Ang Nawawalang Conflict

Ang Nawawala is a cute little film that shits too much cuteness you have to take your eyes off the screen every once in a while or else snack on atsara to ward off the umay. It is too sweet, too cool, too devoted to creating quirky moments, Janis Ian will vomit. It shouldn’t be too hard to appreciate films that look and feel different but this quirkfest just piles on the hipness, the viewing experience feels like an hour and a half of watching someone high-five itself non-stop for its awesomeness.

As proof of its hipness (I hate this word already), it proffers the following elements:

The names – Enid, Deacon, Wes, Promise, Simone. The lack of characters called Symphony, Epiphany, Cacophony and MagnaCarte is just baffling.

Records. These kids couldn’t possibly be the types who fawn over CDs and MP3s.

Saguijo.

The Collective.

The mom who likes records and photography.

The video-taking of seemingly meaningless things.

The posting in Tumblr of meaningless things.

The Royal Tenenbaums references.

The Instagramy cinematography. I’m sorry if this particular accusation seems entirely wrong. Instagram might actually be too mainstream for this work of underground art.

Enid’s incessant Zooey Deschaneling (or Zooey Glassing).

We’re supposed to care that Gibson chose a life of pretend-muteness because the loss of his twin Jamie is just too much to bear. It’s an acceptable burden but not enough to warrant the incessant whoring for sympathy and oh my god does this film try ever so hard to make us care. Its problem is that maybe it just isn’t aware that Gibson’s quiet (but still grating) brattiness is not the evidence of longing but of a sly, sneaky attempt to direct all attention to himself. Somewhere, an actual deafmute is raising hist fist, taking offense.

His case is unaided by the Saguijo-going, Pale Pilsen-swilling, Cubao-X-posing rock-art chick, Enid, whose effortless unlikeability serves as the cherry on top of the qualities just said. If Gibson’s ghost twin is really cool, he would have said to his living twin, ‘Really, Gibson? You will break the deafmute charade for this sorry excuse of a Summer/Zooey Deschanel impersonation?’ But he does not.

Even with an affecting enough performance from the twins, Dominic and Felix Rocco, everyone in Ang Nawawala is too alien. That Marc Abaya was the best part of it might simply be a happy accident. The film reaches for empathy, teenage love sweetness, and familial bond and shit, as Enid or the annoying Simone (my bet for the worst Mercedes Cabral role of the last two or so years) might say, and attempts to get our vote for this obviously still hurting family, but how can it possibly do so when constantly, it parades just how well-off they are, just how pretty, how actually really okay they are. As Sia’s album would say, Some People Have Real Problems.

Ang Nawawala deserves at least to be high-fived for being a different kind of family drama/teenage love story, although I’m not sure if it can be called either; maybe really long music video is most apt? But what it ends up being is an interestingly soundtracked fantasy that begs you to believe in its fantastical world of artsy place hang-outery, Pale Pilsen-guzzling chicks and pretend-mutes and their tiny but prettily shot concerns.

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Tired of Eugene Domingo Yet?

Don’t be!

If you feel like you’ve been seeing too much of her in your local entertainment, don’t be spiteful now and try to see Chris Martinez’s ‘I Do Bidoo Bidoo’. It’s a sweet and colorful film inspired by APO Hiking Society songs, told through a tale of teenage pregnancy.

If APO Hiking Society is considered an expert storyteller of the Filipino way of life, how thoughtful of ‘I Do Bidoo Bidoo’ to touch on teenage pregnancy, a love story for this non-reproductive health bill-having country of ours, the Philippines! And like every other Original Pilipino Film you see these days, it stars Eugene Domingo. If Seiko Films was still making films today, Eugene Domingo will be in them – not that anyone would complain.

If you’re a fan of Ogie Alcasid’s comedy, then consider yourself blessed. If you ever needed validation of your suspicion of whether Sam Concepcion will graduate from lovely twink to doable dude, consider the suspicion confirmed. If you thought that Anne Curtis is the only talented celebrity capable of juggling acting, singing, condo-endorsing and people-charming, let Tippy Dos Santos disabuse you of the notion.

If you think Eugene Domingo is everywhere, it’s because she has every right to be; she’s the least capable singer in the cast but she does not, as always, take that as permission to be lame. Isn’t it nice when actors are not just competent but also so into song numbers they know they can’t nail but do so with all the conviction their limited vocal abilities can afford?

If you feel like local films you’ve been seeing a lot of lately are content to be garbage stuffed with contractual stars, and you feel it’s your right to claim proper spite, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if you’re seeing enough movies. I Do Bidoo Bidoo will not restore your faith in local movies because in the first place you’re not the boss of local movies. But if you see a Chris Martinez film, your sense of humor will not be talked down to, and your tolerance for corny movie habits will be taken into consideration.

It will restore your faith in the Pilipino music, somehow, in a way, maybe. If you agree with what Philippine Star writer Don Jaucian said about OPM’s lifelessness, you could see why such a provocative statement argument could have been made. It’s because no one writes and plays songs like APO’s anymore. OPM was never dead, it was just languishing in purgatory where songs like Pag-ibig, Panalangin and Nakapagtataka are missing. ‘OPM Scene’, you may not be dead, but consider movies such as I Do Bidoo Bidoo your much needed adrenaline shot.

Contagia

It wasn’t my plan to see Contagion when it screened in Manila because it looked like a highbrow-fest what with all the Academy Award winners and losers in it. I watch the occasional Oscary films but I don’t feel like watching those since I’m kind of not wanting to engage in too much brain activity lately. But a friend badmouthed the film and went to great lengths trying to strip the movie of any worth. Great lengths being an FB group message warning of its garbageness. Then he sort of launched an anti-Contagion campaign as if the movie isn’t such a huge flop enough and posted a flat out ‘Contagion sucks’ post of sort which though I wasn’t designated protector of the Steven Soderbergh filmography I thought was a bit much.

What’s striking was not that someone would express dismay over a seemingly difficult movie; it’s that the person expressing it is someone who I know is a fan of highly intellectual things, who would argue with anyone about politics, religion, sex, art, film, underwear, literature, etc. So the friend, who I’m mostly okay with – ok as in outside of our circle we don’t care enough about each other to ask about how each other’s families are doing, etc, so you know this is certainly not personal – raped Contagion in front of a relatively sizeable Facebook crowd (and where else can a larger crowd be had? Where else can a captive audience be easier to snatch) and that is all the reason I needed to want to see the film for myself. I saw it not because I felt strongly for Steven Soderbergh’s works but because sometimes truly awful word-of-mouth is irresistible.

I know that no one takes my takes on social networking behaviour seriously and the only person who thinks I’m such an expert on psychology is myself but the criticism ambience is becoming alarming. There are people who don’t care for critics, people who even think critics are funny (whatever that means), and then there are the critic-dependents who wouldn’t watch a film unless it’s rated with a 65%+ freshness in Rottentomatoes.com.

Contagion is the perfect film with which to observe people’s behaviors towards criticism, says the expert. People who could think for themselves naturally do not subscribe to critics’ opinions to form their own but there always will be the ‘thinkers’, the supposed intelligent ones who would purposely shun sorta brainy stuff just to show how certain widely perceived culturati things are beneath them.What it could be is a ploy to monopolize and keep all discussions of intellectual merit to those which these same people (ie aforementioned friend) find worthy. Or maybe Steven Soderbergh molested friend’s (and similar people’s) puppies in their youth and/or their drug addict sensibilities were seriously scarred by the Soderbergh film, Traffic. Just wild-guessing!

To illustrate, suppose you’re a smartypant and a film like Inception is showing and people are actively campaigning for its greatness and enjoyability. You  will shut it out of your life and maybe throw in a nasty comment or two about its great potential to bore, and then express your own preference for lowbrow flicks like Hot Chicks, and feel good about yourself. That sucks! If you think you’ve got such a hot pair of brains, you will not let your bias affect your right to enjoy a truly remarkably made Christopher Nolan film, or in this case, a good Soderbergh film. But for the record I didn’t care for Inception too because it was so boring. What makes me special is that I hated Inception because it was so boring and I have extremely high tolerance for boring. And unlike Inception, Contagion is really not pa-intellectual. That’s just his style! It scatters details and characters in a way that can be alienating but everything is so urgent and focused, you don’t forget for a moment that you’re watching a film about an illness. And it’s called ‘Contagion’.

To make a point I could have gone on living without saying, I could say that contrary to his opinion, Contagion is quite good. But point or no point, the movie is not worthy of a peer pressure-motivated censorship. I also like very much the music and the dryness of it, and the terrificality of the acting. I liked Gwyneth, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle and Marion Cotillard, and I like the dry, sandpapery look of it. See, it has a market! In the old days, as in around 3 months ago, I would have attempted to do a review thingy of it, probably, but considering how inept I actually am at doing that, I reduce my thoughts on films and things in the most uncriticy way because already, my eyes have been opened and I now realize how ignorant I appear every time I try to opine on something I don’t fully understand and appreciate.

But, whatever! Someone spreading contagious remarks about Contagion is delicious. Har! Maybe the friend is just aiming for a punch line. He is probably waiting for someone to challenge his probable perception of the film’s ending as a kind of a ridiculous surprise. Maybe he hates Steven Soderbergh. He’s free to hate. The trouble with this particular hate is that if people take heed and ignore Contagion, they will never experience its alleged awfulness by themselves. The admonition to not consume something is detrimental to everyone’s right to criticize. Criticism is fine. It’s fun. It’s just not for everyone.

Family Movie (Bisperas, Jeffrey Jeturian)

Bisperas takes place during Christmas Eve, a time when people are at their most materialistic and greedy. The Aguinaldo family has just been burglarized and the sense of danger that the crooks are still lurking is so effectively set up, you fear for the life of the father (Tirso Cruz III) as he walks through the dim, just-robbed home, and it took all your will not to scream. Conveniently appearing golf club aside, that scene was effectively horror-filled, if horror were ever the intent. After the scare, the father calls everyone in to safety and what the foolish family goes to check first are the most inconsequential things: a Macbook, a land title, and a cellphone. The robber has wreaked unrest within this affluent, thoroughly riches and material wealth-caring family and it’s not for reasons that have to do with their safety. Bisperas is not a thriller after all.

The film smells faintly of anti-Catholic propaganda. It has hints of anti-Catholic sentiments from the random bits of venial sins exhibited by the evidently devout Catholics who participate in ceremonial Catholic Christmas things. But then the sins are too inconsequential to create a lasting impression. Highly doubtful that if it were about that, the really fat guy buying ten puto bumbongs for himself, the woman screaming mean things to random fatties, the hunky baby daddy checking out a street skank, and the policemen dicking around for PX goods, would hardly serve as instruments of judgment. Taken collectively, the point is well made. It’s nice if it actually wasn’t trying to pass judgment although it most certainly is. If it were trying to say that Catholics or any organized religion’s most devout followers all converge in one church, receive the same body of Christ, it doesn’t provide many clues. The knocked down Catholic figurines might be saying something. But just maybe. It could be a super subtle symbolic symbolism that robbers’ knocking them over is the faith that should and ought to be… knocked over. See also the ‘God Bless Our Home’ decor hanging at the door.

What it’s not about is the exploration of a confused young man’s sexuality although it isn’t so far out a subject for such a film to broach, being an Indie-mindie film shot in the predictable shaky, handheld style that is the turf of gay, Sexuality Exploration films. Just when you think it’s about to go that route, it completely abandons it. The film’s gay is thankfully not raging inside himself about how Awful It Is To Be In This Gay Situation. Rather, the gay is beside himself with the loss of an Ateneo jacket. How very refreshing.

It’s so realistic it makes other Filipino family dramas look like cartoons. It’s the kind of family movie that does not attempt to nicely patch things up in the end because some family issues are for life. Bisperas could have done more with its seemingly insignificant characters, but after being subjected to the Aguinaldos’ gamut of issues, five people, one family, seemed enough. As a piece of entertainment, it is a bit of a struggle to enjoy but as a reflection of the typical family in a familiar society, intent on not being easy, in its quiet, tense nature, was it most affecting and effective.

Temptation Island and the People Responsible for its Potential for Greatness/Ruin

I live for queer, silly pieces of entertainment such as Temptation Island. I’m also a Chris Martinez fan and I truly like his film things. I don’t care what he makes; as long as it’s sold in the mall, I will buy ticket and swallow it up like a good boy. As much as I want to analyze to death the New Chris Martinez Movie, I have very little opinion of it, but I will never pass up an opportunity to talk about Marian Rivera, in however nice a light I have to put her in, or Aljur Abrenica’s existence in the world of showbiz.

  1. Heart Evangelista –She was supposed to play Lovi Poe’s character, which, after seeing this, neither intrigues nor annoys me. Every time Heart is on screen, I first admire her face then proceed at guffawing inside myself about superstarmarian’s imaginary beef with her, which for me is so much more exciting and funnier than anything she does here, except for that fleeting moment in the fight scene, which isn’t memorable because of her. Heart is very pretty but she’s incapable of being remarkable. Who should have taken her place is Angelica Panganiban.
  2. Solenn Heusaff – Model-turned-actors really tell you about the state of the local showbiz scene. It’s for whoever’s responsible for these celebrity-imports’ casting in wrong roles that we keep hearing awkward foreigner accent spoken by mannequins in average Pedro roles.
  3. Marian Rivera – is one of the most irritating personalities in existence today. I find her really, really annoying, but her talent is undeniable. She’s one of the better performers here but that’s mostly because she’s playing the Chris Martinez Temptation Island remake version of herself so there was no way she’s going to be terrible. She was very much in character. I experience really profound internal conflict as I laugh at her performance, and the ability to elicit laughter when doing comedy is very good indication of effective, even great acting. She puts her inner palengkera to good use. But it’s best to appreciate her loud persona with caution since we don’t want to give her the notion that it’s a good idea to be loud all the time.
  4. Tom Rodriguez – looks great in red briefs. He should have stayed in them for the duration of the film so all of us stay happy. But this is a not-that-raunchy sort of sexy comedy and SM won’t screen R-rated films with guys perpetually in red briefs in them, blah, blah, blah.
  5. Aljur Abrenica – is such a terrible actor. Dear GMA 7, why do you keep casting him in very prominent roles? His character is supposed to be an intellectual-dork-hunk who occasionally speaks English, the kind that Sam Milby can do in his sleep. This is a silly movie about silliness but Aljur’s character doesn’t make any sense. I know that this is based from a campy movie and it’s supposed to be super silly so I’m not sure if they cast him because he does great job as an englishero-sosyal person precisely because he can’t do a credible englishero-sosyal and that’s supposed to be the joke and I just didn’t get it, or he’s cast in the role because GMA Films produced the film and he has to meet a quota before they (hopefully) kick him out of their talent pool. But this being a remake of an ‘unintentionally funny’ film, every joke pulled is intentional and obvious. Perhaps, the performance is unintentionally genius and the joke is on us, and Aljur knew that the essence of his character is in the inside-jokey nature of the film. But who are we kidding. Which is it, GMA? Either way, I still think he is a lousy actor. Even in TV, he is as expressionless and as personality-free as a statue. Aljur Abrenica just can’t make anything out of that no talent face and voice of his. It’s for people like Aljur that theatre people think they’re so oppressed by the local entertainment system, whatever that is. ‘If untalented people like Aljur Abrenica are getting prestigious Tuna product endorsement deals, how come we are still being paid in cat food?
  6. Rufa Mae Quinto – could have been replaced by Eugene Domingo in my version of the movie, but she’s fine. She was very much in her Rufa Mae self in a yaya role to Lovi Poe’s bitch, doing Rufa Maey things that are weird and funny. Whatever she does and says is funny. She’s a happy-making actress through and through. She should stretch her talent some more, though, and play a smaller-boobed bobita bombshell in her next film or do a less shrill vixen, maybe. The four girls awarding her with an imaginary Miss Manila Sunshine crown is one of the truest and charming moments of the film. She almost owned the movie. Rufa Mae’s eyebrows or boobs convey more feelings than the whole of Aljur Abrenica.
  7. Lovi Poe – could have been replaced with Alessandra De Rossi in my version of the movie, but I still sort of adored her among all girls. I don’t know what it is in her acting but something about her prompted me to make a mental note to pursue her other stuff. You know how when you’re gay and you meet a girl and you automatically develop a fondness for her because she seems like she’d make a good hag, and you want to become really good friends with her, in probably the same way that a straight guy would want to bang the exact same girl? Lovi Poe exudes that aura so much.
  8. Mikael Daez – plays up the ‘Joswa’ joke one time too many and relied on that throughout. He is able to put on a really intense expression when ordered to do so but he doesn’t show briefs, not even a garter-glimpse, so you have to look at his Albrenica-like depth.
  9. John Lapuz – wishes to tell every gay actor in the Philippine film industry to go fuck themselves because for as long as he’s working (and work hard he does), no minor gay role will be filled by anyone else except him. That said, he does good work here, doing John Lapuzy stuff to his John Lapuzy character which you know Vice Ganda is shaking his fist in frustration, wishing the role had been his. All nastiness aside, I think John Lapuz, if given the opportunity to stretch, will stretch.  He was terrific in Here Comes the Bride. He is an exciting actor; you’ll never know when he’s going to turn up a great performance and when he’s going to do his typical hysterical parlorista schtick.
  10. Big Film Studio people. In a perfect world, our local film industry will not depend on the dubious studio system. Cristy Fermin says it best: ‘Maliit lang ang industriya’, which is why depending on a studio’s exclusive and restrictive pool of talents is such a recipe for ugly movie-making with major participation of such ‘talents’ such as Aljur Abrenica. If our film people had to depend less in the Kapuso/Kapamailya actors, the local film world will be a much better place.

Glitterific


I’m secretly fascinated by Christina Aguilera. She’s the kind of putrid I can’t take my eyes off of. I am both amazed and annoyed by her huge voice. But more annoyed than amazed. What is said of her penchant for big, showy belting, that she’s doing it to impress not express, I wholeheartedly agree. The fascination is due to the most obvious fact of all time: Christina Aguilera’s career trajectory is a drag queen impersonation of Mariah Carey’s. Guess which singer had the same criticism about her huge voice being all about impressing than expressing? That’s right, it’s not Britney.

But Christina fails so constantly and I almost feel sorry for her. Burlesque was her shot at making the expensive, explosive bomb of her career and she nixed it with a decent but still unremarkable performance. She had the benefit of precedents for pop star movie disasterpiece: Madonna’s Swept Away, Britney’s Crossroads, and the one and only Glitter, which should explain why she turned out okay in this. And through no fault of her own, she was backed by interesting supporting actors to anchor what should have been the Christina Aguilera addition to the Big Fat Flop cannon. It shatters me even that Express is so much better sounding than Loverboy could ever hope to be.

You can smell the desperation of some critics to declare this movie as the second coming of Glitter or Showgirls, two movies which should be offended for being associated with this limp dick. Burlesque just isn’t bad enough. It’s very trashy but also highly enjoyable. I find it difficult to find fault in a movie that has about 8 Cell Block Tangos in it. The Express number alone is worthy of the price of admission. Kirsten Bell in a bitcherrific role who gets to speak the movie’s outstanding contribution to film bitchery, ‘I will not be upstaged by a bitch with mutant lungs!’ is just a bonus. For lack of a Rob Marshall dance flick to satiate my basest desire for movie musicals, Burlesque comes as a gift from baby Jesus.

That Glitter was a huge flop is a distinction I’m actually fine with because its alleged awfulness at least had character. It flopped tremendously and so it belonged to history. It will not be forgotten. Christina and Burlesque is sadly not of the caliber of the Truly Awful which is a pity. She could have had her very own Glitter but she failed by doing just fine. She didn’t even get a Razzie nomination. She failed to fail spectacularly but at least she failed with Cher.

The Mariah parallel is really not so bad. Look no further than the bestsellingest album of 2005 for proof that great artists can transcend Glittery career setbacks. Christina Aquilera is a good singer. She’s one of the most beltingest hence one of the most well regarded singers, and if she is seriously devoted to following the footsteps of her most obvious predecessor, she will make her own The Emancipation of Mimi. And if she’s really, really serious, she will find her own Lee Daniels and make him cast her in a dowdy social worker role, and star in her own Precious. She may not get an Oscar nomination for it but it will get her back on track. But the way things are going, she will probably star in a comedy with Adam Sandler and do okay and that will be it. She has a way of watering down things to her disadvantage. She is half-assed through and through. But I won’t lose hope just yet. There’s a tiny part of me that roots for the lately underdogging Christina. She long ago launched an alter ego – Xtina. She’s getting there. But in terms of on-screen persona (alleged) awfulness, Ali is no Billie.

Anti-Social Network

Here is this movie, trying to tell us that we are Mark Zuckerberg’s sheep that he has effortlessly been shepherding into a life of inactivity, subjecting us to an all-consuming leisure, and not a significant number of us think to quit it. It could also be trying to say that Zuckerberg truly deserves the billions, for he, too, is just like us, and geniuses like him are perfect magnifications of the belief that people who are smart and cunning are the ones most likely to become billionaires no matter how sarcastic, plastic and morally bankrupt they are. After all, it shows how easily he’s beaten his former partners and would have been business associates, Eduardo Saverin and the beautiful Winklevoss twin in the battle for billions. It gets the idea of greed and cunning so precisely and with such perfect soundtrack.

What triumphs though is the idea that Facebook is a product of a devious mind, the powers of which are felt the world over. Someone says in the film, perhaps meant as a joke, that even Indonesia has Facebook, which of course doesn’t make sense as a joke since Indonesia is fine, it’s a country that wouldn’t look like they’d treat Facebook as a disease or a product that should be avoided. So strong and so alluring is Facebook that attempts to get out of it by people who may have had ‘I will quit FB’ reactions to the film may as well have been saying equally false pronouncements as ‘I will lessen my Facebook face time as a form of protest’. There is simply no quitting it.

People who never felt compelled to join Facebook, those who never thought to be herded into any social networking site, those who even go so far as to vow not to watch the film because they’re not into Facebook (which is like saying I won’t watch disaster films because I’m not into disasters, kind of), however, will be even harder to coerce to sign up for it, thanks to Jesse Eisenberg’s unforgettable portrayal of Zuckerberg.

The rest will remain Facebookers because such is the power of our intellectual superiors that we gladly consume products of their greed and contempt. Obviously not all intelligent persons are responsible for the world’s ills, obviously. In the case of the productivity-reducing, social interaction bastardizing force of nature that is Facebook, it only took one mind, maybe along with three or four others, but just only one that altered the way we make people rich nowadays.