It’s Philippine cinema awards season once more, with four awards-giving bodies handing out their trophies in the last couple of months (PMPC, FAMAS, Gawad Pasado, and EnPress) and the Film Academy of the Philippines and Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino recently announcing their nominees. Like what we did last year, we will go through each category of the Gawad Urian and try to predict who will emerge victorious in each. Admittedly, this task is getting harder every year because the Manunuri nominee list seems to grow annually, and obviously, the more choices, the less probability there is in predicting the winners. Last year I scored a pitiful 3 over 12, and I’m not very confident about my choices this year. But the fun for me is always in the guessing!
Overall, I’m fairly pleased with the nominees. Indie filmmakers particularly love the MPP because they are extremely generous with their nominations. They do not limit the number of nominees per category if they believe that the artists deserve and would benefit from the recognition. This year, no love was given to any mainstream film. The biggest surprise for me was the snub of Aparisyon outside of the acting categories and of Kamera Obskura and Graceland in the technical categories. Clearly, the films’ themes did not resonate with the esteemed critics, but I thought, technically at least, they were extremely well-crafted and should have figured in most technical categories.
Nominees: Kalayaan, Baybayin, Posas, Oros, Qiyamah, Colossal, MNL 143, Florentina Hubaldo CTE
This is a pretty solid list for sound… in indie movies. As usual, the Manunuri ignores the output of top-notch technical audio work being done by mainstream studios (the sound engineering and editing in Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles, for instance, was exceptional). My personal pick here is Ditoy Aguila’s work in Kalayaan, which deftly captures the ambient sounds of an uninhabited island. Aside from a lone acting nod, most of Kalayaan’s nominations are for its technical work, though, so the Manunuri clearly are not fans of its storyline and directing, which could hurt its chances even in the technical categories. The ten nominations bestowed on Baybayin shows that the critics are enamored with it, and I have a feeling Diwa de Leon’s sound work in the film will win him this award.
Could win: Posas
Should win: Kalayaan
Will win: Baybayin
Nominees: Baybayin, Ang Nawawala, The Animals, Thy Womb
For me, Kalayaan and Colossal featured two of the most distinctive musical scores of 2012, and it’s unfortunate that both are not nominated. Teresa Barrozo appropriately infused her score of Thy Womb with indigenous Badjao sounds and might triumph in this category, but she will face a tough competition from de Leon (doing double duty as sound engineer and scorer for Baybayin), who wrote that LSS-worthy baybayin song. All together now: ♫ mi ma mu, si sa su, bi ba bu…♫
Could win: Thy Womb
Should win: Baybayin
Will win: Baybayin
Nominees: Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino, Baybayin, Mater Dolorosa, Oros, Bwakaw, Sta. Niña, Qiyamah, Thy Womb
Ang Nawawala, Kamera Obskura, and Mariposa sa Hawla ng Gabi all had eye-catching designs but were sadly overlooked here. I believe this award is Brillante Mendoza’s to lose. Of the eight nominees, Thy Womb seems to be the most challenging to design, and the challenge was ably met by the director slash production designer.
Could win: Mater Dolorosa
Should win: Thy Womb
Will win: Thy Womb
Nominees: Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino, Baybayin, Bwakaw, Kalayaan, Colossal, Diablo, Florentina Hubaldo CTE, Mater Dolorosa, Oros, Posas, Ang Nawawala, Qiyamah, The Animals, Thy Womb, Sta. Niña
With sixteen (!) nominees, an indie cinematographer working last year could not help but feel slighted if s/he is not one of the nominees in this category. As much as I believe the number is more than enough, I actually understand why the critics want to mention a lot of names: the quality of camera work in Pinoy cinema of the last few years has actually improved, courtesy of both new technology and the eagerness of mostly young cinematographers to constantly enhance their craft and artistry.
Raymond Red’s brilliant light and shadow play in Kamera Obskura is curiously absent here, as is Jay Abello’s austere camera work in Aparisyon, and Neil Bion’s crisp lensing of Metro Manila’s streets in MNL 143. But it’s really hard to nitpick when each of the 16 nominees actually are of merit and about half of them possibly winning on any other year. If forced to narrow the field, I’d say it will be Kalayaan, Diablo, and Thy Womb in the top three, with Odyssey Flores earning his second Urian (after Serbis) for capturing the vibrant vistas of Tawi-Tawi in Thy Womb.
Could win: Diablo
Should win: Kalayaan
Will win: Thy Womb
Nominees: Baybayin, Mater Dolorosa, Oros, Ang Nawawala, Kalayaan, Alagwa, MNL 143, Florentina Hubaldo CTE, Thy Womb
It’s quite telling that Bwakaw is not nominated here. In the last ten years, only three films won Best Picture without getting nominated for Editing (Ebolusyon ng Pamilyang Pilipino in 2004, Tirador in 2007, and Damgo ni Eleuteria in 2010, which did not require major post-prod editing as it was shot in one long take).
I have a feeling this contest will be between Mater Dolorosa and Alagwa. Both are compulsively watchable with no filler moments. I’d give a slight edge to Alagwa as the film has more room to play with its temporal structure, and those kinds of films usually stick to the viewer as having been obviously edited.
Could win: Ang Nawawala
Should win: Mater Dolorosa
Will win: Alagwa
Nominees: Melodrama Negra, Mater Dolorosa, Posas, Oros, Diablo, Bwakaw, Huling Biyahe, Colossal, Alagwa, Thy Womb, Florentina Hubaldo CTE, MNL 143, The Animals, Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim
Pascalina, Requieme, and Aparisyon were some of the most original scripts last year yet were obviously bypassed by the group. Just on pure guess, I think five films are the frontrunners here: Bwakaw, Diablo, Florentina Hubaldo, Mater Dolorosa, and Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim. Any of these five actually deserve to win. I personally would like Mes de Guzman to get his first writing Urian for his script of Diablo that reads like literature, but I think the hardware will go to Lav Diaz for his uncompromising examination of evil and the havoc it wreaks on one’s memory in Florentina Hubaldo, CTE.
Could win: Mater Dolorosa
Should win: Diablo
Will win: Florentina Hubaldo, CTE
Nominees: Joross Gamboa (Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino), Carlo Aquino (Mater Dolorosa), Art Acuña (Posas), Dax Alejandro (Qwerty)
Bugoy Cariño was excellent in Alagwa and Nicholas Varela was the best thing in Aberya and I believe both deserve nominations. Of the four nominees, Alejandro’s was the least memorable for me. He was just one of those mean cops and his character was not given more texture to play with, so it’s surprising why he’ even singled out from Qwerty. Gamboa was effective as a happy-go-lucky friend in Intoy Syokoy, but I think the race is between Acuña, who gave a richly textured portrayal of a crooked cop in Posas, and Aquino, who made his otherwise flawed character in Mater Dolorosa sympathetic to viewers by imbuing it with just the right doses of macho brio and wounded vulnerability. Acuña could easily win back-to-back Urians in the same category (he won last year for Niño), but I think the critics will reward Aquino.
Could win: Art Acuña
Should win: Art Acuña
Will win: Carlo Aquino
Nominees: Alessandra de Rossi (Mater Dolorosa), Mylene Dizon (Aparisyon), Raquel Villavicencio (Aparisyon), Alessandra de Rossi (Sta. Niña), Joy Viado (MNL 143), Clara Ramona (In Nomine Matris), Annicka Dolonius (Ang Nawawala)
This is an excellent list, with any of the contenders worthy of the trophy. Urian favorite de Rossi bagged two nods in the category plus one more in the lead. She is heavily favored to win this just for sympathy’s sake. She has not won any of her first four nominations and I believe the Manunuri will reward her hard work here. I think her performance in Sta. Niña allowed her to display more range compared with her work in Mater Dolorosa, where she was nevertheless excellent. Her closest competitors might be Viado (who was perfect in MNL 143 and left viewers wanting for more) and Dolonius (who turned in a charming performance as the girl who got away in Ang Nawawala).
Could win: Joy Viado
Should win: Annicka Dolonius
Will win: Alessandra de Rossi (Sta. Niña)
Nominees: JM de Guzman (Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino), Nico Antonio (Posas), Kristoffer King (Oros), Dominic Roco (Ang Nawawala), Eddie Garcia (Bwakaw), Coco Martin (Sta. Niña), Joem Bascon (Qwerty), Jericho Rosales (Alagwa), Bembol Roco (Thy Womb), Adrian Sebastian (Baybayin), Ananda Everingham (Kalayaan), Anthony Falcon (Requieme) , Deuel Raynon Ladia (Anac ti Pating)
I think the frontrunners here are Garcia, Rosales, Falcon, Dominic Roco, and King, but ultimately, it will be a battle between Garcia and Rosales. The latter has more chances of winning next time and, even if Garcia already won an Urian for lead performance (in Deathrow), it would be unfortunate to pass up one last opportunity to reward one of the pillars of the film industry for a very competent performance. In terms of sustained believability, though, my vote still goes to King, who I believe gave the best performance (male or female) of 2012.
Could win: Jericho Rosales
Should win: Kristoffer King
Will win: Eddie Garcia
Nominees: Alessandra de Rossi (Baybayin), Assunta de Rossi (Baybayin), Gina Alajar (Mater Dolorosa), Ama Quiambao (Diablo), Jodi Sta. Maria (Aparisyon), Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino (Requieme), Olga Natividad (Mga Dayo), Liza Diño (In Nomine Matris), Nora Aunor (Thy Womb)
This is also a pretty solid list. I would have added Veronica Santiago from Pascalina but her relative anonymity and her character’s unlikability might have contributed to her being bypassed the radar of the Manunuri. Janice de Belen also gave a delicious performance as a naive woman who got her vengeance in Mario O’Hara’s lost film Pusang Gala, but I’m not sure if the Manunuri saw that one or deemed it eligible for consideration.
I think the frontrunners here are the veterans Aunor, Alajar, and Quiambao. Both Quiambao and Alajar delivered formidable turns as steely matriarchs forced to deal with the affairs of their children after the deaths of their husbands in Diablo and Mater Dolorosa, respectively, and both have good chances of taking home the trophy. But they have to deal with Aunor, whose understated turn as a martyr wife in Thy Womb served as the film’s emotional anchor. Aunor seems like a lock here.
Could win: Gina Alajar
Should win: Nora Aunor
Will win: Nora Aunor
Nominees: Arnel Mardoquio (Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim), Auraeus Solito (Baybayin), Jun Lana (Bwakaw), Ian Loreños (Alagwa), Whammy Alcazaren (Colossal), Mes de Guzman (Diablo), Lav Diaz (Florentina Hubaldo, CTE), Sigfreid Sanchez and Raquel Sanchez (Huling Biyahe), Adolfo Alix, Jr. (Mater Dolorosa), Maribel Legarda (Melodrama Negra), Paul Sta. Ana (Oros), Lawrence Fajardo (Posas), Emmanuel Palo (Sta. Niña), Brillante Mendoza (Thy Womb)
There are four directors nominated here whose films are not nominated for Best Picture (Alagwa, Huling Biyahe, Melodrama Negra, and Sta. Nina), which means they have very little chances of winning Best Director. I believe the frontrunners here are Solito, Alix, and Mendoza. Their films garnered the most nominations (with Baybayin getting 10 and Mater Dolorosa and Thy Womb 9), which means that the Manunuri believe the directors were able to effectively orchestrate their films’ technical aspects and draw out excellent performances from their casts. The MPP adore Mendoza (he won three consecutive directing trophies from 2007 to 2009) and the current chair Tito Valiente wrote a glowing review of Thy Womb, so it’s safe to say he will champion the film.
Personally, I believe Thy Womb doesn’t live up to Mendoza’s previous Urian-winning works: even as Mendoza has mastered the verité style, the film still feels a little rough around the edges for me. I’m not a big fan of Baybayin either: I felt that Solito could have pushed for greyer shades in his characterization and exposition. Of the three, I believe Alix deserves to win his first Urian. Mater Dolorosa was a tightly controlled drama, with Alix foregoing color and scoring to focus on the story. It’s a testament to Alix’s skill that he’s able to sustain tension without any music by drawing out excellent performances from the whole cast.
Could win: Auraeus Solito
Should win: Adolfo Alix, Jr.
Will win: Brillante Mendoza
Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, Baybayin, Bwakaw, Colossal, Diablo, Florentina Hubaldo CTE, Mater Dolorosa, Oros, Posas, Thy Womb
As with the directing category, I believe the frontrunners here are also Baybayin, Mater Dolorosa, and Thy Womb, with Oros, Posas, and Bwakaw hot on their heels. Thy Womb, despite my reservations about it, is still a worthy addition to the Mendoza oeuvre, and I won’t be surprised if it wins here. Baybayin also has a good chance of capturing the top prize. My personal favorite out of the ten nominees, though, is Colossal, an audacious debut film that attempts to map out the geographies of grief through a long, meditative Cebuano poem. If the Manunuri want to reward originality and ambition, this film should triumph.
Could win: Baybayin
Should win: Colossal
Will win: Thy Womb