Archive for February, 2010

The Lovely Bones got too lovely

I had pegged this to be the next heart-crushing movie adaptation since My Sister’s Keeper.

When Suzie Salmon was 14, she was raped and brutally murdered by her nieghbor, Mr. George Harvey. Not able let go of the life and the world she was robbed off, she looks on from the land of in-between as her murderer remains unpunished and her family reels from the tragedy of her death.

First 45 minutes of the film were great. You can easily feel the connections between the characters. What more can you ask from a very talented ensemble cast which includes Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, and Stanley Tucci? The junior actors deliver remarkable performances as well, keeping up with the veterans. Saoirse Ronan who played Suzie Salmon was a revelation. I expect her to appear in more roles after her performance in this movie.

The Salmon family is a lovely bunch. But their peaceful and loving existence was shattered into pieces when Suzie disappeared one night, and was soon believed to be dead. She was murdered,  her body was never found. That scene where Stanley Tucci’s character, Mr. Harvey, lures Suzie into an underground den was so gripping and so terrorizing, it is the stuff of every parent’s worst nightmares.

But when Suzie died, the rest of the movie also did. This is the saddest the movie could ever get.

With a brilliant cast and a bestseller novel as basis for the plot, what could have gone so terribly wrong?

A director’s overindulgence is to blame. When Suzie died and entered her personal heaven, everything felt so disconnected. Too much CGI effects used in this movie became so distracting, it broke down all the connections that were so beautifully built in the first half of the movie. It became so visually lovely that it overshadowed the harrowing ordeal of losing a child, a sister in the most brutal manner. Mr. Jackson had become so preoccupied with his vision of what Suzie’s perfect sort-of heaven should be like, when his focus should have been on the ones that were left behind – the people whom Suzie cannot let go of. All of a sudden, the script became lousy and some of the characters became useless. Case in point, Rachel Weisz who played Suzie’s mother. It was such a waste!

I wish Jackson had gotten over his fantasy kicks in LOTR, and had completely abandoned them in this movie. Had this movie been presented in a straight-forward fashion, this would have been perfect – the first half was. I guess it’s too bad for those who read and loved the book ‘coz this film had potential…

It could have been “just right” lovely.



Once in a while, you stumble into something effortlessly beautiful.

Love. Music. Love for music.

In the streets of Dublin, a struggling musician finds a kindred soul. The two soon discover that they make good music together, and starts to collaborate on making a demo record.

A film about music artistry with undertones of a potential love story, Once reminds us that in between the lines and melodies, and stripped off  of all the business hullabaloo, music is the language of the human heart. Done with a very low budget, shot  like a home video, and with the two leads having little or no professional acting backgrounds, this indie film is as natural as it can get yet having the capacity to move and inspire. Sparse on the production, rich in heartfelt emotion.

The first time I heard the song Falling Slowly, I fell in love with it. This song, and most of the songs in the film, are collaborations between Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the movie’s two lead characters who are real-life musicians, rather than actors. It’s really amazing how we get a glimpse of this collaborative process as it is being played out on-screen. Watching this movie, I wish that I were an artist myself. I wish I had that gift of self-expression, to turn raw emotions into another self-sustaining life form. I wish that I could also feel that gratification, that sense of pure bliss after having created something beautiful – like in that scene on the beach at dawn, after they’ve finished their demo recording.

But then again, I’ve accepted that some things come naturally to some people, but not to others. And that’s not too bad, ‘coz we can still live vicariously through their images, their songs, and their words. It doesn’t make the experience less real or less felt. There also exists a unique kind of joy in finding a connection, in discovering an image, a melody, or a line that seem to be made just for you. Sometimes even, it comes as a pleasant surprise.

Like stumbling into something like this that’s so effortlessly beautiful every once in a while.

Lloyd Dobler, where are you?

Twenty years ago, a guy thought of wooing a girl by camping outside her house, hoisting a boom box over his head, blaring Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes.

The guy was John Cusack, and it was in this 80’s movie Say Anything.

This scene was just classic. I’ve never seen the movie until a few days back but I have always known about this John Cusack boom box gesture. I don’t really remember how I knew about it, I just did – like it’s common knowledge.

I guess it is that iconic.

And I find this really amazing because come to think of it, everything about the scene was very basic. No dialogues, no special effects, no breathtaking scenery, no altercations, no tears. There was just this guy – a basic guy,  as Ione Skye’s character described him on their first date. He wore his heart out on his sleeve, and declared his love in a song. Well, the boom box did seem heavy but pretty much, that was it. Simple as it is though, it was very eloquent and right on target. A perfect moment – one that girls would surely want to experience and one that boys would want to copy, without worrying about the act being “uncool”.

It’s your usual love story. Boy and girl are polar opposites. The girl’s a mega-achiever who feels alienated from her peers. The guy’s a bit of a slacker but one who is smart, funny, kind, devoted, and noble. He shows her a world outside the confines of the prestigious academe. He shows her how to belong. They fall in love, put in the parental factor and some other conflict to break them up, but they eventually kiss and make up.

Again, the general plot is basic. But Cameron Crowe’s script is refreshing even after twenty years. There is something about this movie, and in all of his other films that I love, that is very truthful and earnest, minus the overkill. I loved how everything just seems to be falling into place – not rushed nor dragged, but naturally believable. That when they started to say that they love each other, they’re just mere affirmations.

I also loved the lines – a bit nerdy, a bit quirky, but never trying too hard to be anything.  Just to give you a sample, from now on, my definition of a date would be a prearrangement, with a possibility for love.

Music. I will always wonder how Cameron Crowe knew that Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes is the perfect song to play for that monumental boom box scene.

And of course, I loved John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler. Every girl wants to be with him, and every guy wants to be him.