Category Archives: Entertainment

Sunday’s Beauty Queen is an Engaging Documentary


Rating:  Must watch


On the last day of the long holiday, we watched this year’s MMFF Best Picture winner, Sunday’s Beauty Queen. I’m glad to see the movie gaining more audience after its win.

The first three movies we watched, Saving Sally, ABSST FINE and even Die Beautiful had very low patronage rates. Maybe because we watched the LFS. It’s regrettable how we fail to appreciate artistic work and would rather get our fill from tried and tested formulas with shallow and predictable plots. The entrepreneurs in the movie industry might use these outcomes to go back to its old ways..I’m crossing my fingers and pouting.

Going back…SBQ deserves the nod it got from the Board of Jurors. The four-year in the making documentary was meticulously edited to showcase equally the lives of the five subjects. This is the kind of movie to see on a day off when one wants entertainment and just the right drama. It focuses on that one day off, their Sunday, when the subjects become queens and they forget all their troubles and the weariness of being a domestic helper in HK. It isn’t emotionally taxing and not your tear jerker of an OFW movie like Vilma Santos’s Anak. It’s not a conflict-filled movie. Yet, one feels for the characters when they shed real tears for the conscious disengagement from their emotions about what is missed back home…. their children, family and the important milestones. The movie is not about the important persons in their lives. References are made just to help the movie goers understand their situations and priorities.



The focus is clearly on the subjects representing the 190k domestic helpers or DH in HK and their lives in the land of opportunity that is also a place of drudgery…. like a double edged sword. There is no escaping and there are no real choices.

How that one day hie them off to a life of bliss, gaiety and splendor by being beauty contestants who momentarily forget who they are until they snap out of it and is reminded of their curfew.

The exposures of the subjects are brief and sometimes just fleeting. Yet, one will know what their stories are even without the heavy, gut-wrenching dialogues…. just plain story telling that tugs at the heart. Despite their circumstances, they don’t sulk and do not fall into a victim’s trap. They are, in fact, empowered and rise above their circumstances. One of them had the presence of mind to stand her ground against a cruel employer who fired her at midnight for failing to make it to her curfew.

The testimonials of the employers put into perspective the worth of the sacrifices of foreign domestic helpers. In an employee-employer relationship that is seen as mutually beneficial by both sides, the Filipina DH will ensure that their households are run efficiently and with love. It is a feel good movie because all five subjects are shown in a good light with their appreciative employers or while preparing for the pageant.  What about the rest?


Beautifully interspersed are familar HK living scenes …. the modern island cityscape, the cramped condo living, the ubiquitous train rides, the octopus…. In a modern city, it is ironic that their labor laws are still biased against foreign workers…. the big difference in pay with their local counterparts, the 14-day deadline to to find a new employer to be able to stay once fired….

The movie has its own share of political statements. It touches on the inability and/or unwillingness of our government to help our OFW in times of their need. All the hype on their being the new heroes is just hot air after all. They are left on their own and our government does little or nothing to protect them. There is also the subliminal message that the Pinoy diaspora is the only viable option for those seeking a better life. They would readily trade the comfort of working here surrounded by loved ones and friends for underemployment with a good pay abroad. Why the subjects who are college grads and undergrads chose to become DH in HK is most telling of this truism.

The movie ends with a successor of the Miss Tourism pageant… With all the hoopla and preparation, the story follows through on the subjects’ lives … their future, their ambitions and aspirations and their choices.


Coming out of movie, one feels that Filipinos associated with being a DH is not really a stigma. Filipino domestic helpers, after all, help in shaping a family, a household, an economy …. as they allow family members they serve to pursue their aspirations and dreams while sacrificing their own. They channel their loneliness into service with love for their wards. For this, Filipina DH are a rare breed of workers. Any household should be lucky to be served by them.

Go watch this Cinema Evaluation Board rated A movie and help inspire independent filmmakers to make realistic movies and documentaries that inspire us to rise above our circumstances without being preachy.

Postscript:  Like my wish for  Saving Sally  and other indie entries, I hope that Sunday’s Beauty Queen will get its due recognition in terms of nods from international awards giving bodies and viewership and cash receipts too from the global movie going public.

(This was originally posted in my FB status while the MMFF was ongoing and I was among those promoting the indie entries.)

Photo credits:  Grabbed from the internet.

The Artistry in Saving Sally


Rating:  Amazed


Finally got started with a feel good, visually orgasmic novelty of a film for this year’s MMFF. How I managed to squeeze in a movie date on a work day with my hard-nosed son is an interesting back story in itself. Suffice it to say that I made a good pitch by nicely asking him to accompany me to an animated and 2D film in English. The popcorn bribe worked well in quelling the brewing dissent. So we got to watch the LFS of a movie that took 12 years of painstaking work, no… make that artistry… to finish. It is worth the wait and every cent I paid for the tickets and the bribe treat.

It is a typical love story with all the pain of unrequited love and the protracted pleasure of saving-sally-5enduring love winning over all obstacles. With the protagonists drawn against the animated backdrop of what is obviously a stylized Metro Manila,  moviegoers are not only engaged in the unfolding love story and its many twists but are constantly examining the celluloid for those bits and pieces of symbolism in the animation that give away the moods and feelings of the main protagonists. The few characters appearing in this film make for a good balance of simplicity in the story and relatability in their roles.  The movie is in English, yet it is not the annoying sounding coño (conyo)-accented, shrill way delivery of some Filipinos.  It’s spoken the way a Filipino speaks English naturally which is unslang and not irritating.  All characters delivered their English dialogues in sync with their roles.


There are the usual twists …. the school bully, the dick of a boyfriend,  abusive elders and being in a rut…. that provided the conflicts in the film leading to a foregone conclusion.

Even a home is not a refuge….


While the movie is about Sally (Rhian Ramos), Marty’s downtrodden character played by Enzo Marcos is the one I empathize with the most. Rhian is a good actress who played Sally just with the right amount of characterization to show the complex emotions of a beautiful abused girl who takes great risks for a shot of happiness.  Enzo’s looks and laidback acting defined Marty’s character, one who won’t lift a finger to take a risk even if his heart is bursting with love, disappointment or anger.  It’s so believable that Enzo becomes Marty and vice-versa.   One that we want to give a bit of slapping or shaking up and push to do what he is supposed to do.  At certain points, Marty becomes so irritatingly wimpy that we just like to flick our fingers for him to snap out of it.  The good-looking and suave TJ Trinidad also fits the dick-boyfriend to a T.  The parents and foster parents are all in character and gave believable performances.

Now, let’s talk some more about the artistry which maybe one of the reasons the movie was 12 years in the making aside from lack of funds.  This long delay is another good back story  in itself.  It’s a story of patience, resilience and steel determination.  The attention to detail is unmistakable.  The artworks look like a veritable collection with the minutest details executed in intricate drawings to create the stunning moving visuals that live action meshes with wonderfully.   Just take a look at all these photos.  The imaginary world of Marty was clearly plotted like how the makers want us to see what’s in his mind.    The clever play on words can be seen in these artworks as well.  Try to notice the pun and subtle suggestions made by places like Sandara Park (a Korean singer, actress and host  who appeared in some Filipino shows and movies), Tuk Mall (dumb ass) , Ka Wawa (pitiful)’s Store, Washing Well (referring to a laundry), Kosmik Komiks and more puns that can elicit a smile or a chuckle.

The details are not lost too on the major places that are part of the everyday life of Sally and Marty.  As residents of the metro, one cannot miss the uncanny similarity.

You should watch this movie not because it’s been rated A by the Cinema Evaluation Board of the Film Development Council of the Philippines but because you want to see for yourself that my view is not at all an exaggeration. To prove my point, as the credits were running, I asked my son what he thinks of the movie. He replied, “luv it”…. not an easy admission for someone coerced and bribed to watch this movie.


Let’s patronize all entries in the 2016 MMFF…. so much for escapist craps we had been served in the past. These indie films are gems that mark a renaissance in Philippine cinema.

Postscript:  I do hope that  Saving Sally will be shown to the global audience and get appreciated better.  It’s unfortunate that movie goers would much rather watch blockbusters and commercial films than one made with painstaking labor of love.

(This was originally posted in my FB status while the MMFF was ongoing and I was one of the warriors wanting the film to succeed.  For this review, I beefed up the original post.)

Photo credits:  Grabbed from the internet.

La la Land is What Dreams are Made of

Rating:  Blown away

I treated myself to a movie alone one cool evening in late January.  A record for mv5bndyxmtixmtg0m15bml5banbnxkftztgwntexnte4ote-_v1_me as  I have not watched a movie alone all this time. Not that it’s a big deal….but company is usually around and I always thought it’s fun to watch a movie with someone…Before watching this movie, I tried several times to find company but time and circumstance won’t allow me to have one.  So I had to do what I got to do ….. and I’m glad I did…. coz I got to take it all in.  It helped that I watched the movie on its last week’s run and we, a handful of movie goers, practically had the theater to ourselves.  With this feat, I ought to do more little and big things on my own.  My mind is on scrolling mode…

One more self-record is I didn’t blink once, afraid I might miss out on something good, bad or ugly.  I had a bad right ear watching this movie and I can’t quite hear well on my right ear.  So watching a musical only half-hearing the song and dance routines was a huge handicap.  I had to keep both eyes open throughout the film.  It didn’t take much effort, really.  The movie was visually captivating from beginning to end.  I cannot even afford to look at my drink as I grope for it on my seat’s cup holder… or maybe the other seat’s 🙂

Going back to the subject, it is almost a dream come true that I watched this endearing… this darling of a movie.  I say that without exaggeration.  It should easily make it to my all-time favorites.  No movie has made me feel this good in a long time… I am reminded of  Heaven Can Wait (1978)Somewhere in Time (1980), Steel Magnolias (1989)Driving Miss Daisy (1990),  Pretty Woman (1990),  As Good as it Gets (1997), Sweet Home Alabama (2002)The Notebook (2004).  Yes, it’s that long…  La La Land has the same elements as these movies.  I can watch it over and over again and still get the same laugh, affection, tears each time I do.  Put it on and I’ll lose myself in it anytime of the day.  I bet my bottom dollars you will too.  You won’t regret streaming these at Netflix or catching it on cable TV.


Sebastian unloading his obsession to Mia who doesn’t like Jazz

As of this posting, La La Land is on a roll as it continues to make good in every conceivable major awards bodies.  Consider:

  1. La La Land Breaks Golden Globe Records
  2. La La Land Sweeps Critics’ Choice Awards
  3. SAG Awards 2017:  Emma Stone wins Best Actress for La La Land
  4. La La Land wins big at BAFTAs
  5. La La Land ties all-time record for Oscar nominations set by “Titanic” and “All About Eve ”  with 14 nominations
  6. How has La La Land fared so far?

It is a major contender in the upcoming Oscars.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it hauls most of the awards.  To be fair, I have not watched any of the other nominees because I am not really an avid movie fan but just an occasional movie goer.  When I do watch a movie in a cinema, it must have pass muster of the most rabid critics or created a buzz.  Even La La Land was not on my radar after my traditional MMFF movie dates with ED, MD and even OS in December ( I’ll soon be reposting my previous reviews on some of the entries and other films I deemed view-worthy here.  In case you got nothing to do a weekend, you might want to pick one of these movies from your content providers.

What’s with that title anyway… how could that even entice casual movie goers like me to watch a movie that sounds like a song sang without thought when one is washing the dishes or doing the laundry.  Webster defines La La Land as the mental state of someone who is not aware of what is really happening.  I was right about my initial thought.  The whimsical title is also used as a nickname for Los Angeles, California.  In retrospect, it is an apt title for the movie set in a place where dreams are made, pursued and lived.

After the movie broke the Golden Globe records for the most wins and friends started talking about it, my curiosity got pique.  A friend who watched it posted a question on his FB news feed:  You know what I like about La La Land …… All that Jazz.  A clear bait for the music lover in me.

To sum up my feelings for this movie….. La La Land is the kind of movie that makes one take it all in without feeling satiated… It’s a glorious throwback to old musicals and a lot more.  It is a bittersweet film can easily make an emotional connection in our contemporary existence.  It was heart-melting and heart-breaking at various points in the story that I could almost feel my heart bouncing and tearing apart.


That’s pizzazz

For another ordinary story of love, struggle and dream come true, it’s a long shot that a musical can achieve this rare feat at a time when bigness, boldness and being epic seem to be the norm in the movie making industry .  La La Land was the dark horse  pushed out to be a formidable contender and eventual winner by being the escape that we can all use sometimes … It’s been bruited to have brought back the glam in Hollywood.  I couldn’t agree less.

The performances do not look like well-rehearsed numbers but casual, fun, sometimes playful nuanced take offs from what’s being portrayed.  The performers glide off from the scenes beautifully.  Sebastian and Mia’s performances on their own merits are nothing to rave about, really… considering both are not really singers nor dancers.  Yet their song and dance numbers gave this dazzling movie the pizzazz I have not seen for sometime….. Maybe, it’s the music, the production design, the screenplay, Mia and Sebastian’s chemistry…. probably a combination of some or all of these.  Those performances are just magical.

The movie gives off this energetic excitement that is contagious.  I was glued from the colorful opening song and dance number until the last … One cannot get enough of Director Damien Chazelle’s  execution of creative, well-thought of, heart-warming performances.  The ethereal planetarium waltz number is reminiscent of old Hollywood.  I was light- hearted as the lovestruck Sebastian and Mia were effortlessly lifted and was float-dancing on a galaxy of stars.


So heavenly

Chazelle managed to infuse realities subtly that is heartfelt as we were being dazzled scene after scene in this whimsical and colorful extravaganza…..

Who wasn’t affected when the first crack in Sebastian and Mia’s couplesome showed during what was supposed to be a pleasant dinner at Sebastian’s place after being away from each other, that turned awry?  Who was rooting for Sebastian  when he appeared at Mia’s home and stubbornly told her he’ll be waiting for her in the morning?  And that good feeling when Mia appeared all of a sudden as Sebastian was about to leave the morning after…. Who didn’t share Mia and Sebastian’s ambivalence as they talked about their future right after Mia’s apparent triumph in that last audition?  Who did not feel that pinch in their hearts as Mia and Sebastian gave a last knowing look at each other as the movie closes?  We all did, right?

It was too much of a good movie for a sucker like me and I’ve no one to share my feelings with… sob.  Watching the movie felt like Cleopatra getting pampered by four maidens while lying on 1000 count 100% Egyptian cotton bed linen clad luxury mattress in the middle of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon … It dazzled and it felt good in one swoop.

I am unsure, though, if the end is how we want the protagonists to end up.  One can look at the final scenes and have different views on the  outcome.  At the end of the film, I was misty-eyed…  I couldn’t stop envisioning the beautiful montage of a happy ever after for a lovely couple weighed down by an unfortunate compromise… the pursuit of their dreams.  I realized that when Sebastian said  “Maybe you just liked me when I was on my ass because it made you feel better about yourself” to Mia during that awful dinner, he might be right.  If we think hard in our couple’s life, the initial sparkle of fresh romance is easily traded for the lure of success by the more ambitious among us.  La La Land made it clearer to us.

La La Land (2016) Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

Happily ever after?

Sebastian and Mia’s love may have been destined to be ill -fated from the start but in the end they are both certain that their love trancends the limitation imposed on them by their circumstances….a cliche that we just have to accept.  While they may not have ended up like we we want them to… both are happy for the how the other’s luck finally turned up.  We just have to believe them when they said to each other, Ï will always love you” even if that means letting go just when things fell in place.   I’m almost sure that love, like hope, springs eternal.


With One More Look

I’d like to make reference to those harsh reviews that put color to the love of jazz, music in general and hate the film for not staying true to how certain music aficionados define jazz or how the movie is not realistic enough because of inconsistencies.  Honestly, I think that is not the intention of the movie to be real.  All movies are fictionalized whether it is based on real life or made up.  It is supposed to be an escapist medium to take our minds off our realities even for two hours or so.  Otherwise, just pick your broadsheet or go the the news media page to get a taste of real life.  What do these people want anyway.  Let Chazelle’s kind of creativity permeate Hollywood and let us, La La fans, have our hearts filled.

Other reviews:                                                                                                                                                      The Telegraph:  La La Land:  You’ll leave with a tear in your eye and a song in your heart        If you didn’t love La La Land, are you dead inside? La La Land is a spectacle of pure cinema

Photo credits:  Grabbed from the internet