Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Filipino Short Film Short Review Long Compilation (Part 3)

Here's the last part of the list of all the shorts I saw last week.

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It’s OK, though the ending confused me at first and I had to watch it again. What goes around comes around. 3/5

It’s one of the shortest shorts on the list, but the point is clearly conveyed.  It’s also funny. 3.75/5

A bit abstract compared to all the others. I want to have that waterproof digital watch. 2.75/5

Tinig ni Eba and Kimkim
Catcalling is bad, friends. I wonder how it would work from the man’s’ point of view. Maybe something like Chicken, but more comprehensive.  I do wish someone would delve in deeper why men act this way instead of just portraying it as bad, so that the problem can be identified and dealt with. 3/5 for both.

It has a few good ideas, but overall falls flat with the narrative. Maybe it’s because it has a slightly soap operatic feel to it. 3/5

Cyber D3vil x Ahas
Part of the Cinema One Originals festival in some capacity. I’ve just learned it’s some sort of sequel to one of the earlier C1 films. I have a lot of questions though. Why is Ahas biking without hands? Is it because snakes don’t have hands? So why does he have feet? Is he protesting the stark biking conditions in our country? Where is he going? Will he cross the Philippines like Ewan McGregor crossed the world!? I need answers! 3.75/5

The title means "misconstrue" or "misconception". It has an On the Job vibe to it, and it’s nicely shot. The score is great too; one of the songs use samples from what I think is a relatively popular provincial mayor, which is either ironic or fitting based on how you think the end played out. 4/5
This one is from the Davao Ngilgnig festival, which specializes in horror films. Yamyam, I've been told,  means "incantation." There are actually two storylines in this one. The first plot seems more fully realized compared to the second one, and you get the feeling that one could have finished the thing with the first storyline. 3.5/5

Other than the fact that the brother loves his sister (and likely the other way around, the plot doesn’t go anywhere. 3.25/5

Ama Namin, Nasa Langit Ka?
Another film from Jose Ibarra Gualla. Probably the most surreal out of all his shorts in this entire list, though not the funniest. The strangeness overall is appealing. 3.75/5

While the technique is hardly original (I have seen a similar film within the last three months; the name of the film escapes me) this one innovates via the use of paintings (at least that’s what I think it is) projected onto the slow motion dancer. The end result is hypnotic and visually pleasing. 3.75/5

The film takes its time acclimatizing you to the rhythms of provincial life, but I feel the film could have made its point in half the time. Also, a plot point with a spurned (?) boyfriend doesn’t fully pan out. 3.25/5

One Week Earlier (incomplete)
Couldn’t finish this one due to technical hiccups. Based on what I did see, it was beautifully shot and the color correction was great.

Drama Station
It’s a film where real life and fictional drama intersect. There’s a creepy-cute conversation ala Sleepless too. Is the female lead the actress from the opening scene of Violator? If so my head canon considers this to be a prequel. 3.5/5

Have you ever wondered the worth of what we consume in the media? Have you ever wondered if endless commercialism on TV binds us instead of it giving us choices? Yeah. 3/5

A Dog Named Bantay
Well that was sad …and kinda disturbing. 3.5/5

This film, a story of weird, serendipitous love, was written by Joel Ferrer of Baka Siguro Yata fame. I laughed out loud at this one to be honest. 3.75/5

This had real Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind vibes, but for some reason the focus shifts from the patient to the one performing the procedure, robbing us of the opportunity to see the full repercussions of having gone through the procedure. 3.5/5

Sky is Everywhere
This had a lot of angst. I actually prefer this to #Y for some reason. The medical images are legit, too. 3.25/5

Bye Bye Bituin
There are some nice shots of the hot air balloon festival in this one. I like the uncertainty in their words, their relationship, all the way up to the end. 3.25/5

Malati Ya Mu (It's Small)
It’s all about the punchline (which is also the title.) And it works. Was this filmed in Subic? 3.5/5

Ang Nanay Kong Superhero
The parallels between ‘nanay’ and ‘superhero’ are quite obvious, but the conflict and resolution to the story does give us a few new ideas, especially having the kid be the superhero mom’s greatest nemesis. 3.25/5

As an only child, having a family with so many brothers and sisters, like the one depicted in Yanbu, is unfathomable to me. But the documentary shows, aside from the fact that they are a very large family, they are just like any other normal family, bonded together by love and faith. 3.5/5

Eskinita: Bayan ng Kontraktwal
This short is part of a series on Youtube called Eskinita. In this case, it’s about the unfair conditions that are being given to contractual workers, despite various laws to protect them. Some of these ‘contractual’ workers have served their respective companies for many years, and they are being denied benefits for the sake of the bottom line. 3.5/5

Posporo Palito
A movie with a ‘kapit sa patalim’ storyline involving underground boxing and seedy promoters. Doesn’t focus much on the boxing itself, and the character’s struggle is not as developed as I would have liked, but I do like the ending. 3.5/5

Kusina ni Clara
That look in Gladys Reyes’ eyes as she looks at the screen in this film’s final frames really encapsulates what the movie is about. It’s almost a Mariquina-lite, with Barbie Forteza taking another “rebellious kid who needs understanding and guidance” role. She pulls it off fantastically as always, and the rest of the small cast is no slouch, either. 4/5

That's it. It's done. I'm free.

Anyway, check out Pinoy Rebyu for the results of the best full length feature films of 2015 (and then some), as judged by a number of online bloggers, reviewers and film critics. Many of the films in this list can be seen on Youtube, Viddsee or your local film festival.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Peanuts Movie

Once you hear that familiar Vince Guaraldi track at the beginning of The Peanuts Movie, you know you've come back to a familiar, relaxing place. But the movie soon expands beyond that to take us to the world of Charlie Brown and friends, a place that feels familiar, looks new, but is very much home.

The plot of the film is simple: Charlie Brown, the poster child for lovable eternal losers everywhere, finds out that a new student has transferred into his school. She arrives and it's love at first sight. Charlie Brown then vows to make an impression on her.

The movie is animated in 3D, and one of the largest concerns I had before seeing the film is if the iconic look of Charles Schulz' strip would be preserved. To my relief, The Peanuts Movie visually satisfies.

The voice cast sounds familiar  too, and the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock are sampled from clips of the late Bill Melendez, who voiced both characters (and directed a great number of the TV specials as well.) While the film does pay a few tributes  to the jazz stylings of Vince Guaraldi, it does away with a smaller scale soundtrack and goes for a more orchestral composition, along with a few contemporary songs. The musical aspect of the previous feature films are mostly gone too.

While the tribute to the characters is pretty much solid, there are a few things from the original movies and specials that are irreplaceable now that Charles Schulz is gone. Schulz wrote the dialogue for the earlier feature films, and the dialogue for this new film doesn't quite have the save level of sophisticated humor as the strips or the old feature films. In (for example) A Charlie Brown Christmas we'd get dialogue about the over commercialization of Christmas and references to several artists, poets, musicians and philosophies. In this film,aside from a line lifted here and there from earlier films, much of the dialogue is simplified. Maybe it's to cater to the young audience?

And most importantly, the ending. While a mainstream ending has been done before in Charlie Brown, some of the best conclusions to the Charlie Brown specials and feature films were the most bittersweet or poignant; where Charlie Brown or Snoopy suffered devastating setbacks, but, as Linus said in 1969's A Boy Named Charlie Brown, "the world didn't come to an end."

And yet, a lot of the franchise's (or in that case, Charlie Brown's) appeal is due to the fact that we can relate to the kid. There's a little bit of Charlie Brown in all of us. There's a little bit of that kid who falls madly in love with someone who doesn't seem to notice him back. There's a little bit of that kid who thinks the whole world is conspiring against him. And, there's a little bit of that kid who stands up every time he's knocked down.

All things considered, The Peanuts Movie is a highly entertaining flick. Those seeking a nostalgia trip, including fans of the original series, will likely be satisfied. For the young (or young at heart) new to the film or franchise, it's a worthwhile time to spend a couple of hours in the cinema.

Filipino Short Film Short Review Long Compilation (Part 2)

Time for Part 2. Here's where the customary warning goes in that this post is going to be quite long.

We Want Short Shorts Filipino Short Film Short Review Compilation Galaxy SIII 6S MMXV Part 2

Ang Maangas, ang Marikit, at ang Makata
We’ll be seeing a lot of Jose Ibarra Gualla in this lineup. If you read the link I showed in the last post, his films have this interesting, surreal sense of humor that is compatible with my sensibilities. In this case, it’s a period film, but that doesn’t even come close to accurately describing this comedy. 3.75/5

The story, that of predators and prey in an unforgiving urban jungle, is relatively simple, but the filmmakers give the back alleys of Cebu a dark, menacing feel that feels novel. 3.5/5

The film’s title, Sukat, could refer to the short stature of this documentary’s subject, a woman who struggles for acceptance. Yet it could refer to the amount of determination to make it in the world despite her disability, as well as her robust support system in friends and family. 3.25/5

Umuuga ang Ngipin ni Clarissa
Another film by Jose Ibarra Gualla, and this one, about a woman pursued by a gang of tooth thieves, is my favourite of the lot. It’s surreal, almost self-aware, and hilariously funny to boot, especially in the film’s climax when the titular main character is overwhelmed by the sheer weirdness of it all. 4.25/5

Sa Ngalan ng Kaunlaran
This insightful documentary tackles a land dispute over in the Visayas, where farmers are being stripped of their land to fund a huge white elephant project that does nothing but suck up taxpayer money. What makes it even more impressive is that it is a student work and still ends up being as well made as it is, which is better by leaps and bounds compared to some other local and foreign documentaries. 3.5/5

Alingawngaw sa Panahon ng Pagpapasya
Shot in stark black and white, this short is about a family going through the Martial Law era. The mother has ties to anti-Marcos forces. It paces us through as the thorns of the regime scar the family with wounds that run deep. 3.25/5

A simple animated film with an even simpler Aesop (which I am ironically not heeding at this moment, it's 3:30 in the morning goddamnit). The animation was a bit choppy but the character designs and the rest of the backgrounds were good. 3/5

Achup Boulevard
After viewing the shorts lineup from Davao, I’ve high hopes for the Davao filmmaking community, as their output is really interesting and diverse. For this film, a horror film about a slasher cutting up women in the darkness of the night, it possesses a twist ending that felt really satisfying (and was well done too.) 3.25/5

Happy Fiesta
In terms of narrative, this film (told in reverse order!) was a delight to watch, as each plot revelation told in reverse unravelled some very interesting (and unexpected) surprises. Had it been shown normally, it probably would have worked nevertheless, but its reversed story concept works, and exposes circles within bloody circles. 4/5

There’s a lot of overt symbolism in the film, and much of the film is well shot, not to mention a few creepy moments here and there. The pacing was slightly off, though. 3/5

It’s full of horror clich√©s, including a scene stolen right out of Ju-on. The jump cuts, the clever blocking, we’re seeing these conventions in mainstream horror films nowadays. It's no longer fresh. In the end, the film ends up not being that scary. 2.75/5

169 was
169 WAS
169 WAS
Eherm, anyway, the plot of this one kinda meandered for a good ten minutes before it came to a rather plain conclusion. 3/5

I really didn’t feel this one. There’s some weird acting, and there’s something about some relationship stuff that I didn’t care about. The dreams of others are often not that interesting (unless they are exceptionally weird.) This one was not an exception. 2/5

The Man in the Cinemahouse
What a lovely mixture of performance art and film! It would probably deserve more points had I seen it in the theatre instead. This film breaks the fourth wall in creative and refreshing ways. It’s funny at points too. 3.75/5

Ang Nanay ni Justin Barber
Giselle Sanchez nailed it. Those last frames with her looking worriedly at her son really nails what this film is about – a woman projecting her aspirations onto her son, to relieve her own inadequacies and fill the gaps in her life. 3.5/5

Pagtunod it Adlaw
This one had a simple premise, although my general disbelief was stretched kinda thin, given the two main characters talk only once and the guy’s hooked. I’m not wholly convinced. Like the film I saw after this one, It really concentrated more on how awesome the places in Region VI are (no surprise, since it’s sponsored by the Region VI tourist board or something.) I want to go to those places someday. I guess in that sense the film was successful. 2.5/5

Ang Panglakaton
A guy tries to get over his ex. The solution? Go around really cool places in Guimaras OMG!!! Kidding aside, while I prefer the plot of the previous film, this one has some really good aerial shots of the places our protagonist and his friends traverse. 2.5/5

Kaon Durian
This film was short and humorous, yet REALLY creepy. Also, I had the second weirdest boner of the day, which immediately disappeared thanks to the creepy part. 3.5/5

Merry Joy Show
I love it for its cynicism (and its in your face attitude, exemplified by its theme song that titters every so often.) As for the ending, well, a, uh, “friend” of mine who is totally not me thinks that it may a good idea to do "that" from time to time. It’s backed with scientific evidence. 3.25/5

I like it for the fact that it subverts gender roles, even though its supernatural elements are antithetical to what I stand for professionally. 3/5

It’s gorgeously shot at times, and it shows the life of these people in far flung, hard to reach places. It does segue into an explanation/endorsement of the present administration’s Conditional Cash Transfer program. Thankfully, it doesn’t shill that subject too much, and it shows how it can be beneficial to these people. I wonder about that gratuity paid to the mayor, though. 3.25/5

You know, this one had a nice concept ala Ghost in the Shell, but the limitations of budget make this look like what it is: A guy with a tube up his back floating in a pool. For what it’s worth, some of the underwater shots worked nicely. 2.75/5

In the end close of a long day when she said to herself time she stopped
Indeed. 2.75/5

Walay Naa Diri
This experimental short is a search for identity, when, paraphrased from the directors own words, a concrete identity may never be truly found. Maybe. It’s a dilemma that people of two or more cultures have been searching for ever since the mixing of cultures became a thing. But, as the film posits in its last act, as we search for a national identity in a country that has become a potpourri of conquerors and colonizers, maybe uncertainty is the key. Perhaps we should be content… with our present confusion.

Did I just namedrop my blog? I just namedropped my blog, holy shit. 3/5

The End of War
Depictions of the conflict in Mindanao are sprouting up as our filmmaking brothers and sisters in the south flourish. This particular short frames the story not on one definite side of the conflict, as many are wary to do, but in the context of a family trapped in the middle of the conflict, between a rock and a hard place. 3.5/5

25 more shorts to go. Last part coming soon.

Filipino Short Film Short Review Long Compilation (Part 1)

Before we start, take a look here, where I (and many other bloggers, film writers and critics) vote on the top Filipino short films of 2015. More categories for that poll are coming up, so keep tuned in to that blog for more.

In judging short films for this best short of 2015 poll I posted earlier, I watched/rewatched the following short films over the past week and a half. Since I kept a list of what I watched, and a good number of the films I watched/rewatched don't have reviews on this blog, I might as well do the ultimate Short Short Shorts* Review Compilation for all these 2014/2015 short films and give a few short sentences on how I felt about them.

*Okay, some were not that short.


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Ang Lihim Ni Natividad
This film is a relatively simple tale about a girl trying to break out of cultural and (especially) religious norms. Overall it’s average. Also, keeping super secret notes under your bed (and sloppily at that) practically invites a look see. 2.75/5

Ano ang Halaga ng Pangalan
This experimental short examines the evolution (or devolution) of our (perhaps cultural) identity in the midst of industrialization/modernization. Anyone who reads this blog knows that experimental is not my cup of tea but this one belongs in the upper half of the experimental lot.  2.75/5

Cold Sand
As a letter from a daughter to her father, it’s narratively simple, but the filmmaking at play really makes the final product extremely effective. It’s also unique in that there are no visible Filipino actors in this film. 4/5

Huling Pagninilay
What outlines the creative process? If this film is any indication, it’s the creation of frames within frames and typewriters (or whatever modern equivalent) clack-a-lacking all night long. ART/5

Maestro Basurero
The first documentary on the list. Although in watching the film you really feel for the guy, the filmmakers treat the film’s subject with dignity. It’s a sad but strangely inspiring story. 3.5/5

Dead Stars
The original short story is a classic and required reading in my college class (so long ago…) This loose adaptation of the source material holds up, but the deep bittersweet sense of nostalgia in the original story just doesn’t click as well here. 3.25/5

Run Manila Run
It’s really funky. I dig it. 3/5

Tao Po
What seems like a straightforward story ends with a nice twist that is darkly comical, the kind of punchline that is part fremdschämen, half laughtrip. Other than that I like the visual style of the advertisements for the lottery. 3.75/5


The next few films were made for Cebu’s Sinulog Festival, so expect the Santo Nino as a theme.

Dare to Live
Wow. Did an atheist write this? Because while the first part of the documentary was depressing enough, the end narration felt like a punchline to a sad joke. What I got from this depressing documentary is that God will screw up your life, destroy your house, and then kill you with cancer.  Yay God! I guess I'm not part of the intended audience. That said, the film was relatively well made. 3/5

Operation Prutas
I had seen Operation Prutas on Viddsee last year. It’s still pretty awesome. It’s short, it has the theme of Santo Nino without being overly zealous, and it’s also real funny at times. 4/5

A collection of inspirational stories from devotees to the Santo Nino. It’s at least way less depressing than Dare to Live. 3.25/5

Pahiyom Alang Kay Evelyn
There were a lot of invisible ninjas cutting onions when I watched this film. The film touches on a lot of subjects (even Martial Law!) but its main plot is about a girl who loves taking pictures with her dad. It’s also about someone from a dying profession struggling against the current of modernity and technological change. Sure, the movie gets a bit too dramatic at parts but overall (thanks to the actresses playing the main character,) I loved it. 4.25/5


This decently shot  film tells us that it really is more fun in the Philippines. The foreign actor was ok. Also, really getting to know a place intimately instead of superficial tourism is far more rewarding in the end. And as a final Aesop, as my girlfriend said, “Don’t bring out your cellphone in Carbon.” 3.25/5

Himig Ayala
This is a very informative documentary, if only because we see what’s going on inside Joey Ayala’s head when he’s making these great songs. 3.75/5

This documentary is about a community of skateboarders, and how one of them wants to pursue a career as a librarian. His dreams and aspirations show us that these skateboarders aren’t just a group of people aimlessly drifting through life, and their interactions together show that these are a group of folks that just want to find a place to belong to. 3/5

Soliman Cruz showcases his immense talent with his turn as a husband trying to give his all for his family in the wake of the death of his wife. There’s an alternate interpretation of the film, where the family may or may not be real, which makes the film far darker than it already is. But even shown as is, it’s pretty great. 4/5

What is a Day
The film’s showcase of grisly scenes set in a slaughterhouse juxtaposed with poetry may seem strange at first, but it starts to make sense as the film goes on, and you make the thematic connections between image, verse, and film in such a way that it feels rewarding. 2.5/5

It is obsession, pain and pleasure in silence and madness. I have the weirdest boner. 3.25/5

My Revolutionary Mother
Another really good documentary. It’s a very personal story between mother and son, and it’s not only about her revolutionary past, but also how the times have changed her, and how her determination to give her children a good life means everything. 3.75/5

And shortly after My Revolutionary Mother we have this. Its treatment of its subject, an elderly lady suffering from dementia, is done with respect, and it explores not only the patient, but also the effect of her illness on the family she is leaving behind, one forgotten memory at a time. 4/5

For some reason, the girl never turned the other direction for me. Anyway, its message is pretty clear once the primary question of the film is asked, and it lingers as we scan the picture for invisible thieves. 3/5

This short, about a mysterious disappearance, has a few good moments but didn’t really leave that much of an impression on me. 3/5

The CGI is okay for its level, and the message is fun, but compared to other local animated shorts I’ve seen throughout the year, it ends up merely being okay. 2.75/5

Visually, one of the most gorgeous experimental shorts in this lineup. But the words that accompanied the images sounded too edgy for my taste. 3/5

Ang Kapitbahay Ko sa 2014
It’s a relatively lighthearted short compared to many others in this group, but it succeeds in creating a very rich, funny and poignant story without saying anything at all (at least until the very end.) 4/5

This is way too long for just one blog post. Expect around 2-3 parts total for this one. Till next time!