ANG GURO KONG ‘DI MARUNONG MAGBASA (Perry Escaño, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa:

1. In the film Abakada…Ina, Lorna Tolentino played an illiterate mother who had the unfortunate luck of having a nasty schoolteacher for a biyenan (played by the late great Nida Blanca). One of the movie’s highlights was their verbal showdown where Nida bluntly called her tanga, ignorante, and iliterada. The apparent shame that she felt upon hearing those words was enough to make me bawl my eyes out.

Although the issue of illiteracy would always be an important topic, some Pinoy films only used this as a default plot device to tug at heartstrings. I think the last film I watched that dealt with this as well was that MMFF New Wave film Turo Turo, where AJ Dee played a fishball vendor who went bankrupt because he didn’t know how to properly count the exact change.

2. Similar to these movies, Guro also had good intentions, but its execution was completely disastrous. It wasn’t even about the illiterate teacher played by Alfred Vargas, or a scathing look at child warriors trained for political propaganda. It was just a poor excuse to shoot an action film where the main villain was tied to a tree and shot with a grenade launcher (after a controversial spit bukkake scene as a form of torture), or for Kiko Matos playing a soldier to keep tumbling around for no apparent reason.

3. It was hard to take the movie seriously when everything about it was just awful, in particular:

• Gunshots sounded like they came from plastic toy guns.

• Characters having dinner were squeezed on one side of the table for framing reasons (kahit mag-isa lang si Alfred sa kabilang side).

• The camera moved from side-to-side behind the students and half of the screen would just be a shot of their backs (was this supposed to be a nod to early Shyamalan?).

• The sound of goats bleating was louder than the actual dialogue.

• Terrible editing that never really cared about transitions or continuity.

4. One of the scenes that garnered the biggest laughs from the audience included a cassette tape used to teach the alphabet to kids.

Sample phonics:

• A is for Animal
• B is for Beast
• C is for Ceasefire (huh?)
• D is for Dark Side (huwat?!)
• E is for Education
• F is for Freedom (nux!)

I suggest that the updated 2017 version include the following: O is for Ohmygulay, P is for Pisting yawa…

Also, this magical cassette knew exactly when to proceed to the next letter. It didn’t speak until after Alfred mimicked what it just said. Wow lang.

5. My favorite scene though included foreign delegates that volunteered to teach the young students in that far-flung barrio (they probably never heard that the place was as safe as Marawi so they travelled without any security). They were supposedly from different countries like Singapore or the US, but most of them looked like they came from Las Piñas.

I had to control a fart when one of them was asked why she decided to help and she replied with, “I would like to smell the fresh air of the forest.” Q is for Qiqil si acoe.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

ELEMENTO (Mark Meily, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Elemento:

1. As a kid, I would always heed my late grandmother’s warning and utter the words “Tabi, tabi po!” before peeing on a tree. Apparently, some dwarves or entities lived there and you would need to ask permission before showering urine on their precious homes. Even if I thought that that was a weird sign of respect, I still did it because I didn’t want my Dingdong Dantes to rot and fall off if the homeowners got mad. As an adult, I just avoided anything related to camping or hiking so there would never be a reason for me to do a number one with Mother Nature.

2. Do Pinoys really go to psychiatrists? I knew of some people that sought professional mental health, but I didn’t really know anyone with his own psychiatrist. I just couldn’t imagine us lying on a couch sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and fears to (professional) strangers like Dr. Ben Harmon of American Horror Story or Dr. Jennifer Melfi of The Sopranos. It just didn’t seem to be part of our culture where any sign of mental illness would have a relative immediately sent to the basement of Makati Medical Center (or made fun of in jokes like “Nakatira ka sa Mandaluyong? Loob o labas?”).

3. Albert Silos was the same boy in the MMFF New Wave movie Turo-Turo. He wasn’t particularly awful. He was just unfortunate enough to have already starred in two stinkers.

4. I also felt bad for Cristine Reyes who was last seen having loads of fun and giving a great comedic turn in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin’s Asawa ni Marie. Here she played a negligent mother (read: she only served hotdogs and eggs every single breakfast) who had no clue that her child was already replaced by an elemento even if he displayed a complete change in behavior after a bizarre field trip. She only realized this after he responded differently to the nickname Pork Chop (and you knew it would play a very significant part in the story because it had to be repeated at least four times in prior scenes) and this happened days after he returned.

Her performance was so bad that she couldn’t even pretend to drive properly (seriously, why do local actors keep moving the steering wheel even if they’re driving a straight path?) or wake up with any emotion from a bad dream (as in tulaley level of acting).

5. Speaking of the said field trip, the kids were led by these hyperactive tour guides that probably also worked as Jollibee Kiddie Party hosts on the side (“MGA KIDS SINONG EXCITED MAKITA SI JOLLIBEEEEEE??”). One of them even gave this description of the trees around them, “These plants are mostly abundant in tropical…and non-tropical.” So basically everywhere, Ate? I would never let my child join this kind of activity (the elemento being the least of my concerns).

6. Besides, the teachers here were so incompetent. A bully boy (who wore a gold watch from his father’s Saudi collection) would shout and hit his classmates and they didn’t even bother to stop him. When the same kid was bludgeoned on the head, nobody really did anything after and Miss Teacher just kept inspecting the bloody gashes on his face. Ma’m, sa dami ng dugo baka gusto nyo siya itakbo sa ospital. Suggestion lang naman.

7. Here are a few things that were scarier than the actual movie:

* The awful special effects with the elementos looking like fake wooden marionettes

* The print on print on print outfits (with matching chunky costume jewelry and gold hoops) of Elizabeth Oropesa as the resident gypsy (kaya ba lagi siya naka-gypsy skirt?) who had the best line of the entire movie (“Halika ligtas ka sa bahay ko” and then moments later ended up dead in her bedroom)

* Jake Cuenca’s long disheveled hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed for days

* Characters that dumbed down its viewers by saying things that were already obvious (“Umuulan na!” as soon as it started to rain)

* The gay BFF stereotype that preyed on men in gyms, said lines like “Marami nang insektong humahada sa locker room kaya kelangan na i-fumigate ang gym”, owned a rainbow umbrella (kasi nga umuulan na!), and recited the Prayer Before Meals (“Bless us oh Lord and these Thy gifts…”) for protection before entering the forest (should we be laughing now?)

8. If your idea of a horror movie was seeing mud-covered extras with leaves glued on their denim shorts pretending to be elementos, then this one would be highly-recommended. Enjoy!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆