02 January 2012

You Can't Curry Love (2009)

Film: You Can't Curry Love
Direction: Reid Waterer
Running time: 23 minutes
Country: India/United States

Ashwin Gore stars as Vikas, a handsome East Indian guy from London who gets sent for a short stint to India by his boss, Thom (Russell Reynolds). While in India, he unexpectedly falls for the front desk clerk in his hotel, Sunil (Rakshak Sahni) and the two fall in love. He then discovers more about a country he only thought he knew.

You Can't Curry Love filmmaker Reid Waterer infuses his film with a montage of cultural images that add another dimension to the movie. Cross-cutting was largely utilized throughout the film (I could tell none of the actors actually went to India), but the scenes were sewn together effectively (regardless of the occassional mismatch in the quality of the shots).

The film gives the viewer an insight on how homosexuality is perceived in a fast-rising economy like India, but at 23 minutes, the film is certainly longer than required. There were scenes that could've used tighter editing as well as others that should've been edited out all together. It simply got slow at times.

If this film had a heterosexual theme, I guess I'd call it a "chick flick" in its recurring cheeziness.

I, however, liked the fact that the film had a positive ending, as not too many gay-themed films end this way. (Review by Mark Fabillar)

Rating: 8.5/10

27 December 2011

Porcelain Unicorn (2010)

Film: Porcelain Unicorn
Direction: Keegan Wilcox
Running time: 3 minutes
Country: United States

One of the most endearing love stories I've ever seen, Keegan Wilcox's Porcelain Unicorn was the winning short film in Philips’ Tell It Your Way filmmaking contest.

On winning the contest (which received over 600 entries from around the world), Wilcox quipped: "This came as a huge surprise. Being awarded the opportunity from Philips to gain valuable work experience at RSA is a privilege and a first step on the long road to a career.”

Although shot in Los Angeles, California, Porcelain Unicorn is actually set in Germany in 1943 during the totalitarian dictatorship of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. This era resulted in the death of millions of European Jews and other minorities which Hitler deemed a threat to the Aryan race.

The film opens in the present time, with an old man walking with a cardboard box in his arm. He glances at a street address he had scribbled on a post-it note. Upon finding the right house, he stops and sees a very familiar window.

This is where he gets a flashback of memories.

The next scene is of three young German boys entering a seemingly abandoned house through a window. They rummage through things that are left in there, and one can tell that the owners of this house left on a whim as there's some moldy bread on the table and an unfinished cigarette on an ashtray.

The boys hear a thud and a cabinet door opens as a result of the impact. Two of the boys run in fear -- but the third one stays.

He decides to investigate the cabinet and sees a little girl hiding. The girl gets scared and hides deeper into the cabinet (it turns out that the cabinet was placed in front of a secret passage). Unfazed, the boy gets his lighter and enters the cabinet into the passage.

The girl looks terrified. Trying to be friendly, she hands him a porcelain unicorn.

The boy notices the little girl's yellow badge on her arm and says, "Never seen one up close before." This yellow badge was a cloth patch that Jews were ordered to sew on their outer garments in order to mark them as Jews in public. It was intended to be a badge of shame.

At this point, Nazi officers break into the house and start searching. The boy tells the girl to run away through the secret passage but the girl is in shock. The Nazis approach the cabinet and open the door. The boy yells at the girl to get away, and this time she does.

The next shot is of the boy standing in front of the guards, handing them the unicorn and apologizing. A guard hits him with the unicorn in his face, smashing it to pieces.

It is back to present time with the old man and his box in front of the house. He had rung the doorbell, but decides to turn his back and leave. An old woman opens the door.

The next shot is inside the house, the old woman opening the box. It was the porcelain unicorn.

This scene, even without words is beautiful.

Commenting on his choice of winner, Academy Award nominated director Sir Ridley Scott said: “I chose Porcelain Unicorn to be the winning film as it had a very strong narrative; a very complete story that was well told and executed.”

Keegan Wilcox is a master storyteller. (Review by Mark Fabillar)

Rating: 10/10

25 December 2011

Lovefield (2008)

Film: Lovefield
Direction: Mathieu Ratthe
Running time: 5 minutes
Country: Canada

French-Canadian filmmaker Mathieu Ratthe shows how one's assumption of death can actually be the beginning of life.

Lovefield is a beautifully shot film. Its sweeping cinematography almost contrasts with the lingering danger in the beginning of the film. The filmmaker has an effective way of showing only so much so as to draw conclusions from the viewer. It is a film that invests in wrong impressions and this is what makes it effective.

I look forward to more works from this director! (Review by Mark Fabillar)

Rating: 9.5/10

Table 7 (2009)

Film: Table 7
Direction: Marko Slavnic and Andrew McDonald
Running time: 4 minutes, 15 seconds
Country: United States

A couple is having an intimate conversation in a restaurant, unaware that their discussion is being closely monitored. People say that women have an amazing intuition, yet not all is as it seems.

Bosnian-born American filmmaker Marko Slavnic and his co-director Andrew McDonald should give themselves a pat on the back for their excellent work in Table 7. The story was cohesive and well-written, and the twist was unexpected. For a while, I actually thought the movie was going to go in a completely different direction.

The film works because it has a great script behind it. Film lovers must understand that ultimately it is a film's story that counts. Everything else should only serve as garnishes to the script. So no matter how great your lighting is or no matter how great one actor's portrayal is, if the film has a pointless story everything else suffers.

This is how all films should be.

Fortunately, this little gem has all the elements in -- the direction, acting, cinematography, lighting and sound do a great job at making the story its most riveting. (Review by Mark Fabillar)

Rating: 10/10

Rain (2007)

Film: Rain
Direction: Simon Streatfeild
Running time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
Country: Australia

Simon Streatfeild's Rain is simply beautiful and poetic.

The filmmaker is able to structure his narrative effectively, coupling it with understated visuals and sound. He has his own style -- which is what I like about him. It's just refreshing to see works with a poetic language.

This little gem won't drown in a sea of 3D animated shorts. (Review by Mark Fabillar)

Rating: 9.7/10

Trauma (2010)

Film: Trauma
Direction: Lawrence Fowler
Running time: 3 minutes, 8 seconds
Country: U.K.

After catching a glimpse of a late night horror film depicting a serial killer terrorizing a young child's house, 7 year old Jamie is left traumatized. Isolated and alone, can the youngster differentiate between fiction and reality during a weekend alone with his estranged aunt?

Brilliant and classy, Lawrence Fowler's Trauma is so triumphantly excellent it makes you forget it is a student project. The lighting was wickedly spot on and so was the sound. Dave Ware's cinematography was outstanding and so was the cutting. The acting was also some of the most natural I've seen in years -- everything was perfect.

This is by far the best horror short I have ever seen on YouTube! (Review by Mark Fabillar)

Rating: 10/10

A Merry Hunt (2010)

Film: A Merry Hunt
Direction: Maurice Trouwborst
Running time: 1 minute, 6 seconds
Country: Netherlands

Guess there won't be any presents this year, kids. (Laughs)

A Merry Hunt is funny and disturbing at the same time. I'm not a fan of hunting myself, and this film shows how it can potentially break children's hearts too!

Maurice Trouwborst's little film is well directed, shot, cut and color graded and its use of irony is chic. (Review by Mark Fabillar)

Rating: 9.7/10