Pahabol to the year-end roast

Posted in Cine Filipino, comedy film, indie films, intercultural issues, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on December 24, 2013 by leaflens

Glad I was able to catch the Ayala Mall theatrical run of a Cine Filipino entry before the country transforms into its MMFF mode. And I was just going to watch it purely for entertainment’s sake but I can’t let it pass without a proper review because I think the film — and what it tried to do — has to be commended for its merit.

So this is it, pancit. Gora.

turkeyANG TURKEY MAN AY PABO RIN (2013)

d. Randolf Longjas

s. Allan Habon

sc. Teresa Barrozo

c. Tuesday Vargas, Travis Kraft, Julia Clarete, Cai Cortez 

Pitch: A Pinay with a white American boyfriend happily struggle to find the middle ground of their cultures in the hopes of improving their relationship to attain their goal of going to the U.S.

Catch: Most jokes were concentrated on the first half of the film, leaving the second half a bit wanting, but still satisfying ’til the end anyway. So kebs.

And this is why I can’t just let this film pass without saying anything about it: MAGANDA KASI SIYA. It works very well for me because this is a comedy that’s not caricature, and that’s sooooooooo effin’ rare lately in Philippine cinema. I’m talking about the likes of this film and HERE COMES THE BRIDE, for instance, where the film presents a far-out storyline yet it’s believable enough pa rin to make you sincerely laugh. And you sincerely laugh because the comedy is not just shallow or slapstick but it’s quite a mix of both, but differentiated because it tries to have depth in delivery and content. Depth, as in lalim, or at least pinag-isipan ang pagpapatawa at hindi mababaw ang punchlines. You know what I’m saying?

Hindi ito katulad lang ng mga Vice Ganda comedies na siya lang ang nagdadala dahil sa stand-up comic timing/delivery niya ng lines (although those work in certain contexts din naman, like in PETRANG KABAYO). At lalong hindi ito tulad ng mga comedy ng Star Cinema or ng mga dinidirek ni Direk Wenn na parang wishy-washy material lang na mukhang sinulat lang in three days (if may script at all, na para kasing tumakbo lang with a sequence outline lang at shoot na agad!). ‘Yung ganitong mga pelikula, nakakatawa talaga dahil maganda ang materyal, magaling ang delivery ng actors, at maganda ang pagkakahabi ng mga eksena at shot. Yes, it really worked for me.

Of course there’s nothing new in the story, you might say. What’s another film about a white man coupling with a brown girl in our islands? Oo, talamak na nga ang ganitong pairing but even so, each generation has something new to contribute to this intercultural discourse. For as long as we can’t shake off our memory of our colonial history, we will certainly continue to talk about the byproducts of such history in our present. Part and parcel of being Filipino, I think, is to have this discourse out in the open, whether people see it negatively or positively. But I hope we could talk about it in a more enlightened way.

And in a way, this film did. Of course the obvious objective was to show naysayers that the brown girl was not only after the money from the white guy. That’s really the default thinking here, and decades of cultural opinion and practice will not shake off that initial impression. Really. Even if we try really hard. But the film is charming because it succeeds in talking about that impression, and even overcoming it, presenting new ways and perspectives of looking at it.

Ako man baffled sa "cultural" eklavu of eating carbs on carbs, namely pancit canton with rice! Hindi ka nag-iisa, dude! LOLZ.

Ako man baffled sa “cultural” eklavu of eating carbs on carbs, namely pancit canton with rice! Hindi ka nag-iisa, dude! LOLZ.

And the first perspective is this: have the white man speak good Tagalog. That’s really cute, even way cuter than half-Filipinos/half-some-other-country people who come here and speak baluktot Tagalog like they’re the cutest thing after newborn puppies. No, chaka ‘yun dude, speak it. And then of course another cute thing here is have the brown girl learn how to speak proper English without even referring to that dreaded term “nosebleed” because in this film, she doesn’t see her baluktot English as a sign of being dumb (which is what, to me, the concept of “nosebleed” suggests/dictates). And what’s even cuter is she’s open to improving her English diction, without even feeling sorry for herself or without feeling insecure. That scene in the bathroom where they do this as they brush their teeth, plus the one where he drills her with meta cards, man that’s just hilarious! (e.g. Where was I born? / Penis…penisvanya? Pencil…Pencilvania!) And it pays off because Tuesday and Travis have great onscreen comedic chemistry. It works.

Another “new” yet tricky contribution of the film to this discourse is where they meet. The film is basically about these two people who met online, in a website obviously designed for meet-ups like theirs, as they both sign up in a dating website called “kanolovespinay.com” or something like that. Of course these kinds of websites exist in real life. And yes, there have been couples who have successfully formed relationships using such sites. But to the judgmental offline world, this kind of pairing is still suspect just because they met in “non-traditional” means. It’s the whole intercultural judgment, but transferred online.

And in this day and age of world wide web connectivity, many people seek out relations of all sorts online, and that should already be a given, a thing not to be subjected to morality judgments. Sige nga, ano ang pinagkaiba nito sa nireto mo ang friend of a friend of a friend of a friend mo sa friend mo for a blind date? In this case, may kalayaang mamili ang mga magde-date ng kanilang type. And yes, I’ve actually met some women who have met white men in such spaces, boyfriends nila currently or they even married pa nga and have a family na, ganun. Yes, take a look around, take a closer look, and you’ll see that these kinds of pairings — borne out of real love connections — do exist.  And even if it’s viewed judgmentally pa rin, the film was able to laugh at the face of this kind of judgment. At first, the film was laughing along with the prejudice and the bigotry. Later, nakikitawa na tayo sa prublema nila. Later, kasama na natin silang tumatawa sa success na na-overcome nila sa kanilang struggles. And as the film wraps up, napapaisip tayo na oo nga naman, may mga ganitong totoo. At okay naman pala. And then we cheer them on in the end, because what they are are just like who we all are: humans who just want to be in a loving relationship, regardless of race, culture or language divides.

White Kano with brown Pinay who usually has a child or two borne out of wedlock or from a previous failed Pinoy relationship, as depicted here. A common image in our country but still bears new discourse.

White Kano with brown Pinay who usually has a child or two borne out of wedlock or from a previous failed Pinoy relationship, as depicted here. A common image in our country but still bears new discourse.

At bakit nga pala turkey-pabo ang peg? The storyline’s plot centered on the nearing of Thanksgiving Day and the Pinay’s struggles to find an elusive turkey in Manila for the celebration, to make her boyfriend happy. Tuesday Vargas is a gem here, kenkoy na kikay na may puso at nasasaktan din naman. In short, totoong tao, someone na posibleng mars mo sa opis o sa kapitbahay ganun, mga taong totoong puwedeng mag-exist in real life, nagawa nilang ipakita dito in a non-caricature/two-dimensional way. Patok pa lalo sa two best friends niyang kikay na kalog din, sina Cai Cortez at Julia Clarete, lalo na sa mga hirit nila na para lang naririnig ko sa tabi-tabi kapag nagsasama-sama kami ng friends ko o napapadaan ako at napapa-eavesdrop sa mga kenkoy na samahang barkada around town. Mga totoong tao, nakikita sa pelikula, malaki ang identification factor nito sa audience, kaya mas effective na nakakatawa sila, dahil nga hindi sila caricature. Take note of this, please, Star Cinema, Viva Films, Regal Films and other outfits that continue to dumb down Filipino audiences by showing us crass comedy year in and year out. Matalino ang audience oy, kaya taas-taasan niyo rin ang level ninyo please lang, k. K.

Having said that, we now end up giving this film our two thumbs up. I hope the filmmakers continue writing material and I hope they’re given more chances to show their craft to the audiences. The future of Philippine cinema is slowly being secured, thanks to such talents. Sana lang ‘wag lumobo ang mga ulo, hane?

K? K.

in the works (-in-progress)

Posted in action crime film, Cannes Film Festival, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on September 27, 2013 by leaflens

Just because a film reached the shores of Cannes doesn’t mean that it’s all that. But we commend it for reaching there, of course. Gujab for Pinoys itetch. But it still doesn’t make it easier to overlook some glaring things that you wish were fixed before they flew this, no? Hmm. Basta.

ojt 0OTJ (2013)

d. Erik Matti

p. Star Cinema and Reality Entertainment

s. Michiko Yamamoto, Erik Matti

m. Erwin Romulo

dop. Francis Ricardo Buhay III

e. Jay Halili

c. Piolo Pascual, Gerald Anderson, Joel Torre and a bunch of talented actors na nakiki-anniv film mode hehe

Pitch: Prisoners inside a prison are sometimes taken outside to do hitman jobs until it gets complicated because of some souls trying to enforce the law and their conscience chenelyns, among other things.

Catch: Uneven story flow, plot holes act as speed bumps for the narrative to truly progress. Plus ang linis tignan ni Gerald. Kulang sa dumi teh.

This film ought to be good since it’s part of the Star Cinema anniversary hype chenelyn daw this year. The trailer also promised a good premise and a promising technical feast. I wasn’t disappointed in the tech aspect. There are many things in this film that I’m glad I saw — again — in Philippine cinema. For starters, I like it that the night lighting is true to what Manila nights look like. Lagi kong tanong sa mga estudyante ko yan, e: ano ang kulay ng ilaw sa gabi kapag naglakad ka sa labas? Sometime they can’t answer properly but if you’re a very observant person, you would immediately know the answer (Hala, di mo knows noh! Tingin sa labas ng bintana, dali! LOL) and I’m always amused by their answers of uncertainty. Lighting is always motivated in a scene so that means we should know where the light is coming from when you’re staging a shot. Kung sa lamp post, ipakita mong parang lamp post nga. Kung buwan, anong kulay yun, blue ba o puti? Ayan, mga basic trivia na dapat master mo agad if you really are a true disciple of cinema hehe. Charut!

And it’s fine if sometimes Gerald or Joel acts in the dark (although aliw yung isang habulan eksena where madilim ang eskinita pero pagtama kay Papa Piolo, fez lang niya ang may ilaw hehe genius! Umo-Orson Welles lang ang peg hehe.). This is because the film is kind of a noir film, given its subject matter of crime, police work, syndicate chenelyns and stuff like that, which are all elements of film noir. Hm I just realized that they didn’t have a femme fatale image here pala, but they certainly had the beefcakes! Aba, noir na, queer pa hehe. Charut! And no, Shaina Magdayao’s sexy back scenes not included, not enough to be fatale teh sorry. Hm, Vivian Velez as the operator of the syndicate chuva? Hindi rin, not enough skin hehe. Puro bibig ni ati ang nasilayan natin. Pero bet rin iyon.

ojt 1

Kulang sa dumi si koya. Ulingan pa mukha niyan! LOL. Not too convincing as a streetwise thug, this dude. PD dept couldn’t do anything to save his role as well. Hm. Balik sa bahay ni kuya yan, workshop pa.

The musical score is also funky cool in that gritty Manila noir type of way. Bagay at swak sa mga eksena at sa beat ng editing at bagay sa mood ng iniilawan and such. So see, it’s possible pala to have a film from Star Cinema that could play around with such technicalities and shiz. For once, isantabi muna ang typical glossy look ng mga well-polished-appearing dramas. This one’s technically good in my book.

Now for the tricky part. I know Michiko’s such a talented writer and I actually know how sometimes, talent is not enough to have your films made in this industry. That’s why compromises had to be done sometimes, and it certainly felt like it in the storytelling here. I don’t know if it’s direk’s handiwork or if it’s the usual lupon of “creative consultants” they have that scrutinize a film each step of the way. The main premise of the film is actually good — that there’s this syndicate that operates in the city where prisoners are taken out of prison to commit crimes they cannot be convicted with, since they’re already in jail and it’s the perfect crime. Then throw in the classic plot pattern of the wise old man-contender/trainee structure and you have Joel Torre’s older hitman training younger hitman Gerald Anderson as his replacement. Easy. Then foil it with idealistic police officers and NBI agents who try to get the bottom of things even if it will cost them their lives, for conflict. And then add a dash of the usual Philippine government officials and their corruption and yeh, pang-best picture nga siya teh!

Is it me or does it feel like sometimes Papa P's depiction is two-dimensional at times? I know he could flesh out emotions better than this, teh. So hmm ewan na...

Is it me or does it feel like sometimes Papa P’s depiction is two-dimensional at times? I know he could flesh out emotions better than this, teh. I’ve seen it in other films. So hmm ewan na…

But no. There were times when the story sometimes tries too hard to be all that, you know. Too hard to be “street gritty” that it seems like some characters have this necessary quota of saying “Putangina!” several times in one sequence. And it doesn’t help that Gerald can’t say it properly (kulang sa workshop!); it’s like those actors who need to smoke cigarettes in a scene but they don’t even know how to hold a cigarette properly, much more blow smoke. There are also several twists and turns where the politico father-in-law of Papa Piolo appears too good to be true in that “I’m a dirty politico trying hard to be dignified” chenes especially towards the last third of the film where all hell breaks loose and Piolo as the NBI agent is hot on their corrupt tail already. Scenes in this part appear contrived na, like they don’t really know how to end the film yet they know they want a “grand pang-award ending” you know what I mean? Some scenes appeared unrealistic as a result, notably that chase scene where Joey Marquez as the straight cop madly chases the car of the corrupt general behind this whole operation (Leo Martinez) and his security guys don’t bat an eyelash, until the cop asks the entourage to pull over, and then they have this grand majestic Hollywood action film level-shootout (yung hindi nauubusan ng bala ng baril type), in the middle of a quiet (!) intersection in Manila (where where where may ganitong lugar teh)? Eyes, roll, now nah. Lekat. Not to mention that information seems to be handed to the “proper” hands too conveniently, or data is exchanged that comfortably sometimes, like when NBI agent Papa P sniffs out possible leads that could corroborate with the preliminary info they already have, stuff like that. Pero dahil madadala ka nga ng acting, editing, music and lighting, parang ang dali na ring i-shrug off itong mga ganitong detalyeng obvious naman na produkto ng “too many cooks made the broth cuckoo” brainstorming slash consulting. Yes, folks, it happens. Trust me.

Ayun. So sayang, promising nga siya, the elements at least, but it wasn’t enough to deliver the film in full. But it’s a big step for direk ha. I remember earlier works and eyes rolled more often back then, so hmmm… Here, hm… Itinawid naman ako ng baon kong popcorn kaya sige, kumeri na rin kahit papaano heheh. A good work-in-progress, and here’s hoping the next ones could be polished even better. Push mo yan beks! Gow.

Have a gay day the “indie film” way yey!

Posted in children-young adult content, Cine Filipino, digital film, indie films, Philippine Cinema, queer cinema, queer issues in film, women's issues in film on September 26, 2013 by leaflens

September was a happy time for new film releases that are not made under the auspices of film production companies that either mangle brilliant scripts by letting them “be critiqued” by their lupon of creative consultants or don’t touch inanely written “template films” (read: nagawa mo na ‘yan last year direk and the year before and the year before…) by writer-directors who think they’re god’s gift to Philippine Cinema (I don’t know which god, though. Lucifer? God ba siya? Bad angel pala. Basta, kung sinuman boss niya, ‘yun.).

The first thing I’m talking about is this:

allmasters

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) had a fest called Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival All Masters Edition where our living legends were given the greenlight to make films they wanted with concepts they believed in. I just wish these films could have ran longer since people had to catch different screening times and it’s difficult to sync that with one’s life. So I’m reviewing one film from that batch muna for now.

The second thing I’m talking about is this:

cine filipino

Yet another digital film festival grant-giving venture, this time from PLDT Smart Foundation and Unitel, a.k.a. Mr. Manny Pangilinan dude. Again, I wish they didn’t just screen for a week in select theaters where you will make habol the screening times again which, again, is hard to sync with one’s life. Just saying, hey. And I’m reviewing one film from that batch here din.

Queer focus for now.

lihisposterLIHIS (2013)

d. Joel Lamangan

s. Ricky Lee

dop. Mo Zee

c. Jake Cuenca, Joem Bascon, Lovi Poe, Isabelle Daza, Gloria Diaz

Pitch: Two male members of the New People’s Army (NPA) reinterpret norms and ideals by fighting for the country’s democracy while maintaining a sexual-romantic relationship. Gives new color to the chant “Maki-beki! ‘Wag ma-shokot!” we sometimes shout during pride marches hmm.

Catch: Not enough alindog shots of Lovi Poe my lust. I’m a lesbian eh — wrong market Jake and Joem! Just saying lol.

What I like about this film is the pumping scene. Scenes pala, plural. Malilibog ang mga neps na ‘to, pare. As in teh, wala pang 5 minutes into the film/exposition/Act I, may mega-pumping nang nagaganap sa dalawang boylet na matapang! You never know what happens in them boondocks, now, do you? Now we kinda do. Kidding.

What I really like about this film is that there’s some kind of tightness in the way the material was handled — well, overall, maybe, but there are a few kinks here and there, of course. The story is tight enough to stand, tight enough for the premise to be believable — that there could indeed be two “ordinary-looking” men with communist ideals and guns to have strong desires for each other. It was also presented in a matter-of-fact way, like the way other storylines could be presented — that hey, there’s this rebel dude and there’s this rebel guy and they want to fight for the country side by side while loving each other. Indeed, the treatment of the relationship was tender and loving, and none of that “I’m not gay” disclaimer shiz that was present in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN before. In here, the gayness need not be spelled out by the people who have homosexual desires  because they were obviously comfortable in their skins about their sexualities. In short, hindi issue sa kanila ang pagiging beki, teh. Mas isyu pa ‘yung baka matagpuan ng kalaban at mabaril sa engkuwentro.

Pagtapos ng barilan, espadahan naman! Yehessss LOL. Salamat sa mabait na nilalang na gumawa ng montage na ito. Pahiram ha.

Pagtapos ng barilan, espadahan naman! Yehessss LOL. Salamat sa mabait na nilalang na gumawa ng montage na ito. Pahiram ha.

But the heterosexual girl had an issue about the homosexuality, and this is where the first story kink comes in. Lovi Poe as that strong female NPA character had quite a few undeveloped angst storylines that got carried over in the adult version of her (read: When Lovi Poe grows up, she becomes Gloria Diaz pala. Puwede na rin; same kalidad ng alindog, once upon a time.) particularly her angst about “finding out” if her NPA crushie-turned-hubby (Joem’s NPA writer-intellectual character) is indeed gay or at least bi, and then having a fuss about it later in life. There were times when it seemed that her character was clueless about the relationship but then later on, it was also revealed that she knew about it in the first place. So why harbor the gay hate attitude later on, girl? That was kinda confusing for me, man. In the end, i just chalked it up to the character being proud, as in “nakukuha ko ang lahat ng gusto ko” kind of proud — including getting the man she desires, the gay man she desires pala. Ewan, labo ni ateh.

And then there’s another issue of having a kind of “cover-up” in the death of the two gay rebels. Her older version seemed to have some angst about people not knowing the real score about how the two died, or her doing a cover-up of the real story and shiz. This was tied up to her older version’s grown-up daughter’s (Isabelle Daza) quest of finding the real facts about what happened to that seemingly buried history of a massacre in a small town — the town where the two gay rebels supposedly died, and no one supposedly survived save for this kid who grew up and got stuck in a mental institution. Uh, yeah, if I lost you, sorry I got lost, too. These are the other kinks that needed to be ironed out in the film because I think it’s predominantly the gay storyline that got brainstormed better than the rest.

And yes, why wouldn’t it? It’s a quaint and novel premise that’s not seen in many popular culture forms. Gay NPAs, sankapa teh! That in itself sells the story without effort. Then pepper it with bits and pieces of historical situations then (Marcos era) and now (Noynoy era), and you got a political film, easy. And then show many pumping scenes and kilitian moments between the two handsome gay dues and weh, umupo ka na lang and let the film sell like beefcakes er hotcakes pala. Appeal to prurient interests? Check! Appeal to lovey-dovey marriage equality romantics? Check! Ma-appeal na leading men kissing each other? Check! Pasok sa banga na lahat. And never mind na lang if the pretty Miss Universe-looking (or former Miss Universe title holder) women are also in this film. I guess they’re the eye candy naman for the straights and the lezzies. And I admire them three women because they also gave good acting performances here, sans being framed in a maalindog way (which I still protest BTW but hey…).

Kinilig naman ako sa eksenang ito ng lambutchingan mode. Pero kelangan talagang naka-topless si Jake? Sige na nga...

Kinilig naman ako sa eksenang ito ng lambutchingan mode. Pero kelangan talagang naka-topless si Jake? Sige na nga…

Overall, it’s still a good quality queer film. The lighting was okay naman (except for my eternal angst about blue/uber-liwanag lighting in night scenes in Philippine cinema, but that’s another discourse) and the editing was also good. The directing is surprisingly good as well. Direk Joel is kind of a hit-and-miss director for me, depending on the material he’s handling. But this was surprisingly okay. Ricky’s script was also okay in his ang-bawa’t-karakter-ay-may-bubog kind of way (yet another discourse, saka na lang) which works well here, save for the kinks I mentioned na nga.

If this gets shown somewhere else, it’s still worth catching. So go catch.

*

chacha2ANG HULING CHA-CHA NI ANITA (2013)

d., s. Sigrid Bernardo

dop. Alma Dela Pena

c. Angel Aquino, Teri Malvar and a bunch of talented actors of all ages

Pitch: Tween girl from the province falls in crush with a returning pretty kababayan who has her own secrets to unravel.

Catch: A few kinks in the way some subplots introduced are ended or woven in the main narrative but we overlook it because Angel Aquino is so pretty to look at. Yes we’re biased that way, hey.

What I like about this film is that Angel Aquino is very pretty to look at. In a non-male gaze kind of way. Meaning I am a lesbian and I could look at the film and the shot makes me desire her. If you’re a man and you’re straight then you will also obviously lust after her because that is the default mode of the male gaze. If you’re gay and you like pretty things then you will like the way she was shot because she looked pretty. And if you’re a straight woman then you’ll probably look at her and wonder how she does her hair because it’s so pretty and you want yours to be that pretty, too. All angles — or gazes — covered pare, sankapa hihi. But of course there’s a good motivation behind the perspective, and it’s largely hinged at the main story it’s telling: the teen girl Anita’s developing crush on the prettiest girl in their town. So yes, the way she was shot, it works! Kudos to Alma for this. Plus the overall cinematography na rin, while we’re at it.

Alindog, thy name is Angel. Mas sexy if may itak, bow. LOL

Alindog, thy name is Angel. Mas sexy if may itak, bow. LOL

And I’m glad to see that their tandem is still alive, Alma and Sigrid. Together, they work well cinematically and it shows.  Sigrid’s handling of her own material is also good because it shows that she cares as a director how the scenes should come alive. This is evident in the way the children’s scenes were shot. Anita has two best friends and their barkada trio is a hoot to watch. Although sometimes, having written children’s narratives and directed children’s TV shows, I somehow lose my grip on my disbelief that these kids are real kids. I mean sure, we have bibo kids and we have bibo wunderkinds (like TV’s Ryzza Mae), but some of the dialogues of the kids are too bibo to be true for me. It’s one thing to keep it real in a bibo way, but it’s another to overdo it na kasi. Some are overdone in my opinion, but it’s still a small kink that could get shrugged off anyway.

The main narrative is okay naman. The main story is framed by the present time where we see Anita as a drill sergeant ba or something, basta someone who commands a platoon inside a military base or camp. A package of her mother’s main source of business, the tahong chips (Aha! Tahong talaga ha! I see what ya did there, ya dykes lol!) catapults the whole film into flashback mode to introduce us to Anita during her childhood, back when she was merely a typical teen rebel who misses her dead soldier father so much until she smartened up to win the attention of the love of her little life, Pilar. The whole film’s journey is hinged at the unraveling of why Pilar came back (supposedly to start over a life with an ex-bf who turns out to be Anita’s uncle) and what she does in the meantime (a former OFW physical therapist turned local hilot/massage person) and what she does towards the end of her own narrative (revealing plot dump after plot dump regarding her supposed pregnancy-cum-abortion or her supposed “skills” to “abort” and her main reason for leaving — which was being pregnant and surprise surprise kung sino pala ang nakajontis kay ati and such). Her narrative becomes a bit convoluted and confusing towards the end, which wasn’t helped very much by the dream-like interpretation of the ending sequence with the grown-up Anita coming back and passing by Pilar’s now-abandoned house (of course the cinematic clues lead us to conclude our own conclusions, mainly choosing whether Pilar left or died or whatnot, meaning kayo na bahala kung ano ang nais niyong kinahinatnan ng byuti ni Angel ditey).

So Pilar’s journey is being unraveled together with Anita’s own narrative about having a crush on her and making things work in order to get her little objectives met (mainly to earn enough money to afford a full body massage from Pilar and changing the way she looks to be more impressive). So in this part, we see this Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita mode which was a happy development in the beginning since the discussion of sexuality was, once again, presented in a matter-of-fact way, meaning it’s okay to Anita and her friends and family that she is developing a crush on another woman. In short, hindi na naman isyu ang pagiging biyaning ni ati. Mas isyu pa ‘yung dapat makasali siya sa sagala at makasama sa pamilya niya sa kanilang yearly visit sa sayaw sa Obando thingie sa Bulacan, their province.

Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita-batumbakal na taga-frisco. Charut! Kung may kapitbahay din ba akong ganyang kaganda eh di sana mas maaga tayong namulat sa katotohanan ng life, aney? LOL.

Ang Pagbibinata Ni Anita-batumbakal na taga-frisco. Charut! Kung may kapitbahay din ba akong ganyang kaganda eh di sana mas maaga tayong namulat sa katotohanan ng life, aney? But no. LOL.

And that treatment of queerness is what’s formidable in this material. I like the way that the film treats being a lesbian here, that’s it’s a non-issue — which is how it should be treated in real life anyway, hey. And this is what gives the film heart: to see Anita struggling with her crush, trying to court Anita in her own innocent adolescent way (culminating to a funny scene where she tries to pedal the bike where Pilar was riding in its sidecar — hilarous!) and trying to balance her crush and her family/friend “duties” and such. I could see why this kid won the best actress award for this festival since her portrayal is so real and honest, probably a refreshing thing on the big screen lately, huh. So never mind if she knocked out the Superstar in this category. Give chance to others, as we usually say when we played during our youth. Devah?

I just wish that the film was tightened more in terms of its other elements. Like the element of the dance and the cha-cha. While they were running motifs in the film, sometimes they pop out from out of nowhere just to be in that sequence, you know what I’m saying? Like that cha-cha scene in the market as Anita passes by to collect money for her mom’s business, and then she imagines Pilar appearing there and dancing with her. The other dance scenes were okay, like the one in the beginning where two secret lovers were canoodling with each other or even the way Anita’s mother was trying to exercise via dancing. But I’m still trying to figure out the main symbolism of the Obando dance since, in our culture, this is where you go to dance so that the heavens will grant you a child. I’m not sure why Pilar was spotted there towards the end or what’s the meaning of little Anita’s participation in this fertility dance fiesta. But if it’s in the general category of “dance-ask and you shall receive” then okay, I buy that, but what exactly did Anita want to achieve or ask for? As an adult, we see her commanding an army platoon in the beginning and in the end we see her reminiscing about Pilar which culminates into a dream-like sequence nga of adult Anita kissing Pilar (or at least a whiff of her image, an imagined image perhaps).  Is that what’s being asked — an imagined kiss, an imagined closure with a past crush-love? Not very clear, this. And it’s left at that.

The ending left me hanging, even if I loved 80 percent of the film. I wish it could have had more oomph since it gave the feeling of having loose ends towards the end. Perhaps give the adult Anita a lover, a happy support for her life, to maybe conclude and tie it up with the lessons she learned — if any — in the whole teenage flashback regarding her crush with Pilar.

Still, it’s a good film to watch overall. The acting, cinematography and directing will carry you well into the end. It’s also easier to forgive those few narrative lapses in such queer-positive films, actually. So I’m cool with that.

Congrats to the team for pulling this through, though. I wish there were more materials like this one. I’m glad this festival was supportive of queer-positive love-crush things, unlike other festivals we know. But that’s another plot altogether hihi.

Hashtag alam na!

 

 

woman of platinum

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24, 2013 by leaflens

Kung si Clark Kent ay lalaking bakal, ako naman yata ay naging babaeng platinum — platinum blondina ang hairlalu dahil mej tumbling lola mo habang pinapanood ang pelikulang itey at namuti ang strands kesh. Read na lang then weep if you want. I laughed to keep myself from weeping. Or actually I tweeted, as usual. Kaya hanapin niyo na lang ang mini-reviews ko via the hashtag I use – #filmmiron – if you’re on Twitter.

Heniweys hemingweys…

MAN OF STEEL (2013)

man-of-steel-posterd. Zach Snyder

p. Christopher Nolan and some dudes

c. Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and many others

Pitch: Yet another retelling of the Superman mythology but this time, in a kinda bleach bypassed type of look you do in celluloid film if you want the bleak-type look then pepper it with many homages to other films we already saw with storylines already done before… oh wait that’s the catch pala suri pu.

Catch: See above. Plus that darn five o-clock shadow. And those curly curlies sa dibdib. Wall to wall carpet lang ang peg ni Clark Kent pare. Yaya, pahiramin nga ‘yan ng razor, ‘yung Gillette para close shave.

Nakakatamad i-review ito ng bongz. basahin niyo na lang kaya ang Twitter feed ko while I was watching it?

When I tweet while watching a film, it’s a sure sign na the film doesn’t work for me.

filmmiron02filmmiron01

But what the hey. I wanted to go back to reviewing films again in this space so I decided to start with this one. And this one talaga kasi I like comic book films. Like other geeks out there who grew up with the superheroes mythology of American pop culture, the superdude is a big deal. And whosoever touches this material should better have a good reason for making us suspend our disbelief that Christopher Reeve will no longer play Superman anymore, for good, forever.

Yeah sure, you’ll say that we’re just a bunch of old fogeys and geezers and tandercats for harping on how we miss Chris Reeve as Superman. But he really embodied the quintessential all-American pretending-to-be-bungling-pero-cute-pa-rin hero who could save the world and sacrifice his superpowers for the love of Lois Lane. So many reincarnations have already happened. Who could also forget Lois and Clark ba ‘yun, the TV series kung saan sumikat si Dean Cain. Not really so keen on that one myself. My favorite still remains the reworking of the story arc of Superman as a teenager in Smallville. Okay, so it’s full of homoerotic tension between Clark and Lex Luthor, fine. Biased ako. And oo kras na kras ko so Kristine Kreuk who played the kick ass Lana Lang. Oo na biased ako fine. But the story is what got me. Talagang hinimay nila kung bakit-paano-saan-kailan naging superhero si Clark, journey kung journey pare. Plus the fact na creative sila sa paggawa ng weekly kalaban who always turned out to be some ordinary person affected by the green rock meteor shower a.k.a. kryptonite. Saya lang teh. Kahit ‘yung evolution ng kulay ng damit, from small hirits like “Blue looks good on you” and all that. Brilliant writing, that show.

Now as to this film, hmmm… where do I begin pare. First off, it was shot like a pa-art-eh indie film that sometimes, you like it for those portions but if you stitch it up together with the big-budget CGI SFX bang-a-rangs, wala na, misplaced. And that’s what makes this film uneven. Some moments it was trying to be story-felt indie, some moments it was trying to outdo Transformers in all things effects — editing, computer graphics, visuals, even sound! Ano sinabi ng nagkakalansingang bakal to bakal mode ni Michael Bay pare! Eh taong bakal nga ito eh, nubeh talo kayo dyan teh. Yun na. So needless to say, pagkalabas ko ng sine, kelangan kong magtaktak ng tenga to check if I still have inner ear balance. Okay meron pa naman, thankz godz. Release the kraken!!! Or the world engine pala, sabi ni Zod. Whatevs.

Well in fairness type ko ang reworking ng costume. Ditch the red brief over the blue pants this time, eh? The superdude has finally gone commando. But with all the action he got in this film, I hope he's wearing some kind of super-supporter inside pare. Or else, super-wawa ang super-yagbadoodledandies niya noh.

Well in fairness type ko ang reworking ng costume. Ditch the red brief over the blue pants this time, eh? The superdude has finally gone commando. But with all the action he got in this film, I hope he’s wearing some kind of super-supporter inside pare. Or else, super-wawa ang super-yagbadoodledandies niya noh.

I won’t comment on the seemingly miscast people here, from Jor-el to Kal-el to Lois Lane to Jonathan Kent. Si Diane Lane lang yata ang tumpak na embodiment ni Martha Kent pare. The rest, ewan ko, go find other films to star in na lang, pwede? As for the story, I don’t know if it was a good thing that the makers just lazily banked on the stock knowledge of the audience of a man in a red and blue suit from Krypton who could fly and save earthlings. So they took the liberty of amp-ing up the usual approach of how Clark as a boy and teen felt misplaced with some kind of unexplainable multi-sensory neuroses which, of course, we all knew na development of Kryptonian superpowers itey. But poor tormented bullied Clark. Just because his all-American farmer dad didn’t want him to expose himself to the world, binata superdude still just kept his anger management in tow even if he was being bullied na as an adult. Yeahhhhh I think the film was subtly about anti-bullying, n’est-ce pas? Pero creative ‘yung tiis-the-bullying eklavu dahil may payoff palang character bubog ‘yun — na dahil ayaw ni padir na may-I-show-off si Clark ng superpowers, nadeds si padir at guilt trip galore si junakis dahil wala siyang ginawa to save his daddy-o. K. Sige. More neuroses. I think the writers want this psychologically-driven Superman to become regular screening fare sa mga psychiatric conventions, methinks. But that’s just me pare.

Pero ang hindi creative ay an incessant need to have plot dump after plot dump of stuff to use as exposition, then the expository dialogue after expository dialogue technique of revealing info that looked and sounded so trite kaya naho-hohum ka na lang at naghahanap ng kakapitan ng audiovisual senses mo para itawid ang kuwentong ito. Ganun. Na meron naman, panaka-naka. Pero minsan, obvious kaya nakaka-hagikhik din. Like sume-semiotics lang ang meaning ng “messianic complex” discourse sa simbahan shots where Clark was discussing things with some priest at backdrop niya ang stained glass image ni Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane thing. O siyah! Pagbigyan.

I guess in a way, people like this approach because it’s a far cry from your usual comic book film fare nga. Oh well papel, kanya-kanyang chever na lang. I just wish that they could brainstorm this film better. Watching it, I kinda see like a minimum of 10 homages to old films we’ve all seen before. Hindi creative ang mish-mash of stuff. Like sa umpisa pa lang, when I saw the babies in the pod thangs, yoiks Ghost In The Shell-slash-The Matrix isdatchu??? Now ko lang narinig ang “first natural birth in centuries” storyline sa mythology na ito. Then the overtaking of earth, hohum, nagawa na ‘yan sa Transformers Dark Side of the Moon teh. Then the overall look and feel of Krypton, parang mash-up siya ng Star Wars meets Aliens meets Avatar in black. Don’t get me started when Lois Lane made like Ripley there at one point man. Sigourney Weaver did you see that???

Wala, masyadong maraming talun-talon and narrative loopholes ang pelikula kaya kailangan pa siyang i-tighten. Yah, as tight sana as superdude’s new jazzed up tights. Ewan, kahit ‘yun nga, di in-explain. “What does that S mean?” “In my planet, it means hope.” “In this planet, it’s an S.” HOMAYGAD KILLMENOW!!! Pwede bang mag-apply as script dialogue doctor teh??????? Hashtag laslas.

Ok sige sa susundo na lang. Intayin natin ang iba pang comic book films. Baka mas masaya pa ‘yun. K?

Next!

MMFF 2012: Sisterakas

Posted in comedy film, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on January 13, 2013 by leaflens

SISTERAKAS (2012)

sisterakasd. Wenn Deramas

p. Star Cinema

c. Ai-Ai delas Alas, Vice Ganda, Kris Aquino

Pitch: Half-siblings get separated and lead different lives. They meet again as clashing adults. Tapos may isang entity na sumisingit sa kuwento na wala namang rele. Si Kris Aquino ‘yun.

Catch: Halatang tinipid ang prod, and of course if it’s from Direk Wenn, there must be a DJ Durano in here!!! Lech.

 

‘Yung wala naman talaga akong balak pag-aksayahan ng pera ang pelikulang walang kuwenta sa akin dahil sa mga past works ng mga involved dito. Ilang beses na ba naming inokray nirebyu ang mga pelikula ni direk Wenn? Na di ko na talaga alam kung ano pa ang mga katuturan ng ilan sa kanila. Heniwey tapos andyan pa si Kristeta na ang huli pa yatang good performance niya ever ay ang ummmm hmmmm FATIMA BUEN STORY? Pinanganak ka na ba nung pinalabas ‘yun? Ewan ko ba. Hayst.

Anyway wala akong choice kundi panoorin ito kasi andito si Ate Ai-Ai at si Vice. Na sila lang naman talaga ang tumawid ng kuwento dito, na medyo lame-o na rin naman. Kebs na sa pagka lame-o, kasi produkto na naman ito malamang ng Star Cinema kind of meddling the story brainstorming. Been there been that! But anyway, may saysay sana ang kuwento in fairness kung ginawa na nilang uber-camp sana ito. ‘Yung todo na sa pagkaka-satire sana sa kung anuman ang sina-satire sana nila dito. Ibig sabihin, sana tinodo na nila ang pagkaka-lampoon nila sa kulturang ito ng fashyown-fashyown, sa katatawanan o humor, at kung anupaman.

Eh ang kaso, wala, typical movie story lang ito of rags to riches kuning then ex-rags turned riches now fights ex-riches turned rags. Or something. Actually, ni hindi nga klaro kung bakit imbey ang character ni Vice sa character ni Ai–Ai, ‘yung exacting revenge type of imbey na dahil pinabayaan nito daw ang nanay ni Vice noong bata pa sila eh napilay and such. Whatevs! Hindi klaro ang mga motibasyon ng karakter na gawin ang mga ginagawa nila sa buhay teh. Wafung itey.

Pero mas wafung ang istilo ng pagpapatawa nila. Kadalasan, self-referencing na naman ang moda ng mga taga-Star kung magsulat ng script. Meaning kung di mo alam kung ano ang mga lintek na TV shows ng mga artistang ito, kung di ko alam ang mga latest commercials nila (lalo na ‘yang lintek na rubadabango potang ‘yan) at kung di mo alam ang latest chismax sa mga love life nila (lalo na ‘yang lintek na hiwalayang James Yap na ‘yan), hindi ka matatawa sa karamihan ng real-life references ng mga jokes sa pelikulang ito. Same old same old, Star. Chakaness.

Pero I swear, kung wala ang mga hirit-banat ni Vice dito, waley itong film na itich. ‘Yung mga one-liner hirit niya na tulad ng nasa PETRANG KABAYO dati, ganun. Lintek, nakakatawa!!! ‘Yun lang ang keri dito, saka ‘yung pagpapatawa din ni lola Ai-Ai mo. ‘Yun lang. Kaya ‘yung character ni Kris dito, puwede nang itapon. Palitan na lang ng iba, tipid pa sa TF.

Speaking of tipid, ito rin ang isang imbey sa production mismo. Halatang tinipid nila ito. As in haller, may isang eksena dito na ‘yung potangenang PE tshirt nina Daniel Padilla ay potangenang plain white shirt lang na potangenang dinikitan lang ng potangenang sticker(!!!) ng school logo. Potangenah!  Ginagago niyo ba kami!??! Halata siya!!! Tengeneng trabahong tamad.

sisterakas pe2

That stupid PE tshirt. Yes isyu sa ‘kin ‘yan!

Hay naku. Tapos may mga linya pang obvious na self-mocking ang Kristeta sa mga maraming bagay patungkol sa kanya. Di kinaya ng powers ko ‘yung unang bungad niya na parang “this is worse than a Kris Aquino horror film” ba ‘yun or something? Leche, self-deprecating humor doesn’t become her. Huwag na muling subukang sulatin; nakamamatay.

Ewan. Labo. Hayst buti na lang talaga andun ‘yung humor ni Vice Ganda. For that, naisalba. As for naitawid, o siya sige, highest grossing film siya chenes. Kayo na. Kung gagawa kayo ng sequel, utang na loob paki-chugi na ‘yung character na walang silbi.

At bumili ng totoong potangenang PE tshirt! Lech.

Next!

MMFF 2012: Thy Womb

Posted in drama film, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, women's issues in film on January 13, 2013 by leaflens

THY WOMB (2012)

thy womb poster2d. Brillante Mendoza

s. Henry Burgos

dop. Odyssey Flores

mscore. Teresa Barrozo

c. Nora Aunor, Bembol Roco, Lovi Poe, Mercedes Cabral

Pitch: In a Muslim community down south, an infertile wife agrees to find another wife for her husband so they could have a child in the house.

Catch: ‘Yun na ‘yun. Maniwala ka bang the pitch is also the catch? Basa kung bakit!

Kasi ganito ‘yun teh. ‘Yung pelikula, maganda. ‘Yung scenery lalo na. Tahimik lang siyang nilatag, imahe after imahe, na ipinapakita ang buhay ng isang particular na lugar na ito sa Muslim community somewhere in Mindanao. Culture kung culture spectacle teh. May pinakitang kasal ng isang lalaki at babae (si Mercedes Cabral the indie cutie) na kahit parang may pumipilit na suma-subplot na naghahabulang saglit na military vs. rebels chuva, kebs pa rin si ati at may-I-dance siya ng ritual dance ng kinasal, to the tune of that dayang dayang song na sikat ay may rele pala sa kanila doon.

Tahimik ding pinakita ‘yung buhay ng mag-asawang ginampanan ni Kuya Bembol at ni Ate Guy. Na gumagawa sila ng mga special colorful na banig tapos binebenta nila. May moments na ‘yun lang ang pinapakita, na naghahabi lang hibla by hibla si Ate Guy. Tapos si Kuya Bembol nagluluto at nagkukulay ng hibla. Tapos tahimik ding pinakita na minsan, fisherfolk sila. May maliit silang bangka na may motor tapos nangingisda sila sa vast Mindanao waters, na minsan may rebels at nahagingan sila ng baril tapos kinulimbat ‘yung fishes na nahuli nila. Ganun lang.

Tapos tahimik ding nag-usap ang mag-asawa na ‘yun nga, kumuha ng bagong asawa para maanakan ni Kuya Bembol. Nalulungkot kasi sila na walang bata sa bahay kaya naghanap sila ng bagong babaeng may silbi ang bahay-bata. Enter frame si Lovi Poe the mainstream cutie. Pinakita din dito ang struggle ng mag-asawa na mahanap ang perfect yet affordable next wife na afford nilang bayaran ang dowry. Ito interesting for me as a feminist. Mas mahal pala ang gelay kapag titulado at nakapag-kolehiyo. Parang 120,000 pesoses yata siya or something. Tapos may extra pa, mga tinapay saka magarang belo saka reams ng yosi para sa padir at madir ng gelay. Interesting makita ang kalakarang ito.

In fairness, sa kuwento, affordable ang byuti ni Lola Lovi. ‘Yun din pala, tahimik na pinakita kung paano nag-raise ng 80,000 pesoses yata or more ang mag-asawang mananahi ng banig at sometime fisherfolk para afford nilang bayaran ang Lola Lovi dowry. Kelangang ibenta ang motor ng boat at nag-pitch in ang community for fundraising. Pero may request ang lola, na pagkaanak niya, palayasin na daw ni Kuya si Ate sa balur at silang dalawa na lang ang magsasama. Yes, finally, conflict! Na dumating mga makalipas ang isang oras at kalahati ng katahimikang paglalahad ng mga imaheng kultural.

Tapos eto na, nang manganak na nga ang lola mo, si ati ang nagpaanak at pinutol pa ang umbilical cord at tinago for souvenir. Tapos tinitigan lang siya ni kuya at lola and then pagkaputol ng cord, BAM! Pinutol na rin ang pelikula, literal. Credits na. The end.

And I was like, Thy Whut???

Napaganun na lang ako. parang naglalatag pa lang ang kuwento, naglalatag pa lang ng istorya, parang ang mga pangyayari sa naratibo ay nagsisimula pa lang maging interesante pero malabong tinapos na ito ni Brillante. Kamusta naman. Sige, maganda ang katahimikan ng mga imahe, fine. Magaling ang pag-arte nilang lahat dito impernez, fine. Pero naman teh, asan ang script??? Asan ang laman ng istorya??? Naman eh. Nalurkey akey. Di ko knows kung ano naganap. Kaya ayun, bitin lola mo. Buti na lang at biased ako at naisalba ang mga oras ng katahimikan ng pelikulang ito sa pagtitig sa ganju mode ni Mercedes my crush at ng alindog-in-a-shawl mode ni Lovi my lust. Pramis ‘yun lang tumawid teh. Haynakuh beks di ka na natuto. Di ba ganitich din naman ang reak mo sa ibang pelikula ni koya BM? Oo ‘pag naiimbey ako I talk to myself, di ka kasali dito, beh.

thy womb lovi

Hay Lovi, why so pretty?

Hay nakuh. Sayang. Andun na sana e. Maganda na sana ‘yung mga katahimikang subtleties na sinusubukang isaksak ni direk sa pelikula. Pero walang direktang story consciousness ang pelikula. In short, wala kang masyadong kakapitan na kuwento. Scenery na lang, fine. Konting filmic nuances (esp. acting, cinematog) fine. Pero kuwento? Wiz! Balik sa workshop ‘yan. Now na.

Saka sana Tinagalog na lang nila ang titulo. Saka lost ako sa choice na “thy” kasi di ba associated itich sa Christian/Catholic writings? “Thy will be done/on earth as it is in heaven.” Um mga followers po ni Allah ang characters. May counterpart ba ang thy chuvaness sa Quran? Just wondering. Parang mali, eh. Maling-mali.

Hayst. Sayang. Wala, ang lola Mercedes at ang lola Lovi ay nasayang lang ditich. Anyway kebs, naka-rampage naman sila sa Venice Filmfest saka sa Cannes din yata. Hm bakit kaya nanalo ito sa Venice? Siguro relate ang judges dahil puro tubig ang nakikita dito sa film. Di ba Venice canals chorva mode? Wala lang, wafung na akiz. Naubusan ng popcorn.

Next!

Are we ready ka na ba Pinas?

Posted in MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry on December 18, 2012 by leaflens

O ano mga teh, MMFF 2012 season na naman soon. Magkakaltas ka ba ng pera para manood ng pelikula o aabangan mo na lang ang mga ito sa dibidi next year?

mmff2012

Naaliw ako sa tallying ng Wikipedia kasi andito sa page nila ang list of entries, na impressive naman kahit papaano. A far cry from earlier years in recent history. Tapos meron ding list ng independent films na kasali at mabuti naman may slots na for them.

Pero tumbling din ako sa list ng rejected entries hehehe. And if you’ll check them out, aliw at nod to the nth levels lang akesh kung bakit sila na-reject hahaha! Taray. Yeah, next year na ‘yang mga yan teh hehe.

O siya, kitakits na lang sa sinehan mga teh. Yes, yes, I will start reviewing na ulit, actively, soon. Abangan!

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