SID & AYA (NOT A LOVE STORY) (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sid and Aya (Not a Love Story):

1. The comparisons between Dingdong Dantes’ privileged, cutthroat stock broker Sid and Leonardo DiCaprio’s hedonistic stock broker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street would be inevitable, but if anything, Sid reminded me more of Dingdong’s privileged car salesman character in the early 2000s flop Akala Mo… (ellipsis included) with Judy Ann Santos as a lady guard drooling over him.

In one scene, iconic character actor Mandy Ochoa was furious at Dingdong for stealing a customer using only his natural good looks and charm. The same thing happened in this movie when Sid got punched in the face by a colleague for poaching a client. (Why did I remember such petty details? Because my brain preferred to latch on to useless trivia rather than store new knowledge that would make me the next Jordan Belfort.)

2. I had never been a fan of Dingdong and his constipated acting, especially since he would always use the exact same glare whether he was surprised for being caught cheating, frustrated for getting turned down on a possible kitchen counter sex, or just pretending to be downright scary as an abusive lover. One of my happiest Christmas seasons was when he won Best Actor in the MMFF for Segunda Mano because I was laughing every day all the way through Three Kings.

After watching him play the arrogant yet sympathetic Sid, I could actually hear him say “Fuck you no-name feeling critic! Look for MY name in next year’s Urian nominees.” Yes, he was that good here. He had me at “Sino ba ang gagong ito?” and made this entire Black Swan theory of Taleb worth pondering upon. Weirdly enough, said theory worked on the premise of “may mga pangyayaring di inaasahan mangyari na magbabago ng lahat”.

(Side note: Anne Curtis also had a children’s book called Anita the Duckling Diva so I guess lapitin silang dalawa sa ibon talaga.)

3. “Napakaraming kupal sa mundo” would actually apply to people who would have the gall to say that they could easily relate to Sid, so I guess I would be the ultimate kupal. All the sleepless nights of discontentment, all the feelings of worthlessness even at the peak of success, the emptiness, the search for life’s meaning. What struck me the most was when he said “Sino ba ang hindi malungkot? Sino ba ang hindi galit sa mundo? Isang pitik, isang maling sagi, sasabog ka bigla.” When he mentioned the history of depression and suicide in his family, I actually expected it to play a big part in his story (one of the early shots was an overhead view of his condo’s balcony and I really thought it hinted that he would eventually jump off the building). I guess this was Not a Netflix Series as well.

4. Magaling na talaga mag-Filipino si Anne. Struggling slang-speaking actors that want to make it big in local showbiz should learn a thing or two from her. As Aya, she was just the right amount of Pinoy manic pixie dream girl who would brutally call Sid out (“Sobrang lungkot mo naman para magbayad ka ng kausap”) or tease him even while her heart was breaking (“Kung tumaya ako sa‘yo, ikaw naman ang masasaktan”).

Her best scene was when she was trying to hold back her tears after Sid revealed his plans to propose to his real girlfriend. I wanted to give her a hug while whispering in her ear, “Bakit di mo sinunod yung sinabi mo dati sa No Other Woman na ‘You can kiss me, but don’t you dare fall in love with me’ ang gaga nito!”.

(Also, congratulations to her glam team because she looked absolutely gorgeous in every single frame.)

5. There was a moment where Sid and Aya were staring at an aquarium-like screen with dazzling moving visuals and it would probably be the most memorable one in this film. My second favorite was when a flurry of umbrellas started moving in Shibuya Crossing. Ganda! Great soundtrack, too.

6. My OC side kept wondering about the schedules of Aya and how she was able to sustain her multiple jobs (barista at The Grind, laundry shop lady, Stardome princess at Star City, part-time escort). I knew she desperately needed the money for her father’s operation, but how did she find time to sleep? Was that why we never really saw her eat or take a shower?

7. While Aya’s co-worker wondered if Sid’s longganisa was Vigan or Lucban, I was curious to know why Dingdong’s left nipple was so close to his armpit even if he was sleeping on his right side. (Petty details, you have been warned.)

8. I was shocked when Sid’s boss (Gabby Eigenmann) was bragging about him and mentioned “To the best fucker I know… and I mean that literally.” Omg pano nya alam? Does that mean…???

9. For a supposed non-love story, it was actually very much like a love story. Even the ending couldn’t hold back on the requisite happy twist of fate. If it had chosen to go all (500) Days of Summer instead, I really wouldn’t complain.

10. “The things that we love will eventually kill us.” Definitely the reason why I no longer watch movies in Festival Mall’s crumbling cinemas.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

KASAL (Ruel Bayani, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kasal:

1. According to the Urban Dictionary (one of my online sources of truth), the word “triggered” meant getting filled with hate after seeing, hearing, or experiencing something you couldn’t stand. By the end of this completely offensive movie masquerading as an LGBTQ+ advocacy film, you could definitely consider me triggeredt (with the additional t for emphasis, and also as a millennial).

I actually decided to let my emotions simmer down before writing anything but after a full 8 hours of sleep, I was still feeling the exact same thing. Who were the bright minds behind this monstrosity??!

2. Anybody who had seen the teaser/trailer would already have an inkling on the much-hyped twist here. If you guessed that Philip (Paulo Avelino) and Wado (Derek Ramsay) were previously lovers and their entire history would be the major cause of drama prior to the wedding with Lia (Bea Alonzo), then you had a much better story right there.

The only twist here wasn’t exactly a twist. Philip was just secretly gay. Yun na yun. Now that would have been fine if only the movie had the thoughtfulness to handle such a topic. Shown after the heels of the critically-adored Love, Simon, one would expect that homosexuality would no longer be used as a regressive plot device and that serious topics like coming out would be handled with the required sensitivity. But no, this was a Star Cinema movie where a gay lead character would actually identify as bisexual because heaven forbid it would end without a happy couple walking out of the church very much in love.

3. Did I mention that Wado was the straight ex of Lia and part of his plan to win her back and break up her engagement with Philip was to blackmail the latter by playing footsies with him and using a seduction video of them in the shower (complete with an ominous, slightly porn-ish musical score)? Huh?? Seryoso? Wouldn’t Lia even question why Wado was also making out with another guy? In the shower??

Even worse, the video showed Wado physically and sexually assaulting Philip! How could that possibly work in his favor? That was obviously just another stunt to get two heterosexual local actors kiss (oh, how brave!). And no, Paulo’s upper-half butt exposure was not enough to appease me.

(Side note: A couple of women next to me were loudly screaming “Yuck!” during the entire sequence. I hope that was their reaction at the apparent foolishness of the movie and not at the sight of two men kissing because, c’mon guys, it’s 2018!)

4. But wait, I hadn’t even touched on the worst scene in this awful mess. After Philip’s (who was running for mayor) secret was revealed in public, Lia confronted him and said something like “Ang tatay ko transgender. Ang fiancé ko bisexual. Konti na lang mabubuo ko na ang LGBTQ!”. Please note that Philip in this supposedly emotional scene was just outed without his consent and had a bloodied face after a scuffle with Wado and the entire cinema was howling with laughter because of that dialogue.

And then Lia backtracked by saying that she wasn’t really mad about his sexuality, but at the deception and lies that she had been experiencing all her life. I was so happy you corrected yourself and made it all about you, girl! Confetti and glitter for you!

5. Since Lia was such an endearing and selfless character, here are my words of advice for her: 1) never wear white pants when doing an ocular visit in a dusty location, 2) learn to listen every once in a while and stop these empty declarations (“Don’t you ever speak to me about pain again!”, “Sino ka para sabihin sa akin kung anong gagawin sa buhay ko?”), and 3) if your wet armpits had always been an issue in previous relationships, there are several deodorants and anti-perspirants in the market to choose from (I can attest to the miraculous powers of Arm & Hammer).

6. I was surprised this wasn’t made into a teleserye since most of the characters seemed to be plucked from local soap operas:

• Philip’s controlling mother (Cherie Gil) to blushing bride-to-be Lia: “I was supposed to let you wear my custom-made Oscar dela Renta wedding gown. Of course, I was slimmer then, baka hindi magkasya.”

• Domineering father (Christopher de Leon, with flaring nostrils as always) to his wimpy, disappointing son Philip: “If only your brother Andrew did not die in that accident!”

• Olivia Papa in her signature white blazer (Cris Villonco): “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Basta laging galit at sumisigaw.)

• Lia’s realizations after getting her heart broken by a bisexual: “Now I know that marriage is not just one big event. It’s a choice that you make every single day.”

Jusko, not even Primetime Bida levels! More of Kapamilya Gold. With another Moira dela Torre theme song. Bagong-bago! Itigil ang kasal!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

CineFilipino Short Films – Set A (2018)

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#CineFilipino2018 – SHORTS A

LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan, 2018) – ★★★★★

I’m such a sucker for these old people stories. Maybe because I’m not just an old soul, I’m just really old (huh?). The sungka reference, the pop culture chismisan about Kris Aquino and James “Uy”, the usual lola shade of “Ganyan ba manamit ang matinong babae?”, and the subsequent “Santissima!”. More relate, more fun.

Sherry Lara and Peewee O’Hara were terrific as the lifetime BFFs. One could only wish for a lasting friendship like theirs.

*****

RUFYLA (Coleen Tanco, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

I really liked the tranquil opening sequence that also served as an introduction to the majestic T’boli culture, but then it devolved into a melodramatic public service ad about exploitation of probinsyanas (and to an extent, indigenous people). Literal kung literal.

*****

BINATA NA (Dexter de Jesus, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Interesting choice of not showing the faces of the actors, but it wasn’t able to add much on the discussion of circumcision as a Pinoy rite of passage to manhood. Of course there had to be a shot of a banana being peeled. I would have preferred an eggplant’s tip being chopped off, though.

*****

BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo, 2018) – ★★★★☆

An effective horror-comedy that didn’t resort to cheap scares. Terrific performances from the two girls (one of them’s viral sensation Kat Galang) who had me from the moment they discussed the urban legend of the Snake Man in Robinson’s Galleria. You would probably piss your pants from laughing and/or pure terror.

*****

TUGMA (Joshua Tayco, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

Clearly well-intentioned, but its inauthenticity made it unbearable to watch. What rhymes with corny? (This had a rapping kid obviously named Rap so please don’t say horny.)

*****

SI APONIBOLINAYEN AT ANG MGA BATANG LUMILIPAD (April Aspiras, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Another social commentary, this time about displaced Lumads set in a constantly smoky place to establish atmosphere (seriously though, bakit laging mausok?). Very much like the kids with their glider, one would hope that this would soar, but it crashed with a resounding thud. (Pa-smart lang ako. Di ko lang talaga naintindihan.)

CineFilipino Short Films – Set B (2018)

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CINEFILIPINO 2018 – SHORTS B

.RAW (Eugine Frondoza, 2018) – ★★★☆☆

Reminded me of two things: 1) the belief that there was a certain gloom behind these perfectly-edited pre-nup videos, and 2) my undying love for Mara Lopez. I just wish it went beyond the “love the raw and unedited version of your other half” message.

*****

GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez, 2018) – ★★★★★

My easy favorite from this set. It was a well-crafted, inspired, and wicked take on Magandang Gabi Bayan’s iconic Halloween special. Those hilarious reenactments with the White Lady were just spot-on. Best end credits sequence, too. Made me excited to see what else this director had to offer.

*****

LASINGTUNADO (Miguel Fernandez, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

With its corny jokes and extended fight scenes, this one felt very much like an annoying, drunk next-door neighbor who went way past the allowed 10pm videoke curfew. If only it had more of that smart Bituin Escalante reference.

*****

AMUSIN PA (Raiza Masculino, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Spotty Southern Tagalog accents aside, this didn’t really offer anything new to the puppy love slash coming-of-age genre. At least it had the same kid in the wonderful Ang Painting ni Tatay.

*****

DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag, 2018) – ★★★★☆

I really liked this version of Cast Away imagined through the eyes of a child. It also had some really striking visuals, including a precious shadow play sequence that I could probably watch all day.

*****

ATE, KUYA, GUSTO KONG KAPE (Mark Bayani, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

Even an all-“star” cast that included Epy Quizon and 90’s Most Promising Actor Jao Mapa could not save this obvious headscratcher. “Sino si Ate?” Did anyone really care?

*****

SIYUDAD SA BULAWAN (Jarell Serencio, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

There was an underlying sadness in this story of miners (and minors) working in a city of gold, but the film ended without really saying much. It looked really good, though.