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The Spotless Mind

Musings of a Non-Film Reviewer. I pay, I watch, I comment.

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(5/5)

ARRIVAL (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Arrival:

1. Whenever I watch these alien invasion films, I always find comfort in the fact that these creatures very rarely attacked our country. In this one, they sent twelve pods in twelve different territories and not even one bothered to settle in (or anywhere near) the Philippines.

They must have heard of the MMDA’s revised number coding scheme and decided that our nation did not have the brains to aid in world peace. Or maybe they found out about our aggressive and unforgiving war on drugs and it scared them because let’s face it, symbol-spewing squids floating in thick clouds of smoke sounded highly (stress on high) suspicious to me.

2. “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” Thank you for that wonderful question. I honestly had not given this much thought and if I tried to answer it now I would probably end up babbling even worse than Janina San Miguel (homaygahd!). What I really liked about it though was that it opened this discussion about free will vs destiny.

Regardless if one could turn back time or see the future, it signified that everything in our lives was a result of our choices. Nobody was predetermined to be single and lonely, it was ultimately your choice bes.

3. My brain would often short-circuit in these high-concept sci-fi movies (hello Interstellar!) so a Denis Villeneuve high-concept sci-fi movie was just overkill. I would not even pretend that I fully understood Enemy, but I really liked how it challenged every fiber of my being.

This one was a bit more accessible, with clues sprinkled very much like Easter eggs and scenes that you could easily recall and make you go “Ahhhhh” hours after watching. My favorite was the constant reference to the name Hannah (a palindrome) and how it tied up with the overall theme (and the lead character not believing in beginnings and endings).

4. Much had been said about the Oscar crime committed against Amy Adams (as cunning linguist Dr. Louise Banks), but at least she could sleep soundly at night knowing that she delivered the performance of her life. Every movement, every sigh, every tear, all played to absolute perfection.

5. Could someone explain why a caged bird was with them inside the pod? I initially thought it was used to determine if humans could breathe there, but then they never really took off their hazmat suits until Louise defied orders. Paging Sheldon Cooper!

6. Similar to the recent Miss Universe question and answer debacle, this clearly proved that proper communication and translation were critical in every situation. It could mean the difference between “offer weapon” and “use weapon”. And as one character stated, “Language would be the first weapon drawn in conflict”.

But it really wasn’t about being able to speak a particular language, but being able to influence and inspire other people. Oh, wait…homaygahd!

7. “I’ve had my head tilted up to the stars for as long as I can remember. You know what surprised me most? It wasn’t meeting them. It was meeting you.” So what would be the heptapod symbol for kilig?

Rating: ★★★★★

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2016

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TOP 10 BEST FEATURE LENGTH FILMS

#10

ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2:#FOREVERISNOTENOUGH

Written by: Chris Martinez
Directed by: Marlon Rivera

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#9

SEKLUSYON

Written by: Anton Santamaria
Directed by: Erik Matti

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#8

PAMILYA ORDINARYO

Written by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.
Directed by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.

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#7

FOREVER BRIDGELESS

Written by: Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez and Glenn Ternal
Directed by: Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez and Glenn Ternal

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#6

STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE

Written by: Ronald Allan Habon
Directed by: Randolph Longjas

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#5

SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING

Written by: Ice Idanan and Petersen Vargas
Directed by: Ice Idanan

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#4

DIE BEAUTIFUL

Written by: Rody Vera
Directed by: Jun Lana

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#3

MA’ ROSA

Written by: Troy Espiritu
Directed by: Brillante Mendoza

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#2

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN

Written by: Baby Ruth Villarama
Directed by: Baby Ruth Villarama

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#1

TUOS

Written by: Denise O’Hara
Directed by: Derick Cabrido

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2016 Scorecard:

★★★★★
DIE BEAUTIFUL (Jun Lana)
FOREVER BRIDGELESS (Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez, Glenn Ternal)
FOREVER NATIN (Cyrus Valdez)
MA’ ROSA (Brillante Mendoza)
OKTOPUS (JP Habac)
ANG PAINTING NI TATAY (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)
SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO (Cheska Salangsang)
SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING (Ice Idanan)
STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE (Randolph Longjas)
STOP. STEADY. SAYAW. (Dan Villegas)
SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (Baby Ruth Villarama)
TUOS (Derick Cabrido)
XXX (Allison Barretto)

★★★★☆
ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (Dan Villegas)
CAMP SAWI (Irene Villamor)
CHICBOY (Jasper Ramon Tulabot)
DIGPAN NING ALTI (Bor Ocampo)
FISH OUT OF WATER (Mon Garilao)
ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2: #FOREVERISNOTENOUGH (Marlon Rivera)
KATOK (John Rhys Guarina)
KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE (Galileo Sioco Te and Prime Reyes)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (ASAWA NI MARIE) (Chris Martinez)
MERCURY IS MINE (Jason Paul Laxamana)
MRS. (Adolf Alix, Jr.)
AN ORCHESTRA IN SEARCH OF A HOME (Ida Anita del Mundo)
PAMILYA ORDINARYO (Eduardo Roy, Jr.)
PEKTUS (Isabel Quesada)
SEKLUSYON (Erik Matti)

★★★☆☆
THE ACHY BREAKY HEARTS (Antoinette Jadaone)
AREA (Louie Ignacio)
ANG BABAENG HUMAYO (Lav Diaz)
BAKA BUKAS (Samantha Lee)
BAKIT LAHAT NG GWAPO MAY BOYFRIEND? (Jun Lana)
BESHIE (Joyce Bernal)
DUKOT (Paul Soriano)
DYAMPER (Mes de Guzman)
EVERYTHING ABOUT HER (Joyce Bernal)
EXPRESSWAY (Ato Bautista)
GET CERTIFIED (Isaias Zantua)
HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz)
IMAGINE YOU & ME (Michael Tuviera)
JUST THE 3 OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
LUNA (Rae Red)
MANILA SCREAM (Roque Lee, Blair Camilo)
MGA BITOON SA SIUDAD (Jarell Serencio)
NAKAUWI NA (John Relano, Patrick Baleros, Luis Hidalgo)
NED’S PROJECT (Lemuel Lorca)
AN OPEN DOOR (Paul Soriano)
ORO (Alvin Yapan)
SAVING SALLY (Avid Liongoren)
SITSIRITSIT (Brian Spencer Reyes)
SINA DINO AT ANG KANILANG SIKRETO (Miller Ursolino)
ANG TABA KO KASI (Jason Paul Laxamana)

★★☆☆☆
1ST SEM (Allan Ibanez, Dexter Hemedez)
ANG BAGONG PAMILYA NI PONCHING (Inna Salazar Acuña, Dos Ocampo)
BARCELONA: A LOVE UNTOLD (Olivia Lamasan)
BUGTAW (Noah del Rosario)
BUHAY HABANGBUHAY (Paolo Herras)
BUTAS (Richard Cawed)
DAGSIN (Atom Magadia)
ECHORSIS (Lemuel Lorca)
ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI (Gil Portes)
ANG HAPON NI NANDING (Milo Tolentino)
HIBLANG ABO (Ralston Jover)
HOW TO BE YOURS (Dan Villegas)
HOW TO FIND LOVE (Quark Henares)
I AMERICA (Ivan Andrew Payawal)
I LOVE YOU TO DEATH (Miko Livelo)
KABISERA (Arturo San Agustin, Real Florido)
KUSINA (Cenon Palomares, David Corpuz)
LAKBAY2LOVE (Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil)
LILA (Gino Santos)
LOVE IS BLIND (Jason Paul Laxamana)
LOVE ME TOMORROW (Gino Santos)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (BALA SA BALA, KAMAO SA KAMAO, SATSAT SA SATSAT) (Mark Meily)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (SHAKE, SHAKER, SHAKEST) (Andoy Ranay)
ANG MAANGAS, ANG MARIKIT, AT ANG MAKATA (Ibarra Guballa)
MANSYONG PAPEL (Ogos Aznar)
MITATANG (Alvin Jezer Gagui)
MY CANDIDATE (Quark Henares)
NOT APPLICABLE (Carl Chavez)
PUNLA (Kenneth Mandrilla)
THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal)
THE THIRD PARTY (Jason Paul Laxamana)
THIS TIME (Nuel Naval)
TISAY (Alfonso Torre III)
ANG TULAY NG SAN SEBASTIAN (Alvin Yapan)
THE UNMARRIED WIFE (Maryo J. Delos Reyes)
VINCE & KATH & JAMES (Theodore Boborol)
WHISTLEBLOWER (Adolf Alix, Jr.)
WORKING BEKS (Chris Martinez)

★☆☆☆☆
AKI (Milo Tolentino)
BIRDS (Christian Paolo Lat)
DIYOS-DIYOSAN (Cesar Buendia)
ELEMENTO (Mark Meily)
ENTENG KABISOTE 10 AND THE ABANGERS (Tony Reyes, Marlon Rivera)
THE ESCORT (Enzo Williams)
ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI (Gil Portes)
LANDO AT BUGOY (Vic Acedillo, Jr.)
MANO PO 7: CHINOY (Ian Loreños)
MY REBOUND GIRL (Emmanuel dela Cruz)
PASSAGE OF LIFE (Renz Vincemark Cruz, Hannah Daryl Gayapa)
STRAIGHT TO THE HEART (Frank David Fabros)
THAT THING CALLED TANGA NA (Joel Lamangan)
TPO (TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDER) (Joselito Altarejos)
TUPANG LIGAW (Rod Santiago)

Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 Scorecard

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After travelling to three cities and four cinemas in two days, I have officially completed the MMFF2016 marathon.

I’m happy to report that the festival achieved its goal and stayed true to its promise of change, of giving the Pinoy audience something new during the holiday season.

Even with a supposed indie selection, I still had a great time in cinemas. Some films made me laugh out loud, some made me cry like a baby, one scared me to my core, the rest I enjoyed watching with young ones (yes, even kids liked these indies!), but most importantly, they required me to think.

Napakasarap makatikim ng ibang klaseng putahe ngayong Kapaskuhan. Hinihintay na lang nila ang ating suporta.

With that said, here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Picture

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1. SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (Baby Ruth Villarama, 2016) – ★★★★★

Napakagandang pelikula! Matututo kang magpasalamat sa bawat biyayang natanggap, pati na rin sa mga sakripisyong hindi mo ginagawa.

At bes, huwag mong sabihin na ayaw mong manood ng malungkot ngayong Pasko dahil sigurado akong pinanood at iniyakan mo lahat ng Christmas ads ng Uber, Selecta, at Coke. Magdala ng isang box ng tissues.

Dahil ang Pasko ay para sa mga bata, isama ang buong pamilya at manood na kayo. Now na. Tapos group hug kayo after. Merry Christmas!! 😊

 

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2. DIE BEAUTIFUL (Jun Lana, 2016) – ★★★★★

Nakakatuwang makatikim ng isang matalinong comedy sa MMFF. Yung nakakatawa ang mga linya at patok sa masa kahit wala ni isang karakter na nahuhulog galing sa bubungan.

Mas nakakatuwa na ang ganitong klaseng produkto ay tinatangkilik ngayon ng mga manonood (puno ang sinehan nung screening namin sa GB3). Pwede naman pala. Kaya naman pala.

Ang talento ni Paolo Ballesteros sa pelikulang ito ay directly proportional sa kanyang kagandahan bilang Trisha Echevarria. Ang husay! Hindi rin nagpakabog si Christian Bables na napakagaling bilang si BFF Barbs. #FriendshipGoals talaga sila. Sana masungkit nila ang Lead at Supporting Actor trophies.

Nuod na mga bes!! 😊

 

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3. SEKLUSYON (Erik Matti, 2016) – ★★★★☆

Sobrang nanghihinayang ako sa pelikulang ito dahil mas maganda pa sana siya kung marunong lamang umarte ang apat na deacons lalo na si Ronnie Alonte.

Ang husay ng technical aspects mula sa production hanggang sound design. Mahirap makalimutan ang lahat ng religious imagery na ginamit dito. Mahusay din ang direksyon para sa isang kakaibang Pinoy horror movie.

Ito talaga ang perfect anti-Christmas movie ngayong taon. Hahamunin kang mag-isip tungkol sa katatagan ng iyong pananampalataya.

 

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4. ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2: #FOREVERISNOTENOUGH (Marlon Rivera, 2016) – ★★★★☆

Para sa katulad kong napanood na ata lahat ng Pinoy rom-com at kabisado na ang Star Cinema formula, natawa ako sobra sa pagka-brutal ng pelikulang ito. Bugbog na bugbog ang mainstream filmmaking at escapism in cinema. Walang sinanto katulad ng ginawa nila sa indie filmmaking at poverty porn doon sa unang pelikula.

Awakening talaga ito ni Eugene Domingo. Amoy na amoy ko na naman ang deserving na panalo as Best Actress. Sa three levels of hugot pa lang niya, sulit na ang bayad.

Magaling din si Jericho Rosales bilang Jericho Rosales. May self-awareness ang pagka-plakado bilang rom-com leading man. Naalala ko tuloy si Jaclyn Jose dun sa film within a film ng Tuhog.

Medyo off lang yung abrupt shift in tone dahil sa love story ni Kean Cipriano (na isiningit to ground the film). Pero totoong hinika ako kakatawa hanggang sa pinakahuling sequence. Waging-wagi!!

 

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5. SAVING SALLY (Avid Liongoren, 2016) – ★★★☆☆

Gusto kong tumira sa makulay na mundo ni Marty kahit puno sya ng mga monsters dahil gusto ko makita ang Warner Barberos at Sandara Park. Naalala ko tuloy ang fantasy element ng Scott Pilgrim Vs The World dito.

Nakakakilig at bagay ang tambalang Enzo Marcos at Rhian Ramos. Sana lamang hindi sila Ingles magsalita kasi medyo off para sa akin. Ang hirap lubos na ma-feel ng story dahil sa coniotic speak (ironic ba?). Para lang akong napadaan ulit sa THE Ateneo conyo bench sa labas ng caf. Higad na lang ang kulang para makumpleto ang experience.

“You wanted mayhem, war, and chaos, but isn’t that what love is all about?” Tumpak!!

 

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6. ORO (Alvin Yapan, 2016) – ★★★☆☆

Nag-flashback sa akin ang mga naunang seasons ng American Horror Story sa mga tilted frames na parang see-saw sa pagpapalit-palit. Parang weighing scale na mahirap hanapan ng balanse.

Maganda ang mensahe ng pelikula bilang environmental drama. Malaman ang sinasabi at mabigat sa mga metaphors at symbolisms. May bonus pa na supernatural element (na hindi ko nagustuhan sa Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian pero pasok sa banga sa An Kubo Sa Kawayanan).

Palaban si Irma Adlawan (lagi naman eh). Tindig at upo pa lang naniniwala na akong siya talaga si Kapitana. Sana lang hindi reactionary ang halos lahat ng kanyang eksena kasi siya ang totoong ginto ng pelikula.

 

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7. VINCE & KATH & JAMES (Theodore Boborol, 2016) – ★★☆☆☆

Walang bago maliban sa mga artista. Pinagtagpi-tagping cliches na napanood na natin sa mga dating rom-coms. Hindi rin naman masyadong na-utilize ang textserye origins niya. Halos nakumpleto niya ang checklist ng Star Cinema formula na kinukutya sa Septic Tank 2. Sunset lang ang kulang.

May natural charm itong si Joshua Garcia. Magaling siya dun sa confrontation scene nila ni Ina Raymundo, parang early John Lloyd. Akala ko maiirita ako kay Julia Barretto dito kaya nagulat ako na maayos naman siya, parang early Ate Clau.

Kinilig ang mga teenagers na kasabay kong nanuod. Masyado na ata akong matanda para sa ganitong genre.

 

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8. KABISERA (Arturo San Agustin, Real Florido, 2016) – ★★☆☆☆

Maganda sana dahil napapanahon ang tema nito tungkol sa extrajudicial killings ngunit hindi maayos ang pagkakalahad ng kwento.

Parang binigyan ang bawat artista ng kanyang sariling dramatic highlight para magpakitang-gilas kaya lahat sila eh three notches higher ang akting. Maliban kay Nora Aunor, parang hindi na mabibigyan ng susunod na project ang supporting cast kaya bigay todo na sa pag-ngawa kahit hindi naman kelangan sa eksena.

Ang daming mga bagay na parang walang sense at pinahaba lamang para mapuno ang two hour requirement. Mas mabuti pa yata kung ginawa na lamang siyang episode ng MMK.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. PAOLO BALLESTEROS (Die Beautiful)

2. JOSHUA GARCIA (Vince & Kath & James)
3. JOEM BASCON (Oro)
4. ENZO MARCOS (Saving Sally)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. EUGENE DOMINGO (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
2. IRMA ADLAWAN (Oro)
3. NORA AUNOR (Kabisera)
4. RHIAN RAMOS (Saving Sally)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. CHRISTIAN BABLES (Die Beautiful)

2. LOU VELOSO (Seklusyon)
3. JERICHO ROSALES (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
4. NEIL RYAN SESE (Seklusyon)
5. LOU VELOSO (Die Beautiful)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. RHED BUSTAMANTE (Seklusyon)
2. PHOEBE WALKER (Seklusyon)
3. MERCEDES CABRAL (Oro)
4. MIMI JUAREZA (Die Beautiful)
5. GLADYS REYES (Die Beautiful)
6. SUE PRADO (Oro)
7. CAI CORTEZ (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)

Until next year!!

Cinemalaya 2016 Scorecard

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After a one year hiatus for feature length films (with only shorts shown last year), expectations (mine, especially) were really high for this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. Its theme of “Break the Surface” and hilariously brutal ad (“Gusto mo ba ng iba?”) further added to the hype and excitement.

I was happy that several films this year tried to be different, even if some failed in execution. This year’s selections didn’t reach the highs of 2012, but it was nice to see that they were polarizing at best. People’s opinions varied greatly and generated a lot of discussions. And regardless of differing standpoints, everyone agreed on one thing: that we have some of the finest actors and actresses (both ingenues and veterans) in the entire world.

With that said, here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Feature-Length Film

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1. TUOS (Derick Cabrido) – ★★★★★

Napakahusay!!

A lot of people will get turned off by the dream-like narrative of Tuos, which included deeply-rooted Pinoy folklore, breaking traditions, a tribal dance by La Aunor, gorgeous animation set to Banaue Miclat’s haunting voice, and a hung tikbalang. I was just enthralled.

Is it even possible to upstage THE Superstar? Well, Barbie Forteza just did. Such a talented young actress!!

 

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2. PAMILYA ORDINARYO (Eduardo Roy, Jr.) – ★★★★☆

Gritty, filthy, and riveting. It needed a bit of trimming, but had solid performances from the entire ensemble.

Loved the deafening silence of the CCTV shots that always served as a witness to an ongoing crime.

Hasmine Killip was a revelation. Ang bigat sa dibdib (pun intended) ng eksena sa police station. Grabe lang.

Was the cardboard sex scene a nod to Kuya Coco Martin’s dirty copulation scene in Serbis?

“Hindi porket bakla mabuting tao.” Best line in the film. And probably in this year’s festival.

 

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3. MERCURY IS MINE (Jason Paul Laxamana) – ★★★★☆

An enjoyably weird ride that unfortunately went off the rails in its final twenty minutes.

I loved the screenplay because it didn’t try too hard to be funny. It also hit the jackpot with Pokwang who was truly phenomenal here.

Bret Jackson finally gave a decent performance. He had an easygoing charm that suited the role and (please don’t scoff) actually reminded me of a manic Leonardo DiCaprio.

Overall, this was a definite crowd-pleaser and I wouldn’t be surprised if it snagged the Audience Choice award.

 

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4. HIBLANG ABO (Ralston Jover) – ★★☆☆☆

At times, it felt like I was an old man wasting away on my deathbed. Sigh.

Looked like an experiment of techniques, but I liked the chemistry among the four veteran leads (Lou Veloso was exceptional).

 

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5. KUSINA (Cenon Palomares, David Corpuz) – ★★☆☆☆

Thank heavens for Judy Ann Santos since this dish went cold and sour really quick.

It felt like a Film student fell in love with Dogville and then staged his own high school production.

 

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6. DAGSIN (Atom Magadia) – ★★☆☆☆

Like The Notebook turned Philippine History lesson. Tedious and thirty minutes overlong.

It was hard to fully appreciate the fine performance of Tommy Abuel when I was trying not to giggle lest I wake up the sleeping people.

Benjamin Alves acts very much like Piolo Pascual, no?

 

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7. ANG BAGONG PAMILYA NI PONCHING (Inna Salazar Acuna, Dos Ocampo) – ★★☆☆☆

It only worked because of the wonderful (and woefully underrated) Janus del Prado. I liked the sweet little moments with Lola Ludivina, but the rest of the (family) cast, especially Tita Arianna, were just terrible.

For such a rich family, they didn’t have a lot to do except lounge around in their sala or kitchen, no? Too gullible pa.

At least it made me crave for the natural oiliness of Ludy’s Peanut Butter. Is it still available in supermarkets?

 

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8. I AMERICA (Ivan Andrew Payawal) – ★★☆☆☆

Like The Comeback, this one just couldn’t decide on the right tone. Except for the funny opening audition, the rest just strained for laughs and tears. Carabao English just doesn’t cut it anymore.

So Olongapo is a place where crushed dreams get brushed off and serious problems just magically disappear. Great.

I also couldn’t understand the choice of the shaky cam. The last fifteen minutes were really brutal to the eyes.

 

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9. LANDO AT BUGOY (Vic Acedillo, Jr.) – ★★☆☆☆

Nothing made sense to me. Badly needed reshoots, too.

I felt really bad for Allen Dizon because he tried his best to salvage something that was dead on arrival.

RIP.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. LOU VELOSO (Hiblang Abo)
2. TOMMY ABUEL (Dagsin)
3. JANUS DEL PRADO (Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching)
4. RONWALDO MARTIN (Pamilya Ordinaryo)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. BARBIE FORTEZA (Tuos)
2. POKWANG (Mercury is Mine)
3. NORA AUNOR (Tuos)
4. HASMINE KILLIP (Pamilya Ordinaryo)
5. JUDY ANN SANTOS (Kusina)

*Special Mention: CHAI FONACIER (Get Certified)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. NANDING JOSEF (Hiblang Abo)
2. MATT DACLAN (Hiblang Abo)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. LOTLOT DE LEON (Dagsin)
2. ELIZABETH OROPESA (I America)

 

Best Short Film
1. FOREVER NATIN (Cyrus Valdez) – ★★★★★

Forever Natin was such a realistically honest depiction of a lesbian relationship. It broke my heart into a million tiny pieces. I just wish the sound was much better.

2. FISH OUT OF WATER (Mon Garilao) – ★★★★☆

My other fave in this group was the technically impressive Fish Out of Water, about a Filipino-Korean boy trying to find his space and purpose in a foreign homeland. It was alienating in the best possible sense.

3. PEKTUS (Isabel Quesada) – ★★★★☆

I did like the frantic Pektus and its impeccable cast of character actors (Nonie Buencamino, among others). Malinis ang pagkakagawa, including the subtitles. It made me look forward to the director’s future full-length feature.

4. GET CERTIFIED (Isaias Zantua) – ★★★☆☆

The brilliant Chai Fonacier made me look forward to the afterlife in Get Certified. All the craziness in the film (including Hitler as hell’s version of San Pedro) just couldn’t keep up with its star.

5. NAKAUWI NA (John Relano, Patrick Baleros, Luis Hidalgo) – ★★★☆☆

Nakauwi Na would’ve been more effective if I didn’t see the same theme in Cheska Salangsang’s Saanman Ngunit Dito, shown during this year’s CineFilipino. Made me wonder if I still had all of my old mix tapes.

6. BUGTAW (Noah del Rosario) – ★★☆☆☆

The animation-infused Bugtaw only got interesting towards the end, when fantasy and reality started to meld.

7. ANG HAPON NI NANDING (Milo Tolentino) – ★★☆☆☆

Ang Hapon ni Nanding was the story of a latent homosexual finding solace in the company of an orphan with a broken neck. It also made me want to break all sorts of furniture for attention.

8. ANG MAANGAS, ANG MARIKIT, AT ANG MAKATA (Ibarra Guballa) – ★★☆☆☆

Ang Maangas, Ang Marikit, at Ang Makata was over-the-top silly and not in a good way. It involved crazy dancing, double entendre harana, and fake wooden machetes. Not my cup of bourbon.

9. BUTAS (Richard Cawed) – ★★☆☆☆

Although it had good intentions (a tribute to Benguet miners) and had its heart on its sleeve, Butas reminded me so much of that local broadsheet’s ad shown before the actual movie. All it needed in the end was a copy of the front page.

10. MANSYONG PAPEL (Ogos Aznar) – ★★☆☆☆

Mansyong Papel was saved by the menacing performance of Odette (O-deht, not Oh-det) Khan. The story was a complete mess, just like the subtitles. How heavy was the three hundred million in cash and who was that terrible actress that played the daughter?

Until next year!!

ANINO SA LIKOD NG BUWAN (Jun Lana, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!! (Also: Rated R-18)

My notes on Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan:

1. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a big favor. Stop reading this, head over to the nearest cinema, and watch this two-hour one-take achievement in local filmmaking. You can thank me later.

2. I was greatly reminded of two things while watching. The first was Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina, a visual feast with its moving sets and changing backdrops all within the confines of a theater. This one had the exact same feel, although it was limited to just one camera moving around in a tiny hut. Everything was expertly-staged and it had to be because there wasn’t a lot of room for errors (I could only imagine how frustrating it would have been to keep reshooting if major flubs were committed).

This type of staging also supported the oftentimes theatrical cadences and lyrical dialogue (one character’s description of another: “Lubog ang mata, humpak ang pisngi, ang mga linya sa mata niya na tila bahay ng gagamba”, which was exactly how I would describe myself before breakfast).

3. With just a few choice words (“walang kuryente”, “walang tubig”, “kamote ulit”, “nakaw na sardinas”, “sobrang init”), it quickly established its setting in treacherous ’90s Marag Valley (also known as “No Man’s Land” in Kalinga-Apayao). The battle between the military and the rebels placed the land in such a depressing state that one character actually felt relieved that his wife had a miscarriage, rather than watch their baby die of hunger. Now I would always remember that before complaining about something as petty as EDSA traffic.

4. Farmer Nardo (Anthony Falcon) kept saying the line “Wag mong gagalawin ang asawa ko. Akin yan!” that it all but guaranteed wife Emma (LJ Reyes) and bantay-salakay soldier/friend Joel (Luis Alandy) hooking up in that now notorious 10-minute graphic sex scene (even in black and white though, I could have sworn that Luis used plaster; don’t ask).

But really, if there were only three actors and two of them had full frontal nudity, whatever happened to solidarity? We could have easily judged who had the bigger ari. (Also, I take everything that Mo Twister says with a grain of salt so…)

5. I could still remember LJ as a Starstruck Survivor trying her best to squeeze out the tears in that drama workshop under Gina Alajar so that she wouldn’t be replaced by an Avenger (Starstruck, not Marvel) in the weekly eliminations. Well, this fearless Urian winner had definitely gone a long way. She was just amazing here, to say the least (even better than when I last saw her in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Juego de Peligro).

If I remembered correctly, in the entire two hours, she only blatantly tripped during the “puke at mga suso” line, but then who wouldn’t (again, one-take, no cuts)? Even her cunnilingus aria was spectacular. Brava!

6. Similar to Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe, I really liked the inclusion of a local mystical creature in the discussion. Nothing else could describe the horrors of that time like a homegrown kapre. To quote one character, “Sino ba talaga ang kaaway?”.

7. Oh, the other thing that I was reminded of was the FX TV show The Americans with its smart take on spies, lies, double crosses, deceit, and even unrequited love.

8. “Lahat tayo ay mga baliw na nagpapanggap na may katinuan sa pag-iisip.”

9. It was funny that after the final scene when the screen faded to black, nobody stood up and left because we were all expecting an end credits sequence. Waiting for it, though, was like waiting for a redemption that will never come.

Rating: ★★★★★

MA’ ROSA (Brillante Mendoza, 2016)

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My notes on Ma’ Rosa:

1. The film opened with Rosa (Jaclyn Jose) hoarding what seemed to be packs of Ri-Chee and other chichirya for her small sari-sari store. Similar to that weird sweet milk snack, Brillante Mendoza’s oeuvre would definitely be an acquired taste. As always, expect your senses to be assaulted by the headache-inducing shaky cam and the palpable stench of Manila’s esteros emanating from the screen. As a sucker for poverty porn (that had been getting a bad rap in the local indie scene) and Mendoza’s cinema verite style of filmmaking, I absolutely loved the entire experience. Ri-Chee, not so much.

2. I have always wondered why vendors give candy in lieu of actual change ever since I was given a sukli of Juicy Fruit gum. Is this just a Pinoy thing? (Also, my OCD self really hates butal.)

3. Much had been said about Jaclyn’s brilliant final scene (seriously, that had to be the saddest fishball moment ever), but I really loved how un-Jaclyn she was here. Before she went crazy over-the-top in her recent kabit movies and loony teleseryes, I usually associated her performance with the one parodied in Jeffrey Jeturian’s Tuhog where she talked in this seemingly lazy monotone like a drugged diva who didn’t really care much about performing.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved her type of non-acting acting, but in this film, her performance just felt more…alive. Every dialogue and curse word that came out of her potty mouth sounded true and I felt the dread of being part of her doomed family.

4. Is there a President Duterte biopic in the works? Please consider this Cannes-winning treasure. (Speaking of, I loved how timely this film was considering the recent drug busts happening everywhere in the metro.)

5. Who was the kid that played one of Rosa’s sons and looked like a cross between JM de Guzman and Rainier Castillo? Where have I seen him before?

6. Considering the grim subject matter, I enjoyed the little bits of humor thrown in whether it was Rosa asking the policemen for load to call her supplier, or her husband Nestor (Julio Diaz, effectively understated as always) getting mocked for looking good in a lieutenant’s uniform, or Racquel’s (Andi Eigenmann) description of her mom as someone who looked like her but with humongous breasts, and even the intentional (?) Pare Ko videoke homage to Mark Anthony Fernandez (as one of the corrupt cops).

7. When Rosa uttered the line, “Sir, hindi kami puwedeng makulong kasi mahirap lang kami”, I felt like I was in the middle of a fender bender with a reckless jeepney driver sheepishly scratching his head while looking at the damage that he caused. (Not being elitist, but still…)

8. I was fascinated with the treatment of the gay characters here. One was a young boy wearing his Little Miss Trouble shirt constantly called fag (in a non-derogatory Pinoy way, if there ever was such a thing) and being one of the boys/cops as they celebrated their extortion bounty over lechon manok and San Mig Light (that he was tasked to buy naturally) and later on caught trying to steal a suspect’s cellphone. Another one was a pony-tailed server with heavy make-up and a masculine voice (maybe he wasn’t gay and I was just being judgmental?) who blatantly lied about his boss’ whereabouts. The last was Allan Paule as a benefactor easily fooled by the whims of his needy and manipulative beh. Should this be considered progressive cinema or a sad reality of our society? (Or both?)

And for the curious minds, this was a Mendoza film with Allan Paule playing another gay stereotype so of course, there was a gay sex scene. (Oh, the irony!)

9. Do you still remember Maria Isabel Lopez stealing the scene on the Cannes red carpet with an Albert Andrada emerald dress? She did the exact same thing here while wearing a daster (I think) and spewing profanities and she was nothing short of amazing. This woman was the epitome of the word eksenadora.

10. If you had completely lost faith in our corrupt criminal justice system and think that policemen rank second on the list of most annoying reptiles in Malabon Zoo, this one definitely wouldn’t help change your mind. Reality sucks.

Rating: ★★★★★

LES MISÉRABLES (MANILA) (Laurence Connor, James Powell, 2016)

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My notes on Les Misérables (Manila):

1. Forget Tom Hooper’s movie version. His penchant for constant close-ups diminished the power and raw emotion of every scene in this great musical that really belonged onstage. This London production held at The Theater at Solaire was an aural and visual spectacle that wasn’t limited by acamera’s single perspective. It was a complete joy to watch and definitely something that I wanted to see again as soon as the show ended.

2. Simon Gleeson who played Jean Valjean hit all the right emotional notes and I was close to tears after his excellent, falsetto-filled take on Bring Him Home. You could feel the intensity of his performance with every laway that flew towards the audience. I felt blessed to have been sprayed by spittles of greatness. Weirdly enough, he looked like Russell Crowe so it felt a bit disorienting when he came out with a full beard and started singing Valjean’s lines.

3. My favorite performance though was by Earl Carpenter who played Javert. He had a commanding stance and a distinct voice that made you question if he was being too moralistic or just simply tragic. I was really curious how the production would stage his suicide scene (I really thought they would use a trapdoor) and I have to say that I was in awe and almost stood up from my seat during that scene.

4. Rachelle Ann Go was great as well and this would just be pure nitpicking but I would have wanted more power from her voice. Sure, she was dying from tuberculosis (and her dreams getting crushed), but I was really expecting an emotional wallop and that I’d be crying in a fetal position in my seat after I Dreamed a Dream. In terms of her acting though, she was just amazing.

5. The rest of the cast were fine enough (loved Little Cossette and Gavroche) although I would have wanted a stronger Marius and a better Enjolras. A lot of people cheered for the latter during the curtain call and I thought that it was more out of his good looks than his all-preen, slightly sintunado performance.

6. The moving (and sometimes spinning) set pieces were a joy to watch. The barricade was just what I expected and the explosive battle scene didnEponine’t disappoint. The use of the big screen during the sewer scene was also commendable. Sulit ang bayad sa production design pa lang.

7. Prayers for Eponine, the Patron Saint of the Friendzoned. Her love story was so tragic that she wasn’t even able to kiss her true love before she died. If you think your lovelife’s cursed, you really need to see this musical.

8. If I ever had to audition in any barangay competition, I would choose the Thenardiers’ Master of the House. It was such a delight to watch and sing along to. Plus, I loved their characters.

9. There were some minor technical issues during the show (mics not turned on, props falling), but the most obvious one was when Valjean fired a faux warning shot at Javert and there was a recoil motion of the rifle even without a sound. Valjean had to shoot another time before the popping sound happened. I wonder what their Plan C was if the sound still didn’t come out.

10. The convergence of voices in One Day More was enough to give you goosebumps for days. And that was just the last song of the first act. A truly wonderful experience!

Rating: ★★★★★

CineFilipino Short Films – Set A (2016)

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Shorts A had a really fine line-up that started with the great OKTOPUS by JP Habac. It was a bittersweet take on growing old filled with old people beliefs, superstitions, and ruminations on life. It starred an excellent cast of local veteran character actresses (Vangie Labalan, Ruby Ruiz, Flora Gasser) that in the end left a powerful dare (“Minsan lang po kayo matanda”).

KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE by Galileo Sioco Te and Prime Cruz was a refreshing take on a futuristic world where memories were sold and companies created a new breed of domestic helpers and caregivers. The mother-daughter bond established at the start was so strong (with great performances from its leads) that it made the big reveal even more heartbreaking. I wish they were able to fix the blatant dubbing concerns, otherwise this was a really great effort. (And I just could not stop singing that song!)

With Dayang Asu and now DIGPAN NING ALTI, Bor Ocampo has clearly established a specialty on the dog-eat-dog theme. Except for the (intentional?) non-matching perspectives, it was a well-shot, gritty film that would make you want to see what came after the prologue. I especially loved the scene where the camera was possibly mounted on a bike going downhill (signaling the current state of its characters’ lives).

John Rhys Guarina’s KATOK opened with a powerful image: that of a young boy tied and blindfolded in a cramped back of a van. It was later revealed that he was part of a group begging for money and his sad life was filled with the constant knocks on windows of both vehicle owners and his syndicate’s owner. It was a short that clearly delivered its message.

My favorite short film of the festival was easily SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO by Cheska Salangsang. It was a heartbreaking story about a childless couple doing a constant trek and their conversations revealed their sadness, disappointments (“Masama ba tayong tao?”), and a glimmer of hope. I would have personally wanted it to end without the voiceover and just the chilling final shot that was open to interpretation, but it was an excellent short nonetheless.

LUNA by Rae Red was a sad tale of a girl already trying to fit in and be accepted. And then she got her period and her gender identity struggle was fully revealed. Interesting for the most part, but I would have wanted to see (and feel) more.

Ratings:

OKTOPUS (JP Habac) – ★★★★★
KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE (Galileo Sioco Te and Prime Reyes) – ★★★★☆
DIGPAN NING ALTI (Bor Ocampo) – ★★★★☆
KATOK (John Rhys Guarina) – ★★★★☆
SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO (Cheska Salangsang) – ★★★★★
LUNA (Rae Red) – ★★★☆☆

CineFilipino Short Films – Set B (2016)

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A short film should be able to engage its audience and relay its story and/or message within a limited time span. With that said, CineFilipino’s Shorts B was a bit of a disappointment.

Milo Tolentino’s AKI was over before it even started. It was so short (probably a good thirty seconds) that I actually thought I was still watching the omnibus festival trailer. The opening shot was gorgeous, but it didn’t really amount to anything. Please tell me that was just a system glitch. 

Kenneth Mandrilla’s PUNLA had hints of The Returned, but it actually turned into a typical ghost/soul story. The chirping of the birds was louder than the actual dialogue that I had to rely on the subtitles to understand what the characters were saying. It tried to be sentimental in the end, but I didn’t really cared much about the kids (played by newbies, so the acting wasn’t that good).

Carl Chavez’s NOT APPLICABLE was a clear warning for call center agents to get enough sleep and take a much-needed vacation after an endless night of phone calls. Its attempt to be silly was fine, if only it was at least funny. The actress with the heavy make-up, 6 chunky bangles on one arm, and a frilly pink belt was no match for the ferocious turn of chubby Ate who finished two cake slices in one sitting. One scene had this really corny dialogue:

Muk-up Girl: “May iniwan si tatay?” (referring to recently deceased father)

Chubby Ate: “Yan!” (pointing at table)

MUG: “Yung cake?”

*groan*

Let’s not even discuss that faux chainsaw with the unfinished silver paint.

You could smell the twist(s) in Jasper Ramon Tulabot’s CHICBOY after the first minute, but it still didn’t take away the fact that it was incredibly funny. I would have wanted a toned-down performance from its lead actor to match the perfectly natural acting of Rona Mae Lallana (so good as the one-night stand partner). Still, the film was a hoot and achieved its goal of shocking its audience while making them laugh out really loud.

Allison Barretto’s XXX was the most polished one in the group, effectively creeping out its viewers through jump cuts and relentless voiceovers. It was about a disgraced seamstress turned beauty queen whose entire life story unfolded through radio announcements. The final shot will haunt people and make them think long after they have trooped out of the theater.

Ratings:

AKI (Milo Tolentino) – ★☆☆☆☆

PUNLA (Kenneth Mandrilla) – ★★☆☆☆

NOT APPLICABLE (Carl Chavez) – ★★☆☆☆

CHICBOY (Jasper Ramon Tulabot) – ★★★★☆

XXX (Allison Barretto) – ★★★★★

 

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