Special TFO Awards: Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2017 Edition – NOMINEES

Life event: this is the first local film festival where I’ve watched ALL of the entries. That’s a remarkable achievement for me.

Now, here’s my take on the best of the festival in all sixteen categories: Motion Picture, Directing, Acting Ensemble, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Screenplay, Casting, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, Music, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, and Costume Design.

Here are the nominees:

BEST MOTION PICTURE

  • Bar Boys
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

  • Mikhail Red – Birdshot
  • Prime Cruz – Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Paolo Villaluna – Pauwi Na
  • Sherad Anthony Sanchez – Salvage
  • Randolph Longjas – Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Carlo Aquino – Bar Boys
  • John Arcilla – Birdshot
  • Zaijian Jaranilla – Hamog
  • Arnold Reyes – Birdshot
  • Bembol Roco – Pauwi Na

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Jaclyn Jose – Patay na si Hesus
  • Therese Malvar – Hamog
  • Candy Pangilinan – Star na si Van Damme Stallone
  • Cherry Pie Picache – Pauwi Na
  • Meryll Soriano – Pauwi Na

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Art Acuña – Triptiko
  • OJ Mariano – Hamog
  • Melde Montañez – Patay na si Hesus
  • Jerald Napoles – Pauwi Na
  • Jerald Napoles – Triptiko

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Chai Fonacier – Patay na si Hesus
  • Chai Fonacier – Pauwi Na
  • Mailes Kanapi – Patay na si Hesus
  • Anna Luna – Hamog
  • Anna Luna – Paglipay

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTING ENSEMBLE

  • Bar Boys
  • Birdshot
  • Hamog
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na

BEST SCREENPLAY

  • Bar Boys
  • Birdshot
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CASTING

  • Bar Boys
  • Hamog
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Pauwi Na
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

  • Birdshot
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND

  • AWOL
  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Salvage
  • Triptiko

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC

  • Bar Boys
  • Hamog
  • Paglipay
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

  • Birdshot
  • Hamog
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Salvage
  • Triptiko

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Paglipay
  • Salvage

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

  • 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
  • Bar Boys
  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

.

NOMINATIONS COUNT:

Pauwi Na – 12
Birdshot – 11
Patay na si Hesus – 9
Star na si Van Damme Stallone – 9
Salvage – 8
Hamog – 8
Bar Boys – 7
Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B – 6
Paglipay – 3
Triptiko – 3
100 Tula Para Kay Stella – 2
AWOL – 1

SCHEDULE:
August 25/26 – Review of aAll PPP 2017 Entries – RANKED
August 27 – Special TFO Awards: PPP 2017 Edition – WINNERS

 

Advertisements

74th Golden Globe Awards – Final Predictions (Winners)

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in LA LA LAND.

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in LA LA LAND.

Best Picture – Drama:
Manchester by the Sea
alt. Moonlight

Best Actor – Drama:
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
alt. Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actress – Drama:
Natalie Portman – Jackie
alt. Amy Adams – Arrival

Best Picture – Musical or Comedy:
La La Land (duh)
alt. Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy:
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
alt. Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy:
Emma Stone – La La Land
alt. Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
alt. Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis – Fences
alt. Naomie Harris – Fences

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
alt. Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Best Screenplay:
Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
alt. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

Best Original Score:
La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)
alt. Arrival (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

Best Original Song
“City of Stars” – La La Land
alt. “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Animated Feature
Zootopia
alt. Moana

Best Foreign Language Film
Germany – Toni Erdmann
alt. Elle – France

Performance Profile: Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-23h28m45s346

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?

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-22h10m35s409

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.)

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-22h17m18s784

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.

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-22h12m12s883

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.

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-22h31m24s383

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.

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-22h50m24s981

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.

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-23h03m18s178

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.

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-23h26m07s957

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.

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-23h40m44s739

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.

vlcsnap-2016-04-12-23h49m58s594

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.

.

ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES, 2009-2015, RANKED:

  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. 

… And I’m not even halfway through 2014.

dolanpike
FAVORITES: director Xavier Dolan (Mommy)  and actress Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

I haven’t posted in my blog since April. What a shame. It was the painful combination of demanding film school, exhausting internship, and my thesis – a short film, to be exact – that has led to the dormancy of this blog.

I love this blog, I love watching films, I love writing about films, but I just cannot simultaneously watch and make films at the same time. I tend to pick only one at the time, and I give my (almost) entire energy for that. And I don’t know to other film students, but it’s I lose my drive to watch films because it is so demanding to make films.

That’s why I haven’t seen a lot recently, though I have seen 72 films last July.
That’s why I haven’t posted recently, though I am always online.
That’s why I haven’t written posts, though I always write.

Meanwhile, I have already seen 127 films from 2014 (I watch films per year, by the way). Those films are:

  •  ’71 – Dir. Yann Demange
  • 22 Jump Street – Dirs. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
  • American Sniper – Dir. Clint Eastwood
  • Annie – Dir. Will Gluck
  • Art and Craft – Dirs. Sam Cullman & Jennifer Grausman
  • The Babadook – Dir. Jennifer Kent
  • Begin Again – Dir. John Carney
  • Beyond the Lights – Dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood
  • Big Eyes – Dir. Richard Burton
  • Big Hero 6 – Dirs. Don Hall & Chris Williams
  • Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Dir. Alejandro G. Iñarritu
  • The Book of Life – Dir. Jorge R. Gutierrez
  • The Boxtrolls – Dirs. Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi
  • The Boy and the World – Dir. Ale Abreu
  • Boyhood – Dir. Richard Linklater
  • Bro’s Before Ho’s – Dir. Steffen Haars
  • Broken Hill Blues – Dir. Sofia Norlin
  • Cake – Dir. Daniel Barnz
  • Calvary – Dir. John Michael McDonagh
  • Camp X-Ray – Dir. Peter Sattler
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dirs. Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
  • Chef – Dir. Jon Favreau
  • The Circle – Dir. Stefan Haupt
  • Citizenfour – Dir. Laura Poitras
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Dir. Matt Reeves
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them – Dir. Ned Benson
  • The Double – Dir. Richard Ayoade
  • The Drop – Dir. Michael R. Roskam
  • Edge of Tomorrow – Dir. Doug Liman
  • Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me – Dir. Chiemi Karasawa
  • Enemy – Dir. Denis Villeneuve
  • An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker – Dir. Danis Tanovic
  • Fading Gigolo – Dir. John Turturro
  • The Fault in Our Stars – Dir. Josh Boone
  • Finding Vivian Maier – Dirs. John Maloof & Charlie Siskel
  • Floating Skyscrapers – Dir. Tomasz Wasilewski
  • Force Majeure – Dir. Ruben Ostlund
  • Foxcatcher – Dir. Bennett Miller
  • Fury – Dir. David Ayer
  • Get On Up – Dir. Tate Taylor
  • Gloria – Dir. Sebastian Lelio
  • Godzilla – Dir. Gareth Edwards
  • Gone Girl – Dir. David Fincher
  • The Good Lie – Dir. Philippe Falardeau
  • Grace of Monaco – Dir. Olivier Dahan
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – Dir. Wes Anderson
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Dir. James Gunn
  • The Guest – Dir. Adam Wingard
  • Happy Christmas – Dir. Joe Swanberg
  • Hide Your Smiling Faces – Dir. Daniel Patrick Carbone
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Dir. Peter Jackson
  • The Homesman – Dir. Tommy Lee Jones
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Dir. Dean DeBlois
  • The Humbling – Dir. Barry Levinson
  • The Hundred-Foot Journey – Dir. Lasse Hallstrom
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Dir. Francis Lawrence
  • Ida – Dir. Pawel Pawlikowski
  • The Imitation Game – Dir. Morten Tyldum
  • The Immigrant – Dir. James Gray
  • In Secret – Dir. Charlie Stratton
  • Inherent Vice – Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
  • The Internet’s Own Boy – Dir. Brian Knappenberger
  • Interstellar – Dir. Christopher Nolan
  • Into the Woods – Dir. Rob Marshall
  • It Felt Like Love – Dir. Eliza Hittman
  • Joe – Dir. David Gordon Green
  • The Judge – Dir. David Dobkin
  • Kill the Messenger – Dir. Michael Cuesta
  • Laggies – Dir. Lynn Shelton
  • Last Days in Vietnam – Dir. Rory Kennedy
  • The Lego Movie – Dirs. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
  • Life Itself – Dir. Steve James
  • Lilting – Dir. Hong Khaou
  • Locke – Dir. Steven Night
  • Love is Strange – Dir. Ira Sachs
  • The Lunchbox – Dir. Ritesh Batra
  • The Mafia Kills Only in Summer – Dir. Pierfrancesco Diliberto
  • Magic in the Moonlight – Dir. Woody Allen
  • Maleficent – Dir. Robert Stromberg
  • Maps to the Stars – Dir. David Cronenberg
  • Men, Women & Children – Dir. Jason Reitman
  • Miss Julie – Dir. Liv Ullmann
  • Mommy – Dir. Xavier Dolan
  • The Monuments Men – Dir. George Clooney
  • A Most Violent Year – Dir. JC Chandor
  • A Most Wanted Man – Dir. Anton Corbijn
  • Mr. Turner – Dir. Mike Leigh
  • Neighbors – Dir. Nicholas Stoller
  • Nightcrawler – Dir. Dan Gilroy
  • Noah – Dir. Darren Aronofsky
  • Obvious Child – Dir. Gillian Robespierre
  • Of Horses and Men – Dir. Benedikt Erlingsson
  • The One I Love – Dir. Charlie McDowell
  • Only Lovers Left Alive – Dir. Jim Jarmusch
  • Paddington – Dir. Paul King
  • Pride – Dir. Matthew Warchus
  • The Railway Man – Dir. Jonathan Tepetzky
  • Refuge – Dir. Jessica Goldberg
  • The Rover – Dir. David Michod
  • Rudderless – Dir. William H. Macy
  • Selma – Dir. Ava DuVernay
  • Sex Tape – Dir. Jake Kasdan
  • The Skeleton Twins – Dir. Craig Johnson
  • Snowpiercer – Dir. Bong Joon-Ho
  • Song of the Sea – Dir. Tomm Moore
  • St. Vincent – Dir. Theodore Melfi
  • Still Alice – Dirs. Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland
  • Stranger by the Lake – Dir. Alain Guiraudie
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Dir. Isao Takahata
  • Tangerines – Dir. Zaza Urushadze
  • The Theory of Everything – Dir. James Marsh
  • Timbuktu – Dir. Abderrahmane Sissako
  • To Kill a Man – Dir. Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
  • Two Days, One Night – Dirs. Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
  • The Two Faces of January – Dir. Hossein Amini
  • Unbroken – Dir. Angelina Jolie
  • Under the Skin – Dir. Jonathan Glazer
  • Venus in Fur – Dir. Roman Polanski
  • Virunga – Dir. Orlando von Einsiedel
  • The Way He Looks – Dir. Daniel Ribeiro
  • What If – Dir. Michael Dowse
  • Whiplash – Dir. Damien Chazelle
  • White Bird in a Blizzard – Dir. Gregg Araki
  • Wild – Dir. Jean-Marc Vallee
  • Wild Tales – Dir. Damian Szifron
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past – Dir. Bryan Singer
  • You’re Not You – Dir. George C. Wolfe

It might seem a lot, but I’m still about to see 219 films, more or less o_o.

Yeah.

So far, this year is remarkable – with the 127 films that I have seen, I have given 8 of them the grade of A. Most of the time, in a year, I only give 5, maximum is 6. That reveals how intensely good films of 2014 are. And I still have 219 films to watch.

Anyway, those 8 are:

birdman

Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu

double

The Double
Directed by Richard Ayoade

gone girl

Gone Girl
Directed by David Fincher

grand budapest

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Directed by Wes Anderson

interstellar

Interstellar
Directed by Christopher Nolan

mommy

Mommy
Directed by Xavier Dolan

Selma
Directed by Ava DuVernay

whiplas

Whiplash
Directed by Damien Chazelle

.

I hope I could catch up soon. What’s your favorite film of 2014?

.

Xavier Dolan photo, courtesy of Last.fm, Rosamund Pike photo, courtesy of Variety
No copyright infringement intended on film screenshots.

I’m alive.

Sorry for not posting for almost three months already. I’m working on my next post, but I just need more energy to write.

Anyway, it’s 100 days before the Oscars. Things are starting to settle, with few left unseen – Unbroken, Into the Woods, and Big Eyes. Best Actress is the most predictable, with a very open 5th slot. Best Actor also has a very open 5th slot, but there are like 15+ contenders just for that 5th slot.

🙂

Best Picture Profile: Dallas Buyers Club

dallas buyers club

 

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Written by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Produced by: Robbie Brenner, Rachel Winter
Runtime: 117 minutes

.

Dallas Buyers Club is about Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician-rodeo during the 1980s, who was diagnosed with AIDS after having unprotected sex with a prostitute. Because the cure for the said illness is not yet available to the public, Woodroof teams up with HIV-positive trans woman Rayon, a fellow patient that he met in the hospital. Together, they deliver unapproved drugs from Mexico to the United States that Woodroof himself has proven to improve his health. Though hesitant at first, their doctor, Eve Saks, eventually cooperates with them to be able to help more AIDS-stricken patients.

I remember not immediately trusting this film to get the Best Picture nomination just because there were other films that had more buzz (Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis, to be exact) and it was as if the buzz for the film is concentrated on the performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. True enough, the film heavily relies on the performance of its actors. Comparison with the 2000 Best Picture nominee Erin Brockovich was made and it is definitely understandable. Once in a while, there comes a film that is above average but is lifted by its strong performances. This is true with the case of this film.

While I am not seeing anything completely remarkable about the execution, one must notice the visible control and sincere treatment of the material. Having a topic of sensitive nature, the film was able to smartly shift focus from the nonacceptance and denial of the main character to the very believable change in the character and how it reflects through the orchestration of the film elements, resulting into a film that is chiseled so well, you can clearly see the story in Woodroof’s point of view. The power of the film to replicate his experience, physically and emotionally, and then transfer the perspective to the audience signifies the intelligence and earnestness invested in the over-all vision of the film.

The screenplay sustains the character arcs of the three main characters that are very important in the narrative because the flow of the story is heavily reliant on the characters, especially Woodroof’s interactions with Rayon and Dr. Saks. This is a very much a character-driven story, and there is a smooth flow in how the events are laced together to anchor a whole character transformation of the central character. The screenplay vividly places details to these characters that were ultimately used by the actors to reach the maximum potential of the narrative, it being a real character piece whose life relies on the emotional and psychological journey of the characters.

dallas buyers clubThe film is also technically sound, having a cinematography that prefers visual engagement over picturesque images, film editing that absorbs the viewers into the images, as well as the sparsity of the musical score that helps in creating the atmosphere of rawness in the film. Non-diegetic music only plays in specific scenes, to great effect. Effective sound design is also present to further evoke the deteriorating health condition of Woodroof. The film has also been noted for its effective makeup and hairstyling, and rightfully so. They were able to highlight the realistic physical process of decay Woodroof and Rayon experiences.

As stated earlier, the film heavily relies on the strength of the performances of the actors, and the ensemble does not let the film down.

Jennifer Garner fares well as Dr. Eve Saks, the initially hesitant doctor of Woodroof and Rayon that ultimately becomes a passive supporter of their actions. While the two other actors definitely grabs the attention for the most of the film, Garner has the responsibility to thread together the key points of the narrative without trying to compete with McConaughey and Leto. She silently puts together a cohesive portrayal of a change of heart that is not as evident as Woodroof’s but one that is also significant to propel the orientation of the other characters.

Jared Leto, despite getting a very showy role of Rayon, a transgendered woman, surprises with his vulnerability to portray the looming tragedy of Rayon by utilizing well-timed acting choices without succumbing to self-pity. Here is a performance that has little screentime, but whose presence in the narrative provides the trajectory in the story as well as the impact of the story aside from Woodroof’s own journey. Leto highlights Rayon as a person whose resilience can only do so much because of his ailing health, and the struggle is visible. By painting a very distinct canvas of a person in the story, Leto is able to create an intriguing and devastating human being out of a very short amount of time.

Much has been said about Mathew McConaughey’s performance as Ron Woodroof, and I would not say anything but it is really an exceptional work. His capacity to carry his character’s dimensions without clouding the film with excessive showing off provides for a very strong, controlled, and powerful portrayal of survival and will to live amid challenges. Being able to throw in potent dramatic punches in well placed scenes in the film, McCounaughey gets the vulnerability of Woodroof’s condition and the hostility he uses to mask the inner turmoil in the character. The result is a textured, captivating, and spirited portrait of Ron Woodroof, together with all the likable and unlikable characteristics of the character that provides for a multi-dimensional character.

The performances, especially McCounaughey’s, are unquestionably fantastic, and the film gives the cast the ample amount of opportunities for them to actually deliver the different layers that are present both in the characters they play and in the narrative they belong to. The film itself fares well, with a clean-cut narrative that is able to engage the audience throughout the entire time. This is an intelligently made film that is built around the performances, and it is not a wrong move.

For this, the film gets:

4

Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Philomena

philomena

Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
Produced by: Steve Coogan, Tracy Seaward, Gabrielle Tana
Runtime: 98 minutes

.

Philomena is about Martin Sixsmith, a journalist who has just been fired by his employer. Hoping to redeem himself, he takes on the story of the titular character, an old woman separated from her child for several decades after she was taken away from her when she was still inside a Catholic convent. As they go on with their search, they are led to go to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena go together to look for her son as they challenge each other’s beliefs.

Before the nominations were announced, I was admittedly skeptical about the chances of the film getting nominated for Best Picture not because it looks bad to me (I haven’t seen the film yet during the time), but because it feels like a story that’s too small and intimated to feel Best Picture-material. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the Oscars have a tendency to go with films that are not necessarily small. So it was my surprise that this film got in the nominees for Best Picture. And after watching the film, I’m retaining my perception of the film: it’s a film that feels really small yet intimate. It is not a critique, but rather a mere observation.

I appreciate the fact that it remained as sincere to the core of the material as possible. While the film as a semi-glossy visual feel, the film did not try to sugarcoat the story. It felt sincere and heartwarming despite the film’s attempt to sprinkle some scenes with humor. That, I owe the director for skilfully planting humor and drama in an alternating manner that is not disruptive or annoying. I have seen films that both succeeded in drama and in humor, but fails to properly put transition between the two. Luckily, the film has found a way of smoothly weaving these two elements. I know some find the mix of the two detrimental to the film; I was fine with that.

However, I find some scenes a bit awkward. I am not much of a fan of the flashback scenes as well as the reliance of the film on archival/home video footage style shots. While I see the flashback scenes as a necessary part of the film, the archival footage-type shots feels like an attempt to make the film close to realty so that audience can easily empathize to the story, but in the end fails because it was the one that is disruptive to me, not the humor in the script. It may seem that I am defending the humor of the script, but for me, it helped define the character of Philomena as a character that can charm and at the same time create a sense of warmheartedness and a down-to-earth attitude. Philomena’s humor as a character establishes a person with more dimensions, and I appreciate that.

PhilomenaThe film is also has intelligently mounted visuals, giving the film a distinct visual appeal through its interesting cinematography, providing strong colors to highlight the tension despite the calm, and smooth editing. The music by Alexandre Desplat is also exquisite, delivering an enchanting feel to every scene, elevating the film’s emotional power by highlighting scenes with subtlety and control.

However, I felt that the film is not really best picture-material, but more of a good vehicle for the actors to act and for the film to tug hearts. I do not deny that the story has a strong emotional punch, but one strong qualifying factor for me to say that a film is best picture-material if it actually works as a film in itself and not just reliant on a specific aspect.

I cannot see the reason to mention Philomena as a great film aside from Dench’s performance which is quite great. The role might seem easy, and Dench surely charms her way in the film, giving a relaxed dramatic performance that occasionally hints on comedy. There are scenes of brutal honesty, though, that brings her performance on a higher level. She delivers both the drama and the comedy that the performance requires. The result is a beautifully delivered portrayal of a mother longing to see her long lost son. I do think it is not much of a stretch for Dench given her more challenging roles before, but what we have here is still a strong dramatic performance from this great actress. 

Coogan does fine as the eager journalist who questions Philomena’s faith the same time he questions his. It is not really a demanding role, given that much emotional weight is given to Dench’s titular role, but he provides a sturdy control of a restrained character. There is underlying doubt to himself, and Coogan shows it well by giving subtle hints to this emotional turmoil.

Again, as much as I have warmed with his film, and while I do think it is a really exciting character study, I am not seeing the film’s higher value outside its central performance. The film makes for an interesting journey, and it does have its emotional impact that is quite visible and felt, but it lacks significance that makes a film fit to be called ‘best picture-material’. I kind of loved it, but not enough to make me scream “best picture!” for it.

For this, the film gets:

4

Agree or disagree?