My Take On Sani’s Fave Films of 2008

Sanriel Ajero, or Sani to his friends, is a fellow movie buff. He is a ‘cheerleader’, a Cinemanila actor (which I just recently discovered), and a future CPA (that is if he gets lucky… again). Although we share the same passion for films, our tastes differ. You see, my friend likes ‘boring’ movies or in his words, films that are atmospheric and with controlled pacing. In contrast, I adore films that are kinetic and fast-paced. Life itself is already boring, so why not spice it up a little and accelerate it with face-numbing speed for the silver screen. Although we share the same gusto for “Wall-E” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, our opinions move opposite ways most of the times. “The Wrestler”, “Ploning”, and “In Bruges” are cases in point.

And so I challenged myself to watch some of his favorite films of 2008 to see how differently we see movies. You can read about Sani’s favorite films of 2008 here.

DIRECTOR: John Patrick Shanley
TAGLINE: There is no evidence. There are no witnesses. But for one, there is no doubt.
BEST LINE/S: Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty.
STARRING: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis
THE GIST: When a traditional nun accuses a compassionate priest of sexual harassment, a young nun and the alleged victim’s mother are caught in the middle of the search for truth.
SANI SAYS: More than the major issue of doubt, we feel the ever-persistent presence of the call for change, however metaphorical, throughout the film.
I SAY: Verbal crossfires. Smoldering performances. Streep. Adams. Hoffman. These are the reasons why you have to see this talky drama.

RATING: 3.5/5
DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen (debut film)
TAGLINE: An odyssey, in which the smallest gestures become epic and when the body is the last resource for protest.
STARRING: Michael Fassbender
THE GIST: The last weeks of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, before completely succumbing to death in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison, to protest his status as a political prisoner.
SANI SAYS: A film of both poignant substance and cinematic flair (not to mention the ridiculously vigilant attention to details), the film paraded a series of montages that will stick to our wits, no matter how bad we want them out.
I SAY: An unsettling portrayal of the resilience of man and the power of human determination. There is no other film as disturbing and as shocking. A purely visual spectacle that you should see at your own risk.

DIRECTOR: Alex Holdridge (debut film)
TAGLINE: It’s not just another kiss.
STARRING: Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmonds
THE GIST: On New Year’s eve, everyone wants to seal the celebration with a pucker on the lips. A romantic gesture set against the blazing fireworks and deafening merriment. But when you’re single, it’s a different story. Thank God for the Internet!
SANI SAYS: The players in this film never seem stripped off their humanity; they actually feel genuinely human – confident but ashamed, willing but timid, intelligent but flawed.
I SAY: Probably, the most feel-good and most kilig film I’ve seen recently. Using social networking sites and that New Year’s eve kiss as a backdrop, the film pits romanticism against pragmatism and invites us to look into how modern dating goes with a hopeful heart and a balanced judgment. Filled with spontaneity, tenderness, hilarity, and sharpness, it will inspire you to take a chance with love… again.

RATING: 2.5/5
DIRECTOR: Mike Leigh (Vera Drake)
TAGLINE: The one movie this fall that will put a smile on your face.
STARRING: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan
THE GIST: A character study about an overly optimistic and uber-jolly Londoner.
SANI SAYS: On the surface, we may laugh with its wry humor; but we know deep down, it is as bitingly painful as any of Leigh’s family tragedies
I SAY: Despite some funny scenes, Poppy’s life is rather uninteresting and uneventful.

DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green (Snow Angels, All the Real Girls)
TAGLINE: Put this in your pipe and smoke it.
BEST LINE/S: Prepare to suck the cock of karma!
STARRING: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride
THE GIST: A process server and his pot dealer get themselves involved in warring drug syndicates.
SANI SAYS: We feel like dragged into another of Judd Apatow’s crazy antics, but in actuality, when the drug starts to kick in, we join in, get high, and feel like one for the ride aboard the Pineapple Express.
I SAY: Unlike others who think this is one of the greatest comedies of the late, I only see it as a silly and nonsensical yarn. Perfect to watch with beer buds and BFFFs. Read: best fucking friends forever (see, you learn something new everyday).

DIRECTOR: Tarsem (The Cell)
TAGLINE: A little blessing in disguise
BEST LINE/S: What a mystery this world, one day you love them and the next day you want to kill them a thousand times over.
STARRING: Catinca Untaru, Lee Pace
THE GIST: A heartbroken stuntman with a broken limb tricks a naïve little girl into stealing morphine inside the hospital so that he could commit suicide. Believe me, that’s just the boring part.
SANI SAYS: Tarsem spent the last 4 years to paint this picture, and mapped out his set from 18 different countries over the world. This ended up in a maddeningly gorgeous gamut of glorious colors and beautiful imagery.
I SAY: The visual tapestry Tarsem clothes this epic makes you forgive his shortcomings in the storyline department. Where else can you find gracefully swimming elephants, grandiose labyrinths, majestic costumes, and a peek into 18 countries in 80 seconds?

RATING: 3.5/5
DIRECTOR: Hongjin-Na
TAGLINE: The hunter and the hunted, the ultimate chase begin.
STARRING: Jung-woo Ha
THE GIST: A pimp tracks down a psychotic serial killer responsible for the demise of his girls, but finding the suspect is not enough.
SANI SAYS: The director permeates the air with tension, infuses some really disturbing images, and scares the hell out of us with his shockers. All these he gracefully communicates through a low-key pace, without ever losing a sense of urgency.
I SAY: In this crime saga, the murderer is no longer being hunted down. In fact, the police already captured him. However, they don’t have enough evidence to refute his innocence.

DIRECTOR: Kurt Kuenne
THE GIST: A documentary for a son whose father was murdered by his own mother. What's worse is that this kid is under the custody of his deranged mom.
SANI SAYS: The film, in staging the web of the many characters involved in the story of the Bagbys, used fast and rapid edits, that you’ll be blindsided to find your emotions without any possible control.
I SAY: Both devastating and uplifting, this film tackles so many subjects and touches a number of emotions with its brief running time. It speaks of justice gone astray, human will and determination, politics, and above all, love and family. Although the buildup is subtle, its effect possesses power beyond words.

DIRECTOR: Makoto Shinkai
TAGLINE: A chain of short stories about their distance.
THE GIST: This story about growing apart and unrequited love is broken down into three separate segments centered on Tataki Ono in different points of his life.
SANI SAYS: Shinkai’s style is more on the subtle, gloomy, low-key approach. His careful camerawork flows from the screen directly to one’s core. His animation is stunning and fluid, coupled with a framing so spotless, it will sweep you off your feet.
I SAY: This poignant anime uses the first person point-of-view narration in verbalizing the uncertainty and longing the characters feel as they are helpless against professing their heart’s desire. The style gets tired halfway through the second segment but don’t fret. There is hope in the last ten minutes. Damn that ending song for making me teary-eyed!


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