FAMILY HISTORY (Michael V., 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Family History:

1. In one of the funniest Bubble Gang moments to date, the brilliant Michael V. came up with a parody video of Lady Gaga’s super hit Bad Romance (called Bathroom Dance). Dressed up in a knockoff iconic white leotard, he twisted and turned around a huge bathroom set while singing (or more appropriately, moaning) about the things he ate (“Okoy, candy, ice cream, laing, siopao, beer, gravy”) that caused his diarrhea-like symptoms.

My favorite bit was when he converted the French lines in the original song to fit his condition and ended up with the hilarious “Jeux tot lang yun, pero parang hindi. Jeux tot lang ba? Ay nakakadiri!”. Genius, right?

2. I was somewhat anticipating that same brand of humor in this movie (where he performed triple duty of acting, writing and directing; move over, Bradley Cooper!!), but what I didn’t expect was for each scene to have a punchline. Seriously, why did everything need to be funny?

When the oncologist (Dingdong Dantes, credited for a cameo role naturally) was discussing the grave illness of May (Dawn Zulueta), her husband Alex (Michael V.) kept making jokes about her situation and it wasn’t even his character’s form of coping mechanism. It was just Michael V. the comedian trying to prove that he was a worthy successor to the late Dolphy. I had a tough time brushing off that queasy feeling of hearing the audience laugh when the doctor confirmed that May had a malignant tumor (read: cancer).

Sure, I was a fan of Jonathan Levine’s cancer dramedy 50/50, but that film knew how to properly balance things out in order to elicit the right emotions. It wasn’t just a series of gags that continued to mine laughs at the expense of a dying, bald woman undergoing chemotherapy.

3. It was for this same reason that I didn’t feel much during all of those dramatic highlights. One of the few scenes that I liked here involved Alex singing an original song to a bedridden May and eventually asking for her forgiveness. It was the kind of scenario that would make me weep and curl up in a fetal position, except that I felt completely detached from these characters. Or maybe because this happened towards the end and I was just expecting the requisite punchline to ruin the moment.

4. I had never seen this many “fade to black” since my college Powerpoint presentation of the “Most Beautiful People in Showbusiness”. While other filmmakers limited the use of this basic editing style to signify the end of an act (or the film itself), this one just had too much fun with it. Why? Because. (Fade to black.)

5. Since Alex’s boss (Nonie Buencamino) was a closeted homosexual, he wore a lot of baby pinks and purples. Bakit hindi na lang siya nilagyan ng rainbow tattoo sa forehead?

6. Other burning questions:

• Did we really need that same exterior shot to establish the hospital scenes? Ano ‘to, teleserye? And why were there so many static scenes? Bawal gumalaw ang camera?

• Although it was established that Alex was a 2D animator that shunned new technology, how could he not know about file formats (“HIV ata”)? Was he also too old-school to not use a television and that was why he never learned of Michael Jackson’s death?

(I appreciated the choice of having animated sequences given the nature of his work, though. Sana lang hindi ganun ka-off ang pagka-insert sa mga eksena.)

• Was Miguel Tanfelix trying to relive the 90’s boyband look with that perennial side brush?

• If Kakai Bautista’s character was such a good influence to May, why was she too eager to support her married friend’s love affair? (And was there ever a scene here where her acting wasn’t immediately set to level 999?)

• It’s 2019 and we still got a scene where Alex sexually harassed another woman and it was played for laughs? (Eww.)

• How could Alex reminisce scenes that he never really saw or experienced?

• Most importantly, who in their right mind would use the rough (green) side of a Scotch-Brite to wash glasses? Imagine those scratches! Horrors!! (Ay, commercial pala siya for Joy in the middle of the movie.)

7. Medyo cute yung juxtaposition na like father, like son in terms of quoting lyrics. At least they both had good taste for knowing the Eraserheads’ Maling Akala and Parokya ni Edgar’s Buloy.

8. You know how Star Cinema kept  punishing its strong female leads with a philandering husband and a broken family? That being a successful, career-driven woman was a curse on one’s marriage? GMA Films had a reverse take with Alex being too busy to attend to his wife’s needs that led to her extra-marital affair with John Estrada and his enormous package (no really, it was referenced and highlighted in the movie). May even justified the act by saying that it was needed to fix her family. Huwat?? (Even weirder, it wasn’t a big deal to John and his wife. Deadma lang.)

9. “Minsan mas okay maging mabait kesa maging tama.” I wonder if Auggie Pullman was shooketh.

10. Amidst all the gags, it was fun to see Michael V. living his fantasy of being fawned over by lovely women and putting the DILF status of Ian Veneracion to shame. Jeux tot mo haha!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Snowpiercer:

1. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this film. From the dull title to the seemingly tacky poster, I thought it would be a terrible B-movie at best. It ended up as a stylish and ambitious futuristic English film from a French novel and Korean director. Mindblown.

2. I guess I just really appreciated the vision of Korean filmmakers. I started last year with Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and loved it as well. Great minds.

3. I rarely liked action films but this one just belonged to a different genre. There were equal parts suspense, violence, and comedy.

4. In an alternate universe, Tilda Swinton would get an Oscar for this film. The “Be a shoe” speech alone was just pure brilliance.

5. I’m happy I knew little about the film. Every time an Oscar nominee or winner showed up, I squealed with delight. They were all perfect!

6. I’d shut up now before I spoil it for you guys. The less you knew, the better. (I fear that it’s an acquired taste, though.)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 30, 2014.)

SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

One character probably summed it up best when he mentioned that the others may have seen one too many Hollywood crime films since there were no serial killers in the Philippines (hail Queen Jessica Zafra!). Although this adaptation of the Palanca-winning novel by F.H. Batacan had a distinctly Pinoy setting (what screamed poverty more than the Payatas dumpsite?), nothing else felt authentic in this slow-paced procedural slash disappointing non-thriller.

I couldn’t get past the unnatural dialogue between the two conyo Jesuit priests (Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero). When the latter said something like “Nobody raised a stink?”, I just wanted to make tungga a bottle of holy water. Although these served well during one Atenista joke, the English conversations just felt (what did you call it again, Holden Caulfield?), ah yes, phony. Don’t get me started on the unnecessary (oh look we’re multilingual!) French talk.

Even the themes didn’t exactly break new ground. Inefficiency of our local crime units? Politicians taking advantage of the poor? Abusive power of the Church? Pedophile priests? Where was Joel Lamangan when you needed him? Worse, the big reveal of the killer felt very anticlimactic with the introduction of a last minute character (and not in a menacing Kevin Spacey in Se7en way) whose motives and modus weren’t fully explained.

At least it had the budget for a competent all-star cast, lovely cinematography and terrific production design (that fully captured the grimy late 90s aesthetics). It also obviously wasn’t a rushed production with a pre-keto diet Mae Paner (and was that the late Joy Viado in one scene?).

I got bored during the sluggish killer confession scene so I just imagined a more interesting version of the movie in my head. I renamed Buencamino’s Father Saenz as Father Science since he was a forensics expert anyway and with all the victims’ missing hearts and genitals, he sought the help of Kim Chiu’s Mayen who already had an experience with monsters that shove organs down people’s throats. Chito Roño’s Smaller and Smaller Bagwas, anyone?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆