EKSTRA movie posterThe Cinemalaya film entry, Ekstra, tackles the structure of the showbiz industry. Even though the movie revolves in one shooting day of a television soap opera, the audience will be be able to deduce the hierarchy of the people at work. The movie is able to show how the network executives, directors, assistant directors, the whole cast and crew and even the bit players or extras interact in and out of a soap opera scenario. It has shown that in this kind of industry, power play is at work and the people who have the most power or least influence are exposed.

The movie feels real. It is emotional all throughout. It’s amazing how a day in a life of Loida, a bit player or extra in a simpler term, can show a wide range of perspectives even though it is only her side of a day’s life and work that is focused. So, how is a life of an extra? Well, extras are shown in the movie to start going to work in the wee hours of the day even before some of the crew start coming. They are shown to do continuously what they are told to do even the camera is not pointing towards them. Some of them are summoned right there and then for a certain role and they have to show something good (i.e. impromptu acting) if they want to be chosen for the role, albeit very small.

Jeffrey Jeturian, the movie’s director, is able to tell Loida’s tale with no inhibitions, which could taint the dignity, the pride or the image of the characters the cast portrays. Kudos also to him and the other writers of the movie who are able to make the story like it’s the audience’s story or at least part of their story, pulling strings in the heart that could make anyone relate to it.

Needless to say, Vilma Santos is brilliant as Loida, the bida in Ekstra. She easily surpasses the expectations brought to her by her showbiz industry title. And just like what I said about Nora Aunor in Thy Womb, Vilma Santos completely transformed herself into the role of a bit player in this film. She amazingly became the character herself. I didn’t find Vilma but Loida through and through. I guess veteran actors have already mastered the art of role-playing for they can completely transform into the role they are portraying.

With Santos in the film are strong character actors as well that include Marlon Rivera (the hot-headed director of the TV show), Vincent de Jesus (the easily annoyed assistant director), Ruby Ruiz (the casting director), among others. Even the extras in the film did well portraying as extras (no pun intended).

Some of the bit players in the film had dialogues that mention all the people working in their production are important. Yes, that’s true. But it doesn’t take away the fact that some of them in the team earn better while some just receive a bit of it despite the exploitation. There are key players and there are supporting ones in any team and for the team to work, everyone should do their part. The work would be incomplete if the team is not complete. However, this doesn’t take away the fact again that even though people are equal, some are more favored than the others. Such is the predicament not only of the people in showbiz, but in all walks of life.

Ekstra‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5


On the Job

OTJ movie poster“Wow!”

That was the expression I used after watching On the Job, the latest Filipino film to grace the silver screen. I have never watched a Filipino film that did not only make my heart race but also made me think while watching and right after watching. I might have guessed some of the plot points towards the end even before they happened, but when they did happen in the movie, I was still surprised thanks to the brilliant execution of those scenes. That’s how great the hands that made this movie were.

Top-notch directing and editing, very credible acting, excellent production design, great musical score, this movie seemed to have it all. To tell you the truth, I already had high expectations before watching because of raving reviews from critics and good word-of-mouth feedback from the people who have already watched it. It was that high that I prepared myself to be disappointed. But, no. The movie was worth the hype. On the Job delivered in a great way that acclaimed movies of many years past were not able to achieve.

The story surrounds 4 major characters: Francis Coronel, Jr. (portrayed by Piolo Pascual), an NBI agent whose lawmaker father-in-law (Michael de Mesa) supports an evil general (Leo Martinez) who’s planning to run for politics; SPO1 Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez), a capable policeman who helps Francis in his case about the general; Tatang (Joel Torre), a prisoner who is hired by cohorts of the evil general to assassinate people linking him to illegal activities, and Daniel (Gerald Anderson), the brutal yet naïve apprentice of Tatang who joins him in his assassination jobs.

It is scary to think that these things really happen in the country. Criminals get to run and be elected in the government. Prisoners get to go out of the jail and kill. Dirty policemen get to have what they want while the clean ones die young. But when you think about it, these scenarios really seem familiar. Just take into consideration the latest issue of the pork barrel scam, then you’d think that the movie’s plot doesn’t seem so unlikely. This current issue has unmasked politicians that were touted as the good ones before. It has also reminded the people that criminal masterminds tend to get special treatment and were even thought to be state witnesses that could escape punishment. Also, witnesses were barraged with different issues to taint their reputation. I don’t want to sound hopeless, but won’t you agree if I say that this world that we live in aren’t really ruled by the good ones? It’s so hard to live right if everyone seems to live in an unrighteous way. Maybe that’s the ultimate challenge for us, humans: to stand out in a tainted world.

Going back to the film, the stories mentioned above about the four people intertwined in a way that only the movie’s brilliant writers, Michiko Yamamoto and Erik Matti (also the movie’s director), could only create. Of course, the story also benefited well by its great pacing. The suspense was not always present, but during those “quiet” times, good action was still ongoing. There was no idle moments all throughout the film.

Today’s popular actors in the film actually did great. Gerald Anderson was believable as a young prisoner whose naivety and willingness to kill clouded his whole morality. Piolo Pascual embodied a character whose conscience and barely dirty hands could not afford to give up his principles in spite of familial ties. They were great, but it was the veterans Joel Torre, Leo Martinez and Joey Marquez who stood out in the film. Torre was able to turn himself into a ruthless killer-prisoner, Martinez was really irritating as the evil general while Marquez was flawless as the policeman whose integrity would make other policemen hide in shame.

Brace yourself, many praises about the film are still to come.

The shots, have you noted how they were shot? They were meticulously made in order to tell the story well. Watch out for each scene as many of them hold clues as to what’s going to happen next. Erik Matti is such a great director that he’s able to bring to life a complicated story line about the nation, its government and its people. In addition, the cinematography made the whole film seem so authentic and real.

Finally, the songs. Oh you’d just feel them at heart once they start playing. Most memorable for me was Dong Abay’s Mateo Singko. The said song was very apt for the whole concept of the film.

On the Job’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5