A guys gets stabbed; another one is about to be, and as the latter is about to escape from imminent death, the audience roars in chuckles because of the misfortune, yet by the end of Todd Phillips' two-hour neonoir origin story, not one soul is laughing. The trauma has set in. Or perhaps, a dash of introspection.
As the titular character in Joker, Joaquin Phoenix renders a gripping take on DC's clown prince of crime, thanks largely to his unique maniacal laughter, which is a mix of mockery, sorrow, and later, utter abandon. There is empathy for Arthur Fleck, the man who would eventually be Batman's archenemy, as Phillips dives into the character's psyche, by way of Scorsese's Taxi Driver. There is even a visual homage earlier in the film, as Arthur plays with the revolver given to him by his co-worker--- an allusion to that iconic Robert De Niro scene in Taxi Driver.
However, an examination of how Arthur Fleck morphed into The Joker does not necessarily entail a c…


The year 2018 is many things: the Metro Manila Film Festival went back to its archaic ways, Cinemalaya had the highest number of finalist backouts in its 14-year run, and for the first time, Cinema One Originals was held earlier than QCinema. I missed some of the films from the festivals due to various reasons (scheduling conflict, venue accessibility, financial incapacity), with the exception of Cinemalaya and QCinema, which I was able to complete the respective full-length film lineups. I only saw two MMFF entries, and will no longer watch a third.

On to the list then:

Samantha Lee

Billie & Emma showcases Sam Lee's maturity as a filmmaker, a far departure from her debut feature Baka Bukas. While at the start a coming-of-age story about a teenage lesbian, the film is also about a girl dealing with unplanned pregnancy. Billie & Emma has a big heart, and the way it brings back power in the hands of its female characters is most welcome.

19. MADIL…


Philippine cinema managed to whip up some surprises this year, both from the mainstream and indie sides of the pond. While there lays the argument that there should be no mainstream versus indie divide, in reality, there still is. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed films from both, and here they are, ranked according to how much I have appreciated them. I wanted to watch more local films this year (I missed "The Chanters" and the two Cinema One Originals documentaries) but time and money proved to be quite a bummer. Nevertheless, I promise to do better next year. 
NOTE: I have since shied away from giving numerical value to films, but I included ratings here to represent how much I enjoyed the movie, among other reservations. Because even if it's a strong or serious subject matter, I believe a film still has to be entertaining.
20. LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone) - 4/5
This is one film I did not expect to enjoy. Road trip movies are always interesting to wa…

BLISS (Jerrold Tarog, 2017)

Jerrold Tarog's "Bliss" is a maddening satire of the local entertainment industry, told in a surreal, nonlinear fashion. In this world, characters are outrageously crazy, one way or another, with Tarog never one to shy away from pushing the boundaries of genre cinema. 
Iza Calzado plays Jane Ciego, a famous actress who succumbs to an accident while filming her self-produced movie, a prestige picture being eyed for international recognition. As the character Jane recovers from the accident, we bear witness as she is sucked dry by her husband (TJ Trinidad), co-star (Ian Veneracion), director (Audie Gemora) and even her own mother (Shamaine Buencamino). But what could have been just a straightforward depiction of the ruthlessness of show business transforms into a psychological labyrinth, as Jane struggles to escape her demons. Tarog employs surrealism to portray Jane's consciousness, or subconscious, if you will, creating layer after layer of bizarre instances. 

GHOST IN THE SHELL (Rupert Sanders, 2017)

Whitewashing controversy aside, Hollywood's live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow's manga "Ghost in the Shell" is a visual feast, among other things. Rupert Sanders, who will now be forgiven for the disaster that was "Snow White and the Huntsman," herein directs with a steady eye for detail. Sanders borrows some shot-for-shot iconic scenes from Mamoru Oshii's 1995 anime version, while setting up plenty of stunning images himself, through the help of lensman Jess Hall ("Transcendence"). In this new "Ghost" adaptation, 3D holograms adorn the facade of huge skyscrapers, which could be a reverse "Blade Runner" because much of the story, or at least the exterior scenes occur in daylight. Most of the visual composition focuses on circles, like the shape of Major's "apartment building" and the cemetery, which could either be a metaphor for the brain (the "ghost") or the narrative path which leads us to…

I'M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU (JP Habac, 2017)

Familiar romcom elements abound in JP Habac's feature-length debut "I'm Drunk, I Love You." There's the road trip, the beach, drinking (lots of it), a best friend/confidante/wingman and yes, unrequited love. However, the film treads rather dangerously on familiarity that it misses being a full-blown mainstream fare by only several inches. 
Co-written with Giancarlo Abrahan (Dagitab), "I'm Drunk, I Love You" centers on Carson (Maja Salvador) and her seven-year hell being best friend to Dio (Paulo Avelino). Carson likes Dio a lot, and for seven years she harbored her secret feelings for him. Jason Ty (Dominic Roco), Carson's other best friend is the only other human in the know of such intentions. 
The film opens days before both Carson and Dio graduate from college. Dio takes Carson and Jason Ty on an impromptu trip to La Union province for a music festival, with the two unaware of what lies ahead.
Enter Pathy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), Dio's s…


2016 has been a great year for Philippine cinema, with a large variety of stories and genres, and a number of film festivals. It is also notable for the revamp of the Metro Manila Film Festival, which reverted to its roots of handpicking entries based on finished film rather than scripts. As such, the usual escapist fares were out, in favor of thought-provoking yet accessible films.

Despite this phenomena, this reviewer still had a hard time watching all films. For transparency's sake, the following films were not seen for consideration due to time and scheduling constraints:

* Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis by Lav Diaz
* Ang Taba Ko Kasi by Jason Paul Laxamana
* Expressway by Ato Bautista
* Lila by Gino Santos
* A Lotto Like Love by Carla Baful
* Straight to the Heart by Dave Fabros
* 1st Sem by Dexter Hemedez and Allan Ibanez
* Pitong Kabang Palay by Maricel Cariaga
* Kakampi by Vic Acedillo Jr.
* Pilapil by Johnny Nadela
* EDSA by Alvin Yapan
* Iadya Mo Kami by Mel Chionglo
* Kute by R…