2012 is another good year for Philippine cinema. I’ve seen around 85 local films and I liked a good number of them. I’m still writing up my list of ten favorite films, so in the meantime, I’ll post my favorite performances, starting with the supports.
10. Clara Ramona, In Nomine Matris
Ramona was born to play Mercedes Lagdameo, the firm yet sympathetic dance instructor in this flamenco melodrama. Beneath the icy exterior, Ramona imbues her character with maternal warmth that you both fear her and love her.
9. Patrick Sugui, The Animals
Sugui plays a high school student who’s determined to join his school fraternity. This is another case of perfect casting as Sugui dives into his role with such ease that even if he does stupid things in the film, you still feel for the guy.
8. Bugoy Cariño, Alagwa
Cariño has always used his effortless charm to essay his roles but in Alagwa, he’s not just cute, he’s heartbreaking. Kid reminds me a lot of the talented Jiro Manio.
7. Racquel Villavicencio, Aparisyon
The cast of Aparisyon may arguably have given the best ensemble performance in local cinema this year, and perhaps on any other day, all the four actors would appear in my list, but for now my favorite turn out of the four is by Villavicencio. She plays Sister Vera, the silently suffering right hand of the Mother Superior. There’s something about Villavicencio’s forlorn eyes and mellow speaking that draws viewers into the characters she plays, whether she’s an exasperated daughter in Niño or an exhausted mother in Bisperas. In Aparisyon, she makes you understand her predicament of being torn between obedience to authority and duty to country.
6. Mark Gil, Mariposa sa Hawla ng Gabi
Gil has been enjoying a resurgence of sorts late into his career playing memorable supporting characters. This year alone, he is in five films, four of which are of the horror genre, including Mariposa. Here he is the ultimate villain. Instead of imbuing his role with the more common growling menace though, he goes for funny: wearing a faux-hawk and spandex as he exercises with his minions. He understands that real villains do less barking and more biting.
5. Lovi Poe, Thy Womb
Poe appears in two scenes in Thy Womb (three if you count a 3-second appearance in one) but leaves with such an impression that I’m guessing she’s the main reason why disgruntled and surprised viewers did not want the film to end as abruptly as it did. As Mersila, the second wife, she is steely and calculating. My main beef with Thy Womb has something to do with the underdevelopment of her character, but even so, Poe makes the most out of her precious minutes.
4. Nicholas Varela, Aberya
Varela plays a drug dealer who happens to be a politician’s son and is interested in time travel. It’s such a juicy role and Aberya would have been a better film if it just focused on Varela’s segment if only because it’s the most intriguing of the four, and Varela has an arresting screen presence despite his everyman looks.
3. Carlo Aquino, Mater Dolorosa
Aquino is one of the most talented actors of his generation and he proves it again here, playing the black sheep of the family. His character has a speech impediment but Aquino makes sure that it doesn’t distract from his performance: in fact, it adds a layer to it as you feel his frustration in trying to carve a valid space in his family of professionals when he is a mere sakla operator.
2. Annicka Dolonius, Ang Nawawala
Dolonius, as the MPDG Enid, is a breath of fresh air and is so natural on screen. Even if you root for Enid and Gibson’s romance, you will understand that her world-weary jadedness is not the perfect match to his pure innocence.
1. Art Acuña, Posas
Acuña is born to act. Straight from his award-winning turn as a scheming black sheep in Niño, he comes up with yet another stellar performance as a crooked cop in this engaging police procedural. Acuña understands that a villain doesn’t know that he’s a villain: for him, he’s the bida. And you actually feel from Acuña’s performance that his character does not realize he’s a crooked person. Even when he’s waterboarding suspects and playing mind games with them, he believes that he’s doing it for a noble purpose. Acuña finds the humanity within each of the characters that he plays, good or bad. That is a mark of good acting.
*Next up: Favorite lead performances