Cinemanyak Previews The 2009 Academy Awards

Cinemanyak Previews The 2009 Academy Awards

Saturday, January 31, 2009

THANK YOU GIRLS: Ang Pelikulang Baklang-Bakla...Pero Astig

This indie is so...NAKAKALOKA! Catch it and all your worries will wither away!

Tired of losing all the beauty competitions in their hometown Davao, six dysfunctional gay beauty pageant veterans travel north to Cagayan De Oro with a single mission: to conquer the grandest competition of beauty and brains in the whole province. They figure the small town gays will never stand a chance against big city boys like them.

As they travel through the breathtaking landscape and cultural vignettes of rural Mindanao, each character struggles to win just a single title, while also battling their own inner demons.

Blinded by their belief of in the power of their so-called "beauty", they still have to prove to themselves that whether on or off the stage, beauty doesn't come in packages wrapped in foundation, mascara, eyeliners and witty beauty pageant answers. Their travels will bring them back to the basic of themselves and of each other. And what they will discover about themselves may just teach them that being a run-away loser is not ugly after all.

THANK YOU GIRLS is a deviation from how Filipinos define a gay film: it is not tragic, it is not sad, it is not centered on sex. In fact, I think this film captures what Filipino gay culture is all is all about being funny, being funnier and being funniest.

Humor is the discriminator of Filipino gay life. Yes, their lives may be sad (just like Europeans and Americans depict gayness in their films), but Filipino gay men learned to ground those sorrows by putting a layer of humor above their foundation creams. Plastic as they may appeat...but no one can deny that they are fun to be with.

The execution of the film is not bad either. Charliebebs Gohetia crafted the nono-linear story telling flawlessly. For PULP FICTION enthusiasts, you'll get nostalgic while watching THANK YOU GIRLS. The cinematography was good as well. The color-grading was almost perfect, giving the film a hint of "orange" to depict Mindanao's humid weather. But since the film is queer, splashes of colors were evident as well (like the tela hanging from their "gay" jeepney named gay can it get!).

The success of the film, I think, was with the screenplay. Kudos to the writer for capturing the "gayest of the gayest" moments in a beauty pageant. The Q&A's were made me spew Coke through my nostrils. The screenplay was also able to splice in real gay issues and dramas to the grandeur and extravagance of each gay beauty pageant. And that proves my point...Filipino gay life is the most colorful and "plastic" in the world.

If you want to all of these:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


We know how gameshows can change someone's life...but have you ever imagined how someone's life can change a gameshow?

When Jamal (a super poor slumdog) got the final question in India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire", I thought the movie will shoot forward to show his "rags to riches" story. But no. Instead of going forward, the film went backwards...showing how his life scars were converted into material and immaterial "fortunes".

His wounds were his clue to the million "rupee" question, and the million "rupee" question was his door to the love which he valued more.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is all about survival. It is a film that teaches us how to live by the "gameshow question" at a time. It shows how mistakes from the past can be the "correct answer" in the future. It shares the idea of how life's "hard questions" can unfold into big rewards.

The film redefined what "street smart" means by literally putting a street beggar in the smartest gameshow ever conceived.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a very humbling film. It preaches a lot without posing like a teacher or a guru. It carries a message of hope. And most especially, it grounds our future dreams to our distant past.

This may be the reason why SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE stands out amongst this year's "best film" contenders. Of all the films I've watched, this is the only one that stirs not much of your intellect, but more of your emotions. Expect to be "transformed" after finishing the film.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE showed the power of story telling. It is not so technically polished like FROST/NIXON or BENJAMIN BUTTON. But it was compensated by the excellent layered story of Jamal...which is thick and rich, yet easy to swallow and to comprehend.

To let you undestand how thick the plot is, take this example: In the film "Who Wants To Be A Millionare" was viewed in three perspectives at the same time: by Jamal during the show, by Jamal after the show and by whole of India through the television. Danny Boyle was able to orchestrate the film brilliantly, turning those thick layers into thin chapatis. :-)

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a winner! This film can make you feel human again. One may just put SLUMDOG's technical execution on the side, but you will definitely not be able to put aside the message of the film: that life is a tough gameshow...and you will never win if you've never played it before.

PS. By the way...expect some Bollywood dancing at the end, which I find very very very cute! :-)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

OSCARS 2009 PREVIEW: "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"

*Thank you ABS-CBN for inviting me to your special advanced screening

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a film which you will either hate or like. As for me...uhm...(pause)...uhm...(pause)...ok...LIKE!

It was a well crafted film. But since it got the most number of Golben Globe nominations (tied with FROST/NIXON), I was expecting an award winning, stellar execution which, unfortunately, I wasn't able to see.

BENJAMIN BUTTON is like watching a patchy version of FORREST GUMP, plus a bit of ENGLISH PATIENT (minus the plum), plus a bit of Joel Lamangan's 2006 MMFF entry (yup, yup) BLUE MOON. Throw in a bit of MOULIN ROUGE as well, for those cool funny lightning snippets. I.e. Expect to see a lot of flashbacks, historical interstitials, diary reading, sick patients, twists and surprises (especially for the diary reader)

The film has a super solid backbone: a very unique story - a man aging backwards. But if you disect the film further, you will realize that the "story" is the only thing that is holding the film. Everything is else is typical, normal, plain and bland.

Thanks to good story telling, the film was able to stand on its own.

The lack of tension dragged the film. The only tension I can recall was when Benjamin had a child, which made him more of a playmate to his daughter than a father. Aside from that, it would just be a story a man looking for love. For me, 3-hours was just too long to see a man love and fail, then love and fail again. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to stay awake.

BENJAMIN BUTTON had difficulties in closing the itself - the downside of a "predictable" story (you know Benjamin will go younger and younger...then die). I think they had around 5 attempts to end the story...and it didn't help in extending my patience after 2 and a half hours. But the film was able to redeem itself through a dramatic montage before the credits. That sequence was a winner!

But there were several brilliant moments in the film worthy to be applauded: the Paris accident flashback, the reverse clock unveiling, the diary "discovery" (which part made me a bit teary) and the nice ending that closed all hanging stories properly. But because of the length of the film, they were not able to extend these "pockets of brilliance" throughout the 3-hours.

The acting was superb. Cate Blanchett is an expert (Oscars? Possible). Suprisingly, Brad Pit was great in the film.

Overall, good film. The material is fresh and the execution was ok. But with the Oscar buzz going around, the expectations for the film was lifted so high and in a appeared mediocre.


Thursday, January 1, 2009


Ron Howard's FROST/NIXON made a typical one-on-one interview as exciting as an early morning boxing main event!

In the red corner, Ex-US President Richard Nixon. In the blue corner, "novice journalist" David Frost.

Here's the "tale" of the tape:

Nixon was the first US president to resign from office. But since Ford immediately pardoned him, America was denied of a trial that would prove (or disprove) Nixon's abuse of power.

To redeem himself, Nixon looked for a "novice" journalist he could manipulate. He chose a British talkshow host, David Frost, to do a no holds barred interview...then he realized, he made the worng choice.

Here's a blow by blow account of the match:

Round 1 - "Nixon The Man". Round to Nixon, 1-0

Round 2 - "Vietnam War". Round to Nixon, 2-0

Round 3 - "Foreign Policies". Round to Nixon, 3-0

Round 4 - "Watergate Scandal". A KNOCKOUT BY FROST!

Just like any Ron Howard movie, FROST/NIXON will stir your mind. But Ron Howard is not selfish with the answers, and that makes thinking in his movie really fun!

In A BEAUTIFUL MIND, he taught us Math. In DA VINCI CODE, he taught us "history". In APOLLO 13, he made us part of mission control. In FROST/NIXON, he made us TV producers and asked us to balance sensationalism and journalism.

Ron Howard has a way of putting us in different seats to experience something out of our realm.

Ron's experience as a director was evident in his vision for FROST/NIXON...he did mocumentary style (a trend we have seen in Hollywood this 2008, e.g. The Office and Milk). But he did it as pure as possible, no drama. FROST/NIXON is more of a reenactment. It went for realism. The showbiz life of David Frost was scrapped in the film, and the focus all went to the controversial one-on-one interview. Nothing more than that...and nothing less as well. And it worked perfectly for the film. A very fresh approach

But in spite of the medium, Ron didn't forget to turn those cameras around to show the story "behind-the-scenes", ie:

  • How Frost prepared for the interview
  • How Frost risked his career and money just to have that Nixon interview
  • How Nixon planned to manipulate Frost
  • And how Nixon made the mistake of creating an emotional bond with the person who will grill him later.

Ron was able to develop his character in a slow but sure way.

Intellectual Oscar voters will go ga-ga over this film...but those looking for more entertainment will certainly settle for MILK

FROST/NIXON has the most number of nominations in the upcoming 2009 Golden Globe Awards.