Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

All the sad young men

April 07, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Music 3 Comments →

We have just been reminded by Jezebel that it is the 20th death anniversary of Kurt Cobain and the 15th anniversary of the release of 10 Things I Hate About You.

Live, dammit, live.

They had us at the title

April 02, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

winter soldier
Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection by Ed Brubaker, Php1175 at National Bookstores

We have never read a Captain America solo comic book, and having been floored by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we figured that that storyline is a good starting-point. After our second viewing, the movie has pulled alongside The Avengers as the best of the Marvels: it is funny and laden with in-jokes, its action set pieces—especially the hand-to-hand combat—are genuinely thrilling (As the elevator scene demonstrates, moving bodies are more cinematic than CGI explosions), and Steve Rogers’s humanity shines through. We used to wonder why Captain America was the leader of the Avengers—now we understand.

library front
library back
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry, Php335 at National.

They had us at the title. How could we possibly resist a book called The Library of Unrequited Love? If we could, the back cover blurb would silence all objections. Translated from French, original title La Cote 400, and very short.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, Php589 at National.

The Interestings would make a great name for a band. Wolitzer’s novel, one of the best-reviewed in the last year, follows a group of friends from their teens to middle age. We can already imagine the movie and hear its soundtrack.

The audience is ready

April 02, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 2 Comments →

Norte @Glorietta sold out

Wonders never cease. Conventional wisdom says a four-hour arthouse film with neither blockbuster stars nor traditional feelgood storylines will die at the box-office, even if it’s been named one of the best films of the year in the world. Sometimes conventional wisdom needs a good tweaking.

The weekly screenings of Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan (Norte, The End of History) at the Ayala Cinemas in March were sold out, often days before the actual show. A regular theatrical run would probably not be sustainable: given its length, the film would get only two screenings a day, and nobody wants an empty house on a weekday afternoon (nilalangaw). But special screenings once a week, promoted in the social media and friendly news outlets, championed by reviewers and academics, and fueled by excellent word of mouth—those work.

Norte overflow waiting for tickets Glorietta 31March2014
Photos by Moira Lang

The screening last Monday at Glorietta 4 was sold out on several days earlier, but 50 people still showed up without tickets, in case there were cancellations. Most of them could not be served.

More Norte playdates at Ayala Cinemas will be announced shortly, including a weekend screening. Thank you to Ayala Cinemas for supporting this venture.

Norte opens in the US in June. Watch for the feature on Norte in Artforum this month.


Every movie we see #29: In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap discovers that fascism still lives and he may be its tool

March 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 7 Comments →


You should probably avoid reading any review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier until you have seen it at the cinema. No matter how much care is taken to avoid giving out spoilers, unwanted revelations are almost inevitable. Of course to the dumb, everything is a spoiler.

Completely spoiler-free review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is enthusiastically recommended. In the current Marvel Universe, we would place it higher than Iron Man 3 and almost level with The Avengers (it may still pull ahead).

Watch out for two additional sequences, one in the middle of the credits and one right after the end. And pay special attention to a certain gravestone.

In the hands of lazier, less-skilled filmmakers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier might’ve been a series of gags in which the world’s strongest recently-defrosted 95-year-old (Chris Evans) deals with young whippersnappers and their pesky technology. Thankfully, Community alumni Anthony and Joe Russo and their writing team have the smarts to take Captain America’s defining quality—his unquestioning patriotism—and put it in situations where questions must be asked.

Appearing as Cap’s adversary is an actor who has built a great career playing characters who question the authority of the red, white, and blue: Robert Redford. Redford’s presence makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier rather more serious and relevant politically (See NSA surveillance, drones, etc) than its fellows in the current Marvel universe.

“Serious” here does not mean ponderous—this movie is witty, funny, and packed with jokes within jokes. It is also very thrilling—for a pair of TV comedy directors, the Russos sure know how to mount complicated action scenes.

Another good call: pairing off the “Sentinel of Liberty” with the ex-KGB assassin Black Widow/Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), the most morally compromised character in the Avengers (Or is that Nick Fury?). Johansson had already been nominated for an Oscar when she signed on as Romanov, but playing the Widow in The Avengers has made her a more interesting and nuanced performer. We could argue that she was the star of The Avengers. Johansson and Evans have appeared together in many movies, and as allies they have an easy rapport. She needles him about his comatose social life, he fends them off good-naturedly. Granted, it’s hard to get insulted when one looks like that.

In a recent review, we noted the difficulty of playing a good person onscreen without looking like a sap. Evans steers clear of that by giving Captain America/Steve Rogers a wistful quality, an air of melancholy as befitting a man out of time. His scene with a former ally who has gone on and aged without him is particularly moving.

In World War II, Captain America’s mission was crystal clear: Kill the bad guys. You could tell which ones they were by their swastikas. In the present day it is not as easy to spot them, especially since their avowed concerns seem no different from Cap’s. Whose side is anyone on anyway? Russians have made a big comeback as big-screen baddies, which is great because the cinema really needs them. Here they are represented by The Winter Soldier, whose true identity any self-respecting comics fan knows and should not reveal. (We are severely disappointed in the fanboys sitting behind us, who giggled knowingly at everything, and then were surprised at the revelation.)

Anthony Mackie joins the team as a veteran of the Iraq War struggling to make sense of his recent past. Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury, which is to say Samuel L. Jackson. Why the Winter Soldier is in the title escapes us; he’s not the scariest villain in the piece. Our friend noted the profusion of product placements, but that’s the American Way, is it not?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is so enjoyable that we went to the cinema with a horrific migraine, forgot about it, and only remembered it when the credits began to roll. All this means is that we have to watch the movie again with a clear head.

Every movie we see #28: Muppets Most Wanted is a light-hearted masterpiece

March 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

Movies we saw while vegetating in Palawan—#25: 300, which seems brilliant after you’ve seen 300 Rise of Empire. #26: The Help, the Civil Rights movement done Hallmark movie of the week-style. #27: The Matrix, still a ton of fun even after it’s been ripped off over and over and over again.

…that we nearly missed because we did not know it was already showing. It is funny and crammed with star cameos from Tom Hiddleston to Frank Langella to Hugh Bonneville. It has clever and memorable songs by Bret McKenzie, and as the opening number declares, it knows exactly what it is. Tina Fey as the commandant of a Siberian gulag leads the inmates in a doo-wop song, and tough guys like Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo perform a scene from A Chorus Line. Sam the Eagle and Ty Burrell as a CIA and an Interpol agent, respectively, have a contest as to whose badge is bigger. Christoph Waltz does the waltz, and Usher, well, he ushers. We see the possible offspring of miscegenation in the muppet universe. Gonzo finally gets to do an indoor running with the bulls number. We like it better than the Muppet Movie from two years ago, where Kermit and company were second banana to the people (Jason Segel, who is going to play David Foster Wallace. What??). The muppets are the protagonists, the humans are the guests.

Apparently few of us think so, because the reviews are so-so and the movie is a flop. Maybe we’re inclined to love the muppets because we grew up with them (and regard them as more real than some humans)? Or maybe the audience expects too much of felt performers and too little of human actors?

Norte is the historical epic of our time

March 20, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →


Read Cinema of Consequence by Andrew Maerkle at ART-iT.

* * * * *

Mention “historical epic” and the mind’s eye conjures up actors in period costume, putting on quaint manners, and wielding antique weapons. Add “Filipino” to “historical epic” and we imagine fair-skinned people with tall noses wearing ruffled shirts, overacting, and making threats in stilted Spanish to people who look like us.

Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, which landed in the British Film Institute/Sight and Sound (the people who put out the list of the greatest films in history) list of the top ten films in the world in 2013, is not a work we would immediately describe as a historical epic. And yet Norte engages with Philippine history in a way few films ever have. It is set in present-day Ilocos Norte, peopled with characters so familiar to us that they might be living next door, and animated with situations many of us have grappled with. How is that “historical”?

Read our column at

* * * * *

The Tuesday night screenings of Norte at Ayala Cinemas have been packed. Wonders never cease. So that’s the way to sell a four-hour artfilm: Show it just once a week at a popular venue. (You can still get tickets for the March 31 screening at Glorietta 4, but book them Now.) Weekends would be nice, but cinemas are booked solid on Saturday and Sunday nights. At this point a regular theatrical run would not be sustainable (See the box-office history of independent movies), but we are developing a mass audience for indie cinema. Soon. Next: a Cinematheque.