The Metro Manila Film Festival has already given out their awards, but as this year’s edition has returned power to the people that once tried to disqualify Honor Thy Father from winning the big prize, we find ourselves unable to put full faith in their decisions. So we here at Rogue have put together our own panel of completely biased judges to return a measure of integrity to these awards.
BEST FILM – ANG PANDAY
It is awfully easy to dismiss Coco Martin’s directorial debut as a noisy, corny, and often nonsensical piece of spectacle. It is even easier to just give all the awards to a more respectable film in the lineup, like the musical Ang Larawan. But that would be ignoring how undeniably entertaining the film is, warts and all. And that wouldn’t be giving enough credit to the weird bits of subversion that the movie sneaks into its ridiculous, blockbuster nonsense. How about the rap battle about the rights of informal settlers? How about the gay coming out subplot that feels like a direct commentary on the machismo that the movie itself employs? Or how about just the infectious passion for the project that Coco Martin emits in every single frame of the film? This film breaks a lot of the rules that people might associate with ‘good’ cinema, but it does so with an earnest yearning to entertain, and a mad enthusiasm for everything happening on screen. It’s a rambunctious film that deserves serious consideration.
BEST ACTOR – JERICHO ROSALES (SIARGAO)
They gave the prize to Derek Ramsay for All of You, which seems like a case of giving the acting prize to whoever encounters the most drama. Ramsay’s fine, but there were more interesting things going on in Jericho Rosales’s performance in Siargao. There is a shortage of conflict in this movie, but Rosales is kind of able to keep up the tension anyway, conveying a history of internal struggle masked by a charming, easygoing exterior.
BEST ACTRESS(ES) – JOANNA AMPIL AND RACHEL ALEJANDRO (ANG LARAWAN)
Ties are dumb, we know, but this really is a film with two lead roles. Candida and Paula are two faces of the same Spanish coin, clinging to their family’s past in very different but complementary ways. Ampil is overtly great as Candida, but Alejandro gives just as much as her co-star in a quieter role. The two bouncing off each other’s energies is really the main appeal of the movie, their performances providing a solid center to the musical’s nostalgic musings.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – JAKE CUENCA (ANG PANDAY)
Okay, so “best” might not be the most accurate term here, but one cannot deny the strange magnetism that Jake Cuenca exhibits as the villain of this version of Ang Panday. Cuenca really commits to the name “Lizardo,” and delivers a completely reptilian performance that is wholly engrossing and completely appropriate to the madness that the film at large exhibits. And he does all this while exhibiting an aversion to buttoning his shirt up all the way. That’s kind of acting, too.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – JASMINE CURTIS-SMITH (SIARGAO)
Yeah, this was just an undeniable choice. As written, Jasmine Curtis-Smith’s character in Siargao doesn’t even feel like a plum role. She isn’t given any of the big emotional breakthroughs that tend to provide a stage for the kind of acting that draws awards attention. But Curtis-Smith is so assured in this role, so seemingly confident in who this person is supposed to be that she manages to tell a story that goes further than what’s in the words.
WORST MTRCB PERMIT – HAUNTED FOREST
Actually, can we just talk about how the MTRCB really failed in general this year? The festival, of course, made the claim that changes from last year were necessary in order to make things family friendly again. And so, we got three G-rated films in the lineup, none of which actually merit the general patronage rating. The Revenger Squad has heroes that kill and Pia Wurtzbach in very little clothing. Ang Panday had a thug conman hero prone to brandishing his balisong. And Meant to Beh has a whole section that involves the kids trying to murder their mother’s new boyfriend. The reviews on the permits indicate none of this. But the review for Haunted Forest is just a work of absurdist art. Rather than describing what’s actually in the movie, it describes what was apparently cut out. It prints a bullet point list of completely nonsense phrases like “near beside the car,” and ‘throwing up of bloody crazy guy.” The MTRCB yet again proves to be completely unhelpful to parents who want to make decisions about what their kids get to see.
CUTEST ATTEMPTED MURDER – MEANT TO BEH
So get this: the kids of separated parents Vic Sotto and Dawn Zulueta decide to plot against their parents’ new paramours. They do some research and find out that their mother’s new boyfriend is deathly allergic to peanuts. And so, at a dinner in Baguio, the youngest kid, played by the apple cheeked Baste “Baeby Baste” Granfon, dumps some peanuts into the soup. So cute! The kids are later chastised for this, but they are never made to reckon with the gravity of what they just did: they tried to kill Daniel Matsunaga.
WORST IN YELLOWFACE – MEANT TO BEH
So, Vic Sotto plays a carwash manager. His boss is a Japanese man named Mr. Kobayashi, played by Ryan Yllana, who is made up to look like a sumo wrestler. This has just been a weird year for yellowface. Chris Martinez, who directed this movie, also directed Extra Service at the start of the year, which also had an offensive Japanese stereotype. That’s not great.
THE PHILIP SALVADOR IN ROSARIO AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MOUSTACHE – VACANT
It wasn’t the best year for facial hair in the MMFF. Maybe we’ll do better next year.
COOLEST THING IN A MOVIE THAT ISN’T VERY GOOD – THE SUBTITLES IN THE REVENGER SQUAD
First of all, it’s cool that Star Cinema is just subtitling movies now. I’d like to see them take this further and maybe subtitle films in Tagalog as well for the sake of the hearing impaired. But also interesting is the fact that throughout the whole film, Gandarra, Vice Ganda’s character, is referred to as “she.” And it doesn’t even feel like a big deal. That’s genuinely cool.
SECOND COOLEST THING IN A MOVIE THAT ISN’T VERY GOOD – VICE GANDA’S LIPSTICK MONOLOGUE IN THE REVENGER SQUAD
One could read it as just Vice Ganda finding a way to remind people that she has her own line of lipstick now, but there really is something to the little speech that the comedian delivers in the middle of this superhero movie. It feels sincere and personal, cutting a real contrast in a movie that seems averse to being taken seriously.
MOST UNEARNED ENDING – ALL OF YOU
Spoilers ahead. All of You is basically about a couple that moves in with each other too early into the relationship. The movie spends most of its time pretty much outlining why these two are actually really bad for each other, leading to a painful breakup where they finally acknowledge the toxicity of their situation, and how bad things have really gotten. Then, in the final bits, the movie asks the audience to be happy that they’re getting back together. It’s really weird.
BEST WORST JOKE – “FRUIT SALAD TREE” IN ANG PANDAY
Flavio has been exploring a forest and has gotten hungry. He finds a tree with many different fruits on it. Coco Martin, with absolutely no irony, enthusiastically delivers the corniest joke in the history of the MMFF as if it was the funniest joke ever constructed. Words will not do justice to this joke and this delivery. One can only experience it.
WORST JOKE – “DUTERTE” IN THE REVENGER SQUAD
Gandarra faces off against a series of martial artists who do some elaborate kung fu vamping before naming their style. At the end of this lengthy sequence, against a foe that displayed some sort of animal style, Gandarra puts out her fist, and identifies it as “Duterte.” The foe cowers away, presumably from how the gesture and the joke pretty much makes light of the deaths of thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings. Hilarious.
WORST NARRATIVE – THE CONTINUING INSISTENCE THAT LAST YEAR’S MMFF WAS A FAILURE, AND THAT THE PHILIPPINES IS BETTER OFF WITH WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW