ZERO FOR CONDUCT
Apologies. This is terribly late and worse, this isn't even how I usually write these year-end pieces. I never expected the other writing I'm doing to take up as much of my time as it did. My only consolation, for those seeking some, is that most of the films on this list have been written about more exhaustively elsewhere and don’t need my endorsement. I was also going to rant at length about the culture of versus that domestic cinema flies like a flag and flaunts like a cause and continues to retard us in far worse ways than nostalgia does, out of how it draws and quarters the holistic joy of cinephilia into a rigid picking of sides, a sports rivalry, if you will, between arthouse and commercial, independent and mainstream, genre and non-genre, narrative and experimental, this festival and that festival, this studio and that studio, this filmmaker and that filmmaker, this batch of filmmakers and that batch of filmmakers, filmmakers and film critics, digital and analog, Golden Age and New Wave, Nora and Vilma. But I’ll leave the bulk of it for another, more exhaustive piece except to say that if our sensibilities, as an audience and as a culture, don't have the latitude to make room for all of the above, then dumbed-down really is an understatement.
My rules are stringent and geographical. Everything considered for the list must have been shown publicly in Manila during the year, be it a domestic release, a brief festival run or a special screening. And both local and foreign films must share the same list. Recently, for fun, I've even ranked the films, although the ranking tends to be a lark that's open to change and is, in all likelihood, inconsequential. Part of why I made these rules up is as a deterrent to the cloying sameness with which (predominantly Western) lists lapse into every time the year ends. The other reason is to force me to watch as many Hollywood and local studio films that saw a domestic release as I can, to level the field, if you will. And this year, I saw , if not everything, a lot more than I have on any given year, and if they're not here, that means I have no opinion on them, or they were awful. I was as visible as I ever was at all five film festivals in Manila. And last year was a terribly exciting time at the movies, specially locally. But through some mishap of time and traffic and life, there were a few films I meant to see but was not able to, my annual sins of omission, if you will. Which is to say that the only reason no mention of Ang Huling Cha Cha Ni Anita, The Guerilla Is A Poet, Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin, Purok 7, Porno, Babagwa, Woman of the Ruins, Otso or Shift is made here is because I didn't see them.
A few shout-outs are in order, for the films that, for some reason or the other, I didn't have space for, and some of which have found their own measure of traction and their own measure of love and fandom and which deserve a second look. My honorable mentions, then, most are flawed, some terribly so, but they were nevertheless, for various reasons, bright spots. Alphabetically: Alamat Ni China Doll (Adolfo Alix Jr.), Kabisera (Borgy Torre), Man of Steel (Zack Snyder), Pantomina Sa Mga Anyong Ikinubli Ng Alon (Jon Lazam), Puti (Mike Alcazaren), Sana Dati (Jerrold Tarrog), The Search For Weng Weng (Andrew Leavold) and The Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell).
Oh, and I do realize that #4 on the list below constitutes a glaring conflict of interest. But what can I do? I loved the film, despite my involvement. So fuck it. My best films of 2013, then. Intolerably overdue and in an order that tends to change every day.
1. LEVIATHAN (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, USA, Fete De La WSK!)
2. ISKALAWAGS (Keith Deligero, Philippines, Cinema One Originals)
3. NEIGHBORING SOUNDS (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil, Cinemanila)
4. LUKAS NINO (John Torres, Philippines, QCinema)
5. OTJ (Erik Matti, Philippines, Domestic Release)
6. NORTE END OF HISTORY (Lav Diaz, Philippines, Cinemanila)
7. ANG PAGBABALAT NG AHAS (Timmy Harn, Philippines, Cinema One Originals)
8. HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY (Raya Martin, Philippines, Cinemanila)
9. BUKAS NA LANG SAPAGKAT GABI NA (Jet Leyco, Philippines, Cinema One Originals)
10. HELI (Amat Escalante, Mexico, Cinemanila)
11. THE ACT OF KILLING (Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark, Cinamanila)
12. BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater, USA, Domestic Release)
13. THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Peter Jackson, New Zealand, Domestic Release)