Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Roderick Lindayag's Dito Lang Ako - Shades of Mediocre and Nostalgia

In Nelia's mind, the 70's happened yesterday when the sweet-talking mechanic Delfin started to court her. He would show up where she worked, at a car accessories shop in Timog, and lavish her with attention - and hopia (bean-filled, mooncake-like pastry)! But yesterday happened 40 years ago.

For the hard working lass, Delfin (Jon Lucas) was an enigma. He showered Nelia (Michelle Vito) with affection, but he would disappear for long spells without much of an explanation. Despite all these, Nelia ignored the charming shop owner's son Victor (Akihiro Blanco) with his own romantic agenda. One day, Delfin disappears again. Nelia eventually learns that Delfin is afflicted with leukemia. Nothing short of a miracle can save the strapping lad. As a last resort, Delfin's family decides to take him to the U.S. to seek further medical intervention. Nelia never heard from him again.

As the years pass, an older Nelia (Boots Anson Roa) emerges from the ravages of time. Her memory intermittently takes her back to the tree outside the store where Delfin would usually meet her. She was willing to wait until he comes back again.

There's a certain charm in its basic narrative structure. Nostalgia after all is a delectable cinematic tool that's hard to brush off.

Unfortunately, there's little hint of artistic competence in telling the story. The whole production basically feels like a bad film thesis. It doesn't help that 70% of the scenes has "Blade" staring in your face, and shoving down your gut like an impacted stool.

If product placements were a legitimate practice in movie making, this wasn't the way to go about it. As you leave the cinema, you've overloaded your senses with Blade, and you don't want anything to do with it until you're Nelia's ripe age.

With a decent cast that also includes Freddie Webb, Rey PJ Abellana, DJ Durano, Roadfill, Garie Concepcion, and even James Deakin, the whole effort is a wasted opportunity. Michelle Vito and Jon Lucas are an adorable pair who work hard to make their flimsy excuse of a relationship look believable. Akihiro Blanco was the irrelevant third wheel. His character didn't have much traction. Parang wala lang! Remove him from the story, and it wouldn't make a difference.

Using non-actors, which I presume included owners of the Blade shop, to perform different characters on screen was painful to watch. I'd rather have root canal than endure their stolid or overly dramatic turns. One, in particular, was the actor portraying Delfin's brother - and the surly mother! Another robotic cameo was turned in by the guy portraying Victor's dad who could hardly make his facial muscles move! It was like witnessing how "cogwheel rigidity" looks like - for people with Parkinson's Disease. Like Richard Yap, without the charm!

There were several ideas that could have worked but didn't - like the poetic bantering of Nelia and Delfin, which was short-lived. What horribly written lines! The side stories had shoddy treatment and didn't contribute to the movement of the story (an asthmatic father played by Rey PJ Abellana). It would have made Nelia's story richer and more engaging.

If there was anything barely watchable about the film, it's the music video played at the credits, featuring the spirited cast taking turns singing the radio-friendly "Iisang Pangarap". In the music video, you'd find a relaxed cast monkeying around. Surely, the production didn't scrimp on its actors. And if you want to watch James Deakin shimmy a bit, this is a rare chance. Yes, Mr. Deakin, "the Filipino is worth driving for" - he's made to say it. But don't push it. We did not appreciate your fraternizing with the son of a tyrant who indeed pilfered the country's coffers, and tortured and killed thousands of Filipinos. There.

As for the music video we were talking about, click on the Youtube link below. It's more entertaining than the movie itself.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

"School Service", "Mamang", "Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon", "Musmos na Sumibol sa Gubat ng Digma" - Cinemalaya 2018

"School Service" is director Louie Ignacio's most solid work to date. It's driven by a rattling good tale of a dysfunctional family of grifters who lives in a rundown, roving school service, abducting children along the way. The children are tasked to beg for money used to buy food and medicine for the ailing patriarch (Joe Gruta) and to pay off cops. 

With 6 unrelated children now in their fold, Rita (Ai ai delas Alas) is having a tough time managing their affairs. It doesn't help that elder brother Robert (Joel Lamangan) is hopelessly enraptured by his lover Kiko (Kevin Sagra), the driver, who's trying to convince Robert to sell the vehicle and run away with him. One day, while Rita is scouring the city with the children, Robert fails to return on time. Rita fears that her suspicion has finally come true. 

The film follows the daily routine of Rita's "family" as they brave the concrete jungle. I am reminded of a few movies: Ralston Jover's "Hamog" and Eduardo Roy's "Pamilya Ordinaryo" which tackled familiar ground of urban vagrancy. The scene of children sniffing rugby to ward off hunger was very familiar. 

The strength of the story is its unpredictability, as we're compelled to sit back and wait for things to unravel. It's hard to double guess the string of events, and you're left wondering. Life in the big city can be harsh, and there are always extraneous factors that affect even the best laid plans. 

Some of the memorable scenes include Rita getting called out by a shop lady for her lies as she pretends to be physically debilitated; Robert trying to stop Kiko from smothering his sick father; and, finally, Rita chasing after little Maya who's stoned from sniffing glue. 

I have to mention Joel Lamangan's substantive portrayal.

The first movie I wanted to watch for the festival was Denise O'Hara's "Mamang" - and I got lucky. I am not sure why this was highly anticipated, even by some of my friends who rarely watch indies. Maybe because Celeste Legaspi is one of the movers behind the unforgettable little MMFF movie that could - Loy Arcenas' "Ang Larawan". Legaspi has always been synonymous with quality. Think Barbra Streisand, Philippine version.

"Mamang", however, was underwhelming. The protagonist's downspiraling cognitive skills seemed episodic at best. Like a tedious litany of the symptoms of dementia. In fact, there was a disconnect and I couldn't fully empathize with Mamang.

Part of this is Legaspi's uneven characterization. Make no mistake, she's a grand presence on screen, but there are stark inconsistencies with her character. She'd be surly one minute, then timid and blushing, and headstrong the next. She's like a brat acting out for her close up. And Norma Desmond is a solar system away from who Mamang should be.

I am aware of the behavioral abnormalities associated with dementia: depression, anxiety psychosis, agitation, aggression, disinhibition, and sleep disturbances. In their realms, the past crisscrosses with the present. I know. I've lived with a grandmother who suffered from it. This was one of the things that drew me to the movie.

Sadly, it was a struggle to relate to this story. I am aware too that this was based on real events. So we're down to the writing. There was not enough tension to sustain my interest. Even her hallucinations (she gets a visit from a few characters - her dead husband, a constantly hungry soldier, etc.) were novelty ideas that wore off fast. I was barely moved by her joy or grief. If stoicism is a product of a narrative, then my disinterest was appropriately justified.

Carlo Catu's "Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon" was an interesting watch because it involved a marital dilemma usually discussed among people way under 60 years old. How does the senior population deal with these precarious situations? Is it any different? Do wisdom and calm demeanor figure into the resolution of these predicaments? 

For 27 years, Teresa (Perla Bautista) and Celso (Menggie Cobarrubias) have lived a harmonious life together. One fateful day, Teresa gets an unexpected call for help from Benedicto (Dante Rivero). Bene, the husband who abandoned Tere in the past, is afflicted with Glioblastoma, a malignant and aggressive cancer of the brain. Would Tere extend a helping hand? Would Celso allow her to?

With a cast of reliable veterans, the story comes alive as the characters maneuver the slippery slope of past and present relationships. The film also poses a question: Do we still care for persons even if they've hurt us in the past? Bautista, Rivero and Cobarrubias navigate a delectable roundelay that effectively coaxes emotional calisthenics from us. It helped that director Catu judiciously employed this rich atmosphere of nostalgia, I could practically smell regret and yearning from the walls of Bene's ramshackle house. 

There are unforgettable moments that define this movie: Teresa admits her true feelings for Bene - and it was sincere and straight-forward, if a bit brutal; and estranged son Chito (Romnick Sarmenta in a short but grippingly intense scene) comes face to face with the father who abandoned them.

Director Iar Lionel Arondaing knows how to present the most ravishing images in his latest movie, "Musmos Na Sumibol sa Gubat ng Digma". The opening scenes alone were eye-poppingly gorgeous; a far cry from his previous entry with Cinemalaya, "Sa Gabing Nananahimik ang mga Kuliglig". Arondaing tackles another revenge story in the form of "rido", the tribal wars that fatally play like a vicious cycle of violence among clans in the south.

In the story, Eshal (Junyka Sigrid Antarin) escapes her burning house with pregnant mother Manahil (Star Orjaliza). But it didn't take long before Manahil delivers her baby on the boat in the middle of a mangrove forest (a stunning shot that drew gasps from the cinema audience). Unfortunately, Eshal's mother bleeds and expires after delivery. Young Eshal, as earlier suggested by Manahil, cuts her hair and pretends to be a boy named Hamed who has to take care of her newborn brother Affan. 

The next day, Hamed rescues a boy named Farhan (JM Salvado) who suffers from the same predicament after having escaped from tribal in-fighting. They become fast friends as Farhan helps Hamed take care of the baby. But Hamed noticed the "kufi" (a brimless rounded cap worn by Muslim males) on Farhan's head. Could it be her father's?  

While undeniably interesting, "Musmos..." is hobbled by throwaway scenes that would have benefited from judicious editing. In fact, about 20 minutes less would have given it a tighter, more focused story. There were also stilted lines straight out of 9 year old kids: "Nangarap ka na ba minsan?" Huh?

For its music, the film made use of "sufi supplications" (Islamic chanted prayers) playing overtime, disparately garnishing the cinematic canvas, some too distractingly, particularly when the characters were in a conversation. Like his previous movie, some of Arondaing's scenes were too dark to see. We had to guess what was happening.  

We can't emphasize enough the relevance of cinema in stating the obvious; i.e. that war is but a folly - and pride unnecessarily creates grief. We need more movies that tackle social ills because they help mirror problems that could be remedied by reflection. Cinema can be such a vessel.

If Sheron Dayoc's similarly themed "Women of the Weeping River" (QCinema Best Film, 2017) was a face-off between wives, "Musmos..." was a matter among children. It is also clear that Dayoc's work is artistically better realized.

#schoolservice   #mamang   #kungpaanohinihintayangdapithapon   #musmosnasumibolsagubatngdigma   #cinemalaya2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

Pink Film Gatecrashes the CCP - Afi Africa's "The Lookout" (Cinemalaya 2018)

There were sporadic giggles and laughters during the screening of Afi Africa's "The Lookout". Odd thing is, it isn't even remotely funny. It's not comedy. The film is a pink-flavored, highly charged action drama that reminds me of the visual style and cinematic discernment of Monti Parungao. "Bayaw", anyone? 

In the story, siblings George and Grace Limotog got separated from each other after battered wife and mother (Yayo Aguila) sells them to a nefarious slavery ring! George eventually grows up as Lester Quiambao (Andres Vasquez), a notorious hired assassin who's being pursued by operatives. But to fill his emotional void and libidinous urges, Lester "buys" himself a lover and sidekick Travis Concepcion (Jay Garcia) who assists in his operations. (Note that this avenging assassin lives in a very scenic, albeit dilapidated tenement beside an MRT railway, yet he can buy a human being!) On the side, Lester still searches for his younger sister Grace, now Monica (Elle Ramirez) whom he didn't realize has been heading the operatives tasked to apprehend him. 

The story is clunky, convoluted and preposterous. As it heightens its drama, you are transported to an alternate dimension where hired killers - no, wait, gay assassins have the luxury of buying men straight off a meat shelf like they were market commodities. I'm not referring to "one-night-stand", "lay-on-the-hay" services but actual flesh-and-blood pulchritudinous guys as personal properties. Slavery exists in the Philippines, believe it or not! At least in the vitiated imagination of its writer and director. Audience reception was telling: First, there was awkward silence as the audience takes in the assault of sensibility. Then chuckles eventually followed.

Typical of Pink Films, most actors are newbies with fresh faces and sculpted bodies. They're also exceptionally eager actors. But while they're visually captivating, you can't help but notice the floundering skill behind all these. At least Parungao had clarity. Africa meanwhile randomly shoots narrative blanks, which is an obvious case of opportunity being squandered. More skilled film makers could have strutted their wares here. Instead, we're fed narrative strains that made our skin crawl.

To prove my point? Do we really want to see Rez Cortez being sodomized by a couple of thugs? Such perversion, debah? Besides, if George wanted vengeance for having been sexually abused by his trainor/tormentor (Cortez) when he was younger, why didn't he do it himself? That would have been the ultimate revenge, right? I guess even our protagonist was appalled by such idea. After all, he likes guys his age; fit, muscular and thespically dazed. Then again, this salient detail could have slipped the director's mind? 

Turned out, the audience dictated its genre. This was comedy after all. 

Search your pockets for some Meclizine - or a barf bag will do! 

#cinemalaya2018   #thelookout   #afiafrica

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"Distance", "Kuya Wes", "ML" and "Pan de Salawal" - The Best of Cinemalaya 2018

Cinemalaya's main features this year are inhabited by damaged souls with crushed spirits. In this post alone, there's a variety of them. A woman grieves for the death of her lover. A devastatingly lonely man finds amusement and enchantment in a married woman. A spooky old man entertains a young student for an interview about his checkered past. A solitary baker suffering from a debilitating kidney disease gets a modicum of affection from an eccentric child with healing powers. We've earlier written about Kip Oebanda's "Liway". To round up Cinemalaya's best films this year, here are the 4 other entries we loved.

In Perci Intalan's "Distance", five years after abandoning her family, estranged wife Liza (Iza Calzado) gets an invitation from husband Anton (Nonie Buencamino) to return to their family but without the knowledge of daughters Karla (Therese Malvar) and Therese (Alessandra Malonzo). 

Without any precondition, explanation or apology, Liza resumes her place in the household: cooking their favorite dish, driving the girls to school, attending school events, and taking them out to shop. But this doesn't sit well with daughter Karla who struggles to understand their situation. Is Liza staying for good? It doesn't help that Karla is attempting to ignore her feelings for her young teacher Adi (Adrianna So). Karla's ambivalence is more deeply rooted. She knew why her mother left - to be with their Tita Jen (Max Eigenmann).

"Distance" was my early favorite because it deftly captured the brass tacks of fixing a broken relationship that initially seemed irreparable. How does one offer forgiveness when an apology isn't even offered? Is being true to oneself worse than emotional pretense? 

The story fields questions about "loving" and they are something to chew on: Is there a limit to loving someone? Would you love a person even when you know it will turn to a personal tragedy?

The movie is Intalan's finest work to date. It also shows his evolving acumen for a compelling story telling, too far removed from the director's "My Fairy Tale Love Story" (2018), "Flight 666" (Shake, Rattle and Roll XV) and "Dementia" (2014). If I didn't know this was his masterwork, I wouldn't have guessed. 

Scenes rankle with tension from the opening shot that escalates and ultimately leads to a satisfying confrontation. Watching Karla's accusatory spiel felt cathartic. I have to take my hats off to Therese Malvar's thespic grit.

"Distance" delivers a focused story with a narrative progression that's constantly thought provoking. Credit also goes to the consistently even performances of the ensemble. It's hard to pick a standout though Calzado enveigles a lot of empathy. How I have missed watching this stellar actress tackle a character on screen worthy of her exemplary talent.

To be honest, we didn't expect much from James Robin Mayo's "Kuya Wes". But such was my surprise when the movie turned out more than watchable.

In the story, a perpetually joyless cash remittance clerk Wes (Ogie Alcasid) is captivated by regular customer Ericka (Ina Raymundo), a married woman with two children. So he eagerly waits for the woman every 16th of the month to claim remittance from her husband who works overseas. 

Meanwhile, Wes comes home to his younger brother's (Alex Medina) family where he is ignored, but for the occasional interaction when he gets asked to pay for the household bills - or wash his pamangkin's uniforms. Though mostly, he acquiesces, Wes' loneliness turns interesting when Ericka starts acknowledging his presence. One day, Ericka arrives but learns that no money was sent. So Wes hands money from his pocket. Will this take their relationship to the next level? With the prodding of co-worker Joy (Moi Bien), would Ericka agree if he asked her out for a 'friendly" date? 

"Kuya Wes" is told in a light manner with deceptively comic relishes; a character study that tackles loneliness and the length people are willing to do to snag happiness. The story includes an adorable lineup of quirky characters that graces Wes' little world. But what drew me to the story was his moments of utter desolation - when he comes home and no one minds the candies he brings for his niece and nephew; when he's left at home while his brother takes his family out; when people constantly "forgets" that he's allergic to chicken; and when he gradually retreats to the confines of his small room. 

I was reminded of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" where many of the characters struggle with loneliness. Different people cope different ways, but Wes decided to literally put his money where his heart is. What followed was an unsettling chapter that would make people evaluate their relationship with others. Kindness doesn't always beget kindness. It pays to be pragmatic when material objects are the ones bridging relationships. Despite Wes' unfortunate situation, we ultimately felt catharsis. 

Needless to say, Ogie Alcasid inhabits his character like hands to a glove as though it was written for him. We cannot think of another actor to portray this protagonist. Moi Bien returns to Cinemalaya after last year's hilarious turn in "Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha". She plays the adorable co-worker who provides a shoulder to cry on when everyone else has turned their backs on him. Sniff sniff.

In Benedict Mique's "ML", when a history teacher (Jojit Lorenzo) discusses the topic of Marcos-era monstrosities, school jock Carlo (Tony Labrusca) and friends contradict him. For them, it was a time of opulence and discipline. So the teacher assigns his class to interview personalities who lived through the Martial Law years.

Carlo then invites himself to his neighbor's home where a retired colonel lives alone. Little did he realize that this will give him first hand experience of the horrors of Martial Law as Colonel Jose Zabala dela Cruz (Eddie Garcia) takes him in. 

Before long, Carlo finds himself tied and gagged in a basement. In the 74-year old colonel's demented confusion, Carlo is a rebel and subjects him to intense interrogation and torture. What's worse, the colonel even lures Carlo's friend Jaze (Henz Villaraiz) and girlfriend Pat (Lianne Valentino) to join him. 

The film takes its viewers to a harrowing descent into madness as the Marcos-worshiping Duterte-apologist subjects his "suspects" to the various methods of torture. The movie is disconcerting, exhausting and very visceral, you keep squirming in your seat as you watch the protagonists' helplessness. The film mirrors the twisted mind of authoritarian rulers whose noble idea of dealing with the "dregs of society" is one of annihilation than reformation. We're very aware of that kind. It likewise mirrors the dichotomous persona of Garcia's character: doting grandfather to his grandchildren yet a vicious, merciless murderous cow.

Mique's work reminds me of Eli Roth although this one's way scarier because its close to home. These atrocities were inflicted on thousands of Filipinos who lived during the Marcos rule. The movie is R-16 and rightfully so.

I went out of the cinema shivering.

Che Espiritu's "Pan de Salawal" is a delightful narrative stroll into the lives of ailing people who reside at a railway community in Manila. Their lives change when a strange multi-lingual street urchin, Aguy (the remarkable Miel Espinosa) comes into their lives.

Sal (Bodjie Pascua), the lonely baker, suffers from an impending kidney failure. In the same community, a barber (Ian Lomongo) has involuntary tremors of his hands. A handsome meat vendor (Felix Roco) refuses to pursue his affection to a beautiful neighbor (Anna Luna) because of his deformed leg. Mang Bruno (Soliman Cruz) is petrified of the growing lump on his breast. A former Carinosa dancer (Ruby Ruiz) sits on a wheel chair, debilitated by stroke. And little Aguy has an unusual method of healing them - she hurts them! Unfortunately, her magical powers don't seem to work for Sal who has taken Aguy out of homelessness. What to do.

The film presents a motley crew of quirky characters to populate this endearing dramedy. Mostly though, a touch of magic realism buoys this fantastical story of levity and hope. We dance on our seat as we watch the town celebrate life after Aguy heals them - all in one go. 

The performances are top notch. Miel Espinosa as Aguy is amazing. Bodjie Pascua has a commanding presence but could have depicted Mang Sal with a little less of his Batibot persona as we find his usual vocal affectations and fractured delivery occasionally awkward and discomfiting. Example: When he invites the child to his home for shelter, he would stutter as though embarrassed talking to a 7-year old child, which doesn't make sense to me. Why is an adult stuttering in front of a homeless child? 

Some people would wonder about the nature of Aguy's healing powers. But such is the wonder of magic realism where realistic narrative and naturalistic techniques are combined with surreal elements of fantasy. This works perfectly here. If you just sit and imbibe the struggles of each character, there's a lot to take in - and enjoy. 

"Pan de Salawal" is the kind that wins Audience Awards because it is a joy to watch.

#cinemalaya2018   #distance   #kuyawes    #ML   #pandesalawal   #moviereviews   #bestofcinemalaya   # liway

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Kip Oebanda's Liway - Sugarcoating Horrors (Cinemalaya 2018)

Diverse, engrossing, socially relevant, technically well crafted, less artistic pretension. 

This year’s film harvest from Cinemalaya is surprisingly impressive. I was dreading the festival marathon because last year’s entries were mind-numbingly mediocre. They were hard to watch because 4 of them were so darkly lit people had to squint for clarity. That's just for starters. What’s worse, the festival gave awards to the worst offenders. They were even arrogantly unapologetic about it. Why would they apologize, right? There’s a simple answer. But let me not digress. I'd rather discuss this cinematic gem called "Liway".

At the height of Martial Law in the late 70’s, activists Day (Glaiza de Castro) and Ric (Dominic Roco) were apprehended by the military and imprisoned in Camp Delgado alongside criminals and other rebels. 

Day, whose alter ego was Liway in the underground movement, gave birth to her son Dakip (Kenken Nuyad) who was allowed to stay with his parents. Despite the atrocities that were happening in the camp (inmates disappearing without a trace), Liway vowed to shelter her children from the ugly face of incarceration. Sugarcoating the horrors of Martial Law is never an easy task. But how far will a mother go to protect her family?

“Liway” has a straight forward story telling that makes occasional use of flashbacks. The story is easy to follow.

It uses few narrative embellishments. In fact, it practically did away with overbearing sentimentality (which it deserved). 

While some stories are maneuvered to adapt to the cinematic medium, the excoriating details in the film are however veiled by lighter scenes. Truth can sometimes be tweaked as a just excuse for a historical execration, but this isn't the case here.

Emotions aren’t allowed to linger for too long. The brutality of the Marcos regime has obviously been toned down to impart a livable environment that Liway, in her limited capacity, has created for her children. 

Showing the violence of torture as experienced by the inmates would have made a good contrast to the kind of atmosphere Liway wanted Dakip to experience. One cannot gloss over the brutality that transpired because this was one of the essence of the regime's disdain for freedom, and how it imposed an abusive rule to silence dissenting voices. 

In a truly enlightened society, no single soul should justify violations of human rights. But in an ailing society, revising a murky past is becoming common place, which is an insult to those who suffered and perished during that era. These days, such revisionism is gradually unraveling. This is why movies like "Liway" and "ML" serve their purpose in propagating historical truths. These events happened to real people.

There were few scenes within the narrative that hooked me. In a wistful scene, Liway is shown strumming her guitar and singing Lolita Carbon’s “Pagbabalik”. This sent shivers down my spine. It's clear to me how the evils of a 30-year-old history is gradually gaining ground in contemporary society. I have nothing but pity for this country, and contempt to the people who enable this. What do wise men say about people who don’t learn from history?
Based on a true story set during one of the country’s darkest era, the film hits you when you least expect it. I shall refrain from divulging too much detail, but people were crying buckets as the credits rolled. I had to rush to the toilet thereafter to give myself a good cry. Make no mistake, the film is hardly structured in melodrama. There’s not a lot of caterwauling in the movie either, but it had an uncanny approach of breaking your heart. “Liway” was my 9th film so I didn’t expect too much from it. Guess what? The best surprises are those you don’t anticipate.

Oebanda serves up a polished cinematic ouvre that will define his cinema in the years to come. It helps that the story he tells is close to home. Revealing a personal story is reliving a past. That can't be easy. But by doing so, Oebanda shows skills that will help him evolve into a greater storyteller in the future. 

It wasn't always like this. I remember watching his first commercially released film, “Tumbang Preso”. After posting what I thought about it, I received half a dozen vicious mails from anonymous trolls.  Not Oebanda, I presume. But you see, such is the nature of film appreciation. It’s a subjective experience for each viewer. 

The succeeding years were promising. “Nay” wasn’t particularly fetching. Last year’s “Bar Boys” was among my 10 favorites. Look how far Oebanda has come. I look forward to watching his next projects. In a bumper crop year where most festival entries are watchable, “Liway” is among my top choices.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Ysabelle Peach's "Jacqueline Comes Home" - Rousing the Dead and the Incarcerated

Michael Collins' "Give Up Tomorrow" was a compelling investigative documentary about Cebu's most talked about rape-murder case that sent 7 men to jail. Though considered closed, the case continues to keep tongues wagging. After all, there were believable witnesses who swore by Paco Larranaga's alibi at the time of the murder. Unless he had the ability to bilocate, Paco actually attended his culinary class in Manila for his midterm exams - and there were even photos from a get-together in a bar later that night. How could he lead the abduction and rape of sisters Marijoy and Jackie Chiong? Marijoy's body was found lifeless at the bottom of a ravine in Carcar, south of Cebu City. Jackie remains missing. This was 21 years ago.

It's hard to discredit the artistic savvy of "Give Up Tomorrow". It was one of that year's best films. But there were parts we found a bit off. First, it was produced by people close to Larranaga, a great grandchild of a former Philippine President. The element of bias was indisputably possible. Second, they demonized Mrs. Chiong who, need I remind everyone, lost 2 daughters! She was expected to fight tooth and nails to seek justice.

However, you only have to watch a 5 minute Youtube video of Paco's former classmates and teacher talking about Paco's whereabouts on that fateful day in July 1997 to make easy conclusions about the case. Well, Paco was convicted and eventually sent to Spain to serve his sentence; he's Filipino-Spanish. But if he were really innocent, shouldn't we be concerned about the perpetration of injustice? There's something disquieting about Paco's incarceration. Bottom line: no one won from this high profile case. Marijoy is dead. Jackie is still missing. Families continue to grieve. Paco is serving prison in Spain. So do 6 of Paco's friends.

With all these in mind, I was curious how director Ysabelle Peach, Carlo Caparas' daughter, would contribute to the retelling of a story, It would be told from the point of view of Mrs. Chiong (played by Alma Moreno). The screenplay was written by Carlo Caparas who isn't done with those grueling "massacre movies" of the 90's.

In true Caparas fashion, "Jacqueline Comes Home" is overwrought, messy, exploitative and devoid of sensitivity or insight. While Meg Imperial, playing Jackie, breezed through her scenes with a certain commitment and charm, Donnalyn Bartolome, as campus beauty Marijoy, was shrill and cringe-worthy. I wanted a duct tape covering her buccal cavity. And all her cavities for that matter.

The movie is weighed down by a muddled nonlinear storytelling. It didn't help that the suspects were depicted like one-dimensional characters, channeling Paquito Diaz and Max Alvarado of the 70's. The chronicle is populated by cardboard characters that fit into predictable stereotypes with absolutely no redeeming values at all. Even the staging of their scenes was awkwardly familiar - the sneers and jeers, the unkempt persona, the leering gazes, their congregation, etc. Paco and his gang were evil. The Chiongs were innocent and saintly. There were no gray areas in between.

Surprisingly, the story carried the names of the Chiongs: Jackie (Meg Imperial), Marijoy (Donnalyn Bartolome), Thelma Chiong (Alma Moreno), Dionisio Chiong (Joel Torre), and siblings Dennis, Bruce and Debby. The baddies however were renamed: Ryan Eigenmann was Sonny; hammy newbie CJ Caparas was Jeff, and so on. AJ Muhlach was bad so let's forget he's even here. There's no mistaking though who they represented. 

That being said, after the first 30 minutes of this movie's tragically dated film making style, I started getting restless. Caparas was clear in his discretionary exposition who the perpetrators were. There's no narrative window of doubt. The story completely ignored the defense's alibi. They could have pointed that out and countered with an irrefutable proof otherwise. They wanted to point a finger indubitably.

Selfie with God

There were elements worthy of comedy, like questers summoning Jackie. I had to giggle when God suddenly appeared before Thelma and spoke! Seriously! I wanted to snap a photo and send to Malacanang. This was proof of God's selfie with Thelma Chiong. He-who-shall-not-be-named would repent and become a priest, debah? I'd even volunter to send him 23 truckloads of Bactidol full-strength solution to clean his filthy mouth. That's me being nationalistic.

I had flashbacks of Andi Eigenmann playing Hilda Koronel's role in the remake of "Angela Markado" (2015), I was mentally scarred by that movie. I had post-traumatic nightmares that Eigenmann would win a Famas because, in the real world, horrendous performances always win Famas trophies. Guess what? Andi won. You better believe it. I wore a turban and wrinkled face the whole week after her win. I was Madam Auring.

And if I have to re-state the exasperated guy who walked out from the movie: "Ampanget!"

Sunday, July 15, 2018

When 8 Year Olds Know Better Than the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Reading and correcting errors! I used to love this while I was in high school.

Earlier today, I found my young cousins Anya and Vien, 8 and 10 years old respectively, giggling as they shared their lolo's  morning paper. They were in a huddle as to how a national paper like the Philippine Daily Inquirer cannot spot a glaring error for its Sunday Edition. "Billionaire" is spelled differently, so I had to tell the girls that it was wrong! "We know, Ate G! Those writers don't know how to spell Billionaire." And they giggled further. I had to join them because, admittedly, this was funny and sad!

This maybe amusing to the little ones, but I am not amused! We pay for this paper. Dada does NOT read them online so I do not appreciate this travesty. He does not pay for erroneous headlines and careless journalistic work. He deserves an impeccably edited paper at the very least - for the money that he pays every month! 

Have the Inquirer bosses fired most of their better editors

Moreover, is editor Jose Nolasco sleeping on the job? I tried to check their editorial box and they even have a Page One Editor who, obviously oversees Page One stories. Where was he? Even 8 year olds can easily identify their atrocious work! 

Shame on you, Inquirer! 

Why don't you work a little harder instead of buckling under the pressure of this Philippine President's constant harassment to your paper? You used to be fearless and truthful. Now you just cower with fear, you can't even spell simple words anymore - it is embarrassing!

As for this atrocity, where can I:

1. Send a bill for my dad's Sunday crapfest? He needs his money back for Inquirer's sloppy work!

2. Donate a Dictionary for Mr. Nolasco and his incompetent staff to use? Has Mocha Uson started editing for PDI? I thought she writes for Philippine Star (if indeed she knows how to write)?

3. Help them grow some balls against this administration's lunacy and incompetence?

Otherwise, just close shop!