Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blush! - 2011's Best Performances: The Honor List

Imagine that! Eighty (80) commercial films and about 3 dozens of independent and full-length festival features and we couldn't even complete a list of 10 in most categories.

In terms of performance, it's been slim pickings for 2011. There have been few out-of-the-box portrayals. This is mirrored even in international festivals where there were relatively less acclaims for local performers compared to the previous couple of years.

Inclusion criteria: All commercial releases, festival entries and indies we saw from 2011. We were actually surprised when we completed the list. KC Concepcion, Kathryn Bernardo and Alden Richards are unseemly names for their categories, but we've reviewed their performances and we sincerely believe theirs were among the most laudable in a year where we couldn't even complete a list.

Bernardo, for example, was less successful in Sineneng's "Way Back Home". She was eclipsed by her co-star Julia Montes who was a revelation. However, the brevity and compactness of the material in Tarog's "Parola (Shake, Rattle & Roll 13) highlighted the young actress' gift. Alden Richards, on the other hand, was always a bland personality to us until we saw him in Laranas' "The Road", as though the movie was written with him in mind. His raw and unfettered delivery surprised us and made for some spine-tingling depiction of a young man with a tortured past. If he were less believable, the film would have limped. KC Concepcion bravely chose a tragedy for her sole cinematic vehicle for the year, and she comes up with a performance that truly deserves mention.

We have 8 names for best lead actors, 10 for best lead actresses, 6 names for best supporting actors and 6 names for best supporting actresses. Each one has succeeded in churning out nuanced performances, not to mention consistency. They brought the stories to life with pulsating realism . Here are the year's Best Performances.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role:

1. Martin Escudero as Remington, the homophobe cursed by a cantankerous wizard (Roderick Paulate) to turn “gay” on his 21st birthday in Jade Castro’s “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington”. His character shifts and emotional upheavals are competently delivered in the subtlest movements. He perfected the nuance of a flaming fag who’s hard-pressed in controlling his emerging effete tendencies. What a joy to watch!

2. Dingdong Dantes as Ivan, a persevering husband and father abandoned by an adulterous wife in Joyce Bernal’s “Segunda Mano”. Dantes ably transformed into a passionate soul, hard-wired to do the things he felt needed to be done. When he's agitated and distraught, he tempers his outburst, effectively brandishing an undercurrent of malignant danger.

3. Aga Muhlach as Emman, the aging dance instructor in Olivia Lamasan’s “In the Name of Love”. This is Aga Muhlach at his best, uncluttered, without the distractions and vanity inherent in romantic lead roles. He grew an abdominal girth that rendered more character and allowed us to focus on the actor's emotive capacity.

4. Joel Torre as Rafael Dacanay, the cabeza of San Isidro invaded by a battalion of American soldiers in 1990 for John Sayles’ “Amigo”. But when was Torre ever bad?

5. Mark Gil as Rogelio, the struggling stuntman who was deceived by a transvestite in Lawrence Fajardo’s “Amok”. Gil displays the vulnerability of a desperate soul without dismissing the inherent humor borne out of his situation.

6. Edgar Allan Guzman as Intoy, the college guy who crosses path with an aggressive, sexually forward classmate in Erick Salud’s “Ligo na U, Lapit na Me”. Guzman exhibits a winking portrayal that displays both his dramatic and comedic skill, all in one coherent, insightful package.

7. Bembol Roco as Miguel, the husband of a woman whose wife gave birth to a fish in Adolfo Alix Jr.'s “Isda” (Fable of the Fish). Roco moves around as though a joke's being played on his family, and we feel his helplessness.

8. Alden Richards as the introverted teen boy Luis in Yam Laranas’ “The Road”. Richards deliberately took advantage of the script’s slow but steady build up, mining an emotional grit that inspires discernment. He displayed bristlingly restrained emotions, belying a calm and “angelic” exterior. Despite sparseness of movement and lines, his reticence petrified us.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE: Martin Escudero for "Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role:

1. Anita Linda as Cion aka Esmeralda Cortez, the 85 year old former actress who is serving her sentence after a drug deal goes sour in Adolfo Alix, Jr.’s “Presa”. Linda's astonishing range is on full display. You'll loath her, laugh at her delusions, then sympathize for what becomes of her dreams. The scene where she shoots a movie inside prison - grappling with skills that aren't there anymore - is truly a Mastercard moment.

2. Lovi Poe as Lilibeth, the town beauty tasked to oversee fund raising ("ambagan") for the "tapusan", Infanta Quezon’s annual town ball in Dan Villegas’ “Mayohan” (Maytime). Poe shows such beauty and clarity in a role that could have easily turned into a bore.

3. Angel Locsin as Cedes, the fiancĂ© of a rising politician who hides a sad romantic past with a dance instructor in Olivia Lamasan’s “In The Name of Love”. Angel Locsin owned up Cedes like second skin. Angel's inherent sexuality is key to making Cedes' character work; her sensitivity is painfully palpable.

4. Lovi Poe as Serafina, the catty beauty pageant contestant in Chris Martinez’s remake of Joey Gosiengfiao’s “Temptation Island”. When she flips her hair and waves a stick against her enemies, she embodies this snooty girl with wild abandon. She's this seductress; the vamp from hell, and obviously, Panday's sophisticated daughter. What a joy to watch!

5. Eugene Domingo as herself and as Mila – the conflicted mother of seven children - in Marlon Rivera’s “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank”. Domingo executes her mastery of the comedic language in flagrant strokes that defy adequate description. When she finally objected to scenes dipping her in a septic tank, a protracted round of laughter erupted all throughout the cinema. She has this enviable skill to infuse humor in drab lines like, “Tae yan. Madumi ang tae.”

6. Cherry Pie Picache as Lina, the woman from the dumpsite who gave birth to a fish in Alix’s “Isda” (Fable of the Fish). Carrying her "fish child" around with a desperate sense of affection has got to be one of the hardest things to parlay.

7. KC Concepcion as Raffy, the lymphoma patient who refuses another round of chemotherapy until she meets Eugene (Sam Milby) in Cathy Garcia-Molina’s “Forever and a Day”. A bold turn for a mainstream (i.e. "commercial") artist, her grief is displayed with moderated emotionality bereft of excesses common in sappy dramas dealing with mortality.

8. Diana Zubiri as Sarah, a nurse at a maternity hospital who, on Christmas Day, unravels a few unsavory truths about her lover (Yul Servo) in Eduardo Roy Jr.’s “Bahay Bata” (Baby Factory). This is one of the best displays of character progression in a film.

9. Boots Anson Roa as Eos, the septuagenarian widow who is impetuously carrying on an affair with Rodrigo (Rome Mallari), a much younger man in Arevalo-Ramos-Roxas’ “Ganap na Babae” (Garden of Eve). Roa takes on a role immersed in a situation that's pretty hilarious, but she does so with austere demeanor.

10. Kathryn Bernardo as Lucy who's friendship with her best friend is tested when warring witches use them as pawns in a long running rivalry in Jerrold Tarog's "Parola" episode from "Shake Rattle and Roll 13". Bernardo shifts from genial and breezy to menacing, we had chills running down our spine.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE: Eugene Domingo for "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank"


1. Yul Vasquez as Padre Hidalgo, the Spanish priest who preferred to stay in a small town invaded by American soldiers in maverick film master John Sayles' "Amigo". Vasquez's unpredictable nature is deliciously showcased - and begged the question: Can the town folk trust him or not?

2. John Regala as Eduardo, the father who sacrificed his “sexuality” to redeem a son cursed by a wizard. Regala displays an endearing and mollified depiction, a far cry from the emotive excesses pathognomonic in his early career performances.

3. Jun Jun Quintana as Popoy, the street hawker who’d sell anything for a buck in Adolf Alix Jr.’s “Haruo. Quintana fills the screen with natural charm and cinematic candor.

4. Dennis Trillo as Derek, the gym instructor who’s being kept by a wealthy matron in Jun Lana’s “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”. Trillo succeeds in making an unpleasant character sympathetic, and that’s no mean feat.

5. Marvin Agustin as the student leader turned revolutionary Oliver in Joel Lamangan’s “Sigwa” (Rage of Perils and Hope). He delivers one of the most emotionally distressing depiction of a torture victim. While his tears trickle down his cheeks and he pleads for his life, you are punched in the gut by the scene’s realism.

6. Garry Lim as Edwin, Mohawk-wearing street urchin who runs amok when an acquaintance he’s playing a game of pool with points a gun at him in Lawrence Fajardo’s “Amok. Lim delivered a blood-curdling performance.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: John Regala for "Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington"


1. Jodi Sta. Maria as Aylynn, the girl friend Wesley (Sam Milby) left behind without a word when the latter moved to America in EJ Salcedo’s “Third World Happy”. In a scene where Aylynn reunites with her runaway boyfriend, Sta.Maria conveys silent anxiety and understated volatile agitation in delicious emotive splendor.

2. Rufa Mae Quinto as Nimfa, the much abused “alalay” of a pageant contestant. She's deftly displayed a sardonic take even on pedestrian lines; her impeccable wit at delivery is pure delight.

3. Carmina Villaroel as the discontented, adulterous and abusive homemaker Carmela in Yam Laranas’ “The Road”. She browbeats with sinister abandon. You hardly hear her voice rise, but the menace is all there.

4. Rosanna Roces as Edna, an aging bar girl who is the protagonist's confidant in Adolfo Alix, Jr.’s “Haruo”. Her presence brought realism to every scene she's in.

5. Eugene Domingo as Aida Capinpin, the manic mistress in Jose Javier Reyes’ “My House Husband”. Domingo’s humor is infused with masterful timing, raising the entertainment quotient of an otherwise derivative flick.

6. Gina Alajar as Azon, the fearful mother who, like Rosanna Roces' character in "Haruo", is afraid to lose the child she’s nurtured as her own in Joel Lamangan's "Sigwa". A truly heart-breaking, albeit desperate bid to hold on to a love one.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Carmina Villaroel for "The Road"

Up next: Brace yourselves for 2011's Horror List - The most annoying, hair-pulling cinematic turns of the year!

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