I watched Aquaman last week and it was enjoyable. I make no apologies that I did not choose a pinoy movie to spend my time and money on. My joy will be short lived though because the trailers preceding Aquaman reminded me about something that I really do not need to be reminded of. In about a week, if I want to watch a movie in a public place it will have to be a pinoy movie unless it is an Imax movie. I am clearly talking about the annual embargo of standards in our local cinemas: The Metro Manila Film Festival. I say this with complete confidence that some people may label me as culturally confused for choosing Aquaman over One Great Love starring: Dennis Trillo. I might bother seeing it if it starred Danny Trejo.
“Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about,”
said Linus. [Linus walks to center stage.]
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding
in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were so afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.
God the Father gave us a gift of “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. ” on Dec 25 according to the Gospel of Luke as quoted by Linus. Our culture for years on Dec 25th has given us the gift of depriving us of the blockbusters that other markets get in the month of December to make way for movies that have traditionally featured Dolphy, Vic Sotto , Vice Ganda, Kris and Bimby Aquino and others whose output is apparently so poor that they need so much market protection during the holidays. Protection from movies I rather see during the holidays with my free time. I am sure I am not alone in that regard. In the Philippines Christmas is all about the local movie industry depriving you of quality so they can force their own dreck down your throat. For the record we will not be able to see movies like Holmes and Watson, Vice, Destroyer and Stan and Ollie till at least Jan 7, 2019. There is a word for people who refuse to let the market decide what makes money and what loses money. That word is communists.
As a teacher, we were taught that context can be the best teacher. Today’s word boys and girls is “shill“. Shill is not a synonym to “promote ” or “sell”. According to Dictionary.com the word means (#2) ” a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty. ” On cue Francis Tolentino gave his own version why people should support this year’s version of the MMFF and how movies produced elsewhere will not be missed. To help us feel better that we are deprived of Hollywood blockbusters we are assured by Tolentino that the “Magic 8 “ went through serious and rigorous scrutiny by film experts ” . Not sure if I can imagine Vice Ganda going through serious and rigorous anything. The reason why they are called the “Magic 8″ is because while they are showing they make normal movie standards, enjoyment and expectations disappear.
When you watch American movies and TV shows you will often hear the phrase ” the American government does not negotiate with terrorists“. In reality I am not sure how true that is but I will also not negotiate with terrorists. The summer holidays and the Christmas holidays are the two times of the year when the blockbusters that the world watches are unleashed on the movie going world. Except here where they are given an abbreviated run to make way for more love teams, quasi horror and slapstick. In short movies that appeal to the same people who love our noontime programming and our tabloid newspapers where the discourse is exclusively in the vernacular. Every year this act of terrorism deprives all of us the freedom to see quality movies. The fact that “The Man” dumbs down the movies in our cinemas in what is supposed to be a good time to watch movies does not buy brownie points with me. The logic behind not negotiating with terrorists is you discourage the terrorists if they feel their aggressive and unnatural acts do not ultimately lead them to what they want. If you avoid buying a ticket to a movie you normally wouldn’t watch given a host of normal choices then you are not playing the terrorists game. If my freedom of choice is taken away then staying away from my local cinema during MMFF time is my way of saying I will not negotiate with terrorists.
KSP is the root of all evil and it is KSP for an inferior product that artificially deprives us the movie going public of movies that are inherently better than what is made locally. Sorry for spelling it out for the clueless but the bulk of MMFF movies are made exclusively to appeal to those turned on by noontime television content. Both Benign0 and Ilda have written blogs that basically conclude that this annual event does not encourage any evolution for the betterment of the local film industry.
Which brings us to the classic question of which comes first the chicken or the egg? Are pinoy movies inferior because they have to appeal to an audience incapable of comprehending more complex themes or is the audience incapable of comprehending more complex themes because none of those movies produced locally challenge them? Am I encouraged every year to watch Filipino movies because they are quality movies or only because they are Filipino movies? What message is the film industry sending to the film makers and the film audience by annually removing any competition for the attention of movie goers? Get better or stay mediocre?
Benign0 addressed this notion in 2012 pointing out 50% of the criteria of winning an award was based on empirical sales. So by definition if you want to be recognized then appeal to the lowest common denominator. Do not take risks. Be mediocre. In other words we have defined pinoy culture and their inability to compete with the world’s best whether it be in movies or basketball. It should be noted that in 2016 the 50% weight of box office performance was totally removed. If you believe some maingay yellows that was also the year we elected a dictator.
People who ignore the law of supply and demand do not care about other people’s needs and wants. They do not care about making themselves better to compete for the honor of serving the needs and wants of their market. The group that Tolentino leads believes that living in a pinoy cinema vacuum is not only good for the industry but the economy and the audience. Let’s all suspend the law of supply and demand just like Aquaman suspends the natural demand of oxygen by human lungs. I am sure I am not the only one who dreads this annual forced starvation of real movies. If you think that statement is too extreme don’t forget Kris Aquino tried to convince Andrew Garfield that My Little Bossings was better than The Amazing Spiderman.
Therein lies the problem. The Philippines with their limited economy and bulging population helps solve the world’s supply and demand problem with their labor. Pinoys do not realize that their artistas, movies and basketball players draw very little demand in movie screens and athletic venues that are not packed with Tagalog speakers. Pinoys are used to selling and rooting for nationality and not quality. Kris Aquino the “Queen” of all media’s royalty is only recognized by Tagalog speakers. That is indeed a small pond , a pond so small it might be able to moisten Aquaman’s socks. You wouldn’t know that looking at Kris’ lack of humilty. The critically acclaimed movies we do produce do not resonate with the SM Ermita audience. Translation: if you want to produce quality , you better not care about being a box office draw in your own country. Not exactly the formula for long term success if your own culture does not demand quality from the product its own stars believe is superior to the product the rest of the world demands.
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