Quick Thoughts: Cinemalaya 9

I got myself a Fims-in-Competition pass for the second straight year. It’s more convenient in a number of ways – no worrying of sold out tickets, priority lane thus getting the next-best seats in the theatre (reserved seats get the best ones), and a complementary festival souvenir program.

I watched 14 of the 15 films in competition this year. I missed out on The Diplomat Hotel, which if the word-of-mouth is to be believed is terrible so I really didn’t miss that much. 

Here are my quick thoughts on the films from worst to best.

14. Liars. A terribly-acted, horribly-directed, unfocused movie about a little league baseball team that cheated its way to winning prestigious international tournaments. I really should stop watching Gil Portes’ movies the same way I avoid Joel Lamangan’s. His 2010 Cinemalaya entry Two Funerals was terrible. Liars more so.

13. Nuwebe. Another terrible movie about a nine-year-old girl who gets pregnant after getting sexually abused by her father. The script have the girl spewing out lines that no normal 9-year-old kid would say. Jake Cuenca and Nadine Samonte are also miscast as parents of a dark-skinned girl.

12. David F. A movie about African-Americans spanning decades – from the revolt of the Filipinos at the turn of the 20th century to the Filipino-American-Japanese wars of the 1940s to the present-day Angeles City, Pampanga. The film is beautifully-photographed particularly the 1940s scenes but there is nothing more it could offer. I should also point out Art Acuna’s heaving was overdramatic. He looked much fitter than Sid Lucero but the latter was breathing normally. These are details I don’t easily forgive.

11. Instant Mommy. This was one of my to-watch-out-for films this year. I went down a notch when I saw the trailers. And it fell down the drain when I finally saw the completed film. Not even Eugene Domingo could save it about a woman who tricks her Japanese boyfriend of her pregnancy. There are a couple of laughs somewhere in the film. For some, that’s enough for the film to warrant a positive review. But I’m not one of the some.

10. Amor y Muerte. Set in the 16th century about a Filipino woman married to a Spanish soldier and goes on sexual trysts with a ex Filipino boyfriend. The acting is terrible. Markki Stroem’s eyes are a distraction. And the last sequence is too noisy and bloody.

9. Rekorder. I fell asleep on the first half of the film. I didn’t like Ronnie Quizon’s character. Nakatakas ba naman sa pulis pero ang ginawa naglakad at nagpahinga sa kalye. Kabobohan. Katangahan. Sumakay na sana siya kaagad ng jeep. 

8. Porno. A week after I saw this film and I’m still struggling to make sense of it. Others say all 3 characters – Yul Servo, Carlo Aquino, Angel Aquino – are troubled by something or someone. Another one I talked with said there was nothing connecting all three segments. I read online that it was the best film of the year. I say it’s the most confounding film of the year. Talo pa ang susunod na pelikula sa listahan.

7. Debosyon. I loved the previous two Alvin Yapan Cinemalaya entries in Cinemalaya – 2009’s Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe; 2011’s Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. His third entry – about a deeply religious man who falls in love with a woman in the forest – I only liked. I struggled to make sense of the movie and this is how I understood it: that one’s religion and the belief in the healing powers of religious icons or what they represent can only make sense when you have the faith – a blind faith. And that Paulo Avelino’s connection to Mara Lopez’s character can only make sense when he loves blindly, loves freely, believes freely.

6. Babagwa. A edge-of-your seat thriller about a man who falls in love with a woman he swindles money from in Facebook. It’s a terrific piece of filmmaking with great performances from Alex Vincent Medina and Jerry Paras. I didn’t quite like the ending. I wish it ended differently, more open-ended, allowing viewers to make their own conclusion.

5. Purok 7. A charmingly sweet little film about young love. The lead star Krystel Valentino is a revelation and unabashedly great as the older of two siblings left to fend off for themselves as their mother works as an OFW. This film could have been ranked higher if the filmmakers fixed a few things – one of which is the girl who stammers out her lines. It’s distracting and obviously looked like she was just acting. Her stammer is not unlike Dexter Doria’s “winking” tic on a film from years ago. Halatang pilit.

4. Quick Change. I initially didn’t praise this film when the credits rolled but it slowly grew on me. It tells the story of a transsexual who is in the cosmetic surgery business and struggles with her conscience when she learns of the chemical source of her injectables. The filmmaking and acting is first-rate. The directing style was reminiscent of Bahay Bata, a Cinemalaya entry back in 2011. Only later did I learn Quick Change and Bahay Bata has the same director.

3. Ekstra. A day in the life of a bit player starring Vilma Santos in her first indie movie. Santos’ indie debut does not disappoint. It is hilarious and heartbreaking. That last scene as Vilma struggles to hold back her tears is a gem.

2. Transit. Terrific film. Smooth. Malinis. Great performances from all actors. Jasmine Curtis-Smith is a better actress then her more popular sister. I really wished the film ended on the same scene at the start of the movie. It could have been a powerful end. I would have clapped the hardest at its July 28th gala screening.

1. Sana Dati. I love this movie. It made me want to cry at the end. Lovi Poe is love. I didn’t know Benjamin Alves can act. The music is great. The photography breathtaking. The story awww shucks. And did I tell you the film made me want to cry unabashedly? I want to have a DVD of this film and watch it over and over. 

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Coins of Summer_01

S Memo_01

S Memo_02

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The seat where the guy’s butt sat trembled with the ebb of sound waves created by the treble and bass of the music blaring out of the speakers. The jeepney was on the brink of collapse and has obviously stood the test of time. The rosary, carefully wound around the small metal bar that held the rearview mirror to the ceiling, danced as the music crooned and the jeepney swayed through the highway.

The passengers held on for dear life. When the jeep lurched forward, they moved to the opposite direction. Friction. Survival. The old lady, her face creased with a thousand lines crossing each other, made the sign of the cross and glared at the driver. A young man had a goofy grin on his face. The college girl sitting next to him blushed and fixed herself, holding her Secosana bag to her chest.

A mother showed off her tits. The infant in her arms, eyes closed and tiny fingers folded to a fist in the air, puckered his lips and brought his open mouth to the dark pointed tip of his mother’s breast without missing. Bullseye.

The man in the corner had his mouth open, drool gathering on the sides of his mouth. His eyes are closed, head tilted, arms folded and resting on his protruding belly, a black headset covering his ears. His eyelids flutter. A hint of a smile shows up on his face. Then a loud snore. He twitches his nose. He rubs the back of hos hand against it. One. Two. Three. He is in dreamland.

A woman, perhaps a saleslady who has spent much of her day on her feet attending to customers, rests her head on a man’s shoulder. They held hands. Her stockinged feet on rubber slippers crossed each other on the floor. The man turns his head and places a kiss on her forehead. He caresses her hair and closes his eyes, twirling his wedding ring with his finger.

The guy sitting opposite them wonders of the life they live and where they have been and where is the home they were going to. He notices the sign “Pull String to Stop”. He pulls the string and a red light flashes a few inches above the driver’s line of sight. He alights and stares at the letter M bathed on yellow light.

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Photos: Dampalitan Beach, Padre Burgos, Quezon

Sunset: Explosion of Colors

Sunset: Explosion of Colors

Into the Sea

Into the Sea

The Gold and the Sea

The Gold and the Sea

Gold Seahunters

Gold Seahunters

Look! I can draw in the sand!

Look! I can draw in the sand!

Looking, Looking, Looking

Looking, Looking, Looking

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Zero Dark Thirty

Maya is highly smart she gets recruited into the CIA right after high school. For 12 long years, almost her entire career in the CIA, she focuses with ferocity on the hunt to find Osama Bin Laden. Played with fierceness by Jessica Chastain, this becomes the center of Katherine Bigelow 153-minute taut, tight, and thrilling movie.

The attack on the compound where OBL lived and his death is covered only in the last half hour of the film. We see on the 2 hours that came before Al Qaeda prisoners getting tortured, breaking down and providing important information. We see the attacks on CIA operatives outside their homes, in hotel restaurants, and most shockingly inside a closely-guarded camp.

Amidst all these, Maya zeroes in on Abu Ahmed Al-kuwaiti, said to be Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, as the key to finding the mastermind of the terror attacks in the US. She believes it to her core even though most of her colleagues and superiors think otherwise. She encounters dead-ends on her investigation and her hunt to find the courier remains dormant for years. Until a colleague shows her a file on Abu Ahmed. She then cajoles and bullies and blackmails superiors to get the technical support she wants.

Chastain always has this troubled look on her face in her previous movies (The Help, Coriolanus). Towards the end of the film, after spending more than a decade of her life hunting for Bin Laden, we see this same look but with confidence and fierceness. When she says “I am the motherfucker who found him (Abu Ahmed)” to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (James Gandolfini), we believe she has spunk and is not easily cowed down by big men, both literally and figuratively.

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My Most Memorable Moments of 2012

Yep. I’m not done yet with my year-ender lists. So here it is, my most memorable moments of 2012. Most of these are happy memories but I injected a few sad ones. As others would say, happy memories are built from sad ones.

Happy New Year!

1. Those drunken kisses that spurned many starts and stops culminating in mid-October at a dipping garden.
2. My first foreign trip to Kota Kinabalu and Brunei. And I travelled alone.
3. Spelunking for close to 5 hours in Sagada. They call it Cave Connection.
4. Receiving surprise gifts: The Solitude of Prime Numbers. A Bottle of Storms Clouds. A hoodie jacket. A mug. A Nixon watch.
5. Torrential rain on August 8th which flooded the entire house and forced me to take days off from work.
6. A death of an uncle.
7. 15-year high school reunion.
8. Purchasing My Kindle Paperwhite.
9. Received two awards at work (Gold and Silver) for exemplary performance.
10. Late afternoon walks in UP and isaw and kwekwek and fish balls and fruit shakes and kasuy.
11. Deciding to free myself from weeks of depression which made a toll on my health in mid-March.
12. Movies and dinner and simply hanging out with friends. Joy!

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My Favorite Foreign Films of 2012

Here’s my 12 favorite foreign language films for this year. Click on the title to view the trailer.

Amour-poster-french1.25 Amour. A unflinching look at a love story nearing its end between an ageing couple. Restrained, unsentimental, and captivating.

Holy_Motors_poster1.25 Holy Motors. A film with no coherent narrative but watching the protagonist (Mr. Oscar) literally change into different characters is mesmerizing. There are terrific sequences peppered throughout: Oscar ravaging flowers at the cemetery, playing an accordion, and a melancholic conversation with Kylie Minogue’s character.

Lincoln_2012_Teaser_Poster1.25 Lincoln. The film focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s attempt to pass the abolition of slavery at the House of Representatives. Terrific movie and equally terrific Daniel Day-Lewis. Not boring at all. Typical Spielberg, I didn’t like how the movie ended.

The_Perks_of_Being_a_Wallflower_Poster1.25 The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read somewhere that the actor who played Charlie was always on the verge of tears throughout the film. I agree. One of the few movies exquisitely adapted from book to the big screen.

Looper_poster5.33 Looper. One of the better sci-fi movies produced this year about Joseph Gordon-Levitt tasked to kill his older self played by Bruce Willis.

No_Puedo_Vivir_Sin_Ti5.33 No Puedo Vivir Vi Sinti. Can’t Live Without You. A movie about a father-daughter relationship. It has a terrific ending. You know, when watching a movie and your mind screams please end here, please end here. And then it ends. Wow.

You_Are_the_Apple_of_My_Eye_film_poster5.33 You Are The Apple of My Eye. A feel-good romantic-comedy film about a mischievous male student and his studious girl classmate.

DetectiveDee8.33 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Detective Dee (Andy Lau) is called on by a Chinese Emperor (Carina Lau) to investigate baffling deaths of Supreme Court members. Epic with stunning visuals and starring some of China’s great thespians.

A_Royal_Affair8.33 A Royal Affair. An English woman goes off to Denmark to marry the king, a distance cousin. Trapped in a loveless marriage to an obviously mad king, she embarks in an affair with her husband’s personal physician.

TheAvengers2012Poster8.33 The Avengers. Probably the best action movie this year. Trumps Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises in terms of pure entertainment.

Moonrise_Kingdom_FilmPoster11.5 Moonrise Kingdom. A giddy puppy romance between adolescents and the hilarious attempts of the boy’s fellow scouts and the girl’s parents to rescue them when they elope into the wilderness.

Argo2012Poster11.5 Argo. This is probably Ben Affleck’s weakest after Gone Baby Gone and The Town. That does not mean it’s bad. It is quite good. I just have the feeling the film is a rehash of some other movie I’ve seen.

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