Thursday, March 02, 2017

89th Academy Awards: Prediction Scores and Thoughts

Well, that was a crazy ceremony. Too bad Warren Beatty's and Faye Dunaway's appearance as a tribute to Bonnie and Clyde was rather marred by the mistake of the Academy's long-time accountants (and the two legends' own befuddlement). Still, the big upset, Moonlight winning over the juggernaut that was La La Land, was just the shocker that an otherwise predictable night needed to end on. The winners were all deserving, as La La Land also would have been, but we live for the surprises (as much as we want our prediction scores to be high). Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards will be up soon, but in the meantime, here are the winners and my prediction scores. Those that I had predicted correctly have asterisks.

Predicted Winners:

PICTURE
MOONLIGHT

Predicted La La Land but had Moonlight as the potential spoiler. La La Land is a bigger technical achievement but I will not begrudge Moonlight, a wonderfully directed and acted film that has more emotional heft, this well deserve Oscar.

DIRECTING
DAMIEN CHAZELLE (LA LA LAND)*

At least he won this one. If at least for the epicness of the film's razzle dazzle, he truly deserves it.

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
CASEY AFFLECK (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA)

Predicted Denzel Washington (Fences) but of course had Affleck at #2. None of the others really had a chance (which is sad for Viggo Mortensen, because he was the most deserving of the win IMO).

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
EMMA STONE (LA LA LAND)

Predicted Isabelle Huppert (Elle), which was rather too hopeful and naive in retrospect. Emma is one of those actresses who just has to wait for the right role but has had an Oscar win written in the stars for her early in her career. She was unstoppable. And was it just me, or was the applause for Isabelle during the ceremony rather lukewarm? Seems like the Academy members aren't as impressed by her resume and status in global cinema as we regular fans of film are.

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
MAHERSHALA ALI (MOONLIGHT)*

Classy guy. Not my personal choice, but a worthy winner nonetheless.

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
VIOLA DAVIS (FENCES)*

Slay! One of the world's greatest living actresses finally has an Oscar. And no, she was NOT in the wrong category. She may have had a long screentime but hers was clearly a supporting character to Denzel's. Dev Patel's Best Supporting Actor nomination was the only true case of category fraud this year.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Barry Jenkins, based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney (MOONLIGHT)*

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
kenneth Lonergan (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA)

ANIMATED FEATURE
Byron Howard, Rich Moore (ZOOTOPIA)*

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
THE SALESMAN (IRAN)

I had a strong feeling that The Salesman was going to win it after the shitstorm that Trump precipitated in the US, but I hesitated to predict against Toni Erdmann at the last moment.

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Linus Sandgren (LA LA LAND)*

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Coleen Atwood (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM)

Is this the first Oscar win for any of the films in the Harry Potter universe?

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
John Gilbert (HACKSAW RIDGE)

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson (SUICIDE SQUAD)

Suicide Squad now has one more Oscar than thousands of film classics. But what the heck, I can't say it didn't deserve it. Let the haters hate. I love this branch for not caring what the others think.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Justin Hurwitz (LA LA LAND)*

Samuel L. Jackson really hated the movie, huh? He couldn't even fake enthusiasm when reading Justin's name.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
"City of Stars" (LA LA LAND)*

I still wish Ryan and Emma had performed this. John Legend's rendition was underwhelming.

ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN
David Wasco (Production Design); Sandy Reynolds-Wasco (Set Decoration) (LA LA LAND)*

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
Sylvain Bellemare (ARRIVAL)

Yey Arrival! Glad to have been wrong in this one. That film deserved many more Oscars.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace (HACKSAW RIDGE)

Kinda weird that the musical didn't win it, especially as it was such a behemoth coming in. But it's great that Kevin O'Connell is finally an Oscar winner after over 20 nominations.

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon (THE JUNGLE BOOK)

I just now realized that I had predicted Rogue One instead of this. I don't even know why. Silly me. It was probably always between The Jungle Book and Doctor Strange. Or Kubo. This branch loves CG animals (explains the win for the otherwise shunned The Golden Compass).

TOTAL SCORE: 9/20. Terrible score, but I had fun predicting against the grain like with Huppert over Stone.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

2016 Film-Otaku Awards: Horror Edition

Here are my choices for this year's best in horror:

BEST HORROR FILM
The Witch

The Love Witch
Train to Busan
The Conjuring 2
Under the Shadow
Don't Breathe
The Wailing
10 Cloverfield Lane
Evolution
Seklusyon

BEST HORROR FILM DIRECTOR
David Eggers (The Witch)
Anna Biller (The Love Witch)
Yeon Sang-ho (Train to Busan)
Fede Álvarez (Don't Breathe)
Babak Anvari (Under the Shadow)

BEST HORROR FILM ACTRESS
Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring 2)

Blake Lively (The Shallows)
Anna Taylor-Joy (The Witch)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Rhed Bustamante (Seklusyon)

BEST HORROR FILM ACTOR
Do-won Kwak (The Wailing)

John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Ralph Ineson (The Witch)
Stephen Lang (Don't Breathe)
Yoo Gong (Train to Busan)

BEST HORROR FILM SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Kate Dickie (The Witch)

Maria Bello (Lights Out)
Laura Waddell (The Love Witch)
Roxan Duran (Evolution)
Jung Yu-mi (Train to Busan)

BEST HORROR FILM SUPPORTING ACTOR
Harvey Scrimshaw (The Witch)

Jun Kunimura (The Wailing)
Ma Dong-seok (Train to Busan)
Jung-min Hwang (The Wailing)
Neil Ryan Sese (Seklusyon)

BEST HORROR FILM SCREENPLAY
Robert Eggers (The Witch)
Anna Biller (The Love Witch)
Babak Anvari (Under the Shadow)
Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Anton C. Santamaria (Seklusyon)

BEST HORROR FILM CINEMATOGRAPHY
Jarin Blaschke (The Witch)

Flavio Martínez Labiano (The Shallows)
M. David Mullen (The Love Witch)
Manuel Dacosse (Evolution)
Neil Bion (Seklusyon)

BEST HORROR FILM SCORE
Anna Biller (The Love Witch)

Mark Korven (The Witch)
Francis de Veyra (Seklusyon)
Marco Beltrami (The Shallows)
Roque Baños (Don't Breathe)

BEST HORROR FILM ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Love Witch

The Witch
Don't Breathe
Under the Shadow
The Conjuring 2

BEST SCARED AS SHIT PERFORMANCE
Jane Levy (Don't Breathe)

Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring 2)
Madison Wolfe (The Conjuring 2)
Kate Siegel (Hush)
Corbin Reid (Blair Witch)

BEST "MONSTER"
Black Phillip (The Witch)

Djinns (Under the Shadow)
The Blind Man (Don't Breathe)
Zombies (Train to Busan)
The creature (Blair Witch)

BEST SCENE/SEQUENCE
Timing the crossing of the train cars (Train to Busan)

Opening scene, body being dragged across the street (Don't Breathe)
Mating ritual on the beach (Evolution)
Elaine's dance of darkness and rainbow (The Love Witch)
Nightmare: Djinn through the crack in the ceiling (Under the Shadow)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Call Me By Your Name

The film Call Me By Your Name was hailed by critics and audiences in the recent Sundance Film Festival and got a similarly enthusiastic response as it closed the Berlin Film Festival just two days ago. Next year's Oscar favorite? Maybe, if the homosexual nature of the story (it's an intense romance between two men, played by Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer) doesn't put off the voters the way it did with Brokeback Mountain and, more recently, Carol. But acting nominations are probably in the bag for Chalamet, Hammer, and maybe even Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays the father of Chalamet's character Elio.
Had to read the book as soon as I learned of the raves coming from Sundance. It is exceptionally beautifully written. The prose of writer André Aciman is staggering. Seems a perfect fit for the aesthetics of Italian director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash, and the upcoming Suspiria remake). I just can't help but wonder how he'll pull of some scenes, especially a certain one involving a peach...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BEST DIRECTOR 2018

COMING SOON!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 2018

COMING SOON!

BEST ACTRESS 2018

COMING SOON!

Oscar Nominations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

THE GOOD

Isabelle Huppert, a legend of French cinema, is finally an Oscar nominee!

Mel Gibson, who's an amazing filmmaker, is back in the good graces of the Academy.

20th nomination for Meryl Streep, the "most overrated" actress according to one Donald Trump.

Eight nominations for Arrival!

I failed to predict it but the production design of Passengers is astonishing.

With those two nominations in the Best Original Song category, Emma Stone will very likely sing twice during the Oscar ceremony.

THE BAD

After getting all sorts of pre-Oscar citations, Deadpool couldn't muster even one nomination in at least Makeup and Hairstyling.

Only one nomination (Doctor Strange for Visual Effects) for MCU films this year.

No nominations for Emily Blunt, Amy Adams, and Hugh Grant.

"We Know the Way," the superior song in Moana (IMO), was not nominated.

Not a single nomination, even in the technical categories, for The Witch, still one of 2016's greatest films regardless of genre.

THE UGLY

Only one nomination for the work of art that is Silence.

Your Name was shut out of the Best Animated Feature race after winning among Los Angeles critics and being the best-selling Japanese animated film of all time in the world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

89th Academy Awards Nominees

PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Score: 9/10. Predicted Silence as the 10th nominee.

DIRECTING
Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Martin Scorsese (Silence) instead of Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge).

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

Score: 5/5.

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Amy Adams (Arrival) instead of Ruth Negga (Loving).

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins) instead of Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals).

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Score: 5/5.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Eric Heisserer, based on the short story by Ted Chiang (Arrival)
August Wilson, based on his play (Fences)
Allison Schroeder, Theodore Malfi, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly (Hidden Figures)
Luke Davies, based on the book by Saroo Brierley (Lion)
Barry Jenkins, based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Silence instead of Hidden Figures.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou (The Lobster)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Mike Mills (20th Century Women)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Jackie instead of 20th Century Women.

ANIMATED FEATURE
Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings)
Ron Clements, John Musker (Moana)
Claude Barras (My Life as a Zucchini)
Michael Dudok de Wit (The Red Turtle)
Byron Howard, Rich Moore (Zootopia)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Your Name instead of The Red Turtle.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Land of Mine (Denmark)
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
The Salesman (Iran)
Tanna (Australia)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Score: 3/5. Predicted Paradise (Russia) and My Life as a Zucchini (Switzerland) instead of Land of Mine (Denmark) and Tanna (Australia).

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Bradford Young (Arrival)
Linus Sandgren (La La Land)
Greir Fraser (Lion)
James Laxton (Moonlight)
Rodrigo Prieto (Silence)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Jackie instead of Lion.

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Joanna Johnston (Allied)
Colleen Atwood (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)
Consolata Boyle (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Madeline Fontaine (Jackie)
Mary Zophres (La La Land)

Score: 3/5. Predicted The Handmaiden and Silence instead of Allied and Florence Foster Jenkins.

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
Joe Walker (Arrival)
John Gilbert (Hacksaw Ridge)
Jake Roberts (Hell or High Water)
Tom Cross (La La Land)
Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders (Moonlight)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Silence instead of Hell or High Water.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Eva von Bahr and Love Larson (A Man Called Ove)
Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo (Star Trek Beyond)
Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson (Suicide Squad)

Score: 1/3. Predicted Deadpool and Florence Foster Jenkins instead of A Man Called Ove and Suicide Squad.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Mica Levi (Jackie)
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)
Dustin O'Halloran, Hauschka (Lion)
Nicholas Britell (Moonlight)
Thomas Newman (Passengers)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Moana instead of Passengers.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
"Audition: The Fools Who Dream" (La La Land)
"Can't Stop the Feeling" (Trolls)
"City of Stars" (La La Land)
"The Empty Chair" (Jim: The James Foley Story)
"How Far I'll Go" (Moana)

Score: 3/5. Predicted "Runnin'" (Hidden Figures) and "We Know the Way" (Moana) instead of "Can't Stop the Feeling" (Trolls) and "The Empty Chair" (Jim: The James Foley Story).

ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN
Patrice Vermette (Production Design); Paul Hotte (Set Decoration) (Arrival)
Stuart Craig (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)
Jess Gonchor (Production Design); Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration) (Hail, Caesar!)
David Wasco (Production Design); Sandy Reynolds-Wasco (Set Decoration) (La La Land)
Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration) (Passengers)

Score: 2/5. Predicted The Handmaiden, Jackie, and Silence instead of Arrival, Hail, Caesar!, and Passengers.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
Sylvain Bellemare (Arrival)
Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli (Deepwater Horizon)
Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan (La La Land)
Alan Robert Murray and Bob Asman (Sully)

Score: 2/5. Predicted Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story instead of Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, and Sully.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye (Arrival)
Kevin O'Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace (Hacksaw Ridge)
Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow (La La Land)
David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth (13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi)

Score: 4/5. Predicted Moana instead of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton (Deepwater Horizon)
Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould (Doctor Strange)
Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon (The Jungle Book)
Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff (Kubo and the Two Strings)
John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)

Score: 3/5. Predicted Arrival and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them instead of Deepwater Horizon and Kubo and the Two Strings.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
"Extremis"
"4.1 Miles"
"Joe's Violin"
"Watani: My Homeland"
"The White Helmets"

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
"Blind Vaysha"
"Borrowed Time"
"Pear Cider and Cigarettes"
"Pearl"
"Piper"

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
"Ennemis Intérieurs"
"La Femme et le TGV"
"Silent Nights"
"Sing"
"Timecode"

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Metro Manila Film Festival 2016

The organizers of this year's Metro Manila Film Festival, which began in 1975, promised a reinvigorated festival whose slate of competing films has been determined based on the quality of a complete script and not on box office potential of unfinished screenplays, as has been the questionable tradition in recent years. This decision, which ultimately resulted in the ineligibility of traditional fare (long-running comedy and drama franchises of doubtful quality), did not sit well with everyone, of course. However, there has been a general buzz of excitement especially among cineastes about the potential of a festival that actually celebrates the excellence of Filipino cinema and is worth missing foreign films for (there is a moratorium on these during the festival run). 

By and large, it is a success. This year's eclectic mix of mainstream and indie films is exciting and inspiring. Here are my thoughts on the films:

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough
Director: Marlon Rivera
Writer: Chris Martinez
Cast: Eugene Domingo, Kean Cipriano, Cai Cortez, Khalil Ramos, Joel Torre, Jericho Rosales, Agot Isidro

This is the sequel to Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, the country's entry to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film category some years ago. It's a laugh riot almost from start to finish, in part because its celebration and criticism of mainstream Pinoy cinema are so on point, but mostly because of the predictably spectacular performance of the brilliant Eugene Domingo. It's her show. Its technique is very similar to the first, where Domingo's casual conversations with the director (Cipriano) are interspersed with imaginary sequences of the film that they're setting out to make, and as with the first film, the transitions are flawless. Those who liked the first movie would also enjoy this a lot, probably more so. Because as fun as it is to poke fun at indie cinema, it's so much more fun to do so at mainstream movies even as we realize why we've been enjoying them all this time.

Die Beautiful
Director: Jun Lana
Writers: Jun Lana, Rody Vera
Cast: Paolo Ballesteros, Christan Bables, Joel Torre, Gladys Reyes, Luis Alandy

It's a touching film that benefits from fine pacing and direction (the non-linear approach works well), particularly the restraint in handling this subject matter, which could have certainly (and understandably) gone into camp territory. Having said that, just a tiny bit more campiness would have been welcome.
I was worried going in that Paolo Ballesteros's performance would be more style over substance despite the big award that he got in Tokyo, because we know that he performs these transformations in real life, but he handles dramatic scenes quite well. No histrionics, but the sadness and the pain get across. Still, Christian Bables, who plays his best friend Barbs, is the real scene-stealer. He should be in serious consideration for the Best Supporting Actor award.

Kabisera
Directors: Real Florido, Arturo Sam Agustin
Writer: Real Florido
Cast: Nora Aunor, Ricky Davao, JC de Vera, Jason Abalos, RJ Agustin, Victor Neri

It would be difficult to argue that there's a more important film to see among this year's MMFF film than Kabisera. I applaud the makers of the film for their strong, clear, and brave statement. That initiative is definitely lacking in mainstream media, especially among celebrities. The film unabashedly condemns extra judicial killings, and if only for that reason, it's a must see.
It's rather unfortunate that it's weighed down by trappings and cliches of Pinoy mainstream dramas, such as a lot of intense crying, a lot of unnecessary and sappy scoring, and a need for better trimming. It's a fine ensemble, though, with no weak spot among the actors. Nora Aunor is great as always, but don't expect anything particularly revelatory or game-changing with the performance.

Oro
Director: Alvin Yapan
Writer: Alvin Yapan
Cast: Joem Bascon, Irma Adlawan, Mercedes Cabral, Sue Prado, Sandino Martin

The film is meant to disturb its audiences, and that it did. The callousness and impunity of the corrupted and the helplessness of the oppressed take many forms in both real life and fiction. The film probably resonates now much more than it would have just a year ago because of the local and international socio-political climate. That's not to say that the film's message could have just been tacked on to any issue with the same effect. The economic and environmental issues of the mining industry (more to the point, how "protecting the environment" is used as an alibi for more nefarious, self-centered acts) are effectively tackled here and brought to life by a fine ensemble. Irma Adlawan and Mercedes Cabral are the standouts, as expected, and indie regular Sandino Martin lends solid support. Joem Bascon is ok but I can't help but wonder who else could have given the role more heft and authority. The villains of the piece are one-dimensional and quite loathsome, but I think that's intentional: these people are rotten to the core and there is need to justify their actions. That this is based on a true story (the "Caramoan Massacre" of 2014) and the case remains unresolved to this day is truly troubling.
I feel that something must be said about the last sequence of the film without giving away any plot detail. I'm inclined to think that it's unnecessary and lacks the subtlety that marked the imagery of past Alvin Yapan films. To be honest, it took a lot of power out of everything that preceded it. I'd love to hear what others think about it.

Saving Sally
Director: Avid Liongoren
Writer: Charlene Sawit-Esguerra
Cast: Enzo Marcos, Rhian Ramos, TJ Trinidad

Absolutely charming movie. And it's obvious with every frame that so much love was poured into making the film. There's so much geeky joy throughout the movie. The mix of live action and animation is organic and unobstrusive, and the animation itself is clean and adorable. It helps a lot that the lead, Enzo Marcos, is such a natural. He's just like that geeky friend that you have in school who's cooler than he thinks he is.
And Rhian Ramos? Never has her charm been put to better use. So adorkable. You know those cool independent tough geeky girls that guys into comics or gaming or anime wish they'd meet? Her Sally is one of those.
I've been supporting this film since it was first announced as a passion project many years ago. So glad to see it finally come to life and in such an awesome way.

Seklusyon
Director: Erik Matti
Writer: Anton C. Santamaria
Cast: Ronnie Alonte, Rhed Bustamante, Neil Ryan Sese

The reason why I think Mike de Leon's Itim is the best Filipino horror film of all time is its use of religion and religious imagery--so ingrained in our culture--to evoke a sense of the sinister and otherworldly. So as soon as I saw the trailer of Seklusyon, I began to really look forward to it. Anyone who has seen Itim would have had some sort of reaction to a particular scene in the trailer involving a statue...
Seklusyon is creepy in parts, diabolical in others, and chilling all throughout. There is no joy in this movie. Which is not to say that it's not a beautiful film. It is in fact visually stunning. Aurally as well (topnotch score reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score for The Omen).
Most importantly, it is SUBVERSIVE. That, I believe, is the word that encapsulates its theme. I can't say too much without giving away the main plot, but its subversion of religion and the Catholic Church is insidious.
The main gripe I have with the film, however, is the casting. Setting aside the slightly distracting fact that the four deacons look more like a boyband than priests-in-training, their acting ranges from uninspired to wooden. Too bad that they got Ronnie Alonte for the central role. I could only imagine what a Sid Lucero or Sandino Martin or Paulo Avelino could have done with it.
However, they DID get something VERY RIGHT with the casting, and that's Rhed Bustamante. I'm generally not impressed with child actors of the Philippines. It's scary how great and mature her acting in this movie is, and that's just right because it's a huge role.

Sunday Beauty Queen
Director: Baby Ruth Villarama

Truly wonderful. Moving, beautifully lensed, and finely edited. A lot of films about overseas contract workers (OFWs) have been made, but few can be as poignant as a documentary. The medium isn't very popular here outside of news documentaries on local television, but I hope this film has shown enough people here that it can be powerful and even very entertaining, as this one was. A definite must-see especially to those who personally know OFWs.

Vince & Kath & James
Director: Theodore Boborol
Cast: Julia Barretto, Joshua Garcia, Ronnie Alonte

I admit it: I only decided to see this film because I wanted to complete the set of eight competing films. I tried not to come into the theater with any expectations, though the trailer didn't impress me at all.
Through the first fourth of the film, I was thinking to myself, this is cute. Not bad. A little formulaic, but not bad. But then as the film progressed, I felt more of my defenses break down, and so I just let myself enjoy it. And it's really a fun, charming film that isn't so formulaic after all, and in large part that's because of the truly affecting side-story of the character Vince. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried over several parts of the movie because of that. The actor who plays Vince, Joshua Garcia, is a revelation. Was I the only one who thought he sounds and acts somewhat like a younger John Lloyd Cruz? I hope this kid gets a lot of opportunities to show his acting chops because he's got a lot of that.
Also, Julia Barretto. She's also very good in this movie, effective in both the dramatic and the comedic scenes. And just like Rhian Ramos in Saving Sally, she's the quintessential cinematic dream girlfriend: pretty and simple and just a bit tomboyish. I mean, she works in an auto repair shop for crying out loud! I also hope she gets a lot of good roles.
The weak link in the cast: yeah, it's Ronnie Alonte again. Granted, he's got the self-centered but not altogether bad varsity player shtick down pat, but he can't get a lot of emotions across in his performance, and that sticks out like a sore thumb in the presence of Garcia and Barretto.
Still, a very charming and "kilig" film.

My choices for the top awards:

BEST PICTURE
1. Saving Sally
2. Seklusyon
3. Sunday Beauty Queen
4. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough
5. Die Beautiful

BEST DIRECTOR
1. Erik Matti (Seklusyon)
2. Avid Liongoren (Saving Sally)
3. Jun Lana (Die Beautiful)
4. Alvin Yapan (Oro)
5. Marlon Rivera (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)

BEST ACTRESS
1. Eugene Domingo (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
2. Rhed Bustamante (Seklusyon)
3. Irma Adlawan (Oro)
4. Rhian Ramos (Saving Sally)
5. Julia Barretto (Vince & Kath & James)

BEST ACTOR
1. Paolo Ballesteros (Die Beautiful)
2. Joshua Garcia (Vince & Kath & James)
3. Enzo Marcos (Saving Sally)
4. Ricky Davao (Kabisera)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Mercedes Cabral (Oro)
2. Shamaine Buencamino (Vince & Kath & James)
3. Sue Prado (Oro)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Christian Bables (Die Beautiful)
2. Jericho Rosales (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
3. Sandino Martin (Oro)
4. RJ Agustin (Kabisera)
5. Neil Ryan Sese (Seklusyon)

BEST SCREENPLAY
1. Charlene Sawit-Esguerra (Saving Sally)
2. Chris Martinez (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
3. Anton C. Santamaria (Seklusyon)
4. Alvin Yapan (Oro)
5. Jun Lana, Rody Vera (Die Beautiful)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
1. Neil Bion (Seklusyon)
2. Dexter Dela Peña (Sunday Beauty Queen)
3. Carlo Mendoza (Die Beautiful)

BEST EDITING
1. Jay Halili (Seklusyon)
2. Chuck Gutierrez (Sunday Beauty Queen)
3. Saving Sally*

BEST MAKEUP
1. Die Beautiful*

BEST MUSICAL SCORE
1. Francis de Veyra (Seklusyon)
2. Emerzon Texon (Sunday Beauty Queen)
3. Saving Sally*

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
1. Ericson Navarro (Seklusyon)
2. Saving Sally*
3. Angel B. Diesta (Die Beautiful)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
1. Saving Sally*
2. Seklusyon*

BEST CHILD PERFORMER
Rhed Bustamante (Seklusyon)

BEST SHORT FILM
1. "Mga Bitoon sa Siyudad"
2. "Mitatang"
3. "Momo"
4. "Birds"

5. "Passage of Life"

*not listed in IMDb