We live in an age when the notion of celebrity is so malleable that a video can be made about a guy who isn’t famous, but it’s that video that may just make him famous. Knotty concept, eh? The real question is whether you’d want to spend your money on somebody’s video slam book. FreshMan fetishizes on a guy named Andrew Miguel, who apparently didn't have a life before this video; We know what he wants to become (a Somebody), but we don’t really understand who he is, or was. Instead, to create his pin-up status, we get crucial info like his favorite dessert (ice cream) or where he stands on the boxers/brief debate (I don't want to spoil it for you). Based on his rendition of the song "Reasons", he's probably not a pro singer, or not yet. But the guy is cute, and he models and undresses in the standard sexy settings – showering, swimming, reclining in bed, and in a campy surprise, eats that favorite dessert. I do think the video doesn’t show enough of him. If his soul couldn’t be bared, maybe his entire body should, if you know what I mean. I wonder if the MTRCB had a hand in the sanitation. At least they were kind to butt lovers, because the guy is not shy about mooning.
FreshMan is reportedly the first in a series. (Somphomore, Junior, and Senior are up next.) These will likely look better as a collected set. I hope they were intended to escalate in quality and daringness.
There's a split-second frame in the video's last segment that differs in the VCD and DVD versions. The DVD allows us a really quick glimpse of... something behind the towel. The DVD also includes a photo gallery, behind-the-scenes footage that's not much different from what's already in the main feature, and a ticket to win a date -- with Andrew Miguel? It didn't say. Raffle will be drawn on December 2009.
It’s tragic that Heavenly Touch, a movie set in the massage parlor sex business, relies too much on clichés for its drama: the story of a rookie who enters prostitution, the suspense of a violent authority figure, the misery of poverty in the homefront, and the romance of two people from the victim class. It’s a movie made straight from the Lino Brocka school of third world sex films. But it all could have been watchable had director Joel Lamangan, working from a script by Enrique Ramos from a story by Manny Valera and himself, bothered to consider the emotional flow. Events happen and characters move, but damn if we can connect how or why. The scenes aren’t alive; they’re mere bullet points in the outline. When Paolo Serrano and Joash Balejado engage in a threesome with Gwen Garci, it’s just three people in a shower. Only later do we learn, through dialogue, that there was supposed to be sexual attraction between the guys.
Heavenly Touch is not as fun as DMV Entertainment’s previous sensational sexploitation flick, Walang Kawala, but it’s amazing what this production company can get away with in nudity, while their contemporaries suffer the MTRCB’s hyperactive scissors. Maybe there’s politically-motivated conspiracy. Or maybe the censors don’t like it when movies actually make us feel something, while they forgive those that treat sex like decoration.
Two things save this movie from being a complete waste of time. First, the sprinkling of minute details of massage clinic ins and outs, such as masseur woes and quirky clients, which seem to have been inserted directly from research. If you thought 2006’s Masahista didn’t reveal enough of this hidden world, then you might walk away with Heavenly Touch feeling a little more informed. Second, the sexy men. A bevy of good-looking masseurs kibitz in white briefs in the background. Paolo Serrano is a fiery kisser. Marco Morales flashes his junior (yet again). And so does the film’s lead, Joash Balejado, a youthful, sensitive face with a godlike torso, who makes his screen debut. I’m excited to see more of this actor, hopefully in a better film.
There are just too many stories of gay men who meet through the internet or phone that the intriguing but limp direct-to-video M2M Eyeball simply needed a follow-up. (The first one also probably made big bucks.) The new shorts are a tighter and more confident bunch, smooth like parables. The funniest bit involves two bottoms who jump into their encounter of errors by wiggling their buns at each other. But the wisest entry shows a judgmental whiner who rejects his partner then eats his words when he glimpses his long tool, until finally, he gets a dose of his own medicine. Director Harbi Estradough demonstrates a knack for comedy; even his somber clips move with wit. The lone contribution by Crisaldo Pablo, though sluggish, finishes with a clever visual reveal.
Like the first one, how much you enjoy M2M Eyeball 2 depends on how hot you think the guys are. Most have full frontals, to help make your decision. They are Prince Ballesteros, RJ Reyes, Echo, Emon, Topher Barreto, Edwin Vargas, Derek Estacio, Ian Portuguez, Andro Morgan, and Mark Rodriguez. Most of them appeared in past releases by Queeriosity Video Projects, and my grade below reflects how high they raised my temperature this time around, or not.
In the 80’s, Roderick Paulate’s gay roles were a brand unto itself. In comedies like Binibining Tsuper-Man and Petrang Kabayo at Ang Pilyang Kuting, he played a version of the parlorista archetype that became so popular, it was easy to dismiss it as stereotypical. But it wasn’t as simple as we may remember. Paulate’s comedy was amazingly physical – he cranked his energy up to eleven; his body flipped and curled with every over-pronounced line – and he imbued the exaggerations with a deep sense of moral pride. He was an effeminate who kicked butt, a swishy but completely able action hero that snared audiences in droves – unheard of until then and still unmatched. The guy deserves a lifetime achievement award.
The treat of the new movie Ded Na Si Lolo is that it possesses that same edge-of-sanity bombast. Paulate’s parlorista persona – this time he’s a stage impersonator who makes an entrance at his father’s funeral in a red dress – is still a blast, especially since we’re seeing him in the fresh context of our post-politically correct times. He’s right at home in an ensemble of terrific actors, with Gina Alajar, Manilyn Reynes, Elizabeth Oropesa, and Dick Ysrael – playing siblings reunited by the death. They each bring their A-game, times ten. The film’s most memorable running gag is how each member passes out as a result of the emotional stress. Writer-Director Soxy Topacio has marshalled a loud, noisy, over-the-top picture, but grounds it with real humanity – a hysterical comedy as well as a hysterical drama.
The film is structured within the traditional Filipino rites of death, beginning with the news, to the days of the wake, to the burial, making room for necessary steps like preparing food for the guests and accounting surmounting costs, but mainly finding humor from the piles of superstitious practices. I bet, like me, you didn’t know there were so many. In one scene, Rainier Castillo hops from neighbors' door to door covered in soap suds and a towel, because he was forbidden from taking a bath in the house where the dead lay. The hottie teen plays the crush object of many gays, but there are other eye candies to behold, such as Dave Cervantes in a significant other role. Bellie, Cookie, Phil and Diego appear as lively trannies. There are more small parts, and practically everyone makes a mark.
I would like to see how international audiences would respond to the uniquely Filipino culture on display, and also if they could appreciate the heightened performances as a truthful depiction of the Filipino tendency to over-react and make a big deal out of everything. The film is a triumph of tone, and will prove to be a Filipino crowd-pleaser for years to come. There’s not much by way of character development, but it does offer an acute reflection of a family who must push themselves to exhaustion before they can find peace.
The jerkoff video -- where guys pleasure themselves for our viewing pleasure -- is commonly believed to be the territory of porn. In this age of Corbin Fisher and Sean Cody dot coms, it may seem futile to us to watch a wanking that doesn't eventually produce a cumshot, even though images of men sexing themselves, whether literal or merely suggested, have been around in the arts for centuries and is still being made today around the world as erotica.
In Unkoverd Boyz, the sequel to Koverboyz Fantasies, we learn that the thin line between jerkoff hardcore pornography and jerkoff erotica is not a matter of artfulness, but simply of concealment. The video takes creative pains to hide the stiffies -- by blurring or soft focus and with objects obstructing the view, such as a leaf or a chair -- even though it also allows us generous little peeks at the erections and other dangling goods. That's how we know the makers weren't really making porn, just "frustrated porn". Someday, hopefully soon, I would like to see a version of this released without the blockage, because I'm sure it's hibernating in somebody's hard drive somewhere.
In terms of creativity, Unkoverd Boyz surpasses its predecessor. Writer/Director/Producer/Cinematographer Cris Pablo appears to be more sure of his shots, and for the first time, I finally get his use of interstitial text, a style he has been employing in his past features to drive a narrative, like silent film captions worded in a pidgin gay street language. At its best, Unkoverd Boyz plays like a sexual reimagining of the silent film form. A guy masturbates to a photo of a hottie, then the hottie comes to life and they masturbate together front-to-front like mirror images. A similar one occurs with one guy inspired by a magazine, back-to-back with his fantasy guy garbed in an Arabic-inspired anti-clothing, and they never see eye-to-eye. Segments such as these remind me of the works of Kenneth Anger and Pink Narcissus, because of the far-out homoerotic dream logic, only with less psychological heaviness. If there's any justice, Cris Pablo will also be revered, perhaps in a less judgmental future, as a gay filmmaker who bravely put his raw queer idiosyncrasies out there in his movies for all to see.
My favorite vignette is the craziest one: Topher Barreto, out of breath and covered in mud, approaches one gay man after another, begging for water. They deny him, except for the last one. In gratitude, he drags the man to the sea, where they frolic and the dirt washes off, revealing a beauty in the form of Topher Barreto, as if you couldn't recognize him with the mud. It's a twist on the old folk myth of the old and ugly beggar who rewards the person with the golden heart. In this case, the reward is the frog prince himself, offering his lips to ravage and bushy groin to devour. I thought it was utter genius.
Two or three segments are lame in comparison because they're the tired old setups of guys sitting on beds touching themselves, but the varying sexiness of the guys pays off, especially a fresh face named Echo, leaning against a wall with his rock-toned chocolate body glazed with ocean mist. The other guys in the cast include Andro Morgan, Paolo Moreno, Edwin Vargas, Mark, Aris, Xander, and Ian Portuguez.