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Tit for Tat Local Film Awards 2014   Leave a comment

I really thought I’d be skipping this year, but better late than never! For the third year in my blog (see here 2012 and 2013 winners) From MMFF entries to Cinemalaya ones, and from Lav Diaz to Andoy Ranay (probably the only time you’ll see them in the same sentence), I’ve finally come up with a list of my own awards choices. This year, barbers, violators, janitors, and coffin makers are on the forefront as we search for tadhana and sparks. After eight months and lots of waiting in between, I present my picks for the best of local cinema in 2014.

best ensemble

gold LORNA
silver BARBER’S TALES

bronzeMARIQUINA

best first feature

gold VIOLATOR
silver DAGITAB

bronzeCHILDREN’S SHOW

visual effects

gold KUBOT: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES 2
silver SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROLL 15
bronze FENG SHUI 2

sound editing and mixing

gold VIOLATOR
silver KUBOT: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES 2
bronze THE JANITOR

original song

gold “BAHALA NA” (Tak Back and You’re Dead)
silver “KAKAIBABE” (Diary ng Panget)
bronze “SIGLE LANG NANG SIGE” (Hari ng Tondo)

original score

gold MARIQUINA
silver LORNA
bronze DAGITAB

hairstyling and makeup

gold THE GIFTED
silver KUBOT: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES 2
bronze SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROLL 15

editing

gold BARBER’S TALES
silver #Y
bronze VIOLATOR

costume

gold LORNA
silver THE GIFTED
bronze KUBOT: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES 2

cinematography

gold MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON
silver DAGITAB
bronze  VIOLATOR

prod design

gold BARBER’S TALES
silver  KUBOT: THER ASWANG CHRONICLES 2
bronze ESPRIT DE CORPS

best breakthrough actress

gold NADINE LUSTRE (Diary ng Panget)
silver KARENINA HANIEL (Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon)
bronze COLEEN GARCIA (#Y)

best breakthrough actor

gold  SANDINO MARTIN (Esprit de Corps)
silver MATT DACLAN (Soap Opera)
bronze  RAFA SIGUION-REYNA (Hari ng Tondo)

best screenplay

gold  GIANCARLO ABRAHAN (Dagitab)
silver ANTOINETTE JADAONE (That Thing Called Tadhana)
bronze SIGRID ANDREA BERNARDO (Lorna)

best supp actor

gold ANDY BAIS (Violator)
silver MIGGS CUADERNO (Children’s Show)
bronze MARTIN DEL ROSARIO (Dagitab)

best supp actress

gold SYLVIA SANCHEZ (The Trial)
silver MARIA ISABEL LOPEZ (Lorna)
bronze GLADYS REYES (Barber’s Tales)

best actor

gold ALLEN DIZON (Magkakabaung)
silver ARNOLD REYES (Kasal)
bronze  JOHN LLOYD CRUZ (The Trial)

best actress

gold EUGENE DOMINGO (Barber’s Tales)
silver ANGELICA PANGANIBAN (That Thing Called Tadhana)
bronze  SHAMAINE BUENCAMINO (Lorna)

best directing

gold JUN LANA (Barber’s Tales)
silver ANTOINETTE JADAONE (That Thing Called Tadhana)
bronze LAV DIAZ (Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon)

best picture

gold BARBER’S TALES
silver THAT THING CALLED TADHANA
bronze  MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON

That was it! As a recap, here are the winners for the 2014 Tit for Tat Local Film Awards:

PICTURE: Barber’s Tales
DIRECTOR: Jun Lana, Barber’s Tales
LEAD ACTOR: Allen Dizon, Magkakabaung
LEAD ACTRESS: Eugene Domingo, Barber’s Tales
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Andy Bais, Violator
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sylvia Sanchez, The Trial
SCREENPLAY: Giancarlo Abrahan, Dagitab
MALE BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE: Sandino Martin, Esprit de Corps
FEMALE BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE: Nadine Lustre, Diary ng Panget
ART DIRECTION: Barber’s Tales
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon
COSTUME DESIGN: Lorna
EDITING: Barber’s Tales
HAIRSTYLING AND MAKE UP: The Gifted
ORIGINAL SCORE: Mariquina
ORIGINAL SONG: Bahala Na (Talk Back and You’re Dead)
SOUND: Violator
VISUAL EFFECTS:
Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles 2
FIRST FEATURE: Eduardo Dayao, Violator
ENSEMBLE: Lorna

See you again next year! What are your favorites from 2014?

If you want, you can follow me on Twitter and let’s talk about it more: @nikowl

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12 Kabugan Teleserye Confrontation Scenes   6 comments

two wives

Last night, another teleserye premiered over ABS-CBN’s Primetime Bida– the Philippine remake of the hit Korean drama “Two Wives.” Shown here back in 2012, this local adaptation stars Kaye Abad and Erich Gonzales fighting over Jason Abalos. And based from the previews and teasers, we will see slapping – a lot of ’em, apparently – and confrontations and “sagutans” between the two women. And if there’s one thing, these dramas are known for, it’s that we live for their over the top and melodramatic confrontations. After all, nothing snatches the interest of the TV viewing public by a showdown of two characters out-bitching each other. Thus, we revisit 12 of them in celebration of “Two Wives“‘ premiere.

01.  Rose/Emmanuelle vs. Sasha in “Sana Bukas Pa Ang Kahapon” (2014)

In the recently concluded “Sana Bukas Pa Ang Kahapon“, we see Rose (Bea Alonzo), now as Emmanuelle, flirting with former flame Patrick (Paulo Avelino). But this does not go well with Sasha (Maricar Reyes) when she sees him wiping the wine off Emmanuelle’s legs. And as Sasha comes to warn Emmanuelle, she trips off leading to a wet encounter.

The Kabugan Scene: Emmanuelle tries to help Sasha by offering her hand to help her rise from the pool. But when Sasha seizes the moment to grab Emmanuelle and pull her down the pool, the latter suddenly moves her hand away making the pathetic Sasha more miserable. For that we give this scene 2 full slaps!

02. Sarah vs. Mia in “Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo” (2012)

Childhood friends turned husband and wife Sarah (Shaina Magdayao) and Paul (Jake Cuenca) is a struggling couple which led the man to go to Dubai to experience the greener pastures for his family. Upon working there, he bumps onto former flame Mia (Bangs Garcia) and rekindled their relationship. When Sarah followed Paul to Dubai is the time she realized this inifidelity.

The Kabugan Scene: In one of the most pasabog scenes in this show (clip starts at the 2:20 bit), there’s a scene where Mia open the big gate to see who’s knocking as Sarah goes to Paul’s direction and gives him a big slap. And since it takes two to tango, she then went to Mia and gave her the other pair of the slap. It’s a slap so hard I’m sure Mia’s head shattered for a few seconds. It’s followed by some shouting yada yada, but I bet it’s hard for Mia to process it since she’s still recovering from that slap. I give this confrontation, 2.25 slaps!

03. Vanessa vs. Sara in “Impostora” (2007)

Possessing some Orphan Black realness even before the show started five years later, this GMA serye with face snatching, doppleganger realness told the story of conjoined twins Lara and Sara against their diabolical cousin Vanessa. Sharing not only their face, but also their love interests, it’s hard to keep up who’s who and what’s happening to everyone in here.

The Kabugan Scene: In that big wedding scene right before the ceremony starts. we see Sunshine Dizon stops the wedding of Mark Anthony Fernandez and …. Sunshine Dizon. So as these 2 Sunshines go back and forth between who the real Sara is, Iza Calzado’s character comes in and reveals that Nicolas is marrying the wrong Sara.  Nothing beats the chaos that comes from a wedding, and with that, we rank this 2.5 slaps!

04. Chantal vs. Heidi in “Temptation of Wife” (2012)

While Angeline (Marian Rivera) and Heidi (Glaiza e Castro) have been friends since their childhood, Heidi had always developed a hidden envy to Chantal that she has kept as they were growing up. This even reached a point when they shared the same man — Marcel (Dennis Trillo). But when Angeline learned about the betrayal of the two people she loved the most, an accident that led Heidi thinking Angeline is dead is the start of the latter’s payback. She comes back as Chantal Gonzales, and she’s getting the receipts of her revenge.

The Kabugan Scene: Upon thinking that Chantal is flirting with her beau, this did not go well with Heidi as she decided to attack Chantal Mortal Kombat style. Jumping from chairs, tumbling in the carpet, tying with a hanky, and using fork as a weapon, this larger than life fight seemed to exist only in video games. It’s as over the top as it is ridiculous. But then again, it ended with a reveal of a pillow baby. So at least they’re consistent with it. This fight deserved a 2.75 slap rating!

05. Amor Powers vs. Claudia Buenavista in “Pangako Sa’Yo” (2000)

Gone were the days when we get these really over the top but serious showdowns in between characters. Nowadays, people live for the snark and the quotable quotations. But not in 2000 — as we see bitter rivals Amor Powers (Eula Valdez) and Madam Claudia Buenavista (Jean Garcia) battle out not only with money, but with men and children in this two year series. There’s a reason why these two are some of the most iconic characters in Philippine drama history.

The Kabugan Scene: When Claudia suddenly dashes her way to Amor’s house to ask for her daughter, she did it just for one reason: to slap her bitchy rival. Upon being threatened and be slapped  as well, she suddenly sneaks her way out. But that’s without mentioning the stanzas of lines that they shout at each other. And the pair of slap they gave to one another (including that rare leftie slap by Claudia to Amor). This doesn’t happen to modern teleseryes anymore. And to say I miss them is an understatement. For that, I give this scene a 3 slap rating!

06. Marimar vs. Angelika in “Marimar” (2007)

Definitely one of the most memorable telenovelas in Philippine history, the Mexican version of Marimar is one that will forever be one of the most influential ones. In this GMA remake, including a star-turning performance by Marian Rivera in the lead role, Marimar’s rag to riches story is, whether it’s Marimar and Sergio’s romance, or Marimar and Angelika’s revolving fates, and the other colorful characters in the soap, is one that will never get old.

The Kabugan Scene: While weddings and preparations bring out the class in most of us, consider both Marimar and Angelika as the likely outliers. When Angelika decided to poke fun at Marimar by asking her to be the maid of honor to Angelika and Sergio’s wedding, you know that it will only lead to chaos. And chaos it is, as not only did they ruin the whole place, but they’ve also wrestled with one another ruining gowns, cakes, and involving other people in the place.  Hopefully though, this type of mess only exists in the small screen and not in real life. This scene deserves a full 3.25 slap rating!

07. Vera vs. Victoria in “Magkaribal” (2010)

While most of the stories included in this lists had characters fighting over love interests, Magkaribal skews a bit as this one is a battle of power. When orphaned Anna Abella (Gretchen Barretto) thought that her younger sister Gelai (bea Alonzo) died from a hospital fire, she then made it a promise that she will take everything away from the person she thinks is responsible for those: Vera Cruz (Angel Aquino). So after his adopted father let her study fashion in Paris, she comes back to the country to snatch the title of “Queen of Philippine Fashion” from her mortal enemy.

The Kabugan Scene: Probably the start of a really famous pun — one that has been quoted many times especially during the trailer release and the premiere of the actual episode — Victoria visits Vera and informs her that she knows of the fashion designs that the latter has plagiarized and stolen from an up and coming designer. So when Vera confronted Victoria and asked her that she accepts the challenge, Gretchen Barretto, sans moving forehead, just said “You want war? I’ll give you war. Sabihin mo lang kung saan at kelan… I’ll be there in my red stilettos.” For that interaction alone, this clearly merits a 3.5 slap rating!

08. Milet vs. Sheila in “Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real” (2014)

GMA’s offering in the “kabitan” year of telserye, “Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real” featured the Diamond Star Maricel Soriano in the leading role as Milet Real, the original wife in the series. While Milet is mostly kind, patient, and calm, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned as she finally confronts the second Mrs. Real, Sheila, played by Lovi Poe in this nerve wracking elevator scene.

The Kabugan Scene: Never mind that the elevator seemed like it was stuck or that their confrontation went over 5 minutes without picking and dropping any new passengers, there will really be those times when nothing is more powerful than words. And that’s what Milet, who played a teacher in the soap, did here. Not only did she teach Sheila some lessons (“Bago mo ibuka ang hita mo, mag-research ka muna kung may asawa”), offending her parents, and doing everything as the mistress carries the lovechild, it is safe to say that the original schooled the second one here. This confrontation is deserving of a 3.75 slap rating!

09. Celyn vs. Margaux in “Ina Kapatid Anak” (2013)

Best friends turned enemies turned sisters turned rivals (whew!) Celyn (Kim Chiu)and Margaux (Maja Salvador) have all been fighting for the same things: parents’ attention, boys, interests, it always seemed like everything is going Celyn’s way. But while it seemed like the rivalry is too good to be true, well apparently it is since it’s one of those times when truth is stranger than fiction as the former real life best friends Kim and Maja aren’t really in a friendly mood during the production of this show due to some personal issues.

The Kabugan Scene: During the after party of their double celebration debut, Margaux finally had it with Celyn getting all the attention. Si while she’s drunk, she asked her if she can talk to her in which Margaux will just reiterate how much she hated Celyn following it with a really hard slap. Celyn then answered back “Para mahimasmasan ka..” and swooped up an equally hard slap. Sure, these slaps are supposed to be tame for a TV show, but in the context of what’s happening during these times, the tension in this scene alone trumps a lot of others in this list which leads to a solid 4 slap rating!

10. Catherine vs. Scarlet in “Iisa Pa Lamang” (2008)

This conflict over conflict over conflict of interconnecting stories focuses on naive lass Catherine (Claudine Barretto) and how she has smitten Miguel (Diether Ocampo) off her fingers. Miguel’s past flame Scarlet (Angelica Panganiban) came back just to meddle with these affairs and she will do everything it takes to make Catherine’s life msierable. For what its worth, Iisa Pa Lamang will never be forgotten as it pioneered the era of bitchy retorts and the endless over the top lines that have been uttered on Philippine dramas.

The Kabugan Scene:  It’s difficult to choose for this one as kabugan seems to be the name of the game for this soap, but let’s go with this court interaction in which Scarlet demands Catherine to be taken off the room only to find out that the latter will be used as a witness against Scarlet for the grounds of adultery. This led to a confrontation on the stairs where the two women shouted labels at each other ranging from “social climber” to “adulteress” and “slut” to “home wrecker” until Catherine capped it off by shouting “Desperraaattteee housewife from hellll” before attempting to push Scarlett off the stairs. That intensity of the scene alone is enough to give this a 4.5 slap rating.

11. Lally vs. Vincent in “My Husband’s Lover” (2013)

One of the hottest soaps of last year, GMA 7’s “My Husband Lover” provided major buzz in pop culture because of its handling of a sensitive topic that’s rarely (or even a first of its kind) focus on the relationship of two gay men on its forefront. This Dennis Trillo-Tom Rodriguez-Carla Abellana triangle not only made them household names (in the case of Tom Rodriguez), but it also proved her acting prowess (in the case of Carla Abellana) and initiated a career comeback (for Dennis Trillo).

The Kabugan Scene: While all of us pretty much know who “bhe” already is, Lally (Carla Abellana) seems like she’s the last person to figure things out. So when she did, it definitely shook her world (probably much more than we expected). This confrontation between husband and wife isn’t snarky or bitchy like the others on the list, but for sheer scene intensity and a high point moment in the series, it is worthy of a 4.75 slap rating!

12. Monica vs. Nicole in “The Legal Wife” (2014)

And rounding up the list is from 2014’s most memorable and most talked about teleserye… ABS-CBN’s “The Legal Wife.” Angel Locsin’s primetime TV comeback not only defied the high expectations for her, but it even delivered some of the highest ratings in the history of its timeslot. But then again, who can blame the audience? The story of how Monica (Angel Locsin) dealt upon learning that her former best friend Nicole (Maja Salvador) is having an affair with her husband Adrian (Jericho Rosales) has been the topic of endless debates, arguments, and trending Twitter topics during its time on the air,

The Kabugan Scene: We already had a taste of the confrontation when Monica went to Nicole’s house and attacked the latter while asking the now catchphrase “Masarap ba ang asawa ko? Paano mo siya nilandi? Anong unang tinanggal mo: yung bra mo, yung panty mo? O yung konsensiya mo?”, but then it was all Monica getting angry at a sheepish Nicole. In this however, we finally see a fight. And a very realistic one. Hair grabbing, hair pulling, and extension snatching fight. Everything about this scene is realistically awkward, but no one can bat an eyelash considering how we’re all Team Monica, yet even fans can sympathize of how it felt like to be Maja Salvador during this specific scene. I’m certain this scene will be remembered years from now, and it will be the barometer used for the next confrontations to come. This, a full perfect 5 slap rating!

There you have it! Do you think Two Wives will soon join the list? What are some of your favorite kabugan teleserye confrontation that missed the list? Pipe them in the comments section below.

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 1   6 comments

Now on its tenth year, Cinemalaya continues its tradition of showcasing the potential of Philippine cinema with its annual film festival that has been the venue for some of the most promising filmmakers and a reminder of the greatness of the veteran ones. And as it celebrate its first decade, there’s no other way to go but up as this year combines some of the biggest stars from Nora Aunor to Richard Gomez and newer ones like Mara Lopez and Martin del Rosario to name a few. Within the next few days, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the 15 films participating this year both in the New Breed and Director’s Showcase categories. Let’s begin with the first three!

1st ko si 3rd

1st KO SI 3rd
Director: Real Florido
Cast: Nova Villa, Freddie Webb, Dante Rivero, Ruby Ruiz, Lara Morena, Ken Chan
Competition: New Breed

Days after she retired from her work, Cory (Nova Villa) is still adjusting from her new lifestyle staying at home with her husband Andong (Dante Rivero). Mostly bored and irritable, her attention shifted upon realizing that Third (Fredi Webb), her first love and childhood sweetheart is back in town. The film then went back and forth in portraying their early days together and how they react to each other four decades after.

1st Ko si 3rd was the first film I’ve seen from this year’s batch, and it couldn’t have been more fitting to begin with it. The film was charming all throughout with its very natural and grounded humor in portraying a post mid-life crisis (if that type even exists) of a newly retired woman. The number 1 plays a significant theme in the movie, as it is through these one time incidents that led to where Cory is now: her first love, their supposed first date, the first man she met after, their first bonding together. For Cory, the first option really matters, and now that she had the opportunity to have a second one is where her conflict lies. The good thing however, is that in this love triangle, no party is a villain; it wasn’t merely black or white thus, we understand these harbored feelings that Cory has. Writer and director Real Florido managed to come up with characters (Cory surely reminded me of my own grandmother) and situations (revisiting your first love, how your life changes once you retire) that are relatable which made the whole film feel organic. Given that, Nova Villa was able to raise the material even higher with her performance here. Sure one would expect that she’ll nail the comedic parts effortlessly, but her performance certainly wasn’t just that. She was both funny and heartbreaking, sometimes even simultaneously. 1st ko si 3rd might have old characters in its forefront, but it’s appeal is far more beyond that. It’s bittersweet and charming, and I won’t be surprised if this crowd favorite went on to win the Box Office New Breed category.

3.5/5

Dagitab

DAGITAB (SPARKS)
Director: Giancarlo Abrahan
Cast: Eula Valdez, Nonie Buencamino, Martin del Rosario, Sandino Martin, Max Eigenmann
Competition: New Breed

UP professors Jimmy (Nonie Buencamino) and Issey (Eula Valdez) has been married for decades now, but both are aware of how dysfunctional their relationship is. Issey knows that Jimmy still can’t let go of his previous flame Lorena, who suddenly went missing many years ago. After going to a writer’s workshop in Makiling, coincidentally with her god son Gab, things have changed between Issey and him, and not long enough, has made a crack on the couple’s marriage as well.

To say this film is interesting might be an understatement. Its portrayal of what I call a “functional dysfunctional relationship” is so raw and mysterious that you’ll be captivated by it, probably the way Jimmy was captivated of Lorena’s fate. In Dagitab, the dynamics of a relationship was complexly portrayed by highlighting that some relationships probably require more of patience and acceptance and less of intelligence and romance. There is a certain poetic approach with how lines are written and thrown here, and I don’t think I have grasped them all yet after watching, but I’m smitten. As if I’m not sold yet with that, the visual aspects of the film are really stunning. There’s one scene where the characters of Eula Valdez and Martin del Rosario are just lying on the sand and you see the waves surrounding them, and it reminded me of that moment in Michel Gondry‘s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when Joel and Clementine were just lying on the snow watching the stars. I adored the use of Side A’s “Tuloy Pa Rin Ako” in the near end of the film as a statement of how the lives of these characters were amidst what happened to all of them. The performances of Nonie Bucamino, Eula Valdez, and Martin del Rosario are not the type of acting that win awards here in the country, but I’ll surely reserve a spot for them in my personal year end list since they’ve perfected the combination of confidence and craziness required of their characters. I really think I’ll catch this another time before the festival ends, as I think it’s a film that will ignite more insights when seen repeatedly, but needless to say, this did not disappoint and it will likely end up as one of my favorite entries from this year.

4.5/5

Mariquina

MARIQUINA
Director:
 Milo Sogueco
Cast: Mylene Dizon, Ricky Davao, Dennis Padilla, Barbie Forteza, Bing Pimentel
Competition: New Breed

Upon learning that her father who she had a rocky relationship with has died, Imelda (Mylene Dizon) tried to pick the perfect shoes for his once esteemed master shoemaker dad (Ricky Davao). It is within this agenda that Imelda reminisces the ups and downs and memories of her parents during the heydays of their shoe making business back when she was still a child.

Mariquina feels a bloated MMK episode for me, and while I’m aware that using that comparison usually connotes something negative; in this particular case, I tend to disagree. After all, the film revisits the life of Imelda starting from her childhood in depicting how things have changed between her and her father. Is it melodramatic? Well one can easily accuse of it as such. But what’s far more interesting in it is how it never lets the melodrama take over by injecting humorous punches during the more dramatic scenes. It was careful and aware enough of its material to know where to control the drama. And that’s rare to happen since in the hands of another writer, they would have highlighted the drama more. I particularly liked the witty use of symbolism in here with the color of the shoes and who owns what. Those small clever details aren’t necessarily a big deal for most, but I’m fond of them. It is also commendable how director Milo Sogueco managed to make use of space — literally. There’s a continuous shot of a young Imelda bringing a pair of shoes from the third floor of their warehouse down to their basement and we just follow her go around juxtaposed with the present day where the current Imelda does the same in her fabric business. If anything, I guess the part that bogged it down a bit for me was the last act where it seemed like it just went on and on in putting the closures one after the other. Also, the acting in here is particularly strong. I’m aware that it was Judy Ann Santos who was supposed to play the title role, but her close friend Mylene Dizon was fantastic in it. I’m also happy that Ricky Davao was finally maximized again since he is one fantastic actor and while he has played supporting roles for quite some times, this is probably his best since 2001’s Minsan May Isang Puso. The teen Imelda, anchored by a good performance from Barbie Forteza who was quite a revelation since she had the longest flashback in the movie. This is the second Jerrold Tarog written film in Cinemalaya where in a pair of shoes played a meaningful part in the film. Maybe a shoe trilogy to complete it in the future perhaps? 🙂

4/5

There you have it! The reviews of the next four filmswill be posted on Tuesday morning. Do not forget that you can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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!

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