Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Blush! - 2011's Best Pictures

I like the immersive atmosphere of a cool dark cinema, with flickering images set before me. The ruminative nature of film allows me to bear witness to the lives of others and experience little bits and pieces of the world – all in the comfort of my seat. It acquiesces to emotions not probably served by a sheltered life. The experience is a high in itself. But it isn’t all that pleasant; not when cinemas allow child’s play in the form of Fellyx Honeyfield and a caboodle of clueless directors serving cinematic slop. But 2011 had some rewards – and we’ve collated last year’s Ten Best Pictures that made us embrace repeatedly the wonderment and magic of the celluloid.

At the bottom of the list are titles that deserve honorable mentions. We want them in the line-up but we have to draw the line somehow.

Inclusion criteria: All Filipino Films we saw in 2011 – commercial, festival and specially-screened ouvres from the brilliant minds that made my year a little brighter and a lot richer. And I’m honored to share them here with you.

Aureaus Solito's Busong (Palawan Fate)

Punay (Alessandra De Rossi) is on a road trip - she’s being carried around on a hammock - in search of a cure for the baffling ulcerative lesions spreading all over her body. Along the way, she encounters people with dilemmas of their own to hurdle. Surreal story telling admixes with haunting images, and takes us to a perplexing, mystical dream land that we never thought existed in Palawan. The lyrical beauty of some scenes defies description. This is sublime cinematic experience that takes your breath away.

Marlon Rivera's Ang Babae sa Septic Tank

Sarcastic, hilarious, experimental, witty and a joy to watch – and there’s that vaguely familiar talent named Eugene Domingo who shall forever live in infamy as the woman who immersed in a pool of excreta – for the sake of art!

Yam Laranas' The Road - Abuse has sown evil. Director Laranas masterfully and cleverly spins a yarn of utter suspense bristling with pulsating narrative progression and psychological disquiet. It’s the year’s most unexpected triumph too.

Adolfo Alix, Jr.'s Haruo

A morbid turn of events brings a Japanese national to the squalor of Manila. He has escaped a criminal syndicate with bountiful cash, a helpless Filipina bar girl and tragic consequences. Now solitary, he has uprooted himself to the railside slums of the metropolis, wistfully fending for himself. Then he meets a mysterious girl. With a bristling narrative and the calculated manipulations of its color palette, smartly doing away with those shaky handhelds, it plays out like a blank canvas that gradually unravels right before your eyes, peeling veneers of its story in delectable stages of unrelenting tale, way until the full story is laid out like a masterpiece.

Richard Somes, Jerrold Tarog & Chris Martinez's Shake Rattle & Roll 13

Narrative triptych that challenges our intrinsic fears. Ashen faced earth creatures assault a sleepy countryside to reclaim what’s theirs; Two girls become pawns when warring witches endure a long standing conflict; A phobic factory owner is haunted by the tragic events that transpired during a typhoon. Cerebral take on the things that frighten us; a novel screamfest. More than anything, it is celebratory that three of local cinema's most innovative megmen are bunched together in one vehicle. Are we ushering into an era of the artists and veering away from the star system?

Alvin Yapan and Alemberg Ang's Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa

A student stalks his poetry teacher and enrolls in a dance class to spend more time with her. But a new dance partner insinuates into the equation with unexpected consequence. Exquisitely composed through a series of poems and movements, visual and textual romanticism curdle into one delectable narrative.

Jade Castro's Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington

The film stands on feral ground where its entertainment value is concerned. The film is hilarious yet thought provoking. It’s hard not to get besotted with our hero/anti-hero Remington who was cursed to become a homosexual when he turned 21. Marvelously played by the incandescent Martin Escudero.

Lawrence Fajardo's Amok

Crisscrossing tales of strangers come to a head when stray bullets fly across a busy intersection in Baclaran. Briskly paced and compellingly told, “Amok” – despite a dubious, ill-conceived conclusion - is one of the year’s most compelling watch.

Mes de Guzman's Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa

Four children are left to their own devices in bleak Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya where they forage for food, salvage a video player, burglarize for rugby bottles and share wistful and seemingly uneventful days. Until tragedy ensues. Straight forward storytelling and sincere performances from novice actors make a persuasive and engaging tale of pathos and regret.


Rica Arevalo, Ellen Ramos & Sarah Roxas' Ganap na Babae (Garden of Eve)

Three divergent tales of women are told in contrasting techniques and temperaments – a farm girl who ploughs the unproductive land in a time of drought; a 68 year old widow endears herself to a strapping young man; a prostitute reluctantly agrees to tell her harrowing story to a persistent documentary film maker. These stories are elegantly pieced in utter subtlety through music, the patter of a gentle rain, a show on television, a breaking news on the radio. Served on a cinematic platter with a truly breath-taking conclusion, I had goosebumps leaving the cinema. As the film draws to an end, the nameless woman was asked of her name. And it wasn't Catherine Pena.

Honorable Mention:

1. Lawrence Fajardo's X-Deal - Masterly crafted erotica that brings back sophistication in a year characterized by mostly brainless sex-oriented films. We want our sex-oriented flicks with a dash of brain and a lot of class! Pretty please!

2. Eric Salud's Ligo na U, Lapit na Me (Star-Crossed Love) - It is a brave, albeit humor-filled exposition on present day sexual mores. It’s tantalizing and presents feminism by way of sexual liberation. The concepts here spread out of our comfort zones, like sympathizing with a woman who gets into a sexual relationship by dissing emotional commitment altogether. And we like the fact that it comes from a literary material, this one from Eros Atalia.

3. Adolfo Alix, Jr.'s Isda (Fable of the Fish) - It has a preposterous premise. After finding a miraculous statue at a garbage dumpsite, a woman gets pregnant – and gives birth to a fish! But this tale has a rewarding script and insightful performances that would have you thinking: Yeah, what if?

We were asked for the following category so we're sharing them here as well:

Best Director – Auraeus Solito for “Busong

Best First Feature: EJ Salcedo's Third World Happy

Best Cinematography – Albert Banzon for “Haruo” and Luis Quirino for “Busong” (Palawan Fate)

Best Ensemble - John Sayle's Amigo

Up Next: The Year's Best Performances - and Worst? :)


Micamyx|Senyorita said...

I love Nino. I think it deserves to be included on the list :D

Cathy Pena said...

@ Micamyx:

Agree, but I loved "Bisperas" too (despite a few characters I found annoying). I had to make a list that balances the selection. Otherwise, "Shake, Rattle & Roll 13" wouldn't make it in the list.

But I like the signal it carries, i.e. horror movies need not be trite, brainless screamfests. There are fearful things that the mind can conjure.I just loved the Cinemalaya line-up last year. Even the weaker entries were diverting. :)

Super Jimbo said...

I love Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. The lead actors were all great! The film deserves its spot here.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Super Jimbo:

Super agree! :)

Lhay said...

The Road by GMA Films the best Horror/Suspense Film for year 2011!

Cathy Pena said...

It's Laranas' fully realized ouvre. :)