Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blush's 4th Annual Countdown of Philippine Movies 2013

I ask again, "How many Pinoy films did you watch in 2013?"

If you're one of the thousands who queued at the recent Metro Manila Film Festival to watch Vic Sotto and Kris Aquino's "My Little Bossings" and got rightfully irritated by the production's singular exercise of greed and abusive authority by parading and shamelessly endorsing some 20 products, you were justified. You paid good money not to be spoonfed with commercials. You accordingly complained about the trash that percolated around the cinematic season. You huffed and puffed, and deplored the bad state of Philippine Cinema. But this is all wrongful cliche. The fact is, 2013 had a bumper crop year of cinematic gems, and they were even accessible to the movie-going public. Majority of them were screened, not in the stuffy halls of CCP or the university theater, but in malls and cineplexes. This was one of the best years in Philippine Cinema!

So if your movie experience last year only consisted of Sotto, Aquino, Vice Ganda and any Wenn Deramas flick, please stop whining. You deserve them!


On our 4th annual rundown of movies, we've noticed a steady increase in the yearly film output since we started this in 2010. These are rough estimates, but essentially reflect trends that shall dictate how we will watch our favorite films in the next few years.

2010 had 73 films. 2011 had 105. 2012 notably jumped to 142. And 2013's number is 157. At no other time has this industry been flourishing by leaps and bounds. What's more impressive is the positive swing towards quality. While a good number of Pink Flicks and B-movies still found their way in commercial screenings, they were relegated to a very limited number of cinemas. Galleria has (almost) completely gotten rid of the exploitation flicks.

Film Year 2013 was essentially defined by a series of film festivals that congested the last two quarters of the year. Trailblazing Cinemalaya fielded an embarrassment of riches that it was easier to pick which films were inferior than which were the best. Carlo Obispo's "Purok 7", Eduardo Roy's "Quick Change", Jeffrey Jeturian's "Ekstra", Hannah Espia's "Transit", Jason Paul Laxamana's "Babagwa", and Jerrold Tarog's "Sana Dati" bowled us over, though we hated Gil Portes' "Liars" - and got annoyed by Barbara Miguel's character and portrayal in "Nuwebe".

Cinema One had an impressively strong line-up: the intricate narrative design of Jet Leyco's "Bukas na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na" had us glued right where we sat. Whammy Alcazaren's "Islands", a visual dissertation on isolation and/or solitude, and delicately framed by the seemingly mislaid epilogue, was a joy to behold. Arnel Madroquio's highly experimental "Riddles of my Homecoming" should set a benchmark for experimental cinema mainly because it was a delight to watch. Many titles in this genre would alienate audience; not this one. Miko Livelo's "Blue Bustamante" and Alfonso Torre III's "Kabisera" were likewise highly engaging. Watching Cinema One movies has never been this fun!

Cinefilipino was born this year. Angel Aquino was a beguiling presence in Sigrid Andrea Bernardo's "Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita", a compelling story of a pubescent girl who falls in love with the returning town maiden. Mes de Guzman's "Ang Kwento ni Mabuti" was a tenderly told morality tale that showcased the quiet thespic power of Nora Aunor. Randolph Longjas' "Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Rin" is a bellyaching social commentary about the Filipino psyche and cultural proclivities set in the household of an interracial couple who wants to celebrate Thanksgiving. It's also one of the funniest films of the decade.

Miguel Alcazaren's "Puti" was on its way to becoming a masterpiece when the story went awry as it drew towards the concluding third part. Too bad because Ian Veneracion and Jasmine Curtis-Smith, the year's breakthrough actress, were fantastic in them. The bizarre twist of the plot was discombobulating, ultimately leaving a bitter taste in the cinematic mouth. Akihiro Blanco, one of the industry's best finds, makes an auspicious movie debut in Ato Bautista's "Mga Ala-Ala ng Tag-ulan" which was probably better realized on print/script, but not on the silver screen. We hated (and this is a strong word) Ron Bryant's "Bingoleras". Twas told that Mac Alejandre and Inquirer reporter Bayani San Diego, two of the festival judges, allegedly pushed hard to get this in the final line-up. But since when has San Diego become an authority on good scripts and great film making? Constant coverage of the indie film scene does not make him a great judge of good scripts, does it? Ditto with Alejandre who has never made a film worth a ticket admission. "Lastikman", "Ang Panday" and "Just One Summer", anyone?

Quezon City Film Festival bankrolled 3 films that were screened for a ridiculously limited three-day run. When the festival held its closing ceremonies, one of its films was yet to premiere later that night. Regardless, Alvin Yapan's "Gaydar" was an enjoyable frolic into the life of a perky girl (Pauleen Luna, a revelation) who always falls in love with a gay man.

MMFF's New Wave Festival had an uneven line up that erroneously picked Joven Tan's vexatious "Ang Maestra". Dramatic caterwauling made me want to regurgitate many times over. Since when has Joven Tan been considered a "new wave" personality? Hasn't he directed girlie flicks like "Kiskisan", "Biglang Liko", "Naked Nights", "Eskandalosa" and "Sex Files" in the early 90's? It's been more than 20 years since he started directing professionally - yet Tan still qualifies as "New Wave"? Digging deeper, his production people includes assistant director Cleo Paglinawan responsible for a flurry of Pink Films like "Indie Boys", "S.R.O.", "Bikini King", "Bugaw" and the awe-inspiring "Itlog na Pula"; then there's Darry dela Cruz as Tan's production assistant (and even part of the cast). Dela Cruz is the brilliant auteur behind "Malasado" and "Daklot"! New wave, right? Let's not forget that Tan recently bastardized the horror genre with "Morgue", a Mark Herras movie shown a week before MMFF New Wave started its run. Sometimes you wonder if the New Wave organizing committee knew what they were doing. Sigh. Good thing they had Gino Santos and Aloy Adlawan's delicately and alluringly told "Island Dreams". Armando Lao's "Dukit" is a cerebral telling of a struggling woodcarver's journey to success. Seamless storytelling and exquisite attention to detail predicate Alvin Yapan's "Mga Anino ng Kahapon", a tale about a woman's descent into paranoid schizophrenia, with superlative ensemble performance from Agot Isidro, TJ Trinidad, Carlo Cruz, et.al.

The main MMFF line-up yielded Joyce Bernal's edge-of-your-seat "10,000 Hours" - a tightly woven yarn loosely based on Senator Panfilo Lacson's escape from incarceration. The festival also spawned a gem in Chito Rono's "Boy Golden" with a cinematic texture reminiscent of Marilou Diaz-Abaya's "Baby Tsina"; it had humor, crisp lines and resplendent cinematography. A daring KC Concepcion emerged from this action biopic.

Sineng Pambansa's All-Masters Edition was supposed to highlight the consummate prowess of veteran directors, but with Gil Portes' mediocre handling of "Ang Tag-Araw ni Twinkle" and Elwood Perez's confounding and utterly confusing visual borborygmus in "Otso", the festival only proved that some masters are better "put out to pasture". Exceptions to this: Jose Javier Reyes' "Ano Ang Kulay ng Mga Nakalimutang Pangarap", Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes' "Sonata" and Chito Rono's "Badil", all superior films that deserve commercial screening outside the festival circuit. Celso Ad. Castillo's "Bahay ng Lagim" (shown a few years ago) was guest entry. Surprisingly, this version was different from the original we saw. Scenes with Karel Marquez, who wasn't in the earlier film, were inserted in the original, creating an even more befuddling story. Guest film maker T.M. Malones stretched his futuristic yarn in "Salvi Ang Pagpadayon". Though not a well-realized sequel of his successful short film, it was nevertheless interesting.


Mainstream Cinema wasn't bad either. Star Cinema ventured into co-productions and came up with one of the film outfit's best line-up in years. Erik Matti's "On the Job" and Veronica Velasco's "Tuhog" were on the plate. Even Dado Lumibao's "Must Be Love" and Joyce Bernal's "Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo" were nothing to scoff at. While Star Cinema released almost a dozen titles in 2013 (and several distributions like Jericho Rosales' "Alagwa"), GMA Films had a paltry 2 films: Jade Castro's disappointing "My Lady Boss" and Cesar Apolinario's awkward "Dance of the Steelbars". Is this broadcast outfit really in dire financial standing? We wonder.

Star Cinema's output is a far cry from the heydays of Regal Films who, in 1990, for example, released more than 41 films, with a variety of genre - actioners like Lito Lapid's "Kahit Singko Di Ko Babayaran ang Buhay Mo", drama like Maryo J. delos Reyes' "My Other Woman", to Rene Requiestas comedies ("Starzan 3", "Pido Dida 2", "Ganda Babae, Ganda Lalaki"). Viva Films had about 20 films in 1990; this year, their output is 6, which includes the year's box-office champion, Cathy Garcia-Molina's "It Takes a Man and a Woman", a co-production with Star Cinema. The film making business has radically changed in the last 20 years.

Pink Films seem to have dwindled, but not by much because one title (or two) is released every week. G.A. Villafuerte leads this prosaic and unremarable pack with 13 titles in this list (we haven't seen "Idlip" and "Romansa"). Fifteen is, by no means, a small number, but how can anyone derive pride in a body of work that boasts of nothing but shoddy production values, one-day shooting schedules, redundant scenography, amateur actors who can't seem to read scripts let alone internalize characters, and stories that are all interchangeable? Most scenes even move in sheer darkness you suspect there wasn't any budget for lights. Consider Villafuerte's "Kaniig" (Bedmates) which was entirely shot in a love motel (Nice Hotel). The story revolves around a bevy of sexually ambiguous denizens who live, work, dine, fight, reconcile, shag - and even party in the same darn setting! How's that for cost cutting?

2013 LIST

The list below is a hefty compendium of Filipino movies that were mostly available in commercial cinemas last year. Included in this list are international features that might as well be Pinoy productions: Sean Ellis' pessimistic tripe, "Metro Manila", Anthony Chen's heart warming Singaporean drama, "Ilo Ilo" and the disturbing Dutch production "Lilet Never Happened" (by director Jacco Groen). The latter is a disconcerting, if a tad contrived look at child prostitution set in Manila. The film showcases newbie Sandy Talag as the brave and shrewd Lilet. It is possible that I may have missed a few titles, but compiling them wasn't a walk in the park. This took me a good 2 1/2 days. On overview, it has been a spectacular year for Philippine Cinema.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Films of 2013:

Adolf Alix Jr.’s Porno
Adolfo Alix Jr.’s Alamat ni China Doll
Adolfo Alix Jr.’s Death March
Aimee Lourdes Apostol-Escasa's Asin
Alfonso Torre III’s Kabisera
Alvin Yapan’s Debosyon
Alvin Yapan’s Gaydar
Alvin Yapan’s Mga Anino ng Kahapon
Andoy Ranay’s When the Love is Gone
Andy Andico’s Transmigrate: The Troubled One
Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo
Archie del Mundo’s Ang Misis ni Meyor
Armando Lao’s Dukit
Arnel Madroquio’s Riddles of My Homecoming (Mga Tigmo sa Akong Pagpauli)
Arturo San Agustin’s Talamak
Ato Bautista’s Mga Ala-ala ng Tag-ulan
Ato Bautista’s Palitan

Benji Garcia’s Philippino Story
Benny Andaya’s Service Boys
Bona Fajardo's Iliw
Brillante Mendoza’s Sapi
Carlo Obispo’s Purok 7
Cathy Garcia-Molina's Four Sisters and a Wedding
Cathy Garcia-Molina's It Takes a Man and A Woman
Celso Ad. Castillo’s Bahay ng Lagim
Ces M. Evangelista’s Amor y Muerte  (Love and Death)
Cesar Apolinario and Mamie Manicad’s Dance of the Steelbars
Chito Rono’s Badil
Chito Rono’s Boy Golden: Shoot to Kill – The Arturo Porcuna Story
Chris Martinez’s Kimmy Dora: Ang Kiyemeng Prequel
Chris Martinez’s Status: It’s Complicated
Christopher Castillo’s The Diplomat Hotel

Dado Lumibao's Must Be Love
Darry dela Cruz’s Longganisa For Sale
Darry dela Cruz's Male Box
Darry dela Cruz's Pakawala
Dominic Lim's Kapitan Basura
Don Bautista’s Gapang
Don Cuaresma’s Call Center Girl
Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon
Eduardo Roy’s Quick Change
Edz Espiritu's Bangkero
Eliza Cornejo’s Kaleidoscope World
Ellen Marfil's Boses
Elwood Perez’s Otso
Emmanuel de la Cruz’s Slumber Party
Emmanuel Palo’s David F.
Emmanuel Palo's A Moment in Time
Erik Matti's On the Job

Francis “Jun” Posadas’ Pukaw
Francis Villacorta’s Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir
Frasco Mortiz’s Pagpag: Siyam na Buhay
G.A. Villafuerte’s Bagong Paligo
G.A. Villafuerte’s Boy Kabayo
G.A. Villafuerte’s Brutal
G.A. Villafuerte’s Dilig
G.A. Villafuerte’s Hayok (Hanggang Saan Ka Papasok?)
G.A. Villafuerte’s Init
G.A. Villafuerte’s Katas (Gusto Mo Ba ng Prutas?)
G.A. Villafuerte’s Sayaw
G.A. Villafuerte’s Tsikboy
G.A. Villafuerte’s Webcam
G.A. Villafuerte's Boitoi: Pera ang Dahilan ng Pusong Sinugatan
G.A. Villafuerte's Kaniig (Bedmates)
G.A. Villafuerte's Sabik Nananabik

Gil M. Portes’ Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle
Gil M. Portes’ Liars
Gil Portes' Bayang Magiliw (Funky Town)
Gino Santos and Aloy Adlawan’s Island Dreams
Hannah Espia’s Transit
Ian del Carmen's Bad Romance
Ian Lorenos' Alagwa
Ian Lorenos’ Saturday Night Chills
Jacco Groen’s Lilet Never Happened
Jade Castro’s Juana C. The Movie
Jade Castro’s My Lady Boss
Janice Perez’s The Muses
Jason Paul Laxamana’s Babagwa (The Spider’s Lair)

Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra
Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati
Jet Leyco’s Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na
Jigz F. Recto’s Bastusin
Jigz F. Recto’s Boy Onse
Jigz F. Recto’s Tag Sibol
Jigz F. Recto's Boy Onse
Joel Lamangan’s Lihis
Joel Lamangan's Menor de Edad
Joel Lamangan's The Bride and the Lover
John Torres’ Lukas Nino
Jordan Elbert Ferrer’s Hello, World
Jose Javier Reyes’ Ano Ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?
Joseph Israel Laban’s Nuwebe
Joven Tan’s Ang Maestra
Joven Tan’s Morgue
Jowee Morel's Leona Calderon

Joyce Bernal’s 10,000 Hours
Joyce Bernal's Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo
Jun Pereira’s Bangungot
Keith Deligero’s Iskalawags
Keith Sicat’s Woman of the Ruins
Kristian Cordero’s Angustia
Lao G. Mira’s Kapit sa Patalim
Leo Abaya’s Instant Mommy
Lino Brocka's Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (remastered)
Mae Czarina Cruz’s She’s the One
Marlon Rivera’s My Little Bossing
Marlon Rivera's Ang Huling Henya
Martin Masadao's Anak Ti Pating
Martin Rey Aviles' Coming Soon
Maryo J. de los Reyes’ Bamboo Flower

Mel Chionglo’s Lauriana
Mes de Guzman’s Ang Kwento ni Mabuti
Mes de Guzman’s Sitio
Miguel Alcazaren’s Puti
Mikhail Red’s Rekorder
Miko Livelo’s Blue Bustamante
Moises Anthony Cruz's Limang Dipang Tao
Neal Buboy Tan's I Luv U, Pare Ko
Onat Diaz's Kung Fu Divas
Paul Singh Cudail’s Lantad
Paul Singh Cudail’s Romansa
Paul Singh Cudails Direktor’s Cut
Paul Singh Cudail's Diskarte (aka "Himas")
Paul Singh Cudail's Scorpion Lovers

Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes’ Sonata
Peque Gallaga's Oro, Plata, Mata (remastered)
Peque Gallaga's Seduction
Ralston Jover’s Bendor
Randolph Longjas’ Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Rin
Randy Santiago’s Raketeros
Rica Arevalo’s The Privileged Migrants
Robbie Taroza's Pagari
Romy Suzara’s Tinik
Ron Bryant’s Bingoleras
Ronald M. Rafer's Gabriel: Ito Ang Kuwento Ko...
Ronn-Rick's The Fighting Chefs

Sandy Es Mariano's Jumbo Jericho
Sari and Kiri Dalena’s The Guerilla is a Poet
Sean Ellis' Metro Manila
Siege Ledesma’s Shift
Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita
T. M. Malones’ Salvi: Ang Pagpadayon
Timmy Horn’s Ang Pagbabalat ng Ahas
Toni Te’s Bodegero
Toni Te’s Ganid
Toni Te’s Laman
Toni Te’s Wanted Houseboy
Toto Natividad’s Saka Saka

Veronica Velasco's Tuhog
Vincent Sandoval's Aparisyon
Wenn Deramas' Bromance
Wenn Deramas’ Bekikang
Wenn Deramas’ Boy Girl Bakla Tomboy
Wenn Deramas’ Momzillas
Whammy Alcazaren’s Islands
Wilden Anonuevo's Halik ng Nympha
Will Fredo's In Nominee Matris (In the Name of the Mother)

Up Next:

2013's Best, Worst and Breakthrough Performances


Anonymous said...

During the height of the MMFF, I was starting to ask myself the question of why would people still feel they want to make 'films' when all the people want is 'My Little Bossings' and good films are getting eased out of the movie theaters (We chased Boy Golden through Glorietta, Greenbelt and PowerPlant, but it was removed from their lineup as early as Dec 30 because according to one ticket attendant, there were just a few sales. We'd eventually catch it in Megamall a week later. But the effort one has got to go through)?
There oughta be a special place in hell for people who make a ton of profit doing bad films.

Cathy Pena said...

Juan, I think these people have enough money to pay someone who's willing to take their place in hell. And Kris Aquino has enough dough to rent out purgatory from her product placements in "My Little Bossings". :)