Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015 Movie Honor Roll: "Honor", John Lloyd, Nora and Tirso Lead Year's Top Achievers

2015 – It wasn’t exactly an exemplary year in Philippine cinema. Nevertheless, some left a few indelible images in my mind. Let’s call them celluloid magic.

Nora Aunor is a wandering mother in search of her missing child, seemingly oblivious to the inscrutable grief in post-Yolanda Tacloban in “Taklub”. Tessie Tomas struggles to relearn her 3 R’s as she dreams of finishing 6th grade at the age of 70 in “Old Skool”. LJ Reyes seeks to rescue her rebel father from the clutches of Marcos-era soldiers though her romantic liaisons with soldier Luis Alandy in “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”. 

Coco Martin’s brother Ronwaldo (see bottom poster) drives around in his motorbike with an aging Kapampangan poet in a sparsely vegetated, dusty sitio in “Ari: My Life with a King”. Bea Alonzo comes to grips with the failure of her overbearing husband John Lloyd Cruz whose ineptitude has put a toll on their marital lives in "A Second Chance”. 

Andi Eigenmann sorely pretends she’s being possessed by the restless spirits of a notoriously haunted theatre hall in “Tragic Theatre”, the first local film to open 2015. 

Mercedes Cabral refuses to leave her shanty by the bamboo groove despite her boyfriend’s constant pleadings in “An Kubo sa Kawayanan”. A gay teenager gets bafflingly pregnant and soon becomes object of the town’s attention, derision and devotion in “Miss Bulalacao”. 

John Arcilla navigates the revolutionary trenches of the Katipunan with acid tongue and impassioned demeanor in the runaway hit, “Heneral Luna”. Piolo Pascual rescues beautiful damsel Rhian Ramos from her abusive husband in “Silong”. Meryll Soriano parries the wrath of her customers when her financial scheme goes belly up, leaving hundreds of her friends in financial ruin in “Honor Thy Father”. Angeli Bayani endures the ridicule of her co-rebels when she was found to have run off with the group’s money in “Iisa”. 

Toni Gonzaga travels to Batanes and falls in love with her good-looking assistant in “You’re My Boss”. Ricky Davao is the chilling crime boss who abducts young women and caters to canine culinary while operating his small town crime syndicate in “Dayang Asu”

Raymond Bagatsing recreates a delectable Nick Joaquin persona that’s compellingly watchable and unforgettable in “Dahling Nick”. Bimby Aquino Yap embarrassingly fumbles his five-line poem in "All You Need is Pag-Ibig”, proving once and for all that there’s no such thing as “dugong artista”. Ditto those ridiculously vapid Concio sisters. 

Liza Soberano becomes a reluctant TV host for a provincial travel show while boyfriend Gerald Anderson lies in a coma in “Everyday I Love You”. Teri Malvar finds redemption in another hellhole when she’s taken in by a kind-hearted taxi driver in “Hamog

Vice Ganda singularly redeems the asinine narrative clutter of another Wenn Deramas flick in “Beauty and the Bestie”. Cherry Pie Picache adoringly searches for her real mother despite the elaborate show meant to mislead her in “Manang Biring”. This last scene in Carl Joseph Papa’s rotoscopic experiment still lingers and haunts my reveries two months after I’ve seen it. If that isn’t the palpable power of cinema, I don’t know what is.   

What are your unforgettable cinematic moments? "Honor Thy Father" leads the pack with lead actor John Lloyd Cruz turning in his career best performance. Superstar Nora Aunor, meanwhile, disregards theatrical pretenses and those fancy ocular spotlights in Mendoza's antithesis to the typical Pinoy melodrama.  Here are the year’s best films and performances.

BEST FILMS of 2015 (in descending order)

1. Erik Matti's "Honor Thy Father"
2. Brillante Mendoza's "Taklub"
3. Joel Ferrer's "Baka Siguro Yata"
4. Ara Chawdhury's "Miss Bulalacao"
5. Ralston Jover's "Da Dog Show"
6. Jerrold Tarog's "Heneral Luna"
7. Lawrence Fajardo's "Imbisibol"
8. Carl Joseph Papa's "Manang Biring"
9. Alvin Yapan's "An Kubo sa Kawayanan"
10. Jun Robles Lana's "Anino sa Likod ng Buwan"

Best Performances by Male Actors in Lead Roles (in descending order)

1. John Lloyd Cruz in “Honor Thy Father
2. Raymond Bagatsing in “Dahling Nick
3. John Lloyd Cruz in “A Second Chance
4. John Arcilla in “Heneral Luna
5. Allen Dizon in “Imbisibol
6. Piolo Pascual in “The Breakup Playlist
7. Jericho Rosales in “#Walang Forever
8. Dino Pastrano in “Baka Siguro Yata
9. Jun-jun Quintana in “Water Lemon
10. JM de Guzman in “Tandem”

1. Nora Aunor in “Taklub
2. Bea Alonzo in “A Second Chance
3. Claudine Barretto in “Etiquette for Mistresses
4. Teri Malvar as in “Hamog
5. Jennylyn Mercado in “#Walang Forever
6. Alessandra De Rossi in “Bambanti
7. Angeli Bayani for Chuck Gutierrez’s “Iisa
8. Tessie Tomas in “Old Skool
9. LJ Reyes in “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan

10. Mercedes Cabral in “An Kubo sa Kawayanan

1. Tirso Cruz III in “ Honor Thy Father
2. Lou Veloso in “Water Lemon
3. Ricky Davao in “Dayang Asu
4. OJ Mariano in “Hamog
5. JM de Guzman in “Imbisibol

6. Anthony Falcon in “ Anino sa Likod ng Buwan” 

        1.  Meryll Soriano in “ Honor Thy Father
    2. Annicka Dolonius in “Apocalypse Child
    3. Anna Luna as in “Hamog
    4. Mercedes Cabral in “Da Dog Show
    5. Nova Villa in “ All You Need is Pag-ibig” 


I love first features because they're baptisms of fire for the film makers. Tension associated with such works usually ignite a degree of creativity that's fresh or original. First time directors are usually on a quest to tell stories that, in their mind, could make a difference. In some instances, these stories become masterpieces because these become carefully told tales in exquisitely calibrated yarn-spinning. 

Some get overwhelmed by the experience. Angelina Jolie, ("In the Land of Milk and Honey"), admitted to having a "meltdown" saying, "I felt very small and, who am I to take this on? What have I done?" Others tend to be more pragmatic about the artistic process. Sam Mendes (" American Beauty") remembered, "I made a very conscious decision early on, if I didn’t understand something technically, to say, without embarrassment, ‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about, please explain it.’”  But while there are masterful works (Katski Flores' " Still Life", for example), execrable films also turn up, like former sexy actor Carlos Morales' "Piring" which was screened during last year's ill-organized "World Premiere Festival" (FDCP). 

I've a minor quibble with the casting of Kapampangan Poetry King Francisco Guinto in "Ari: My Life with a King" (who won "Best Actor" for the festival), but there's no denying that Catu's first feature is solid film making that deserves a bigger audience. For this list, I've decided to include the short film, "Lisyun qng Geografia", directed by Petersen Vargas though the film strictly belongs with the 2014 releases. But I don't care. I feel it deserves special mention because in my book, it is a complete film. If it were longer, it would have been a legitimate and valid first feature from the talented director. So here's the list.


1. Ara Chawdhury's "Miss Bulalacao"    
2. Chuck Gutierrez's "Iisa"   
3. Cia Jorge's "Old Skool"    
4. Carlo Enciso Catu's "Ari My Life with a King"    
5. Mihk Vergara's "Patintero Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo"   

Ronwaldo Martin is this year's breakthrough artist in "Ari: My Life with a King". Coco Martin's younger brother commands attention.

Earlier this year, I was bestowed relative, albeit cringe-worthy immortality when a starlet named "Katy Pena" came into being and topbilled one of those gag-inducing Pink Films called "Huling Hininga". I had nightmares that night, of course. I thought it was going to be my last breath :)

While we're on the subject of overachievers, let's not forget foul-mouthed director Cathy Garcia-Molina who romps off with the year's biggest non-MMFF box office winner, "A Second Chance". Let's hope she learns romcom-style jargons that befit her supposedly respectable stature instead of curses directed only towards lowly bit players. Otherwise,troglodytes with such attitude don't deserve the public's patronage. Photoshoots as light and breezy as the one above seem inappropriate for her flowery vocabulary. Angelina Jolie would be very glad to lend her head piece, don't you think? A change of name is in order? Cathy Garcia-Maleficent?


Anonymous said...

i wish there's a way to see some of those films outside the festivals. it can get so tiring
i saw the last part of ilusyon qng geografiya though, i thought it was special, it has rhythm and style

- juan

Cathy Pena said...

True. It can get tiring. These festivals require a lot of your time, money and dedication. Often times, half the entrees aren't even worth the effort. The horrendous traffic also gets into the picture. Re: Geografiya, I would add the special atmosphere as one of its strengths, as well as the casting.