Cinemalaya Day 2: Instant Mommy

No picture today because I was a loser and didn’t bring my good camera to take Eugene Domingo’s picture. I was also a chicken and didn’t have the balls to ask Angel Aquino to have a picture taken with her. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So today, I was scheduled to watch Instant Mommy with a friend. We went there for the 12:45pm showing. It was at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (the CCP Main Theater) and today was apparently the Gala “Night” for Instant Mommy. The cast and crew were there and so it was quite a special experience. This was actually the second time that I was in the same room as Eugene Domingo. The first time was when we watched Ang Babae sa Septic Tank and it was revealed that she was in the audience with us after the end of the showing. She was as warm and approachable as ever though again, I wasn’t able to take any pictures. Such is my crippling introversion.

Anyway, so what about the movie?

Instant Mommy is directed by Leo Abaya and starring Eugene Domingo, Yuki Matsuzaki and Rico J. Puno. The story is about Bechay, who is a wardrobe mistress involved in the making of TV commercials. She has a Japanese boyfriend with whom she is going to have a baby with. Misfortune strikes, unfortunately, and Bechay miscarries. Now, she has to do something in order to keep her boyfriend’s interest.

It seems like such a typical premise and one so familiar in our society. We’ve heard of Filipino women having foreign boyfriends and going to great lengths to please them.  But this is Cinemalaya so you have to expect that there’s a twist here somewhere. Or twists. I didn’t really know what to expect and I didn’t really bother trying to think of how the story will resolve. I had a nice surprise at the end and it was quite satisfying in a realistic sense. There was shock and hurt for Bechay and I felt for her after everything she did and went through, but still it was a good ending, both for her and the story.

Eugene Domingo was great. She hadn’t lost her spark. She could make you laugh and cry where it was appropriate and it was so easy to sympathize with the character she played. It was also quite cool to see Rico J. Puno acting. I thought he was very convincing as Bechay’s father and it was his way of working with little things about his characterization that made it work.  This movie also really utilized its supporting cast well. Hardly anyone was wasted, though I had to wonder what Earl Ignacio’s character was really for.  And of course I have to give special kudos to Yuki Matsuzaki. He did a great job at his role, especially the effort he put into speaking some Filipino (which was especially hilarious at one point of the film) and it was just really, really awesome how they were able to cast a Hollywood actor to play his role. And he and Eugene had kilig. They were actually quite cute together, with great chemistry, and they worked so well with each other, even when most of their interactions was over Skype video calls in English, Filipino and Japanese.

Instant Mommy is another Cinemalaya gem and I commend Eugene Domingo for another job well done.


Cinemalaya Day 1: Sana Dati and Ekstra


Cinemalaya 2013 officially started for me yesterday though I have been preparing for it for weeks. I paid close attention to ticket sale dates and before that, my friends and I were already planning which entries to watch. In the end, I decided to watch six entries this year, which will probably be the most I’ve ever watched in one Cinemalaya festival. It was made possible by buying tickets in advance through Ticket World which had convenient branches in National Bookstore. A week or so before the start of the festival, I was ready with tickets and I didn’t even have to wait in line long. So this is some advice that I would like to impart to people who don’t want to be hassled by buying tickets: buy them ahead of the screening dates. You would thank yourself later because honestly, it’s not only getting the tickets that could cause you a hassle.

Getting to CCP itself was always a bit of a stressful experience. I guess I could have left the house earlier, but I also wasn’t looking forward to standing in line before they let people into the theater. So instead, I decided to leave the house 45 minutes before the start of the film. Because of heavy traffic along Vito Cruz, I ended up getting there after 35 minutes. And to think I didn’t live that far from CCP.

I still had a few minutes to find the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino where I was going to watch my first film at 12:45pm. Eventually, I managed to discover that this was the Little Theater. It was quite interesting to me that the ushers couldn’t tell you where the exact theaters were, like they didn’t know them by name, but if you showed them your ticket and they read the name of the film you were going to watch, they could tell you where to find the place it would be screened. I don’t know if this is a normal thing, but there you go.

The first film that I watched was Sana Dati directed by Jerrold Tarog starring Lovi Poe, Paulo Avelino and TJ Trinidad. The film is about a girl who is about to get married but seems to not be looking forward to it at all. Her feelings towards the marriage is further exposed by the wedding’s videographer who has his own hidden agenda for taking the job. This movie is the third and last installment in the Camera Trilogy and it’s made in a way that you don’t need to watch the other two films to understand what was going on, which I thought was a good and a bad thing. It was good because you wouldn’t get lost and you would get what it was that happened in the other two movies that then led to the happenings in this third installment. Meanwhile, I thought it was bad because it kind of got dragging and slow in parts. I just felt that there were some scenes that didn’t need to be shown but maybe that was just me. The plot, however, saved itself from being predictable a couple of times and that was a job well done, making the movie seem more realistic in a way that was just right and not downright disappointing. Then there was the scenic shots which made the movie beautiful to watch. The movie was pretty good, though, not at all like I expected. I was intrigued by the film at first because it featured Lovi Poe and it was intriguing to see her in an indie film. I thought she did a pretty good job of handling the many emotional turns the film took and by the time it was done, there were these feelings of loss, sadness and hope that left my friend and I putting our hands over our hearts and going, “Awwww.” It may sound juvenile but that was just how we were able to express how we felt about the film’s ending. Special Cast Kudos: Ria Garcia as Jamie, the little sister. I think she’s my favorite character, haha. I just enjoyed how she played her part. I thought she was really genuine. The typical little sister but there’s more to her than that.

The second film was Ekstra directed by Jeffrey Jeturian starring Vilma Santos and a star-studded cast that includes Cherie Gil, Piolo Pascual and Marian Rivera. Honestly, it seemed like an absolute crime if you didn’t even think of watching this one. You don’t see Governor Vi make movies anymore, so this was a must-see, especially given the premise of the film. Ekstra is about a woman who is employed as an ekstra, a bit player, in movies and TV. We get to witness one of her days at work for a popular TV drama and the kind of conditions she and her fellow ekstras put up with to earn a living. It was more lighthearted compared to Sana Dati but the message it tried to convey was probably more relevant. In this movie, we get a front seat view of what happened behind the scenes of a glamorous TV drama, the relentless power and control struggles and the stressful working conditions that actually didn’t look glamorous at all. Show business wasn’t all glitz and glamour and this film showed it very well, especially for the ekstras who were treated like cattle. Governor Vi was of course excellent, whether she was laughing along with her fellow ekstras or having an emotional, vulnerable moment. I also decided to watch the film when I saw Cherie Gil in the trailer and of course she was fabulous, an iconic kontrabida. She has uttered my favorite line from the festival so far: “I wasn’t born yesterday. I was born beautiful. You were just born. PERIOD.” And the script was just pure gold. It was witty and funny, candid and poignant. It was delivered so naturally by the actors that you would hardly think that so much thought was put into it and it was quite obvious that there was when you took the time to listen. Ekstra was also more than I expected. I expected to laugh and enjoy myself and I did. I didn’t expect to come out of Tanghalang Huseng Batute feeling kind of melancholy. The twist near the end was surprising but oh so effective. Special Cast Kudos: Vincent de Jesus as Vincent, the Assistant Director. Ang taray ng lola mo! But he was really, really good. The way he delivered his lines were so natural and it was so easy to be annoyed with his character, but he made him sympathetic. And Tom Rodriguez because he was a surprise and was just so handsome. (Sorry na, biased, hahaha!)

For tomorrow, Instant Mommy. Let’s see if Eugene Domingo continues to deliver.

Ang Pelikulang Pinoy

Lately, I’ve become more interested in Filipino films. I’m not really sure why. I mean, I actually wanted to see Vice Ganda’s This Guy’s In Love With You, Mare when it was out in cinemas and that’s hardly ever happened before. Maybe it’s Cinemalaya making me realize that there are actually Filipino movies worth watching. Maybe because it seems to me that filmmakers are actually trying harder to make quality movies. Maybe there are just better actors to watch nowadays Maybe it’s also a change in taste. I’m not really sure, but I do like to think that nowadays the Filipino movie industry is trying to make things better.

For the longest time, it seemed that Filipino cinema was bombarded with movies that were more extended product commercials or just plain stupid or formulaic. Sure, people watched to be entertained, but surely there must be something wrong about them if they do nothing but make you lose brain cells as you go along. There were just too many so-called “bobo” movies with big movie stars who are only doing it for the money.

I like to think that the mainstream movie industry is trying harder to impress its moviegoers. They’ve got huge competitors not only from the US and other foreign countries, but also locally. Indie films aren’t anything to scoff at and they’re getting more and more attention. Cinemalaya movies are getting spots in local cinemas outside of the festival. And while the Cinemalaya Film Festival only happens once a year, no one can deny that it draws a huge audience and slowly, it’s also becoming more commercialized but I think that’s good in a way. More funding for unknown and talented filmmakers who would like to tell a story! I think that’s definitely good.

So now I see that mainstream cinema is doing its best to face the challenge of the times. GMA Films is trying out new technology and then is able to produce Tiktik: the Aswang Chronicles. Star Cinema is trying to make more dynamic and meaty stories and screenplays like it did with No Other Woman. Nowadays, we’re treated to a more varied selection of genres, too. It’s not just sappy, love-team-centralized romantic comedies. Now we’ve got comedies and horror movies and coming of age stories, et cetera. The industry is also sticking to some tried and tested strategies like using big name stars like Eugene Domingo and Vice Ganda and putting them in movies that would effectively showcase their comedic chops. There’s a mix of the traditional and the experimental and I’m actually finding myself looking forward to what else would be released in the cinemas soon. The Metro Manila Film Festival is just around the corner too, after all.

But anyway. I guess there’s more to talk about later when the MMFF is upon us and I’ll be making my selections on what to watch. Meanwhile, I’ll de-stress here and try to decide whether I should watch Praybeyt Benjamin first or go for The Reunion instead.

Cinemalaya Saturday

Today started out just like most every Saturday. I woke up early after staying up late the night before because that was just how I let go of the stresses of the work week. I felt crappy and tired and didn’t really feel like going anywhere. There’s that feeling again of not wanting to leave the house after spending most of the weekdays outside, working. Weekends are supposed to be spent at home, doing nothing, but alas I have gotten a friend, Elise, to get me tickets to two Cinemalaya movies and thus I had to get off my lazy butt eventually to go. I found it ironic how I was wearing my Captain America/Hetalia crossover tshirt for an indie film festival. I just thought it was funny.

After satisfying a cheesy pasta craving, Elise and I headed off to CCP to get doused with some culture. Our first film was Ang Nawawala, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. It was definitely more than we both expected. From the trailer, you would think that it was just some love story with a very eclectic, hipster soundtrack, but as most Cinemalaya entries go, it goes deeper than that (Rule of thumb for Cinemalaya: Do not take trailers at face value). It is a love story and it does have a very cool soundtrack that most hipster or hipster-wannabe young’uns would enjoy, but it also tackles family and death and trauma and how they all intertwine to create one hell of a unique coming-of-age story for its protagonist who just refuses to talk. The music was all fun and unexpected, especially for me who just wasn’t hip with the indie music scene. The cinematography made Manila look so nice. They really chose their locations and made sure to capture how magical Manila can look when it’s Christmas, which was the time when the movie was set. The actors were good at what they did and I kept wondering if Dawn Zulueta was ever going to age. She’s just so beautiful even now and her talents haven’t diminished any, either.  Boboy Garrovillo fit his role very well as the seemingly content father. I loved just how effortless it all seemed to him to play such a subtle role. Special kudos to the twins Dominic and Felix Roco who were both so great as, well, perhaps the main protagonists of the story. I loved their brotherly chemistry and banter and I kept wondering if they were particularly affected by the emotional scenes.  Annika Dolonius who played the leading lady Enid, was charming and very convincing in her role as the beautiful, mysterious hipster girl who I may have wanted to be at times, haha. Mercedes Cabral also made an appearance and I still love her. She said my favorite line of the movie, “You like your boys like you like your comics. With many issues.” or something like that.

Our second movie was Kamera Obscura, which was probably the complete opposite of Ang Nawawala. For one, it’s a movie that features a silent film and for two, the setting of said silent film is of course the past. In particular, sometime between the 1920’s and 1930’s. I found it, again, ironic while I was watching it that there I was, willingly subjecting myself to a silent film when during my days as a Communication Arts student, watching silent films were considered some special kind of torture administered by our Introduction to Film professor. But then I liked period films and I’ve always admired Joel Torre, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s not a film that you should watch when you want escapist fare. How can you escape reality when it offers political commentary on the government, the media and the people? At least you didn’t have to listen that attentively as the dialogue was flashed in text between scenes and takes just like how it was done in old silent films. Still, the film required a lot of attention and thinking, which we sort of expected, but I guess one should still psyche themselves up if they weren’t used to such films. The concept was unique, though, as the silent film itself was within a film and really, who even thought of making silent films nowadays? Definitely unique and you could see the effort they put into making it all look authentic. The look of the film was grainy and it really seemed like it was being filmed by old film cameras. There were interesting elements in the film that couldn’t have been possible before, though, but I guess that doesn’t really matter. I think the filmmakers were able to deliver their message pretty well given the medium they decided to use. Still, though. Be ready for some brain exercises.

All in all, another great Cinemalaya Saturday. There was some great bonding time with Elise and the films were both good. We saw some celebrities, had some geeky, nerdy conversations and Elise practiced her Nihonggo, haha. Not at all a bad Saturday spent out of the house.