Sana Dati opens on Wednesday, 25 September at Greenbelt 3, Trinoma, and other cinemas nationwide.
The 1950s and the 1970s (up to the early 80s) are often referred to as the Golden Ages of Philippine Cinema. We think that the year 2013 is giving them very stiff competition. One might say that this is the best year ever for Filipino movies.
Before you start hurling Brocka biographies and Urian anthologies at your screen, consider this. In the 80s, when we were acquiring the moviegoing habit, there were many excellent movies opening in theatres, but they were all made by the same group of filmmakers. These names—Bernal, Brocka, De Leon, etc—were recognized as the stamp of quality. And their works tended to fall into the “serious” category (Although there have always been eccentrics like Castillo).
This year, during the last two months in particular, we’ve seen wonderful films by people we had never heard of (few “household names”), featuring actors we’d never seen before, in a wide variety of styles, themes and genres.
Think about it. When was the last time you could fill up a Top 10 Filipino movies list with three months left in the year? When was the last time you actually heard yourself say, “Do I have to pick just ten?”
We asked some of our moviegoing friends to send in their 10-best lists. Check them out, argue with their choices, and send in your own 10 best Filipino movies of 2013 list.
We’ve never seen as many Filipino movies as we have in the last two months. We are nearly exhausted but very, very pleased.
Ricky Villabona, visual artist and director of commercials.
1. Sana Dati. A well-crafted romance (or anti-romance?) and thriller. It teases and pulls back every time you think it could go the way of cliché. I’m probably watching it again. Deserved everything it won at Cinemalaya, and probably deserves more.
2. Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita. An unusual combination of the sweet and daring. Must-see. Should win a lot of awards. I hear it’s already won several awards. (It tied for Best Picture with Ang Kuwento Ni Mabuti, which we haven’t seen yet. Now showing at CineFilipino.)
3. Badil. I want to believe that we can be a great country someday, but this movie effectively tells me it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
4. Otso. It’s like an initiation rite. You don’t know what you’re in for, but you know it’s genuinely insane.
5. Sonata. It is sweet, poignant and lyrical. A rarity in local cinema these days.
6. Quick Change. Some of the best acting from the best actors and actresses we have not heard of.
7. On The Job. It is compelling and Joey Marquez is one of the reasons why it works.
8. Instant Mommy. A profound and complex story about how we manipulate, avoid, and confront reality.
9. Puti. It’s like an extended Twilight Zone episode, but it has a great visual style and a nightmarish scene that sticks in your head. (Now showing at CineFilipino.)
10. Amor Y Muerte. Because, honestly, sometimes we want to see a movie not for its merits, but for something bad like “Nakawala ang sawa!” and evil like a butt-naked Markki Stroem. If you’re going to make a bad movie, this is how it’s done. Perversely amusing and entertaining.
* * * * *
Raymond Lee, producer and screenwriter.
In no particular order:
1. Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin. Now showing at CineFilipino.
Tuesday Vargas and Travis Kraft! As a rib-tickler it doesn’t always deliver (the jokes, mostly of the stereotypical culture-clash variety, can get old fast), but its sober, clear-eyed portrait of a relationship that must constantly defend itself from prejudice is surprisingly tender and moving.
2. Bingoleras. Now showing at CineFilipino.
Everyone in the film is clued in on its lunacy and wears it ever so lightly. Knockout performances from the female leads. And for once, sex that is liberating, fun, and funny. Ang saya-saya!
3. Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita. Now showing at CineFilipino.
Ang galing ng mga bata! Ang ganda ni Angel! Progressive gender politics that’s pleasurable to watch.
4. The Guerilla Is A Poet
Eloquent, excellent filmmaking that is only undermined by the frame to which it limits itself. Basically, it’s an overachieving puff piece.
Competent, well-meaning political exposé turns into superb, palpably thrilling noir once night falls on this blighted wasteland. The how-to-make-capuccino ending! The Dick Israel!
The attitude, the elegance and seeming effortlessness, the chutzpah. THE comeback.
7. Quick Change
Almost seamless portrait of a sub-sub-culture. Cautionary tale ending a minus. So is the generic, not entirely apt title. (Alternative titles: Turok Siyete; Trans it!)
8. Purok 7
Sweet, charming, sad. The direction is both unassuming and assured. The casting of Krystle Valentino in the lead role is magic.
9. Babagwa. Now showing in theatres.
Enjoyable to watch. Alex Medina’s star turn.
10. Amor y Muerte
Much maligned for its scant production values, Amor y Muerte puts better-crafted films to shame with its thematic ambition and boldness. Althea Vega’s star turn.
11. Sana Dati. Opening in theatres on Wednesday.
Smart, sensitive, prodigious storytelling. TJ Trinidad.
12. On The Job
Superbly mounted entertainment finely attuned to the times. Lovingly and painstakingly detailed. The set piece that begins in the hospital. The powerful death scene (not the last one).
13. Salvi: Ang Pagpadayon
The production design. Local language (in this case, Hiligaynon) as ear candy.
Bumper crop! And Cinema One Originals coming up in November.
* * * * *
Leo Abaya, visual artist, filmmaker, teacher
1. Badil. Dir. Chito Rono.
Small, straightforward, restrained but powerful film holding up a big mirror to Philippine society and politics.
2. OTJ. Dir. Erik Matti
Dramatic and full of flourishes. Upgrades the local template for action-oriented films.
3. Ekstra. Dir. Jeffrey Jeturian
Successfully overturns the skepticism that a big star like Vilma with no experience at being a bit player can pull off playing one.
4. Quick Change. Dir. Eduardo Roy, Jr.
Engaging because of its alterity. Allows the audience to experience the sorry, ugly road that transwomen take in their quest for feminine beauty and the imagined rewards that it can bring.
5. Purok 7. Dir. Carlo Obispo
A heartwarming coming-of-age story told with authenticity, making the cliches that come with it feel like things we are experiencing for the first time.
6. Babagwa. Dir. Jason Paul Laxamana
A fresh take on the social network in the internet. It’s almost like a black comedy.
7. Otso. Dir. Elwood Perez
A film that throws sterile logic out the window and gets away with it. Wicked in its attempt to entangle itself with the process by which it is made.
8. Puti. Dir. Mike Alcazaren
High-caliber directing and technicals buoy up the story flow of this film.
9. Sana Dati. Dir. Jerrold Tarog.
An exquisite film homage to the romance genre that pulls the story away from its tropes and succeeds!
10. The Guerilla is a Poet. Dirs. Sari Dalena and Kiri Dalena
As a documentary-drama, its tone and imagery are incredibly calibrated. Mature and restrained, it is evident that the filmmakers are aware of the inherent drama of its subject matter. Where lesser filmmakers would have made a spectacle out of a controversial subject, the Dalenas step back and succeed at making a work that draws you in.
* * * * *
We thought of making these top 10 lists after reader qbeng pointed out that in order to see all the movies in CineFilipino, he would have to shuttle between NAIA, Cubao, Divisoria and Edsa Shaw. And he was prepared to do it! so he could watch good Filipino movies. Thanks, qbeng.
The universe is granting my wish for a golden age in Philippine cinema, given that today is my birthday—the autumnal equinox, when day and night are of the same length, so it’s magical. I don’t know how these connect, but they make my birthday an awesome one.
My film wish list has been fulfilled left and right. My shortlist, in no particular order.
I can’t believe that in Badil, the motorcycle I hate every time I cross Manila’s streets is the vehicle that brings us to the crossroad of shame and hopelessness in our political landscape. Location, location is key. Motorcycles blaring in the background are no longer a nuisance.
2. Ang Huling Cha-cha ni Anita
For its ensemble cast alone, with the children being real children, the film puts to shame other Pinoy films where kids are forced to look slutty and speak kilometric lines.
3. Guerilla is a Poet
Sari Dalena must be among the best documentary filmmakers in the world. Guerilla disarmed me, showing me a different perspective on protesters and demonstrators with their ideals. I still loathe the “uzis” and other freaks out there posing and smiling in the middle of rallies.
I want to be an haciendera in Bacolod. I want to be as musical as the spoken words of Hiligaynon. I want to munch on sugarcane till my gums hurt. Like Ang Huling Cha-cha ni Anita, Sonata allows the kids to be who they are. The magic of childhood is a balm to the weary soul.
Because of this, I went to Megamall and bought tickets for 5 friends plus 5 total strangers and forced them to enjoy Sonata.
As Jessica said, inilampaso ni Joey Marquez ang mga naggagandahang cast ng pelikulang ito. Wala akong masabi.
6. Sana Dati
In the podcast they noted that the title is hard to translate. Sayang, I should have had the guts to ask Jerrold Tarog when it was shown at UP Cine Adarna. Kaya lang ang ikinatakot ko, I might receive the same annoyed stare from The Corrs when in their MTV interview G asked the question, “Why ‘The Corrs?’”.
Whenever I am asked to describe Otso, I stutter and make like a webpage that keeps on buffering. I can only say that Otso is an endless loop of the movie’s imagined film reels. Hindi ko alam kung talaga bang tapos na o may kasunod pa? It may also cause you to doubt the truth and even doubt your sanity.
Gone are the days when I have to mention 20 or 30-year-old movie titles by dead directors and actors. Now I can freely and proudly recite a soliloquy composed of movie titles from the present. I’d like to see Transit, Puti, Babagwa, and Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Rin.
Happy Birthday, qbeng!
Jessica Zafra, World Domination theoretician
1. Badil. Should be introduced as an expert witness in the pork barrel hearings.
(Read our review.)
2. Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan. Dostoevsky in Ilocos. We’re still writing a dissertation.
3. Sana Dati. Impeccably-crafted proof that contrary to studio belief, “romantic” does not have to be “idiotic”. Clean and unfussy, razor-sharp editing, geeky shout-outs and that song. (Read our review.)
4. Otso. This is a WTF movie. Every five minutes we scream, WTF! and yet we cannot bring ourselves to leave. A work of demented genius. Brava! (Read our review.)
5. Purok 7. Childhood is dark and full of terrors. And they don’t notice, being children. A lovely debut for filmmaker Carlo Obispo and his star, Krystle Valentino.
6. Quick Change. A fascinating look at the transgender beauty queen set. Repetitive but riveting.
7. Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin. Bizarre and endearing, a Modern Family take on a relationship that is judged at every turn. Now showing at CineFilipino. (Note: This is the only CineFilipino entry we’ve seen to date.)
8. OTJ. If you’re going to be derivative, copy only from the best. Joey Marquez wipes the floor with the pretty ones. (Read our review.)
9. Sonata. It’s sentimental about Negros, the opera, mothers and sons. We have no problem with that.
10. Amor y Muerte. A terrible, terrible movie. We love it! Truly the Seiko movie is a distinct Filipino genre. Opens in theatres in November. Nakawala ang sawaaa! (Read our review.)
These lists are subject to change. Obviously we haven’t seen everything. Has anyone watched Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti?
More lists coming up. Send yours.