Thursday, 26 July 2012

You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011)

It's still too early to say but I might have found the movie that I'd repeatedly watch this year. It's only July, after all. But You Are the Apple of My Eye has all the elements in a movie that makes my heart beat fast and makes me scream for more. I don't think I'd be able to watch anything that would make me feel the same way. It's too short. Too short not because the ending was rushed. Too short because my crashed soul doesn't want the story to end. It's that good and painfully adorable, that I just want it to keep on going forever.

It's the year 1996 and Ko-Teng (Ko Chen-Tung) is only 16 years old, a senior in high school. He, along with his four other friends, has a crush on the smartest student in class, Shen Chia-Yi (Michelle Chen). The five of them has different ways of pursuing her, but for Ko-Teng, competing with her and annoying her endlessly are the only things he could do. After doing something foolish in class, Ko-Teng's punishment is to sit in front of Shen Chia-Yi so that she can scold him everytime he's doing something inappropriate. Shen Chia-Yi challenges Ko-Teng's intelligence that pushes him to do better in school. It's the start of a decade of competing with each other and falling deep in like.

(And yes, I write the sloppiest synopses.)

First of all, I just want to say that the best way to watch this movie is to start with no expectations and to NOT READ SPOILERS. Because you'll be surprised, enthralled and every other adjective you can think of, if you watch this movie for what it is (it is lovely, btw) and nothing more.

Ko-Teng and Shen Chia-Yi's story continues on to college and even adulthood. We see how the two individuals grow as a person, with and without each other. It's a sweet story of falling in love for the first time, and trying to be a better person to keep that love going. It's about making mistakes and taking the full blow of the consequences of one's action (or non-action). It's about having the courage to own up and to try to make it better. It's about learning that no amount of fixing can fix something broken. It's about regrets and what-if's and endless bickering and misunderstandings. It's about choosing to be happy through it all and realizing that life moves on, even without your first love.

The movie is based on Giddens Ko's, semi-autobiography of the same title. This movie also happens to be his directorial debut. Reading about the production and casting of the movie gives  me the shivers. So this is based on a true story, and they didn't even change the names of the character. One of the reasons they casted Michelle Chen is her resemblance with the real Shen Chia-Yi. The movie was filmed on the school the real story happened and Shen Chia-Yi's best friend, Hu Chia-Wei. Two of the songs used in the movie are even sung by Michelle Chen and Ko Chen-Tung for a more personal approach. (You can read the full details here.)

They really hit the jackpot with the casting. There seems to be a natural chemistry between the Michelle Chen and Ko Chen-Tung, that it makes the movie even better to watch. And thus, I will cry myself every night because of the innocence and beauty of this movie. It speaks so much truth because it's everybody's story. It's my story. It's your story. It's every high school student's venture into that treacherous place of being in love.

"People always say that the most wonderful time in a relationship happens before it really happens. When the two people are together, the magic vanishes," Shen Chia-Yi mentions in the movie. WHY SHEN CHIA-YI WHY. Well, I'm not sure if what she said is true, but in their what-happened-before-it -happened, it was definitely magical.

I am afraid to continue this rant, knowing that I might spoil it for others who haven't watched it yet. But I can't help it. I'm over-flowing with so much emotions right now. So if you don't like spoilers, stop reading!

What I really like about You Are the Apple of My Eye is how it seems to perfectly explore the thrills and pangs of first love. It perfectly illustrates how some people are afraid to go the next level and end up being the what-if's of each other. That's the case for Ko-Teng and Shen Chia-Yi. Believe me, I do not want that to happen to them but it did. They didn't reach the next step of what could have been a rollercoaster of a relationship. But they move on. They remain friends. And whatever happens to the other person, they are happy for each other.

This movie is just bittersweet but the characters make sure that you won't be extremely bitter. It just has the right amount of sweet that will make you smile (and giggle, if you may) but never exasperated. It's humorous (and obnoxious) without overdoing it. It's less than two hours long and a part of me wishes there's more.

The second thing I like about the movie is how it employs creative story-telling. It somehow feels like a friend is telling you a story, and not just some random actor in a movie. It feels so familiar, how one scene shifts to another. A part of you knows what's going to happen next, yet you're excited to see it for yourself. This movie seems to have come out of somebody's life story.

At the end of the movie, I could only clutch at my heart and stop myself from sobbing. To say that this movie has affected me is an understatement. With so many things that happened, it seems incredible that they managed to fit everything in less than two hours. It's almost impossible to believe that they managed to fit a decade of laughter, growing up, and romance in just an hour and forty-five minutes. But this story doesn't dwell. This movie doesn't drag. It tells you how it is; and you can only watch and listen.

And I can assure you, I will watch and listen again. For how many more times, that I do not know.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Babae sa Breakwater (Woman of Breakwater) 2003

I was fortunate enough to attend the opening night of Cinemalaya where they screened Babae sa Breakwater as a tribute for the late Director Mario O'Hara.

I've heard of the movie countless of times but hadn't shown much interest. I was 13 when the movie came out and it's definitely something that would interest me. I have heard praises about the movie but had deemed the movie as something not for kids, if you know what I mean. I also didn't see it as an indie film since I'm pretty sure it was shown in a lot of theaters. But then again, I don't really have a clear grasp on what makes a movie indie.

After viewing the movie last friday, I realized that I had a completely wrong impression of the movie. It's not a "bold" film like what my 13-year-old self thought. It illustrates the depressing lives of Filipinos living in poverty, in the streets of Manila, in the breakwater along Roxas Boulevard.

The movie is about the brothers Basilio (Kristoffer King) and Buboy who are from Leyte but are forced to live in the slums of Manila. As they make themselves at home, living in a community along Roxas Boulevard, they meet Pakita (Katherine Luna), a prostitute.

Despite all the humor peppered all throughout the movie, Babae sa Breakwater is a haunting film that reflects the everyday trials of the Filipino poor. What makes this movie so haunting is the fact that no matter how unbelievable or far-fetched some difficulties the characters encounter, they are the kind of things you know happen in real life. The horrors of poverty are sometimes worse than the ones in the movies.

I think this is something people who aren't aware of the situation in the Philippines would realize. There are some things in the movie that would be difficult to grasp outside the Filipino context, such as the kulto acts at the start of the movie. The movie is grounded on the reality of Filipino lives that it's chilling how the story unfolds. Countless of misfortunes happen to the characters and the viewers may start to think that that many unfortunate events can't be happening in real life. Then you remember the things you hear in the news and remember the statistics, and you realize that it might actually be possible. One misfortune after another hits Basilio and Buboy but they shoulder on. Always.

What I love about the movie is the characters' ability to look up when everything is going downhill. This shows Filipinos' resilience in the faces of difficulties. Basilio and Buboy may be swimming in a sea of garbage but as long as they have each other and they have something to eat, as little as it may be, they still have the heart and the energy to smile and laugh and be thankful.

I am not quite sure whether the movie is aptly titled, though. Pakita plays a huge part in the film but I somehow feels like the story really focuses more on Basilio. Then again, Pakita somehow influences most of Basilio's decisions in the film.

I don't really have any qualms about the movie except this one scene that will definitely spoil it for those who haven't watched it yet. Hee. I won't even get into the technicalities of the movie as I am no expert in that field.

I don't think I'll watch this movie again for the very simple reason that it's just too heart-breaking for me. I'm not the type of person who likes to torture herself. But I'm pretty sure it will be watched for generations to come. A gem like this is just too difficult to forget.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Hataw Na (1995)

It's a lonely Sunday when my only possible source of entertainment was television. It's been awhile since I last watched a full movie on TV. And after n years, the movie I ended up watching is Hataw Na!

It's a pretty old movie and some of my friends haven't heard about it! It was released on 1995, meaning, I was only 5 years old when I first saw it. As I remember correctly, I actually liked it back then. But the story had been lost to me after so many years of not seeing the movie. But on that Sunday, I suddenly understood why it's such a hit back then. Despite it's horrifyingly cheesy scenes, it's actually quite good. And I have a feeling that me saying that will make you lose your trust on my judgment. But still.

Here's a clip from the movie:

See? It's a flashmob. I didn't know flashmobs exist as early as 1995! Their dance number during the last scene is more reminiscent of modern flashmobs but I couldn't find a clip on Youtube. I know that it's something that we regularly see on TV shows and movies and pretty much everywhere, but to see it in a movie released almost two decades ago is quite amazing. I couldn't help think that it's so innovative. But then again, old Filipino movies have dance numbers. This one is a bit different, though, since it really focuses on the students' desire to perform. And not just because they're at the beach or a waterpark.

Just some thoughts regarding the movie:
  • We need more movies like this! The Philippine cinema is full of RomComs lately, and I miss movies about a group of friends. I am pretty sure it will sell if they produce a movie reminiscent of Gimik and T.G.I.S. This isn't even entirely about the friendship of the students but it's just nice that love story isn't the center of this movie. Sure, there's a little going on with Gary Valenciano and Dayanara Torres but the story didn't entirely focus on their relationship.
  • Hataw Na is like the Filipino movie version of Glee in a way that I'm not even sure if it's good or bad. Haha. Gary V. definitely reminds me of Will Schuester, but less annoying. 
  • The antagonist of the movie happens to be the principal and I hate how she's so pointlessly evil! Sadly, I do know that a lot of Catholic schools in the country are run by teachers like her. I do not want to generalize, though. I am just glad that I attended a public school in college, and I was free from all the ridiculous rules a Catholic school may have. Just like in the movie.
  • I miss the Jolina with 101 hairstyles and wacky outfits.
  • I don't know how Jao Mapa even became famous. HOW?
  • Victor Neri, on the other hand, is as charming as ever, despite the katsupoy hairstyle. Where is he? I'm pretty sure he's a lot older now, but I hope he still has that bad boy charm. (He also reminds me of Bang SungJoon. OMG. But my friend disagrees.)
  • The dance steps look unbelievably easy? I don't know. It's probably the trend during that time or maybe I'm just so equipped with seeing difficult moves from dance groups these days. Haha. I don't know. But we're talking about a Gary V movie here, and you can't possibly say anything wrong with his dance moves.
  • Watching Hataw Na makes me want to watch more movies of Dayanara Torres, especially that one with Aga Muhlach.
Again, we need more movies like this. It's ridiculously good. Cheesy, but good.

So, I'm calling out to Star Cinema (and to GMA Films, I guess) to produce more barkada movies! It's definitely the best. One with Daniel Padilla is ideal. KTNXBYE.
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