Academy Award frontrunner ‘Room’ relates unbreakable mother-son bond

This year’s strong contender and frontrunner in the 88th Oscars, “Room” being nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress takes the audience on a visceral experience as we are introduced to the cramped world of the five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma named Joy (Brie Larson), where he was born and grew up. But at night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) comes.

In “Room,” Jack’s Ma had been abducted by Old Nick and had been imprisoned at the backyard in his shed for seven years, where she had Jack after Old Nick repeatedly abused her. When Jack turned five, Joy hatches an escape plan so Jack can live a normal life. Her selfless act would also prove of their unbreakable bond as mother and son as she prepares Jack for the dangerous escape.

Based on the bestselling and multi-awarded book of the same name by author Emma Donoghue, told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, “Room” is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another

The book’s darkness was offset by an undercurrent of love – messy, flawed, burdened, never-ending love – that runs throughout. Says Donoghue: “One of the ideas behind Room is that children have this natural tendency to thrive. So long as they’re getting love and affection, even if it’s in dark or incomprehensible circumstances, they’re so adaptable, they’ll find a way to be OK and to grow up.”

The role of the woman who is known to Jack simply as Ma, runs the gamut of maternal triumphs and maternal agonies, from fear and regret to awe and unwavering love. All of that came through in a gritty, unsentimentalized way in Brie Larson who won this year’s Best Actress Award at the Golden Globes.

Larson approached Ma with extreme commitment, leaving no stone unturned – from altering her physique to conducting intense psychological research on confinement – in her quest to do justice to who Ma is, what she has gone through in Room and how she focuses every last bit of herself on Jack’s future. She knew part of her task was to embody Ma’s stark contradictions. On the one hand, she approached Ma as still very much a child herself, a girl stolen away from her promising life on the cusp of adulthood and forced to grow a stony emotional armor around her to survive. “I don’t think Ma ever expected to get out of Room,” Larson states. “She knew that hope can be a trickster. But I think she always believed Jack would get out. When she made an escape plan for Jack, it was a selfless act. She had to believe Jack would make it, but I don’t think she ever considered that she might make it out, too, and have another chance at life and being a mother.”

Director Lenny Abrahamson was floored by Larson’s devotion to immersing herself in Ma’s POV. “I’d worried so much about finding Jack, but if we hadn’t found Brie, this film could never be what it is,” he says. “She’s so deft in her abilities, and so willing to go all the way, I don’t think anyone else could have brought Ma to life with so much emotional truthfulness.”

Larson explains that her connection to the character and the entire story has a personal link. Growing up poor herself for a time, with a mother recovering from a divorce, Larson had once lived in her own tiny, dilapidated but slightly enchanted enclave, a bit like Jack. “When we first moved to Los Angeles, my mom, me and my sister lived in a one-room studio apartment that was maybe twice the size of Room. We had very little money, we couldn’t even afford a Happy Meal at McDonald’s and we each had like three pieces of clothing and a couple of toys,” Larson describes. “Yet, there was something really simple and a little magical about that time. We still talk about it as one of the best times in our lives. For my mom, I know there was a tremendous amount of pain as she tried to figure out who she was and how to support two kids on her own. But I also remember it as a time when I really learned the power of the imagination. We didn’t have much, but my mom could create games out of anything, even little sugar packets. ”

“Room” opens February 17, 2016 in cinemas from Pioneer Films.

Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ co-head of story is a Filipino!

Another Filipino artist rises atop the global animation stage with the release of Disney’s new animated feature, “Zootopia” whose Co-Head of Story is Filipino-American Josie Trinidad. She oversees the story team, which is responsible for translating the script to its first visual form.

Trinidad joined Disney Animation Studios in 2004 as a story apprentice. Once she completed training, she was hired as a story artist. Her Disney credits include 2009’s feature film “The Princess and the Frog,” the 2010 adventure “Tangled,” the arcade-game-hopping “Wreck-It Ralph,” and shorts “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” and “The Ballad of Nessie.”

Before she joined the Disney team, she worked as an illustrator for toy company MGA Entertainment, as well as Klasky Csupo on animated commercials.

She was inspired to pursue animation as a career at age 8 while watching “Robin Hood” on VHS. “We accidentally paused the movie and it continued to play in slow motion,” says Trinidad. “I saw each frame change and move. It was stunning how beautiful each drawing was. I realized someone actually had to draw each frame of animation, and I knew I wanted to do that.”

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Trinidad attended UCLA, majoring in English literature and fine art, and studied character animation at CalArts.

The Filipino-American animator shares a special connection with Judy Hopps, the protagonist bunny in “Zootopia.” In a particular scene, Judy has just moved to the big city and beginning to regret her choice. “This is the exact same thing I went through when I moved to New York,” she explains. Although the scene changed a little bit from inception to final, the piece is still near and dear to Josie’s heart.”

“We set out to make a funny animal movie,” says director Byron Howard. “But the more digging we did, we saw an opportunity to talk about something important—while still having great fun with the world, the characters and the story.”

According Trinidad, filmmakers first looked at prey versus predator and how that would affect a community like Zootopia. “Then we leaned into animal stereotypes—elephants never forget, foxes are sly, rabbits are timid—everyone has a stereotype they’re fighting against. That’s something everyone in the audience can appreciate.”

Disney’s “Zootopia” is a place where no matter what you are—from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew—you can be anything. But when rookie officer Judy Hopps arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with Nick Wilde—a fast-talking, scam-artist fox—to solve a mystery.

Opening across the Philippines on February 17, 2016, “Zootopia” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.

Follow the official social media accounts of Disney in the Philippines, namely, (FB) WaltDisneyStudiosPH, (Twitter) @disneystudiosph and (Instagram) @waltdisneystudiosph and use the hashtag #ZootopiaPH.

Nicholas Sparks spreads love anew in ‘The Choice’

Nicholas Sparks has kept the flame of love burning for his millions of readers with his bestselling novels. He has authored 18 books that feature male characters which he calls “Joe Average” or “guys who build furniture, high school students, and soldiers”. Yet he makes them stand out because of how deeply they fall in love and how strongly they express their feelings thru love letters, idyllic dates, and heroic deeds. Meanwhile, the female characters usually want to appear strong when deep inside they are really vulnerable. And when these women meet their own Joe Average, attraction, passion, and love are sure to spark.

It is not surprising that film adaptations of Sparks’ novels are generally box office hits. The Notebook starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams was produced for only less than $30 million, but grossed around $115 million worldwide. Since 2004, it has remained the top-grossing Sparks movie in the US, and the most critically acclaimed. Surely, no one can forget how Noah (Gosling) and Ally’s (McAdams) love for each other defied class difference, sickness, and lasted ‘til their last breath.

In terms of worldwide earnings, Message in a Bottle, starring Robin Wright and Kevin Costner, enjoys the title of being the highest-grossing Sparks movie all over the world. Dear John, the drama-war film starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, comes next after The Notebook. Grossing at $30,468,614 in its opening weekend in February 2010, Dear John is reportedly the best debut for a film based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. The Lucky One, which is about a US Marine (Zac Efron) who tracks down the woman (Taylor Schilling) whose photo he has carried around like a lucky charm while fighting in Iraq, is consistent in the top 5 highest-grossing Sparks movie. Not far behind is Safe Haven, which combines suspense and romance when a newcomer (Julianne Hough) in town finds a friend and lover in a widower (Josh Duhamel), and their bond forces her to confront her darkest secrets.

A Walk To Remember (2002), Nights in Rodanthe (2008), The Last Song (2010), The Best of Me (2014), and The Longest Ride (2015) are five other titles enjoyed by moviegoers.

This February, The Choice is the 11th Sparks movie to hit the big screen. It tells the story of new neighbors Gabby Holland and Travis Shaw who start off on the wrong foot, but manage to forge a friendship eventually. Gabby is preparing to settle down with her longtime boyfriend Ryan who is a doctor, and Travis is holding on to his belief that having a girlfriend would cramp his easygoing lifestyle. But an irresistible attraction between them poses a challenge to their well-planned lives. A love triangle that stars TV and stage actor Benjamin Walker (from the Broadway play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, opposite Scarlett Johansson), Australian charmer Teresa Palmer (I Am Number Four), and Tom Welling (Smallville’s Clark Kent/Superman), The Choice traces the evolution of a love affair that is tested by life’s most defining events and poses the question: How far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?

From Viva International Pictures and MVP Entertainment, The Choice opens in cinemas on February 17, 2016.