About Juan Carlos Ojano

I am an undergraduate student of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, currently taking up BA Film in the College of Mass Communication. I am an aspiring (and hardworking) actor, writer, and director. I am currently the secretary of the U.P. Cineastes' Studio, the first and premier student film organization in the Philippines, established in 1984. I love watching films, discussing films, writing about films, critiquing the politics of filmmaking, especially the awards season and the Academy Awards. Personal e-mail address: juancarlosojano@gmail.com Blog e-mail address: mylastoscar@gmail.com

FINAL PREDICTIONS: 90th Academy Awards – ALL 24 CATEGORIES

2017 will definitely go down as perhaps the most unpredictable Oscar race since the Best Picture nominees expanded in 2009. Across the board, several categories remain up in the air. This year, gone are the days when most of the categories are already rock solid, with four or five of the nominees per category are already sure thing. Add the fact that the last two to three years saw the increased amount of diverse members invited into the Academy that might affect the Oscars’ taste, as preceded by past choices. I’m excited to predict because I’m really sure I’m gonna make some mistakes here.

This year, I’m going to work my way up, from the lesser-known categories (shorts, technicals) to the major awards (screenplay, acting, picture). Predictions are numbered in descending order, based on the possibility of getting nominated.

The nominations voting ended on January 13, but there is just too much to discuss with this one.

Read on, and feel free to agree or disagree with my predictions.

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BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

  1. Lost Face
  2. My Nephew Emmett
  3. Watu Wole/All of Us
  4. DeKalb Elementary
  5. The Silent Child

  6. Facing Mecca
  7. Witnesses
  8. The Eleven O’ Clock
  9. Icebox
  10. Rise of a Star

Pure guesswork here, though I think the political/timely/topical shorts will rule this category.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

  1. Edith+Eddie
  2. 116 Cameras
  3. Heroin(e)
  4. Traffic Stop
  5. Alone

  6. Ten Meter Tower
  7. Kayayo
  8. Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
  9. Ram Dass, Going Home
  10. Knife Skills

Now I have some clue here. Like the previous category, this category will most likely be filled with politically-charged shorts. I give the edge to Edith+Eddie for winning IDA, one of the notable awards given to documentary shorts. 116 Cameras feels important because of its subject: a Holocaust survivor. The rest are pure educated guesses.

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BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

  1. Lou
  2. Dear Basketball
  3. Cradle
  4. Negative Space
  5. In a Heartbeat

  6. Fox and the Whale
  7. Life Smartphone
  8. Lost Property Office
  9. Garden Party
  10. Revolting Rhymes

Pixar fares very well here so that works for Lou. Dear Basketball and Negative Space has a lot of buzz compared to the others, and Cradle feels timely. I leave the last slot to In a Heartbeat, the charming short about a closeted boy’s crush on his schoolmate. It also has buzz, but since I’m doing guesswork here, might as well take a stab on predicting this one.

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BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

  1. Darkest Hour
  2. I, Tonya
  3. Wonder

  4. Bright
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  6. Victoria & Abdul
  7. Ghost in the Shell

Darkest Hour seems the only one remotely safe here. Gary Oldman’s transformation is key to his Best Actor success, and it will be hard to ignore the makeup since it’s the one who made it believable.

I might put Ghost in the Shell aside just because it does not have passion behind it and there is controversy against it. Victoria & Abdul is a strong contender in other categories (Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design), but a nomination for its really subtle makeup and hairstyling work would feel like 2009’s The Young Victoria. Guardians’ predecessor was nominated here in 2014, and it still remains a possibility, but the passion for the first film didn’t transfer here (the fact that the first film had Best Picture buzz means there was support for that film).

The work in I, Tonya recalls the Oscar-winning work in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club: it walks the fine line between subtle and showy, and nevertheless essential to the film. With a late-surging Best Picture support for the film, I’m expecting it to get it. Wonder, it being last year’s late sleeper hit, has goodwill supporting it, and the makeup is crucial in making the film work.

However, I don’t think these two are safe. Best Picture buzz doesn’t always translate to a nomination even if it makes the shortlist (The Artist, Lincoln, American Hustle, The Theory of Everything) and Wonder, in particular, focuses its makeup solely to its lead character.

This is where Bright comes in: it’s critically maligned, the Netflix bias still probably exists, but the makeup work is showy and evident. Just look at last year’s winner: 2016’s Suicide Squad won even without critical support because the makeup work is present.

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BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. War for the Planet of the Apes
  3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  4. Dunkirk
  5. The Shape of Water

  6. Okja
  7. Alien: Covenant
  8. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  10. Kong: Skull Island

I’m basing most of my reactions from the response of the Visual Effects Branch at the Bakeoff, as reported by Next Best Picture. Blade Runner 2049 and War for the Planet of the Apes feel like the shoo-ins, consistently getting awards and recognitions for the visual effects work on their films.

I’m going to cancel out Kong: Skull Island just because it’s probably getting its visual effects buzz on its titular primate and War for the Planet of the Apes already has done that, and it has stronger buzz.

The rest, it gets trickier. The first instalment of Guardians was rightfully nominated, but the muted response to the successor (both for the visual effects and the film in general) has given me second thoughts. Valerian bombed both critically and financially, but its visual effects are lauded (the positive reception at the bakeoff helps). Same goes for Alien: Covenant. I won’t be surprised if any of these three surprise.

Dunkirk has gotten acclaim for its supporting visual effects. Do note that most of the effects are practical, with minimal CGI, and most of the time, this category goes for the showy. This applies for The Shape of Water as well, though the latter has worrying muted response at the bakeoff. Both have strong Best Picture buzz, and that usually helps except last year when Arrival was not nominated despite its visual effects buzz and over-all support.

Star Wars has always been represented here, and The Last Jedi seems fitting here even if the film has its fair share of critics this time. That brings me to Okja. The Netflix bias might hurt, but it’s quite surprising that it even reached the top 10 finalists and the titular creature is adorable, and the visual effects are well-received.

I’d be sticking with Dunkirk and The Shape of Water for the last two slots, but I’m expecting Okja to be the “surprise” nominee.

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Phantom Thread
  3. Beauty and the Beast
  4. Victoria and Abdul
  5. The Post

  6. I, Tonya
  7. Murder on the Orient Express
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. The Greatest Showman
  10. The Beguiled
  11. Blade Runner 2049
  12. Darkest Hour
  13. Mudbound
  14. Battle of the Sexes
  15. Wonderstruck

The first three feel safe as of the moment. Victoria & Abdul and The Post are also period pieces so that should help. What really becomes interesting is who can take down any of the top five.

I’m eyeing I, Tonya as the possible spoiler. It still counts as contemporary because the film is set in the 1990s and contemporary pieces are a rarity in this category, but it is showy enough. Murder on the Orient Express is a chamber piece with a large cast and somewhat showy set of costumes so it is also in the running. The buzzed costumes of the female characters in Wonder Woman will keep it in the conversation. With the ongoing success of The Greatest Showman, it will be seen by the voters as well. The Beguiled, Darkest Hour, Mudbound, Battle of the Sexes, and Wonderstruck are all period pieces that have fair shots as well. The anomaly in the contenders is Blade Runner 2049: it will head for Best Production Design, and its costumes, while not as showy as its other visual elements, are noticeable as well.

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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. The Post
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Downsizing

  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. Phantom Thread
  10. Mudbound
  11. Wonder Woman
  12. The Greatest Showman
  13. All the Money in the World
  14. The Beguiled
  15. Wonderstruck

Only the first two feel safe as of this moment. The Post and Dunkirk also have decent shots at the nominations. The fifth slot is where I’m going no guts, no glory: Downsizing hasn’t really done well the same way it must have intended, but with a ADG nomination under its belt and Hong Chau being a strong Supporting Actress contender, I’m going to risk this as a surprise nominee. I’m already wrong right now.

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BEST SOUND EDITING

  1. Dunkirk
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  5. mother!

  6. Wonder Woman
  7. Baby Driver
  8. I, Tonya
  9. All the Money in the World
  10. War for the Planet of the Apes

The top four is the same with my Sound Mixing predictions. I’m throwing mother! as my surprise nominee in this category. The film is incredibly divisive, but those who have seen it know the fantastic sound design. Jennifer Lawrence campaigning despite her Best Actress bid being a longshot could have made this seen. If not mother!, then maybe Wonder Woman. Baby Driver is a strong possibility, with its chances of getting nominated here being compared to 2011’s Drive. Or maybe they would throw a curveball and give I, Tonya the slot. Or the rest of these contenders.

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BEST SOUND MIXING

  1. Dunkirk
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  5. The Post

  6. Get Out
  7. Baby Driver
  8. The Greatest Showman
  9. Wonder Woman
  10. All the Money in the World

The top four is the same with my Sound Editing predictions. I’m giving the fifth spot to The Post. Maybe because Spielberg-helmed films have done so well in this category in recent years (2011, 2012, 2015). If not, then maybe Get Out, known for its hypnosis scenes. Or perhaps Baby Driver: a nomination a lot of pundits are pulling for. Never underestimate the musical bias in this category (Les Miserables, La La Land) so The Greatest Showman benefits from that. Or maybe not (Nine, Into the Woods). Wonder Woman might do well in the sound categories so don’t forget that.

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BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  1. “Remember Me” – Coco
  2. “This is Me” – The Greatest Showman
  3. “The Mystery of Love” – Call Me by Your Name
  4. “Prayers for This World” – Cries from Syria
  5. “Mighty River” – Mudbound

  6. “Visions of Gideon” – Call Me by Your Name
  7. “Stand Up for Something” – Marshall
  8. “Evermore” – Beauty and the Beast
  9. “The Star” – The Star
  10. “It Ain’t Fair” – Detroit
  11. “Tell Me How Long” – Chasing Coral
  12. “Jump” – Step
  13. “You Shouldn’t Look at Me that Way” – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  14. “Never Forget” – Murder on the Orient Express
  15. “If I Dare” – Battle of the Sexes

In my own estimation, none of these songs are totally safe. We don’t have a “Skyfall”,Let It Go”, or “Glory” this year. But if there are those that are remotely in good place, it’s “Remember Me” and “This is Me”. There is a circulating possibility of “This is Me” being a surprise snub. I’m not yet buying it just because the film AND the song in itself are hits.

It gets harder to predict here, since I have a personal push-and-pull here.

“The Mystery of Love” feels like the buzzier song of the two contenders from Best Picture contender Call Me by Your Name, heavily featured in its promotional materials. HOWEVER, and here it goes, Timothée Chalamet is said to have is Oscar scene at the very end of the film while “Visions of Gideon” is playing. If Chalamet’s a solid contender, not just for a nomination but for the win, then look out if “Visions of Gideon” will replace “The Mystery of Love” or, best case scenario, both songs get nominated. That will be hard to do this year.

Documentaries are also well-represented this year, with “Prayers for This World” composed by Diane Warren and sung by Cher for Cries from Syria. Warren came very close to a win with 2015’s “Til It Happens to You”, and she has this song for a very timely documentary. Not a clearly safe bet, but expect her. She also has another contender this year from Marshall. Other documentaries included here are environment-themed Chasing Coral and the crowd-pleasing Step.

Songs from thematically timely films are also in play, including “It Ain’t Fair” from the racially charged thriller Detroit and “If I Dare” from the feminist sports drama-comedy Battle of the Sexes. Both films were Best Picture contenders at some point earlier last year.

The rest of the contenders are notable names in music, both in the actual music scene and in film: Oscar winner Alan Menken (“Evermore”), Mariah Carey (“The Star”), Elvis Costello (“You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way”), and Michelle Pfeiffer (“Never Forget”).

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BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Dunkirk
  3. The Post
  4. Phantom Thread
  5. Darkest Hour

  6. Blade Runner 2049
  7. Victoria & Abdul
  8. Coco
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  11. Battle of the Sexes
  12. Get Out
  13. War for the Planet of the Apes
  14. Wonderstruck
  15. All the Money in the World

Only The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat) and Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer) feel safe here.

Perennial favorite John Williams working with longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg feels like a sure hit, but Williams also has another Star Wars entry this year. In some years, he went up against himself (2005 and 2011), but in recent years, sometimes he is not nominated at all (2014 and 2016).

Johnny Greenwood’s work in Phantom Thread is noted as one of its stand-out elements, so there is buzz for it. Dario Marianelli’s collaborations with Joe Wright all resulted to Oscar nominations (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement (win!), and Anna Karenina), save 2009’s The Soloist. This year, he might do it again.

Blade Runner 2049 got a lot of awards for its original score, but this category is notoriously stingy with two-composer scores. Victoria & Abdul’s score was composed by another favorite Thomas Newman (who surprisingly got nominated last year for Passengers AND is overdue for a win). Coco strongly revolves around music and it was well-received. Three Billboards’s score by Carter Burwell, finally nominated for 2015’s Carol, garnered citations too. Last year’s nominee for Moonlight also did the score for Battle of the Sexes, and it is good so watch out for it. The rest are guessworks.

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BEST FILM EDITING

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Dunkirk
  3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  4. Get Out
  5. I, Tonya

  6. Baby Driver
  7. Lady Bird
  8. The Post
  9. Blade Runner 2049
  10. Molly’s Game

Only the top two feel safe for me. I just checked: the only non-Best Picture nominees were nominated in Best Film Editing since the expanded ballot were strong Best Picture contenders themselves that just missed the mark (2011’s winner The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and 2015’s Star Wars: the Force Awakens). That doesn’t spell well for critical favorite in this category, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. With a hotly contested Best Picture race, I find it hard to see that this will squeak in.

Pundits are cheering for Get Out while precursor awards are pointing towards I, Tonya. The Post is criticized for its first thirty minutes but praised for its tense last hour. It now depends how the voters will remember this film. Lady Bird gets a lot of praise for its editing, but other projects in other genres might prove to be showier. I can see Lady Bird winning Best Picture even without a nomination in this category. BUT if it gets nominated her, edging out seemingly showier competitors, watch out for its probable win. Blade Runner 2049 has received praise for its editing but criticisms for its extended runtime. Molly’s Game, on the other hand, is said to have showy editing moments that will work in its favor.

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. The Shape of Water
  3. Dunkirk
  4. Mudbound
  5. Darkest Hour

  6. Call Me by Your Name
  7. The Post
  8. The Florida Project
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  10. Wonderstruck

Only the first three feel safe: Blade Runner 2049 (Roger Deakins FINALLY the frontrunner for the win), The Shape of Water, and Dunkirk. Rachel Morrison is out to make history as the first female cinematographer nominated in this category. Although Mudbound hasn’t fared as well as expected, with a weirdly empty year, she might get in.

The fifth slot is up for grabs. I’m giving a nudge to Darkest Hour because of its ASC nomination. The rest are strong possibilities: Call Me by Your Name is a strong sixth, The Post has longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski, The Florida Project is praised for its cinematography despite budgetary constraints, Three Billboards got a surprise BAFTA nomination meaning support for it, and Wonderstruck photographed by Ed Lachman.

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BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  1. Coco
  2. The Breadwinner
  3. Loving Vincent
  4. In This Corner of the World
  5. The Girl without Hands

  6. The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales
  7. Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
  8. The LEGO Batman Movie
  9. Mary and the Witch’s Flower
  10. The Boss Baby
  11. My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
  12. Cinderella the Cat
  13. A Silent Voice
  14. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
  15. Ethel & Ernest

Coco seems like the only safe one here. The Breadwinner, too, though I can see it being a surprise miss. Loving Vincent is getting its fair share of accolades too, particularly because of its animation technique. The rest are guesswork. The change in voting rules in this category might affect the results, steering away from its out-there choices from the past. However, I’d stick with two foreign titles as of now as the more popular, American animated films have cases against them. If the highly acclaimed The LEGO Movie surprisingly missed, I can’t convince myself that its sequel will make it. Despite the Trump comparisons, the mixed reception of The Boss Baby gives me a pause.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  1. Jane
  2. City of Ghosts
  3. Faces Places
  4. Last Man in Aleppo
  5. LA 92

  6. Strong Island
  7. Ex Libris: The New York Public Library
  8. Human Flow
  9. Chasing Coral
  10. Icarus
  11. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
  12. One of Us
  13. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
  14. Long Strange Trip
  15. Unrest

Gosh, only Jane feel safe here. Maybe City of Ghosts too. Faces Places feel like a potential surprise snub, like 2014’s Life Itself. While some of those placed outside the top five have more buzz and awards than my fourth and fifth, I did something in this category: decide based on their subjects. Last Man in Aleppo and LA 92 feel suitable predictions. Watch out for Strong Island and Ex Libris: they are as strong as the two I listed. (In the time of this writing, I’m already becoming tired in writing.)

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BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  1. Germany – In the Fade
  2. Sweden – The Square
  3. Chile – A Fantastic Woman
  4. Russia – Loveless
  5. Israel – Foxtrot

  6. Hungary – On Body and Soul
  7. Senegal – Félicité
  8. South Africa – The Wound
  9. Lebanon – The Insult

After the omission of France’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) and Cambodia’s First They Killed My Father, Germany’s In the Fade seems to be the default frontrunner. With a Golden Globe win, it does have a stealth campaign, with longshot Best Actress contender Diane Kruger actively working the campaign circuit while representing her work and the film in its entirety.

Sweden’s Palme D’Or winner The Square is also a strong contender. The last time Sweden submitted a film by its director Ruben Ostlund (2014’s Force Majeure), it made the top nine shortlist but missed the nomination, in one of those year’s biggest surprise omissions. Methinks The Square will do the trick this time.

Chile’s A Fantastic Woman has a distinctive leading performance by Daniela Vega (one of this year’s extreme Best Actress longshots). The goodwill towards the film having a transgender actress having a Best Actress push will help. The director of Russia’s Loveless also helmed the country’s last nominee, 2014’s Leviathan and the film has buzz. The last slot, I give to occasional favorite Israel for the also buzzy Foxtrot. But make no mistake: any of the four films not included in my top five can sneak in and knock out any of the films above.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  1. Call Me by Your Name
  2. Molly’s Game
  3. Mudbound
  4. All the Money in the World
  5. The Disaster Artist

  6. Wonder
  7. Victoria and Abdul
  8. Blade Runner 2049
  9. The Beguiled
  10. Logan
  11. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Call Me by Your Name, being the biggest Best Picture contender here, feels more than safe. Molly’s Game and Mudbound, possible Best Picture spoilers, feels safe too. The last two slot are up for grabs.

All the Money in the World has buzz going for it. The Disaster Artist may feel too niche, but I can’t think of any other viable contenders. Wonder was a hit last November and it is an accomplished film, though it lacks the “prestige” most contenders here have. Victoria & Abdul is getting its buzz from Judi Dench, not the screenplay which is criticized. Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t seem like an obvious choice, but with a field this empty, it might do the trick. The Beguiled will get some votes. Logan might be hurt by the superhero bias, but its screenplay is acclaimed. And Film Stars was cited by BAFTA.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. Get Out
  3. Lady Bird
  4. The Shape of Water
  5. I, Tonya

  6. The Post
  7. The Big Sick
  8. Phantom Thread
  9. The Florida Project
  10. Darkest Hour
  11. Coco

This field is filled with Best Picture contenders, from frontrunners to longshots and it is clearly an exciting race. So the fact that four of these already feel safe makes the fight for the last slot is nail-biting.

The Post had buzz in this category until the guilds showing not-so-present support. This category feels fitting for The Big Sick, but the category is intense. Same goes for Phantom Thread (precursor awards), The Florida Project (indie drama), and Darkest Hour (chamber piece). I reserve the last possible contender for Coco because Pixar fares well here. And yet, I’m going with I, Tonya with its buzz hitting just at the right moment. I already think I’m wrong.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  1. Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
  2. Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  3. Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
  4. Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me by Your Name
  5. Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World

  6. Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name
  7. Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  8. Michael Shannon – The Shape of Water
  9. Steve Carell – Battle of the Sexes
  10. Mark Rylance – Dunkirk

This is the year where two actors from the same film could be nominated, a feat last accomplished in 1991 with Bugsy. But the thing this year is: which film would that be?

Willem Dafoe, the early frontrunner, and Sam Rockwell, the current challenger, feel safe. Same with Richard Jenkins, riding the Shape of Water juggernaut. Here it gets unpredictable.

First, let’s set aside Steve Carell and Mark Rylance as the foreseeable longshots in this category.

If Three Billboards is really strong, expect Woody Harrelson to be nominee # 2 in that category. Even if both Rockwell and Harrelson had SAG nominations, the possibility of two nominees from this film is still a big IF.

Meanwhile, it is not impossible that either Michael Shannon make it as nominee # 2 for The Shape of Water or even replace Richard Jenkins as the film’s supporting actor contender despite the lack of precursor support. Both his nominations (Revolutionary Road and Nocturnal Animals) were backed by lack of precursors. The notable is the latter, because he took the place of presumed representative of the film, Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

We arrive to the curious case of Call Me by Your Name. This film is the early presumed taker of the two-nominee-in-a-film honor before Three Billboards and The Shape of Water showed stronger support. Armie Hammer is said to have a co-lead status (this is a romantic film after all) but not showy, but Michael Stuhlbarg is said to have the key Oscar scene (the monologue near the end). Easy prediction could be to dismiss both, but with the choice of the two, I’d stick with the one having the Oscar scene (I had the same dilemma in 2015’s Spotlight; I think I predicted Michael Keaton because of the almost-lead status, but Mark Ruffalo had the big Oscar scene). The fact that Stuhlbarg also appears in The Post and The Shape of Water just raises his profile despite this confusion.

Another curious case is of Christopher Plummer. He got SAG and BAFTA nominations, and is lauded for the feat of pulling of an acclaimed performance during the last-minute replacement of not Hollywood pariah Kevin Spacey. But here’s the thing: most of the buzz hinges on that piece of trivia. Haven’t seen his work to comment on it, but that accomplishment might or might not help him. That’s why I have him in # 5.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  1. Allison Janney – I, Tonya
  2. Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
  3. Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
  4. Holly Hunter – The Big Sick
  5. Mary J. Blige – Mudbound

  6. Hong Chau – Downsizing
  7. Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
  8. Catherine Keener – Get Out
  9. Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
  10. Julia Roberts – Wonder

Only Janney and Metcalf feels safe. Spencer benefits from The Shape of Water’s over-all support, Hunter feels like representative of The Big Sick. Ditto Mary J. Blige for Mudbound.

Despite getting stand-out reviews and surprise Golden Globe + SAG nominations, Hong Chau’s chances are hurt by Downsizing being a non-factor this year. Watch out for Tiffany Haddish, though. She has rocked the campaign circuit and has done several TV guestings (that SNL hosting gig still sticks). Expect this one to surprise. The rest really depends on how their films will do with the other categories.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  1. Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
  2. Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
  3. Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
  4. Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
  5. James Franco – The Disaster Artist

  6. Tom Hanks – The Post
  7. Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq
  8. Robert Pattinson – Good Time
  9. Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
  10. Hugh Jackman – The Greatest Showman
  11. Jake Gyllenhaal – Stronger
  12. Ryan Gosling – Blade Runner 2049
  13. Hugh Jackman – Logan
  14. Andrew Garfield – Breathe
  15. Steve Carell – Last Flag Flying

Just like the Adapted Screenplay, it feels weird that this category feels uncompetitive for three years now. The fact that two newcomers are solid predictions with dark horse chance for winning indicate the field of contenders here. Gary Oldman, while being the frontrunner, overdue, and veteran favorite, his probable win doesn’t even match the excitement of the Best Actress race.

While Phantom Thread didn’t gain much traction with the guilds, Daniel Day-Lewis, in his supposed penultimate role, also feel safe. James Franco, while in an unusual awards contender, has gotten acclaim for his biographical role. HOWEVER, the reveal of sexual harassment accusations midway through the voting period possibly hurt his chances. From # 3, I’m putting him at # 5.

I do have those five as the solid five. Let’s start looking at possible shockers.

Hanks is in the Best Picture contender The Post, but where is the buzz for him? Streep is getting the acting notices from that film. Washington made the Golden Globes and SAG, but enthusiasm for the film doesn’t fee enough. Pattinson is the critical underdog and is the most awarded work from the young actor. Nanjiani is also in a Best Picture contender, but hasn’t really made a lot of Best Actor buzz. Jackman has two bets: Showman has recency going for it, but Logan has more acclaim. Gyllenhaal, Carell, and Garfield were stronger contenders earlier in the race. Gosling has done strong work in Blade Runner 2049, but the genre bias would hurt. Even last year’s strong buzz for Amy Adams in Arrrival didn’t translate to an Oscar nod.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  1. Frances McDormand – Three Billboads Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
  3. Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
  4. Meryl Streep – The Post
  5. Margot Robbie – I, Tonya

  6. Jessica Chastain – Molly’s Game
  7. Judi Dench – Victoria and Abdul
  8. Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
  9. Michelle Williams – All the Money in the World
  10. Emma Stone – Battle of the Sexes
  11. Annette Bening – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  12. Jennifer Lawrence – mother!
  13. Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman
  14. Diane Kruger – In the Fade
  15. Kate Winslet – Wonder Wheel

While the Best Actor race feel like scraping the barrel, there is just an embarrassment of riches in its female counterpart. Can we give a shout out first to extreme longshots Daniela Vega, Cynthia Nixon, Florence Pugh, Salma Hayek, and Vicky Krieps, among others?

The first two – McDormand and Ronan – feel safe and are also competing for the win. Hawkins headlines the top contender of this year, there is a slim chance that she could be snubbed given the nature of her character. While Streep missed key nominations (SAG and BAFTA), I don’t know. What I’ve learned in the years I’ve predicted the Oscars: never underestimate Streep. That leaves me with actress-producer Margot Robbie whose film just peaked at the right moment. But with this insane quality of field, who are the contenders and who can be knocked down.

With this being Chastain’s strongest chance for a nomination since her 2012 nomination for Zero Dark Thirty (vote splitting + badly timed release date squandered her shot for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for 2014’s A Most Violent Year), look out for this film. If she’s in here, her film might factor in Best Picture.

SAG went with Judi Dench, Brooklynn Prince swept the youth/breakthrough awards, Golden Globes Drama went with Michelle Williams, Golden Globes Comedy gave last year’s Best Actress winner Emma Stone a needed mention (while campaigning with the real Billie Jean King!), BAFTA went with Annette Bening, Oscar favorite Jennifer Lawrence has been campaigning and has popped out in several critics’ awards, Gal Gadot is in Best Picture longshot Wonder Woman, Diane Kruger is in strong Best Foreign Language Film contender In the Fade (and has done campaigning herself), and Kate Winslet was an earlier frontrunner before her film was hit with negative reviews.

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

  1. Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
  2. Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
  3. Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  4. Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
  5. Jordan Peele – Get Out

  6. Steven Spielberg – The Post
  7. Luca Guadagnino – Call Me by Your Name
  8. Sean Baker – The Florida Project
  9. Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World
  10. Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
  11. Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
  12. Joe Wright – Darkest Hour
  13. Dee Rees – Mudbound
  14. Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya
  15. Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman

We’re in this race where Guillermo del Toro is the only safe one, and will probably be the winner. Cristopher Nolan, after several misses in 2008 and 2010, he might finally get his overdue nomination for his masterpiece. He MIGHT. Martin McDonagh helms the current frontrunner, but with the backlash in full swing, this doesn’t seem like a lock.

The last two slots are up for grabs. This is an unprecedented year for the number of contenders directed by women, including a woman of color (Dee Rees), and the director of a game changing superhero film (Patty Jenkins). However, the most likely candidate to make it is Greta Gerwig whose absence from the Golden Globe nominees has created a narrative for a Best Director push for Gerwig.

The last slot can go with Jordan Peele (DGA nominee) with his genre-bending racial tension horror comedy, Steven Spielberg (Golden Globe nominee) with his prestige historical drama about investigative journalism, Luca Guadagnino (BAFTA nominee) with his queer coming-of-age romantic drama, Sean Baker (several critics’ awards) with his charming indie drama, Ridley Scott (Golden Globe nominee) with his factual action-thriller with a last-minute reshoot narrative, and Denis Villeneuve (BAFTA nominee) with his stunning sci-fi epic. Anderson, Wright, and Gillespie are viable longshots.

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BEST PICTURE

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. The Shape of Water
  3. Lady Bird
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Get Out

if 6… The Post
if 7… Call Me by Your Name
if 8… I, Tonya
if 9… The Big Sick
(I’m predicting 9 nominees)

if 10… The Florida Project

  1. Molly’s Game
  2. Darkest Hour
  3. Mudbound
  4. All the Money in the World
  5. Phantom Thread
  6. Wonder Woman
  7. Blade Runner 2049
  8. The Greatest Showman
  9. Victoria and Abdul
  10. Wonder

First off, it feels like the top five contenders are THE top five film actually fighting for the win already. All of those films have reasonable cases for them to be the winner in this incredibly unpredictable year. None of these films have perfected the precursor awards usually used to predict the actual winner so stats are thrown out the window for this one. Add The Post for its high pedigree cast and crew with an extremely timely topic and there we go.

Now it gets really trickier from here.

Call Me by Your Name is somewhere between 2015’s Carol and 2016’s Moonlight. It is critically beloved, has done well with the Golden Globes and BAFTA, but does not have the zeitgeist like last year’s Best Picture winner. Moonlight worked as a strong contender because it was an intersectional study on race, class, and gender and its timing was right. Nevertheless, Call Me by Your Name has the crucial PGA nomination unlike Carol, but hasn’t really cracked elsewhere. It has Timothée Chalamet’s dark horse Best Actor contender, and the cast really worked the campaign circuit. This even has more buzz than Best Actor frontrunner Gary Oldman’s film Darkest Hour (more on that later).

I, Tonya had a roller coaster ride this awards season. After its premiere at Toronto, it was hanging for some time looking for a distributor. It immediately broke into pundits’ predictions, citing it as a contender to watch. Then the critics’ award entered; it struggled to find footing outside Allison Janney. Margot Robbie has an insanely competitive Best Actress to race to even enter. At some point, this film became an afterthought. Golden Globes revived it come December, and the Best Supporting Actress wave shifted from Lady Bird’s Laurie Metcalf to Allison Janney. Then the guilds came and it did very well (PGA + ACE). It has some backlash right before the voting started (Tonya Harding will always be a divisive figure), but this one peaked at the right time.

The only films nominated for SAG and PGA (two important guilds save the DGA) that were not nominated for Best Picture since the expanded ballot are 2011’s Bridesmaids and 2015’s Straight Outta Compton. That may or may not help this year’s The Big Sick. With me predicting a miss for Best Original Screenplay, I’m predicting this film will only get nominations for Picture and Supporting Actress.

And those are the top nine I predict.

For the tenth slot (extremely slim but theoretically possible mathematical possibility), The Florida Project remains a mystery to me: it did so well with the critics’ awards, both for the film and for its primary contender Willem Dafoe. Then the Golden Globes and the guilds came and it went under the radar. A24 looks like more focused on securing Lady Bird in the top spot. None of the guilds went with this film. Best Supporting Actor shifted from Willem Dafoe to Three Billboards’ Sam Rockwell. BUT as industry insiders noted, there is passionate support for this film. After all, this was the ‘underdog’ of this year’s awards season. Brooklynn Prince’s central performance and Willem Dafoe’s overdue veteran narrative will certainly help for this film to be present.

Molly’s Game surprised by doing so well come the guilds. While Jessica Chastain struggled to fight in the Best Actress race and the precursors went Call Me by Your Name vs. The Disaster Artist in the weirdly empty Adapted Screenplay category, the fact that his film popped out at PGA, ACE, and DGA (first time director) does indicate that it has industry support. If this gets in Best Picture, expect Chastain to knock out either Streep, Robbie, or even Hawkins. It also works vice versa.

Like I, Tonya, Darkest Hour had a rocky awards season journey. Turning from one of the frontrunners to longshots, Darkest Hour went back to the game after noticeable guild support and doing so well at BAFTA (well, not really a big surprise since Winston Churchill is a BRITISH icon). With this year’s narrative focusing on the women, Darkest Hour might have been affected by being it being male-driven. And it feels weird that the supposed Best Actor frontrunner Gary Oldman is in a film that is not a surefire Best Picture nominee, given how Picture and Actor categories are so interconnected. The only year during the expanded ballot era where the Best Actor winner did not come from a Best Picture nominee was 2009’s Crazy Heart, and that film was probably close to a nomination.

Pundits are blaming the anti-Netflix bias for Mudbound’s underperformance at the awards season. It has SAG going for it + a history making Cinematography nomination on the way for Rachel Morrison, but it feels not enough. Too bad because it could have been an opportunity for another history making: director Dee Rees is still a longshot possibility for being the first women director of color to be nominated for Directing.

All the Money in the World is a success for many reasons, but there’s the problem: its critical reception is not really rapturous unlike the others, and all the buzz mostly centered on the feat Ridley Scott pulled with the Spacey-Plummer fiasco. Paul

Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread enjoyed early critical support, but quickly slipped away once the big awards and guilds announced its choices. For an auteur whose works didn’t necessarily translate to industry support, the fact that it’s tagged as his most accessible work is a comforting sign.

Wonder Woman made the PGA, and it’s still a remote possibility though it feels more like this year’s Deadpool. With Gal Gadot’s Best Actress bid not fully materializing, this might rely on the ‘game-changing female director’ narrative, though Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird has more of the femate director buzz.

The last three are extremely longshots: December’s hit musical The Greatest Showman, Judi Dench-led period drama Victoria & Abdul, and November’s surprise hit, the heart-tugging Wonder.

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So there you go!

Tune in to the Nominations Announcement this January 23 (Tuesday).

It starts at 5:30 AM (Los Angeles) | 9:30 AM (New York) | 9:30 PM (Manila).

Check the Oscars Youtube channel for the official livestream.

Happy 90th Academy Awards!

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Coming soon on The Final Oscar…

Hello! Are you still there?

I am.

Aside from a few posts about the first Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino and some film reviews, I haven’t been able to post anything post-6th TFO Awards.

In the film world, the awards season for #Oscars2018 is fast approaching. This is one of the most exciting Best Picture, and especially, Best Actress races ever, loaded with a large amount of solid contenders. The 90th Academy Awards will take place on March 4, 2018.

Meanwhile, something’s happening at this blog come March-April next year. I want to keep it a surprise until then.

For now, let’s get back to watching more films (and TV series, if you please).

How about you? How are you?

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Juan Carlos Ojano
Writer, The Final Oscar

Special TFO Awards: Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2017

After watching the twelve entries of the 1st Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (2017) and selecting the nominees for sixteen categories, here are the winners and rankings for the Special TFO Awards: PPP 2017 Edition!

For recap, here are the entries of the PPP 2017:

  • 100 Tula Para Kay Stella – Dir. Jason Paul Laxamana
  • AWOL – Dir. Enzo Williams
  • Bar Boys – Dir. Kip Oebanda
  • Birdshot – Dir. Mikhail Red
  • Hamog – Dir. Ralston Jover
  • Ang Manananggal saUnit 23B – Dir. Prime Cruz
  • Paglipay – Dir. Zig Madamba Dulay
  • Patay na si Hesus – Dir. Victor Villanueva
  • Pauwi Na – Dir. Paolo Villaluna
  • Salvage – Dir. Sherad Anthony Sanchez
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone – Dir. Randolph Longjas
  • Triptiko – Dir. Miguel Franco Michelana

Here are the sixteen (16) categories for this TFO Awards:

  • Best Motion Picture
  • Best Achievement in Directing
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Best Performance by an Acting Ensemble
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best Achievement in Casting
  • Best Achievement in Cinematography
  • Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Best Achievement in Sound
  • Best Achievement in Music
  • Best Achievement in Production Design
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design
  • Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

WINNER: Triptiko
2. Salvage
3. Birdshot
4. Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
5. Hamog

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

WINNER: 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
2. Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
3. Bar Boys
4. Birdshot
5. Star na si Van Damme Stallone

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

WINNER: Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B (Nestor Abrogena)
2. Salvage
3. Birdshot
4. 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
5. Paglipay

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC

WINNER: Paglipay (Gian Gianan)
2. Salvage
3. Star na si Van Damme Stallone
4. Bar Boys
5. Hamog

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND DESIGN

WINNER: Salvage
2. Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
3. Birdshot
4. Triptiko
5. AWOL

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

WINNER: Salvage (Lawrence Ang)
2. Patay na si Hesus
3. Pauwi Na
4. Star na si Van Damme Stallone
5. Birdshot

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

WINNER: Salvage (Malay Javier)
2. Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
3. Birdshot
4. Star na si Van Damme Stallone
5. Pauwi Na

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CASTING

WINNER: Patay na si Hesus
2. Star na si Van Damme Stallone
3. Pauwi Na
4. Bar Boys
5. Hamog

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BEST SCREENPLAY

WINNER: Patay na si Hesus (Fatrick Tabada, Moira Lang)
2. Pauwi Na
3. Bar Boys
4. Star na si Van Damme Stallone
5. Bar Boys

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTING ENSEMBLE

WINNER: Pauwi Na
(Bimbo Bautista, Shamaine Centenera-Buemcamino, Chai Fonacier, Jess Mendoza, Jerald Napoles, Cherry Pie Picache, Bembol Roco, Meryll Soriano)

2. Patay na si Hesus
3. Bar Boys
4. Hamog
5. Birdshot

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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5. Melde Montañez – Patay na si Hesus
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4. Art Acuña – Triptiko

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3. Jerald Napoles – Triptiko

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2. OJ Mariano – Hamog

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WINNER: Jerald Napoles – Pauwi Na

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:
6. Joel Saracho – Salvage
7. jess mendoza – pauwi na
8. Bon Andrew Lentejas – Hamog
9. Isaac Aguirre – Star na si Van Damme Stallone
10. Manuel Aquino – Birdshot

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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5. Anna Luna – Hamog

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4. Chai Fonacier – Pauwi Na

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3. Mailes Kanapi – Patay na si Hesus

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2. Anna Luna – Paglipay

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WINNER: Chai Fonacier – Patay na si Hesus

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:
6. Mailes Kanapi – Bar Boys
7. Odette Khan – Bar Boys
8. shamaine centenera-buencamino – pauwi na
9. Anna Luna – Bar Boys
10. Joan dela Cruz – Paglipay

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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5. Carlo Aquino – Bar Boys

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4. Bembol Roco – Pauwi Na

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3. John Arcilla – Birdshot

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2. Arnold Reyes – Birdshot

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WINNER: Zaijian Jaranilla – Hamog

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:
6. Garry Cabalic – Paglipay
7. Martin del Rosario – Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
8. JC Santos – 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
9. Rocco Nacino – Bar Boys
10. Paolo Pingol – Star na si Van Damme Stallone

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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5. Therese Malvar – Hamog

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4. Meryll Soriano – Pauwi Na

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3. Cherry Pie Picache – Pauwi Na

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2. Jaclyn Jose – Patay na si Hesus

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WINNER: Candy Pangilinan – Star na si Van Damme Stallone

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:
6. Bela Padilla – 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
7. Jessy Mendiola – Salvage
8. Ryza Cenon – Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
9. Mary Joy Apostol – Birdshot
10. Kylie Padilla – Triptiko

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

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5. Prime Cruz – Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B

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4. Randolph Longjas – Star na si Van Damme Stallone

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3. Mikhail Red – Birdshot

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2. Paolo Villaluna – Pauwi Na

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WINNER: Sherad Anthony Sanchez – Salvage

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BEST MOTION PICTURE

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5. Bar Boys

This youth-oriented drama-comedy film is about three friends who enter law school. Torran (Rocco Nacino) endures the hazing of a law school fraternity, Chris (Enzo Pineda) tries his best to please his demanding father, and Erik (Carlo Aquino) studies despite the limited financial status of his family.

My Twitter review: Lacks visual oomph, but solid writing: humor, depth, nuances, stakes. Owns its occasional cheese. Genuine pathos.”

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4. Patay na si Hesus

This comedy-drama is about Iyay (Jaclyn Jose), a single mother who compels his family to travel from Cebu to Dumaguete after her estranged ex-husband dies. Her children are lovely Bert (Bernard Catindig), stern Jude (Chai Fonacier), and discouraged Jay (Melde Montañez).

My Twitter review: Little Miss Sunshine’s soul sister. Grounds riotous idiosyncrasy on intricate family dynamics. Refreshing.”

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3. Star na si Van Damme Stallone

This drama-comedy is about single mother Nadia (Candy Pangilinan) who does her best to raise her child with Down syndrome, the titular character. Van Damme dreams of becoming an actor, so Nadia needs to make ends meet while trying to give Van Damme his dream.

My Twitter review: Nothing feels forced: its charm, emotions, punch. Candy Pangilinan’s best. Life affirming.”

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2. Salvage

This found footage horror-thriller is about a group of Manila-based group of media practitioners led by segment producer Melay (Jessy Mendiola) who brave the Mindanaoan countryside as they try to cover a series of murders credited to folk monsters called aswang.

My Twitter review: WTF?!?!? Taps real horrors, shakes your core, never lets go. Thrillingly subversive in form and themes. Haunting.”

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WINNER: Pauwi Na

This realist drama is about an impoverished family in the metro who decides to go back to their province to start farming by travelling while riding in two pedicabs. The members include driver Pepe (Bembol Roco), laundrywoman Remedios (Cherry Pie Picache), vendor daughter Pina (Chai Fonacier), thief JP (Jerald Napoles), and his blind wife Isabel (Meryll Soriano).

My Twitter review: Disarming, gripping narrative. Amazing ensemble work. Engages, sustains. Beautifully builds to stunning finale.”

.

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RECAP OF WINNERS
Best Motion Picture: Pauwi Na
Best Achievement in Directing: Sherad Anthony Sanchez – Salvage
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Candy Pangilinan – Star na si Van Damme Stallone
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Zaijian Jaranilla – Hamog
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Chai Fonacier – Patay na si Hesus
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Jerald Napoles – Pauwi Na
Best Performance by an Acting Ensemble: Pauwi Na (Bautista, Centenera-Buencamino, Fonacier, Mendoza, Napoles, Picache, Roco, Soriano)
Best Screenplay: Patay na si Hesus
Best Achievement in Casting: Patay na si Hesus
Best Achievement in Cinematography: Salvage
Best Achievement in Film Editing: Salvage
Best Achievement in Sound Design: Salvage
Best Achievement in Music: Paglipay
Best Achievement in Production Design: Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
Best Achievement in Costume Design: 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: Triptiko

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Screencap acknowledgements:
100 tula para kay stella – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of viva films.
bar boys – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of SM LIFESTYLE.
birdshot – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of tba and pelikulared.
hamog – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of cinema one originals.
ang manananggal sa unit 23b – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of ideafirst.
paglipay – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of universal harvester.
patay na si hesus – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of t-rex entertainment.
pauwi na – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of universal harvester.
salvage – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of cinema one.
star na si van damme stallone – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of cinefilipino.
triptiko – screengrab from trailer. courtesy of michelana brothers.

MY WEEK IN FILM: Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (All Films, RANKED)

On the first year of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, an initiative of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, twelve local films were screened in cinemas nationwide, barring other films not part of the festival line-up to be screened.

Luckily, this blogger was able to watch all the entries. With only one outright dud in this line-up, all of the entries have noteworthy strengths that make them acceptable to extremely worthy inclusion in the premiere edition of this hopefully lasting endeavour of the FDCP.

Let’s dive right into it.

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12. AWOL – Dir. Enzo WilliamsThis action thriller is about Lt. Abel Ibarra (Gerald Anderson) and his quest to avenge the death of his comrades after a bombing incident committed by a terrorist group. He takes the law in his own hands, searching for those responsible for the attack, rendering him labelled as AWOL by the military.

With nothing to serve but shallow drama, oversimplified characterization, bombastic execution, and an infuriating stance justifying extra-judicial killings, the audience is left with a serviceable lead performance from Gerald Anderson. He has been through this genre, with 2013’s masterful On the Job, but he was left with nothing but cheesy one-liners, and off-putting heroics which undermines his acting chops.

It’s a film so simple-minded, you wouldn’t miss anything even if you go to the comfort room or you check your phone while you are watching it. It’s that bad and negligible. [D+]

My Twitter review: “Are we still in the 90s? Trashy plot, cheesy action, shallow drama. Anderson deserved better. Objectionable. Pro-EJK ad.”

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11. 100 Tula Para Kay Stella – Dir. Jason Paul Laxamana

This romance drama is about Fidel (JC Santos), a stuttering freshman who falls in love and befriends college rockstar Stella (Bela Padilla). During the course of his entire college life, Fidel writes 100 poems to express his admiration and love for Stella.

As the festival’s runaway audience favourite, the film benefitted from the surge of low-budget romance films in the country, providing moviegoers with instantly quotable lines about love and romance. This film sticks with that and actually offers nothing much to the table in terms of originality.

However, the film is actually not that bad. Its emotional punches are much better than films of the same breed (I’m looking at you, Kita Kita), and it doesn’t feel old to me, even if it is. The build-up is actually suave, leading to the strongly acted Arayat sequence near its ending. It’s a scene of pureness, of clarity, and honesty that seals the deal and culminates the fim’s over-all appeal.

The film would have been more emotionally resonant if it casted actual teenagers in the role, especially with Fidel. I buy Padilla as Stella. Santos as Fidel, not that much. I’m talking about casting, not their acting: Santos is good in the role, and Padilla is much better, adding so much to her occasionally simplified character. I get the appeal. [B-]

My Twitter review: “Miscast. Santos good, Padilla better. Honest, but unexciting. Final 20 mins: those real emotions!”

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10. Hamog – Dir. Ralston Jover

This realist drama is about a group of street children whose one act of petty theft to a taxi driver goes wrong and leads disastrous results. The film specifically follows the aftermath in the lives of Rashid (Zaijian Jaranilla) and Jinky (Therese Malvar), both neglected by their families.

A true mixed bag, the film is filled with many great ingredients, and yet, it’s lost in its self. Stylistically, it doesn’t always glue together: the camera goes into gritty long takes, and then jumps into jarringly steady shots that does nothing but provide an inconsistent camerawork. The film also has an unnecessarily odd structure: a mid-way shift in perspective, a pointless detour into a magical realist subplot, among others.

And yet, there is the strong ensemble work led by Zaiian Jaranilla and Therese Malvar, showing street-smart maturity that is hauntingly convincing and devoid of vanity. The film also has strong sequences, like the one-take look at Rashid’s residence and Jinky’s discovery of a dark secret in her guardian’s house.

A film that confounded me more than any of these entries, it has elements and glimpses of cinematic potency that can bring this up, and yet it also drops the ball on many occasions too. This makes for a really frustrating, but slightly leaning towards good, experience. [B-]

My Twitter review: “Visual style, structure not always cohesive. Scattershot at times. Potency peaks in grit. Cast excels, esp. leads.”

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9 .Triptiko – Dir. Miguel Franco Michelena

This absurdist comedy-thriller anthology follows three young men (Albie Casiño, Joseph Marco, and Kean Cipriano): one who witnesses a murder committed by a policeman, one whose modelling career is ruined by large boils, and one whose girlfriend displaying cat-like behavior.

Anthology films are tricky. It is inherently episodic, and yet, there must be an overarching unity in terms of theme, style, and impact. Once the first episode “Swerte” kicked in, I knew I was into something good. The film blasts with energy and commits to the absurdity of the set-up. It only gets better with body horror in “Hinog”, the second episode. However, the film significantly drops when it turns to the final episode, the downbeat “Musikerong John”. Dragging, drab, and aimless, it sticks out as the misfit of the three episodes.

While the three leads deliver serviceable work, it’s the supporting actors that leaves a mark. Two of them stand out: Jerald Napoles is terrifying as a calculating policeman, and Art Acuña is outrageous as the mysterious faith healer.

It’s a film that reaches greatness in its bizarreness, and then takes a disappointing turn by its finale.

My Twitter review: Achieves dark comedy brilliance in first two episodes, only to unravel in languidly paced, misplaced final episode.”

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8. Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B – Dir. Prime Cruz

This horror-romance is about Jewel (Ryza Cenon), a mysterious but timid young woman living in an apartment building where a young man named Nico (Martin del Rosario) and his grandmother also lives. The two become friends while Jewel’s secret is slowly revealed.

By deciding to focus on its distinctively cool atmosphere over clarity in plot machinations, the film absorbs with stylistic control, with noteworthy cinematography, production design, music in particular. It maintains a steady verve that does not always peak, but sustains a delicious ride. Ryza Cenon and Martin del Rosario ignite an effortless chemistry that is more than enough to provide the emotional core.

While there are loose ends in the narrative (as I’ve said, the film hinges more on creating a strong mood than focusing on specificities), the film has a magnetic charm in it that makes it really watchable, if not totally remarkable.

It’s an exercise on style and its tinkering around of themes like horror, sexuality, and love. [B]

My Twitter review: “Highlights mood, atmosphere over narrative articulations. Restrained even when stylized.”

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7. Birdshot – Dir. Mikhail Red

This police procedural is about two policemen (Arnold Reyes and John Arcilla) who tracks down the person responsible for shooting the Haribon, an endangered species of bird in the Philippines. Little do they know that the shooter was the fourteen-year-old Maya (Mary Joy Apostol).

The festival’s critical favourite, the film amazes with its singular vision: inspired, clear-eyed, and striking. It has a strong ensemble of four actors. Particularly noteworthy are John Arcilla as the acerbic, experienced policeman and Arnold Reyes as his new companion whose journey is the film’s most engaging anchor.

And yet, the film is slight in establishing emotional connection, perhaps because it stubbornly stays in a slow burn throughout its running time. Perhaps because I was finding it hard to latch on to the storyline of the young female hunter compared to the virtuoso acting displayed on the policemen storyline.

However, the final thirty minutes or so are exquisite. Everything comes together into a heart-stopping finale (with that haunting final shot). I wish I loved it more. [B]

My Twitter review: Stylistically sophisticated, but curiously distant. Rarely reaches boiling point, stays in slow simmer. Strong cast.”

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6. Paglipay – Dir. Zig Madamba Dulay

This romance-drama is about Atan (Garry Cabalic) an Aeta man who, because of native customs, is compelled to marry his friend Ani (Joan dela Cruz). To complete the dowry for the marriage, Atan works in the lowlands, only to meet college student Rain (Anna Luna) doing a research on the Aeta culture.

The film relishes its beauty in the simplicity of life it examines. The intricacies of the Aeta culture explored in the film is refreshing to witness. Acted by non-actors, their evident inexperience actually adds vividness to their portrayal of this culture. The film is strong when it takes time to enjoy the quietness of telling the story in images and untarnished acting.

Meanwhile, the film loses its distinctiveness when the character of Rain enters the story. Though acted with appealing radiance and intelligence by Anna Luna, the film is thrown off-balance when the character start wording out the character’s emotional baggage. The film is much more effective when it leaves things unsaid and undeclared. And the drone shots are distracting. [B]

My Twitter review: Enamoring cultural specificities. Quietness an asset. Less impressive in wording out drama. Calm that drone.”

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And the TOP 5, these films selected as the Best Motion Picture of the Special TFO Awards: PPP 2017 Edition are…..

(in alphabetical order; full reviews at the Special TFO Awards)

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Bar Boys – Dir. Kip Oebanda

 

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Patay na si Hesus – Dir. Victor Villanueva

 

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Pauwi Na – Dir. Paolo Villaluna

 

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Salvage – Dir. Sherad Anthony Sanchez

 

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Star na si Van Damme Stallone – Dir. Randolph Longjas

 

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Watch out for the Special TFO Awards: PPP 2017 Edition to be posted this week where the ranking of the top 5 films will be revealed.

Special TFO Awards: Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2017 Edition – NOMINEES

Life event: this is the first local film festival where I’ve watched ALL of the entries. That’s a remarkable achievement for me.

Now, here’s my take on the best of the festival in all sixteen categories: Motion Picture, Directing, Acting Ensemble, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Screenplay, Casting, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, Music, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, and Costume Design.

Here are the nominees:

BEST MOTION PICTURE

  • Bar Boys
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

  • Mikhail Red – Birdshot
  • Prime Cruz – Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Paolo Villaluna – Pauwi Na
  • Sherad Anthony Sanchez – Salvage
  • Randolph Longjas – Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Carlo Aquino – Bar Boys
  • John Arcilla – Birdshot
  • Zaijian Jaranilla – Hamog
  • Arnold Reyes – Birdshot
  • Bembol Roco – Pauwi Na

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Jaclyn Jose – Patay na si Hesus
  • Therese Malvar – Hamog
  • Candy Pangilinan – Star na si Van Damme Stallone
  • Cherry Pie Picache – Pauwi Na
  • Meryll Soriano – Pauwi Na

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Art Acuña – Triptiko
  • OJ Mariano – Hamog
  • Melde Montañez – Patay na si Hesus
  • Jerald Napoles – Pauwi Na
  • Jerald Napoles – Triptiko

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Chai Fonacier – Patay na si Hesus
  • Chai Fonacier – Pauwi Na
  • Mailes Kanapi – Patay na si Hesus
  • Anna Luna – Hamog
  • Anna Luna – Paglipay

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTING ENSEMBLE

  • Bar Boys
  • Birdshot
  • Hamog
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na

BEST SCREENPLAY

  • Bar Boys
  • Birdshot
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CASTING

  • Bar Boys
  • Hamog
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Pauwi Na
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

  • Birdshot
  • Patay na si Hesus
  • Pauwi Na
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND

  • AWOL
  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Salvage
  • Triptiko

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC

  • Bar Boys
  • Hamog
  • Paglipay
  • Salvage
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

  • Birdshot
  • Hamog
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Salvage
  • Triptiko

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Paglipay
  • Salvage

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

  • 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
  • Bar Boys
  • Birdshot
  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
  • Star na si Van Damme Stallone

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NOMINATIONS COUNT:

Pauwi Na – 12
Birdshot – 11
Patay na si Hesus – 9
Star na si Van Damme Stallone – 9
Salvage – 8
Hamog – 8
Bar Boys – 7
Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B – 6
Paglipay – 3
Triptiko – 3
100 Tula Para Kay Stella – 2
AWOL – 1

SCHEDULE:
August 25/26 – Review of aAll PPP 2017 Entries – RANKED
August 27 – Special TFO Awards: PPP 2017 Edition – WINNERS

 

MY WEEK IN FILM: Dunkirk / Beautiful Pain / Patay na si Hesus / Kíta Kità (Aug. 5-12, 2017)

To shake things up around here, I’m gonna write bite-sized reviews of the films I’ve seen per week. I hope I can do this on a regular basis.

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1. Dunkirk (2017)

Welcome to Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus. Rid of his usually heavy dialogue that either makes for a complex (and sometimes perplexing) experience, Nolan instead focuses on inducing the unnerving experience of being in war told through different perspectives that deliciously come together in key moments.

Opting to not focus on a specific individual as the ‘one’ protagonist recalls this daring move also employed in Paul Greengrass’ United 93. This makes for a discomforting experience of always being on-the-edge, largely helped by the immersive sound design, exhilarating cinematography, and perhaps one of Hanz Zimmer’s most experimental scores: a musical piece that never stops, always deliciously building the tension in variously effective ways.

It all comes together with the incendiary editing of the intricate structure of the plot that bleeds one moment into the other, resulting to an unbearably tense and gripping experience. Props to its impeccable casting of actors, ranging from acting royalties, art-house favorites, unknown faces, and young celebrities.

This might just be Christopher Nolan’s best film. Talk about experiencing war and witnessing how each cinematic element comes together and overwhelms the audience in the best possible way.

Grade: A
Random Fact: This is my first experience in watching a film in IMAX. Wow.

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2. Beautiful Pain (2016)

This Malaysian submission to the 89th Academy Awards is a poignant look at a couple with different coping mechanisms when they discovered that their son is diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder.

I have to say it immediately: I so wanted to love this film. Films about autism is rare, and the thing that I was looking for in this one is authenticity. For the first half of the film, I am drawn to it. Something happens mid-way (I won’t spoil), and the film suddenly lost its footing in terms of tone. In its entirety, the film run the gamut of emotions from realistic to cheesy to grim to idealistic to sentimental. In a normal film, I’d immediately dismiss the film as ‘tonally incoherent’. But you know what? It kinda works.

Partly because the mess of emotions feels realistic (probably hard to explain this to people without first-hand experience), but the emotional shifts are all grounded on reality. I would’ve hated the presence of the helpful friends, cooperative strangers, and judgmental people – and to a certain extent, the film is guilty of these – but you know what? It feels real, and that’s what matters to me. Kudos to the actors for portraying the delicate relationships within the family with visible honesty.

Grade: B
Random Fact: My grade is very subjective; others might go for B- or C+. My younger has autism and I know how the experience. The film gets it, even if it struggles to find the right tone at times.

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3. Patay na si Hesus (eng. Jesus is Dead) (2016/17)

There is so much more in this film than its controversial title. Centering on a Cebu-based dysfunctional family led by hardworking matriarch Iyay, they embark on a cross-island road trip to visit the wake of Iyay’s former husband named Hesus.

The acting ensemble is top-notch. Jaclyn Jose proves herself to be a great actress if given the right material (see her Cannes-winning turn in Ma’Rosa for another proof; 2016 was indeed her year). Chai Fonacier, Bernard Catindig, Mailes Kanapi, and Melde Montañez make this film an idiosyncratic delight, relishing on the ridiculousness of life, death, and everything in between.

However, one must acknowledge how extremely well-written this film is. The film goes to all sorts of humor that are all seamlessly weaved together, forming a narrative that is filled with gags that serve the story, building jokes to progress the plot. The film also gracefully changes tones while still maintaining an over-all air of irreverence that make for a delightful watch.

Grade: B+
Random Fact: I think this is my first experience watching a predominantly Visayan-language film. More non-Manila centric films, please.

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4. Kíta Kità (eng. I See You) (B-)

Currently sitting as the highest grossing independent film in the Philippines, there is so much hype going around this film. The film tells the story of  Lea and Tonyo, two neighboring OFWs based in Japan who form a friendship while Lea is suffering from temporary blindness.

Sold as a romantic comedy, the film oozes with likability for at least 2/3 of it. Its asset are undoubtedly the chemistry of its leads. De Rossi, known for her art-house success as well as her larger-than-life antagonists in TV, and Marquez, an unlikely fit for the ‘leading man’ type, spark something that is inherently charming. I’m not a fan of the writing, but I do get the charm. Add in the cinematography and music that makes this film relaxing to watch and you have a film that amply gives its focus to its two likable leads…

… until it reaches its final third. It’s an unexpectedly dark and scary and makes us question what the film really is about: was it an innocent exploration of how serendipity works in love? Or is it a glorification of stalking? Was the sweetness intended to mislead us for the reveal to have a stronger impact, or was the filmmakers misled themselves in proposing the sweetness within stalking?

I’m still feeling my way through this dilemma. What’s clear is that the film is more tragic than romantic. That’s why after watching the film, I was not buying the it as a romance but as an unexpectedly somber look at defeated characters. But then again: what’s with all the fuss?

Grade: B-
Random Fact: I’m in love with KZ Tandingan’s rendition of the theme song.

Meryl @ 68 – Happy Birthday, My Love

meryl.jpgPhoto from Variety.

I started becoming so passionate about film around 2008. I was thirteen years old.

I watched all the Best Picture nominees at the Oscars. I tried to watch as many Oscar nominees as possible.

That year, one film really stuck with me like no other, and I think it’s still my most watched film from that year. It was Doubt.

The entire cast was excellent – from Amy Adams’ delicately balancing nun, to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s emotionally charged priest, to Viola Davis’ rapturous one-scene wonder.

But of course, my eyes were on that nun, Sister Aloysius Beauvier.

Meryl Streep played her. Or to say it better, Meryl was Sister Aloysius.

I was just so attached on her quiet ferocity, that determination that simmers as she fights for what she believes is the right thing to do. And on repeated viewings, Meryl just stuck with me as, for lack of the better word, the definition of ‘great’.

When I say a performance is ‘great’, I always go back to Meryl and see if “has this person met her standards?”.

I know it’s not fair to do that to other actors, but that’s how she struck me. And then 2009 came – Julie and Julia and It’s Complicated. I loved her in both.

By that time, I was just fascinated by how she always does her best in acting but not seeming as if she was trying to hard.

She came at a crucial moment in my life – as my love for film was about to become serious (which eventually led me to taking Bachelor of Arts in Film as my course), she was there, reminding me of what excellence is and how a person can convey so much, can portray life within the limited time of a film.

Meryl Streep, in other words, was a godsend for me.

And I couldn’t be more thankful for her existence.

She’s a trailblazer – she showed through her work how her willingness to bare herself in camera can help us understand more about other people.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this. Meryl has influenced generations of actors, filmmakers, and artists not just in acting and in film, but also in life.

I haven’t met her yet. I don’t know if I ever will.

I really wish I could meet her one day and give her a big hug for everything she has done.

I know she’s just trying to do her best in her craft, but in doing so, she has touched so many lives.

And I’m no exception.

To (probably) my first true love in film.

I love you, Meryl.

And I thank you for what you have done to us.

Here’s looking forward to your future work (and Oscar nominations) while I also go back to your earlier works.

Here’s an altar of her twenty Oscar nominated roles, an all-time record (and I seriously doubt someone will break that anytime soon).

meryl @ 20.png

Just for the fun of ranking stuff, here’s how I’d rank her Oscar-nominated works (performances, not the films; all good-to-all-time-great; purely subjective):

  1. Sophie’s Choice (1982) as Sophie Zawistowski
  2. The Iron Lady (2011) as Margaret Thatcher
  3. Doubt (2008) as Sister Aloysius Beauvier
  4. Ironweed (1987) as Helen Archer
  5. A Cry in the Dark (1988) as Lindy Chamberlain
  6. Silkwood (1983) as Karen Silkwood
  7. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) as Joanna Kramer
  8. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) as Miranda Priestly
  9. Postcards from the Edge (1990) as Suzanne Vale
  10. August: Osage County (2013) as Violet Weston
  11. Julie and Julia (2009) as Julia Child
  12. Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) as Florence Foster Jenkins
  13. One True Thing (1998) as Kate Gulden
  14. Adaptation. (2002) as Susan Orlean
  15. Music of the Heart (1999) as Roberta Guaspari
  16. The Deer Hunter (1978) as Linda
  17. Out of Africa (1985) as Karen Blixen
  18. The Bridges of Madison County (1995) as Francesca Johnson
  19. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) as Sarah/Anna
  20. Into the Woods (2014) as The Witch

Plus, her non-Oscar nominated performances:

  1. The Hours (2002) as Clarissa Vaughan
  2. Ricki and the Flash (2015) as Linda Brummel/Ricki Rendazzo
  3. Hope Springs (2012) as Kay Soames
  4. The River Wild (1994) as Gail Hartman
  5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) as Mrs. Fox
  6. It’s Complicated (2009) as Jane Adler
  7. Suffragette (2015) as Emmeline Pankhurst
  8. The Homesman (2014) as Altha Carter
  9. Mamma Mia! (2008) as Donna Sheridan

There you go. Looking forward to more years to come for you.

Always wishing you the success you deserve and the health that you need to do great work, on and off-screen.

Happy birthday, My Love.

Love you, Meryl.