BORN BEAUTIFUL (Perci Intalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Born Beautiful:

1. Originally planned as a series on Cignal TV, this spin-off of the 2016 critical hit (and a personal fave) Die Beautiful was supposedly the first five episodes of the show turned into a full-length feature. Although the decision was understandable given the material’s commercial appeal, this also served as its main weakness. The transition from TV to film resulted into some messy storytelling (several arcs felt stretched to fill an episode), underdeveloped characters, the lack of a clear resolution (a lot of people would definitely find the ending bitin), and some surface-level views on weighty issues. Even worse, we didn’t really get to know more about everyone’s favorite BFF Barbs, except that she made funny “arf arf arf” sounds during sex.

2. I was very disappointed that Christian Bables didn’t reprise his Urian-winning role because he would always be the Barbs that we deserved. It was such an effortless and lived-in performance that was sorely missing in this movie (plus the fact that the original relied on the wonderful chemistry between him and Paolo Ballesteros’ Trisha, who sadly only showed up here for a couple of scenes including a killer Mama Mary moment).

Martin del Rosario was fine as Barbs 2.0, but under all the wigs and make-up (and occasional tucking) it still felt like a committed Martin del Rosario playing Barbs 2.0. And would it be weird to say that he was just much too beautiful for the role? If Barbs (hello Taong Lego?) looked this gorgeous, then she wouldn’t be playing second fiddle to Trisha and would actually be winning all the beaucons instead.

3. While Die Beautiful presented a clear picture of Trisha’s character with her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen, growing up in a homophobic household, and being subjected to all forms of abuse, this sequel focused on Barbs being torn between two men (and facing possible fatherhood). Medyo mababaw lang.

I would have wanted to learn more about Barbs’ personal life, including her goals and motivations, or how she coped up with her best friend’s death, or even how she learned (or what inspired) all those make-up transformations. I guess her new and improved face only merited a love triangle plot.

4. To be fair, there were still a lot of enjoyable (read: LOL) moments here. I found it smart that they were able to connect the Jamby quip in the first with Barbs’ identity confusion problems in this one (“Mukha kang tomboy na nag-aalok ng Bear Brand!”). I cackled with glee when she mentioned that Kim Kardashian’s look cost 3.5k and the 350 version was for Kim delos Santos. And should I feel guilty that I laughed at the sight of the stroke victim’s corpse and after Barbs covered it up with a Lady Gaga circa 2009 MTV Video Music Awards kukur look (“Mukha siyang malaking regla at ikaw ang pasador”)? Or that the beki friends recommended a Rihanna transformation for their other friend that died from electrocution (“Dahil lang sunog, kelangan na negra?”) and ended up with a Sia walis-tambo look (“Sia Pusit!”)? Maybe not.

The lamest humor came from the tired beauty pageant introduction segment. Seriously, how many more times should we hear that rehashed “Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, Haiti!” joke before it gets permanently banned in Pinoy queer cinema?

5. Aside from Barbs, the Michael Angelo 2.0 character had a nose lift that resulted to a face overhaul and was now played by Artista Academy’s Akihiro Blanco. It felt odd that he was one of the men fighting over her when he was the ex of Trisha in the first film.

Wait lang Barbs, tumulong ka sugurin ang karibal ni Trisha, tinawag mo na ahas, nakipagsabunutan sa parlor, pagkatapos tinalo mo rin sa dulo ang BFF mo? Hindi talaga lahat ng ahas nasa gubat. Yung iba nagtatrabaho sa Happy Endings Funeral Homes. (Kaya ka rin siguro laging minumulto ni Trisha! Malandi, haliparot, talipandas!)

From the rest of the supporting cast, I really loved Lou Veloso back as Mama Flora (“Ang gugulo n’yo. Mag-chupaan na lang tayong lahat!”), Joey Paras as one of the Way of Light pastors, and Chai Fonacier as the baby mama Yumi. What happened to the other beki BFFs from the first film, though?

6. I really appreciated some of the witty ways the film expressed its views on current issues like the death penalty (“People can change for the better”), gender neutral bathrooms, single-blessedness (“Hindi mo naman kelangan ng partner para maging reyna”), abortion, and open relationships. That entire conversion therapy bit was also brutal (literally and figuratively) that many overzealous faithful would probably get triggeredt.

7. In one scene, Yumi was graphically describing how she ended up getting pregnant through some vulgar words and hand movements. It was meant to be hilarious (and probably one of the movie’s highlights), but ended up getting completely ruined by all the bleeping (even the subtitles were censored!). Please note that the version I watched was already rated R-18, or For Adults Only by the tasked moral guardians.

I just found it funny that one of the promotional materials for this film commended the MTRCB for being “progressive”. Totoo ba? Saang banda?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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‪SAKALING MAGING TAYO (JP Habac, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sakaling Maging Tayo:

1. For a romance film to work, I needed to fall in love with the love story. I should find myself rooting for the lovers and wishing that they end up together because they were meant for each other. It just didn’t happen here.

Pol (McCoy de Leon) spent an entire night in a mini Baguio tour with his long-time crush Malaya (Elisse Joson) and yet he couldn’t find time to buy medicine for a sick parent (Bembol Roco). At one point he actually drove past a Mercury Drug store and I expected some sort of product placement, but no, he had far more important things to deal with. The only time he remembered his father was when he got his heart broken and needed a shoulder to cry on. But still no medicine.

There was an overwhelming sense of pettiness with these characters and their love problems that triggered my inner Titas of Manila. I was that person in the theater making the loud “Tsk tsk!” noise while muttering “Kids these days…”.

2. I didn’t know much about Elisse outside of her Burger McDo commercial (I couldn’t even remember her in the camp classic #Ewankosau Saranghaeyo, or maybe I just tried to repress all memories of that movie) so I was pleasantly surprised with her naturally charming performance here. Her beauty and talent reminded me of early Bea Alonzo and I could see her as a future star if given a much better project (and in this case, better partner).

She had enough spunk to pull off corny lines like “Mahal ko ang mga bagay na di masyado napapansin” and the right amount of vulnerability to deliver the heartbreaking “Sorry, okay ka sana kaso di ako okay eh”. Instant fan here.

3. Chai Fonacier’s character was unfortunately named Erna. If I was named after the slang term for shit, why would I still let people call me thay? Why not say, Poopie? As always though, Chai was in a league of her own and made even a throwing up scene (how gross could this character get?) look like a bid for another Urian nomination. (Also, Black Sheep people, I expected better from you.)

4. With all of the things that the lovers and their friends were able to accomplish during that single night (they went in every possible hangout in Baguio that included a visit to the creepy Teacher’s Camp), this should have been called Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi… Ulit. In the end, Malaya was even able to catch the first bus trip out of the city. Oh, the wonders of cinema!

Pero ang ganda talaga ng Baguio at night. It once again served as a soothing backdrop that reminded me of that touching moment between Kiko and Yaya Diday in Kiko Boksingero. And speaking of, did Malaya live in the same house that was used in the horror-comedy Halik sa Hangin?

5. Two of the friends were gay characters so they obviously ended up together because they were probably the only two gay people that lived there. I suddenly remembered that episode in Sex and the City when Charlotte tried to set up a blind date between her gay bff Anthony and Carrie’s gay bff Stanford thinking that they were perfect for each other just because they were both gay. Uhh, not exactly how things worked, straight people. (Wait, didn’t the pair end up getting married in the movie sequel? More reasons not to like that stinker.)

6. Why was Malaya wearing the exact same dress that she was supposed to sleep in when she rushed to the club to confront her ex-boyfriend? Wala nang ligo-ligo kasi malamig naman sa Baguio?

7. So Pol brought his father’s taxi to the concert and Malaya mistook him as a cab driver. I really thought for a second that this would turn into The Night Of, but of course it didn’t because this was still a Star Cinema-ish movie.

8. Ang funny lang nung hipster jazz discussion (hello La La Land!) tapos biglang kumanta si Moira dela Torre in a succeeding scene. You know that 30-day Film Challenge where on a specific day you were supposed to name a movie where you liked the soundtrack more? This could be my entry. Sana soundtrack na lang talaga siya.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2017

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TOP 9 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS:

#9

LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK

Written and directed by: Antoinette Jadaone

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#8

HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE

Written and directed by: Phyllis Grande

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#7

ALL OF YOU

Written by: Carl Chavez, Mae Chua, and Dan Villegas
Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#6

ANG LARAWAN

Written by: Rolando Tinio
Directed by: Loy Arcenas

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#5

BLISS

Written and directed by: Jerrold Tarog

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#4

PAKI

Written and directed by: Giancarlo Abrahan

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#3

RESPETO

Written by: Njel de Mesa and Treb Monteras II
Directed by: Treb Monteras II

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#2

CHANGING PARTNERS

Written by: Lilit Reyes and Vincent de Jesus
Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#1

KIKO BOKSINGERO

Written by: Denise O’Hara, Ash Malanum, Heber O’Hara, Emmanuel Espejo, Jr.
Directed by: Thop Nazareno

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2017 Scorecard:

★★★★★
CHANGING PARTNERS (Dan Villegas)
KIKO BOKSINGERO (Thop Nazareno)

★★★★☆
ALL OF YOU (Dan Villegas)
BLISS (Jerrold Tarog)
HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE (Phyllis Grande)
ANG LARAWAN (Loy Arcenas)
LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone)
PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan)
RESPETO (Alberto Monteras II)
SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE (Carl Adrian Chavez)

★★★☆☆
100 TULA PARA KAY STELLA (Jason Paul Laxamana)
BAGAHE (Zig Dulay)
CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS? (Prime Cruz)
DEADMA WALKING (Julius Alfonso)
FATIMA MARIE TORRES AND THE INVASION OF SPACE SHUTTLE PINAS 25 (Carlo Francisco Manatad)
HILOM (P.R. Patindol)
I’M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU. (JP Habac)
KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)
KRISTO (HF Yambao)
LOLA LOLENG (Che Tagyamon)
MARIA (JP Habac)
NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento)
SEVEN SUNDAYS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
SI CHEDENG AT SI APPLE (Fatrick Tabada, Rae Red)
TU PUG IMATUY (Arbi Barbarona)
UNEXPECTEDLY YOURS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

★★☆☆☆
12 (Dondon Santos)
ALIENS ATA (Glenn Barit)
BACONAUA (Joseph Israel Laban)
BAWOD (TM Malones)
BHOY INTSIK (Joel Lamangan)
CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar)
DEAR OTHER SELF (Veronica Velasco)
THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz)
FALLBACK (Jason Paul Laxamana)
FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE (Theodore Boborol)
THE GHOST BRIDE (Chito Roño)
ILAWOD (Dan Villegas)
ISLABODAN (Juan Carlo Tarobal)
JUANA AND THE SACRED SHORES (Antonne Santiago)
LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal)
LOVING IN TANDEM (Giselle Andres)
MANONG NG PA-ALING (E. del Mundo)
MY EX AND WHYS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
NAKAW (Arvin Belarmino, Noel Escondo)
NAY (Kip Oebanda)
NERVOUS TRANSLATION (Shireen Seno)
NORTHERN LIGHTS: A JOURNEY TO LOVE (Dondon Santos)
ANG PAMILYANG HINDI LUMULUHA (Mes de Guzman)
ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ (Katski Flores)
SA GABING NANAHIMIK ANG MGA KULIGLIG (Iar Lionel Arondaing)
SIARGAO (Paul Soriano)
SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin)
THROWBACK TODAY (Joseph Teoxon)

★☆☆☆☆
ACROSS THE CRESCENT MOON (Baby Nebrida)
AWOL (Enzo Williams)
BAR BOYS (Kip Oebanda)
BARBI D’ WONDER BEKI (Tony Reyes)
BES AND THE BESHIES (Joel Lamangan)
BEYOND THE BLOCK (Ricky Carranza)
BLOODY CRAYONS (Topel Lee)
BUNDOK BANAHAW, SACRED AND PROFANE (Dempster Samarista)
FANGIRL/FANBOY (Barry Gonzalez)
FOOLISH LOVE (Joel Lamangan)
ANG GURO KONG ‘DI MARUNONG MAGBASA (Perry Escaño)
HISTORIOGRAPHIKA ERRATA (Richard Somes)
I FOUND MY HEART IN SANTA FE (Bona Fajardo)
LADYFISH (Jason Orfalas)
MANG KEPWENG RETURNS (G.B. Sampedro)
NAKAUWI NA (Marvin Cabangunay, Jaynus Olaivar)
PWERA USOG (Jason Paul Laxamana)
REQUITED (Nerissa Picadizo)
SPIRIT OF THE GLASS 2: THE HAUNTED (Jose Javier Reyes)
THIS TIME I’LL BE SWEETER (Joel Lamangan)
TRIP UBUSAN: THE LOLAS VS ZOMBIES (Mark Reyes)
TRIPTIKO (Miguel Franco Michelena)
WOKE UP LIKE THIS (Joel Ferrer)

 

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!!