Apr 23
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Looking back and choosing the best of the ’90s - STAR BYTES by Butch Francisco

Author: The Philippine Star

Aside from the 14 regular awards to be handed by the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino on the night of the Gawad Urian (to be held on March 24 at the UP Theater), this critics’ group will also honor the best films and top performers of the ‘90s. (The list will not be announced until the night of the awards. )

This is not the first time that the Manunuri is giving awards to the best of the decade. Twenty years ago, the group also came out with a list of the best films of the ‘70s. These were (in chronological order) Pagdating sa Dulo, Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Ganito Kami Noon … Paano Kayo Ngayon?, Insiang, Itim, Nunal sa Tubig and Jaguar.

During the 1991 Gawad Urian rites at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Manunuri announced the 10 best films of the ‘80s. Included in the list were Manila By Night, Kisapmata, Batch 81, Himala, Oro, Plata, Mata, Karnal, Sister Stella L. , Hinugot sa Langit, Kapit sa Patalim and Orapronobis. For the first time, the group also cited the outstanding performers of the decade. Honored that evening were Gina Alajar, Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Phillip Salvador and the late Vic Silayan.

Before I was able to draw my own list of the best films and performers of the previous decade, I found it necessary to review the highlights of the ‘90s – the important events, the trends in filmmaking, the acting finds, the problems of the film industry, etc. On the surface, the ‘90s looked like a bland and colorless decade. But it was really an interesting period in the field of filmmaking. Allow me, therefore, to look back and go over once more at the things that transpired in the local movie industry during the ‘90s.

Trends in filmmaking. Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal continued to make socially relevant films up to their last breath. Brocka had his Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak and Sa Kabila ng Lahat, while Bernal had his Wating. Carlos Siguion-Reyna, on the other hand, had his series of adaptations: Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (from Wuthering Heights), Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal (from The Heiress) and Saan Ka Man Naroroon (from Sunflower). Carlo J. Caparas also hit it big with his massacre movies (based on true-to-life crime stories). Then, to mark the Rizal centennial, filmmakers came up with bio-films on the life of the national hero: Tikoy Aguiluz’s Rizal sa Dapitan, Marilou Abaya’s Jose Rizal and Mike de Leon’s Bayaning 3rd World. Of course, producers made sex films all throughout the decade. But these were done intermittently – depending on the leniency of whoever was chief of the very powerful MTRCB.

Problems of the film industry. Censorship, taxes and piracy were just among the problems of the movie business in the ‘90s. The biggest problem that hounded the industry, however, was the slump that began as a result of the 1994 Manila Filmfest scandal – when moviegoers lost their interest (and faith) in local films. The local movie business was at its lowest toward the end of the decade – this time as a result of the Asia-wide economic crunch.

New studios. In spite of the slump, new film companies were still established in the ‘90s: Star Cinema, GMA Films, OctoArts Films, FLT and when Joseph Estrada came into power, Millennium Films was born.

New technical people. Although we’re still way behind Hollywood in terms of technical know-how, somehow, we still try to keep ourselves abreast of the latest innovation abroad. This gave birth to new talents in the technical field: Richard Padernal, Marissa Floirendo, Shayne Clemente, Louie Quirino (cinematography), Jessie Lasaten, Jesse Lucas, Irwin Cafugauan, Michelle Pritchard (music), Vito Cajili, Roberto Vasadre, Myrna Bhunjun (editing) and Albert Michael Idioma (sound).

Death of veteran talents. To this day, the industry still feels the loss of its two greatest directors: Brocka (in 1991) and Bernal (in 1995). The other outstanding talents who passed away during the past decade were Charito Solis, Leroy Salvador, Susana de Guzman, Mary Walter, Chiquito, Richard Abelardo, Tita Duran, Pancho Magalona, Gil de Leon, Joseph de Cordova, Leopoldo Salcedo, Panchito, Max Alvarado, Chichay, Aruray and Jay Ilagan, Rita Gomez, Jaime de la Rosa and Carmen Rosales.

Birth of new directors. The void left as a result of the deaths of Brocka and Bernal were filled in by Carlos Siguion Reyna, Joel Lamangan, Jose Javier Reyes and Chito Roño. The late ‘90s also welcomed the arrival of new directors: Laurenti Dyogi (Ipaglaban Mo II and Calvento Files), Jerry Sineneng (Soltera), Nick de Ocampo (Mother Ignacia), Jeffrey Jeturian (Sana Pag-ibig Na and Pila-Balde) and Lav Diaz (Burger Boys, Kriminal ng Bo. Concepcion and Hubad sa Ilalim ng Buwan). In this list of new directors, the two who are touted to take the place left by Brocka and Bernal are Diaz and Jeturian.

Significant comebacks. Due to her personal problems, Gina Pareno had a lot of comebacks in her career. In the ‘90s, however, she finally shaped up and gave a string of memorable performances. Boots Anson Roa and Albert Martinez also returned from abroad in the past decade and went back to making films. But the most spectacular comeback was that of Elizabeth Oropesa's, who scored a grand slam for Best Actress last year.

Emergence of new acting talents. Dawn Zulueta may have been discovered in 1986, but her acting potentials were tapped only in 1990 when she did Kasalanan Bang Sambahin Ka? (with Vivian Velez). Then, under Carlos Siguion Reyna, she developed into an outstanding actress in films like Hihintayin Kita sa Langit and Saan Ka Man Naroroon. The same thing happened to her leading man, Richard Gomez, who also became a brilliant actor in the ‘90s. And like Gomez, two other matinee idols became established actors during the past decade: Aga Muhlach and Gabby Concepcion.

Other actors and actresses who developed into fine acting talents in the ‘90s were Sharon Cuneta, Maricel Laxa, Sharmaine Arnaiz, Cherry Pie Picache, Vina Morales, Cesar Montano, Noni Buencamino, Albert Martinez, Rita Avila, Jennifer Sevilla, Kris Aquino, Gelli de Belen, Aiko Melendez, Carmina Villarroel, John Estrada, Romnick Sarmenta, John Regala, Ricky Davao and Zsa Zsa Padilla.

And then, there were also those who were only discovered in the ‘90s, but already proved to be acting gems early in their respective careers: Angel Aquino, Patrick Garcia, Nanette Medved, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, Serena Dalrymple, Raymond Bagatsing, Ana Capri, John Arcilla, Noni Buencamino, Glydel Mercado, Lester Llansang, Jhong Hilario and Gerald Madrid.

But the one actress who really made a splash in the ‘90s, first as a bold star, but later as a highly-competent performer was Rosanna Roces.

International awards. Just like in the ‘50s, when local movies were garnering awards left and right in the then very prestigious Asian Film Festival, some Filipino actors also triumphed abroad with their award-winning performances: Nora Aunor in the Cairo Filmfest and Albert Martinez and Vilma Santos in Brussels.

Source: The Philippine Star