Friday, January 01, 2010

2009: Highlights in Film

Raya Martin's Independencia

2009: Highlights in Film

2009 has been both kind and cruel to Philippine cinema. As we celebrate the numerous recognitions Filipino films are getting from beyond Philippine shores (Brillante Mendoza winning Best Director in Cannes for Kinatay (The Execution of P) with Raya Martin's Independencia (which is the second Filipino film, after Mendoza's Serbis (Service) in 2008, to be featured in the prestigious New York Film Festival) and Manila (co-directed with Adolfo Alix, Jr.) also premiering in the film festival; Pepe Diokno's Engkwentro (Clash) winning the Luigi de Laurentiis Award and the Orrizonti Prize in Venice, where Mendoza's Lola (Grandmother) premiered in the main competition of the film festival; Pusan and Thessaloniki putting the spotlight on Philippine cinema, concentrating on the diverse output of the new wave of directors from the vibrant independent scene; Vienna holding a retrospective of Lino Brocka's works; among many others), we mourn the untimely passing of the heroes of Philippine cinema: Alexis Tioseco, a great critic who championed Southeast Asian, and more specifically Philippine cinema, concentrating on the films of the Diaz, Martin, and John Torres, whose works he dearly loved, with endless passion; and Johnny Delgado, a great actor whose collaborations with almost all of the country's great filmmakers (Brocka, Mike De Leon, Gerry De Leon, Laurice Guillen, and Celso A. Castillo), make up a portion of this country's vibrant cinema.

2009 also saw the continuation of what ails our cinema: an unimaginative mainstream (although I must admit that Chito Rono's T2, the first half of which is quite intriguing, Olive Lamasan's In My Life, a baby step for the mainstream to embrace gay cinema (as opposed to the banal comedies of Joel Lamangan that merely re-echoed the stereotypes of homosexuality from past decades with contemporary idiocy), and Laurice Guillen's I Love You, Goodbye, a fine film except that it ended illogically, were minor delights), and local film distributors that favor brainless blockbusters (Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Chris Weitz's New Moon) to quality imports (although the latter part of the year saw the surprising commercial release of Werner Herzog's The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, James Gray's Two Lovers, Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds and Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox). Despite that, the year saw the continuation of what gives us hope in our cinema: Cinemalaya, despite my apprehensions to its raison d'etre of independence through creative compromise, had a roster of good to great products (Alvin Yapan's Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe), Veronica Velasco's Last Supper No. 3, Borgy Torre's charming short Bonsai); Cinemanila, apart from showcasing the best films from around the world (including Christopher Chong's Karaoke, Sergei Dvortsevoy's Tulpan and Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In), saw the premieres of Raymond Red's Himpapawid (Manila Skies), his first film since winning the Palm D'Or for his short film Anino (Shadows), Christopher Gozum's Anacbanua (Child of the Sun), and Armando Lao's Biyaheng Lupa (Soliloquy), and CinemaOne, despite my problem with the festival's treatment of its director's property rights with regards their films, which produced its sole masterpiece, Ray Gibraltar's Wanted: Border.

One can only hope for better things for 2010: with filmmakers getting their due respect, not only in terms of recognition but also basic sustenance (it pains me to see these filmmakers struggling to pay off debts incurred for the sole reason of advancing this country's cinematic culture); with our audience actually watching the films that have garnered worldwide fanfare instead of simply reading about them from obscure press releases in several broadsheets; with more film lovers writing about our cinema, giving room to responsible discourse about our films. Now, on to the lists:


Werner Herzog's The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

Top 10 Foreign Films Released in 2009

1) The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (Werner Herzog)
2) Two Lovers (James Gray)
3) Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki)
4) Karaoke (Christopher Chong)
5) Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
6) Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
7) Public Enemies (Michael Mann)
8) Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy)
9) Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
10) Drag Me To Hell (Sam Raimi)


Christopher Gozum's Anacbanua

Top 10 Filipino Films Released in 2009

1) Independencia (Raya Martin)
2) Kinatay (The Execution of P, Brillante Mendoza)
3) Wanted: Border (Ray Gibraltar)
4) Anacbanua (Child of the Sun, Christopher Gozum)
5) Lupang Hinarang (Hindered Land, Ditsi Carolino)
6) Himpapawid (Manila Skies, Raymond Red)
7) Walang Alaala ang mga Paru-paro (Butterflies Have No Memories, Lav Diaz)
8) Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe, Alvin Yapan)
9) Last Supper No. 3 (Veronica Velasco)
10) Kimmy Dora (Joyce Bernal)


Raymond Red's Ang Magpakailanman

Top 5 Older Filipino Films Seen for the First Time in 2009

1) Pagdating sa Dulo (At the Top, Ishmael Bernal, 1971)
2) Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari? (Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow?, Kidlat Tahimik, 1994)
3) Bontoc Eulogy (Marlon Fuentes, 1995)
4) Ang Magpakailanman (The Eternity, Raymond Red, 1982)
5) Kagat ng Dilim (Dark Bites, Cesar Hernando, 2006)

(Cross-published in Senses of Cinema, 2009 World Poll)


Adrian Mendizabal said...

Wow oggs! So much for 2009! I usually make MY YEAR-END LIST
as to what I have actually seen for the whole year. My list includes films as old as a 1910 film to as recent as a 2009 film. I find it 'claustrophobic' on limiting myself on a time frame of their releases. but in anyway, this is a great great list!!!

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Adrian! Happy New Year!

Noel Vera said...

Hi, Oggs--Melancholia have no place on the list? Was wondering.

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Noel,

I saw Melancholia last year. I didn't make a list last year, but if I did it would be there, high up there.

I was tempted to put Diaz's Agonistes here too, except that it's incomplete (although Carolino's Lupang Hinarang is also a work-in-progress, but it's mostly complete unlike Agonistes, which actually, if Diaz released it in its 3-hour version, would pass off as a complete feature: a cross between Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, in Diaz style).

Anonymous said...

continue sucking raya martin's ass, oggs. independencia is raya at his most gaseous, definitely inferior to kinatay. continue sucking his ass.

Anonymous said...

and what is himpapawid doing on the list? huh?!!!! isa lang masasabi ko: fake ka. fake, fake, fake, fake!!!!

digitalburyong said...

ang sipag!

The DVD Thief said...

i dont think so anonymous, independencia deserves the spot. Not that i defend raya(still bored to death with now showing)but i think and maintained that independencia was one of the most important film released this decade. Dont get me wrong i love Kinatay and it deserves to be selected in Cannes but urgency dictates that we need a lot more of films that will dissect our history(as the cliched remark goes:To look at our past is to look at our culture). And independencia just did that.

Oggs Cruz said...

Well, said DVD Thief,

And also, this is my list. You're free to make yours.

Chard, I'm back to my tamad self again...

Skron said...

I haven't seen most movies on your list. But Inglorious Basterds and Drag Me To Hell made it on my list this year, and Let The Right One IN made it on my list last year.

Ruvic Faust said...

HEY! i've been a follower for sometime on yer blog (since it seems like you're one of the few Filipino reviewers who don't gush alot on Feng Shui or countless Teleserias XP)

i'll be reading more of you soon, and i was wondering if you've seen Lars Van Trier's Antichrist and Korean film Thirst :)

Anonymous said...

and you've been quoted in the DVD of Mangatyanan by Jerrold Tarog 'undoubtedly masterfully made' and its not on your list of the best? a lot of inconsistencies.. someone told me you did not like anacbanua but praised it like you have no choice.. can you please explain?

Oggs Cruz said...

...Mangatyanan is undoubtedly masterfully made, but a masterfully well made wouldn't necessarily be in my top choices for the year. The director's intent wasn't communicated as well as he did in Confessional, and simply, I thought there are 10 better films this year. Putting me in the DVD box was the choice of those involved in the production of the DVD, not mine.

...Hearsay. Whoever said I didn't like Anacbanua is misquoting me. I love Anacbanua, and will recommend it to anyone.

flipcritic said...

Hi Francis. My name is Mike and I've just come across your blog.

I think your writing is absolutely fantastic. I used to be active reviewing films a few years ago and am now trying to get back into the thick of things. Just want you to know that I am greatly impressed by your work. Hopefully I can ask for your advice as to what Filipino films are worth seeing (if I can grab a hold of them, since I'm based abroad). Keep fighting the good fight!

Do you have a twitter account? If not, you should have one up so you can spread the word. Looking forward to more of your musings.

Michael Mirasol

Oggs Cruz said...

Thank you Michael,

I've been meaning to make a twitter account. Maybe in the future.

Thanks again,

humdinger28 said...

Hi Oggs,
You write so passionately and eloquently. I just dicovered your blog today and reading it here in my idle time in the office for hours... hehehe...
Keep it up!

jayclops said...

So far, my 2009 favorite is Inglorious Basterds. Christoph Waltz turns out not only to be a brilliant actor, but he breaks the monotony of the acceptance speech. I'm particularly floored with what he delivered at the SAG. Anyway, I was searching for your 2008 list, but can't seem to find it though. Great list Oggs. I also liked Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I saw recently.

Anonymous said...

Michale Mirasol, i remember you.

You are the film critic (really!), as he calls himself, who apologized in behalf of the filipino race to Ebert (in his blog) because brillante mendoza created the film kinatay.

He has not even seen the film but he agreed fully to what ebert wrote about kinatay.

Funny, isn't.

Anonymous said...


The DVD Thief said...

The funny thing was his glee of being mentioned in ebert's blog.

Having judgment on an unseen film is stupid; much more if you are, or feels like, a film critic.

Anonymous said...

OMG! Michael Mirasol is still alive!!!
Do you still think you can be a critic at all? Now trolling around with a self-made critic's blog - just to remind us all the stupidity that you made last year.

Anonymous said...

oggs, lupang hinarang is a documentary..

Oggs Cruz said...

I'm aware that Lupang Hinarang is a documentary.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I just found this weblog when I was looking for a review on Death in the Land Of Encantos, a monster that I just finished slaying (actually vice versa). I should say you have a fantastic blog here and your write up on Death was very insightful. By the way, how can I access to your lists for previous years. Links will be much appreciated.

Oggs Cruz said...

Congratulations with Encantos, Anon. Seek out the other Lavs; they're all worth it.

As for the lists from previous years, all my non-review articles are in the side of the page listed under Articles, etc. I didn't have a list for 2008; I was probably too lazy to make one.

kcatwoman said...

hello good afternnoon, first time ko makahanap ng blog na nagbibigay ng detailed at magandang review about filipino films. thanks din sa mga list mo. i have a question though, where do you watch those filipino films,.i guess i only know those that are shown in SM therefore commercial movies. but where do you watch these pinoy films that you recommend. want to watch them too :)

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Kcatwoman,

There are many venues to watching non-mainstream cinema. You just need to keep an eye out on schedules of film festivals, screenings, etc. Clickthecity is very helpful in showing which non-mainstream film is showing in commercial cinemas (I believe Bakal Boys is being shown in SM cinemas this week, so don't miss that).

I'd like to invite you to Fully Booked Serendra every third Sunday of the month for the Tioseco-Bohinc Film Series. Next Sunday, we're screening Anacbanua. I hope to see you there.