winner: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (# 1)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn (# 101)
Lowest-ranked winner: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (# 45)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Jean Dujardin in The Artist (# 6)
Highest-ranked winner: Jean Dujardin in The Artist (# 6)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (# 119)
Lowest-ranked winner: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything (# 88)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Rooney Mara in Carol (# 11)
Highest-ranked winner: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (# 30)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs (# 115)
Lowest-ranked winner: Octavia Spencer in The Help (# 73)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Highest-ranked nominee: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (# 14)
Highest-ranked winner: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (# 14)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Alan Arkin in Argo (# 120)
Lowest-ranked winner: Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies (# 114)

Strongest Year in…
Best Actress: 2015 (# 5, # 19, # 21, # 23, # 43)
Best Actor: 2011 (# 6, # 41, # 68, # 80, # 89)
Best Supporting Actress: 2015 (# 11, # 33, # 70, # 82, # 91)
Best Supporting Actor: 2013 (# 47, # 48, # 60, # 75, # 81)

Weakest Year in…
Best Actress: 2011 (# 2, # 12, # 44, # 96, # 101)
Best Actor: 2015 (# 25, # 48, # 61, # 78, # 119)
Best Supporting Actress: 2011 (# 36, # 62, # 73, # 102, # 115)
Best Supporting Actor: 2012 (# 24, # 57 # 104, # 111, # 120)

Ranking the categories be like:
Best Actress: 2015 > 2010 > 2012 > 2014 > 2013 > 2011
Best Actor: 2011  > 2014 > 2012 > 2010 > 2013 > 2015
Best Supporting Actress: 2015 > 2014 > 2013 > 2010 > 2012 > 2011
Best Supporting Actor: 2013 > 2015 > 2010 > 2014 > 2011 > 2012

Over-all ranking be like:
Actress > Supporting Actress > Actor > Supporting Actor

Film Review: Pamilya Ordinaryo (2016)


I haven’t reviewed a local film in my blog since the beginning because this was supposed to be all about the Oscars, as you can see in my blog’s name. But whatever. I felt the need to write about this film after seeing it.

Written by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.
Produced by: John Tan, Ferdinand Lapuz

Eduardo Roy, Jr.’s Pamilya Ordinaryo centers its narrative on Aries and Jane, a young couple with their one-month old baby named Arjan. Residing in the impoverished streets of Manila (specifically in Quiapo), the two make ends meet mainly by their thievery schemes and through donated goods distributed by government officials. Things turn for the worse when their baby was stolen by a mischievous person named Ertha who presented himself as a helping hand to the couple. This misfortune takes the couple to the damning extremes just to retrieve their baby.

Roy’s preceding film, the impeccably crafted drama-thriller Quick Change, is situated in the world of beauty pageantry and makeshift cosmetic procedures. Its strongly atmospheric depiction of a specific community whose fascination in striving for beauty borders on medical uncertainty makes for a film with a distinctive environment.

The same thing can be said of Pamilya Ordinaryo whose setting is grounded on a set of specificities: the constant swearing of the characters in normal conversations, the everyday decisions the characters make, and even the geography of the places where the actors move around. For the first half of the film, we are absorbed to a complete milieu where nothing rings false; it is this sense of authenticity that makes the first half so pressing and therefore very effective.

I admit this is a plus to me since I walk those exact sidewalks and streets where majority of the film is set; this later on caused later on because the geography of the film became problematic to me. For example, while the majority of the story is set in Quiapo, Manila, the couple somehow ended up going to a police headquarters along EDSA. Another one is the failed robbery of Aries was set in Kamuning, Quezon City. After running from the mob of spectators, he ends up back in their sidewalk home in Quiapo, more specifically in front of the dilapidated Metropolitan Theater in Lawton.

The amusing moments caused by the sharp-tongued conversations of the characters serves both as a characterizing part of the milieu and as a breather from the building tension in the narrative. However, while the humor was utilized quite well in the first half, it became unnecessary and even distracting during the second.

Perhaps it is because of my inclinations that it could go to even darker corners had it kept a straight face especially in the second half of the film (this proved to be very effective in Quick Change). Alas, in keeping of the film’s consistency, the film does not shy away from still showing those moments.

pamilya ordinaryo cinemalaya

The film even employs two cinematic techniques that makes me remember of European influences: as noted by a friend, the long takes in the film resemble the films of the Dardennes Brothers, noted for their scenes imbued with a sense of spontaneity and urgency. The long walks and conversations between Aries and Jane elicit memories of the Dardennes Brothers’ Marion Cotillard-starrer Two Days, One Night (2014); even up to the minimized use of music and the silence of the end credits cannot help me but remember that film. Meanwhile, the muted CCTV shots makes me recall Michael Haneke, a filmmaker who uses long takes shot from a distance in moments of a crucial (often ill-fated) action; a moment I think of is the final scene of Haneke’s Caché (2005).

These two techniques are skillfully weaved together creating the most tension. As the noise of the Manila streets abruptly shifts to the lack of sound in the CCTV shots, there is always a breathtaking moment of uncertainty; this shift in shots becomes a recurring reminder of something going wrong whenever this happens.

The heart of the film lies on the performances of the leads, played by Ronwaldo Martin and Hasmine Killip. Both bring raw and powerful portrayals of a young couple forced into responsibility of being parents and such a young age and how the adjust to that as well as to the harsh realities of city life by becoming streetsmart thieves. The film especially leaned towards the character of Jane in the first half, played by Killip. In the moments of rage and spite, she is effective. In times of doubt and helplessness, she is harrowing. The second half of the film, though not as strong as the first, contains Martin’s best scenes. Every indecision seen, lust felt, and anger displayed culminates in a performance that is both intelligent and unpredictable.

The film is abundant of powerful scenes. Socio-economic discrimination is hinted on the change of tone when a rich woman asks the grocery security guard to assist the couple after he ignored them. The grossness of power abuse when Jane was sexually harassed by police officers in the station is uncomfortable to watch. The wary sexual intercourse the couple enjoys as they do it in the sidewalks, while occasionally humorous, certainly rings true. Media sensationalism is even touched when a broadcast journalist interviews them and then makes a fictionalized reenactment of their lives.

There is so much going on in this film that has a makings of a great film. Imperfections are present in this film; I certainly find myself disagreeing with the last thirty minutes of the film. For some reason, while I do take notice of the film’s weaknesses, “problematic” and “disappointing” are the words I would never use with this film.

There is consistency in the rawness of the film. It locates the story in poverty, and yet it does not feel tired and well-trodden (at least, stylistically-wise). I keep noticing these “glitches” when I was watching it, but as the credits roll, I am still haunted by the disturbing images of the series of events experienced by Aries and Jane. I am still thinking of the whereabouts of Arjan. I am still frustrated by what Ertha did to the family. I am still infuriated with what media has done to them.

Nevermind that it’s not flawless. This is a powerful film.

Grade: B/B+



Performance Profile: Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)


Role: Nina Sayers, a mentally unstable and fragile ballerina


Black Swan is a thrillingly orchestrated psychological horror-thriller anchored on a powerful performance by Natalie Portman (more on that later). From the director of the modern classic Requiem for a Dream Darren Aronofsky, the film is an engaging depiction of the downward spiral a perfectionist ballerina experiences when she wins the lead role in Swan Lake. Technically, the film is flawless: the beautifully choreographed cinematography, on-point editing, intriguing sound design, and the iconic make-up.

How does Natalie Portman enter the film?


Her character enters exactly the moment where the film starts. In a riveting dream sequence, Sayers dances the role of the White Swan as she is suddenly tormented by Rothbart, the terrifying antagonist in Swan Lake. This scene already embodies the majority of what to expect in this performance: a mix of technical and emotional complexity. (And the dance double is not an issue to me, by the way.)


As stated above, the film really anchors on the character of Sayers, the troubled ballerina. First of all, this is a case of great casting: Portman always had the ‘good girl’ image that fits the character so well, but she is also more than that. To add to that, she already enjoys the advantage of being the sole lead actor in the film; everyone else is in the background, therefore giving her more opportunities to shine.


And the film never falters to give her moments to relish as an actress. This is a flashy character to play, but the writing is not really the film’s strongest point. The film has a tendency to overdo the simplistic depiction of good vs. evil, so it is left to Portman to emphasize on small moments to provide nuances to the character to eventually build it in small moments even before the showier scenes come.


Portman successfully careful calibrates the performance with humanity and believability. The story takes the character to haywire moments, but Portman makes those scenes even more terrifying because she has effectively earned our empathy.


Her frustration, helplessness, jealousy, and confusion all feel real. These are all effective because we have seen her from the beginning, the innocent Nina, up to when she starts to lose grip of sanity. This makes the psychological turmoil more felt and tangible.


Portman’s slow metamorphosis both as a ballerina and as an innocent girl is credible and engaging. As her character actively and reactively changes the course of her fate, She maintains a steady grip of understanding of the character as the narrative progresses.


She brings the human part of the film amidst the entire spectacle. The character must have been difficult to play because it is all about everything around her going out of control and abnormal, and yet it is her character that brings the reality that we need for the whole roller-coaster narrative to work.


Portman nails the big moments of the character. It is in the last thirty minutes of the film where she gets to highest peaks of this performance. This is where the film goes blurry within reality and fantasy, the horror in her mind and the monsters around her. This is the make-or-break turn of the film, and it all succeeds because the film is so well-directed and because Portman keeps it all together.


Upon repeated viewing, while everyone during the 2010 awards season was all about Portman’s dancing in the film, it is actually the non-dancing scenes that stick with me the most. Sure, she is a really believable ballerina, but I tend to notice more the emotional complications the characters was set to have rather than the technical aspect of it which is the dancing part. Portman’s performance survives the craziness of the film and emerges as an acting triumph.



  1. Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)
  2. Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


This post is part of my part-time stint called Best Actress Project where I rewatch and review all the Academy Award for Best Actress nominees from 2009 to 2015. To read more, click here.


Film stills courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. Protected under Fair Use. No copyright infringement intended. 

Performance Profile: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


Role: Tiffany Maxwell, an edgy and uneasy young widow

Silver Linings Playbook is a gem of the romantic drama-comedy genre. With an ace cast and a surefire screenplay and direction from David O. Russell, the film is indeed packed with moments of superb filmmaking. Bradley Cooper is mighty fine in the lead role of Pat Solitano, Jr., the conflicted man who returns after being institutionalized due to a violent meltdown. The rest of the cast are as strong as he is including Robert De Niro as the superstitious father and especially Jacki Weaver as the loving mother.

So where does Jennifer Lawrence enter in the picture?


Her character enters the film when the plot is already in full speed. She enters in the film in the 25th minute mark following an intriguing briefing to Solitano. I’m not buying the category fraud argument; though the film centers on the plight of Solitano, the film is a romance, and in this case, the film anchors its narrative on the relationship of the couple, so both Solitano and Maxwell are crucial to the story; therefore, both leading.


Anyway, back to the performance: it’s a beautiful set-up because in a brief amount of time, we are already informed of who she is and who she might be since it’s all in the first impressions level. With the sharp line delivery and all-natural gestures, Lawrence easily glides through her entrance in the film without obstructing the rhythm previously set before she even enters the film.


As the film progresses, we also get to know her history: her emotional wounds because of the death of her husband, the promiscuous behavior due to depression, the hinted problems within her family, her sister’s superiority to her. These are all points we discover about Tiffany in the brief amount of time (after her first appearance, we only get to see when she runs with Solitano).


However, she does not want to be judged. In an explosive confrontation scene, she vents her anger to Solitano after a failed dinner with him. It’s a powerfully acted scene; Lawrence releases an emotional force through her emotive face and voice. Her anger, frustration, and feeling of betrayal are all delivered so well.


There is also the story about her being the messenger to Solitano and his wife. Some might initially read it as Maxwell’s way of trying to dominate Solitano by making him do the dance because of the letter, but upon rewatching and seeing the nuances Lawrence underlines with those scenes, it’s actually an act of desperation on her part (probably hard to understand if you haven’t seen the film). In those small moments of quietness, Lawrence makes use of these small pauses to show the nervousness and the uncertainty that her character goes through.


But it is not always drama. The film is a romantic comedy too, and she more than lives up to it. She also utilizes her sharp line delivery to highlight the film’s brilliant dark humor. She has some difficult dialogue to handle, and she delivers them with pitch-perfect timing.


She also has evident chemistry with co-star Bradley Cooper (I don’t mind the age gap, I don’t mind the casting choice). This is the reason why the romance works because both give strong performances, and they have the chemistry that makes the romance works. Both are troubled souls, but they compliment each other – Solitano is the lost one who actually can say what he wants to happen (to be reunited with his wife), while Maxwell buries all her doubts and self-doubts with the tough façade as she serves as his guide towards healing and recovery.


Upon rewatching, I get to appreciate more how Lawrence raises empathy by not being afraid to show the vulnerable side of Maxwell despite the character’s edgy nature. It’s just too easy to play this character one-note; Tiffany Maxwell is such a badass character that any less talented actress could merely simplify the intricacies of the character. But alas, Lawrence makes the character three-dimensional and complex.


When she surrenders her emotions, it’s just a blast (the running scene at the end of the film is a great actressing moment).


Something is holding me back, though. Everything about Silver Linings Playbook is so good and there are just so many things happening around her that I tend to lose my focus on her. That’s not Lawrence’s fault, and I won’t take anything against her; that’s just how brilliant the film is in everything. It’s as if the film is split into two parts: the familial drama and the romantic comedy, and both works so well and compliments each other.


She’s probably not the best among the cast nor is her character the most important (that would be Cooper’s Solitano), but Lawrence has the most exciting character and is the most memorable part of it because she is electrifying and terrific.



  1. Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


This post is part of my part-time stint called Best Actress Project where I rewatch and review all the Academy Award for Best Actress nominees from 2009 to 2015. To read more, click here.


Film stills courtesy of The Weinstein Company. Protected under Fair Use. No copyright infringement intended. 

A little something to shake things up…..


If not for the Oscar predictions I posted last January, this blog has been long dead.

Not because I did not want to blog anymore, but I’m currently in my last year in film school, and my thesis film has taken every energy that I have in film.

I’m still 190+ films away from finishing 2014 in film before I can post my choice for the best of that year (or the TFO Awards, as I call it). And yes, I have 250+ films to watch before I can even end 2015 in film. I’m still determined to finish that, though.

As I am currently in the post-production of my film, I find myself trying to revive my enthusiasm in watching films and not just making films (trust me, film students have this struggle), I’ll try to do something non-committal but surely has my interest.

I’m planning to do a brief performance profile, in random order, of all the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role from 2009 to 2015 (because this is the most exciting category at the Oscars). Here they are:

best actress

Amy Adams in American Hustle
Annette Bening in The Kids are All Right
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett in Carol
Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
Viola Davis in The Help
Judi Dench in Philomena
Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole
Brie Larson in Room
Jennifer Lawrence in Joy
Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone
Rooney Mara in The GIrl with the Dragon Tattoo
Helen Mirren in The Last Station
Julianne Moore in Still Alice
Carey Mulligan in An Education
Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
Natalie Portman in Black Swan
Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years
Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Meryl Streep in August: Osage County
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia
Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts in The Impossible
Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn
Reese Witherspoon in Wild

I have watched all of these performances, so I’ll rewatch them, review them, and rank them. Some of the performances I’ve watched repeatedly (Pike), some of them I’ve only seen once (Close), some of them I’ve seen just recently (Larson), some of them I haven’t revisited in years (Bening).

This would be a nice refresher for me to at least accommodate if there are any new insight on these performances or if they would feel the same way too. Again, don’t expect constant posting here; this is all for fun and for me to get my groove back in writing and doing things related to film for fun and not because I am a film student.

Meanwhile, I’ll post here some of my productions during my stay in film school. Feel free to share your thoughts.

Blind Spots (experimental)

Away from Home (documentary)

Sa Pag-uwi (Coming Home) (narrative)


I hope you’re still there reading this. Let me know if you still are.🙂

88th Academy Awards Nominations – FINAL PREDICTIONS

88thoscars_key_hostHere it is! With the craziness this awards season have, I feel like it’s the right time to be gutsier with my predictions. I don’t know/care if I fare poorly with my predictions; it’s an all-too-unpredictable race with all precedent stats and precursors thrown out of the window, it’s just right to give my forecast come Thursday morning.

(Note: I did not include predictions for the three short film categories – live action, animated, documentary).


Best Picture

spotlight (1)

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Spotlight

… if 6 – Mad Max: Fury Road
… if 7 – Carol
… if 8 – Room
(I’m predicting 8)
… if 9 – Straight Outta Compton
… if 10 – Inside Out

Alt: (#11) Sicario | (#12) Brooklyn | (#13) Son of Saul | (#14) Ex Machina | (#15) Star Wars: The Force Awakens | (#16) Beasts of No Nation | (#17) Joy | (#18) Steve Jobs | (#19) Trumbo | (#20) Creed | (#21) The Danish Girl

Very very tough to predict especially from #8 to # 16. The Danish Girl may lack the visible passion, but you never know since it’s an emotional story that feels timely despite being a period film. The buzz for Creed, Trumbo, and Steve Jobs has faded, but might pull viable longshots. Hear me out with Joy – despite getting mixed reviews, again, it is a timely film; never forget Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close got nominated in 2011 despite much more polarizing reviews.


Best Director


  • Todd Haynes – Carol
  • George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Ridley Scott – The Martian
  • Alejandro G. Iñarritu – The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Alt: (#6) Adam McKay – The Big Short | (#7) Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies | (#8) Laszlo Nemes – Son of Saul | (#9) Denis Villeneuve – Sicario | (#10) Alex Garland – Ex Machina

Haynes is definitely the most vulnerable here with his film lacking guild support. McCarthy is also not a sure thing since Spotlight slipped a bit from its frontrunner status. Scott and Miller, while veterans and could play that card, are with non-traditional films (comedy sci-fi and apocalyptic action film), making Iñarritu the only safe choice. McKay seemed like a safer prediction with its current frontrunner status, but screw it – I’m going with Haynes.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


  • Steve Carell – The Big Short
  • Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

Alt: (#6) Matt Damon – The Martian | (#7) Will Smith – Concussion | (#8) Ian McKellen – Mr. Holmes | (#9) Geza Rohrig – Son of Saul | (#10) Johnny Depp – Black Mass | (#11) Michael B. Jordan – Creed | (#12) Michael Caine – Youth

DiCaprio is the frontrunner, Cranston and Fassbender are safe, Redmayne seems to be coasting towards a nomination despite the lack of passion for the film. Carell is my predicted semi-spoiler to replace Golden Globe winner Damon.

Watch out for both Smith and especially McKellen as surprise nominees, given how they worked the campaign circuit. Son of Saul certainly has presence and makes Rohrig a feasible longshot. Buzz for Depp has faded, but might get in especially because of his star power.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role


  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Jenifer Lawrence – Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

Alt: (#6) Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl | (#7) Rooney Mara – Carol | (#8) Emily Blunt – Sicario | (#9) Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road | (#10) Blythe Danner – I’ll See You in My Dreams | (#11) Lily Tomlin – Grandma | (#12) Maggie Smith – The Lady in the Van | (#13) Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back | (#14) Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold

Blanchett, Larson, and Ronan are safe. Rampling has solid critical support backing her a la Emmanuelle Riva (2012) and Marion Cotillard (2014). Lawrence is the most vulnerable despite the Golden Globe win (it doesn’t count). Normal logic would dictate Vikander or Mara but category confusion and vote splitting are foreseeable hurdles.

If the strong guild support signals Sicario’s prevalence come Thursday morning then expect Blunt pulling off a surprise nomination. Theron could also use the critical support on her performance despite having a film atypical in terms of acting nominations.

#10 to #12 are all veterans seemingly on the hunt of the same spot; I give the edge to Danner for being the first screener sent, then Tomlin for peaking at an early time, albeit too early,  then Smith for the late surge of support. Silverman’s SAG nomination must not be unseen, the same with Mirren (though she would probably get more votes for Trumbo).


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role


  • Christian Bale – The Big Short
  • Tom Hardy – The Revenant
  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Sylvester Stallone – Creed
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room

Alt: (#6) Michael Keaton – Spotlight | (#7) Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation | (#8) Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight | (#9) Paul Dano – Love and Mercy | (#10) Benicio del Toro – Sicario | (#11) Michael Shannon – 99 Homes | (#12) Jason Mitchell – Straight Outta Compton | (#13) Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina | (#14) Stanley Tucci – Spotlight

Rylance is the only one safe for the nomination, and he’s not even safe for the win. Bale is also a good bet to be nominated even if some see him as leading. Hardy can ride with DiCaprio’s buzz, Stallone would get a veteran vote (again, not counting his Golden Globe victory), and if Brie Larson is the frontrunner for Best Actress, they must notice Tremblay.

Keaton has the goodwill from last year’s loss for Birdman and he has the biggest role in the Spotlight cast but the lack of notices and the NYFCC win for LEADING might hurt. Elba has critical support but his film seems like an outsider in the race. In Spotlight’s cast, Ruffalo has the “big” scene and BAFTA noticed. Dano had a strong showing throughout the precursor awards, but buzz for the film slips away and category confusion hurts.

If Sicario shows up well, del Toro can show up. Shannon earns both Golden Globe and SAG nominations for a very small film, meaning the performance made a strong impression, but the strength of the film must be seen when pitted against the bigger contenders. Mitchell gets MVP notices for Straight Outta Compton, Isaac might show up if Ex Machina fares really well, and Tucci is definitely getting support for his small but memorable role in Spotlight.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


  • Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Alt: (#6) Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina | (#7) Helen Mirren – Trumbo | (#8) Joan Allen – Room | (#9) Jane Fonda – Youth | (#10) Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria | (#11) Elizabeth Banks – Love and Mercy | (#12) Marion Cotillard – MacBeth

Winslet is the only one safe here for the nomination. Mara is in the big threat of category confusion. Vikander has a double whammy – category confusion for The Danish Girl and vote splitting with Ex Machina. Between the two, I’m predicting they’d settle for the more traditional role (The Danish Girl) than an outré one (Ex Machina) The Hateful Eight is not showing up so strongly so Leigh is not very safe and McAdams is in danger of Spotlight losing its footing as the strong frontrunner, of being overlooked for bigger and showier performances in the cast, and of being pitted against bigger and showier performances from other films including obvious leads and co-leads.

Mirren has a fun, scene-stealing performance in Trumbo that doesn’t have much substance compared to the other competing performances, Joan Allen shines with her limited time in Room and might benefit from Larson’s frontrunner status but the film is losing Best Picture buzz, and Fonda is a strong presence in the Academy and is said to have a memorable part in Youth. Stewart, Banks, and Cotillard all have critical support going for them, therefore making them viable longshots.


Best Original Screenplay

spotlight (2)

  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out
  • Spotlight
  • Trainwreck

Alt: (#6) Ex Machina | (#7) Straight Outta Compton | (#8) Son of Saul | (#9) Sicario | (#10) Grandma


Best Adapted Screenplay


  • The Big Short
  • Brooklyn
  • The Martian
  • Room
  • Steve Jobs

Alt: (#6) Carol | (#7) The Revenant | (#8) Trumbo | (#9) Anomalisa | (#10) The Danish Girl


Best Cinematography


  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Sicario

Alt: (#6) Son of Saul | (#7) The Hateful Eight | (#8) The Martian | (#9) The Danish Girl | (#10) Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Film Editing


  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Spotlight

Alt: (#6) Straight Outta Compton | (#7) The Revenant | (#8) Sicario | (#9) Carol | (#10) Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Sound Mixing


  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Straight Outta Compton

Alt: (#6) Star Wars: The Force Awakens | (#7) Spectre | (#8) Sicario | (#9) The Hateful Eight


Best Sound Editing


  • Inside Out
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Alt: (#6) Bridge of Spies | (#7) Sicario | (#8) Spectre | (#9) The Hateful Eight


Best Original Score

  • Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman)
  • Carol (Carter Burwell)
  • The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)
  • Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)

Alt: (#6) Spotlight | (#7) The Danish Girl | (#8) Mad Max: Fury Road | (#9) Steve Jobs | (#10) Sicario | (#11) The Martian | (#12) Brooklyn | (#13) Ex Machina


Best Visual Effects


  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Walk

Alt: (#6) Avengers: Age of Ultron | (#7) The Revenant | (#8) Jurassic World | (#9) Ant-Man | (#10) Tomorrowland


Best Makeup and Hairstyling


  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Mr. Holmes
  • The Revenant

Alt: (#4) The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared | (#5) Black Mass | (#6) Concussion | (#7) Legend


Best Production Design


  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • The Danish Girl
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian

Alt: (#6) Star Wars: The Force Awakens | (#7) The Revenant | (#8) Room | (#9) The Hateful Eight | (#10) Brooklyn


Best Costume Design


  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • Cinderella
  • The Danish Girl
  • Far from the Madding Crowd

Alt: (#6) MacBeth | (#7) The Revenant | (#8) The Hateful Eight | (#9) Mad Max: Fury Road | (#10) Crimson Peak


Best Original Song


  • “I’ll See You in My Dreams” – I’ll See You in My Dreams
  • “See You Again” – Furious 7
  • “Simple Song # 3” – Youth
  • “’Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

Alt: (#6) “Who Can You Trust” – Spy | (#7) “So Long” – Concussion | (#8) “Waiting for My Moment” – Creed | (#9) “Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey | (#10) “Cold One” – Ricki and the Flash


Best Foreign Language Film


  • Belgium – The Brand New Testament
  • France – Mustang
  • Hungary – Son of Saul
  • Jordan – Theeb
  • Denmark – A War

Alt: (#6) Ireland – Viva | (#7) Finland – The Fencer | (#8) “Colombia – Embrace of the Serpent | (#9) Germany – Labyrinth of Lies


Best Animated Feature


  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out
  • Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie

Alt: (#6) The Peanuts Movie | (#7) When Marnie was There | (#8) Moomins in the Riviera | (#9) Boy and the World | (#10) Minions


Best Documentary Feature


  • Amy
  • Best of Enemies
  • The Hunting Ground
  • The Look of Silence
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Alt: (#6) Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief | (#7) Listen to Me Marlon | (#8) Heart of a Dog | (#9) He Named Me Malala | (#10) 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets | (#11) We Come as Friends | (#12) Where to Invade Next


What’s your predictions?