BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):

1. I had always associated Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu with the intersecting stories narrative where major characters in his films had their lives connected and intertwined (FYI, I really loved Amores Perros, Babel, and 21 Grams). It was one big gimmick that worked for me. I wasn’t surprised that his newest film relied on another gimmick (“one long continuous take”) to drive the story.

2. Off the bat, people would either love this or find it completely boring. There were so many insider jokes on cinema and theater and the arts that might just go over their heads. As one character stated, “Audiences love action, not this talking philosophical bullshit.”

3. Michael Keaton looked like Robert Duvall whenever he wasn’t wearing a wig. He was excellent here by the way. The mere fact that he agreed to make fun of his current status (washed up actor who used to be Batman!) was just brave. If Al Pacino could win for all the scenery-chewing in Scent of a Woman, why couldn’t Keaton? I wouldn’t be complaining if he got that Best Actor Oscar.

4. “You confuse love for admiration.” Raise your hand if you were guilty of this.

5. Edward Norton had a lot of nudity here (or scenes that showed him in his underwear or sported a boner). For a more lengthy peek on his gift, you could watch the brilliant American History X. I loved the Norton the Method Actor playing a Norton-ish Method Actor joke.

6. I was initially bothered by the drumming soundtrack. I was expecting Miles Teller to show up practicing in one corner. And then the movie revealed an actual drummer and later on a band in Times Square. I guess the joke was on me.

7. Naomi Watts’ character had this great repartee with Andrea Riseborough’s:

“Why don’t I have any self-respect?”

“You’re an actress, honey!”

8. Speaking of Watts, she was really good in this movie. I was surprised her performance was virtually overlooked against co-star Emma Stone. Everyone knew how much I loved Stone (I even named my car after her) but she was just fine here.

9. Speaking of, there was a blatant Lancome product placement that was here either as a real product placement or as a joke on product placements in movies (or both). With this kind of dark comedy, it was just hard to tell.

10. Similar to Annie, they showed a viral video that was taken from different angles. Probably the only sloppy thing in this film.

11. Did the film miss an Oscar nomination for Best Editing since it really looked like one continuous take? Shouldn’t it have gotten one for making it look like it was one brilliant, seamless take?

12. When Keaton’s character complained about getting overshadowed by Clooney, it was just a wink on the battle of the Batmans. I’d be happy to see a fourth Batman win an Oscar tbh.

13. I hope Wenn Deramas could watch this just for that wonderful takedown on film criticism. I bet he’d have a major meltdown.

14. “A thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing.” This was a sad, sad film. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 1, 2015.)

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AMERICAN SNIPER (Clint Eastwood, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on American Sniper:

1. In one powerful dinner scene, Chris Kyle’s father said that there were three types of people in the world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The sheep were peace-loving and usually prone to oppression; the wolves were violent, lacked empathy, and preyed on innocent beings; while the sheepdogs might show signs of violence but only to defend the weak and oppressed. So which one were you?

2. Bradley Cooper played Kyle, a real-life Navy Seal sharpshooter. He threw on several pounds for this role and looked really batak onscreen. He was good but maybe overpraised with an Oscar nomination.

3. I was reminded so much of the pre-Dota online community game, Counterstrike. I sucked at it while the rest were really skilled with their headshots. I could still remember my clammy hands on the keyboard, heart racing with excitement, while anticipating the opponents’ next moves. This movie offered the same kind of exhilaration and the same fear of pulling that trigger. Only this was real life with real people (some kids) involved.

4. I rarely cover my eyes when I watch a movie. Not even in horror movies. The only time I do it is when it involves needles, or an open heart surgery. I couldn’t remember how many times I had to look away while watching. The scenes with the mother and kid holding a grenade and the other kid holding a bazooka literally left me on the edge of my seat.

5. Although the effects of PTSD were understandable, I think it was tackled much better in Homeland (and yes, Damian Lewis actually gave a stronger, more nuanced performance).

6. That slo-mo bullet money shot. Wow.

7. The movie ended abruptly with just a few sentences filling in the blanks of his death. Even the closing scenes focused more on celebrating a hero and overreached in terms of sentimentality. And then I remembered that this was a Clint “Million Dollar Madison County Baby” Eastwood movie. All was forgiven.

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE SKELETON TWINS (Craig Johnson, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Skeleton Twins:

1. The first few minutes of the film opened with two suicide attempts. That they were being done at the same time by troubled siblings just made it more interesting.

2. Depression (the disorder, not the emo kind) seems foreign to our culture, no? Anyone showing signs of mental health problems is immediately tagged as baliw. I bet you wouldn’t really know anyone who actively sees a psychiatrist (and not in a Makati Med basement kind). I guess that’s why I’ve been very fascinated with this topic. The problem is real and the resulting effect like suicide is just scary.

3. There were four comedians that starred in this film (Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson), each of them completely effective in their respective roles. It further proved that the funniest people also make the best dramatic actors.

4. Hader’s gay character Milo had a hissy fit when he realized that it was, as one lesbian called it, “Dyke Night” at the local bar. Do we have those here? It looked really fun.

5. Why do gay characters love wearing scarves? Is it because they can dramatically throw it around their necks and make a scene? I’m looking at (for?) you, Waldo.

6. There was one touching moment where the siblings bonded over prophylaxis and nitrous oxide. It was something so ordinary and yet ended up as special. The amazing performances helped a lot as well. I was a big mess after watching it.

7. Milo (Hader) to Maggie (Wiig) after realizing that she was cheating: “You’re not a whore. You’re a restless housewife with whore-like tendencies.” Too funny!!

8. You know how sometimes we just have to sing and dance our troubles away? In one great sequence, Milo and Maggie performed the Mannequin theme song (Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now). You know this one. Cue music. “And we can build this dream together, standing strong forever, nothing’s gonna stop us now…”

8. A discussion regarding expectations and reality was very heartbreaking. Milo recalled how their dad said that a popular jock already peaked in high school and that he (Milo) would peak later on in life. Several years later, he learned that the jock was successful and had a happy family while he was a complete mess. Oftentimes life could be cruel.

9. “Maybe next time you should cut deeper.” I bawled my eyes out.

10. The final attempt to find redemption didn’t ring true to me. I felt cheated by the happy ending because I know it wouldn’t be a happy ending. But hey, I wish them all the best.

11. Are you still singing Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now?

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published January 4, 2015.)

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2018

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1. THERESE MALVAR (Distance)

2. MOI BIEN (Kuya Wes)

3. CHERIE GIL (Citizen Jake)

4. GILLETH SANDICO (Sol Searching)

5. INA RAYMUNDO (Kuya Wes)

6. DEVON SERON (Bakwit Boys)

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1. MENGGIE COBARRUBIAS (Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon)

2. NICO ANTONIO (Delia & Sammy)

3. KETCHUP EUSEBIO (Mamang)

4. NICCO MANALO (Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus)

5. EJ JALLORINA (Mamu; And A Mother Too)

6. JM SALVADO (Sol Searching)

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1. GLAIZA DE CASTRO (Liway)

2. IYAH MINA (Mamu; And a Mother Too)

3. GINA PAREÑO (Hintayan ng Langit)

4. POKWANG (Oda sa Wala)

5. CELESTE LEGASPI (Mamang)

6. NADINE LUSTRE (Never Not Love You)

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1. DANTE RIVERO (Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon)

2. EDDIE GARCIA (Hintayan ng Langit)

3. DINGDONG DANTES (Sid and Aya: Not a Love Story)

4. NONIE BUENCAMINO (Distance)

5. EDDIE GARCIA (ML)

6. JAIME FABREGAS (Delia & Sammy)

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1. SA SAIYANG ISLA (Christian Candelaria)

2. GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez)

3. LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan)

4. BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo)

5. DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag)

—-

TOP 10 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS

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#10

Written by: Keavy Eunice Vicente

Directed by: Perci Intalan

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#9

Written and directed by: Samantha Lee

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#8

Written by: Juan Miguel Severo

Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#7

Written by: John Carlo Pacala

Directed by: Carlo Catu

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#6

Written and directed by: Dwein Baltazar

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#5

Written and directed by: Rod Singh

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#4

Written and directed by: Antoinette Jadaone

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#3

Written and directed by: Dwein Baltazar

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#2

Written by: Kenneth Lim Dagatan, Eduardo Dayao

Directed by: Kenneth Lim Dagatan

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#1

Written by: Kip Oebanda, Zig Dulay

Directed by: Kip Oebanda

—-

And here’s my 2018 scorecard:

★★★★★

GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez)

LIWAY (Kip Oebanda)

LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan)

MA (Kenneth Lim Dagatan)

SA SAIYANG ISLA (Christian Candelaria)

—-

★★★★☆

ALL GROWN UP (Wena Sanchez)

BAKWIT BOYS (Jason Paul Laxamana)

BILLIE & EMMA (Samantha Lee)

BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo)

DELIA & SAMMY (Therese Cayaba)

DISTANCE (Perci Intalan)

DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag)

GUSTO KITA WITH ALL MY HYPOTHALAMUS (Dwein Baltazar)

HINTAYAN NG LANGIT (Dan Villegas)

KOLEKSYONG PAMALO (Len Frago)

KUNG PAANO HINIHINTAY ANG DAPITHAPON (Carlo Catu)

MAMU (AND A MOTHER TOO) (Rod Singh)

NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone)

ODA SA WALA (Dwein Baltazar)

SOL SEARCHING (Roman Perez, Jr.)

—-

★★★☆☆

ALAS-NUEBE NG TANGHALI (Enalyn Legaspi)

ANONYMOUS STUDENT VLOG (Christian Babista)

BAHAY-BAHAYAN (Brian Spencer Reyes)

ANG DALAWANG MRS. REYES (Jun Lana)

CITIZEN JAKE (Mike de Leon)

EXES BAGGAGE (Dan Villegas)

ISANG TULA PARA SA NAWAWALA (Rod Singh)

JODILERKS DELA CRUZ, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (Carlo Manatad)

MGA ANAK NG KAMOTE (Carlo Catu)

MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal)

NANGUNGUPAHAN (Glenn Barit)

KUYA WES (James Mayo)

PAGLISAN (Carl Joseph Papa)

PAG-UKIT SA PANINIWALA (Hiyas Baldemor Bagabaldo)

PARA SA BROKENHEARTED (Digo Ricio)

.RAW (Eugine Frondoza)

SI ASTRI MAKA SI TAMBULAH (Xeph Suarez)

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

SIGNAL ROCK (Chito Roño)

SIN ISLAND (Gino Santos)

—-

★★☆☆☆

1957 (Hubert Tibi)

AMUSIN PA (Raiza Masculino)

ANG BABAENG ALLERGIC SA WIFI (Jun Lana)

BABYLON (Keith Deligero)

BATO BATO PIK (Ardinian Sanque, Lorys Plaza)

BINATA NA (Dexter de Jesus)

BUYBUST (Erik Matti)

THE DAY AFTER VALENTINE’S (Jason Paul Laxamana)

THE ETERNITY BETWEEN SECONDS (Alec Figuracion)

EVERYBODY LOVES BABY WENDY (Wenn Deramas, Alan Chanliongco)

EXCUSE ME PO (Ronald Batallones)

THE GIRL IN THE ORANGE DRESS (Jay Abello)

GLORIOUS (Connie Macatuno)

GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL (Jerrold Tarog)

THE HOPEFUL ROMANTIC (Topel Lee)

THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres)

JACK EM POPOY: THE PULISCREDIBLES (Michael Tuviera)

KUNG PAANO SIYA NAWALA (Joel Ruiz)

LOGRO (Kani Villaflor)

MADILIM ANG GABI (Adolf Alix, Jr.)

MAMANG (Denise O’Hara)

MAMA’S GIRL (Connie Macatuno)

MARY, MARRY ME (RC delos Reyes)

MASAYA AKO (Daniel Delgado, Tiara Nicolas)

MASLA A PAPANOK (Gutierrez Mangansakan II)

MATA TAPANG (Rod Marmol)

MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN (Irene Villamor)

ML (Benedict Mique)

MR. & MRS. CRUZ (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)

MUSMOS NA SUMIBOL SA GUBAT NG DIGMA (Iar Lionel Arondaing)

MY PERFECT YOU (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

MY 2 MOMMIES (Eric Quizon)

ANG PAMBANSANG THIRD WHEEL (Ivan Andrew Payawal)

PAN DE SALAWAL (Che Espiritu)

ANG PANAHON NG HALIMAW (Lav Diaz)

PINAY BEAUTY (SHE’S NO WHITE) (Jay Abello)

RAINBOW’S SUNSET (Joel Lamangan)

RUFYLA (Coleen Tanco)

RUNNER (Levi Miscala)

SCHOOL SERVICE (Louie Ignacio)

A SHORT HISTORY OF A FEW BAD THINGS (Keith Deligero)

SI APONIBOLINAYEN AT ANG MGA BATANG LUMILIPAD (April Aspiras)

SINGLE/SINGLE: LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH (Veronica Velasco, Pablo Biglang-awa)

SIYUDAD SA BULAWAN (Jarell Serencio)

TANABATA’S WIFE (Lito Casaje, Charlson Ong, Choy Pangilinan)

THREE WORDS TO FOREVER (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

TO LOVE SOME BUDDY (Jason Paul Laxamana)

WE WILL NOT DIE TONIGHT (Richard Somes)

—-

★☆☆☆☆

ABAY BABES (Don Cuaresma)

ABOMINATION (Yam Laranas)

ALIMUOM (Keith Sicat)

ALL SOULS NIGHT (Aloy Adlawan, Jules Katanyag)

AMNESIA LOVE (Albert Langitan)

ATE, KUYA, GUSTO KONG KAPE (Mark Bayani)

AURORA (Yam Laranas)

BAGYONG BHEVERLYNN (Charliebebs Gohetia)

CLASS OF 2018 (Charliebebs Gohetia)

CRY NO FEAR (Richard Somes)

DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes)

DOUBLE TWISTING DOUBLE BACK (Joseph Abello)

EL PESTE (Richard Somes)

FANTASTICA (Barry Gonzalez)

FIRST LOVE (Paul Soriano)

HOSPICIO (Bobby Bonifacio, Jr.)

JACQUELINE COMES HOME (Ysabelle Peach)

KASAL (Ruel Bayani)

KAUYAGAN (WAY OF LIFE) (Julienne Ilagan)

KIKO (Jojo Driz)

KUSINA KINGS (Victor Villanueva)

LASINGTUNADO (Miguel Fernandez)

THE LOOKOUT (Afi Africa)

MELODRAMA/RANDOM/MELBOURNE! (Matthew Pastor)

MY FAIRY TAIL LOVE STORY (Perci Intalan)

NAKALIMUTAN KO NANG KALIMUTAN KA (Fifth Solomon)

NEVER TEAR US APART (Whammy Alcazaren)

ONE GREAT LOVE (Enrico Quizon)

OTLUM (Joven Tan)

PANG-MMK (John Lapus)

THE SIGNIFICANT OTHER (Joel Lamangan)

THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco)

TRES (Richard Somes, Dondon Santos)

TUGMA (Joshua Tayco)

UNLI-LIFE (Miko Livelo)

YAKAP (Mika Fabella, Rafael Froilan)

 

Until next year!!

ANG HULING EL BIMBO (THE MUSICAL) (Dexter Santos, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Huling El Bimbo (The Musical):

1. I’d be lying if I told you that I was the biggest fan of the Eraserheads considering that I gave up on them after the disappointing Sticker Happy (by that time, I had already moved on to Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere). Magasin was their very first song that I really liked. I saved up all of my lunch money (and gave up my favorite kuchay pie from Mr. Teo’s) just to afford their Circus cassette tape. While everyone else listened to Jose Mari Chan for Christmas, I was locked up in my room singing along to Fruitcake. I even paid Php150 (considered exorbitant to a high school student in the 90’s) for their Bananatype EP that contained only five (!!) songs. My idea of rebellion was listening (and cursing along) to the “Tangina” version of Pare Ko in their Ultraelectromagneticpop! album. And when the band was plagued with rumors about devil worship (apparently, backmasking Cutterpillow would reveal Satanic chants) and subliminal drug use in songs (hello Alapaap!), my soul full of Catholic guilt loved them even more. Still not the biggest fan, though. I didn’t even like Spoliarium.

2. When I heard the news that a musical was being made based on the band’s discography, I was initially doubtful. Would I really want to hear bastardized versions of their most masa hits sung by professional musical theater actors? Would these songs that meant dearly to me still have the same effect if they were taken out of context? My only hope was that this style actually worked for Mamma Mia! and even if some of the tunes felt forced into a storyline, the end result was still a joyous ode to the classic songs of Abba. Even with a more melodramatic plot, El Bimbo wasn’t any different in celebrating the wonderful anthems of an iconic 90’s band.

3. I actually liked how some of the songs took on a whole new meaning here. One of my favorites was how they “ruined” such an optimistic one like With a Smile and reworked it into a heartbreaking ballad. The sight of young Joy (a wonderful Tanya Manalang) holding graduation sampaguita necklaces for her friends after suffering a tragic incident made me cry in my seat. I also adored the giddy Tindahan ni Aling Nena sequence that had three different versions of courtship happening onstage. The rest of the songs retained the same emotional resonance like the nostalgic Minsan number (still my favorite OPM of all time) and the expertly-staged hallucinogenic version of Alapaap.

4. Although the story felt a bit lacking in terms of the development of friendships and the choice to make it brutally sentimental (the complete shift in tone during the end of the first act left the audience wondering if they should be clapping given such a horrific scene), it more than made up for it with great choreography (the marching band version of Pare Ko was a hoot) and spectacular set design (the revolving stage used for Toyang’s carinderia and the Overdrive car was a visual treat).

5. The vocal performances were consistently good across the board, although I found some of the casting a bit off. I adored Topper Fabregas (as the young Anthony) and when he showed up in one scene with his face badly-bruised, my heart just exploded because I knew they were playing my song Hey Jay next. Jon Santos (as the repressed present Anthony) was also terrific, but he looked considerably older compared to Gian Magdangal (as the present Hector) and OJ Mariano (as the present Emman; loved the conceit that he lost his gorgeous locks). This age thing was also my concern for the divine Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (as the present Joy). Also, she sang beautifully, but had that classically-trained (read: very conyo) style of singing that deviated from the young Joy’s masa character.

6. The sprinkle of 90’s pop culture references from Ang TV and Cindy’s to the “Chicken!” of Tropang Trumpo were simply perfect for certified Titos and Titas of Manila. On the other hand, the interludes used from different Eraserheads albums were a welcome treat for the fans. If you could recite the entire “Gusto mo ng tahong, gusto mo ng labong, ispaghetti, patitocini, banana que, nilagang suso, tahong chips ahoy…” line, then this was made for a certified E-Head like you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

BAD GENIUS (Nattawut Poonpiriya, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bad Genius:

1. One of the lowest points in my high school life (or even my life in general) was when I got caught cheating (along with three other classmates) in an exam. It was quite the scandal because we were part of the Honors Class (or as one of our teachers called us, “the Cream of the Crop, pweh!”). Unlike this film though, that incident didn’t involve an elaborate set-up, high stakes, huge amounts of money, or even a hidden kodigo written on an eraser. On my end (the others had reasons of their own), I just matter-of-factly checked with another classmate if we had the same answer on a specific item of a crossword-type quiz. Unfortunately for us, one of the moral guardians (aka chu-chu) in class informed our teacher about it.

Back then, I couldn’t understand why we had to be severely punished for something that (to me) didn’t really constitute cheating. We were even asked to stand in front of the class, very much like modern-day adulterers on trial (kulang na lang meron kami cardboard sa leeg stating “Mandaraya! Wag tularan!”) challenging the crowd to cast the first stone (ironically, some of our classmates that did throw stones and reminded everyone on the importance of good values were the ones that blatantly cheated in exams but were never caught; more on this later).

Anyway, we were reprimanded with a failed score in that test, a C- in Conduct, and our Catholic souls promptly delivered to the devil for eternal damnation. Suffice to say, I fully learned from that experience and never cheated my way through an exam ever again.

2. When I initially saw this film several months back, it functioned as an effective thriller about students scamming their way in a national exam. Even to this day, I would have these nightmares resulting to cold sweats for not knowing the answers to a random multiple choice exam and it was probably the closest feeling that could describe this viewing experience. Every sequence that involved flinging shoes, two sets of exams, piano codes, and hidden cellphones in the toilet had the same level of excitement slash anxiety as any heist flick directed by Steven Soderbergh or Edgar Wright.

A second viewing though revealed a much deeper take on morality; how seemingly righteous people could be swayed into the dark side and how perfectly flawed characters could find redemption. The juxtaposition of Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, in a stunning film debut) and Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul) spoke volumes on how external factors (social inequality, intelligence as a form of power, capital-driven labor system, among others) could ultimately define/shape a person’s morals/values. That bridge scene where they stood above the stop and go signals was simply, well, genius.

3. Although I was impressed with how the piano lessons were incorporated into the cheating scheme (the highlight was when Lynn used the same method to memorize all the STIC answers), I found it hard to believe that her intellectually-impaired classmates could keep up with her fast-moving fingers (and even had to “transmit” answers the same way to the rest of the group). Surely there must have been easier gestures/signals that they could have utilized instead.

Going back to my morally upright classmates that I mentioned earlier, one of the techniques that they used to memorize the correct answers was the folding of their fingers. We would usually have these short quizzes that consisted of ten True or False questions and what they would do was fold every finger that corresponded to every False answer (based on the leakage of their friends that took the test before us). While our teachers thought that they were just fooling around and making alien-like gestures, everything was set for them to get perfect scores. Except of course in long quizzes and finals when they would lack enough digits (toes included) to fold for a 100-item exam.

4. I really liked how the story utilized the infinite reflections whenever Lynn was faced with a moral dilemma (the opening interrogation, the escalator scene before agreeing on the STIC scheme, and her final application on her chosen college). Nothing screamed introspection more than a character looking at all her possible identities in a mirror.

5. For a film burdened with such serious themes, the occasional stabs at humor helped keep it a bit lighthearted. I had a good laugh at the following: 1) when Lynn’s father brought a box of her trophies and medals when they were talking to the headmistress (probably something that my mother would also do), 2) when everyone who answered set 1 stood up at the same time to submit their papers, 3) when someone referred to Pat (Teeradon Supaponpinyo) wearing a turtleneck and giving a rousing speech as Steve Pat, and 4) weirdly enough, when Lynn held her pencil like a weapon before heading to the STIC exam room.

On the flip side, I couldn’t hold back my tears during these scenes: 1) when Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan) mentioned “If I had half your brain, I wouldn’t do something this stupid”, 2) when Bank gave Lynn a nod during his interrogation scene before realizing that he was on his own, 3) when Lynn went all Teddie Salazar in the airport and confessed everything to her father, and 4) the subsequent waiting hall scene with him assuring her that “We’ll get through this”. You’re not crying, I am.

6. The weakest aspect here that really strained credulity was the extended chase scene with Lynn after she threw up on her test (why didn’t anyone even hear her gagging in the first place?). When her phone started getting kicked around and Pat and Grace lost their phone’s signal, it was just too many coincidences happening to be believable. Even if you dismissed the fact that she was being chased by the Terminator, did she really have to drop that phone in a stranger’s bag? How would that be considered a clean trail? Seriously, these amateurs should have consulted my morally upright classmates.

7. “Even if you don’t cheat, life cheats you anyway.”

a) True
b) False
c) Saklap besh

Rating: ★★★★☆

ONE HOUR PHOTO (Mark Romanek, 2002)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on One Hour Photo:

1. Remember when your parents would invite guests over and the worst thing that your mother could do was bring out her stack of family albums and proudly show your most embarrassing photos to these strangers? Like that picture of you swimming nude in a palanggana looking really silly and it would be everyone’s source of laughter? No? Then you must have been born after the digital revolution.

In my time (did I again sound like I just lived through the Mesozoic Era?), the term Kodak wasn’t just the most popular brand name in the world of photography (sorry Agfa and Fuji!), it was actually a verb synonymous to taking a selfie (“Kodakan na! Piktyuran na!”). Except that it would be really hard to take a selfie back in the day with those chunky Olympus cameras.

2. With the number of filters and Photoshop tools available now, film photography could definitely be considered a lost art. There was always that feeling of excitement in having your film roll developed (I actually missed that whirring sound when rewinding), crossing your fingers that it wouldn’t be exposed (otherwise, goodbye memories!), and just admiring the finished product that couldn’t be saved by any second takes or Camera 360.

3. Although this film might feel a tad dated (Robin Williams’ Sy Parrish actually said “When people’s houses are on fire, what’s the next thing they save after loved ones and pets? Family photos!”. Uhh, I don’t think so), the idea of a lonely psychopath stalking people through pictures could very well apply in this world of Facebook and Instagram. In hindsight, these social media platforms actually made it easier to gain access to people’s lives, unlike before when only the film developers could see you in your kinkiest outfits (hmm, I was suddenly reminded me of a grade school teacher who “accidentally” shared her scandalous lingerie photos to some of the boys in class).

4. The late great Robin Williams would always be Mrs. Doubtfire to me, but he was undeniably better in his more serious roles (his critically-acclaimed turn in Good Will Hunting, his criminally-underrated performance in Insomnia, etc.). His character here may be downright creepy (in one hair-raising scene that was the stuff of my nightmares, he imagined trespassing in his victims’ house and decided to poop in their toilet, their TOILET! Nooooo!), but he still exuded a certain warmth that made it hard to completely be scared of him.

His best scene was that reaction shot of him after being told that he was getting fired. The way his face scrunched up not because he was losing his job, but because he realized that he would lose access to the private lives of his victims was terrifying.

Side note: His set of baby blues were just perfect for all the blatant eye symbolisms used in this film.

5. “Nobody takes a photograph of something they want to forget.” Ironically, happy couple pictures would usually be the first to get deleted in your camera roll after a bad break-up. Just me? Okay.

6. I was weirded out a bit in that market scene where old family photos were put up for sale. Why would people sell pictures of their loved ones? And who would buy these stuff (because apparently there were potential customers if these were being sold)? Didn’t they see The Others?

7. I wonder how many people would feel paranoid about posting their photos online after watching this one. Just imagine all the possible stalkers lurking out there. Don’t worry, I promise never to poop in your toilet.

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.

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: ★★★★☆