Best Filipino Films of 2008 and 2009

Here are the rankings of the Best Filipino Films from 2008 up to 2009. Based on my reviews, we could at least produce five to six quality films a year - not bad at all. 

10. Ala Pobre, Ala Suerte (Briccio Santos) 2008

Irony plays a big element in these hapless yet quite hopeful social beings which originated from the tenants of the railways. It is a mixture of hysteria, paranoia that has outwardly corrupted the ethics of the known squalors of Philippine Society. I have great admiration with how Santos has drawn a society with a great appeal of sordidness without loosening its artistic panache. Ala Pobre, Ala Suerte has delivered a just rendition of a society that has tarnished. It has not yet escaped its past’s bigotry. But it tries to move along and survive.

Carlo Aquino

9. Carnivore (Ato Bautista) 2008

Carnivore certainly gives the audience a taste of life and how vicious it could become. It is the story of Lino Lucero played with angst and vigor by Carlo Aquino. The film successfully penetrates the human mind. This is Bautista’s third film feature and I have to say that he is perceivably way better in creating psychological fears. Carnivore achieves its goal, but definitely not in a disgusting way.

Maricel Soriano and Joey Paras

8. Last Supper No. 3 (Veronica Velasco) 2009 and Kimmy Dora (Joyce Bernal) 2009

Joey Paras plays Wilson Nañawa, an assistant production designer. He is tasked to look for a last supper that will be used as a prop. They got three last suppers but on the day of the shooting, the third one has gone missing. Then the riotous adventures of Wilson begin after the owner files a case. It is a comedy about our judicial system, a flawed one as a matter of fact. Classic lines are installed in court cases with numerous references to audacious lawyers, dramatic testimonies and even common jargons that could also be a form of parody. Velasco’s Last Supper No. 3 could be an eye-opener with some tummy-tickling on the side.

Dingdong Dantes and Eugene Domingo

Eugene Domingo stars as the twin sisters in the comedy film Kimmy Dora. These twins are rivals. No one will dare tie them back again with their own umbilical cords. Bernal’s Kimmy Dora have expressed mightily a great form of absurdity and passed it over as a great entertaining film with her heavy command in slapstick and parody. As a result, it is miraculously compelling and mind enthralling. This film is a proof that laughing first before you think is the best approach to evaluate the good values of a comedy film.

7. Jay (Francis Xavier Pasion) 2008

Jay is about two people both named Jay. One is dead and the other is living. Baron Geisler stars as the living Jay, a TV producer who manufactures reality stories that tackle justice to families who have been victimized by cruel slayings. In here, we get to view the documentary at the start and later get a big juicy scoop as to how it was made. Pasion’s Jay is funny, intriguing and unique.

6. 100 (Chris Martinez) 2008

Mylene Dizon plays Joyce, a single, career-obsessed woman. Suddenly, she resigns to her work at the brink of her achievements. She has acquired the terminal type of cancer. She is given three months to live. Martinez’ 100 is witty, clever and sensitive in tackling the theme of death. Tessie Tomas and Eugene Domingo have the ability to make a discourse and switch the drama into something humorous. After all, laughter is as natural as death.

Anita Linda

5. Adela (Adolfo Alix Jr.) 2008

Anita Linda stars as Adela who turns eighty years old. Alix’s Adela is shot in real-time essence, which transpires in a day. It is a simple film with no dramatizations, no histrionics, just the stark goings-on of an ordinary woman’s life. Watching a screen legend like Anita Linda will certainly make the simple into something magnificent. Why I admire Adela, brevity.

Sid Lucero

4. Independencia (Raya Martin) 2009

Independencia is about the freed Filipino people after the Spanish colonization. Confronted by the encroaching realities of war, a mother and her son are forced by their own volition to live in the forest portrayed by Tetchi Agbayani and Sid Lucero. The claustrophobic forest with its synthetic weather and painted backdrop are innocuously attractive. Shot in black and white, Martin's Independencia is stylistic, nostalgic and the music of Labad is eerily gorgeous.

3. Engkwentro (Pepe Diokno) 2009

Engkwentro is about two brothers who are stuck in a city where death happens everyday. Felix Roco plays Richard, a young man being chased by the death squad in the city of Davao. His younger brother Raymond played by Daniel Medrana joins the rival gang and his initiation was to kill his own brother. Diokno’s Engkwentro is a film that most people should see - if they are daring enough to have a glimpse of Hell.

Che Ramos

2. Mangatyanan (Jerrold Tarog) 2009

Laya Marquez played by Che Ramos has the bravura in extending certain aspects of humanity that is too soaring to be synthesized. It is hard to understand the courage of the principles she has acquired, but that is the blood of the film. This is the life that should flow into our own existence. Tarog’s Mangatyanan is the second film of the Camera Trilogy. It is a mixture of our dying culture and the human condition. Once it is combined, it exteriorizes the frailties of our existence and penetrates the harshness of our own beliefs.

Mark Gil, Eula Valdez and Charee Pineda

1. Alon (Ron Bryant) 2008

Alon is about a young girl’s relationship with a man and his ailing wife. The film is presented in layers, a complex study in melodrama and marital sacrifice. What comes out is an emotional ménage-a-trois that leaves the audience guessing at the characters’ intrinsic turbulence, best illustrated by Mark Gil’s character Fiel in perhaps his most subtle role to date. Bryant’s Alon has a strong narrative, cautious in its progression but still with eventual flashes of silent intensity. It is a refreshing tale of unconditional love.

(Note: The star rating with four stars and above are the basis to be included. Rankings are based on my own instinct. For me it really helps to have a rating system for consistency purposes.)


Bitter Sour

Ooops... Time to Shine!

Paano na Kaya is about young love. It is dumb, immature and forgettable. If their objective is to candidly portray the romantic miseries of today’s younger generation, then I have to say that without any doubt the film nailed it. Their struggles towards love are futile. The characters speak in an awkward manner. What a dreadful way to see the end of mankind for their annoying hyper-realistic love excrements. It is cute at first with their nose-to-nose affections. But along the way, there is a case of the missing heart. I nearly lost mine.

The cute and lovely pair is played by Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson as Mae and Bogs. They are best friends. I thought man’s best friend is a dog. But in the film it was Mae who acts as a dog-substitute for Bogs. They are also business partners, very lucky to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths. To cut it short, Mae has a secret fondness for Bogs. She might have realized it at some point even there’s a big hurdle at her sight. Her fancy eyeglasses made the trick to dissolve her pretty face. So Bogs sees other girls instead. Bogs is the typical jock who always goes for the pretty girl next door - just like her recent girlfriend Anna. But Bogs is also a boob, double-crossed by another guy, so he was dumped by his flirtatious girlfriend. So Bogs gets depressed, becomes an adrenaline junkie, stubbornly resisting recovery.

The start of the film seems to be enthusing and so we get to like what is going on even how stupid it can get. Mae is likeable to an extent and seems focused despite having a scrambled lifestyle as a second-rate daughter, boutique owner, restaurant manager, firefighter volunteer and of course as Bogs’ substitute dog. How overwhelming it can get to be at her situation. But things changed after she declares her mighty love to Bogs. Although Bogs is quite detached for the possibility of love between the two of them, he realized that she might be the perfect one.

Finally, the magic of love gradually dissolves. Mae flaunts her allure and without her hideous eyeglasses; she has an aura of a woman’s grace. It has now become an easy task for Bogs to be captivated. But Bogs remains static just like a blind man. His good looks could be quite handy, masking his dreariness and shallow responses. Bogs feels the love as well and the rest of it is pure torture. Fanatics will surely forgive the blunders it has. Success is now in two-folds. But I am certain that Paano na Kaya is not a great film entertainment. Star Cinema has produced romantic comedies in the past that I did praise and I mean it. For now, there are only pretty faces.

Paano na Kaya is a formula film that has gone sour. Perhaps the film cautions the jaded romantics so they don’t have to drown themselves in this terrible ordeal. It is a mock love of some sort; hopefully all the living organisms with brain function should realize without any provocation. The entertainment it offers is only a quarter and the remaining three-fourths is the leftover. The feast usually occurs in the bits and pieces of the film for a satisfaction guaranteed. It is a love sensation indeed. A dirty mannerism that lives on its own that becomes an apparent choice as a role model to articulate love. I hope they could have explored the fun side of love more fervently without loosing its strips of suitable conflicts. Dipping into a pool of lollipops and candy bars might be an act of stupidity but at least you will taste its sweetness before drowning.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Cracked Spines

Ageing Beauty

Brillante Mendoza’s Lola suddenly deviates from its two prologuishly structured films. It could be a shift from the omnipresent theory of Armando Lao in Serbis headed for the hybridized rendition of Kinatay. For now, it is Mendoza’s own predilection that pervades Lola. His prevailing love towards irony is quite evident even in his first feature film Masahista. Combining it with hardcore realism and synthetic thrills of the neo-noir genre, we have an incongruent truth that might seep into our own perceptions. Perhaps it is an intensifier, an exotic hors d'oeuvre that amuses the outsider, enough reason to be taken into custody.

The film starts with the camera stalking Aling Sepa (Anita Linda) along the dingy and nebulous streets of Manila. La Mancha has been ill-displaced in the area, known for its terrible gush of winds. Behold, Aling Sepa together with his grandson still attempts to light a candle. But what is it for? Why is she so eager to have it lighted with that kind of blustery weather? It was evident that after such a time of bonding with the old lady (she grows in me, the temporary stalker) that she is lamenting over the death of her other grandchild. Afterward we follow through where the wobbly old Sepa lives. She resides in a second-rate Venice, a surreal dead place that adds up to the unfathomable grief of their condition. It is possibly a metaphor, a slough of murky tears with sympathies that has been drowned and forgotten. And so they continue to live their stagnated lives in the new 'Smokey Mountain'.

Then we are introduced to another old lady named Aling Puring (Dr. Rustica Carpio), the grandmother of the robber who is now behind bars. Her instincts say that she will do everything and anything just to get her puerile grandson Mateo (Ketchup Eusebio) out of prison. An irrevocable love could explain it, keeping the family ties unscathed despite severe offense. A case settlement with the family of Aling Sepa is the only solution she sees and so she will shake heaven and earth just to achieve that.

I wish the actresses have switched roles and it could have been more challenging. It is hard to like Puring, a character that badly needs charisma for us to forgive her unconditional love. But despite the character flaws, we seem to be more concerned with how these two people deal with the reality based on Mendoza’s own perception. It could be the anatomical exploration of Lino Brocka’s core principles - a few might rebel. But the film in its basic essence is still amusing. You might be throwing it with mild accusations of exploitation which is in essence the type that sells on foreign shores. Lola has the qualities of a film that is better discussed by intellectuals than viewed by actual organisms.

Lola exhibits an expansion of what films are made on. It is really hard to believe a single truth as I always believe that we see through a glass darkly. They see and hear but still contradict the single truth offered to them. And in the end, no matter how foolish it becomes, there is still the truth of being a man. We suffer, cry, laugh and love but believing the truth will always be denied.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Tasteless Revival


Wanted: Border is about the convoluted idiosyncrasies of a pathetic cannibal which also happens to be the exotic excesses of film experimentation. Engrossing oneself to sheer lunacy and the use of distorted irony could be a magnet for the die-hard art film enthusiasts. Ray Gibraltar’s experimental feature as I see it is sheer redundancy of the merits of earlier experimentations which is quite insipid. When we deal with experimentations, it must offer something new to our eyes. I would say that Wanted: Border is more likely a bluff.

Actually, the initial ten seconds had me hooked for its tempting simmery vibe that it dissipates from a pot of bizarre ideas. But before the aroma sets into my nostrils, the promise it has evaporates rapidly. The theater started to be enshrouded by the unwanted pollution caused by the film. I seem to feel that the film has a mask or a veil that conceals whatever they wanted to say. Nonetheless, it will be favored by those whose tongues are pierced with ecstatic fondness for more jadedness.

The film is about Sepang (Rosanna Roces) a religious old lady running a kansi eatery in a little town in Ilo-ilo. The moment she shows up on screen, I could sense something is wrong with her. She speaks in outright blasphemy, uttering one by one the seven last words of Christ. Along the course of the story, the film tries to patchily weave in her past. Townsfolk believe and affiliate her to a family of ghouls. And so she made their belief come to life.

In no order, we get to be involved with other characters in the film, much likely stereotypes. There is this fat lady who eats like there is no tomorrow but runs every now and then in the course of the film – it’s the twist of the story. The other two are the sexually abused girl by her bastard step-father and a guy who excuses himself in being called a drug addict because it’s an artist way of life. You will also see a bunch of feline friends of Sepang lingering in the dirty pantry of the cafeteria. Once you have seen that dreadful kitchen, your way of eating might transgress to the ilk of bulimic sufferers. So the bored cats are her only known companions. Making a flute out of cat’s souls could be more fascinating just like in the novel Kafka on the Shore. But the soulless Sepang obliquely kills humans instead not the cats - barbarian style. Perhaps the film might get a nod from the uncircumcised and vegetarians.

Other films of the same flock have a similar technique. It tries to jumble the scenes necessitating itself as the new benchmark in filmmaking. At least they have Roces who stars as the disastrous and unpredictable Sepang. Medea could get pissed-off as her reign as the sole queen of danger is at stake. The concern I have with independent films is to progress the craft. A good experiment needs neither tricks nor embellishments. They have a discerning view of our society so why not employ it as well in making a film that is worthy of our applause. Film simply needs to move on from the mistakes of the past.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Mundane Magic

Hide and Seek

Bala bala: Maniwala ka is about the mysteries happening in the province. of Batangas. It soon happens upon the arrival of a city veterinarian named Frederick (Micah Munoz). He was summoned by the village officials in order to cure the disease of their livestock. He is befriended by a mute albeit adorable boy named Amiel (Rold Marn Salamat). Soon enough, Frederick is asked to cure a sick child without him knowing that Amiel is the one who performs the miraculous healing. The panicky Frederick decides to leave the place but is thwarted by Amiel who starts to reveal a plan that will soon take place.

After watching Bala bala: Maniwala ka, Jao Mapa has now a collection of performances that adds damage to his skill as an actor. He plays as a supporting character in the film as a vagrant, combining it with his annoying effeminate character in Dreamguyz plus his role as an anti-porn delusional politician in 69 ½ (although the film as a whole is much better than his actual efforts) and we will have the incineration of mankind. Anyway, the film itself is not the worse that Philippine Cinema has produced. Melvin Brito’s debut semi-soft porn film Sumpa might be the one in the lead on that regard. It is the only one that has made its way to be shown in the sacrosanct theaters of our country. Holy water might help cleanse the SM management’s overall lackluster taste and inconsistencies.

So after watching the film, what did it make me feel? Not to know what to do about it? Magic realism is a literary genre that has been here for years thanks to Saramago and Murakami to name a few that lifted its status and made its way to be accessible. Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep), Spike Jonze (Adaptation) and Fernando Meirelles (Blindness) are a few in the film arena who have explored the genre and their local counterparts like Paolo Herras (Ang Manghuhula) and Alvin Yapan (Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe) to cite a few. I think the problem with the film was its adaptation. You will notice the ambiguities it has that are mostly present in novels, a solid proof that it is better written. Visually it could entice but what is the point of roaming for its peculiar propositions? Soon enough, it will take its toll in the end.

I did not expect the film to be somewhat Disney-like having all those fireworks and transformations. But it did, prompting me to construe what magic realism bestowed to us. Haven’t they forgotten to make an elegant horse-carriage out of pumpkin? I may be hypothecating but I think it is more of a puff out of fantasy. Even Frederick seems to have a Jiminy Cricket by his side, tattling without anyone on sight. But at least he did not toss himself during his stay in the hut. It would be creepy having a mass gathering of fireflies in his pecker. Remedy might come from Amiel who was also the saving grace of the film.

Even if it is not true, the point of it is to be more open to what they have offered. It is the downside of magic realism so if it is not written, they have to be extra cautious for people not to be baffled. Nonetheless, Brito has constrained his self indulgences and obliterates from his patchy soft-porn earlier flick. It is indeed a process. A realistic process and you cannot be jaded even for a minute to make it look credible for its magic and cohesive for its story.
Charlie Koon's Rating:
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