Turning 38, and 38 of My Favorite Films

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So, I’m turning 38 in August. Another year older (I’d like to think wiser, but I imagine many would argue against it). Being as old-fashioned as I am, I can’t think of any better way to celebrate another year of existence — as I look back at the years that have gone by — than to curate a list of films that I hold fondly and left an impact on me. I have listed the movies in no particular order and limited to one film per director.

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) – Woody Allen

I saw this existential comedy-drama in my early 20s and stopped searching for the meaning of life since then. Having seen at least 30 of Woody Allen’s works, I still think it’s the best film he has made to date.

Maynila: sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) – Lino Brocka

Aside from bruises from playing outside, my childhood was filled with classic Filipino movies (thanks to my mom), especially during Lent. This film introduced me to the Second Golden Age of the Philippine Cinema and the harsh realities of our society.

Chungking Express (1994) – Wong Kar-wai

Like Bob Dylan, Wong Kar-wai is an acquired taste. I had to rewatch this movie to fully appreciate its cinematic greatness.

Magnifico (2003) – Maryo J. de los Reyes

One of the rare movies that brought me to tears. I personally consider it the Filipino version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – Sergio Leone

My late father’s favorite Western film. Ennio Morricone’s score in this movie is so iconic that I remember my dad whenever I hear it.

City Lights (1931) – Charlie Chaplin

“Tomorrow the birds will sing. Be brave. Face life,” said the Tramp in this silent romantic comedy film, which encapsulates the genius of Charlie Chaplin.

Reds (1981) – Warren Beatty

My best friend recommended and lent me a DVD copy of this epic film about the love affair of activists John Reed and Louise Bryant.

Manang Biring (2015) – Carl Joseph Papa

I took my mom to this movie on Mother’s Day and she loved it!

Amarcord (1973) – Federico Fellini

That scene when the lights went out, and the bloody Fascists realized that the “Internationale” was being played somewhere still gives me goosebumps.

Dekada ’70 (2002) – Chito Roño

Adapted from Lualhati Bautista’s book of the same, the release of this movie had never been more timely as I was then starting to awaken politically during my freshman years.

Being There (1979) – Hal Ashby

I used to think “Harold and Maude” was Hal Ashby’s best work until I saw this film, which is based on Jerzy Kosinski’s satirical novel.

Wild Strawberries (1957) – Ingmar Bergman

Only Bergman can pull off this heartbreaker of a movie!

Batch ’81 (1982) – Mike De Leon

A powerful depiction of fraternity violence as a metaphor for Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s fascist regime.

Almost Famous (2000) – Cameron Crowe

The movie that made me want to be a rock journalist. It’s funny how I did not realize that it was Mark Kozelek, who plays the band’s drummer and starts the singing in the famous “Tiny Dancer” scene. Indeed, there are too many moments in the film to pick a favorite.

The Wedding Banquet (1993) – Ang Lee

The first queer film that I really enjoyed. 20 years since its release, and it has not lost its charm a bit.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Rumor had it that an Iron Man would die in the movie, which left me on the edge of my seat in anticipation. As it turned out, Thanos did not kill Stark, but he wiped out half the universe’s population.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) – Walter Salles

As the tagline of the film goes, “Das Kapital meets Easy Rider,” this travel diary tells how Ernesto turned into the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – Isao Takahata

Undoubtedly, the most moving animated film I have ever seen.

Goodfellas (1990) – Martin Scorsese

This Scorsese classic has led us to believe that there is a “rat” among our circle of friends. But kidding aside, we love this film!

Cinema Paradiso (1988) – Giuseppe Tornatore

A moving montage that pays tribute to love and cinema — and love of cinema, with Morricone’s score in the background — I couldn’t ask for more for a final scene in a movie!

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) – Ken Loach

I remember watching this with my dad, who passed away 5 years ago while having a couple of beers.

Hinugot sa Langit (1975) – Ishmael Bernal

Ishma’s thought-provoking take on abortion and hypocrisy.

Ikiru (1952) – Akira Kurosawa

The older I get, the more I appreciate this movie, about a bureaucrat who tries to find meaning in his life after discovering that he has terminal cancer.

Scorpio Nights (1985) – Peque Gallaga

A political commentary (on Marcos’ martial law) disguised as an erotic thriller. I will always brag about this masterpiece, along with Tikoy Aguiluz’ “Boatman,” being released in my birth year!

The Sound of Music (1965) – Robert Wise

“Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?”. My mom made us watch this musical drama like 20 times when we were kids.

Ang mga Kidnaper ni Ronnie Lazaro (2012) – Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez

I met Direk Sig at the screening of this delightful indie film, which portrays the struggles of independent filmmaking. It would be the first and last time that I would see him alive.

The Front (1976) – Martin Ritt

Who would have thought a film about witch-hunting in McCarthy era can be both political and entertaining?

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Frank Capra

I had no idea what this movie was about when I bought a VCD copy of it some 17 years ago. Since then I’ve had made my family and friends watch it.

The Young Karl Marx (2017) – Raoul Peck

When the word came out that a copy of the movie was being passed around online, it was like a specter that haunted me for days until a friend sent me a link to it. It’s worth the wait, and that closing song (“Like a Rolling Stone”) caught me completely off guard.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – George Roy Hill

My late friend, Norman, enjoyed this as much as I did. It’s worth mentioning that Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” for this movie, which makes it even more special!

Chef (2014) – Jon Favreau

There are 3 things that I love most about this film: the food, Gary Clark Jr., and the celebration of friendship and family.

Iska (2019) – Theodore Boborol

A surprisingly touching (almost disturbing) film that tackles urban poverty, domestic violence, and the plight of contractual workers and Filipino workers in general.

Equilibrium (2002) – Kurt Wimmer

My brother and I watched dozens of action flicks in our youth, but this is perhaps the one that we enjoyed most.

Lost in Translation (2003) – Sofia Coppola

Released two decades ago, there’s something about this film that makes me feel good whenever I watch it. Probably it’s shoegaze soundtracks or just Bill Murray himself.

Groundhog Day (1993) – Harold Ramis

I don’t mind watching this movie over and over again — I think you got my point.

Sakaling Hindi Makarating (2016) – Ice Idanan

A heartwarming road movie that captures the beauty of the Philippines with its stunning cinematography.

The Big Lebowski (1998) – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

My favorite stoner film of all time — need I say more?

Casablanca (1942) – Michael Curtiz

“We’ll always have Paris,” “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” are some of the memorable lines from this timeless classic.

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