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The 92nd Academy Awards: Film is a Universal Medium

Twas the night of the Academy Awards, another celebration for the latest achievements in the world of cinema at the iconic Dolby Theatre. What was fascinating about this year was the variety we were treated to in terms of the nominees. Despite the lack of female directors on the list like Greta Gerwig, the disregard for The Farewell and the absence of Taron Egerton (Rocketman) in the Best Actor categorythe 2020 Oscars still turned out to be a fine awards show thanks to the love for favorites like Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917 and the Korean masterpiece Parasite.

Great surprises were bound to happen with Parasite making history as the only non-English language film to have won Best Picture in the history of the Oscars with a Best Screenplay and Best Directing win for Bong Joon-Ho plus an extra treat: Best International Feature Film. Laura Dern has always been captivating in all her roles, and her Best Supporting Actress win for Marriage Story was very well-deserved. The fact that Adam Driver also received a nomination for Best Actor was truly wonderful. Florence Pugh, who played Dern’s daughter in Little Women, the scene-stealing Amy March, was another favorite as she made the Best Supporting Actress nominee list. Although Saoirse Ronan was very commanding as Jo March and Cynthia Erivo also got nominated for her portrayal of Harriet – in addition to giving us a powerful performance of “Stand Up”Renee Zellweger deserved the Best Actress win as Judy Garland in the Judy biopic. Also deserving a mention was Billie Eilish’s stunning rendition of “Yesterday” to remember the filmmaking greats who have recently passed away. How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World being considered for Best Animated Feature really thrilled me, and Toy Story 4 representing the category was a marvel. 

Overall, the biggest takeaway of the night is that film is a universal medium and that we can learn a lot about life, acceptance and compassion from worldwide narratives and languages other than our own. 

“The Lion King” 2019: A Vehicle for Billy Eichner

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Disney’s timeless hit The Lion King, and the new live action version is now roaring at cinemas worldwide. With all the remakes of classics that have turned into an ongoing trend, is The Lion King 2019 worth your money, especially when the 1994 original that impressed 5 year-old me the first time I watched it in the theater is still a box office king?

As a massive The Lion King fan who has dedicated my time to devouring the entire trilogy countless times, drawing fanart, writing fanfics and collecting tons of merch, I was one of those viewers who initially doubted this remake but later found it surprisingly fresh, stunning and compelling. Simba and friends are definitely worth revisiting in CGI format thanks to director Jon Favreau and his vision to use technology to create real talking animals with stunning African shots. The key is to treat this new, updated film as an additional version that complements the original, just like the theater production that has become a Broadway sensation it even has international tours.

Plot wise, The Lion King 2019 bears a closer resemblance to Hamlet, the Shakespearan tragedy that inspired the 1994 movie, with Scar’s murderous nature being shown since his very first scene. Such a commanding acting by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He can easily hold his own against the great James Earl Jones, who makes a grand comeback as King Mufasa. The design for Scar also enhances his villainous quality, giving him that dangerous look from the get go.

I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m super impressed by the new voice cast. To me, these names are as great as the original. Donald Glover makes the perfect Simba, and both his line deliveries and singing voice are pure magic. He has demonstrated his acting prowess with his roles in Atlanta, Solo (my personal favorite) and many other prominent projects, so I’m definitely all for him as Simba. Beyonce as my top favorite character Nala is another inspired casting, and I completely understand why she got picked – she is fierce and daring like Nala is. Alfre Woodard makes a wonderful Sarabi. Very commanding and queenly. I appreciate the extended scenes Sarabi was given. Her interactions with Scar during his reign at Pride Rock provided some backstory elements that we didn’t get to see much in the original version. John Oliver as Zazu is as entertaining as the marvelous Rowan Atkinson.

The biggest surprise of the movie for me and many others on social media is the casting of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as the iconic meerkat and warthog duo Timon and Pumbaa. In my opinion, both are the best Disney duo to have ever existed and my personal favorites. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella will always be irreplaceable, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since, but Billy and Seth have proven that they’re equally fantastic, and together they create compelling comedy. I’ve seen a lot of Billy’s works on TV, but Timon is his best role to date, and I honestly think The Lion King should be a vehicle for him to get even more film roles. The guy is hilarious but also charismatic. He even has Oscar buzz! Plus his singing voice is really stunning he should sing in more movies or even make an album. Note to Disney: can we have both The Lion King 1/2 and Simba’s Pride turned into remakes? We want the entire trilogy. And on top of that, it’s about time we get a new Timon and Pumbaa TV series. More Billy and Seth, please. I love how closer to the actual African animals the CGI characters are in terms of movement and behavior. Timon mostly uses his four legs to walk compared to the original animation, and that is super adorable to see.

All in all, The Lion King is a majestic cinematic treat and captures the regal quality of the original 1994 film. By far Disney’s best live action remake along with Aladdin. Get your tickets now and be transported back to Africa to witness the universe of Pride Rock in an all-new way.

Photo Credits: Walt Disney Studios

Films to Watch at the Beginning of the Year

2019 has arrived, and January and February are the best months to start fresh with everything. Here’s a selection of movies from classics to modern hits that will give you cinematic companionship as you redecorate your room, finish up your 2019 goals or fill your new planners with exciting events and activities.

With top notch characters, unforgettable cast, and timeless plots, these films are sure to bring you excitement, positive vibes and a spirit for adventure in this brand new year full of great opportunities.

Feel free to comment with your list of films you watch at the beginning of every year.

  • Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Returns
    From classic Julie Andrews to the Emily Blunt version, it will always be a jolly holiday with Mary. Revisit the magical nanny and the Banks family on Cherry Tree Lane from P.L. Travers’s bestselling book series. Mary Poppins Returns is still playing in cinemas as of now. Can you imagine that?
  • Roman Holiday
    This Audrey Hepburn hit makes a truly delicious cinematic treat.
  • La La Land
    Here’s to the fools who dream.
  • Midnight in Paris
    It’s Paris after midnight. When the clock strikes 12, travel back in time to 1920’s Paris with Owen Wilson as Gil the writer as he befriends some of the famous literary names of the past that include Ernest Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds.
  • When Harry Met Sally
    What a fine classic! The perfect rom-com to kickstart the new year.
  • The Artist
    A whimsical, inspiring black and white film for the modern times.
  • Eat, Pray, Love
    Follow Elizabeth Gilbert’s inspiring journey of self-discovery in different parts of the world based on her bestselling novel of the same title with Julia Roberts portraying her onscreen version.
  • Aloha
    A relaxing little film starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone set in Hawaii.
  • Mamma Mia 1 & Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again
    Set off on a musical adventure with “dancing queen” Donna Sheridan, her daughter Sophie and Sophie’s three potential dads in the magical Greek island of Kalokairi featuring delicious ABBA hits. You’ll be screaming “Gimme Gimme Gimme” with every viewing.
  • Hugo
    Set in 1930’s Paris, this stunning, imaginative piece of cinema is a wonderfully crafted tribute to the art and magic of film-making and a constant reminder to stay optimistic about our dreams and ambitions.
  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 1 & 2
    No matter where Lena, Tibby, Carmen and Bridget travel, their friendship will always stay powerful thanks to a magical blue jeans that continue to be a perfect fit for them. Let’s hope Movie Number 3 will be made soon.
  • La Vie En Rose
    A wonderful biopic of French chanteuse Edith Piaf.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Honey, honey, the marvelous movie musical Mamma Mia! returns for a sequel a decade after its release, and it’s a such summer delight you’ll be singing “Andante, Andante” and floating away. In Here We Go Again, we sail back to the fictional island of Kalokairi, Greece and reunite with the original cast while welcoming a number of newcomers to Hotel Bella Donna.

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is now in charge of Donna’s divine hotel, preparing for its reopening and inviting her three fathers Sam, Harry and Bill (still played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) and mom’s best friends Tanya and Rosie (with Christine Baranski and Julie Walters reprising their roles) to come along while her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper) is learning about hotel business away in New York. As pregnancy is upon her, she reminisces about her mother with the help of Tanya and Rosie, and the film whimsically mixes present situations with flashbacks that feature young, wild and carefree Donna (magnetically portrayed by Lily James) and her adventures that led her to her first encounters with her three beaus.

Meryl Streep is still the heart and soul of the story, and though her presence is limited in this sequel (perhaps we can all pen a letter to the writers asking why they did what they did to Donna), the plot will always revolve around Donna, and Sophie is honoring her mother by keeping the family business running.

Props to the casting team for putting together a convincing group of young actors for the flashback scenes, from Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies who look and speak exactly like Baranski and Walters, to Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan as young Sam, Harry and Bill. Lily James steals the film as young Donna. Her presence is electric, and her larger-than-life persona makes it truly an iconic role for her. The way she channels Meryl/Donna is completely natural the audiences would be impressed.

With ABBA’s music being the force behind the Mamma Mia! universe, Here We Go Again does a marvelous job delivering the Swedish pop group’s more underrated hits, from “Andante, Andante” to “Fernando” (a major highlight within the film featuring Cher as Sophie’s grandmother Ruby and Andy Garcia as her former lover Fernando) while bringing in songs previously used in the original film like “Dancing Queen”, “Thank You for the Music”, “Waterloo” (a standout scene with young Harry and Donna), “The Name of the Game”, and “I Have a Dream”.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a great sequel and a wonderful addition to the first. It’s full of joy, electric acting, ABBA-licious tunes, endearing moments and Grecian magic.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird is a new classic in the modern cinematic universe. Greta Gerwig uses her fine powers in writing and directing to craft a simple, humorous yet compelling film that centers on Saoirse Ronan’s Christine McPherson, a senior student at a Catholic school in Sacramento, California, who yearns for a big, artistically rich life in the East Coast. Referring to herself as Lady Bird, the nickname given to her at birth by her nurse mother Marion McPherson (played by Laurie Metcalf), she views her surroundings from a very progressive angle, giving her that fiery, rebellious personality.

The quest for love, acceptance and everlasting friendship is a common plot in the everyday coming-of-age movies, but what makes Lady Bird a masterpiece is the unique insertion of whimsical tones followed by quirky humor that result in plenty of amusing, lighthearted moments like the many inside jokes Lady Bird shares with her best friend Jules (Beanie Feldstein) on a daily basis (their loyalty to each other serves as a powerful testament to female friendship) and the iconic drama club musical audition scenes (seeing Lady Bird tackle the lively Broadway classic “Everybody Says Don’t” is purely epic, knowing how accurate the lyrics are to her personal life). In addition to that, the plot is strongly character-driven with Lady Bird pushing the story forward as she embarks on a journey towards her high school graduation and to discover which East Coast college will accept her. Determined and fiery yet overly stubborn, she often has a row with the strongly opinionated Marion at home and continually lashes out against her, yet fails to realize that underneath it all, both mother and daughter have so much in common. Ronan and Metcalf were deserving of their Academy Awards nominations for a realistic portrayal of their characters with their all-out, energetic performances.

With such a strong film debut, Greta Gerwig has achieved the impossible by being only the fifth female director to have ever been nominated for Best Directing in the history of the Oscars, and the road can only go up from here. She has become an icon and inspiration for women directors and aspiring filmmakers who are just starting out, and Lady Bird will always soar high with its many accolades.

Now that the DVD and Blu-ray are available to buy, it’s the best time to pick up Lady Bird, especially since today is International Women’s Day, and films made by and starring powerful ladies that foster great female dynamics are always the ultimate treats. Click here for more info and follow @LadyBirdMovie on Twitter for updates.

 

#TimesUp at the 75th Golden Globes

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 10.31.27 AMOprah Winfrey. Photo Credit: Variety

BLL Ladies copyThe Big Little Lies ladies. Photo Credit: ABC

It’s 2018, and the annual Golden Globe Awards went into its 75th year with a fiery revolution in support of women across all industries, encouraging them to speak up in light of abuse, misrepresentation and all forms of mistreatment. The #TimesUp movement packed a lot of female punch, as stars and public figures – women and men – attended the event all decked in black as a sign of solidarity. Most of the wins and speeches on stage also reflected and acknowledged the need to continue pushing for equal opportunities for females in all aspects of their careers.

Speaking as a screenwriter, I stand by Oprah Winfrey, Jessica Chastain, Zoe Saldana, Natalie Portman, Dwayne Johnson, Ansel Elgort, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Evan Rachel Wood, and many other icons in the fight for lady power. May more opportunities open up for female writers, directors, engineers, coders, entrepreneurs, and other career fields from all backgrounds and from all over the world, for the world of storytelling and the entire workforce should always be diverse.

The 75th Golden Globe Awards presented us with tons of highlights. Feel free to list all your favorite moments. Here are mine:

  • All the Big Little Lies wins (congrats Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern) and the all-girl cast photos.
  • Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Laura Dern in the same room. The Fault in Our Stars nostalgia.
  • Queen Oprah’s all-inspiring, super important speech about hope and an inclusive future as she accepted the Cecille B. Demille award.
  • Both Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor winning brought a little Moulin Rouge magic. Viva Satine and Christian!
  • The Greatest Showman won Best Original Song with “This is Me”.
  • Barbra Streisand’s surprise appearance. I’d personally want Babs to make a triumphant return to film directing and acting. The last feature film she directed and starred in was the lovely Mirror Has Two Faces.
  • Saoirse Ronan and the Lady Bird appreciation. Director Greta Gerwig deserved a nomination for crafting a powerful female-driven film.

2017 Highlights, 2018 Greetings

It’s here, it’s now, it’s 2018. Well, almost. Before I start my annual New Years Eve movie When Harry Met Sally (been enjoying brunch with some good friends and a cozy family dinner), allow me to present a brief list of my 2017 highlights. You’re welcome to share yours as well.

Happy 2018! 😀 Here’s to another year full of opportunities and adventures for all of us. #DreamBig

FILMS

  • Loving Vincent
  • Baby Driver
  • The Beguiled
  • A United Kingdom
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin
  • Lady Bird
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Coco
  • The Greatest Showman
  • Spiderman: Homecoming
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle

TV SHOWS

  • Reign: The Final Season
  • The Crown
  • Big Little Lies
  • The Orville

MUSIC

  • What’s That Sound? – Haley Reinhart
  • Baby Driver Soundtrack – Various Artists
  • Anastasia Broadway Soundtrack – Christy Altomare & Cast
  • Meaning of Life – Kelly Clarkson
  • Glory Days: Platinum Edition – Little Mix
  • Robin Hood Soundtrack: Disney Legacy Collection – Various Artists

NOVELS

  • The Last Tudor – Phillipa Gregory
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – J.K. Rowling
  • All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
  • The Land of Stories Series – Chris Colfer
  • Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
  • The Witches of New York – Ami McKay

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Universe @ The Forum

In celebration of the much-anticipated release of The Last Jedi, a massive Star Wars fest is being set up at The Forum and throughout the ground floor of Jakarta’s Kelapa Gading Mall, where hardcore fans are granted a free entrance to a galaxy far, far away with all the selfie areas, mini exhibits, and merchandises available for their enjoyment. Be a part of the action and get ready to jet off to the Star Wars universe once again! Be sure to catch the film as well. Photographic highlights from the event are displayed below.

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Hey there, BB-8!

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Battlefront II demo corner.

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Welcome to the Star Wars merch shop! 🙂

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Assorted notebooks.

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“The Lion King” 2019 Film Cast

The circle of life will be revamped with an all-new cast for its 2019 cinematic version.

With The Lion King being Disney’s top masterpiece, die-hard fans were opposed to any form of remake, but after the new cast reveal that include quality names like Donald Glover, James Earl Jones (in a reprising role as Mufasa), Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, Alfre Woodard and Queen Beyonce Knowles as Nala, it’s safe to say this remake would not only be promising but also strongly recapture Simba’s story, vast African landscape and grand music.

As someone who has seen The Lion King over 80 times as a kid (and still a fan in my 20’s), bought tickets to the Broadway production, learned a bit of Swahili, looked up more of Lebo M’s musical works, and written fan fictions about it, I’m very open to this new interpretation of the Hamlet-based plot. It’d be thrilling to revisit Pride Rock and all its glory and to see the universe expand and reach a new generation. Now if only they’d feature some of the tracks used in the Broadway version like “Morning Report” and “Shadowland”…

#Epic

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