True to its title, the scenery doesn't change. Five clips of the same friggin' locker room, and the same thing happening: Some guy walks in and plays with himself -- except for one variation when a second guy assists. Cheap, right? So why am I thoroughly amused?
I keep waiting for the guys to show me the money, that's why. The suspense is built-in. If it were porn, I would know exactly what to expect. But it's MTRCB-approved, publicly available softcore erotica, so I'm giddy with the possibilities amidst the repression. Which is, in a way, what the images of boys jerking off in this video represent. And they enjoy their freedom, so to speak, with flashes of pubes and concealed morsels of flesh, some balls, some dick, not completely because they're not totally free. The final segment is baby powder fetish bonanza, as Rusty Adonis lathers with the white stuff to pleasure himself, which climaxes in a visual maelstrom, like a dream of snow, a release.
So even though Locker Boys may look stupid, it's smart enough to play with your head like erotica should. Most of the guys appeared in other releases by Queeriosity Video Project. Adonis and Francis Sienes were in Boylets. The rest are Bobby Reyes, Jonard Buenaventura, and Mark Cortez.
The five episodes of the direct-to-video erotica M2M Wet Wet Summer achieve a new level of incoherence. Have fun trying to decipher the stories. In "Kalsadang Mainit", two guys meet on the street (by chance or on purpose?), then they fall in love (or do they?), then sneak around a backlot to have sex (at least that part is certain), then split, then what? I've seen it three times and I still don't get it.
In "Hanap Mo Ba ay Ligaya...?", a guy is searching for someone named Ligaya (Happiness), but everyone he asks is waiting for the same person too. It's a fairy tale hokum that's an allegory for... something... profound. "Pa-Shawer!" is labeled an "amateur contribution", but I wonder which part needed contributing to: the perfectly ordinary story (two guys meet on the beach then make out in the toilet) or the perfectly ordinary filming of it.
Maybe the narratives are too complicated to pull off for Queeriosity Video Project, the factory behind M2M Eyeball and Koveryboyz. But there are butts and bodies glistening with water or sweat, and lots of touching and romancing, so who cares? The biggest saving grace is actor Danilo Lee's surprise peekaboo behind the bushes, a sprung awakening. The rest of the guys are Rusty Adonis, Darwin Camara, Sam Corpuz, and Richard Lopez.
Three cuties comprise the boyband YM, or Young Men: Edgar Allan Guzman (Eat Bulaga, The Studs, Astig), Andrew Miguel (Freshman), and Rex Salvacion. Their new CD contains a booklet of shirtless and boxers pics, and that's the reason to keep this in your collection.
But sure, you could buy it for the music, too. Hopefully, you can't get enough of the song "Nagmahal Ako" -- the one about guys who love homos -- because five of the seven tracks on this album are versions of that famous hit, including a clean version, a "medyo bastos" version (that isn't, really), a bleeped version, and the original by rap group Dagtang Lason. To untrained ears, there will be no distinction between the tracks, so listening to them is a test of endurance. But you've got to admit it's fun to hear the sentiment coming from a bunch of worthy boytoys. Oh, the fantasies you can have.
Clearly, the group image is sexy/tongue-in-cheek, a novelty act. The backside of the jacket captures the guys with their shorts pulled down, smiling. The kick-off track is a cover of Michael V's sendup "Mas Mahal Na Kita Ngayon", morbid lyrics set to syrupy R&B. I can't really vouch for how funny it is, or how good musically. I just try to imagine how cute they must have looked while recording it. The corny music video gives us an idea, although only two of them are in it -- Edgar Allan, who's annoying with all those affectations, and Andrew Miguel, more natural. The third member used to be Dex Quindoza, before he was replaced by Rex, so this video must have been produced during that awkward transition phase. (So who is it that we hear singing?) They appear shirtless only in flashes. If the music is not so good or not so funny, then the guys should have been naked more. That's like a rule or something. They better make up for it in the video for "Nagmahal Ako"; Hopefully, there will be five versions of it.
The CD: C- The music video: C The album packaging: B AVERAGE GRADE: C+
The tandem of director Joselito Altarejos and screenwriter Lex Bonife birthed four gay-themed movies for major studio Viva, under its digital arm, starting with 2007's Ang Lalake Sa Parola. With their fifth collaboration, Ang Laro Ng Buhay Ni Juan, the duo make their first "truly independent" film, outside Viva, with Altarejos wearing the producer's hat for BeyondtheBox Productions. With this move, the bigger financial rewards might finally go to the deserving artists, who were anyway responsible for the brand of movie-making that spawned a following. The better news is that the departure seems to have freed them artistically, as well.
The mode is "real time" -- that increasingly fashionable style of storytelling that isolates time and place, an economy of approach well-suited to third world budgets. We follow Juan (Rayan Dulay) during his last hours in Manila, before he permanently leaves for his home province of Masbate. The film is structured in two parts. The first half is daytime, when Juan navigates the slums of his neighborhood, mingling with an assortment of characters, before settling in a tiny room to say goodbye to his lover (Nico Antonio) -- a tender moment that aches so well because we learn so much about the two of them with so little. It's also a positive representation of a same-sex relationship built on mutual love.
Fans might find my next statement blasphemous, but I've always thought that, in the Altarejos-Bonife partnership, the writing was usually the weaker link. Well, so much for that now. Gone are the fussy expositions and purple dialogue that mar their sometimes overly earnest melodramas. Co-written by Bonife, Altarejos, and Peping Salonga, Laro is subtler, but also richer, fresher, more intelligent, if also a little cooler/colder. It's a film that pulsates with the discovery of the moment. Ang Lihim Ni Antonio is its closest forebear, both marked by naturally flowing existentialism, but this is probably the first time the direction and the writing complemented so effortlessly.
I wonder, however, if the film would have benefited from a more intense lead actor. Real Time seems to require a galvanizing, center-of-the-universe presence, the way Gina Pareño held Kubrador, or to a lesser extent, Coco Martin in Kinatay. Dulay is pleasant and effective, but I kind of wish he put more gas to his fire.
The second half is night, as Juan works for one last time as a live sex performer in a gay club, to make extra money for his trip. Here, we meet the kind ringmaster (played by Bonife), a newbie member being oriented, and the rest of the performers, including Juan's cocky partner (Ace Ricafort). The excitement builds up to the actual erotic show, with naked bodies, but the real culmination is... (SPOILER ALERT!) a police raid. What is it that happens to Juan in his last day in Manila? In the answer lies the film's powerful statement.
What the two parts illustrate, before we're even aware of it, is the transfer of money. In Juan's poor community, everyone needs it. But when people part with their cash -- to gamble, to lend to a friend, a lover, someone in need -- it always stems from free choice. What Juan chooses to do with his money is his right and his freedom. We get the spirit of people looking out for one another: It's there when a neighbor shares her plate of noodles, or when the club manager passes a hat and guests drop their generous tokens. By stark contrast, in the final act, when police officers snuff Juan of the contents of his wallet, it's a gross abuse of authority, a trampling of Juan's freedom and dignity. He was robbed of so much more than money. He loses control over his own life, turned into a wimpering idiot. That, according to the film, is the great tragedy of this country. It's what corruption looks like on a micro level, but it extends and affects all of us. No coincidence, then, that our hero is called Juan, the name of the everyman.
Ang Laro Ng Buhay Ni Juan is the second excellent film this year to indict the illegal, inhumane practice of police raids. (Big Night was the other one.) The topic demands attention, and both films are must-sees. That Laro drives the important point with quiet grace is amazing.
Boys who make money by having sex with gay men -- "What's new?" You might say. So it's with delight I report that the new movie Boylets, which chronicles a day in the lives of a group of teenage friends, is a breath of fresh air: a genuinely unflinching, humanistic, dirty, sexy, funny, and sweet picture. It has just about everything I want in a movie, except technical brillo.
The movie's first uncommon move is respect for real people. The boys in Boylets act like actual modern teenagers, not the usual cardboard victims too often carelessly sketched in our movies for some moral agenda. A youthful cast of cute-as-button actors -- Joeffrey Javier, Charles Delgado, Rusty Adonis, and Francis Sienes -- play their parts with lovable insouciance. Their reasons for needing money can range from petty to serious -- to replace the stolen wheel of the tricycle they wish to enter into a drag race, to throw a birthday celebration, to send a sick, stubborn mother to a hospital -- but hovering above everything is the casual acceptance that they just don't have money. They steal cable wires to sell, sometimes getting chased by town police in the process. But the easiest source of cash are the gay patrons, who are often the first to approach them on the street. The boys can drop by their old sponsors too. Here, it's one gay man whose groceries they fetch and house they tidy up. The boys expect to have sex with him, but the jovial guy is glad to just share. It's a nice balancing touch.
The rest of the time we're privy to the quirky negotiating practices between the boys and their customers, sometimes already during foreplay. Pay with softdrinks? How about a case of softdrinks? Often, the movie feels like a great social comedy. If we find entertainment in how rich and poor bounce off each other's lives, such as in British class comedies, why not this one, which incisively, cheekily, demonstrates a "warfare" of age, gender, and benefits. Some odd sexual practices get the movie treatment for the first time, most memorably a riotous powder fetish scene, supposedly requested by one of writer-director-producer Crisaldo Vicente Pablo's fans.
Pablo seems to have found his winning formula. Like Boylets, his two previous features, Quicktrip and Showboyz, are situated in worlds of casual, unromantic sex -- a cruisy movie theater and a macho dancer bar, respectively -- and he casts a keen observer's eye over them. He doesn't balk from detailing the sexual rituals. Then, he threads the narrative with something sweet: an idealistic wide-eyed hero who believes in the changing power of love. It's like the candy in the tangy brew. In Boylets, that sentimental corny center is the friendship between Delgado and Javier. But it's the latter who anchors the drama with his fiery soulfulness.
A few critics will no doubt claw at this film and call it exploitation. With a barely legal cast doing nudity and sex, they certainly wouldn't be so far from wrong. But it's also audacious filmmaking, if a little rough around the edges, a by-product of the economy of style and production. Kudos to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for approving this movie without cuts. I wouldn't be surprised if Boylets becomes a guilty pleasure for many, except that we shouldn't be so guilty. When everyone is ready, Boylets will be rightly acknowledged as an unpolished pop commentary of blazing wit and feeling.
Since his debut feature Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros), celebrated director Auraeus Solito has made a string of coming-of-age films, but his fourth, Boy, is the most unabashedly gay yet. It’s easily a romance – between a poetry student (real-life young poet Aeious Asin) and the macho dancer he desires to take out for one night (real-life young macho dancer Aries Pena). But what elevates the movie from most of its kind – the macho dancer movie, the opposite-sides-of-the-track brief encounter – is the rich telling.
When the movie opens, Aeious is the earlybird customer in a gaybar. He feels a stirring the moment a boy his age comes onstage. What follows is a romance of careful ambiguity: Gauzy sensations of attraction simmer with the practical motions of negotiation. This is a tale of first sex from the point of view of a teenager who’s smart enough to know that giving in requires a bit of detachment, but still be horny and confused. Soon, the two boys talk and make love in intricate, deepening, increasingly sensual steps.
Aeious lives alone with his Mother, and theirs is an acutely rendered relationship of affection and distance. The fish tanks he collects provide an overwhelming, ethereal glow to the household, and the way the people navigate around them is intoxicating to watch. While lesser coming-out movies rely on the shock of the turning points, in Boy, the pleasures lie in the minute revelations of emotion and simmering mood, even during its weakest moments -- such as the sometimes theatrical behaviour and the tacked-on illustration of poverty. Still, they all work together to tease the film’s tempered playfulness. Boy is an enigmatic, wonderfully unsettled picture, a thing to be savoured and discovered.
It's a brisk capsule that's over too quickly (less than 90 minutes), so what it achieves in economical strokes is impressive: Boy turns the story of a teenager’s first sexual experience into that moment when he begins to transcend his existence.
You want exotic? Try the world of Pipo – about a group of youth moonlighting as cybersex performers in a partly submerged seaside town. The boys and girls get drunk, get high, sleep around with each other and with clients gay and straight, and when they walk along the floating shanties and bamboo footways, amidst the water greenery, the movie looks splendid.
So it’s a shame the makers aren’t interested in scratching deeper than the environment’s surface. You might feel compelled to do your own research on the business of internet sex after the film leaves you dry on too many what’s and how’s. In place of any real new insight, director Alejandro “Bong” Ramos, working from a script by Cleo P. Cantalejo, resort to the most overused poverty-and-prostitution clichés. Practically every scene is crammed with epitaphs of how badly our poor children need money, which is supposed to justify their “wayward” ways.
The titular cutie, played by Tyron Perez, must accept (or not) the offer of an American documentarian who wants to film a threesome between him, his pal (Marco Morales), and his girl. With sexy supports Rob Da Silva and Ace Khosin, the cast is a treat to the eyes, fresh and exciting, even though the film they're in is ultimately stale and hollow.
The best thing about it is that it got made. Star Cinema, the most mainstream of movie studios in the country, lagged behind the so-called gay bandwagon, perhaps by strict design: It's not supposed to be their territory. Homosexuality, believed to be a niche concern, presumably falls outside the realm of Star Cinema's broad, PG-13 market. Yet by some dint of miracle, it casts Vilma Santos, one of the biggest stars ever, and a present provincial governor no less, in the main role of a mother to a gay son, played by Luis Manzano, Santos' real life son. And then, oh boy, in the role of Manzano's lover, the country's current most bankable romantic leading man, John Lloyd Cruz. It's directed by Olivia Lamasan, whose female-centered melodramas have come to emblematize the Star Cinema brand. With such trusted names, is there still reason for the public to shy away from the gay topic?
The uncanny hat-trick of In My Life is that the bandwagon it jumps is not the gay one, but still the female-centered family melodrama that Star Cinema helped galvanize, and also the OFW movie -- a drama mapping the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers and their families -- perhaps one of only two originally Filipino genres to emerge from our lifetime. (The other one is the macho dancer movie.) This one is largely set in New York City, and it's centrally the woman's story, with the gay elements tempered and almost subliminal. That is the film's winning strategy, but also its debilitating blind spot.
What suffers is specificity. What do we know of the two guys' relationship? Most of it is left to the imagination, or, more accurately, to That Which We Know But Never Show Or Talk About. Is their relationship even sexual? The film's one kiss, which arrives late in the movie, is a swift, barely-brushed lip-to-limp. It's also meant to express apology and forgiveness -- you know, the wholesome, Catholic facet of love. It's hard for me to muster enough love for a movie that's intentionally castrated and guilty.
But it's not just the sex that's missing. I vaguely get to understand the lives of these two gay men in New York City. For example, what is Mark's job and why is he so damn busy? There's also a gay bar, but we barely see what goes on there, or what the interior even looks like. And the ultimate missing information: Is Noel gay, bi, confused, pretending, or maybe just another straight guy who happens to love a gay guy? It's up to the viewer to decide; Your Mom might have a different opinion than you. Cruz's family-friendly persona is spared of the damage. Not to give away spoilers, but he does end up quite a chaste man by film's end. All's well in the happy sin-free world, where only one of two things can happen to a gay man: He either dies violently or just stops being gay.
Of course, John Lloyd Cruz as Noel is the archetypal leading man of Star Cinema: a man who loves unconditionally, who suffers for his love, who also happens to be devoted to his parents. He's predictably given moments to bare his heart out. But Manzano as Mark is the more interesting creation. He'd rather go to the gym than spend time with his Mom, and he makes that strange proposal to her (I won't give away the surprise), tapping into a son who's both practical and caring, tough and sweet. Plus, with all that missing sex in the movie, Manzano manages to hint at someone who's comfortable with it, next to Cruz's somewhat frozen take on man-to-man touching.
But what little gay moments that are permitted to slip through are strong. In one scene, Shirley (Santos) complains that her son never even "came out" to her. In defense, Mark points out the double standard: If his straight siblings were never obligated to declare their straightness, why should he announce his gayness? Lamasan's co-writers, Raymond Lee and Senedy Que, are minds behind two of the most progressive queer films of our time. (Lee produced Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros; Que wrote and directed Dose.) Like those films, In My Life belies a fierce intelligence, wisdom that comes from a place of experience, at least whenever it's allowed. The film's most special move is that it roots Mark's anxiety -- He's never good enough for Mom -- to that moment in adolescence when he felt his homosexuality was a disappointment.
Like that scene, the best moments in the film are those which meld specific personal experience to the anyone-can-relate universal -- which is really the aim of the genre of melodrama. Santos may be a mother to a gay son, but she's really just any parent who wants to say sorry for her mistakes. Dimples Romana, in a great supporting performance, is any daughter (or son) who felt like a failure.
But the makers don't know when to ease up on the melodramatic conventions, which stall the movie here and there. Shirley's journey is marked with obvious, rigid plotpoints. She spends the first part whining about America with a capital A, then finds mini-success as a career woman, complete with feel-good montage. There's an old-fashioned, weary mannerism to Lamasan's approach, not helped by her visual team. New York is a flat, gray city in the eyes of cinematographer Charlie Peralta, and lifeless and generic according to production designer Elfren Vibar.
Somewhere in this movie is a shining work of art, but it's shrouded in mediocrity.