THE LOOKOUT (Afi Africa, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Lookout:

1. It must be true that one couldn’t really appreciate good films without experiencing the bad. In effect, Cinemalaya also wouldn’t be complete and considered an annual triumph if not for misguided, execrable fare like Amor Y Muerte, Asintado, The Diplomat Hotel, or last year’s infamous Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa.

Keeping up with tradition, this year’s festival delivered another knockout clunker so inane (insane?) that it should be deemed a cult classic twenty years from now. It had the makings of the worst (read: best, but actually worst) kind of Elwood Perez film that I even wondered if the name Afi Africa was just a pseudoynm of the said director (fact check: no, completely different person).

A gay hired killer out to seek revenge on his childhood abusers? Compelling stuff. The terrible execution though made this one a hilariously campy “film mwah” (I missed you, Belinda Bright!).

2. The opening scene alone that revealed the highlights of the movie was a sure sign of impending doom, er… I meant the tremendous enjoyment that this one would bring. It reminded me of the flash cuts used in my favorite TV series that I actually expected to the hear the words “Previously on Scandal…” as soon as it started.

3. Why was this movie rated PG when the first fifteen minutes alone featured a graphic anal sex scene? It also included oral sex, a threesome in a tub, a lengthy rape scene, gratuitous nudity, and excessive violence and profanity. How did this elude the prudes of MTRCB?

I wouldn’t be complaining if I wasn’t seated two rows behind a boy (barely ten) who had to hear the line “Tangina nakikipagkangkangan ako!”. Somebody should be made accountable for this. (FYI, I watched this again on a different day and it still had the same rating. I asked the cinema personnel and they said they couldn’t do anything to restrict younger viewers.)

4. I made the right decision of staying away from the good seats (crowd) because I just couldn’t control my laughter in several odd moments. In one scene, George/Timothy/Lester (Andres Vasquez, a budget Wendell Ramos) started his voiceover with “Ito ang The Kingdom…” referring to a high-end, exclusive membership club where rich patrons could buy any of the topless boys in a swimming pool (Did they stay there all day waiting for customers? Imagine the pruning and shrinkage!). He was offered a drink (“Zhenk yhu zho match!”) and then proceeded to select (“Dat guy ober der”) Travis (Jay Garcia, as a human goat), who actually had a slo-mo shot of him coming out of the water like he was shooting one of those Instagram Vitamin Sea pictures. G/T/L then stretched his arms wide open while slowly saying “Welcahhhm to mayhhhh layhhhf!” and at that point I was already crying because my appendix shot out of my ass.

In another, a group of government operatives were discussing the crime scene and Grace/Monica (Elle Ramirez) went through an entire litany of bullet trajectories and how the killer made an elaborate setup to mislead the investigators. Their leader (Efren Reyes, Jr.) then asked “So may identity na kayo ng assailant?” to which a constipated-looking G/M replied, “Unfortunately sir, no.” Bwahahahaha! If only this was a satire on the current state of our nation.

Also, don’t even get me started on that “Tao o ibon? *flipped coin* Kiss mo ako sa leeg” scene. My nebulizer’s not ready.

5. I hadn’t even touched on these words of wisdom that I had difficulty transcribing because I was just cracking up really hard. Some examples:

• On the power of words: 

“Ang ‘I LOVE YOU’ ay mula sa puso. Ang ‘MAHAL KITA’ ay mula sa puso tagos hanggang kaluluwa.” 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

(Don’t get me wrong. This actually made a lot of sense given that words in the vernacular would have more impact, but you really needed to hear the clunky delivery to understand why people spontaneously laughed during this scene.)

• On the sanctity of body parts:

“Ang labi ko ay para lamang sa babaeng mamahalin ko at ang pwet ko ay bilang respeto sa pagkatao ko at pagkalalaki ko.”

• On mutualism in relationships:

“Sa tingin mo gusto ko na chupain kita at kantutin mo ako?”

• On Melanie Marquez as a literary genius:

“Ang tao ay parang libro. Hindi mo napipili ng dahil lang sa cover kundi dahil sa laman nito.”

• On love computations:

“Alam mo ba ang ibig sabihin ng mahalaga? Mahal + alaga.”

6. To be fair, I really liked the dingy setting of G/T/L’s apartment with his room overlooking the LRT.

Yayo Aguila (as the abused mother) also had some fine moments whenever she wasn’t required to overact like crazy.

7. Even after watching this twice, these were some of my burning questions:

• Why did Rez Cortez’s abusive character have to be raped by two twinks? Would it really have served as a punishment for him considering that he was a child molester?

• Where could we buy those voice changers used here as an app in a Nokia phone? (“Sino ka?” “Isang kaibigan. O pwede ring kaaway.” HAHAHAHAHA!)

• If the movie wanted a big reveal regarding the identities of the siblings, why did they have to own matching little black booklets?

• Was the excessive fascination with removing/putting on underwear done by several characters a symbolism for something? Did G/T/L really have to take a shower wearing black briefs? I thought he had no “quangs showing his body”?

• What were the tilted shots for? Was this an homage to American Horror Story?

• What was the purpose of G/T/L saving that crying young girl? Was it to show that a ruthless killer like him had a soft spot, too? But whatever happened to that girl after the said scene?

8. Overheard after the screening: “Ang tulis ni Travis natuhog ang magkapatid!” HAHAHAHAHA!

9. That ending!! I couldn’t wait for part 2 to learn more about Jeffrey Santos’ character who showed up at the very last minute just to dramatically unzip his hoodie and give a sinister look, like he was in possession of the diary that contained the deepest, darkest secrets of Mara Clara.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Never Not Love You:

1. You know how in a relationship you’re willing to look beyond the faults of your partner simply because you really like/love the other person? I felt the exact same way about this gorgeously-shot, well-told long-distance relationship film that was eerily similar to Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy from its London setting down to the bittersweet montage of memories ending. It couldn’t have been all just a coincidence, right?

2. For a love team that prided itself as Team Real, it was a joy to watch Nadine Lustre (as Joanne) and James Reid (as Gio) in a mature love story that wasn’t afraid of ruffling conservative feathers (I found it funny that I was very much that old lady in the corridor during the moving in scene that lamented, “Mga kabataan talaga ngayon!”).

I also admired the gutsy decision of not upholding/protecting any wholesome movie star image by having them play characters that looked, sounded, and acted like any authentic young adult. Smoking a cigarette? Living together outside of marriage? Expletives-filled shouting matches? Post-coital bed scene? I could just imagine a horde of grandmothers shrieking “Santissima santa!” while clutching on to their plastic rosaries and JaDine’s all like “C’mon guys, it’s 2018!”.

3. As a South person that couldn’t even maintain a relationship with an ex who relocated to Quezon City, I wouldn’t be the best advocate slash strong believer of a long distance romance (mad props for people that could sustain this kind of relationship, though). The challenges were made more blatant in this movie when the only form of communication between Joanne and Gio consisted of Skype calls. They basically lived in two separate worlds where time difference was the least of their concerns. This level of commitment alone triggered a major anxiety attack on my end.

4. Sobrang ganda ng cinematography. It reminded me so much of Wong Kar-Wai’s films (I suddenly pictured a bunch of cinephiles raising their eyebrows right about now). If you hadn’t seen any of his stylish films, this could serve as your introduction (then move on to In the Mood for Love or Chungking Express).

Also, how were they able to shoot all those lovely motorcycle scenes? Ang galing!

5. I wish James could work more on his accent so that he would be able to deliver his Pinoy lines more comfortably (it would also give him a broader range of characters outside of the typical conyo or Amboy). Side note: I had a good laugh though when he said “May mustard po kayo?” at the carinderia.

I still sympathized with Gio even if his character was an unlikable immature brat (seryoso, may lalaki lang kasama si Joanne sa club maninira na agad ng gamit?). And he was probably one of the few local actors that could deliver major kiligs with a line like “Maybe I don’t want you to wear other guys’ helmets”. Hongkyut!

Anyway, his accent was the only distraction in an otherwise heartfelt performance (I’m still amazed whenever he would cry on cue, with his best scene in bed feeling an overwhelming sense of comfort and contentment that his girlfriend agreed to move with him to London. Those silent tears just spoke volumes.)

6. Speaking of tears, I think everyone would agree that this was Nadine’s best performance to date. Everything about it screamed “I’m a serious actress!” that would definitely put her in the running for next year’s awards derby. My favorite scene was when she was driving her new car with the entire family in tow and her usually disapproving father (Rez Cortez) touched her arm and her face showed a mixture of pride, relief, and happiness. For a relatively quiet and subtle moment, it just had so much impact. Damang-dama ko siya dun.

7. Of course I cried during that “Wag kang lilingon” scene. I cried even more when Joanne didn’t look back the second time around.

Also, ang sakit sobra nung linya na “You’ve become the Joanne that you’re supposed to be…. but without me.” Waaaah!

8. Some of their issues felt a bit petty, no? When Gio shouted at Joanne (“Kung gusto mong umuwi, eh di umuwi ka!”), did it really merit a slap on the face? I thought you both swore to never not love each other?

9. Now let’s discuss that polarizing ending. I know a lot of people that hated how the resolution felt rushed or that the final scene was vague, but that was the exact reason why I found it to be perfect.

My interpretation of it was that Joanne felt trapped in the relationship. Things were just not the same as they used to be. Their exchange of I love yous already lacked genuine emotion and felt very perfunctory. There was an immense sadness in her eyes when Gio said that he would be returning for good. She didn’t show much excitement during his last visit either. And the clincher, hindi sya lumingon sa second airport scene. It was sad to see a doomed relationship even before the screen faded to black.

10. As a final note, this production was notoriously plagued by so many controversies that I was surprised at how good things actually turned out. In the end, was everything worth it?

Rating: ★★★★☆