Saturday, December 26, 2009

The 10 Most Important Filipino Gay Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

I tried to avoid the word "important", because it's such a snooty concept. But there was no escaping it. The Pinoy gay film exploded in number and diversity in the last ten years, that it seemed necessary to identify the landmarks -- in chronological order, to see how we got from there to here. So this is not a list of the biggest critical darlings (Jay and Selda are not here), nor my personal guilty pleasures (Otherwise, there'll be Boylets) -- though they can be those, too. I simply asked: Can I imagine the decade in Philippine gay culture without these films? Or, Can I imagine moving into the future without having passed through them? Then I chose ten because it's a neat pretty number. A few crowd favorites have been left off (Ang Lihim Ni Antonio, Daybreak). Your friends or friends of friends will recommend unlikely titles (Wen Timawa Meets Delgado, Last Supper No. 3, or Imburnal, perhaps?) because people have varied tastes, and some films tend to get more appreciated as time goes by. But the following are the few that are must-sees if only because, in the decade that's closing, they've already made the most indelible impact.

Markova: Comfort Gay (2000)
Directed by Gil Portes
Written by Clodualdo Del Mundo, Jr.
RVQ Productions

The 21st century started with much jonesing for history, in the aftermath of the centennial of Philippine independence. Markova put a real-life gay face to our past, turning "comfort gay" into a household name for homosexuals raped by Japanese soldiers in WWII. By following the life of Walter Dempster, Jr., from young sexual awakening to a senior citizen living in a home for the gay aged, the drama traces a path of survival. Too bad it's the image of the flaming victim that stuck, in no small part due to the film's own shortcomings. But it boasts the biggest casting stunt in Philippine cinema to date; The title role played by three actors: Dolphy, a comedian always loved for his effem caricatures, and his two sons, Eric Quizon (a former heartthrob pestered by gay rumours) and Jeffrey Quizon, in the performance that jumpstarted his career as an actor's actor.

Duda (Doubt, 2003)
Written and Directed by Crisaldo Pablo
Grupong Sinehan

Movies have been shot in digital before, but it was Pablo's low-tech, low-budget model of distribution that was groundbreaking: He lugged around his own video projector to host pockets of screenings, thus birthing the so-called digital revolution we know today. It would have meant nothing if the film itself wasn't urgent -- an ultra-personal account of a tumultuous same-sex relationship in a circle of upwardly mobile friends, a slice of non-stereotypical realism that needed a drastic underground approach to find its audience -- picture and audio quality be damned. And found us it did. Thanks also to those first few who willingly shelled money to see something untested, the payoff to the gamble. The pioneering success of Duda directly led to all the independently produced digital releases -- gay or not -- that made its way into theaters thereafter. If Philippine cinema was believed to have been dying at the time, it took one small gay film to change the game.
Related Link: "TBR Answers Your Burning Questions #2"

Bathhouse (2005)
Written and Directed by Crisaldo Pablo
Grupong Sinehan

If Duda was the punch, Bathhouse was the knockout, proving Pablo's first venture was no fluke. It also announced something larger: By situating his drama in the darkened, members-only club for men, where "no callboys allowed", Bathhouse made real the existence of a gay community, away from mainstream eyes. Who knew? This was a place where our young hero (Rayan Dulay) made friends, found love, grew up, and found himself. He even became an asshole, and that's part of the process. It wasn't the self-loathing macho dancer bar of our parents' generation. Bathhouse was so attuned to the times, yet we wonder what took so long to make a film like it.

Masahista (The Masseur, 2005)
Directed by Brillante Mendoza
Written by Boots Agbayani Pastor
Centerstage Productions

Masseurs are the noughties' new macho dancers -- male sex workers that stand in for the general malaise of the Filipino people. (Not to say the macho dancer genre died.) But Masahista deliberately moved away from exploitation territory into oblique and gray -- in both look and feel -- as it somberly depicted a masseur's handling of one of his gay clients, and alternately, his father's funeral. With festival laurels, the movie ushered in a new era of arthouse Filipino films. It will most easily be remembered, however, for introducing us to two talents that would dominate the latter half of the decade: Brillante Mendoza, whose persistent "real time" dogma would culminate in a Cannes Film Festival award for Best Director for Kinatay, and his muse, actor Coco Martin, who would shine in all his gay and gay-friendly roles before becoming a TV soap star even our mothers would love. That their careers are only beginning makes the next decade exciting.

Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, 2005)
Directed by Auraeus Solito
Written by Michiko Yamamoto
UFO Pictures

The freshness shocked the nation out of its torpor: Here was a movie about an adolescent femme boy (why only now?) who lives in poverty with his family of macho crooks, who are totally accepting and loving, until he starts to fall for the honest cop twice his age. And it all slid smoothly down our throats, mainly because the tender, truthful film gave the kid dignity. The runaway hit from the first Cinemalaya Festival, it demonstrated the possibilities of what a local fund aid can achieve and what a film could become: A record number of top awards from major international festivals, the biggest box office earnings for an independent film (later topped by Kimy Dora), and the paradox that a queer movie can be sweet and innocent without shying away from sexuality. Many filmmakers have since been trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle.

ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh (2006)
Directed by Joel Lamangan
Written by Dinno Erece
Regal Films

Easily the decade's most original and lasting superhero creation was Carlo Vergara's Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, first a graphic novel, then a stage musical, about a lonely gay parlorista who swallows a giant rock to transform into a buxom superwoman. The movie adaptation successfully broadened the popularity of the character, bringing it to the family-friendly Metro Manila Film Festival. Though not as emotionally resonant as the comix or the musical, the movie remained faithful to the plot and the campiness, and tried to extend the gender politics, though rather sloppily. But it did have another milestone in actor Rustom Padilla, a former matinee idol, who proves there's life after coming out as a transsexual. Does that mean the Philippines is progressive? Let's see if it happens again.

Ang Lalake Sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse, 2007)
Directed by Joselito Altarejos
Written by Lex Bonife
Viva Digital/Beyond The Box Productions

The change had already been encroaching, but Ang Lalake Sa Parola made it official: The erotic film of choice had shifted from straight to gay. We've stopped making female bold stars, but here, Justin De Leon and especially Harry Laurel became overnight sex idols. That the low-budget digital drama was produced by Viva, a studio that used to make the same but straight, confirms it. The tropes of the genre -- a bucolic setting, the repressed desires -- have been effortlessly lifted to fit what is basically a romantic story of homosexual awakening. Most of all, the movie put the Penis back onto the silver screen, which prompted an X from the MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board), so they cut it out. But before you can snap your testicles, the full frontal became the formula for gay box office draw. Hate it? Or love it, because in the fight for gay rights, visibility matters. Either way, we have Parola to thank.
Review: Ang Lalake Sa Parola

The Thank You Girls (2008)
Written and Directed by Charliebebs Gohetia
Brooklyn Park Pictures

They're beauty pageant losers traveling the Mindanao countryside for a shot at tiny barrio contests, along the way conversing in Dabawenyo gayspeak, and basically living their lives as one big show, third-world style. They're walking, sashaying embodiments of the marginalized. At the tail-end of the decade when the newly found freedom of making (and earning from) gay films had resulted in a glut of myopic sameness, this regional ensemble comedy starring real-life transgenders confronts us with a reminder: What other stories of other queer people in other regions of this country are never told, but must?
Review: The Thank You Girls

Sagwan (2009)
Directed by Monti Puno Parungao
Written by Arnold Mendoza and Monti Puno Parungao
Roca Productions

At the end of the noughties, the gay sexual liberation in movies had spawned a full-blown backlash. And every misunderstood genre has its whipping boy. Sagwan -- with its nihilistic credo and unabashed, expertly executed eroticism, about tour guide rowers moonlighting in the sex trade -- fit the profile at just the right time. Critics have used it as an example of bad, harmful filmmaking -- of smut! -- to try to extend the jurisdiction of the censors to MTRCB-free venues like the University of the Philippines, where the film had its packed premiere without cuts. Like Live Show in 2001, or Larry Flynt's Hustler, we may find our right to see what we want, or to say what we want, rests on a silly little underdog -- a far-from-perfect, but vital, piece of trashy art.
Review: Sagwan
"Should U.P. Ban Gay Porno?"

In My Life (2009)
Directed by Olivia Lamasan
Written by Olivia Lamasan, Raymond Lee, and Senedy Que
Star Cinema

After a lifetime of struggle for gay representation, the most mainstream of movie studios in the country finally made a film with major gay characters played by major stars (John Lloyd Cruz and Luis Manzano). While the sensitive women's drama -- about a mother who comes to New York City to live with her gay son -- made no qualms about one of the character's homosexuality, the other's is left ambiguous, and the details of their intimacy are kept mostly invisible. Audiences have been divided: On the one hand, isn't it great not to make an issue of our sexuality? On the other, are we so ashamed that we need to hide it? With no other film as gauge, the widely distributed In My Life stands as the one testament to how mainstream moviemakers -- and audiences -- view gay people at this point in our history, and the extent to which they can accept them. Will it go any farther in the next decade?
Review: In My Life

This article is part of a series of The Bakla Review's "2000's Decade In Review". Check back often for more.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Survey Report: Your Favorite Films From Altarejos, Lamangan, and Pablo

The sidebar on this blog is getting unmanageably long, so it's time to retire some of the polls. For posterity, here are the results:

Which is your favorite Joselito Altarejos-Lex Bonife movie?
72 votes

62% Ang Lihim Ni Antonio
13% Ang Lalake Sa Parola
09% Little Boy/Big Boy
05% Kambyo
05% "I dislike them all."
02% "I haven't seen any."
Poll date: 8/27/09
*This poll was made prior to the release of Ang Laro Sa Buhay Ni Juan.

Which is your favorite movie by DMV Entertainment?
69 votes

34% "They suck."
33% Heavenly Touch
13% Walang Kawala
10% I Love Dreamguyz
08% "I haven't seen them."
Poll date: 11/21/09

Which is the best feature film by Crisaldo Pablo?
84 votes

32% Showboyz
22% "I dislike them."
14% Bathhouse
07% Duda/Doubt
07% Quicktrip
07% "I haven't seen any."
03% Bilog
03% Pitong Dalagita
01% Moreno
01% SEB: Cyber Game of Love
00% Metlogs
00% Retaso
Poll date: 8/29/09
*This poll was made prior to the release of Boylets and Campus Crush.

Now's your chance to weigh in on the responses. Surprised? Repulsed? Care to explain your choices? Let's talk about our movies! Maybe someone will hear us.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The 10 Gayest Pinoy Commercials of the Decade (2000-2009)

"That commercial is so gay!" You might think that's an insult, but not to us. The Bakla Review and The McVie Show put together a list of TV ads from the Philippines in the last ten years that are campy, outrageous, provocative, uplifting, or moving -- in short, those that have made a special connection with us, people like us, or the queer in anyone of us. Heck, they may have even convinced us to buy the product! (McVie painstakingly details our not-so-scientific process and criteria here.) These commercials are so gay, and we salute them.

10. Lucky Me! Pancit Canton "Almost Kiss"

McVie: Two guys, seemingly straight (or just straight-acting closeted ones?), are drawn together by their love of, uhm, noodles. This commercial gives new embodiment to the naughty phrase, “Pa-canton ka naman!”
TBR: I think it’s really sweet. I hear the longer version ends in bed, with less guilt.

9. Penshoppe "Cogie"

McVie: The ad is for a body cologne, yet while watching the young Cogie Domingo in his jailbait days, one forgets the cologne and just focuses on the body. Subtlety? Time to throw in the towel.
TBR: The 30-second definition of a cocktease. I hear girls swooning, or maybe they’re old men.

8. Bench "20 years"

McVie: Kris Aquino, sexy guys romping around the woods in skimpy underwear, Richard Gomez in his heyday—what is gay? Repeat from the top.
TBR: And they’re sprinkled with fairy dust! Or feathers. Or birds. It’s a testament to how gay the Bench ads have been through the years.

7. KFC "Shrimp"

McVie: Wonderful casting, wonderful acting, wonderful timing. Nothing’s overtly stated, and it’s not meant to be taken seriously.
TBR: They want to out their officemate so they can have an excuse to group hug.
(The clip above includes a spoof before the original ad.)

6. PLDT "Billy"

McVie: The success of this commercial lies in the gay punchline in the end, when the male mannequin is revealed. The commercial doesn’t make fun of being gay; rather, it shows the gay condition as is. It’s funny without being condescending.
TBR: Always the best man, never the bride.

5. Nesvita "Trio"

McVie: Guaranteed to give gay viewers a nosebleed thrice over, with Derek Ramsey, Chris Tiu and Will Devaughn. Towards the end, the camera lingers at the backside of Derek before panning up to him and he asks, “Want some?” Do we!
TBR: Okay guys, you win. You may seduce me now.

4. Sunkist "Basketball"

McVie: Audaciously funny. It is a gay man’s fantasy-come-true in full orange color—hot, cute basketball player with other hot, cute basketball players.
TBR: Sunkist should replace Gatorade during practice.

3. Ponds “Holding Hands”

McVie: The first time this came out, people were a-buzz the next day: “Did you see that Ponds commercial?” What made it even more impactful for me is the portrayal of the gay couple as something very ordinary and matter-of-fact. (Plus points for making them a gorgeous-looking one, but hey! This is advertising.) Now if only they had cast Hayden Kho instead of Maricar Reyes, this would have leapt to the top spot of this list.
TBR: Who hasn't fallen in love with this -- or them? I want to be in that kind of relationship, too. I don't care if some girl thinks she can steal my boyfriend away with her soft skin.

2. Ad Congress "Kiss"

McVie: Not only does the commercial flip over the hot-dude-meets-hot-chick set-up, it also subverts the old-fashion image of a gay man as a mujerista but instead shows him as straight-looking and straight-acting as any other guy. It misses being audaciously subversive by not showing a full-blown kiss, but hey.
TBR: A tear just ran down my cheek. Thank you for recognizing us.

1. Rexona "Everybody"

McVie: This commercial out-gays ‘em all because, not only does it show a gay man’s fantasy (hot men in towels), it shows them in abundance! And it’s a musical! Using a Backstreet Boys song! And it has Jordan Herrera at his hottest! Despite—or precisely because of—the guys’ macho posturing, this commercial goes way over the top and onto rainbow land. In the end when Jordan asks, “Wala ba kayong mga kamay?” we all feel like giving them a standing ovation, in more ways than one.
TBR: Yeah, it couldn’t get any gayer unless the towels came off. We were hypnotized by it, and we'll never recover.

Didn't Make The Cut:
Aside from the gamut of Bench spots that could easily fill its own top ten (see #8), we considered some hotdog commercials, just because they’re about hotdogs, and endorsements from personalities trailed by gay rumours – sometimes, they're also about hotdogs. Any commercial with hot guys was up to scrutiny, passing through the straight/gay litmus test. But it was hardest to say goodbye to these two undeniably gay creations: an uber-campy shampoo musical with perky ingenue Sandara Park, and a refreshingly sincere double entedre from macho symbol Robin Padilla.

Did we miss any of your favorites?

This article is part of a series of The Bakla Review's 2000's Decade in Review. Check back often for more.

Related Link:
Reviews of Commercials

Friday, December 18, 2009

Campus Crush

The campus in question is an alternate universe where everyone is gay. The students wear pink and yellow uniforms and organize events such as “Equality Week”. Strip away the whimsy, and the school operates as in any other teen flick: There are friendships, betrayals, unrequited loves, and everyone is trying to get into each other’s pants. The jocks do it for the bragging rights, as when the swim team make bets on shagging the biggest losers in campus, while the rich offer iPods in exchange for fellatio in the showers.

That’s the subversive challenge of the movie Campus Crush: In the great power struggle, whether you have It or not has little to do with gender. So why do people in the real world make an issue of homosexuality, when the driving factors are usually beauty, wealth, confidence, values (or the lack of it) -- everything but gender?

Arjay Carreon is the brooding, well-to-do alpha male with a sensitive side, while Joeffrey Javier is the poor, bad-postured nerd who’s a romantic idealist, and the two charismatic actors have incredible chemistry. In a showboating role as the flamboyant best friend, Chamyto is a blast of unpredictable comic energy.

Writer-Director-Producer Crisaldo Vicente Pablo, who helms the afternoon TV teen series Lipgloss, at the same time heads the direct-to-video line of gay erotica Queeriosity Video Project, has scored a mash-up of both. Campus Crush is a gay fantasy sex movie young comedy romance! Beat that. Yet the film also doesn’t escape the limitations of each genre, embracing even the shortcuts and unpolished craftsmanship. That makes it feel slighter than it ought to be, but it’s a lot of fun.


Related Links:
Movie Stills and Photos at Freshboysasia
Negative Review by Philbert Dy

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Walang Hanggang Paalam

Jake Roxas, with Rico Barrera

The quietly elegant Walang Hanggang Paalam spent the year floating in limbo with an X-rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). In the version that's finally allowed in theaters, we can vaguely make out the shadows behind the ban: The 16-year old girl (Lovi Poe) is too young to be running away with her boyfriend (Joem Bascon), whose sole mission is to claim her virginity, then cavort with a dying Japanese gentleman (Jacky Woo). They're all the while trailed by a private investigator (Jake Roxas) in a cruel gay relationship (with Rico Barrera). Oh, there's also incest, and in the X'ed original, an ejaculation scene, supposedly. Despite the elegiac mood, a potent sensuality curdles, and boo to the MTRCB for failing to see that this is what makes it a worthy piece of cinema.

At its best, Paalam plays like a tone poem, especially when intercutting between its lonesome characters -- such as in the opening where everyone shaves or clips hairs from their faces or bodies, then later, in their respective prison-like hotel rooms in the chilly mountains of Baguio. In short, the movie works best when the humans must be no more than symbolic pretty elements in deliberately composed tableaus. Filmmakers Paolo Villaluna and Ellen Ramos (Selda, Ilusyon) have finally found a subject that matches their fetishistic photography of still objects: Existentially troubled individuals who are no more alive or dead than the fog or the sunlight through the glass.

When they must interact, however, the movie thuds. It becomes clear as we watch that the characters possess only one dimension each. I'm convinced Jake Roxas was given a bad boyfriend just so he can spend the entire movie moping. And so with Jacky Woo and cancer. Joem Bascon, in case we miss that he's supposed to be horny, keeps thrusting his hips and pushing his girlfriend to do it. It's hard to see what else is in him that made him her prince. Lovi Poe, who's meant to connect and seduce and break free, only has layers of girlishness. It's telling that her boat ride with the older man is a bonding moment drowned out in music and impressionistic close-ups. Where there should have been drama, there's poses. I'd hate to think they're mere zombies awaiting their fates to arrive with the twist ending, but that's what they are.


Related Links:
Mixed Review by Philbert Dy
Review: Selda
Rico Barrera Photos

New Trailer: Bigasan

Tuesday, December 8, 2009