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My Short Films

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Just yearning to make another film.

A couple of weeks before my departure to Perth last year, I was visited by a high school friend who's also an aspiring filmmaker. The guy was collaborating with another friend of his to work on something for the Astro Chinese Short Film Competition, so he came over to pitch his ideas to me, and also wondered whether I can help them out as well. Alas, I was going to Perth, so I had no choice but to turn down his kind offer, even though I was very tempted to join them.

After that, I bought myself a handycam, and went off to Perth, where I got to make my own short film 'A Boring Story' for this competition organized by Murdoch University. The rest is... er, history.

Fastforward to last night. I've returned to Malaysia for almost two months.

I was visited by my high school buddy again last night, with his partner, and they showed me the stuff they've made for the Astro competition last year. Like me, they didn't get to win anything, but their short film was pretty solid. Like me, both of these guys also had to act as well. But unlike me, they have dialogue in their films. (lucky me!) And also, unlike me, they got an entire week to work on the film. In the end, I'm envious. Envious because they have the enthusiasm and passion to continue working in such an environment (I'm at Perth, so I have more opportunities... but these two guys are really attempting to rejuvenate our Malaysian film industry!) Whilst these two are plotting and scheming for their next short film (I think they're going to participate in this Akira Kurosawa Tribute Film Fest thingie or something), I'm still feeling quietly frustrated and depressed and exasperated with the lack of progress my (supposed) second short film has.

But anyway, I've spoken to Alanded just now, and we'll see what we can work on. It's doubtful that we can do what we've originally planned to do, but we'll make something from those footages we've shot. After that, the only project Alanded and I will be working on is the novel. Nothing else anymore.

In addition to that, I think I'm also going to make preparations, see what kinda stuff can I make when I return to Perth.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Swifty Reviews "Sideways"

Most films that are nominated for the Oscars are usually not shown in Malaysian theatres. In fact, among the five films that were nominated for this year's Oscar (Ray, Finding Neverland, The Aviator, Sideways and Million Dollar Baby), only one, The Aviator, was shown in the cinemas, probably because it had a star-studded cast, and a pretty huge budget.

Ray? Well, the only blind musician most Malaysians know here is Stevie Wonder, so I doubt they'll be interested in a biopic about Ray Charles, despite how influential the guy is.

Finding Neverland? Yeah, it has Johnny Depp, it has Kate Winslet, but it's a DRAMA, so, nope, no luck either.

Ditto with Million Dollar Baby. Too dramatic.

Sideways star a bunch of unknowns (to the regular Malaysian cinemagoers), so it ain't gonna have any chance either. Even though director Alexander Payne's previous flick, About Schmidt, was indeed shown in the cinemas back then, maybe it was the Jack Nicholson factor.

I just watched Sideways just now, and I LOVED IT! I've heard many good things about it, I've seen it winning many awards from various critics' associations, so naturally, my expectations of it are pretty damned high, and I was worried whether it would be as good as I've thought. But YES! It IS that good, man! Holy shit, some scenes are so simple, yet at the same time, it's so warm and nice that it made my eyes tear up, I mean, GODDAMN! It's just a simplistic conversation between a man and a woman, but everything became so freaking poetic and eloquent! Virginie Madsen sure as hell deserve an Oscar! (those who've seen the movie will know which part am I referring to!) Thomas Haden Church's funny, he deserves it too! But PAUL GIAMATTI NOT GETTING AN OSCAR NOMINATION??? What are you people thinking?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Books and CDs I bought in Singapore

Books

Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - Always wanted to read a book by Umberto Eco, so I picked up the very first book he wrote.

A Heartbreaking Work of Overwhelming Genius by Dave Eggers - Was attracted by the title. Obviously.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - 2001 Pulitzer Winner. Chabon also wrote the screenplay for Spider-man 2. That's why I picked up this book.

Yes, I've not been picking up the fantasy and sci-fi books like I used to do most of the time in the past. It's difficult to find good stuff these days after being exposed to the likes of George R R Martin, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville and Steven Erikson. The rest of the stuff these days are pretty generic.

CDs I Bought

Utada Hikaru's Exodus (her English album)
Imai Eriko's (Speed) Stairway
Hiro's Coco D'or (her English jazz album)
Lisa Ono's 2004 album
Two J-drama OSTs I picked from Ngee Ann City for only 5 bucks each

When I first came upon the imported version of Coco D'or at HMV, I almost suffered a heart attack when I saw that the price is $70. Despite my undying loyalty and love for Hiro, there's no way am I going to pay that kind of money (and three times the amount of Hikki's album) to listen to Hiro singing classic Jazz songs in wince-inducing English. I'm not being harsh, I'm speaking the truth because I love her. I'm a rational Hiro-lover, not some brainless little teenage girl who refuses to accept her idol's flaws and then later shift her allegiance to... well, Morning Musume.

But anyway, I bought Coco D'or at that CD shop called That CD Shop next to the Shaw Building for a cheaper price. Good place, really classy and stuff.

I don't think Hiro will ever make it big as a pop singer anymore in Japan, where the loyalty of fans are more fickle than anywhere else. But yo, Hiro,once I become a film director, I won't mind resurrecting your career by allowing you to headline my films. So, yeah, gimme a phone call if you're reading this, Hiro.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Kelly Chen, Ronald Cheng, Grasshopper. 1996

More personal memories from Cantopop of the mid-90s.

With Cantopop Songstress Kelly Chen


The lady beside me is Kelly Chen. It was 1996, there was a celebration after an award ceremony in Singapore, but she was also celebrating her birthday.



Ronald Cheng and Calvin Choi (one of the guys from the pop group, Grasshopper) were there too.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Swifty's Top Ten Films of 2004

Swifty's Top Ten Films of 2004


Here are my favourite movies that I saw on 2004, not in any particular order.

1. Spider-man 2



This is easily the best movie of summer, and the best superhero movie I've ever seen. I was already a fan of the first Spidey flick, but I sure as hell didn't expect this to be so much better. The characters here have remarkable depth not seen in your usual superhero movies, in fact, I do not even want to consider this a superhero movie, but merely a movie about a superhero. It's also entertaining.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind



Most romantic comedies in Hollywood (and Korea these days) feature the following formula: boy meets girl, boy and girl bicker a lot, boy and girl realize they love each other, a MAJOR obstacle (tm) threatens to break them apart, boy declares everlasting love for girl in dramatic fashion, they live happily ever after.

This movie does not have this formula, and it's not everyone's cup of tea. But to me, this is one of the most romantic movies of 2004. After his ex-girlfriend had memories of him removed in a psychiatrist's experiment, a guy decides to do the same thing to himself. When the process begins, he realizes that he really doesn't want to forget her, and attempts to smuggle her to parts of his memory where she doesn't belong. Pretty deep stuff! Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet put up great performances (and will Jim FINALLY get an Oscar nomination???), and we get to see Elijah Wood as a conniving bastard. Fun!

3. Garden State



Also a rather unconventional romantic comedy (or dramedy?) with, BY FAR, my favourite movie soundtrack of the year. Zach Braff wrote, direct and starred in this film, and being an aspiring filmmaker, I sure as hell wish that my debut would be as good as this one!! Although Natalie Portman was the best thing in the shitty Star Wars prequels, this film reminded me what a good actress she really is. *sigh*

4. One Nite In Mongkok

2004 has not been a good year for Hong Kong movies, month after month, I'm treated with lame romantic comedies and any crap with Twins in it. This crime thriller/drama starring Daniel Wu, Alex Fong and Cecilia Cheung simply rocked. When I got the chance to watch it again, I immediately fastforwarded to the most memorable scene of the movie, where a guy was repeatedly bashed against a doorknob until blood and stuff were flying around. Intense stuff.

5. Kungfu Hustle

This long-awaited Stephen Chow flick is not as good as his previous work, Shaolin Soccer, but it leaves a deep impression with its impressive fighting scenes and colourful cast of characters. In terms of pure entertainment, no other 2004 Hong Kong movie came close.

6. Motorcycle Diaries



The very last film I saw in Sydney last year. A coming-to-age road movie based on a young Che Guevara's memoirs when he and his friend traveled through South America on a motorcycle. Very thought-provoking stuff. After seeing this movie, I repeatedly launch into dramatic speeches about the injustices of the world and the oppression of some people, leaving Alanded (who saw the movie with me) exasperated.

7. Old Boy

Like Hong Kong movies, most Korean movie I saw in 2004 were horrible and forgettable. My Tutor Friend was blah. Windstruck was good ONLY because of the ending that cause me to come up with a theory that it is a pseudo-prequel of My Sassy Gal... I can't remember what others have I watched. But Old Boy DEFINITELY rocks. A guy was imprisoned in a room for 15 years with only a TV for company, no sunlight, no human contact, nothing! When he was released back into the world, he plotted revenge. The shock ending blew me away.

8. Fahrenheit 9/11



Er, no, I'm not going to launch a long political rant with this pick. All I can say is, this is the first film I saw in Perth, the first documentary I've ever seen in a cinema, and it's definitely fun. Michael Moore said that he'll be making a sequel soon and I'm looking forward to it for more Bush-bashing.

9. 50 First Dates



Yes. I am a sucker for romantic comedies, and I like Adam Sandler. *cough*

10. Collateral



Tom Cruise as a bad guy. Badass.

(Note: I haven't got the chance to see the Oscar contenders such as Sideways, Ray, Million Dollar Baby. So I got increasingly desperate and tossed in 50 FIrst Dates and Collateral into the list.)

And these are the worst movies of 2004:

Protege La Rose

Any movie with both members of Twins in it surely sucks. That was a conclusion I came up with after watching Twins Effect 1. However, I had no idea what possessed me into watching this movie at the cinema. Probably cos' I liked the Black Rose movies that came out during the 90s (starring Tony Leung Kar Fai), so I was hoping that this would at least be a tenth as entertaining as those. I had no idea this movie was going to suck so much that it's not even A MILLIONTH as fun and campy as those old Black Rose movies. After I walked out of the cinema, I collapsed onto the ground and bawled pathetically for wasting 7 bucks for garbage like this. (Ekin Cheng should be shot as well) The Twins are seriously talented... never in my life have I seen people with so much talent in picking shitty screenplays and appearing in all kinds of shitty movies. I watched my Twins Effects 2 DVD on Christmas Day, predictably, it sucked, but it sucked so much that I laughed hysterically throughout the movie, I laughed until I wept, I wept until I continued laughing, I laughed and wept until blood poured forth from my eyes.

Damn you, Twins, damn you to the lowest depths of hell!!!

Van Helsing

I'm sure I've seen worse Hollywood films last year, but those were fortunate enough to be forgettable, so I couldn't remember them while writing this entry. This one is easily the worst movie of summer. (I didn't watch the entire Catwoman, so that doesn't count) This movie had so much potential to be better, but it screwed up. Sheesh.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Golden Globes 2005

Yay, last night, right after I finished my entry, I continued writing the subsection 2 of SD:IS's Episode 22, and I think it's shaping out to be pretty well. But enough with that.

Just watched the Golden Globes just now, and see how did my predictions fare.

Best Picture - Drama: The Aviator

I picked Million Dollar Baby because I wasn't entirely impressed with The Aviator. Apparently, I was right, Martin Scorsese ain't going to return empty-handed. But instead of rewarding him with a Best Director as I've expected, they rewarded him with this.

Best Picture - Musical or Comedy: Sideways.

Thus, I don't have to delete my blog.

Actor In A Leading Role - Drama: Leonardo Dicaprio

Once again, I got this right.

Actor In A Leading Role - Musical Or Comedy: Jamie Foxx

Bingo.

Actress In A Leading Role - Drama: Hilary Swank

Jackpot.

Actress In A Leading Role - Musical or Comedy: Annette Bening

All right, I went with Kate even though Annette was the hot favourite. My mistake. The Golden Globes tend to have some surprises, so I expected it to happen in this category (kinda like how Richard Gere got Best Actor in a Comedy and Musical for Chicago two years ago). Apparently, it happened in both supporting acting awards.

Actor In A Supporting Role: Clive Owen

This is a massive surprise. To tell y'all the truth, I thought he had the LEAST chance in winning it.

Actress In A Supporting Role: Natalie Portman

Whilst lamenting that she has been robbed of a nomination for Garden State, a movie I really really liked, I didn't really expect her to win this one either. Closer had been getting pretty mixed reviews, so never thought that it would get a single award at all.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Thought they would give this to Martin Scorsese while Clint would get the Best Picture. I was wrong.

Screenplay: Alexander Payne

Yep.

Foreign Film: The Sea Inside

I'm surprised that both of my picks, Motorcycle Diaries and Very Long Engagement, didn't make it. Definitely gonna see The Sea Inside when I get to Singapore next week.

Damn, five out of eleven. But at least I got the major acting awards correct. Hah.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

My Golden Globes Predictions.

Eek, suddenly remembered that Golden Globes is tomorrow morning (Malaysian time), so I'll be making my predictions right now. Yep, I love keeping track on these award shows that lead to the Oscars, been doing that ever since I was a kid. So... here we go!

Oh wait, before I go there, I just wanna tell y'all that I've just watched my Resident Evil 2 DVD last night. And it's surprisingly entertaining. I think it's way better than the first movie.

All right, back to the Golden Globes. I'm not predicting for every single category, just the film-related ones.

Best Picture - Drama: I'm going with Million Dollar Baby instead of The Aviator. Both movies are drawing equally rave reviews, but I was pretty underwhelmed by the latter flick, so yeah, Million Dollar Baby it is.

Best Picture - Musical or Comedy: Sideways. I'll delete this blog immediately if I'm wrong.

Actor In A Leading Role - Drama: This is a tough one. It's either Leonardo Dicaprio (The Aviator)or Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland). Um... I'll go with Leo. Johnny was good in Finding Neverland, but he didn't go nuts like Leo did in The Aviator, Golden Globes peeps like people who go nuts in biopics. Look at Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind.

Actor In A Leading Role - Musical Or Comedy: As much as I want Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) to win this one, Jamie Foxx (Ray) is the hot favourite for the Oscars, so yes, he'll win this one. I used to like watching 'The Jamie Foxx Show' on TV years ago, but never had I ever expected him to become an Oscar hot favourite, man.

Actress In A Leading Role - Drama: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)'s the hot favourite. So I'll go with her. But there's a possibility that they might honour Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) instead since Hilary had won both the Golden Globes and the Oscar before.

Actress In A Leading Role - Musical or Comedy: I thought Kate Winslet was terrific in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (she was better in this movie than in Titanic). But most peeps sez that Annette Bening's the favourite for this one. I'm sticking with Kate.

Actor In A Supporting Role: Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) has been winning a couple of awards during the past few weeks, so I think he'll get this one as well.

Actress In A Supporting Role: Virginie Madsen (Sideways). She's going through what Thomas Haden Church's going through (won a couple of awards during the past few weeks), so she'll win this one too.

Director: It's between Martin Scorsese (The Aviator) and Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby). Um... I doubt Marty's going to get away empty-handed from any award shows after the humiliation he suffered during the 2002 Oscars (his Gangs in New York got nominated for ten awards, but won zero). So yeah, Marty wins this one.

Screenplay: I'm rooting for Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind's Charlie Kaufman. But Alexander Payne will win for Sideways.

Foreign Film: The House of Flying Daggers is pretty shitty. The Motorcycle Diaries is freaking awesome. But The Long Engagement is an epic, large-scaled French film, so it'll win... even though I'm rooting for The Motorcycle Diaries.

That's all. Let's how accurate my predictions are tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Leon Lai in 1993. Jacky Cheung and Alan Tam in 1996.

I went to scrape through my old collection of photographs. These stuff were taken AGES ago, when I was still a young, weird-looking little kid.

Cantopop in the 90s.

With Leon Lai. 1993. A press conference in Singapore before his concert.

With Heavenly King, Leon Lai


With Jacky Cheung and Alan Tam. 1996. A celebration after an awards ceremony. It was also pop star Kelly Chen's birthday.

With Jacky Cheung and Alan Tam


Monday, January 10, 2005

Soap Opera Alert! Kimi ga Nozomu Eien!

Finished Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien in one sitting last night (watched everything except the last episode in double speed though, so characters were speaking quickly in high voices). What can I say about this anime? Hmm... it's not exactly what I would consider entertaining, but it's compelling enough to keep me awake from beginning to end.



It's an angst-filled melodramatic romantic drama that is so angsty and melodramatic that I doubt I could really sit through everything without using the fastforward button at all. It's basically about four best friends, a quiet girl (who looks disturbingly like Cardcaptor Sakura's Sakura), a loud girl, the hero, and a generic spiky-haired best buddy who doesn't do much in the series. As they were about to graduate from high school, quiet girl declared love for hero, hero, although secretly in love with loud girl, accepted her and they started going out together. Things were progressing well for our young couple before a horrifyingly horrific traffic accident sent poor quiet girl into a coma for three years.



When poor quiet girl woke up miraculously, the hero and the loud girl were already living together. Dum dum dum. The hero and the loud girl had to keep their relationship from the quiet girl, the oblivious quiet girl wanted the hero to be with her to make up for lost time, the loud girl began falling apart, much angst and melodrama ensued. Who will the hero choose? Watching the whole damned thing was just like watching J-doramas, but unlike J-doramas, this one really had SEX SCENES! Well, not overly explicit, hentai-level stuff (it's more PG-13 than R-rated), but sex scenes nonetheless. And they are kinda distracting. Um... I dunno man, in a series like this, I think I would like it more if those sex scenes were merely hinted. I had the complete same feeling when I was reading the book, The Time Traveller's Wife by Austin Niffenegger, sometimes, I just don't need these details, man. (but then, it's understandable since the anime is actually based on a hentai game)



Other than that, there's not much for me to talk about in tonight's entry, been spending the whole day helping mom's publishing company build a website and will be working on it for many days to come... tiring. Going off to play Shadow Hearts 2 now, I LOOOOOOVE that game.

I've asked in a previous entry, how many people actually READ this blog? Come on, man, leave me a comment! At least let me know that I'm not alone!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Evaluating the heroes of PS2 RPGs

Okay, I did finish Lord of the Rings: The Third Age as I've promised. But the story of the game got so retarded in the end that even though I had a faulty copy (after beating the final boss, me cannot see the ending), I was too indifferent to care already.

I've started playing Shadow Hearts 2 right after that even though I've never played Shadow Hearts before (it's a direct sequel) because it's getting better reviews than Star Ocean Story 3, and it's seemingly more... different from your generic RPGs (The Third Age really left a bad taste in my mouth, I shit you not). I'm currently loving the game even though I'm just two hours into the game. The hero's a badass dude who can turn into a demon and already I can declare that he's BY FAR the coolest PS2 RPG hero ever. Really, I shit you not. Look at his competitors (just the main male characters in RPGs, not the female ones, so Shion from Xenosaga is excluded):



Tidus: This retard's by far the dumbest, ditziest Final Fantasy protagonist ever. He is the Rinoa of male FF protagonists, he is so dumb that he makes the resident ditz in the FF10 cast, Rikku, look smart. I mean, look at him, he dresses like a freaking plumber!!! Even though Squall of FF8 sucked, at least Squall looked much cooler. Nuf' said.



Sora: The kid's better than Tidus because he hangs out with cool friends like Donald Duck, but overall, he's still an insecure whiny kid. Okay, actually, he IS pretty decent, just not THAT heroic. I can never understand his love for Kairi. Oh well.



Hugo: There are three main characters in Suikoden 3, but I picked him as the Flame Champion (and based on the Suikoden 3 manga, he IS the official Flame Champion instead of Geddoe and Chris) so technically, he's MY hero of Suikoden 3. He's not that bad. But he's a backwater village kid who, er, doesn't look cool enough.

Berethor: Hero of the Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. This bastard is BY FAR the shallowest among the four heroes listed here. In fact, you don't get to know much about him cos' it's good old Gandalf who tells you everything about him in the game. From his background to his thoughts to his dark past and shit. That's all. He does nothing except pining after the elf chick in the party for most of the game, and then, FOR NO REASON AT ALL, declared his undying love for the other chick right before the last battle (the other chick joined in latter stages of the game and had VERY LITTLE interaction with the hero, except for mentioning impassively that he was her long-lost betrothed). Dumb son of a bitch. Fuck it, I can't even find a picture of him.

Now, Yuri of Shadow Hearts 2 is a way different story, man. He's a grumpy, badass, anti-social (in a cranky, world-weary sort of way, and not the 'pouty teenager' Squall Leonhart way) bastard who can turn into a freaking demon and is FAR from a holier-than-thou goody-two-shoe like most of the heroes listed above. And he fights bare-fisted, how much manlier can you get, man? This is the type of hero one as cool and badass as I can relate to!


Friday, January 07, 2005

Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

I'll probably finish the Lord of the Rings: The Third Age by tonight (I can actually do it now, but li'l sis wants me to wait for her before I lay the smack down on Sauron, so...) and makes it the very first console RPG I've completed for this year.

During the first half of last year, I went into this rather amazing streak where I managed to finish a RPG each month from February to June, right before I went off to Perth. These RPGs were FFX, FFX-2 (the perfect ending), Kingdom Hearts, Suikoden 3 (yes, I got all 108 Stars of Destiny) and Xenosaga. Originally, I had intended to write an article to pay tribute to my greatness of console RPing during the past decade by listing out the number of RPGs I've completed from the year 1994 (I was only 10!) to 2004 and give short reviews to each and every one of them (thirty or more for these platforms: SNES, Playstation, PS2 and the Game Boy).

Of course, my site's currently down, so it's rather pointless to write something like that now (although I do have the list with me), so yeah, I'll just have to wait.

What do I think of Lord of the Rings: The Third Age? Well, I'm rather disappointed, actually. It's pretty fun and entertaining, but not as large-scaled as I've hoped. I thought I could do something like roaming around Middle-Earth with gazillions of sidequests like Morrowind, but in truth, the whole game's about revisiting the LoTR FILMS (EA Games has only the rights for the LoTR films, not the books), but only through the points of views of the characters in the game. Like helping Gandalf fend off Balrog at Moria, and then helping Aragorn and co. defend Helm's Deep, or aiding Eowyn in fighting the Witch King... things like that.

Yeah, I get to see lots of re-edited footages of the LoTR films in the game whenever Gandalf's narrating and telling me what my mission's about, and how is my quest going. But for a guy who had seen the entire film trilogy numerous times... it's kinda tedious.

The graphics are nice, the music is good (though they are lifted directly from the movie), the battle system's a rip-off of FFX, and the game's pretty damned easy and short (I've already spent 22 hours, and it would've been probably much lesser if I didn't spend that much time for lvling up and learning new skills for the chars), so I'm fine with it.

Once I'm done with the game, I'll probably play Star Ocean Story 3 or Shadow Hearts 2. Or maybe wait for Suikoden 4 to come out later this month. I'll be spending most of my year in Perth anyway, so there won't be an insane streak like I had last year anymore.
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