The Film Fest of Many Battles

By Nonoy L. Lauzon/UP Film Institute

As transgenderism is currently a big thing, it is no surprise that even MMFF has taken to the concept with two of the festival’s selections respectively featuring Vice Ganda and John “Sweet” Lapuz.


The 41st edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) has become the center of media attention for just one more controversy surrounding the sanction of disqualification for one entry in the Best Picture category. But beyond the brouhaha, the festival has appeared to be a battleground in multiple counts of box-office supremacy, lion’s share of awards, clash of the romantic tandems, war of the television networks (with festival features identified with either GMA or ABS-CBN).

As of this writing, respective camps for Beauty and the Bestie and My Bebe Love proclaim conflicting claims for the top spot in the box-office race. #Walang Forever may have scored the topmost plum, but Honor Thy Father and Nilalang have their own share of coveted awards to concede the contest for meritorious filmmaking to the festival’s biggest winner. Casualty of the wars of the love teams is that of Xian Lim and Kim Chiu with the below par box-office performance of All You Need Is Pag-ibig.

James Reid and Nadine Lustre may beam with pride for the success of their entry but theirs is the team-up that constitutes just an add-on to Beauty and the Bestie and is thus overshadowed in stellar ruse by Vice Ganda and Coco Martin essaying the title roles. In contrast, the strength of My Bebe Love certainly lies primarily on the phenomenal pair of Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza. There is not an iota of doubt that it is to the credit of their fans and minions in the millions that the film has amassed a surge of huge earnings at the tills.

Duels between stars have found their way to the yearend film fest. For best actor, it’s a one-on-one between Jericho Rosales and John Lloyd Cruz. For best actress, it’s Jennylyn Mercado versus Meryll Soriano. For the affection of Janella Salvador in Haunted Mansion, Marlo Mortel and Jerome Ponce tug it out. For wreaking the most evil of havocs, Iza Calzado’s ghost in Haunted Mansion gives the twisted Santa Claus character of TJ Trinidad in Buy Now, Die Later a run for the money. The outcome for each of these bouts, by now, has been rendered moot and academic especially in the light that the unlikely battle royale – for which MMFF has proven to be truly exciting for once – involves not any of the aforementioned duels but the one of the duo of Vice Ganda and John Lapuz.

The bone of contention is who between the two has most effectively embodied the cause of transgenderism. Vice plays in Beauty and the Bestie a family breadwinner who is a lookalike of a kidnapped candidate for an international beauty pageant that the country is hosting. John, for his part, portrays a forlorn gay wanting for acceptance and wishing to be straight men’s object of desire in Buy Now, Die Later.

Vice may have an entire full-length film for his showcase of acting wares, but he is no match in dishing out comedy wit to John who dominates the big screen in just one of the five episodes in the omnibus feature he jointly top-bills with four other leads. Keen observers point to John’s serious theater background as the comedian’s edge over rival Vice whose roots are in stand-up comedy for live acts in bars.

There are at least two scenes in Buy Now, Die Later that stand out for John’s glowing excellence. One is the date with a prospect love he first met online where he gets to spew in an ensuing repartee the various variants for the term discriminatory. The other is where neighborhood thugs receive his distinct and worthy-of-patent tongue-lashing as he gets back at them for the slur thrown at his person. Unfortunately for Vice, his starrer boasts of no such sparkling moments that could prompt audiences to empathize with his transgender character the way they’re bound to with the case of John in the singular most notable film of his career.

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