HONOR ROLL: ‘Exes Baggage’, the latest ‘Bojack Horseman’, ‘Maniac’, and Janina Vela’s breakout EP

Exes Baggage (2018)

Despite the doomed fate that the trailer of Exes Baggage leads you to believe, it isn’t one of those tongue-in-cheek “this is not a love story” stories. On the contrary, it gravitates towards the “saks lang” department when taken as a whole, but *uwu heart eyes spark sparkle* when considering the amount of kilig felt.

The film, directed by Dan Villegas, is heavy on dialogue between its two protagonists: real estate broker Pia (Angelica Panganiban) and furniture maker Nix (Carlo Aquino). Its all-talk format is similar to 2014’s That Thing Called Tadhana (of which Dan was a producer), except friendlier to non-romance fans. The plot follows the relationship of Pia and Nix from their first meeting at a bar, where Nix brings Pia home until (spoiler!) its end; as well as through all the good and bad in between.

Of course, there is plenty of discussion about ex partners and the reasons couples have for separation. While the plot wasn’t anything special, it was the unfailing chemistry between Carlo and Angelica (#CarGel4ever) that kept the film from having any dull moments in its entire one hour and 44 minute run. Trust us when we say that the back and forth between the two characters could crack even the most emotionally unavailable.

The appeal of Exes Baggage goes hand-in-hand with the death of the conventional romcom in local cinema: the trend of these relatable relationship stories is indicative of how the audience wants to see more of themselves in the art they consume, and that flat love interests just won’t do it anymore.

Warning: Be prepared to get LSS from Ben&Ben’s Maybe the Night after leaving the cinema. It also maybe isn’t the best film to watch if you’re fresh from a break-up (unless you’re a masochist). — Gaby Gloria, online editorial assistant

Bojack Horseman Season 5 (2018)

There’s this one super meta moment in the show when Diane Nguyen, lovelorn and financially struggling in the jaws of Girl Croosh’s grinding content machine, questions her role as a writer for Bojack’s new show, Philbert. The noir drama sees Bojack playing the titular character, an edgy detective whose personality is largely defined by toxically masculine tropes. The parallels are clear as a hot Los Angeles day, and at the premiere, Bojack tells the expectant Hollywoo crowd, Philbert teaches us that we’re all fucked up, and that’s okay. But Diane disagrees. She says, “I made him more vulnerable, and that made him more likeable, which makes for a better TV show. But if Philbert is just a way to help dumb assholes rationalize their own awful behavior, well, I’m sorry, but we can’t put this out there.”

It’s the kind of hyper-aware self-drag I wish Rick & Morty would’ve made when that whole stupid Szechuan sauce debacle was still a thing — most people don’t seem to get that just because a character is a charming a-hole, that doesn’t mean we all have to be charming a-holes. But hey, we’re getting it from Bojack, and by implication creator Raphael Bob-Waxberg who, at this point must be extremely conscious of the kind of place in culture his show occupies. Extremely conscious. Like how this season, Bojack has to be taken to much darker, crueler places before he can finally realize how fucked up he is as a person. Only then can a true redemptive arc begin. ‘Bout damn time. A part of me is excited for what the next season will begin, but another part of me just wishes these emotionally stunted adults would grow the hell up already. Either way, something to root for. — Jam Pascual, copy editor

Maniac (2018)

Wait, what? This is what I found myself saying a lot (more than I’d like to admit) while watching Netflix’s newest show Maniac. Set in an offbeat NYC future/alternate reality — one in which you can rent a friend or husband — it’s about two strangers undergoing a drug trial. The particular drug? One that can make your pain go away through different pills and a supercomputer. Things don’t go as planned when Owen (Jonah Hill) and Annie (Emma Stone) end up doing the very thing their world is devoid of: connection.

I’m not even sure I covered all the bases. Watching Maniac was exactly like a dream, the everything’s-strange-yet-familiar environment. A slow boot, it took me until episode three to sort of understand its plot and appeal. It was like watching 10 different things and no amount of alternate dream worlds (one was an LOTR-inspired reality) can get me to watch it all in one go. At the end of the day, it all goes down to preference: mine was to hit pause and go back to my own reality. Unlike Owen and Annie, I wasn’t able to connect with the oddly fascinating manic energy of Maniac. — Gian Nicdao, online editorial assistant

“Love You The Same” (2018)

Let’s start with the obvious: Janina Vela lives a life we all want to live. With over 617,000 followers on her YouTube channel, she took the natural path a lot of YouTubers took after sharing their lives onscreen: making music. We’ve all seen attempts of YouTubers like Troye Sivan and Eva Gutowski (of My Life as Eva, a channel not unlike Janina’s) at making bops. Some were successful at first try (“Blue Neighborhood” y’all), while others are still learning the ropes. Janina’s debut EP “Love You The Same” is right in the middle.

The themes are ordinary, and the beats even more so. Hesitate and Sorry I Left (featuring Donny Pangilinan), somehow sound like the beginning of a travel vlog, but you know, with feelings. Safe At Last is a bit more raw and connects with everyone’s inner teen with lyrics like “I mourned that what once kept you going / can be what’s keeping you from growing.” Curtain Call is a slow, sad love song which contrasts the upbeat, happy title track Love You The Same.

Her EP doesn’t stand out from other releases we’ve seen on YouTube, but the girl has some serious potential. Just take a look at her performance at the E! Bloggers Ball. Admittedly, Hesitate sounded so much better live once you hear the power in her vocals. What was even more surprising was her rendition of If I Ain’t Got You. She hit all the notes perfectly, which makes us think that she needs to flex more of that vocal power in her next release.

At her age and with her audience, all that matters is connection beyond the screen. They want to gush over that cute boy from their school soiree and write songs about the heartbreak that might come after. There are no whistle notes or poetic lines to shout when the beat drops. It gets lost in the myriad of YouTuber songs (not to mention music videos) that follow the same format of flat beats and semi-sweet lyrics, and stick to a generic EDM sound. At best, “Love You The Same” offers a good time and an opportunity for you to shut your brain off and feel the music. — Maine Manalansan, creative director

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