Favorite Foreign Films of 2014

Special Mention:
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, dir. Isao Takahata
20) The One I Love, dir. Charlie McDowell
19) Labor Day, dir. Jason Reitman
18) Wild, dir. Jean-Marc Vallee
17) The Lunchbox, dir. Ritesh Batra
16) Force Majeure, dir. Ruben Ostlund
15) Child's Pose, dir. Calin Peter Netzer
  14) Coherence, dir. James Ward Byrkit
13) Begin Again, dir. John Carney
  12) X-Men: Days of Future Past, dir. Bryan Singer
  11) Nightcrawler, dir. Dan Gilroy 
 10) The Way He Looks, dir. Daniel Ribeiro
 9) Under the Skin, dir. Jonathan Glazer
8) Snowpiercer, dir. Bong Joon-Ho

  7) Haemoo, dir. Shim Sung-bo

  6) Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II, dir. Lars Von Trier

5) The Imitation Game, dir. Morten Tyldum

  4) Gone Girl, dir. David Fincher
3) Whiplash, dir. Damien Chazelle
2) The Edge of Tomorrow, dir. Doug Liman

1) Mommy, dir. Xavier Dolan

Best Performance by an Actor:
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

 Honorable Mentions:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Miles Teller, Whiplash
JK Simmons, Whiplash
Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher

Best Performance by an Actress:
Anne Dorval, Mommy
Honorable Mentions:
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights
Essie Davis, The Babadook
Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
Luminita Gheorghiu, Child's Pose
Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac Vol. I

Rosamund Pike

Favorite TV Shows & Performances of 2014

Favorite Reality Show:
Shark Tank
Favorite TV Series:
Game of Thrones
Favorite TV Performance:
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

Favorite Filipino Films of 2014

English Only, Please
Directed by: Dan Villegas
Starring: Jennylyn Mercado, Derek Ramsay, Kean Cipriano, Cai Cortez
What is it about?
Julian Parker (Derek Ramsay) comes to Manila from New York with one goal: to perfectly dicate a Filipino translation of his angry letter to his ex-girlfriend with the help of Tere Madlansacay (Jennylyn Mercado), a perky Filipino-English tutor, he hired online. -Wikipedia
Why did it stand out?
English Only, Please doesn't have a never-before-seen plot, but the approach is refreshing especially when it's compared with the sequels that overpopulate the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Although the film adheres to the established formula of mainstream romantic comedies, it did so in a feel-good and entertaining way. Cleverly written by Dan Villegas and Antoinette Jadaone (the latter is also responsible for the next film in this list), the narrative takes its sweet time building its characters and their love story. The romance feels organic and their struggles feel real. It dwells on the things that we say as much as the things we don't or can't say. Jennylyn is terrific as lead, intelligently balancing the comedic fluff with authentic emotions. It isn't a surprise box office hit for nothing.
That Thing Called Tadhana
Directed by: Antoinette Jadaone
Starring: Angelica Panganiban, JM de Guzman
What is it about?
The film asks the question: where do broken hearts go? It tells the story of a woman struggling to meet airline baggage requirements and meets a man who comes to her aid. Both in despair out of love, they form a charming friendship that will take them to Sagada in their attempts to mend each other’s hearts. -Cinema One Originals
Why did it stand out?
After striking gold with the indie mockumentary Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, Antoinette Jadaone makes 2014 her banner year by directing successful studio offerings Relaks, It's Just Pag-ibig and Beauty In A Bottle. That Thing Called Tadhana brings Antoinette back to her indie roots. Mace (Angelica Panganiban) and Anthony (JM de Guzman) meets by happenstance, or as romantics put it, by fate. In the tradition of Richard Linklater's Before trilogy, the film eschews the traditional narrative with lengthy but insightful conversations between the two. They share stories of heartbreak and in the process develop an affection for each other. In the hands of a less skilled director, this could easily turn into a bore but Antoinette infuses the right amount of pop culture references (e.g. the John Lloyd jokes are runaway winners) to balance the dramatic gravitas. If you missed its limited run in Cinema One Originals, That Thing Called Tadhana will be back in theaters this February 4. Don't miss it!
Directed by: Milo Sogueco
Starring: Mylene Dizon, Ricky Davao, Barbie Forteza, Bing Pimentel, Che Ramos, Dennis Padilla, Mel Kimura
What is it about?
Unlike the former Philippine First Lady, Imelda (Mylene Dizon) is indifferent to shoes. To her, they are fraught with the bittersweet nostalgia of childhood, one that was marred by a difficult relationship with her shoe-maker father, Romeo (Ricky Davao). Growing up, all of hers were handmade by him. Now a mature woman, she takes a pivotal call from the morgue, spurring her search for the perfect pair of shoes for her dead father. The deeper she searches for the perfect shoes, the more she finds herself. -Cinemalaya
Why did it stand out?
I consider Mariquina the best Filipino film of 2014. It stands proud in the pantheon of the greatest Filipino family dramas ever written. The elegant screenplay written by Jerrold Tarog, coupled by the nuanced direction of Milo Sogueco, delivers this story of familial loss and regret with the appropriate sensitivity. Despite the subtle approach, it doesn't shy away from the hard-hitting dramatics when the situation calls for it. As with Jerrold's last film Sana Dati, Mariquina makes clever use of flashbacks to unravel the slow and painful disintegration of the relationship between husband and wife, father and daughter, and husband and second wife - all the while grounding this personal story in the rich history of Marikina shoemakers. The material is elevated further by the outstanding ensemble cast. Mylene is simply one of the most reliable actresses working in the industry today. Despite the walls that she put up to shield her emotions, we can see her eventually crumbling down as she makes her final amends with her father (albeit too late). Ricky, Barbie, Che, and Bing also deserve to be mentioned.
Barber's Tales
Directed by: Jun Lana
Starring: Eugene Domingo, Iza Calzado, Gladys Reyes, Eddie Garcia, Nicco Manalo, Noni Buencamino, Shamaine Buencamino
What is it about?
Barber's Tales tells the story of newly widowed Marilou (Eugene Domingo) who inherits the town's only barbershop from her husband - a business that has been passed down by generations of men in her husband's family. With no other means of support, she musters the courage to run the barbershop. But as to be expected, she fails to attract any customers. But a touching act of kindness she extended to Rosa (Sue Prado), a prostitute who works in the town brothel, leads to an unexpected opportunity. -IMDB
Why did it stand out?
Next to Lav Diaz's back-to-back feature, Barber's Tales is the most internationally acclaimed Filipino film of 2014. After its premiere in Tokyo (which gave Eugene a Best Actress win), it reaped accolades in international film festivals with its story of empowerment set in the martial law era. The film examines the patriarchal structure of a rural town where women are relegated to secondary roles in the family as well as in society in general. This is until Marilou tries to break the mold by assuming a role that is only given to men - initially, as the town's barber. This conflict is an allegory of the Filipino people's struggle to find their voice and to break free from the oppression during Ferdinand Marcos' reign as president.
Norte: Ang Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
Directed by: Lav Diaz
Starring: Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Mailes Kanapi, Hazel Orencio, Soliman Cruz, Mae Paner
What is it about?
An embittered law student commits a brutal double murder; a family man takes the fall and is forced into a harsh prison sentence; a mother and her two children wander the countryside looking for some kind of redemption. -Cinema Guild
Why did it stand out?
Norte is technically a 2013 film. It premiered in Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard section and then went on to receive numerous citations. One of which is being voted as one of the best films of 2013 by Sight & Sound, a distinguished UK magazine for cinephiles. In 2014, the general public finally took notice of this Lav Diaz masterpiece. What started out as single-screening runs (which were all sold out) turned into a one-week theatrical run, thus making Norte eligible to be submitted to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards. Norte's submission would probably be the closest we've ever been to a nomination since 2006's Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros. Norte is considered as Lav's most accessible film to date, but still proves to be a challenge to a lot of moviegoers (myself included). With a running time of more than four hours, a deliberate pacing, and a decidedly dour story, this arthouse favorite is tough to sit through. As soon as the narrative gets to a comfortable place, you'll be surprised as it takes another sharp turn to somewhere more sinister and dark. And that's exactly what makes Norte an engrossing film - it immerses the viewers in the lives of its three protagonists, takes them on a ride, and leaves them to the deepest end.
Sundalong Kanin
Directed by: Janice O'Hara
Starring: Nathaniel Brit, Isaac Cain Tangonan, Elijah Canlas, Akira Morishita, Ian de Leon, Marc Abaya, Gardo Verzosa, Enzo Pineda, Paolo O’Hara, Che Ramos, Art Acuna
What is it about?
Set during the Japanese Occupation, four friends (Nitoy, Benny, Carding, and Badong) aspire nothing more than to become soldiers fighting the Japanese... until they are confronted by the realities of war that threaten to destroy their families and their friendship. -Cinemalaya
Why did it stand out?
Sundalong Kanin can rival Norte's position as the "feel-bad movie of the year". While I use that term as a compliment, there is no denying how gut-wrenching this film turns out to be. It starts innocently with pre-pubescent boys playing as soldiers armed with their toy guns and slingshots. But as the threat of the clash between guerrilla forces and Japanese solders draw closer, these kids realize that this war is not a game - the casualties are real people and the battle is not on an even playing field. Developed from an unfinished script by Mario O'Hara, Sundalong Kanin bears the late director's trademark. It is ambitious, complex, and devastating. There are no easy answers and there are no real villains. Everyone is just trying to survive the war - whatever it may cost.
Directed by: Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
Starring: Shamaine Buencamino, Ma. Isabel Lopez, Racquel Villavicencio, Lav Diaz, Felix Roco
What is it about?
Lorna is a 60-year-old woman who decides to take a second chance at finding “the one.” But along the way, she discovers that love doesn’t get easier with age. -Cinema One Originals
Why did it stand out?
Unlike the previous films on this list, Lorna stands on the lighter side of the spectrum. This unconventional love story finds our titular character moving on from her failed relationship and coming to terms with a possibility of romance at an old age. Like Sigrid's previous effort, the outstanding Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita, this slice-of-life dramedy utilizes humor to expose some harsh realities - this time, about getting old and being alone. The viewers take on the perspective of Lorna, which is replete with fantasy sequences reminiscent of the late '90s TV show Ally McBeal. Despite this inventive storytelling technique, some of the directorial choices are clumsy and amateurish. But at the end of the day, Lorna will not be remembered for its technical filmmaking but for its heart - and its heart is definitely in the right place.
Directed by: Giancarlo Abrahan
Starring: Eula Valdez, Noni Buencamino, Martin del Rosario, Sandino Martin, Max Eigenmann
What is it about?
While the marriage of two professors is on the verge of falling apart, the woman is dragged into a scandal involving a young student. On the other hand, the man falls in love with his research - a deity (supernatural being) that appears to him as the ghost of an old flame. -Cinemalaya
Why did it stand out?
There's something about Dagitab that's difficult to shake off. I admit I wasn't floored when I first saw it in Cinemalaya last year. But as weeks pass and the more I think of it, the more I fall in love with the film and its individual moments. Dagitab is about these specific moments. As a whole, the film has an evanescent quality like the pivotal moments experienced by the characters themselves - the affair between the student and the teacher, the longing of the man to his lost love, and the unexplainable spark between two students. Like the flawed human beings that we are, these characters act on their whims as they try to capture a feeling that is fleeting and a moment that is just imagined. In a film filled with indelible moments, it's no surprise that the singular best scene of 2014 comes from Dagitab: the characters of Eula and Martin, the teacher and student, lies on the beach as waves crash against their bodies. With the director's technical prowess, the scene pictures the two as star-crossed lovers in the vast ocean of the universe. As you may have noticed, I can't help but wax poetry about this mesmerizing and unforgettable film. The moments linger and so does the feeling.
Directed by: Nick Olanka
Starring: Ai-Ai de las Alas, Carlos Morales, Cesar Montano, Angeli Bayani
What is it about?
A policewoman roams the city of Manila to fulfill her duties as a police patrol and to look for her lost son. -Cinemalaya
Why did it stand out?
Ronda is a love-it-or-hate-it film, which explains the mixed reviews it has received. There isn't a lot of plot to push the film forward, it's just a policewoman inside a police car doing her rounds in the urban jungle that is Manila. What it lacks in plot, it makes up for in atmosphere. The ominous atmosphere leaves the viewers with an uncomfortable feeling that something bad is about to happen. Ai-Ai anchors Ronda with a strong center. Her character Paloma is in almost every scene. She exhibits the complex emotions of a mother worried for her missing son and a person striving to protect her secrets. What irks most people is how the film ended when we find out what happened to Paloma's son. In its final moments, the film abruptly cuts to black as Paloma makes her discovery and finally bares her concealed emotions. But for me, that's exactly what makes Ronda brilliant. It teases us in its entire running time, even up to the very end.
Directed by: Gino Santos
Starring: Elmo Magalona, Coleen Garcia, Sophie Albert, Kit Thompson, Slater Young, Chynna Ortaleza
What is it about?
#Y chronicles the adventures of the members of a generation made universal by the realms of social media, the internet, sex, drugs and alcohol, and the occasional YOLO. -Cinemalaya
Why did it stand out?
Gino's last Cinemalaya film The Animals may be derivative of British teen drama Skins, but his latest effort is wholly original especially when taken into the Philippine landscape. He may just as well become the poster boy of upper middle-class Gen Y. Sure, we get a lot of juvenile dramas on TV and on the big screen but they usually don't go deep enough. The usual mainstream fare trades the ugly realities with cotton-candy love stories. #Y skips the pleasantries and pretensions. It begins with an attempted suicide, as it ponders on relevant issues like alienation and peer pressure. With the "always on, always connected" disposition of today's youth, it's such a shame that these kids are still struggling with detachment and alienation. #Y perfectly captures the teenage psyche with a visual panache and style to boot - the first-person, almost-narcissistic voiceovers; the streaks of neon lights and the "ecstasy" of living life to the fullest; and the shallowness of it all.
Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles 2
Directed by: Erik Matti
Starring: Dingdong Dantes, Isabelle Daza, Joey Marquez, Lotlot de Leon, KC Montero, Ramon Bautista, Bogart the Explorer, Jun Sabayton, Elizabeth Oropesa
What is it about?
A family of bloodthirsty monsters descends on the city to take revenge on the man that caused the death of so many of their own. - IMDB
Why did it stand out?
Kubot has all the qualities of a typical MMFF entry - it's a family-friendly sequel with big-name  celebrities. Despite its seemingly run-off-the-mill box-office trappings, this horror-comedy offers a bit of a diversion. Kubot doesn't take itself too seriously, which is its biggest strength. The tongue-in-cheek humor and B-movie approach are spot-on for this kind of material. This is coupled with the great comedic talents in front of the camera. Joey delivers some of the best jokes; while Ramon, Jun, Bogart, and Lotlot are great additions to the cast. Erik delivers his directorial vision with enough bravura and energy. The film could stand to have less CGI in favor of prosthetics and practical effects, but the choreography of the slow motion action sequences are just riveting. The end credits scene gives us a sneak peek of what to expect in Part 3. I just hope that Erik will go deeper into the aswang mythology. With great comedy, rich storyline, and action-packed sequences, The Aswang Chronicles is shaping up to be a formidable franchise in mainstream Filipino cinema.
Once again, here’s the full list in ascending order of preference:
11) English Only, Please, dir. Dan Villegas
10) Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles 2, dir. Erik Matti
9) Lorna, dir. Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
8) That Thing Called Tadhana, dir. Antoinette Jadaone
7) Norte: Ang Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, dir. Lav Diaz
6) #Y, dir. Gino Santos
5) Dagitab, dir. Giancarlo Abrahan
4) Ronda, dir. Nick Olanka
3) Sundalong Kanin, dir. Janice O'Hara
2) Barber's Tales, dir. Jun Lana
1) Mariquina, dir. Milo Sugueco
Special Mention:
Nakabibinging Kadiliman, dir. Paolo O'Hara (short)

Best Performance by an Actor:
Ricky Davao, Mariquina
Honorable Mention:
Nicco Manalo, The Janitor
Archie Alemania, Norte
Nathaniel Britt, Sundalong Kanin
Sid Lucero, Norte
Nonie Buencamino, Dagitab
Best Performance by an Actress:
Sheenly Gener, Nakabibinging Kadiliman
Honorable Mention:
Ai-Ai De Las Alas, Ronda
Mylene Dizon, Mariquina
Mailes Kanapi, Norte
Chynna Ortaleza, #Y
Bing Pimentel, Mariquina
Divine Aucina
*Published in Philippine Entertainment Portal: http://www.pep.ph/guide/photos/5667/standout-filipino-films-of-2014

Favorite Foreign Films of 2013

Favorite Foreign Films of 2013:
1) Blue Is The Warmest Color, dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
2) Before Midnight, dir. Richard Linklater
3) Blancanieves, dir. Pablo Berger
4) Gravity, dir. Alfonso Cuaron
5) The Wolf of Wall Street, dir. Martin Scorsese
6) Spring Breakers, dir. Harmony Korine
7) Captain Phillips, dir. Paul Greengrass
8) 12 Years A Slave, dir. Steve McQueen
9) Ilo Ilo, dir. Anthony Chen
10) Keep The Lights On, dir. Ira Sachs
11) Pacific Rim, dir. Guillermo del Toro
12) Stoker, dir. Park Chan Wook
13) The Congress, dir. Ari Folman
14) Short Term 12, dir. Destin Daniel Cretton
15) Metro Manila, dir. Sean Ellis

Special Mention:
Safe Haven (segment of VHS 2)
Best Performance by an Actor:
Leonardo Dicaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Honorable Mentions:
James Franco, Spring Breakers
John Arcilla, Metro Manila
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave
Best Performance by an Actress:
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight

Honorable Mentions:
Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue Is The Warmest Color
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years A Slave
Paulina Garcia, Gloria

Brie Larson

Favorite Filipino Films of 2013

 Favorite Filipino Films of 2013:
1) Sana Dati, dir. Jerrold Tarog
2) On The Job, dir. Erik Matti
3) Purok 7, dir. Carlo Obispo
4) Badil, dir. Chito Rono

5) Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita, dir. Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
6) Transit, dir. Hannah Espia
7) Kabisera, dir. Borgy Torre
8) Babagwa, dir. Jason Paul Laxamana
9) Blue Bustamante, dir. Miko Livelo
10) Debosyon, dir. Alvin Yapan
Best Performance by an Actor:
Joel Torre, Kabisera

Honorable Mentions:
Joey Paras, Babagwa
Art Acuna, Kabisera
TJ Trinidad, Sana Dati
Jhong Hilario, Badil
Marc Justine Alvarez, Transit
Best Performance by an Actress:
Lovi Poe, Sana Dati
Honorable Mentions:
Irma Adlawan, Transit
Krystle Valentino, Purok 7
Vilma Santos, Ekstra
Angel Aquino, Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita
Cherie Gil, Sonata


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