Thursday, August 31, 2006

THE SUPERSTAR'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION IN ASAP!


This clip was from Ate Guy's birthday celebration in ASAP a couple of years ago. The Superstar guested in the show to promote The Power Of Two US Concert Tour with Pop Diva Kuh Ledesma. Here she's being serenaded by today's most popular love teams with songs from her most successful films. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

CANDID NORA



I love these pictures of Ate Guy when she's just plain having fun. I took this photo right after dinner and when I asked her to strike a pose, she did it the baklang-bakla way. This is not just your average pictorial session. It comes complete with stories about her career. I remember someone asking what her favorite movies are and she quickly answered Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Himala, Bona, Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo, Bakit Bughaw Ang Langit? Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit and Pacita M. What about The Flor Contemplacion Story? someone muttered, Ate Guy just raised her eyebrows, he then said Ang taray! Ayaw ng Flor Contemplacion samantalang doon siya nanalo ng International Award! The Superstar also told us about the personal significance of Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos. She was having marriage and finacial troubles at the time. Ate Guy thought they won't be able to finish filming due to lack of funds. But her resourcefulness triumphed in the end. Alkitrang Dugo was a mild hit at the box office and she used the films' meager earnings to finish the movie. Lagi namang nagkakaroon ng problema pag nagpo-produce ako, she said. And the result was her triumphant win when she was named Best Actress by the Manunuri Ng Pelikulang Pilipino's very first Gawad URIAN and subsequently the FAMAS for her astounding performance in the Mario O'Hara masterpiece Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

NV GARMENT



This picture was taken inside the Superstar' dressing room a couple of years ago during the second leg of her highly successful Power Of Two US Concert Tour with Pop Diva Kuh Ledesma in Virginia Beach. While Ate Guy was onstage rehearsing her number, I was asked to watch her personal effects while Albert (Sunga) attended to the Superstar's needs. I placed my camera on timer mode and took a photo of this stunning Nono Palmos creation she wore at the Manila Film Festival Awards Night when the Superstar was named Best Actress for the film Naglalayag. I also took a picture of Ate Guy's shoes. Look how small her feet are! It was one of those rare opportunities I had... watching over the Superstar's personal belongings.

Monday, August 28, 2006

PERFORMANCES OF THE AGE


By Joel David

As Published From The National Pastime For Contemporary Philippine Cinema

Award-sweeping became the in thing, what with the addition of more and overlapping bodies to the already flourishing FAMAS, URIAN, MMFF, and CMMA to wit, the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC) with its STAR Awards and the Film Academy Of The Philippines (FAP). Two of these, the FAP and the FAMAS, claim to be industry-based recognitions, although the FAP is more systematically organized according to guilds; this advantage of legitimacy also brings with it the disadvantage of the prevalence of popularity choices, just as between the URIAN and STAR, the former may comprise a number of serious critics, but the latter possesses the humility necessary for thoroughgoing review and evaluation processes

Despite the propensity of these groups, both collectively and as individual bodies, in setting records for favored artists, the outstanding performance of the period belongs to that of Nora Aunor in Himala, which was honored only by the Metro Manila Film Festival. Ms. Aunor had been possessed with a search for superior acting vehicles, and threw away a lot of her own money in the process, since in essence she mostly had to run against the preferences of her mass supporters. With Lino Brocka she made perceptible strides in ensuring her lead over the rest of the pack, particularly in Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo and Bona. But all that was really required of her was a project that had enough scope to demonstrate her far-reaching prowess, with a minimum of editorial manipulation. In Himala the director and writer seemed to have agreed to a mutual stand-off, thus amplifying the theatrical potential of an expansive locale with a protracted takes, stage-trained talents ensured the competent execution of histrionic stylizations, with the climax set on an open-air platform before a hysterical audience. It was a truly great actress' opportunity of a lifetime, and Nora Aunor seized it and made it not just her role, but her film as well.

Not since Anita Linda in Gerardo de Leon's Sisa (circa the First Golden Age Of Philippine Cinema) had there been such a felicitous exploitation by a performer of ideal filmaking conditions and in this instance, Himala has the decided advantage of being major-league and universal. Other consistent stand-outs during the period - and these would be formidable enough as they are demand to be taken in terms of body of work, not any individual movie. Vic Silayan for Ligaw Na Bulaklak, Kisapmata and Karnal, Gina Alajar for Brutal, Salome, Moral and Kapit Sa Patalim Bayan Ko and Nora Aunor for whatever title she appeared in during the eighties, regardless of budget, intention, or box-office result. Record-setters of this period, specifically Phillip Salvador, Nida Blanca, and Vilma Santos, deserve mention only for the skills and supreme good fortune necessary in attaining their respective feats. Among newcomers, only Jaclyn Jose of Private Show and Takaw Tukso seems to hold forth promise of an order comparable to most of those listed herein.


Friday, August 25, 2006

NORA AUNOR: BEST ACTRESS OF 1982

The Best Of 1982

by Mina Paras

As Published In Parade Magazine January 19, 1983 Pages 4-7

This year’s bumper crop of movies plus the inspired performances of old reliables and even, surprisingly, from greenhorns in the trade, made the task of critics and observers of the local movie industry a little harder than usual. Parade asked five critics, a television host-producer, and a prize-winning novelist for their choices as the pick for 1982. Not surprisingly, the Parade panel disagreed in some categories and were unanimous in others.

Wilfrido Nolledo

Novelist, Screenwriter, Film Critic

Ding Nolledo belongs to the Scriptwriters Guild and so, for the past year, has confined himself to reviewing foreign movies. "For delicadeza," so he patiently explains, after having thought of choices for 1982 (which turned to be a list of imported films, a result of miscommunication).

Pressed for his opinions, though, he confesses to liking Himala "very much" but mentions that he hasn’t seen Oro Plata Mata. Himala, Ding justifies, because the film exudes "raw power," not to mention the excellent acting and the direction, which was like early Fellini, especially the middle part."

Ding doesn’t agree with Moral’s rave reviews because "I’ve seen Moral in about 369 other films." It’s not that original, he implies.

As for best actress, it’ll have to be Nora in Himala. "She reminds me of the young Anna Magnani. Besides, the script fitted her to a T. The role practically coincides with what she is in real life."

Mario Hernando

Film Critic

Best Films:

(in the order of preference)

Oro, Plata, Mata and Batch ’81

Relasyon and Himala

Moral

Best Directors:

(in no particular order)

Ishmael Bernal for Relasyon and Himala

Peque Gallaga for Oro Plata Mata

Mike de Leon for Batch ’81

Actresses:

Vilma Santos for Relasyon

Nora Aunor for Himala and Uod At Rosas

Sandy Andolong for Moral and Oro Plata Mata

Gina Alajar for Moral

Actors:

Mark Gil for Batch ’81 and Palipat-Lipat, Papalit-Palit

Joel Torre for Oro Plata Mata

Christopher de Leon for Relasyon

"Most movies are usually flawed, and those in my list are no exception. However, apart from the standard criteria I am applying to them (the classic from and content balance), I am giving much weight on impact and emotional power. So, my top two are Oro and Batch. Himala is an ambitious film and much flawed, but it has visual beauty and emotional wallop. Relasyon is more modest in scope, but I think is more successful on its own terms. Moral has many good things going for it, from direction and writing, to performances, but it does not match the four other films in impact (though it has some moving moments) and originality."

Hammy Sotto

Film Critic

Hammy Sotto, Manunuri, must have been inspired by the witching hour (translate that into 1:05 a.m., 11th hour as of presstime) so much so that he raves - and bewitching so - about his choices for the best of 1982.

Says Hammy on the phone: "I pick Oro Plata Mata as best film because it’s a landmark in Visayan dramaturgy. Never before has the carefree life of the sugar baron been so accurately and meticulously recorded on film.

"Peque Gallaga doesn’t pretend to any fixed ideology and the film can only be taken as a set of reminiscences of a ‘Golden Age’ forever gone. But Peque’s brilliant direction lifts the material above its nostalgia trip and makes out of it a vivid behavioral comment on the Saint/Beast known as the Filipino."

His other choice is Batch ’81. States Hammy: "The most interesting aspects of Batch ’81 are the invisible ones. On the surface the film tackles the initiation of aspiring neophytes into quasi-tribal fraternities. But Mike de Leon consciously or unconsciously imbues the action with so much double meaning, the gory initiation rites become a disturbing metaphor of our times.

"I don’t find particular merit in any actor or actress but I must make special mention of Ariosto Reyes as a supporting actor in Uod at Rosas wherein his facial gestures measured to the milliliter the abrupt descent into suicide."

Peque Gallaga as director turned out as a real surprise in Oro, Hammy claims. "This is the first film of Peque that I saw. He shows a very solid grasp of blocking and his camera angles were perfect." Hammy explains that "the first things I look for when I watch a movie is the blocking and positioning of camera because to me that reveals directorial command."

Hammy adds: "Peque was able to bring the movie to life with rich details culled from his own experience, which was not, could not have been, scripted. He gives it an energy that could only have come from experience and firsthand knowledge."

Celso Carunungan

Screenwriter, Novelist

Celso Carunungan makes it a point to see a movie once a month however busy he is serving on seven boards, just to "keep in touch."

He considers Himala the best choice for 1982 for a lot of reasons: "For one thing, I believe it has what’s been lacking in our movies for a long time—a good story. Lack of good materials, stereotype characters, and predictable plots have been plaguing the local movie scene for a long time, and most movies are strengthened only by bold scenes.

"Himala is beautiful in the sense that it’s never been done before and it’s honest. It reminds me of Biyaya Ng Lupa, a movie I wrote during the Sixties.

"To me, the acting of Nora is one of the highlights of the film. I didn’t expect her to act like that. She was very disciplined. There was no attempt to glamorize her and make her pretty. It was all honest.

"Dindo Fernado I consider the best actor in the land. It’s a pity that he’s never given a good vehicle.

"For the first time, I’m opening the subject: I’m doing the story for a movie on Rizal with Samuel Bronston (producer of El Cid, 55 Days in Peking) and of course, he’ll get an internationally famous actor-star for the title role but I want to have Dindo in the movie. I haven’t talked to him about the project yet, though.

"There is a kind of artistic integrity in Dindo that I don’t find in others. It comes from his confidence, his maturity.

"I think Ishmael Bernal is the best director and I’m looking forward to work with him. He is more sensitive and more poetic than the others."

Nestor Torre, Jr.

Film Critic

Nestor Torre gave a pretty little speech of apology for "Not having seen most of the movies shown the past year since I’ve been busy with my stage and theater productions, "but of the ones he’s seen, he qualifies, he finds Batch ’81 the best movie made in 1982.

"The movie had something very important to say and it communicated it very well." His choice of best director naturally ties in with his choice of film. "Mike de Leon did his job so well," he reiterates.

As for his choice of best actor, it’s Mark Gil, "unless I’ve forgotten somebody else." It’s Mark Gil because "he was perfect in that role as somebody who was waiting to discover the violence within him."

As for the best actress, it’s Nora Aunor in Himala. "It was a good role, and she communicated it very well. At least, Nora wasn’t api here for a change, It was quite a complicated role, but she handled it very well."

Other choices were Gina Alajar and Lorna Tolentino in Moral. "Gina was very good in Moral, and she would have been perfect, but the problem was her makeup and costume which made her look freakish in the movie. I mean, no one looks like that in real life." (Just for the record, this writer disagreed. Try Angeles City.)

Vilma Santos, Nestor notes, is admittedly a "very hard worker but her physical structure really makes it difficult for her to be really effective—hindi malalim—and her voice is not that expressive."

Nestor adds, though, that, once in a while, Vilma "transcends her physical limitations, as in Rubia Servios."

Behn Cervantes

Filmmaker, Film Critic

Behn’s choice for best movie of 1982 comes easy, with one qualification (he has not seen Oro, Plata, Mata). "It’s Batch ’81 because it was innovative and more daring. The technical aspect was also great. The cinematography was good and the film was very well edited. Everything in it was tightly woven in. Also, it’s the kind of film which leaves you gaping. I mean there are films which you can’t just watch and be satisfied with what you’ve seen. Batch ’81 is one such movie. You have to discuss it afterwards."

Behn puts Moral in second place "because it presented a contemporary view not only of women in society but society as a whole."

Behn’s third choice is Himala. "I enjoyed watching it. It had that certain texture, you know, the superimposition of the supernatural with the mundane. Further, it was a powerful reflection of capitalistic tendencies in society and of the materialistic greed that results from it."

For best actor, "it’s Mark Gil, especially in Batch ’81. While Christopher de Leon is also one of my favorites, being very good in Relasyon, Mark showed more guttered reaction in Batch ’81 than Christopher did in any movie. With Mark, it seemed to come from his guts."

As for the choice of best actress, "mahirap iyan," Behn admits spontaneously. "It’s a difficult choice between Gina Alajar in Moral and Nora Aunor in Himala. Gina was beautifully flamboyant and effective as the funky character in Moral, while Nora was very cinematic in Himala. Nora is one actress who knows how to use her medium.

"Vilma is also good. She knows her craft, but somehow, at the moment of truth, physically she doesn’t quite hit me. There’s something very cutesified about it.

"As for best director, it’s Mike de Leon, of course. For me, the best film should tie in with the best director."

Armida Siguion Reyna

Film Actress, Producer

Armida has said it in her TV show Let’s Talk Movies and she’s saying it again: her choice for best movie not only for the filmfest but for the entire 1982 is Moral.

"It’s very ‘today,’ NOW. You really get to identify with the characters in the movie. Like, in any case, there is a little of myself in each of the four characters, from Gina to Lorna and to Sandy and Anna. Technically, there’s a little flaw, but the camera work was adequate; bagay sa movie and that’s what counts. Editing is good, and the music, although nothing outstanding, was okay. Overall, the script and acting were very good, and for me, the story and direction carry the burden of the weight of the movie."

Certainly, Armida admits, the movie can still stand improvement, but she particularly rates Marilou Diaz Abaya, her choice for best director, for having been able to orchestrate the performers so well so that "you’re not aware anymore that they’re acting. You just get involved in the movie."

Armida adds: "Marilou knows her medium, and she enjoys the advantage of having her husband as editor of the movie. She also handles her actors very well, she can compete with… no, she equals Lino Brocka already."

After Moral, Armida chooses Oro, Plata, Mata and Cain At Abel, respectively, as among 1982’s best. She does not dislike Batch ’81, "it’s just that I don’t like those types of movies." To her, one has to be able to identify with the movie. "It’s also a kind of instinctive reaction. If I don’t like it, I don’t like it."

Armida chooses Vilma Santos as best actress for her performance in Relasyon. "I can’t explain my choice in the beautiful language of the Manunuri but I go by gut and alam kong maganda." She is also more inclined toward Vilma because the actress made a number of good movies last year.

For best actor, "I choose Mark Gil in Batch ’81 and Palipat-Lipat, Papalit-Palit and Katas Ng Langis. He was a revelation and he showed skill. He knows what tools to use, the techniques." Armida sort of disqualifies Christopher de Leon from the picking "simply because napaka-competent na ni Chris."


Wih Special Thanks To Nestor De Guzman

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

SUPERSTARSTRUCK! SUPERSTAR SUPERSCENES PART THREE

In this edition of Superstar Superscenes, I've chosen to feature three of the Superstar's successful commercial films. These movies may not be in the same league as her great ones but they still showcased La Aunor at her finest.

First is a musical number from Mario O'Hara's Kastilyong Buhangin (Lotus Films, 1980). In this scene Nora plays Laura, a struggling singer on the verge of stardom as she performs the song Corner Of The Sky from the Musical Pippin. She sang the song with so much gusto and the result is one of the most memorable song numbers ever shot on film.

Next is from the box office hit Beloved (Viva Films, 1985) directed by Leroy Salvador. After learning the truth about her long time boyfriend Dindo's (Christopher de Leon) affair with her best friend Reneee (Hilda Koronel), Adora Bernal (Nora Aunor), unable to accept the infedility caused by the man she loves, unleashes the hurt and finally breaks down. A poignant scene, indeed!

The opening seqeunce in Lino Brocka's 1981 comedy Dalaga Si Misis, Binata Si Mister (PLG Films, International) has Singing Superstar Doria Navarro (Nora Aunor) belting out a medley of George Canseco hits. I can't help but be moved by this scene... she truly sings from the heart.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

TWO SUPERSTARS



I consider myself an extremely lucky person. It was fate that led me to Young Superstar Judy Ann Santos. She was in town over the weekend to headline this years' Philippine Fiesta at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Seacaucus, New Jersey. A week ago Judai was one of the featured performers at the US-Philippine Expo in Pomona, California with no less than Superstar Nora Aunor. It was sort of a reunion for the two stars. They were last seen on the big screen in the 1997 Metro Manila Film Fest entry Babae (GEM Communications) directed by Lupita A. Kashiwahara. Judy Ann Santos has been described as the next Nora Aunor. After spending the weekend with her, I can honestly say that she is the only young actress deserving to be the next Superstar. I've always liked Judai even more than Claudine Barreto whose career is being patterned after Ate Guy's archrival Vilma Santos. Come to think of it, Nora Aunor won her very first major acting award from the Gawad URIAN at age 23 for Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos in 1976 while Judy Ann Santos was adjudged Best Actress by the group in 2004 for Sabel at 26. The time I spent with her is reminiscent of my experiences with Ate Guy. Like the Superstar, Judai takes care of her family and attends to all their needs. The Young Superstar also had her share of ups and downs, maybe not the same level as Ate Guy's but Judai nevertheless surpassed all the trials she went throughout her career. I asked her if she still remembers playing the young Lotlot de Leon in Sana Mahalin Mo Ako (Regal Films, 1987) and Judai said she does. She told me that her role was cut short because she was growing up very fast for a nine year old and expanding her role would ruin the films' continuity. How was that possible? Even I was as confused as she is. I read in an article where Judai was asked Sino ka sa dalawa, si Nora o si Vilma? Bakit? and she answered Ang hirap naman sagutin kasi... Siguro kung pagbasehan na lang natin sa pelikula, si Claudine nakasama na si Ate Vi, ako nakasama ko na si Ate Guy, so doon na lang. Siguro ako si Ate Guy. One thing's for sure, Judai loves Ate Guy and most especially the Noranians.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

INSIDE THE SUPERSTAR'S HOTEL ROOM

After our sumptuos lunch at Ichebakama on 32nd St., we walked along Park Avenue en route to the Superstar's hotel. While we were walking, Ate Guy asked me if I remembered to bring the DVD's she was asking from me, I told her they're inside my backpack. When we got to the hotel, I saw that there's a DVD player inside the bedroom. I took a DVD and popped it into the player. As the disc played, I asked Ate Guy if she remembers which movie it was. It took her quite a while, she cannot remember the movie at all. I asked her Kilala mo po ba kung sino ang kasayaw ninyo?, the Superstar replied Ay oo! Si Lew! (Soratorio). Ate Guy asked me again, Ano'ng movie ito? I told her Basta po, panoorin ninyo. Before the credits rolled, she remembered and blurted out Ay, Roma Amor! Matagal ko nang hindi napapanood 'yan! She then continued and said Si Lito Lapid ang gumawa ng lahat ng stunts ko diyan sa pelikula. Hindi pa siya sikat noon! Ang linaw naman ng kopya mo. the Superstar told me. Saan mo nakuha 'yan? I replied and said Secret po! hindi po ako nagre-reveal ng source ko. Ate Guy also mentioned that she saw the movie's director Efren C. Pinon in L.A. recently. As we watched Roma Amor, she was suddenly saddened upon seeing his youngest brother Buboy (Eddie Villamayor), he played Pip's (Tirso Cruz III) brother in the film. Ate Guy also commented that the entire Villamayor family was all over the screen during the opening credit sequence. There were also several musical numbers in the movie. She mentioned that most of the songs she sang in the film were from her Superstar show. Ate Guy noticed that I was singing along and told her manager, General! Tingnan mo si Jojo, memoryado 'yung kanta. I said, Lahat naman po ng kanta ninyo sa pelikula, kabisado ko. It was very interesting listening to her stories. I gave her copies of movies which she produced under her own NV Productions. Aside from Roma Amor, I also gave Ate Guy copies of Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Alkitrang Dugo, Ibalik Ang Swerti!, Banaue, Annie Batungbakal, Tisoy!, Batu-Bato Sa Langit, Wanted Ded Or Alayb, Halimaw, Takot Ako Eh! and Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak.

That's the Superstar on the other bed while she was watching the movie.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

LA AUNOR... BEYOND TIME



In 1994, the Superstar embarked on yet another monumental event in her career. After the success of her first major concert Handog Ni Guy Live! at the Araneta Coliseum, Nora Aunor appeared in a series of lounge shows at the Captain's Bar of the Manila Mandarin Hotel. The show, produced by Girlie Rodis was entitled La Aunor... Beyond Time. It showcased the Superstar's multi-faceted talent as a singer and stage performer. In essesnce, this stint encompasses her previous triumph at the Araneta years earlier. Her repertoire is much different, after all she was performing at the Captain's Bar which is home to the likes of Kuh Ledesma, Zsa Zsa Padilla and even Pops Fernandez. Of course there are also familiar numbers which is expected from a show topbilled by Nora Aunor. Her guests included the incomparable Louie Reyes, screen partner Cocoy Laurel and the Side A Band. I love the Superstar's rendition of Foolish Heart which she sang with Side A. This particular number has to be seen to be believed. Asia's Songbird Regine Velasquez also graced the show and sang People with La Aunor. It's one very special duet afterwhich the Songbird proclaimed that Nora Aunor is her Idol!, truly memorable. It's the Superstar at her most sophisticated and classiest!

Friday, August 11, 2006

A SUPER THANK YOU



This Thank You Card was given to me by Ate Guy a couple of years ago after her Virginia Beach stint with Pop Diva Kuh Ledesma during the second leg of their Power Of TwoUS Concert Series. Leonel, Marlon, Ray, Mario and myself all went to show our love and support for the Superstar. For me, it's truly one of those memorable experiences I shared with Ate Guy. The show needed a lot more help this time around. I eneded up taking control of the teleprompter while Leonel and Vonnel sang back-up with Fe de los Reyes. I was stationed at the coldest area of the stage and due to to excessive exhaustion, I got sick that night after the concert. Everyone went out to celebrate but I opted to stay in the hotel. As I tried to catch a bit of rest, I heard Ate Guy knocking at our room. I got up and opened the door for her. She had alcohol, a towellette, bottled water and Tylenol on hand. I cannot belive this is happening. The Superstar was taking care of me. She wiped my face with alcohol, tucked me in and never left my sight until I fell to sleep. I was just awakened by everyone when they got back from dinner. I told them what Ate Guy did and Albert told me Ginamot ka ni Elsa! It may be true. But the fact still remains that Nora Aunor nursed me to back to health. The next day as we prepared to drive back home, she told me to take good care of myself and asked Albert to give each of us a personalized Thank You Card from the Superstar. While on the road, Ate Guy texted us an emotional thank you. She apologized for not personally saying goodbye to all of us because she didn't want to see us leave. We all understood how she felt. That was the last time we saw the Superstar but we still kept in constant contact with her.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

SUPERSTAR SUPERSCENES PART TWO


Here's the second installment of my most favorite scenes from Nora Aunor movies. First is the funeral scene in Lino Brocka's Bona (NV Productions, 1980). In this scene Bona (Nora Aunor) goes back home to pay respects to her recently deceased father (Venchito Galvez) where she was beaten up and publicly humilated by her angry brother (Spanky Manikan). Nora shines in this particular scene as she showed multiple emotions at the same time that of shock, terror and anguish. A great scene!

Second is yet another funeral scene in Ishmael Bernal's Himala (Experimental Cinema Of The Philippines, 1982). After the death of Sepa's (Amable Quiambao) children and Chayong's (Laura Centeno) apparent suicide, the entire town of Barrio Cupang mourns the loss of their townsfolk. During the funeral, the village idiot accuses Elsa (Nora Aunor) of her infant daughter's death as Elsa starts to breakdown. A moving and affecting performance from La Aunor.

Third is from Mario O'Hara's Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (NV Productions, 1976). Rosario (Nora Aunor) unable to accept her newborn son since her pregnancy was caused by Masugi's (Christopher de Leon) sexual advances she then tries to kill her child by attempting to throw the infant off a bridge. The camera slowly closes in on Rosario's face to show the anger, confusion and the rage. All these emotions showed in one facial expression. Simply amazing!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

THE SUPERSTAR'S TWO FILMS



As I rummaged through my movie memorabilia, I came across these still photos from two of my most favorite Nora Aunor movies. The Superstar only did two films in 1983. Her cameo appearance in Bad Bananas Sa Puting Tabing (Vanguard Films) which was enetered in that year's Metro Manila Film Festival and Maryo J. de los Reyes' underrated film Minsan May Isang Ina (Regal Films) which was shown earlier as the film outfit's annual Mother's Day presentation. Nora Aunor co-starred with dramatic great Charito Solis and Maricel Soriano. I saw this film several times in the theaters. The Superstar played Ruth, a young submissive wife who is trapped in an unhappy marriage with Allan (Bembol Roco). This scene shows Ruth slowly losing her sanity. Another triumph for the Superstar. The film was suffered severe cuts from the censors when it was shown theatrically. I was glad to have seen the complete version on video years later with the rape scene intact. It was a crucial scene to Ruth's ultimate breakdown. Nora Aunor's performance was cited by the Manunuri Ng Pelikulang Pilipino and garnered a FAMAS nomination.



The Manila Zoo childbirth sequence in the Mario O'Hara masterpiece Bulaklak Sa City Jail (Cherubim Films, 1984) maybe a bit too theatrical according to some critics, but is the single most powerful scene in Philippine Cinema. Once again Nora Aunor's brilliance is in full display here. As Angela Aguilar was being hunted by the police, she desperately hides in a place surrounded by savage beasts. She has nowhere to go. Finally giving birth inside an empty cage, Angela pleads for her newborn child. The anguish and despair, all these emotions registered in one facial expression. For her sterling performance in Bulaklak Sa City Jail the Superstar was named that year's Best Actress at the Metro Manila Film Festival, the Catholic Mass Media Awards and the FAMAS.

Monday, August 07, 2006

ANG KILABOT NG MGA KOLEHIYALA WITH THE SUPERSTAR



First it was Victor Wood in As Long As There's Music (1974), followed by Rico J. Puno in Disco Baby (1977) then later the same year the Superstar co-starred with the original Kilabot Ng Mga Kolehiyala, Hajji Alejandro in Panakip-Butas, based on a hit song pupularized by the singer in the mid 70's. I remember watching the movie at Cinema 21 in Cubao with my uncle. During the screening there were lots of young women seated at the theater's balcony section swooning over Hajji, but I was there mainly to see the Superstar. Trixia Gomez and Brenda del Rio played his girlfriends while Sandy Garcia was his trusted confidante. Once again, Nora Aunor's comedic talents are on full display here. She's one of those actresses who can be highly effective in comic situations. There was also an abundance of song numbers here. Since Hajji played the role of a singer, all he did in the movie was sing his heart out. There was very little acting involved here. Even the Superstar gets to sing a couple of songs like Minahal Kita, a tagalog version of What I Did For Love and Iniibig Kita, both songs were from her album of the same title. As far as I know, Hajji Alejandro never made a movie after Panakip-Butas. This Regal produced movie was directed by Romy Suzara from a script by Toto Belano. It's one of those films where a fast rising singer tries his hand at making movies and is paired with a hugely popular actress. It may not have created the same following as the Superstar's team-up with Rico J. Puno but Panakip-Butas will always be remembered as the film that launched Hajji Alejandro's movie career.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

THE SUPERSTAR AND HER LEADING MEN

Looking back at most of Nora Aunor's films, I came to realize that there were a number of movies that the Superstar made with actors which I wouldn't have thought she'll have great chemistry with on screen Aside from the obvious choices, perennial screen partner Tirso Cruz III, drama king Christopher de Leon, comedy king Dolphy, action star Joseph Estrada and actor Jay Ilagan, there were male stars that I would never have imagined starring in a movie opposite the Superstar. For instance, when she was paired with 70's screen God Orestes Ojeda in 1978's Huwag Hamakin Hostess, I never thought that the two of them would look perfect together, but to my surprise they did! Their pairing was quite unexpected and not a lot of moviegoers went to catch the movie when it was shown in theaters but this Joey Gosiengfiao directed movie is worth a second look. A bit of warning, Nora's voice was dubbed by someone else and was a little distracting but otherwise, Huwag Hamakin Hostess is pure unadulterated fun.

When Vilma Santos was paired with Phillip Salvador in Rubia Servios (1978), I looked forward to the possibility of the actor teaming up with the Superstar in a movie. This came true when they made Nakaw Na Pag-Ibig in 1980 under Lino Brocka's direction. I was shocked to see the Superstar seducing Robert, Phillip's character in the film. Nora was never known for having done scenes similar to this one but she succeeded with flying colors. Her long quiet glances which conveyed sexual charisma was just the perfect emotion for this particular scene. Another actor known for his movies with the Superstar's archrival was Eddie Rodriguez. In the only film they did together, 1977's Pag-Ibig Ko'y Awitin Mo, I was astonished by their onscreen chemistry! Their's was a different kind of team-up and is surely not to be compared with his film outings with Vilma Santos.

While the Superstar's pairing with then matinee idol Gabby Concepcion in the comedy Totoo Ba Ang Tsismis? (1980) was unexpected, the two actors looked extremely comfortable working in front of the camera. Adding to the movie's kilig factor was a scene where Cora Afable, the nurse taking care of mental patient Gabriel Araneta helps him take a shower in one of the film's key scenes. Once again, this only happens in Nora Aunor films. Fans were excited to have seen them together on the big screen. Moviegoers went in droves to watch the movie making it one of Regal Films' biggest hits. Director Maryo J. de los Reyes who was responsible for the success of this movie did the impossible twenty four years later when he paired rising young actor Yul Servo with the Superstar in the May-December film Naglalayag (2004). In the movie Nora played a Dorinda, a menopausal Judge who got smitten with Noah, a young taxi driver almost half her age. The onscreen chemistry was evident in their first scene together which took place one rainy night. One would believe that they're truly in love with each other.

Of course who can forget the movies she made with Ronald Corveau (Atsay, 1978), Mat Ranillo III (Palengke Queen, 1982), Bembol Roco ('Merika, 1984), Miguel Rodriguez (Tatlong Ina Isang Anak, 1987) and Ronaldo Valdez (Banaue, 1975). But one of those special pairings was with Tommy Abuel in Danny Zialcita's T-Bird At Ako (1982). With both actors playing lawyers in the film, Nora matched Tommy's fire in the courtroom scene. A perfect example of great acting! The scene has to be seen to be believed.

As I continue re-visiting the Superstar's films, I'll post more thoughts on her movies with different leading men. It truly inspires me to take a closer look at her films' that made a huge impact in Philippine Cinema.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

SEXUALITY AND THE SUPERSTAR

For the most part of Nora Aunor's career no one has ever dared to write about sexuality in her films. Unlike archrival Vilma Santos, the Superstar has never dared to venture in movies that dealt primarily with sex. Upon watching some of her films, I came across a select few that openly showed her character's sexualtity. Case in point, while I was watching the complete version of Ishmael Bernal's Ikaw Ay Akin (Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions, 1978), I suddenly realized that in every intimate scene she performs in any of her movies there's this sensuality that she generates on screen. Sexy doesn't necessarily mean naked, she barely was in the scene. In the back of my mind, I've always thought that maybe the Superstar's hesitation to do such scenes is just plain awkwardness. There's a possibilty that she might feel uncomfortable undressing in front of the camera.

In that one tender moment between Tere and Rex (Christopher de Leon), their sexual tension exploded on screen. It was one long take and the camera was positioned in such a way where the viewers weren't mere voyuers. The scene had the two of them in close-ups during this act of lovemaking. They were consenting adults who, after five years of being together finally consumated their relationship. It was sensual but nevertheless affecting. Much thought was put into the filming of this sequence. With Bernal's guiding hand, he was able to create one of the most sexually charged scenes in Philippine Cinema which required no nudity.

Thursday, August 03, 2006



Brilliant dementia, harrowing despair. Nora Aunor brings magnificent emotional power as the put-upon fan in Bona, the 1980 film which she produced herself.

A NATIVE RETURNS
By Tito Valiente
Business Mirror, August 3, 2006

At the lobby of Studio 1 of ABS-CBN, a table draped in a wide swath of cloth cradled flowers. Around it were posters of a film copied from old newspapers. A man in business clothes was standing still beside one of the photos. That was the closest they could get near the horizon of a person called Nora Aunor. That night, a copy of "Bona," the movie produced by Aunor and directed by Lino Brocka was going to be screened, the copy provided by Cinematheque Fran├žaise, a film institution in France that archives excellent cinema. ("Bona" will have its cable television premiere in the Sunday Cine Premiere block of Cinema One on August 20 at 8 pm.)

As with the other guests filing in, people were there with similar purposes. There were the young cineastes who may have read the reviews of "Bona" in various film journals and web sites and blogs, for Bona is one of the most dissected Filipino films. These people may have cited the film as one of their favorite works even if they had not seen it previous to this evening. The sheer presence of the film in the minds and essays of writers and critics was enough to convince them that they were dealing with a work that was benchmarked and graded according to accepted international aesthetics. But there were also middle-aged men moving as one, looking like pilgrims about to approach the inner sanctum of the shrine. They were so quiet that you could feel through their movements the grace of many a Nora Aunor cinematic outings. These are people who could utter word for word, grand inflection for grand inflection, the dialogues that their idol—in the sense of worship and reverence—gave voice to on the silver screen.

It was not merely a voice coming from a body. Nora’s voice in many films, including those that were sinfully trivial and fun, slithered and sauntered out of the screen and into the domain of the popular, the populist, the political. The lines, as well as the characters, from which those meanings sprung transcended the instrument of cinema and became part of the collective yearnings of a mass audience who saw in Aunor not just an actor but someone equipped with a divining rod that could trace the fault lines of a group of people even as it would direct them to the wellspring of their neurosis and salvation.

Aunor’s much-documented celebrity was going to go through a reassessment that night, to check if the books—and essays and poetry—written about her icon were really truthful valuation of her person and her genius and not simply the ranting of academics trying out new theories about popular culture.

Seated as I was at the orchestra, surrounded by fans, I could sense the undertow of nervousness in those faces upturned to the screen; there was also sadness and longing. Most of the people there, I believe, were perched at the edge of their seats, the gurgling in their hearts pushing them almost to the edge of a sweetly welcomed nervous breakdown. Again that night, some simply ceased to be film viewers and moved on to be witnesses of an apparition.

A History Of Tastes

The metaphor of the sacred, the discourse of power, and the narrative of dispossession apply to the audiences of "Bona" as well as to the film. The film opens with the male-dominated procession of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo. Men are throwing their shirts and towels onto the carriage of the Christ icon, to be wiped against the body of the icon. Then the face of Aunor, as Bona, is shown, lost in the crowd, but not lost in the ritual.

The next scenes bring us to what preoccupies "Bona" (other than a religion in display). She is seduced by another faith, as she displays to us an almost reverential and awe-stricken admiration for a bit-player, Gardo. Critics use the word "obsession" to process the relationship that brings Bona to Gardo. But viewing the film again gives us other words. Like irrationality. Like lust and love.

You know, of course, the story. How, one night, Gardo comes home and tells Bona that he is leaving for abroad, and she should just go home. Then how Bona looks at the boiling pot of water. And the rest is cinematic history.

Part of this history is that "Bona" the film and Aunor as Bona have become guideposts for the evolution of film-viewing and re-viewing in the Philippines. Go and run to the nearest library and catch the writeups of that period, when Bona was first screened commercially, and you will see how so much of the appreciation of the film went beyond and behind the cinema. Reporters then wrote how Aunor had to produce the film to convince people that she could act. And yet, Bona was produced in 1980, a full three years after Aunor thundered through the screen in "Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos", and went on to win the Urian for Best Actress that year.

The screening answers many questions but also opens up many more. Given how the screenplay displays an almost reckless disregard for coherence, one could ask now if Brocka really enjoyed Aunor in the film. The film looks like it is meant to showcase another talent, that of Phillip Salvador, thus bringing some critics to describe the film as his film. One could even wonder why Brocka and the writer chose a bit player as the object of Bona’s adoration. This preoccupation with Salvador, however, becomes the bane of the movie.

At the end, Bona is indeed Nora Aunor’s work. Bona is Aunor looking, with a bit of melodrama and masochism, how she, an unknown, has become the object of many people’s adoration, the actor becoming the icon.

The power of the tragedienne/icon in Aunor is that she is able to weave a character into a full functioning tapestry of nerves and magic. Even then, you cannot blame those who genuflect before her when they cite the many gems in Bona. There is Aunor running away from her father, the speed of her escape as frantic and funny as it was demented. Aunor looking from the fence into her home where the wake for her father is taking place, fear and love and anxiety etched in a shot that merely shows one half of her face.
Aunor peeking from the kitchen, tension personified, the rigid figure melting into the loneliest of embraces with her mother, played with brittle tenderness by Rustica Carpio. Then, there is that scene—when she throws the boiling caldron of water onto Gardo’s body, the wretchedness on her face a troubling chemistry of dementia and despair, and a rage that seems to travel from her scarred soul, in a nuanced form that only Aunor could summon.

You can look for more, but at the end, there is one lesson: Nora Aunor is second to none and no one follows after her. Not yet, anyway. I knew this when I stepped out of the Studio One into the lobby once more. The table that held the flowers was shrouded in black, more like in mourning for the passing of good films that we used to make, and for an actor like Aunor, whose genius might as well be dead in our dreary landscape of commercialism and bad taste.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006



THE SUPERSTAR... Past And Present
By Gerard Ramos
Business Mirror August 2, 2006

I would have wanted to continue from my recollection last week of the great artist that is Nora Aunor by starting this piece with a meditation on Bona, her third and last collaboration with the director Lino Brocka which was originally released in 1980, and which showcases what is widely regarded as one of the two most magnificent performances by an artist whose filmography is marked by many brilliant performances that remain without peer. (The other one is, of course, in the Ishmael Bernal classic Himala, released in 1982.) However, film and media critic and BusinessMirror columnist Tito Valiente had the privilege of witnessing the recent "homecoming" of Bona, which was financed and produced by Nora’s NV Productions but remained until recently in the property of the French, and thus would be in a better position to ruminate on the film and the awesome power that Nora brings to it beyond the confines of her titular character. He recasts the film in his column tomorrow.

That Bona has come home after more than two decades of being "lost" through questionable circumstances should be cause for celebration—certainly for Noranians, which remain legion and loyal, once more to be richly rewarded for their fidelity by a new viewing of The Superstar’s bravura portrayal of the stereotypical dakilang alalay.

It is, however, a temporary palliative to the profound sense of loss shared by Nora’s fans here, having lost this great artist to the US, which she has chosen as her base over the past few years.

The sense of loss has become even more acute in the face of the utter bankruptcy of anything remotely genuine—emotionally, intellectually—in the current output of the mainstream film and television industries. Long gone are the days when even the guilty pleasure of watching entertainment television seemed not so guilty as Nora, along with her cohorts in Ang Makulay na Daigdig ni Nora on RPN, Nora on ABC and Star Drama Presents Nora on ABS-CBN, usually succeeded in infusing the soap operatic inclinations of the drama anthology genre with glimmers of profound truths about us as a people and as a society. These days, what we get in lieu of the kind of dramatic heft that provides moments of self-reflection are a lot of screaming and plenty of heaving bosoms from Angel Locsin, usually an affecting young actress who seems short-circuited by the utter banality of her top-rating fantaserye Majika on GMA, and her costar Katrina Halili, whose skills beyond keeping her mouth in a perpetual grimace remain totally missing in action.

The situation, unfortunately, is no better in films, with filmmakers already beleaguered ostensibly by the unimpeded flow of foreign products, which is their common and usual complaint, although the movie industry’s greed and shortsightedness have contributed to their misery in no small measure. Consider the current offering of Star Cinema, Sukob, which—for all the valiant efforts of main stars Kris Aquino and Claudine Barretto to inform the proceedings with emotional weight—is ultimately stripped of that clammy sense of dread as it ridiculously mixes local folklore with the staples of Japanese horror films. For more interesting pieces of cinema, you now have to go to independent filmmakers, which Nora Aunor may as well have been back then when she bet her own money on projects, 1975’s Banaue, 1977’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and 1978’s Atsay, to name a few, that would’ve been a tough sell were it not for the fact that they were headlined by Nora herself, for whom the title "Superstar" was coined for reasons beyond reproach.

Of course, it may be argued that Nora Aunor has become irrelevant in the current landscape of popular culture, and her detractors no doubt will be quick to cite as proof her own decision to relocate to the US, where her public continues to be most supportive and appreciative of her craft.

Then again, that irrelevance would be a damning reflection of the vacuity of our own lives where we no longer care to wrestle with the ugly truths regarding ourselves and our place in society, rather than an indictment of Nora Aunor and her artistry.

Some minor corrections on the article:

Bona was not the last Nora Aunor-Lino Brocka collaboration, they did the film Dalaga Si Misis, Binata Si Mister together in 1981.

Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos was released in 1976, and Atsay was produced by Romy Ching's IAN Film Productions