By Issa Sebullen
Since my main line is teaching management subjects while fulfilling my doctoral studies, it never occurred to me that the honest opinion of my students would be of great help. But the interviews I conducted with my students were not for my dissertation. They were actually just for an article on this website.
I decided to consult the young minds under my stewardship since the youth largely comprises the movie-going public. Unlike before where the movie is the heart and soul of a student outside the classroom, a still great majority of students opt for the movies as a form of diversion although on a smaller scale now. A big competition is posed by the online gaming in internet cafés and the new pastime called malling.
Within the circle of movie-watching, it is a big battle between the legitimate theater versus the pirated DVDs. But whether it is the real thing or the imitation, movies per se remains a nice and decent way of entertainment for the youth and adults as well.
Based on the statistics that I had gathered, the genre of action is on the way out. Local filmmakers seemed to have stagnated with olden ideas of what heroes are made of. Realistically speaking, action movies now should involve a lot of modern inventions like fancy gadgets and amazing equipment. Plots can be the same provided there is a big leap in the presentation. Computer animation definitely enhances the setting especially for futuristic films. A good example is Captain Barbell of the TV series where animation plays a bigger than life role. It is the breath-taking animations that capture the imagination of the kids.
Another aspect in the action genre is the personality of the hero. It used to be that mere brawn was enough to vanquish the antagonists but it’s not that effective anymore. Viewers, especially those in the younger bracket, prefers gimmickry and deception for the conflicts and twists and not much of physical combat unless the movie is purely animation. Modern weapons and fancy armaments make for an exciting action film but it wouldn’t look realistic for the locally-made movies. Maybe it is in our culture that foreign movies should be way ahead when it comes to modern applicabilities.
Drama is still in but it always depends on the actor or actress playing the lead role. With drama, the name is still the game. A Vilma Santos-Christopher De Leon starrer is preferred over other dramatic pairs. Nora Aunor still has it no matter who she is paired with. Kris Aquino, reputedly one of the most popular actresses at present, is not credible enough in a heavy dramatic scenario but she had proven her point in thrillers and horror films. Sharon Cuneta, although still popular like Kris, falls on the borderline of credibility in drama scenes.
A drama movie requires more twists and, unlike other genres, the dramatic plotline is steered by the step-by-step development towards a grand climax. According to one answer in the questionnaires I distributed, drama is a retelling of a serious story so the seriousness should be maintained and the only distraction allowed is that of the star status of the actor or actress playing the lead role. There is a consensus that drama should not be interspersed with gags. Once diluted, the drama becomes a dramedy which is not really preferred, i.e. according to my students. But light drama with a sprinkling of decent gags can still be a good movie worth watching.
Suspense, horror and thrillers all fall in the same category. The element of surprise is the most salient point so there should be no giveaway clues. But on the contrary, trying hard getups and setups that enhance the complexity for the sake of confusing the viewers only make the movie corny. One student wrote, “a scary movie should be scary enough but if the style recurs then it is not scary anymore.”
In our local horror films, one thing noticeable is the endless surprises that eventually leave the watcher agape, not with fright but with boredom. Sometimes the director forgets about the story and just focuses on the so-called spine-tingling scenes which when oft repeated in different fashions actually loses their sting.
Another important aspect of a thriller film is the sound. Take away the sound and the artificial fear of the viewer will naturally wane by itself. Music is in the same breath, upbeat music energizes the viewers at first, only to be wrung of their emotions later by sudden jolting sounds. Good musical scorers and sound editors have the penchant for mixing a combination that is far from what is expected. In thrillers, sound editors demand a higher pay due to the intricate weavings required of the sound and music.
A love team makes for a romance movie. It doesn’t matter if the pair is credible to be partners in real life but sometimes it matters. Take the case of Claudine in the recent Dubai movie. Everyone knows that Claudine and Aga are both happily married and that John Lloyd Cruz has a girlfriend but the movie still raked it in the box office. But some insist that the focal point of Dubai are the settings shot on location. Filipinos are used to seeing American and European settings, likewise with South American tourist spots, but we are not well-versed with Arab countries. Hence the settings aroused the interest of the movie-viewers. This time, curiosity did not kill the cat albeit it made the cat richer.
Romance movies featuring true-to-life lovers rarely fail especially if the affair is not blown up yet. Being mysterious or secretive in their affairs, the lead stars can definitely cash in on their romance. A good example are the movies starred in by Sharon Cuneta and her husband-to-be Gabby Concepcion. Another is the movie of Maricel Soriano and Ronnie Rickets. If Vic Sotto will make a movie with Pia Guanio for his leading lady, it will certainly sell because of their enigmatic love affair.
Comedy is a delicate balance of story and humor told in a smooth flow otherwise it would just be a gag show. For a comedy to be effective, jokes should be appropriate, new and original, and not foul like those making fun of physical handicaps. What’s best, according to my survey, are jokes pertaining to the situations (so-called sitcom or situational comedy) where slapstick is on the minimum and humor on the maximum. Too much visual comedy spoils the film and too much verbal comedy (long dialogue) also spoils it. Simply put, comedy is all about balance and moderation.
There are comedy films that deal with impossible things and the like. But worse are films that deviate to an irrelevant scene just to give way to a gag. To be funny is not really the joke per se but the timing and the delivering. Dolphy is famous for that skill because he delivers a joke right on target.
Musicals are sometimes mistaken for operas. An example of a good musical movie is DO RE MI, which had Donna Cruz, Regine Velasquez and Mikee Cojuangco for the lead. It has a good story and the musical part was just the garnishing and not the entrée. Musicals can have new songs but old songs fare better due to the familiarity of the audience. For a filmmaker, the only thing better than an applause is when the audience sings with the songs in the movie.
Musicals are more common in stage plays and very rarely do we find musical films, be it local or foreign, on the big silver screen. The problem lies in the arrangement of music and the rehearsals required.
So producers just go for drama, which is one of the easiest to make, or an action film, which is expensive but still easier to make. Another disadvantage of a musical film is finding the right actor to handle the role because it is unethical to lipsynch in a musical movie.
Science fiction is also another rare genre in the local film. But our answer to science fiction is our own cultural and social peculiarities like witchcraft and the like. Sometimes a ghost story can give science fiction a good competition especially when the film was made with focus on the suspense and the unexplained rather than being scary. Although not in the same genre, mysteries and science fiction go side by side.
Adventures and fairy tales dealing with super heroes are gaining ground especially with the revival of komiks characters like Darna. Same with the action films, animation is adored by kids so sometimes the story need not be too complicated because of the young audience. But super hero adventure films need a lot of action and fancy costumes to be palatable. Kids also prefer imaginary powers but such powers should stay inside the perimeter of logic. As for the modern fairy tale, of course, a happy ending is expected.
Pure animation, the specialty of Walt Disney, may not have a space yet in our local movies. But it is due to the costly procedure of producing an animation film so we are still waiting for the ice breaker. It would be nice to see an animation of Florante At Laura or maybe Bernardo Carpio. But those thing will come… in due time.