SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Snowpiercer:

1. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this film. From the dull title to the seemingly tacky poster, I thought it would be a terrible B-movie at best. It ended up as a stylish and ambitious futuristic English film from a French novel and Korean director. Mindblown.

2. I guess I just really appreciated the vision of Korean filmmakers. I started last year with Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and loved it as well. Great minds.

3. I rarely liked action films but this one just belonged to a different genre. There were equal parts suspense, violence, and comedy.

4. In an alternate universe, Tilda Swinton would get an Oscar for this film. The “Be a shoe” speech alone was just pure brilliance.

5. I’m happy I knew little about the film. Every time an Oscar nominee or winner showed up, I squealed with delight. They were all perfect!

6. I’d shut up now before I spoil it for you guys. The less you knew, the better. (I fear that it’s an acquired taste, though.)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 30, 2014.)

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THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Wolf of Wall Street:

1. I’m surprised McConaughey’s not getting any Oscar buzz for this movie. That 7-min restaurant aria was just brilliant.

2. I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time.

3. Sex, drugs, profanity. I’m just waiting for the violence to experience a full-blown Scorsese film.

4. DiCaprio’s basically playing a version of himself. No wonder he’s so great here. Probably his best performance to date.

5. I bet a lot of guys will envy that lighted red candle. LOL!

6. That cerebral palsy phase scene has to be one of the funniest I’ve seen all year. Who knew Leo can do great slapstick? Give him an Oscar.

7. Jonah Hill is slowly becoming one of my favorite actors. He does really great work in these intelligent movies.

8. I’m going out and buying the soundtrack.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 16, 2014.)

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!!

NOTTING HILL (Roger Michell, 1999)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Notting Hill:

1. No matter how many times I tried to repress the memory, I would never forget that I once played Julia Roberts as Anna Scott for a skit about absolute love (how apt!) in a college Philosophy class. Long story short, I couldn’t make the Hugh Grant character William Thacker believable since I obviously lacked his puppy eyes and boyish charm so our group leader thought of reversing the gender roles where I ended up voicing (since I apparently wasn’t too pretty to be Anna as well) the female part.

We recreated that entire iconic bookstore scene and I delivered the “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy…” line with an awkward high pitch that sounded like Lani Mercado’s wicked witch in the Sleeping Beauty episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Our presentation obviously bombed (all those confused looks would continue to haunt me in my dreams) and I walked out of that class feeling like Vivian in Pretty Woman getting thrown out of a posh boutique in Rodeo Drive (and since this was real life, I didn’t even get a redemption scene).

2. Julia may have won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich, but her performance here would probably be my most favorite. Sure, the woman with the (then $15M) megawatt smile was basically playing another version of her rich and famous, A-list celebrity persona, but the fact that she gamely poked fun at herself (loved it when Anna pointed at her nose and chin when asked about her cosmetic surgeries) and revealed the sadness beneath all the fame and glory was really admirable.

Her Anna character was also completely flawed (and actually bordered on being despicable with just the way he treated William) and yet I still really, really wanted to be her friend (to the point that it would also be an honor for me to have her in my loo). Her best scene was at the dinner table where everyone was trying to win that last brownie and her face displayed the longing to experience the kind of love that the mortals (er, William and his friends) had.

3. Speaking of that dinner scene, I could easily pinpoint the part where I would immediately start sobbing every single time I’d watch this film. It was when Bella (Gina McKee) explained that she deserved the last brownie for having the saddest life because she was stuck in a wheelchair and could not bear kids. This was followed by a shot of her husband Max (Tim McInnerny) silently giving her this look of genuine love. Romantic or not, we all deserved someone just like him.

(Their other scenes that made me bawl my eyes out: when he carried her upstairs for the night when William decided to sleep over at their house and when he couldn’t afford to leave her during the climactic chase scene and carried her inside the car. Hala, just thinking of these made me teary-eyed again!)

4. A lot of people would probably knock this film down for being too formulaic to a fault, but it shamelessly peddled itself as a fairy tale so I didn’t mind at all (“This is the stuff that happens in dreams, not in real life.”) A huge Hollywood star falling in love with a commoner who looked like Hugh would be the ultimate fantasy, right?

Comical meet cute, set of kooky friends (Rhys Ifans’ Spike as the standout, course), soundtrack of sappy love songs (Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All >>> Alison Krauss’ version tbh), final romantic declaration of love, all tropes utilized to maximum effect. It was surreal, but nice.

5. I had a (fortunately) short phase where I pretended to be a charming Brit ala Hugh and ended up sounding like a post-Kabbalah Madonna. I replaced my “Susmaryosep” with “Whoopsie daisy” and “Ay tae!” with “Shickity brickity”, but those didn’t stick. Foreign catchphrases and accents were never really my thing. I couldn’t even properly imitate an American accent when I worked as a call center agent that resulted to one customer referring to me as a weird Hawaiian guy.

6. Spot the cameos: Matthew Modine! Alec Baldwin! Mischa Barton! Emily Mortimer!

7. That one long take of Ain’t No Sunshine with the changing seasons was really lovely. I would one day be able to visit Portobello Road Market and that iconic blue door. Who would be willing to fund my London trip?

8. “For June who loved this garden. From Joseph who always sat beside her.”

“Some people do spend their whole lives together.” ❤️❤️❤️

9. I didn’t really need this film to make me realize that some people could influence you to do something better or be a better person even if they had hurt you, but it was nice to be reminded of this with every viewing. #whogoat

10. “The fame thing isn’t really real, you know?”

A huge star ready to give up everything for love? Your move, Bebe Idol Sarah G. Rooting for your happy fairy tale ending as well.

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.

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: ★★★★★

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: ★★★★★

LADY BIRD (Greta Gerwig, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Lady Bird:

1. Whenever my mom and I would have an argument, her go-to line of defense was “Pinapasok pa naman kita sa Catholic schools…”. Which might also be her disappointed way of saying that this early, my soul was already burning in hell. Sometimes I’d wonder what happened to me as well. Did I not learn anything from all the years of Christian Living classes from grade school to high school plus the twelve units of required Theology in college? Were these schools being oppressive in shoving religion down our young throats that some of us ended up being rebellious? Or was I just being pa-cool in thinking that these teachings were way beneath me? One thing was for sure, though. My mother would always be in Church every Sunday to pray for my burning soul.

2. I really loved the depiction of the mother-daughter relationship here. When the film opened with Christine aka “Lady Bird”(Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) bonding over an audiobook of The Grapes of Wrath inside their car, it was a picture of love and happiness. In a matter of seconds, the harmonious atmosphere turned into a passive-aggressive verbal showdown with one of them jumping out of the moving vehicle. It was hilarious, frighteningly real, and completely relatable. Seriously, how many times have we considered flinging ourselves outside of a car just to avoid the nastiest sermons from our mothers? Getting run over on a highway would probably hurt less than hearing the worst sumbat coming from them.

3. The screenplay (also by Greta Gerwig) was infused with so much wit that I was reminded of Juno (the one where Ellen Page played a heavily opinionated pregnant teen) and peak Diablo Cody. Some of my favorite lines were:

• Lady Bird speaking the truth: “The only thing exciting about 2002 is that it’s a palindrome.”

• Marion on sticking to the shopping budget: “That’s what rich people do. We’re not rich people.”

• Brother Miguel when her date arrived to pick her up for prom: “Lady Bird wants to make an entrance. She’s mad we don’t have a spiral staircase.”

• Sister Sarah during the school dance: “Six inches for the Holy Spirit!” (Thank goodness I went to a co-ed school!)

• Post-sex Lady Bird after learning that her boyfriend (Timothée Chalamet) wasn’t a virgin: “I was on top! Who the fuck is on top their first time?”

• Boyfriend’s response as consolation: “You’re going to have so much unspecial sex in your life.” (Soooo true!!)

4. Hand in my Pocket, Crash Into Me, Cry Me a River, The Crossroads. The soundtrack of my life.

5. Ronan was terrific in the lead role (acne and all). Although she had some noticeable slips with her Irish accent, she fully captured the essence of Lady Bird that I was crying along with her when she received the school letter saying that she was waitlisted.

Metcalf was the perfect foil for her, with every line and movement capturing the mother we all loved and hated. Her airport car scene alone that didn’t require any dialogue, just her face showing a range of emotions, deserved an Oscar nod. She wasn’t even in the scene with the letters and I kept thinking about her and bawled my eyes out.

And what else to say about Chalamet exuding so much charisma that I just brushed off the fact that his character climaxed after just five seconds?

6. On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Bird excitedly purchased a pack of cigarettes and a copy of Playgirl. I could easily relate because I spent my entire teenage years wishing to be eighteen so I could finally watch an R-18 film in cinemas. (Wait, did you think that I wanted my own copy of Playgirl?)

7. Essential viewing if your mom’s also your best friend. Watch it with her and share a box of Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★★★

I, TONYA (Craig Gillespie, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I, Tonya:

1. Very much like Tonya Harding, I had always used my asthma as an excuse to get out of any sport requiring physical contact (or just about any sport really). Maybe that was the reason why I never had any interest in basketball or baseball or soccer, not even volleyball. Although I watched a little bit of tennis, the events that made me switch channels from HBO to ESPN involved gymnastics (more artistic than rhythmic) and figure skating (ladies’ singles mostly).

There was just a certain level of excitement while waiting for these tumbling and spinning girls to properly stick their landing. For me, these two were the only things that made the quadrennial Olympics worth watching (plus diving, but for different reasons obviously).

2. My favorite figure skater of all time would have to be Michelle Kwan since she was able to perfectly merge the technical and artistic requirements of the sport (her signature spirals were to die for!). I also loved her personality and would never forget her inspirational line when she ended up second in Nagano (“I didn’t lose the gold. I won the silver!”).

My other favorite would be Surya Bonaly, the infamous bad girl of skating who would always raise a middle finger to the judges with her illegal, signature backflip. Will & Grace actually had an episode devoted to her and it was one of the funniest in the series.

3. Which brings me to the villains of figure skating, the women that I really hated and secretly wished that they would land on their butts after their salchows and axels. One would be Tara Lipinski, who never did anything bad really except that I found her incredibly annoying. The other would be convicted felon Harding, who was definitely involved in the kneecapping of close competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

4. I still remember that incident like it was yesterday, the images of a wailing Nancy breaking my heart into pieces. So I was really surprised when that exact same scene was recreated here and my reaction was… a giggle. I knew that I was going straight to hell because of that, but it was just too hard not to let out a guilty reaction when it was played for laughs and it was detestably, weirdly funny.

Maybe that was the entire point of this “irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true” story. It wanted to change the perception that Harding wasn’t just the spoiled diva that whined about her loose skates in Lillehammer, that she was also a victim of circumstances and had no involvement in the crime. I never believed any second of this film, but it successfully made me cry. And laugh. A lot. And full of guilt.

5. Most of its success relied on the phenomenal, career-defining performance of Margot Robbie. She looked nowhere near the real Harding (and reminded me more of Jamie Pressly), but she made the character more understandable. You could see her motives and weaknesses and how some of her faulty choices were due to an overbearing mother and a troubled marriage (that included domestic violence). It was very much like watching Black Swan on ice, except that only the star’s career died in the end.

This woman blamed everything from puberty to her faulty laces for all the disappointments in her life, and yet I still felt an ounce of sympathy for her. Again, a pure testament to Robbie’s acting. Her courtroom scene alone when she learned the verdict that she was banned from skating again was simply heartbreaking (“I’d rather do the jail time!”). Feeling bad for a criminal? A testament to the power of this film.

6. “Behind every successful woman is a pushy mother” had never been more true. As Harding’s mother, Allison Janney was vicious, despicable, and relatable to any Asian kid that had a Tiger mom. I was thankful that I didn’t have to pee in my pants because my mother didn’t allow any bathroom breaks during my karate lessons and I never had a knife thrown at me for talking back at her, but I knew exactly where LaVona Golden was coming from (her line of “Oh please! Show me a family that doesn’t have their ups and downs” after that knife scene was a killer.) She even actually complained directly at the camera (so many breaking the fourth wall moments here!) with “Well, my storyline is disappearing. What the fuck?!”. How could you completely hate her (bird on shoulder and all)?

7. Whenever Harding would compare herself to some of the most popular people (“I was the second most known person in the world next to Bill Clinton!”, “I was the Charles Barkley of figure skating!”), I was reminded of the same delusions of grandeur displayed by Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone in the equally wicked To Die For. (Go watch!!)

8. I really liked how this was so loving and brutal at the sport as well. One judge said something like this to Harding, “It’s never been entirely about skating. You’re not the image we want to represent” and I realized how unfair the scores could be to these athletes. Judged for your personality and not just your performance? They never had this problem in basketball.

Rating: ★★★★★