‘A Star is Born’ review [2 of 2]: The musical era is officially back!

Bradley Cooper brings back a contemporary remake of a beloved Hollywood classic in ‘A Star is Born,’ with less glitter and more realistic textures, showcasing the dark pits of dreams and stardom.

A Star is Born Poster

Led by his raw and poetic direction, Cooper shows the movie from the artist’s perspective — camera angles from the back of the performer’s shoulders, enveloping a mosh-pit visual, contrasting the silhouette of the artist facing the audience. It comes in such rare occasions where performances are shown from the artist’s point of view, where the faces of the audience are established as a chain reaction towards the music in the film. It was never about “how great the performers are”; it was about “what the effect of the music to the audience is”.

A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in ‘A Star is Born.’ Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures

The cinematography is a character in itself. Every shot establishes a certain truth, and a certain lie. How Ally (Lady Gaga) and Jackson (Bradley Cooper) converses about song writing, the camera angles from the back, showing nothing but an empty parking lot and their faces from their head-point perspective. This mise-en-scene suggests their truth as musicians, that they are pouring their own reality without having the need to please anybody. The same way how Ally sees Jackson performing for the first time, the camera pans from the backstage, capturing an artist’s POV from stage to audience. The camera establishes what she sees: Jackson facing the crowd, with his back and nape sweating, and hundreds of people running business behind the scenes. It shows how music is all about hardwork, human labor, with the audience roaring in excitement as the product of this profession. It shines a light on the truth about performers, and not just showcasing the vanity of how great they are from a front angle. A Star is Born reverses that sight. Later on, upon Ally’s star power transformation as she performs in Saturday Night Live as a glamour girl with nothing but empty music, the camera suddenly is in front of the stage — this serves as a commentary as to what the current climate of the music industry is, where the truth of musical artistry is dying and the audience sees gimmicks instead of talents. This facing-the-stage camera angle is now all about pleasing the audience.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performs ‘Shallow.’ Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures.

Let’s talk about Lady Gaga. The woman has to be commended for stripping down to her soul, losing her vanity, and going bare to her bones in a performance that’s very raw and human without the periphery of crazy costumes and theatrical characterization. To tell you the truth, I had very low expectations with Gaga’s acting. Fresh from watching her TV stint in American Horror Story: Hotel where she was wooden as a cardboard, I immediately knew she didn’t have the chops for dramatic acting. But as the film’s title suggests, a star is born through this film — Lady Gaga turns out to be a revelation. But is she really that good? For me, if I were to compare her performance as Ally in her own acting standard, she is beyond excellent. It was definitely a departure from her campy music videos, and dead-pan TV performances. It’s almost unthinkable how the monster in a meat dress and this human portrait on film is the same person. She did excellent in a “Lady Gaga standard”. But, separating the artist from the artwork is a different story. If I were to be bias-free and not knowing what Gaga is capable and not capable of, her performance as Ally is still a bit lukewarm. I’ve been craving for in-between moments from her. I wanted to see her in-betweens of very happy, and very sad. I craved for a range that’ll take me to what it actually felt like to be nominated for 3 Grammys including Best New Artist, and to face grief, rejection and adversity. All she gave was very happy, and very sad. She lacked the nuances that I hoped for in a character that’s very capable of every human emotion, given the fact that she has been through so much. Gaga didn’t bring me there. However, she brought passion, which I think is good enough. Her performance was passionate and hungry. Starving, almost. Starving for that dream, and itching to share her God-given talents. I think that’s what it’s all about: a passionate performance with killer vocals. She may not have the acting range, but her vocal range is beyond heaven and earth.

Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine in ‘A Star is Born.’ Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures

Bradley Cooper, as per usual, brings the method in acting. His performance as Jackson Maine is Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart meets Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line. It was equally gritty and vulnerable. Unlike Gaga, Cooper’s acting range is beyond the roof. Not to mention, his singing ability was pleasantly surprising, too. Cooper gives his most humane performance since American Sniper in 2014.

Overall, let’s give huge thanks to Damien Chazelle for bringing La La Land in 2016. La La Land brought back the musical game to the table. And after its success, The Greatest Showman, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, A Star is Born, and in a couple of months, Bohemian Rhapsody and Mary Poppins Returns, have dominated 2017 and 2018. And A Star is Born, rises to the top as one of the best since La La Land.

In a nutshell, A Star is Born is a very poetic, human, and intensely raw musical, with iconic performances from Gaga and Cooper. The film seals the deal: the musical era is officially back.

5 out of 5 stars


MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War (2018) [2 of 2]

Avengers: Infinity War soars through a galaxy of big stars that the world has fallen in love with over the last 10 years. A decade-long of brewing momentum that spews generosity on its loud visual effects, and unprecedented humor injects, are only but a couple of reasons why Marvel is at the top of their A-game.

Avengers: Infinity War

When it comes to a pitch perfect image of a superhero movie, Avengers: Infinity War epitomizes that cinematic definition. Marvel has once again proven its keen eye for pleasing cinephiles and comic book fans alike through a very satisfying visual and emotional treat. Over the last 10 years, Marvel has, one by one, assembled the Avengers’ standalone movies before coming up with this big collaboration with everyone on-board — something that DC’s Suicide Squad could learn something from. They made sure that the audience has fully invested on these characters, that it almost didn’t matter how short or long each of their screen time was, or how underwritten some of them were. Marvel has done every establishing rapport to the moviegoers over the last 10 years, which goes to show that a film this big truly takes a decade to have full and complete fruition.

The stars are overwhelmingly big. From the nostalgia brought by Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man way back in 2008, to Chadwick Boseman’s luminous Black Panther just 2 months ago, the movie is a collection of an end-to-end dynasty of stars, making Marvel an unstoppable force who truly knows how to build a universe. The combination of all these characters along with their respective trademarks brought so many nuances to the film: from Thor and Star Lord’s sharp comic versatility; Spiderman’s naive-Gen Z persona; Black Panther’s regal cast ensemble; Doctor Strange’s ethereal, almost ghost-like presence, to the ill-fated romance of Scarlet Witch and Vision, just to name a few. They have proven that superhero movies is a trend that hasn’t gotten old, and won’t likely be getting close to it anytime soon. It is a pure testament that superheroes will always be a part of the psyche in every generation, and it’ll never be outdated or old-fashioned. Infinity War has upheld that timeless legacy.

READ MORE: First review of CinemaBravo for Avengers: Infinity War

That being said, the movie primarily worked because of two things: 1) too many big stars, and b) our connection with the characters, as established by our years of emotional investment towards them. It’s always refreshing to see them all together in one movie. However, there really isn’t anything particularly new to the story, or anything groundbreaking to the premise. From X-Men: Days of Future Past, to Justice League (a bad movie, but hey, the premise is a been-there-done-that) — that Superhero: All Star theme is something that didn’t register as fresh or new. Infinity War only felt like it’s high above the rest because of these top-billed A-listers, who aced each of their characters, needless to say.

Moreover, the first half of the film seemed like a never-ending momentum towards something that ultimately never felt fully achieved, other than a boastful prelude towards the next Marvel movie. It was an oxymoronic combination of being too long, but equally too short. The build-up was painstakingly long, but the climax ultimately felt underwhelming (Really? All that otherworldly, interplanetary build-up scenes, and the fight ends up in some random forest that looked like it was shot in someone’s backyard?) Don’t get me wrong — it was great movie, but its boiling hot premise dwindled down to a lukewarm finale. Infinity War felt like an overly-prolonged commercial for the next Avengers film.

Nevertheless, Avengers: Infinity War stirred my curiosity to the continuance of the Marvel universe, and is a testament that a decade-long franchise and partial conclusion is just the beginning of it all. It left me hanging, but for most part, it made me want to see what’s next. At the end of the day, that feeling of excitement towards the sequel is all you could hope for in a franchise.

4.5 out of 5 stars

About Avengers: Infinity War

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Avengers: Infinity War’ is now showing in PH cinemas.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes/War Machine), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Stephen Strange), Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spiderman), Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa/Black Panther), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Anthony Mackie (Wade Wilson/Falcon), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/White Wolf), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (Groot), Vin Diesel (Groot), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Benedict Wong (Wong), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Benicio Del Toro (The Collector), Josh Brolin (Thanos) and Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord). Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

Runtime: 2 hours, 36 minutes

Are horror movies never scary enough?

If you’re watching a horror movie just for you to be scared, you’re watching it with your eyes half closed.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and other social media posts (mostly reviews) about how horror movies nowadays aren’t as terrifying as they used to be. Yes, these blogs are mostly by millennials, who grew up in an era where 90s slasher films are hot — Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, etc., where the killer wears a mask and chases the victim while walking incredibly slow (yes, seasoned pros). A decade later, these flicks were succeeded by even gorier, crazier ones (with more special effects — thanks, technology) like the endless Saw and Final Destination series. For a certain period of time between 2002 and 2005, people fancied remakes, too — The Ring, The Grudge, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. Fast forward to another decade later, it was all about evil possession, where Evil Dead, The Conjuring, Annabelle, etc. came into picture — and yes, better technology, better effects, wilder story premises. Just recently, along came another wave of socially and politically relevant horror films, such as Cloverfield, Don’t Breathe, Get Out, and A Quiet Place. Just like any other genre of film, horror movies follow a distinct trend that marks a stamp in the era they were released. And just like anything else, through time, what’s once considered a breakthrough trend becomes a norm, and that norm becomes a cliché. But the question is, have scary movies really lost their spark? Are they no longer that scary anymore? Is the genre simply tiring? Are horror movies never scary enough?

Whenever people ask me whether a horror film is scary or not (as it’s most people’s basis of watching, anyway), my standard response is always: “it depends on what your definition of scary is”. Some people define scary as killers in masks, sharp editing and swift camera movements from blank-space-camera-pan-to-sudden-focus-to-killer’s-face-with-matching-oomph-music. Some people define it as slow build-ups, mundane yet guttural tensions. Some people define it as gore, blood splattering, beheading, chainsaw ripping his insides open, etc. Moreover, some people are just too cool to be scared.

Let me tell you a story: as a kid, I was scared of getting into a bathtub full of water, because I’ve always had this mindset that I was going to drown in it anytime. Years later, I got over my bathtub phobia, and was then scared of swimming pools for the same peculiar reason. Fast-forward to my teenage years, swimming pools became a piece of cake, but my fear shifted to beaches. But then, I was exposed to traveling and summer getaways with friends and all that jazz, so the beach became a walk in the park. My fear rose to something even bigger and deeper — the ocean. And yes, that deep blue image still petrifies me up until now. Throughout those years, my fear accelerated, and the ones that I used to be scared of simply became mundane. My point is — my standard on fear has just became so high, that thinking of those what I used to fear of sounds ridiculous. Same thing with horror movies: every year, as we are bombarded with many (almost too many) horror movies, our cathartic sense to be scared becomes less and less. We ultimately see ourselves longing for that goosebumps and the chill-in-the-spine that we used to feel. To narrow my point: it’s not the horror movie… it’s you.

Remember how Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was dubbed as the scariest movie of all time back in the 1960s? Watching it now, it is, and forever will be, a cinematic masterpiece, as it defined an era of movies. It was simply a breakthrough in film-making. But as a 28-year-old guy watching it in 2018, would I consider it even a tad-bit scary? Not at all. That is why Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Psycho in 1998 never worked. Not only it felt outdated, but it also seemed too cartoonish. You can never replicate an era-defining film 40 years later and expect the same scare factor from it. It’s the same way that you cannot fool the 28-year-old me by pushing me in a bath tub full of water and expect the same reaction I would have given if it were 20 years ago.

My point is, you can’t say that a horror movie is a “bad one” simply because you weren’t scared of it. Sweep generalizing a horror movie’s quality solely based on it’s scare-meter is juvenile. It’s not the movie. It’s you. Whenever I watch a movie and assess its quality, I usually ask myself — How good is the writing? How awesome are the effects? How great are the actors? Did it make me feel anything new? It is void to have your purge of emotions, heavily based on time and experience, to judge a film’s greatness. To single out the how-scary-it-is factor will only frustrate you, and will ultimately ruin your viewing experience. And influencing others to not watch a horror movie just because it wasn’t scary enough for you is ruining the potential viewing experience of others, too.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not preaching to people on what should they or should they not like. Of course, we are all entitled to our opinions. I’m just saying, truly watching a movie free from personal biases is one thing, and watching a movie to make yourself feel something that you are psychologically no longer capable of feeling is another.

Don’t blame the filmmakers. Blame yourself for growing.

MOVIE REVIEW: A Quiet Place (2018)

Anchored by exponentially gripping performances, and a direction that navigates the audience to untouched paradigms of horror, A Quiet Place is a cathartic genre-film that welcomes John Krasinski to a lineup of masterful contemporary directors.

The film uses its chilling silence to draw the audience in, and it grips you so tightly with its eerie quietness, with every jolt of sudden sound will make your nerves erupt. Sound is perhaps the main character of the film, acting both as the protagonist and the villain. Its absence is a mere relief, yet the anticipation of every incoming soundbite brings uncanny tension that seems to be unstoppable from start to finish. Krasinski used the character of sound to create an unsettling friction throughout the movie, making it an unnerving experience other than just a regular film viewing. The audience is involved all throughout. The stillness of the movie’s narrative aims to pull the viewers in a magnetic field of terror. It grabs you by the neck, and it won’t let you go.

Recent horror films like Get Out, Don’t Breathe and Cloverfield have introduced a new wave of the genre that doesn’t just aim to give a fright. These trailblazers to the genre have revamped succeeding horror films into stylish, full-bodied, socially relevant commentaries that unmask the dark layers of reality. A Quiet Place is no exception in the continuance of that conversation.

Epitomizing Undertones: The Prey and the Predator

Get Out didn’t really have undertones — it was quite an in-your-face punch to white supremacy. Don’t get me wrong — it worked beautifully. However, the bliss of A Quiet Place is that every commentary is layered in metaphors that come unexpected. From the entrapment of children (a subtle strike to pedophilia to underage preys), to Emily Blunt’s disturbing labor scene (which denotes silencing harassment), the movie perfectly embraces the purpose of undertones on film.

In an era where our political climate seemed to be unraveling, particularly sexual offenders and predators, the noise of testimonies from both men and women who have been victims of these acts are starting to spew out. Naturally, to protect these crime instigators, silencing their victims has been a very popular trend for the past few decades. Parallel to the film, its main theme is “stay quiet to survive.” In reality, these victims have been silenced to still have a continuous way of life — the validation of their careers; the acceptance from their peers; and most importantly, the preservation of their self-respect. It has been criminally normalized that coming out from these claims will end whatever that is left of you, as if having a voice to assert your right to justice connotes to the stigma of ending your own life. The film is a reflection of that preposterous, yet equally relevant reality.

Anatomy of a Scene: Giving Birth in the Bathtub

In lieu to the abovementioned political undertones that the film possesses, it was perfectly epitomized in the scene where Emily Blunt undergoes labor, and eventually gives birth in the bathtub; needless to say, while keeping her mouth shut in silence in order to save herself and her unborn child. An impossible thing to do, Blunt struggles and fights to endure the pain in quiet terror.

Giving birth is perhaps the most raw, intimate, and personal event a woman’s body could undergo. Fighting against the excruciating pain is not just a torture to a woman’s physiological reflex of release, but also a violation to a human’s dire need to be vulnerable at a time that calls for vulnerability — all for the goal to “stay quiet to survive.” Blunt’s petrified face whilst in labor as the monster lurks around the corner is a classic archetype of predators passively silencing their victims to fight for their lives.

Emily Blunt gives a career-defining performance as a mother whose strength and vulnerability bask the audience, catapulted by a direction meant to highlight her exquisite dramatic techniques. Her labor scene is perhaps one of the most iconic moments of any horror films to date. A bold statement: the performance will stand the test of time, and will be recognized by guilds of accolades even with such an early release, similar to that of Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out. This needs serious consideration for later this year’s awards.

In a nutshell, A Quiet Place didn’t need a spoken word to stir a triumph of emotions — terror, love for family, hope, and the pivotal battle to survive. An avant garde direction that gives another meaning to the household of new wave horror films, and a perfectly orchestrated performance by a committed cast are all it needed. There’s simply nothing like this in the history of horror filmmaking.

5 out of 5 stars

Thank you, Director’s Club and SM Cinema, for the invite to see A Quiet Place!

Book your tickets through the new website, http://www.smcinema.com or for an even more convenient experience, get the SM Cinema mobile app. Stay tuned to SM Cinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for more information.

MOVIE REVIEW: Annihilation

A visceral thriller proving that Ex Machina was not a one hit wonder, Annihilation is a continuation of that commentary to Alex Garland’s universe of unapologetic, contemporary sci-fi machine that kept on spewing unorthodox flares to the world of cinema.

Natalie Portman plays Lena, a cellular biologist and former Army soldier whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) unexpectedly goes home after missing for almost a year since he had entered an expedition to decipher an unexplained anomaly in an area called “the shimmer”. Suspecting that it could be an alien invasion, Lena then joins a league of women in a expedition to find further clues as to what exactly is in that mantle of glittery, electric wave that blankets the middle of the forest.

Since his monumental breakthrough in 2015’s futuristic art film Ex Machina, Garland shows continuity of that universe utterly specific to his tone and atmosphere, as if he conducts his cinematic world in an orchestra full of unison, free from anything wildly pretentious despite how hifalutin its theme is. His assertion to his visually sharp, fibrous style of filmmaking married with his poignant ability to convey a narrative that’s equally rich, merits to a director whose intellect is unstoppable. The film has that rare capacity to combine poetry and science, which never felt contradicting. The film is a timeless embodiment of what an actual science-fiction genre is.

Its production design epitomizes the purpose of the film’s narrative. It’s colorful, glittery, almost as if it’s luring you for something dark and arid amidst that layer of golden afternoon-esque aura. It is equally raw and glossy. Garland created a visual world true to his intentions and imagined reality.

Although the film was not meant to be a vehicle to showcase acting chops, Natalie Portman manages to display strength and resilience needed to carry the film’s strange and ambitious core. Though I have to admit, I was a bit distracted by her Jackie Onassis voice in some parts of the movie. Nevertheless, it takes a talent like Portman’s not to be lost in a sea of confusion, strangeness and ambiguity.

The film does exemplify a strange beauty that qualifies it to be a masterpiece of its own genre. However, oftentimes it’s too strange, it almost feels irrelevant. In a nutshell, it’s as if the film tried so hard to prove something that needn’t to be proved to begin with, which was to overly elaborate a setting of what the future of the human race could be, leaving so many questions with very little answers. Although I understand its thought-provoking intentions, the film lacked an overall passion to satisfy, compensated by its overall passion to impress.

Overall, Annihilation is no Ex Machina, but it isn’t a bad follow-up to Alex Garland’s intellectual world. This movie promotes Garland from just being a rising talent, to simply one of the best of his generation.

Annihilation is now available on Netflix.

4.25 out of 5 stars

LIST: Top 40 best films of 2017

There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness. – Frank Capra

Welcome to my annual year-ender list of cinema!

I’ve been a fan of the cinema since 1998, and I’ve been an official cinephile since 2005. I’ve been doing this year after year because why not?  It’s fun, it’s celebratory, and the arts of motion pictures should be celebrated.

I initially intended to do a much shorter list, but there’s just too much cinematic greatness in 2017 that needed to be highlighted, it’s just a shame to leave them out. It took me a long time (over a year) to come up with this list, and the idea of releasing it on March (you know, graduation) sounded timely to me.


I obviously have not seen all the thousands of films released in 2017, so there’s no way I can claim that this list is universal. These are based from what I have seen — but there’s fairly plenty. I tried to be as objective and as diverse as possible.

Here are my top 40 picks for the best films of 2017:

40. Good Time

Elara Pictures | Rhea Films


DIRECTOR: Ben Safdie, Josh Safide

SCREENPLAY: Josh Safide, Ronald Bronstein

CAST: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Safdie

COUNTRY: United States

39. Beauty and the Beast

Walt Disney Picture | Mandeville Films

DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon

SCREENPLAY: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

CAST: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

COUNTRY: United States

38. Bar Boys

TropicFrills Film Productions |  Wild Sound Studios

DISTRIBUTOR: Quantum Studios

DIRECTOR: Kip Oebanda


CAST: Rocco Nacino, Carlo Aquino, Enzo Pineda, Kean Cipriano

COUNTRY: Philippines

37. Loving Vincent

Breakthrough Productions | Trademark Films

DISTRIBUTOR: Altitude Film Distribution

DIRECTORS: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman

SCREENPLAY: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Jacek Dehnel

CAST: Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan

COUNTRY: Poland | United Kingdom | United States

36. Spider-man: Homecoming

Columbia Pictures | Marvel Studios

DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Releasing


SCREENPLAY: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

CAST: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya

COUNTRY: United States

35. 100 Tula Para Kay Stella

Viva Films

DIRECTOR: Jason Paul Laxamana

SCREENPLAY: Jason Paul Laxamana

CAST: Bela Padilla, JC Santos

COUNTRY: Philippines

34. Colossal

Voltage Pictures, Route One Entertainment, Union Investment Partners, Sayaka Producciones, Brightlight Pictures


DIRECTOR: Nacho Vigalondo

SCREENPLAY: Nacho Vigalondo

CAST: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens


33. Phantom Thread

Annapurna Pictures

DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features, Universal Pictures

DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson

SCREENPLAY: Paul Thomas Anderson

CAST: Daniel Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

COUNTRY: United Kingdom

32. The Florida Project

Cre Film, Freestyle Picture Company, Cinereach, June Pictures


DIRECTOR: Sean Baker

SCREENPLAY: Chris Bergoch, Sean Baker

CAST: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince

COUNTRY: United States

31. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Film4, New Sparta Films, HanWay Films


DIRECTOR: Yorgos Lanthimos

SCREENPLAY: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou

CAST: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone

COUNTRY: Ireland

30. Patay na si Hesus

T-Rex Entertainment Productions

DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Pictures Philippines

DIRECTOR: Victor Villanueva

SCREENPLAY: Fatrick Abada

CAST: Jaclyn Jose, Vincent Viado, Chai Fonacier, Melde Montañez, Mailes Kanapi

COUNTRY: Philippines

29. Darkest Hour

Perfect World Pictures, Working Title Films

DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features, Universal Pictures

DIRECTOR: Joe Wright

SCREENPLAY: Anthony McCarten

CAST: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn

COUNTRY: United Kingdom

28. Logan

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, Hutch Parker Productions, The Donners’ Company

DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

DIRECTOR: James Mangold

SCREENPLAY: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green

CAST: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant

COUNTRY: United States

27. Blade Runner 2049

Columbia Pictures


DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve

SCREENPLAY: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green

CAST: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto

COUNTRY: United States

26. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Marvel Studios

DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

DIRECTOR: James Gunn


CAST: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper

COUNTRY: United States

25. A Ghost Story

Sailor Bear, Zero Trans Fat Productions, Ideaman Studios, Scared Sheetless


DIRECTOR: David Lowery

SCREENPLAY: David Lowery

CAST: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck

COUNTRY: United States

24. Love You to the Stars and Back

ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc.


DIRECTOR: Antoinette Jadaone

SCREENPLAY: Antoinette Jadaone

CAST: Julia Barretto, Joshua Garcia

COUNTRY: Philippines

23. Girls Trip

Will Packer Productions | Perfect World Pictures

DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures

DIRECTOR: Malcolm D. Lee

SCREENPLAY: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver

CAST: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tiffany Haddish

COUNTRY: United States

22. Deadma Walking

T-Rex Entertainment


DIRECTOR: Julius Alfonso

SCREENPLAY: Eric Cabahug

CAST: Joross Gamboa, Edgar Allan Guzman

COUNTRY: Philippines

21. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Blueprint Picture, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Film4 Productions, Cutting Edge Group

DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight Pictures

DIRECTOR: Martin McDonagh

SCREENPLAY: Martin McDonagh

CAST: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson

COUNTRY: United States

20. The Big Sick

FilmNation Entertainment | Apatow Productions

DISTRIBUTOR: Amazon Studios, Lionsgate

DIRECTOR: Michael Showalter

SCREENPLAY: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani

CAST: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher

COUNTRY: United States

19. Wonder Woman

DC Films

DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures

DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins

SCREENPLAY: Allan Heinberg

CAST: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen

COUNTRY: United States

18. It

New Line Cinema, Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, KatzSmith Productions

DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures

DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti

SCREENPLAY: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman

CAST: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård

COUNTRY: United States

17. The Disaster Artist

New Line Cinema

DISTRIBUTOR: A24 | Warner Bros. Pictures

DIRECTOR: James Franco

SCREENPLAY: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber

CAST: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver

COUNTRY: United States

16. The Beguiled

American Zoetrope | FR Productions

DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features

DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola

SCREENPLAY: Sofia Coppola

CAST: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrel, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning

COUNTRY: United States

15. mother!

Protozoa Pictures

DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures

DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky

SCREENPLAY: Darren Aronofsky

CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer

COUNTRY: United States

14. Dunkirk

Syncopy Inc.

DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

SCREENPLAY: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

COUNTRY: United States

13. Wonder

Lionsgate | Mandeville Films


DIRECTOR: Stephen Chbosky

SCREENPLAY: Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky

CAST: Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Izabela Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin

COUNTRY: United States

12. Okja

Plan B Entertainment


DIRECTOR: Bong Joon-ho

SCREENPLAY: Bong Joon-ho, Jon Ronson

CAST: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Ahn Seo-hyun, Byun Hee-bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je-moon

COUNTRY: South Korea, United States

11. I, Tonya

LuckyChap Entertainment, Clubhouse Pictures, AI Film


DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie

SCREENPLAY: Steven Rogers

CAST: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan

COUNTRY: United States

10. 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten

Cinema One Originals | VY/AC Productions


DIRECTOR: Petersen Vargas

SCREENPLAY: Jason Paul Laxamana

CAST: Khalil Ramos, Ethan Salvador, Jameson Blake, Ana Capri

COUNTRY: Philippines

9. Mudbound

Elevated Films | Joule Films



SCREENPLAY: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees

CAST: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, Garrett Hedlund

COUNTRY: United States

8. Lady Bird

Scott Rudin Produtions


DIRECTOR: Greta Gerwig

SCREENPLAY: Greta Gerwig

CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet

COUNTRY: United States

7. God’s Own Country

British Film Institute

DISTRIBUTOR: Orion Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Pictures, Picturehouse Entertainment

DIRECTOR: Francis Lee


CAST: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu

COUNTRY: United Kingdom

6. Get Out

Blumhouse Productions

DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures

DIRECTOR: Jordan Peele

SCREENPLAY: Jordan Peele

CAST: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener

COUNTRY: United States

5. Baby Driver

Working Title Films

DISTRIBUTOR: TriStar Pictures | Sony Pictures Releasing

DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright

SCREENPLAY: Edgar Wright

CAST: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

COUNTRY: United States

4. Bliss

Artikulo Uno Productions | Quantum Films

DIRECTOR: Jerrold Tarog

SCREENPLAY: Jerrold Tarog

CAST: Iza Calzado, Ian Veneracion, TJ Trinidad, Adrienne Vergara, Michael de Mesa

COUNTRY: Philippines

3. The Shape of Water

TSG Entertainment | Double Dare You Productions

DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight Productions

DIRECTOR: Guillermo Del Toro

SCREENPLAY: Guillermo Del Toro

CAST: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer

COUNTRY: United States

2. Coco

Walt Disney Pictures | Pixar Animation Studios

DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

DIRECTOR: Lee Unkrich

SCREENPLAY: Adrian Molina, Matthew Aldrich

CAST: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Edward James Olmos

COUNTRY: United States

1. Call Me By Your Name

Frenesy Film Company | La Cinéfacture

DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Classis

DIRECTOR: Luca Guadagnino


CAST: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlberg

COUNTRY: Italy, United States

LIST: Top 15 best male film performances of 2017

Considering the socio-political climate of Hollywood over the last six months, male actors seem to be in boiling water, even more so when people start to confuse politics and social statements with art as a form. Needless to say, a handful of actors have proven their worth, giving female actors (who, in my opinion, dominated 2017) a run for their money. Narrowing them down to a list of 15 seemed like a crazy task, as so many talents, both veterans and newcomers, gave us iconic and memorable performances last year.

READ MORE: Oscars 2018 List of Winners

As part of my annual tradition, here are my top 15 favorite male performances of 2017:

15. Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly in I, Tonya

Sebastian Stan had the almost-impossible task of sharing the ring of fire between the knockout performance of Margot Robbie, and of course, the incomparable Allison Janney. Yet, he has managed to create a light on his own without relying on two other strong performances. For someone as fiery as Tonya Harding’s character, he has managed to tame her down without completely dwindling her light — a rare talent for an actor to brew his own character’s identity while profiling the other. Another underrated performance of 2017.

14. JC Santos as Fidel Lansangan in 100 Tula Para Kay Stella

Anyone who has undergone through that awkward, young adult phase, whose hearts were once broken, and whose identities were trapped in a cycle of endless crisis (basically, everyone), will be able to feel, sympathize and hope with JC Santos’ portrayal of Fidel Lansangan in 100 Tula Para Kay Stella. Regardless of the story’s specificity, Santos delivered a universal performance — vulnerable enough to make you cry with him, yet strong enough to make you root for him. He has set the film’s tone perfectly through the phases his character goes.

13. James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist

For someone who suffered the backlash from a series of alleged sexual harassment claims, James Franco definitely did not get the due recognition he got for his portrayal as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. The number one rule in comedy: never try to be funny, and that’s exactly the greatest thing about this performance — he is ridiculously hilarious as he tries to act as serious as his character can be. His commitment to this other-worldly character is world class, and only a brave actor who’ll simply do anything for art’s sake can pull off this kind of performance.

12. Robert Pattinson as Connie Nikas in Good Time

Now, here’s an actor who suffered from the young-adult-franchise-effect. After the Twilight phenomenon, it’s really quite difficult to unsee Robert Pattinson as an actor beyond that vampire character. But I’ve always known that he is a great talent, with a masterful skill in shifting to a variety of roles (not to mention, pulling off impeccable accents). His works in Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars are unsung testaments of his abilities. It is with a small film called Good Time where we an truly see Pattinson’s crazy ability to commit to an unorthodox character. He is raw, deranged and practically on point in every way.

11. Michael Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman in Call Me By Your Name

It is very rare for actors to make a resonating impression amidst very short screentime. Michael Stuhlbarg surely did. His rich, heartfelt monologue by the end of the film is so good, it could easily be a short film on its own. Sure, it’s good writing, but everything is in his eyes, and every vowel his mouth makes — you could immediately feel the history and layers of his character. For him to give us everything in sublime subtlety in less than 5 minutes is beyond human to me.

READ MORE: Top 15 Best Female Film Performances of 2017

10. Garrett Hedlund as Jamie McAllan in Mudbound

The trickiest part of working in a cast ensemble film is to standout whilst complementing the entire tree of characters around you. Garrett Hedlund did just that, juggling a rollercoaster of emotions, from post-traumatic stress, anger, insecurity, and defeat, he gives the best performance in that film. Playing a knockout foil character to the story’s prime subjects, he truly is the unsung hero of Mudbound.

9. Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland in The Shape of Water

I have hailed Sally Hawkins’ performance in The Shape of Water as the best by any female actor of 2017. For one to pull off such riveting performance, one needs an equally excellent counterpart. Michael Shannon’s performance in The Shape of Water is so crazy good, he’s made another performance outstanding. I don’t think I have gotten over his Oscar snub yet (he at least deserved a nomination), but the evil deeds of Richard Strickland will eternally be stamped as one of the best villains in the universe of Guillermo Del Toro.

8. Sam Rockwell as Jason Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

From his breakout performance in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, to films that anyone hardly saw, like Snow Angel, Moon, and Seven Psychopaths, all the way to his biggest break as Jason Dixon in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which finally gave him the Oscar, Sam Rockwell surely is one of the most overdue actors in Hollywood to receive prestigious recognition for their raw talent and love for craft. His performance in 3B represented a sociopolitical statement about racism and abuse of authority. Rockwell had the big responsibility of immortalizing something relevant to our current world into art, and he nailed it to the tee.

7. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine/Logan in Logan

Performances based from comic book series are very rarely recognized in the acting guilds. Theoretically speaking, this is due, in large part, to superheroes being unable to fully penetrate to the core of audience’s hearts other than the obvious excitement and thrills these films bring. Not for Jackman in the X-Men series, most especially in James Mangold’s exceptionally written Logan, where he brought humanity and grit to this two-decade long beloved superhero. He literally humanized an immortal through his sensitive yet vulnerable performance — something that is very rare to performances of this genre. He perfectly ended Logan’s journey in the X-Men universe with a heartfelt, grounded, yet nothing short of thrilling performance.

6. Josh O’Connor as Johnny Saxby in God’s Own Country

I know what you’re thinking — who’s this guy? Josh O’Connor literally came out of nowhere, and caught the British independent cinema by surprise with his incredibly powerful performance as Johnny Saxby in God’s Own Country, which got him a BAFTA Rising Star Award nomination. O’Connor plays a homosexual teenager, yet, it’s a different kind of sexuality we seldom see on screen. It leans more in the less-hopeless-romantic, more-repressed kind of portrayal, which is uncannily similar to the commitment of Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. I am more than excited to see the rest of his career unravel.

5. Joshua Garcia as Caloy in Love You To The Stars and Back

The film is a Joshua Garcia show. For a newcomer, it’s almost unbelievable to see how he transforms on screen, on different personas with different emotions: from the happy-go-lucky guy, to the suave romantic, to the desperate abandoned son, to the helplessly ill — everything is just seamlessly embodied into one humane character, with absolutely no vanity of any sort. He simply disappears as Caloy on film. Perhaps, one of the greatest performances delivered by a male actor on Philippine cinema.

4. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in Get Out

The breakthrough performance of the year by any actor, male or female. It’s an immense pleasure watching Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, because you know that you’re watching a instant classic performance unfolding right in front of you. He surely did benefit from the director’s introduction to a brand new genre of horror (social thriller), and of course, how it was timely released in a relevant period where supremacists still go crazy for racial oppression, the same way how Tom Hanks’ character in Philadelphia became an instant classic as it was released in a time when AIDS was an epidemic. Nevertheless, social and political statements aside, Get Out can easily be released in the 1950s, I’d still hail this performance as a freakishly good force of nature that’ll be remembered for the rest of time.

3. EA Guzman as Mark in Deadma Walking

EA Guzman is a firecracker. He is a complete breakthrough, almost as if the film was intentionally made to show off his brilliant comedic versatility and dramatic chops. A scene stealer, he manages to give a luminous performance in a film about death and grief, and it never felt condescending or strange to the theme. Three things worked for him: Julius Alfonso’s assertive direction, Eric Cabahug’s full-bodied screenplay, and needless to say, his ability to completely lose himself in the character’s shoes. One of the most memorable performances of 2017.

2. Timothee Chalamet as Elio in Call Me By Your Name

Timothee Chalamet’s performance as Elio in Call Me By Your Name is so perfectly tuned in the threshold of the film’s melancholic atmosphere. He wasn’t even acting at all. It felt like a poetic and existential method of immersing into someone else’s reality with the most brilliant subtlety and effortlessness. There’s a hundred layers to his performance — a great deal of it is what his character represses; a part of it is what his character uses as a facade; and a part of it is what his truth is. What he has achieved here is a beautiful embodiment that’s rich in wit, sarcasm, sentimentality, and honesty. It’s pure artistic perfection.

1. Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour

20 minutes in watching the film, I already knew that the Oscar was his. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best male performance of 2017. Given the theme, the character and the period, this performance could easily go meh and be categorized as a dull and cartoonish attempt to make a biopic. But, never for Gary Oldman, whose capability to shape shift into someone else since the beginning of his career is otherworldly. Fun fact: his performance is surprisingly hilarious, too. To put it in a nutshell, Now Academy Award winner Gary Oldman brought Winston Churchill back to life, almost literally.

LIST: Top 15 best female film performances of 2017

The end of the Oscars marks another cinematic year of film excellence. Perhaps, more than ever, we could all agree that 2017 was a dynamite year for women in the biz. I initially wanted to make a gender-neutral list, but there are just so many female performances, both leading and supporting combined, that need due recognition for their outstanding work.

READ MORE: Oscars 2018 List of Winners

As part of my annual tradition, here are my top 15 favorite female performances of 2017:

15. Elle Fanning as Alicia in The Beguiled

Elle Fanning showcases her provocative wit and fearless sensuality, whilst balancing innocence and maturity in her scene-stealing role in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

14. Michelle Pfeiffer as Her in mother!

2017 is often coined as the year of Michelle Pfeiffer’s comeback. For her to create a burning presence inside a nameless character that haunts movie goers for her eerie stares and wicked one-liners, Pfeiffer proves that her ability to enchant the audience is still as fiery as ever.

13. Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson in Phantom Thread

For someone who seemingly came out of nowhere, Vicky Krieps truly is the unsung hero of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. She fiercely juggles naivety and ferocity as a woman who refuses masculine manipulation. In my opinion, she gave the best performance in the film.

12. Tiffany Haddish as Dina in Girls Trip

Tiffany Haddish gives a performance that seemingly feels like a non-stop firecracker that’ll leave your cheeks in pain for her incredulous comedic timing. She will take you to a 2-hour joyride. You’ll keep wanting more from her, and yet, she’ll give you exactly what you expect, even more.

11. Holly Hunter as Beth in The Big Sick

It is very rare for comedic performances to be as honest, raw and heartfelt as Holly Hunter is in The Big Sick. She couldn’t care less about the theatricality that surrounds her character’s environment. What she delivered was a very universal performance of a loving mother, elevated by a nuanced script that gave her juicy bits of sharp and cutthroat lines, making it one of the most memorable performances of the year.

10. Kirsten Dunst as Edwina Morrow in The Beguiled

Kirsten Dunst’s best performance since 2010’s Melancholia. In The Beguiled, Dunst delivers a sexually reserved performance whose hunger and frustration spew out on screen. The stillness and silence of her performance is tonally adjacent with Coppola’s intentions for the film, making her the perfect muse for this period feminist piece.

9. Allison Williams as Rose Armitage in Get Out

Because I don’t want to spoil anything about Get Out‘s brilliant twist, I’ll keep this short by just stating that this is the single most underrated performance of the year by any actor, male or female, lead or supporting, without a doubt.

8. Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson in Lady Bird

Easy, nuanced, and effortless — Laurie Metcalf, literally, epitomizes what every mother is like. She gives a performance that speaks universally, without any ironies or gimmicks. She gave a beautifully arched foil relationship to Saoirse Ronan’s titular character in Lady Bird where it clearly wouldn’t be in the household of realism without her impeccably layered performance.

7. Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Without a shadow of a doubt, Frances McDormand gave a monstrously fierce yet tenderly sensitive performance as a grieving mother in search for justice in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which gave her the second Oscar win of her career. Although it’s not my favorite female performance of the year, no one can take away the fact that McDormand slayed this character with such honesty and fire.

6. Saoirse Ronan as Christine McPherson in Lady Bird

Iconic. We will forever remember Saoirse Ronan as that ballsy, red-head, catholic school girl from Sacramento with a pink cast on her right arm, who gives herself the name Lady Bird because she’s the epitome of every rebellious teenager who wanted to breakaway from the norms of her mundane life. As one of the most talented actresses of her generation, Ronan just can’t do anything wrong, really.

5. Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya

Now Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie, whose unparalleled commitment to her character, radiates nothing but gusto and bravery to completely transform herself in the (ice skating) shoes of one of the most controversial athletes in figure skating history. Without a single hint of vanity, Robbie has managed to make a very unlikable persona into someone who’s very endearing, sensitive and human.

4. Iza Calzado as Jane Ciego in Bliss

Truth be told, Iza Calzado’s performance in Jerrold Tarog’s Bliss is just so crazy good, it’s hard to miss it on this list. Her chilling portrayal of Jane Ciego took us to the horrific paradigm of reality versus fantasy, and it reminded me so much of Naomi Watts’ Betty/Diane in Mulholland Drive. Yes, I went that far.

3. Allison Janney as LaVona Harding in I, Tonya

I’ll keep this short: she J.K. Simmon‘d this year. Enough said.

2. Jennifer Lawrence as mother in mother!

Love or hate her, the fact remains that Jennifer Lawrence is the best actress of her generation. We’ve seen her transform and commit to multifaceted roles from year to year, and her surreal performance in 2017’s mother! simply isn’t an exception — even perhaps, her best performance since 2010’s Winter’s Bone. For a character that is almost on the borderline of nonsense and ridiculous, only an actor with a high caliber of talent can pull that off. No other female actor can carry a film as divisive and as polarizing as mother! like Jennifer Lawrence can. Only she can do it.

1. Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water

Sally Hawkins didn’t need a single line to evoke every emotion she felt in her performance as the mute Elisa Esposito in Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. She didn’t need a human co-star to make us feel her love and affection. She literally relied onto every single micro muscle of her face and every minute movement of her eyes to take us into Del Toro’s magic realism world where everything felt like so human. Every stare, her eyes pierce with a hundred layers of emotions. Her mouth moves as if she is dying to speak her entire life. Her body language vibrates what she feels inside; every tick of a finger and every stomp of her foot made me feel something from her. She didn’t need a word to convey these emotions. I felt her contentment; I felt her simple joys, I felt her sexual frustrations; I felt her anguish; I felt her love. Hawkins’ gave the best female performance of the year.

Oscar Prediction 2018: Who should win at the 90th Academy Awards?

My annual tradition.

Since Oscar season will always be my Super Bowl, I take this prediction game quite seriously. No, it’s not necessarily evaluating what’s and who’s the best (but I’ll also be giving my personal favorites though) — it’s about knowing how Oscars work. I’ve been an avid follower and spectator of the Oscars since 1999, and I just started doing the predictions game in 2008 with a 99% accuracy rate (I failed at Mark Rylance in Bridges of Spies for Best Supporting Actor a couple of years ago — but seriously, who saw that coming?). For my 10th anniversary as an Oscar buzzer, what an immense pleasure it is to share it to you here on Cinema Bravo!

Let’s break it down:


The Best Picture race is quite tricky. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has always been a solid frontrunner: won the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, Critic’s Choice — but failed to get a Best Director nod (Martin McDonagh). Very few films have won Best Picture without a Directing nod (Affleck’s Argo being the most recent). Its closest rival is The Shape of Water — Guillermo Del Toro has sweeped every directing award this year, and is most likely to win Best Director (but I’ll get to that later). The catch? It was snubbed for a SAG nomination. The last film to have won Best Picture without a SAG nomination was Braveheart in 1995. And remember last year’s La La Land? Its Best Picture train stopped when it failed to get a SAG nod, too — hence, Moonlight won. With both films having their respective disadvantages, one’s odds have to be slimmer than the other, right?


Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour


Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

WILL WIN: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

COULD WIN: The Shape of Water

SHOULD WIN: Call Me By Your Name





Let’s cut to the chase: without Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) in the game, it’s quite obvious that Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) will win this thing. I’m incredibly happy for Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) for their well-deserved nominations; I couldn’t care less about Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) — seriously, not his best. And of course, I’m absolutely ecstatic for Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) for finally getting his long overdue Oscar nomination after several snubs in the past (Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight, Interstellar), especially in a film where he showcased his chilly, monumental brilliance. In a nutshell, Dunkirk sums everything about Nolan’s capability as a tour de force director. I would love for him to win, but it’s Del Toro’s turn this year.


Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

WILL WIN: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

COULD WIN: Nobody else

SHOULD WIN: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name




Here’s a category where it’s an absolute lock. Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) has won the Golden Globe, the SAG, the Critic’s Choice, and the BAFTA. She will win. However, it’s hard to not look at Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) as this year’s dark horse who could possibly pull an upset (but not really) for giving one of the year’s most iconic performances — not to mention, she has won the Golden Globe – Musical/Comedy category, too. Personally, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) gave the best female performance of the year, where she didn’t need any words to convey every emotion in her body. Margot Robbie gave the performance of her career in I, Tonya, plus won the Critic’s Choice for Best Actress Comedy. And Meryl Streep… is Meryl Streep.


Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Meryl Streep, The Post

WILL WIN: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MIssouri

COULD WIN: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird (But not really)

SHOULD WIN: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Jennifer Lawrence, mother!




I am incredibly happy for Daniel Kaluuya for getting this far, after a year when Get Out was released. It goes to show the kind of magnitude the film has given us for it to survive 12 months in everyone’s radar. Timothee Chalamet reminds me of Jennifer Lawrence’s first Oscar nomination for the small indie film Winter’s Bone about 8 years ago. He will definitely not win, but it’ll be, for sure, the first of his many nominations in the future. But, when you’ve seen Darkest Hour, it’ll make sense why Gary Oldman will win this thing. Not only he has won, literally, every single other pre-cursor award, but you’ll see how this shape-shifting actor has brought, almost literally, Winston Churchill to life. There’s nothing left to say except congratulations on your Oscar win! 


Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel

WILL WIN: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour


SHOULD WIN: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Hugh Jackman, Logan (I could easily replace Daniel Day Lewis with Jackman. That is, if it’s a perfect world).



Locked. Allison Janney has won everything else for finally giving the performance of a lifetime. I’ve always wondered what it’s like if J.K Simmons’ Terence Fletcher in Whiplash had a female counterpart. Well, here you go. But, I would like to rave about Laurie Metcalf for her genuine, effortless, and universal performance in Lady Bird. She’s not a close second, but she’s a runner-up, for sure. Also, can I rant a little? Lesley Manvale (Phantom Thread), although a legendary actress, does not deserve that nomination at all. She did absolutely nothing in the film but be a wallflower and an unnecessary character foil. It was a nothing performance, and I could think of countless female supporting performances more deserving of that spot than her. I’m calling it: it’s the weakest acting nomination of all time.


Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Lesley Manvale, Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

WILL WIN: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

COULD WIN: Nobody else.

SHOULD WIN: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Holly Hunter, The Big Sick; Kirsten Dunst, The Beguiled; Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread; Allison Williams, Get Out



I’ve always thought that Sam Rockwell is one of the most criminally underrated actors of all time. I’m beyond happy that he is finally getting his moment with a performance that’s already a lock. Aside from winning every other award, he has given one of the most powerful performances by a male actor this year. I have no further arguments. He will win.

WILL WIN: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

COULD WIN: Nobody else.

SHOULD WIN: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Sebastian Stan, I, Tonya


What are your predictions?

The 90th Academy Awards will be on 4 March 2018, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

MOVIE REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Combining elements of an independent film’s rawness and the influence of European cinema’s laid back tone, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is a melancholic vision of a coming of age/coming out/first love/forbidden love narrative, all together, wrapped in an excellent storytelling, powered by perfectly tuned performances by Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlberg.

Set in Northern Italy, 1983, the film follows the summer of young Elio (Chalamet) who meets one of his father’s graduate students, Oliver (Hanmer) in their summer house. The film travels through the middle of the tension and restraint of the two, which ultimately leads to a passionate and wild love affair that had them question their characters, their principles, and ultimately their lives.

Luca Guadagnino’s approach to this passionate love story is very heated yet subtle, as if the entire film awaits for a kettle of water to boil and scream. It thoroughly reflects the agony of an itch that has been yearning to be satisfied — from the tension of their apathetic yet suggestive touch, to them occupying the same bedroom divided by a bathroom. The entire film is a cliffhanger of what it feels before finally diving in to your sensuality. Both the sexual hunger and frustration, along with the confusing emotions that come along with it from a young teenager’s perspective, radiate to the audience impeccably, credits in huge part to Guadagnino’s purposely restrained direction and Chalamet’s commitment to his character’s honesty.


Space played a vital role in the film, particularly on how the characters behave and how they react to the circumstances they are in. Notice that a vast majority of the film took place in Northern Italy, where the streets are narrow and the buildings are shooting to the sky, as if these characters are being enveloped onto a dimension where they are imprisoned by their own hometown. Notice how restricted they interact when they are in the portals of their home enclosed in walls and tight spaces; how a single touch on the ear and a single glance meant as if they are already consuming each other. Most of the scenes where they are able to breathe in and let out their emotions take place beside an open window — the moment where they decided to meet up at midnight; the first time the made love; and the moment they confessed why neither gave a sign. The open window served as an escapade from the imprisonment in their own homes. We can also recall that Elio first saw Oliver at his open window, which suggests the liberal possibilities of what the outside world has for him.

The scene where Elio finally confesses that he likes Oliver took place outdoors, yet they are separated by a statue in a roundabout fence — this suggests that this confession led to the fear of judgment, separation and distance. Both walked onto the entire circle finally meeting at the end where Oliver says “we can’t talk about it here” — suggesting the difficulty of avoiding taboo when restricted in their confinement. Take note that the story took place in 1983 — an era where people aren’t that liberal when it comes to homsexuality. The entire space of their town represent that closeminded society back in the day.

As soon as both had the opportunity to hit a vacation to Bergamo, the tone finally shifted from tight to free. The scene where both got off the train and ran on to the mountains, screaming with liberty, suggests their freedom to finally express what they feel — free from bars and enclosed spaces. This is also why Elio took Oliver to the top of the mountain for their first kiss, where there’s not a single sign of industrialization in the area. They are one with the nature, as raw as they are letting themselves be.


The scene where Elio masturbated through the hole of a pitted peach suggests how he tries to drive himself away from his homosexual tendencies. By general definition, peaches are usually associated with female sexuality. With the thought of Oliver leaving soon, Elio tries to go back to his old preference. However, it was apparent how quick his orgasm was and how fast he came, without really showing that he was able to enjoy or be passionate with it. It was one of those sexual encounters where you just get it over with. He falls asleep and doesn’t even take time to feel and savor the experience. That confirms that he is no longer interested in women; he is interested with Oliver.

The next scene where Oliver enters the room and tries to give Elio a head, clearly baffled by peach juice in his penis, he then questions “what did you do?” A question that resonates not just literally fucking a peach, but an interrogation of “has he gone straight again?” This question embarassed Elio; he breaks down, and says “I don’t want you to leave”. No matter how much he tries to distract himself by going back to his taste for women, he cannot cover the fact that it Oliver that he wants.


Both Elio and Oliver are Gen X. Gen X are born at a time where everyone is slowly shifting societal values, but not quite all the way. This is the reason why they may have tested the waters on their feet, but they haven’t completely dove onto a relationship that they could have. This supports the decision as to why Oliver then marries a woman. Homosexuality in Gen X is considered a phase.

Elio’s father gave a beautiful monlogue by the end of the film, telling his son how beautiful and rare the affair he had with Oliver, because he himself wasn’t able to experience that. In a nutshell, he confesses that he is indeed homosexual, but wasn’t able to experience it himself unlike his son. Elio’s father is a member of the Baby Boomers generation, the one preceding Gen X. Baby Boomers are just basically traditional. Technically, Gen X with the societal values they eradicated. Homosexuality in the Baby Boomers generation is not just considered a phase; it is taboo that has to he resisted by all means.

Note that the film took place in 1983 where millennials (or the most open minded of them all) are just starting to be born. If the story took place in the present time with both protagonists as millennials, the ending could have been completely different. Both the characters’ decisions at the end of the film relied on the cultural and societal values that their generation beholds.

Another great film in reference to this theory is Maurice (1987) directed by James Ivory, who happens to be the screenwriter of Call Me By Your Name. That film tackled a completely different and much older era inhabited by the Silent Generation — a lot more conservative and a lot more traditional, wherein homosexuality isn’t just a simple taboo; it’s a crime.


Overall, Call Me By Your Name will make you feel exactly what the title suggests. A sense of ownership to the characters, even by just saying their names, they belong to one another although they could never be together. A gesture as simple as bestowing your name to your lover is the only way you could own someone in an era that you could never do such. The film is well-tempered, exquisitely shot, emotionally written (but with brilliant subtlety), and honestly acted. It’s just too real. One of the best films of 2017.


5 out of 5 stars