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89th Oscar Foreign Language Film: What Should the Philippines Submit?   6 comments

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It’s the time of the year! By September, the Film Academy of the Philippines will submit one movie to the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences (AMPAS) that will be our bid to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards. This will be our 28th participating year and we are yet to receive a nomination.

To qualify as an eligible submission, the Academy’s rule states that “The motion picture must be first released in the country submitting it no earlier than October 1, 2015, and no later than September 30, 2016, and be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor.

Currently nine countries have already announced their submissions with our likely winner, Germany’s Toni Erdmann, in the longlist already. So which film will be our best bet to advance forward? I’ve divided them in three different categories.

DISCLAIMER: It has to be cleared that this ISN’T the final shortlist from the Film Academy of the Philippines yet, and are just mere speculations and recommendations.

FRONTRUNNERS:

anino sa likod ng kahapon

ANINO SA LIKOD NG BUWAN
Director: Jun Lana
Screenplay: Jun Lana
Cast: LJ Reyes, Luis Alandy, Anthony Falcon
Philippine Release Date: July 20, 2016

Amidst conflict between the military and communists, three people are confronted with a difficult dilemma.

Jun Lana, no stranger from Oscar representative (he directed our 2012 submission Bwakaw), is in contention yet again for his latest effort which is a one-long two-hour take staged just like a play with only three characters interacting all throughout the movie. The film also has participated alongside many different international festivals both in Asia and Europe (though none in the Big 4 major film festivals). That said, the film is unanimously considered as one of the best from 2015 among local critics.

felix manalo

FELIX MANALO
Director: Joel Lamangan
Screenplay: Bienvenido Santiago
Cast: Dennis Trillo, Bela Padilla, Gabby Concepcion
Philippine Release Date: October 7, 2015

Felix Ysagun Manalo is a sprawling historical epic that traces the origin of Iglesia Ni Cristo (The Church of Christ) which is established in the Philippines from its humble beginnings in 1914 through the present day.

Definitely one of the most divisive films of last year, Felix Manalo is epic in its landscape detailing one of the most important personalities among Iglesia ni Cristo’s history. This almost three-hour movie boasts so much of its lavish production design and staging, that it would tick all boxes in an “baity Oscar film” checklist. But beyond the grandeur is a straightforward storytelling, and one that was considered as “weak” and “safe” by most critics. That said, never underestimate the taste of the FAP to include this in the shortlist, as they’re one easily swayed by buzz regardless if those were organic or fabricated.

hele sa hiwagang hapis

HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS
Director: Lav Diaz
Screenplay: Lav Diaz
Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, Susan Africa
Philippine Release Date: March 26, 2016

In the midst of revolution, a young poet and the man that ruined his life travel through the jungle in search of safety. At the same time, a grieving widow encounters mystical beings on a mountain while searching for the body of her beloved revolutionary.

Winner of the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year (with jury president Meryl Streep awarding them), there’s no doubt that this is one of the two most-buzzed films we have in world cinema for this year. Imagine if we submitted this and have Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Oscar nominee Clive Owen campaign this right? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves as that’s a bit of a reaching. The thing with Hele is that we have already attempted to submit a Diaz film back in 2014 via Norte which is half the running time of this one and arguably his most universal effort thus far, and yet the Academy didn’t give in to it.

honor thy father

HONOR THY FATHER
Director: Erik Matti
Screenplay: Erik Matti, Michiko Yamamoto
Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Meryll Soriano, Tirso Cruz III
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2015

A family is caught in a financial ruin after being involved in a ponzi scheme.

With an Erik Matti film in contention yet again, it reminds me of probably the biggest miss we had not submitting On the Job back in 2013. What made that more infuriating was the committee’s response that they don’t want to submit a film that shows a negative image of the Philippines. Yeah, right. Anyway, Matti is back again this time with the MMFF entry Honor Thy Father which made its premiere a year ago at the Toronto International Film Festival. Honor‘s best shot is that I can see the film appealing to the Western crowd with its theme and execution. That said, the film feels bit of an after thought by now, but with every controversy that the film has encountered, it just ended up soaring higher. Maybe, FAP atones to Erik Matti this time around?

ignacio de loyola

IGNACIO DE LOYOLA
Director: Paolo Dy, Cathy Azanza
Screenplay: Paolo Dy
Cast: Andreas Munoz, Javier Godino, Julio Perillan
Philippine Release Date: July 27, 2016

In 16th Century Spain, a soldier born of nobility gives his life of luxury to become a pilgrim devoted to God and his people.

Watch out Felix Manalo, there’s another religious biography in contention. Kidding aside, I can already imagine the FAP members creaming themselves over this one. For one, the casting of a foreign star in lead role will make them think it can add extra buzz to our own entry (this isn’t an Oscar rule after all. Lots of foreign actors starred in films from other countries which ended up as submissions. Case in point: French star Emmanuelle Riva in Austria’s Amour, Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal in Chilean film No, and even our own Angeli Bayani in Sinagpore’s Ilo-ilo). Plus, the religious theme somehow gives it more importance and a “good image” per se in representing the country (which apparently is an unwritten rule; see: On the Job again in 2013).

ma'rosa

MA’ROSA
Director: Brillante Mendoza
Screenplay: Troy Espiritu
Cast: Jaclyn Jose, Andi Eigenmann, Julio Diaz, Felix Roco, Jomari Angeles
Philippine Release Date: July 6, 2016

A poor family scrambles to find the money to pay off the corrupt policemen that have arrested the parents for dealing drugs.

Sure it was one of the least buzzed entries at Cannes main competition this year, until the great Jaclyn Jose earned the coveted Best Actress win and the rest, as they say, is history. Ma’Rosa is currently participating now at Toronto International Film Festival and I think it has the most buzz for any Filipino film competing for this year when it comes to foreign exposure. And at this stage, after all his trips to Cannes and Berlin and Venice and TIFF, isn’t Brillante Mendoza overdue for a Filipino Oscar submission? I lobbied that Taklub was our best shot last year, but they can make up for it with Ma’Rosa this year.

pamilya ordinario

PAMILYA ORDINARYO
Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Screenplay: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Cast: Ronwaldo Martin, Hasmine Killip, Sue Prado, Moira Lang
Philippine Release Date: August 31, 2016

Jane and Aries are teenage parents. They make a living out of stealing on the streets… until fate hits back at them.

After sweeping major awards at the recently concluded Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival including wins for Best Picture, Best Director for Eduardo Roy Jr., and Best Actress for newcomer Hasmine Killip, this runaway favorite is getting an instant cinema release in time for the Oscar cutoff. Add the fact that it’s also heading to Venice under the “Venice Days” sidebar (think of it as their answer to Cannes’ Directors Fortnight section), and it’s on the right track. This also has the makings to appeal to an international audience,

POTENTIAL SHORTLIST MENTIONS:

tier 2

Don’t be surprised to see any of these films in this group make it in the final shortlist.

DUKOT
Director: Paul Soriano
Screenplay: Froilan Medina
Cast: Enrique Gil, Ricky Davao, Christopher de Leon, Shaina Magdayao
Philippine Release Date: July 13, 2016

With Paul Soriano helming it (one of the producers of our 2013 Oscar submission “Transit“), this suspense drama about an abducted son also brags of an ensemble composed of some of the biggest names in the country both newbies and veterans.

ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI
Director: Gil Portes
Screenplay: Enrique Ramos
Cast: Aljur Abrenica, Louise delos Reyes, Enzo Pineda, Menggie Cobarrubias
Philippine Release Date: September 21, 2016

In the tradition of our love for hero films — some of which are deserved (last year’s Heneral Luna), some of which are good (Supremo), and some which are just flat out terrible (El Presidente), let’s say hello to Hermano Puli.

MAGTANGGOL
Director: Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez
Screenplay: Henrie Enaje, Henry dela Cruz, Sigfreid Barros Sanchez
Cast: Dina Bonnevie, Ejay Falcon, Joonee Gamboa, Tom Rodriguez
Philippine Release Date: June 8, 2016

Only because of its serious topical theme (with them even doing special screening this National Heroes Day), I can see this political themed film making a (not so) surprise appearance in the shortlist. Think of how Kamkam by Joel Lamangan made it to the Top 4 in 2014.

A SECOND CHANCE
Director: Cathy Garcia-Molina
Screenplay: Henrie Enaje, Henry dela Cruz, Sigreid Barros Sanchez
Cast: Carmi Raymundo, Vanesssa Valdez, Cathy Garcia-Molina
Philippine Release Date: November 25, 2015

We have that one slot, almost always reserved to those box office hits that tackle more serious topics than the usual. Not to say that they aren’t deserving since most of them actually are, but they  happen to end up in the shortlist. Examples include 2008’s Caregiver, or 2010’s Sa’yo Lamang, maybe even last year’s That Thing Called Tadhana can somewhat be considered.

TANDEM
Director: King Palisoc
Screenplay: Zig Marasigan
Cast: JM de Guzman, Nico Antonio, Rochelle Pangilinan
Philippine Release Date: February 17, 2016

As for starters, the producers of this film were also the producers of our previous submission Heneral Luna, so if anything, they;d sure be willing to campaign. This film got good to great reviews with solid performances from the leads, but if you compare it to other entries, it’s a tad low-key (in terms of buzz and not of film quality). And if it’s already low-key here, can you imagine how it would fare to the foreign market?

WALANG FOREVER
Director: Dan Villegas
Screenplay: Paul Sta. Ana
Cast: Jennylyn Mercado, Jericho Rosales, Lorna Tolentino
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2015

For an MMFF film, this one got solid reviews and even swept the Gabi ng Parangal of last year. This is also from the Dan Villegas and Jennylyn Mercado team-up, which reminds us that English Only Please, was part of the short-list that year.

ELIGIBILITY ISSUES:

tier 3

So these movies have appeared in different indie film festivals but haven’t fulfilled the seven-day commercial distribution yet. This does not mean that these movies are bad obviously they’re not because there have been buzz for some of them to be submitted. Well, they still have the whole month of September to book a screening if they plan to be considered eligible. Or they can wait for next year instead. For what it’s worth, some films who made it in the shortlist the previous years aren’t from the same year where they participated in festivals. As for examples, the 2008 Cinemalaya film Boses only got a commercial screening in 2012, and thus was included in the shortlist for the 2012 Oscars. Same goes for Ian Lorenos’ Alagwa which gave Jericho Rosales his Urian in 2012 but was in the 2014 shortlist.

FINAL VERDICT:

For this year, I think we can trim it down to three films which would all be decent submissions by any means. For starters, there’s the John Lloyd starrer Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis with its Berlin victory, but is simply hindered by the 8-hr running time. Not that Lav Diaz needs Oscars anyway to validate his impressive work; it’s just that sometimes the Academy just doesn’t fit into a certain director’s style. Then there’s the other John Lloyd starrer Honor Thy Father, which I can see a scenario with it connecting to a foreign audience, if they’re gonna push it hard and run aggressive with it. That’s a big if, by the way. In the end, maybe Jaclyn Jose’s Cannes win can also be Brillante Mendoza’s first RP submission to the Academy. It’s doing its assignment by participating in TIFF and its Cannes win, but us submitting a Mendoza film for once won’t do us any harm, regardless of the end result if it gets in or not.

Share your thoughts with me! You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

39th Gawad Urian Winner Predictions   Leave a comment

The Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) are bound to reward their picks among the best of 2015 local cinema with the 39th Gawad Urian Awards this Tuesday, June 21. But who are poised to take home those huge silver trophies? It’s a strange year in predicting, but here’s where I’ll bet my money on.

best picture

BEST PICTURE
“Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
“ARI: My Life with a King”
“Bambanti”
“Da Dog Show”
“Heneral Luna”
“Honor Thy Father”
“Imbisibol”
“Taklub”

Unlike previous years when there’s one clear frontrunner to win the top award (2003’s Magnifico, 2005’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, 2009’s Kinatay, and 2013’s Norte), this year, the race is a bit up in the air. As for starters, there’s the now iconic pop culture effect of Heneral Luna, which dominated critically and commercially. Then there’s also Taklub, which was Brillante Mendoza’s comeback to Cannes (albeit in the Un Certain Regard competition) since 2009. Anino sa Likod ng Buwan and Imbisibol both live up to the name of their previous stage adaptations. And Honor Thy Father got pretty much the same enthusiasm that Matti’s (also Best Picture nominated) On the Job received. The three other films nominated are much low-key in nature, but I can also foresee a case of the Manunuri going with the cultural importance of the arts in “Ari.” I guess I’ll go with Jun Lana’s “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan“, as I find its one shot narrative up right the Manunuri’s alley. Besides, Lana is someone I see who’s finally breaking through with the Urian considering they also went gaga with Barber’s Tales last year (despite ending with a 0-11 shutout).

PREDICTION: “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan
ALTERNATE: “Heneral Luna

best director

BEST DIRECTOR:
Carlo Enciso Catu, “ARI: My Life with a King”
Mario Cornejo, “Apocalypse Child”
Zig Madamba Dulay, “Bambanti”
Lawrence Fajardo, “Imbisibol”
Ralston Jover, “Da Dog Show”
Jun Lana, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
Erik Matti, “Honor Thy Father”
Brilliante Mendoza, “Taklub”
Kidlat Tahimik, “Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment”
Jerrold Tarog, “Heneral Luna”

I have this previous theory (which I shared last year) that when someone is up for the Best Director award yet the film isn’t nominated for Best Picture, that totally eliminates the director’s chances to win at all. After all, no director has won in this category without the corresponding film being nominated for the top award too. That said, if there’s one filmmaker who can defy that statistic, it’s Kidlat Tahimik. After all, the narrative is there already. I’m sure the Urian won’t shy rewarding him especially now that the opportunity is there. Then again, I noted two years ago that in a field of 12 Best Director nominees, the only ones with no Urian are Erik Matti and Hannah Espia and while I predicted the former, it’s the latter who won. Thus, I’ll reserve my alternate this time for Matti to nab his first Urian here.

PREDICTION: Kidlat Tahimik, “Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment”
ALTERNATE:
Erik Matti, “Honor Thy Father”

best actor

BEST ACTOR
Luis Alandy, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
John Arcilla, “Heneral Luna”
John Lloyd Cruz, “Honor Thy Father”
John Lloyd Cruz, “A Second Chance”
Ricky Davao, “Dayang Asu”
Anthony Falcon, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
Francisco Guinto, “ARI: My Life with a King”
Sid Lucero, “Apocalypse Child”
Junjun Quintana, “Water Lemon”
Jericho Rosales, “Walang Forever”
Dennis Trillo, “Felix Manalo”
Lou Veloso, “Da Dog Show”

While it’s a strong year for lead actors with everyone getting in meaty roles here and there, this is one category where the Manunuri channels their inner Oprah and hands out nominations like Santa Claus. From this bunch, chances are we won’t see a repeat winner so that leaves out Ricky Davao, Sid Lucero, Junjun Quintana, Jericho Rosales, and Lou Veloso already. In the event that it will be though, bank on John Arcilla’s prominent pornstache to win this. That said, the double nominations signify strong support for our perennial frontrunner John Lloyd Cruz to finally receive his first Urian. Only once in the history of Urian did an actor compete against herself that lost (FYI it’s Nora Aunor x2 (both ‘Merika and Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit) losing to Vilma Santos in Sister Stella L.). So unless Manunuri trolls out in the end, it’s John Lloyd’s to lose.

PREDICTION: John Lloyd Cruz, “Honor Thy Father”
ALTERNATE:
John Arcilla, “Heneral Luna”

best actress

BEST ACTRESS:
Nora Aunor, “Taklub”
Angeli Bayani, “Iisa”
Mercedes Cabral, “Da Dog Show”
Alessandra de Rossi, “Bambanti”
Anicka Dolonius, “Apocalypse Child”
Jennylyn Mercado, “Walang Forever”
Ces Quesada, “Imbisibol”
LJ Reyes, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”

Last year, it was easy to dismiss Nora Aunor’s chances simply because she’s already winning the Natatanging Gawad Urian and if there’s one thing that Urian loves, it’s to spread the wealth. This year however is a more difficult one to predict. That said, Taklub is minor Aunor, and I don’t think this is the performance that will tie her with rival Vilma Santos for the 8th Best Actress win. Both Angeli Bayani and Alessandra de Rossi won Urian the past few years, so I don’t see the Manunuri rushing to give them second wins (they have no problem giving out nominations but a win is a different talk). Quesada, Dolonius and Cabral are all borderline supporting characters in terms of screentime or story, though Ces Quesada, a veteran with no Urian win yet can easily overcome this narrative as compared to the two others. Jennylyn Mercado, a previous Urian nominee for Blue Moon back in 2005, is nominated for #WalangForever, seems more of a statement on the Manunuri’s part that they also acknowledge romance/commercial format stories. I mean if Angelica Panganiban couldn’t win with Tadhana last year, I doubt they’re touching this. That leaves me with LJ Reyes, and while in any other year, I wouldn’t have made this prediction, maybe the “boldness” of the role would be enough for her to take home the trophy.

PREDICTION: LJ Reyes, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”
ALTERNATE:
Ces Quesada, “Imbisibol”

best supp actor

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
RK Bagatsing, “Apocalypse Child”
Bernardo Bernardo, “Imbisibol”
Tirso Cruz III, “Honor Thy Father”
JM De Guzman, “Imbisibol”
Julio Diaz, “Taklub”
Alion Ibanez, “Da Dog Show”
Micko Laurente, “Bambanti”
Lou Veloso, “Taklub”

Opposite of the Oscars where they reward the older vets in Supporting, the Urian likes them young and fresh with up and coming actors winning here going as far as 1986 champ Aga Muhlach up to last year’s Martin del Rosario. The only one who fits the bill is 4x nominee JM de Guzman for Imbisibol. But then, I think this is one year where they can skip that as I think it’s a battle of the three vets: 1980 Best Actor Bernardo Bernardo, 1992 Best Supporting Actor Tirso Cruz III, and still Urian-less Julio Diaz. I have a hunch they’re going with Tirso’s over the top religious zealot in here to give him his overdue second career Urian.

PREDICTION: Tirso Cruz III, “Honor Thy Father”
ALTERNATE:
Julio Diaz, “Taklub”

best supp actress

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Liza Dino, “Toto”
Mylene Dizon, “Heneral Luna”
Rio Locsin, “Iisa”
Anna Abad Santos, “Apocalypse Child”
Tessie Tomas, “Water Lemon”
Cecil Yumol, “ARI: My Life with a King”
Gwen Zamora “Apocalypse Child”

I can’t remember the last time they rewarded a supporting performance from a full comedy movie, so I feel that Liza Dino’s nominations is the reward itself already. Same goes for Urian winner Mylene Dizon. I personally prefer Ana Abad Santos over Gwen Zamora in Apocalypse Child, but a part of me thinks that it’s a film they showered with acting nominations but will give no wins (which in Urian history isn’t always a bad thing. There’s a long list of films that reap 4-5 acting nominations that will lose all of its acting bids. Case in point, last year’s Best Picture Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon, or Barber’s Tales.). I’ll call this a race between two underrated veterans: Rio Locsin vs. Tessie Tomas, and I’ll give the edge to the latter just because she have more Urian losses, so maybe the Manunuri might make up for it.

PREDICTION: Tessie Tomas, “Water Lemon”
ALTERNATE:
Rio Locsin, “Iisa”

Now as for the rest of the nominations:

SCREENPLAY:
Prediction:
Herlyn Gail Alegre  and John Paul Bedia, “Imbisibol
Alternate:
Michicko Yamamoto, Honor Thy Father

PRODUCTION DESIGN:
Prediction: Harley Alcasid, “Bukod Kang Pinagpala
Alternate: Ben Payumo, “Water Lemon

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Prediction: Ber Cruz, “Honor Thy Father
Alternate: Pong Ignacio, “Heneral Luna

MUSIC:
Prediction: Jerrold Tarog, “Heneral Luna
Alternate: Diwa de Leon, “Taklub

EDITING:
Prediction: Lawrence Ang, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan
Alternate: Kats Serraon, “Da Dog Show

SOUND:
Prediction: Mikko Quizon, “Heneral Luna
Alternate: Mikko Quizon, “Honor Thy Father

The 39th Gawad Urian Awards will be shown live on Cinema One this June 21 at 8PM.

Philippines’ 87th Oscar Submission: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan   1 comment

Norte After days of waiting, it’s the time of the year again when the country chooses its representative for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Let it be clear that of course, Oscar is not the be-all and end-all of anything great when it comes to filmmaking, but somehow among casual moviegoers, Oscar is synonymous to anything that represents great quality. And its prestige is still ever so present that one can’t help but be interested in the whole process. After all, having an “Oscar winning film” or “Oscar winning country” is a great bonus to a film’s achievement.

Just hours ago the Film Academy of the Philippines, represented by Leo Martinez, confirmed that the Philippines submitted Lav Diaz’ 250 minute film Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan” for next year’s awards consideration. Norte, a take on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, showed the contrast of a man (Sid Lucero) committing a crime but was spared from it and an innocent one (Archie Alemania) paying for the former’s sins. In line with that, life goes on for the latter’s wife (Angeli Bayani) as she deals with the aftermath of the incident.

In my annual analysis of possible contenders almost a month ago, I’ve specified that it boils down to two contenders: Jun Lana’s “Barber’s Tales” and Lav Diaz’ “Norte“. Both make sense as submissions, but I’m not holding my breath for any of the two considering how the panel assigned to submit has made more mediocre choices than not since its inception in 2007, so seeing them finally taking the right path slowly but surely the past few years is indeed commendable. Besides, what is there to lose if we experiment with a Lav Diaz submission this year? It’s not as if we’ve been nominated before. This can actually serve as a trial of some sort to see what kind of films that we offer can match Oscar’s taste. But anyway, enough about my personal feelings. Let’s go straight to the point. How will Norte fare in the competition this year? And can it *actually* be nominated in the end?

As for starters, this is a year when there is no solid frontrunner for the category Oscar-wise. Sure we have lot of solid contenders to battle out (Brazil’s “The Way He Looks”, Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night”, Canada’s “Mommy“, Mauritania’s “Timbuktu“, Poland’s “Ida“, Turkery’s “Winter Sleep“, and even unofficial but slightly obvious Argnetina’s “Wild Tales“), but none of those are as sure things as “A Separation” was three years ago or even “Amour” the year after. In an open year like this, there are bigger possibilities for an out of the field choice which definitely helps Norte‘s chances.

Second, distribution counts. Among 60+ announced contenders by far, only 17 have US distributors already. Yep, including Norte. Sure, The Cinema Guild might not be as big as Sony Picture Classics, Magnolia Pictures, Roadside Attractions, or even Sundance Selects as far as distribution companies are concerned, and that other likely contenders might even pick up theirs as the season progressed, but having the benefit of a distributor already is a big thing in the country’s history of submitting in this category.

Norte” also boasts of having a wide festival coverage. Even before it participated as part of the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival last year, the film has participated as part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Post-Cannes, with unanimous reviews to boot, the film traveled from Locarno to Toronto, New York to Busan, and Brisbane to Glasglow among a plethora of other festivals in different parts of the world. I mean how’s that for exposure right? And did I already mention its great reviews? Because if anything, at least there’s a universal consensus on the quality of the film both here and abroad.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, really. There’s a lot that the film still needs to overcome and it’s not a smoothly paved road en route to Oscar recognition. The film’s length is still running at 250 minutes. That might be too shallow of a reason to actually consider, but remember that the voting to end up in the shortlist is still by public vote from the foreign language film department. It’s not an easy pill to swallow for them to stay 250 minutes to watch a film and convince them to sit around and stay that long or even prioritize watching it (even if one can argue that it’s their job to do so). 200 minutes I’d say they can still tolerate, but anything longer than that might possibly turn them off leading to either not finishing the film or choosing not to even watch the film at all. That is a crucial factor to end up as part of the top six in the first stage of the voting which aims to be included in the shortlist of nine. That said, an executive committee is in charge to review the remaining films left off the top six and add three more films that they’ll base on merit. This is the part where I think Norte might benefit a lot. While it is not being publicly announced which among the shortlist of nine came from public vote and which were inserted the last minute, this change of ruling has led to inclusion of offbeat, quirky, or non-traditional/Academy friendly films such as Belgium’s “Bullhead” to the shortlist in 2011 or something like Greece’s “Dogtooth” to the final five a year before. This part of the voting can really be crucial in helping Norte (and other films that aren’t as buzzed as the early contenders I’ve mentioned in the fourth paragraph) to be a part of the shortlist.

Two years ago, I correctly predicted that a shortlist mention for Bwakaw is a long shot and that last yearTransit isn’t going anywhere. Now if you’re gonna force me to say an actual answer now, I’d say it’s better if we take things slowly. First step of getting the actual nomination is knowing the rules of the game by submitting a competitive film which we have already done. Honestly speaking, I guess a Top 9 shortlist mention isn’t really out of reach this time. After all, this is the best and most competitive submission we had since “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” in 2005. It seems like stars are aligning good enough for the Philippines this year, at least even for a shortlist mention. But I’m quite optimistic with this one. In the end though, Oscar nomination or not, this is already a win-win situation for the country. If you ask me a few years ago if we’ll ever see the day that a Lav Diaz film will be considered as an Oscar contender, I will without a doubt say that it’s impossible. But times are changing, and so far, they’re for the good. Nevertheless, I raise my imaginary glass of toast and say cheers to everyone involved in Norte and the FAP for actually getting this year right. We’ll surely be rooting for you all the way!

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Entertainers of the Year 2013   2 comments

Hi everyone! We’ve passed the latter part of the month, and Christmas is really around the corner? One of the things I really love about December is coming up with my year end lists! And there’s no better kick off to that than by posting my list of Entertainers of the Year list. Inspired by Entertainment Weekly’s same title, I came up with 15 names whose 2013 is a breakout year in local pop culture scene. Last year, Nora Aunor topped the list which also included Janice de Belen, Iza Calzado, and married couple Zoren Legaspi and Carmina Villaroel. Here are 2013’s batch of entertainers:

15 doris bigornia

Photo courtesy of: twitter.com/DorisBigornia

And she’s bacccckkkk!!! After long years, the one and only Mutya ng Masa graces our screen again with her strong and feisty presence. Whether it’s asking the taumbayan questions for senatoriables, going back and forth with people on the street on their opinions of things, or showing her natural flair of humor and comedy on Gandang Gabi Vice, hers is a presence that was greatly missed. As if that’s not enough, she also serves as a fairy godmother very Tuesday afternoon in her own public service program, 2013 reunited us with this lively lady muse.

14 angeli bayani

Photo courtesy of: philstar.com

Sure, the Philippine independent cinema has been roaring and peaking as each year passes, but aside from the movies that we see, we’re also showered with the great talents that we witness. And this year, indie figure Angeli Bayani is definitely the queen of festivals. You can find her participating in the Cinemalaya entry Purok 7, Sineng Pambansa entries Lauriana and Tinik and in the CineFilipino entry The Guerilla is a Poet. As if that’s enough yet, she shares the same distinction this year with Marion Cotillard and Carey Mulligan: all three of them graced the Cannes Film Festival multiple times as she’s a part of Lav Diaz’ Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, and Singapore’s Oscar entry, Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo. 2x Oscar Best Director Ang Lee summed it best, when he said Angeli is a national treasure.

13 alden richards

Photo by Jojit Lorenzo from http://manila.coconuts.com

Ever since his breakthrough in One True Love last year, Kapuso actor Alden Richards is definitely primed to be the next big leading man of its network. As a proof, he participated in two Kapuso series this year (Indio, Mundo Mo’y Akin), starred in his own Magpakailanman episode, and will soon be seen in the Metro Manila Film Festival entry 10,000 Hours alongside Robin Padilla. That’s more than enough confirmation that this mestizo hunk is definitely being groomed to follow the paths of Dingdong Dantes and Richard Gutierrez among others. Oh, and who would forget his Cosmopolitan Bachelor Bash stint this year?

12 kathniel

Photo courtesy of: bidakapamilya.blogspot.com

If there’s one love team who definitely takes the cake as the most remarkable this year, no question that it’s the team up of Kapamilya stars Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo. Collectively known as Kathniel, they have managed to sweep the whole nation’s feet and surge into their best year yet as a love team. Last March, they had their launching movie Must Be Love which performed greatly at the box office. And as before the year ends, they’ll once again star in the lone horror MMFF entry Pagpag which will be another of their blockbuster. But aside from that, their follow up teleserye Got 2 Believe not only is a consistent top rater, but it’s definitely on Twitter’s trending topic worldwide EVERY.SINGLE.NIGHT. It’s definitely a career peak for both of these teens, and we’re waiting what’s next for them.

11 teng brothers

Photo courtesy of: philstar.com

The most prominent siblings in collegiate basketball the past season, the whole UAAP men’s basketball finale was all about one surname: TENG. Elder brother Jeric Teng of the UST Growling Tigers competes with younger sibling Jeron Teng of the DLSU Green Archers during the best of three series. And while it’s Jeron and the rest of the Green Archers that added a championship trophy in their mantle, the biggest winner from this are parents Alvin and Susan Teng whose hundreds of interviews and guesting stints this season have already emphasized how proud of them of their kids. The good things doesn’t stop there though, as Jeric easily got drafted by Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the PBA while Jeron, if not doing guest stints in Got 2 Believe, continues his stints everywhere.

10 beauty queens

Photos courtesy of: sashfactor.info, normannorman.com, abs-cbnnews.com

2013 is probably the best year in a long time for Philippines in the pageant world, as it’s a year of firsts, fabs, and fun for this pageant loving country. Megan Young clinched the country’s first ever Miss World title when she won last September. Weeks before, Mutya Datul also gave us our first Miss Supranational title, and just two days ago, Bea Rose Santiago clinched us out fifth Miss International title (just one crown away in tying the best performing Venezuela). As if that’s enough yet, Ariella Arida continued the winning streak of our Miss Universe contenders by placing in the Top 5 for the fourth consecutive year. Both Cindy Miranda and Angelee Forbes also ended up as semifinalists in Miss Tourism Queen International and Miss Earth contests respectively. Then Ali Forbes also ended up as third runner up in Miss Grand International. And to cap this fantastic year, Gil Wagas is 4th Runner Up in the Mr. International pageant. Whew!

09 atom araullo

Photo courtesy of: twitter.com/atomaraullo

As if he’s not on anybody’s list yet, ABS CBN’s in house reporter Atom Araullo suddenly became the country’s top leading man. Only this time it’s not for the movies. His commendable and brave coverage of the Yolanda incident last month gave new meaning to the word professionalism. Not only did he turn out to be the unsung hero of the incident, it also gave birth to memes such as the Man in the Rain and ATHORM Araullo. But what’s more impressive about it is that you know the man is not doing it for the acclaims or the buzz, but more of the human intention of helping other people. Apart from that, he continues to be a reason women wake up in the morning – literally that is – via Umagang Kay Ganda and creeping us every Friday afternoon with interesting stories in Hiwaga.

08 vivian velez

Photo courtesy of: sssip.wordpress.com

Definitely one of the prettiest faces in the biz then and now, Vivian Velez made 2013 a perfect comeback year for her both in television and movies. In the small screen, she starred  in two series for two networks with Misibis Bay in TV5, and as Malvina Sancuevas in the local adaptation of famous Mexican telenovela in Maria Mercedes in ABSCBN. In the big screen, her short but memorable stint as the female boss in On the Job made her the fierce female boss, but more than that, her participation in the Cinema One Originals entry Bendor not only gave her her first lead role status in years, but also a Best Actress accolade in the said festival. What a comeback indeed.

07 abra

Photo courtesy of: musicweekly.asia

Rap music continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the Philippine music scene, after the likes of the late great Francis M., and Gloc 9 kept it alive the past few years.  The latest addition and poster boy of the said genre is 23 year old Raymond Abracosa, more familiarly known as Abra. Initially a part of the hiphop group LDP (Lyrically Deranged Poets) back in 2010, the rise of the fliptop sensation introduced him more to the general public. Last August, Abra launched his first concert and has performed in over 25 different TV shows the past year in the three largest networks of the country from ABS CBN’s Gandang Gabi Vice and Minute to Win It to GMA’s Celebrity Bluff and TV5’s Wowowillie. Now a certified household name, I’m pretty certain it takes more than a gayuma or an ilusyon on why he’s one of 2013’s entertainers of the year.

06 ryzza mae

Photo courtesy of: Yes! Magazine Facebook page

Big things come in small packages. Or in this case, big talents come in small eight year old girls. Ryzza Mae Dizon is probably as cute as a button but I’m sure you’d be wowed by all her achievements thus far. Hosting her own talk show The Ryzza Mae Show everyday then going straight to Eat Bulaga! right after, that’s just a part of Aling Maliit”s daily routines. She has also covered magazines, starred in a lot of advertisements. and won awards left right from Child Star of the Year up to Best Talk Show Host. And she’s ending this year with a bang by starring in her own MMFF entry My Little Bossings. Her 2013 alone can definitely be considered as one of the greatest in the history of child stars.

05 jessy mendiola

Photo courtesy of: Esquire Philippines Facebook page

What a year for this pretty mestiza actress! Not only did she step out from being one of the second tier actresses in her station, she carved a name for herself as one of 2013’s biggest breakthrough stars. Probably the greatest thing that happened to her this year is that she went single as it opened a lot of new doors for her career wise. Playing the coveted title role in Maria Mercedes, Jessy not only showed us her amazing salsa skills, she also highlights her acting chops amidst the great veteran actors of the show. And of course, the endless magazine covers she had (even twice in the same month!) and appearing as Pokwang’s daughter in Call Center Girl. But I guess if there’s one visual image that Jessy left her stamp in 2013, it’s that ordering a McSpicy meal hasn’t been sexier the way she did it in her commercial.

04 the voice coaches

Photo courtesy of: talentscoops.com

Certainly one of the best things that happened to Philippine singing shows, The Voice of the Philippines just murdered all these other local adaptations of foreign singing shows by coming up with an inspired coach line up. On one hand, you have apl.de.ap, a part of the prominent Grammy winning group Black Eyed Peas. Then there’s rocker Bamboo whose fanbase continues to grow as his years in the industry grows as well. Then there’s Pop Royalty Sarah Geronimo who still remains as the best output of her generation. And to complete the quartet, Tony winner and definitely on a league of her own, Lea Salonga. Aside from their natural chemistry, one of the best things they produced are their different coaches collaboration which we got a lot this year from Imagine to Man in the Mirror and even up to the official Christmas soundtrack. I mean if you’re gonna be coaching people in a singing competition, then you better show them how it’s actually done.

03 tom rodriguez

Photo courtesy of: latestcelebrityupdate.blogspot.com

Ever since he entered show business way back in 2009, there’s no doubt that 2013 has been the best by far for hunk Tom Rodriguez. Earlier this year, he’s best known as Aiza Seguerra’s partner Pards in the daytime hit drama Be Careful with my Heart. Months after, her switched networks to GMA, and that proved to be the best career decision by far. He got his first primetime lead role via the buzzed show My Husband’s Lover which opened more doors not only for him, but an unlikely love team with co-star Dennis Trillo (a.k.a TomDen). This show catapulted him not only to leading man status, but a pin up boy as one of the two faces of this year’s Cosmo Bachelor Bash. He’s also a recording artist and did concerts here and abroad with the rest of My Husband’s Lover’s cast. With this great 2013, he definitely jumps his way as one of the best and most successful post-Pinoy Big Brother careers.

02 gilas pilipinas

Photo courtesy of: stardomfanatics.com

One word: PUSO. Probably in the best local basketball result of the year, it has been a long and winding road for this Philippine basketball team. But like anything else, patience is definitely worth the wait. Whether facing issues of the events venue, finding an immediate replacement for the host country, and even player participation, Gilas Pilipinas lives up to its name by showing greatness among other things via the team’s hard work and resiliency. That’s why when they’re up against that crucial game against Korea, the whole country is on their back supporting the whole team. And I’m certain that when that game ended, not a dry eye can be found on the whole arena as all you hear are loud congratulatory cheers. And while the team wasn’t able to beat Iran in the final round, who even cares anymore? It’s all about Madrid in 2014, and I’m sure the country will be there again to support this team, and the team will be motivated than ever to bring pride to the country.

01 joel torre

Photo courtesy of: Esquire Philippines Facebook page

And 2013’s Entertainer of the Year is none other than… Joel Torre. In probably one of his most notable years in his career, Torre aced both the small and big screen this year. He started this year in the small screen as Pepe in Juan dela Cruz and ended it up with the role of funny and conniving Governor Hugo Layer in Honesto. But aside from that, his most remarkable moments for this year were his performances in the movies. As Tatang in On the Job, Torre shared lead star status with the likes of Piolo Pascual and Gerald Anderson. Then his Best Actor winning portrayal in the Cinema One Originals entry Kabisera as the controlling patriarch gave him two of the finest roles to work on this year. It’s rare that actors of his age get meaty roles like this, but it’s even rarer to find actors who’ll give justice to both roles. He already earned two Best Actor trophies, each film apiece, and he better makes more space for his shelf as he’ll be getting more this coming awards season. And with that, there’s person no more fitting to own the title of 2013’s Entertainer of Year than him.

There you have it! 2013’s honor roll as Entertainers of the Year! Who were your favorites in the list? Who do you think were overlooked? And who are your personal entertainers of the year? I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl