Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013/2014)

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
Directed by Chieme Karasawa

Elaine Stritch is such a character, she has that bigger than life personality going on.  The documentary shows just that and more, even though it was bundled in such a short running time.  Making the film longer would be something to savor, but it would be overkill and I think that was one of the factors that made the film successful.  It captured what it wanted to say without overdoing it, without going too long.  It made you want to know more of Elaine Stritch.  It had me googling her for days now. 

The film shows an elderly Stritch and her deteriorating health.  That said the film did not sensationalize the fact that she is old and probably going away any time soon.  Instead it was a showcase of Stritch’s existence, skills and talents.  And seeing it now, knowing she is gone, it is a perfect remembrance of her. B+


Happy Christmas, 2014

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas
Directed by Joe Swanberg

“Happy Christmas” feels like a very economic film that relied a lot on its actors and the the story to elevate the material.  Technical wise, the film feels lacking.  How it was shot, mainly.  However what it lacked in technical aspects was made up for by the greatness of the ensemble.  It was really a treat to watch Melanie Lynskey finally being given the chance to show that she is a great actress.  Methinks that she is underrated.  The rest of the cast gave good performances as well, but it was really Lynskey that you fall in love with.  The story was typical Swanberg film where it feels a bit aimless but the end product feels rewarding.  B-

Cinemalaya 2014: Personal Picks

I know that I have not fully did write ups on my reactions of the Cinemalaya films in competition.  Everything is back to normal now.  I am back to my normal blogging duty negligence.  Anyway, before the Cinemalaya fever dies down, as tradition I list down my favorites from the competition.  Although unlike last year I am not going to be able to include the exhibition films, this list will only include films in competition, feature length films and short films combined.

NOTE': I will update this post one by one up until the list is complete


Best Sound: Bwaya

Best Sound: Bwaya

WINNER: Albert Michael Idioma, Bwaya.  Sort of athmospheric, you savor the silent moments, the moments where you just hear the environment.  Sound work is gorgeous it feels I can hear the characters breath.
2nd Placer: Andrew Milallos and Addiss Tabong,  Mariquina.   Overall sound work is gorgeous, never cluttered or distracting, just aurally yummy.
3rd Placer: Marc Locsin, Ronda.  Manila by night, silent, sinister lurking in the dark.
Runners Up:    Andrew Milallos, #Y.  Andrew Milallos and Addiss Tabong, Kasal.  Contemporary works rarely get attention in this category but these two works are quite remarkable feat.



Best Original Score: Mariquina

Best Original Score: Mariquina

WINNER: Jerrold Tarog, Mariquina.  He has done it again, at least for me, while Tarog continues to make great films, he also continues to make great music as well, this time perfectly matching the shifting moods (and era) of the film.
2nd Placer: Richard Gonzales, Kasal.  I keep on thinking of the music that was in the film.  It is not grand yet it was powerful and very memorable and it complimented the film quite well.
3rd Placer: Erwin Fajardo, Bwaya.  A bit minimalist but the music was placed in all the right places to wonderful effect
Runners UpJorge Wieneke, #Y.  Mon Espia, Dagitab.  Both musical work compliments the mood and feeling of their films.  For #Y, the youthful angst sometimes angry but somber feel while the latter is a more sad  and mysterious.




Best Production Design: Mariquina

Best Production Design: Mariquina

WINNER: Aped Santos, Mariquina.  A very well polished but really detailed work of differing timeline.  Simple yet strikingly gorgeous.
2nd Placer:
Whammy Alcazaren  and Thesa Tang, Dagitab.  I like the cluttered but very intricate and detailed finishings of the protagonists’ house.  Their house feels like it has a life of its own.
3rd Placer: Harley Alcasid, Kasal.  Contemporary works are oftentimes snubbed in this category as well.  The room alone was quite an achievement.  It acts as the supporting character to the film.
Runners Up: 
K’na, The Dreamweaver.  Fiel Zabat, Sundalong Kanin.
  It was obvious that these two period pieces had apt and fitting production work. The First one a more elaborate obvious winning work and the latter seems like money well spent and fitting for the time  the story was telling.




Best Cinematography: Bwaya

Best Cinematography: Bwaya

Runners Up: Mycko David, Kasal.  Kasal is beautiful to behold from start to finish.  The camera was a voyeur to what the couple was going through and it perfectly captured the emotions by the characters.  Albert Banzon, Ronda.  Even though there are lots of repetitive shots, but those tracking shots and static shots are well lensed.

3rd Placer: Sasha Palomares, Mariquina.  My favorite cinematography works this year are exciting because they are all visually exciting and masterful in their own ways.  The shift from one timeline to another and how they differ in look, from nostalgic to somber was beautiful.  Not to mention the composition in most key scenes are very well done.

2nd Placer: Rommel Sales, Dagitab.  Though predominantly static, there is no denying the beauty of the camera work in this film.  The wow moment was that beach scene.  I was left breathless.

WINNER : Neil Daza, Bwaya.  Among the films made by Pasion, this has got the be the most visually stunning.   Those aerial shots alone are to die for.

Best Film Editing: Mariquina

Best Film Editing: Mariquina


Runners Up: Benjamin Tolentino, Dagitab and #Y.  The shifting of points of view were effortlessly done for both films.  The first one a more controlled work and the other a more jumpy, fast paced one.

3rd Placer:  Joselito Altarejos  and Zig Dulay, Kasal.  The film knows when it is going to be slow and and when it is going to be fast.  At first I had problems with the pacing, but as time pass, I have grown to actually admire it.  Weird eh?  I feel the same about the film.

2nd Placer: Carlo Francisco Manatad, Bwaya.  Though glacially paced, the building of the tension up until the climactic middle to end was superb.

WINNER:  Benjamin Tolentino, Mariquina. There is a reason why Tolentino is probably the most hired editor this year, and it is because he has a keen eye for detail. And he excelled the most in this film.  The going back and forth in time was never dizzying, in fact it was fluid, and stunningly made.



Best Screenplay: Dagitab

Best Screenplay: Dagitab

WINNER: Giancarlo Abrahan, Dagitab.  In a way, the film is quite different from any Cinemalaya films I have ever seen.  Abrahan dug deep into the characters’ heads and created an awards worthy story.
2nd Placer: Jerrold Tarog, Mariquina. 
It was a toss up between this and my pick for the winner in this cateogry.  Tarog did it again, creating a very human story, this time about an unhappy mother leaving her family behind.  It was intricate, piercing and poignant.
3rd Placer:
  Joselito Altarejos  and Zig Dulay , Kasal.
  It was a different route from the usual films about gays, it was touching, heartfelt and very real.
Runner Up:
Sari Estrada, Asan si Lolo Me?. 
Of all the short films shown this year, this one stood out for me.  It was a funny take on death and grieving.  It was original, imaginative and fun.  Jeff Stelton, #Y.  For a closer look on the personal lives of the rich.  It is not entirely original, but it tells a differnt story, something that we are not accustomed to seeing.



Best Supporting Actor: Martin del Rosario, Dagitab

Best Supporting Actor: Martin del Rosario, Dagitab

WINNER: Martin del Rosario, Dagitab. 
I was mightily impressed with del Rosario’s performance.  I knew somehow that he could act but I did not know that he could deliver such an intense performance, controlled without going overboard.  He got that sort of pompous arrogance of a teenager down, then see him mature in front of your eyes as the story progresses.
2nd Placer Karl Medina, Bwaya.
  Medina fully immersed in the character that I barely recognized him.  I really thought that I was watching a non-actor giving a very natural implosive performance.  It really was quite a transformation!
3rd Placer: Zachary Ezekiel Diaz, Asan si Lolo Me?  This young actor is quite a find, he was natural, funny even though he had small time in a short film.
Runners Up: Nicco Manalo, The Janitor, Has had better performances but there is no denying that he was the best in show in a film that was filled with wooden acting.  Ditto Dante Rivero, 1st Ko si 3rd.  He easily stood out in a cast of Batibot line delivering actors.



Best Supporting Actress: Barbie Forteza, Mariquina

Best Supporting Actress: Barbie Forteza, Mariquina

WINNER: Barbie Forteza, Mariquina.  This is one of those Cinemalaya wins, that I was not expecting, but I predicted it anyway, because I was rooting for her so bad.  It was such a tremendous performance.  At the beginning I thought she would just be a passive character, but hey ho, the story provided her with so much, that in lesser actresses it would have become melodrama, but it did not and the end product was, Forteza gave her career high performance at such a young age.
2nd Placer: Chynna Ortaleza, #.  Though the time she was in was very short, She made the most impact in a cast that was generally good.  I kept on wanting to see more of her in the film, I wish she had more to work with, anyway, she was powerful in those few scenes she was in.  That breakdown scene, just on the phone talking, is definitely the highlight of her career.
3rd  Placer:  Bing Pimentel, Mariquina.  The last spots in this list is a toss up.  In varying moods, the ranking would differ.  Anyway.  After seeing Pimentel in last year’s “Kabisera”, I was not sold.  I thought that she was just OK in it.  Nothing memorable.  But after seeing her in “Mariquina”, I instantly became a fan.  She brought a whole new take (new in this context, not the regular Filipino Kabit) on being the mistress.
Runners Up: Jolina Salvado, Bwaya.  Just like any other actors in the film, Salvado gave a very memorable natural performance.  I kind of remember Arnalyn Ismael of Halaw in her.  Che Ramos-Cosio, Mariquina.  The film had a stellar cast and it was hard picking who gave the best who.  Ramos finally giving another worthy performance this year after being absent for years, and by absent I mean not giving a performance that is a par her greatness in “Mangatyanan”.


Best Actor: Ricky Davao, Mariquina

Best Actor: Ricky Davao, Mariquina

Winner: Ricky Davao, Mariquina.  It was hard ranking the four performances   I selected for this category.  But I had to go for the performance that I thought was one of the highlights of the festival.  Davao is a Cinemalaya regular.  But I have never seen him in such great form before.  And of all the performances that I have seen from him, this might be his best, to date.
2nd Placer: Nonie Buencamino, Dagitab.  Like Davao, Buencamino is a Cinemalaya regular.  Buencamino is an underrated actor, he should have a heap of awards by now.  His work in Dagitab keeps you guessing.  It is not trivial, it is just that it seems that he is thiking differently from the way he acts.  That line reading scene was quite heartbreaking (del Rosario and Buencamino square off, WOW).
3rd Placer:Arnold Reyes and Oliver Aquino, Kasal.  Both actors giving their A-games to the table.  Reyes the obvious more veteran of the two peaked in this film while Aquino giving a brave breakthrough (or was it a sort of comeback?) performance.
Runners Up: The kids of Sundalong Kanin.  The film truly was an ensemble work, so singling out one of them was a task.  Year end wise I think I may end up selecting one or two of them, but for now, I am selecting the ensemble.



Best Actress: Eula Valdez, Dagitab

Best Actress: Eula Valdez, Dagitab

Winner: Eula Valdez, Dagitab.  Valdez is a great actress and it is not up until now that she was given more to work with and she was just amazing,  In my book, there was no real competition for her, she was in all whole new league.
2nd Placer: Angeli Bayani, Bwaya.  We all know how great she is.  And you can add her performance in “Bwaya” in the that list of great Bayani performances.
3rd Placer: Coleen Garcia, #Y.  Of the four leads, she obviously stole the show from them.  She was memsmerizing and you wish that see more of her.
Runners Up: Sheen Gener, Nakabibinging Kadiliman/Asan si Lolo Me?  Mara Paulina Adlawan Marasigan, Nakabibinging Kadiliman.  Here are two young actresses that I think will and should be highlighting feature films in the near future.  Gener previously showcased acting chops in past Cinemalaya films and she continues to excel.  Marasigan was all sorts of amazing even though even though her characters is deaf/mute, she utilized her body and facial reactions to their fullest potential.



Best Director: Joselito Altarejos, Kasal

Best Director: Joselito Altarejos, Kasal

WINNER: Joselito Altarejos, Kasal.  OK so I have decided, after days of thinking, that this is the best and my favorite Altarejos work to date.  He has the right material in hand and he executed it to its fullest potential.  It was also very easy to go to the sentimental or preachy even with the story that he had, instead he kept it grounded, real and sincere.
2nd Placer: Milo Sogueco, Mariquina.  Without a doubt his work in Mariquina was leaps and bounds better than “Sanglaan”.  It is a very polished yet intricate storytelling, simple yet complex.
3rd Placer: Sari Estrada, Asan si Lolo Me?  Estrada showcased his full potential as a director even with a short film.  He balanced the funny, with the sad and the weird in a small amount of time and the end product was just a delight to watch.  I can only be excited for Estrada’s venture into feature filmmaking.
Runners Up: Gino M. Santos, #Y.  Giancarlo Abrahan, Dagitab.  Both young directors making a splash in this year’s festival.  Santos continues to prove that he is one director to look out for after creating a much more accomplished work that his previous Cinemalaya effort.  Abrahan delivers an outstanding breakthrough.  He clearly has a different voice and it is refershing to him tell the story in his own masterful way.

Best Film: Mariquina

Best Film: Mariquina

Winner: Mariquina.  By miles, my favorite Filipino film of the year so far.

Remaining 9
2.  Dagitab.  Powered by brilliant performances, awesome script.
3.  Asan si Lolo Me?  Darkly funny, memorable and witty.
4.  Kasal.  Sincere, heartfelt and honest.
5.  Hari ng Tondo.  Kind of spontaneous fun, a bit didactic, but good nonetheless.
6.  Bwaya.  Technical ace of a film with powerful perfromances.
7.  Nakabibinging Kadiliman.  Wow lead performances.  Tugs all right hearstrings.
8.  #Y.  My favorite Santos film to date.
9.  Eyeball.  Undervalued short film, short but got me hooked.
10.  Ronda.  Controlled, subdued, but kind of memorable albeit limitations.

Cinemalaya 2014 – Hari ng Tondo


Hari ng Tondo
Directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna
Cinemalaya 2014: Director’s Showcase

First I have to say that I love that song that repeatedly sung all throughout the movie. It’s very catchy and it suits the movie quite well. After the screening I was humming the song and singimg the parts that I remember. “Sige lang ng sige…”

Anyway. It was sort of refreshing to see a comedy, though not the laugh out loud type,  in a festival that is filled with serious films. The jokes were funny though could be seen as offensive. It was not trying too much to be funny. Unlike some films.  The actors seem to be having a blast. Bannered well by Robert Arevalo who deserved that best actor win, not only because there was lack of competition but because he was memorably good.

It was also refreshing to see a film that was set in the slums that as not grim nor did it sensationalize what it was like living there. Instead it took the lighter fare yet still being tad didactic.

It was in the end, a story of making the right choices, and bad ones. I know that the film did not have that much commercial appeal compared to the other films in the festival but it surely was one of the bests the festival had offered. B/B+

Cinemalaya 2014 – New Breed Feature Films Predictions


Commentaries to follow.

Will Win? SUNDALONG KANIN.  Because there hardly was a soul who hated it.  Plus it was actually good period film.
Could Win? #Y.  Second time’s the charm for Gino Santos?
Should Win? MARIQUINA.  Because it was by leaps and bounds better than the majority of the films shown.

Will Win? CHILDREN’S SHOW.  Because it is the type of film that they go for.
Could Win? RONDA.  I dunno.
Should Win?  DAGITAB.  Not a close second, but a great great work.

Will Win? FRANCIS XAVIER PASION, BWAYA.  Technical wise, it was his best film to date.
Could Win? GINO M. SANTOS, #Y.  He had that “voice of the now generation” thing going for him.  Young director who is actually really good at what he does.
Should Win? MILO SOGUECO, MARIQUINA.  For creating the best film of the festival.

Will Win?? RICKY DAVAO, MARIQUINA.  Because this is arguably his best work in recent memory.
Could Win? NONIE BUENCAMINO, DAGITAB.  He is bound to win something, this might be his chance, plus, he is REALLLYY good.

Will Win? ANGELI BAYANI, BWAYA.  She has the momentum, and she was great and devastating in the film.
Could Win? AI AI DELAS ALAS, RONDA.  Stunt casting. will it pay off?
Should Win? EULA VALDEZ, DAGITAB.  It was nice to see her topbill a film and bringing her A game.

Supporting Actor
Will Win? MARTIN DEL ROSARIO, DAGITAB.  Young actor who deserves to get noticed when they are doing career high work early in their careers.
Could Win? PAOLO O’HARA, SUNDALONG KANIN.  Filmmaker and actor to boot!

Supporting Actress
Will Win? BARBIE FORTEZA, MARIQUINA.  Wishful thinking.  But she was perfection.
Could Win? COLEEN GARCIA, #Y. CHYNNA ORTALEZA, #Y.  Both great and scene stealers.

Will Win? MARIQUINA.  Tarrog’s most heartfelt written work.
Could Win? CHILDREN’S SHOW.  I dunno really.
Should Win?  MARIQUINA

Film Editing
Will Win? CHILDREN’S SHOW.  Gritty work?
Could Win? #Y.  A repeat win?
Should Win?  MARIQUINA.  Effortless switching of timelines.

Will Win? BWAYA.  No bad frames at all.  Beautiful all throughout. Aerial shots WOW!
Could Win? MARIQUINA.  Great composition and framing.
Should Win? BWAYA

Production Design
Will Win? K’NA THE DREAMWEAVER.  Because period works get noticed here.
Could Win? CHILDREN’S SHOW.  Dirt.  Grime = beauty?
Should Win?  DAGITAB.  Exquisite detail!

Original Score
Will Win? MARIQUINA. Tarrog in the house!  Another beautiful work.
Could Win? SEPARADOS.  Because I just want to fuck with it.

Will Win? #Y.  From the houses to the bars.
Could Win? RONDA
Should Win? #Y

Audience Choice: #Y.

Cinemalaya 2014 – Director’s Showcase Predictions


This is a very underwhelming list (save Kasal and Hari ng Tondo, both of which I think were great).  Only two out of the five were categorically good.  The other were mediocre, and the other is the worst film of the festival (excluding Searching Oella).  If I would be given the chance, “Kasal” would snag majority of the awards here.

Will Win? HUSTISYA.  Third time is the charm for Joel Lamangan?
Could Win? THE JANITOR.  The well made crime thriller that is getting raves.
Should Win? KASAL.  Arguably the best film of the bunch.  I am seriously questioning myself if it is Altarejos’ best.

Will Win? KASAL.  Wishful thinking.  In a way, it is a brave, brave film.
Could Win? HARI NG TONDO.  Because come one, there are only two films in this category that are actually worth watching again.
Should Win?  HARI NG TONDO.

Will Win? MICHAEL TUVIERA, THE JANITOR.  A pessimistic prediction.
Could Win? JOSELITO ALTAREJOS, KASAL.  Arguably did his best work to date, and I hope that he finally nabs a win.
Should Win? JOSELITO ALTAREJOS, KASAL.  Really should win.

Will Win? ROBERT AREVALO, HARI NG TONDO.  Veteran and sentimental vote, methinks.  Plus he’s good.
Could Win? DENNIS TRILLO, THE JANITOR. I don’t even know why I am predicting these.  So grim man.
Should Win?  I am fine with either OLIVER AQUINO or ARNOLD REYES in KASAL, or why no hand them both the award?

Will Win? NORA AUNOR, HUSTISYA.  There’s no real competition really.
Could Win? AIKO MELENDEZ, ASINTADO.  If they really want the noranians angry.
Should Win? Nora Aunor, by default win.

Supporting Actor
Will Win? REZ CORTEZ, HARI NG TONDO.  Because I can’t think of any.
Could Win? ROCCO NACINO, HUSTISYA.  Not his best work.  Not even good.
Should Win? I am fine with Cortez winning, or any possible supporting actors in Hari ng Tondo.

Supporting Actress
Will Win? ROSSANA ROCES, HUSTISYA.  Err for lack of choices
Could Win? LJ REYES, THE JANITOR.  She won before, and she was ok in the film
Should Win? Because no one stood out, let me just say AIZA SEGUERRA, HARI NG TONDO.

Will Win? HUSTISYA.  Just because of the writer’s prestige.
Could Win? KASAL.  Because it deserves to win here.
Should Win?  KASAL

Film Editing
Will Win? THE JANITOR.  Could sweep? HAHAHA
Should Win?  KASAL

Should Win? KASAL

Production Design
Will Win? ASINTADO.  While it should leave awardless, I think they are going to spread the love.
Should Win?  KASAL

Original Score
Could Win? KASAL
Should Win?  KASAL

Should Win? KASAL

Audience Choice: Hustisya.

Cinemalaya 2014 – K’Na The Dreamweaver

K'na The Dreamweaver
K’Na, The Dreamweaver

Directed by Ida Anita del Mundo
Cinemalaya 2014: New Breed Section

First I have to admit that the film made me really sleepy.  It felt as though the film was putting me to sleep and making me want to dream.

I think that the film, though feeling a bit like “Limbunan” ( a far superior Cinemalaya film by Guiterrez Mangansakan III), was a wasted opportunity.  You have the environment and the setting so rich that you could think of other stories that would at least be a little unique.  Instead the film was just a normal story set in this beautiful place that is obviously has a more beautiful story to tell.

The film however has good production design.  Costumes were aptly beautiful, and set pieces were commonly okay.  Cinematography was beautiful but tad too yellow.  Acting was generally wooden with some moments here and there.  Overall, it was a sleepy piece of Cinema.  D+

Cinemalaya 2014 – Children’s Show

Children's ShowChildren’s Show
Directed by Roderick Cabrido
Cinemalaya 2014: New Breed Section

Films about the poor are kind of the staple films that get in Cinemalaya, and this is one of them.  Children get into fights so that they could earn money.  It is like “Sabong” (cockfighting) only with real people, this time, kids are fighting.  And then they earn money whenever they win a fight.  I call them, “Misery” porn for those films that thrives and are misery driven.  And the film was rich of it.  However I think that it was necessary in the film because I think that it is the type of things that happen in that setting.

I admire the promise of the film.  I also love some technical aspects of the film. I hated the fight scenes because they all look fake. 

I felt unaffected.  Maybe because of the sub-genre being worn out.  I just wish that something new was shown apart from the humongous chicken apparition.  It was one common sequence after another.  I could not shake that feeling of “only dismal things happen to poor people”.  C

Cinemalaya 2014 – New Breed Short Films Predictions

Asan si Lolo Me?

Will Win? I am thinking that this would be a repeat win for Paolo O’Hara, but I think that that has never happened before, so with that I am predicting that crowd pleaser “ASAN SI LOLO ME?” will win the top prize
Could Win? The film that I see has the most chance of winning is “NAKABIBINGING KADILIMAN” since it is the type of film they award here.
Should Win? One of my favorite films of the festival, shorts or feature lengh combined, “ASAN SI LOLO ME?” is the clear standout short film for me.

Jury Prize
Will Win? I think that this award will go to “THE ORDINARY THINGS WE DO” what with it being different from the others.
Could Win? For some reason I think that “INDAYOG NG NAYTAMAK” is not going home empty handed
Should Win? If this award goes to the second best film, then I am picking “NAKABIBINGING KADILIMAN”.

Will Win? PAOLO O’HARA, NAKABIBINGING KATAHIMIKAN.  He could repeat another multiple winning year.
Could Win?  KEVIN ANG, LOLA.  Another crowd pleaser.
Should Win? There was no competition for the short films for me, SARI ESTRADA, ASAN SI LOLO ME?

Will Win? I hope that they go for my bet “ASAN SI LOLO ME” for the originality and the wittiness of the film.
Could Win? J. E. Tiglao’s follow up film “MGA LIGAW NA PARUPARO” could end up wining something, and this may it.  Even though that ending is joke-y.
Should Win?  ASAN SI LOLO ME? Should bag this since there is nothing quite like it, well, unless you count “The Ordinary Things We Do”.

Audience Choice: INA-TAY.  A lot of people seem to like the film what with the jokes and all but I HATE this film so much.  LOLA is also a possibility.

Cinemalaya 2014 – S6parados

Directed by G. B. Sampedro
Cinemalaya 2014 : New Breed Section

Of all the films that were shown this was the one I was a bit wary about, because of the trailer.  I do not watch the trailers prior to seeing the film, usually that’s what I do, but they play the trailers before actually showing the film so I can not avoid them this time.  Unless I give up my seat.  Anyway.

The film felt like I was watching a Filipino teleserye, only an hour and a half long.  The music was overpowering the scenes, something that is typical on Philippine television.  The acting was generally bad  (Save Ricky Davao and Melissa Mendez from the lashing).  Especially Anjo Yllana who does not seem to know what he is going to do.  It was such an awkward and forced performance.  It is also a waste that the film had this roster of actors who I think can do good if only given the right material.  Such a waste.  The melodrama was overbearing.  It was a collection of schmaltzy and sappy and somewhat misogynistic stories put together.  Save the Ricky Davao story which I think had potential albeit being banal.

I believe after everything I said, I say that my expectations for the film were met.  D-

Cinemalaya 2014 – Dagitab

DagitabDagitab (Sparks)
Directed by Giancarlo Abrahan
Cinemalaya 2014: New Breed Section

Prior to seeing the film I have been hearing a lot of good reviews and reactions to this film.  Those made my expectations high for the film, what with most of the films I have seen so far were generally just okay.  The first few minutes of the film alone got me hooked.  It was like nothing I have seen in this year’s festival so far.  I was intrigued.  I was mesmerized.  In the end I was just blown away.

The key to the film’s success, for me, was the wittiness of how it was written.  It was a story of a middle aged couple, both in their own ways intelligent but quite unhappy and seem to be undergoing mid life crisis.  Their conversations were witty, a bit odd at times, perfectly matching the characters who are saying the lines.  Along with this, the film boasts superb lead performances from Eula Valdez and Nonie Buencamino.  Both bringing their A game to the film.  It is also worth mentioning that I was pleasantly surprised with how good Martin del Rosario was.  Methinks he could be in the running for best supporting actor award?  I hope so.  Ditto to small role by Santino Martin, who was very memorable albeit small screen time.

The film was a technical achievement as well.  The cinematography was gorgeous.  The production design I have to commend because it complimented the characters.  The editing was fluid, something that was key to the storytelling.

The film may feel cold or alienating to some people, and I would understand if they would feel that way.  But sometimes there is a story to be told about these people.  And Abrahan did just that, and he did a tremendous job telling it.  A/A-

Cinemalaya 2014 – Ronda


Directed by Nick Olanka
Cinemalaya 2014: New Breed Section

I came into the screening thinking that this might be a vanity project for Ai Ai delas Alas, but hey I was mighty surprised that her dramatoc acting chops were spot on. And at times, she was believable despite her not physically not suited for the role. I’m sory but that chase scene was awkward. For a cop, she can’t run. But other than that, she was good.

I loved the overall film of the film. The glacial pace. The scant dialogue. The scant music. If I do not know who’s the filmmaker behind it I would think that Adolf Alix made it, and he did. He wrote it. His stamp on Philippine cinema is quite clear and evident.  I also liked it being short, but I had a problem it peaking only towards the end.  The redundancy of thhe middle could have given way to Arroyo’s familial woes.  Nevertheless, it was a good film, a sort of standout in a roster of lackluster films. B-

Cinemalaya 2014 – Edna


Directed by Ronnie Lazaro
Cinemalaya 2014: Films in Exhibition

I had really high hopes going into the screening of this film.  I admire the actors in the film and it is exciting to see what Ronnie Lazaro can do behind the camera.

The end result was kind of troubling even though I admire the passion and the ambition behind it. However, unlike “Hustisya”, this was not a mixbag of things that the filmmaker wanted to say but it was a mixbag of styles that the filmmaker may have admired all throughout the years working as an actor.

Irma Adlawan shines as the OFW mother who comes home to a family that was colorful on the surface, but on black and white shows that she came home to a suburbian Sodom and Gomorrah. The remaining of the cast range from OK to forgettable.  I will remember the film for Adlawan’s performance, I could not say the same to the film. C

Cinemalaya 2014 – Ang Tala

Ang TalaAng Tala
Directed by Arlei Dormiendo
Cinemalaya 2014: Exhibition Films

“Ang Tala” is 2013 short film that tells a simple story of a kid doing normal kid stuff but was changed when she got sick  The animation was simple yet striking.  I know that this took a long time to make because the animator had to draw every frame of the character’s movements.  It was charming, cute and somewhat saddening towards the end.  B

Cinemalaya 2014 – #Y


Directed by Gino M. Santos
Cinemalaya 2014: New Breed Section

Here is another film, like “Bwaya” that I thought was expertly made, intriguing, fun and beautifully acted.  While I thought that the story was okay, I still am finding it hard to figure out what was going in inside the head of yhe protagonist.  Was he just attempting to kill himself several timea just because he just want to? I wanted to know what drove him to think that way.  And because of this, I felt the ending was tad forced. Not to mention the on-the-nose Y positioning prior to jumping.

Those said, it was still a really well made film.  Kudos to the four leads who I think were collectively great but the standout was Coleen Garcia who seems to be having major fun. But it was Chynna Hortaleza who stood out for me.  Her breakdown scene was devastating. And I will remember the film with that scene clearly in my mind.

Santos can never do wrong with a material and story such as this. It seems that he knows the environment he is in and knows the stories of the people surrounding him  and he tells these stories with clarity, truth and aplomb which makes me think that he clearly is one of the young filmmakers to watch out for.  B-

Cinemalaya 2014 – Asintado


Asintado (Between the Eyes)
Directed by Louie Ignacio
Cinemalaya 2014 – Director’s Showcase

After seeing the film I had lots of thoughts about it. 1. Was the film better on paper than it was om screen? 2. What were the redeeming qualities of the film? 3. What the hell was that?

It probably was tough job for Aiko Melendez and Miggs Cuaderno both arguably making the best what was given to them.  I can still see Melendez taking the award from Aunor. She was not better, it was just ok.

A lot went wrong in this film. It had a weird, unintentionally funny and borderline silly but still trying to be serious story.  Uber exposed and TV looking cinematography (but heck some TV shows look better than this). Wooden acting. And the list goes on.  It was one of the worst Cinemalaya in competition film I have ever seen. And I think I am not the only one reacting negatively to this film, the audience I was in was laughing all the way through the film and just making the most out of the 150 pesos wasted.  I can not even say that it was entertaining, it was not. It was just an awful film that I will remember for all the wrong reasons. F

Cinemalaya 2014 – 1st Ko si 3rd

1st ko si 3rd
1st Ko si 3rd

Directed by Real S. Florido
Cinemalaya 2014: New Breed Section

If you have been reading my blog for the longest time, which probably you aren’t. you would know that I have a weak spot for films about old people, and would some day make one myself.  So imagine my enthusiasm to see this film as part of the festival.  My expectations were up.  I was expecting it to be a bittersweet tale of old people.  But somehow after seeing it, I was left unaffected.

The film excelled the most in its quiet moments.  That scene with Nova Villa looking at the mirror and taking off her clothes and seeing and loathing her aged body was the highlight of the film for me.  Villa gave a good but not memorable performance as a whole and probably was my only reason to say something positive about the film.  The film wants to be charming and maybe it was.  It also was trying to be funny.  It succeeded in some aspects but I think that the wooden acting, the uneventful script, and the superficial storyline hindered the film from actually taking off.  It just sits and never took off.  The flashbacks, though probably “nakakakilig” felt superficial compared to the flashbacks of “Mariquina”.  The overall ensemble performance was wooden and the dialogue deliveries sounds “Batibot”-ish.

I laughed at some parts of the film.  Especially the part wherein Cory used facebook for the first time.  But even if I just saw the film, not a day has passed, I barely have recollections of the film, not that I was not paying attention, but I was just unmoved.  C-

Cinemalaya 2014 – Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's JourneyDon’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey
Directed by Ramona Diaz

Watching the documentary, I can not help to feel proud of Arnel Pineda for somehow,even indirectly, representing Philippines.  That is I think the main thing I got from the film.  It was also fun and inspiring to see Pineda’s journey from being on the bottom going to the top.

While the film was fun, I just could not see what the film was building up to.  The feeling like was zigzag.  It will peak, then it will die down, then peak again and so on.  But then what it lacks, it makes up for entertainment, inspiration and good music.  C

Cinemalaya 2014 – Mariquina

Directed by Milo Sogueco

The cinematic high that I was waiting for was met when I saw “Mariquina” last night to a fully packed theater.  I had high hopes for the film.  Not only because my favorite working filmmaker (Jerrold Tarog) wrote the film, but after seeing “Sanglaan” years back, I wanted to see more of what Sogueco would and could do.  And my oh my. I was blown away.  It was by miles way better than the feature-length films I have seen in the festival so far.  It is also the best in competition film I have seen so far as well.

The film boasts a brilliant ensemble cast.  Mylene Dizon who is always great in Cinemalaya films, avoided the typical my-father-is-dead-i-am-grieving type of acting that we see shown heavily on Philippine TV or even in cinemas, instead she opted for a subdued, reserved acting that made her emotional moments all the more powerful.  Che Ramos in a Meryl Streep in “Kramer Vs. Kramer” performance was very memorable as the sad mother.  I was not sold on Bing Pimentel in “Kabisera” but consider me reverted and a fan of her after seeing her in this film.  It was hard to pick the best in cast when all of them are all aces.  Honorable mention goes to Barbie Forteza as the child caught in the middle of the grown up problems.  I was not aware of her existence prior to this, so I have no point of comparison to her previous works.  But if she delivers tremendous performances such as this, I can only be excited for what she does next.  The best in show for me was Ricky Davao.  Usually I hate Ricky Davao in films because he plays the same characters over and over again.  But this time he is on top of his game.  The breakout scene while eating inside their frequent restaurant had me tearing.

Major props to Sogueco for bringing the the best in his cast and creating what could be the best Filipino film of the year so far.  It was a quiet take on a frequent noisy and bickering story of family problems.  He opted for real emotion as opposed to histrionics that made the film more powerful and lingering.  It is also worth noting that the storytelling was fluid and effortless.  I can only be in great admiration of what Benjamin Tolentino (2nd Honorable Mention in the Film hehe) did because he weaved the two parallel timelines masterfully.  And I think that Tarog can do no wrong, or at least for me because his script was heartfelt and touching and that same goes for the music that he created for the film.  Also, even if the film was subdued and quiet, it is also worth noting that the film was a technical feat across the board, the sound, the cinematography and oh the brilliant production design as well.

It took me three days into the festival to find that cinematic high I was desperate to feel (though I felt that in Lisyun Qng Geografia) and now all I can think of is that I want to see it again.  A+

Cinemalaya 2014 – Sundalong Kanin

Sundalong KaninSundalong Kanin (Rice Soldier)
Directed by Janice O’Hara
Cinemalaya 2014: New Breed Section

Historical films are rare in the Philippines.  Good to great historical films in the Philippines are even more rare.  The last that comes into my mind is “Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio” which is also a Cinemalaya film.  So I was pleasantly surprised that Janice O’Hara (I do not know how they are related but I know that they are) created her first feature film this year, also a historical film, in Cinemalaya and it was really good, most especially the first half of the film.

O’Hara captured what it was like to be young, only set in the 1940s during the Japanese war in the Philippines.  The film was seen mostly in the eyes of the kids.  The fun.  The folly.  And then the terror.  You could see how something as stupid as war makes children mature, only they are physically still young.  By the time the movie ended, all of them were trying their best to cope as mature as they can to survive.  Those said, major kudos to the kids who acted in the film.  I thought hey were all great.  They overshadowed all the older actors in the film even though some of them are overacting.  Let me get to that.  Marc Abaya is a good actor.  I know that.  But he overacted all the way through this film.  I can feel that his performance screams “I am acting! I am acting!” all throughout.  Anyway.  I also had problems on where some parts of the film should have ended.  Sometimes, I do not know if this is intentional, it took too long before the scene ended that it comes across as comical when i think it should have not.

Nevertheless, “Sundalong Kanin” was still a treat in this rather underwhelming festival (so far).  The audience loved it.  They were responding positively to it, and I think that the jury will do too.  I think this is in contention to bag some prizes in the festival.  B