MOVIE REVIEW: JOHN DENVER TRENDING (Arden Rod Condez, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on John Denver Trending:

1. Kumusta na kaya si Amalayer Girl? Nung 2012 pa pala nag-viral yung video niya ng paninigaw sa isang security guard sa LRT Santolan station. Alala ko noon na ang daming bwiset na bwiset sa kanya (kabilang na ako). Siguro kasi iniisip natin kadalasan na maarte kapag pa-English English ang isang Pinoy. O siguro kasi ang feeling natin sa kanya eh mababa ang tingin niya sa mga blue-collar workers. O kaya kasi mahilig lang tayo mang-down ng ibang tao to make us feel better about ourselves. Yung lagi tayong tama, mabuti at busilak ang kalooban at yung mga nasa viral videos na yan eh deserve ang bullying kasi masasama ang ugali.

Napakadali para sa atin mag-judge ng iba habang nakatago sa harap ng mga computer at phone screens. Attack agad lahat ng keyboard warriors (aka toxic kuyog culture) kahit di pa alam kung ano ang totoong story. Puro mura, puro pintas, minsan may death threats pa na kasama di lamang sa taong involved kundi pati sa pamilya nito. Nakakalungkot na ganito tayo ngayon sa panahon ng social media.

(And sobrang hypocritical lang na ang sunod na posts ng iba eh Bible quotes or suicide prevention hotlines. Puh-lease!)

2. Medyo similar ang nangyari kay Amalayer at sa bida dito na si John Denver (Jansen Magpusao). Pinagbintangan siya ng mga kaklase niya na nagnakaw ng iPad pero ang nahagip lang ng video eh nung binubugbog na niya ang kanyang classmate. In-upload ng isang mokong sa Facebook (“PASIKATIN NATIN ANG GAGONG TO… LIKE AND SHARE HANGGANG UMABOT KAY TATAY DIGONG!”) bago tuluyang mag-viral. Umikot ang buong pelikula sa epekto ng cyberbullying kay John Denver at kung paano nito sinira ang buhay niya at ng kanyang pamilya.

3. Malinis ang pagkakalahad ng story. Nagustuhan ko na kahit ang daming not-so-subtle hints na hindi siya ang nagnakaw (yung charger na lang ang naiwan sa classroom nung pumasok siya, yung bag niya na hinalughog, yung mga construction workers na padaan-daan sa mga eksena), bilang manonood mapapaisip ka pa rin hanggang dulo kung kinuha ba niya talaga ang lecheng iPad na yan.

Lumabas ang pagiging judgmental ko lalo na at hindi naman siya ulirang kabataan. Napaka-flawed ng character niya (ang lakas ng tawa ko nung inalaska niya ang isang classmate na hindi naman memorized ang Lord’s Prayer) kaya may second thoughts pa rin kung maaawa ka sa pinagdaraanan niya.

4. Inspired ang casting kay Jansen lalo na at hindi siya trained actor. Bumagay yung rawness ng performance niya dun sa innocence ng character. Ang lakas ng star quality niya sa big screen. May ilang eksena lamang na medyo pilit ang emosyon (para sa akin kinulang siya dun sa crucial scene na tinakpan niya ang mukha niya para humagulgol) pero bawing-bawi kapag natural lang ang batuhan niya ng mga linya with his mother (Meryll Soriano). Yung itsura nung mukha niya dun sa ilog pagkatapos dumugo ang ulo ng nanay niya, sobrang sakit sa loob panoorin. Ramdam yung guilt sa lahat ng nangyayari kaya di nakakagulat yung choice niya sa dulo.

5. Pero grabe halimaw din si Meryll sa actingan. Sa sobrang huge fan ako ni Maricel Soriano eh napaisip talaga ako dito kung mas magaling pa siya sa auntie niya. Nung andun sila sa principal’s office tapos sinabi niya yung line na parang “Eh bakit kayo naman, sir. Kung sabihin ko na may shabu ang brief n’yo, ibababa nyo ba?” gusto ko mag-standing ovation sa sinehan. At nung sinabi sa kanya na may record ng violations (including theft) ang anak niya na di niya alam, para akong si John Denver na gusto ko na lang matunaw sa kinauupuan ko. Ultimo pagpunas niya lang ng pawis sa mukha after pagsasampalin ang anak eh sobrang nuanced. Napakahusay!!

Ang minor quibble ko lang ay yung spotty accent niya. Although na-explain naman na hindi siya tubong Antique, ang obvious lang kasi nung disconnect ng pagsasalita niya sa kanyang anak. May isang beses pa na nahaluan niya ng “so” ang sinasabi niya kaya medyo na-distract ako sa eksena kasi out of character.

6. Wala lang yun sa dami ng scenes na tumagos talaga sa puso ko (meaning more ngawa ako diba) lalo na kapag naka-focus sa simple moments nilang mag-ina. Naiiyak pa rin ako kapag naiisip yung part na sinubuan niya ng flower icing ang nanay niya matapos siya tawaging “animal!” (ang ganda ng pasok ng haunting score dito huhu). Bulakbol siya pero sweet naman pala. A few seconds lang pero ang daming sinabi tungkol sa kanila at sa kanilang relationship.

Pati yung tahimik silang naglalakad sa may dalampasigan tapos bakas sa mukha ni nanay yung frustration, embarrassment, at disappointment pero mahal na mahal pa rin nya ang anak niya kaya nasasaktan siya para dito. Durog na durog ako dun.

7. Maganda yung paggamit ng symbolisms dito. Yung mantsa sa uniform niya na kahit anong kuskos niya ay hindi matanggal. Parang Scarlet Letter lang na naka-tattoo sa noo niya na nagsusumigaw na “MAGNANAKAW!”. Yung kahit anong explain at defend niya sa sarili eh wala naman naniniwala at tuluyan nang nabahiran ang reputasyon at buong pagkatao niya. Tapos nung flag ceremony siya lang talaga ang namumukod-tangi na hindi gumamit ng Tide kaya nag-stand out ang naninilaw niya na suot.

Maganda rin yung juxtaposition na ginamit sa power of chismis lalo na dun sa kapitbahay na sinasabing aswang. Minsan mas malala pa sa bala ng baril ang mga salitang lumalabas sa isip at bunganga ng mga tao.

8. Nakakangalit yung entire investigation process ng mga pulis. Naalala ko tuloy yung isang eksena sa Pamilya Ordinaryo na tungkol din sa police brutality. Grabe yung feeling ng helplessness kapag talaga person in authority ang nang-ha-harass sa isang tao. Nakakatakot kapag naka-uniporme ang demonyo.

9. Sa dami ng eksenang naglalakad siya, ang ganda nung biglang tumakbo si John Denver off-path. Malaman. Kaya siguro sobrang polarizing din ng ending nito. For me, justified naman siya sa context ng theme. Hindi siya nagmukhang cop-out. Mas nag-resonate pa nga ang perils ng social media dahil sa powerful scene na yun. Kapag ramdam mo na sobrang squirmish ang mga katabi mo sa sinehan dahil sa pinapanood nila, alam mo na malakas ang effect nito. Hindi nila makakalimutan ang nakita. Para na rin niyang sinabi na in essence, lahat tayo ay guilty sa pagpatay kay John Denver.

10. Yung isa sa pinaka-paborito kong eksena sa Philippine Cinema 2019 ay nung tahimik na kumakain ang pamilya nila ng Cloud 9 sa pilapil. Malayo sa gulo ng mundo, hiwalay sa ingay ng social media. Sa panahong ito ng Digital Age, hindi kaya yan ang pinakamainam para sa ating lahat?

Rating: ★★★★★

MOVIE REVIEW: THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Debutantes:

1. I still haven’t forgotten about the clunky twist of last week’s Last Night and now we get another movie that hinged on the big reveal of an ‘imaginary’ being. Are our writers running out of original ideas to surprise the audience?

It probably would have been more acceptable if the said twist wasn’t so obvious the moment you see young Jona Soquite (or at least who I thought was her). Seriously, why would ‘siblings’ with a huge age gap have that twinning kind of severe BANGS (yes, nagsusumigaw) anyway? The only mystery left was whether she was the evil side of Carrie, er, Kate (a competent Sue Ramirez), or a completely different entity altogether (answer: sadly, the latter).

2. I had this discussion recently with a filmmaker friend on the lack of creative main titles in recent films (especially Star Cinema ones). We would usually see the same old cast names in red (or white) Times New Roman or Comic Sans fonts that clearly revealed the lack of originality or how much the final product was rushed.

One good thing about this movie was that it had a good opening credit sequence with blood flowing/dripping endlessly on various objects like a flower (cattleya?) or on the lips that would figure prominently later on. Reminded me so much of the Emmy-winning design for Six Feet Under.

3. Although the bullying and the public humiliation reminded me of Carrie, the similarity ended there because it was hard not to sympathize with the Mean Girls when this was obviously not an outright revenge flick. How could I cheer for the eventual deaths of young, irritating girls when Kate wasn’t the one doing the killings?

I never really rooted for a maligno, except for this one time when the Undin hid in the toilet bowl and preyed on the loudmouth landlady played by Vangie Labalan.

4. Speaking of Mean Girls, I couldn’t get why Ivy Aguas wannabe Jenny (Jane de Leon) was considered the Queen Bee. She didn’t look or speak the part and Michelle Vito as Candice had more of the Regina George vibe (although the latter was also a terrible actress so maybe that was the reason?).

To be fair, the Jenny character was a hoot. I laughed out loud when she said, “Hey guys, as you all know it’s my birthday. Yeeeees! Happy birthday to meeeee!!”.

5. I also couldn’t understand how Miles Ocampo ended up with this group of bitches considering that her Lara character seemed like the typical goody two-shoes. Sure, she lived alone in a humongous house and had an annoying fringed bag that screamed social climber, but her personality just didn’t seem to fit with the group. Was it because she was too dumb to know the difference between Geometry and Calculus and the group needed a budget Karen Smith?

6. Why would Kate agree to wear a revealing halter top when she had visible scratch marks on her back? Also, why didn’t she even bother to check how loose those strings were prior to attending a party full of privileged brats?

In this day and age of social media prominence, who would still post a public status of them embarrassing other people? Have these kids already forgotten about Ate Amalayer, or the Kuya that threw a hissy fit in Alfamart and got knocked down by a loaf of Gardenia, or the Sisteret that wanted to hog all the chairs in Starbucks? A documented case of bullying sounded like an instant lawsuit to me.

7. This was a Prime Cruz movie so of course it looked good. I really loved the use of saturated colors and I hope that it wasn’t just a product of SM Cinemas’ poor projection. I kinda missed his cool soundtrack though and the songs were mostly utilized during the end credits.

8. I really don’t get how these onscreen characters would cut their own hair and they’d always end up with salon gorgeous looks after. If I were to handle my own haircut, my mother would most probably ask if I recently had ‘tipus’ (uhm, thyphoid fever).

9. Why would a traumatized Kate immediately attend the wake of one of her bullies? Was it because we needed a scare scene involving a coffin? And why was Candice wearing a stylish cover-up and pekpek shorts there? Jenny should really have risen from the dead and slapped her silly for stealing the limelight (and for lack of respect, naturally).

10. Most of the horror elements were familiar tropes (they basically replaced the hair braid coming out of Naomi Watts’ throat in The Ring with a necklace; the jump scene when somebody would open a fridge and a person would be standing behind it was used twice, the other with a locker; the setup where the ghost would pull on the blanket of a sleeping person looked straight out of The Conjuring) and even impressive scenes like when the engkanto came out of Kate’s mouth looked similar to the one in The Possession (or one of the Ouija movies). I spent most of the time chuckling at how bad the death scenes were staged.

11. That was one dirty toilet bowl. Candice, please ask your maid to check the Coke hack on Facebook pronto.

12. This was the type of horror movie where a person in a pool would see the moo moo and decide to swim to the other side instead of getting her ass out of the water and fleeing for dear life. Congratulations Shayne (Chanel Morales) for winning this month’s Darwin Award!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆