Eddie Garcia: In memoriam

The entertainment industry of the Philippines has an obsession with giving titles to its most bankable stars: titles that have become synonymous with the actors or actresses themselves. Superstar. Star for All Seasons. Megastar. Diamond Star. King of Comedy. The King. Earlier generations may also recall The Great Profile. But in an industry filled with kings, queens and stars, Eddie Garcia took a humble title—taken from his character’s name from a movie—and made it a legend bigger than himself: Manoy.

And today, the entertainment industry has lost its biggest brother, an actor and director who lent his name and talent to over 600 films in the span of 70 years, all of which are testaments to his longevity. A passionate artist with a strong, disciplined work ethic that built his reputation as the most prolific actor on the silver screen, whose appeal has endured for generations. (A Reddit thread from October 2018, about his photo on the cover of Esquire Philippines, ended up being more of a tribute page about him than about the photo itself.)

He was a long-time student of his craft, having been cast into Siete Infantes de Lara (his first film, in 1950) without any acting experience. And through the years, he strived to become a better performer, for any role he accepted is, in his words, “the best recommendation for your next film.” And Garcia never permitted himself to be typecast as an action star: he has taken roles in comedy and drama films as well, including Lino Brocka’s Tubog sa Ginto, which he said was his favorite performance (as a closeted gay man). He also immersed himself behind the scenes, shadowing directors, cinematographers and editors, before going on to direct over 30 films himself. For both his work in front and behind the camera, he has won numerous awards, even receiving an Urian for Best Actor before he died.

He himself was long considered a contender for being the next National Artist. Whether this honor will be given to him remains to be seen. But whether or not he earns that honor, he can rest contented that he has worked with and learned from six of the eight National Artists for Cinema, the exceptions being Lamberto Avellana and Kidlat Tahimik.

READ MORE: Eddie Garcia on his third Cinemalaya film ML (Martial Law)

More than his artistry, he has also been known for having a strong, focused work ethic, an attribute that younger generations can learn from regardless of their industry. His punctuality is the stuff of legends, almost always being the first person to report for duty on set; hence, the famous quip “you do not make Eddie Garcia wait”. (We at Cinema Bravo have been a witness to his punctuality. At the press conference for “Rainbow’s Sunset”, we arrived at the venue an hour earlier. To our surprise, Eddie Garcia also arrived just a few minutes after. The press con itself started one hour late, but Manoy was gracious throughout, gamely answering questions and posing for photographs.)

He also avoided complaining or critiquing his workmates, preferring instead to follow his directors’ instructions and doing his very best, however small the role is. As a director, he refrained from reprimanding his cast and crew, and instead focused on getting everyone’s job done, and done right. Perhaps more than the awards he has received, his fellow film workers now remember him more for his grace, his chivalry and his humility. It is not surprising then that in an industry rife with rivalry and politicking, Eddie Garcia has virtually no critics or enemies.

Until the very end, he believed that he should never retire, preferring to work for as long as his health permitted. We lost him, yes, while doing what he loved best, in an accident that he did not deserve. Who knows how many more films and TV shows he could have done. How many more awards he could have won. How many more audiences would have looked forward to his formidable performances and Instagrammable one-liners.

And in his passing, we have lost an even bigger star than the film industry’s kings and queens. A true legend in his own right whose body of work has transcended three or four generations of movie audiences.

Because however the kings and queens of cinema come and go, there can only be one Manoy.

‘Toy Story 4’ review: Schooling adults on existentialism

With its weighty themes on existential crisis and self-actualization, Toy Story 4 has strong and valid reasons to bring back our beloved characters for one more adventure.

The announcement of Toy Story 4 is met with a lot of apprehension from fans and I totally get what they’re feeling. Toy Story trilogy wrapped up on such a perfect note that it almost feels sacrilegious to extend the story of Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and Co. for the sake of a shameless cash grab. Toy Story 3 marks the pinnacle of the franchise and anything less than ‘perfect’ will smear its reputation. Despite this, I went to the screening with prejudices set aside. After all, if there’s a Hollywood studio that can match their timeless classics, it’s probably the combination of Disney and Pixar.

And boy, I am pleased to see this surprisingly, much-needed epilogue. To say the least, I walked out of this movie with a big smile and an enriched perspective in life. If TS3 tackles separation anxiety and the lifelong impact of toys to kids, TS4 poses deeper existential questions. In here, the successor of Andy’s toys, Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) literally makes a new friend, Forky (Tony Hale), out of a spork. He soon becomes a conscious and sentient toy who believes that he’s not meant to be a plaything. This leads to a hilarious gag of Forky throwing himself to a trash bin, and Woody repeatedly intercepting his suicide attempts.

Forky insists, “I’m trash!” and we all know what he’s talking about. It’s something that we must have said to ourselves at some point in our lives. But what makes a toy, a toy? How do you measure someone’s worth? Is it by looking at what they’re made of, or is it about them finding and fulfilling their purpose? Four movies in and this franchise continues to depict its characters the way that a kid would have imagined them: as toys imbued with real human depth and emotions.

Forky grapples at the confusing reality of his existence while Woody teaches him the essence of “toyhood.

The rescue adventure kicks into gear as sheriff Woody goes after Forky who sneaks out during a family trip. Along the way, he unexpectedly reunites with his old flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts), the shepherdess who has now turned into a free-spirited, self-sufficient “lost toy,” since her last appearance in Toy Story 2. For this installment, Bo Peep has a much more significant role than being just Woody’s love interest. Aside from being an empowered heroine, she’s there to challenge his existing ideals.

Over time, we’ve seen how Woody developed into a parental figure to his owner. He believes that the most noble thing a toy can do is to be there for a child. But does the principle still apply now that Bonnie is no longer fond of playing him? Would he be content on spending most of his days gathering “dust bunnies” inside a closet, or is it time to boldly venture to the unknown yet exciting possibilities in life? At what point should personal happiness be prioritized over the selfless advocacy? TS4 breaks the mold of what a toy should do. It gives it’s characters autonomy over their fates. Woody’s path to self realization imposes a lot of conflict which brings the character’s journey into a much fuller circle than what we thought before.

“Who needs a kid’s room, when you can have all this?” Bo Peep is back… and she’s a badass.

It’s also a film about breaking misperceptions, the things that we once fear – in Woody’s case, becoming a lost toy – might not be as horrendous as we once thought. There’s a wonderful subplot too about second chances and self-acceptance present in the film’s de facto villain, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a vintage doll who believes that the only way she can be loved is if she gets a replacement for her defective voicebox… just like the one that’s sewn into Woody’s back.

Creepy baby doll Gabby Gabby controls a gang of ventriloquist dummies in ‘Toy Story 4.’

Emotionally, TS4 does not surpass the amount of damage that TS3 did to our tear ducts, yet it knows wisely not to. TS4 makes up with a lot of laughs. It’s situational humor is consistently clever, like Buzz’s complete misunderstanding of conscience/inner voice for his pre-programmed recordings and also the humor mined from our old-time favorites like Jessie (Joan Cussack), Rex (Wallace Shawn), the Potato Heads (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), etc. Most of them might be relegated to minor status to further advance the theme and plot, but this sequel introduces equally memorable scene-stealers like disaster-prone daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of hysterical conjoined carnival toys Ducky (Keegan Michael-Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele).

Back from the retirement shelf (L-R): Trixie, Buttercup, Mr. Pricklepants, Dolly, Hamm, Buzz Lightyear, Rex, Aliens, Jessie, Slinky Dog, Bullseye, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head reprise their roles in ‘Toy Story 4.’

Some may take TS4’s level of animation and production design for granted but Pixar has always been spectacular in their game. TS4 is easily the best-looking entry in the franchise. Likewise, the same can be said to the whole voice cast, especially Tom Hanks in particular who still sounds as youthful and as energetic as he did two decades ago.

Toy Story 4 never loses sight of what makes the franchise appeal to multiple generations. It can have all the fun that it wants but the viewing experience never falls short of meaningful and inspirational, as the franchise has shown steadfast commitment to deliver mature yet kid-friendly themes. If you’re planning to skip this because you believe that the trilogy already ended so perfectly, believe me when I say that you’ll be missing a great deal.

5 out of 5 stars
Directed and co-written by Josh Cooley, ‘Toy Story 4’ stars Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt and Kristen Schaal. 100 minutes. Rated G.