TOP 20 BEST LOCAL FILMS OF 2014
Here's my pick for what I think are the notable local films of 2014:
Directed by: Ronnie Lazaro
Directed by: Ronnie Lazaro
EDNA marks the directorial debut of actor Ronnie Lazaro, who also stars in the film as husband to Irma Adlawan's titular character. What's admirable about EDNA is the sheer bravery of experimenting on various storytelling techniques to tell the plight of an OFW who comes home and finds out the real price of her years of toil overseas. The end result might be a little crude, sometimes confusing, yet Irma Adlawan still shines as a woman inches away from losing her sanity.
19. THE JANITOR
Directed by: Mike Tuviera
Whoever said that Pinoy action cinema is dead clearly haven't seen THE JANITOR. Thrilling, intriguing, and breathtaking all at the same time, THE JANITOR is one of last year's must-see, if only for the morality study it brings to the plate. We live in a world when our version of truth is only what is comfortable, what is palatable. It's a sad, sad world for moral crusaders.
Directed by: Perci Intalan
The debut feature of Perci Intalan is an exercise in restraint, a technique with which Nora Aunor is very familiar with. The picturesque landscape of Batanes, herein used as a backdrop for terror beautifully resonates the mood needed to convey the mental state of Mara Fabre (Aunor), a woman who is taken back to her hometown to help her remember. And with a history like Mara, we simply don't want to remember things.
17. ENGLISH ONLY, PLEASE
Directed by: Dan Villegas
How much enjoyable can the path to closure be? So much! But only if you have someone to share the journey with. What started out as a business proposition turned out to be a life-altering trip for Fil-Am Julian (Derek Ramsay) and Filipina Tere (Jennylyn Mercado). More than a romcom, the movie works because the filmmakers got the approach on how to explore the phenomena of a culture clash right.
16. KUBOT: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES 2
Directed by: Erik Matti
By the opening sequence alone, I readily knew that KUBOT is not the disaster its predecessor was. Erik Matti has finally embraced the campiness of the genre he chose, and what follows is a two-hour roller coaster ride of gags, thrills, and chills, but mostly gags. The inclusion of comedians Ramon Bautista (in a brand new role!), Bogart the Explorer, and Jun Sabayton has made the film a laugh riot. And who knew Lotlot De Leon can still capture the screen with her quirky character Nieves, sister to Dingdong Dantes's character Makoy. The effects are so much better, and Elizabeth Oropesa as the Kubot Manang Veron is pretty scary.
Jason Paul Laxamana
Despite the restless, almost nauseating shots, MAGKAKABAUNG (THE COFFIN MAKER) is a heartbreaking journey of a father whose love for his daughter and resolve will be put to the ultimate test. Allen Dizon shines in his silent agony, but it is really Gladys Reyes who churns out a revelatory performance here. The emotional weight of the entire third act is equivalent to Dizon's character's onscreen journey in the film's finale. And this is where the camera finally stops moving; the stillness somewhat ethereal.
14. BEAUTY IN A BOTTLE
The silliness contained in BEAUTY IN A BOTTLE cannot be logically described. Antoinette Jadaone ups the humor she previously showcased in her debut mockumentary film SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM LILIA CUNTAPAY, and once again satirizes the hell out of her subject until our jaws hurt from laughter. Whereas SIX DEGREES dealt with the plight of bit players in the entertainment industry, BEAUTY IN A BOTTLE targets the highly-commercialized idea of beauty, and how it destroys women's self-esteem. All of the three leads (Angelica Panganiban, Assunta de Rossi, and Angeline Quinto) are in top form. I never knew I'd enjoy a film topbilled by Angeline Quinto so much.
RONDA is a slow-burn dramatic thriller, an atmospheric film designed to make you feel the seemingly never-ending night, and the physical hazards of doing the same routine job over and over again. The beauty of RONDA lies in the irony of its story, where a cop (Ai Ai De Las Alas) is powerless in her search for her missing son. Ai Ai's turn in RONDA is praiseworthy, a different role and acting style from what she is commonly used to, and I think her Paloma Arroyo ought to have bagged the Cinemalaya Best Actress Award. But that's just me.
12. THAT THING CALLED TADHANA
Directed by: Antoinette Jaadaone
"It's not the destination so much as the journey," quips Johnny Depp in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES. This rings true for Antoinette Jadaone's THAT THING CALLED TADHANA. The ending might not be exactly what we expect from this charming indie that swept movie fans last November at the Cinema One Originals filmfest, but the journey is very, very satisfying. Where do broken hearts really go, indeed? Baguio? Sagada? Bontok? Call it the companion piece to Dan Villegas' ENGLISH ONLY, PLEASE (which Jadaone wrote). It is a wonderful feeling when a film can take us on a trip as if we've traveled there ourselves.
11. 1ST KO SI 3RD
Directed by: Real Florido
The directorial debut of Real Florido is one that is very memorable, greatly because of the rekindled onscreen chemistry of Nova Villa and Freddie Webb, who became famous from their TV show Chicks To Chicks. 1ST KO SI 3RD, when it is not laying the rapid fire jokes about senility and first loves is actually a very endearing character study of a married woman whose carefully organized world is suddenly rattled with the resurgence of her first love. Florido disrupts our expectations of the genre and turns it on its head. This is the film for which we shall perhaps remember Nova Villa. And I am not just talking about the Facebook scene.
10. M. (MOTHER'S MAIDEN NAME)
Directed by: Zig Dulay
A fish-out-of-water dramedy that features ZsaZsa Padilla in her very best, M. is a finely-written character study of a powerful woman who is used to having things her way. The story begins when she finds out that she has an incurable disease, and all her money and influence may not be able to save her. While letting us peer into the crumbling world of Bella (ZsaZsa Padilla), M. is also another portrait of the depressing healthcare system in the country, where money mostly decides who lives and who dies. The film exceeds expectation when the story shifts its focus away from Bella and onto characters with heavier burden than hers.
9. SUNDALONG KANIN
Directed by: Janice O'Hara
The film that ought to have bagged the Cinemalaya Best Acting ensemble award. SUNDALONG KANIN is a must-see for its unflinching juxtaposition of atrocity and innocence, which is made more painful by having four adorable young characters whose bonds of friendship are tested by physiology, deception, and personal beliefs. Also starring Marc Abaya, in a nail-biting performance as a Japanese conspirator.
8. KASAL (THE COMMITMENT)
Directed by: Joselito Altarejos
Arguably the best work of Joselito Altarejos, KASAL (THE COMMITMENT) is endearing and thought-provoking, a study of present society's views on gay relationships, more so on gay marriage. According to Altarejos, KASAL is a study of spaces; during the beginning of the movie, Arnold Reyes and Oliver Aquino enjoy total freedom within the confines of their own home. Towards the end, where they attend a church wedding, we see how the Church remains firm on its stand against homosexual relations.
You may view our brief interview with Director Joselito Altarejos on his film KASAL here: PLM FILM SOCIETY interview with Direk Joselito Altarejos
7. K'NA THE DREAMWEAVER
Directed by: Ida Anita Del Mundo
Picturesque and surreal best describes Ida Anita Del Mundo's debut feature film, a calming return to nature, to traditions, to history itself. Mara Lopez plays a native princess who is torn between her love for a commoner, played by RK Bagatsing, and her impending arranged marriage to the son of a rival village chieftain (Alex Medina). For all the disturbing movies last Cinemalaya (they were all enjoyable, but yes, unsettling), K'NA THE DREAMWEAVER is the charming little gem, like when you've had so much meat at a dinner party, and all you've been craving for is a soothing dessert.
6. THE TRIAL
Directed by: Chito Rono
THE TRIAL is a revelation of sorts for me. First, that Gretchen Barretto can act; Second, that Jessy Mendiola should have her dramatic starring role soon. Third, that I can love watching a John Lloyd film even without Bea Alonzo. And lastly, Sylvia Sanchez (oh, what a performance!)
Chito Rono's empathic and careful direction, based on an original story by Ricky Lee, and screenplay by Enrico Santos and Kriz Gazmen moves the story in an even pace of one shocking discovery after another, while crushing our hearts into sand at the same time.
Directed by: Dodo Dayao
VIOLATOR proves that jump scares does not define a truly effective horror film. By opting for a more psychological approach, Dodo Dayao immerses us into our own personal hell, where all our darkest fears are brought to light, and the sins we have committed, are committing, or is bound to commit become our eventual undoing. Truly, the devil is in the details. Also, terrific cinematography by Albert Banzon and Gym Lumbera. Too bad not all cinemas that played VIOLATOR last November projected the film correctly. In some cinemas, the projection is too dark, which is an injustice to both Banzon and Lumbera's work. Nevertheless, VIOLATOR is a surreal, terrifying experience, for each of its dread-filled minutes.
4. MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON
Directed by: Lav Diaz
At a running time of 338 minutes, some viewers may be intimidated with the length and pacing of Lav Diaz's critically-acclaimed masterpiece, but for those willing to embark on a journey to a distant place of haunting isolation, MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON will prove worth your while. Through the use of foreshadowing technique to tell a story of the impending implementation of the Martial Law by then-President Marcos, Lav Diaz has slowly but carefully layered his metaphor of human cruelty and kindness through his assortment of characters, each struggling to survive in an unforgiving land during an unforgiving era.
Direted by: Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
Where to begin on the list of things one loves about LORNA? The dashing but mysterious leading man? The metaphors? The laugh out loud humor? The sad reality of Shamaine Buencamino's character? Raquel Villavicencio doing Zumba? The list keeps on going. But if you need just one reason to go see LORNA, see it for the amount of heart writer/director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo has poured in this masterpiece, a far superior cinematic achievement than her equally innovative debut feature ANG HULING CHA-CHA NI ANITA. It is clear that her love for her heroine is huge and never-ending. Lorna, the character, despite her many faults, never stops at finding true love, if there ever is such a thing. And we, who feel like she is our closest friend are more than willing to share her journey over and over again.
2. BARBER'S TALES
Directed by: Jun Lana
BARBER'S TALES puts the universal plight of women front and center, a tribute to the many women who have helped forge this nation, and to one female director in particular who has had a HUGE hand in making Philippine cinema a force to be reckoned with in terms of storytelling and aesthetic quality. In BARBER'S TALES, Eugene Domingo plays the lead character Marilou with just the right amount of silent contemplation that when she finally makes the ultimate life-altering decision in the end, you can hear cheers inside the cinema. The particular scene preceding the final one, should be one of the best cinematic moments ever.
1. DAGITAB (SPARKS)
Directed by: Giancarlo Abrahan
DAGITAB is a film you cannot shake long after you've seen it, and repeated viewings may in fact, be required. I sure did get to notice tiny details crucial to the story on second viewing (having a writer and Literature professor for a movie buddy has its many perks), and it made me love Jimmy (Nonie Buencamino) and Issey (Eula Valdez) even more. I am a fan of mature love stories, and DAGITAB raised the bar for romantic maturity by taking the discussion on an intellectual, even metaphysical level. DAGITAB is a literature junkie's wet dream, and a Cinephile's visual addiction. Scene after scene of beautiful imagery. Eula Valdez has never looked more beautiful. And oh that melancholic musical score, it still plays in my head as I write this list.