In movies about making movies, we learn that what goes on behind the camera is usually more compelling than what's in front. In Next Attraction, it's not. In this 90-minute "making-of" of a short film, composed of mostly static long takes of locations and crew, what we get is the tedium of a regular film shoot. We're forced to watch the mundane actions of people doing their jobs or waiting, every once in a while with a glint of humor or perception. But always, we're teased that what's happening off frame is far more interesting, like when we can tell there's a kissing scene or a confrontation but can't see it. When the incomplete short film is finally attached like an epilogue, it's at once a climax, a payoff, and a relief -- a release from limbo, like a dream, fulfilled.
The funny thing is, the short -- a linear tale of a boy who runs away (Coco Martin), hooks up on the streets for gay sex (with Paolo Rivero), then returns home -- is more captivating than the purgartory that precedes it, even though it's a traditional and overused narrative while the other is a bold and new approach. That's because the making-of (shot on video) is almost too inhuman and impersonal, as if stripped of passion and desire to connect, where actors are not characters but robots in their duties, while the product (shot on 16mm film) is instantly recognizable and throbs with feeling. The juxtaposition is cerebral. Director Raya Martin has toyed with questions of cinema and storytelling in all of his previous features, and the results are sometimes great but often difficult. In Next Attraction, he succeeds at proving such cinematographic experiments may afterall be inconsequential and inferior to human stories the way we've always known them. That the film soaks in its own banality is its grandest irony.
Every gay man's fantasy Johnron Tanada is adorable in a tight-fitting policeman's uniform, which unfortunately remains on him the entire time. Fully clothed, the hunk has never spoken so many lines in any of his previous films, and watching him in Lukaret, I realized his unsophisticated nasally accented drawl may have been a limitation elsewhere, but here he's hotter because of it.
Tanada plays a supporting role as a rookie cop investigating a series of murders in a small town, but the crimes don't happen till about halfway through the movie, after sluggish expositions about an eatery owner (Glydell Mercado) and a twink (Ralph Darell Mateo) who wandered looking for his uncle and a new life. New actor Mateo, with a cherub face and cute baby fats, flashes his butt three times, and engages in drunken lovemaking with Mercado. If this movie were made in the barako 90's, veteran sexy actress Mercado would be assigned most of the flesh baring, but expectations have changed in the gay new millennium, and nobody bats an eyelash.
None of the tame sexy attempts, though welcome, is enough to save what is essentially a one-dimensional schlock play, where acting means looking away to emphasize emotion and actors wait for each other to finish their badly written, indicating lines. The portrayal of the insane woman is so anti-feminist, it almost made me want to start a blog called "The Babae Review". Writer-Director Felino Tanada, who last year adapted the beloved play Hanggang Dito Na Lamang At Maraming Salamat only to expose its ideas about homosexuality as outdated, has made another aesthetically moldy picture. It looks like it's been shot for 80's television with a script from radio.
Billed as a "black comedy", the unfunny melodrama contains only one great comedic surprise, and it appears at the very end. To see it, you must remain seated during the credits -- that is, if you haven't already walked out by then.
I can understand if an old movie is hard to find. Wouldn't it be fantastic to own a DVD of Sex Warriors and the Samurai? But what to make of recent films that still don't get video releases? Surely, celluloid disintegration is not a problem in the digital age, and neither are licensing and other legal issues that plague the old productions. Could it be the censors? Producers taking too much time to find distribution? It doesn't make a lot of sense considering the current boom in video sales especially of gay-themed movies. Here are five I'm most clamoring for.
Troika (2007) With hunks Andre Soriano and Jamil Basa in a bisexual love triangle, and darlings of the gay community Josh Ivan Morales, Johnron Tanada, and Will Sandejas among the supporting buff miners, Ihman Esturco's directorial debut is a sure video hit, especially since it was shown in only 25 theaters in early 2007. Release the video!
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (2005) A pre-scandal Paolo Serrano plays a macho dancer auditioning to become an actor, while a pre-Parola Justin De Leon is a masseur. These are two of the four stories about spiritual men and their bodies in this Gil Portes-directed drama, written by future star director Adolf Alix, Jr. The other two stories aren't as gay, but the cast is handsome enough: Neil Ryan Sese and Richard Quan. Release the video!
Hada (2006) A boy runs away from his rural home to seek his lost father in the city, meets Emilio Garcia, then a twist. On video, we can fastforward the strange, boring parts where nothing happens (like a mother cooking) to jump directly to the strange parts where nothing happens but are not boring! (Like boys bathing.) It's one of the 10 Best Macho Dancer Movies Ever. Release the video!
inter.m@tes (2004) The story of gay friends who meet over the internet and bond in Puerto Galera depict friendship a la Broken Hearts Club, though not as charming. Produced and directed by Hamilton McLeod, it has the same commitment to modern gay attitudes as Cris Pablo's movies, but did not find similar success then. The ensemble includes Ian Veneracion as a closeted gay actor, with Raymond Bagatsing, Simon Ibarra, William Thio, Miguel Moreno, Mike Lloren, Jomari Jose, and Jojo Alejar. Release the video!
Sinungaling Na Buwan (Liar Moon) (2007) From an award-winning screenplay, the Ed Lejano drama about three heartbreaks (one is gay), with Jake Macapagal, Frank Garcia, JR Valentin, Perry Escano, and Ricky Davao, was hardly ever seen, having been abruptly pulled from the Cinemalaya competition in 2007 and never released theatrically. It will likely find its audience if someone follows this advise: Release the video!
Can you imagine a show on a major network like ABS-CBN OR GMA with so many queer personalities for an entire hour week after week? Right, you can't. That's why Project Runway Philippines, as done on cable channel ETC, wisely sticks to the perfectly good format and tone of the famous international franchise, perhaps the best reality program showcasing real talent. Watching it is like peering into a hidden world (from TV, anyway), the world of Philippine fashion designers, where "individuality" is valued (see contestants' first challenge) and "personality" is the conduit. The language may be something we hear from our colorful friends in real life, but not on TV. After calling her work crap, Ava Paguyo quips she must "un-crap" it. The show trusts this strangeness to translate, and that's a relatively brave move on Philippine television. Similarly, whenever someone utters the word "fabulous", it sounds like the most overkilled cliche that it is.
Speaking of personality, there's enough of it to keep things interesting. Eli Gonzales bounces like a floozy gym bunny, and his cheerful nonchalance is refreshing amidst the stress. Conversely, Veejay Floresca reminds me of a classroom drama queen -- his competitiveness is hardwired to his being emotional. I think the judges were too hard on Eli during the Hip-Hop Challenge, when they preferred Veejay's work, even as it infracted the rules, to further underline how much they hated Eli's. I wonder if the fact that Eli is the show's cutest guy has anything to do with it. We always tend to undermine the intelligence of attractive people, don't we? It makes more sense in our gay world. I'm rooting for Philipp Tampus in the final three showdown soon, only because he seems like a consistently solid, grounded, and humble person, almost like husband material. And my God, is Jaz Cerezo a man, a woman, or the first transsexual on national weekly TV who isn't a comic relief but an actual society-contributing talented individual with a voice? The judges have apparently been cast based on how much they resemble their U.S. counterparts. Is Rajo Laurel channeling Michael Kors? I don't know if "mentor" Jojie Lloren was of any actual help to the contestants, but those eyeglasses sure made the part.
But for all its noble stabs at integrity, Project Runway Philippines also, inadvertently, shines an unflattering light on the insularity of the fashion scene in the Philippines. One of the prizes is a shot at Philippine Fashion Week? Seriously, any of these contestants have enough talent to pull it off on their own. (Two have done it already prior to joining the show.) And Mega Magazine doesn't have the influence of Elle, not even in our own country. It doesn't help that, during the Legends of Philippine Fashion Challenge, there are no supporting visuals to cue us to the works of these masters who aren't exactly household names -- a spoiled opportunity at educating viewers. During the Terno Challenge, controversial politician Imelda Marcos guests as a "fashion icon", and it's a telling sign that thus far, Fashionistas in the Philippines have always been a step removed from the sensibilty of the rest of the country and, I guess, the world. Project Runway Philippines can often seem like an aquarium for the elitist self-importance of an entire struggling industry, but also its possibilities, hopes, and desire to create more impact to everyone else outside the circle.
You might also be interested to know that the Thai gay sensation Love of Siam is in competition. Here is the official trailer that sells the movie as a straight teen romance, but click to this clip for a better sample of the film's unique spirit.
Love of Siam - Official Trailer
The 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival runs October 16 to 29 at Gateway Cineplex, Araneta Center, Cubao.
"12 Most Sizzling Boys Under 23". Why 23? Is that the screen age youngish actors can get away with? The point is that the guys are young and Star Studio Magazine got them shirtless. The insane appeal of these monochromatic snapshots lies in the thin line between innocent and sexy, boyish and manly. Bravo. The armpits are delicious. Everyone should have been made to raise their arms. Only one shirtless photo per boy? What a tease. I demand to see the outtakes from those photo shoots. I demand it, dammit.
The shirtless boys are: Gerald Anderson, JC De Vera, Enchong Dee, Robi Domingo, Jake Cuenca, Aljur Abrenica, Carlo Guevara, Joem Bascon, Marvin Raymundo, Rayver Cruz, Jason Abalos, and Matt Evans.
The Philippines used to make a lot of sexy movies set in remote rural landscapes, which provided the ideal backdrop for scantily clad women on the verge of losing their innocence. We can tell much has changed in moviegoing tastes because in the new film Binyag, the object of our gaze is a scantily clad, often naked man (Ran Domingo), and it feels like a gay reinvention of something we miss, a throwback to the decades when the sexy movie was neither urban nor social realist, but a nature fantasia.
The first one-third of the movie -- which is a picturesque passage of this quiet man frolicking in the waves and rocky formations, ignoring his female admirer (Ynez Veneracion), but intrigued by an older gay man (Simon Ibarra) -- made me think I was watching something special. There's a generosity in director Mico Jacinto's compositions, not only in the keen technical attention that promotes the glossy capabilities of the P2 camera and shames many digital movies that try to look expensive, but even more for what he chooses to show and how much. There is no shortage in coverage of sun-glazed images, which match the exploration of Ran Domingo's body as if it were the most magnificent of terrains. The first-time actor, who was called Randolph Dungo as a model, possesses a lithe dark beauty that, refreshingly, doesn't seem to have been manicured or gymmed to death, but seems to have sprung directly from the goodness of the sea. We see a lot of him in king-size detail -- including his armpits with sparse growth, his buttocks, and his crotch, whether bulging in various tight undies or dangling limply in full frontal glory. There's also one ticklish montage that's like a showcase of the many creative ways to conceal simulated blowjobs.
Sadly, the film isn't as generous in substance. When Leo is smitten by a talent agent (Paolo Rivero) and recruited to audition for the movies, the story moves to the city and Binyag slowly reveals a cynical core. SPOILERS ALERT!!! Characters will spontaenously talk to the camera to proclaim selfish motivations. A movie director, a movie producer, and the talent caster all revel at their exploitation of actors. A boy so painfully shy before losing his virgnity (Kenji Garcia) displays an arrogant side after. Everyone shows their darker nature, except for our hero, who sluggishly moves through his prostitution with a single emotion: weariness. I felt weary watching it myself. Despite our national fascination with prostitutes, it's amazing how so many of our movies are afraid to envigorate their prostitute characters with complex flaws and reactions -- you know, things that will make them more truthful and more interesting. Binyag turns out to be the same old story of the good-hearted slut who must return to the province.
The ending baffled me, but not in a good way. There is certainly a touch of magic realism in the way a character suddenly disappears without explanation and in another character's insistence that a love prophecy will come true. But the mysteries point to possible answers that just may be too ugly. Is it implied that Leo "became" gay because of what was done to him (there in the movie's title, no less) and that in the end, he chooses to be with a woman? How is this possibility supposed to be exciting? It's a good thing the movie wasn't clear about it. At least we can get distracted by the fine sensuality before realizing it's all swimming in an empty vacuum.
If the Western has the Wild West with its cowboys, the Macho Dancer Movie nestles within the dark walls of the Gay Bar with its cast of gyrating, undressing male performers. Macho dancers are not to be confused with the callboy/common prostitute or the torero/live sex performer, although they can be those too. The Macho Dancer's weapon is his particular brand of striptease. And just as the Western is American and the Samurai film Japanese, the Macho Dancer Movie is quintessentially Filipino. Is there any country other than the Philippines that can fill a top ten list of macho dancer movies with a few extra to spare? In these films, the plight of a people are played out via intermittent seductive numbers, like a musical, but hotter, where the thongs usually come off. Herewith, the zarzuelas of our time.
1. Sibak: Midnight Dancers Directed by Mel Chionglo (1994) Written by Ricardo Lee
Packed end to end with eroticism, buoyed by three brothers who work as dancers in the same bar, Sibak recreates a universe that is so complete, it's downright epic. There's drugs, theft, streetwalking, repeated abuse by an influential client, a minor who moonlights, true romance between dancers and gay men, and of course, the nightly shows where the stage literally spills with the swarm of nubile bodies. And yet it's most vividly about family, dismantled and reassembled by poverty and the new conditions of postmodern times. A decade and a half since it was unleashed, Sibak still feels like a needle shot straight from the underground. Hot Dancers: Gandong Cervantes, Lawrence David, Alex Del Rosario, Danny Ramos / Hottest Dance: The debut of Gandong
2. Macho Dancer Directed by Lino Brocka (1988) Written by Amado Lacuesta and Ricardo Lee
Where it all began. The story -- a rookie enters the world of macho dancing, loses his innocence and ends co-opted in a corrupted society -- struck such wild resonance that it has become the formula for the genre. That, and the bold, lingering devotion to the dances, jerkoffs, and onstage sex, plus the blatant melodarama. If everything else that followed seemed like copycats, that's because the first one hit the right nerve. Hot Dancers: William Lorenzo, Allan Paule, and Daniel Fernando (who is still the only actor to win a Gawad Urian for portraying a macho dancer) / Hottest Dance: The Shower
3. Sa Paraiso Ni Efren Directed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes (1999) Written by Robert Silverio and Jun Lana
The first thing it did was to shift the point of view to the gay man sitting in the audience (Allan Paule), lonely and struggling to understand his object of admiration. The macho dancer here is a thing of enigmatic, beastly beauty, yet no other movie has dived as deeply into the psyche of the supposedly bisexual man in a homosexual relationship, even entering his childlike dreams. We've yet to see a richer exploration of the bond between the gay spectator and his macho dancer love. Hot Dancers: Anton Bernardo, Simon Ibarra, Zoltan Amore / Hottest Dance: Fishnet Dance
4. Burlesk King Directed by Mel Chionglo (1999) Written by Ricardo Lee
Funny and tongue-in-cheek, as is the trend in TF's (Titillating Films) of the 90's, Burlesk King was a refreshing entry to the genre because it basked in the naivete of its two cute young leads, who start in the macho dancing business with beaming smiles and little hang-ups. They're also American half-breeds at a time when the U.S. military bases had abandoned the people in sex entertainment who depended on them. The audition scene is untoppable, pure funny-sexy gold, but is only the beginning of a depraved yet sappy journey. Hot Dancers: Rodel Velayo, Leonardo Litton, Tonio Ortigas / Hottest Dance: Velayo's soapy peek-a-boo
5. Bridal Shower Directed by Jeffrey Jeturian (2004) Written by Chris Martinez and Armando Lao
Sure, it's about the chicks -- three gal pals who try to mount the perfect bridal shower party -- but the heart (and groin) of this sexy comedy is the search for the perfect macho dancer and the romance that develops between him and Miss Insecure and Overweight (Cherry Pie Picache). Alfred Vargas' Joebert is the Macho Dancer as Leading Man, the most romantic male stripper in Pinoy movies, with two supporting macho dancers who are romantic in their own right -- they share a kiss. Hot Dancer: Alfred Vargas / Hottest Dance: The Bridal Shower
6. Twilight Dancers Directed by Mel Chionglo (2006) Written by Ricardo Lee
The macho dancer movie hits midlife crisis. An ageing performer meets a young rising star, and just when you think every macho dance has been filmed before, here's one with a live snake, and older people are now prone to sudden political speechifying. Hot Dancers: Tyron Perez, Lauren Novero, Allen Dizon, Kris Martinez, Johnron Tanada, Chester Nolledo, Harold Montano / Hottest Dance: The Search for Mr. Big
7. Totoy Mola Directed by Abbo Dela Cruz (1997) Written by Cris Marcelino and Bunny Martinez
Adapted from a popular serialized fiction in a tabloid newspaper about a guy with a gigantic penis who finds a home in a gay bar, this hit could have left less to the imagination (we never see the schlong). But macho dancers don't come as iconic as the character of Totoy Mola. Hot Dancer: Jay Manalo / Hottest Dance: Totoy's training
8. Hada Written and directed by Lau De Jesus (2006)
Ridiculed when it was shown in theaters, this piece of bad filmmaking from before the boom of gay digital movies rewards those with patience and a sense of humor. A runaway teen bunks with his cousin the macho dancer. They're both irresistible jailbait, but the rest of the attraction is real-looking macho dancers with not exactly great bodies doing extended lazy solos. Begs for a video release to be rediscovered. Hot Dancer: Dexter De Vera / Hottest Dance: De Vera's solo
9. Stardancer Directed by Ihman Esturco (2007) Written by Aileen Viray and Ferdie Aboga
A straight-to-video documentary that interviews real-life headlining macho dancers, good-looking and personable, with re-enactments of their gigs. By no means an exceptional doc, it nonetheless mixes humanity and sexuality to steamy effect. Hot Dancers: Victor Valerio, Brent Lorenzo, Kiko Montenegro, Russel Anderson
10. Mapanukso Directed by Robert Abihay (2003) Written by Rolly Perello Lao
A B-movie in which a former macho dancer illogically murders the gay man (Emilio Garcia) who gave him his break in showbiz. It gets a spot on the list only for the onstage magnetism of Gerald Lauron, who wasn't memorable in anything else. Hot Dancer: Gerald Lauron / Hottest Dance: Lauron's solo
Almost made the list:Gusto Ko Ng Lumigaya (2000) with Alyson VII, Bawal Na Halik (1997) with Jay Manalo (again), Biglang Liko (2002) with Harold Pineda, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (2005) with Paolo Serrano, Kalakal (2008) with Froilan Moreno.
Other movies in which macho dancing only makes a minor appearance and therefore cannot really be classified as macho dancer movies: Sagad Sa Init (1998) with Jomari Yllana and Cholo Escana in a wonderful number in front of screaming ladies, Manay Po! (2006) with Christian Vasquez in a pool party, Trabaho (2005) with a gang of ordinary boys doing a bridal shower, straight-to-video Provoq (2006) with John Miller as a macho dancer in one of ten unrelated vignettes. The instructional video Hubad! (2007) features wall-to-wall stripteasing men, but the dancing is depicted as a recreational diversion, not a profession.