Tuesday, August 6, 2013

CINESTHESIA: Submerging Into The World of Indie PART 2 Review

So, I came back to Manila to spend two more days of the Cinemalaya experience. It was difficult coz I had to travel from Batangas after a hectic day at school to Manila just so that my 10 o'clock ticket for the next day won't go to waste.

And it wasn't put to waste. I reached the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) just in time before the first movie starts, so I checked out the availability of tickets for the next movies. And I was baffled, shocked and all the adjectives to describe a jaw drop. The attendant told me that tickets to the Shorts Category, which I was expecting to watch, were sold out even before I got there. Other movies such as Nuwebe, Quick Change, David F. and those from the Directors' Showcase Category were sold out. even Burgos, the closing film of the whole festival.

I wanted to sink in the stairs of the lobby but I had no time to sulk. I headed to the Nicanor Abelardo Theater to watch the first film of the day.

Let's start:

TRANSIT by Hannah Espia

Credits to Starmometer

First reaction to the trailer: It's gonna be a hit. After seeing the movie: It's a hit! An epic film talking about the lives of Filipino immigrants in Israel who have to hide their children, despite being born in the country, from being deported back to the Philippines. 

One thing I am so proud about the movie is the actors' ability to speak Hebrew even if it isn't natural to them. Another is the majestic way of showing the beauty of Israel and finally the story itself and how each instance links their lives.

The actors, specifically Jasmine Curtis-Smith, was revelation to me. I've seen her act funny and all crazy and I truly admit that I haven't seen her teleseryes. But with her performance in Transit, she has shown that she is worthy of being called an actress and I wish to see her in more indies. Mark Justine Alvarez was a treat to watch because he brings about a joy in the film that has been cascaded in fear and rifts in relationships. And who wouldn't love a cute kid? 

Hannah Espia, debuting her first full length feature, was enticing and was one of the directors I was looking forward to see grow in the industry and maybe even work for in the near future. LOL. Her ability to control the actors even in a foreign environment was a joy to watch. There is some need to adjust the camera work, but that's independent films for you. It allows you to feel as if you are there. 

All in all, the film is exceptional, subtle yet powerful and truly worthy of the Balanghay trophies they've won. 

RATING: 4.5/5 (Tears of Joy)

So I went out of the Nicanor Abelardo Theater, satisfied by the result of Transit but dreaded the line outside of the Box Office Ticket Booths, since I was scared to run out of tickets for the next day's Box Office Hits showing. So I lined up, had people borrow my flyer, tell them movies that were sold out and get in line with Jasmine Curtis Smith who was there that day to watch movies too. When it was time for me to buy the tickets, I decided to get the last two available films that weren't sold out: The Diplomat Hotel and Liars. Then I got 3 tickets for Babagwa and 2 tickets for Ekstra the next day.

The Diplomat Hotel by Christopher Ad Castillo

Credits to My Movie World\

I had so much spare time since the showing was 3.30, so I roamed around the whole CCP to take photos of artworks and visit the exhibits featured. It helped raise my spirits a bit since I was getting rather bored and that watching The Diplomat Hotel became more of a requirement rather than wanting to really see it.

The Diplomat Hotel makes you want to think that it is a quintessential horror film though Christopher Ad Castillo makes you want to think otherwise. I did think otherwise but not in a good light.

The acting was sloppy and you can't really appreciate the horror/psychological point of the film if the characters are not so messed up as you were expecting they'd be. It's eerie, that I could say but the actors only made the eeriness less and less since all they talk about where meaningless things or better yet there was no conviction in the delivery.Gretchen Baretto looked like a true sport for doing this film, but I suggest she sticks with what she is really good at in terms of acting. She played cuckoo really well though. Art Acuna and Mon Confiado were the only redeeming qualities to the shaken film. Their psychologically damaged selves later shown in the film where the only breath of fresh air I could get from such a dry and somehow tasteless film.

Cinematography wise, I would say Christopher Ad Castillo really delivered and to manipulate the location was brave of him. In terms of directing, I have nothing against him, but maybe he should've considered the material more as well as the actors coz some of them weren't convincing enough. He was a great director to talk to and he had great things to say to future directors and enthusiasts. Hopefully in his next film, which he revealed to us, and is still a secret I cannot say, may it deliver and redeem the insufficiency in the film.

RATING: 2.5/5

LIARS by Gil Portes

Credits to My Movie World

The story revolves around a baseball team consisting of members from the Smokey Mountain area. Due to some circumstances involving money, pride, fame and dreams, the team had to be manipulated thus the title Liars.

I sincerely liked this film, no strings attached. It is a genuine love for the essence of the story. And for it to be taken from a true instance in Philippine sports history, was such a great way of showing the conspiracies that happen in the government.

Alessandra De Rossi is this film is exceptional, no doubt about it but I have to give credit to the boys who played Ato Macapagal and Dante Quirino. Though you can be sure that they are still amateurs in terms of acting, the innocence and the rawness they exhibited in the film was funny, bromantic and truly shows the frailties in friendships. Chris Villanueva portrayed a cunning man well and I really did feel the need to throw something to the screen because his character was pissing me off, which is a great sign of his effectiveness. Arnold Reyes made an awesome figure of authority at first but I wanted to kick his character to the curb too. 

The directing of this film, by Gil Portes, was engaging and the story interesting though it could've been better if it was shown way back. Editing was fine although you can see lapses but very minimal. Audio was good and audible. All in all, it was a likeable film filled with hope, forgiveness and truth.

RATING: 3.5/5

The next day, I headed to CCP with my sister, Steph and my cousin Monica to watch Babagwa and Ekstra, the Box Office hits for this year's Cinemalaya. We got there earlier than expected to the Aurelio Tolentino Theater. I even spotted my classmates who took the time to head off there to see the two movies.

Here are my assessments:

BABAGWA by Jason Paul Laxamana

Credits to Starmometer

Babagwa is the type of film you'd want to see mainly because you want to know why it's called that and if it can deliver and also because I have such a huge crush on Alex Medina. HAHA!

Babagwa tells the story of Greg an internet scammer who works with Marney, a gay man. Both of them scam their victims through making relationships with them through Facebook, asking money from them then detaching all ties with them after the dirty deed. All this for money and to get through their tough lives. He then falls in love with Daisy, a matron who is now seeking love herself. This causes a rift between Greg and Marney's relationship and all of those around them.

I really loved the film, bias to the fact that I love Alex Medina but also that the material was very good and worthy of praise. It is comedic, mysterious, disturbing and damaging wrapped together in a tortilla for consumption. The actors played their characters very well, and though you expect me to give all praise to Alex, which he deserves, imma give this one to Joey Paras who played the cunning yet broken Marney. He just exudes a tough exterior you'd expect from the trailer but is actually a softie, only looking for a way to better the lives of his parents. And with the different frustrations that he has, I could understand why he is so desperate to continue living off of a lie. Other actors like Chanel Latorre where great but I think Alma Concepcion would have been effective if she moved around more. Nico Antonio is such a cute guy and his acting rocks. I've seen him in so many movies this year; he is everywhere that I've gotten used to him already.

Jason Laxamana truly delivered the essence of the story and the imminent fate of Greg in the end of the film. Though some assumed that he could have had the life he thinks he'll gain out of living with Daisy, the others knew at some point in the film that it was too good to be true. He was able to manipulate the camera greatly as well as the actors to bring about a raw and inducing performance.

RATING: 4/5 (I got caught in the web)

EKSTRA by Jeffrey Jeturian

Credits to My Movie World

There are those films that are very much mainstream like Ekstra but when you think about it, it's very much indie. The problems brought about by money and the society are factors that are discussed in the movie. The protagonist Loida Malabanan played by veteran actress Vilma Santos goes through everyday as a bit player or in common Filipino terms, ekstra. She is proud of her job and does not belittle it, wishing in the near future that her efforts will be fruitful and she can become a great actress someday like her favorite actors and actresses. But life is unfair and for years she has continued becoming a bit player, supporting her daughter going to college with the meager salary she gets from playing roles in the background. 

Vilma Santos has never lost her connection to her fans and neither has she failed in introducing her prowess to the new generation of movie enthusiasts. She is perfect for comedy which I barely see her do. It is so refreshing and never forget her way of delivering lines, taking you to a whole new dimension. Other characters made the film entertaining and allowed the viewers to get a glimpse of the lives of bit players. And who wouldn't love seeing cameos of famous actors like Piolo Pascual and Marian Rivera. I had so much fun making fun of their love team and laughing at the craziness while they do their mock drama. 

Jeffrey Jeturian truly evoked respect as well as reality that these bit players go through. His directing skills allowed me to make a favorite out of him, making me wanna see his other films. His treatment in the setting, the other actors and the manipulation of the situation, made an impact that I will never forget. And it took a while to sink in that even with the punch lines and all, the film was truly melancholic and tragic, not in a dying sense but you can tell from the look Vilma showed by the end of the film that it is the case.

Though there is the flavor of mainstream involved, I never would think that it is only that. I would look back at this film and say it is truly something worth calling indie.

RATING 4.5/5 (Laugh till you drop, cry till your eyes fall out)

Unfortunately, I only saw five minutes of Porno, so I think I don't have any right to make an assessment of that and just say anything I feel like without any basis.

So that is it for my movie reviews. Next time is my photo collection of my CCP trip and my interaction with the stars. 

Thank you for viewing my blog. 

Follow me on Twitter @jayvwrites27. Thanks y'all. Cheerio!  

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