Thursday, December 25, 2008

Right on the BUTTON

There's a fantastic sweeping epic that will figure prominently in the upcoming awards season. Sorry Baz Luhrmann but the film is not named after a continent.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, loosely based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is by far the most ambitious cinematic undertaking this year. Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button, a man afflicted with a rare condition -- born in 1918 New Orleans with the physical attributes and disabilities of a very old man, his body ages in reverse while everyone else around him grows older the conventional way. Abandoned as a wrinkly E.T.-like baby at the steps of a, quite fittingly, home for the aged, he grows up under the care of a loving black woman named Queenie (Taraji P. Henson in an award-worthy performance). The film follows this simple everyday man (ignore the aging issue and the matinee idol looks) in his adventures learning about love and war, life and death. Take the annoying parts of FORREST GUMP out and sprinkle it with a hefty amount of TWILIGHT ZONE and you get BENJAMIN BUTTON. That's really about it.

BENJAMIN BUTTON is a film of magnificent contradictions. It is about life but is littered with deaths. It highlights simplicity and yet every frame is perfected with technical wizardry. It is a visually stunning film that, after almost three hours of complications, twists and turns, comes to its expected, imminent, and quiet conclusion. In the end, it's really about nothing. But it is a nothing that moves me deeply because it reflects my own experience -- my life should really be very simple but I make it much more complicated than it has to be.

The film boasts an accomplished acting job from its ensemble that includes Henson, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. But there is no denying that Brad Pitt makes this film look incredible with his subtle and understated acting. It doesn't hurt that the man looks gorgeous at any age! However, this may be a tough sell even for avid Brad Pitt fans. But those who connect to the story will find it truly amazing.
~Michael Gamilla
This film opens in Rochester on Christmas Day.

Note: The poster mock-up with Queenie and Baby Button was downloaded from

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

GRAN TORINO: A Mixed Bag of Goodies

Clint Eastwood's latest directing/acting effort GRAN TORINO is a mishmash of sitcom humor and emotionally charged drama. Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a disgruntled Korean War veteran who, after his wife's death, finds himself living alone in a Detroit neighborhood that has been slowly taken over by Hmong** immigrants. A bitter and bigoted old man who never really connected with his own sons, Kowalski suddenly finds himself mentoring a young Hmong neighbor but ends up learning more about life and relationships himself.

In possibly one of Eastwood's funniest screen portrayal, Kowalski is what you would imagine Dirty Harry would grow old to be -- constantly wearing a grimace, snarling all over the place and quick to point a finger gun at people. Ethnic slurs and racial epithets probably make up for 50% of his dialogues but he does them in a fun way. I'm asian and I was definitely not offended by them. I never laughed so hard watching a drama before. But when the film does get serious, the themes of religious faith, racism, regret, and redemption clearly surface. This is the film that SEVEN POUNDS so desperately wants to be.

Honestly, GRAN TORINO is a very flawed movie suffering from an almost mediocre script and poor acting from its supporting characters across the board, especially those playing the Hmong roles. But I LOVED it! I came to the screening not knowing much about the film and I was pleasantly surprised. It has a lot of heart and I was totally sold on it. Eastwood is so endearing so I won't be surprised if he (and the film) becomes the dark horse in the Academy Awards come February. The "Gran Torino" theme song by Eastwood himself is also my favorite this year.

I'm probably most excited about people's reaction to this film than any other. So let me know what your thoughts are.

**Hmong is an Asian ethnic group in the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia that includes Northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma).
~Michael Gamilla
This film comes to Rochester in January 2009.

The Mucus Factor

Tony Award winning actress Viola Davis is getting rave reviews and even winning some awards for her excellent and rich portrayal of Mrs. Miller, a mother who must choose between two unpleasant and unfortunate paths for her son, in DOUBT. The amazing thing is she appears in only one scene that lasts about 10 minutes or so. It is indeed a pivotal role and Davis' powerful performance drives home the moral struggle that the film tackles. But who's to say that it deserves more recognition than equally strong performances from Rosemarie DeWitt (RACHEL GETTING MARRIED), Marisa Tomei (THE WRESTLER), or Taraji P. Henson (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON) who would likely be displaced by a Davis nomination in the Supporting Actress category? Come visit us again here and discuss after you've seen the film.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Confidently Acted DOUBT

DOUBT tells the story of a straight-laced school principal who suspects the parish priest of sexually molesting one of the young male students. All four of the film's principal characters received acting nominations from both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors' Guild in the last week. Frankly, along with MILK and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, it is one of the finely acted films this year. Having said that, DOUBT is more of an actor's film than anything else.

I saw John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize winning play on Broadway back in 2005, the night before it won the Tony Award for Best Play. I knew even then it was taking home the top prize. The production was simply powerful and I just thought both Cherry Jones and Brian F. O'Byrne were phenomenal. So imagine my skepticism when they announced a couple of years later that a film adaptation was in the works with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman tapped to co-star. I was mildly disappointed that out lesbian actress Jones would not be recreating her role as Sr. Aloysius but also excited to see what Streep was going to do with the character. On the other hand, I thought PSH was possibly miscast and wished O'Byrne would reprise his role as the handsome, charismatic and magnetic Fr. Flynn. I think he would have been more believable and more effectively cast a doubt as to the character's guilt.

The film's transition from the stage to the big screen isn't as successful as I wanted it to be. Somehow, moving most of the action away from the principal's office diminishes the intimacy of the characters' interactions and the immediacy of the molestation issue. It is also more effective when the audiences are not privy to what happens in the classrooms or behind the altar. Then we feel the struggle of the nuns just as much and makes it difficult for us to have any kind of certainty ourselves.

DOUBT is still a finely crafted film. The great acting is already worth the price of admission. And I have to admit that PSH was a good choice. Any less actor would have been swallowed whole by the bravura performance of Streep.
~Michael Gamilla
DOUBT opens in Rochester on Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SEVEN POUNDS of Heavy Drama

Will Smith's latest emotional drama is heavy handed and almost manipulative. In SEVEN POUNDS, Smith plays a man who is on a quest for redemption and about to change the lives of seven people forever. The teaser says it all: Seven Names. Seven Strangers. One Secret. A secret that is so transparent you can tell where the movie is going after the first 10 minutes. Ugh!

The film suffers from too much reference to the number 7 that some points seem to be labored and forced. I get the spiritual message already!

I like Will Smith as an actor and he also seems to be a genuinely nice person. So I don't really want to say anything bad about him. But his acting in this movie consists of one pained expression all through out, which makes the film even more depressing. Still, he is the one good thing about this film.

You can tell the movie is in trouble when the common reaction of the preview screening audience is to try to identify who the seven strangers are. With the deluge of Oscar-worthy films in the next few weeks, this might be one to skip.
~Michael Gamilla

Seven Pounds opens in Rochester on Dec. 19.

MILK Panel Discussion

The Little is offering a panel discussion featuring Tim Mains and Karen Hagberg after the 6:30pm screening of MILK on Friday, Dec. 19. This would be a perfect time to see the film, if you haven't yet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Bottom Monologues

Intrigued? Well the fabulous and always energetic Erik Libey has a new exciting project. To learn more about it, visit the official site here.

Do you have a story to share? Post it here.

And spread the word!

Friday, December 12, 2008


So you've probably seen the trailer for the new Tom Cruise project VALKYRIE opening this Christmas. It looks good and grand, although I have issues with the hairstyling of TC's character. But how come no one is talking about the movie. And it's not figuring prominently in the early awards. Have critics even seen it yet?

The even bigger question is: Can you still take Tom Cruise seriously?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globe 2008 Nominations

Have you seen what the Hollywood Foreign Press chose for their best in film and TV this past year? Some were expected (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, the cast of Doubt). Some were mild surprises (Revolutionary Road, The Reader, the uneven choices for Comedy or Musical categories, lack of Gran Torino and The Dark Knight nominations). But some were downright headscratchers (no love for Milk except for Sean Penn's nomination, no Taraji P. Henson for her supporting role in Benjamin Button, and Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder over any of the Milk supporting guys).

Do not even start with the TV choices with me.

What do you think?

Check the compete list of nominees.

Note: Stay tuned for my reviews of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and DOUBT coming in the next few days.
~ MG


Have you ever experienced a film so vivid you swear you can almost smell it? And yes, I'm pretty sure it wasn't coming from the guy sitting next to me. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE's vibrant in-your-face cinematography, clever editing, and brilliant choreography put its audiences right in the middle of the action, flooding your senses with the sounds and colors of the streets of India, the taste of poverty, the stench of corruption, and the heartbreak and joy that true love brings.

Essentially a modern day story of undying love and devotion, SM follows 20-year old street boy Jamal Malik's quest to win the ultimate prize of India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" while the whole nation cheers him on. Through cleverly devised flashbacks, we learn about Jamal's hard life -- orphaned at a young age, he and older brother Salim grew up surviving the harshest conditions of the slums of Mumbai, narrowly escaping a childhood of torture and slavery from the hands of an unscrupulous child labor syndicate, and hustling their way through their teens. But even with what they have been through together, the brothers went their separate ways because of Latika, the girl with whom Jamal fell in love when they were 6 years old. In fact, tonight, being on the hot seat, isn't about winning the money. Jamal simply hopes that Latika is watching her favorite show so he can reach out to her.

The screenplay isn't perfect but is cleverly written nonetheless. British actor Dev Patel is getting rave reviews for his strong and charming portrayal of Jamal. But I was even more impressed by the young cast playing the threesome of Jamal, Salim and Latika in various ages. These kids will take you into a wild ride of emotions. Danny Boyle's confident direction makes you forget that you are actually watching a very graphic film about police brutality, child abuse, gangster violence, and the cruel realities of India's poorest of the poor. Yet you are guaranteed to cheer on as the movie reaches its Bollywoodesque ending, maybe even shedding some tears of joy.

This is SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE's true success: it offers an escape for all kinds of people. The desperate will find hope that life can be better after all. While the privileged and the lucky ones will be forever thankful that their lives aren't so bad to begin with.

~ Michael Gamilla

Slumdog Millionaire opens in Rochester on Friday, Dec. 12.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Last one. Promise. LOL.

Thursday, Dec. 11 at 7pm
Regal Henrietta

Passes can be picked up at OUTLandish @ the Village Gate.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

MILK: A Short Review

The highly-anticipated film MILK finally comes to Rochester this weekend. I attended a press screening last week and I truly believe that everyone needs to see this film. Yes, not just the LGBT community, but everyone. And I can't wait for my friends, if they truly are my friends, to agree with me.

The film details the inspiring story of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco politician who was also known as the Mayor of Castro Street -- from his life-changing decision to move from NYC to SF to his eventual assassination by fellow City Supervisor Dan White. Its timing could not be any more perfect with LGBT issues getting their fair share of national headlines nowadays. But this is also the reason why many people would consider the film too political and will easily find detractors as it opens in more theaters nationwide in the following weeks.

ImageOut audiences are fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK on the big screen during our October festival. Director Gus Van Sant masterfully weaves many historical and archival footage seen in the documentary with new scenes to capture the essence, wildness, chaos, freedom, desperation, and hope of the LGBT community in the 70s. While the film depicts one man's slow and difficult rise in the SF political arena, it also unfolds the birth of gay social activism and the emergence of the Castro District as a gay mecca. What makes these stories come to life is the work of an amazing ensemble cast led by Sean Penn's unforgettable turn as Milk, proving once again that he is one of the best thespians of his generation. He simply gets lost in the character and almost convinces the viewers that they are indeed watching Milk himself. He will definitely be a leading contender for acting honors in the coming awards season.

Powerful. Poignant. Relevant. Amazing. Fabulous. Choose any of these adjectives to describe the film. But the one certain thing you would walk away with after watching it is, just as it was then, there is a necessity and urgency for change -- change that may not be easily achieved. And we need everyday heroes to rise to the occasion and champion us in our fight for this change.

~ Michael Gamilla

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bitch Slap- The Movie

Has anyone else heard about this coming attraction? This entertaining article about this B-movie meets 2008 on pretty much says it all.
I will be asking Santa for two things this Christmas:
1. Full marriage equality
2. This movie to come out NOW!

official movie website

CIAO in Theatres

ImageOut favorite CIAO opens in New York City this weekend. In the coming weeks, it will be screening in San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

The film recently won a Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award from Image+Nation, Montreal's LGBT Film Festival.

Friday, December 5, 2008


If you missed the preview screening of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE last Wednesday, here's another chance for you to see this sure-fire sleeper hit of the season.

Pittsford Plaza
Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 7pm

Limited number of passes are available. Each pass admits TWO people. You need to be there by 6:15pm. The last preview screening was packed and some pass holders were turned away by 6:45pm. A pass does not guarantee admittance.

Stop by OUTLandish at the Village Gate to pick up a pass.

I highly recommend the film.

~ Michael

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Little Ashes Clips & A New Poster

As Michael mentioned in a previous post, Twilight's hottie of the moment Robert Pattinson is playing gay for his next film, Little Ashes, which documents the intimate relationship between Salvador Dali (played by Pattinson) and poet Frederico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran). A few new clips from the film have been released, and they're wonderfully chock full of longing looks and tasteful innuendo. While I haven't seen Twilight (nor have I read the books), Pattinson will always be Cedric Diggory to me. Still, color me intrigued.

Monday, December 1, 2008


This Wednesday (Dec. 3) at 7pm, there will be a word of mouth screening of the indie sensation SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE at the Little. I have limited passes (each one admits 2) to share with you. Those who are in the Rochester area and are interested in the passes, give me your name and I will set aside a pass for you at the door. You need to be at the theatre by 6:20pm to make sure you could get in.

** Post your request in the comments so I get them in the right order. I will meet you at the theater lobby with your pass.

Montreal etc.

Traveled to Montreal over the Thanksgiving Holiday to attend the last half of Image+Nation, their LGBT Film Festival. Thanks to my good friends Charlie and Katharine for giving me an all-access pass on the fly. They were very accommodating. There were a couple of French films in their lineup that I have not seen anywhere and they were both wonderful! I'll have to see how they hold up for next year's ImageOut planning. But also saw a lot of shorts and a few films that I wanted to see play on the big screen and with an audience. The trip was definitely worth it.

Heard that MILK did really well over the weekend in its limited release. Miami was the only place where it did not do as great compared to SF, LA, and NYC. What were those Southern boys (and belles) thinking? Was it too nice outside? =) Can't wait to see it on Thursday when I sit in for the Rochester press screening.

But first, I'll get to see THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON tomorrow. Just another busy week at the cinema for me.

P.S. Thanks to my good (pinoy) friend Emmanuel for being a fabulous host in Montreal. See you and Rejean soon!