Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

If you’re in the arts, The Walk is your comfort movie.

October 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Movies 1 Comment →

This weekend we’re watching Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk again. If you’re looking for something to watch, we recommend you see it at the IMAX nearest to you. The more we think about it, the more we like The Walk. It’s a comfort movie.

How can it be a comfort movie when the trailer alone gives you vertigo? When Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit steps onto the steel bar, you may feel like spewing. The fact of Petit’s high, very very high-wire walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Center have already been covered in James Marsh’s excellent documentary, Man on Wire. The Walk plays like a heist movie but is an extreme metaphor for the artist’s life. Tumutulay sa alambre! Writing, painting, composing music do not carry the same probability of going splat on the sidewalk, but we will argue that a long, protracted death from fearfulness and mediocrity is more painful.

It’s all there on the giant screen. Discovering what you’re good at, check. Practising until it becomes second nature to you, check. Finding the best mentor to tell you how to hone it. Covering the practical aspects, the things that will allow you to do what you’re good at—the economics, the cohorts, and in Petit’s case, the engineering. Entertaining doubt, then shutting it out. Tuning out the people, including the ones who mean well, who tell you that it can’t be done, but not being a brat about it. Not overthinking the answer to the constant question, “Why?” There is no rational answer. You do it because you have to.

And finally, the nerve to step onto the wire that you yourself rigged up between two towers 415 meters above the ground, with no safety nets, with the wind blowing and birds wondering what you’re up to on their turf. The wire is bisecting the void. It’s just you and death, and your certainty that you can tell death to take a walk.

We also love the tribute to the Twin Towers. They were a beacon. Beacons cannot choose whom they signal to but for a moment, however brief, they call you to your dreams.

If this is not the launch of a car that’s a time machine, we shall be very disappointed

October 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Science No Comments →

Maybe it’s the return of the DeLorean.

Peak and Bridge: Chastain haunts the house, Hanks saves the spies

October 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →


This year looks like The Return of the Big Hollywood Director. George Miller returned to the post-apocalyptic desert with Mad Max: Fury Road, Ridley Scott returned to space with The Martian, and now Guillermo del Toro returns to the haunted house with Crimson Peak and Steven Spielberg returns to the epic of the good American with Bridge of Spies.

For a haunted house movie Crimson Peak isn’t particularly scary, but then neither are Del Toro’s best movies, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. Those two were grounded in historical reality—the Spanish Civil War—while Crimson is built on the horror movies that came before it. It’s gorgeous but flimsy, and though it reaches the same conclusion (People are the real monsters), it doesn’t haunt us. At the end we shake off the movie like popcorn crumbs, but it’s still entertaining as hell.

In Crimson Peak, aspiring American novelist Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) falls in love with penniless British aristocrat Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), to the dismay of her father, a self-made millionaire who is not taken in by Sharpe’s posh accent. They marry, and Sharpe takes his bride to his family seat, a crumbling, freezing Cumbrian mansion called Allerdale Hall. The house is built on red clay—it’s already bleeding, all it needs are fresh corpses. When the wind whistles through the tattered roof and cracked walls, the house breathes. Edith must put up with her disapproving new sister-in-law Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain), who instead of handing over the house keys makes endless cups of tea. Clearly the Sharpe siblings have a secret, and it’s fairly easy to guess.

Edith, who’s been seeing ghosts since she was ten, spots several in the dark hallways. They look like the mother in Mama, which Del Toro produced (ooh, recycling) and Chastain starred in. Edith also has a devoted childhood friend, an ophthalmologist (Charlie Hunnam) who seems less real than the ghosts. Wasikowska is right at home in gothic settings (see Jane Eyre) and Hiddleston, the internet’s boyfriend, is lovely, but Chastain just wipes them out of the frame. Her Lucille is so fierce, she seems to keep the house standing through sheer force of will. It’s more exact in Tagalog: Nilamon ni Jessica Chastain yung cast, pati yung haunted house. All that gorgeous decay turns out to be non-essential: it’s just design. There’s a tale of intense, bonkers passion here that the filmmakers retreat from in favor of production design. Expect fan-fiction.

Rating: Recommended.


Steven Spielberg makes two kinds of movies: Amazing Stories (Jaws, E.T. Jurassic Park) and Tales of Decency (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln). Bridge of Spies, based on real events, is a solid addition to the second group. We expected a thriller with dead drops and tradecraft, and got tense negotiations instead. In 1957 James Donovan (Tom Hanks), a New York lawyer, is press-ganged into defending Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance from Wolf Hall, who has the most sorrowful expression on the screen). Donovan demurs—he had been a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, but now does insurance law.

All the Americans want is to show that Abel has gotten a capable defense attorney. But Donovan does his job too well, and ends up becoming the second most hated man in America (after Abel). Then American U-2 pilot Gary Powers (Austin Stowell, a good-looking lump) is shot down in Russia, and Donovan is sent to negotiate a prisoner exchange in an unofficial capacity, since neither government will admit to spying.

This is a Spielberg movie co-written by the Coen Brothers and shot by Janusz Kaminski. Every footstep on the street sounds ominous, but there are many moments of unexpected humor. Superheroes are all the rage in cinema, but it’s the ordinary people who hold their ground, who say no to bullies, who just show up, who really save the day. As always, Tom Hanks convinces us that he is that guy.

Bridge of Spies is a reminder of the time when America was regarded as the good guy, as the country that did the right thing because it was the right thing. When you consider that the current frontrunner for the nomination from Abraham Lincoln’s party is Donald Trump. . .

It would be interesting to see how well Bridge of Spies does in its own country.

Rating: Highly recommended.

Before you watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Walk, read this

October 14, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →


So many movies opening this week. Today we’re watching Crimson Peak, then Bridge of Spies. Tomorrow we’re heading to an IMAX theatre to see The Walk. We don’t expect it to be as good as James Marsh’s Philippe Petit documentary Man on Wire, but the visuals should be stunning.

Here is the magnificent opening chapter of Colum McCann’s Let The Great World Spin.

Those who saw him hushed. On Church Street. Liberty. Cortlandt. West Street. Fulton. Vesey. It was a silence that heard itself, awful and beautiful. Some thought at first that it must have been a trick of the light, something to do with the weather, an accident of shadowfall. Others figured it might be the perfect city joke—stand around and point upward, until people gathered, tilted their heads, nodded, affirmed, until all were staring upward at nothing at all, like waiting for the end of a Lenny Bruce gag. But the longer they watched, the surer they were. He stood at the very edge of the building, shaped dark against the gray of the morning. A window washer maybe. Or a construction worker. Or a jumper.

Up there, at the height of a hundred and ten stories, utterly still, a dark toy against the cloudy sky.

He could only be seen at certain angles so that the watchers had to pause at street corners, find a gap between buildings, or meander from the shadows to get a view unobstructed by cornicework, gargoyles, balustrades, roof edges. None of them had yet made sense of the line strung at his feet from one tower to the other. Rather, it was the manshape that held them there, their necks craned, torn between the promise of doom and the disappointment of the ordinary. It was the dilemma of the watchers: they didn’t want to wait around for nothing at all, some idiot standing on the precipice of the towers, but they didn’t want to miss the moment either, if he slipped, or got arrested, or dove, arms stretched.

Continue reading Chapter 1.

The Martian outtake: The Chem Cam

October 13, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

via io9

If everything in the book made it onscreen, the movie would be 5 hours long.

“Badil” is everything we need to know about Philippine elections. Why isn’t it showing?

October 11, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Movies 2 Comments →


Badil, the political thriller directed by Chito Rono from a screenplay by Rody Vera, was screened at the Film Development Council of the Philippines’s (FDCP) Sineng Pambansa festival in 2013. One of the finest Filipino movies of the decade, it tells us why elections in this country are so screwed up.

After the sparsely-attended festival, Badil seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Election season has begun, and the audience needs to see Badil in order to understand what we’re up against. But there are no plans to show the movie.

The director is amenable to screening it. The writer is amenable to screening it. The independent producer is amenable. Sine Pop-Up, which screens rarely-seen indie films, is eager to organize screenings. Even the movie theatres would be amenable to showing the film. What is holding it up?

The FDCP needs to get on board. Apparently showing a movie that already exists, that was partly funded by the FDCP and is just gathering dust (virtually), involves lots and lots of red tape. Even if a screening wouldn’t cost the FDCP anything. Why was the movie even made if we cannot get to watch it now, when it could not be more relevant?

Let’s get Badil shown. Spread the word on social media. Ask the FDCP to let the people see Badil.

Here’s our review of Badil from 2013.
Badil: Democracy for Sale

Elections are the pinnacle of Philippine political life – so emotional and all-encompassing, everything that follows is practically negligible. Every effort is exerted and no resource spared in order to win the vote; by the time the winner is proclaimed, there is nothing left.