Search This Blog

Loading...

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Filmmaking Dilemma, Suggestions needed

Right. This is a complicated little situation. I made a short film last semester, from February until May called 'Forced Labour' with the intention of submitting it to film festivals and the like. Now, the first version I edited during the end of April (early May) was 18 minute long, which is way TOO long for a short film with such a simple story, besides, more than half of this is dedicated to the fighting scenes, which feature characters not originally in the script.

Realizing that the fighting scenes are way too long, and take too much attention away from the main plot and the theme. I decided to re-edit the whole damned thing (I've already mentioned that few weeks ago, actually). And re-edit, or remade the film I did, snipping it down to nearly a third of its original length (ideally, this new short film will be between 5-6 minutes, I think), lots of scenes were sped up, most of the fighting scenes were removed, and the characters not originally in the script did not make it past this version either (thus any scene with them in it are gone).

The results thus far had been stellar, and it's totally something that can be sent to film festivals (if they look past the fact that I'm using a cheap-ass camera, and that the film's sooooo low budget). I've reached near the ending, all I have to do is reshoot one more scene with my main actress and things will be completely done.

Now, I feel pretty guilty that the five characters didn't make it past the final cut, and wanted to make it up to them by including them in the credits. For example, I shall do what the Farrelly brothers did with 'Me, Myself and Irene', and inform viewers that 'some characters and scenes were removed due to time constraints', and then show snippets of scenes featuring these characters and then give them credit.

Wonderful solution, right?

HOWEVER, this is best used for a jolly little comedy... what if the ending of my short film is meant to be pretty dark and angsty (bittersweet, kinda), and I try to toss that in during the credits? Wouldn't that mess things up?

So, what do you guys think? Any suggestions? It was suggested to me that I shall put them in the 'Special Thanks' section during the credits, which is something I will most likely do.

Console RPGs I Completed Throughout The Past Decade (1994-2005). (Part 2)

I was rewarded with a Sony Playstation in 1996 (I was 12 then) due my flawless results for the UPSR (a government exam you have to take in Malaysia during the end of primary/elementary school), and thus my long love affair with it began.

One of the main reasons why I wanted a Sony Playstation then despite being an avid Nintendo fan was because Square (makers of Final Fantasy, to the uninitiated) left for Sony, and I guess this is one of the best choices I've ever made. Nintendo 64 games, being cartridges, were way too freaking expensive (just like SNES games then, I ended up merely with 20 games total in my library, which is usually the number of PS games I bought PER MONTH...), unlike PS games, which cost only 5 bucks each. Haha.

The number of Playstation RPGs I've completed throughout the years is pretty huge (I started maturing as a RPGamer, thus my productivity is higher), so I can't list them all in today's article, just the eleven of them that I completed from 1997 to 1999. Here we go:

7) Suikoden 1
Completed: 1997


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The very first Playstation RPG I've got and completed. I was stricken by chicken pox the first time I played it, and finished the game in a pretty short time. THEN, I realize that I've merely recruited half of the 108 characters I'm supposed to recruit, so I ended up playing the game numerous times to get the perfect ending. Thankfully, it's a pretty short and simple game, but it's a great introduction to one of my favourite RPG series ever. After all, you get to build your own castle, and have a bunch of mindless faithful followers aiding you in your pain-filled crusade against an evil empire which has your own DAD as one of the generals. Whoa.

Besides, I think McDohl's the coolest mute hero since Crono, with his badass Soul Eater rune and all (it's not everyday you get such evil-sounding powers for a RPG hero back in those days). However, the 'perfect' ending was pretty disappointing though. But it does set the stage for the sequel.

8) Vandal Hearts
completed: 1997


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

This is a tactical RPG by Konami (guys who did Suikoden). A bad-looking hero (actually, the character art's pretty bad in this one), but a nice storyline. It's level-based, so you move from one level to the other after you use your great tactical strategies to wipe out the baddies. It has another one of those open-ended endings where the hero's either dead or not depending on your interpretation. I was rather tired of open-ended endings after getting the very same thing with Suikoden, and this isn't helped by the fact that Vandal Hearts' ending doesn't really set the stage for its sequel (since it takes place in a completely different continent or something).

9) Wild Arms
completed: 1998

A RPG that has western elements (get to see tons of cowboys around), Wild Arms is also a fantastic game with a great storyline, a colourful bunch of characters, and goddamn, a satisfying ending (FINALLY). The puzzles in the dungeons may be annoying, but as I've said, the plot, the story, the character's backstory were the ones that drove me forward. My god, I was so totally devastated by the whole Jack/Lady Harken/Garrett/Elmina storyline.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

**begin Wild Arms spoiler**

You see a prologue of a knight and his lady love defending a castle. In the end, the knight had to escape, the lady love supposedly perish.

Then, near the end of the game, you realize that one of the three main characters happens to be the knight in the prologue, and an annoying villainess you've been fighting turns out to be the brainwashed lady love.

Riveting stuff, especially for a then-13 year old Swifty.

**end Wild Arms spoiler**

10) Final Fantasy 7
Completed: 1998


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

What is there to say about this game that has never been said by any others before? This is the very game that pushed console RPGs to mainstream, revolutionized everything by being 3D. Without this, I doubt there wouldn't even be a tenth of the amount of RPGs that came out later.

So there is not much for me to say. But this might be the game where I began to train my characters until fighting the last boss becomes an easy task (I didn't max out their levels, but I made sure most of them could do 9999 damage).

11) Final Fantasy Tactics
Completed: 1998


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Birthday present from a buddy (I was 14). The greatest tactical console RPG ever for the Playstation. Fighting against a church, being branded a heretic, getting betrayed by your best buddy, then seeing innocents die in political struggles, this has one of the most complex storylines with a huge cast of hundreds... so complex it was that I didn't even bother following most of it and just started hacking everyone around. I even managed to get secret character Cloud too!

Very shitty ending though.

12) Breath of Fire 3
Completed: 1998


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

This happens to be the ONLY Breath of Fire game I've played so far. It's good stuff, albeit a bit too slow-paced for my liking. It's another one of those games where your childhood best pal becomes your enemy and you get to kill him to make you realize how angsty your entire quest is. (love the whole thing about starting the game when the hero was a kid, and then halfway during the game, you jumpforward to many years later when he has grown up)

However, this game has seriously one of the worst endings I've ever seen in a RPG. Seriously.

13) Kartia
Completed: 1998


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

To tell you the truth, I've only seen one of the two endings in the game (you get to play a guy or a gal in it, both having different storylines, I played the guy). It's a simple and nice (albeit forgettable, if weren't for Amano's character artwork) tactical RPG. But I'm serious about the forgettable part, I can't remember what happened in the game except for the ending, where the guy gets to live happily ever after with that elf chick or something. Oops, spoiler.

14) Xenogears
Completed: 1999


Another much-talked about RPG. So I doubt I'll have to say more about its insanely complex and deep plot that everyone had created websites dedicated to it. Back then, it was one of the longer RPGs I've played, and the only one I remember that has implied sex scenes in it. Whoa. Its last boss is one of the hardest I've ever faced, even though I've leveled up my characters a lot, almost drove me nuts. Took me hours to defeat it, I can remember that the day I did that, I ordered pizza, so I was eating pizza, and creating a minor gaming miracle with one hand. I could never beat the last boss since then. The ending's horribly-dubbed (screw you and your girly voice, Krelian!), and underwhelming (probably because the build-up throughout the game's too freaking insane).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

GO TO PART 3

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Console RPGs I Completed Throughout The Past Decade (1994-2005). (Part 1)

I have wanted to write this since early last year, when it was exactly a decade since I started playing console RPGs (role-playing games, to the uninitiated), but I decided to let the year went by first so that my list of completed RPGs in 2004 can be complete as well. Note that this feature is only for console RPGs, and not the PC ones (or I'll have to elaborate on the months and months I've spent on Morrowind, my god). For Part 1, I shall focus only on the 1994-1996 period, when I was only 10-12, and was just starting to play console RPGs. Young and idealistic, it was this very period where I fell in love with console RPGs.

Anyway, early last year, during my unfortunate stint as a committee member in a Malaysian anime convention (resigned since then, thankfully), I was discredited by a certain dumbass who happened to be the boyfriend of one of the top-ranking committee members for being lazy by spending most of my time chatting in the forum, and also playing my (then) newly-bought PS2.

I assume that he was trying to insult me, but I would never know, considering that the guy's one of the dumbest retards I've ever met in my life. I never bothered to listen to him, after all, I think he wanted me to be hardworking like him. And I think being hardworking like him meant that I have to be a petty little piece of shit like him eager to start flame wars on the Internet with other people in other anime conventions, and then whining constantly on his own silly little blog about how the world does not understand his goodwill, and how he's just sick and tired of everything. Sometimes, I wish I were as stupid as he when I'm in my mid-20s, so I can spend the rest of my life being a deluded piece of trash living in a trashcan without any worries of the outside world except for people who 'offend' him on the Internet. Unfortunately, considering how remarkably intelligent I am now, it takes a miracle for me to ever become as dumb as he. What a pity.

But yes, video games had been a major part of my life. So the aforementioned dumbass was really stating the obvious by saying that I play too much. I've been playing video games since I was 4-5, with my earliest console being one of those Atari machines where you can play Pac-Man. (I remembered there was this super-difficult Smurfs game as well where I fall repeatedly into this bottomless void)

Despite being rather decent in fighting games (the old school 2D ones, not the 3D ones), I am mediocre in most action games, never in my life have I ever completed a single level in a MEGAMAN game!!!! (I did complete some Mario games though) So 80% of my video gaming time is usually used on RPGs.

1994-1996: BEGINNINGS

1991, I got a Game Boy for my birthday present, 1995, I got a Super Nintendo (SNES). The earliest RPGs I've ever played are obviously GB and SNES ones. This is a period when I was just introduced to RPGs, and aren't very good at it. Besides, it doesn't help much that I was only a kid then, thus making me not as super-intelligent as I am now.

Here we go!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com


1) Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Game Boy)
completed: 1994 or 1995
A birthday gift by mom when I was 10 (1994), to me, The Legend of Zelda is quite possibly one of the greatest Game Boy games ever made (along with, er, Tetris, and those Mario/Wario games). Great graphics (for a Game Boy game) and a nice soundtrack, I was instantly hooked, and was driven nuts by the puzzles in the dungeons.

Thankfully, there is this infamous 'teleporting' trick (a glitch, actually, it's hard to explain but anyone who had played this will know) that made things much easier for young Swifty. A heartbreaking ending where you had to say goodbye to a world you had grown to love, I remembered this game was completed while I was in an airport in America. Can't remember which one though. I am ashamed to say that this will end up being the only game of the fabled Zelda series I've ever finished (I was near the ending of Nintendo 64's Ocarina of Time last year though, which is another fantastic, fantastic game)

Image hosted by Photobucket.com


2) Final Fantasy Legends 3 (Game Boy)
completed: 1994 or 1995
Bought it in New York, either in 1994 or 1995 (these were the only two years I've been to NY), Final Fantasy Legends 3 is not exactly a real Final Fantasy game, (it's actually a Romancing Saga game in Japan, just renamed as Final Fantasy for commercial value) made obvious by its very weak soundtrack (somewhat catchy though).

It has a good storyline where you get to time-travel to the past, present and future. But unfortunately, like most old-school RPGs, there's zero character development. There are four characters for you to use in the game, but only the main guy actually SPEAKS throughout the entire game. Damn. If I'm in a quest to save the world, and I'm accompanied by three other people who don't talk at all, I'll kill myself. The last boss was hard, but even as a kid, I was gifted with a strong sense of determination, so after gazillion tries, I managed to defeat it.

Shitty ending though.

3) Final Fantasy 6 (3 in US) (Super Nintendo)
completed: 1995
This is it. The very game that changed my life. The only Final Fantasy game where I replayed 3-4 times (I usually leave a FF game aside after I'm done with it, ditto with all other RPGs I've played since then) even though it had the same ending. I can't describe what a huge impact this game had on me, from then on, I started collecting Final Fantasy games and their soundtracks (and in my opinion, FF6 has the greatest soundtrack of them all!) It was a birthday present from dad in 1995, I was 11, I was so happy that I almost burst into tears, so insanely happy.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Each and every single one of the character in the game (unlike the subsequent FF games, this doesn't really have a 'main' character, so you can choose anyone to be your that, it's all up to you) burnt deep into my soul, I cared about them more than I cared for any other FF characters out there. Til this day, I remember the insanely psychotic lines by main villain Kefka. Hell, I think FF6 has the most quotable quotes ever in a FF game.

What a game. If I go overboard with it, I might actually use an entire novel to write my childhood experience with Final Fantasy 6, the impact it has in my life. How much I love it and crap like that, but that will destroy the ultra-cool image I'm trying to maintain now, so I'll have to move along now.

4) Chrono Trigger (SNES)
completed: 1995
Another classic. With insanely beautiful graphics, and another sublime soundtrack, this game pierced through my heart with its greatness and timelessness. I needed only a week or two to complete the game, but I could still remember the insanely epic final battles I waged against the last boss, Lavos. No matter how powerful I've trained my characters, it seemed to present some sort of challenge that left young Swifty shrieking in excitement and ecstacy.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I returned to this game numerous times, since it had multiple endings and all, and I never really got bored with it. Like FF6, this game has a cast of unforgettable characters that will stay with you almost forever (Magus is the most badass character ever!). I loved this game so much that I ended up being very disappointed with its PS sequel, Chrono Cross (still a very good game though), and never really had the chance to complete it.

5) Mario RPG
completed: 1996
When 32-bit consoles like Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation are being released at this period, I remained attached to my Super Nintendo, because of the awesome RPGs available only for this system at that time. Mario RPG is a fine example of another classic that I reminisce with fondness. Imagine this! To see Mario and Bowser fighting side by side? I went apeshit at this improbable pairing! It was like seeing the Ninja Turtles fighting side by side with Shredder, or Optimus Prime with Megatron! With dazzling graphics that pushed the SNES to its limits, and reinforcing the fact that it kicks the Sega Genesis/Megadrive's ass (c'mon, besides Sonic and to a lesser extent, Shining Force, the Genesis just ain't such a cool machine) Unfortunately, this is also the game where I start developing the habit of NEVER replaying a RPG. So I've only seen the bittersweet ending (goodbye, Geno!!!!) once before moving on.

6) Secret of Mana
completed: 1996
Ironically, the last game I ever finished in this period happens to be the very first RPG I got for my SNES. The reason why it took me such a long time to finish it is because I was stricken with bad luck, and many times when I was near the ending, my save files miraculously got deleted, thus driving me bonkers. In the end, I had to finish the other games first before tackling this one again.

I can still remember when I first got Secret of Mana, I was staring, nay, GAPING at the title screen. Such a beautiful soundtrack! And the sight of the three protagonists standing before the majestic Mana Tree... holy crap... I almost wet myself. Being an action RPG, of course it was much more frustrating to me compared to the turn-based ones I'm more used to. But it remains the BEST multiplayer action RPG ever. And I seriously hope that there will be more multiplayer action RPG in the future. The world needs it! You hear me? THE WORLD NEEDS MORE MULTIPLAYER ACTION RPGS!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

And that's the end of part 1 of this feature. The SNES and Game Boy era was almost dreamlike to me as I couldn't really find any faults in the RPGs I've completed. And to many now, these SNES RPGs I mentioned above are still regarded as classics.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'Bewitched'

I went off to see Bewitched last night, which was based on an old TV series of the same name.

I've never watched a single episode of the Bewitched TV series, I'm not even sure whether reruns of Bewitched were shown in Malaysia before or not. But from what I know, Bewitched is about some normal guy marrying a witch, and goofiness ensues during their married life.

This movie, however, has a different twist from most other remakes. Instead of merely updating the settings, this movie takes a more meta approach by being about people trying to do a remake of the old series Bewitched. Movie star Jack Wyatt (Ferrell), after suffering a major flop of 'The Island' proportions (okay, maybe even worse) with his last film, has to end up taking the Keifer Sutherland route and star in TV series. Unfortunately, instead of being in a cool show like '24' that is globally loved, he has to be in the remake of 'Bewitched'.

Demanding to have an unknown actress for the Samantha (the witch wife) role so that he doesn't have to share his spotlight with anyone else, he found Isabel (Kidman), who happened to be a REAL witch!!! Comedy and romance ensue. But then, being a romantic comedy, this film, to me, just fell short on both aspects. It's not funny enough, even though Ferrell tried hard, and Michael Caine, as Isabel's dad, too, I don't remember laughing at all throughout the film, perhaps a smile here and there. And er, I don't really think there's anything romantic going on between Isabel and Jack? A lack of chemistry, perhaps.

I just feel that there's something rather artificial about the way romance is developed between the characters of Nora Ephron's romantic comedies.

Anyway, back to 'Bewitched', I was expecting a piece of trash when I went into a cinema, and ended up being mildly amused, but it's totally forgettable. I won't recommend this film to anyone, but neither will I recommend against it either. I'm just indifferent, so I guess it's a bad thing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'Sepet'

One of the movies I heard most of when I returned to Malaysia had, strangely, been a local film, which is something unheard of considering that at this time of the year, summer Hollywood blockbusters are the ones that rule the box-office. This local film is Yasmin Ahmad's 'Sepet' which had been making waves at some foreign film festivals, and became quite a subject of discussion among Malaysians, not just the Malays, but also many of the Chinese I know. Finally got to watch it during my flight from Malaysia to Perth.

'Sepet' depicts an interracial romance between a Chinese guy and a Malay gal. And being an interracial romance, it obviously shows the complications involved in interracial romance, like the clashing of cultures, the condemnation of narrow-minded friends, the inability of acceptance by parents. Can true love transcend all these barriers?

A pirated VCD seller, Jason's life was changed completely when he was approached by a Malay girl, Orket, searching for Takeshi Kaneshiro films (not Wong Kar Wai films as mentioned in other summaries). However, poor Orket probably wasn't aware of the shitty films Kaneshiro was involved in earlier in his career. And it's a good thing for her too. Contrary to popular belief, Before he was in Chungking Express, Kaneshiro was really in lots and lots of horrible films that defy description, yet amazingly escape my memories. I'm sure he was in some bad films too after his stint with Wong Kar Wai. Hell, did Orket knew how bad House of Flying Daggers was?

But I've gone off-topic. Anyway, immediately, the sound stopped, and both stared at each other, staring deep into each other's souls, zapzapzap, immediate electricity, love at first sight? So yeap, Jason, who happened to be more sensitive and poetic than he looked, gave Orket a 'Chungking Express' VCD. A smart move, considering that it has a variation of one of my all-time favourite lines.

"A woman says 'Happy Birthday' to me on May 1, 1994. Because of this, I remember this woman. If memory could be canned, I hope this one will never expire. If an expiry date must be added onto it, let it be 10,000 years."

Which is similar to Stephen Chow's famous Chinese Odyssey line below (me paraphrasing):

"There was something special placed before my eyes but I knew not how to cherish it. Words can't describe the regret I felt when she was gone. If I am given the chance to meet the girl again, I want to tell her three simple words, 'I love you'. If my love for her has to have an expiry date, let it be 10,000 years."

Wonderful quotes I used from time to time for my personal love life, which is as equally riveting and angst-filled as the one portrayed in Sepet. Therefore, I didn't really care that much about the relationship between Orket and Jason because I was constantly mumbling "bah, you guys thought you have it bad? wait til you read the story of my life' onto the screen. Despite this, this IS a fine movie, and most people will probably root for the two thanks to the fine acting of the two leads. Likable characters they are, despite their numerous quirks and flaws. They are very easy to relate to by most Malaysians, and some of the dialogue throughout the film will be familiar to most Malaysians as well.

What moved me most, however, are the scenes involving the veteran actors who played Orket's parents and housemaid, and Jason's mom. I am not well-versed enough in the local entertainment scene to know their names, but yes, kudos to them for showing what fine acting is, and remind the disenchanted me that the talent pool in Malaysia isn't really that shallow.

In the end, all I can say is that this is a crowd-pleasing little movie that deserves the accolades it has received and is a good sign that there is still some life left in the Malaysian cinema. It isn't as fast-paced as most people would've liked, with some scenes that really didn't work for me (the first meeting between Jason and Orket... where all sounds ceased and them staring at each other... hm... I would prefer something more natural, like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson's first meeting at the elevator in 'Lost In Translation'). Most will love some of the more memorable romantic lines like 'you are god's poetry to me', or 'how long do you think it takes to fall in love?' 'one minute. how long did it take for you to fall in love with me?' 'much shorter than that'. Some may remember some random conversation in it, like the theory that Malaysian folk hero Hang Tuah is a Chinese, along with his many many comrades whose name starts with Hang.

Now, speaking of Hang Tuah, if only I can get my perfectly-manicured fingers on the Puteri Gunung Ledang... (a big-budget Malaysian production released last year that fell waaaay short of expectations) What a patriot I have slowly evolved into, by constantly seeking movies by local filmmakers. Ah, just yesterday, I had just finished watching some short films directed by James Lee as well.

Hm, in fact, I wonder whether I should start reviewing the other indie films I saw that was directed by James Lee, Tan Chui Mui and Ho Yuhang? Anyone interested? At least I get to let my oversea buddies a chance to know more about the local indie filmmaking industry. I'll think about that. Yeah.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'The Island'

In the not-too-distant future, the world had became so polluted that many of its surviving inhabitants have to stay in a facility monitored by kindly scientists and doctors, and all of these inhabitants with weird names, Lincoln Six-Echo(McGregor) and Jordan Two-Delta (Johansson), are waiting to go to 'The Island', said to be the only uncontaminated spot on the planet.





However, thanks to witnessing some rather cheerfully gruesome deaths, Lincoln soon discovers that everything about his life is a lie and he has to escape the facility with Jordan. (I won't go into detail, but the trailer itself has revealed more than enough for you) Michael Bay-esque chase scenes with lots and lots of explosions ensue.

For a Michael Bay film, 'The Island' really isn't that bad after all. Perhaps because it has Scarlett Johansson in it, even though she was in a simple 'love interest' role where her job was only to do... generic 'love interest' stuff in action films these days (being able to kickass sometimes, runs along with the hero, worries about the hero, gets into trouble, skips the major fight).

And yes, at least this film is smarter as well, with an intriguing setup and slightly likable characters (a trait not shared by Michael Bay's masterpiece, 'Pearl Harbour', nor 'Bad Boys 2'). Instead of shutting down my mind and watch the action scenes blankly without registering (or care) what was really happening on the screen (... like Pearl Harbour, and Bad Boys 2), this film did at least keep me interested from beginning to end. As I've said, this is somewhat like Fantastic Four, if you're expecting this to be a shit film, then you'll end up enjoying yourself, or even more since this is indeed better than most Michael Bay films. After all, how can I NOT keep myself interested when Scarlett, with her alluring voice, her penetratingly penetrating eyes are staring so deep into my manly soul? It is as if she was begging me NOT to turn away from the film, that she was CRAVING for my attention. Ahhh, Scarly-Poo. So yes, as this is a Michael Bay film, you must be crazy to think that it will be a masterpiece of Minority Report's level, but it does entertain.

That said, I am rather surprised when I saw the news on Rottentomatoes.com that the Island had flopped pretty badly in the box-office during its first day. Making a mere 4.4 million, it will probably make less than 15 million throughout the weekend. Meaning that instead of becoming the week's top-grossing film as most have predicted, this one's only going to be number 3, behind Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Wedding Crashers (both films I seriously want to see).

However, I seriously felt that this is the wrong Michael Bay film to flop. It doesn't deserve to flop, nor be remembered as Michael Bay's first major box-office failure since he began his string of hits from Bad Boys and The Rock. I hated Pearl Harbour for its pretentiousness and its inability to strike a chord with me, hated it for trying to be some Oscar material when it was so seriously shitty, hated it because many people REFUSED to see the fact that it was SHIT. I can still remember how annoyed I was when I ran into the following Michael Bay apologists who said the following lines:

"Ooooh, even tho the romance scenes are stoopid, the part where the Japanese attacked was soooo good! Soooo fantastic!"

"This is Oscar-worthy! LOLOL! But it won't win because of the 9/11 tragedy." (sorry, Sebastian *grins*)

"Ahhhhh, look! the POV of the torpedo is like, so cool! And aiyoh, all those explosions, boom boom! soo cool! And also, the kissy parts, so sad and romantic."

"Wow! The part where Kate Beckingsale had to save the people in the hospital! soo blurry! So chaotic! Michael Bay is a filmmaking genius!"

The first one is the most common, it's starting to give me the feeling that the battle scene in Pearl Harbour is universally loved. It's like, everyone seems to have to say crap like "yeah, the romance sucks, but at least when the Pearl Harbour was attacked, it's good". Was it really THAT good? Is putting in craploads of explosions, seeing stuff blowing up, THAT IS GOOD? How can it be good when you're not investing any of your emotions upon the people who got blown up? How can it be good when it's so mindnumbingly dull and empty? The only reason why people seem to think that it's not that bad is because it's the only part where it doesn't SUCK THAT MUCH, otherwise, it still sucks, though to a lesser degree. That has to be it... right?

Yes, as high school student, seeing those around me going apeshit over Pearl Harbour made me question whether the world had gone mad, or that I was the mad one.

The Island, on the other hand, I actually thought it had some merits. Yet it was the one that flopped horribly. The world continues to confuse me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'Premonition' and 'Fantastic Four' and thinks about his future as a world-dominating supervillain.

Will review two films I saw during the past few days. Premonition (which I saw today) and Fantastic Four (which I saw on Sunday morning).

PREMONITION
I haven't heard anything about this Japanese film until I went to the cineplexes today. Saw the poster when dad called and asked me to buy the tickets for tonight's show and immediately had my reservations.

"Oh god, not another Japanese horror flick." I whined, seeing the creepy pale-faced bald guy on the poster.

Of course, dad maintained that it wasn't a horror flick, thus I bought the tickets in the end.

The film started out happily enough. A couple (wife played by Noriko Sakai and husband played by some guy whose name I don't know and will find out someday) going out for a car trip with their young and adorable little daughter. Dad needed to send an email via a public phone booth, so they stopped near one and allowed him to do so. Things was going all fine and dandy until dad saw an old newspaper article under the phone, to his horror, the article foretold the impending death of his young and adorable little daughter in a violent car accident where a big ass truck will slam onto their car, causing its explosion.

Immediately, a big ass truck slammed onto the car, causing it to explode, with the poor young and adorable little daughter stuck within. Angst and sadness ensue.

We'll spend the rest of the film seeing the parents grieving and guilt-ridden about their child's death. What's even cooler is that since then, dad started receiving newspaper articles everyday foretelling the future. And like all Japanese supernatural thrillers, this one had a perpetual feeling of gloom and doom. However, despite the fact that its rather creepy and eerie, with the perpetual feeling of gloom and doom, it doesn't really have any ghosts in it, thus making this gloomy and doom-filled film slightly different from other gloomy and doom-filled films out there.

I recommend this film for its rather smart ending. Go check it out, small little Japanese films these days just don't get enough love.

FANTASTIC FOUR
There's nothing much I can say about this film. Don't expect this to be a Spider-man 2 or a Batman Begins, expect this to be a shit film, and you'll end up enjoying yourself. Girls get Chris Evans and Julian McMahon to drool at, while mindless teenage boys will get Jessica Alba.

However, one thing I have to talk about regarding this film is the main villain, Dr Doom, played by Julian McMahon. Marvel supervillains are usually divided to two groups when they are translated to screen. They either become cooler (like Spider-man 2's Dr Octopus) or they will become stupider (like Spider-man 1's Green Goblin, X-Men 1's Magneto). Unfortunately, Dr Doom falls into the latter group.

Those who have seen the X-Men films will remember how silly Ian Mckellen looked when he was dressed up in his full Magneto garb. At least without it, he was an evil, clean-shaven Gandalf, but with it... that silly, silly looking helmet of his, he, er, looked lame (thankfully, Bryan Singer knew it and didn't let him wear the helmet much in X-Men 2). Spider-man 1's Green Goblin was like Power Rangers (fortunately, that was improved upon in Spider-man 2, where Dr Octopus was much cooler than his comic incarnation)

I will say the same with Dr Doom. Julian McMahon is a reasonably good-looking guy who has the fortune to be 0.00001% as good-looking as I am, but once he puts on his Dr Doom mask. He looks like an idiot, and it doesn't help much that he has a really silly voice when he's behind the mask. Come on, give him a Darth Vader voice, not some lame, generic robotic voice, man. I would rather see him kick the asses of the Fantastic Four while dressing in expensive tuxedo, than to dress up in that silly outfit.

Seriously, if I ever become the supervillain I'm aspiring to become, I am definitely not going to wear some dumbass looking armour, or an idiotic helmet, or some dumbass mask that distorts that sexy and studly voice of mine. Hell, if I ever become a supervillain, I'll be a true badass by dressing up in a pink ballerina costume.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Why Fanfiction Sucks (Part 2)

Righto. I'm back. Yes, I spoke about how the delusional yaoi/slash fanfic writers and their crap fics being one of the major reasons why I have grown to despise fanficdom so much.

Now, I shall talk about...

MARY SUEISM!

Mary Sue is hard to define. Many people came up with different definitions, explanations and histories for it, and you can easily Google them, so I'm not going to waste my time explaining in detail what it is. All I can say is that a Mary Sue is an implausible, badly-written original character inserted by the fanfic writer into her fanfic to get romantically involved with her favourite character.

They can either be Legolas' elven warrioress bride, the last Female Super Saiyajin in the universe, Albus Dumbledore's granddaughter who fell in love with Harry Potter, some basketball whiz who captured Rukawa Kaede's attention, a ninja babe who ended up with Sasuke, blah blah yadda yadda.

One of the reasons why I started writing Slam Dunk: Inside Stuff was because I had the misfortune of reading a Slam Dunk fanfic. I forgot how the author ended up on my ICQ list, but I remembered that back then, she used to ask me to read her fanfic (she was already finishing it by then), and being the nice person I am, I did give whatever feedback I can to her. Telling her what part I thought was wrong, what part I thought should've been fixed or improved upon.

Anyway, that fanfic is about some girl with a heart of gold who was trapped in a love triangle between two particular Slam Dunk characters. I noticed there was something really wrong about this protagonist after a few chapters. For instance, things seemed to be too easy for her, besides the two guys who fell in love with her, she managed to win the affections of EVERY SINGLE character out there. She's a nice girl, who can cook, who has the voice of an angel whilst she sings (more than a third of the fanfic features the entire lyrics of the song she was performing...), smart, sensitive... the object of every dumb teenager's wet dreams.

However, the writer herself and her band of merry fans had pointed out numerous times that the character was certainly NOT a Mary Sue, because unlike a generic Mary Sue, this gal actually has a flaw.

She's FAT.

Thus, she's not physically flawless, so explains the writer. Of course, whether that is an issue or not is irrevelant, because in the fanfic, it was explained numerous times, hell, almost EVERY SINGLE chapter that 'despite she's fat, she's actually very beautiful', so beautiful that she was almost the object of sexual fantasies for all characters in the fanfic. Now, I'm not saying that a woman can't be attractive even though she's fat, after all, physical appearances can be a rather subjective matter.

What bothered me was the writer's inability to stop herself from praising her own protagonist in such an obsessive manner.

Holy shit, man.

All I want to say, in conclusion, is that the story is very badly-written, with one of the most ludicrous endings I've ever read in a written work. In order to solve this poor angsty love triangle, the gal chose the guy who knew what her favourite song was. To symbolize her choosing 'the guy who knows her most'.

WTF is this? You know what? Despite the writer's attempts to make readers think that the protagonist is a smart chick, I think she's one of the dumbest bitches I've ever read about. Maybe if I want to hook up with some chick, all I need to know is her favourite song, wow, that's effective. Hey, looky looky, Maybe I'll attempt something similar on Scarlett Johannson so that I will fulfill the prophecy of her marrying me. Mwa hah.

Image hosted by TinyPic.com


This fanfic of wondrous quality had attracted itself many reviews... gee, it's not surprising why the writer herself tend to refute every single flaw I pointed out about her masterpiece. Come to think of it, I wouldn't use the word 'refute', because all she ever did was said 'lol' to what I've said, a great habit of hers. I felt pointless trying to voice out my opinions.

Of course, I believe she could've been much happier if I didn't launch into a few-paragraph-long review politely outlining, what I humbly thought, were the shortcomings of the fanfic, like the ridiculousness of the protagonist and the implausibly dumb love story. (I never bothered giving her a simple 'OMG! DIS IS SUCH A GOOD FIC! SO ROMANTIC!' like her dear followers)

Hence, I ended up becoming increasingly disgusted with writers who live in vacuums, incapable of accepting criticisms. But then, while these Mary Sue writers do have a high opinion of their own works, they don't really piss me off as much as the yaoi fanficcers I mentioned yesterday. At least they aren't self-righteous dumbasses who liked to defend their crappy fanfics by saying that they are contributing to a noble cause (... accepting homosexuality). Mary Sue writers tend to work individually, and not form a clique of their own where they massage their own egos, so they are more pitiful, but not repulsive.

Besides, Mary Sue writers do not really have 'fans' like yaoi writers do. Everyone denies vehemently that they read Mary Sue fanfics, but the truth is, I doubt most of them knew that they were reading one even if some Mary Sue fanfic comes to life and bite their asses.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Why Fanfiction Sucks (Part 1)

Two weeks have passed since I have retired from writing fanfiction.

I feel relieved. Writing fanfiction was supposed to be a practice for myself to improve my writing skills so that I can handle my personal creative projects (original writings, or screenplays) better.

Will I miss the fanfic-writing community? Barely. The ride had been a fun one, but getting involved in this community was somewhat tedious. And my departure now means that there are many things I don't have to deal with anymore. (of course, in truth, since I've moved away from fanfiction.net, my exposure to these had been minimal at best, but they deserve some mention in tonight's entry of mine.)

One of the things that bothered me most about the fanfic-writing community.

Dumb Yaoi (Slash) Fanfic Writers And Their Badly Written Fanfics

Fanfiction is mostly dominated by female writers. So naturally, yaoi (slash) fanfiction is common in all fandoms. Male characters in a female-less world paired up with one another, involved in all kinds of angst and silliness.

Naturally, being a straight hot-blooded male, I've never been a fan of this subgenre. And because of this, I've been accused numerous times by writers of yaoi fanfics and their faithful fans of being a homophobe. That I'm a narrow-minded bigot who is unable to accept homosexuality.

... morons.

Seriously, my accusers should do the world a favour and go kill themselves. Yes, I happen NOT to like the idea of two male FICTIONAL characters who clearly are not attracted to each other in the source material acting like lovelorn idiots and then screwing each other, and then acting like lovelorn idiots again, before screwing each other again. There are so many yaoi fanfics that are so ridiculously cliched, pretentious and badly-written that I can't even appreciate them for their artistic merits.

Since when did the idea of writing two FICTIONAL characters engaged in gay sex to fulfill their own teenage fantasies make them gay rights activists? Since when does respecting homosexuality become an excuse for being a horrible writer who falls prey for all kinds of cliches? Numerous times, I've seen a yaoi fanfic writer defending her own crap fic by saying some rubbish like "YOU SEZ THAT MY FIC IS BAD BECAUSE YOU ARE A GAY-HATING HOMOPHOBE! I APPRECIATE HOMOSEXUALITY, AND I THINK IT IS A WONDERFUL THING, SO I CAN WRITE WHATEVER THE SHIT I WANT TO!'.

It's not the fact that this writer is a yaoi fanfic writer that irks me, but the fact that this writer is some dumbass who is unable to accept criticism that made me despise her so much. I tend to feel that as a writer, you should be seeking ways to constantly improve yourself, not being a delusional idiot who thinks that your work is some Booker-prize deserving masterpiece... merely because you had countless unbelievable gay sex scenes in it that involve you favourite bishies. Of course, I think their delusions are fueled by their faithful readers who seem to enjoy whatever crap shoveled at them as long as they get to see their two favourite manly men going at it. Bishie sex rules.

Hey, look, the following's one of the earliest haikus I've ever written: (three days ago)

I lust lesbian porn,
pretty girl humps pretty girl
a heavenly sight!


There, look! Does that make me a gay rights activists as well? Am I going to condemn anyone else who disagrees with my haiku as homophobes? Am I going to launch into a tirade of how cool lesbians are and how they are misunderstood? Nope, absolutely not.

Goddamn posers.

Seriously, look at the yaoi fanfics themselves. 8 out of 10 of them are seriously badly written, cliched or illogical.

For reasons I can NEVER comprehend, bitter enemies and archrivals tend to be romantically paired in these fanfics. Why? Because love-hate relationships are so great to write? Then at least try to make the relationship more PLAUSIBLE!

Over and over again, I am exposed to these!!!

Image hosted by TinyPic.com
Image hosted by TinyPic.com
Image hosted by TinyPic.com


Gee, if I am a yaoi fanfic character, maybe every single person (of the same gender) I hate, I actually secretly lust for.

It's so utterly predictable now. Go watch an anime, or play a game, see whether it has a reasonably good-looking archrival or an antagonist or not. If yes, expect to see numerous yaoi fanfics dedicated to pairing the hero with these people.

Yah, so there might be some good writers of yaoi fanfiction out there, just like how there are some good literature out there that involves homosexuality (hell, I even did an essay on Thomas Mann's 'Death in Venice' last year). But the stupidity of the majority of these yaoi fanfic writers, and the crapness of their written works are so shitty that I wish I can beat them with a stick covered with shit. And because of that, I am blinded by hatred.

That's all I want to say.

Tomorrow, I'll speak about Mary Sue-ism.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Re-editing and revamping 'Forced Labour', figuring my next project

I've mentioned numerous times that I was going to re-edit 'Forced Labour', the short film I made earlier this year due to the fact that I wasn't entirely happy with its end result.

And among everyone involved in the short film, and everyone who has seen it, I think I myself might be its harshest critic. But there was something very totally wrong about it. Sure, it was entertaining the first few times I saw it, but after that, its flaws just became more and more obvious. It just wasn't mindblowing enough to stay in your mind, judging from the largely positive responses I've gained from early viewers, I think they enjoyed the film merely because of its mindless entertainment value, the amusement of seeing some of those rather fine fighting scenes and maybe a wee bit of its humour (rather forced, I feel) towards the end.

Sure, for something that was done by a self-taught filmmaker, and being his only second attempt (or first when it came to really directing OTHER PEOPLE), with a budget of slightly more than one hundred bucks, this was something rather impressive. But I truly believed that there's a much better movie hidden within it, and I have to trim everything down to get it. Yes, unlike 'A Boring Story' (my first short film), this is STILL something that can be improved upon.

Eighteen minutes is too collossal for a short film, especially for one with minimal plot like this. The fight scenes may have been entertaining, and believed to have carried the entire film, but I'll be damned if the merit of my short film is judged only by one or two parts of it.

So yeah, this may be cruel, but when I re-edit the short film, more than half of it will be gone, and almost more than half of its cast as well. I even had an idea on how to make everything much gripping than before. And that's to make it entirely out of chronological order. (an idea I played with earlier but eventually discarded because I thought it was unnecessary, guess I was wrong). Being a short film of this sort, I feel that it has to grab hold of the audiences right at the beginning.

Of course, I can't exactly do that until I get back my 200 gig external hard drive first. Damn. I think the re-editing has to be attempted when I return to Perth.

And yes, I am already writing down notes on how to adapt Justin's short story 'The Girl On The Bench' into a short film to work on next semester. In my opinion, it is his most enjoyable work by far. Unlike 'Forced Labour', which featured a rather large cast (5 speaking roles, 9 non-speaking roles, and various other cameo appearances in crowd scenes), this story will have two main characters only (with two or three other minor roles).

It's pretty much an introspective character study and mood piece that focuses on the relationship of a rather quirky couple, and takes place entirely in a park. It's entirely character-driven. So I seriously need really really good actors for this. Although based on Justin's short story, I don't think it's going to be a very faithful adaptation. Maybe it's based more on the concept and element of the short story than the story itself.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Can Local Malaysian Stars Become Internationally Famous?

I've originally wanted to post more of my wonderful haiku I wrote yesterday but since I ain't using my comp, I'll just bring up another topic for discussion. Building upon an entry I wrote last week regarding the problems of the local film industry heard in the seminar, I now wonder wistfully how can our movies reach the international stage.

As I've said, a star system is important for a movie to do well commercially. Although I do agree that our Malay brethren have a much healthier, established and profitable filmmaking scene compared to the Chinese, and numerous have argued that they do indeed have their bona fide homegrown local stars, which I also agree, I still feel that the entire movie business has yet to reach the international stage.

A powerful star system is something we see in Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan, where the appeal of their stars transcend barriers and culture. How can Korean and Japanese stars become so big over here when so few of us actually SPEAK their languages? How can it be possible that the posters of these stars are hanging on the bedroom walls of local teenagers, and not those of our own? What is this barrier that's making foreign stars more appealing than our own?

The emergence of Korean films in the international stage happened rather recently, but already, their appeal have swept through the entire Asia, becoming even more frantic than the Japanese, and also at the time when the Hong Kong industry was going downhill. Many of their stars have became household names in different countries. But why can't our stars become household names as well?

Was making it internationally part of the plan for Malaysian films? This is something I have been pondering for quite a while, or is it really meant to be a local-based business? I look at Singapore, and saw a film industry more impressive than ours even though one can say that their commercial cinema is pretty much powered by ONE person, Jack Neo. But already, films by him are already shown around various countries of Asia, he even scooped up some awards from Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards during the past few years.

What about us? Will a Hong Kong teenager ever put up a poster of M. Nasir in his bedroom? Will a Singaporean girl ever declare Ziana Zain as her role model? Will a Taiwanese boy ever attempt to collect every single film with Erra Fazira in it? Will a bunch of Hong Kongers wish to invite Tiara Jacquelina to star in their films like how they invited Japanese and Korean actor and actresses over? Wishful thinking, I know. But ten year ago, who could have expected the Koreans to dominate the consciousness of everyone so deeply today? Hell, even my Filipino maid is a Lee Young Ae fan.

I think for our commercial cinema to grow, we need to market our stars towards the other countries. Or has that actually been done already but I was unaware of it? Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Are you flabbergasted by the lack of names I used in the paragraph above? (just four) Are you thinking that 'hah, this guy probably has very limited knowledge about the Malay stars', well, I tried asking a number of people on my MSN list, and those were the only names I can get. Perhaps many random moviegoers just don't know that much about our homegrown stars as well.

I am an independant filmmaker. Therefore it is unlikely for me to ever use major stars in my zero-budget short films for the time being (I wouldn't mind if some past winners of Astro Chinese Pageant offer to appear in my films, hehe), all I can do is to submit the stuff I've made to foreign film festivals, hoping against hope that I can receive some sort of recognition of my works. But it would be best if my cast members will be noticed as well and become famous in the end. Contrary to some accusations made against me after last week's entry, I do give a lot of damn about Malaysia's film industry, and I DO wish that someday, Malaysian movies can be competitive in the international stage.

And I repeat, if you're a former participant or winner of a beauty pageant, feel free to contact me, I shall put you in my film. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Swifty Shows Off The Poster Of His Short Film, And Speaks About The Possibilities Of His Story, Snow Kiss, Getting Turned Into A Webcomic.

I'm a year late, but I've finally designed a poster for my short film, A Boring Story. Check it out!

Now, I've spoken to this young girl, Kat-Chan, from Comic Fiesta Forum and she's possibly going to collaborate with me next year into turning one of my works, Snow Kiss, into a webcomic, which is something I've wanted to do for ages.

However, I said possibly, because, after previous experiences and failed collaborations with some artists (I wouldn't say that it's 'FAILED', considering that none of them EVER started), it's hard for me to make any confirmation or guarantee at all.

But if this happens, I'll be a really really happy man.

Snow Kiss is a rather interesting work I completed last year. Amazingly, I started working on it when I was 16, and it was supposed to be the second fanfiction I've ever attempted (I refer to it as fanfiction because the characters are named after Japanese celebrities, but it's pretty much an original work if you look past that). Meant to be a witty romantic comedy, things became so horrible and mushy that I ended up abandoning it and went on to write other stuff. It was also in script format (not screenplay format, just script format) because that was the time when I was bitten by the writing bug, and wanted to write materials for me to film in the future.

Anyway, yeah, I abandoned the story back in 2000, but picked it up again 2004, completely turned it upside down, inside out. Originally some crap little story about a cynical author stumbling into a has-been singer/widow with a sickeningly adorable son, where a love-hate relationship developed between them. I turned it into a story of a guy desperate to finish a crap little story about a cynical author stumblling into a has-been singer/widow with a sickeningly adorable son... to make it sound simpler, I turned the original story into a story within a story. A guy wanted to finish this corny little story he wrote, failed, so ended up enlisting the help of his friends for this impossible task.

Chaos and comedy ensue... which, I personally think, will make a rather interesting webcomic.

If you want to read it, click here.

All right. Here's the poster I made for Snow Kiss. Behold!

Hehe. If you're wondering how insanely good my possible future collaborator is, here's a sample of her drawing. Be blown away!!!!!



UPDATED (DEC 1, 2012): 7 years have passed. No, the comic was never made.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Just to clarify some things from my previous entry

Whoa, I didn't know that Sebastian actually posted the link to my previous entry on famed director, Yasmin Ahmad's blog. And therefore, I would like to take the opportunity to reply to hdoong, a person who took the time to make a rather sensible and thought-provoking response to my entry.

The following is from him:

hi mcgarmott,

thanks for the link to the blog. appreciate it.

while i can see the author's point of view, i do think that it is biased. for one thing, the fact that sepet grossed almost RM90k per print (beaten pgl, at least) means that the average cinema going malaysian is not as dumb as was described.

secondly, he has forgotten that the majority of malaysians are malay! this fact seem to have completely bypassed him. he seem to live in his own world! he does not seem to have an understanding of the malay psyche, how they feel about movies and stars, what they like to watch etc. you just simply cannot judge others based on own biased standards. sorry to say this but the whole context of which his criticism is based wrong.

there is quite a healthy stream of malay movies catering to these malays, and for all his ignorance about this, the annual average gross per malay film is higher than any other movies. yes, the average gross for a hollywood film is lower than an average gross for a malay film.

films are made to be seen. if the film is not seen by people save for an "elite" handful, then it simply is not up to par. it is a mistake to think otherwise. the filmaker can indulge in whatever fantasies of self-greatness he/she likes

in this, i respect yasmin for being able to make a film of such good standard, so intellectual and at the same time appeals to such deep emotions and is at the same time a social criticism, but most importantly, people came, paid that few ringgit, and watched the movie and thought it was a good movie.

finally, the entry said, "don't expect to make a living through films in malaysia" - this alone is so damning to all those people who made a living and is making a living by making films in malaysia. just too unfair and ignorant......


The blog entry I wrote last night is obviously meant to be my own opinions and thoughts, I don't intend them to be the gospel truth or anything. And I would appreciate it if someone would point out my errors like that.

And I guess a major error I made with the previous entry was that I sounded too general about the whole thing. I wasn't exactly referring to the Malay> filmmaking community, but more to the Chinese Malaysian filmmaking community. (that's why when I was referring to singers/filmmakers/actors who had to make it big overseas, I was referring solely to the Chinese ones like James Lee, Tsai Min Liang, Eric Mok, Michelle Yeoh) The truth is, compared to our more established Malay brethren, the whole Chinese Malaysian filmmaking scene seems much weaker and instable, thus making it hard for a Chinese filmmaker to make a Chinese film here. Although I do hope that the situation can improve now.

And yes, I am aware that the Malays have their own stars, but there ain't really any bona-fide homegrown Malaysian Chinese stars. (even when referring to the star system, I was referring more towards the Chinese television station, HVD) I apologize if I didn't make it clearer in my previous entry that I was referring towards the Chinese Malaysian filmmaking scene, and not the Malaysian filmmaking scene in general. Next time, I'll intend to be more specific.

The Malaysian Chinese Filmmaking Scene And Its Many Many Obstacles.

EDIT: I didn't specifically pointed out that I was ranting about the Malaysian Chinese filmmaking scene when I first posted it, and not exactly the Malaysian filmmaking scene in general. So yeah, remember, I was ranting more about the Malaysian Chinese filmmaking scene.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Image hosted by Photobucket.com


Yup, went to this Q & A session at a film academy today with my dad, and I had the fortune to meet James Lee (top photo), a famous local independant filmmaker who is considered as one of the pioneers of the current Malaysian independant filmmaking movement, and Chan Jin Quan (that's what his name sounds like in Mandarin, I'm not too sure what his actual English name is, bottom pic), a veteran TV actor who had been around from the glory days of Chinese Malaysian television to its fall, and he had managed to stay tough and continued the career he had loved... despite this, he looks really young though.

The local Malaysian filmmaking scene is being discussed today, the industry, the regular cinemagoers, the numerous obstacles and restrictions preventing filmmakers from succeeding, many things, therefore, I'll try to speak out about the numerous things that caught my attention today. There had been many issues in our local film industry that makes aspiring filmmaker like me want to stay overseas instead of here, because I knew that there are more opportunities in, say, Australia, than here. So, enough talk, here are the crucial flaws of our system that leaves me rather apprehensive about pursuing my passion here.

1) Malaysia lacks a true film culture

A regular Malaysian cinemagoer just ain't THAT into movies, even when compared with our neighbour, Singapore. Mega-budget blockbusters and Jackie Chan films (I am embarrassed to say that Malaysia was the ONLY place in the world where his crap 'The Tuxedo' didn't flop) are embraced, while non-mainstream films are COMPLETELY shunned. There are rarely any arthouse theaters in Malaysia, unlike Singapore, where people would go for the likes of 'Lost In Translation', 'Sideways' and 'Million Dollar Baby', over here? All the aforementioned Oscar-nominated (and winning) films were not brought over by the local film distributors because they KNEW that no one in Malaysia would flock into the theaters to see such films.

Nope, people just prefer Jackie Chan MUCH more.

Therefore, a film labelled by a 'thinking person's film' is unlikely to arrive at Malaysian theaters. This is sad, because it shows that most cinemagoers aren't really thinking people. And because film is more like a mindless entertainment for them, and not exactly a culture, they never go too deeply into it.

Personal experience? Among the fourteen cast members in my previous short film, 'Forced Labour', only ONE person was Malaysian (heya, Johan!). The rest thought that I was nuts for trying to make a movie, they giggled, excused themselves and ran off. If I can get myself TWO enthusiastic cast members from Singapore, I have no idea why was it THAT difficult to get myself one from Malaysia. Film enthusiasts in Malaysia is just one in a million.

If I hadn't gone to Perth, I doubt I would've actually made two short films by now. Before I went to Perth, I vowed to make a film by the age of 25. At that time, I thought it was a pretty difficult thing to achieve... little did I know that things would turn out so differently few months later. I managed to achieve my goal five years younger than my targeted age.

I'm not blaming the regular cinemagoers for being like that. I guess that's just part of something that's difficult to change. Therefore, if foreign indie films are ignored, how the hell can local ones stand a chance now?

2) A messed up star system

Idol-worshipping and stargazing are a common habit among moviegoers. Star power can be such an important tool for commercial filmmakers. When big stars are attached, producers dare to greenlight a project, investors have the confidence in funding it, because they knew that the film has the potential to be profitable.

That happens in Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea, Singapore and various other countries with a strong film industry.

Not Malaysia.

You see, we don't really have a huge acting star in Malaysia. Hell, we rarely have stars... period. 90% of the biggest Chinese singers from Malaysia made it big in Taiwan first before they came back as celebrities. James Lee

had mentioned that back in the early 90s, there was a famous Malaysian singer (I presume he's Eric Mok) who gotten a lot of heat because denied that he was Malaysian when asked. He can't be blamed. Despite trying his best to make it big in Malaysia, he was SHUNNED AND IGNORED. Yet when he was in Singapore and Taiwan, he indeed managed to make it big. How can he not feel pissed off when he was treated thus in his own country when it was his own countrymen who turned their backs to him first?

Oh, did I mention that Michelle Yeoh became such a huge star because she was in HONG KONG films and not Malaysian ones? I could've sworn that she could have never been an internationally-known actress she is now if she had remained in Malaysia.

Hell, James Lee became known to people here because he won awards in FOREIGN film festivals. He was barely noticed when he was here. Tsai Min Liang became internationally-renowned... after he went to Taiwan to make Taiwanese movies. There are dozens of filmmakers who would never be known here at all if they never made the move to overseas first.

Do local people give Malaysian filmmakers and films a chance? Although subjectively speaking, the quality of these movies may not rival those of our more illustrious luminaries like Singapore, Korea and Thailand, let alone Hollywood. But people shouldn't attempt to compare local films with those at first. How can our industry grow when it isn't even nurtured?

Stargazing and idol-worshipping are indeed common in Malaysia, but only for celebrities of Hollywood, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. There's no place left for local artistes.

Of course, the public isn't entirely to blame. Even during its glory days, film studios and tv studios never really tried to develop a star system, to create film or TV stars that the general public are aware of so that their released products can be commercially viable. Once a local TV artiste became famous, he or she would ask for a raise, they are immediately shelved and put aside, and REPLACED by younger stars. That explains why many TV actors and actresses who were rather famous back then disappeared abruptly right after their meteoric rise. Because these companies and studios were concentrating so much on cutting costs and gaining profits, our country ended up not having a star system at all. Perhaps the price named by the artiste was outrageous, but a compromise would've been reached.

Thus, even the commercial filmmakers have to suffer because of this.

Singapore had their own stars. They worship their locally-grown artistes (Fann Wong, Stephanie Sun), they appreciate their local commercial fillmakers (Jack Neo). Why can't the same thing be developed in our country? Because a regular Malaysian has long decided that local talents can't compare with foreign ones. This is unfortunately, is a stupid belief I used to have in the past.

And because of this, said my dad, the media shifts their attention solely on foreign celebrities and not local talents, knowing that the general public are more interested in reading, say, gossip of some Taiwanese starlet, than the news of a local filmmaker winning an award in a foreign film festival.

3) Restrictions imposed by the Government.

Kissing scenes that last longer than 3 seconds are snipped off, non-graphic sex scenes are snipped off.

Oh, in the 90s, female actresses aren't allowed to wear sleeveless shirts, guys aren't allowed to be topless (even if the character is swimming!). Blue jeans and caps are banned too.

Great place for creative minds huh?

4)Don't expect to make a living through films in Malaysia.

The actor, Chan, said that during the heyday of HVN (a now-dissolved television studio) in 1993-1996, he had fans mobbing him for autographs, he was recognized whenever he went out. Then the Asian financial crisis came in 1997, and not too long after, HVN fell apart and he was left jobless. It was a difficult period for him. Almost instantly, and he was forgotten.

Many of his colleagues, former actors and actresses, tried to get a normal job, but ended up suffering. Because they were once artistes, they were discriminated by others in the company, and given extra work. It was sad.

Although he managed to revive an acting career these days, he was aware of the fact that he wouldn't really make a living off it. It was just him doing something he loved to do, fulfilling his passion. I can understand and totally respect that.

The same goes with James Lee, who did suffer some difficult periods as well in the past. Although he had made his own indie films, he had lots of trouble trying to get a stint in local advertising firms because he was pigeonholed as a 'non-mainstream/non-commercial/purely arthouse' director, thus being unable to direct an advertisement. In the end, making movies became merely something for him to achieve his dreams and passions, while other projects like shooting music videos were to support himself.

I feel the same as well. I am not naive, I do not dream of myself becoming a Hollywood filmmaker who is given tens of millions to make a blockbuster. To me, filmmaking is also a childhood dream and a passion. I love telling stories, thus I write, and in the end, filmmaking is merely another medium for me to tell a story. If I can ever make it big as a filmmaker, then it's fine, but for now, I purely enjoy the entire process of planning and making a film. The exhilaration and excitement of all these make everything worth it for me, that's why I never felt tired at all.

Nothing beats the feeling of trying to make a zero-budget film rival a more expensive feature film in terms of looks, or coming up with all kinds of methods to deal with your budget limitations. What other methods are better to improve your filmmaking skills and increase your confidence when you are capable of triumphing over such adversity. The finest filmmakers in the world started small, so that they could gain the necessary skills to create something bigger.

For me, it's never a matter of making bigger and more expensive films, I don't necessarily want each film to become bigger than the one before. All I want to do is to tell my audiences a good story, that's all.

And damn it, I love the feeling of saying the following line.

"I am Edmund Yeo. Writer and filmmaker."

It just gives me a tingling feeling inside. So yeah, I'll end this insanely long entry with a MSN conversation I had hours ago with Sebastian, who is also an aspiring filmmaker.

Sebastian: What sort of film projects would you do, assuming you have the talent and the clout, say 20 yrs from now, as in, what kind of stories/films do you fantasise about doing?
Me: Hm. Anything that's close to my heart and soul
Sebastian: so you've never actually daydreamed about stories?
Me: There are tons of stories playing within my mind, too many. Stories about people, stories of things i see. It's been like that since i was a child, that's why i write. To me, filmmaking is another method of telling a story.
Sebastian: I know what you mean
Me: So there's nothing i specifically want to make into a movie since the stories within my mind evolve ceaselessly.
Sebastian: That's where we differ i suppose ... i tend to have a few stories in mind and for years my mind would be working on it, either replaying it over and over, or changing bits here and there.
Me: I don't replay things. If i have to make something now, I’ll just pluck something out from within my mind and develop it. But i seldom look into the future, about what i want to make in the future because i know that by then, i'll have different stories in my mind.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Coping With My Retirement From Fanfiction, Future Plans For Both Writing And Filmmaking.

I am still utterly blown away by the fact that I've finished a fanfic I've spent three years working upon. Post-creativity depression is sure to settle in soon, but I seriously doubt it. Yes, although I'm done with Slam Dunk: Inside Stuff, this is just the beginning. From now on, I will attempt to promote it like I've never before, I'll attempt to make it accessible from anywhere. I'll make sure its URL will be on any anime fanfiction site, search engines and everything else. (insanely active forums are perfect for this)

(fanfiction was completed right after midnight, during the first few hours of 5th of July, it was fitting that this was the very day I found myself a new job, a signal of a new beginning for my life?)

Now I muse about my fanfiction career, which has spanned from 1999 to this year, 2005. Six years is a pretty long time. I started out by writing fanfics starring the Jpop band, Speed, in my mailing list (formerly known as Precious Speed Mailing List, now known simply as PSML), then fanfiction.net, where I achieved quite a lot with my controversial DBZ and Jpop/Jrock fanfics. In the end, certain factors made me very pissed off with fanfiction.net, thus I wrote Slam Dunk: Inside Stuff as a swan song. Little did I know that numerous events would make this whole deal last for three years. So yeah, my retirement was prolonged for three long years, but the bright side of it is, I created my own site because of it. I'm rather proud with most of the stuff I've written and I sincerely believe that I have an above average body of fan fictional works (many of them archived on my site now, click here to view them).

Enough musing, I will now briefly illustrate what I intend to do.

For writing:

28 Days: This Ain't That Zombie Flick, the sequel of the semi-biographical novelette, 14 Days, will be uploaded soon. But instead of being merely a collaboration between Alanded and I, this sequel has three other writers as well.

I'm also going to attempt writing some short stories (I've jot down the ideas for some of them in a notepad) so that my writing skills will never become rusty.

Maybe I'll have to reread my unfinished novel done with Alanded to rediscover my passion for this project. I've left it hanging for such a long time that I can't even remember what was it like to work on it anymore.

For filmmaking:

I've originally intended to make an experimental mood piece during my break here. It's going to be a simple short film that lasts less than 5 minutes, with merely one person in the cast (an actress). A bittersweet romance of sorts. Unfortunately, I'm starting to worry that I won't have the time to do it since I'm working now.

Other than that, after I return to Perth, I'm going to work on a new project, an offbeat romantic comedy that's based on a short story written by Justin. It's going to be something very simple, featuring only two members in the cast.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Retiring From Fanfiction,

Oh my god! OH MY GOD! I've just finished writing the Slam Dunk: Inside Stuff epilogue! This is nuts! This is insane! I so totally didn't expect this to happen that easily! So soon!

Special thanks to Yuan-Yue for helping me out with the very last line in that chapter. I will upload it soon, once I've done my acknowledgements and stuff.

My fanfiction career is finally over. I'm speechless.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Short film and video works