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10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 3   5 comments

It’s only Wednesday, but I still haven’t caught much sleep from the continuous back and forth travels to CCP since Saturday for the 10th Cinemalaya Indepedent Film Festival. After sharing to you my thoughts on Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina” which you can see here and the one covering Francis Pasion’s “Bwaya“, Gino M. Santos’ “#Y“, and GB Sampedro’s “S6parados” which you can read here, it’s time to add three more films on the list: one New Breed and two Directors Showcase entries.

K'Na

K’NA THE DREAMWEAVER
Director: Ida Anita del Mundo
Cast: Mara Lopez, RK Bagatsing, Alex Medina, Erlinda Villalobos, Bembol Roco, Nonie Buencamino
Competition: New Breed

Young T’boli woman K’Na (Mara Lopez) was poised to be the answer to the warring clans of her village by being anointed to “weave” the patches between the two camps. In the process, she must sacrifice her true love to be the heroine of her people.

I guess it is best to begin my thoughts by praising how the entire cast learned T’boli language and how the whole film used such. It is very refreshing to the ears to hear a whole complete film spoken in T’boli which further exemplifies the rich culture that our country has. The movie’s also really pretty to look at giving this epic scope like feels even if there were a few goofs in it (most notably, there’s a scene where they’re supposed to be rowing in the middle of the waters and the two boaters keep on paddling but it’s obvious that they’re just on the same place). Upon thinking, the “dreamweaver” tag connected to K’na is both literal and figurative. Weaving is a part of the T’boli culture, but then the weaving can also mean of the ending of the village clan wars. If anything, I wish they’d focused more on the T’boli culture rather than the romance. There’s nothing wrong per se about the tale of romance featured in the movie, but it would have ended up with a different effect had it tried to do other instead. I really commend how Mara Lopez continues to choose projects that fits her like a glove. She certainly has this innocent yet mysterious presence that is arresting, and that suits her strengths. I guess  K’Na sits right in the middle of the fest for me. It’s definitely not a clunker nor it’s one of the real breakouts of this season. That said, I’m eager to see what Ida Anita del Mundo does after this.

2.5/5

Kasal

KASAL
Director: Joselito Altarejos
Cast: Arnold Reyes, Oliver Aquino, Rita Avila, Ruby Ruiz, Maureen Mauricio
Competition: Directors Showcase

Director Paolo (Oliver Aquino) and lawyer Sherwin (Arnold Cruz) play a gay couple whose already cracked relationship was put to the test once again when they attended Sherwin’s sister’s wedding in Batangas. In here, they were reminded of the reality of where gay people place in our ever so conservative society.

When you think about it, Kasal‘s premise lives in the harsher reality that a wedding, of all possible events, will further test the relationship of a gay couple when they’re deprived of such in their own country. Where the film completely succeeds is its sincerity in depicting such. I could have lived without the unnecessary additional statements (that of indies and commercial filmmaking as for starters), but when the film shifts back its focus to its main message, it delivers. I’ve noticed that director Joselito Altarejos tends to prolong most of his scenes , and while most parts of it worked and lingered (the initial romance scene, the whole wedding preparations), there were others that didn’t (the initial scene, the stopover fight). A material like this one needs actors who are willing to show off themselves, and I’m not solely referring to the physical demands of the roles. Arnold Reyes is a topnotch here. His role as the closeted of the two as he was put into a really uncomfortable position during their whole visit to his family is just remarkable. I’m quite bothered by Oliver Aquino’s line delivery since it seems like he struggles with this long take approach and couldn’t keep his momentum during their confrontations, but I’d give him props since they share some real passionate chemistry and you could at least see him trying. While Kasal is far from perfect, there is a level of honesty it earns with its attempt, and that’s enough to recognize the overall effort.

3/5

Asintado

ASINTADO
Director: Luisito Ignacio
Cast: Aiko Melendez, Jake Vargas, Miggs Cuaderno, Gabby Eigenmann, Rochelle Pangilinan
Competition: Directors Showcase

In the middle of the preparation for the annual Taong Putik Festival, young lad Tonio (Jake Vargas), considered as literally the brightest kid in their place, was offered to be an unintentional drug courier of the village chairman Carias (Gabby Eigenmann). When one of his deliveries went awry, his mother Julia (Aiko Melendez) steps up to fix things right.

Remember when I told you about Mariquina being a rare case of a good melodrama? Now I guess it’s time to show you what a bad melodrama is. In Louie Ignacio’s first film since 2005’s Lovestruck, his foray into the indie film making is really spotty to say the least. Asintado seems like a late entry from Ignacio to join the poverty porn bordering on social commentary bandwagon that has already gotten old many years ago. Much of it feels contrived and tries way too hard to be taken seriously whether it’s the darker complexion of the characters, their appear one time slash disappear another accents, the situations of the characters up to the pivotal resolution part. There’s also a disconnect between the intended reaction of the people involved from the actual reaction of the people watching. Punchlines fell flat and those obvious attempts at comedic effect failed while serious breakdown moments elicited loud laughter from the crowd. Maybe it’s because of the film’s sudden tonal shifts that really doesn’t sync. It’s really hard to sympathize with Tonio too since he’s one disaster after the other. Is the character even worth redeeming for? I don’t think so. The only good thing worth mentioning here is that Miggs Cuaderno continues to deliver fine work regardless of the material. Last year, he was in two of the better films of the festival (Purok 7 and Quick Change). This year, the first I’ve seen of his works is a bad one, but he manages to rise out of it (I mean he’s better than the whole cast of s6parados combined). Asintado just feels outdated and the problem is I can’t even pinpoint a “time” when this stuff actually fits.

1.5/5

Nine down, six more to go. I understand that it’s taking me quite some time to finish this because I’ve also been watching a lot from the Retrospective showings and most of those are one time screenings. But the next batch will have four films in it on Friday morning. 🙂

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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37th Gawad Urian Winner Predictions   2 comments

The glory days of local Philippine awards night have been over, and right now, there are only two remaining interesting citation giving bodies: the Young Critics Circle and the Manunuri (and my own Titties awards of course lol). That said, the YCC already gave their citation last April while the Manunuri will be handling out their awards tomorrow. And in line with that, I’ll be going on a limb and try to predict who’ll end up with those huge silver trophies tomorrow in all 12 categories.

best pic

BEST PICTURE
Badil
Dukit
Ekstra
Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti
Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan

On the Job
Porno
Riddles of my Homecoming
Transit

With how huge Norte was last year, I think it will be an easy win for this Cannes Un Certain regard entry to receive the top prize for tomorrow’s ceremony. Besides, it’s not as if Lav Diaz has been over-rewarded here before (his films only won twice, for 2001’s Batang Westside and 2004’s Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino). To add more confidence in its side, it’s also the top nominated film for this year, and you’d notice the trend that it is indeed one of their most loved films this year. That said though, if they want to spread the wealth, I can see the other top nomination receiver, Dukit, getting the most coveted award instead.

Prediction: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Alternate: Dukit

best directing

BEST DIRECTING
Whammy Alcazaren, “Islands
Adolf Alix Jr.. “Porno
Mes de Guzman, “Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti”
Lav Diaz, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Hannah Espia, “Transit
Peque Gallaga, Lore Reyes, “Sonata
Jeffrey Jeturian, “Ekstra
Armando Lao, “Dukit
Arnel Mardoquio, “Riddles of My Homecoming
Erik Matti, “On the Job
Chito Rono, “Badil
Alvin Yapan, “Mga Anino ng Kahapon

Choosing in a field of twelve is already a difficult task to do, though I guess I have to remove those previous winners already: Adolf Alix, Mes de Guzman, Lav Diaz, Peque Gallaga, Jeffrey Jeturian, Arnel Mardoquio, Chito Rono, and Alvin Yapan. Then you also have Urian winners Armando Lao and Whammy Alcazaren (despite in other categories). That leaves us with veteran director Erik Matti and Hannah Espia. I have a hunch that Espia has more chance in Editing for Transit (and I’m predicting her there), so I guess I’ll be going with Erik Matti. I mean he’s overdue for an Urian right? Plus, On the Job is a very flashy directorial work that I can see the Manunuri going for. If not him though, I expect a second win for Lav Diaz because really, it’s quite a shame that he has only won here only once yet.

Prediction: Erik Matti, “On the Job
Alternate: Lav Diaz, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan

best actor

BEST ACTOR
Mark Gil, “Philippino Story
Jhong Hilario, “Badil
Mimi Juareza, “Quick Change
Sid Lucero, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Alex Medina, “Babagwa
Ping Medina, “Transit
Joel Torre, “On the Job

Speaking of repeat winners, this surprisingly short line up (remember the 15 nominee group last year?) I think is between two past champs: 2001 champ for Batang Westside Joel Torre and 2010 champ for Muli, Sid Lucero. Lucero has the longer role and one that is very demanding as well that I won’t be surprised if the voters fall in love with such. That said, Torre’s 2013 is some sort of a career best comeback that let him lead not only one, but two brave performances of the last year (the other was for Borgy Torres’ Kabisera). Having that advantage would make me predict him for the win. Outside of those two though, I guess I’d go with Alex Medina as the other feasible winner. The Urian has a history of proclaiming the hot young handsome actor in this category (see Christopher de Leon in 1978, Philip Salvador in 1979, Richard Gomez in 1991, Aga Muhlach in 1995, Jason Abalos in 2007, Sid Lucero in 2010, Paulo Avelino in 2011, and Jericho Rosales last year) and Alex Medina fits that bill. But I’m still going with Joel Torre on this one.

Prediction: Joel Torre, “On the Job
Alternate: Sid Lucero, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan

best actress

BEST ACTRESS
Nora Aunor, “Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti
Angeli Bayani, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Rustica Carpio, “Ano Ang Kulay ng Mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?”
Eugene Domingo, “Instant Mommy
Cherie Gil, “Sonata
Agot Isidro, “Mga Anino ng Kahapon
Teri Malvar, “Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita
Vilma Santos, “Ekstra
Lorna Tolentino, “Burgos
Vivian Velez, “Bendor

Definitely the most talked about and interesting category of the night (I won’t even be surprised if this one is handed out after Best Picture because it’s the Philippines after all), but this one revives the Nora-Vilma rivalry in a big way. Currently though, Vilma is all time Urian champ here with 8 wins, but Nora is closely behind her with 7 wins. If Vilma wins, she’d inch farther with 9, but if Nora wins, they’d both be tied at 8. Do you think they’ll just give them a tie and call it a day? I think there’s a probable chance of that happening. After all, it will please everyone and the mileage will really be huge. And despite the two being nominated alongside with each other during the 80s and early 90s, this possibility is unprecedented yet. In the event that happens, everyone leaves happy. However, they can also do a cop out and instead reward the eight other women here. I think the biggest possible spoiler is Angeli  Bayani whose 2013 is definitely a career best for her. Making waves at almost all film festivals here, an Urian Best Actress is a nice cap off to her 2013 achievement. And that’s who I’m predicting to win here. If not her, then I expect Vilma to receive her ninth win here. Nora just had her spotlight last year, I’m sure they won’t hesitate shifting the momentum to Vilma this year.

Prediction: Angeli Bayani, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Alternate: Vilma Santos, “Ekstra

best supp actor

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Art Acuna, “Kabisera
Archie Alemania, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Carlo Aquino, “Porno
John Arcilla, “Metro Manila
Victor Basa, “Lauriana
Joey Marquez, “On the Job
Cesar Montano, “Ang Alamat ni China Doll”
Bor Ocampo, “Dukit
Junjun Quintana, “A Philippino Story
Yul Servo, “Porno

As for the supporting actors, unless Art Acuna pulls off a threepeat (which I doubt happens but I won’t be surprised if he actually does), I think it will be a battle of the two overdue Porno guys (that sounded wrong no? lol). Both Urian-less Yul Servo and Carlo Aquino are the ones I’m confident about in this category. Carlo Aquino is now on his sixth bid for a win while Yul Servo is on his fifth. You can really just toss a coin with this one, but I guess I’m going with the latter – no reasons why.

Prediction: Yul Servo, “Porno
Alternate: Carlo Aquino, “Porno

best supp actress

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Angel Aquino, “Porno
Angel Aquino, “Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita
Jasmine Curtis, “Transit
Ruby Ruiz, “Ekstra
Michelle Smith, “Angustia”
Raquel Villavicencio, “Dukit

Call it the “Johnny Delgado Rule”. When it comes to Urian, compete against yourself in one category and you’d end up winning the trophy. It was in 1980 when Johnny Delgado competed against himself for for Brutal and Kakabakaba Ka Ba? and he ended up with a Supporting Actor win for the latter. Then in 1986, Jaclyn Jose was nominated twice for Best Actress: Private Show and Takaw Tukso, also winning for the latter. Fast forward to last year in this same category where Alessandra de Rossi was nominated for both Mater Dolorosa and Santa Nina, and she finally clinched her first Urian for the former. As a matter of fact, this statistic is so strong that it only faltered once (Nora Aunor who was nominated for both Bulaklak sa City Jail and ‘Merika only to lose to a threepeat Vilma Santos win for Sister Stella L.) Why am I writing about this though? It’s because I think this rule will apply again to twice nominated Angel Aquino.  I had her both as a prediction and alternate and I’ll just wait which one sticks. Like de Rossi last year, Aquino hasn’t won an Urian yet, and I’m choosing Porno by a hair since they seem to like the overall film better and that it’s her flashier and more “physically demanding” work.

Prediction: Angel Aquino, “Porno
Alternate: Angel Aquino, “Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita

Now as for the rest of the categories…

SCREENPLAY:
Prediction:
Lav Diaz, Rody Vera,Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Alternate:
Michicko Yamamoto, Erik Matti,On the Job

PRODUCTION DESIGN:
Prediction: Adolf Alix, “Porno
Alternate: Richard Somes, “On the Job

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Prediction: Rene Manda, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Alternate: Albert Banzon, “Porno

MUSIC:
Prediction: Gauss Obenza, “Riddles of my Homecoming
Alternate: Perry Dizon, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan

EDITING:
Prediction: Benjamin Tolentino, Hannah Espia, “Transit
Alternate: Jay Halili, “On the Job

SOUND:
Prediction: Armando Lao, “Dukit
Alternate: Arnel Barbarona, “Riddles of My Homecoming

DOCUMENTARY:
Prediction:
 Jazz in Love (Baby Ruth Villarama)
Alternate: Nanay Mameng (Adjani Arumpac)

SHORT FILM
Prediction: 
Onang (JE Tiglao)
Alternate: May Dinadala (Giancarlo Abrahan)

Let’s wait how these predictions will turn out tomorrow when the Manunuri holds the 37th Gawad Urian Awards to be hosted by Piolo Pascual and Bianca Gonzalez. The special will also be shown on Cinema One multiple times this month.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Tit For Tat Local Film Awards 2013   6 comments

May used to be the awards season here in the Philippines, but that tradition has been long since gone. But not for me. This is when I reveal my top picks for the best in Philippine cinema. 2013 is a very difficult one, not because there are only few films to choose from, but because of the many selections the year gave us. Granted I still missed some few films here and there, I’ll share to you my picks in 20 different categories (including my three top choices per film component.) And without further ado, here’s my 2013 Tit for Tat Local Film Awards:

first feature

GOLD: BLUE BUSTAMANTE (Miko Livelo)
SILVER: TRANSIT (Hannah Espia)
BRONZE: PUROK 7 (Carlo Obispo)

ensemble

GOLD: the cast of Iskalawags
SILVER: the cast of Norte
BRONZE: the cast of Transit

visual effects

GOLD: KUNG FU DIVAS
SILVER: DEBOSYON
BRONZE: PAGPAG

sound

GOLD: RIDDLES OF MY HOMECOMING (Arnel Barbarona)
SILVER: ON THE JOB (Corrine de San Jose, Mikko Quizon)
BRONZE: NORTE (Corrine de San Jose)

song

GOLD: INDAK (Sana Dati)
SILVER: SCARED TO DEATH (Tuhog)
BRONZE: SEA OF TREES (Shift)

score

GOLD: DEBOSYON (Teresa Barrozo)
SILVER: SANA DATI (Jerrold Tarog)
BRONZE: RIDDLES OF MY HOMECOMING (Gauss Obenza)

hair and make up

GOLD: Quick Change
SILVER: Kung Fu Divas
BRONZE: Boy Golden

editing

GOLD: ON THE JOB (Jay Halili)
SILVER: BADIL (Carlo Francisco Manatad)
BRONZE: TRANSIT (Hannah Espia, Benjamin Tolentino)

costume design

GOLD: Boy Golden
SILVER: Kung Fu Divas
BRONZE: Ekstra

cinematography

GOLD: NORTE (Lauro Rene Manda)
SILVER: ON THE JOB (Ricardo Buhay III)
BRONZE: DEBOSYON (Dexter dela Pena)

art direction

GOLD: ON THE JOB (Richard Somes)
SILVER: BLUE BUSTAMANTE (Marielle Hizon)
BRONZE: PAGPAG (Luis Custodio IV)

breakthrough actor

GOLD: MIMI JUAREZA, Quick Change
SILVER: JUNJUN QUINTANA, Philippino Story
BRONZE: VINCE TANADA, Otso

breakthrough actress

GOLD: KRYSTLE VALENTINO, Purok 7
SILVER: JASMINE CURTIS, Transit
BRONZE: YENG CONSTANTINO, Shift

screenplay

GOLD: NORTE (Lav Diaz, Rody Vera)
SILVER: SANA DATI (Jerrold Tarog)
BRONZE: BABAGWA (Jason Paul Laxamana)

supporting actress

GOLD: ANGELI BAYANI, Norte
SILVER: BING PIMENTEL, Kabisera
BRONZE: IRMA ADLAWAN, Transit

supporting actor

GOLD: DICK ISRAEL, Badil
SILVER: JOEY MARQUEZ, On the Job
BRONZE: JOEY PARAS, Babagwa

lead actress

GOLD: KRYSTLE VALENTINO, Purok 7
SILVER: LOVI POE, Sana Dati
BRONZE: VILMA SANTOS, Ekstra

lead actor

GOLD: SID LUCERO, Norte
SILVER: JHONG HILARIO, Badil
BRONZE: JOEL TORRE, Kabisera

directing

GOLD: LAV DIAZ, Norte
SILVER: CHITO RONO, Badil
BRONZE: ERIK MATTI, On the Job

picture

GOLD: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
SILVER: Badil
BRONZE: Sana Dati

Whew, there you have it! 🙂 As a recap, here’s the complete list of my 2013 winners:

BEST PICTURE: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST DIRECTOR: Lav Diaz, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST ACTOR: Sid Lucero, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST ACTRESS: Krystle Valentino, Purok 7
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Dick Israel, Badil
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Angeli Bayani, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST SCREENPLAY: Lav Diaz, Rody Vera, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR: Mimi Juareza, Quick Change
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACTRESS: Krystle Valentino, Purok 7
BEST ART DIRECTION: Richard Somes, On the Job
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lauro Rene Manda, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Boy Golden
BEST EDITING: Jay Halili, On the Job
BEST HAIR AND MAKE UP: Quick Change
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Teresa Barrozo, Debosyon
BEST SONG: “Indak” from Sana Dati
BEST SOUND: Arnel Barbarona, Riddles of my Homecoming
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Kung Fu Divas
BEST ENSEMBLE: the cast of Iskalawags
BEST FIRST FEATURE:Blue Bustamante” by Miko Livelo

Until next year! 🙂

Also, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Top Local Movies of 2013   3 comments

Last year, I opened my list by saying that 2012 was an enjoyable year in local cinema. Turns out, I was speaking way too soon because 2013 turned out to be an even better one. To say it is great is probably a hyperbole, but at the same time, I say it with much conviction (and even an understatement). The medium of cinema has never been more exciting and adventurous in the past few years than what the 2013 batch has offered. That goes without saying that it didn’t have its share of misfires and mess, but then again, this year is too strong to focus on that. Three titles you wouldn’t see on the list, however, are Lav Diaz’ Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, Alvin Yapan’s Mga Anino ng Kahapon, and Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita, because I was foolish enough to miss them during their run. With that said, here are my 15 picks for the best in 2013 local cinema:

15. Tuhog

15. TUHOG (Veronica Velasco)

Maindie is one of those terms that sounded so forced you don’t want to hear it ever again, but this Veronica Velasco film of three intertwined stories connected by an unfortunate incident gives it a free pass to be used just this time. Each of the three sub-stories provided interesting characters and back stories that any of them could have been further fleshed out to a whole film. But then again, maybe that’s one of the film’s asset? The movie also boasts of a fitting soundtrack to its story, and the end result is one of 2013’s most fresh mainstream or in this case, maindie, offerings.

14 Otso

14. OTSO (Elwood Perez)

Otso is director Elwood Perez’ first film in ten years, and in this case, it is really worth the wait. I think that doesn’t apply on waiting for Elwood’s comeback only, but for the film as well. Otso started in scenes that were still in multicolor, but it just sets up for an even better film once it turns black and white. I don’t think I’ve necessarily picked up everything that the film wants to show, but it’s part of its appeal. It lures you to its world where the crazy and the wicked happens, and you’re simply hooked.

13. Babagwa

13. BABAGWA (Jason Paul Laxamana)

One of the two Audience choice winners at last year’s Cinemalaya, it’s easy to see why a lot fell in love with this film. Its humor is one that appeals to everyone. But digging deeper, I think it speaks a lot to the curious and inquisitive nature of ourselves. In here, we see two people fleshing out two different personas of each, and we, as the audience, are the witness to all of it. It’s such an engaging scenario that by the time the slow reveal at the end happens, you probably have an idea of what’s about to happen yet you still want to see it happen. It also boasts of an inspired screenplay and one that speaks of the current times.

12. Boy Golden

12. BOY GOLDEN SHOOT TO KILL: The Arturo Porcuna Story (Chito Rono)

I’ve been quite dismissive of this MMFF entry just because it’s Jorge Estregan with a leading lady almost half his age yet again, but I guess surprises do come when you least expect it. Not only does this film serve as a perfect throwback to the yesteryears of enjoyable action flicks, we’re also served with its topnotch technical achievements. The twists and turns of thew characters here, plus that out of nowhere scenes that provided the camp makes it a good reminder that every now and then, never judge a movie by its horribly made poster.

11. Kabisera

11. KABISERA (Alfonso Torre III)

Yes I’m not here for that Breaking Bad comparisons simply because they are two different films that happened to have some similarities. it happens, but I don’t see any “copying” between these two. In Borgy Torre’s directorial debut, Kabisera shows us how one family man’s dreams happen and its good and bad repercussions not only to him but to the people around him. Anchored with a commanding performance by Joel Torre (one of his two this year) and a really great supporting ensemble, Kabisera is really thrilling as it can get.

10. Quick Change

10. QUICK CHANGE (Eduardo Roy Jr.)

Eduardo Roy Jr.’s follow up has a dark humorous tone in it that is simply irresistible. Just like how the characters in the film get totally pumped over having those “shots” that lead character Dorina provides to them, we are really drawn and addicted to what happens. It gives us a peak into this world which not many of us are particularly adept about, and it does a great job in doing so. That of course, and lead actor Mimi Juareza’s haunting turn in it.

09. Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na

09. BUKAS NA LANG SAPAGKAT GABI NA (Jet Leyco)

One of the common themes I noticed among the Cinema One Originals entries this year is that the films are more experimental in nature. Jet Leyco’s Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na provides a mysterious atmosphere that makes you more interested as the film goes on. It is weird and eerie and that’s what make it work. The film, in its own nature, has a great grasp of what it wants to show in a really inspired manner (the handheld camera effect, black and white parts, gunshot sounds), and it  makes the whole viewing more enjoyable. It’s one film I think I’ll enjoy more in repeat viewings.

08. Purok 7

08. PUROK 7 (Carlo Obispo)

A portrait of an optimistic girl living in small rural town was vividly depicted in Carlo Obispo’s debut feature Purok 7. As we follow the story of 14 year old Diana and her younger brother, we were given an escape, thanks to the eye catching scenery of the country side. But more than that, we witnessed and felt the agony of two kids who have long wanted to be a part of something and be a part of a family. The simplicity of it all is what makes this whole thing fresh, endearing, and leaves a lasting impression.

07. Transit

07. TRANSIT (Hannah Espia)

As the overall winner of last year’s Cinemalaya New Breed category, Hannah Espia’s debut effort Transit is an achievement on so many levels. Not only does its display of technical achievements noteworthy, but its storytelling was also seamlessly interwoven. It’s not everyday that we see this kind of potential on a first time full feature, but for this particular effort, Espia manages to hit the right buttons. And as a bonus, it even ended up as the country’s Oscar Foreign Language Film submission.

06. Blue Bustamante

06. BLUE BUSTAMANTE  (Miko Lovelo)

OFW movies have been done to death already during the past decade, but first time director Miko Livelo puts a new spin on it in his Cinema One Originals entry Blue Bustamante. The expected dramatic scenes were instead replaced with an earned sentimentality that just wins you over. As main protagonist George, Joem Bascon was such a delight to watch as he finds a replacement work in Japan that will not only bring in the money but an even closer bond to his son and family who are miles apart. It’s definitely one of the most fun times I had at the movies for 2013.

05. Debosyon

05. DEBOSYON (Alvin Yapan)

Hypnotizing right from the start, this tale of one’s faith and acceptance  – may it be because of love or commitment or just one’s mere existence – is one that lingers even after the credits roll.  The film, which also is aided by minimal dialogues but really magnificent visuals, takes its viewers to some breathless imagery. The movie rested solely on its two lead’s but they did more than what they were asked for. Plus, the last 20 minutes of this film is still one of the bests I’ve see for this year.

04. Iskalawags

04. ISKALAWAGS (Keith Deligero)

Like OFW films, coming of age films have been done to death now, but Keith Deligero’s refreshing approach in the Cinema One entry Iskalwags puts a more inspired approach to it. It’s not hard to fall for the film as it certainly evokes an environment that is light and not totally sentimental. It sparks a certain touch of youth and playfulness that is rarely captured this well on screen. The voice over also adds a more interesting spin, and it features an ensemble whose innocence translates in a totally natural manner.

03. On the Job

03. ON THE JOB (Erik Matti)

Probably one of the most buzzed films of the year, this picture depicts a setting of a dirty and very complex government; one which needed more than just a person who has an optimistic view to eradicate it and start anew.  It is through this core notion where these characters live and breathe, as Erik Matti gives us a more than satisfying crime action thriller that is gripping and at at the same time, really, really timely. It’s one of the rare movie experiences that makes you even sadder as you come out of the theaters because of how easy one can reflect and connect it to what’s really going on.

02. Sana Dati

02. SANA DATI (Jerrold Tarog)

The cinema has given us lots of love stories. Most of them with happy endings, while some were flat out tragedies.  In Jerrold Tarog’s closing effort to his camera trilogy, he uses the notion of whether to stay stagnant or to let go as a path to understand how love really works. In the case of Lovi Poe’s Andrea, it’s a hard task, especially when you’re ready to move on yet a reminder of the past shows up hours before you’re ready to take the jump. Sana Dati is one of the best stories about love I’ve seen in a long time. And there’s no other way to end the film that with Up Dharma Down’s Indak.

01. Badil

01. BADIL (Chito Rono)

At one point, it doesn’t even seem that this would make it at the Sineng Pambansa festival last August. But thankfully, it did. Chito Rono’s entry which focuses in a small Samar town on the eve of election day is as arresting as one can get. Like On the Job, it’s a depiction of what’s wrong in a society, but this one is less technically polished but of the same, if not even more, intensity. It’s a film that has a lot of long continuous shots, probably making the whole experience more captivating. It also has a good ensemble with a very intense Jhong Hilario leading the ship.  Badil was an entry in the All Master’s Edition of the Sineng Pambansa, and with his controlled and almost restrained direction, Rono definitely lives up to the challenge.

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9th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 4   4 comments

As the 9th Cinemalaya closes tonight with the awards night ceremonies, I now post the last batch of reviews for this year’s filmfest. If you have been following this blog, you’ll know that I have posted eleven reviews already. Part 1  has Gil Portes’ Liars, Mikhail Red’s Rekorder,  Carlo Obispo’s Purok 7, and Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra, Part 2 has Adolf Alix’s Porno, Alvin Yapan’s Debosyon, and Leo Abaya’s Instant Mommy, while Part 3 consists of Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati, Christopher Ad Castillo’s The Diplomat Hotel, Joseph Israel Laban’s Nuwebe and Eduardo Roy Jr.’s Quick Change. Now I present the final piece of the puzzle with the last four movies of this year’s Cinemalaya entries:

BABAGWA
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Cast: Alex Medina, Alma Concepcion, Joey Paras, Kiko Matos
Competition: New Breed

An internet scammer falls in love with a wealthy old maid while trying to swindle her using a fake Facebook profile.

The whole concept of Babagwa is probably one of the more relatable ones in this year’s batch. While one does not need to do fake profiles in order to relate to the film, it tackles the unveiling of one’s identity in this time of social media obsession. Laxamana’s screenplay is one that’s fresh and inspired. During the first two parts of the story, we were introduced on how this whole bogus scam works – we see the step by step process of how they pull off this shenanigan and how they successfully pulls off money from their targets. The last act is the weakest one though; by the time it started, everyone already has a hunch of what will happen and how it will end up. But two things make up for it: first, everyone still waits for the reveal despite knowing how it will end up. Second, Laxamana’s effective build up and depiction as Paras’ narrates while it shifts back and forth to Greg (Alex Medina) to support the narration. It’s a build up that can easily hit or miss, but in this case, it definitely worked. I’ve learned that this won the Audience Choice in the New Breed category, and I’m actually not surprised at all. The way the director held up the audience at the edge of their seats without going backwards is a feat of itself. We’re also treated to mighty fine performances of Alex Medina and Joey Paras, as they are probably frontrunners for awards on Sunday night.

Rating: 3.5/5

TRANSIT
Director: Hannah Espia
Cast: Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina, Jasmine Curtis Smith, Mercedes Cabral, Marc Justine Alavarez
Competition: New Breed

The film begins and ends in an airport during a father and son’s transit flight from Tel Aviv to Manila.

One of the best things about Transit is how it connects its characters and stories seamlessly. I like the approach director Hannah Espia used in order to present to us the five characters in the movie. She clearly knows how to intricately weave all these similar and shared events from different points of view and how each and every one of them is affected by it. That same approach works perfectly well in the context of her storytelling, and it’s one that I will appreciate the most here. With that said, the movie also boasts of technical and acting achievements. The cinematography here is gorgeous, and even in small scenes like the one of Yael in the playground is very much inspired. The ensemble is also really commendable. All characters feel very natural from their speaking manners up to their interactions with each other. Irma Adlawan portrayal of a mother is one that can make you see your own mother too. Jasmine Curtis’ has these raw acting chops that were well showcased here. It’s one that surprised you with her depth. But the heart of the movie probably lies with the four year old kid, Joshua. And he exudes this innocence that will certainly leave an impression on you. By effectively combining both the emotional tug and effective presentation of the story, there’s no doubt that Hannah Espia’s debut feature is one of the year’s best films.

Rating: 4.5/5

DAVID F
Director: Emmanuel Palo
Cast: Eula Valdez, Rocky Salumbides, Daxx Martin, Shamaine Buencamino
Competition: New Breed

David F weaves three stories that look into the lineage of African-Americans in the Philippines –from American soldiers in the Fil-Am war to the “Amboys” in the former Clark Airfield.

The premise of David F somewhat reminds me of Stephen Daldry’s The Hours. While that may really be arguable, the Af-Am connection is probably the Mrs. Dalloway counterpart. On the first part, we travel back to see a David Fagel being captured by two Filipinos and is on his way to become beheaded when his Filipino partner suddenly appears to free him. The next part is during the Japanese occupation when a deaf woman carries the child of a Filipino soldier. The last one is during the present time when a comedy act performer wants to find his father who is named David Fagel and is being helped by a volunteer to trace the steps in doing so. The thing with David F. is that it seemed that the three stories are somewhat disjointed and tends up to either overwhelm or underwhelm the audience, depending on how you enjoy each segment. While there are some strong aspects in each of the three stories, the whole is not the sum of its parts here. You can see some good storytelling in each part but it wasn’t totally fleshed out to leave a mark to its viewers. With that said, the director’s attempt is appreciated and the film has believable production design especially during the two earlier parts. I was actually invested the most in the third one, but it did not leave enough room for me to cling on to the story and the whole movie just felt half baked.

Rating: 2.5/5

AMOR Y MUERTE
Director: Cesar Evangelista
Cast: Althea Vega, Markki Stroem, Ama Quiambao, Adrian Sebastian
Competition: Director’s Showcase

An erotic 16th Century period drama, the film examines the initial encounter between the indios and their colonizers and their conflicting views on love, passion, religion, and sexuality.

The trailer of the film suggests that it will be some sort of a no holds barred level of eroticism in the context of the 16th Century. On one hand, they actually did portray that, as it showed the different views of the characters in the film, and how they conflicted with thoughts on the said aspects. But the approach it did will make the viewers feel like “That’s it?” once the credits roll. Probably because it left viewers conflicting whether it’s a tongue in cheek or a serious approach. That’s how I see it. Others expecting it’s a serious film will probably remember the tongue in cheek ones while those who find it light will look for the depth of what the movie wants to offer. However, the redeeming factor of the film is its technical achievements. The music adds more interest, and some shots were memorable, albeit way too overdone. Althea Vega is really good here, capturing the conflicting character of her natural feelings with the adjustments that she has to undergo now. It is a very physical role and she showed no signs of inhibition at all. All in all, I’d say that Amor Y Muerte’s strength lies in Vega’s performance and its technical achievements than what it wants to say in its story.

Rating: 2.5/5

There you have it. Whew, finally it’s over! The awards night will happen tonight over at the CCP as they hand out the best of the best (really? LOL) from this year’s batch of films. Good luck to everybody!

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

2012: The Year in Lead Actors   1 comment

2012 lead actors

Hey everyone! We’re still continuing the yearend lists over here at Tit for Tat. Aside from that, we’re also doing the recap of the movie performances in local cinema the past year. The past two days, we gave the focus to the supporting actresses and supporting actors. It’s time to move now to the leading categories. For this day, we’d give the spotlight to the men and tackle the Best Actor category. Like what I said, these are possible choices from all the award giving bodies this year from mainstream to indie and those that can cross-over in between. Let’s begin!

LEADERS OF THE PACK

Probably the strongest contender in this category for this year is acting legend Eddie Garcia as he adds another memorable turn for his role as the old gay man living with his dog in Bwakaw. His competition this year might skew to much younger actors though as there have been lots of good awards-bait performances this year such as the likes of Dingdong Dantes‘ MMFF winning performance in One More Try, Coco Martin‘s indie comeback as the father who found the remains of his daughter in Santa Nina, Jericho Rosales as the single parent whose son gone missing in Alagwa, and JM de Guzman as the mussel diver in the title role Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino.

MIDDLE TIER

As for the other lead roles in contention, award giving bodies might also throw a bone to Arnold Reyes as the loyal driver who was caught in the middle in his Congressman employer in the Tribeca hit Graeland, awards staple John Lloyd Cruz might get some nominations as well for his performance opposite Bea Alonzo in The Mistress or for his movie with Angel Locsin, Unofficially Yours.  Scene stealing Archie Alemania should hear his name be read especially at the Comedy Best Actor of the Golden Screen Awards for his role in Cinema One Original entry Slumber Party. And in a surprising turn of events, we’d have a battle of two heroes this year in the Best Actor category: Alfred Vargas as Andres Bonifacio in Richard Somes’ Supremo and ER Ejercito as Emilio Aguinaldo in the MMFF entry El Presidente.

Cinemalaya movies also produced a lot of worthy Best Actor turns such as the winning performance of Kristoffer King in Oros, Pen Medina in Kamera Obskura, Dominic Roco‘s Gibson in Ang Nawawala, and Thai actor playing lone soldier Ananda Everingham in Kalayaan. Casting issues (from Cinemalaya) aside, Allan Paule‘s fantastic turn in Emerson Reyes’s MNL 143 can possibly reap nominations as well.

THE REST OF THE RACE

Other lead actor contenders that might are still in the race are Dennis Trillo in the title role of Ang Katiwala, Cinema One Originals Best Actor winner Alex Medina in Palitan, newbie actor Gerry Adeva as the title role in Mamay Umeng, Allen Dizon in Joel Lamangan’s drama Migrante, and the most intelligent and uptight of the three gay friends Markki Stroem in Slumber Party. Among mainstream movies, one can also consider Derek Ramsey in A Secret Affair, Aga Muhlach in Of All The Things, Piolo Pascual in Every Breath U Take, Enchong Dee in The Strangers, and Vice Ganda in either This Guy’s in Love With U Mare or Sisterakas.

That’s it. Last part of the acting spotlight tomorrow with everybody’s favorite category: Best Actress!

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2012 Review: Part 3   3 comments

Hey everyone! Cinema One Originals 2012 officially ended yesterday, so this is pretty much a late post, but what the heck. Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch all movies in competition (I missed Aberya, Anak Araw, and Baybayin and not because I watched films in alphabetical order), but ten out of thirteen is still a good record I guess. Anyway, in case you haven’t seen, here’s Part 1 that includes reviews of Mamay Umeng, Mater Dolorosa, Slumber Party, and EDSA XXX. And here is Part 2 which covers Ang Paglalakbay ng Mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, Pascalina, and Catnip. 

Here’s the third and last part:

Melodrama Negra

MELODRAMA NEGRA
Director: Maribel Legarda
Starring: Gee Canlas, Bong Cabrera, Jerald Napoles
Competition: Cinema One Currents

The film has multiple story lines going on. There’s these three recently dead people whose souls are wandering around Manila. Then there’s also a group of three friends, a pair of sisters and a shy man, and a congressman, his conniving son, and his driver. All of them waiting for something before they can move on with their lives.

If anything, the film is loyal to its title. It really tends to go melodramatic every now and then especially during the stories that involved the three wandering souls. But what’s captivating about it is that I bought every minute of it. The movie was over the top, but it was the intention all along, so it definitely served its purpose. Usually, when you hear the comment “iiyak ka, then matatawa ka then maiiyak ka“, it’s easy to dismiss that film since that means it is uneven at best, but not here. It works in the context of the movie.

In true Layeta Bucoy writing fashion, there’s a lot of tagos worthy lines here. I also like the way she made the characters interact with each other. Gee Canlas started pretty annoying at first, but she totally had me with her Sharon Cuneta references. The whole ensemble was serviceable, though my favorite was the whole segment of Arnel Ignacio scene-stealing turn. It was short, but it was really effective. I totally did get why this got the Audience Choice, and I don’t think I’d argue with that decision.

Grade: 3.5/5

Palitan

PALITAN
Director: Ato Bautista
Starring: Alex Medina, Mara Lopez, Mon Confiado
Competition: Cinema One Currents

A young couple (Alex Medina, Mara Lopez) settles in the poverty stricken Quiapo, but with the husband deep in debts to his employer (Mon Confiado), he gave him a life changing offer.

Known primarily as a homage to the original erotic classic Scorpio Nights, this movie has pretty much big shoes to fill, but to no avail, wasn’t able to give it a proper tribute. There’s too much sex going on, however; too less emotions that the viewers are feeling for the characters. There were also a lot of contrived scenes just to give it a more sexual approach, and the ending was predictable. It is also worthy to mention that the first sex scene between Mara Lopez and Mon Confiado took forever to be over one has to wonder if the target audience was men suffering from erectile dysfunction. The casting was good though; Mon Confiado really gives this creepy boss vibe well, Alex Medina has this raw enthusiasm that is transparent in all of his scenes, and Mara Lopez passes the innocent woman from the province role she had. All in all, it was too inconsistent to effectively work, though there there were some bright spots in it.

Grade: 2.5/5

Mariposa

MARIPOSA SA HAWLA NG GABI
Director: Richard Somes
Starring: Erich Gonzales, Alfred Vargas, Mark Gil, Joel Torre
Competition: Cinema One Plus

Innocent young lady Maya (Erich Gonzales) travels to Manila in order to find her long seen sister. The moment she sets her foot there, her long journey will lead her to endless horrifying discoveries.

The good things: The production design was top notch, probably my favorite of the year. It was lively, colorful, and sets the mood of this world that Maya entered. Mark Gil and to an extent, Joel Torre, were the clear standouts. Mark was flamboyant and over the top, and he was so into it that such commitment is fun to watch on screen. Torre was also committed, though not given the same chance as Gil.

The bad ones: Given that this runs a two hour mark, I won’t be surprised if people lost interest halfway. There’s nothing solid to hold on to in terms of the characters. Yes it was packed, but I would have been fine with more minutes if it can open the characters a lot more to its viewers. Nevertheless, it was visually stunning, but there’s more than meets the eye.

Grade: 2.5/5