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(Gibbering Again) On the Importance of Establishing a Film Magazine September 18, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Essay, Noypi, Whatever.

“Divine Reception” by Andy Rementer

<This article was first posted on Lilok Pelikula on April 7, 2009—entitled “(Gibbering) on the Importance of Establishing a Film Magazine”—with countless grammatical errors and just plain stupid points. I am not apologizing for that, hello it’s a personal blog, but since the editor requests it to appear in Escolta (my fault because I did not finish my assignment and didn’t have anything new to submit), I might as well proofread it for dignity’s sake. If I have my punctuations wrong or my verbs missing, and the editor still misses them, well, I call that life.

<Since this is technically a reprint, and my mind has been fucked up between then and now, I am pulling the happy trigger and writing my notes after every paragraph. Bang!>

Becoming a film critic in this country is an ordeal. It is a work that invites loathers, a work that provokes hate from people who can never get used to the idea of civility and meaningful discussion. Even the critic himself is not used to being called a critic because the term connotes harshness, a person who bargains fun for pompousness, an intellectual whose glibness remains his only trait. For the sake of argument he argues, never letting his defenses down without giving his best shot. Primarily the reason we only have a few critics is that we have this culture against them, that they are almost unnecessary, that our small community of moviegoers is better off without them. We have made ourselves immune to criticism, knowing its only intention is to hurt.

<On second thought, who says being or becoming a film critic is a job? Again, being or becoming? Whoa, the stuff of superhero comics.>

In this country also, no one becomes a writer solely by profession. There are exceptions to the rule but most of these writerly dreams are either left prematurely in exchange for more fruitful lines of work—a call center job, for instance—or forgotten, because writing is the trade of the lunatic. A competent writer is lucky if his first novel or short story collection is followed by another one. The chance of getting published is so slim it is almost hopeless. Norman Wilwayco had to ask for pre-order payments to have his Palanca-winning novel be thrown at the printing press whereas in the span of less than a week after the movie came out, more than five times had I heard someone asking the cashier in FullyBooked when the new stock of Twilight would arrive. Another case: Noel Vera was only able to find a publisher for his book Critic After Dark in Singapore. In Singapore? Yes, because where in Manila could you find someone brave enough to publish a collection of film reviews whose readers are not even close to a thousand?

<What else is that supposed to mean? What is it that Filipino writers have to prove before getting the audience that they deserve?>

Little that some people know, writers here are the easiest to please. Almost on the verge of gullibility, the Filipino writer easily clams up when someone approaches him to tell that he has read his story or article—oh how on earth have you read that? no one reads my work, he thinks of saying every word of humility possible—but the giddiness that he felt after that simple anecdote is enough confirmation for him to continue his passion. The god of small things always saves him from despair. Writing has to be the noblest profession in this country, considering its lack of financial reward.

<We need to define noble. Any suggestions?>

The dearth of books that focus on Philippine cinema has pushed me to write. When I was still studying in the university, late in those years, I discovered how awful that in the library we only have less than five books authored by Filipino critics. Noel Vera’s book is literally peerless, and the Urian Anthology of the 70s and the 80s are waiting for another reprint, or for another decade of compilation. (Just so you know, three days ago, The 90s Urian Anthology was launched at Balay Kalinaw. –ed) It was a major orgasm in my life reading these books that more than once I intended to steal them from the library. It is impossible to buy a copy of them here, and if the library or Teddy Co loses them, they are just as lost as Gerardo de Leon’s Daigdig ng mga Api or the ark of the covenant.

<I forgot to add that Ricky Lo also had books. And hey, two books at that: Star-Studded and Conversations with Ricky Lo. I borrowed them twice in the library. I may have to reread them. Seriously.>

So it is a relief when I see a film article in the Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, or Rogue, more so if it is well-written and inspiring, because that space—how little it is—is a dream to me. Every time I come across a lousy film review I cannot help but feel my dream move a million miles away from myself, with great desire to punch the fucking writer in the face. There are times when I wish that we had a coalition for the deserving: the irresponsible crucified and the meritorious esteemed; but determining that, of course, will only complicate things.

<A coalition of the deserving headed by Laurice Guillen and Robbie Tan. Oh, were you referring to another coalition? Let’s have one led by Mauro Gia Samonte.>

Only a few interesting writers are actively contributing to major newspapers today, considering that editors prefer scoops from Dolly Ann Carvajal to refreshing theater criticism of Gibbs Cadiz and Exie Abola. Sadly most of these writers are big bluffs. With all due respect to Nestor Torre, Butch Francisco and Mario Bautista, for what little that I have for them, I always feel the need to implore them to step out humbly from their respective broadsheet spaces; or, if it is ever possible, given their way of lengthening their columns by accommodating cable programs and gossips and whatnots, ask them to be more responsible writers on film, again, if that is ever possible. There are no more tricks to learn from you, Mr. Torre, Mr. Francisco, and Mr. Bautista. What the public needs is insight into intelligent viewership, curious discussions and penetrating cultural discourse, piercing thoughts on our socio-political climate without devaluing cinema’s entertaining virtues, credibility, good taste, and good taste of bad taste. With your empty thoughts, Mr. Torre, Mr. Francisco, and Mr. Bautista, I am afraid, we can only request for the acceptance of truth.

<”Dollywood”, at least, has entertainment value. “Viewfinder” is an insult to the thousands of trees cut for its sake. “Starbytes” is pretending to be journalistic while in fact Butch Francisco’s  writing is Greta Garbage. And “Reel Score”, come on, is just meh.>

Furthermore, what saddens me is that we don’t have any film magazine in print. The short-lived Pelikula had vanished after only several issues. Even I myself had not gotten hold any page of it. The risk of putting up a publication that caters on marginal readership is only aggravated by the fact that the number of local films continues to dwindle down year after year. So, what is there to write if there isn’t much to write about? Old films in abysmal video print? Mainstream cinema’s mastery of cinematic sciolism? Our terrible fate? Luckily right now, the landscape is changing, both in terms of number and quality, and starting to be diverse. That’s why I tell you, it is important to write now, now than ever, because we need to document this point in Philippine cinema that will never happen again. For what are writers but chroniclers, historians in their own selfish right. This movement of independent cinema is an earthquake that needs to be recorded in every possible point by the very few serious seismographs we have (most of them online), like news reports sensationalizing a national disaster.

<Oh, right.  I get carried away there. 189 words? Two words could equally suffice: JUST WRITE.>

The only thing we can never lose, especially in this age of remarkable movement, is passion. There is hope, there is discovery, and there are films to write about. If only Philippine cinema has sufficient readers to support the foundation of a film magazine— moral is good but financial is absolutely better—then we can create the rudiments of critical film discussions in print, which is still the best way to promote movies locally. In theory, this magazine will aim to inform and provide rooms for meaningful discourse. Writers will not be paid unless they write well. If it may be allowed to continue then further avenues for film appreciation will come along the way. The support cannot only come from writers but from you most especially, Filipino moviegoers and readers. And hopefully—yes, the improper way to use “hopefully” in a sentence—things will eventually fall into place.

<Although I still think a print magazine is necessary, I don’t believe that print is the “best way to promote movies locally”.  I was wrong there. I read more articles on the web than in the papers. I was just being stubborn, mind you, or idealistic, blinded by the dream of writing for glossy magazines. Everybody lies, after all.>

There are plans to initiate an award-giving body comprised of active local bloggers (myself included), something that may sound unnecessary considering the uselessness of awards in the industry (“Take it! Take it!” † RIP Viveka Babajee). But with our little exposure to glitz I hope we can give more importance to the why than the what, the films than the glamour they carry with them, and the national cinema than the cinema of the press. The awarding of best films and performances of the year will be a joint effort of people who come from different fields but who share a similar passion, people who agree and disagree with each other because they have different ideas. Unlike other award-giving bodies that exist out of self-importance or passing a forgotten legacy, we write, we write with dedication and sense, words have always been our only weapon, not glamour or friends in the industry (though they do help). Our relationship with cinema is worthy of love without reciprocation. We are here as lovers of good films, and oftentimes their spokespersons on behalf.

<Alas, the plans did not push through. I think I was being a hopeless daydream believer again there, muddy and careless thoughts in breathless sentences. I still dream of doing the awards thing with fellow bloggers, but I admit I watch less movies recently and write less frequently. Could we keep up? Do you wince while reading that last line? Just curious, because I do. Too much beer when I wrote that.>

The critic dies not when he ceases to write but when he thinks there is no more reason for writing. Now, there is practically almost every reason to write. I hope the very few of us who continuously update our online journals will be given at least a piece of encouragement, a tap on the shoulder, a harsh comment, or why not a visit in our dreams, to make this work. And to filmmakers, I dare you, if you are still worthy to be called filmmakers, give us reasons to believe that Philippine cinema is indeed in another golden age, and that, as time will tell, it will linger as fruitfully as before.

<Fuck that first sentence. Fuck this whole paragraph. All bullshit.

<Do not be sentimental for others’ sake. Grieve because you want to. Write because no one will read your work. Watch films because you want to waste time. Once you care about other people, all else fails. Don’t make a difference. Don’t think you can make a difference. Don’t think about establishing anything. Don’t think about relevance. Don’t think about the filmmaker. Think about films. Think about writing. Think about perfect grammar. Think about style. Think about giving up on love (only when provoked). Think about music. Think about books. Think about. Think. Then disappear.

<Writing this now, I feel a sense of dread. What is there to look forward to? Like Carey Mulligan says in An Education, using Lynn Barber’s voice, “I feel old but not very wise.” I wrote this article and posted it on my blog more than a year ago. How come many things I believed in then are so different now? How come I don’t care much anymore? How come I am sending this article to Escolta instead of doing an analysis of sexuality using two films (Patikim ng Pinya and Ang Lihim ni Antonio) from two different decades? How come much of that film drive I used to have has been lost in such a short period of time?

<All I know is that I now have a definition of a critic. “A critic gets paid to write reviews.” As simple as that. With emphasis on the third and fourth word. Nestor Torre is a critic. Butch Francisco is a critic. Mario Bautista is a critic. Damn, Philip Cu-Unjieng and Baby Gil are critics. Noel Vera is a critic. Phibert Dy is a critic. Roland Tolentino is a great critic. Oggs Cruz is sometimes a critic. Dodo Dayao is a rock star critic. Alexis Tioseco was a critic.

<It’s not a question of money. It’s a question of how much a publication values its writers. How much a writer’s service is worth. How much is the writer’s damn fee to write a fucking film review.

<An unpaid writer is just as unworthy as the crap that PEP writers churn out everyday. An unpaid writer is an unappreciated writer. An unpaid writer isn’t happy with just a byline. An unpaid writer isn’t worthy of a byline at all. An unpaid writer whines but continues to hope. An unpaid writer is stupid by all means.

<There, I’m not a bloody critic so please don’t treat me like one. See you at the movies.

<August 12, 2010>

*Published in Escolta, August 2010



1. diliman - September 18, 2010

this piece has given you away. a damn bitter, ugly critic wanna-be.

get a life. look at the mirror. start fixing yourself.

2. Ricky - September 19, 2010


that post has given you away. a damn bitter, ugly critic wanna-be.

get a life. look at the mirror. start fixing yourself.

3. libidoatlikido - September 19, 2010

kalayaan, pero huwag gamitin ito para panakip sa kasalanan..

hayaan mo ang mga taong nasa paligid mo, lahat ay may pagkakaiba, minsan may pagkakatulad.

paminsan-minsan kailangan nating maging makasarili, para lumaya — kahit pansamantala.

tuloy lang sa paglaya kaibigang Richard.

4. AD! - September 19, 2010

chard, nagulat naman ako sa an unpaid critic “deserve to die” rants. hmmm… low self esteem ba ito?

When i read this blog of yours a year ago about establishing a film magazine, i knew you are an important person. so i quote some of your observations for my school paper about the contemporary film criticism in the philippines, where is it heading, who’s who, what’s what, etc . I quote it because it is the only one over the net that tackles THE current scenario of film criticism in the philippines.

I am just surprise why lambaste one’s work (perhaps for demystification purposes or a postmodernist gesture) when it is written during the most desperate moment in Philippine Film criticism history.

It could have been better if you made updates about the facts, include discussion about ‘past’ film criticisms of writers, as what bordwell do with his 1970s essays republished during the 2000s, than treat it harshly.

we all are not perfect writers here bro… cheer up! ^___^

5. Richard Bolisay - September 21, 2010

i didn’t say and imply “deserve to die.” i have no idea where you’re coming from about “lambasting one’s work” but in any case i don’t think one should make an attempt at civility when in fact the film in question is harsher than the critic himself. we don’t always dip our toes into nice waters, do we? i don’t know too, about your suggestion of making “updates about the facts” because i’m only interested in facts vaguely. it’s strange to place bordwell in this context, because hey, he’s american, i’m just a little brown one. is there even a bit about philippine cinema in “Film Art”?

6. AD! - September 22, 2010

im sorry for the ‘deserve to die’, superfluous reading. soweee. i’m not really putting in the whole of Bordwell’s work in the context of everything you’ve written up. i just made him an example since i find youre commenting similar to what he did on some of his essays. its just a example chard. no offense. :-)

and yes, it is strange to put bordwell in the context of this.

And yes, again. there is not a bit about philippine cinema in Film art.

7. Taniya Machorva - September 23, 2010

Richard, hindi ka ba afraid sa muscles ni Butch? Baka jombagin ka niya!!

You are a great writer..hayaan mo na silech.. yayaman ka for sure..! go girl!

8. toynbeeconvector - September 24, 2010

hoy, ikaw. kelan ba tayo magkikita? Put up this magazine already and all haters can go to hell. btw, I’m blogging but not hearing from you…*sadface*

9. rex baylon - October 27, 2010

i love this piece. My favorite line being “The critic dies not when he ceases to write but when he thinks there is no more reason for writing.” Although we all do what we do out of a passion for the cinema; it doesn’t make the fact that a majority of us will stay in the shadows any easier to bear. I guess the question comes down to: Must the writer/critic adjust his ideals to fit the society he is working in or will they be able to effect change if they plod on long enough? Writing is a thankless job because everybody thinks they can do it. People measure the amount of work a writer puts into a piece by how long it is and how physically heavy the work in their hand is. And as for film criticism I think Pauline Kael put it best when she wrote: “I regard criticism as an art, and if in this country and in this age it is practiced with honesty, it is no more remunerative than the work of an avant-garde film artist. My dear anonymous letter writers, if you think it is so easy to be a critic, so difficult to be a poet or a painter or a film experimenter, may I suggest you try both? You may discover why there are so few critics, so many poets.”

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