Cinemanyak Previews The 2009 Academy Awards

Cinemanyak Previews The 2009 Academy Awards

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

LOVE OF SIAM: The Best Asian Film I've Seen In 2008!

I want to write a review about "Love Of Siam" (to invite friends to the 1st Salcedo Cinema Night).

But after reading Oggs Cruz write-up on the movie (, I felt that it is better to just post what he wrote. It captured the essence of the film very well.

I've worked in Bangkok for almost 6 months, and my favourite place then was may be the reason why I find this film extra special.

Warning: with spoilers!


Love of Siam (Chukiat Sakveerakul, 2007)
Thai Title: Rak haeng Siam

To label Chukiat Sakveerakul's The Love of Siam as simply a gay teen romance is to misjudge its power and intention. Within the two and a half hour running time (the director's cut is reportedly four hours long) of the film, Sakveerakul essays not only the two young leads' reunion and inevitable attraction but also a family's slow and painful road to accepting a long-delayed reality. I would like to think that The Love of Siam, above everything else, seeks to reaffirm the life-affirming values of loving and being loved without sacrificing the portrayal of the very palpable pain that usually accompanies the emotion.

The twenty-minute prologue tracks the histories of young Mew (Arthit Niyomkul) and Tong (Jirayu La-ongmanee), who are both schoolmates and neighbors. They form a very close friendship which was abruptly ended when Tong's family had to move out when Tang (Laila Boonyasuk), Tong's elder sister, went missing during a trip in Chiang Mai, causing the family tremendous and irreparable sorrow. Years later, Mew (Witwisit Hirunwongkul), lead singer and composer for an up and coming boy band, again crosses path with Tong (Mario Maurer), who is struggling at home with his domineering mother (Sinjai Plengpanich) and alcoholic father (Songsit Rungnopakunsri). The two reconnect and inevitably fall for each other, disrupting whatever peace they have grown accustomed to.

To make matters more complicated, Mew's Chinese neighbor Ying (Kanya Rattanapetch) is hopelessly in love with Mew, not knowing of his homosexual tendencies. On the other hand, Tong is currently dating Donut (Aticha Pongsilpipat), presumably not knowing of his own homosexual tendencies too. Tong's family, more specifically the father who's been spending days and nights drinking, is still suffering from the loss of Tang. June (also played by Boonyasuk), Mew's band manager who looks a lot like Tang, is then recruited to pose as the long lost daughter, momentarily easing the father of his staggered pains.

The Siam in the title refers to Siam Square, a shopping district in Bangkok where most teens hang out to shop, dine, meet, and have fun. Siam Square, in the eyes of the Bangkok youth, has become both the place for welcomes and farewells, of declarations of love and hurtful break-ups, of chance encounters and scheduled meetings. In the film, the popular venue is not only the setting for Mew and Tong's reunion and the numerous other events in the story but it also represents the unpredictability of the many facets of love which the film so intricately paints. While Siam Square or any other shopping mecca are ordinarily thought of as accessories to the bastardization of love and romance because it commonly equates blatant commercialism with the love's outward depictions like dating, gift-giving, and hanging out, The Love of Siam uses that very element to depict love's many wanderings and permutations. Underneath the glow of the traditionally amiable romance, The Love of Siam strives to say something more about the act of loving, whether romantically or familial: that it is more a nebulous network-like journey to maintain hope than a straight path to the assumed happy ending.

In fact, The Love of Siam ends without any of its characters fulfilling the traditional conclusions of a love story. There are no happily-ever-afters or expected closures. Instead, the film ends with a mere spark of hope. That hope that closes the film actually opens up million of possibilities for its characters, as numerous as the countless fortuitous encounters in Siam Square that initiate relationships between strangers or abruptly conclude long-standing affairs all within the fateful movement of time. Sakveerakul drafts a bittersweet ode to the complexities of loving, which commercial cinema has tended to avoid throughout the years. What he exclaims in The Love of Siam is that daringly traversing outside the common simplicities of love is far more gratifying than safely assuming formula.

Through the interconnected lives of two boys who are on the verge of self-awareness amidst their own individual conflicts and the people surrounding them, Sakveerakul notes that love survives notwithstanding the dilemmas that pervade the world. As Ying translates from a Chinese song, "as long as there is love, there is hope." Corny as it sounds, the Bangkok of The Love of Siam thrives on that noble aspiration, without knowing that it does so.

OSCARS 2009 PREVIEW: Gus Van Sant's "Milk"

When I learned that they will show Gus Van Sant's MILK in the Manila this April, i said I'll just pay for a ripped DVD. It turned to be the most "sulit" 40 pesos I paid to a pirate! And I'm not exaggerating.

If I'm a film maker...this is the film I want to do!!

Sean Penn's delivery, and the power of Van Sant's storytelling technique is as deadly as Manny Pacquiao's lethal combo.

I can say that the film is perfectly balanced:

  • Reality and "Fiction" - balance through news interstitials and canned footage of the San Francisco gay movement
  • Cause and Sensation - the message the film carries is very relevant now - gay rights. The beauty with MILK is that it was able to balance the cause Harvey Milk is fighting for, and his sensational/controversial gay life
  • Narration and Documentation - Harvey Milk's life is well known, but the film was able to present it in a way that it tells the story like you never know Harvey at all

Gus Van Sant proved again that he is a master of this craft. Watching the film gave me goose bumps in the beginning and middle, then tears at the end. Gus was able to move my emotions with every pan, tilt and slide of his camera.

Gus was also able to play in the film. It is not as stiff as Good Will Hunting, or as straight Finding Forrester. In MILK I see the Gus in Cannes. The Gus of Paris Je 'Taime and Elephant. You can see some creative indie touches to it, like the scene where they were calling each other for a "gay riot" (which eventually became the first Gay Pride Parade). The approach is Hollywood...but also experimental.

The grainy, low-fi finish of its cinematography doesn't just give the 70's era effect, it makes you feel the characters and issue au naturelle. It's like watching them in a news footage, making them real to you.

The nice thing about MILK - it didn't focus on the iconic activist of the 70's, but on the thousands of people, gay or straight, he touched.

A review said: "Once in a while, a film arrives at such a perfect moment, its message and meaning so finely tuned to the current zeitgeist, that it seems less a cinematic event, and more of a once-in-a-lifetime moment needed to seized in the silverscreen"...and that film is MILK!

My name is Dennis...and I'm here to recruit you (to watch MILK!). :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 MMFF Winners: BALER got 10, DAYO got 4, ONE NIGHT ONLY got 2.

2008 MMFF Awards Night Results!


2nd BEST PICTURE: Tanging Ina N'yong Lahat *

3rd BEST PICTURE: Iskul Bukol *

* We must however note that MMFF decides on the best picture by adding up the jury's score and the box-office results...thus the ranking above. Some find this unfair and absurb. But MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando vowed not to change it as MMFF is a festival by the people and for the people, ie they decide which one is the winner.

Putting box office results on the side, i think the ranking should have been:

  1. Baler
  2. Dayo
  3. One Night Only

BEST DIRECTOR: Mark Meily (Baler)

BEST ACTRESS: Anne Curtis (Baler)

BEST ACTOR: Christopher De Leon (Magkaibigan)

BEST SCREENPLAY: Roy Iglesias (Baler)

BEST STORY: Jose Javier Reyes (One Night Only)


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Manilyn Reynes (One Night Only)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Philip Salvador (Baler)

BEST CHILD STAR: Rober Villar (Shake, Rattle and Roll X)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Robert Quilao (Dayo)

BEST MUSICAL SCORE: Jessie Lasaten (Dayo)

BEST THEME SONG: "Lipad" by Jessie Lasaten & Artemio Abad Jr performed by Lea Salonga (Dayo)

BEST SOUND: Albert Idioma & Wally Dellosa (Dayo)


BEST EDITING: Danny Anonuevo (Baler)


ONE NIGHT ONLY: "Indie" Thriving In A Commercial Film Festival

Just like sex, the more "over-the-top" you do it...the more fun it would be.

Just like sex, the idea of an orgy may sound fun...yet it could be physically and emotionally tiring at the end.

Just like sex, it may be taboo to some...though we chuckle everytime we talk about it.

Just like sex, it matter how you package it.

Sex is just like MMFF entry One Night Only (a story about 12 individuals whose lives became connected because of one sleazy motel). And believe it or not, I think its better than Baler!

Interesting huh?

Let try to take it one at a time:

1) One Night Only went over-the-top! Sex was packaged in a very ridiculous, humorous, funny way. And it worked! Instead of irritation, you will feel admiration (for Jose Javier Reyes). They have converted something taboo to something very..err...human.

That's the best way to go around it, Filipino mainstream directors. If you know you can't handle a subject matter...go over board and exaggerate. It would be more palatable than pretending to be deep.

2) One Night Only is an "orgy"...figuratively. They juggled 12 stories in 1.5 hours! And they did it with much success.

I find the editing fantastic: cut-to-cut loads of characters without losing the's a feat! The only problem is that the story lacks a unifying, solid tension. Thus there is a tendency for viewers to get tired of the characters even before the middle of the film

3) One Night Only is the most indie-looking MMFF entry I've seen in years. This worked for their advantage as they suddenly had the excuse to be experimental in a very commercialized film festival.

The most indie about the the film? The screenplay...which I consider indie class A!

4) Aside from the tiring character build-up, another flaw I saw was how they ended the multi-layered/charactered film. But this is a common problem to the genre, case in point...Paris J T'aime (thanks to a song by Feist, they were able to end it, uhm, well).

I was about to fall from my seat from laughing in the end..but the "bomb" Katrina Halili gave brought me back to the comfort of my Rockwell Cinema seat.

But overall, it find the movie very refreshing and entertaining. This is definitely a wild card for the Best Picture race.

BALER: A Flip-Flopped Historical-Drama

Pearl Harbor, Titanic, Australia, etc. -- putting in romance to historical stories became a proven formula to box-office and (sometimes) Oscar success. This "postulate" is etched to Hollywood guidebooks and should never be challenged.

But Filipinos like breaking laws. Baler is Mark Meily's attempt to challenge the Hollywood formula.

The tweak Baler did: make history revolve around the romance...instead of romance adjusting to history. Clever huh?

To explain further, in most historical-romantic is the palabok (maybe to make history easier to chew) But in Baler, history is the "rekado" and romance is the rice...the carbs, the one that will fill you up.

But it's main source of discrimination over other historical-romantic films is also its pitfall. Baler's approach can be polarizing. You will either find it too cheesy...or an inaccurate, half-baked historical film. I'm in the middle of both, cause I struggled in enduring Anne Curtis' lines (e.g. "Gusto kitang makapiling ngayon, bukas at magpakailanman") and in getting more details of the events in Baler (which I consider as the one of the most significant events in Philippine history).

But aside from this flaw...what irritates me most was the inconsistent cinematography.

Example: in the first attack in the church of Baler, i was confused if it happened during the day or during the night. From inside the church, it appeared night...from outside, the sun was as intense as hell.

There is one scene in the film that I admire, and I think it will be etched in the image bank of Philippine cinema: the holy mass being delivered by Michael De Mesa just by the door of the church...with Filipinos hearing it from the outside, and Kastilas hearing it from the inside, with only one thin wooden door separating them. We are united in Christ no matter what.

But we must all watch our for Mark Meily. He showed in Baler that he is ready to take on bigger and better projects. He showed in Baler that he could be the director to beat in the future.

Oh by the way, a Hollywood film challenged the historical-romance law na pala...Atonement, which I still consider as one of the best films of 2007!

DAYO Reinvents Philippine Animation

I don't have anything against DAYO, the only animated entry to this year's MMFF. In fact...I love it! It will not be a surprise if the jury will "surprise" us by choosing this low-budgeted, but well supported, cartoon as best picture.

Low-budgeted: they need sponsors to finish the film. They even tried to get some Unilever brands in it.

Well supported: given the cast/talents in the animation (Lea Salonga, Laurice Guillen, Peque Gallaga, Michael V, Johnny Delgado, Pokwang and many more) is obvious that they did it because they believe (and love) the project.

I admire the film's simplicity: easy to understand (for the young)...yet not too simple for the "young once".

The other thing that worked for the film was the explosive combination of Filipino sentimentality and the animation as medium. The two blended perfectly like Nescafe and Coffee Mate. This is something Hollywood lacks now...they can't maximize the power of animation because they don't have a powerful story to tell.

But in spite of the simplicity, the director didn't forget his film making techniques. Even with animation, they were able to integrate great camera angles, nice color grading (ie lighting in a live action feature) and brilliant story telling. This is also the only film in the festival which used Dolby 7.1 technology, and a fully orchestrated musical score.

He was amazing with details: a last supper photo in the dining room, an altar in the living room, and exact replica of EDSA. He was also able to critic Filipino culture by integrating jokes like:

(both lines by a manananggal) "ang polluted pala ng hangin sa Maynila", "ang hirap naman lumipad dito, ayaw kasing ayusin ng Meralco tong mga kable na to".

And unlike your typical animation feature, DAYO has no clear line between the good and the evil.

For example: (1) the manananggal sidekicks admit that they eat people, (2) the lead character did something wrong to a balete tree, (3) the engkantos (kontrabidas) did something bad to the lead's lolo and lola cause they were just reacting to the boy's balete burning.

So who's evil? EVERYONE! Who's good? EVERYONE! DAYO showed the moral cycle of sinning-repenting-evangelizing. It showed that we all create mistakes, and a person doesn't need to be as white as snow to be a saint.

DAYO is the sartorialist of the netherworld. If the manananggal, tikbalang and kapre can walk freely on the streets, how will they look and act? By making the mananaggal speak Taglish (kris aquino style), the tikbalang egoistically funny, and the kapre Bisaya...DAYO transformed these mythical figures to your normal Filipino on the street.

I have a lot to say about DAYO. But to end, I would like to share with you the funniest line in the film:

(tikbalang after his hair was touched) "My MANE! My MANE!" :-)