The seat where the guy’s butt sat trembled with the ebb of sound waves created by the treble and bass of the music blaring out of the speakers. The jeepney was on the brink of collapse and has obviously stood the test of time. The rosary, carefully wound around the small metal bar that held the rearview mirror to the ceiling, danced as the music crooned and the jeepney swayed through the highway.
The passengers held on for dear life. When the jeep lurched forward, they moved to the opposite direction. Friction. Survival. The old lady, her face creased with a thousand lines crossing each other, made the sign of the cross and glared at the driver. A young man had a goofy grin on his face. The college girl sitting next to him blushed and fixed herself, holding her Secosana bag to her chest.
A mother showed off her tits. The infant in her arms, eyes closed and tiny fingers folded to a fist in the air, puckered his lips and brought his open mouth to the dark pointed tip of his mother’s breast without missing. Bullseye.
The man in the corner had his mouth open, drool gathering on the sides of his mouth. His eyes are closed, head tilted, arms folded and resting on his protruding belly, a black headset covering his ears. His eyelids flutter. A hint of a smile shows up on his face. Then a loud snore. He twitches his nose. He rubs the back of hos hand against it. One. Two. Three. He is in dreamland.
A woman, perhaps a saleslady who has spent much of her day on her feet attending to customers, rests her head on a man’s shoulder. They held hands. Her stockinged feet on rubber slippers crossed each other on the floor. The man turns his head and places a kiss on her forehead. He caresses her hair and closes his eyes, twirling his wedding ring with his finger.
The guy sitting opposite them wonders of the life they live and where they have been and where is the home they were going to. He notices the sign “Pull String to Stop”. He pulls the string and a red light flashes a few inches above the driver’s line of sight. He alights and stares at the letter M bathed on yellow light.
Maya is highly smart she gets recruited into the CIA right after high school. For 12 long years, almost her entire career in the CIA, she focuses with ferocity on the hunt to find Osama Bin Laden. Played with fierceness by Jessica Chastain, this becomes the center of Katherine Bigelow 153-minute taut, tight, and thrilling movie.
The attack on the compound where OBL lived and his death is covered only in the last half hour of the film. We see on the 2 hours that came before Al Qaeda prisoners getting tortured, breaking down and providing important information. We see the attacks on CIA operatives outside their homes, in hotel restaurants, and most shockingly inside a closely-guarded camp.
Amidst all these, Maya zeroes in on Abu Ahmed Al-kuwaiti, said to be Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, as the key to finding the mastermind of the terror attacks in the US. She believes it to her core even though most of her colleagues and superiors think otherwise. She encounters dead-ends on her investigation and her hunt to find the courier remains dormant for years. Until a colleague shows her a file on Abu Ahmed. She then cajoles and bullies and blackmails superiors to get the technical support she wants.
Chastain always has this troubled look on her face in her previous movies (The Help, Coriolanus). Towards the end of the film, after spending more than a decade of her life hunting for Bin Laden, we see this same look but with confidence and fierceness. When she says “I am the motherfucker who found him (Abu Ahmed)” to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (James Gandolfini), we believe she has spunk and is not easily cowed down by big men, both literally and figuratively.
Yep. I’m not done yet with my year-ender lists. So here it is, my most memorable moments of 2012. Most of these are happy memories but I injected a few sad ones. As others would say, happy memories are built from sad ones.
Happy New Year!
1. Those drunken kisses that spurned many starts and stops culminating in mid-October at a dipping garden.
2. My first foreign trip to Kota Kinabalu and Brunei. And I travelled alone.
3. Spelunking for close to 5 hours in Sagada. They call it Cave Connection.
4. Receiving surprise gifts: The Solitude of Prime Numbers. A Bottle of Storms Clouds. A hoodie jacket. A mug. A Nixon watch.
5. Torrential rain on August 8th which flooded the entire house and forced me to take days off from work.
6. A death of an uncle.
7. 15-year high school reunion.
8. Purchasing My Kindle Paperwhite.
9. Received two awards at work (Gold and Silver) for exemplary performance.
10. Late afternoon walks in UP and isaw and kwekwek and fish balls and fruit shakes and kasuy.
11. Deciding to free myself from weeks of depression which made a toll on my health in mid-March.
12. Movies and dinner and simply hanging out with friends. Joy!
Here’s my 12 favorite foreign language films for this year. Click on the title to view the trailer.
1.25 Amour. A unflinching look at a love story nearing its end between an ageing couple. Restrained, unsentimental, and captivating.
1.25 Holy Motors. A film with no coherent narrative but watching the protagonist (Mr. Oscar) literally change into different characters is mesmerizing. There are terrific sequences peppered throughout: Oscar ravaging flowers at the cemetery, playing an accordion, and a melancholic conversation with Kylie Minogue’s character.
1.25 Lincoln. The film focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s attempt to pass the abolition of slavery at the House of Representatives. Terrific movie and equally terrific Daniel Day-Lewis. Not boring at all. Typical Spielberg, I didn’t like how the movie ended.
1.25 The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read somewhere that the actor who played Charlie was always on the verge of tears throughout the film. I agree. One of the few movies exquisitely adapted from book to the big screen.
5.33 Looper. One of the better sci-fi movies produced this year about Joseph Gordon-Levitt tasked to kill his older self played by Bruce Willis.
5.33 No Puedo Vivir Vi Sinti. Can’t Live Without You. A movie about a father-daughter relationship. It has a terrific ending. You know, when watching a movie and your mind screams please end here, please end here. And then it ends. Wow.
5.33 You Are The Apple of My Eye. A feel-good romantic-comedy film about a mischievous male student and his studious girl classmate.
8.33 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Detective Dee (Andy Lau) is called on by a Chinese Emperor (Carina Lau) to investigate baffling deaths of Supreme Court members. Epic with stunning visuals and starring some of China’s great thespians.
8.33 A Royal Affair. An English woman goes off to Denmark to marry the king, a distance cousin. Trapped in a loveless marriage to an obviously mad king, she embarks in an affair with her husband’s personal physician.
8.33 The Avengers. Probably the best action movie this year. Trumps Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises in terms of pure entertainment.
11.5 Moonrise Kingdom. A giddy puppy romance between adolescents and the hilarious attempts of the boy’s fellow scouts and the girl’s parents to rescue them when they elope into the wilderness.
11.5 Argo. This is probably Ben Affleck’s weakest after Gone Baby Gone and The Town. That does not mean it’s bad. It is quite good. I just have the feeling the film is a rehash of some other movie I’ve seen.
Here is the list of my favorite Filipino films this year. Please click on the title for a link to the trailers.
1.33 Aparisyon. The trailer got me. And the movie didn’t disappoint about nuns cloistered in a convent in the middle of the forest as political unrest goes on outside. Terrific acting from all cast.
1.33 Give Up Tomorrow. This is about the celebrated trial in the late 90s about the rape and murder of two siblings by members of powerful Cebu clans. The documentary focuses on Paco Larranaga and his insistence of his innocence. This film makes you a believer of Paco and aghast of the state of the Philippine Justice System.
1.33 Ang Nawawala. A guy in his late teens returns from the USA for the holidays. He refuses to speaks since his twin died in an accident when they were still young. It is a coming-of-age sort of film with terrific performances from Dominic Roco and Annicka Dolonius.
4.50 Kalayaan. A Filipino soldier mans a deserted island in the hotly-contested Spratlys Island in the far south. There is not much dialogue in the film but it is still captivating and beautifully photographed.
4.50 Sta Niña. A man accidentally uncovers his daughter’s coffin many years after her death and unravels past hurts and broken hearts that has not fully-healed. Watch out for Irma Adlawan where she out-acts Coco Martin, Alessandra de Rossi, and Anita Linda in one terrific sequence.
6.25 Batang Westside. A five-hour epic about a Filipino man shot in the streets of New Jersey and the investigation that follows. Metaphors and symbolisms are everywhere in this film by Lav Diaz. I think Diaz’s Melancholia was a more powerful film than this one. But then that’s just me.
6.25 I Do Bidoo Bidoo. A musical film featuring the songs of the Apo Hiking Society. Entertaining all throughout. You’ll get your money’s worth on one sequence: Ogie Alcasid and Euegene Domingo singing a Di Na Natuto/Kabilugan ng Buwan mashup.
6.25 Mamay Umeng. A story of an old man awaiting death. Beautifully photographed with scenes getting replayed, showing how in the twilight of one’s life it becomes routinary and slowly some of those who come after you forget that you exist.
6.25 Requieme. Loy Arcenas, in his second Cinemalaya entry after last year’s Nino, directs a black comedy about intertwining stories related to deaths. Good performances all-over particularly Anthony Falcon as the cross-dressing lost son of Shamaine Buencamino.
10.0 Rigodon. The best film about adultery in recent years. The long sequences peppered throughout the film is effective in pushing the suspense and dread particularly on the final act. Max Eigenmann is a standout.
11.0 Mater Dolorosa. A stoic Gina Alajar plays the matriarch of a family involved in jueteng and carnapping. Their business is attacked when a rival, the son of the newly-elected mayor, enters the picture. Talented veteran actors Phillip Salvador, Bembol Roco, Anita Linda, and Rosanna Roces play supporting roles.
12.0 Mga Mumunting Lihim. This is not a great film. But since I need to add one more to my list of 12, I chose this. The film might not be great but the acting is – particularly Janice de Belen and Agot Isidro. The performance can be over-the-top at times but it was still a hoot to watch.