January 2018 in Movies

1. Deadma Walking (Julius Alfonso, 2017)

In Deadma Walking, gay man John Samson (Joross Gamboa) wonders what people would say about him when he dies after he discovers he has cancer. Because of this, he sets up an elaborate plot with his best friend Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman) to fake his own death and attend the wake. You expect it to be filled with plenty of beki shenanigans and it does not disappoint in that department, but it has a surprising heft (Cabahug’s screenplay won a Palanca in 2014) grounded by Guzman’s campy yet tender performance as the best friend. He totally deserved winning Best Supporting Actor at the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) 2017.

2. Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008)

The movie that started the multi-billion franchise that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man follows Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the billionaire behind the weapons manufacturer Stark Industries. When he is involved in a kidnapping, he discovers that the people he vows to protect are being killed by the weapons he helped create. He becomes Iron Man only to discover the villain is closer to home. The film is stunning for its time and Downey Jr. is the perfect Stark, effortlessly conveying the character’s humor, arrogance, and charisma.

3. I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie, 2017)

I, Tonya is based on the real-life story of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), a celebrated figure skater who rose to fame despite her humble upbringing and rough personality to break three important skating records. Everything crashes when she is implicated in the attack of her Olympic teammate and rival Nancy Keegan. The film is injected with cleverness and humor, and is just so ridiculous that it’s possibly real. Robbie was amazing as Harding but equally good was Allison Janney as her cruel mother LaVona.

4. Ferdinand (Carlos Saldanha, 2017)

Ferdinand takes us into the world of bullfighting in Spain through the perspective of Ferdinand (John Cena), a young bull who doesn’t share everyone’s perspective on the merits of the sport. After a peaceful childhood living with a farmer and his daughter, Ferdinand is thrust into the world of toro and is forced to choose between his peaceful ideals or the path set out for him. The film may be predictable but I liked its message: compassion can be a strength, too.

5. Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie, 2017)

In the last film of the Pitch Perfect trilogy, we see the Barden Bellas struggle with life after college. Realizing that maybe the best years of their lives were spent together, they go on one last competition, this time for an overseas tour of the United Service Organizations. The closing film doesn’t capture the charm of the original Pitch Perfect and the song choices aren’t as memorable or toe-tapping. The decision to choose a song from 1990 as its finale (and not even a super popular one) may not have been wise considering their target market of millennials.

6. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Frederic Tcheng, 2012)

This documentary sheds light on Diana Vreeland, one of the most iconic women in fashion and culture when she edited Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and revitalized the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Through recordings made with her biographer George Plimpton, TV appearances, and interviews with her family and some of the most influential names in fashion, we get to see the extraordinary life of Vreeland, who reinvented herself, made stars out of unconventional beauties (Barbra Streisand, Mick Jagger, and Cher, among others), and brought fantasy to everyone’s lives. I first saw this right after graduating college and was inspired when she said, “There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.” I’m feeling revitalized after my second viewing and I plan to watch this every now and then.

7. The First Monday in May (Andrew Rossi, 2016)

The First Monday in May captures the behind-the-scenes of the Costume Institute’s annual exhibit, from putting together the clothes to orchestrating the guest list of the ultra-glamorous Met Gala featuring Vogue editor Anna Wintour and all the A-list celebrities. For the documentary, the Met is producing the 2015 exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass. What follows is an intricate and compelling dance of making sure the fashion doesn’t eclipse the art, avoiding racism, making sure everything passes the standards of Wintour, and answering if fashion is art.

8. Know Your Enemy: Japan (Frank Capra, 1945)

Know Your Enemy: Japan is a propaganda film released by the U.S. War Department and developed to prepare American soldiers during World War II on their attack against Japan. While the film portrays the Japanese as cult-like, it presents a fascinating picture of the country, explaining the people’s devotion to their emperor, how they view themselves, and why they value hard work and honor.

Available on Netflix.

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