Monday, August 7, 2017

Ranking 2017 Cinemalaya feature-length entries

Top Tier
Respeto, Nabubulok, Kiko Boksingero

1. RESPETO (Alberto Monteras II)
Rap is not on top of my list when it comes to music genre. So I wasn't really excited about this after reading its synopsis when the official entries came out. This turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. It's cinematic, cohesive and a crowd-pleasing classic that is going to be a hit if studios pick this for a nationwide release. Like other classic Hollywood musicals, it plays with music and combines with other themes not devoid of depth. It does not rely on rap music or the usual ambition. In the end, it becomes a mirror of our current state and how the horror of the past is quickly repeating itself. On a lighter note, this is a star making turn for Abra who is charismatic and heartbreaking in the film. Ensemble includes Dido de la Paz, Loonie, Kate Alejandrino and Chai Fonacier, to mention a few, who are all terrific in each their own parts. In case it is not yet obvious, I am raving about this film and no shame about it.

2. NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento)
Based on true events, Nabubulok delves into the conspiracy behind the sudden disappearance of Luna Harper, wife to Jason Harper who takes flight with his family.
Like Pamilya Ordinaryo last year, this movie is not the most pleasing to the eyes. But what it lacks in visuals, it makes up for its terrific ensemble and compelling & progressive narration. The audience is glued to the screen as the film gets better after every scene--creating gasps, scares and shockwaves throughout the theater. It's a murder mystery thriller that plays like a horror movie, and a legit frightening one to boot. The choreography of the POV shots makes its viewers seem like legit onlookers of what transpires. By the end of it, it does make you question who's the real bad guy.

3. KIKO BOKSINGERO (Thop Nazareno)
There's nothing more impressive than a filmmaker with clear vision of what it wants and what it doesn't want to say in his film. Thop Nazareno clearly narrated that the film doesn't want to focus on boxing, and instead he used it to tell a story of a young kid in need of a 'family'. It is simple and sweet, and in a festival where most of the time films tackle serious and depressing themes, Kiko Boksingero stands out because of its light-heartedness. It refuses to rely on confrontations or saccharine scenes even when it's deemed needed. Not to mention, its score and cinematography are top-notch. I would give this movie the Best Score award this year even with other films' competent pieces.

Baconaua, Bagahe, Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig

4. BACONAUA (Joseph Israel Laban)
Baconaua is beautiful to look at but is a bit of a head-scratcher. The film boasts of breathtaking visuals and good performances, but its subtlety could push its audience to their intellectual limit (or it's really just me). It has its moments of good suspense and storytelling, but gets lost somewhere in the middle of the film. Its exposition is not its strongest suit as some scenes are not explained well, and if it does, some scenes just don't make sense or add up to the eventual result. It's not a surrealist film, but it seemed like it wants to be one.

5. BAGAHE (Zig Dulay)
Mercy, an OFW who just returned home is investigated by the NBI after an infant was found in the trash of the airplane she boarded in.
One would appreciate that everything the film presents are covered in the end. However, that's also how this film suffered. The story wants to discuss everything involved in Mercy's situation, that it doesn't create interesting conflicts since everything is spoonfed and clues that are supposed to be subtle, are actually not. It doesn't help that the narration takes its time in establishing Mercy's case and its consequences. In the end, its stagnant storytelling makes it predictable, boring and unemotional when it should be the other way around. What saved this from being a total disaster is Angeli Bayani in one of her most authentic performance.

A priest and an altar boy's morals get tested after a woman in their community confesses to committing a murder.
Beautifully shot in the province of Cuyo, this movie explores themes of wrath and faith relying on several biblical verses in a melodramatic fashion. Moral dilemma is something one might find interesting, especially if this involves people of the church and Kuliglig took advantage of that only to end up falling flat. Technically, it is stylish and close-knit, with cinematography an Instagram junkie would be proud, but the overall story is just okay. Vicious cycle of revenge is something that we've already seen countless times. The movie could use some trimming in detours and instead focus to a more engaging plot--which to me is the moral dilemma of the priest. Then again, I am not sure why the police in that small community is quick to consult the priest regarding the murder. Is that really the norm?

Bottom Tier
Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha, Ang Guro Kong 'Di Marunong Magbasa, Requited
There is so much hype for this since they announced the news that this will be Sharon Cuneta's comeback in movies, and it got even more buzz when they released the teaser trailer. It is exciting to see Sharon Cuneta back in the big screen, and in an indie movie for that matter. But like Nora Aunor in Hustisya or Gretchen Barreto in The Diplomat Hotel, her Cinemalaya debut is a flop.

Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha starts with an animated tale of a myth about the titular family which shows a lot of promise that it's not going to be your regular drama. It is followed with a string of hilarious comedic sketches between Sharon Cuneta  and Moi Bien as Cora the cranky amo and Bebang the silly kasambahay, as if they are in a sit-com running for years. Their chemistry is great! But then it got lost on what it's trying to establish which is not really their relationship, but more on Cora's desperation in trying to unite her family. Towards the middle, the film keeps on introducing one plot after another, making an impression that it's trying to be quirky and mysterious which in the end gave more questions to its viewers. It is worth mentioning that Sharon Cuneta gave a chilling performance here but is diluted because it's over-the-top compared to its thin and ridiculous story. Moi Bien is the MVP of this movie. She's a natural star and makes the movie worth a bit of your time.

I watched this in CCP's Main theater and got to listen to some of the cast and crew talk about the heart and effort they gave in making this film and how it would be shown in different schools for its message. It worked for the film because it's so easy to mock it without having any context or idea about the people behind this. But reading that again, I probably just made it worse. This movie, for the lack of a better term, is hysterical and is not even aware of it. But it's hard to belittle this film when the message it wants to convey is sincere and timely especially in our country. And that is the reason why this is not last on my list. Yes, it is farcical even when the scene is supposed to be heartbreaking, laughable when it's supposed to be threatening and absurd when it's supposed to be teaching but it has good intentions and that matters. On the bright side, I think this will have a cult following in the years to come. Mon Confiado's commands will live in our hearts. For every putol ng kamay, there's a suka waiting to be poured, for every balatan ang talampakan, there's salt to be rubbed.

9. REQUITED (Nerizza Picadizo)
Requited seemed like the staple "hugot" romantic movie of this year's Cinemalaya and could have been a breath of fresh air considering the theme of the rest of this year's entries, only to end up falling really flat. Well, it is filled with "hugots" and can be considered romantic but when the two leads are insufferable, and together embarks in a biker trail adventure, it is a recipe for disaster. I just didn't know then that it will be too literal. Make no mistake, the premise sounds exciting but the characters here are not even lovable to hate. What it has though is an impressive cadenced cinematography that showcased the grandeur that is Mt. Pinatubo and one iconic hotdog scene that turned the audience bonkers. Speaking of which, its climax had the audience cackling. For what its worth, no one saw it coming.