SANTA SANTITA (Laurice Guillen, 2004)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Just imagine kung yung pinakamalandi mong bff nagising isang umaga with healing powers. At hindi lang siya basta pokpok version ni Elsa (Ate Guy, not Frozen) ha. More of Magdalena ikaw ay sawimpalad to Mama Mary real quick.

Ganun ang naging kapalaran ni Malen (Angelica Panganiban) dito. Nung una allergic siya sa simbahan at galit na galit sa nanay (Hilda Koronel) na nagdadasal kapalit ng donasyon. Tapos in a cruel twist of fate, naging instant prophet (ata kasi bigla siya nagsuot ng costume ng mga jakono) slash faith healer siya. Sa sobrang lakas niya humiling sa pagdadasal, inakala ng jowa-jowaan niya na si Mike (Jericho Rosales) na kaya niya buhayin ang namatay nitong anak na nabubulok na pero nakakunot pa rin ang noo.

Blatant ang influence ng Himala dito. Sayang lang kasi wala masyadong nasabi ang pelikula. May konting sundot about the hypocrisy of Catholics (tulad nung mga chismosang Titas of Quiapo na nagsabi na binababoy ni Malen ang simbahan for wearing her Freeway outfits with plunging necklines and short skirts pero more paninira naman sa isa’t isa to get prayer customers).

Easy target pa naman ang religion sa mga ganitong klaseng pelikula pero parang natakot siya mabansagang makasalanan. Bagay na bagay pa naman kay Angelica ang Madonna-whore role (she wasn’t Rubi for nothing). Sana mas na-explore pa yung confused feelings niya regarding that dichotomy. Para que pa na nagkaron siya (or at least visions) ng stigmata diba?

And speaking of, naalala ko tuloy bigla si Bianca Lapus na hinihimatay tuwing may interview dati tapos dumudugo bigla ang mga palad. Medyo bata pa ako nun (wew) pero I really didn’t fall for that publicity stunt. After her fifteen minutes of fame, ayun she went the way of the infamous Judiel Nieva. Tama si Ate Guy all along. Wala talagang himala.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MINDANAO (Brillante Mendoza, 2019)

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Napaisip ako kung ano ang mas bagay na title para dito kasi parang hindi naman siya accurate na representation ng buong Mindanao. Nabawasan pa ng authenticity kasi Tagalog ang ginamit na main language.

Hindi nag-work for me ang juxtaposition ng dalawang kwento (yung animated folk tale ng magkapatid na Rajah at yung tungkol sa nanay na ang anak ay may cancer, amidst the Maguindanao war), pero interesting and engaging sila separately.

Iba pa rin talaga sa aktingan ang isang Judy Ann Santos. Ang ganda nung kinantahan niya ang anak niya na nagwawala kasi nasasaktan sa injection. Tapos tumigil sa pag-iyak on cue yung bata (ang galing!). Sabay patak ng luha sa kanang mata lang ni Juday. Kaya siya nanalong Best Actress sa Cairo eh.

May pa-dance number pa siya that reminded me of Ate Guy in Tuos. Anyway, grabeng strawberry ice cream yan muntik na ako humagulgol sa sinehan.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

HIMALA (Ishmael Bernal, 1982)

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Ishmael Bernal. Ricky Lee. Nora Aunor.

If I claim that they’re the Holy Trinity of Philippine Cinema, am I speaking the truth or just acting like a blasphemous false prophet?

(Fun fact: Ate Guy almost won the Berlin Film Festival Best Actress prize. She lost by one point.)

P.S. Sino ba talaga ang bumaril kay Elsa?

Rating: ★★★★★

PAN DE SALAWAL (Che Espiritu, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

I would usually fall for this type of excessively sentimental, unapologetically silly fantasy, but there were just so many scenes that made my eyeballs roll wildly in their sockets. Why wasn’t this a Lenten TV Special instead?

So a young Elsa (Ate Guy, not Frozen) literally and figuratively healed a small town with her magical hands and she never got mobbed at all? And why did she only heal a select few? Ang dami kaya nasa dialysis center. May favoritism?

And then it rained rock salt (LA Lopez would not approve) and the townspeople started dancing and making “snow” angels? Also, the person cured of kidney problems reverted back to his old salt-loving ways and didn’t learn anything? No, no, no.

Maybe that black rock actually stood for my already jaded heart.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 7, 2018.)

 

TUOS (Derick Cabrido, 2016)

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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!!

HUSTISYA (Joel Lamangan, 2014)

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It was so unfortunate that I started my Cinemalaya experience this year with Joel Lamangan’s Hustisya. It was so painful to watch. Ugh!!

The movie reeked as much as the gutters that were shown onscreen. I just couldn’t find one redeeming value in it.

It was the typical socio-political commentary you expected from Lamangan that didn’t really say anything new.

Even the usually brilliant Nora Aunor got dragged down by all the awfulness. More than her off performance, it was sad to see her struggle.

Her voice was so scratchy and she was having difficulty saying her lines. I refuse to accept that she’s way past her prime.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 2, 2014.)

#Y (Gino Santos, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on #Y:

1. We do not live in a Star Cinema world where all conflicts get magically resolved for the requisite happy ending. In our reality, mental health problems exist without an absolute cure. In our reality, people think that “clinical depression with mild bipolar and schizophrenic tendencies” is just a fancy-schmancy condition conjured by quack doctors to explain the loneliness felt by millennials. In our reality, people with suicidal tendencies get crucified for being selfish and for not having Jesus in their lives.

And so I was incredibly furious upon realizing that the nihilistic version of this film (that I really liked) during its Cinemalaya run was turned into a positive, life-affirming, family-friendly fluff in its theatrical cut (that I recently rewatched on iWant). Why, Star Cinema, why??

2. The film started with Miles (Elmo Magalona and his perpetually glazed eyes) standing on a building’s rooftop and contemplating suicide. He described in detail his past encounters with death before proclaiming that life was a prison that needed an escape and then he… whipped out his phone to record his goodbye message. Kids nowadays, right?

One of the things I admired about Gino Santos’ early works (this and his breakthrough debut The Animals) was that he had a clear grasp of his subjects. He (lovingly/viciously) presented the duality of the social media generation as vapid and careless and self-absorbed (one character slashed her wrist using a cut-up Platinum credit card) while being independent and liberal and carefree. All the partying, drug use, and casual sex depicted here would definitely make the old ladies clutch on to their pearl necklaces, but hey, that was this Gen-Y’s (unapologetic) reality.

3. Whenever Miles would smile and assure his friends that he was okay even if he clearly wasn’t, I really felt that. I’ve always had moments when I also needed a stranger like Abbie (Chynna Ortaleza and her spot-on call center accent) to calm my nerves and bring me back to my senses. Somebody who didn’t know you enough to judge you or question why you still weren’t happy even if it felt like you had everything you needed in your life. The fact that it was never really explained why Miles wanted to end his life spoke so much about his debilitating condition.

I just hope Abbie didn’t reflect the current status of our local lifeline centers. It was sad and frustrating to hear her touch on spirituality and even guilt-trip her caller into backing out of suicide (“Isipin mo ang mga maiwan mo na tao, hindi nila deserve yun”). The fact that she was consoling other people while suffering from her own grief was doubly heartbreaking, though.

4. The good-looking, real-life conyo kids that played Miles’ friends definitely fit their respective roles. My favorite was easily Coleen Garcia as the school slut (her words, not mine) Janna. That entire bit about a lover licking her ears that hadn’t been cleaned for a week made me want to puke while laughing. (Although if she really had been bedding a lot of her schoolmates, why would these guys still think that she was a virgin?). Coleen was so good here that I remembered saying that she even performed better than the Superstar that year. Who else could deliver a throwaway line like “Kinikilig ako just by looking at him” and totally bring the house down? Your move, La Aunor.

I wonder whatever happened to Sophie Albert’s career. I really thought she would make it big after winning Artista Academy. As Lia, she was the right amount of annoying and insecure (especially with her Forever 21 wardrobe). On the other hand, Kit Thompson’s Ping was extremely detestable and probably best represented the (worst?) kind of his generation. His biggest comeuppance was when Miles included him in that farewell video with the words “I’ll see you soon”. Ouch!!

Side note: Why did they have to butcher his masturbation scene? Damn you, Star Cinema!!

5. It was only apt that Miles idolized Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye, hello?) who taught me the meaning of the word “phony”. A seemingly inauthentic and shallow generation unfairly judged by society while they faced real-life problems? This story needed a tragedy, not a forced inspirational ending. Release the Cinemalaya cut!!

“Being happy and having no right to be unhappy are two completely different things.”

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 2, 2014.)

ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

MY BIG BOSSING (Tony Reyes, Marlon Rivera, Joyce Bernal, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Big Bossing:

1. Vic Sotto just had this certain charm that I wasn’t surprised when the ladies kept fawning at him. In the movie’s very first scene, he simply said a throwaway “Exchuse me!” and I couldn’t control my laughter. In the second segment, he even showed some range dealing with a dead daughter. Good one, Bossing!

2. Sotto wore a crisp white polo shirt and of course I knew what was coming next: “Bossing sa kaputian!”. To be fair though, this sequel only had a few commercials. The only other product I noticed was PLDT Home.

3. The Sirena segment by Tony Reyes could have been an episode of Okay Ka, Fairy Ko. Only this one had Ryzza Mae Dizon donning a mermaid costume. It was still a very weak entry already given its sitcom roots. People just kept getting pushed in different bodies of water. Not funny.

4. Speaking of Dizon, why haven’t we seen her launching movie yet? She has the same spunk and charm of a young Aiza Seguerra. Given the right material, she can achieve the same superkid status. She’s just too adorable. Obviously I’m a fan.

5. The cast of Ina-Tay was here! (Refer to Cinemalaya 2014.)

6. Manilyn Reynes was supposed to play a fish vendor so they covered her up with dark make-up. Sometimes it looked like she had jaundice instead.

7. The Taktak segment by Marlon Rivera had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, there were just so many sub-plots to tackle in forty minutes. You’re not yet completely forgiven for the first one, Sir. Not yet.

8. Dizon here played Angel, a version of Elsa (more La Aunor, less Frozen) and she looked funny during the seances. This reminded me so much of Judiel Nieva, the transgendered lady who apparently could see the Virgin Mary back in the early 90’s. Wikipedia refers to her as an actress and businesswoman.

9. Marian Rivera looked good onscreen but has she ever played any character that didn’t scream her head off at other actors? Her characters always sounded shrill and high-strung like she was invoking the spirit of Maricel Soriano during her Inday days.

10. One obvious gaffe: Jose Manalo’s character texted Angel looking for her even if in the previous scene he was seen walking away with her.

11. One ghost mentioned something really scary and had always been one of my fears: “Susundan kita sa banyo.” Imagine a dead relative watching you take a shower in all your naked glory. Horrors!!

12. The third segment called Prinsesa by Joyce Bernal looked really good. Granted, most of the castle scenes were shot in Fernbrook Gardens in Las Pinas, I was impressed with the village that looked very much like The Shire and was populated by digital animals. Eat your heart out, Peter Jackson!

13. One character had his tongue cut off and was shown all bloody in a succeeding scene. What happened to the General Patronage rating?

14. If Mara Clara was a fairy tale, this would be that version.

15. At first I thought that the trilogy was very Eat Bulaga Holy Week presentation levels. And then it dawned on me. It was trying to be that other movie anthology, Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Am I right, 80’s kids?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 5, 2015.)

BAKIT BUGHAW ANG LANGIT? (Mario O’Hara, 1981)

4DFA3551-8FA2-4C98-9A7C-B926F52E17E2Cinephiles would definitely mention the other showier works of Nora Aunor and the late Mario O’Hara on any Best Of list, but my favorite collaboration would have to be this underrated classic.

Everything about it was just distinctly Pinoy, from the unapologetic melodrama and soap opera caricatures to the literal and metaphorical filth and stench emanating from an urban compound.

I’m not a Noranian, but if anybody would declare that she’s the greatest actress in Philippine cinema and in a league of her own, I’d simply nod my head in agreement (and this coming from the son of a Vilmanian and the biggest Maricelian). As Babette, the ugly duckling (“Katulong ka ba nila?”) with a heart of gold, she was truly exceptional and empathetic.

My favorite characters here though would have to be the two extremely opposite women played by Anita Linda (as a washed up, delusional, materialistic starlet willing to barter her daughter Babette for a few pieces of daster) and Metring David (as the kooky but hardworking and patient mother to Bobby, a special needs man).

In one memorable scene, Bobby was quietly eating his lunch oblivious to all the chaos happening outside his house. Babette simply looked at him and said, “Mabuti ka pa. Mabuti ka pa.” I actually believed her.

Rating: ★★★★★