If in Survivor Philippines, the contestants are running around half-naked all the time, Pinoy Fear Factor has bodies almost always covered. When doing stunts, they're padded with lots of protective gear, effectively concealing their bikinis. When at rest, they're buried under bulky warm clothing. (The show was shot in the middle of winter in Argentina.) So even though the guys assembled are cute to hot, this is no flesh marathon.
But Fear Factor has always been sneakily sexy (those quick bikini changes), and also sexy-weird: With pretty faces mussied by cockroaches or skinny dipping against snakes, bodies hurtled and abused, crashing into metal and glass, vomiting, the assorted paraphernalia and some participants' shaved armpits, this is likely guilty pleasure for the extreme fetishist.
That said, the network's attempts to spice up the show with vanilla -- such as "punishments" for losers, which include stripdancing (Jommy Teotico) and serving food in women's bikini (Marion Dela Cruz), or building up kilig loveteams or hyping the possibility that one contestant might be gay (Marion again) -- seems slightly incongruous to the hardcore nature of the game. Ultimately, the real hook of Pinoy Fear Factor is that it's the most elaborate obstacle course on TV, a completely watchable sports program on primetime.
The male "participantes" are Elmer Felix, Jommy Teotico, Jose Sarasola, Manuel Chua, Marion Dela Cruz, Ram Sagad, RJ Calipus. The women are hot too, but you didn't hear that from me. Hosted by Ryan Agoncillo, who's cute but pose-y.
A roundup of 2008 gay movies at After Elton, from a very American perspective, of course. You know this because nowhere is Love of Siam mentioned, an '07 Thai film that swept the rest of Asia this year. And a few French gay films are clustered into a category called French. My roundup of the year's Pinoy movies by New Year. Happy holidays.
(clockwise from left) Yul Servo, Fritz Chavez, Emilio Garcia, Director Senedy Que
There's no nudity, and a "penetration" consummates only towards the end, but Dose is a decidedly sexual journey. It's the story of a boy's coming of age, yet the genius of the movie is that it acknowledges the boy's sexuality as something to be anticipated and inevitable, a thing of the future, but also a tactile presence, already happening.
Edy (Fritz Chavez) likes to watch movies and imitate his favorite actresses. Snippets of screen gems from the 80's -- most of them from great works of camp like Temptation Island and Waikiki -- are interspersed, and it's a wonderful device. What we're made to feel is not merely nostalgia, but more urgently, the hidden allure and danger of Edy's moment-to-moment discoveries. It's an occuring force within him, whether or not there's an explanation for it.
It's the same natural tendency at work when he finds somebody's old dolls and begins to play with them, and also, especially, during an ever-evolving friendship with the house gardener Danny (Yul Servo). Under the steady hand of Writer-Director Senedy Que, the scenes between the boy and the older man are lovely and tender, but also increasingly tense. He frames his shots to suggest sex -- a carefully gripped garden hose here, two bodies on a pendulum swing there, Servo's half-naked body, so near yet so far, in ultra-short denims that expose the underwear bulges -- and it's done with as much wry humor as malicious suspense. What Que has constructed, brilliantly, is the period in a gay boy's life when he doesn't quite know if he should hold back or dive forward, because the world ahead is too unknown but also too mighty to ignore. Servo plays Danny smashingly. Almost innocent in the embrace of his own charisma, but also somewhat calculating, Danny is light and dark, a devil that's also the only guardian angel around. Symbolically, he's the forbidden fruit, a glimpse of both heaven and hell. If some audiences find the movie an uncomfortable viewing, it's because Que has allowed the mixed emotions to curdle all at the same time, resulting in an original blend of calm, almost deadpan, sexy fury. And, for a controversially themed drama, it's surprisingly free of moralistic judgment. I found it touching, funny, sad, and exhilarating. This is a gay coming of age that's deeper, braver, edgier than Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossing of Maximo Oliveros) or Ang Lihim Ni Antonio (Antonio's Secret).
Que, a multi-awarded writer making his directorial debut, bills Dose "a personal film", and whatever the factual details behind the story, it does have the power of a traumatic reminiscence. Every character is touched with a graceful humanity, including the aunt who wishes to cast away Edy's gay demons, played beautifully by Irma Adlawan, and Emilio Garcia as the older Edy, a filmmaker who makes a movie about when he was twelve and finds catharsis. The film also makes room for the boy's loneliness and familial alienation. The images are burnished like a disintegrating home video, long lost and rewatched. Dose is a memory of a present turning into the future -- a near-perfect encapsulation of the precise instance when there was no turning back.
The two Paolos play characters that snugly fit their public personas: Paolo Rivero is serious and mature (he's an Urian-nominated actor who's been making movies for close to a decade), while Paolo Serrano is impetuous and happy-go-lucky (he's allegedly involved in a webcam scandal in which he flashes his privates and in another scandal in which he allegedly extorted money from a gay lover). The contrast works erotic wonders.
They're neighbors who meet, have lots of sex, fall in love, fight, and break up. Think of it like a story from Kwentong Kalibugan -- short (a little over 40 minutes), something trite you might have heard before or thought up yourself, but delivers for as long as it gets you hot and hard. The set pieces are standard Pinoy softcore: shower, bedroom, bodega, car, basketball court. No dialogue too, just voice-overs. Clearly, the cost of making it must have been minimal, but you almost can't tell by the relatively decent technical values.
The two actors use their bodies well -- torsos, butts, pubes, bushy armpits, sweat, musculature. But half the appeal is in their facial expressiveness. Rivero brings the gravitas of a repressed man blossoming, but it's Serrano who steals the scenes with his unstoppably horny behavior. He channels sex with the mere flash of his naughty boyish smile. My favorite is when he assaults his partner's body with his actively lapping lips. I only wish the narrative didn't wind down disappointingly to a ho-hum ending. Here's to more Versuses.
The models are cute and their segments are unpretentious: They pose and fondle themselves (or a partner) for our viewing pleasure. The pause button is handy for a longer look at the peekaboo jewels, which often appear only partially -- a cockhead here, some balls there -- but there's one full semi-erection in a shower. There may be more exposed flesh here than in most erotica of its kind in the Philippines, but the abrupt cuts suggest a lot of good stuff were left in the editing floor. A couple of the models are pictured in the jacket, but absent in the video, and with the 40-minute running time, Koverboyz Fantasies can feel scrimped and incomplete.
Though the production values are certainly less polished than the still unbeaten bar set by Provoq, it's unfair to call Koveryboyz Fantasies a "jologs" (or poor man's) erotica. I think the twinky models -- billed first name only as Myles, Aljohn, Martee, Xander, and Borj -- are yummy in whatever social context. What makes the video less than stellar is the craftsmanship: a lack of careful attention to beauty. Watching it, I get a sense that the man behind the lens neglects to make his models look their best. There are unflattering angles, lighting, and styling here. Erotica's power is image. At its most effective, all the elements combine to ellicit a reaction at first sight, and the viewer may not be able to explain why. The feeling stems from the gut. Koverboyz Fantasies is an okay softcore, more satisfying than Queeriosity's previous release M2M Eyeball, but it's almost disappointing knowing a bigger reaction is possible had it been pieced with a little more love.
The international release doubles with M2M Eyeball.