IKAW PA LANG ANG MINAHAL (Carlos Siguion-Reyna, 1992)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal:

1. In a recent screening of the remastered and restored version of this Pinoy classic, Maricel Soriano spilled some scalding tea when she (jokingly) expressed her disappointment on not winning any major award for her performance in this film which she considered one of her favorites (she lost in the Big Four to Lorna Tolentino for Narito ang Puso Ko). She then mentioned that her loss at least inspired her to come up with much better output and more collaborations with director Carlos Siguion-Reyna. 

You could ask any Maricelian and they would definitely share the same frustration, including the fact that she had never won an Urian award. Some would probably even bring up these unfounded rumors that Lolit Solis (then manager of Lorna) used her clout and bribed the academy (Famas, FAP) and press (Star Awards) voters and that a couple of Manunuris (Urian) had a particular dislike for Maricel and blocked most of her wins.

Regardless of the eventual results, the truth remained though that her flawless turn as Adela Sevilla would be one for the books. To paraphrase her character: “Mamahalin nila ako. Mamahalin nila ako para sa inyong lahat na hindi nagmahal sa akin!”.

2. I originally saw this when it was first released back in 1992 and it felt surreal watching it again in a theater 26 years later. I didn’t even know back then that this was an adaptation of William Wyler’s 1949 film, The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland, which in turn was based on Henry James’ novel, Washington Square (did I miss the acknowledgments during the opening/closing credits or was there really no mention of this?). I was so clueless that when I saw the 1997 Washington Square film with Jennifer Jason Leigh, I wanted to personally write to Direk Carlos that somebody copied his masterpiece (thank goodness for ISP Bonanza’s slow dial-up connection!).

3. To this day, I still couldn’t get over the fact that Dr. Maximo Sevilla (a terrific Eddie Gutierrez) was a renowned doctor considering that he couldn’t even perform basic CPR. He almost crushed his dying wife’s rib cage and never resorted to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and he even followed the same process with his dying daughter several years later (thankfully, the latter survived). At least his character made me understand the cariño brutal way that my mother used to raise all of her kids (if you’re reading this mom, I only included that to raise my word count).

Also, it was so ironic that the coldhearted Dr. Sevilla was actually right from the start in seeing through the real motives of David Javier (a wily Richard Gomez). Minsan na nga lang magka-Javier na character eh tuso pa. (Side note: Richard used to be my mom’s favorite local actor. Ipinaglihi niya ang youngest brother ko sa kanya. Ayun nakuha naman ni utol ang nunal sa right temple ni Richard hahaha!)

4. There were so many moments here that crushed my heart (Dr. Sevilla enumerating his regrets on having a pathetic daughter, Adela’s waterfall breakdown scene, the forced writing of the will, the deathbed reconciliation, etc.), but the scene that made me cry the most didn’t even have any dialogue (just some background music). It was the part where Adela was sitting inside her room, her face a mix of emotions, and then she finally smiled because she felt loved. She stood up, got a pink flower from the bouquet that David gave her, stood near the window, smelled the flower, and broke into tears. Yung feeling na “Lord thank you at nagka-jowa pa ako akala ko talaga mamamatay na akong single at walang magmamahal sa akin!”.

Seriously though, parang ako ang naka-jackpot ng jowa while watching this woman (tormented all her life by her disapproving dad even if she was a skillful manggagantsilyo) experience the gift of happiness that she deserved. (Again, Maricel didn’t win anything for this??)

5. That scene where Adela in glasses and wearing the dowdiest clothes stood next to the glamorous portrait of her mom (also named Adela btw and played by the lovely Dawn Zulueta) spoke volumes. Direk Carlos employed the same juxtaposition technique in Inagaw Mo and Lahat sa Akin to effectively differentiate social classes. Such a brilliant director (and still my favorite local one).

(Side note: Maricel in an old maid’s costume still looked gorgeous, sorry, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief.)

6. Anybody would want to have a kunsintidora aunt like Tiyang Paula. She was a welcome comic relief in this heavy drama. “Mukhang matindi ang sipon mo at kelangan mo pang lunurin sa alcohol.” Nyahahaha!

Sadly, Charito Solis was an acting legend who was gone way too soon.

7. Choice quotes for some melodramatic moments in your life…

• “Hindi baleng pulubi, basta hindi ahas!”

“Hindi baleng ahas, basta mahal ko!”

• “Bibilhin ko siya sa bawat singko na ipamamana mo sa akin! Tingnan ko lang kung di ka mangisay sa libingan mo!”

• “Gustuhin ko man, di ko magagawa. Sa puso nanggagaling ang pagpapatawad. Wala akong puso, nagmana ako sa’yo!”

8. Speaking of ahas, why did they always choose to have sex in the talahiban? It looked really scary. And mukhang makati.

9. Adela’s transformation from naive doormat to a feisty and heartless heredera. Wow! I wanted to stand up and cheer when she entered that church with her luscious curls wearing the bitchiest red dress with a matching belt bag. And that scene where she threw the hundred peso bills and David was temporarily stunned by all the flying cash? Iconic.

10. Was it just a coincidence that ugly Adela wore pearls while beautiful Adela wore diamonds? Shine bright like a real Diamond Star indeed.

Rating: ★★★★★

DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on DOTGA: Da One That Ghost Away:

1. I was surprised that Vhong Navarro wasn’t included in the cast given that he headlined the last two horror-comedy films of Star Cinema (please note that I didn’t consider the unintentionally comedic horror films of Kris Aquino, like Segunda Mano where she pissed her pants in terror for buying a secondhand Prada bag).

In terms of comparison, this one was less like Bulong (actually a guilty pleasure) and more of Da Possessed (which had the gall to make fun of Vhong’s rape case). I already expected tons of corny jokes and lame slapstick humor, but even with my IQ lowered and in full babaw mode, I could only muster one giggle in all 100 minutes (again, I only counted the intentional one because I spent the entire movie hysterically laughing at Enzo Pineda’s acting that he equated with wide eyes and flaring nostrils).

2. Carmel (Kim Chiu) and Jerald (Ryan Bang) were ghost hunters slash con artists that brought along their team dressed as horror film characters (Ghost Bride, Chucky, Tiyanak, etc.) to terrorize and pretend exorcise haunted houses. She used a magical triangle (yes, the musical instrument in the percussion family) and shouted nonsensical chants (“Mother Ignacia! Sergeant Esguerra! Papuntang Abra!”) as part of her ritual. I was surprised that there were people who actually fell for this kind of silliness (although their first victim was a Krizzy impersonator and we all knew how gullible she could get).

3. This movie was rated PG because the MTRCB thought that parents could easily explain what Carmel meant when she said “Sabi na di ako nagpi-pinger eh” after using a dating app called PinGer. Or why she kept emphasizing the name of Enzo as JACK COLmenares (just in case it still wasn’t obvious enough, his name was written exactly like that on a white board). Should we expect the Colmenares sisters to be named Jaja, Nadia, and Gina? Seriously, this type of Pinoy green humor hadn’t been funny since my high school days circa ‘90s.

4. Terrible, terrible editing. In one scene, Serrah (Maymay Entrata) was looking at her compact mirror and asking “What is that ghost I see?” and then it abruptly cut to her and Chire (Edward Barber) walking to school. What was that about?

(Also, as a huge #MayWard fan, please give them a good film that they actually deserved! Sayang talaga sila!)

5. Oh, Jerald also worked as a language teacher in a school called Fil-Eng-The-Blanks. Wala na bang ikaka-corny pa ang pelikulang ito?

6. The only funny scene that I mentioned earlier was a brief gag where Carmel hugged a sweaty Jack, then wiped the wet part of her cheek with her left hand, and smelled it like she was endorsing the newest Downy fabric conditioner. It was a testament to Kim’s charm and sharp comic timing that a throwaway moment like that would actually work.

7. If Enzo acted like his life (or career?) depended on it, on the other end of the spectrum was Ronnie Alonte who didn’t even feel the need to act at all (was it because it was just a cameo role?).

8. Tabako vs Sadako? Bearable. Valak vs Halak? Meh. Black Panty vs Black Panther? Wala na maisip??

9. I felt bad for the extras in the scene where they pretended to freeze as part of a spell (think Mannequin Challenge only without music). Carmel had this really lengthy monologue (“Oo nasaktan na ako lola. Shinota niya ang best friend mo!!”) and you could actually see some of them in the background starting to shake (as in nanginginig na sa sobrang ngalay). I could have subbed for any of them because I had always been a master Statue Dancer.

10. Carmel: “Ikaw pa rin ang DOTGA ko!”

Jerald: “Da One That Ghost Away?”

Carmel: “Da One That Gusto Ako Pero Baka Maging Gusto Ko Rin!!”

Huh? Isn’t that DOTGAPBMGKR?!

Kimmy, pinapainit mo ang anit sa ibabaw ng ulo ko!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

6 BALLOONS (Marja-Lewis Ryan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 6 Balloons:

1. In The One with the Boobies episode of Friends, Phoebe had a date named Roger who psychoanalyzed Chandler as a person that masked his depression and sadness through constant humor and sarcasm (“I wouldn’t want to be there when the laughter stops”). Even with the prominence of the sad clown trope, I was continually surprised by comedians that would play against type and turn in credible (sometimes even incredible) dramatic performances (Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, Mo’Nique in Precious, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, just to name a few). Our very own Comedy King made me bawl my eyes out by bravely playing a loving gay foster parent in Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.

2. I was all the more excited when I saw this Netflix movie where Abbi Jacobson (one half of my favorite power couple in Broad City) actually tried to take on a more serious role. Even in that TV series, her Abbi Abrams was more straightfaced and rational compared to the always wild and crazy Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer), but that made her funnier and even more endearing.

Sadly, this wasn’t the right vehicle to draw out her more sensitive side. Whenever her character Katie delivered a line that should have been solemn or earnest, I was waiting for her to crack up and mock what she just said Abbi-style. At least her effort for reinvention was commendable.

3. One thing that I really liked in this depressing drama was Dave Franco’s authentic portrayal of a person with substance abuse issues. His Seth was torn between the need to change his lifestyle for the love of his young kid, and his apparent heroin addiction. It was disturbing (he cleaned his syringe with toilet water!!) to see him go through this entire spectrum of emotions while he brutally battled his subsequent relapse (zoned out and depressed at the start, then sweaty, shaking, and desperate for a fix in the middle, and finally high and playful after his hit towards the end).

As somebody addicted to Coke (Coca-Cola hala!) whose mouth would go dry and hands all clammy after not getting a drink of my favorite ice cold soda every six hours, I couldn’t even imagine the pain and suffering that these people would go through to overcome their drug dependency.

4. I completely understood that Katie loved her younger brother so much that she was willing to do anything to help, but I just didn’t get why she made these really foolish decisions along the way. Why would she even bring a child with her when she tried to score some drugs in what looked like the scariest part of the neighborhood? Why would she leave the poor kid alone in the vehicle with an obviously sick person? Even if her brother was physically suffering, why did she act as an enabler and even agreed to buy him needles in a pharmacy?

I might be too quick (self-righteous?) to judge and maybe the entire point of this movie was that drug addiction was really a family disease, but I ended up getting stressed and frustrated with every terrible choice that she made.

(Side note: The young girl must have been a fan of Monsters Inc. because of her strange fascination with the word “Kitty”.)

5. Jane Kaczmarek had a brief appearance here as their mother and I was reminded yet again that she was criminally robbed of an Emmy for her brilliant turn as a fierce and controlling matriarch in Malcolm in the Middle.

(Also, I found it funny that the actor who played her husband in this movie closely resembled Bryan Cranston.)

6. So Katie broke the pharmacy’s glass door with their own bathroom keys, hit some posts while driving away, and we were expected to laugh along at the apparent silliness of these events? Why??

7. Instead of paying attention to that cheesy audio book about leaking boats, she should have listened more to her talking GPS navigator (it even asked her to “turn around” when she entered that drug-infested street).

Now why couldn’t my Waze be more like that whenever I was headed to the nearest KFC?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SEX AND THE CITY (Michael Patrick King, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sex and the City:

1. Unpopular opinion: I abso-fuckin’-lutely despised John James Preston aka Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and I never really pictured (fully accepted?) him as the ideal man slash husband for Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Except whenever I had these cyclical realizations that she was innately selfish, annoying (she wore a pearl necklace in bed!), and narcissistic so they totally deserved to end up with each other.

Nope, I definitely wasn’t a hater of the series. I had watched all six seasons so many times that I couldn’t help but wonder if I was actually a thirtysomething single New York woman in my past life.

2. It must be my inner Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) but I had always been a supporter of #TeamAidan (John Corbett) aka The One That (Luckily) Got Away. Some of my most favorite episodes involved his toxic relationship with an emotionally confused Carrie in Season 3 (All or Nothing, Running with Scissors, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). Fans of Big would most probably come up with this argument that Aidan was a dreadfully boring choice and Carrie would just be settling with him, but the very fact that he was loyal, warm, forgiving, sincere, and understanding (plus, he obviously loved her more than she loved him) just made him the perfect boyfriend.

(Are there any fans here of Aleksandr Petrovsky? Seriously??)

3. Did we need a film version to continue the stories of our four beloved women, their beaus, and their friendly gay friends? Not really, but it was a joy to see them reunited one more time (and once more in the awful sequel). This felt like an overlong episode that basically rehashed the same old conflicts (oh, poor Carrie got her heart broken by Big yet again!), but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t cry when Charlotte screamed “No! No!” at Big after he deservedly got smashed with a wedding bouquet on the head.

4. Anybody obsessed with fashion would truly be happy with the style choices made here (even with the controversial dead bird that Carrie wore on her head for her wedding, which she winkingly mocked in a later scene). Aside from the Fashion Week sequence, there were even two (!!) montages: one with Carrie modelling fabulous wedding gowns by Vera Wang, Oscar dela Renta, and ultimately Vivienne Westwood, and another one where she was trying on her vintage clothes, including the iconic tutu that she wore in the show’s opening credits.

5. “She was a smart girl… till she fell in love.” Story of all my relationships right there.

6. Was Jennifer Hudson (as Louise) cast as an apology for the series’ apparent lack of diversity? Did the lone black woman in this version of New York really have to play Carrie’s assistant? Unfortunately her Bag, Borrow or Steal storyline had nothing going for it and she even had to deliver the most unfortunate pun (“And you gave me Louise Vuitton!”).

7. Speaking of puns, the entire Mexi-coma sequence where Carrie spent days moping in bed after a terrible breakup completely resonated with me (yes, even the one where Charlotte Poughkeepsied in her pants). The fact that her friends kept checking on her and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) even spoon-fed her some soup reminded me of how wonderful my friends were during those dark times that I was nursing a broken heart. It was fascinating to read all the dirt that these women didn’t really get along on set because they were so believable and authentic as BFFs onscreen.

(On a different note, search for the Saturday Night Live skit where Christina Aguilera had a spot-on impersonation of Samantha. Totally wicked!)

8. When Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) grabbed a witch’s mask and said that for Halloween she would just bring her suitcase and go as herself, it was something that I would totally say. Yes, if I were to take a Buzzfeed test, I would definitely be a Miranda Hobbes.

9. So Big copy/pasted some classic poems and wrote two personal lines and that was already supposed to be romantic? Please. (Laki talaga ng galit ko kay Big, no? Yes, very big. Ugh, pun!)

10. “Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories, but that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.” Hay, completely true. At least it was comforting to know that your lovers might come and go, but your true friends would remain forever.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A QUIET PLACE (John Krasinski, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on A Quiet Place:

1. In this post-apocalyptic nightmare, the basic rule of survival was clearly established from the very start: never create any loud noise or you would almost instantaneously become alien lafang. While the rest of the theater silently chewed on their cuticles and held their breath, I was having an anxiety attack in my chair just imagining that I wouldn’t last a day in their world because seriously, bawal umutot? At bawal maging clumsy at tatanga-tanga huhu! (Plus the way the creatures’ inner parts resembled a contracting vulva made me terrified of them even more).

2. Starting everything on Day 89 made a lot of sense because this wasn’t really meant to be a sci-fi film that needed a back story on the aliens’ origins and a chock-full of exposition (Where did these monsters come from? Where were the other people? What happened to the rest of the world? DIDN’T MATTER!!). And so we were immediately introduced to a family that relied on sign language and facial expressions to communicate with each other. With very minimal dialogue and just a backing musical score, this actually worked like a gimmicky silent film (and also served as an effective public service announcement to always be quiet while watching movies as a form of respect).

It was funny because I expected to scream my head off but I had to stifle all of my reactions. Even the tiniest sound would be too impolite (do not bring chips!!) that the only thing you would hear inside the cinema would be the occasional gasps. (I was happy with the crowd that I watched it with since there were no barkadas of rowdy high schoolers that would laugh and create a ruckus during a scary sequence. Same pet peeve, right?).

3. I really appreciated the relative lack of cheap scares here. Aside from a few falling raccoons, the powerful build-up of tension and suspense was well-earned that you’d probably feel incredibly stressed by the time the amazing Emily Blunt would cock her shotgun for the very last time.

Speaking of, my favorite scene here involved her pregnant character having contractions (and early labor) in a bathtub with flickering lights overhead while an alien was stalking her and getting ready to pounce. I could almost feel her pain (and the desperate need to control her screams) that I started to develop a phantom vagina with a baby trying to claw its way out of it. Sakit sa puso (and sa imaginary pepe) grabe lang. Would it be too early to campaign for an Oscar nomination?

4. Noah Jupe’s performance here reminded me so much of Joseph Mazzello’s in Jurassic Park. The look of pure terror on his young innocent face was just heartbreaking. Also, was the truck scene a nod to that Steven Spielberg classic?

5. It would be very easy to nitpick this movie considering the predictability of specific scenes and some obvious setups (the toy airplane’s batteries? Definite source of noise! The nail on the stairs? Expect someone to step on it later on!) and a few questionable choices (if the water sounds distracted the aliens, why didn’t they choose to live near the river/waterfalls? Why do they still have electricity? Why did they even want to have another baby given their current situation? Why did they allow their small children to freely roam around given the dangers around them?). But why not forget all of these and just go along for the ride?

6. I think that the last time I cried in a horror/suspense film was in The Sixth Sense when Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) tried to convince his mom (Toni Collette) that he could really see dead people by telling her the grandma story. Although a tad manipulative, when John Krasinski signed “I love you. I have always loved you” to his kids, I could hardly choke back my tears. Parents are the absolute greatest waaahh!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE STRANGERS (Bryan Bertino, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Strangers:

1. This might sound weird but the only time that I’d be really scared of ghosts would be 1) when somebody familiar died (also why I never looked at corpses and/or coffins), or 2) after having watched a really creepy local show/film (think Magandang Gabi Bayan’s Halloween episodes). I guess that would explain my fondness for the horror genre and my strange aversion to lights (seriously, I would rather feel my way through the darkness than flip a light switch).

It might also be a result of my mother’s constant warning of “Matakot ka sa tao, huwag sa multo”, which actually made a lot of sense especially after watching all those Carlo J. Caparas massacre movies.

2. Speaking of, my definitive home invasion film would probably be the early 90’s cult classic The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us! that started this tasteless trend of exploiting true Pinoy crime stories as popular entertainment.

I swear I was emotionally scarred for life at the sight of Lady Lee (as the young Jenny Vizconde) getting repeatedly stabbed on the back while trying to run away from her assailant that I never forgot to check the locks of our gate every night ever since.

3. I couldn’t understand why the characters in this movie didn’t act like any normal (read: paranoid) person and just made the dumbest horror movie decisions that were blatantly mocked in Wes Craven’s Scream series (“Never, ever, under any circumstances say ‘I’ll be right back’. Because you won’t be back.”)

Kristen (an atrocious Liv Tyler who kept cooing her lines) and James (Scott Foley) were so oblivious to the dangers around them that they readily opened the front door of their remote summer home when somebody knocked at 4 AM. And even with the presence of intruders inside, they chose to hide in a room instead of run as far away from there as possible.

In one scene, Kristen even broke a lamp (to fight a possible murderer with bubog, perhaps?) rather than do the most obvious thing to increase her chances of survival which was lock the freakin’ door. Sure, people would do the craziest stuff and stop being rational in a state of panic, but it was just too hard to sympathize with them when they were basically throwing themselves at their killers.

4. I think it was a smart choice that they never really showed the faces of the killers. This made their motives vague as well and created a more haunting atmosphere (“Why are you doing this to us?” “Because you were home.”)

5. There was one chilling scene where a masked person stood silently behind Kristen and I really thought that this would hold throughout the entire film. A horror movie that didn’t rely on banging noises and cheap jump scares would have been terrific. Unfortunately, even with a slim 90 minutes runtime, it lost steam halfway through and decided to utilize the same tropes of the genre (the entire thing even ended with a scream from a supposedly dead person, pfft!).

Also, I just realized that the chilling scene that I described earlier was the exact same one that could be seen on the poster. Now you really wouldn’t have a reason to see this anymore, no?

6. Robin Williams as an obsessed stranger slash trespasser using another family’s toilet in One Hour Photo was way more disturbing than this. Watch that one instead.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

READY PLAYER ONE (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ready Player One:

1. During the olden days, my only goal in life was to be the top scorer of our family in a game of Pac-Man. I would wake up in the middle of the night while everyone slept (especially my mom who would get really cranky with the additional electricity consumption) and silently crouch over this black plastic Atari controller for hours on end while gobbling pellets and running away from ghosts named Pinky and Blinky.

Whenever we had guests or relatives come over for lunch or dinner, I would be in front of the TV screen and showing off (a better term would be pakitang-gilas) my agility and dexterity through a video game. “Yan lang ang ginagawa niyan buong araw”, my dad would proudly say while I continued to wow the crowd with the completion of every level. Weeks later, my brother would master the newest Missile Command game and that signalled the end of my Pac-Man glory days.

2. I never really considered myself as a certified gamer even if I had played a lot of games across different platforms (from the ancient Nintendo Family Computer to the current PlayStation 4). I couldn’t even learn the basic controls in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat and my usual battle consisted of pushing every button while hoping for a special attack. Still, my insides would tingle at the mere mention of Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros., Civilization, or Final Fantasy. It was this same geeky pride plus the astounding power of nostalgia that made me enjoy this film which seemed to coast on an abundance of pop culture references (easter eggs galore!). I loudly squealed in my seat when a chocobo appeared during the ultimate battle sequence.

3. Spielberg films had always been criticized for their overt sentimentality and it was surprisingly lacking in this one. I expected myself to turn into a puddle of emotions when Wade/Parzival (a terribly bland Tye Sheridan) unlocked the third puzzle, but it just didn’t feel completely magical (I probably cried more when Charlie discovered that he won the final Golden Ticket for the Chocolate Factory). Maybe it was because the movie was already running on for far too long or that it was trying to generate last minute faux excitement, but my brain was just screaming “Just stick that freakin’ key in that effin’ hole, dammit!”.

4. I really liked how the coolest sequence in the movie was a nod to the huge disappointment of my all-time favorite author on the adaptation of one of his finest novels. The twins, Room 237 with the naked old lady, the river of blood from the elevator, and the iconic axe hacking itself on the bathroom door, stuff of a true classic. I never fully understood Stephen King’s disdain for The Shining film considering that the thought of Danny repeatedly croaking the word “Redrum” while holding a giant knife still freaked me to this day.

5. Has anyone read the book (or is a real-life Sheldon Cooper)? Kindly enlighten me on the following burning questions:

• Who was funding The Oasis? I knew James Halliday (a great Mark Rylance) was a trillionaire, but did he really have that much money to keep a game running for more than five years after his death? I was just curious because when Parzival retrieved the first key, he won 100,000 virtual coins that he used to purchase a body suit in the real world.

• Why would such a powerful man like Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) not even bother to memorize his password? It was only B055man69 and not something tough like B0$$m4n_Ph0wz_aQuoH69. Did he have a reason for scribbling down such a confidential information on a piece of paper and keeping it on his armrest other than being a MacGuffin?

• Who was Gundam and was he really that popular? (Fanboys, please don’t kill me. I seriously had no clue.)

6. More than the shoulder pads, leotards, and heavy perms, the 80’s would best be remembered because of its glorious songs, no? Nothing would beat humming along to a good old Hall & Oates song on your best days. (I would always associate Blondie’s One Way or Another with Mean Girls, though. Yup, Trang Pak made out with Coach Carr.)

7. Wouldn’t it be fun if their online personas/avatars were completely far off from their real identities? When Aech (Lena Waithe) mentioned that the real Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) could actually be an overweight old man, I really wished this were true. Wasn’t it Wade himself who said that people stayed in The Oasis because of all the things that they could be? Why didn’t we get a lot more of these people playing out their online fantasies? It could have saved us from the icky (and forced) love story as well. That part was even more horrific than the thought of virtual reality putting an end to human connections. Besides, shouldn’t reality be real?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (Isao Takahata, 1988)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Grave of the Fireflies:

1. If I remember it correctly, I discovered this emotionally devastating animated film (in my opinion, still the best one) upon the recommendation of my suking pirated DVD vendor in Makati Cinema Square (“Piracy is stealing. Stealing is against the law. Piracy is a crime.”). I was looking for a copy of the latest Hollywood flick that time when she suggested several Studio Ghibli films (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Kiki’s Delivery Service among them).

I initially had doubts because I had outgrown cartoons ever since Princess Sarah Crewes got reunited with her father and banished Miss Minchin to her rightful place: the chimeneya. In my mind, animated films would usually be kiddie stuff and although some were really good (especially the classic Disney films), their themes would still cater to a younger crowd. I didn’t expect that this masterpiece would be my introduction to the wonderful world of anime.

2. More than being the best animated film, I completely agree with the late Roger Ebert that this could stand as one of the finest war films as well. From its opening scene where a young boy named Seita wearing a soldier’s uniform and looking directly at the camera said the chilling line “September 21, 1945. That was the night I died”, it would just be an endless sequence of heartbreaking moments that blatantly demonstrated the destructive nature of war and its debilitating effects on people. I might not have lived through World War II but those air raid warning sounds would haunt me forever.

I also found it smart that the film started with the reveal that both Seita and younger sister Setsuko were already dead and reunited in the afterlife. Every scene that came after that with them having fun just felt incredibly bittersweet especially knowing their tragic end.

3. I really liked how Setsuko was initially oblivious to the horrors happening around her. She was contented with piggybacking on her older brother, or running around in the ricefields, or frolicking on the beach while bombs destroyed their village and killed hundreds of people, including their own mother.

My favorite scenes here involved her constant discovery of the sad realities around her. While trying to catch a crab, she chanced upon a rotting person on the beach and it was her first encounter with death. When the fireflies they caught died the next day, she dug a grave for them because it was supposedly what happened to their dead mother as well (as told to her by their maldita auntie). This particular scene crushed my heart because it was juxtaposed with the actual scene of her mother’s body being burned in a mass grave, dead bodies in a heap left without any dignity.

4. Speaking of the maldita auntie, I swear my blood curdled when she only offered sabaw to the kids while her husband and daughter got generous servings of rice and potatoes. They sold their dead mother’s precious keepsake kimonos to buy the freakin’ food, you bitch!! I wanted to thwack her so hard with that soup bowl. (And then they inserted a short scene with a mother bird feeding her baby birds in a nest huhuhu!)

5. Some people would probably find this emotionally manipulative if one would only see children subjected to endless suffering (those rashes on Setsuko’s back!), but I found it incredibly authentic. Sure, I bawled my eyes out when she sucked on the marbles and made rice balls out of soil because of lack of food, and I crawled into my usual fetal position and sobbed like a mad man at the sight of her dead body hugging her favorite doll while inside a rattan casket, but these probably happened to some people during that time (or even worse).

6. I would never look at a fruit drops tin can the same way ever again. (Side note: I use the exact same hack of filling a ketchup or shampoo bottle with water to get the remaining stuff out of it.)

7. “Why do fireflies have to die so soon?” Hay. Really powerful stuff.

Rest in peace, Sir Isao Takahata.

Rating: ★★★★★

NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Never Not Love You:

1. You know how in a relationship you’re willing to look beyond the faults of your partner simply because you really like/love the other person? I felt the exact same way about this gorgeously-shot, well-told long-distance relationship film that was eerily similar to Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy from its London setting down to the bittersweet montage of memories ending. It couldn’t have been all just a coincidence, right?

2. For a love team that prided itself as Team Real, it was a joy to watch Nadine Lustre (as Joanne) and James Reid (as Gio) in a mature love story that wasn’t afraid of ruffling conservative feathers (I found it funny that I was very much that old lady in the corridor during the moving in scene that lamented, “Mga kabataan talaga ngayon!”).

I also admired the gutsy decision of not upholding/protecting any wholesome movie star image by having them play characters that looked, sounded, and acted like any authentic young adult. Smoking a cigarette? Living together outside of marriage? Expletives-filled shouting matches? Post-coital bed scene? I could just imagine a horde of grandmothers shrieking “Santissima santa!” while clutching on to their plastic rosaries and JaDine’s all like “C’mon guys, it’s 2018!”.

3. As a South person that couldn’t even maintain a relationship with an ex who relocated to Quezon City, I wouldn’t be the best advocate slash strong believer of a long distance romance (mad props for people that could sustain this kind of relationship, though). The challenges were made more blatant in this movie when the only form of communication between Joanne and Gio consisted of Skype calls. They basically lived in two separate worlds where time difference was the least of their concerns. This level of commitment alone triggered a major anxiety attack on my end.

4. Sobrang ganda ng cinematography. It reminded me so much of Wong Kar-Wai’s films (I suddenly pictured a bunch of cinephiles raising their eyebrows right about now). If you hadn’t seen any of his stylish films, this could serve as your introduction (then move on to In the Mood for Love or Chungking Express).

Also, how were they able to shoot all those lovely motorcycle scenes? Ang galing!

5. I wish James could work more on his accent so that he would be able to deliver his Pinoy lines more comfortably (it would also give him a broader range of characters outside of the typical conyo or Amboy). Side note: I had a good laugh though when he said “May mustard po kayo?” at the carinderia.

I still sympathized with Gio even if his character was an unlikable immature brat (seryoso, may lalaki lang kasama si Joanne sa club maninira na agad ng gamit?). And he was probably one of the few local actors that could deliver major kiligs with a line like “Maybe I don’t want you to wear other guys’ helmets”. Hongkyut!

Anyway, his accent was the only distraction in an otherwise heartfelt performance (I’m still amazed whenever he would cry on cue, with his best scene in bed feeling an overwhelming sense of comfort and contentment that his girlfriend agreed to move with him to London. Those silent tears just spoke volumes.)

6. Speaking of tears, I think everyone would agree that this was Nadine’s best performance to date. Everything about it screamed “I’m a serious actress!” that would definitely put her in the running for next year’s awards derby. My favorite scene was when she was driving her new car with the entire family in tow and her usually disapproving father (Rez Cortez) touched her arm and her face showed a mixture of pride, relief, and happiness. For a relatively quiet and subtle moment, it just had so much impact. Damang-dama ko siya dun.

7. Of course I cried during that “Wag kang lilingon” scene. I cried even more when Joanne didn’t look back the second time around.

Also, ang sakit sobra nung linya na “You’ve become the Joanne that you’re supposed to be…. but without me.” Waaaah!

8. Some of their issues felt a bit petty, no? When Gio shouted at Joanne (“Kung gusto mong umuwi, eh di umuwi ka!”), did it really merit a slap on the face? I thought you both swore to never not love each other?

9. Now let’s discuss that polarizing ending. I know a lot of people that hated how the resolution felt rushed or that the final scene was vague, but that was the exact reason why I found it to be perfect.

My interpretation of it was that Joanne felt trapped in the relationship. Things were just not the same as they used to be. Their exchange of I love yous already lacked genuine emotion and felt very perfunctory. There was an immense sadness in her eyes when Gio said that he would be returning for good. She didn’t show much excitement during his last visit either. And the clincher, hindi sya lumingon sa second airport scene. It was sad to see a doomed relationship even before the screen faded to black.

10. As a final note, this production was notoriously plagued by so many controversies that I was surprised at how good things actually turned out. In the end, was everything worth it?

Rating: ★★★★☆