‪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: ★★☆☆☆

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CINEMALAYA – SHORTS B (2017)

SPOILER ALERT!!

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JUANA AND THE SACRED SHORES (Antonne Santiago, 2017)

Similar to Pina, this dance film was just too artsy for my basic tastes. Kwento ko na lang sa inyo mga bes.

So merong long-legged Ate Dyosa na nag-trip magsayaw sa maduming batis. Biglang dumating si Gluta Koya na may dalang santol at more join sa ballet nya. Nagpagulong-gulong sila sa putikan at nagtastas ng damit. Biglang may Grindr notif si Koya so itinigil nya ang pagkaladkad kay Ate Dyosa na naninilaw na. Paggising nya, naka-blusang itim na sya at nagpapaligo si Gluta Koya ng isang bata.

Tungkol ba ito sa colonialism? Oppression of women? Dance as art form? Ang deep, men!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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MARIA (JP Habac, 2017)

Aka the Reproductive Health Law Movie.

From the opening breakfast scene with a dozen children of all ages grabbing for the remaining food on the table, to the endless petty fights between the siblings (that would put Bunak and Bilog to shame), to the mother giving birth yet again to her twenty-nth baby inside a tricycle, it was enough for me to wish for an instant vasectomy.

Strong message and good production values, but it just fell short from being a public service announcement.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*****

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NAKAW (Arvin Belarmino, Noel Escondo, 2017)

Single take, poverty porn, murky lighting, shaky cam, gratuitous sex and violence, social relevance, Kristoffer King. This short was able to tick everything off the Brillante Mendoza-lite checklist. Didn’t really feel necessary.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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HILOM (P.R. Patindol, 2017)

There was something sweet and completely unsettling between the bond of the young twin brothers in this short. When Blue Twin developed a stronger friendship with another boy, you could actually feel the jealousy of Pink Twin. At the end of the day though (and amidst the malicious gay accusations), blood was still thicker than water.

Solid production values all-throughout. I just wish it didn’t hold back and ventured darker than expected.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*****

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BAWOD (TM Malones, 2017)

Although I liked the initial focus on the charming relationship between the grandfather and his thirteen year old granddaughter (especially the opening sequence with their constant banter that ended up in a carabao ride), it failed to capitalize on this and instead chose to take a philosophical route (similar to that clichéd bamboo metaphor).

The ending made me scratch my dandruff-free head.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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NAKAUWI NA (Marvin Cabangunay, Jaynus Olaivar, 2017)

A well-intentioned short dealing with extrajudicial killings that was tough to watch given its crude technical aspects. It was like watching a Powerpoint presentation that would always fade to black before moving on to the next flashback scene. Most of the performances were terrible (the part where the friends delivered the bad news to the father was cringe-worthy). The blatant audio issues were also very distracting and in the only scene that was meant to be affecting, the musical score started to swell before the sappy theme song was played.

Maiiyak na sana ako sa dulo nang biglang lumabas ang multo ng napatay na anak. It was probably meant to be sentimental, but I walked out of the cinema laughing instead.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I’M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU. (JP Habac, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I’m Drunk, I Love You.:

1. I recently read this Cosmo online article about the glorification of the Nice Guy syndrome in the Jollibee Vow ad. It basically stated that the said Nice Guy was actually a toxic idiot who often presented himself as the sacrificing fool to garner his female object of desire’s (and the world’s) sympathies. To a certain extent, it could also apply to a Nice Girl or Nice Gay or anybody who constantly depicted themselves as the kawawa party for being friendzoned.

This was the reason why I didn’t really feel all that bad for Carson (Maja Salvador) who had been salivating over her BFF Dio (Paulo Avelino) for more than seven years. She chose to go (literally) gaga over him even if he never really showed any interest in her other than as a friend. She answered his every beck and call even if it would usually be something petty like choosing the perfect pair of socks to wear (“Gusto ko ng input mo as a friend”). She showed incredible devotion and made personal sacrifices in the hopes that one day he would be able to reciprocate her feelings.

In short, everything was her fault and she chose to be tanga sa pag-ibig. If I were her friend, the only advice she would be getting from me would be a huge Maricel Soriano bitch-slap on her face (I’m judgmental like that).

2. Besides, I couldn’t really see anything nice or good or redeeming about Dio except that he looked like Paulo Avelino. When Carson professed her love and he reacted with a pity kiss, he was even being less of a friend and more of a jerk.

I suddenly remembered my past life when a friend wanted to drown herself along the malumot beach of Puerto Galera because I told her I couldn’t force myself to love her back. Brutal, yes, but at least I wasn’t being paasa. (And I think everyone would agree that aside from greedy taxi drivers and corrupt politicians, the paasas were the ultimate vermins of this earth).

3. Even with two major characters that deserved pag-untugin and a flimsy plot that didn’t really merit a full-length feature, this movie still had loads of charm coming from its actors and enough funny moments that carried it through.

Most of the credit should definitely go to Maja for simply being a believable and flawed lovesick puppy. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was actually just playing a modified, less glamorous version of her real self. Whenever she would say something like umebak (or an equally jologs-sounding word), it just felt natural and made her character a bit more endearing. And surprise, she did have an ebak scene here.

My favorite bit was when Dio told Carson, “Relax lang, yang puso mo” and she answered with “Nasa ‘yo” and immediately took it back with “Lalalalalalala charot lang expectorant”. It felt so spontaneous and incredibly sad and reminded me that I was watching an Urian winner.

4. I really liked the scene where Carson used her iPod like a Magic 8 ball with her asking questions and letting random songs provide the answer. Inasmuch as I loved and supported OPM though, I still wished that the songs used were a bit more relatable (not even one commercial Tagalog or foreign song on her playlist? I know, I know, the rights would have cost a lot of money, but I’m 100% sure she would have had Salbakuta’s S2pid Luv there).

Speaking of songs, most of the lyrics that were played during key moments were too on the nose when the actors’ performances should have been enough to convey the emotions. It was just too soon to have another The Breakup Playlist (or Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa).

5. Nakakatawa yung Kung Ako si John Lloyd song. Especially since it reminded me of One More Chance where Maja played another jilted lover. “Ay lab yu en ay wil tel yu ebridey. Ebridey antil yu porget da tings dat herth. Eep onli it cud bee dan, bat eet kennat bee dan.”

Also, the car scene here where she ended up in the back seat felt like a reversal of fortune when Basha sobbed as a third wheel for Trisha and Popoy.

6. I wasn’t too happy with the extraneous Jason Ty character and subplot. Don’t get me wrong, Dominic Roco played that Dimples Romana slash Ricci Chan role to a tee and he delivered some of the most hilarious lines in the movie (“Wag mo sya sasaktan papa-jombag talaga kita kay Claudine”, “Happy Horse for the happy whore!”, “Taray, seven years a slave”), but another gay best friend acting as the voice of reason slash source of comic relief deserved a side eye from fairy godmother Rupert Everett.

Also, his biggest love problem was that he said “I love you” after a one night stand. And his happy ever after involved a Grindr hook-up and a possible threesome. Dai, ang babaw ha.

7. Why were they all being mean to Pathy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) for being vegan? I, too, would never eat bagnet (I’m just not fond of pork’s texture) so I felt closest to her character. It wasn’t her fault if her parents (probably Pamela and Thyro) named her with that unfortunate H. Also, why was she considered a villain for being an elitista that got featured in Young Star? She was actually a very charming and nice person who…wait, didn’t Iza Calzado also play the sweetest third party in Starting Over Again? And wasn’t she also named Patty? #HustisyaParaSaMgaPatty

8. “Tangina ang sakit ng truth, no? Lalo na kapag isinasampal sayo.” If Jason Ty were her real friend, he would have given her that Maricel Soriano bitch-slap that she deserved much, much earlier.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

CineFilipino Short Films – Set A (2016)

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Shorts A had a really fine line-up that started with the great OKTOPUS by JP Habac. It was a bittersweet take on growing old filled with old people beliefs, superstitions, and ruminations on life. It starred an excellent cast of local veteran character actresses (Vangie Labalan, Ruby Ruiz, Flora Gasser) that in the end left a powerful dare (“Minsan lang po kayo matanda”).

KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE by Galileo Sioco Te and Prime Cruz was a refreshing take on a futuristic world where memories were sold and companies created a new breed of domestic helpers and caregivers. The mother-daughter bond established at the start was so strong (with great performances from its leads) that it made the big reveal even more heartbreaking. I wish they were able to fix the blatant dubbing concerns, otherwise this was a really great effort. (And I just could not stop singing that song!)

With Dayang Asu and now DIGPAN NING ALTI, Bor Ocampo has clearly established a specialty on the dog-eat-dog theme. Except for the (intentional?) non-matching perspectives, it was a well-shot, gritty film that would make you want to see what came after the prologue. I especially loved the scene where the camera was possibly mounted on a bike going downhill (signaling the current state of its characters’ lives).

John Rhys Guarina’s KATOK opened with a powerful image: that of a young boy tied and blindfolded in a cramped back of a van. It was later revealed that he was part of a group begging for money and his sad life was filled with the constant knocks on windows of both vehicle owners and his syndicate’s owner. It was a short that clearly delivered its message.

My favorite short film of the festival was easily SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO by Cheska Salangsang. It was a heartbreaking story about a childless couple doing a constant trek and their conversations revealed their sadness, disappointments (“Masama ba tayong tao?”), and a glimmer of hope. I would have personally wanted it to end without the voiceover and just the chilling final shot that was open to interpretation, but it was an excellent short nonetheless.

LUNA by Rae Red was a sad tale of a girl already trying to fit in and be accepted. And then she got her period and her gender identity struggle was fully revealed. Interesting for the most part, but I would have wanted to see (and feel) more.

Ratings:

OKTOPUS (JP Habac) – ★★★★★
KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE (Galileo Sioco Te and Prime Reyes) – ★★★★☆
DIGPAN NING ALTI (Bor Ocampo) – ★★★★☆
KATOK (John Rhys Guarina) – ★★★★☆
SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO (Cheska Salangsang) – ★★★★★
LUNA (Rae Red) – ★★★☆☆