Friday, June 29, 2007

How Much of the Philippines Have You Seen?

The shaded portions are the parts of the Philippines that I've already been to. A lot for the average Filipino, but not enough! Hey, I've never even been to Boracay, but I'm not really planning to go since there are a lot of great, quiet beaches nearby. But I'm dying to see Batanes, Sagada, Bohol, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Lake Sebu.

My Lakbayan grade is C!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Director: Sofia Coppola
Year: 2003

What keeps me coming back to this movie is Sofia Coppola's unique style. Whenever I watch this movie, I feel a warmth that is distinctly feminine, like the feeling of being hugged or being taken cared of when you're sick in bed. I love Scarlett Johansson in this; I just want to cuddle her and take care of her and marry her. And can Bill Murray get any better? It was a felt performance. Everybody in this movie, including the Japanese cast and extras, are so natural and so essential; there's not a wasted frame. The cinematography and the use of music are so appropriate and sublime. I remember watching this on DVD for the first time at 5 in the morning and still sleepy. The scene wherein Bill's character arrives in a strange, new city (Tokyo) at dawn, takes in the neon lights, and checks-in at his hotel, I thought, wow, the movie was able to capture how it really feels like, I having experienced the same thing not so long before. And Bill's inaudible message to Scarlett at the end with the Jesus and Mary Chain soundtrack? Genius. I think I'll be watching this movie again and again as long as I live, because it's such a personal experience that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.




Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Favorite Movies: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

Director: Frank Capra
Year: 1946

I dare you not to feel emotional at the ending of this favorite Christmas classic. One time I forced my fellow teachers to sit and watch this on DVD. They were hesitant at first because they were not into old, black & white movies. When the movie ended, there was not a dry eye in the room. They were openly weeping and crying. Who wouldn't be touched by this story? Required viewing for all mankind.

My Favorite Movies: THE SCHOOL OF ROCK

Director: Richard Linklater
Year: 2003

What can I say? Great cast, great acting, great script, great music. Jack Black delivers one of the best and coolest performances this decade as the frenetic Dewey Finn / "Mr. Schneebley." There's not a boring moment in this movie, in which a failed rocker disguises himself as a substitute teacher and teaches his pupils how to play rock music (during school hours!) so that he could finally fulfill his rock dreams and win a battle of the bands contest. What makes me love this movie even more is the fact that I'm also a teacher. When my elementary students are tearing at each other and making me crazy, and they're just so cute and smart, I just think, jeez, this is the coolest job in the world.




My Favorite Movies: NINOTCHKA

Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Year: 1939

I've read about the classic romantic comedy Ninotchka long before I finally caught it on TCM at 3 in the morning a few years back. The press surrounding the movie was mostly about film legend Greta Garbo finally laughing onscreen. Garbo was cool as ice. She always played this woman who was distant and unattainable, even in her silent films. When she finally spoke (in the 1930 movie Anna Christie), people heard a voice that matched her looks and she became a bigger star. Directed by the legendary Ernst Lubitsch, Ninotchka broke Garbo's icy demeanor, when halfway through the movie, she laughs. And laughs and laughs. More than the film's stars and their fantastic acting, I remember this movie fondly for its sparkling and witty script. Here is a scene wherein Garbo's stern Russian agent Nina Ivanovna Yakushova (aka Ninotchka) is being wooed by the very confident playboy Count Leon d'Algout, played by Melvyn Douglas:

INTERIOR, LIVING ROOM -- LEON'S APARTMENT Leon enters the room. Closes the door. Ninotchka is examining the room.


Well, may I offer you a drink, or how about something to eat?


Thank you. I've had all the calories necessary for today.

Leon feels a little uncertain as to how to approach this creature.


What do we do now?


We take off our hat and coat. (he takes her things) We sit down -- we make ourselves comfortable. We adjust ourselves to the prospect of a most enjoyable evening. We look at each other. We smile.

(Ninotchka doesn't respond)

Well... we don't smile. How about some music?


Is that customary?


It helps. It has ever since King David wooed Bathsheba with the harp. As I am not so fortunate as to have my harp at hand, I shall turn on the radio.

NINOTCHKA (the observer)

I should say this room is eighteen by twenty-five.


Not too big and not too small. What I'd call the typical room of an average man. Or shall we say a little above average. Now if there are any special aspects you wish to study I have nothing to conceal. Just look around. That's my desk. Those are my books, and here am I. Where shall we begin?


I will start with you.


That's great. I'm thirty-five years old. Just over six feet tall. I weigh a hundred and eighty-two pounds stripped.


And what is your profession?


Keeping my body fit, keeping my mind alert, keeping my landlord appeased. That's a full-time job.


And what do you do for mankind?


For mankind not a thing -- for womankind the record is not quite so bleak.


You are something we do not have in Russia.


Thank you. Thank you.


That is why I believe in the future of my country.


I begin to believe in it myself since I've met you. I still don't know what to make of it. It confuses me, it frightens me a little, but it fascinates me, Ninotchka.


You pronounce it incorrectly. Ni-notchka.




That is correct.


Ninotchka, do you like me just a little bit?


Your general appearance is not distasteful.


Thank you.


Look at me. The whites of your eyes are clear. Your cornea is excellent.


Your cornea is terrific. Tell me -- you're so expert on things -- can it be that I'm falling in love with you?


You are bringing in wrong values. Love is a romantic designation for a most ordinary biological, or shall we say chemical, process. A lot of nonsense is talked and written about it.


Oh, I see. What do you use instead?


I acknowledge the existence of a natural impulse common to all.


What can I possibly do to encourage such an impulse in you?


You don't have to do a thing. Chemically we are already quite sympathetic.

LEON (bewildered, and yet completely intrigued)

You're the most improbable creature I've ever met in my life, Ninotchka, Ninotchka...


You repeat yourself.


I'd like to say it a thousand times.


Don't do it, please.


I'm at a loss, Ninotchka. You must forgive me if I appear a little old-fashioned. After all, I'm just a poor bourgeois.


It's never too late to change. I used to belong to the petty bourgeoisie myself. My father and mother wanted me to stay and work on the farm, but I preferred the bayonet.

LEON (bewildered)

The bayonet? Did you really?


I was wounded before Warsaw.


Wounded? How?


I was a sergeant in the Third Cavalry Brigade. Would you like to see my wound?

LEON (dumfounded)

I'd love to. (she pulls the blouse off her shoulder and shows him her scar)Tsk, tsk, tsk.


A Polish lancer. I was sixteen.


Poor Ninotchka. Poor, poor Ninotchka.

NINOTCHKA (readjusting her blouse)

Don't pity me. Pity the Polish lancer. After all, I'm alive.

More and more puzzled and fascinated, Leon sits down close to her.


What kind of a girl are you, anyway?


Just what you see. A tiny cog in the great wheel of evolution.


You're the most adorable cog I ever saw in my life. Ninotchka, Cogitska, let me confess something. Never did I dream I could feel like this toward a sergeant.

A clock strikes.


Do you hear that?


It's twelve o'clock.


It's midnight. One half of Paris is making love to the other half. Look at the clock. One hand has met the other hand. They kiss. Isn't that wonderful?


That's the way a clock works. There's nothing wonderful about it. You merely feel you must put yourself in a romantic mood to add to your exhilaration.


I can't possibly think of a better reason.


It's false sentimentality.

LEON (trying desperately to make her mood more romantic)

You analyze everything out of existence. You analyze me out of existence. I won't let you. Love is not so simple. Ninotchka, Ninotchka, why do doves bill and coo? Why do snails, coldest of all creatures, circle interminably around each other? Why do moths fly hundreds of miles to find their mates? Why do flowers open their petals? Oh, Ninotchka, Ninotchka, surely you feel some slight symptom of the divine passion... a general warmth in the palms of your hands... a strange heaviness in your limbs... a burning of the lips that is not thirst but a thousand times more tantalizing, more exalting, than thirst? He pauses, waiting for the results of his speech.


You are very talkative.

That is too much for Leon. He takes her into his arms and kisses her.


Was that talkative?


No, that was restful. Again.

Leon kisses her again.


Thank you.


Oh, my barbaric Ninotchka. My impossible, unromantic, statistical...

The telephone rings.

LEON (continuing)

Glorious, analytical...


The telephone is ringing.


Oh, let it ring.




Friday, June 22, 2007


Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Year: 2004

This is an example of a very mainstream movie that crossed over to the art film crowd. Many people actually did not like this installment at all. They say it's "too dark," "it's not the Hogwarts I know," or simply "different." Well, thank God for that! Helmed by the great Alfonso Cuaron, this is the only one in the four Harry Potter movies so far that doesn't scream "franchise." It's also the only one that actually took me somewhere else and made me feel the magic of the series. There are many great scenes and indelible images in this movie that are simply unforgettable, like the hippogriff and when it took Harry on a trip over that lake, and when they did that time warp thing. This is a great movie and I believe it will stand the test of time.

(Speaking of dark sequels, all of you should really re-watch George Miller's criminally underrated Babe: Pig In The City. I loved it when I first saw it back in the '90s, and I remember it more than the original Babe, but many people hated it because it was such the opposite of its very cheery predecessor. It deserves a critical re-evaluation).




Thursday, June 21, 2007

Photos from the 2007 Namfrel OQC

I was once again part of the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections' (Namfrel) parallel vote count, for the 2007 National and Local elections. I volunteered at the national tabulation center in La Salle Greenhills. Here are snapshots of the volunteers and staff when we weren't making phone calls or receiving faxes or validating results. I appeared in only a handful of photos. More to come.

Friday, June 15, 2007

My Favorite Movies: METROPOLIS

Director: Fritz Lang
Year: 1927

So you say Star Wars has changed the way you look at movies, has changed your life, was an out-of-body experience, blah blah blah. Now imagine yourself being alive in 1927 and seeing this! Truly a milestone in moviemaking, Metropolis was a masterpiece way ahead of its time, influencing art movements (expressionism, surrealism), other art forms (esp. architecture and literature), other movies decades after its release (Blade Runner, Brazil, Star Wars, heck, the science fiction genre, anime, the robotics industry, probably even the Nazis), plundered for 80s music videos (Queen, Madonna), and even reissued in 1984 color-tinted with a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack. Required viewing for the human race.




Wednesday, June 6, 2007

And my favorite song for 2006 is...

"Me & You” by Cassie. Just like most radio songs, this song didn’t strike me as anything significant the first time I heard it. I thought it was just one of those samey, hip-hoppy R&B songs that people forget after a few spins. Not this one though. I thought this song has so many things going on in it that whenever I finish listening to it I go, “what the hell was that?” Could it be Cassie’s wispy voice? (By the way, she’s part-Filipina. Yay!) The lyrics? (Maybe not.) Or maybe it’s those beats and bursts of string samples that lend the whole thing a mysterious, sexy, but epic vibe. It seems that all the elements of this song clash with one another, that’s why I could not quite put my finger on it. Which makes it very interesting and impossible to get tired of. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving with every listen.

Cassie’s song reminds me a lot of Aaliyah’s slithery “We Need a Resolution” from 2001. It has the same “what’s going on here” vibe. Same with the classic 1997 single “What’s It Gonna Be?” by Janet Jackson and Busta Rhymes. Back then, a writer described it as “the aural equivalent of sex.”

I definitely feel the same mysterious, clashing vibe when I listen to Bjork’s “Homogenic” album, also from 1997. For years, my favorite Bjork album was 1995’s “Post.” It was hailed as a masterpiece when it came out, and I couldn’t agree more. But I found myself reaching for “Homogenic” instead as the years passed. The album not only features a fantastic string section, but also some primitive techno beats that seem to have been churned out by a kid toying with a laptop. Top it all off with Bjork’s unusual voice, and her soaring, emotional lyrics, and you have a very strange album indeed. It was ahead of its time. It’s a clash of old and new, of the archaic, familiar and extraterrestrial (unlike the very 1995, Bjork-turistic “Post”), that makes it more difficult to define and therefore each listen reveals a new dimension to it. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.

Watch Cassie's video HERE
Watch Aaliyah's video HERE
Watch Janet and Busta's video HERE
Watch two Bjork videos from "Homogenic" HERE and HERE

Originally posted in January 2007 in

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Best Movies: 2000-2009

The ‘10s and ‘20s are fondly remembered for Chaplin; German Expressionist films; other masterpieces of the silent era (from Murnau, Eisenstein, Griffith, Lang, Dreyer, Flaherty, etc.); the first Hollywood superstars such as Rudolph Valentino, Buster Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Lon Chaney, and Lilian Gish; and the arrival of sound. The ‘30s for glittering Depression-era musicals, family films, screwball comedies, and Disney. The ‘40s for film noir, Westerns, WWII propaganda and morality tales. The ‘50s for Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Italian neorealism, the rise of other world cinema, and Cold War-paranoia sci-fi flicks. The ‘60s for Technicolor epics, youth-oriented pop films, and French New Wave. The ‘70s for its maverick directors (Altman, Allen, Scorsese, Polanski, Coppola, Spielberg, Lucas, Bertolucci, De Palma, Lumet, Pakula, etc.) The ‘80s for modern summer blockbusters and teen flicks. The ‘90s for indie filmmaking, East Asian cinema (Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar-Wai, Ang Lee, etc.), and the rise of CGI. What will this film decade be remembered for? (Hint: it involves cheap cameras and strong convictions…)

Judging a decade’s best is different from judging a year’s best. For an annual list, one usually asks: “Was it well-made? Was it well-written? Did it say something new and unique? Did I actually care about its characters and message?” For a decade review, we also ask: “Will it, or does it, deserve to be remembered? Was it groundbreaking? Does it have the legs to stand among history’s best?”

Below is a running list of movies in alphabetical order that will eventually be ranked in a few years’ time. Many of these films did not earn a lot of money, and most were deprived of proper recognition. Film history is filled with now-revered classics that were once ignored or overlooked (Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Singing In The Rain, The Wizard of Oz, to name a few), and time has not been kind to many Oscar winners and most box office smashes that had hype and publicity to thank (um, A Beautiful Mind?). You will not see on this list many seemingly-obvious shoo-ins for lists of this sort, either because they’re too pretentious for words, or just not good enough.

This list will change from time-to-time, to delete those proven unworthy and to add more (I have yet to see movies such as Requiem for a Dream, Batang West Side, Capturing the Friedmans, many Pinoy digital films, etc.). Eventually, I will also be providing a list of the best performances, memorable characters, scenes/sequences, and technical achievements. Now do your part and watch, or re-watch, these movies and tell me what you think. If you do not agree with my list, then why not start your own.


24-Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002) Web:

28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002) Web:

9/11 (James Hanlon, Rob Klug, Gedeon Naudet, Jules Naudet, 2002) Web:

A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005) Web:

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001) Web:

Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002) Web:

Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) Web:

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000) Web:

American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 2003) Web:

An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006) Web:

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (Aureus Solito, 2005) Web: ;

Arisan! (Nia Di Nata, 2003) Web:

Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (Zacharias Kunuk, 2001) Web:

Baadasssss! (Mario Van Peebles, 2003) Web:

Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, 2004) Web:

Bagong Buwan (Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 2001) Web:

Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005) Web:

Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004) Web:

Belleville Rendezvous (The Triplets of Belleville) (Sylvain Chomet, 2003) Web:

Best In Show (Christopher Guest, 2000) Web:

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006) Web:

Bus 174 (Jose Padilha, Felipe Lacerda, 2002) Web:

Camp (Todd Graff, 2003) Web:

Cars (John Lasseter, 2006) Web:

Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000) Web:

Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002) Web:

Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002) Web:

Chicken Run (Peter Lord, Nick Park, 2000) Web:

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006) Web:

Chunhyang (Im Kwon-taek, 2000) Web:

Cinderella Man (Ron Howard, 2005) Web:

City of God (Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund, 2002) Web:

Curse of the Golden Flower (Zhang Yimou, 2006) Web:

Deliver Us From Evil (Amy Berg, 2006) Web:

(Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002) Web:

Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003) Web:

Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) Web:

Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh, 2000) Web:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) Web:

Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004) Web:

Fantasia 2000 (Eric Goldberg, et al, 2000) Web:

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002) Web:

Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, 2003) Web:

Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002) Web:

Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001) Web:

Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000) Web:

(Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino, 2007) Web:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron, 2004) Web:

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001) Web:

Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002) Web:

High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000) Web:

Hotel Rwanda (Terry George, 2004) Web:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Web:

In America (Jim Sheridan, 2002) Web:

In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000) Web: ;

Infernal Affairs (Wai Keung Laum Siu Fai Mak, 2002) Web:

Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005) Web:

Kandahar (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2001) Web:

Kekexili (Mountain Patrol) (Chuan Lu, 2004) Web:

Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003-2004) Web:;

King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2005) Web:

Kubrador (Jeffrey Jeturian, 2006) Web:

Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001) Web:

Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) Web:

March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet, 2005) Web:

Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston, 2004) Web:

Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006) Web:

Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005) Web:

Mean Creek (Jacob Aaron Estes) Web:

Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) Web:

Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002) Web:

Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) Web:

Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001) Web:

Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005) Web:

No Man’s Land (Danis Tanovic, 2001) Web:

Oliver Twist (Roman Polanski, 2005) Web:

One Hour Photo (Mark Romanek, 2002) Web:

Osama (Siddiq Barmak, 2003) Web:

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) Web:

(NEW) Pisay (Auraeus Solito, 2007) Web:

(NEW) Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007) Web:

Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, 2002) Web:

Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer, 2000) Web:

Shattered Glass (Billy Ray, 2003) Web:

Shrek 2 (Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon, 2004) Web:

Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004) Web:

Sin City (Robert Rodriguez with Quentin Tarantino, 2005) Web:

Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004) Web:

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Web:

Star Wars Episode VI: The Revenge of the Sith (George Lucas, 2005) Web:

Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004) Web:

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Park Chan-Wook, 2005) Web:

Tae Guk Gi (The Brotherhood of War) (Kang Je-gyu, 2004) Web:

Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002) Web:

Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004) Web:

The Best of Youth (Marco Tullio Giordana, 2003) Web:

The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005) Web:

The Count of Monte Cristo (Kevin Reynolds, 2002) Web:

The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006) Web:

The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2005) Web: ;

The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003) Web:

The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005) Web:

The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004) Web:

The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002) Web:

The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006) Web:

The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom, 2006) Web:

The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) Web:

The School of Rock (Richard Linklater, 2003) Web:

The War Tapes (Deborah Scranton, 2006) Web:

Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000) Web:

(NEW) Tribu (Jim Libiran, 2007) Web:
Tsotsi (Gavin Hood, 2005) Web:

Tuhog (Jeffrey Jeturian, 2001) Web:

(NEW) Tulad ng Dati (Mike Sandejas, 2006) Web:

Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan, 2000) Web:

Under The Sand (Francois Ozon, 2000) Web:

United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006) Web:

V For Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006) Web:

(NEW) Volver (Pedro Almodovar, 2006) Web:

Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001) Web:

Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson, 2000) Web:

Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001) Web: ;

Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003) Web:

Originally posted in

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Best Movies of 2005

After weeks of eyestrain and frequent trips to “le cinematheque du peuple,” here’s my list of the best movies of 2005. I made this list because I think most people think it was a bad year for movies; actually, it was a great one. There is not a single movie that defined the year (no LOTR or Chicago), but look at the names attached to the films below (couldn’t believe they all came out with films in 2005) and the sheer number of excellent (but below-the-radar) movies. Contrary to what the Oscars might have led you to believe, it was the best, most diverse, and most surprising line-up in years.

In preferential order

  1. March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet) – 85 minutes of snow and penguins, yet has the most emotional moments captured on film since the Battle of Helm’s Deep! A great achievement and absolutely memorable. (note: the US version, with the Morgan Freeman narration, is the one to watch).

  2. Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan) – probably the best superhero movie ever, from the director of Memento

  3. Munich (Steven Spielberg) – Spielberg’s best film since Schindler’s List (better than A.I., Catch Me If You Can, and Minority Report; Ryan who?). Except for kids in traumatic situations, the Spielberg touch is almost invisible, and all the better for it.

  4. Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith (George Lucas) – the most celebrated series in film has concluded, and only a few came to the party. My second favorite Star Wars film (after The Empire Strikes Back)

  5. Kung-Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow) – Hong Kong, Tarantino, and Looney Tunes, in a blender

  6. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Park Chan-wook) – Park’s stylish, pretty, funny, absurd, and brutal third installment in his vengeance trilogy (after Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy) will no doubt make Tarantino wet his pants when he sees it

  7. Cinderella Man (Ron Howard) – Ron Howard is a Hollywood hack compared with the auteurs on this list, but a good film is a good film, and I liked this one a lot

  8. Everything Is Illuminated (Liev Schreiber) – a hilarious, touching, and ultimately tragic story of a young American man looking for his grandfather’s roots in the Ukraine. Great performances by all, especially Eugene Hutz (of the band Gogol Bordello) and Elijah Wood. Great soundtrack features Ukrainian and Rusian gipsy folk music.

  9. No Direction Home (Martin Scorsese) – Scorsese sifted through tons of footage, pictures, interviews and music to cobble together what may be the definitive documentary on Bob Dylan as an artist during his peak years – his beginnings, influences, motivations, contemporaries, and the events that shaped his art

  10. The New World (Terrence Malick) – in which the reclusive Malick puts us inside the heads of John Smith and Pocahontas and shows us what it must have been/felt like when their two cultures met and clashed for the first time in 1607 Virginia, without the burden of history and knowledge of the significance of the event. Not for the impatient or uncommitted viewer, this film I think is quite an achievement and a near-masterpiece

  11. Mrs. Henderson Presents (Stephen Frears) – Pure delight! Features an unbelievably hilarious performance from Judi Dench. The script is hysterical and the music is great. Watch out for director/prankster Christopher Guest of Spinal Tap as…a British lord.

  12. Capote (Bennett Miller) – featuring the year’s best performance by a non-penguin – Philip Seymour Hoffman – whose skills remind me of (gasp!) Meryl Streep

  13. King Kong (Peter Jackson) – deserves more accolades than a certain cowboy movie, and I still think Naomi Watt’s performance was largely ignored (she can beat the crap out of Fay Wray any day)

  14. Caché (Hidden) (Michael Haneke) – someone’s been filming Daniel Auteuil and wife Juliette Binoche and sending them the tapes with creepy drawings. Who was it, and why? But is it really just a whodunit, and not a painful allegory instead (as some have pointed out) about a grim chapter in French history, largely lost to most foreign audiences

  15. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg) – a tightly crafted (Hitchcockian?) thriller with the Cronenberg trademark of bursting flesh that looks like sticky Christmas ham (yum). I have a feeling this film will grow in prominence over the years.

  16. Crash (Paul Haggis) – if indeed this movie is pretentious (as detractors have claimed), then I love pretentious

  17. Oliver Twist (Roman Polanski) – nothing cute or sweet in this richly detailed production. Polanski tells it like the tragedy it is: a poor orphan down on his luck in a squalid world. Polanski’s very own The 400 Blows.

  18. Sin City (Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller, with Quentin Tarantino) – a groundbreaking stylish film that I think actually advanced the art form. Again, I feel this movie will grow in prominence over the years.

  19. Red Eye (Wes Craven) – 2005’s tightest thriller that has no other artsy fartsy intention than to keep you glued and, well, thrilled

  20. Rize (David LaChapelle) – famed photographer and video director David LaChapelle’s documentary on krumping (quick, Google it) is one of the best films on dance – and the American urban black experience – ever. Certainly the most frenetic merging of music and film since Michael Winterbottom’s 24-Hour Party People.
  21. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee) – a well-crafted, envelope-pushing film whose press is bigger than what it actually is

  22. Duma (Carroll Ballard) – shot on location in South Africa and Botswana, this flawed but very engaging adventure film about a boy and his pet cheetah (a cheetah!) has heart and visual splendor to spare

  23. Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall) – this sumptuous Japantasy from the director of Chicagois a feast for the eyes

  24. The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles) – a political thriller, set in Africa, involving diplomats, NGO workers/activists, evil businessmen, and spies. When was the last time you saw something like that?

  25. Millions (Danny Boyle) – a funny, charming, un-ironic, quasi-religious, genre-bending, feel-good family movie from the director of…Trainspotting and 28 Days Later?? This guy can do anything!

  26. Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney) – a history lesson set in the ‘50’s that manages to be more relevant to current US affairs than 24 hours of CNN

  27. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Nick Park and Steve Box) – you can even see the filmmakers’ fingerprints on the clay in this handcrafted labor of love

  28. Manderlay (Lars von Trier) – not as involving as its predecessor Dogville, the brave second installment in von Trier’s America trilogy is a pointed parable aimed this time at African-Americans who refuse to rise above the shackles of slavery and poverty, even if given chance to. Had this film received Oscar attention, it could have caused riots in Hollywood.

  29. Jarhead (Sam Mendes) – it’s not an action movie, or a propaganda, and certainly not a satire (or a Three Kings-lite), but more like a long, painful sigh that wants to be heard

  30. The Island (Michael Bay) – could uber-hack Michael Bay actually have directed this smart, Logan’s Run-esque sci-fi escape movie that anticipates the horrors of cloning? I’m now officially excited to see Bay’s live-action adaptation of Transformers

  31. Transamerica (Duncan Tucker) – any film that manages to focus on something new or taboo deserves attention, and this movie has earned it

  32. Seven Swords (Tsui Hark) – a huge martial arts epic that delivers the moves and the effects

  33. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell) – a little-seen film. Have you heard about it?

  34. The Aristocrats (Paul Provenza) – 100 comedians (including Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Connolly and Hank Azaria) talk about the filthiest joke ever conceived. Yes, that’s the whole movie. Totally retarded (you have been warned!) but absolutely hysterical.

  35. Last Days (Gus Van Sant) – more like a study than an “actual movie,” this film imagines the last few days of a junkie prior to his suicide (the junkie just happens to have been “inspired” by Kurt Cobain). Surprising cameo by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Very fascinating, but not for everybody.

  36. Rent (Chris Columbus) – die-hard fans (like me) of the Pulitzer prize-winning musical have a lot to complain about: the choice of Columbus as director, a third of the songs and interludes being dropped or turned to funny-sounding dialogue (the stage production is almost completely sung-through like Les Miz), and though it was a good idea to invite the original Broadway cast to reprise their roles onscreen, well, they’re now 10 years older. But the fact is the heart and essence of the musical is largely intact, and those songs that are left still have the power to touch those who will listen to them for the first time.

  37. The Brothers Grimm (Terry Gilliam) – to like this movie is to like the body of work of madman Terry Gilliam, for whom the phrases “noble failure” and “bloated mess” were probably coined. As usual, the production values are high, everything is over-the-top, and the tone confusing at best. But like watching a sprightly dancing cadaver, I didn’t get it, but I couldn’t look away.

  38. Don’t Come Knocking (Wim Wenders) – similar in theme to Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers (guy past his prime learns he had child out of wedlock then looks for mother and kid) but with better performances (Jessica Lange, Eva Marie Saint), better location (Marlboro country), and even better cinematography and music

Not among the best, but notable nonetheless

In preferential order

  1. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones)
  2. Hustle & Flow (Craig Brewer)
  3. Corpse Bride (Tim Burton and Mike Johnson)
  4. War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg)
  5. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton)
  6. Syriana (Stephen Gaghan)
  7. Walk The Line (James Mangold)
  8. Perhaps Love (Peter Chan)
  9. Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright)
  10. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow)
  11. Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe)
  12. Thumbsucker (Mike Mills)
  13. Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch)
  14. Land of the Dead (George Romero)
  15. Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July)


  1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson)
  2. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)

Full Disclosure

I haven’t seen the following talked-about films from 2005 (which could have affected my rankings above):

  1. Filipino films – Shame on me. I did see one, though – Jeffrey Jeturian’s Bikini Open, which I thought was very good, but I totally missed out on the digital films. It was a banner year for Filipino independent cinema, when movies like Auraeus Solito’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, actually got made, got exhibited in festivals, and got shown commercially in the malls! May this be the start of bigger things.
  2. Match Point (Woody Allen)
  3. A State of Mind(Daniel Gordon)
  4. Tsotsi (Gavin Hood)
  5. Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro)
  6. Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad)

  7. The Squid & The Whale (Noah Baumbach)

  8. Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room (Alex Gibney)

  9. Sophie Scholl: The Final days (Marc Rothemund)

  10. L’Enfant (Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
  11. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom)
  12. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black)
  13. Breakfast On Pluto (Neil Jordan)
  14. Joyeux Noel (Christian Carion)
  15. Mad Hot Ballroom (Marilyn Agrelo)
  16. Casanova (Lasse Hallstrom)
  17. North Country (Niki Caro)

    Originally posted April 2, 2006 in