Film Diary: Y Tu Mamá También

Before hitching the Hogwarts Express to unleash the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron returned to his motherland to direct what will then be recognized as one of world cinemas’ finest. Not only does Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN (2001) sizzle and seduce on its emotional coming-of-age story, but it also serves as an allegory to the life-changing moments in both personal and national histories. An audacious and revealing road-trip, it takes viewers on an evocative (and erotic, if I may add) chronicle of desire, friendship and self-discovery that transcends with an overwhelming punch. It was wildly fun until it lasted, but the charolastras will never be the same again.

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In a lay-by that provoked the turning point of Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch’s (Diego Luna) kinship, the film’s narrator describes a kind of pain the boys experienced as they witnessed and learned, respectively, of each own sexual exploits. It was also the burgeoning sensation one will feel in the closing minutes that would only make their excursion more poignant. Famous for its thematically sensual scenes, Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN gently unties the tragedy that will befall among its three central characters. The narrator, serving as the cinematic omniscient presence, reveals in a painful conclusion that Julio and Tenoch will decidedly not see each other anymore. Luisa (Maribel Verdú), their Spanish acquaintance and the apple of the boys’ eyes, stayed behind to spend her last, living days (unbeknownst to them). The sober finality greatly contrasted the explicit revelry depicted throughout the film. Julio and Tenoch were introduced as blithe teenagers of differing socioeconomic backgrounds who are bonded by their expansive indulgences. Alcohol, drugs and sex are staples in their pre-adulthood life but not to the point of self-destruction. However, it pried a nasty version of their selves and triggered the dissolution of their friendship.

(L-R) Gael Garcia Bernal as Julio, Maribel Verdú as Luisa, and Diego Luna as Tenoch

Much has been said on the film’s queer undertones but there’s no denying the captivating closeness of Julio and Tenoch. At the heart of Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN is the genuine portrayal of real-life friends Bernal and Luna who naturally dive into the seemingly uncomplicated and untroubled lives of their characters. The rapturously candid scenes would not have the same effect if not for the young actors’ rapport; not to mention their potent chemistry with Verdú as they travel along rural Mexico. Cuaron struck two coming-of-age stories in one stone as the changing dynamic between Julio and Tenoch took place in a period where their country is undergoing a major political shift. It is a subtle testament to the unpretentious treatment of youth, in which the world is not only about and revolves around them. The narrator proffers deeper connection of the events, people and places they encountered; some insightful and sentimental, others foreboding and melancholic. Verdú fluidly carried the emotional weight that spiralled onto Luisa as she bravely accepted her doomed fate. As a woman who has yet to enjoy the fullness of her independence, Luisa’s abrupt existence is heart-breaking yet powerful enough to stir the status quo between Julio and Tenoch.

But Luisa did not willingly want it to happen, had she known the gutting aftermath. Julio and Tenoch, both juvenile and salacious, had little foresight on the consequences of their actions. The climatic tryst is a fitting culmination in their gratifying quest of exploring one’s sexuality. Does the film suggest they could have been more than friends? Or are they just stricken by drunkenness and the hot Mexican weather? I’m more convinced on the latter, though it is worth pondering the overlapping relations that they had which made them closer more than ever. Nonetheless, it awakened a sense of modesty that became the driving force on why they grew apart.

Reaching Heaven’s Mouth

Viewers will be surprised to find out the context behind the literal translation of the film title (‘and your mother too’). But beforehand, they will be enamoured by the excellent performances of Bernal, Luna and Verdú; and the exotic beauty and culture of Mexico lensed by Cuaron’s frequent collaborator (and three-peat Academy Award winner) Emmanuel Lubezki. A particular scene stands out because of how Lubezki captured Verdú’s allure and the scorching attraction among the leads. Written by the Cuaron brothers, the film was nominated at the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay but lost to another foreign entry which I have yet to see (Talk to Her).

Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN is a delectable slice of world cinema that presents its universal message in the most intimate language. It does not manifest romance nor satiate the lust; instead the film unravels the yearning for human connection. How people come and go into our lives is one of the saddest mysteries. But the more peculiar is why we let them be.

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Photos were grabbed on respective film sites.

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And my Oscar goes to… (2016 edition)

It’s the time of the year again! One of the surprises that came out late is that there is actually a race. Not a twosome showdown like 2014’s Gravity vs. 12 Years a Slave, nor 2015’s duel of the B’s: Birdman vs. Boyhood. Guild, critic and press awards are building towards diversified winners but in fact, there is one clear Best Picture. I’ve been rallying for it ever since seeing it last May (and if you’re following my Twitter account, you’ve probably been exhausted reading about it unless you agree). Have I been correct on my Oscar predictions? Yes and no. Basically, this list wraps up who I think are deserving to win. Again, here’s wishing for 2017 to be a better Oscar year for the rightful films.

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Best Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road 

Best Sound Mixing: If Mad Max: Fury Road‘s battle cry of the guitar-thrashing war boy doesn’t win an Oscar — not only was it bizarre; it was the perfect accompaniment for the craziest and electrifying cinematic car chase ever — then I don’t know anymore.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: From Charlize Theron’s smoky and revering eyes to the grotesque villains led by Immortan Joe, every physical detail of the characters in Mad Max: Fury Road has a story to tell. And they are just simply one-of-a-kind.

Best Visual Effects: I’m glad to see Ex Machina be nominated along with the heavy-weights, but it wouldn’t likely win. The Revenant winning for that bear-maul scene is both a joke and a shocker while The Martian‘s VFX is no match against fellow sci-fi Gravity. Press for Mad Max: Fury Road had talked more about the crew’s resourcefulness and ingenuity than for visual effects. In the end, the technological update accomplished in Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets my vote.

Best Original Song: Probably “Til It Happens To You” by Diana Ross and Lady Gaga from the documentary, The Hunting Ground. “The Writings on the Wall” is a mediocre Bond theme (sorry, Sam Smith; it wasn’t a worthy follow-up to Adele’s Oscar-winning “Skyfall”). And it’s the year of the Gaga.

Best Original Score: John Williams’ iconic score for Star Wars is nominated, again. Perhaps the Academy should award someone else? How about The Hateful Eight? I heard it was good (but wasn’t able to see it yet).

Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road (God was the production designer for The Revenant. Amen.)

Best Film Editing: The playfulness in The Big Short‘s story-telling is lend by its uncanny editing but the magic of this technical element is best displayed in Mad Max: Fury Road. The car chase throughout the film was never a bore; in fact, it’s the adrenaline-filled interplay of action, thrill and suspense that made me so alive.  

Best Cinematography: While I had locked this category for Mad Max: Fury Road, Emmanuel Lubezki’s work in The Revenant was so admirable that he deserves a back-to-back-to-back Oscar. It’s probably the only legit part that I like about the film.

Best Documentary FeatureAmy

Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul (Hungary)

Best Animated Feature: Inside Out

Best Adapted Screenplay: If the Academy is daring enough, it’d pick Room which is my second choice. But it would probably go to WGA winner, The Big Short.

Best Original Screenplay: Nice to see Ex Machina and Inside Out land nominations but I’m all for Spotlight.

Best Supporting Actress: Isn’t it sweet to have Leo and Kate Winslet win in the same year? But I’m going for my girl Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl.

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stalone‘s return as Rocky Balboa in Creed could sway a sentimental vote. The neurologist-fund manager with an artificial eye and Asperger syndrome that Christian Bale becomes for The Big Short comes as second. I still wished Jacob Tremblay was nominated; he was the heart of Room.

Best Actress: Congratulations to one of the youngest Best Actress winners, Brie Larson for Room! The edginess and vulnerability she display creep under the skin that her portrayal of ‘Ma’ is unnerving to the point of frustration. But knowing what her character had gone through, she deserves it. (Still, my heart goes to Saoirse Ronan who tugged my heartstrings in Brooklyn).

Best Actor: He knows it. He can feel it. It’s a long time coming for Leonardo DiCaprio whose committed performance in The Revenant is… Okay, he deserves to win with respective to his fellow nominees but we can agree that this is not his best performance of his career. Right?

Best Director: All the way for George Miller who is the true visionary for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Best Picture: I can’t say which film had done this before but for the past years, the eventual Best Picture winner also won a Screenplay award. In that case, the Oscar odds are in favor of The Big Short and Spotlight. BUT a win for Alejandro Innaritu as Best Director (after receiving the DGA award) locks the plum prize for The Revenant which is not nominated in the Adapted Screenplay category (see the conundrum?). Nevertheless, as I stay true to which film should win, my Best Picture goes to 2015’s extraordinary masterpiece, Mad Max: Fury Road.

 

 

P.S.

I’m more likely wrong on the supporting actor categories but I’m counting on Mad Max: Fury Road to earn the most number of Oscar wins while The Revenant to spoil the night 😛

And my Oscar goes to… (2015 edition)

In the spirit of the awards season (and as the annual game for film enthusiasts), here’s my Oscar ballot for 2015. This list doesn’t entirely predict the winners on Sunday but it could interest you to see the films based on my choices. It was an upsetting year that glared the lack of diversity among the nominees and robbed those who more deserve the recognition. Still, here’s to hoping that the Academy has a knack for pleasant surprises. And if not, perhaps 2016 would be a better year for the rightful films.

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Best Sound Editing: American Sniper (It’s a tough call. Pun not intended.)

Best Sound Mixing: Birdman‘s background drum encore is one of the film’s beguiling features but how Whiplash makes every instrument palpable and be part of something bigger than the band gives this movie so much electrifying presence.

Best Make-up and Hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Visual Effects: This is the most competitive category with the likes of Captain America 2, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, and X-Men: Days of Future Past in contention. But my choice would be personal.

Best Original Song: I didn’t expect ‘Lost Stars’ from Begin Again to make the cut but maybe (and I’m predicting here), Selma‘s Glory will get the sentiments’ vote (and perhaps it’s only chance of nabbing an Oscar).

Best Original Score: I’m still bitter Gone Girl wasn’t nominated. The Theory of Everything won the award in the Golden Globes. But Hans Zimmer’s unconventional work in Interstellar is the dark horse.

Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Film Editing: Not to undermine Boyhood‘s 12-years of hard work to make a complete picture of childhood (it could win though) but I’m wishing Whiplash wins. The slick editing of The Grand Budapest Hotel comes in third.   

Best Cinematography: This is the second most competitive category. The Academy could award Birdman with its out-of-the-box camerawork but Ida‘s cinematography is so elegant and dramatic whereas The Grand Budapest Hotel is flawlessly playful. (That would be a back-to-back win for the Gravity cinematographer; though it speaks the irony of Birdman‘s appealing screen presence but hollow narrative.)

Best Documentary Feature: CitizenFour

Best Foreign Language Film: Ida (Poland)

Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Adapted Screenplay: WGA winner The Imitation Game was a handsomely-made bio-pic but I want an upset win by Whiplash.

Best Original Screenplay: Foxcatcher is so underrated in this category that it deserves more recognition. I’m torn between The Grand Budapest Hotel (40%) and Boyhood (60%) – a win would seal its chance for Best Picture.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette was the most natural and heartbreaking in Boyhood.

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash will always match my tempo.

Best Actress: Julianne Moore is long overdue but Rosamund Pike was such a mesmerizing revelation in Gone Girl.

Best Actor: People are betting between in Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton but Steve Carell‘s chilling transformation in Foxcatcher just blew me away.

Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Best Picture: The Grand Budapest will sweep the technical awards but the dedication and sentimentality offered by Boyhood will win (sorry not sorry for Birdman).

 

P.S.

I skipped the Documentary Short Subject, Short Film – Animated and Short Film – Live Action categories because I wasn’t familiar on the nominees. I’m more likely wrong on the lead actor categories but I’m counting on The Grand Budapest Hotel to earn the most number of Oscar wins while Whiplash to make the surprising ones. I’d still count how many categories did I get correctly. 😉