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The Spotless Mind

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

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Cinemalaya 2017 Scorecard

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I wasn’t surprised that the general consensus on this year’s line-up was that of disappointment. One friend made a joke that Cinemalaya seemed to be a festival of diminishing returns. Majority of the selections this year would have a tough time disproving that thought.

Luckily though, there would always be a gem (or two) that’d restore your faith and make you believe that even with a limited budget and lack of big stars, our talented local indie filmmakers could create quality films that deserved our continued support.

Here’s my #Cinemalaya2017 festival scorecard:

Best Feature-Length Film

1. KIKO BOKSINGERO (Thop Nazareno) – ★★★★★

2. RESPETO (Alberto Monteras II) – ★★★★☆

3. NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento) – ★★★☆☆
4. BAGAHE (Zig Dulay) – ★★★☆☆

5. BACONAUA (Joseph Israel Laban) – ★★☆☆☆
6. SA GABING NANAHIMIK ANG MGA KULIGLIG (Iar Arondaing) – ★★☆☆☆
7. ANG PAMILYANG DI LUMULUHA (Mes de Guzman) – ★★☆☆☆

8. REQUITED (Nerissa Picadizo) – ★☆☆☆☆
9. ANG GURO KONG ‘DI MARUNONG MAGBASA (Perry Escaño) – ★☆☆☆☆

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. NOEL COMIA, JR. (Kiko Boksingero)
2. ABRA (Respeto)

*Special Mention: RONWALDO MARTIN (Sorry for the Inconvenience)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. ANGELI BAYANI (Bagahe)
2. GINA ALAJAR (Nabubulok)
3. ELORA ESPAÑO (Baconaua)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. DIDO DELA PAZ (Respeto)
2. YUL SERVO (Kiko Boksingero)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. YAYO AGUILA (Kiko Boksingero)
2. CHAI FONACIER (Respeto)
3. MOI BIEN (Ang Pamilyang Di Lumuluha)
4. THERESE MALVAR (Baconaua)
5. RACQUEL VILLAVICENCIO (Bagahe)

Best Short Film

1. SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE (Carl Adrian Chavez) – ★★★★☆

2. HILOM (P.R. Patindol) – ★★★☆☆
3. MARIA (JP Habac) – ★★★☆☆
4. FATIMA MARIE TORRES AND THE INVASION OF SPACE SHUTTLE PINAS 25 (Carlo Francisco) – ★★★☆☆
5. LOLA LOLENG (Che Tagyamon) – ★★★☆☆

6. NAKAW (Arvin Belarmino, Noel Escondo) – ★★☆☆☆
7. BAWOD (TM Malones) – ★★☆☆☆
8. ISLABODAN (Juan Carlo Tarobal) – ★★☆☆☆
9. JUANA AND THE SACRED SHORES (Antonne Santiago) – ★★☆☆☆
10. ALIENS ATA (Glenn Barit) – ★★☆☆☆
11. MANONG NG PA-ALING (E. del Mundo) – ★★☆☆☆

12. NAKAUWI NA (Marvin Cabangunay, Jaynus Olaivar) – ★☆☆☆☆

Until next year!!

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MANO PO 7: CHINOY (Ian Loreños, 2016)

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My notes on Mano Po 7: Chinoy:

1. ‪I learned two Chinese words in college that would appropriately describe my viewing experience of this movie. Yes, both are nasty curse words.

I suddenly missed the glory days of Regal Films when it rightfully earned that crown in its bright red “R” logo (shown in their ’90s OBB that resembled a horror movie) and it wasn’t reliant on a tired franchise that just seemed to get worse with every new sequel. Seriously, the Mano Po series would be no different from an inaamag na tikoy.‬

2. I had high hopes for this one since Ian Loreños directed one of my favorite films of 2012, the father-son drama slash human trafficking cautionary tale Alagwa. I remember sobbing hysterically by the end of that movie and taking a mental note that I would never leave any child unattended ever. It was that powerful. I wondered what happened with this one. The only reason I could think of was that it was rushed to ensure a slot in the MMFF. Such a waste of talent.

3. For a Chinoy movie, there was nothing distinctly Chinoy about the problems of this family. The stories here could very well have been another family drama with all-Pinoy characters directed by Laurice Guillen.

It was a disaster from the moment Enchong Dee (as the black sheep) made a grand entrance in his parents’ 25th anniversary party. That scene was no different from the first Mano Po with Ara Mina disrupting the engagement party of sister Maricel Soriano by showing up in a backless dress with the cut dropping all the way to her butt crack (that’s how you do it, Enchong).

4. Good news: At least we didn’t get actors donning exaggerated chinky eyes and speaking in weird Chinoy accents that bordered on being racist.

Bad news: Except for the veteran greats like Jean Garcia (looking very much like the lovely Michelle Yeoh) and Eric Quizon (such an underrated actor), the rest of the Chinoy cast seemed to have been chosen because they looked the part even if they couldn’t act the part.

The worst offender was Sir Chief Richard Yap who only displayed two types of emotions in the entire movie: furious with matching nanlilisik na mata and shocked with matching nanlilisik na mata. He displayed more range playing the chef in that Chowking commercial.

5. Rose Po Que? Really? Didn’t these Chinese name jokes peak during the Bubble Gang era?

6. Sir Chief’s character was supposed to be cold and uptight because he had a damaged childhood. His mother was so strict that she wouldn’t let him play in the street with the other kids. In effect, he wouldn’t let his wife join him in bed without cleaning up first after a long day at work. But wait, wasn’t that the first rule of hygiene regardless?

7. Several scenes were spent on the rehab love story between Enchong and Jessy Mendiola (who probably watched Girl, Interrupted several times before taking on the role) but it really had no weight on the story, except to assert his masculinity and dismiss all the gay rumors.

8. I would probably go crazy the next time I see a board meeting where somebody would be presenting a pitch like “The higher the risk, the higher the reward” and everyone would be nodding their heads and smiling like it was Confucius talking and they were just blessed with his wisdom.

9. You knew immediately that Jake Cuenca’s character would be a villain because he looked so sleazy in a man bun. Besides, why would a customer like him confide to a Miladay jeweller like Jean after his fiancee broke up with him? Sabagay, kapag malungkot din ako ang unang tinatawagan ko ay ang alahera ng nanay ko.

10. I wouldn’t have been too harsh on this movie if there weren’t so many groan-worthy scenes (Enchong running after his father’s car while saying “Papa!”, Jake’s breakdown scene in the car, Enchong wailing in a van with an overdosed Jessy, “Gumising ka! Lumaban ka naman oh! Waaaah!”, Janella Salvador hugging Jean from behind and saying “Mama, don’t go!”, Marlo Mortel punching a maniac professor while screaming “We will report you and sue you for harassment!!”, and Sir Chief asking his estranged wife to dance as a gift to his daughter). Very much like airplanes, cinema seats should be equipped with barf bags, no?

11. In one scene, Sir Chief was jogging around Nuvali. He suddenly stopped and bent over and I really thought for a moment that it would turn out to be an ad for Flanax (he ended up having a Ventosa).

12. Bakit wala yun bunso sa Taiwan family trip? Kinulang sa budget?

13. Two hours and the movie still didn’t want to end. Siao siao!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE CONJURING 2 (James Wan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Conjuring 2:

1. My love for horror films started during the Betamax (the videotape, not the blood gelatin) days. I think that with all the years of watching scary movies, I became desensitized to all imaginable frightening or shocking scenes, any jump scares, or just about everything that could startle a normal viewer. Sometimes I even just watched them to hear people scream their lungs out.

There have been quite a few recent good ones (e.g. Insidious) that made me double check the foot of my bed before going to sleep. The rest were just fun popcorn movies best enjoyed in a packed theater. This sequel fell in the latter category.

2. Director James Wan actually used the exact same template for this sequel that it felt like a retread of the original: a stand-alone opening story ripe for a spin-off (Annabelle in the first, Amityville here), the (re)introduction of the Warrens, a family of young kids (mostly female) with a strong maternal figure living in a haunted house and tormented by evil spirits, strong religious overtones, a demonic possession and a final climactic exorcism. In case it wasn’t obvious enough, he also brought back a spinning music box. Oh, and he borrowed the tent in The Sixth Sense (and most of the cliches in The Exorcist).

There was nothing wrong with sticking to a formula that worked (especially since he delivered on the promised scares), but one could still wish for a talented director like him to bring out something fresh to the old and tired horror genre.

3. I really liked how the camera moved to perfectly build up tension (swooping above and below characters, inside and outside rooms, around a central character, etc.) My favorite sequence (aside from that great transition from night to a rainy day) had to be the one where Janet (the talented Madison Wolfe) locked the door using a chair and it suddenly appeared next to her bed. The succeeding fake-outs (sister telling her nothing’s wrong, mother tearing up the Ouija board) and resulting scares (shaking bed, moving drawer) elicited the needed fear. It was perfectly capped off with the hilarious scene of the entire family running to a neighbor’s house.

4. For every genuine scare though (girl speaking in a different voice, old man’s reflection on the basement water), there were those that fell completely flat (the entire dog/Crooked Man sequence, the dragging Sister Marilyn Manson painting bit) or just plain bizarre (Patrick Wilson had a good voice but what was that Can’t Help Falling in Love sing-along?, also the I Started a Joke song was really off considering the building terror). If there was one song that upped the creepy factor, it was Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (this Christmas hymn will never sound the same way again).

5. Way too long especially for a horror flick. They could have easily chucked the entire Warrens plot and it would not have made a difference, but then again they would lose the needed star power (Wilson being the Kris Aquino of Hollywood horror). Also, that faux danger scene involving Ed Warren was exciting only if you never Googled his story after the first movie (he couldn’t die because he lived until the late 2000’s).

6. The scene where Janet tied her arms on the bed brought back a sad childhood memory. As a kid, I had severe asthma-related skin allergies and I usually woke up with huge scratch marks on my legs. To prevent this from happening while I was asleep, I used a blanket to tie my wrists on the bed posts (E.L. James, we need to talk). And then I learned about Caladryl and the rest was history.

7. I completely understood the old man’s fury whenever someone touched his remote. I always turned into that old man, especially when a favorite show was about to start and I still couldn’t find it. The only difference was that he wore dentures making less successful bite marks on his victims. My chunky front teeth could easily tear another person’s arm off.

Speaking of, was this the first movie where a ghost actually had pustiso? Even the great Lilia Cuntapay only had gums to show because she knew it would be scarier. Imagine her in a nun’s habit standing in the corner of your room. Now that would make a really scary movie.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MR. RIGHT (Paco Cabezas, 2015)

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My notes on Mr. Right:

1. On the Anna Kendrick scale of movies, this one would be closer to Twilight than Up in the Air. In terms of her comedies, it would be on the side of Breaking Dawn, Part 1 rather than Pitch Perfect. I’m sure she has never heard the term pabebe acting (perfected by Kathryn Bernardo in She’s Dating the Gangster), but it seems to have invaded Hollywood as well through her performance as a hyperactive, kooky, childish woman who spoke ten decibels higher than the normal range.

As Martha, she wore Ariana Grande kitty ears, took selfies of her boobs (“They look like a butt!”), dreamt of dating Lex Luthor, and rawred like a T. Rex (“I am a T. Rex! I am invincible!”). It was all too cutesy (no, pa-cute) that I half-expected her to sing the line “Ikaw nga ba ang icing sa ibabaw ng cupcake ko?”.

2. Sam Rockwell had done a lot of offbeat roles and I immediately loved his Mr. Right character as soon as he started dancing Christopher Walken-style during the opening credits. But then he showed up in the next scene with a mosaic Hawaiian shirt (that not even Mayor Atienza would be caught dead wearing) and sky blue slacks and I immediately took back my heart.

3. The scenes that made my blood curdle from the icky pabebe-ness were:

• The meet cute in 7/11 where they bumped into each other and boxes of Trojan condoms flew in the air in slow motion like doves in a John Woo movie

• When Martha and Right had their first date in the park and a sloppy hitman started shooting at them and they ended up faux dancing to avoid the bullets

• Immediately after that scene, they were in matchy-matchy Bitch 1 and Bitch 2 couple shirts (trademarked by Tina Paner and Ramon Christopher) and heart-shaped sunglasses on the way to a club

• That god-awful jumping on the bed scene that came straight out of High School Musical

• A knife-throwing foreplay session (ugh!)

4. I could never eat inside the bathroom (much less the shower) even if it were the tastiest In-N-Out burger. The thought of the toilet staring at me while I chew would be enough to start my heaving. Gross!

5. Britney’s fans would be surprised to see Anson Mount in this movie. He was completely unrecognizable with the shaggy beard. If Brit was not yet a woman in Crossroads, she would definitely be one after she hitchhikes with this new Ben.

6. If anything, the lame but goofy action scenes (and all the gratuitous violence) were a bit fun to watch. To be perfectly honest though, I was rooting for the villains to kill the pabebe couple whose most romantic line in the entire movie was “I feel like I’m in a coma with you.” Shoot, shoot, shoot!

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: ★★★★★

The Best Pinoy Films of 2015

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With the abundance of quality films last year, my biggest challenges involved time and accessibility. The cliche that there were too many movies and too little time had never been more apt. The lack of easy access because of limited theaters or just plain proximity (probably next time QCinema!) obviously didn’t help. Still, I was lucky enough to see some real greats last year.

The list begins after my sorry-not-sorry disclaimer below.

Farewell and thank you 2015!!

(Note: Consider this cover photo and the rest of the pictures my version of Mother’s Lily’s pito-pito films. 😊)

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