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: ★★★★☆

IT (Andy Muschietti, 2017)

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Complete fan service (like Abrams’ The Force Awakens). As a huge Constant Reader (aka Stephen Kingnatics), I was very satisfied with this adaptation (I’ll discuss specifics in my spoiler-filled notes).

If you’re expecting the usual scares (similar to Muschietti’s Mama), you’ll probably end up disappointed. If you really liked Stand by Me (or even Stranger Things), expect the same kind of engaging storytelling and fun nostalgia. If you have coulrophobia, don’t even bother watching.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published September 7, 2017.)

MA (Tate Taylor, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ma:

1. In most (if not all) of her films, Octavia Spencer displayed such an amiable and trustworthy aura that one wouldn’t suspect that her character might be a few fries short of a Happy Meal (or in the case of The Help, that she was already feeding you the most delicious shit pie). I would usually have problems with films that made me sympathize with demented people (read: psychotic murderers), but it also spoke a lot about the brilliance of the actors that played them (e.g. Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Kathy Bates in Misery, to name a few).

In one scene from this ridiculously trashy yet insanely enjoyable psychological thriller, Sue Ann aka Ma (Spencer) was smiling inside her car when a bunch of kids threw beer at her window. It brought back memories of being bullied in school and feeling like a pathetic loner slash loser that she just spontaneously burst into tears. Needless to say, I cried along with her, completely forgetting that she lured underaged kids in her basement and emotionally tormented one of them with a loaded gun just a few minutes earlier. Why’d you do this to me, Ma?

2. If that wasn’t enough to make you an instant fan of Spencer, she also had this FaceTime scene where she said “Why wait for the weekend? It’s five o’clock somewhere!” then let out a deranged cackle that both creeped me out and made me laugh out loud. I hadn’t even touched on Ma’s crazy dance moves that included the Funky Town robot and some can-crushing set to Kung Fu Fighting. It was easy to understand why these kids (that weirdly resembled a grown-up version of the Stranger Things cast) would party with this stranger. I mean I could be best friends with Ma, hideous maroon beret notwithstanding.

3. Diana Silvers (also good in Booksmart) looked like a cross between Anne Hathaway and Gaby Hoffman, no? Ooh, time for a Now and Then rewatch.

And speaking of lookalikes, the girl that played Ashley who would always pretend to pass out in parties could pass as Marilyn Manson’s daughter (ironically enough, she played a pastor’s daughter in this movie).

4. “You can smoke until you’re twenty-five and then quit and nothing bad will happen” sounded like an advice that I’d give as a parent. Which would also explain why I probably didn’t have any kids.

5. I had never seen this many number of syringes piercing the skin since Amanda was thrown in the Needle Pit during Saw II. I was just thankful that I still had quick reflexes to shield my eyes or I probably would have passed out in my seat.

(And don’t get me started on those stitched lips.)

6. Seeing a naked Luke Evans almost getting his penis cut off reminded me so much of that schlocky local revenge film Loretta, where Ruffa Gutierrez played a version of Lorena Bobbitt. Yes, it was the “Take it! Take it!” role where her MMFF Best Actress win lasted for a good thirty minutes (RIP Viveka Babajee).

But going back to that penis, was it prosthetic? Should I assume that Evans didn’t have the guts to have his real manhood anywhere near a kitchen knife unlike the fearless Carlos Morales in Laro sa Baga?

Also, what was that canine blood transfusion for? Was it because he was being such a bitch to her in high school?

7. So Sue Ann aka Ma worked as a veterinary technician/assistant. Please tell me that wasn’t the reason why her dog only had three legs huhu. (That moment when she was holding a pair of clippers made me feel really queasy. For nothing, but still.)

8. Speaking of Kathy Bates, one scene here reminded me so much of her Annie Wilkes. It was when Sue Ann aka Ma arrived from work and noticed that her cat figurines weren’t facing in the direction that she left them. Was that kind of attention to detail and obsessiveness a sign of being a murderous psycho? I could relate because I would also turn into one whenever people messed with my stuff. You have been warned, pakialameras!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆