Friday, July 18, 2008

Namets! (2008)



Namets! (Jay Abello, 2008)
Englist Translation: Yummy!

This year's edition of the Cinemalaya Film Festival has a gigantic burden placed upon it: Chris Martinez's 100 details the final few weeks of a cancer victim; Michael Cardoz's Ranchero is about a day in the life of prison cooks; Francis Pasion's Jay begins with the mysterious murder of a gay Religion teacher; Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil's Boses (Voice) is about a maltreated kid who turns out to be a violin virtuoso; Paul Morales' Concerto is set during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines; Paul Sta. Ana and Alvin Yapan's Huling Pasada (Final Stop) is about a writer struggling with the effects of a recent marital annulment; Tara Illenberger's Brutus tackles illegal logging and the treatment of indigenous people; Ned Trespeces' My Fake American Accent reflects on the repercussions of the call center phenomenon; and Joel Ruiz's Baby Angelo tries to solve a mystery revolving around an aborted baby found in the dump site near an apartment complex. Jay Abello's Namets! (Yummy!), a last-minute addition to the feature film line-up, promises to be "lighthearted" and "angst-free," something the film festival desperately needs.

Namets! is a syrupy romance between two young ex-lovers. Jacko (Christian Vasquez) is a local restauranteur who in order to pay all of his gambling debts, cedes ownership over his Italian restaurant to Dolpo (Peque Gallaga), a gluttonous businessman. Cassie (Angel Jacob), Jacko's ex-girlfriend, is recruited by Dolpo to help Jacko re-imagine the restaurant, suggesting that they specialize on local cuisine instead of Italian food. Thus, Jacko and Cassie travel around Bacolod City, trying out the different native meals as their research, twisting the preparation and the presentation a bit, making the meals more visually palatable and commercial. As the two squabble, argue, and later on agree on the direction of the restaurant, they predictably fall in love.

Namets! is set in Bacolod City, the largest city in Negros, an island that is dotted by sugar plantations owned by the wealthy, who inherited the land from their spanish-blooded ancestors. Thus, the city itself is characterized by the social stratum that exists within these sugar plantations: the rich are few but predominant, while everyone else is struggling to survive. Recent trends in economy (like globalization, making Negros' control over sugar supplies less persuasive) have downsized the wealth of the old rich, opening the gates for enterprising businessmen (the noveau riche) to lord over the city. These social dynamics have turned Bacolod into one of the few cities in the Philippines that has a distinct personality, developing for itself a vibrant culture, and more importantly to foodies, a unique cuisine, characterized by a healthy mix of Spanish and Filipino influences, sweetened up.

Notwithstanding this milieu that opens possibilities for discourse even for a lighthearted and angst-free romantic comedy, Namets! adamantly dodges every opportunity to tackle anything more pertinent than romance and food with the efficiency of a seasoned politician. The film actually acknowledges the complexities of the city's social dynamics (when the two lovers eat dinner on top of the tallest building in Bacolod, Cassie opens up on the fact that her family hasn't always been rich, unlike Jacko's), but never really treats it more than a neglected footnote. True to its promise, Namets! perseveres on limiting itself to an existence as a negligible piece of cinematic entertainment, no baggages whatsoever.

However, even with that simple-minded endeavor, Namets! fails. The film attempts to survive with sheer charm and novelty, two elements it severely lacks. The film is as charming and as novel as an afternoon soap, only in Namets!'s case, the characters speak in Ilongo and there's a ferocious affectation for food. Sadly, the dialect spoken, the delectable food, even the often hilarious intermissions (the best one stars Ronnie Lazaro as a farmer who attempts to slaughter a chicken, then a goat, then a dog; his plans are being foiled by the teary pleas of his son), are all ornamental. I was not expecting Namets! to change the course of cinema, nor was I expecting it to be anything more than a delightful one or so hours in the cinema. Namets! failed to delight me. In fact, it infuriated me because with the already lowered expectations, I was delivered a product that is half-baked and mediocre. If Namets! was food, it's the one I'd puke out immediately after swallowing.

17 comments:

mykel said...

your wrong bro, if namets was a food i will surely eat it very slow savouring the taste knowing that it would be the last namets on my hands....
kudos
revivechristians.blogspot.com

Oggs Cruz said...

Umm, thanks Mykel...

Here, you can have my share of Namets! There's plenty more if you want, afternoons in Channels 2 and 7, usually starring our nation's up and coming starlets.

Kudos

chubs said...

i like namets better than fake american accent.

-chubs

Oggs Cruz said...

I like sleeping better than Namets, hehe.

Jason said...

pa-art films are too overrated anyway, we need something like this once in a while.. it's not only celebrating a culture, but it's also celebrating something that has been overlooked by the filipino indie movie industry.. food. puked all you want but this movie is appealing to most ilonggos i know. sorry na at napaka taas ng standards mo for "pa-art"/"self-indulging" films.

Oggs Cruz said...

"I was not expecting Namets! to change the course of cinema, nor was I expecting it to be anything more than a delightful one or so hours in the cinema. Namets! failed to delight me. In fact, it infuriated me because with the already lowered expectations, I was delivered a product that is half-baked and mediocre."

I wasn't expecting an artsy movie. I was expecting a decent romantic comedy but got something much less. I enjoyed the food bit of "Kailangan Kita" over this, so food films aren't really new in Philippine cinema.

Noel Vera said...

Have not seen the film, but I don't understand the reactions here--obviously the movie's doing very fine on its own; why care what oggs has to say, if you don't like it?

If he were to lower his standards and praise studio-produced crap, that's his lookout. But studios have marketing arms, people who go out and kiss ass; oggs does this for free. So why should he lie? And if he's telling the truth, then what's the issue?

Does he defend 'pa-art' films? But these films are usually made on no budgets and without kiss-ass marketers working onvertime on them; that oggs champions them is a valuable service right there--a free one, I might add.

If you don't think his arguments hold water, that's a different matter; you can argue with him all you want. If you don't agree with him--well, don't read his stuff. It's a free world.

cognoscente said...

Namets is a good independent film.
Good critics are objective and have no pre-conceived notions and pre-determined mindsets. Good critics do not use "he he" (wtf?). I do not agree with this egg-head's amateurish "wanna-be" review and will keep on reading what this oggs-head have to say. This is free world and I will read and agree or disagree as I damn please. In a free world, oggs-heads have the freedom to make an ass out of oggs-heads. Is this oggs-head's venom based on this film because it is Ilonggo (read: "I enjoyed the food bit of "Kailangan Kita" [a Tagalog film] over this, so food films aren't really new in Philippine cinema.")? This critic's attempt is half-baked and mediocre as the the School of Inattention's leader. By the way, oggs-heads have no taste and do puke.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks cognoscente for dropping by,

If objectivity is a requisite for a critic to be good, then good luck finding one. Human beings laugh. Human critics laugh. "Hehe" is onomatopoeia for laughter. Perhaps good critics aren't humans, since they aren't allowed mindsets or capacity for laughter. Nobody is forcing anyone to agree or disagree. In fact, nobody is forcing anyone to read this (including the comments herein), but thank you anyway for making it through the paragraphs. In a free world, I am free to puke, to have no taste, to dislike a film whether it is Tagalog, Ilonggo, Ilocano, Bisaya, etc., to be an oggs-head (oggs-head, wtf? omg! hehe. :-O.).

cognoscente said...

So there, you have no taste. You can leave your "he he's" and onomatopoeias (wow, high word huh?) in your closet. Good critics aren't human perhaps? Humans laugh, cry, emote, bleed when they're pricked, etc. Oggs-heads do not. Lowering yourself to sub-human shall never get my vote of sympathy. For the School of Inattention: your utmost attention is required, thus:
Objectivity is Rule Number One, Controversy is Number Two...
"Objectivity is both an important and very difficult concept to pin down in philosophy. While there is no universally accepted articulation of objectivity, a proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are "mind-independent"—that is, not the result of any judgments made by a conscious entity. Put another way, objective truths are those which are discovered rather than created. While such formulations capture the basic intuitive idea of objectivity, neither is without controversy."
Oggs-head blogging:
"Blogging has also introduced opportunities for a new wave of amateur film critics to have their opinions heard. These review blogs may focus on one genre, director or actor, or encompass a much wider variety of films. Friends, friends of friends, or complete strangers are able to visit these sites, and can often leave their own comments about the movie and/or the author's review. Although much less frequented than their professional counterparts, these sites can gather a following of like-minded people who look to specific bloggers for reviews as they have found that the critic consistently exhibits an outlook very similar to their own."
So there you go...learn from this and grow up...or puke.

Oggs Cruz said...

"While there is no universally accepted articulation of objectivity, a proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are "mind-independent"—that is, not the result of any judgments made by a conscious entity."

- I'd rather write dependent on my mind, and judge as a conscious entity.

"Blogging has also introduced opportunities for a new wave of amateur film critics to have their opinions heard. These review blogs may focus on one genre, director or actor, or encompass a much wider variety of films. Friends, friends of friends, or complete strangers are able to visit these sites, and can often leave their own comments about the movie and/or the author's review. Although much less frequented than their professional counterparts, these sites can gather a following of like-minded people who look to specific bloggers for reviews as they have found that the critic consistently exhibits an outlook very similar to their own."

- I completely agree with this definition.

If you think a film is good and I do not, then that simply proves that film viewing can never be objective. A review from the papers and a review from a blogger come from the same source, a conscious human mind that is open to much subjectivity, the most apparent of which is taste (which you incessantly harp on; I'm sure if a reviewer agreed with you, you'd concede of his having good taste, instead of accusing him of having no taste; thus your review of the reviewer is not objective at all). Simply put, it is a matter of taste and thank you for giving me and other readers a choice...

"learn from this and grow up... or puke"

Puke...

cognoscente said...

...and you puked over growing up and learning. It's a free world indeed! I suggest you read Ayn Rand on Objectivism.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks for the suggestion.

Anonymous said...

well Oggs, its true that the film is very predictable but it is at least entertaining.

Don't tell me mediocre films make you puke?

Anonymous said...

hey, have you seen G.I. JOE & Transformers?

did that made you puke?
Or was the special effects made the film great (or edible if it was food)?

GI Joe was one of the worst films i have seen btw

Oggs Cruz said...

I agree with you with GI Joe and Transformers. They are terrible films.

About puking: I puke when I feel like it. Absent the food metaphor I made, the film, for me at least, is just forgettable. Entertaining? Perhaps. Annoying? Probably. One thing's for sure. It's completely forgettable.

Anonymous said...

im from bacolod and i didnt enjoy the film. not for anything else, the film lacked coherence. period.