iMjoJo

A compulsive cinephile with faith in film as an art form.

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ORO, PLATA, MATA… Beyond Glorious

Beautifully restored, director Peque Gallaga’s first feature film looks gorgeous on DVD. Virtually all close-ups boast tremendous detail, allowing one to see even incredibly small objects. The large panoramic shots, especially from the second half of the film, also look quite remarkable. Depth, clarity and fluidity are truly exceptional. Clearly, during the restoration process a variety of different issues were addressed in order to optimize image quality as best as possible, and it definitely shows. The film conveys spectacular depth, while contrast levels remain stable from start to finish. Arguably the greatest improvements, however, are in the area of color reproduction.  To sum it all up, if you enjoy strong organic presentations of classic films, I guarantee you will be enormously pleased with Star Home Video’s release of Oro, Plata, Mata. 

There is only one standard audio track on this DVD with optional English subtitles for the main feature. There are sequences where the stereo track surprises with excellent depth, one that is typically associated with modern big-budget films. One such sequence is Miguel’s (an impossibly-young Joel Torre) inevitable trip into the jaws of Tartarus to rescue Trining (an even younger Cherie Gil). Elsewhere random nature sounds also make an impression with great crispness and clarity. The three-hour run time has always proven daunting for some, but having seen it now in the proper context, far removed from the scratchy, nigh-incoherent VHS copies of yore, one gets the impression that the pacing was entirely intentional. Jose Gentica’s excellent soundtrack also adds to the surreal atmosphere. The dialog is consistently crisp and stable, with no pops, annoying background hiss, audio dropouts or distortions. Recently restored, Oro, Plata, Mata looks the best its ever been. Support these releases, so that more of these important films are restored and made available to see as their creators intended. 

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Permalink SERIAL MOMMY DEAREST…
John Waters’ Serial Mom (Savoy Pictures, 1994), the story of a diabolical suburban mother’s rise to media infamy holds up surprisingly well. The story, with it’s fascination with serial killers and depiction of the OJ / Menendez / Bobbit-style media circus is absolutely of the early nineties, sitting comfortably next to films like Natural Born Killers and Falling Down.  Waters attempts, and is mostly successful with a tricky balancing act. Mixing social satire, pop-culture parody and surprisingly grisly violence. The mix works partly because of the cast. Young Ricki Lake, younger Matthew Lillard, still old Sam Waterston and still trashy Traci Lords play their parts in the film’s hyper-real style but with a minimum of self-aware mockery which helps to sell the comedy and the violence. Kathleen Turner, midway through her transformation from smoldering to imposing, however, is the fulcrum on which the balance hangs and turns in a personal-favorite performance as Beverly Sutphin, the titular avenging housefrau. She switches from Harriet Nelson to John Wayne Gacy in a glance and in the process, creates a sympathetic moral vindicator that works as a sort of Bizzarro version of Kevin Spacey’s John Doe.
This warped morality, coupled with the cast and Waters’ aforementioned heart that ultimately sell the movie. Though, Waters’ ability to make the mundane repulsive helps as well. In a movie that features a human liver ripped through a spine with a fire-poker, images of old people eating chicken and a dog licking feet stand out as the truly disturbing moments.  There are a few sequences that don’t work. A bit involving a camel-toe themed punk band and an over the top Turner-orgasm sequence fall flat but are ultimately out-shined by the myriad of scenes that work.
Serial Mom's high definition debut is somewhat disappointing from a visual standpoint, as it looks so obviously sourced from an old transfer / master. Black and white specks occasionally dot the print, there's been no significant digital cleanup here and worse, many scenes suffer from what looks like telecine jitter with the image shaking slightly but very noticeably inside the frame. Clarity is a clear improvement from standard definition picture quality with closeups that reveal much more fine detail, but on the whole, the image is still rather soft, especially in longer shots. Overall, I'm almost positive the film could look better given a proper remaster. 
It seems that the world may have left the former king of white trash drive-in schlock behind. And that’s a shame. A world where Waters’ name is now more closely associated with family musicals than shit-eating drag queens, where gross-out satire has taken an air of cynical anger and dumb hostility is a world that is sorely missing their anarchy delivered with a devilish grin and a pencil moustache.
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GREATEST PINOY FILMS POLL…

About a month ago, I was asked by YCC Member Skilty Labastilla to come up with a list of the Ten Greatest Filipino Films which I did and here are the results:

Below is the fourth installment of our poll of filmmakers’ and film watchers’ favorite films. We just wanted to note that there’s been a slight change in the ranking. Karnal was inadvertently excluded in Part 3. It’s at number 21, while Genghis Khan is now at number 20.

21 – KARNAL (Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 1984)

Diaz-Abaya brought to vivid life Ricky Lee’s version of a Greek tragedy, with incest, parricide, suicide, and infanticide all wrapped in one heady brew of a movie.

Voted by:

Joey Agbayani (Director; Lola, Kidlat)

Joey Baquiran (Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

John Bedia (Writer; Amok, Boundary): “Theatrical and showy. Dark and twisted. A different take on family intrigue and small town set hiding a dark secret story. Charito Solis’ performance is for the books.”

Sari Dalena (Director; Ka Oryang, Himala Ngayon)

Bienvenido Lumbera (National Artist for Literature)

Senedy Que (Writer; Mga Munting Tinig, Homecoming)

Shaira Mella Salvador-MacKenzie (Writer; Tanging Yaman, Sana Maulit Muli)

Joaquin Enrico Santos (Writer; In the Name of Love, The Strangers)

Keith Sicat (Director; Ka Oryang, Himala Ngayon)

G.A. Villafuerte (Director, Lihim ng mga Nympha, Hardinero)

20 – GENGHIS KHAN (Manuel Conde)

Recently remastered and restored, Conde’s epic vision of the beginnings of Genghis Khan’s rise to power begs to be seen on the big screen for its grandeur to be fully appreciated.

Voted by:

Patrick Campos (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Patrick Flores (Founding Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Chuck Gutierrez (Producer, MNL 143; Director, Ulian)

Skilty Labastilla (Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Bono Olgado (Director, National Film Archives of the Philippines)

Jose Javier Reyes (Director; Makati Ave: Office Girls, Kasal Kasali Kasalo)

Jun Cruz Reyes (Former Member, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino)

Rianne Hill Soriano (Film Reviewer, Business World)

Jake Tordesillas (Writer; High School Circa ’65, Bagets): “The first Filipino film to make an impact abroad.”

19 – ANAK DALITA (Lamberto Avellana, 1956)

Avellana’s most acclaimed work takes a long hard look at post-war urban poverty and its ramifications on the lives of several people taking temporary shelter in the ruins of a cathedral.

Voted by:

Ina Avellana Cosio (Senior Lecturer, UP Film Institute)

Sari Dalena (Director; Ka Oryang, Himala Ngayon)

Mario Hernando (Member, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino)

Jason Jacobo (Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Nonoy Lauzon (Programmer, UP Film Institute)

Adrian Mendizabal (Film Writer, Auditoire)

Jose Javier Reyes (Director; Makati Ave: Office Girls, Kasal Kasali Kasalo)

Simon Santos (Owner, Video 48)

Nicanor Tiongson (Professor Emeritus, UP Film Institute)

Noel Vera (Film Writer, Critic after Dark): “Lamberto Avellana combines the terrible images of Manila’s ruins (the film was shot a decade after war’s end, but due to lack of funds reconstruction was hardly complete) with a penchant for directing lively colloquial dialogue, and fine unforced performances from Rosa Rosal and Tony Santos; the result is a noirish melodrama set in an unrelentingly bleak postwar reality.”

Award-winning young director who wishes to remain anonymous

18 – TATLONG TAONG WALANG DIYOS (Mario O’Hara, 1976)

Tatlong Taon… is a war film: it is set in rural Philippines at the onset of the Second World War. But it is above all an anti-war film: it forces Filipino viewers to empathize with an “enemy”, to realize that, in the grand scheme of things, we are human beings first before we are anything else.

Voted by:

Archie del Mundo (Director; Taksikab, Ang Misis ni Meyor)

Patrick Flores (Founding Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Jerry Gracio (Writer; Mater Dolorosa, Aparisyon)

Joni Gutierrez (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Jason Jacobo (Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Nonoy Lauzon (Programmer, UP Film Institute)

Arminda Santiago (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Noel Vera (Film Writer, Critic after Dark): “Mario O’Hara’s masterwork, a film with enough empathy to understand even the wartime Japanese at their worse, the wartime Filipinos at their best. Visually and emotionally, the greatest Filipino film ever made.”

Rodolfo Vera (Writer; Niño, Boses)

17 – BURLESK QUEEN (Celso Ad. Castillo, 1977)

Known as much for star Vilma Santos’ career-defining performance as a burlesque dancer as Ad. Castillo’s virtuoso handling of the material, Burlesk Queen remains one of the most enthralling in Philippine cinema.

Voted by:

Patrick Flores (Founding Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Eli Guieb (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Jeffrey Jeturian (Director; Kubrador, Pila Balde)

Coreen Jimenez (Director, Kano: An American and His Harem): “That long dance sequence of Chato is movie magic, it’s one of the most mesmerizing scenes ever shot.”

Ed Lejano (Director, UP Film Institute)

Senedy Que (Writer; Mga Munting Tinig, Homecoming)

Joaquin Enrico Santos (Writer; In the Name of Love, The Strangers)

Mauro Feria Tumbocon (Founder, Filipino Arts and Cinema)

Noel Vera (Film Writer, Critic after Dark): “Celso Ad Castillo’s film about an innocent lass turned burlesque dancer is really less about narrative coherence (why is Joonnee Gamboa’s impresario–a great performance, by the way– in this picture, and what, exactly, is he saying?) and more about visual texture and lyrical imagery. A masterpiece from what fellow filmmaker Mario O’Hara once called ‘the finest eye in Philippine Cinema’.”

Jessica Zafra (Film Reviewer, InterAksyon)

Jerome Zamora (Writer; Bahay Bata, Haruo)

Award-winning scriptwriter/producer who wishes to remain anonymous

16 – ORAPRONOBIS (Lino Brocka, 1989)

Brocka’s relentless depiction of post-EDSA human rights violations was so incendiary it was banned by the Cory Aquino government and was only shown commercially after it was screened, and lauded, in Cannes.

Voted by:

Misha Anissimov (Film Professor, University of San Carlos)

Archie del Mundo (Director; Taksikab, Ang Misis ni Meyor)

Gary Devilles (Professor, Kagawaran ng Filipino, Ateneo de Manila University)

Eli Guieb (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Bienvenido Lumbera (National Artist for Literature)

Adrian Mendizabal (Film Writer, Auditoire)

Arminda Santiago (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Dondon Santos (Director; Noy, Dalaw)

Nicanor Tiongson (Professor Emeritus, UP Film Institute)

15 – NUNAL SA TUBIG (Ishmael Bernal, 1976)

Bernal’s ethnographic look at life in an island was ahead of its time: Bernal was concerned less with narrative and more with mood and texture, crafting a film that merits multiple viewings for a richer reading.

Voted by:

Adolfo Alix, Jr. (Director; Haruo, Kalayaan)

Jojo Devera (Film Writer, Sari-Saring Sineng Pinoy): “A landmark in Philippine filmmaking. Aside from showcasing connotative employment of the filmic language, it is the first Filipino film that comes closest to projecting a statement not about conditions obtained in the Philippine countryside but about a universal issue generally designated as the human condition.”

Benjamin Garcia (Director; Batad: Sa Paang Palay, Malan)

Christopher Gozum (Director; Anacbanua, Lawas Kan Pinabli)

Jerry Gracio (Writer; Mater Dolorosa, Aparisyon)

Eli Guieb (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Mario Hernando (Member, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino)

Ralston Jover (Director; Bakal Boys, Marlon)

Gutierrez Mangansakan II (Director; Limbunan, Qiyamah)

Arminda Santiago (Professor, UP Film Institute)

Mauro Feria Tumbocon (Founder, Filipino Arts and Cinema)

Award-winning young director who wishes to remain anonymous

14 – EBOLUSYON NG ISANG PAMILYANG PILIPINO (Lav Diaz, 2004)

Diaz’s sprawling micro-historical epic epitomizes the artistic freedom made possible by the then-emerging digital technology: it’s eleven hours of uncompromising yet tremendously rewarding viewing experience.

Voted by:

Adolfo Alix, Jr. (Director; Haruo, Kalayaan)

Misha Anissimov (Film Professor, University of San Carlos)

Jojo Devera (Film Writer, Sari-Saring Sineng Pinoy): “Ebolusyon Ng Pamilyang Pilipino is a powerful movie. It is a movie that makes us abide by the torment and agony that is Philippine history in the last thirty years. It relieves the darkness of Martial Law, the dilemmas of the Aquino transition and the bedlam that constitutes the present. The movie explains much of the horror and confronts it.”

Christopher Gozum (Director; Anacbanua, Lawas Kan Pinabli)

Coreen Jimenez (Director, Kano: An American and His Harem): “This opened my eyes about watching movies. I didn’t know I was actually going to appreciate watching a 10-hour movie. Lav is crazy!”

Jon Lazam (Director; Nang gabing maging singlaki ng puso ang bato ni Darna, Hindi sa Atin ang Buwan)

Gutierrez Mangansakan II (Director; Limbunan, Qiyamah)

Adrian Mendizabal (Film Writer, Auditoire)

Carlitos Siguion-Reyna (Director; Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal, Ligaya ang Itawag Mo sa Akin)

Rolando Tolentino (Member, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino)

Mauro Feria Tumbocon (Founder, Filipino Arts and Cinema)

Award-winning young director who wishes to remain anonymous

13 – BATANG WEST SIDE (Lav Diaz, 2001)

The highest-ranked film from the new millennium, Diaz’ patient examination of the lives of immigrant Filipinos in New Jersey, USA is considered the first modern Filipino classic film.

Voted by:

Jade Castro (Director; Endo, Zombadings)

Sari Dalena (Director; Ka Oryang, Himala Ngayon)

Mario Hernando (Member, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino)

Jeffrey Jeturian (Director; Kubrador, Pila Balde)

Ed Lejano (Director, UP Film Institute)

Ian Loreños (Director; Alagwa, The Leaving)

Adrian Mendizabal (Film Writer, Auditoire)

Pam Miras (Director; Pascalina, Wag Kang Titingin)

Ramon Nocon (Board Member, Society of Filipino Archivists for Film)

Bono Olgado (Director, National Fim Archives of the Philippines)

Mike Sandejas (Director; Tulad ng Dati, Dinig Sana Kita)

Chris Eriz Sta. Maria (Film Blogger, The One-Legged Woman is Queen)

Award-winning scriptwriter/producer who wishes to remain anonymous

Noel Vera (as runner-up): “As the filmmaker himself put it the first true Lav Diaz film, and to my mind finest: witty dialogue and moody cinematography and a grave manner of musing over life’s imponderables that recalls Terence Malick (only Malick never invested as much time–near five hours–over said imponderables). Along with Bagong Bayani the definitive portrait of the Filipino Diaspora, with a hauntingly ambiguous conclusion.”

12 – MABABANGONG BANGUNGOT (Kidlat Tahimik, 1977)

Tahimik’s satirical critique of postcolonial Philippines’ continuing obsession with Western conceptions of progress was made for a pittance yet has been extremely influential to young, politically conscious filmmakers.

Voted by:

Misha Anissimov (Film Professor, University of San Carlos)

Jan Philippe Carpio (Director; Balay Daku, Girl of My Dreams): “A film that showed me how film can be anything and it is we who limit it, how ‘limited’ resources can be turned into a great wellspring for creative freedom, and the independence of our souls is just as if not more important than political independence.”

Ray Defante Gibraltar (Director; Wanted: Border, When Timawa Meets Delgado)

Jag Garcia (Film Professor, De la Salle-College of Saint Benilde)

Christopher Gozum (Director; Anacbanua, Lawas Kan Pinabli)

Skilty Labastilla (Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Bono Olgado (Director, National Fim Archives of the Philippines)

Cenon Palomares (Lecturer, UP Film Institute)

Jun Cruz Reyes (Former Member, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino)

Chris Eriz Sta. Maria (Film Blogger, The One-Legged Woman is Queen)

Rianne Hill Soriano (Film Reviewer, Business World)

11 – TINIMBANG KA NGUNIT KULANG (Lino Brocka, 1974)

Brocka’s powerful commentary on middle-class Christians’ opinion and treatment of people in the margins is as biting now as when it was released.

Voted by:

Dwein Tarhata Baltazar (Director, Mamay Umeng)

John Bedia (Writer; Amok, Boundary): “A searing and excellent social commentary.”

Jan Philippe Carpio (Director; Balay Daku, Girl of My Dreams): “A film that exposed the hypocrisy and collusion between the elite, the community and the religious and showed how much the dictates of society are incompatible with real love and compassion.”

Skilty Labastilla (Member, Young Critics Circle Film Desk)

Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez (Art Studies Professor, UP Diliman)

Ian Loreños (Director; Alagwa, The Leaving)

Dado Lumibao (Director; In da Red Corner, Must Be Love)

Dennis Marasigan (Director; Sa North Diversion Road, Vox Populi)

Adrian Mendizabal (Film Writer, Auditoire)

Ramon Nocon (Board Member, Society of Filipino Archivists for Film)

Jose Javier Reyes (Director; Makati Ave: Office Girls, Kasal Kasali Kasalo)

Jun Cruz Reyes (Former Member, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino)

Mike Sandejas (Director; Tulad ng Dati, Dinig Sana Kita)

Jake Tordesillas (Writer; High School Circa ’65, Bagets): “Brought awareness during 70s that Pinoy films can compare with American movies.”

Rodolfo Vera (Writer; Niño, REquieme!)

G.A. Villafuerte (Director, Lihim ng mga Nympha, Hardinero)

Award-winning scriptwriter/producer who wishes to remain anonymous

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Permalink Remembering BROCKA…
Lino Brocka was, in my opinion, the most revolutionary talent Philippine cinema ever produced. Brocka was serious in his outlook, knowledgeable in the craft. His contributions have caused tremendous impact. For each Brocka film bears an important innovation, reflected a gradual striving for sense and meaning, and involved a struggle for cinematic relevance.
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Permalink THANK YOU…
My good friend Monchito Nocon wrote about my new video blog on google +. Below is his message…
Ramon Sixto Nocon
Finding copies of old Tagalog films on readily-available formats is really quite a challenge. I get so many queries as to where they can get this or that title by this or that director and starring this or that star and more often than not my automatic response is “it’s not available commercially”. Tis a sad state of affairs, I know, so it’s nothing short of wonderful that my friend jojo devera has opened up his personal collection and is sharing it with everyone online! (and all you need is a reliable internet connection)
His choice of titles are pretty eclectic with a good sampling of classics, melodramas, campy films  etc. and the picture quality is okay too. So maraming salamat Jojo at, tara, magsine tayo!