A Very, Very Long Post (A Late Contribution to the Late Tioseco’s Wishful Thinking for Philippine Cinema) Part 1

7 September 2011

I wish more non-filmmakers from the Philippines would get to travel to festivals.

And in this time when pinoy indie films were filled mostly with gay (almost on the brink of pornography) films, it’s still refreshing to find more and more filmmakers who not only produce and create films that visualize the human sensuality but also several works that depict the human condition.

It is not a secret that most mainstream filipino films are mostly comedies. You can’t really blame Mother Lily or Star Cinema for that. They seem to have this idea in their mind that Filipinos love a good laugh. What they don’t seem to realize is that this repetitive formula has left most moviegoers from inside the cinemas to purchasing ten pesos worth of its bootlegged version (yes, in the infamous Quiapo Cinematheque mostly and/or at the local bangketa) because after all, once you begin the summary of it’s plot as something that goes like “..Boy meets Girl in this place. They play coy at one another by playing hard to get. Another event leads them to meet each other again.. They fall in love, turns out a huge unrelenting twist is placed, thus depicting The Climactic point, they regain their love and voila! they end up marrying each other.. or they end up tragically apart due to another twist that will only leave the audience overly confused and insulted because they spent an hour and forty-five minutes of nothing but cheesiness and desperation to sell actors.”

I regret to say that I used to be a part of the 75% who hates watching even mainstream pinoy movies in a theatre. When I was even younger I pictured myself to be a female version of Quentin Tarantino (during his younger, hair-filled days) who spends most of the earnings just to watch films. The first filipino film I saw in a theatre was the 1999 film Pepeng Agimat. At nine years old, I remember hating the effects (“it’s trying hard to feel like a hollywood blockbuster film!”), hating the way the cinematographer loves the dark too much that the fight scenes seemed like boys playing around in costumes. Since then I just hated the experience and felt that filipino films would be just like that: a plot that’s got repetitive formula, uncanny twists, and very predictable acting and script. I know, it’s hard to make a film. But wouldn’t it be worth it if you’re making something sensible for the masses?

And so here I am, Princess Kinoc, a non-filmmaker, couch potato, cinema lover, and well, author of this blog about anything under the tree is so glad to have finally experienced a film festival that fits my busy work schedule. As a first time attendee to the Cinemalaya, a Philippine [independent] film festival, I was able to get to know this other side of the world where I feel that I belong. Several other cinephiles have come together to watch, criticize, be amazed at this year’s latest contributions to the Philippine Cinema by the country’s best, most courageous directors, writers and producers.

I saw this film by myself..

#368: San Lazaro (6 August 2011) was one of the first NETPAC entries I’ve ever seen in the UPFI that was included as a NetPac selection for Cinemalaya 2011. Being familiar with the names Wincy Aquino Ong (he’s in a band called Us-Two-Evil-O) who directed and co-starred the film, and Ramon Bautista (internet superstarrrr, he frequents music videos by Radio Active Sago Project and one very funny video from Tuesday Vargas), I was interested to find out what the film was about. THE RESULT is a horror film that slips away from norm. It’s funny and scary at the same time, but although it’s not the type that would leave you shaking in the night, it’s a story that would leave you thinking and laughing for days. The special effects are actually good, like the cringing worms in Bubuy’s cheeks and the bathtub scene (well I guess that scene was perfectly orchestrated by the actor Nicco Manalo) was just genius. People who saw this as well at the University of the Philippines’ Film Institute kept saying that it was like a Film Student’s thesis project. I didn’t exactly felt that but maybe it depends with your perspective of a film student’s work. Mine’s one that was shot using a very old digital camera shooting most of the scenes in the woods and then gets lost and dies along the way until a group of campers picks up his camera and releases it to a local  blockbuster producer.

I was not disappointed with this film. The characters are well created, the script is very rich with geek paraphernalia, the cameos are well crafted as well. I enjoyed Eli Buendia’s take on an investigator filled with doubts, Bianca King apparently is a good actress as she plays Cheska, the girl with the split persona. All the other cameos include Kean Cipriano who plays a cocky gym instructor who I still think should act and never come back to singing. The film has heart, cares for its viewers by rocking us back and forth from reality to the past, even while one of its main characters is suffocating from a choke. If you’re interested in watching a horror flick that’s purely pinoy and original, you better get your hands on a copy of this film.

#367: Busong (Palawan Fate) is another one that I’ve seen before San Lazaro. Amazed by the beauty of the film and it’s depth that had taken me a while to understand, I am just proud that it won the  FIPRESCI prize at the Eurasia Film Festival. This award was the same prize that the film Purple Rose of Cairo won back in 1985.

#344: Patayin sa Shokot Si Remington (Sep 4) is another NetPac film that everyone seems to have been waiting for (me included). Written by Raymond Lee (All My Life, Milan..), It’s continuous commercialized trailers, bus posters and movie posters makes me feel excited to see an indie film being shared to everyone of every age and “cinematic understanding”. I’ve laughed out loud and kept mindful of every gay lingo muttered in this film. This film’s got heart and it is mindful of it’s audiences. Although in the end it did have that formulaic twist, it was in a way a better ending than just to leave everyone in the cast swamped by gay zombies. The best part was to have to sit through the premier seating of an SM Cinema, although it was a Saturday and only the premier seats were filled, to laugh along with the audience that wasn’t filled with film enthusiast or directors but normal people who came there to get a good movie experience. It’s main cast Martin Escudero who plays Remington, a young man who was cursed by a grieving gay (played by icon Roderick Paulate) when he was young for mocking almost every gay in their town. I had no idea he could act that well. He was just so convincing with the part. Same goes to his co-stars Lauren Young and Kerbie Zamora. Lauren, who does all the crying in an afternoon drama plays the role of Remington’s love interest amazingly speaks in straight tagalog and is just as confused as Remington about how she feels about him. Kerbie on the other hand plays the tall, dark, and handsomely charming bestfriend of Remington.

I also loved John Regala’s performance. His inclusion in the twist is a bit predictable but the outcome is just superb. Zombadings I is not only a testament that small productions can carry itself just as well as long as it’s got a story that’s true and original, but it’s also a testament that people don’t want to sit through the same thing all over and over again.

For Alexis Tioseco’s Wishful Thinking for Philippine Cinema, click here

#336: Gigantic

11 September 2011

I was excited to get my hands on a copy of this film by Matt Aselan which stars Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner, and John Goodman. I haven’t heard of this until I stumbled upon a synopsis of this film thru wikipedia.

The plot is simple and very interesting: A mattress salesman plans to adopt a chinese baby. Although he’s applied to get one several times, he never gets qualified. His plans to adopt is temporarily set aside once a quirky woman arrives in the mattress shop to pay for the bed her father chooses to buy. After paying, the woman takes a nap on the bed. Soon they begin a casual affair, although as you find me typing in the words ‘casual affair’ and perhaps several images of meet-cutes in the park stream in your mind, these scenes are quite few in the film. Not that I want that conventional Hollywood rom-com thing wherein the lovers go everywhere hoping to make us feel all giggly. There’s a few of that in this film. So few that I was hoping for a breakthrough.

Brian Weathersby is the mattress salesman, played by Paul Dano in a pokerfaced babyface fashion. His face is mostly in a bit of a smug accompanied by wonder in a low-key performance. He’s often being attacked by a homeless man played by Zach Galifianakis, one time using a pipe and the other shoots him during a hunting trip. Their last encounter is in a fist fight which ends up as Brian stabs the homeless man. The homeless man disappears, making us understand that everything is just a figment of Brian’s imagination but leaves him in a beaten up state.

Zooey Deschanel plays Harriet/Happy Lolly, the girl who finds herself comforted by the mattress she pays for for her father. She lives a privileged life with her father, and works with her sister who’s a host at a local show. Deschanel’s performance is as usual fresh and quirky but unpredictable.

The film also stars Jane Alexander and Ed Asner as Brian’s parents who both live upscale outside of the city. Mr. Weathersby is somewhat cool and very unconventional. John Goodman plays Al Lolly, Happy’s father who refuses to pay the extra delivery charges after purchasing the $14,000 mattress. Both wealthy parents appear to be very unusually supportive.

This movie is very.. very… boring in a sense that you would still want to watch it just to find out why things happen in the film. If I might add the part at the beginning wherein Brian’s friend, a gerbil scientist, experiments with mice swimming in a tank. According to a review I read by Stephen Holden from the NY Times, this is Aselton suggesting that this is his approach to the world, as a scientist examining a species under stress. Reading this made the film a whole lot sensible. In a way, Gigantic isn’t just a blunt comedy trying to make a point but showing us that generational misunderstanding isn’t just about a film with kids on a rebel against their parents.


Writer’s Block

Or rather, TYPER’s block, eh?

Alright. So this crowd doesn’t enjoy such jokes.I’m about to publish several 500 films post. Just to give you an update, here are the recent films I’ve seen.

— 7 September 2011.. I’ll be adding the list from films 397 to 366

#397: A Clockwork Orange (July 1)
#396: Funny People (July 1)
#395: The Break Up (July 2)
#394: Pearl Harbor (July 3)
#393: Monte Carlo (July 3)
#392: To Catch a Thief (July 4)
#391: Before Sunset (July 5)
#390: Home for the Holidays (July 7)
#389: Toy Story 3 (July 8 )
#388: The Incredibles (July 9)
#387: Guys and Dolls (July 9)
#386: Burn After Reading (July 9)
#385: Date Night (July 10)
#384: Love and Other Drugs (July 11)
#383: Going the Distance (July 11)
#382: Salt (July 11)
#381: Let Me In (July 11)

#380: The Merry Gentleman (July 14)
#379: Along Came Polly (July 17)
#378: Daybreakers (July 17)
#377: Iron Man 2 (July 17)
#376: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (July 23)
#375: All About Steve (July 24)
#374: Cars (July 24)
#373: Post Grad (July 25)
#372: Mary and the Secret Garden (July 31)
#371: Interview with the Vampire (July 31)
#370: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (July 31)
#369: The Good Girl (July 31)
#368: San Lazaro (Aug 2)
#367: Busong (Aug 3)
#366: Under the Tuscan Sun (Aug 3)
#365: Carrie (Aug 3)
#364: Once (Aug 4)
#363: Thank You for Smoking (Aug 6)
#362: Fantastic Mr. Fox (Aug 5)
#361: Maid in Manhattan (Aug 6)
#360: Shadow of A Doubt(Aug 8 )
#359: The Birds (Aug 10)
#358: My Giant (Aug 10)
#357: Superbad (Aug 10)
#356: Goodfellas (Aug 11)
#355: Nowhere to Hide (Aug 11)
#354: Magnifico (Aug 14)
#353: Inglorious Basterds (Aug 14)
#352: Crazy, Stupid, Love (Aug 20)
#351: MacGruber (Aug 21)
#350: Scott Pilgrim VS The World (Aug 22)
#349: Pan’s Labyrinth (Aug 22)
#348: Apt Pupil (Aug 23)
#347: Dear Manang, I Love You (Aug 25)
#346: Being There (Aug 28)
#345: The Virgin Suicides (Sep 3)
#344: Patayin sa Shokot Si Remington (Sep 4)
#343: You Again (Sep 4)
#342: Dahil Sa’Yo (Sep 5)
#341: Hindi Sa Atin Ang Buwan (Sep 5)
#340: Ex Press (Sep 5)
#339: Elegy to the Visitor from the Revolution (Sep 5)