CINEMA ONE ORIGINALS 2019 SCORECARD

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Best Feature-Length Film

1. Sila-Sila (Giancarlo Abrahan) – ★★★☆☆
2. Metamorphosis (J.E. Tiglao) – ★★☆☆☆
3. Tia Madre (Eve Baswel) – ★★☆☆☆
4. Lucid (Victor Villanueva) – ★★☆☆☆
5. Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo (Denise O’Hara) – ★★☆☆☆
6. Yours Truly, Shirley (Nigel Santos) – ★★☆☆☆
7. Utopia (Dustin Celestino) – ★☆☆☆☆
8. O (Kevin Dayrit) – ★☆☆☆☆

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. Gio Gahol (Sila-Sila)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. Alessandra de Rossi (Lucid)
2. Cherie Gil (Tia Madre)
3. Jana Agoncillo (Tia Madre)
4. Regine Velasquez (Yours Truly, Shirley)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. Ricky Davao (Metamorphosis)
2. Topper Fabregas (Sila-Sila)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. Iana Bernardez (Metamorphosis)
2. Yayo Aguila (Metamorphosis)

Best Short Film

1. Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert (Janina Gacosta, Cheska Marfori) – ★★★★☆
2. Sa Among Agwat (Don Senoc) – ★★★★☆
3. The Slums (Jan Andrei Cobey) – ★★★★☆
4. Ang Lumunod sa Atin (Sonia Marie Regalario) – ★★★☆☆
5. Sa Gitna ng Lungsod (Ivan Cortez) – ★★☆☆☆
6. Last 2 3 4! (Genevieve Ofania) – ★★☆☆☆

Until next year!!

TÍA MADRÉ (Eve Baswel, 2019)

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Mukhang ganito kapag nasobrahan ng panonood ng mga pelikula ni Ari Aster.

Redundant na nga dapat yung “Cherie Gil” at “horror” eh kasi kulang na lang maihi ako sa salawal sa titig lang niya (lalo na kapag may hawak siya na wine glass) kaso waley talaga.

Gusto ko maging kasinglakas ng batang babae dito. Hindi ko natutunan ang ganung knot nung Boy Scouts days ko infer. At pasalamat nanay ko puro Liwayway lang binabasa ko dati.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

JUST A STRANGER (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Just a Stranger:

1. Sobrang tagal na pala since my last confession. (Mababasa ito ng nanay ko kaya, Sorry ma, I’m not proud of it.) Feeling ko sa haba ng listahan ng kasalanan na ikukumpisal ko, baka mauna pa matapos ang Probinsyano bago ang pag-uusap namin ni Father.

Eh paano pa kung kasing-chismoso siya ng pari dun sa simbahan ni Mae (Anne Curtis) na nagpa-kuwento ng bawat detalye ng adulterous affair niya with Jekjek (Marco Gumabao)? Yung inabot sila ng halos dalawang oras kasi kelangan niya talaga malaman kung ilang beses nag-sex yung mga cheater bago maka-prescribe ng penance (one Hail Mary ba ang norm for every instance?).

Tapos kelangan may comic relief na sisilipin niya kung gaano talaga kaganda si cougar Mae na nahumaling sa kanya ang isang teenager. At para mas nakakatawa, may reaction siya na “My God! Oh shit, sorry!” na feeling ko katumbas ng isang Sorrowful Mystery. Okay ka lang ba, Father?

(Pero salamat sa refresher on the difference between mortal and venial sins, I guess.)

2. Bilang dating president ng Reyster-Ems Fans Club – Las Piñas Chapter, alam ko na ka-love team ni Anne sa T.G.I.S. si Chubi del Rosario (who was several batches lower sa akin sa Zobel) so parang ang hirap maniwala na she was playing somebody around my age. Common naman for actors to play roles na way older or younger than their actual (or screen) age pero may binabagayan din siguro.

Hindi ko talaga matanggap na 40ish na si Anne dito at doble ng edad ni Marco (na mukha namang mid-20s). Malayong-malayo sa casting ng recent May-December love affairs na kakapanood ko lang from Glorious (Angel Aquino-Tony Labrusca) to Belle Douleur (Mylene Dizon-Kit Thompson) to Malamaya (Sunshine Cruz-Enzo Pineda).

Ang off lang nung tinawag si Mae na “tita” at tinawag niya namang “totoy” si Jekjek kasi papasa pa silang halos magkaedad (does that make me “lolo” levels ganern?). Hindi ba available si Alice Dixson?

3. Maliban sa kabit factor, selling point ng pelikula ang promised steamy love scenes na hindi ko naman masyadong naramdaman. Sobrang hot nina Anne and Marco (as in yung sexual attraction sa kanila transcends any gender; their characters even shamelessly described themselves as “attractive, winnable, charismatic”) pero parang walang heat or passion kapag magkasama na sila sa kama (or their chosen place of torjakan).

Konting halik, konting himas, tapos na agad ang eksena at pawisan na sila parehong nakahiga. I didn’t expect naman na dapat super graphic, extended, or gratuitous ang sex scenes pero at the very least ramdam yung electricity between them as soon as their bodies touched, diba? Yung parang kelangan mo ng cold shower para mahimasmasan katulad nung pagkatapos ko mapanood ang Unfaithful.

Pero wala talaga eh. Baka dun pumapasok na para nga silang mag-tita. (Btw, ang weird nung “Mobile Legends” reference.)

4. Given naman na magaling umarte si Anne. Kita mo yung loneliness sa mata niya bilang trophy wife kaya nagawa niyang lokohin ang kanyang asawa (Edu Manzano). (Side note: Bakit nga ba hindi issue ang age gap sa atin kapag lalaki ang mas matanda?)

May hint of repressed naughtiness din siya kaya madalas mag-give in sa temptations. Yung restrained niya na pag-iyak sa balcony scenes were impressive. Also, parang siya lang ang kayang magdala nung glamorous alta look pa rin habang nakasakay sa sidecar with her oversized abaniko.

Alam ko they were going for realism in terms of ugly crying (as in uhog levels ni Tita Viola Davis) pero nagtawanan (at nandiri?) ang mga tao nung nag-stretch na parang cheese sa pizza ang laway niya habang umiiyak sa kitchen. Not a fan of her acting din sa eulogy dream sequence.

5. On the other hand, okay lang ang performance ni Marco. Hindi naman siya nilamon (even literally) ni Anne. Medyo malamya lang talaga ang acting niya when the role required an immature, feeling alpha-male boy. Yung kelangan ng conviction ang pag-overcompensate niya sa sarili with lines like “You guys can take turns on me, I can go all night” kahit alam mo lalabasan talaga siya after 30 seconds. At least believable siya magsuot ng brief.

(Also, I’m officially declaring 2019 as the Year of the Cinematic Pwet.)

6. Tbh medyo nagulat ako sa output ni Jason Paul Laxamana this time kasi maayos siya na writer at storyteller. Yung tipong aawayin ka niya on social media pero wala kang malait masyado sa body of work niya kasi usually nga malinis talaga ang mga gawa niya (my favorites are still Mercury is Mine and Bakwit Boys).

Dito parang ang sloppy ng screenplay pati technical aspects. May sub-plot about Mae’s fibromyalgia na walang pinatunguhan. May eksena na nagtanggal siya ng heels in full view of other guests kahit sobrang sophisticated ng character niya. Minsan hindi ko alam kung gusto nilang maging discreet or mahuli ng ibang tao (part ba ng thrill yung naglaplapan sila sa kotseng wala namang tint?). Bigla na lang hindi na issue ang age gap nung dulo.

Pero ang worst for me was the ending. Grabe lang yung cringe factor dun na may linyahang “Who are you?” tapos sumagot si Mae ng “No one…” at nakisabay ang buong sinehan sa pagsabi ng “I’m just a stranger”. Juskopong mahabagin.

7. Cherie Gil was onscreen for a good five minutes and ended up as the most memorable character. Eksenadora ang tita mo talaga. Oh wait, don’t call her tita pala!

(At teka, naguluhan ako nung nilandi ni Edu si Cherie kasi apparently he was “into women (his) own age” pero si Mae ang asawa niya. Ano ba talaga ang type niya?)

8. Irita ako dun sa girlfriend na Febbie simula nung fake surprise scene niya (na ewan ko paano siya nagtago sa likod ng parents ni Jekjek) hanggang dun sa chaka niya na pag-iyak sa church. Mas bagay siguro yung girl sa role ni Diablita (the doll).

9. Ang pinaka-suspension of disbelief talaga para sa akin dito (maliban sa supposed age gap) ay yung super rich kid ni Jekjek kasi sinustentuhan siya ng tatay niya para tumira sa Tokyo, Washington, at Lisbon tapos ang suot niya lagi na undies eh Bench Body.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2018

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1. THERESE MALVAR (Distance)

2. MOI BIEN (Kuya Wes)

3. CHERIE GIL (Citizen Jake)

4. GILLETH SANDICO (Sol Searching)

5. INA RAYMUNDO (Kuya Wes)

6. DEVON SERON (Bakwit Boys)

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1. MENGGIE COBARRUBIAS (Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon)

2. NICO ANTONIO (Delia & Sammy)

3. KETCHUP EUSEBIO (Mamang)

4. NICCO MANALO (Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus)

5. EJ JALLORINA (Mamu; And A Mother Too)

6. JM SALVADO (Sol Searching)

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1. GLAIZA DE CASTRO (Liway)

2. IYAH MINA (Mamu; And a Mother Too)

3. GINA PAREÑO (Hintayan ng Langit)

4. POKWANG (Oda sa Wala)

5. CELESTE LEGASPI (Mamang)

6. NADINE LUSTRE (Never Not Love You)

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1. DANTE RIVERO (Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon)

2. EDDIE GARCIA (Hintayan ng Langit)

3. DINGDONG DANTES (Sid and Aya: Not a Love Story)

4. NONIE BUENCAMINO (Distance)

5. EDDIE GARCIA (ML)

6. JAIME FABREGAS (Delia & Sammy)

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1. SA SAIYANG ISLA (Christian Candelaria)

2. GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez)

3. LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan)

4. BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo)

5. DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag)

—-

TOP 10 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS

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#10

Written by: Keavy Eunice Vicente

Directed by: Perci Intalan

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#9

Written and directed by: Samantha Lee

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#8

Written by: Juan Miguel Severo

Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#7

Written by: John Carlo Pacala

Directed by: Carlo Catu

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#6

Written and directed by: Dwein Baltazar

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#5

Written and directed by: Rod Singh

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#4

Written and directed by: Antoinette Jadaone

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#3

Written and directed by: Dwein Baltazar

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#2

Written by: Kenneth Lim Dagatan, Eduardo Dayao

Directed by: Kenneth Lim Dagatan

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#1

Written by: Kip Oebanda, Zig Dulay

Directed by: Kip Oebanda

—-

And here’s my 2018 scorecard:

★★★★★

GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez)

LIWAY (Kip Oebanda)

LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan)

MA (Kenneth Lim Dagatan)

SA SAIYANG ISLA (Christian Candelaria)

—-

★★★★☆

ALL GROWN UP (Wena Sanchez)

BAKWIT BOYS (Jason Paul Laxamana)

BILLIE & EMMA (Samantha Lee)

BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo)

DELIA & SAMMY (Therese Cayaba)

DISTANCE (Perci Intalan)

DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag)

GUSTO KITA WITH ALL MY HYPOTHALAMUS (Dwein Baltazar)

HINTAYAN NG LANGIT (Dan Villegas)

KOLEKSYONG PAMALO (Len Frago)

KUNG PAANO HINIHINTAY ANG DAPITHAPON (Carlo Catu)

MAMU (AND A MOTHER TOO) (Rod Singh)

NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone)

ODA SA WALA (Dwein Baltazar)

SOL SEARCHING (Roman Perez, Jr.)

—-

★★★☆☆

ALAS-NUEBE NG TANGHALI (Enalyn Legaspi)

ANONYMOUS STUDENT VLOG (Christian Babista)

BAHAY-BAHAYAN (Brian Spencer Reyes)

ANG DALAWANG MRS. REYES (Jun Lana)

CITIZEN JAKE (Mike de Leon)

EXES BAGGAGE (Dan Villegas)

ISANG TULA PARA SA NAWAWALA (Rod Singh)

JODILERKS DELA CRUZ, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (Carlo Manatad)

MGA ANAK NG KAMOTE (Carlo Catu)

MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal)

NANGUNGUPAHAN (Glenn Barit)

KUYA WES (James Mayo)

PAGLISAN (Carl Joseph Papa)

PAG-UKIT SA PANINIWALA (Hiyas Baldemor Bagabaldo)

PARA SA BROKENHEARTED (Digo Ricio)

.RAW (Eugine Frondoza)

SI ASTRI MAKA SI TAMBULAH (Xeph Suarez)

SID & AYA (NOT A LOVE STORY) (Irene Villamor)

SIGNAL ROCK (Chito Roño)

SIN ISLAND (Gino Santos)

—-

★★☆☆☆

1957 (Hubert Tibi)

AMUSIN PA (Raiza Masculino)

ANG BABAENG ALLERGIC SA WIFI (Jun Lana)

BABYLON (Keith Deligero)

BATO BATO PIK (Ardinian Sanque, Lorys Plaza)

BINATA NA (Dexter de Jesus)

BUYBUST (Erik Matti)

THE DAY AFTER VALENTINE’S (Jason Paul Laxamana)

THE ETERNITY BETWEEN SECONDS (Alec Figuracion)

EVERYBODY LOVES BABY WENDY (Wenn Deramas, Alan Chanliongco)

EXCUSE ME PO (Ronald Batallones)

THE GIRL IN THE ORANGE DRESS (Jay Abello)

GLORIOUS (Connie Macatuno)

GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL (Jerrold Tarog)

THE HOPEFUL ROMANTIC (Topel Lee)

THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres)

JACK EM POPOY: THE PULISCREDIBLES (Michael Tuviera)

KUNG PAANO SIYA NAWALA (Joel Ruiz)

LOGRO (Kani Villaflor)

MADILIM ANG GABI (Adolf Alix, Jr.)

MAMANG (Denise O’Hara)

MAMA’S GIRL (Connie Macatuno)

MARY, MARRY ME (RC delos Reyes)

MASAYA AKO (Daniel Delgado, Tiara Nicolas)

MASLA A PAPANOK (Gutierrez Mangansakan II)

MATA TAPANG (Rod Marmol)

MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN (Irene Villamor)

ML (Benedict Mique)

MR. & MRS. CRUZ (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)

MUSMOS NA SUMIBOL SA GUBAT NG DIGMA (Iar Lionel Arondaing)

MY PERFECT YOU (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

MY 2 MOMMIES (Eric Quizon)

ANG PAMBANSANG THIRD WHEEL (Ivan Andrew Payawal)

PAN DE SALAWAL (Che Espiritu)

ANG PANAHON NG HALIMAW (Lav Diaz)

PINAY BEAUTY (SHE’S NO WHITE) (Jay Abello)

RAINBOW’S SUNSET (Joel Lamangan)

RUFYLA (Coleen Tanco)

RUNNER (Levi Miscala)

SCHOOL SERVICE (Louie Ignacio)

A SHORT HISTORY OF A FEW BAD THINGS (Keith Deligero)

SI APONIBOLINAYEN AT ANG MGA BATANG LUMILIPAD (April Aspiras)

SINGLE/SINGLE: LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH (Veronica Velasco, Pablo Biglang-awa)

SIYUDAD SA BULAWAN (Jarell Serencio)

TANABATA’S WIFE (Lito Casaje, Charlson Ong, Choy Pangilinan)

THREE WORDS TO FOREVER (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

TO LOVE SOME BUDDY (Jason Paul Laxamana)

WE WILL NOT DIE TONIGHT (Richard Somes)

—-

★☆☆☆☆

ABAY BABES (Don Cuaresma)

ABOMINATION (Yam Laranas)

ALIMUOM (Keith Sicat)

ALL SOULS NIGHT (Aloy Adlawan, Jules Katanyag)

AMNESIA LOVE (Albert Langitan)

ATE, KUYA, GUSTO KONG KAPE (Mark Bayani)

AURORA (Yam Laranas)

BAGYONG BHEVERLYNN (Charliebebs Gohetia)

CLASS OF 2018 (Charliebebs Gohetia)

CRY NO FEAR (Richard Somes)

DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes)

DOUBLE TWISTING DOUBLE BACK (Joseph Abello)

EL PESTE (Richard Somes)

FANTASTICA (Barry Gonzalez)

FIRST LOVE (Paul Soriano)

HOSPICIO (Bobby Bonifacio, Jr.)

JACQUELINE COMES HOME (Ysabelle Peach)

KASAL (Ruel Bayani)

KAUYAGAN (WAY OF LIFE) (Julienne Ilagan)

KIKO (Jojo Driz)

KUSINA KINGS (Victor Villanueva)

LASINGTUNADO (Miguel Fernandez)

THE LOOKOUT (Afi Africa)

MELODRAMA/RANDOM/MELBOURNE! (Matthew Pastor)

MY FAIRY TAIL LOVE STORY (Perci Intalan)

NAKALIMUTAN KO NANG KALIMUTAN KA (Fifth Solomon)

NEVER TEAR US APART (Whammy Alcazaren)

ONE GREAT LOVE (Enrico Quizon)

OTLUM (Joven Tan)

PANG-MMK (John Lapus)

THE SIGNIFICANT OTHER (Joel Lamangan)

THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco)

TRES (Richard Somes, Dondon Santos)

TUGMA (Joshua Tayco)

UNLI-LIFE (Miko Livelo)

YAKAP (Mika Fabella, Rafael Froilan)

 

Until next year!!

KASAL (Ruel Bayani, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kasal:

1. According to the Urban Dictionary (one of my online sources of truth), the word “triggered” meant getting filled with hate after seeing, hearing, or experiencing something you couldn’t stand. By the end of this completely offensive movie masquerading as an LGBTQ+ advocacy film, you could definitely consider me triggeredt (with the additional t for emphasis, and also as a millennial).

I actually decided to let my emotions simmer down before writing anything but after a full 8 hours of sleep, I was still feeling the exact same thing. Who were the bright minds behind this monstrosity??!

2. Anybody who had seen the teaser/trailer would already have an inkling on the much-hyped twist here. If you guessed that Philip (Paulo Avelino) and Wado (Derek Ramsay) were previously lovers and their entire history would be the major cause of drama prior to the wedding with Lia (Bea Alonzo), then you had a much better story right there.

The only twist here wasn’t exactly a twist. Philip was just secretly gay. Yun na yun. Now that would have been fine if only the movie had the thoughtfulness to handle such a topic. Shown after the heels of the critically-adored Love, Simon, one would expect that homosexuality would no longer be used as a regressive plot device and that serious topics like coming out would be handled with the required sensitivity. But no, this was a Star Cinema movie where a gay lead character would actually identify as bisexual because heaven forbid it would end without a happy couple walking out of the church very much in love.

3. Did I mention that Wado was the straight ex of Lia and part of his plan to win her back and break up her engagement with Philip was to blackmail the latter by playing footsies with him and using a seduction video of them in the shower (complete with an ominous, slightly porn-ish musical score)? Huh?? Seryoso? Wouldn’t Lia even question why Wado was also making out with another guy? In the shower??

Even worse, the video showed Wado physically and sexually assaulting Philip! How could that possibly work in his favor? That was obviously just another stunt to get two heterosexual local actors kiss (oh, how brave!). And no, Paulo’s upper-half butt exposure was not enough to appease me.

(Side note: A couple of women next to me were loudly screaming “Yuck!” during the entire sequence. I hope that was their reaction at the apparent foolishness of the movie and not at the sight of two men kissing because, c’mon guys, it’s 2018!)

4. But wait, I hadn’t even touched on the worst scene in this awful mess. After Philip’s (who was running for mayor) secret was revealed in public, Lia confronted him and said something like “Ang tatay ko transgender. Ang fiancé ko bisexual. Konti na lang mabubuo ko na ang LGBTQ!”. Please note that Philip in this supposedly emotional scene was just outed without his consent and had a bloodied face after a scuffle with Wado and the entire cinema was howling with laughter because of that dialogue.

And then Lia backtracked by saying that she wasn’t really mad about his sexuality, but at the deception and lies that she had been experiencing all her life. I was so happy you corrected yourself and made it all about you, girl! Confetti and glitter for you!

5. Since Lia was such an endearing and selfless character, here are my words of advice for her: 1) never wear white pants when doing an ocular visit in a dusty location, 2) learn to listen every once in a while and stop these empty declarations (“Don’t you ever speak to me about pain again!”, “Sino ka para sabihin sa akin kung anong gagawin sa buhay ko?”), and 3) if your wet armpits had always been an issue in previous relationships, there are several deodorants and anti-perspirants in the market to choose from (I can attest to the miraculous powers of Arm & Hammer).

6. I was surprised this wasn’t made into a teleserye since most of the characters seemed to be plucked from local soap operas:

• Philip’s controlling mother (Cherie Gil) to blushing bride-to-be Lia: “I was supposed to let you wear my custom-made Oscar dela Renta wedding gown. Of course, I was slimmer then, baka hindi magkasya.”

• Domineering father (Christopher de Leon, with flaring nostrils as always) to his wimpy, disappointing son Philip: “If only your brother Andrew did not die in that accident!”

• Olivia Papa in her signature white blazer (Cris Villonco): “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Basta laging galit at sumisigaw.)

• Lia’s realizations after getting her heart broken by a bisexual: “Now I know that marriage is not just one big event. It’s a choice that you make every single day.”

Jusko, not even Primetime Bida levels! More of Kapamilya Gold. With another Moira dela Torre theme song. Bagong-bago! Itigil ang kasal!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

SANA’Y WALA NANG WAKAS (Leroy Salvador, 1986)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas:

1. Even before the classic Pinoy LGBTQ film Do Re Mi manifested the power of female camaraderie through musical numbers, there was this movie in the late 80’s (probably inspired by the Broadway musical Dreamgirls) that showcased the value of friendship.

If it weren’t obvious enough, the girl group composed of Bianca Eleazar (Sharon Cuneta), Monique Verzosa (Cherie Gil), and Michelle Williams, er, Camille Gonzaga (Dina Bonnevie) was actually named “Friends” and their go-to song was “That’s What Friends Are For” (sung during the opening scene while they wore shiny, silky costumes with gigantic ribbons on the chest area, probably borrowed from the Boyoyong clowns).

Also, Sharon sported a female mullet. Let that sink in.

2. There was one incredibly long montage (worth one full song, I think) where Bianca and Teddy (Tonton Gutierrez, terrible in an Aljur Abrenica way) toured Luzon and it could have been used as a tourist ad for the Philippines (Have some buko juice in Tagaytay! Jet ski in Taal Lake!).

At one point, Teddy dove head first in a shallow pond to get a lotus flower. I thought he was trying to catch a frog, but then it wouldn’t match with Bianca’s ever-changing ribbons on her ponytail.

Naudlot pa ang first kiss nila nang biglang dumating ang order nila na…Pepsi! (We would always complain about product placements in today’s films, but apparently it had been shamelessly done even before. This one also had blatant shills for Master Sardines and Silver Swan Soy Sauce.)

3. It was sad to see the late Dindo Fernando again here, especially since he was one of the finest actors in local cinema that was gone too soon. As Bianca’s father slash music composer, he brought a lot of depth in his character who was prone to making silly decisions.

Upon learning that he had terminal cancer, he did some soul-searching by walking the entire stretch of Manila Bay. He also abandoned his family because he didn’t want to be a pabigat for them, but ultimately returned home for one last deathbed duet. (By the way, this scene was so effective that I was a blubbering mess when it ended. Galing din ni Ate Shawie dito.)

4. As expected, jealousy and fame were the reasons for the group’s eventual break-up. I would have guessed that it was actually Dina’s singing voice because she just sounded awful (refer to Barbie Forteza’s viral video).

There was a scene where Camille was singing drunk and another one where she was warbling while sobbing uncontrollably and she didn’t sound any different from her supposedly better days. She more than made up for it in acting though because I really loved the scene where she started throwing beer bottles at her gay BFF Manny Castaneda.

5. Sample dialogue…

• Teddy being defiant to his overbearing father: “Pigain mo man ako, di mo mapipiga ang musika sa buhay ko!” (Nux!!)

• Teddy’s matapobre father to Bianca: “Magkano ang kelangan mo para layuan ang anak ko?”

Bianca with matching flaring nostrils: “Magkano ang kaya nyong ibayad? Bilhin nyo sya ng pera nyo. Bibilhin ko sya ng pag ibig ko!” (Applause! Standing ovation!!)

6. Burning questions:

• If Bianca was so famous that she was being mobbed by fans, why did she take a cab during her walk-out scene?

• How did Bianca and Monique become huge recording stars if most of their songs were remakes? Greatest Love of All vs Through the Fire? (Sabagay, diamond artist si Nina.)

• What happened to breach of contract? How could Monique miss the farewell concert of the group and get away with it? And did Bianca really have to sing Part-Time Lover (with matching luha) after seeing Camille and Teddy kiss?

• Hindi pa ba uso ang aircon noon? Bakit ang nasa loob ng dressing room nila ay isang malaking electric fan?

7. It was so funny how all the conflicts were magically resolved during the final musical number of Bianca. In this scene, the song composed by her dearly-departed dad won the top prize in a music festival that suddenly turned into her concert, complete with surprise appearances by Monique and Camille.

Friendship was restored, a marriage proposal was done, and Manny Castaneda remained a faithful alalay.

Never, ever question the power of a Willy Cruz song.

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: ★★★☆☆