SPLIT (M. Night Shyamalan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Split:

1. I wasn’t even surprised that M. Night Shyamalan (arguably the King of Twist Endings) decided to tackle dissociative identity disorder in his latest movie. Having a character with multiple personalities seemed like such a convenient way to mess with his audience’s brains. Except that the lead character Kevin Wendell Crumb’s (James McAvoy) condition was already revealed in the trailer so one was left to wonder what else he had up his sleeve.

Without completely spoiling the ending, let me just say that the reveal was nowhere close to what I expected, but it still felt like a huge letdown for such an interesting premise.

2. McAvoy looked like he was really having so much fun in the role of a man with 23 (and counting) different personalities. He was so good that he single-handedly played every character of John Cusack and company in the movie Identity.

My favorite persona was nine year old Hedwig (“Etcetera!”) that required him to do his best impression of Sean Penn in I Am Sam. A rewatch of Atonement should definitely be in order.

3. I liked that the three girl victims initially didn’t simply cower in fear and wait for a saviour (“That’s victim shit! The only chance we have is if all three of us go crazy on this guy!”).

What I didn’t like was that when they were faced with the actual threat, they still reacted like any of the dumb blondes that were viciously mocked in the Scream film series. Seriously, who would hide inside a locker to escape a predator? Or grab a walkie talkie and just stay inside the same space with the man that you’re running away from? Or helplessly cry in an isolated room and wait until the very last minute to find a way out? Anyare mga bes?

4. If it wasn’t blatant enough that the lead victim Casey (Anna Taylor-Joy of Morgan) was a survivor in life, we had to see a back story involving her tragic childhood of sexual abuse. I was surprised they didn’t purchase the rights to use Destiny’s Child’s Survivor as a theme song. Too expensive?

5. Worst cameo: Shyamalan himself as a security guard proclaiming that for Asian people, music aids digestion. I would like to suggest Yakult instead.

Best cameo: Bruce Willis as David Dunn, naturally. Unbreakable (the cracked glass on the poster should have been a giveaway!) has always been one of my favorite superhero films and although it was a stretch to link these two movies, it was still a refreshing nod to the pre-hack Shyamalan days (please note, I really liked his last film The Visit).

6. Speaking of, I was reminded of Unbreakable in the scene where Kevin placed flowers outside the subway that I secretly wished he wouldn’t turn out to be an accomplice of Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price (aka Mr. Glass). At least half of it came true.

Also, was I the only one reminded of Red Dragon during The Horde’s beastly transformation? Will this be the start of a Shyamalan superhero universe ala Marvel? Can we have someone with mental health issues be the hero next time (Casey!)?

7. “The broken are the more evolved.” Wow, so there really was a silver lining in all of those failed relationships!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz, 2016)

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My notes on Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis:

1. Hele. Hiwaga. Hapis. These three words appropriately described my overall experience of the movie. I was oftentimes lulled to sleep, with its 8-hour runtime and scenes that seemed to never end. I was enchanted by the intersecting stories of both fictional and real characters in Philippine history, even if the movie remained a mystery until the very last scene. Lastly, my butt was screaming in pain and sorrow and felt every minute of it (like I had imaginary flaring hemorrhoids and I had to keep adjusting in my seat). I came out of that challenge feeling like the winner in Survivor: Cinema.

(For the record, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan was the exact opposite experience and enthralled me with every minute of its four-hour length.)

2. Don’t get me wrong, this was far from being a bad movie. Each gorgeously-shot misty frame in glorious black and white (this movie really put the mist in mystery) should still be worth the price of admission (plus, the P500 ticket in Newport came with unli-popcorn, a large cup of rootbeer, and a giant siopao; pa-fiesta pa lang ni Mayor sulit na).

I was just never a fan of lyrical poetry. Ayoko ng mga mabulaklak at paligoy-ligoy na salita. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said that “brevity is the soul of wit”? (Believe me, the irony wasn’t completely lost on me.)

3. My favorite characters came in groups of threes. The screen has never been more alive than when the diwatas of Quiroga (Queenmelo Esguerra, Moira Lang, Bianca Balbuena) would appear in their fabulous kaftans, creating chaos with a menacing laugh or a throwaway pick-up line. The other trio would be the excellent tikbalangs (Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino) that mesmerized viewers with every trick played on Gregoria de Jesus and company. I was sold on these characters as soon as Bernardo Squared let out a loud neigh. Such splendid actors!

(Oh, John Lloyd Cruz was fine, although I felt that his take on Mi Ultimo Adios was like a response to Maja Salvador’s Trisha’s “I love you and I will tell you everyday, everyday until you forget the things that hurthhhh.” The less said about Piolo Pascual’s stiff performance, the better. He had the requisite abs scene so no complaints here.)

4. The long takes were impressive, especially the dialogue-heavy scenes. As someone who botched a twenty-line poem in a Talumpatian back in grade school, I could just imagine the amount of time spent memorizing that script. The downside was that there were some glaring flubs (and obviously pulled punches and kicks) that Lav Diaz didn’t feel the need to retake.

It was important to note that if a character started singing a song or reciting a poem, expect that performance to be completed (8 hours, take your time). The same could be said with a lot of scenes that just stretched on for several minutes (Simoun crying in pain, Basilio endlessly digging, nipa hut burning down to the ground, etc). I wasn’t surprised at all when some critics accused Diaz of being self-indulgent. One character even mentioned, “Masyadong makasarili ang sining”. My butt nodded in agreement. Maybe some opium would have helped?

5. My two favorite scenes were:

a) Susan Africa (sans tuberculosis or any other life-threatening disease) as Aling Hule wading in an entire stretch of muddy rice field like it was some sort of punishment from Clara del Valle

b) Alessandra de Rossi as Caesaria Belarmino asking for forgiveness for being the “pinakamagandang dilag ng Silang”. Pak na pak!

6. The movie felt a bit preachy towards the end. I half-expected Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All to start playing.

7. Several people cheered after the screening. I was sure that some really loved the movie. I was just part of those that were thankful that it was finally over.

Rating: ★★★☆☆