RIP Marvin Hamlisch

We Talk About Movies

English: Official Picture for Mr. Marvin Hamli...

Not just a rare EGOT, but an even rarer PEGOT (that’s with a Pulitzer as the cherry on top of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), Marvin Hamlisch and his music is sure to continue to be loved sincerely by romantics and liked ironically by hipsters the world over, with varying levels of appreciation from all kinds of listeners in between. Still scoring films as recently as Soderbergh’s crime comedy The Informant! in 2009, Hamlisch’s range went from dark and heavy dramas such as Sophie’s Choice, to marshmallow-lite fluff like Three Men and a Baby. But what he’ll be most remembered for are his  passionate love themes. The movies and the artists chosen to interpret his songs may be all over the place in terms of artistry, but the melodies themselves are top caliber heartstring-tuggers all the way.

Hamlisch hit an early home run with the inevitable…

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Pitting K-Stew’s Snow Warrior against Tarsem‘s Snow Lite. A Snow White & the Huntman vs. Mirror Mirror grudge match

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Snow White & the Huntsman afforded me a truly rare cinematic experience – never before had I been at the cinema where there was spontaneous communal guffawing and stifling of giggles by the audience during the film’s supposedly rousing, dramatic high point. Filipino audiences are generally forgiving, but I guess I lucked into a snarkier crowd that wasn’t mostly made up of Twilight fans. I didn’t expect much of Kristen Stewart, I never particularly disliked her nor admired her. But as she tried to summon every ounce of her movie star mystique and post-millennial warrior-princess pseudo-swagger, I wondered why nobody seemed to have thought of giving her a screen test just to check if she could pull this scene off.

I’m not altogether surprised that the movie ended up being commercially well-received, since it mashed together feminism and fantasy layered with the “dark” angsty tone that seems to connect well…

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Spotlight 1978: Beauty Bukkake

The We Talk About Movies blog goes back to 1978, a year filled with film classics. The series starts with my thoughts on Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick‘s aesthetic triumph

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This entry is part of  Spotlight 1978, a series where we talk about films released in 1978.

In Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick just literally fucks your eyeballs with visual gorgeousness. I’d only previously seen his later work, starting with The Thin Red Line, on to The New World, and most recently The Tree of Life. But even the aesthetic heights reached by that eye-gasmic trifecta left me unprepared for this… this diabolically beautiful film! I wasn’t really surprised at all the pretty pictures though, this IS Malick we’re talking about, and working with legendary cinematographer Nestor Almendros, who’d cut his teeth on the great Rohmer and Truffaut’s films, no less. What shocked me was it’s length. At 94 minutes, it’s SHORT, even shorter than most Hollywood blockbusters these days. And yet despite this modest runtime and a rather simple plot, it effortlessly gives off this epic feel. There’s something…

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We Talk About Movies

Over at Encore’s World of Film and TV, Andrew is hosting a blogathon about movie scenes featuring “the splendor of cinematic rain”. Here is my submission.

The rain is such a multi-sensorial experience that visuals alone don’t seem to do it justice. I ended up thinking of scenes that didn’t just show the rain but married it to music gorgeous enough to evoke that exquisite feeling of wet, cool drops falling on your skin and soaking into your clothes, or the even more exhilarating sensation of running through a wall of water.

This scene can be considered the climax of Alfonso Cuaron‘s sorely underappreciated adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations. In one long tracking shot, helmed by genius cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (before Malick snapped him up), and lushly scored by Patrick Doyle, the camera follows Ethan Hawke‘s Finn (a.k.a. Pip in the original) as he runs through the rain…

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Last entry in the Thomas McCarthy Blogathon, his latest film Win-Win

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McCarthy’s films all beat with both a messiness and a purity in their big, open hearts. They feel less like perfectly buffed gems, but more like bedraggled stuffed toys, kinda shaggy, a little worn around the edges, and yet warm with the hugs of kind-hearted company. Win Win is a feel-good movie that doesn’t resort to cheap shots for its audience’s sympathy. It makes you feel more than just good, but really earns your affection. It’s like McCarthy went through the Pixar writing boot camp and came out with a better grasp of story balance, but left behind the more obvious of the Lasseter template’s emotional machinations. If, at certain beats, Station Agent strayed too whimsical, while The Visitor swung too melancholy, Win Win is “just right”, like a bowl of yummy, satisfying porridge.

A pretty nuanced filmmaker to start with, this film shows how McCarthy continues to expand his shades of…

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2nd entry in our Thomas McCarthy blogathon, the Oscar-nominated The Visitor

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Compared to The Station Agent, I felt no urge to re-watch McCarthy’s sophomore effort, The Visitor, not because it’s a bad film, but because… to put it bluntly… it’s quite a downer. Not that I believe that an artist should limit himself to life-affirming, mood-uplifting works. On the contrary. But looking through McCarthy’s oeuvre, he really does feel-good with a tinge of bittersweet SO well, it almost seems as if he just needed to do a truly sad film to get it out of his system. So “The Visitor”can be said to be a bit of a sophomore slump, not because of a decrease in quality, in fact McCarthy’s writing, technical, and directing skills were definitely further honed with this film, but because compared to the bright spots on his resume that are his other films, The Visitor is kind of like this gray, depressing blot that…

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My first entry in the Thomas McCarthy Blogathon, writing about “The Station Agent

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I first saw The Station Agent as soon as the first bootleg screener DVDs hit the media pirate stalls of Manila, back in those slowband days of 2003 when downloading a film could take the better part of a week. Aside from the novelty of being a well-received indie “art” film with a dwarf actor in the lead, the most the film seemed to have had going for it was riding the wave of Patricia Clarkson‘s burgeoning cred as a character actress to be reckoned with.

Looking back now, who would have predicted that Michelle Williams would eventually snap up a series of Oscar noms, while Peter Dinklage would fall into THE role he was meant to play in Game of Thrones‘ Tryion Lannister. Strange to remember a time when, by accidents of birth or early career choices, either had to strenuously prove themselves just to be taken…

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