THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Through Night and Day:

1. I used to have an Entertainment Weekly subscription when the magazine only cost around Php100 (it’s now priced at Php400!!). One of my favorite film critics there was Lisa Schwarzbaum and although we would usually have opposing views (she had the audacity to call Fight Club “dumb” and even gave it a D grade), I enjoyed her brutal (read: honest) opinions.

I was reminded so much of her Pay It Forward review which she described as a “shameless cliché of emotional and physical damage”. I couldn’t understand her hate back then because I was a sobbing mess by the end of that film. After watching this JaMill in Iceland travelogue turned manipulative tearjerker, I finally got it. Some movies would simply throw in a last minute trope (an accident, death, cancer) that appealed to the most basic sentiments and hope that the audience would equate their reaction of crying to quality. As a sucker for three hankie weepies who would bawl my eyes out while watching a Jollibee Christmas ad, I have had enough of this type of emotional manipulation.

2. The movie started off okay as it followed this annoying couple (Alessandra de Rossi as Jen and Paolo Contis as Ben) who had been together for thirteen years deciding to finally have an out of the country trip. It was supposedly the real test of their relationship (oh just wait until you guys actually lived together) because travelling would bring out the worst in people (as seen in every season with couples in The Amazing Race). Their country of choice was Iceland probably because it was a new destination for a Pinoy romcom and not a lot of people saw the fake-looking Aurora Borealis in the Piolo Pascual-Yen Santos snoozefest Northern Lights: A Journey To Love.

They rented a van without any insurance (a sign of an impending accident), complained about the exorbitant food prices (a trip to a local 7-11 cost them almost Php4k), provided Kuya Kim trivia about the place (zero crime rate in the country), and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up.

You know how when you’re single and you would simply glare at these irritating naglalandian couples in the corner of Starbucks while bitterly thinking “Maghihiwalay din kayo”? Exact same feeling. After the nth time of watching them fight over the pettiest things, I wished that they would just head home and never see each other again.

3. I must have wished really hard because they did break up over a lost passport and a missed return flight. She was fire and he was ice (their words, not mine) and they just weren’t MFEO. I was already good with that ending (hey, a one hour travelogue for a Php190 movie ticket in Festival Mall wasn’t all bad) but then it decided to jump three years later with Ben already engaged to another girl and Jen all bald and suffering from a brain tumor. Why? Why? Whyyyyy??

If two people weren’t meant to be, why should guilt be induced to prove that there wasn’t any love lost between them? Jen’s affliction was even used as a reason for her blatant irrationality (although it still didn’t support why she chose to wear her engagement ring on her middle finger just because of a bad manicure). Should I feel guilty about that as well?

4. Even in her bad films, I couldn’t remember Alessandra de Rossi ever giving a terrible performance. She was always this sensitive actress able to transcend any material given to her (even crap like Spirit of the Glass). I couldn’t say the same for her work in the first two-thirds of this movie. Pabebe acting just didn’t suit her well (no to baby talk and girls trying to be cute by saying “Plith”).

Plus, she looked far too intelligent and decent to be groping tomatoes in a farm for a photo op and even spitting on the ground and contaminating all the pananim. After getting dumped over that missed flight, Jen asked “Dito talaga sa Iceland? Dito mo sasabihin na ayaw mo ako pakasalan? Kung saan ang ganda ng sky?” Huh?? And she even found humor in the situation when she screamed “I will stay here in my country! Not this country. This is not my country!”. I felt really, really bad for Alex.

Even worse, she shaved her head for this mess (fyi, she was a producer of this movie with a story and concept credit so it must be a passion project worthy of a buzz cut). Brave move, yes, but let’s not forget that Demi Moore also won a Worst Actress Razzie for her shaved head work in G.I. Jane.

Side note: That scar on the back of her head looked like a strip of Play Doh. Eek!

5. Paolo Contis fared a bit better because he always had this pilyo, pang-asar vibe even during his Ang TV days that was apt for the character of Ben. Most people would probably be surprised that he could cry a river (and believe me, there were enough tears in that final thirty minutes to solve our country’s Maynilad problems). Nothing new though if you were a huge fan of that Aga Muhlach-Dayanara Torres fantasy Basta’t Kasama Kita.

6. My favorite part of this movie was when Ben complained that Jen wasn’t “decently” dressed and since she was a devoted Christian saving herself for marriage, it was a problem for him not to feel horny beside her (“Wala namang utak ‘to. Tanga ‘to eh!” referring to his shrinkage-proof member that wasn’t affected at all by the freezing weather.) I immediately (sinfully) thought, “Well, maybe she should pray over his erection”. And she did. Bwahahaha!

(It was also interesting to note that Jen completely forgot her Christian ways after getting sick by forcing herself on Ben and basically trying to covet another person’s jowa.)

7. My least favorite part was when BenJen did a duet and sang the entire version of Gary Valenciano’s “I Will Be Here” while sobbing like there was no tomorrow (okay, bad pun because there really was no tomorrow for Jen).

I hated it because: 1) I had always been averse to that song ever since it was played in a good friend’s wake, 2) all the crying felt like one of those acting workshops where a mentor would make you remember the saddest memory and force you to weep for thirty minutes as a sign that you could act and cry on cue, and 3) they sang an entire song. Again, why? To give the audience enough time to cry along with them? Repeat after me: emotional manipulation.

Side note: The dark humor toward the end of the movie (the fake dying, Jen’s sudden outbursts, etc.) felt really off, too. The hilariously robotic delivery of that nurse about the re-occurrence of Jen’s condition didn’t help, either.

8. How did I know that I was completely unaffected by all the sadness onscreen? While the couple was singing that entire (it had to be noted, yet again) death song, my brain was focused on the fly perched on Joey Marquez’s left shoulder. Malungkot kaya yung langaw mag-isa?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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12 (Dondon Santos, 2017)

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I just watched almost two hours of petty sumbatan between two people that were never really meant to be together. I wish I were their therapist so I could have shushed them both with “Tengene maghiwalay na nga kayo!!”.

Alessandra de Rossi was fine as expected, but she needed a stronger partner to make the whole thing work. It would have also been nice if her broken character didn’t have to repeatedly verbalize that she was broken, broken, broken.

Ivan Padilla was such a terrible actor that he made Matthew Mendoza look like an Urian winner. I had to constantly shield my face every time he would start a shouting match because spittle would just keep flying everywhere.

I was surprised that Ivan even found the time to take a shower during their lengthy squabble, except that we needed a gratuitous topless shot of him in just a towel. He probably would have been better suited as a Bench model.

If you hadn’t learned anything from Ate Clau, here’s the moral of the story: Never get a relationship tattoo (unless you know a really good dermatologist that could laser that off).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kita Kita:

1. Where do we draw the line between persistence and obsession? Do we consider a grand gesture like asking someone out for a coffee date via a huge billboard in Morayta sweet or repulsive? If Xian Gaza actually looked like Daniel Matsunaga, would he still be considered a creepy stalker or just a determined romantic?

2. One of my biggest concerns with this movie was that after it made us fall in love with its unconventional lovers, it tried to sell us this disturbing (and Machiavellian?) big reveal that nothing was actually wrong with the couple’s predator-prey relationship history (I felt the exact same way when Maricel Soriano fell in love with her rapist in Dahas, but then that wasn’t even close to being a romantic-comedy). He knowingly took advantage of her disability, period.

It was truly unfortunate not only because the first two-thirds of the movie was deeply engrossing and enjoyable, but also because it didn’t really need any twist to come up with an interesting resolution.

I was more curious to know how Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) would have reacted after she regained her sight and discovered the true physical aspects of Tonyo (Empoy Marquez). In one scene, she even joked “Kung makita kita, baka pang-leading man ang mukha mo”. Wouldn’t it have been great to know her actual feelings upon seeing that he actually looked more like a stuntman?

3. Having said that, I was really impressed with the #AlEmpoy tandem because despite the odd pairing and clunky third act, they really made this love story work. Halos mamatay ako sa kilig sa unang Two Less Lonely People in the World montage. I swear I had this huge smile plastered on my face during that sequence. I even teared up a bit because I get really emotional whenever I see two people happily in love. Sobrang bagay sila.

4. Alessandra has always been consistently good in everything. Here, she was empathetic even as a cranky and bitter blind woman. When she cried while drawing on the eyes of the Daruma Doll to complete her wish, I was crying along with her.

The bigger acting surprise though was Empoy. He was just effortlessly funny whether he was applying breath freshener on his wrists, or mangling idioms (“The way to man’s heart is through large intestine”), or delivering a throwaway quip (“Kelangan mo ng asukal, ang asim kasi ng mukha mo”). There were moments when Alessandra looked like she was no longer acting while laughing at some of Empoy’s hilarious jokes (best one: “We have similar. Rities.”).

And that ramen scene, oh my heart!!

5. Pinoy Film/TV Trope: Any character crossing the street or standing near the sidewalk with vehicles zooming by has a 90% chance of getting run over. Survival rate of that unfortunate soul would be 10%. The victim in this movie did not beat any of the said odds. Enough please.

(Also, what happened to that sickness storyline of Tonyo?)

6. Some of the dialogue in the movie sounded off, like when Lea kept saying PG-rated lines (“Puputulin ko ang talong diyan sa gitna ng mga hita mo!”, “May nunal ka sa pribadong parte ng katawan mo!”) or sexist remarks (“Mas malandi ka pa sa babae!”). She also had this Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo voiceover during the confrontation scene with her cheating boyfriend that lasted forever. It was supposed to sound poetic, but fell flat.

7. Several scenes had poor lighting and instances where the camera kept tilting and shaking violently. What happened there?

At least those gorgeous shots in the Sapporo Botanical Garden (?) more than made up for them. I really need to visit Japan soon. Friends, ano na? The international setting was also really apt since this had the feel of a (Japanese? Korean? Thai?) rom-com.

8. For a blind person, Alessandra’s eyebrows were always on fleek, no?

9. Sigrid Bernardo is one of my all-time favorite local directors. If you end up really liking this one, you should also watch Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita, Lorna, and her short film Ang Painting ni Tatay. I loved every single one of those (all five-star films, sadly her streak ended here).

10. So all this time I thought that “nomo” was actually gay lingo (or jeprox slang) for “inom”. I had no idea that it was an actual Japanese word that meant “let’s drink”. Nyeaaaaaaaam!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz, 2016)

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My notes on Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis:

1. Hele. Hiwaga. Hapis. These three words appropriately described my overall experience of the movie. I was oftentimes lulled to sleep, with its 8-hour runtime and scenes that seemed to never end. I was enchanted by the intersecting stories of both fictional and real characters in Philippine history, even if the movie remained a mystery until the very last scene. Lastly, my butt was screaming in pain and sorrow and felt every minute of it (like I had imaginary flaring hemorrhoids and I had to keep adjusting in my seat). I came out of that challenge feeling like the winner in Survivor: Cinema.

(For the record, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan was the exact opposite experience and enthralled me with every minute of its four-hour length.)

2. Don’t get me wrong, this was far from being a bad movie. Each gorgeously-shot misty frame in glorious black and white (this movie really put the mist in mystery) should still be worth the price of admission (plus, the P500 ticket in Newport came with unli-popcorn, a large cup of rootbeer, and a giant siopao; pa-fiesta pa lang ni Mayor sulit na).

I was just never a fan of lyrical poetry. Ayoko ng mga mabulaklak at paligoy-ligoy na salita. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said that “brevity is the soul of wit”? (Believe me, the irony wasn’t completely lost on me.)

3. My favorite characters came in groups of threes. The screen has never been more alive than when the diwatas of Quiroga (Queenmelo Esguerra, Moira Lang, Bianca Balbuena) would appear in their fabulous kaftans, creating chaos with a menacing laugh or a throwaway pick-up line. The other trio would be the excellent tikbalangs (Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino) that mesmerized viewers with every trick played on Gregoria de Jesus and company. I was sold on these characters as soon as Bernardo Squared let out a loud neigh. Such splendid actors!

(Oh, John Lloyd Cruz was fine, although I felt that his take on Mi Ultimo Adios was like a response to Maja Salvador’s Trisha’s “I love you and I will tell you everyday, everyday until you forget the things that hurthhhh.” The less said about Piolo Pascual’s stiff performance, the better. He had the requisite abs scene so no complaints here.)

4. The long takes were impressive, especially the dialogue-heavy scenes. As someone who botched a twenty-line poem in a Talumpatian back in grade school, I could just imagine the amount of time spent memorizing that script. The downside was that there were some glaring flubs (and obviously pulled punches and kicks) that Lav Diaz didn’t feel the need to retake.

It was important to note that if a character started singing a song or reciting a poem, expect that performance to be completed (8 hours, take your time). The same could be said with a lot of scenes that just stretched on for several minutes (Simoun crying in pain, Basilio endlessly digging, nipa hut burning down to the ground, etc). I wasn’t surprised at all when some critics accused Diaz of being self-indulgent. One character even mentioned, “Masyadong makasarili ang sining”. My butt nodded in agreement. Maybe some opium would have helped?

5. My two favorite scenes were:

a) Susan Africa (sans tuberculosis or any other life-threatening disease) as Aling Hule wading in an entire stretch of muddy rice field like it was some sort of punishment from Clara del Valle

b) Alessandra de Rossi as Caesaria Belarmino asking for forgiveness for being the “pinakamagandang dilag ng Silang”. Pak na pak!

6. The movie felt a bit preachy towards the end. I half-expected Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All to start playing.

7. Several people cheered after the screening. I was sure that some really loved the movie. I was just part of those that were thankful that it was finally over.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

CineFilipino Film Festival 2016 Scorecard

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I’m finally done with this year’s CineFilipino Film Festival. I only missed one feature-length due to a permit issue and a documentary because of scheduling concerns. Not bad.

Here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Feature-Length Film
1. SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING – ★★★★★
2. STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE – ★★★★★

3. NED’S PROJECT – ★★★☆☆
4. ANG TABA KO KASI – ★★★☆☆
5. ANG TULAY NG SAN SEBASTIAN – ★★☆☆☆
6. 1ST SEM – ★★☆☆☆
7. BUHAY HABANGBUHAY – ★★☆☆☆
8. STRAIGHT TO THE HEART – ★☆☆☆☆

Not seen: A LOTTO LIKE LOVE

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. SANDINO MARTIN (Ang Tulay Ng San Sebastian)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. ANGELI BAYANI (Ned’s Project)
2. CANDY PANGILINAN (Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone)
3. ALESSANDRA DE ROSSI (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
4. CAI CORTEZ (Ang Taba Ko Kasi)
5. LOTLOT DE LEON (1st Sem)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. PEPE HERRERA (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
2. PAOLO PINGOL (Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone)
3. JC SANTOS (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
4. ALLAN PAULE (1st Sem)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. THERESE MALVAR (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
2. MAX EIGENMANN (Ned’s Project)

Best Documentary

1. FOREVER BRIDGELESS – ★★★★★
2. AN ORCHESTRA IN SEARCH OF A HOME – ★★★★☆

3. SINA DINO AT ANG KANILANG SIKRETO – ★★★☆☆

Not seen: MGA KULAY SA LABAS NG LINYA

Best Short Film
1. SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO – ★★★★★
2. XXX – ★★★★★
3. OKTOPUS – ★★★★★

4. KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE – ★★★★☆
5. KATOK – ★★★★☆
6. DIGPAN NING ALTI – ★★★★☆
7. CHICBOY – ★★★★☆

8. LUNA – ★★★☆☆
9. NOT APPLICABLE – ★★☆☆☆
10. PUNLA – ★★☆☆☆
11. AKI – ★☆☆☆☆

Until next year!!