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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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Tit for Tat Local Film Awards: Screenplay Winners 2000-2014   Leave a comment

So I’ve started this project way back in the mid-2000s. As one who’s a sucker for awards shows and predicting them (it’s weird I know), I try to pick my own choices in the main categories. Just a few years ago, I decided to do the techs as well. But it’s mostly focused on the four acting categories, directing, screenplay, ensemble, and Best Picture. This has been a work in progress, as I still catch up on some movies years past their actual release (especially the ones in the mid-2000s and early 2010s). Let it be clear as well that I have so many blindspots in terms of movies that I still haven’t seen (in Lav Diaz’ case for instance, I’ve only seen Batang WestsideNorte, and Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon) missing almost everything in his filmography (my loss, I understand). Also, the reason why I decided to begin with 2000s is probably because that’s the reasonable year when materials are still searchable and probably the year when I began to sleep late catching up awards shows in RPN 9 as I list them in a yellow paper. LOL. Anyway, let’s begin with my Screenplay picks of the last fifteen years:

screenplay

As a recap, here are my winners for the first 15 years:

2000: Armando Lao, “Tuhog
2001: Lav Diaz, “Batang Westside
2002: Lualhati Bautista, “Dekada ’70
2003: Michiko Yamamoto, “Magnifico
2004: Armando Lao, “Minsan Pa
2005: Michiko Yamamoto, “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros
2006: Mary Ann Bautista, Jose Javier Reyes, “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo
2007: Jade Castro, Michiko Yamamoto, Raymond Lee, “Endo
2008: Francis Xavier Pasion, “Jay
2009: Veronica Velasco, Jinky Laurel, “Last Supper #3
2010: Jerrold Tarog, “Senior Year
2011: Alvin Yapan, “Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa
2012: Jun Lana, “Bwakaw
2013: Lav Diaz, Rody Vera, “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
2014: Giancarlo Abrahan, “Dagitab

And some other random stats:
MULTIPLE WINNERS:
3: Michiko Yamamoto (Magnifico, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, Endo)
2: Lav Diaz (Batang West Side, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan)
2: Armando Lao (Tuhog, Minsan Pa)

MULTIPLE MENTIONS:
4: Armando Lao (Tuhog, La Vida Rosa, Minsan Pa, Biyaheng Lupa)
3: Raymond Lee (Tanging Yaman, Milan, Endo)
3: Jerrold Tarog (Confessional, Senior Year, Sana Dati)
3: Rody Vera (Nino, Requieme, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan)
3: Michiko Yamamoto (Magnifico, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, Endo)
2: Lav Diaz (Batang West Side, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan)
2: Antoinette Jadaone (Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, That Thing Called Tadhana)
2: Chris Martinez (100, Here Comes the Bride)
2: Jose Javier Reyes (Minsan May Isang Puso, Kasal Kasali Kasalo)
2: Veronica Velasco (Inang Yaya, Last Supper #3)

What are your favorite local film Screenplay from the last fifteen years? Pipe ’em in below!

 

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

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

Top Local Movies of 2012   8 comments

2012 in cinema is probably one of the most enjoyable in a while. I liked a lot of the movies that I’ve seen this year, (though maybe I really avoided the bad ones? LOL), and a lot of these films would have topped any other weaker years. On top of that, we’ve also seen a lot of impeccable performances from these films. Mind you, while I have seen 60+ local films this year, there’s a lot left still to be seen. Despite that, I feel that 2012 is one of the better years in recent Filipino cinema, and here are 12 reasons why:

Unofficially Yours

12: UNOFFICIALLY YOURS

Arguably, the best output from commercial filmmaking this year is this Cathy Garcia Molina’s relationship story between two people that sprouted from a one night stand. Molina has really mastered how to make supposedly conventional studio produced films more engaging and interesting. Also, watch out for John Lloyd Cruz and Angel Locsin’s palpable chemistry here.

MNL 143

11. MNL 143

I’m a sucker of travel/road movies. With that said, Emerson Reyes’s first feature length film is a poignant love story of a man (Allan Paule) who’s looking for the woman of his life is something that’s easier to relate to; not the search per se, but the longing and the optimism for it to finally arrive is a familiar feeling that can resonate well to its viewers.

Requieme

10. REquieme!

Loy Arcenas’ consecutive Cinemalaya entry is a dark comedy that focuses on Swanie, a barangay captain who involves herself as a relative of a suspect in an international murder case. With a witty screenplay and Shamaine Buencamino’s effective portrayal as Swanie and breakthrough talent Anthony Falcon, the movie is definitely one of 2012’s brightest spots.

Pascalina

09. PASCALINA

This Cinema One Originals winner which was also Pam Miras’s feature debut about one’s self discovery about her monsters within is one of the surprise entries in my list. Not because it is bad, but because I liked and appreciated it better days after seeing it. Oh, and if Maria Veronica Santiago’s performance in the title role won’t charm you enough, then I don’t know what will.

Ang Nawawala

08. ANG NAWAWALA

Another first feature effort this year, this time by Marie Jamora, Ang Nawawala is bound to be a cult classic. Yes, it probably caters to a younger crowd, to those in the middle status, or to those who are into local music scene, but one universal thing that I sure can relate to is how it connects you back to yourself. Plus points for the eye candy production design and the compilation soundtrack.

Bwakaw

07. BWAKAW

The Philippines’ submission to the Oscar Foreign Language Film category this year (and its best submission in years, I must say) is this little gem by Jun Lana about an old gay man living alone with only his dog named Bwakaw, and how he tries to make the most out of his remaining days. It’s just one of the most heartfelt films of the year that makes you laugh and cry while watching. Also, Eddie Garcia’s performance is to watch for here.

Thy Womb

06. THY WOMB

Brillante Mendoza’s Venice entry this year is also the comeback vehicle of one of the Philippines’ greatest actresses to date, the Superstar Nora Aunor. I guess my favorite aspect of the film is how it showcased to us this little gem of a place called Tawi-Tawi, and how the film introduced us to its culture. That, and of course La Aunor’s towering performance in it.

Ang Paglalakbay ng Mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim

05. ANG PAGLALAKBAY NG MGA BITUIN SA GABING MADILIM

My favorite from the whole Cinema One Originals bunch this year is Arnel Mardoquio’s feature about the escape of three Muslim rebels, together with a ten year old child in the midst of the Bangsa Moro issues in Mindanao. But unlike any previous Mindanao related war-themed films, this one stands out because it’s  does not lecture you. And within this silence is where the actual emotions linger.

Give Up Tomorrow

04. GIVE UP TOMORROW

This Filipino/Spanish/American production directed by Michael Collins on what was labeled as the trial of the century in the Philippines (the involvement of  Paco Larrañaga to the disappearance of the Chiong sisters) is one film that probably triggered the most emotions while watching. The film for the most part was half maddening and half heartbreaking. But it probably contains one of my most favorite quotes of the year when Paco said “If you want to give up, give up tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, then give up tomorrow.

Aparisyon

03. APARISYON

Vincent Sandoval’s Cinemalaya entry about the secluded lives of nuns in a monastery in 1972. The film’s strength lies in its capability to build an atmosphere that was intense and arresting that once the movie hits it middle part, you just feel as if you’re a part of it. If you’re into the technical aspect, this movie also boasts of a complete top notch production values: neat production design,  applicable costumes, captivating cinematography, polished editing, and haunting score.

Graceland

02. GRACELAND

Ron Morales’s Tribeca entry about a loyal driver caught in the middle of his congressman employer’s paying of sins is as intense as one can get. Fifteen minutes in, there’s already a shooting scene. And the rest of the movie was packed with emotional punches, as it dwells with questions about one’s choices in life. Is this the correct choice? What happens when it’s not? Where do we go next? Also, Arnold Reyes’s terrific performance as the driver is a must see.

Kalayaan

01. KALAYAAN

And my top pick for local cinema this year is Adolf Alix’s Kalayaan. On the outside, it’s about a soldier solely stationed in the Kalayaan islands and a run on his daily activities, until two additional soldiers were sent there with him. The first hour of the film solely shows on the day to day routine of Julian. Rarely any dialogue was spoken in it, but the message was effectively sent. Once the credits rolled, you feel that you’ve known enough yet it will also prompt you to ask some more. Definitely my favorite film of the year!

Well that’s it! What are your favorite local movies of the year? In case you are wondering, the reason why there’s no top international picks yet is because I’m still catching up on a lot of the Oscar movies til the next two months. So I guess, you can expect my list by March.

And as always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Philippines’ 85th Oscar Submission: Bwakaw   2 comments

Earlier this week, the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) already announced the country’s submission for the Foreign Language Film category for next February’s Academy Awards. Despite some initial backlash among some of the movies that were on the shortlist (released on two separate batches), they still made a very wise decision submitting this year’s Cinemalaya entry, Jun Lana’s “Bwakaw” for consideration and as the country’s official entry.

Bwakaw tells the story of Rene (played perfectly by Eddie Garcia), an old gay man living with only his dog, as he waits for his final days. Much to his surprise, it’s never too late to be opened to a lot of life’s treasured experiences.

This movie beats nine other films that were mentioned to be a part of the two batch shortlist that the FAP announced the past month. Those nine movies include Ron Morales’ Graceland, Jose Javier Reyes’  Mga Mumunting Lihim (Those Little Secrets), Brillante Mendoza’s Captive, Adolf Alix’s Busong (Palawan Fate), Alvin Yapan’s Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of the Two Left Feet), Daryl dela Cruz’s Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story, John D. Lazatin’s A Mother Story, Joyce Bernal’s Segunda Mano, and Muhammad Yusuf’s The Witness.

As for starters, I think this is a very commendable and refreshing choice from the FAP. From the first batch, I would have chosen either Yapan’s Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa or Mendoza’s Captive as the country’s official submission. From the second batch, Morales’s Graceland and Lana’s Bwakaw seems to be the standout options. It’s really surprising that the committee went for one of those four, especially since the last few years have been nothing but weak to “What were they thinking” choices. As a recap…

2008: Soxy Topacio’s Ded na si Lolo a.k.a RP’s worst submission ever. I really don’t see why this was chosen by the Academy. It did not have any staggering reviews, did not make a splash at the box office, and was not even buzzed during that year. Ded na si Lolo is a comedy that tells the story of a six day wake of a big family’s patriarch that opened a lot of secrets, realizations, and acceptance among the members of the family. Up until now, I was not convinced that it was the best submission of the country that year, let alone, the shortlist. My vote would have gone to Brillante Mendoza’s Venice entry Lola who just came off from a Cannes win earlier that year.

2009: Dondon Santos’ Noy a.k.a the FAP got carried away with the election. For this year, the Academy chose to be political and submitted the movie “Noy” which starred the country’s most prominent actor Coco Martin. In here, there’s a juxtaposition about then presidentiable Noynoy Aquino and how a reporter, incidentally named Noy as well, joins him during his campaign period. I remember how after all submissions were revealed, both RP and Brazil received flack for riding on the election bandwagon when the latter submitted “Lula, The Son of Brazil” as its submission. With that said, it is pretty much expected it will not be the film that will bring us our first nomination. My choice that year? Despite not being impressed with the shortlist, I guess I’ll have to go with Joel Lamangan’s family drama Sagrada Familia 

2010: Marlon Rivera’s Ang Babae sa Septic Tank a.k.a the Eugene Domingo lovefest. Coming off from a very solid buzz at last year’s Cinemalaya, this Eugene Domingo starrer is definitely a hit in the making. This satirical take on how three filmmakers wanted to have the perfect festival hit and the road towards it is definitely one of the better films that we have submitted (if we base it on the actual merits of the film). Non-Oscar aficionados thought that this will definitely bring some buzz as most voters will find it relatable (heck, it even had an Oscar trophy in its poster) and witty. But here lies the problem: the Academy, especially voters, are not fond of making fun of their business. Case in point: the 2006 film For Your Consideration starring Catherone O’Hara wherein she played an actress desperately wanting to get an Oscar nod only to see her heart broken when she was snubbed for a nomination. AMPAS ignored the film altogether that year. The same can be said for Septic Tank’s chances last year.

With that said, what do I think about Bwakaw’s Oscar chances? On one hand, it’s off to a good start by being a participant at the recently concluded Toronto Film Festival. It’s next stop is the pickier and stricter New York Film Festival, so that says something about the quality of the film. I’ve learned that it already has a distributor abroad, so that’s another plus for the film’s chances. All it has to do now is maintain the buzz that has initially started. If they can get more festival runs and screenings, then it will boost better word of mouth regarding the film.

On the downside, this might still get lost in the shuffle of all high profile films that debuted from the three biggest festivals this year. There’s already Austria’s Amour, France’s Intouchables, South Korea’s Pieta, Germany’s Barbara, and Romania’s Beyond the Hills. I’m not saying that Bwakaw doesn’t hold a candle to all the previously mentioned films in terms of quality, but seeing that we have not been nominated yet, all those other countries who are Oscar friendlier will have an easy route to gain buzz throughout the Oscar season.

In conclusion, I’m gonna be realistic here and say that so far, its chances are longshot at best. Is this the film that will bring us the coveted Oscar? No I don’t think so. Is this the movie that will give us our first nomination? I still don’t think so. Is this the movie that will make us enter the top nine short list? Probably.  Bwakaw needs A Separation type of consensus in order for us to go all the way this year. However, with all that said, this is one year where I’m really happy with our submission, and it gives me hope that yes, getting that Oscar nod and trophy is still possible. As for now, I’m contended with small steps on our way there.

8th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 2   6 comments

Here’s the second part of my Cinemalaya reviews. Don’t forget to come over at the CCP to catch the movies for yourself. The first part covered Mga Mumunting Lihim, Kamera Obskura, Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino, and Kalayaan. You can check them out here. Now, here are four other movies that I’ll review:

THE ANIMALS
Director: Gino M. Santos
Starring: Albie Casino, Patrick Sugui, Dawn Balagot
Competition: New Breed

A day in the life of three upper class teenage students who attend a party that will forever change their life. Jake (Casino) is the host of the biggest party before high school ends, Trina (Balagot) is his klepto girlfriend, while Alex (Sugui) is his brother who is applying to a high school fraternity.

As for starters, I love how the treatment focused on the three characters themselves. Movies about a certain generation has been done many times before, but I specifically notice the energy that the film displays in the characters, scenes, and dialogue in the movie. The aforementioned energy is what makes the movie interesting. I also liked how it’s as raw as one can get, and while some scenes can be very predictable, it depicts the truth that lies beyond the characters from puking in toilets, nipslips, and blabbing drivers of rich kids. The parting shot of the film is probably my favorite; it was expected yet it still stays with you and stays true to what the title and the story of the film suggests. Also, Albie Casino, Patrick Sugui, and Dawn Baalgot are revelations in the film and contributed a large part with the depiction of their characters. While it is very easy to accuse that Santos is all style no substance with this one; however, I particularly liked various things about the movie which showed his potentials as a filmmaker.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

BWAKAW
Director: Jun Lana
Starring: Eddie Garcia, Rez Cortez, Soxy Topacio, Beverly Salviejo, Gardo Versoza
Competition: Directors Showcase

Rene (Garcia) is an old gay man living alone. His only companion is his dog Bwakaw. He has been waiting for a long time, anticipating his death until he  finds both a surprise and a new reason to live.

I’m not a fan of previous Lana works, but I dare say this is his best film to date. I’m a big sucker for films dealing with a person’s loneliness, and I think that the film’s strongest suit lies beyond the writing of the character of Rene. Rene is alone and longing; he is anticipating for his death yet he seems to start a new life when he finds his first love. He does not believe in God, but he leaves his will to a priest. It is with this strong characterization that makes Rene a human being, and that was translated well from the screen to the audience. Somehow, I think that the movie is too long, though it balances comedy and drama perfectly that one won’t really get bothered by the long running time. Eddie Garcia showed no sign of aging when it comes to his performance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins awards for it. The surprise though is the very good supporting cast from Rez Cortez to Soxie Topacio to my favorite Joey Paras; it shows that while it’s an Eddie Garcia vehicle, the movie can still accommodate the greatness of the rest of the cast. Both funny and touching, I find this as one of the more enjoyable entries of this year’s filmfest.

Rating: 4 / 5

MGA DAYO
Director: Julius Cena
Starring: Sue Prado, Janela Buhain, Olga Natividad
Competition: New Breed

Set during America’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, Mga Dayo features three different stories of women all dealing with their green card. The first one is a hotel cleaner who petitioned her 88 year old Mom to come liver with her in Guam because her mother wants to see America. The second one enters a fixed marriage with a friend just so she won’t be sent back to the Philippines. The third one is a journalist writer who is currently dealing with a broken heart.

For a movie that contains three different stories (not interrelated with each other, aside from the common theme that they all have issues with their green card), it’s not easy to totally be invested with which is which. However, it is pretty surprising that the movie ended quickly, and the revelation scenes of their fate did not leave that much of an impact as what was expected. There were really moments that will get you, opening the way for you to understand but once you start to do so, it suddenly ends. The saving grace of the film are Prado’s and Natividad’s performances, but overall, this leaves you a feeling that there’s still something that can be further covered, but it did not do so.

Grade: 2.5 / 5

ANG NAWAWALA
Director: Marie Jamora
Starring: Dominic Roco, Felix Roco, Dawn Zulueta, Buboy Garovillo
Competition: New Breed

Ang Nawawala tells the story of Gibson Bonifacio (Roco) who stopped speaking when he was young, and now that he’s back in the country for good, he deals with his broken family, and having his first attempt at love.

Let me start by saying that this is my favorite in the New Breed category films. This film does not require you to be critical of the technical aspects or the script or the acting, but more of tugging your heart with the emotional investment that you’ll feel for the characters in the film. The music served as a critical and necessary addition in exposing and understanding Gibson and the situation that he has been into. This is in no way a pioneer or even groundbreaking in terms of tackling the theme of family and love, but it leaves enough impact once the lights appear at the end of the film. I also like the portrayal of the family with Buboy Garovillo as the passive yet understanding and Dawn Zulueta as the aloof and strict mother. Annicka Dolonius gives a great breakthrough performance, but it was Dominic Roco who holds the whole cast altogether. He is heartbreaking, optimistic, and shy all rolled into one, and Roco exuded all of it in the movie. Once you leave the theaters, you can’t help but smile and get carried with Marie Jamora’s charming effort. Definitely a must see.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

There you have it. Next up: another batch of four Cinemalaya movies. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @nikowl