by Nickie Wang
The film 127 Hours was made with a measly $18 million-budget. That is actually equivalent to the talent fee of a single Hollywood A-lister. Yet, the independently produced film (take note that is not a digital movie) is nominated for six Academy awards including Best Picture and Best Actor and its box-office gross in the United States alone doubled the amount of its production cost.
That is one of the big advantages of independents, they are made with small budget (compared to the normal Hollywood standard) and yet they could rake in millions of dollars at the tills. That is if the films hit the hearts of the American market.
But before our local indie filmmakers can jump in agreement as they would, we surmise, we would have make clear demarcations on how to consider a one-actor independent movie worth watching—it has to have a logical story, a plausible conflict, and an intelligent actor who can portray a character different from his own personality.
This Danny Boyle directed movie follows the [mis]adventure of real-life rock climber Aron Ralston. This is Boyle’s follow-up to his critically-acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire that won eight Academy Awards in 2009. It is titled 127 Hours (more than five days) because of a single incident that turned the lead character’s weekend excursion into a mind-boggling and extremely agonizing experience—he had to amputate his arm without anesthesia and by just using a dull-edged Swiss knife.
At the beginning of the film, we see Aron (James Franco) getting ready for a weekend getaway. With his video and digital camera well secured in his backpack, he drives to the Utah dessert to commune with nature, alone. He attaches the video camera in the handlebar of his bike and tries to capture every interesting object and scenery that appeals to him.
Along the way, he meets two young women who seem to be lost. He offers to be their guide to also show them how familiar he is to the barren terrain and crevices of Blue John Canyons. He even shows them a good time by spending half the day with them splashing down into an underground pool before they separate ways.
On his own again, while making his way in one of the crevices he decides to climb down but a boulder he is using for support gets dislodged. He falls down into the crevice and to our surprise (slightly as we’ve seen in the trailer many times) the boulder traps his right arm and for the next 127 hours he tries to survive using just his instincts and gears he has in his backpack.
Aron pushes so hard to move the rock, sets up a pulley to lift it, and chips the side of it, but to no avail. And you guess it; the man still tries to humorously chronicle his struggle using his camera while he is battling survival and hallucination.
Director Boyle is able to capture the beauty of the location and yet 90 percent of the 94-minute movie focuses on his character’s plight. The conflict of man challenged by nature and his own survival instinct is brilliantly essayed in the film. The simple plot highlights how human fights for survival and how far someone can go to overcome a very difficult situation. It’s painful to look at but along the way, the character inspires people to hold on to a tiny hope he had in hand.
James Franco does a great job making the audience feel his predicament and by holding down the entire film. They could have cast a different actor but of course the effect will be completely different as well. And because of Franco, 127 Hours becomes one-actor film that intensely retells a story of courage, survival, and some humor, too.
Word of advice to local indie producers, writers, directors: Look around, don’t settle for the easy way out (like a gay relationship or abused children or anything below poverty). Instead, look for inspiring stories that you can show the world. Only gay film programmers in festivals abroad are titillated by the exoticism of gay stories from countries like the Philippines. In the end, you won’t make it to the Oscars if your mindset is always gay. Never!
UK and AUS’ The JD Set now in PHL
Famed as a nationwide band competition in the United Kingdom and in Australia, The JD Set has finally reached the Philippines shores. The competition is Jack Daniel’s long-standing association and support of music worldwide. It may sound like similar to the local Muziklaban but The JD Set has already made historical feat around the globe.
In 2010, The JD Set Philippines opened the search for seven best-unsigned bands in the country that will be touring for seven months this 2011. Along the process, these bands will receive massive exposure and promotions. From the seven bands, one band will be declared winner and will be awarded an entire year of support from Jack Daniel’s. Apart from the bragging rights, the chosen band will have the opportunity to participate as the country’s representative in the next Jack Daniel’s Asian Event in 2012.
On Feb. 4, after months of screening, thirteen bands were launched and given the chance to perform live at B-Side, The Collective in Makati City. Each group played quickset and was given a chance to perform two songs, one cover and one original composition. The unsigned bands that made the initial cut are Balckmanika, Blue Boy Bites Back, Cosmic Love, Freia, Fade into Oblivion, Jack VS the Crab, Kelevra, Mr. Bones & the Boneyard Circus, Playphonics, Paranoid City, and Stories of Now and Thy Holy Water.
After the launch, the 13 bands will meet again on Feb. 18, March 4 and 18 and April 1 in chosen venues. Two nights will be allotted per band to determine their versatility per one gig to another. The bands will be judged based on their ability to impress the crowd through live performance and through their original compositions. The synergy between members of the band while live onstage is also a criterion.
The seven ultimate bands will be revealed in a grand event in April. Thereafter, the seven groups will embark on a seven-month nationwide tour that will expose them to a wider targeted audience.