ISA PA, WITH FEELINGS (Prime Cruz, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Isa Pa, With Feelings:

1. As a certified reality-competition junkie, one of my favorite shows is that cheesy, Eezy Dancing-like US program called Dancing with the Stars. If the title isn’t a giveaway, it’s a dance competition program where washed up film and TV stars and/or B-list celebrities from other arenas (music, sports, politics) are willing to make fools of themselves (sorry, I mean learn the art of dance and prove their worth) on national TV.

In a previous season, America’s Next Top Model hottie Nyle DiMarco defied all odds by giving stunning performances week after week before finally winning the coveted Mirror Ball trophy. Oh yeah, he’s Deaf by the way. Imagine not being able to hear the music (relying on just vibrations) and still move in perfect rhythm with his professional ballroom partner like he’s the king of the dance floor. It would be an understatement to say that I was in tears after his every number.

I had the exact same feeling of awe and (tears of) joy when Deaf Gali (Carlo Aquino) performed that lovely contemporary routine with Hearing Mara (Maine Mendoza) during this film’s climactic dance recital. Teacher Geleen Eugenio really taught them well.

2. There’s something about Maine’s smile that can light up an entire room. When Mara woke up on the day of her licensure exam and started prepping by nonchalantly dancing around in her condo, the oldie in me wanted to slap her silly for not taking things seriously (neng, make or break moment ito mag-last review ka o ayusin mo ang mga requirements na dadalhin mo hindi ito Carefree commercial juskong mahabagin), but the growing hatred simply disappeared as soon as she grinned from utter embarrassment (oops, cutie neighbor alert!). Also, (insert “super gwapo ni Carlo nakakababa ng self-esteem leche” here).

Even with a few noticeable acting tics (mostly broad reactions to look funny) carried over from her Kalyeserye days, I was happy to see that Maine was able to flex her dramatic skills here. As in magaling talaga siya that I literally said “And galing naman” in every scene where she was required to cry (after seeing that she failed the exams, during that touching moment when she hugged her mom after a heartbreak, and that entire “Gali, mahal kita eh” sequence). It was also fun to see her DubSmash skills put to good use during that hilarious “Matitikman nila ang ganti ng isang api!” reenactment.

(Of course, Carlo was amazing as well because I cried every time he cried and laughed every time he laughed and turned into a teenage girl every time he smiled. If you still need more words to describe his performance here, simply look up all the synonyms of exceptional in the dictionary.)

Side note: As a lapsed fan, kinikilig ako na 2019 is actually the year of AlDub. Ang laki ng growth nina Alden and Maine as artists in their separate projects. Sana the rest will learn from this, risk on new material, and continue to explore outside of their standard love teams.

3. One of the things that I loved about this film was all of those moments of silence, not just to let us better understand Gali’s perspective, but also because we didn’t need an intrusive musical score to make us feel things in every poignant scene. The amount of restraint here considering that this was still a commercial local rom-com was truly commendable.

4. It was nice to be reminded that we should be grateful for things that we usually just take for granted. One of my pet peeves whenever I have food delivered at home would be the constant buzzing of the doorbell (because seriously, once or twice should suffice). And yet there are people in the world like Gali who wouldn’t even know that he had a package waiting outside his room because there was just no way to properly notify him. I guess it’s true that you will always meet someone who will definitely put things in perspective.

Speaking of, that entire Christmas lights concept turned me into a weeping mess. After exposing us to simple things that end up as major challenges faced by the Deaf community (Gali’s expressions said it all during that entire package fiasco), it was a joy to see him smile (and tear up) after Mara’s plan worked. Loved the callback on that one, too. That uber romantic slash heartbreaking scene involving a famous pop song and blinking lights would probably end up as my favorite moment in Philippine Cinema 2019.

(Plus points for completely wiping out the trauma of the use of Christmas lights in Stranger Things.)

5. It was amusing to watch the audience imitate and learn some basic phrases during the couple’s Sign Language 101 sessions. I mean, isn’t it great that we would all walk out of that theater knowing another way to say “Hello”, “Thank you”, and “Sorry” with the proper expressions and emotions? Of course if I were Mara, I would have asked Gali to teach me the most important words first (curse words, naturally!) because that’s a pre-requisite in every new language.

(Another side note: In college, I had a lot of Filipino-Chinese classmates from Xavier and they told me that the most important phrases to remember were “piao si di siao siao” and “di lanciao bin”. Surely I’m all prepped for that return visit to Shanghai.)

6. Sad facts: i) There are not enough Deaf schools in our country, ii) Most parents of Deaf kids do not know how to sign, iii) There are insensitive people in the world like Vangie Labalan’s character who referred to Gali as “di mo aakalain na may diperensya”. (Tawagin ulit ang Undin, please!!)

7. Burning questions:

• Whatever happened to Mara’s dreams of becoming an architect? Will she finally prep properly and take that exam seriously? Did her father (Cris Villanueva) roll up that tarp and keep for future use?

• Why didn’t we get a payoff on those sign language sessions? Is Mara’s niece still waiting for that special surprise?

• Is “Were you worried about me?” the newest pick-up line?

• How were they able to afford those condo units? And who do I need to call to replace our doorbell with blinking Christmas lights?

• With lines like “Puro de lata ang kinakain mo, magkaka-UTI ka!!”, is Mara’s mother (Lotlot de Leon) actually related to mine?

• What was that siomai stand doing in a party, aside from serving as product placement for SIOGO? (Sio clean! Sio good!)

• Gali literally jumping to Mara’s condo was a metaphor that he was taking a leap of faith on their relationship, yes?

• Will the LTO permanently suspend Mara’s license for being so accident-prone?

• “Mahal ba talaga natin yung jowa/asawa natin ngayon kung sino at ano siya, o minahal lang natin siya dahil lagi siyang nandiyan para sa atin?” (Require your significant other to answer this in less than five sentences.)

8. Ganda ng communication gaps shown throughout their love story. The use of cellphones in lieu of spoken words and signs (ang inspired nung text messages flashed between their condos), the times they both felt OP while in two different parties (although the Deaf crowd felt more welcoming, no? Well, except for that intrimidida girl), and the acceptance of their differences plus sacrifices they were both willing to make with that touching “Then I’ll be deaf for you” line. Wala talagang hadlang kapag mga puso na ang nag-uusap. ❤️

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2016

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TOP 10 BEST FEATURE LENGTH FILMS

#10

ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2:#FOREVERISNOTENOUGH

Written by: Chris Martinez
Directed by: Marlon Rivera

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#9

SEKLUSYON

Written by: Anton Santamaria
Directed by: Erik Matti

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#8

PAMILYA ORDINARYO

Written by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.
Directed by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.

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#7

FOREVER BRIDGELESS

Written by: Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez and Glenn Ternal
Directed by: Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez and Glenn Ternal

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#6

STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE

Written by: Ronald Allan Habon
Directed by: Randolph Longjas

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#5

SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING

Written by: Ice Idanan and Petersen Vargas
Directed by: Ice Idanan

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#4

DIE BEAUTIFUL

Written by: Rody Vera
Directed by: Jun Lana

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#3

MA’ ROSA

Written by: Troy Espiritu
Directed by: Brillante Mendoza

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#2

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN

Written by: Baby Ruth Villarama
Directed by: Baby Ruth Villarama

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#1

TUOS

Written by: Denise O’Hara
Directed by: Derick Cabrido

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2016 Scorecard:

★★★★★
DIE BEAUTIFUL (Jun Lana)
FOREVER BRIDGELESS (Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez, Glenn Ternal)
FOREVER NATIN (Cyrus Valdez)
MA’ ROSA (Brillante Mendoza)
OKTOPUS (JP Habac)
ANG PAINTING NI TATAY (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)
SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO (Cheska Salangsang)
SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING (Ice Idanan)
STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE (Randolph Longjas)
STOP. STEADY. SAYAW. (Dan Villegas)
SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (Baby Ruth Villarama)
TUOS (Derick Cabrido)
XXX (Allison Barretto)

★★★★☆
ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (Dan Villegas)
CAMP SAWI (Irene Villamor)
CHICBOY (Jasper Ramon Tulabot)
DIGPAN NING ALTI (Bor Ocampo)
FISH OUT OF WATER (Mon Garilao)
ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2: #FOREVERISNOTENOUGH (Marlon Rivera)
KATOK (John Rhys Guarina)
KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE (Galileo Sioco Te and Prime Reyes)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (ASAWA NI MARIE) (Chris Martinez)
MERCURY IS MINE (Jason Paul Laxamana)
MRS. (Adolf Alix, Jr.)
AN ORCHESTRA IN SEARCH OF A HOME (Ida Anita del Mundo)
PAMILYA ORDINARYO (Eduardo Roy, Jr.)
PEKTUS (Isabel Quesada)
SEKLUSYON (Erik Matti)

★★★☆☆
THE ACHY BREAKY HEARTS (Antoinette Jadaone)
AREA (Louie Ignacio)
ANG BABAENG HUMAYO (Lav Diaz)
BAKA BUKAS (Samantha Lee)
BAKIT LAHAT NG GWAPO MAY BOYFRIEND? (Jun Lana)
BESHIE (Joyce Bernal)
DUKOT (Paul Soriano)
DYAMPER (Mes de Guzman)
EVERYTHING ABOUT HER (Joyce Bernal)
EXPRESSWAY (Ato Bautista)
GET CERTIFIED (Isaias Zantua)
HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz)
IMAGINE YOU & ME (Michael Tuviera)
JUST THE 3 OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
LUNA (Rae Red)
MANILA SCREAM (Roque Lee, Blair Camilo)
MGA BITOON SA SIUDAD (Jarell Serencio)
NAKAUWI NA (John Relano, Patrick Baleros, Luis Hidalgo)
NED’S PROJECT (Lemuel Lorca)
AN OPEN DOOR (Paul Soriano)
ORO (Alvin Yapan)
SAVING SALLY (Avid Liongoren)
SITSIRITSIT (Brian Spencer Reyes)
SINA DINO AT ANG KANILANG SIKRETO (Miller Ursolino)
ANG TABA KO KASI (Jason Paul Laxamana)

★★☆☆☆
1ST SEM (Allan Ibanez, Dexter Hemedez)
ANG BAGONG PAMILYA NI PONCHING (Inna Salazar Acuña, Dos Ocampo)
BARCELONA: A LOVE UNTOLD (Olivia Lamasan)
BUGTAW (Noah del Rosario)
BUHAY HABANGBUHAY (Paolo Herras)
BUTAS (Richard Cawed)
DAGSIN (Atom Magadia)
ECHORSIS (Lemuel Lorca)
ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI (Gil Portes)
ANG HAPON NI NANDING (Milo Tolentino)
HIBLANG ABO (Ralston Jover)
HOW TO BE YOURS (Dan Villegas)
HOW TO FIND LOVE (Quark Henares)
I AMERICA (Ivan Andrew Payawal)
I LOVE YOU TO DEATH (Miko Livelo)
KABISERA (Arturo San Agustin, Real Florido)
KUSINA (Cenon Palomares, David Corpuz)
LAKBAY2LOVE (Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil)
LILA (Gino Santos)
LOVE IS BLIND (Jason Paul Laxamana)
LOVE ME TOMORROW (Gino Santos)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (BALA SA BALA, KAMAO SA KAMAO, SATSAT SA SATSAT) (Mark Meily)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (SHAKE, SHAKER, SHAKEST) (Andoy Ranay)
ANG MAANGAS, ANG MARIKIT, AT ANG MAKATA (Ibarra Guballa)
MANSYONG PAPEL (Ogos Aznar)
MITATANG (Alvin Jezer Gagui)
MY CANDIDATE (Quark Henares)
NOT APPLICABLE (Carl Chavez)
PUNLA (Kenneth Mandrilla)
THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal)
THE THIRD PARTY (Jason Paul Laxamana)
THIS TIME (Nuel Naval)
TISAY (Alfonso Torre III)
ANG TULAY NG SAN SEBASTIAN (Alvin Yapan)
THE UNMARRIED WIFE (Maryo J. Delos Reyes)
VINCE & KATH & JAMES (Theodore Boborol)
WHISTLEBLOWER (Adolf Alix, Jr.)
WORKING BEKS (Chris Martinez)

★☆☆☆☆
AKI (Milo Tolentino)
BIRDS (Christian Paolo Lat)
DIYOS-DIYOSAN (Cesar Buendia)
ELEMENTO (Mark Meily)
ENTENG KABISOTE 10 AND THE ABANGERS (Tony Reyes, Marlon Rivera)
THE ESCORT (Enzo Williams)
ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI (Gil Portes)
LANDO AT BUGOY (Vic Acedillo, Jr.)
MANO PO 7: CHINOY (Ian Loreños)
MY REBOUND GIRL (Emmanuel dela Cruz)
PASSAGE OF LIFE (Renz Vincemark Cruz, Hannah Daryl Gayapa)
STRAIGHT TO THE HEART (Frank David Fabros)
THAT THING CALLED TANGA NA (Joel Lamangan)
TPO (TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDER) (Joselito Altarejos)
TUPANG LIGAW (Rod Santiago)

THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Super Parental Guardians:

1. When it was first announced that Joyce Bernal would be taking over the reins of the late Wenn Deramas in the newest Vice Ganda MMFF entry, I felt excited and hopeful that the new combo would bring something new and fresh to the Pinoy comedy genre. Sadly, this movie basically recycled every single joke and gag that worked in previous Deramas-Ganda collaborations slash blockbusters (beating a dead horse? wink, wink).

It actually felt like Vice commandeered the entire thing (he even received an “Additional Scenes and Dialogue” credit), not wanting to change anything that he perceived wasn’t broken (or in his own words, “quality”). The result was a disappointing rehash, no different from eating last night’s cold leftover pizza.

2. Sample checklist for reference:

• Outrageous outfits – In one scene, he wore a rejected ribbon dress from the Lady Gaga collection that would obviously be unwound in a succeeding scene (because seeing Vice in a black leotard was supposedly funny). Oh, and the punchline was that he was advised to dress for the occasion and the said event was a ribbon-cutting. (Wenk, wenk.)

In another, he attended a funeral wearing a costume with a matching headdress that made me want to do the Shigi Shigi dance from Shaider.

• Word(name)plays – Remember the restaurant scene in Beauty and the Bestie where they joked about looking like Bea Bunda and Liza Lorena? Here, they had a Kath Tonying Taberna, Liza de Lima, Nadine Munyoka, and Arci Taulava. How about the “Ang bata na-bonjour” joke in Praybeyt Benjamin? This time it was “Ang bata nalaglag” in a terribly unfunny “miscarriage” gag.

• Sidekick slapping and insults – Now he had Kiray to slap as well. And of course there were several pockmarked face jokes.

• Game of the year – Ooh, Vice wearing an Ash costume while collecting pokeballs from a spinning pokestop. How current! Except that Pokemon Go mania died a couple of months ago.

• Duet – The Hold On sing-off was a highlight in BatB so they obviously needed to do it again here (this time with Coco Martin singing his heart out to “Kung wala ka nang maintindihaaaaan…”, one of the possibly three times that I actually laughed throughout the entire movie).

• Pinoy films homage – This was a staple in Deramas movies because you could feel his obvious love for them. Here, they just needed to include a bit from Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin because, well, just because.

3. Why wasn’t this called Ang Probinsyano the Movie? It really wasn’t any different from the series (down to the repetitive Wag Ka Nang Umiyak gag), except that Coco looked like a deranged Harley Quinn who was late for the Valkyrie Halloween party.

Also, what were all of those mini-explosions in the slums fight sequence? If this were New Year’s Eve, the best term to describe them would be “supot”.

4. I found it really weird that a strong proponent of LGBTQ rights would subject his character to the stereotypical perception of gays to generate laughs. One with him quivering in seeing topless construction workers, or him acting like a sexual predator to a drunk straight man (sinukahan na, kinilig pa rin), or him giving all of his cash to a tormentor simply because he looked good.

In a year when other films (The Third Party, Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, Working Beks) tried to change how gay characters were portrayed in Philippine cinema, this one seemed to be contented with them being the laughing stock of society.

5. Onyok Pineda wasn’t as funny here compared to his stint in Ang Probinsyano where his genuine reactions to a closeted friend were comedy gold. He did have one cute scene that worked (“Kuya pangkain lang po. Ganern!”), but he was clearly overshadowed by Awra Briguela.

I wish they gave Awra more to do than the endless showdowns with Vice. His funniest moments to me were when he wasn’t even trying (just him sharply enunciating “freshly picked tomatoes” had me giggling in my seat). I also couldn’t stand all the physical abuse that he received from Vice (that sabunot scene would have been funny in the ’90s before the launch of Bantay Bata).

6. As expected, there were mini-commercials for Gluta-C, King Cup sardines, and even (gasp!) Pigrolac?!

7. Matet de Leon’s character here was addicted to balut, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because her sister in real-life is Balot. (If you got that reference, then you’re way too old.)

8. Although most of the corny jokes failed (that low batt modelling sequence, the used hanky scene, the Ilonggo-maskara bit, the Train to “Boosan” gag, the Baron vs Matos fight), there was one that really made me laugh. It involved Vice getting thrown in all directions for a Family Day dance number and his resulting expressions were just too funny. We needed more of these and less of the out-of-the-blue Leila de Lima impersonations.

9. “Bakit di nila tayo isinama sa filmfest? Itong mga batang ito ata ang malas!” Nope, definitely not their fault.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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!!

LIGHTS OUT (David Sandberg, 2016)

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My notes on Lights Out:

1. Whenever I watch a horror flick, I feel like I work in Monsters Inc. (“We scare because we care!”) because I find glee in hearing the screams of the audience. The more frightened they are, the louder their cries (to the point of being annoying), the noisier the theater, the more I enjoy it. Sometimes I even end up liking that experience more than the actual movie.

2. If you still haven’t seen the short film that this was based on, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/-fDzdDfviLI. It’s only three minutes, it’s free, and it’s infinitely better than the full-length feature. (I liked the cameo of Lotta Losten, though. She was the star of the short and played the assistant during the opening sequence.)

3. The basic premise of the movie hinged on the flicking of light switches. But really, if you saw a strange figure standing in the dark, would you still turn the lights off (then on and off and on and off) again just to check if it was just your imagination?

That was exactly what the people here did the entire time. Characters entered rooms without bothering to turn on the lights. Their idea of safeguarding a haunted house was placing tape on the switches (because they never heard of power fluctuations and blackouts) and lighting candles (because an open flame would never get blown out by the softest fart).

4. In one scene, the boyfriend of Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) left a used sock in her drawer as a sign of taking their relationship to the next level. The fact that she was still able to locate that hidden sock meant that it must have smelled really bad and I was surprised that she didn’t break up with him right there and then.

5. If there was one thing that creeped me out here, it was when the mother (Maria Bello) was talking to something (someone?) in her room and kept using the pronoun “we” in her questions (“Did we wake you?”). I wish they were able to develop this mental illness plot further and gone The Babadook route. Monsters could be lurking under the bed, but I was more scared of the ones inside our heads.

6. Martin (Gabriel Bateman) was one brave kid. The door (with a creepy shadow behind it) slammed shut on him and he just calmly walked down with his backpack, all prepared for a slumber party with his sister (I did chuckle a bit when he said, “Ready!”). If that happened to me, I probably would have peed my pants and let out the loudest non-human shriek.

7. Where could I buy that wind-up rechargeable flashlight? I laughed so hard in that scene because someone loudly said, “Ay ang taray!”.

8. Should we blame Sadako for starting this trend of ghosts with broken bones? It just wouldn’t be as scary unless they were all hunched up and dragging their feet, right?

9. “There’s no you without me.” These hugot lines are basically everywhere.

10. I couldn’t wait for a local rip-off (“Brownout”?) where the climax would be the mother (preferably Lotlot de Leon) shining brightly and killing the darkness monster because she’s the…Ilaw ng Tahanan. Whee!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Sinag Maynila Independent Film Festival 2016 Scorecard

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Two things about Sinag Maynila 2016:

1. Although I was happy (and grateful) to see SM Cinemas supporting an indie film festival, its strict rules on movies with adult themes clearly affected this year’s batch. You could actually feel the strain in adhering to an R-13 rating and it ended up as a form of self-censorship. I understood the wholesome image that the SM Group wanted to uphold, but some films were just not meant to be family-oriented (thus the R-18 rating). How about a compromise?

2. If these films were also meant to cater to a wider audience (read: non-Pinoys), I hope the filmmakers would put enough time and effort on the subtitles. I hate to be the Grammar Nazi (especially since I’m also in need of a good proofreader), but when you get to read multiple (!!) errors on the usage of whose and who’s (or your and you’re, and were and we’re) and you see lines like “Why did I let you stole the rice?”, it just isn’t right.

Anyway, I was able to do a marathon of all five feature-length films in one day (and survived to tell the tale).

Here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Feature-Length Film:

1. MRS. – ★★★★☆

2. DYAMPER – ★★★☆☆
3. EXPRESSWAY – ★★★☆☆
4. LILA – ★★☆☆☆
5. TPO (TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDER) – ★☆☆☆☆

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:

1. ALJUR ABRENICA (Expressway)
2. ALCHRIS GALURA (Dyamper)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:

1. ELIZABETH OROPESA (Mrs.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:

1. TIMOTHY CASTILLO (Dyamper)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:

1. LOTLOT DE LEON (Mrs.)

Until next year!!

CineFilipino Film Festival 2016 Scorecard

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I’m finally done with this year’s CineFilipino Film Festival. I only missed one feature-length due to a permit issue and a documentary because of scheduling concerns. Not bad.

Here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Feature-Length Film
1. SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING – ★★★★★
2. STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE – ★★★★★

3. NED’S PROJECT – ★★★☆☆
4. ANG TABA KO KASI – ★★★☆☆
5. ANG TULAY NG SAN SEBASTIAN – ★★☆☆☆
6. 1ST SEM – ★★☆☆☆
7. BUHAY HABANGBUHAY – ★★☆☆☆
8. STRAIGHT TO THE HEART – ★☆☆☆☆

Not seen: A LOTTO LIKE LOVE

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. SANDINO MARTIN (Ang Tulay Ng San Sebastian)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. ANGELI BAYANI (Ned’s Project)
2. CANDY PANGILINAN (Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone)
3. ALESSANDRA DE ROSSI (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
4. CAI CORTEZ (Ang Taba Ko Kasi)
5. LOTLOT DE LEON (1st Sem)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. PEPE HERRERA (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
2. PAOLO PINGOL (Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone)
3. JC SANTOS (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
4. ALLAN PAULE (1st Sem)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. THERESE MALVAR (Sakaling Hindi Makarating)
2. MAX EIGENMANN (Ned’s Project)

Best Documentary

1. FOREVER BRIDGELESS – ★★★★★
2. AN ORCHESTRA IN SEARCH OF A HOME – ★★★★☆

3. SINA DINO AT ANG KANILANG SIKRETO – ★★★☆☆

Not seen: MGA KULAY SA LABAS NG LINYA

Best Short Film
1. SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO – ★★★★★
2. XXX – ★★★★★
3. OKTOPUS – ★★★★★

4. KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE – ★★★★☆
5. KATOK – ★★★★☆
6. DIGPAN NING ALTI – ★★★★☆
7. CHICBOY – ★★★★☆

8. LUNA – ★★★☆☆
9. NOT APPLICABLE – ★★☆☆☆
10. PUNLA – ★★☆☆☆
11. AKI – ★☆☆☆☆

Until next year!!