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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

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10 Best MMFF Movies of the Last 10 Years   Leave a comment

Last week, the Metro Manila Development Authority headed by Francis Tolentino has announced the entries for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. And as expected, MMFF staples such as Vice Ganda, Robin Padilla, Vic Sotto, Kris Aquino, and Aiai delas Alas all have entries this year.

Once the festival home of films such as Himala, Burlesk Queen, Karnal, Itanong Mo Sa Buwan, Magic Temple, and Dekada ’70, there has been a paradigm shift in terms of the criteria on how films are chosen the past decade. Commercial appeal has been the primary agenda now and box office as a main factor on which entries will make it.

And while this has elicited a lot of criticisms, particularly the idea of prioritizing box office over “quality” films, the MMFF has still treated us with some notable films quality films over the years. This coming year, entries from Gil Portes, Antoinette Jadaone, Jose Javier Reyes, and Dan Villegas have been chosen while those of Erik Matti’s and Jeffrey Jeturian were in the waitlist categories.

Before I reveal my picks of the ten best MMFF films of the last ten years (New Wave section excluded), here are five that came close from being included:

11-15

“Ulam” from Shake, Rattle, and Roll XV (director: Jerrold Tarog, 2014) – Ulam made good use of every minute we’ve seen on screen to show the horrors and tension of a marital relationship.

“Katas ng Saudi” (director: Jose Javier Reyes, 2007) – Probably the most memorable OFW movies in local cinema depict those of a mother leaving their children behind. Here’s from a father’s perspective of coming home and realizing it isn’t what he expected.

“Pagpag” (director: Frasco Mortiz, 2013) – It’s horror by the numbers, but it tackles such a Filipino ritual one can’t help but to give in to its scares.

“Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story” (director: Daryl dela Cruz, 2011) – It got its reputation as the one that started the action comeback, but its behind the scenes director mishap got in the way for  the film to move from being good to being great.

“One More Try” (director: Ruel Bayani, 2012) – Rip-off or not, the film brags of solid performances from its four leads, particularly that of its lead actress Angel Locsin.

And as for the top 10:

10

10. “Parola” from Shake, Rattle, and Roll 13 (director: Jerrold Tarog, 2011) – Parola is the perfect throwback to the early heydays of the Shake, Rattle, and Roll franchise, only with better production and technical achievements. Its scares mixes that of the old and the new, giving the type of scares that the audience will definitely bite.

09

09. “English Only Please” (director: Dan Villegas, 2014) – It’s easy to dismiss English Only Please from the get go, it’s not from the manufactured Star Cinema factory of kilig, not does it star a tandem that has a solid following. But it has proven that it doesn’t need any of those. It gives the same kilig and “feels” without the need to fall trap to the usual rom-com clichés.

08

08. “Blue Moon (director: Joel Lamangan, 2005) – During the last few years when Regal Films was still obsessed with this big star-studded ensembles in family dramas comes Lamangan directing a Palanca-winning screenplay about three generation of family members with the patriarch searching for his one true love. The film is mostly fluff hiding in between the big war backdrop, but its attempt is earnest one can’t help but fall in love with it.

07

07. “Lihim ng San Joaquin (director: Richard Somes, 2005) – When Shake, Rattle, and Roll made a comeback in the mid-Aughts, a lot expected to feel the throwback of the early 90s horror franchise. Instead, we got that ridiculous “Poso” episode and an uneven “Aquarium” one. Then comes “Lihim ng San Joaquin”, about a young , newlywed couple transferring to a rural town. This one will keep you on the edge of your seat with its silence.

06

06. “Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles (director: Erik Matti, 2014) – Sure, the MMFF has been a commercial venue for the whole family to enjoy, but with Kubot, the follow up to 2012’s Tiktik, Erik Matti proved that a sequel isn’t an alibi to come up with a lackluster addition to a franchise (which most MMFF franchises are guilty of doing). While it doesn’t necessarily have to beat its predecessor, it doesn’t have to be a downgrade as well.

05

05. “Boy Golden: Shoot to Kill (director: Chito Rono, 2013) – The best thing about Boy Golden is that it doesn’t want to prove anything. It doesn’t take itself seriously and just wants to have fun. And boy was it a fun movie-watching experience mixing camp and action we haven’t seen in a long time.

04

04. “Punerarya” from Shake, Rattle and Roll 12 (director: Jerrold Tarog, 2010) – Hands down, this is one of the best episodes ever in the whole SRR franchise. Jerrold Tarog’s first output stars Carla Abellana as a private tutor to two kids from the neighbor’s funeral parlor. And as secrets were slowly revealed, the tension just escalates further. This one doesn’t get old and is a must watch.

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03. “RPG Metanoia” (director: Luis Suarez, 2010) – Not for lack of trying, the MMFF has welcomed local animation in the festival. Twice, even (the first one was 2008’s “Dayo sa Mundo ng Elemento”). RPG can brag about being the first Pinoy 3D animated film, but more than that achievement, its dedication in tackling a theme highlighting the rich Philippine culture is admirable.

02

02. “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo” (director: Jose Javier Reyes, 2006) – On the outside, Kasal’s biggest achievement is how it managed to be a crowd-pleasing film, yet one that critics will positively respond as well. Digging deeper, it’s really not difficult to fall in love with this film. It touches the topic of a traditional Pinoy family whose value for marriage and relationship is as valuable to the whole family, maybe even more so, than to the actual couple. Obviously, the great ensemble elevated the already strong material further.

01

01. “Thy Womb (director: Brillante Mendoza, 2012) – It’s silly when you think about it, that the best film of the festival of the last decade, was just a replacement choice of that year. Shot in the farthest village of Tawi-Tawi, “Thy Womb” wasn’t just the story of a midwife attempt to provide her husband a child, but it also opened us to a culture we aren’t particularly familiar with. I believe this is one of the films that will go down as the best in the history of the festival. Plus, it gave us Nora Aunor’s comeback performance.

So as much as we rant and complain about the MMFF every year, chances are there are one or two entries that will really be worth of our money. This year has the potential to deliver as well.

You can tweet me if you want to talk about this list: @nikowl

87th Oscar Foreign Language Film: What Should the Philippines Submit?   8 comments

Within the next few days, the Film Academy of the Philippines will release the shortlist for the country’s Oscar submission in the Foreign Language Film category, and it has been a tradition over here at Tit for Tat to dissect and analyze the shortlist of what the Philippines will submit as its entry. As you may know, the country still hasn’t been nominated for the said award despite submitting 25 times in the award’s 57-year history. Before we go straight to the discussion, let’s specify the necessary requirements to be eligible for this award:

As per the Academy of Motion Arts and Pictures Science’s official rule book, any country’s submission must be:

The motion picture must be first released in the country submitting it no earlier than October 1, 2013,
and no later than September 30, 2014, 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.

As a reminder, these are my predictions and opinions on what I think will make the shortlist and NOT THE OFFICIAL SHORTLIST YET. In order to determine which will make the shortlist, I have divided the list into three groups:

FRONTRUNNERS:

Alagwa

ALAGWA (Breakaway)
Director: Ian Loreños
Screenplay: Ian Loreños
Cast: Jericho Rosales, Bugoy Cariño, Leo Martinez, Carmen Soo, Smokey Manaloto
Philippine Release Date: October 2, 2013

This local thriller which was inspired by an urban legend about the disappearance of a young Chinese-boy and the lengths his single father did in order to find him back.

Despite the film being produced and finished as early as 2012, Alagwa was able to land its local commercial screening October of last year. The film garnered good reviews with mentions about its balance of intense thriller with the emotional punches in between. It has also made its way to some international festivals, albeit the smaller ones, such as the Tallin Black Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, Guam International Film Festival, and ASEAN International Film Festival to name a few. Not to be outdone, it was also recognized locally sweeping at the PMPC Star Awards for Movies including Indie Movie of the Year and a Gawad Urian Best Actor for lead star Jericho Rosales. While I think the film can be a good submission, it needs a bigger push than our last two entries to maintain buzz once the bigger heavyweight countries announced theirs.

Barber's Tales

MGA KUWENTONG BARBERO (Barber’s Tales)
Director: Jun Lana
Screenplay: Jun Lana
Cast: Eugene Domingo, Shamaine Buencamino, Gladys Reyes, Iza Calzado, Nicco Manalo
Philippine Release Date: August 13, 2014

Set in 1975, widow Marilou (Domingo) continues the business of her late husband as the female barber in their town. This opened to her being involved with the different issues in her town including that of the mayor’s wife.

The film, which premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival late last year, gave Eugene Domingo a Best Actress victory over there which followed nominations from the Asian Film Awards and participation at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and Udine Far East Film Festival. It also has some sort of good will since this team already has some sort of Oscar submission experience since Domingo was the star of the county’s 2011 submission Ang Babae sa Septic Tank while director Jun Lana is the director of the 2012 submission Bwakaw. The film also boasts of great technical achievement and a story that is universally appealing but still has distinct Filipino touches. I won’t be surprised if this ends up as the country’s submission in the end.

Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon

MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON (From What is Before)
Director: Lav Diaz
Screenplay: Lav Diaz
Cast: Perry Dizon, Roeder, Hazel Orencio, Karenina Haniel, Mailes Kanapi
Philippine Release Date: September 24, 2014

Running for 338 minute, this black and white film leads to the two years before Martial Law was proclaimed in the Philippines.

If anything, the film is earning so much good will after that sweep at the Locarno International Film Festival winning four awards(!) and the Boccalino de Oro Independent Critics Award Best Actress win for its star Hazel Orencio. Prior to that, the film was also the pioneer champ of the newly established World Premieres Film Festival taking both the Best Ensemble and the Grand Festival Prize. Ir has to be said though that the length of the film plus its black and white feature might be too alienating to sit through for this small Foreign Language Film committee. This isn’t a knock on the film’s accomplishment but more on the category we’re sending it to. The Oscar is as “mainstream” and “accessible”  as one can get in terms of recognizing films, so that might give the FAP some second thoughts if they’re gonna go with this.

Norte

NORTE, HANGGANAN NG KASAYSAYAN (Norte, The End of History)
Director: Lav Diaz
Screenplay: Lav Diaz, Rody Vera
Cast: Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania,
Philippine Release Date: September 10, 2014

A take on the Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, the film showed the story of  three people: an innocent man being put to jail of a crime he did not commit, the real perpetrator guilty of the crime is very much free and continuously frustrated of his country’s political system, and the wife of the wrongly accused man dealing with everything that has happened to her family.

The shorter of the two Lav Diaz films, Norte runs at a measly 250 minutes. While it’s still relatively long, comments about this as being Diaz’ most accessible film is definitely encouraging. It also has the festival experience as well competing as part of the Un Certain Regard section of last year’s Cannes Film Fest and getting raves after raves as well. It also helps that the film has been released, despite via limited format, in the United States and getting great mentions there as well. Locally, the film has garnered many acclaims here as well even sweeping at this year’s Gawad Urian awards. I think this is the type of film that can benefit from the short committee’s three picks outside of the top vote getters.

POTENTIAL SHORT LIST MENTIONS:

Shortlist mentions

Of course the shortlist can go as many as 12 like that from 2009 or as few as 2 like that in 2006. Since the past few years’ shortlist have given us WTF mentions (remember Baler in 2009? How about The Witness three years ago? Or Dance of the Steelbars last year?), so I guess these films can find their way in the shortlist this year.

10,000 HOURS
Director: Joyce Bernal
Screenplay: Ryllah Epifania Berico, Keiko Aquino
Cast: Robin Padilla, Pen Medina, Bela Padilla, Michael de Mesa, Mylene Dizon
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2013

Sweeping last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, this action thriller which was very loosely based on a Philippine senator’s fugitive story. While the possibility of this being chosen is slim to none, I wouldn’t underestimate this being a part of the short list.

BANG BANG ALLEY
Director: Ely Buendia, Yan Yuzon, King Palisoc
Screenplay: Ely Buendia, Yan Yuzon, Zig Marasigan
Cast: Art Acuña, Perla Bautista, Gabe Mercado, Bela Padilla, Jimmy Santos, Joel Torre, Althea Vega, Megan Young
Philippine Release Date: April 9, 2014

Last year, the trilogy Tuhog also made the shortlist, so I don’t see why they’ll skip this a mention since this is one of the better reviewed films of the first quarter of 2014. The film featured three different stories all relating to violence.

BOY GOLDEN
Director: Chito Roño
Screenplay: Catherine Camarillo, Guelan Luarca, E.R. Ejercito
Cast: ER Ejercito, KC Concepcion, Eddie Garcia, John Estrada, Gloria Sevilla
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2013

To be honest, this is the best of the three ER Ejercito MMFF films, but then again, that doesn’t mean it needs to be submitted. This is more of a guilty pleasure action flick than an Oscar contender, but hey! If those two films were shortlisted, then this better be mentioned as well.

KAMKAM (GREED)
Director: Joel Lamangan
Screenplay: Jerry Gracio
Cast: Allen Dizon, Jean Garcia, Sunshine Dizon, Jackie Rice
Philippine Release Date: July 9, 2014

Lamangan has been shortlisted many times before (Dukot, Sagrada Familia) so he’s a familiar name from the FAP. That said, this is another of the socio-political statements that he has been doing lately about a powerful man in the slums balancing his power and dealing with his three wives.

PEDRO CALUNGSOD: BATANG MARTIR
Director: Francis Villacorta
Screenplay: Francis Villacorta
Cast: Rocco Nacino, Christian Vazquez, Jestoni Alarcon, Marc Justin Alvarez, Ryan Eigenmann
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2013

Really though. As if the flop box office nor bad reviews would stop them from considering this, but it’s the story of the Filipino saint, so I’m expecting the worst and see this in the shortlist even if it doesn’t really merit a mention at all.

UNFRIEND
Director: Joselito Altarejos
Screenplay: Zig Dulay
Cast: Allen Sandino Martin, Angelo Ilagan, Boots Anson-Roa
Philippine Release Date: February 26, 2014

An ordinary day in the life of a 15 year old teen upon learning that the love of his life loves someone else and his intense reaction to profess his love.

Pink films haven’t done so well the past few years (even Blue is the Warmest Color did not make a splash), and I don’t even remember the last one to get nominated (at the top of my head, All About My Mother? Unsure though), and this is too low key to seriously be considered.

ELIGIBILITY ISSUES

Ineligible

While these films least worry is their quality, it seems like eligibility would prevent them from being shortlisted. Chito Rono’s Badil among the other Sineng Pambansa entries were released September of last year so they’re not eligible. The same can be said for Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita and the Cinefilipino entries as well. Borgy Torres’ Kabisera got an extended day of release after the Cinema One Originals last year, but that doesn’t fit the seven day commercial screening. And among the MMFF New Wave entries last year (including Armando Lao’s Dukit, only Gino Santos & Aloy Adlawan’s Island Dreams managed to follow it up with a commercial release. Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati‘s commercial release was September 25, 2013 so six out of its seven commercial release dates were ineligible as well. Perci Intalan’s Dementia starring the Superstar Nora Aunor is a tricky case. It premieres last week of September which means it qualifies for this year, but the FAP usually announces its pick by mid-September, so unless they got a special screening to see it, then I think it’s still possible to make it to the list. Otherwise, by the time we see Dementia in theaters, there’s a large chance there’s an announcement made already.

FINAL VERDICT

I think it boils down to two films: Jun Lana’s Barber’s Tales and Lav Diaz’ Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan. And both films I see can possibly make a splash. Diaz has the good will and the name recognition plus Norte’s reviews will surely make it in the conversation against other countries’ entries. Barber’s Tales, on the other hand, seems like the more traditional entry, and Bwakaw managed to gain steam during its year (and I think the closest we ever was mentioned since Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros in 2005) so it would be a fit as well. Anything between the two would be fine by me, so I do hope we end up with one of those. Come on FAP, make it happen.

Either way, I’ll keep you updated once the official shortlist and the official submission is revealed.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 4   7 comments

You’re still reading Tit for Tat’s Cinemalaya X coverage, and we’re now on the fourth of our short review capsules. As a reminder, you can check the my three previous posts with  Part 1 covering Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina”, Part 2 Francis Pasion’s “Bwaya“, Gino M. Santos’ “#Y“, and GB Sampedro’s “S6parados”, and Part 3 which has Ida Anita del Mundo’s “K’na the Dreamweaver“, Joselito Altarejos’ “Kasal“, and Louie Ignacio’s “Asintado.” Now let’s add three more films in the list.

Hustisya

HUSTISYA
Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Nora Aunor, Rocco Nacino, Sunshine Dizon, Rosanna Roces
Competition: Directors Showcase

Biring (Nora Aunor) has worked for a long time now as Vivian’s (Rosanna Roces) right-hand assistant. The former usually takes care of delivering messages and money that they earn from their human trafficking business. But after an incident in which Vivian frames up Biring, they’re all by themselves at that point.

Hustisya starts strong in which we follow a day in the life of Biring as she does her usual businesses. She switches and delivers money to church officials, politicians, other businessman, and in the middle of it, throws money in the air on top of the Manila City Hall Clock Tower. But it is the supposed game-changing incident of frame up when the film just rolled downhill. At this point, it’s now a parade of the usual Lamangan schtick which probably is his vision of a political statement. He doesn’t dip so much into these so called issues but instead, stays content with just enumerating them. And that’s what he has been doing for the past few years with his foray into such. I don’t doubt that Lamangan can pull off these political statement films (I’m a big fan of 2001’s Hubog as for starters), but Hustisya falls into this lazy OMG-important angle which was the same template as in Dukot… and Sigwa… and Patikul… and Lihis… and even Burgos. The thing that makes Hustisya further down the drain is that there’s a scene in the near end where Biring is walking and hallucinating into a random Manila alley seeing all these “things wrong with out society” and by that time, the last thing we needed is another in your face reminder of such. Nora Aunor is always dependable though, and she knows how to make fun of this role. You can see her totally committed but has a grasp of when to make things light as the situation calls for such. It doesn’t hold a candle to any of the previous Lamangan/Aunor collaborations, and it’s probably her weakest since her 2012 comeback. That said, the less said about the film overall, the better.

2/5

The Janitor

THE JANITOR
Director: Michael Tuviera
Cast: Dennis Trillo, Richard Gomez, Ricky Davao, Derek Ramsay
Competition: Directors Showcase

The Janitor is based from the infamous 2008 RCBC bank robbery that happened in Cabuyao, Laguna which claimed the lives of 10 victims. In the film, Crisanto (Dennis Trillo) was a suspended policeman tasked to be a hitman and eliminate the people responsible for the said bank incident.

For the most part, The Janitor is really entertaining as its approach to the retelling of the incident is straight to the point. But then again, straight to the point can be too straight to the point that it now borders on formulaic. And that’s how the first 3/4 of the film ended up. The format goes something like “torture the lookout”, “let him speak another name”, “hitman goes for that name.” Lather, rinse, repeat. It is undeniably entertaining but can easily get tiring. In between, we witness Crisanto’s domestic problems with his pregnant wife, his non-believer father, and his disabled mother. Once again, lather, rinse, repeat. The film tried to pull off a shift in its storytelling by the last act, and while it indeed changed the monotonous approach of the film, it wasn’t really successful as well in achieving the same impact. There were clearly some notice-able goofs between the film’s concept of day and night with two scenes suddenly changing time frame in a snap, and  that can be really bothering. Other than that, Dennis Trillo is a hoot in this role and made me remember how versatile he is as an actor. It’s probably his best Cinemalaya effort yet among his three films in this festival’s history (2009’s Astig and 2012’s Ang Katiwala). I would have love to see more of his interaction with Derek Ramsay, as I felt their moments were too abrupt given how much they play off each other’s strengths. While one can’t help but wish that the film’s approach wasn’t totally by the numbers, it’s hard to deny that the film itself is really entertaining, and the potential for thrilling action films to come back is really present.

3/5

Children's Show

CHILDREN’S SHOW
Director: Derick Cabrido
Cast: Buboy Villar, Miggs Cuaderno, Gloria Sevilla, Allen Dizon, Nathan Lopez
Competition: New Breed

Inspired by true events, the film focused on brothers Jun (Buboy Villar) and Al (Miggs Cuaderno) who in between pedicab driving earn money by participating in an underground wrestling for teenagers ran by a syndicate. The film focused on how they both try to survive with their grandmother a midst the harsh realities of their poverty stricken life.

As early as the breakthrough of independent film by the mid-aughts, poverty porn is one of those recurring themes. And I know that most of you are gonna go like “WHY. POVERTY.PORN. AGAIN. UGH”, but Children’s Show isn’t really all that. If anything, it flips the usual schtick and injects with it something optimistic and new. The film itself tends to overdo the drama with the situations these brothers are dealing, but it doesn’t forget to counter the despair with the comedic elements (both intentional and otherwise). The movie gives a feel of “the little movie that could”, and it indeed does. The way the film goes back and forth to hopeful and depressing is mostly smooth, and its intensity really crosses the brink and just a little bit beyond. There’s a certain amount of rawness with the two lead actors’ deliveries that make it more affecting than expected, and it just pulls you in. The rest of the ensemble is great as well, and the cinematography is top notch here. I really like the color palette used in the film specifically the underground boxing place and the whole squatters area which reeked of dirty and gritty (and reminded me of Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty music video (I know it’s terrible and I’m sorry but I can’t help insert this. Lol)). If anything, I’m a bit half baked on the slow mo too polished fight scenes. On one hand, it’s really a cool moment for the film, but on the other, I really don’t think its needed anymore. Six days in the fest, and I’m really waiting for a surprise from this year’s batch that’s devoid the hype, and this is certainly one of those.

3.5/5

Last three films (finally whew!) to be posted on Saturday morning before malls open so you’d have a complete guide on what to watch and what to skip if you’re running low on time and/or budget. 😉

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

2013 Sineng Pambansa Review: Part 1   3 comments

Hi everyone! Aside from Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals, there are two newbie local festivals that will offer other possible venues for local cinema to be seen. The first one is the Sineng Pambansa: All Masters Edition which is hosted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines. This year, ten outputs from some of the most memorable names in the local filmmaking scene participated to be a part of this (hopefully) annual festival. SM Cinemas served as the venue partner of the FDCP this year, and each movie ticket is only for a hundred pesos. Anyway, I’ll be dividing my coverage into three parts (especially since three films are still in post-production status). Here are the first three films I’ve seen during the festival’s opening day.

Sonata

SONATA
Directors: Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes
cast: Cherie Gil, Chart Motus, Joshua Pineda, Chino Jalandoni

Set in the beautiful and photogenic lands of Negros Occidental, Sonata tells the story of an aging opera diva dealing with an breakdown caused by the slow losing of her voice. When the son of their family caretaker joins and spends his vacation there, an unlikely friendship develop between the two as they both continue their journey to self-discovery.

Sonata is a lovely way to start my Sineng Pambansa experience this year. It is a light-hearted drama that a lot of people can find themselves enjoying because of the film’s simple but heartfelt approach. It somehow reminded me of Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil’s Boses on how two opposites (an adult and a child) managed to  help each other in discovering more about themselves and life in particular. However, you can replace the violin with opera here. It is within these heartfelt scenes that the movie find its best footing. With that said, I could have lived without that ending, as it veered away from what worked in the initial parts of the film. If anything though, it was already predictable given the lots of context clues scattered in the film up until that ending. Cherie Gil was marvelous in her take of Margo Channing meets Norma Desmond. The parts where she’s talking about all the previous operas she starred was a hoot. It could have been an easy way out for an actress of her caliber to phone it in, but she refused to take that route, and instead give a satisfying and effective performance. Also, Negros Occidental is so beautiful to look at. Gallaga and Reyes’ collaboration here was satisfying for the most part; it’s not a masterpiece per se, but it gives an effective and poignant take on what it has to offer.

Rating: 3.5/5

Lauriana

LAURIANA
Director: Mel Chionglo
Cast: Allen Dizon, Bangs Garcia, Victor Basa, Adrian Cabido

Going back to 1955, the movie captures pretty barrio lass Lauriana (Bangs Garcia), and how she left an impact to two of the closest men in her life: the soldier who treated her as his “wife”, and the child who used to teach her the English language.

In this film, director Mel Chionglo served too much in the film that resulted to an over of some sorts. First, the story felt disjointed and forced despite being overwhelmed with everything that’s happening in it (and I’m telling you there’s a looooot that’s happening in it). If some movies usually weaken because of abandoning minor plots, this film does the opposite and discussed all possible areas they possibly can. What resulted is a combo of messy plotting and a very uneven pacing. It seems to go back and forth into different perspectives without a smooth connection (well I guess Lauriana’s character) that actually works. This is disappointing since there are some parts in the film that can be focused longer to come up with a more interesting end result. Instead, it just went on and on and on during the last act showing no signs of stopping. Add the fact that the acting here is all over the place with mostly everyone’s acting motto is described in one word : histrionics. I guess the film’s lack of focus is the root of all these problems; otherwise, there would have been a different (and probably better?) product.

Rating: 2/5

Lihis

LIHIS
Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Jake Cuenca, Joem Bascon, Lovi Poe, Isabelle Daza

In the midst of the Martial Law years, two NPA rebels find not only sharing ideologies and beliefs, but feelings for each other. The film is told in a flashback approach as the daughter of one of them find more information about her father.

I wasn’t initially sold by the approach that Lamangan used in order to narrate the story, but the end product did not have any problem translating it to the viewers. After seeing a lot of Lamangan’s more recent features (from 2009’s Dukot up to Burgos from earlier this year), I am reminded that he probably fancies this niche too much lately, because I think the whole NPA stuff was just a background piece in this story. The focus of the film actually deviates more than what I expected. What I mean is that the love story between Ador and Cesar could have been set in a ranch and they’d be sheep herders (wink wink) and what you’d get is practically the same story. i saw that the film tried to go deeper than that to address the said concern (by leaving it to the present day scenes), but it just didn’t completely work out. With that said, there were commendable performances especially from the 1970s part with Joem’s Ennis and Jake’s Jack having no inhibitions with each other. And Lovi Poe is always a treat to watch. Issues aside, I think it’s a decent enough effort from Lamangan that you can see.

PS: Is it just me or the middle image of the film’s poster reminds you of the near end part of 2000’s Plata Quemada? Or for a more common reference, the bottom part of the poster of Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. 

Rating: 2.5/5

Anyway, that’s it. Next batch hopefully by Saturday. I urge all of you to go watch and support the Sineng Pambansa Film Festival. The whole fest will run from September 11-17 in all SM cinemas nationwide for only 100 pesos!

Also, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

REVIEW: Menor de Edad, Seduction, A Moment in Time, The Bride and the Lover, Bromance, Juana C. The Movie   5 comments

Hi everyone! I have been terribly busy the last few weeks, but I’ll try my best to catch up on local cinema for this year. So instead of doing full reviews for each, I’ll try to tackle them in small dosages. Most of these I’ve seen during their release but doesn’t have the time to write a full review, some I caught up on, and some via other sources *wink*. Anyway, here are six more films from 2013’s collection:

MENOR DE EDAD

Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Meg Imperial, Ara Mina, Wendell Ramos, Jaycee Parker, Chynna Ortaleza

2013’s kick off local movie is Joel Lamangan’s socio-political drama Menor de Edad which aims to provide an honest and raw look of the slum life by focusing on a story of juvenile teenagers living in the squatters area. While the intention was there, viewers might get lost as Lamangan goes back and forth to documentary approach and the melodramatic aspects of the film. Scenes were mostly contrived and there were too many plots running that it’s hard for anything to stand out; in the end, all seemed half baked versions of what they really wanted to achieve. The cast was okay, though I can’t help but see them relying on scenery chewing approach of acting which made the over the top story… more over the top.

RATING: 1.5/5


SEDUCTION

Director: Peque Gallaga
Cast: Richard Gutierrez, Solenn Heusaff, Sarah Labhati, Jay Manalo, Al Tantay

Fatal Attraction meets Unfaithful is the theme of Peque Gallaga’s 2013 drama which centers the character of fireman Ram in a choice between two babes: Trina, the one he likes, and Sophia, the one he’s concerned about. It also did not help that Trina is reserved while Sophia can be the answer to his family’s financial obligations. I appreciate the fact that this could have been a good character study of the main characters (particularly Ram and to a certain extent, Sophia), but it wasn’t as interesting as what I expected it to be. I saw some of the classic Peque Gallaga shots in terms of the angles and framing in his shots which maintained interest to say the least, but his actors let him down. It seemed as if it was a battle of “Who can act the worst?” among the three lead stars. It’s a case of seeing the film go one step forward, then two steps behind, and by the time the movie ended, we’re there at the same place where it started.

RATING: 2/5

A MOMENT IN TIME

Director: Emmanuel Palo
Cast: Coco Martin, Julia Montes, Gabby Concepcion, Cherie Gil, Zsazsa Padilla

Star Cinema’s Valentine’s offering this year is composed of one of 2012’s television’s favorite couples: Coco Martin and Julia Montes via A Moment in Time. This story of “strangers getting to know each other though bounded by fate before they even met each other” is a hit or miss for me. For one, Coco Martin and Julia Montes really has a chemistry that was visible in the movie, but on the other hand, I don’t think I already have recovered from their age differences. More than that though, once the back stories of both their characters were revealed (which happened during the earlier part of the film), it’s pretty predictable already. Sure Coco Martin made the whole audience kilig, I still don’t think he has found the suitable mainstream project for him. Plus points though since Amsterdam was really good to look at, and for Cherie Gil’s straight faced delivery of the line “Mukha ba akong kontrabida sa isang pelikula?

RATING: 2/5

THE BRIDE AND THE LOVER

Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Paulo Avelino, Lovi Poe, Jennylyn Mercado, Joem Bascon, Hayden Kho

In the never ending tradition of “two women fighting over one man” films that still shows no signs of stopping (everyone… sigh) comes another from the vault. This time, about  best friends who both took the characters of the bride and the lover. That’s also probably the most this movie can offer in terms of standing out among all these kerida films, and while that’s not saying too much, I appreciate that they even tried doing it. The movie is, indeed, entertaining with its shift to comedic and dramatic tones though it also gets tiring by the time we’ve reached the latter part of the film. There were also too many unnecessary characters (the best friend/bodyguard storyline is one that can be eliminated already), but the climax part is enjoyable and almost made up for the rest of the clunks. Jennylyn Mercado stood out the most in this trio, and I hope she gets movie roles because she really has the chops to be even better.

RATING: 2.5/5

BROMANCE: MY BROTHER’S ROMANCE

Director: Wenn Deramas
Cast: Zanjoe Marudo, Cristine Reyes, Arlene Muhlach, Nikki Valdez, Joey Paras, Lassie

If there’s one thing that I like about Bromance is the fact that Wenn Deramas was mostly in a clean slate in this: no Vice Ganda, no Tanging Ina jokes, no DJ Durano to be seen. This gives a fresh new energy that makes most of the film work. Zanjoe Marudo still continues to challenge himself as an actor, and his last few movie projects continue to shape him as an all around actor. I like how committed he was in it, and it shows in his performance. Cristine Reyes also seems to have a knack at comedy, and I think this type of role suits her better than let’s say El Presidente. The cameos in the film were a lot, but most worked for me (especially the one who played the doctor). This movie made me laugh more than what I expected, so if this is what we can expect from the next few Deramas outings, then he might have mastered the type of comedy for his audience after all? But then again, it’s hard to speak that early. 

RATING: 3/5

JUANA C. THE MOVIE

Director: Jade Castro
Cast: Mae Paner, John James Uy, Jelson Bay, Angelina Kanapi, Annicka Dolonius, Mads Nicolas

From the same group that gave us Zombadings,  Juana C. is a political satire that gives us a funny and honest glimpse of the wicked world of politics. It’s pretty obvious that the movie has a lot to offer, and while some of the subplots didn’t work for me, the main message of the film stood out in the end. It’s a pretty enjoyable ride that sometimes tend to go overboard, but manages to stay still and in the end, ultimately reached its destination. Juana Changge (Mae Paner) is an engaging lead character that serves as the glue that holds all of them together, but the whole ensemble is top notch, giving you endless riots and bundles of laughter. You can see the commitment that the people gave this film, so it’s easy to forgive the noticeable flaws in it.

RATING: 3/5

Whew that’s a handful. There are still some films left to be seen from the first half of the year before we go overboard with the Cine Filipino and Cinemalaya contenders this month and the next, so it’s good to finally put this out already. 🙂

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