2014 proved to be another banner year for the local film industry. As promising as the previous year, I am so delighted with the number of movies I have seen. Quite amazed with how great and rave worthy they are, too. The following reviews, however, are based solely on my observations and reactions. As I have mentioned the last time, I do not consider myself a film critic. Please do not expect anything grand. So without further adieu, errm, ado, beaming with pride, here are my top 15.
15. BITUKANG MANOK, Alec Figuracion
This is my kind of horror/thriller/suspense movie. The premise alone enticed me, and sure enough it didn’t disappoint. I feel like I was part of it; like I was one of the barkada, or the brother of the family on vacation, or probably one of the truck drivers. That’s how engaging the characters were. The only minor flaw, for me, was the ending (I won’t spoil hehe). It’s as if it was rushed or probably they ran out of idea on how to end it. But it didn’t ruin the film’s entirety so it’s all good.
14. SUNDALONG KANIN, Janice O’Hara
Ahh, I will never forget how emotionally scarred this movie left me. The ending crushed my heart into tiny little pieces. Ang bigat sa dibdib. What I loved most is the film’s focus – the kids and their stories. No need for big stars and extravagant acting. Just them doing what they’re good at.
13. MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON, Lav Diaz
A one-line review said it was “hauntingly beautiful.” Indeed it was, and as expected, long. Almost 6 hours. This is another Lav Diaz masterpiece. The long shots were impressive. Blink and you’d miss a single and important detail. I especially liked the scenes at the beach – mysterious, intriguing, full of clear and crisp images. And it’s in black and white, which gives the audience the film’s sharp and stark outline.
12. BWAYA, Francis Xavier Pasion
The aerial shots were breathtakingly beautiful. It transported me to this small Agusan town, had a taste of how a Manobo’s daily lives and routines were, and felt the grief of the townsfolk when tragedy struck them. This is Angeli Bayani’s most riveting performance, I’d like to believe. The scene when she learned that her daughter was attacked by a crocodile and was found dead is absolutely heartbreaking.
11. BANG BANG ALLEY, Ely Buendia, King Palisoc, and Yan Yuzon
A first of its kind – a murder and crime trilogy. And that alone is enough for it to land a spot in my list. It has its strong and weak moments yes, but altogether a pretty good film. It was so nice to see Jimmy Santos on the big screen again. I wished more of his part and his story. The episode I liked the most was the second, Makina. Gabe Mercado aced the acting!
10. KUBOT The Aswang Chronicles 2, Erik Matti
I wasn’t able to watch Tiktik, but Kubot was a treat for me. Those blue-blooded aswangs (not zombies) who aren’t afraid of bawang but instead of bagoong, Elizabeth Oropesa and her big wild pubic hair-like hair, and Nieves, the character played by Lotlot De Leon, I believe are the film’s aces. I love how it introduces different kinds of aswangs in each movie (yes, there is a third part), it will make the audience crave for more. I will look forward for it next year.
9. SOAP OPERA, Remton Siega Zuasola
A young superhero with an unknown past, a pair of lovers torn between the magic of their romance and the reality of life, and a portrait of a family who will stop at nothing just to provide for its members. This film’s view of soap operas and how it affects its Pinoy viewers was a breath of fresh air. I thoroughly enjoyed Matt Daclan and Natileigh Sitoy’s performances. If this movie is a three-course meal, their story is the main dish.
8. MAGKAKABAUNG, Jason Paul Laxamana
This film depicts one of the many ironies in life. A coffin maker who can’t even provide a coffin and a decent burial for her daughter. Told mostly in Kapampangan, which I think gave it more zest. It sounded foreign to me. Allen Dizon’s character is one of my favorites this year. His scenes with her daughter are golden. Ah, things a parent would do for the family. It’s heartbreaking and so real I felt it.
7. THE TRIAL, Chito Roño
This film has the right balance of drama and comedy (which most of the time a hard thing to pull off), a well written screenplay, good directing, and impeccable acting. John Lloyd Cruz is the heart of this film. I had lumps on my throat in that scene where Sylvia Sanchez was beating him. Vincent De Jesus, on the other hand, was such a delight to watch. A comic relief that balances out all the intensities, emotions and drama of the whole situation.
6. VIOLATOR, Dodo Dayao
It was like I’m in a different dimension. That’s how it felt like watching this extraordinary film. Those series of vignettes haunted me in my sleep. I have never seen anything like it. Eerie and creepy. After watching, it made me question myself if I am able to find and eventually fight my own demon. Just the thought of it is giving me creeps. And oh, this movie also gave a new and different meaning to “The subscriber cannot be reached. Please try again later.”
5. DAGITAB, Giancarlo Abrahan
A long, sad, painful, but beautiful journey. This film can be poised as a classic, in my opinion. Easily became a favorite Cinemalaya film. Eula Valdez and Nonie Buencamino gave a very powerful and moving performance. The narrative was quite impressive, all done in good taste and it made me fall in love with poetry all over again.
4. LORNA, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
A roller-coaster ride of a film. Hilarious, yet very sincere. Almost half the time the cinema was filled with hearty laughter, and the next minute you would hear “Awww” followed by sniffles. That is how the people felt this movie. I am glad Shamaine Buencamino finally had a title role. There can be no other Lorna than her. A notable character though, was that of Maria Isabel Lopez. She brought the house down! And yes, Lav Diaz!
3. THAT THING CALLED TADHANA, Antoinette Jadaone
First minute alone, and I am sold. Seriously. The heart and the arrow – it’s like it pierced right through me. I knew I was watching something different, something I would remember and will not forget. And true enough. Days…no, weeks after watching it, the beauty, the sadness, the pain, the heartaches that this film gave the audience stayed with me. Whitney Houston’s Where Do Broken Hearts go was playing in my head for weeks. I am pretty sure a lot of people will relate to Anthony and Mace, the characters played by JM De Guzman and Angelica Panganiban. Tadhana also made me want to go and see the glorious Sagada. Favorite line: “Eh sorry, mahal ko eh.”
2. NORTE, HANGGANAN NG KASAYSAYAN, Lav Diaz
It was 4-hour long, but I wanted more. I actually wished it never ended, or at least it was longer. Fabian (Sid Lucero) was such a character; a beast of a man, he devoured the rest. My favorite was that of Mailes Kanapi – her acting speaks volume and it haunted me for several days. Angeli Bayani and Archie Alemania did not disappoint either. I hope that this film will FINALLY bring us our first Oscar nomination, and win too.
1. BARBER’S TALES, Jun Robles Lana
Powerful and exceptional. Every minute, every scene, every symbol in this film is perfection. I may be exaggerating but this is a movie every Filipino should see. Masterfully done, set in the 70’s but kept itself relevant, worth every peso. Equally powerful is Eugene Domingo. None of those TV Patrol/elevator acting but pure and raw emotions.
I have seen more, and it’s too difficult to make a list of just 15. Hoping for more quality Filipino films in the years to come, and eventually more people to embrace and support these type of movies. With NORTE having a lot of Oscar buzz, and lots of amazing pool of directors and writers showcasing their talent each year, our film industry is indeed in good hands. See you at the cinemas!