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The Genius of Sacha Baron Cohen

Not everybody in the English-speaking world knows about Sacha Baron Cohen. Well, they might be a little familiar with his alter-egos Ali G, or Borat Sagdiyev, or maybe even Brüno. The real Sacha Baron Cohen is careful to stay in the background, revealing himself only in bits and pieces through his characters. However, those three characters don't even come close to giving us a glimpse of the true Sacha Baron Cohen. The characters are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. That's how deep this guy is.

Hyping myself up for the upcoming Brüno flick, I decided to do a comparative analysis on all three of his alter-egos, so that those who have no idea at all what he's about might just get turned on. Anyway, there's a treasure trove of his works on YouTube, and I do hope you all view them as much as you can before copyright lawyers decide to take them all down.

The common denominators:

Style: Ambush Interview.
All three characters use the interview format, where people are duped into thinking that Baron Cohen is a real reporter, and that the interview is legit. This is actually the key to Baron Cohen's humor---the interviewees should believe that the interviewer is a real character. It's their answers when caught off-guard that bring out Baron Cohen's comic genius.

Libido: High/Very high.
All three characters are known for their sexual remarks. Ali G represents the horny hip-hop gangsta who sees females as either babes or bitches; Borat meanwhile represents a stereotypical guy from a backwards country where women do not have equal rights as men; while Brüno represents the sexually active homosexual of the new millennium. Nice.

Accent: Various
Though Baron Cohen has been an Englishman since birth, his skill with accents is an important tool in his comic arsenal. Ali G speaks in a hybrid English-Jamaican-whatever accent; Borat speaks in the cute broken English of Eastern Europeans; and Brüno speaks in a German accent interspersed with some gay lingo (Brüno is supposedly Austrian, but someone on YouTube commented that Brüno's accent is not Austrian at all, but something closer to standard German).

Despite their similarities (they do after all come from one and the same person), they do have their differences, which makes each of them a show to behold.

Ali G is the man that started it all. Dressed in ever-changing, color-coordinated wardrobe, which includes his trademark yellow wrap-around sunglasses, Ali G uses this in stark contrast to his interviewees, who are plain, ordinary people dressed in plain, ordinary clothes.

Ali G is also notorious for his drug use, particularly marijuana. The intro to his HBO show features him rolling a spliff with one hand. But I don't think it would be safe to assume that Baron Cohen is a real-life pothead, as pot smoking is not present in his other characters.

Ali G is the only native English speaker among the three characters (hailing from Staines, England), yet his grammar and accent are as hard to understand as any other foreign speaker. I'm not really certain if his accent is accurate, but I think it might be a mix of some grammatically-challenged hip-hop lingo coupled with the natural inflection of some English dialect (possibly Staines).

Stupidity is also one of Ali G's defining characteristics, often mispronouncing very simple words, as well as playing with the spelling. He was known to have called the astronaut Buzz Aldrin as "Buzz Lightyear," and former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali as "Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros-Ghali." Wicked.

Borat (full name Borat Sagdiyev) is a Kazakh reporter. Although it was Ali G who gave Baron Cohen the ticket to cross the Atlantic, it was Borat who helped his fame skyrocket, transforming Borat into a household name in the United States.

Of the three characters, Borat is the least flashy, his wardrobe consisting of his usual blue-gray suit. Occassionally, Borat dresses in sporty outfits, like sleeveless shirts and very short shorts. For the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Borat dons the infamous neon green bikini.

Borat is also the most controversial of the three, as he prompted the state of Kazakhstan (the real one) to take out four pages in the New York Times to promote the truth about their country and to deny any similarities between the real Kazakhstan and the one portrayed by Borat. Countless lawsuits also appeared against Baron Cohen, but of course, he came well-prepared against all possible legal repercussions, and came off basically unscathed.

Of the three characters, Borat is the only anti-Semite, yet what most people don't get is that this is simply a parody on all forms of racial prejudice. Sacha Baron Cohen is himself Jewish, and he honors the Sabbath by refusing to work from Friday night to Saturday night. From this, I reckon only Jews can make fun of themselves (kind of like the way African-Americans were the only ones who could get away with using the "N" word).

If you ask me which of the three characters is least likely to get lynched by an angry mob, I would say none of them. Most people would answer that Brüno would probably be the least offensive, being the only one of Baron Cohen's characters without any facial hair, but anyone who's ever witnessed Brüno in an interview knows what he's really capable of.

Brüno is a flamboyantly gay Austrian TV reporter, who has a show on something like Austrian MTV. His primary habitat is the fashion world, and his primary diet consists of the extremely fickle-minded fashionistas in the world today. Sometimes he also feasts on religious people, trying to find out where their homophobia comes from.

One of Brüno's trademark styles is depicting how shallow the fashion world is, by asking them really unusual (and laugh-out-loud funny) questions like, "How cool is Jesus? Is he cooler than Madonna?" or "What would you do with Ricky Martin: keep him in the ghetto, or train to Auschwitz?"

Another one of Brüno's styles is making his interviewees reverse their opinion in a matter of seconds. He can make them say one thing, then the total opposite, all in the same interview. How he does it is just amazing. Simply transcribing his interviews here will not capture the brilliance that is Sacha Baron Cohen. You have to see it to believe it.

What Sacha Baron Cohen has accomplished (possibly without even realizing it) is that he has created a new brand of comedy, one where fictional characters are made to interact in the real world, with absurdly humorous results. Sadly, Baron Cohen has decided to throw in the towel for Ali G and Borat, retiring them for good. Everyone knows them now, being extremely popular both in the UK and in the US, and the comedy will not work if the interviewee already knows who the interviewer is. Brüno, on the other hand, is not yet as popular as the other two, but after the release of the Brüno movie this year, Baron Cohen may have to retire Bruno as well. But don't fret, dear fans. Baron Cohen admitted having more characters up his sleeve, and it's up to his perfect comic timing when he will decide to unleash them.

*photos courtesy of various sites on the web
*some information taken from Neil Strauss. "The Man Behind the Mustache". Nov 14, 2006 12:20 PM. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/sacha_baron_cohen_the_real_borat_finally_speaks/


And Ze Nominees Are...

This post was supposed to be titled "Oscars de la Joya" but someone begged me not to use that title. Fine then.

This year's list of Academy Award nominees are similar to, but not the same as, the Golden Globe nominees. Like I kept stressing before, these are two distinct award-giving bodies, so don't expect their choices to be the same.

So here's the list of this year's Oscar nominees, shamelessly copied from their official website.


  • James J. Murakami and Gary Fettis for Changeling
  • Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Nathan Crowley and Peter Lando for The Dark Knight
  • Michael Carlin and Rebecca Alleway for The Duchess
  • Kristi Zea and Debra Schutt for Revolutionary Road


  • La Maison en Petits Cubes
  • Lavatory - Lovestory
  • Oktapodi
  • Presto
  • This Way Up

  • Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
  • Manon on the Asphalt
  • New Boy
  • The Pig
  • Spielzeugland (Toyland)





  • The Conscience of Nhem En
  • The Final Inch
  • Smile Pinki
  • The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306


  • "Down to Earth", music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman; lyric by Peter Gabriel, from WALL-E
  • "Jai Ho", music by A.R. Rahman; lyric by Gulzar, from Slumdog Millionaire
  • "O Saya", music by A.R. Rahman; lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam, from Slumdog Millionaire


  • The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
  • Encounters at the End of the World
  • The Garden
  • Man on Wire
  • Trouble the Water


  • Dustin Lance Black for Milk
  • Courtney Hunt for Frozen River
  • Mike Leigh for Happy Go Lucky
  • Martin McDonagh for In Bruges
  • Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, and Pete Docter for WALL-E

  • Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (The Baader Meinhof Complex), Germany
  • Entre Les Murs (The Class), France
  • Okuributo (Departures), Japan
  • Revanche, Austria
  • Vals Im Bashir (Waltz with Bashir), Israel




  • Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie for Changeling
  • Melissa Leo for Frozen River
  • Meryl Streep for Doubt
  • Kate Winslet for The Reader



and finally...


Exciting race this year, with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button leading the pack with a total of thirteen (13) nominations, while "the feel-good movie of the New Depression" Slumdog Millionaire earned a total of ten (10) nominations. And tying for third place with eight (8) nominations each are Milk and The Dark Knight. Let's cross our fingers for a posthumous Oscar for the late Heath Ledger.

And finally, to the Academy: Where the hell is U2 3D? And why didn't it even qualify as a documentary? I'd very much like to see a transcript of your deliberations and find out exactly what you old geezers thought of it.

Well, maybe the Academy isn't too keen yet on accepting 3D films as serious cinematic works. Maybe five more years? Who knows.


Slumdog Millionaire

While everyone is raving about Slumdog Millionaire, let me just stress that I've been a fan of Danny Boyle since Trainspotting. So that makes me more of an expert. Of course that was just a joke.

And to sum up Danny Boyle in one word: brilliant. Some people may argue that the great filmmakers are Coppola, Spielberg, and Scorsese, but they should realize that these people are American, and hence come from a different school of filmmaking. Boyle's films have that unmistakable European trademark, and on that ground alone, he shouldn't be compared to any of the American greats. Danny Boyle is brilliant. Period.

Westerners marvel at Boyle's decision to shoot entirely in the Mumbai slums, most of them seeing poverty up close for the very first time. Now for Third World viewers like moi, that's nothing new. We see that everyday. But what Danny Boyle has successfully captured on film is not the dirt and grime of slum life, but the love and happiness of the people who live in it. And that is something not all filmmakers can do.

It is said that Bollywood films are always shot inside the safe confines of the studio, where crowd control is never a problem. Shoot a film in the streets of Mumbai or New Delhi, and the hardest job would be controlling the swarm of people watching for their favorite celebrities. But fearless Boyle has braved the Indian streets, deciding that no studio magic could ever capture the real thing. And the breathtaking shots are a testament to his triumph.

Story-wise, Simon Beaufoy's screenplay is excellent. Adapted from a novel called Q & A, Beaufoy's script is a perfectly crafted mix between the questions on the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (Indian version) and the life of the main character Jamal Malik. The poetry of the page has been translated successfully into poetry on the screen. The Boyle-Beaufoy combo is an effective one indeed.

And now, the acting. This film would not have been as effective if it weren't for the brilliant actors. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto light up the screen with their excellent performances. Patel (discovered by Danny Boyle's daughter on the British show Skins) is perfect as the good-natured future millionaire (was that a spoiler or not?), while Ms. Pinto radiates her beauty on the big screen for the first time, and she does not disappoint at all. But of course, good actors are guided by good directors, and I need not keep repeating that Danny Boyle is brilliant, because I'm running out of synonyms for the word "brilliant."

The musical score, including the excellent electronica (no Danny Boyle film is complete without any electronica) was composed by A. R. Rahman, who took home the Golden Globe for his score. Again, the music complemented the mood of Boyle's images, and the rising pulse of the beats blended seamlessly with the rising tensions in the story. And I honestly believe that very few filmmakers on this planet can pull off a full-length feature film without using a cello on the soundtrack.

Again, let me just state the obvious: Danny Boyle is brilliant. Slumdog Millionaire will win an Oscar. And I might just go watch Trainspotting again.

Original rating: Nine out of ten.

**Special thanks to Mr. Romeo de la Trinidad, for his graciousness in letting us barge into his home to watch bootlegged DVDs.


The Wrestler

She's got a smile that it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky

Now and then when I see her face

She takes me away to that special place
And if I stared too long

I'd probably break down and cry

Sweet child o' mine
Sweet love of mine

Perhaps no song could capture the many different aspects of the film as Randy "The Ram" Robinson's chosen introduction music to his 20th Anniversary match against The Ayatollah in the movie The Wrestler's heartbreaking and excruciatingly painful climax.

Taken in the movie's context, the song could be talking about a multitude of things. "Sweet Child O' Mine" could be about Robinson's estranged daughter, played by the stunning and effective Evan Rachel Wood, with whom she has this on-and-off fatherly relationship with.

It could be about Cassidy/Pam played by a still stunning and still excellent Marisa Tomei in her first Oscar Buzz-worthy performance since winning Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny. Cassidy is an aging stripper forced into the business in order to care for her kid. She is Robinson's love interest so to speak but a better term would be "partnership interest" as their characters are less about wanting love but rather of not wanting to be alone.

It could be about the wrestling industry as a whole as from Robinson's perspective, he belongs to wrestling and to its fans and no one else. This is his happiness. Performing is his life and the ring is his heaven. Wrestling brings back memories of past glories and brings him to that special place wherein he is The Ram and the fans, his family.

Ultimately, the song is about Randy "The Ram" Robinson himself. He is the Child who brings back memories of people's childhood. Just like any wrestler is to its fans, The Ram is unforgettable and he will always be their Randy "The Ram " Robinson even though he could barely walk nowadays much less perform an enziguri.

The film is hailed as Rourke's comeback movie and a lot of people have been saying that he is basically playing himself in the movie except that the medium of entertainment is different. Comparisons are not way off base since both Rourke and Robinson are struggling performers who have seen much better times. To label it as such however would be wrong. Robinson is not really staging a comeback. There is no glitz in his future. He doesn't even want to be a significant player again. He just wants to be back in the crowd. In his own words, "Look, I just want to wrestle."

Rourke on the other hand wants more significance as an actor these days after nearly destroying himself with his self-imposed hiatus and diving into the boxing ring during the early 90s. Unlike Robinson who if he was an actor would have been content with being in direct-to-DVD fare, Rourke is acting to get out of that rut.

She's got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain

Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I'd hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by

Sweet child o' mine
Sweet love of mine

Rourke's portrayal of Robinson is extraordinary and one of the few times I've watched a movie where I felt like I was seeing someone give a performance of a lifetime. As a face, a wrestling good guy, Ram is every fan favorite you've watched over the years. In him, you see every one of your wrestling heroes. He is Jake "The Snake" Roberts with the way he walks and with his relationship with his daughter. He is Randy "The Macho Man" Savage, with whom I suspect his wrestling persona is based much on, with his finishing move, the RamJam. He is Rowdy Roddy Piper and "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair with the way he talks to the crowd and with how much respect he commands from younger wrestlers. He is them. The face of wrestling for a time and the face of an over the hill veteran during present times

It's hard not to root for Robinson more so in his daily life than in the ring. You'll love him so much even though you know he will fuck up at some point again. Rourke's portrayal is so effective that you wish that the things they show isn't really what's happening with your beloved wrestling heroes.

Tomei is on the comeback trail herself. After winning an Oscar, roles eluded the actress and at what supposedly was her peak age, had to settle for small roles in small movies or insignificant ones in big ones. She played girlfriend roles when such roles could've been played by anybody.

These roles were beneath her. This fact also led her to The Wrestler which on all accounts was a small movie that had to find a distributor just to be released. Tomei is such a sweet-looking lady especially when she shares screen time with Rourke. She holds her own in every scene and although the role is not the meatiest of parts, Tomei steps on the pedal to the hilt and goes farther than the role could possibly be forseen in the beginning.

Aronofsky shoots the film as if it was a documentary and it could very well have been one and nobody would have noticed. He knows that the story is actually simple and there is no need for theatrics during the filming. What he has given us is a genuine feel of the wrestling world in a sense that it is not a "woe is me" business. Wrestlers do not want you to feel sorry for them. They do not want your pity even though they become cripples and hard of hearing because of the risks they take to entertain you. The scenes are realistic but they were not meant to make you feel bad for them even though at some points, if you had a heart, you would be.

If there is one weak link in the movie, it's that the script is far from original. A prize fighter with a stripper for a love interest? Please. Estranged daughter? Come on. Trying to maintain the glory? You've got to be kidding me. Life threatening disease? Not again!

Yes, the story has been told over and over again and it is almost a cliché to have these situations for the fighter. The sad part is you get the sense that these are the circumstances of Robinson because these ARE the circumstances of a lot of the people in the industry. The story is cliché because this is reality.

There are many scenes in the movie that are difficult to watch because you feel like your hero is in pain in the real sense and not in the wrestling sense. The movie is indeed a triumph in showcasing reality without asking you to feel sorry. The open ending allows the viewer to look for his own final chapter in the story and therefore gives a sliver of hope both to the viewer and the wrestlers being portrayed instead of going for over-the-top drama. Instead of offering up a conclusion, Aronofsky leaves it to the viewer to decide what happens to Randy "The Ram" Robinson and his relationships with his daughter Stephanie, Cassidy, and the Wrestling Industry and its fans.

Where do we go

Where do we go now

Where do we go

Sweet child o' mine

Rating: 9/10


Glamour and Glitz at the Golden Globes

January is Golden Globe month, thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Most people see this as a prelude to the Oscars, but I beg to disagree. This is an awards show that should be regarded independently of the Academy Awards. Although there may be similar trends (I hope Heath Ledger wins an Oscar as well), the Golden Globe Awards are livelier, and less constrained than the Oscars, and here actors and presenters can make remarks that sometimes cross over to the realm of inappropriateness (as Seth Rogen's quip on Mickey Rourke's cocaine use, and Sacha Baron Cohen's joke on the Madonna-Guy Ritchie split), but what the hell---they get away with it, as they often do.

And here now are the winners.

Best Series, Drama: Mad Men
Best Actor, Drama: Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Best Actress, Drama: Anna Paquin, True Blood
Best Series, Musical or Comedy: 30 Rock

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Best Actress, Musical or Comedy: Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Best Miniseries or Movie: John Adams
Best Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Laura Linney, John Adams
Best Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Paul Giammatti, John Adams
Best Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Laura Dern, Recount
Best Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Tom Wilkinson, John Adams

As you can see, the awards were almost monopolized by John Adams and 30 Rock. Almost.

And now here are the winners for the big screen.

Best Picture, Drama: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Picture, Musical or Comedy: Vicky Christina Barcelona
Best Actor, Drama: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Actress, Drama: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy: Colin Farrell, In Bruges

Best Actress, Musical or Comedy: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (+), The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir
Best Animated Film: Wall-E
Best Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Song: “The Wrestler” (written and performed by Bruce Springsteen), from the film The Wrestler (obviously)

So how many Brits went home with a trophy? How many awards did Slumdog Millionaire get? And how many trophies did Kate Winslet win?

And finally, as a sort of lifetime achievement award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award is given to our favorite bearded filmmaker, Steven Spielberg. Of course, it wasn't necessary to have all that old timer-drama between Spielberg and Scorsese, but they're old, so let them have their fun. Anyway, Danny Boyle got top honors, so it's not really Spielberg's night anyway.

*photos courtesy of various entertainment sites on the net


The Departed vs. Infernal Affairs

In 2007, Director Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar for Best Director for his cops and robbers drama, The Departed. The movie, a remake of an acclaimed 2002 Hong Kong film Mou Gaan Dou, more popularly known as Infernal Affairs, had an amazing cast with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead as well as Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg playing secondary characters. On the other hand, the original also had heavyweights with the likes of Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers), Tony Leung (Hero, Lust Caution), Anthony Wong (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) and Eric Tsang in the lead. While the names are not that familiar to some, they represent the cream of the crop in Hong Kong Cinema.

The cast comparisons, as far as the major roles are concerned, are as follows, and I’ll just use the US version’s character names as reference:

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tony Leung as Billy Costigan
Matt Damon and Andy Lau as Colin
Martin Sheen and Anthony Wong as Queenan
Jack Nicholson and Eric Tsang as Costello

William Monahan adapted the screenplay written by Siu Fai Mak for the American audience and used Boston and the local underground world as the backdrop for the events.

Even before it came out, comparisons between the two movies swirled. While remakes will always be compared to the original, especially in the case of American remakes, the level of awareness in this case is heightened by the fact that it was being done by no less than the great Martin Scorsese with his aforementioned killer cast. This isn’t Gore Verbinski remaking The Ring. This is Martin Scorsese, the master, the man.

So did Scorsese deliver? Is the Original better?

The story as we all know by now involves two moles, Billy and Colin, one for the police and one for the mob. A series of events leads them to realize that there is a mole in their respective group and they try to smoke each other out.

Acting-wise, the two movies are at a stalemate. I will always see this movie as the first part of Leonardo DiCaprio’s transformation into a man, the second part being Blood Diamond which came out later that year. While DiCaprio always plays the trapped, tortured soul extremely well even in his earlier films like The Basketball Diaries and Catch Me If You Can, in this film, it seems that he reached a whole level of repressed anger which could only be achieved through age. Tony Leung always seems to be in a serene state which makes his break down all the more effective. The role is actually perfect for him. Unlike DiCaprio whose undercover cop is a raging bad boy who will fight anybody, Leung goes the other way as he pretends to not to give a shit about the mob and its operations at all. Surprisingly, both are effective and both fit in with the role and the movie.

Andy Lau and Matt Damon on the other hand play the role practically the same way. Their image in the police force is that of a young achiever, on his way to the top. Both exude what can only be described as being a gentleman asshole who are at the top of their game both as a policeman and a mobster. Damon and Lau are at a point in their careers when they are so likeable that you forget that they are playing the role of the bad guy in the movie which ultimately makes you on the same level as the police force they are deceiving.

Sheen and Wong, veterans that they are, understand that their role is not very showy but equally important. Their role is as close to a father figure for Billy as he can get and in a society of faulted figureheads, this is important. The difference is actually not a way of acting but a person and that person is Dignam played by Mark Wahlberg. While DiCaprio’s character had two links to the force, Leung’s only had one. This subtle difference changes a lot of the dynamics in the story and essentially, at least for this writer, creates the difference between the two films.

In the beginning of Infernal Affairs, there was a short premise about the so-called Continuous Hell which was the worst of all hells because of the continuous suffering that one would experience in it. This is what their characters basically experience in IA. Leung never liked being an undercover and he’s been at it for more than nine years and he feels like he’s just about to lose it. He desperately wants to be a cop, an ordinary one, but for now the only police thing that he can do is to salute as a funeral car of a dead cop passes by. On the other hand, Lau’s Colin is a guy who does not really want to be a crook from the very beginning. He was thrust in this role as a young man and he cannot get out of it. Thus they live in their own personal continuous hell. They live a life that they do not want and they see no end to it.

In The Departed such struggle is not quite as clear-cut. Damon’s Colin does not seem to have a problem with being a mole. There is no moral struggle, at least visibly, in him and in a way, he seems to get worse and worse. DiCaprio’s Billy is more faithful to Leung’s however. Just like Leung, he wants to get out of the game although his desperation seems to stem more from his fear of getting caught by Costello than by being in the undercover business for a long time. There lies another difference between IA and TD. Leung has been undercover for ten years while DiCaprio could not have been more than three. The desperation is present in both but less palpable in The Departed.

Which brings us back to the celebrated role of Dignam. In IA, there is no Dignam but rather the role is spread out in different characters. The first “Dignam” who along with Inspector Wong knew about Leung’s undercover role was in the movie but was killed prior to the main events. This was seen in IA II. Other Dignam scenes were present as well but they were passed on to other roles such as the OCB head which in TD was played by Alec Baldwin. The importance of Dignam in changing the storyline can mostly be seen after Sheen’s character died. Billy Costigan was desperate but Dignam could be somewhere and he could meet up with him somehow. Leung's character on the other hand was totally fucked the moment Inspector Wong died. Logically speaking, Billy could still have things fixed up as soon as Dignam shows up and so he did not have to deal with Colin. Leung had nowhere to go and so his desperate fateful act was entirely logical.

In almost every story there is a battle between good and evil. As we all know, the Good almost always wins and in IA such holds true. While Lau’s character survives, good still won over evil because evil, Lau’s character, became good in the end as when he betrayed Sam and gave the appropriate recommendation for Leung's character. In TD, Colin only turned against Costello because he was afraid that Costello was going to turn him over to the FBI being that Costello was an informant of crooked FBI agents. It was not a triumph over evil. It was a necessity more than anything.

Infernal Affairs is an awesome film and Infernal Affairs II the prequel, only strengthened its power. The only problem with the franchise is that it was ruined by Infernal Affairs III and if one can stay away from this horrible sequel please do so.

The Departed won Best Picture despite the fact that it was not even in the Top Five of Scorsese’s movies. It won an award for Best Editing even though it was probably Schoonmaker’s worst work ever and is absolutely on the other end of the spectrum compared to GoodFellas. The lack of continuity in the shots is distracting at times because of the lack of smoothness in the transition. Some key points were also unbelievable like the scene where Billy’s message alert tone went off when only a minute ago he’s been receiving text messages on silent mode.

Finally, The Departed was indeed a good movie and could have been deserving of an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director. Sadly, it seems more of a charity case for Scorsese for having lost so many times while deserving a win at the same time. Personally I feel uncomfortable when someone, especially a great one like Scorsese, wins an award for a remake. That’s like winning Best Vocal Performance for a cover version of a popular song. In the end, Scorsese should have won many times over and it is a tragedy that he has to win for this one.

Infernal Affairs: 9/10
The Departed: 9/10
At Gunpoint: Infernal Affairs



There are two reasons for this review. First, because the captain asked for it.

Before we begin: do not judge this book as a piece of high literature, because that is not what the author intended. Stephenie Meyer has no pretensions like that at all.

The second reason for this review is that I wanted to know what all the fuss is about Twilight. What's with this book and how come it's got all the youngsters going ga-ga over it? And how come I've never heard of Twilight before the movie? And after reading the book, I found out the answer to that question: I've never heard of it because I'm too old.

Okay, age is no excuse not to be updated with pop culture, and like it or not, Twilight has become part of the popular culture of this decade. So everyone who thought the book sucked can stop whining, as this book was not written for you. This was written for a specific target audience, namely those who hit puberty at the turn of the millennium.

Basically, Twilight is a teeny-bopper romance (I'm just inventing genres here), kind of like the Sweet Valley novels, with a slight twist. You still have all the mushy stuff, like crushes and first kisses and high school dances, and the twist is all the good-looking guys are out to suck your blood. For those who didn't get it, all the hunks are vampires.

For those familiar with vampires, it would be best to stop comparing the Twilight vampires with those of Anne Rice's chronicles, as they are totally different. Stephenie Meyer created a different type of vampire; Edward Cullen is no monster like Lestat. If anything, Meyer's vampire seems to be a troubled teen cursed with immortality. That's it. Not much killing and slaughter---in fact, I don't think the author ever showed Edward Cullen taking a life in the book. Just mentioned. Never showed.

Twilight is actually an easy read, one that you could breeze through in a week or less. If you're not into adolescent romance, expect to throw up at some very cheesy lines; if you're a hopeless romantic, expect to be starting on the next book (yes, there is a second one) as soon as you get to the last page.

Rating: Seven out of ten.


Iskul Bukol: 20 Years After (Ungasis and Escaleras Adventure)

Ooh, Carleen Aguilar...

Nostalgia aside, Iskul Bukol: 20 Years After is a disappointment. Around halfway through the film, I wished I went to see Desperadas 2 instead.

Ooh, Carleen Aguilar...

So, my only problem with the film: Indiana Jones? Please. I watched this film thinking it was going to be a nostalgic romp; instead, it turned into a Tomb Raider-wannabe archaeological comedy. The only reunion that ever took place onscreen didn't take more than five minutes. Yes, when they said "reunion," they meant it literally---the whole Iskul Bukol gang was there, except for Mang Temi (+).

It's been a while since I've seen the Triumvirate of Philippine Comedy on the big screen, and I must say that they haven't lost their touch. Especially Joey, who is obnoxious as ever. And all those years in the senate halls did nothing to dull Tito Sotto's humor, but his brother Vic's fixation with always playing the hero seems a bit problematic to me. The movie turned out to be all Vic's, when the limelight was supposed to be distributed equally among the three.

The best performances actually come from the supporting cast. Ryan Agoncillo plays a mute Cambodian---yes, you heard it right---revealing his potential to become a good character actor. Jimmy Santos's "Carabao English" is always funny, no question. Agoncillo and Jimmy, together with Benjie Paras and his outrageous wig, provided the brunt of the film's non-TVJ humor.

And like all Filipino films, there will always be beautiful women. However, I would just like to point out that Bianca King doesn't look too hot in glasses (is it just me or is it the shape of the frame?) and that Carleen Aguilar's role can be dispensed with altogether.

Ooh, Carleen Aguilar...

Rating: Five out of ten.


A Good Year

Okay, this might be a not-so-recent film, but the title is just so appropriate for New Year's Day that I couldn't resist.

First of all, categorizing this film is a bit difficult. It's classified as a romantic comedy, but it's not really a rom-com as we know it. It's more a feel-good film than anything.

Anyway, the movie is so typically predictable that I don't even want to touch on that aspect. So let's just go over the film's finer points, starting with the acting. Okay, it's Russell Crowe. Let's move on. No, seriously, let's move on. When I say "Russell Crowe," you don't need any explanations. So who else is there?

Well, there's pretty Marion Cotillard (that's a pre-Oscar Marion Cotillard) as Russell Crowe's love interest. We all know she's a wonderful actress, but her accent is distracting, as it can turn me on even with my eyes closed (did I just say that?). And there's the beautiful Aussie Abbie Cornish (with a flawless Yankee accent), whose minor character doesn't grace the screen as much (well this is, after all, Russell's movie). Wait, now come to think of it, it does seem that everyone else's screen time pales in comparison to Mr. Crowe's.

The cinematography is first-class, making the entire film look like a travel magazine, showcasing the breathtaking beauty of the French countryside, with all the vineyards and picturesque chateaus. Well, it's Ridley---sorry, Sir Ridley Scott---at the helm, which means you can be assured that the film will be something worth watching. With a predictable plot and a story you could tell in thirty minutes, Sir Ridley kicks in great cinematography with his brilliant directing to give us a film that will at least keep us entertained for two hours.

And the final verdict: Sure, Russell Crowe performs up to par, but still, if it wasn't Sir Ridley Scott behind the wheel, the whole movie would've turned out quite differently.

Rating: Seven out of ten.


New Year, New Stuff

Happy New Year to everyone. It is now officially the ninth year of the second millennium of modern-day reckoning, and frankly, I don't feel any different at all. But that's just me.

Anyway, 2009 seems to be a very promising year with great Hollywood movies lined up (shame on me for not patronizing Philippine Cinema, I know, but my New Year's resolutions this year include watching more local films). Here are a few examples of some movies ahead:
Whew. That should keep me busy for this year. Embarrassingly, I get giddy as a schoolgirl when I think of how many Christian Bale movies they have this year. This man-crush thing is driving me crazy.

And finally, Da Couch Tomato will be trying something new this year, changing the rating system from five (5) stars to ten (10) stars. I feel somehow restricted by the five-star system, but let's see if the new system works better.

And as my last words, let me share with you some wisdom to guide you through life: "Love and romance come and go, but movies will always be there." (What?)

Enjoy the new year, everyone.


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