Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Quiz on Cinema (answered exclusively with titles and names from Philippine Cinema--and it works, too)

Quiz thanks to Dennis Cozzallio

1) Best transition from movies to TV (actor, actress, producer/director, movie/show)

Marilou Diaz-Abaya, whose urbane wit and persistent humanism came out most brightly and entertainingly (far more than in her films, I thought) in The Sic O'Clock News, a satire on contemporary Philippines that ran from 1987 to 1992.

2) Living film director you most missing seeing on the cultural landscape regularly.

That's easy: Mario O'Hara, possibly the greatest of Filipino filmmakers, who considers himself more a stage actor than filmmaker; hence the long wait between films.

3) Eugene Pallette or Charles Coburn

Joel Lamangan.

Will always remember the stylized evil of his military officer in Mario O'Hara's Bagong Hari (The New King, 1986); the more realistic evil of his Col. Mateo in Lino Brocka's Orapronobis (Fight for Us 1989), and the wonderfully over-the-top evil of his Col. Simon (what is it with Lamangan and the military, and why is he so good at maligning their officers?) in Lav Diaz's Hesus Rebolusyunaryo (Jesus the Revolutionary, 2002), where he throws in a great, larger-than-life reading of one of Lav's poems for free.

4) Fill in the blank: “I pray that no one ever turns Lualhati Bautista's Dekada '70 into a movie.”

Oh wait--someone did.

But as Frank Rivera once told me (and which I happen to agree with), a film or stage version should really be a one-woman show--and unless O'Hara or Laurice Guillen ever get around to remaking it (or maybe Raymond Red suddenly wanting to do something both feminist and theatrical in his inimitable visual style), may it remain imperfectly adapted.

5) Jane Greer or Veronica Lake

Charito Solis, who was not only sexier but more talented than both of them put together...

6) What was the last movie you saw in a theater? On DVD? And why?

On DVD--Eddie Romero's Aguila (1980), which I hope to write more about; haven't seen a Filipino film on the big screen for a long time--well, Lino Brocka's Insiang (1976) in the New York Film Festival.

7) Name an actor you think should be a star.

Just one? Well, Irma Adlawan, who's been great (and beautiful) practically forever (check out Dennis Marasigan's North Diversion Road (2006)).

8) Foxy Brown or Coffy?

Quark Henares' Keka (2003)

9) Favorite TV show still without its own DVD box set?

The 1896 mini-series, produced by ABS-CBN 5 about the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Actually, it's really worth watching for one episode: Mario O'Hara's Alitaptap sa Gabing Madilim (Fireflies in the Dark Night), from a story by Lualhati Bautista, about the women involved in that revolt.

10) Jack Elam or Neville Brand?

Ruel Vernal, who played Dado in Lino Brocka's Insiang (1976)--a boor and bully in the film's first half, a startlingly poignant victim in the film's second. He also figured prominently in Mario O'Hara's Bagong Hari, where his character paid a high price in the quest for the Golden Balisong (Golden Butterfly Knife), the prize awarded to the Bagong Hari, or The New King of underground violence.

11) What movies would top your list of movies you need to revisit, for whatever reason?

Top it? I don't know--I need to see Eddie Romero's Ganito Kamin Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon (This Was How We Were Then, How Are You Doing Now?, 1976) again; when I saw Romero's purported masterpiece, I wondered what all the fuss was. Then I re-saw his Aguila (1980) after so many years, and made me wonder: maybe he is a master, after all.

12) Zodiac or All the President’s Men?

Rather, Lino Brocka's Bayan Ko (My Country, 1985) or Orapronobis (Fight For Us 1989)? Not his best works, but Brocka makes both Fincher and Pakula look as if they were confined to wheelchairs. The very act of making the films represented considerable personal courage--the former having been made in the final but still frightening years of the Marcos dictatorship, the latter in the face of the Aquino administration's near-invincible popularity.

13) Using our best reviewer-speak, what is an “important” film comedy? And what is to you the most important film comedy of the last 35 years?

Important film comedy? Comedy that exposes or breaks open attitudes and prejudices we hold dear.

In the Philippines it's slim pickings--but I'd say Mike de Leon's Aliwan Paradise (Pleasure Paradise, 1993), for the film anthology Southern Winds. It's a satiric look at the Philippines' future, and may yet prove to be prophetic (look at the success of slum pictures in international film festivals). It's also a witty, imaginative, sardonic take on a film that in many ways established de Leon's reputation (he produced it, and was responsible for its crucial (even great) cinematography)--as if de Leon were nipping the rear end of the film that made him.

14) Describe the ideal environment for watching a movie.

Middle row, centrally located seat, no one seated in front of you, reasonably good sound system, 35 mm print (that's going to become more and more of a rarity, I predict), and munching on either a bag of fried porkskins (that you squirted with chilied vinegar), or a balut (fourteen day old duck egg, with a fully formed fetus inside) sprinkled with a bit of rock salt.

15) Michelle Williams or Eva Mendes?

Lolita de Leon, especially in Maryo J. Delos Reyes' Laman (Flesh, 2002)

16) What’s the worst movie title of all time?

Wow--I don't know.

There's Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi (The Moon Angered by the Length of the Night, Danny Zialcita, 1983, though the title could apply to anything by Bela Tarr or Lav Diaz, I imagine);

Kapag ang Palay Naging Bigas, May Bumayo (When Grain Turns to Rice, Someone's Been Pounding, Roland Ledesma, 2002);

Pag Dumikit, Kumakapit (When It Sticks, It's Stuck, Humilde 'Meek' Roxas, 1998);

Patikim ng Pinya (I'd Like To Try Your Pineapple, 1996, which has an interesting history behind it. The censors objected to the original title (Patikim, meaning 'to taste'), but when they approved this one, it was pointed out that pinya can be read as a pun on 'p' niya (or 'her pussy'));

Bakit Kinagat ni Adan ang Mansanas ni Eba? (Why Did Adam Bite Eve's Apple?, 1998);

and my favorite:

Diligin Mo Ng Suka ang Uhaw Na Lumpia (Sprinkle with Sourness the Thirsty Eggroll)

17) Best movie about teaching and/or learning

Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged But Found Wanting, Lino Brocka, 1974). The first major film of the '70s Golden Age of Philippine cinema has an innocent young man learn about morality and mortality not from his father, but from an outcast leper and his insane lover; not through professorial lectures and classroom lessons but through real-life examples.

18) Dracula (1931) or Horror of Dracula (1958)?

Kulay Dugo ang Gabi (The Blood Drinkers, 1964) or Ibulong Mo sa Hangin (Blood of the Vampires, 1966)?

19) Why do you blog? Or if you don’t, why do you read blogs? (Thanks, Girish)

To reach my audience. To get my message out (see 'about me')

20) Most memorable/disturbing death scene

The finale of Lino Brocka's Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975)

21) Jason Robards or Robert Shaw

Pancho Magalona, who gave arguably the greatest performance in Philippine cinema as the sinister Simoun in Gerardo de Leon's great El Filibusterismo (The Filibuster, 1962).

22) A good candidate for Most Blasphemous Movie Ever

Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye, Mike de Leon, 1981). Not perhaps the bloodiest, or most repulsive or even the most shocking Filipino film ever made, Mike de Leon's masterpiece does do what few if any Filipino feature dares, to strike at the heart of the (as Tikoy Aguiluz once proposed to me) twin central themes of Philippine cinema: the love of the mother and the survival of the family (here the former is impotent, the latter--well, you have to see the film).

23) Rio Bravo or Red River

D'Wild, Wild Weng (Eddie Nicart, 1982)

24) Werner Herzog is remaking Bad Lieutenant with Nicolas Cage—that’s reality. Try to outdo reality by concocting a match-up of director and title for a really strange imaginary remake.

How's this--Celso Ad. Castillo doing a remake of El Filibusterismo? Bared maiden breasts, dwarf altar boys, priests whipping themselves to exhaustion--it could be the Filipino equivalent of Ken Russell's The Devils (1971)!

25) Bulle Ogier or Charlotte Rampling

Jaclyn Jose

26) In the Realm of the Senses— yes or no?

No--much prefer Scorpio Nights (Peque Gallaga, 1985), myself

27) Name a movie you think of as your own (Thanks, Jim!)

Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, Mario O'Hara, 2000)

In many ways it's still my own. It's barely been seen, outside of its initial film festival run, and has attracted scant attention since. But as far as I'm concerned, this little film is the finest work of cinema to come out of the Philippines in recent years.

28) Winged Migration or Microcosmos

Not a documentary, but Lav Diaz's Heremias (2006) comes closest of anything Filipino I can think of to approximating the nonverbal feel of these two films. Without the nonstop music, of course.

29) Your favorite football game featured in a movie

We don't really play football in our country (at least not American football). We barely have any sports movies--the occasional boxing biopic, maybe.

30) Wendy Hiller or Deborah Kerr

Anita Linda

31) Dirtiest secret you have that is related to the movies

Dirtiest? Uh--never had sex while watching in theaters. But not for want of trying.

32) Name a favorite film and describe how it is illuminated and enriched by another favorite film.

Watching Gerardo de Leon's Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not, 1961) sensitized me to the presence of Rizal's novel throughout Philippine cinema--I'm talking about de Leon's Sisa, Lino Brocka's Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, Mario O'Hara's own Sisa (1998), among many others.

33) It’s a Gift or Horsefeathers

Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (Does Your Heart Beat Faster? Mike de Leon, 1980). Admittedly, Philippine comedy represents very slim pickings.

34) Your best story about seeing a movie at a drive-in

We don't have drive-ins; if we did, the mosquitos would swarm about us and carry us away...

35) Victor Mature or Tyrone Power

Leopoldo Salcedo

36) What does film criticism mean to you? Where do you think it’s headed?

It's my mission, in effect. Where is it headed? I don't know, but I don't really like the general direction--major papers letting their top names go, film blogs of inconsistent quality popping up everywhere like 'shrooms, a sort of flattening of our perceptions that goes along with the broadening (our scope may be worldwide, but is it worthwhile?). We're looking at the fragmentation of film criticism into a million little voices, instead of a few big ones (not entirely untalented) dictating what's good and bad, and there's good and bad in that (and not a little relief I managed to survive the shakeout, at least for a time). I still have films and filmmaking talent to discover, write about, champion the best I can; afterwards,who knows?


Anonymous said...

I'm still barely aquainted with Filipino cinema. Would you reccommend Lolita De Leon over Aubrey Miles?

Noel Vera said...

Hm. Lolita has a far better figure and far as I know is 100% natural; Aubrey has been surgically enhanced.

Aubrey has done two decent movies (Pa-Siyam and Gagamboy), Lolita only one (Laman); that said, Lolita has just that one film to her credit and little else, which adds a little X factor to her, whereas Aubrey is a known (overknown, even) quantity. Not to mention I hated Aubrey's debut picture (Prosti), and much prefer Lolita's Laman over Aubrey's Pa-siyam and Gagamboy.

So--if you're still with me--Lolita.


Hi Noel,

Stumbled upon your blog: thanks for your mention of Irma and Sa North Diversion Road.

You might be interested to know that I am now developing "Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon" into a sarswela.

Another Eddie Romero movie worth watching is Kamakalawa. Like you, I rediscovered that Eddie Romero's films seem better on second helping.


Noel Vera said...

Aguila, definitely, but I remember always liking Aguila. I don't know if I'll actually like Ganito--didn't like it when I saw it some years back. Not too crazy about the Blood Island films he directed.