Friday, September 30, 2005
So I shall summarize what I wrote in that review.
I was turned off by the shitty trailer but I went to see it anyway because I saw a review on Rottentomatoes.com calling it one of the finest films of the year. Also I was immensely entertained by the previous work of this film's creator, Chicken Run, so I gave this a go. And no, I didn't watch the original TV series. Might be before my time, I guess.
Not as good as the review said, definitely not the finest film of the year, but since I saw this back-to-back with the incredibly shitty Dukes Of Hazzard (My review here. Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott should be shot, I can't think of the latter being in anything good besides the American Pie movies now), I enjoyed it more than I initially expected.
Wallace is an inventor, Gromit is his mute dog who can cook and drive and is pretty much Wallace's 'nanny' as he (the dog) is the 'voice' of logic and reason. They are pest control who capture rabbits who ravage the gardens of neighbours. Vegetable fair is just few days away, but a were-rabbit appears and starts wrecking shit up. Can our heroes stop them? Especially when evidences point to the fact that this were-rabbit may actually be a result of one of Wallace's crazy inventions? Dum dum dum.
This film is rather amusing, and has impressively madcap action scenes that are more amazing when you remember everything's done using stop-motion effects and not CGI. The trailer looks that bad because the jokes are all taken out of context, and in a way, I guess it is made to look intentionally bad and cheesy. Doesn't really do this film justice.
Overall? It didn't blow me away, but I was definitely entertained.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Swifty Decides To Make An English-Language Film Instead Of A Malay One. (Unless Someone Can Help Him With Translation)
"Are you ready to die?" - Tun Perak
"Always." - Hang Tuah
And thus, the screenplay for my next short film, a sci-fi short flick (tentatively titled 'Aisyalam') based on the Hang Tuah vs Hang Jebat storyline is complete (despite the fact that I had shot a scene or two with my 'Hang Jebat' during the past week, but they have no dialogue) just hours ago by Justin. Originally intended to be a Malay film, I'm starting to have second thoughts on this, and I think, by taking the capabilities of my cast members into account, it would be more logical for me to make an English film.
"Those who seek to destroy me become me. We have institutionalized insurgency as a necessary element of economic regeneration. Insurgent elements will be reintegrated into the system for core processing. It is now impossible to imagine conditions other than present existence. Our consciousness is the consciousness of the empire itself." - The Sultan
... considering how difficult it would be to actually translate the dialogue. I mean, even if it is translated, most of the meaning will be lost, and that would be a waste of what Justin has written. However, by turning my film into English, one of the main gimmicks I want would be gone.
One of the main reasons why I wanted to make this a Malay film is because the story IS based on a Malay folklore, and that having a noirish sci-fi in Malay seems to be quite a cool idea. It'll be like Jean Luc Godard's Alphaville, or Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but in MALAY! And it'll be so cool to be able to put 'Pengarah: Edmund Yeo' in the credits or something.Alas, reality strikes, and I think I'll have to be more realistic and shoot an English film instead. Well, a MALAYSIAN sci-fi film in English is still quite a rarity, I guess. Doesn't help if half of my cast members do not understand what are they babbling about either.
"Would you betray the Sultan if it meant saving Aisyalam?" - Tun Perak
Bought a desklight and a floodlight as my lighting equipments yesterday afternoon, for now, I think I should already have enough equipment needed for the production of this film. Hopefully shooting will run smoothly next week, during the one-week semester break.
"Machine-consciousness is the nervous system of civilization. Removal of machine-consciousness implies self-destruction. We are not separate entities. I am a manifestation of market infrastructure. Progress is inevitable. Retrograde elements in the system will be annihilated. Progress is inevitable." - The Sultan
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Ain't even going to dignify this piece of shit film with a normal review. Went to see this along with the Wallace and Gromit movie. Will review the latter some other time.
Friday, September 23, 2005
WATCH FORCED LABOUR NOW!!!!
Thursday, September 22, 2005
So yes, despite the whole thing about superheroes, this feels very much like a typical teen movie where the hero has to live up to the expectations of his loving parents, and go through some girl problems, and fend against school bullies, and being relegated to the 'Sidekicks' class instead of the 'Heroes' class due to his lack of powers, he has to prove himself to be better than the jocks (the superheroes) with his misfit group of friends.
Unfortunately, likable he may be, the character of Will Stronghold is too bland and boring, while I find myself more intrigued by his angst-ridden fire-wielding archrival Warren Peace (Steven Strait), a nice guy beneath a tough badass exterior. More screentime and character development would have been given to him. In fact, with such a colourful cast of characters, instead of being reduced to stereotypes, some of them should have been fleshed out more (like how, ah, the American Pie guys are done).
ESPECIALLY GWEN (MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD)! GWEN SHOULD SHOW MORE FLESH, I MEAN, FLESHED OUT MORE!!!!!!!
*cough* Pardon me.
Right. Gwen is the high school senior whom Will Stronghold has a crush on, but who seemingly seems to have designs of her own. Any idiot could see that she's a bad... BAAAAAAAAD gal. And I shall post photos of her to show you how bad she is. After all, she is played by the actress who plays Samara in Ring 2. How badass can that be?
Yum. Credit given to her for sustaining most of my attention in the film (Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston, being the veteran actors they are, are of course good, but they don't really appear that much). Being able to carry a film like this is a marvellous feat. Born in 28th of November, 1984 (my age!!!), Mary Elizabeth Winstead's films thus far are Sky High and Ring 2, and her next project will be Final Destination 3. Well... it's probably going to be a shit film, but hey, who knows? Despite giving FD2 a pass, I MIGHT give FD3 a go.
This movie strives to entertain families, and I guess it kinda succeeds, but it could have been a much better movie.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Due to budget constraints, I attempt to make this more like a sci-fi film from the 1960s (thus it is black and white), than the current special effects heavy (I have neither the resources nor the manpower to do this) sci-fi blockbuster. It will also be very noirish, like a Humphrey Bogart movie. After all, to have a movie like this, and being completely in Malay, would make it rather unique.
The screenshots featured in yesterday's entry are actually of Hang Jebat's. And once again, due to lack of resources and others, instead of utilizing special effects, I will be using the most old-school methods of filmmaking. So yeah, I'm using miniatures. Who knows? The final product may end up like something made by Ed Wood.
There will be lots of twists and surprises in my short film that I do not intend to reveal here. But if I can pull this off, I think it will be one of the most unique projects ever. Hah!
It was, of course, filmed at the central train station, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful places in the city.
Unfortunately, while filming, we were interrupted by a middle-aged security guard.
"Hey you! What is this for?" He asked.
"It's just a university assignment." I lied smoothly. Despite my voice being reduced to nothing more than a croak, my blinding charisma remained.
"Do you have permission?" He narrowed his eyes.
"Oh no!" I feigned a look of innocence and shock. "Do we need one? Can we get it now?"
Man grunted and pointed at a direction. We nodded and started walking away... before we were intercepted by two more security guards, one tough-looking woman and one tall imposing man.
"Why were you filming here?" The man asked.
"It's a university assignment." I repeated.
"Murdoch." I said, silently worried that they would immediately call my university and find out that I am neither a film student, nor a media student, and that I was just being an idealistic young man trying to make his own indie short film and not doing it because of academic reasons.
"ID please?" Man extended his hand. I fished out my student card and handed it to him, he started jotting down my particulars. The woman did the same with Johan and Justin.
"No one's allowed to film in the train station, nor take photos. Because this could be what terrorists do, filming and taking photos so that they can find the right place to plant their bombs." The woman explained.
"Damn." I tried to look sympathetic. "Don't worry, it's just a short film."
The guards nodded and returned us our student cards.
"You are allowed to film now. Make sure you do it within the limits of this area." The man said.
Then they walked away. We sighed in relief.
I turned to Justin. "Damn, if the train station gets bombed tomorrow, we'll be the prime suspects."
When the train came, I hid my tripod, holding my camera by hand instead. Didn't want to attract too much attention. Better to let them know that I was just some tourist or something. While filming in the train, a notice struck me, which warned people about terrorists. It said that one of the common activities found among terrorists was their tendencies to often take photos, or shoot videos of public places so that they can find the right places to plant their bombs.
Guerilla filmmakers like me are in trouble.
Oh well, the following are screenshots that I risked my life and reputation to film just a few hours ago.
'Person of the Day' award goes to the woman who works in the Mr Samurai Japanese food stall at Old Shanghai food court. While having dinner there, just before we went to the train station for filming, I, with my raspy and hoarse voice, ordered Salmon Don (that's salmon rice) with curry. The woman immediately shook her head.
"No, you are sick. I won't let you have curry." She said.
I was moved by her professionalism and top-notched service.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
There had been numerous reviews about this film from bloggers in the past few days, most of them praising how good the CG looked, and how cool the fighting scenes were, good for them, but I never kept my hopes too high. After all, I've already been betrayed by Square once when they made FF: The Spirits Within, which remained, alongside Pearl Harbour, one of the most traumatic films I've ever seen (didn't help much when both films were released during the same year, and both had Ben Affleck in it, well, in FF: The Spirits Within's case, a Ben Affleck lookalike with Alec Baldwin's voice, a dire combination)
I had zero expectations for this movie, assuming that every positive review posted these days were just people surprised that it's better than The Spirits Within (not a difficult feat to achieve), how, oh HOW could I have expected it to be THIS good? Despite the coolness of the trailers available online more than a year ago, I was slightly underwhelmed because I thought, ah, what the hell, probably just some freaking glorified Anime. Can't be much better.
Didn't expect to find out that almost all of the footages seen in the trailers were either not in the film, or totally remastered and improved upon until they made the trailers look like cutscenes from a Playstation game? How could I have expected the much-lauded action scenes to be UNLIKE anything I've ever seen before in CG films and live-action films? Though there may be some insanely awesome fighting scenes available in various fantastic anime titles, none of them had the production values, or the impact of this here. The first fighting scene in the movie, which involved a man riding on a motorcycle, warding off three other bikers and their summoned creatures were manic and frantic, it was impressive, but I merely nodded "yeah, that's nice". And then, there was a fighting scene between a woman and a man in a church, which was so visually stunning that I started paying more attention, "whoa, that's pretty good... WHOA!". Then, it just continued upping the ante, increasing it to the point where all I could do was stare at the computer screen blankly and exhale slowly.
So visually stunning it was that I intend to ask even my father to go watch it when my sister has finally gotten her copy of the movie. So visually stunning that I want to share this movie with everyone I know, even if they know nothing about Final Fantasy. So visually stunning that I hoped four years ago, the movie shown in the cinemas was this, and not Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, so that Square wouldn't suffer the massive losses they did, and ending up merging with Enix.
What is there to say about Advent Children? It's all about coolness. Coolness beyond belief, where every single most beloved character of the game would get their chance of spotlight, regardless of their screentime. Those that departed in the game returned, in fact, almost every single important character in the game managed to appear in Advent Children.
What is there for me to complain about this? Thin characterization? Lack of plot development? I can't complain, because this film is not supposed to be a standalone film, but more like an appropriate closure to Final Fantasy 7's much-debated ambiguous ending. It's a simplistic storyline, none of the epic-scale story you would see in a Final Fantasy game. Make more Final Fantasy movies, Square Enix, I am not going to mind whether they will sell out anymore or not. If every single product of their 'sell out' plan is going to be as good as Advent Children, I'll look forward to anything they churn out with. But which Final Fantasy game needs a sequel? Hmm.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
So I've been getting into this poetry shit more and more lately. Started when I decided to write a poem for my girlfriend on our anniversary and, upon looking at the result, decided it was formally a little better than it had to be, not just the unstructured sentimental crap I was expecting I'd put out. I'd been intimidated into not even trying for too long by the disastrous rubbish I put out in my teens, not to mention the intimidation produced by by genuine poets who had a better grasp of meter, villanelle forms, etc. That, and Dan Schneider's fierce but accurate criticisms of anyone and everyone.
But I realized that if I didn't worry about whether what came out was going to be crap or not, things got a lot easier. This approach is what eventually led to the Xiaxue poem. I saw Xiaxue towering in my mind as a colossal figure, so in order to assess the impact of this, I decided I needed to go for the most overblown classical metaphors and phrasings possible. Even the abca rhyme scheme allowed for the delayed release of the buildup of long lines. It was self-consciously ridiculous excess, and while the resultant poem wasn't what I'd call great, I will say that motivating its production was probably the most important thing Xiaxue will accomplish in her life.
At any rate, here's a new one for you all. Oh yeah, and if you get a chance, check out some Mina Loy poems. Amazing, amazing stuff.
Conceive of me as a fatted shadow
pranced on piebald puppet-screens
Better an anti-shadow: I am the doppelganger
of nothing. I haunt it
as time haunts a pocket-watch. A mirror looks at me
I do not age
as you age.
I counter-recede into
the uneventuated horizon.
In me a thousand sepia suns never set
And in me the tip of the subconscious iceberg
protrudes from an in-ground pool.
Boys and girls are the snakeskins
of my fashion whims
the attention of imitation stokes my chameleon womb
and it opens like a nacreous nightflower
like a dryad nested in the bark of sleep
like the lunar echo of an x-rayed skull
I cry only opals.
You who watch the waver of a marionette string
with such detachment - I watch you turn
a blind eye to the shared source
of that suspicious umbilicus.
You circling sharks around my diving cage of
dreamless hopeless unsleep
I play your Panoptic prisoner:
your shark-eyed cameras' Argus eyes
set to soft-focus.
It is necessary
that I am viewed as a product.
So that you will not see
That I have produced you too.
Our shared complicity
Keep one eye on the split seams
That I show you
As I spill my clockwork guts
and cover the floor with a bed of roses
With the other eye watch my face
of star-fired porcelain and
watch my mouth:
This all happened back on the 31st of August, the fabulous Murdoch Malaysian Association (that's the Malaysian Club in Murdoch University, if you haven't figure that out already) threw a party of sorts called 'Merdeka Night' where everyone was invited. It was a great event, Malaysian food, Malaysian dances (well, dances from the three races), a quirky presentation of our history et cetera.
At that time, some people were dressed up in traditional garbs, Chinese in Chinese Cheongsam, Malay in Baju Kebayu, Indians in Sari, and even Japanese in Yukata (a Japanese ended up winning the best-dressed contest). And THAT inspired me to have people dressing up like that in my sci-fi film. But that's irrelevant.
Anyway, the female emcee of the event caught my attention, besides being severely charismatic whilst emceeing, her participation in a string of performances showed that she's very... VERY multitalented. A good voice in singing, her rapping, a songwriting skills, her creativity.
She weaved out a hip hop version of a Malay folk song, just like how I intended to update an ancient Malay folkore into a noirish black and white sci-fi film, thus, a massive lightbulb appeared beyond my oversized head, and immediately, I was hit with the idea of seeking the help of this girl. Since I was going to make a Malay film, wouldn't it be appropriate if I use Malay songs? And if I were going to ask that gal for help anyway, wouldn't it be better if I offer her the role as the love interest of the main character as well?
And thus I did. Finding out her address (she lives in the student village too, don't be shocked), I visited her. No luck. I visited her the second time. No luck. Then the third time. No luck. Realizing that she could be rather elusive, I decide to leave a message on a whiteboard:
"DUM DUM DUM! A filmmaker will visit you at nine thirty tonight. BE PREPARED!!!!"
And she was there at night! Yaaaay! And thus, I started pitching her my idea, telling her which particular Malay folklore I intend to update, how I would like to update it, giving her a rough outline of my short film, pointing out the limitations of my production (I'll be using a simple video camcorder, but making it black and white so that the weaknesses of my camera wouldn't be that apparent), and best of all, presenting to her my last short film, Forced Labour, which did impress her (mentioned that in my last entry). Of course, not to mention that I emphasized on how HER family friend Johan is (aka Tanahashiba_Atwood) MY buddy too. (a fact I didn't know during Merdeka Night)
And thus she agreed, even possibly letting me use her song. I cheered silently at my success, and silently congratulated myself for a difficult job well done.
Friday, September 16, 2005
It is becoming increasingly common that a literary work is considered 'literature' based on its literary merits. Works of popular literature are generally regarded as formulaic and commercial, hence their exclusion from being classified as 'literature'. But then, popular literature has seldom been the concern of scholarly critics, being more of a social phenomenon than artistic achievement. (Pearson, 1929) But is it really fair to discount popular literature as 'serious literature', and then blame the masses for preferring the 'bad' popular literature over the much more intellectually stimulating 'canonical literature' and 'serious literature'? Even though 'popular literature' has also played an important role in shaping the literary scene of today? Canonical literature and serious literature are regarded as sophisticate literature. Reading them is a challenge to readers because large amount of vocabulary comprehension and critical thinking are usually needed. On the other hand, works of popular literature are more conventional, its plot and character development less complex, thus making them an easier read for readers.
This does not mean that an ordinary person is incapable of appreciating a work of sophisticate literature, not because it is good or because it is bad, it is only because it is not the thing he or she is asking for. If, for example, a person is craving for a lighthearted read with characters that can be easily emphasized with, and is given the choice between Helen Fielding's 'Bridget Jones' Diary', which is described as 'an urban satire of modern human relations', and James Joyce's 'Ulysses', which is rather chaotic, with a 'stream of consciousness' technique employed for the narrative, there is no doubt that this person will pick 'Bridget Jones' Diary' since it is a lighthearted and humourous read. 'Ulysses' is not chosen not because it is inferior to 'Bridget Jones' Diary', but because it is unlikely to generate as much enjoyment and laughter the reader is originally looking for.
Although popularity does not necessarily equate with quality, it would be an elitist act to condemn all forms of popular literature with a dismissive and condescending attitude and deny the fact that these works also do serve as a mean of expression for a popular author, albeit without the artistic and aesthetic qualities used in sophisticate literature by their authors that are appreciated by scholarly critics. One can criticize Bridget Jones' Diary for its clichés and sentimentality, but 'clichés and sentimentality need not be signals of meretricious prose, and ultimately, it is honest writing for which criticism should be looking' (Robinson, 1983).
Bridget Jones' Diary is honest writing. Chronicling the life of a single woman in her thirties living in London, surrounded by a 'surrogate family' of eccentric friends and even more eccentric family members as she tries to make sense of life and love in the modern society, this social satire by Helen Fielding is originated as a series of columns in the newspapers, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph before it was later published in book form in 1996. A film adaptation of the book was released in 2001 with both critical and commercial success worldwide, earning actress Renee Zellweger a Golden Globes award and an Oscar nomination for her portrayal as the heroine. One of the most glowing praises given to Charles Dickens is that 'Dickens was not like our ordinary demagogues and journalists. Dickens did not write what the people wanted. Dickens wanted what the people wanted'. (Chesterton, 1906) Ms. Fielding's situation is similar in a sense that she wasn't writing what the people understood or wanted, just that what she had wanted to express in Bridget Jones' Diary happened to coincide with what her readers understood or wanted.
In an undated web interview (ivillage.co.uk), Ms. Fielding explained the factors that made her book so successful, which also revealed some of the subjects she was satirizing:
"Women are so naturally funny, ironic, and self-deprecating and I think theyThe character Bridget Jones challenges the common perception of the 'perfect female' in modern society, she overeats and chain-smokes, she has trouble with men, and being single, she harbours resentment for married couples. She is also plagued with self-doubt that both engenders and undermines her desire for self-improvement. For example, she would try to get on a diet to lose a few pounds, only to realize the futility of all these when people comment on the fact that she looked better before she lost weigh, which resulted in her overeating again. Yet despite her flaws, she is a strong character, her failed relationship with Daniel Cleaver immediately motivated her to seek a new occupation. Therefore, she is a realistic character readers could relate to, yet at the same time, she is also a character many would aspire to be. And thus making it easier for readers to sympathize with her whilst she observes the ironies of modern society that occurs around her.
like books with that sort of tone. I think the book touched a nerve which is
something about the gap between how women feel they are expected to be and
how they actually are. We are bombarded by so many media images of female
perfection and conflicting roles - we end up feeling we should be like the
girl in the 24-hour mascara ad, rushing from the gym to the board meeting
and home to a perfect husband and children to cook dinner for twelve whilst
looking like an anorexic teenage model."
Ms. Fielding may have a critical attitude towards certain aspects of modern society, but she communicated her criticism without bitterness but with humour. Humour is utilized so that the effect of the criticism will be slightly dampened, yet simultaneously emanating a feeling of discomfort. Bridget's mother is materialistic, superficial and highly-conscious of her personal social status, constantly calling Bridget on the phone and announcing her intention to buy her something generally useless just because the daughter of an acquaintance has it as well, she was also obsessed with trying to set her up with divorced lawyer Mark Darcy due to his family's immense wealth. Although Bridget's mother was played for comedic effect, there was a tone of melancholy and angst brewing just beneath the surface of the story because Bridget's inability to ever change her mother's mind mirrors how the negative aspects embodied by Bridget's mother in today's society can never actually be remedied, and that what Bridget really thinks and feels were almost never revealed to other characters. (Dunleavy, 1983) Therefore, Ms. Fielding was not trying to sway her readers; but merely to provide an observation of contemporary culture in London, albeit in a humourous and exaggerated manner.
Ultimately, Bridget Jones' Diary concluded with the protagonist discovering true love and managing to get her act together by discovering a new career. Not many of her other problems were solved, but Bridget was happy. This is possibly a positive message from Ms. Fielding that in our cynical society, romance is still something everyone is craving for, that despite no longer being a stabilizing institution, marriage still exerts a considerable hold over the imagination of a 'singleton' like Bridget. And that despite the setbacks we encounter in life, there will always be a way to overcome them as long as one is able to work hard.
Bridget Jones' Diary should not be penalized because of its popularity, and neither should it be discredited as 'bad writing' because of the lack of aesthetic qualities seen in Ms. Fielding's abbreviated style of writing (where 'very good' is usually substituted by 'v. good'), after all, this particular style is obviously used to preserve a feeling of reading a 'diary'. Once again, honest writing is what criticism should be looking in a popular text like this, not its prose, nor its artistic merit. And Bridget Jones' Diary is honest because of its satirizing of modern society. And to claim that all popular literature is not literature because they are formulaic and commercial is generalization.
- Chesterton, G. K. 1906. Charles Dickens Chapter 6: The Great Popularity. The Literature Network. http://www.online-literature.com/chesterton/charlesdickens/5/ (Accessed: 8th of September, 2005)
- Dunleavy, J. E. 1982. The Subtle Satire of Elizabeth Bowen and Mary Lavin. Tulsa Studies in Women Literature. Vol. 2(1): 69-81
- Fielding, H. 1996. Bridget Jones’s Diary. London. Picador.
- Robinson, L. S. 1982. Treason On Our Text: Feminist Challenges On The Literary Canon. Tulsa Studies in Women Literature. Vol. 2(1): 83-99
- Helen Fielding: The Woman Behind Bridget. ivillage.co.uk: Website for Women. (Accessed: 8th of September, 2005)
- Pearson, E. 1929. Dime novels; or, Following an old trail in popular literature. Gaslight Electronic Text And Discussion Site. http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/dimex01.htm (Accessed: 9th of September, 2005)
While making Forced Labour, I realized that my biggest flaw may have been my inability to direct dialogue, or even to direct actors properly, since I don't have formal training in directing people, and my many attempts to direct a play back then was repeatedly foiled by my high school. In fact, here's how I direct my actors in Forced Labour.
Swifty: All right! You are sad. Shocked! DEVASTATED! Your husband had just
been incinerated after activating the car bomb. BOOOOM!
Swifty: I want you to say 'PLEASE DON'T DIE! I LOVE YOU' in desperation!
Yeah, desperation for the woman you love!
Swifty: Er... ah... say "SHE'S GOING INTO LABOUR!!" with urgency.
Swifty: Say, 'KEEP HER KNEES UP' in panic! Ah well, whatever, just read the
rest of the lines according to how you interpret it.
That's pretty much what I did because I thought allowing my own cast members to interpret their own roles and the way they speak without restraining them too much would be the greatest thing to do. Just like my intention with my upcoming Sci-Fi movie in Malay. As I don't know how to write Malay dialogue, I'm assuming that I could let my own cast unleash their acting skills more naturally since I'm giving them room to do whatever the hell they want.
But seriously, that might not exactly be the best thing to do because I am not really allowing the cast members to get into character enough. I should let them know more about the objectives of the character and that particular scene, and to remember that when assigning actions to my cast, these actions are not physical activities nor emotions (they aren't live puppets), give them a verb, give them scenario they can relate to in real life so that they can bring their reaction into the screen.
And most of all, I should give them honest and constructive feedback. Perhaps I was just as excited as my first-time actors when I was filming Forced Labour, my reactions merely ranged from:
Swifty: Hmmm. Look more hardcore.
Swifty: Yeah! Fantastic!
Swifty: Er.... *frowns*
Swifty: Hmmmmmm... *befuddled*
Swifty: Ah.... *confused*
When I was recruiting a girl to play the main actress for my next short film, I was very flattered when she praised me for truly having a unique vision for Forced Labour (thanks to my unique editing style... which I ripped off from Initial D's MTV style), but once again, it had more to do with my editing technique that was employed to hide the deficiencies I have in directing actors. (most of the best parts in Forced Labour are the 'cool' parts, where actors just stand and pose, or sit and pose, with zero acting involved).
Shooting will begin on Sunday. Will start taking notes later on what I have to do.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Now, going to answer a meme by chewxy. Not really into these kinda stuff, but what the hell.
Seven things you plan to do before you die :
- Win a Nobel Prize
- Win an Oscar
- Threesome (won't mind to die halfway during it)
- Start my own charity foundation (just so that my name can last forever)
- Go to as many countries around the world as possible
- Plan a state funeral for myself which will be attended by world's leaders and celebrities
- Rule the world
I'm sure some can be arranged pretty easily if I'm rich.
Seven things I could do :
- Write more stuff (Haven't been writing since Blogathon)
- Make more short films (Could easily do something simple if I weren't so ambitious)
- Really start revamping my Swifty Works website
- Play some basketball (I'm just too lazy these days)
- Find a part-time job in Australia
- Spend less time on this blog for more productive stuff
- Secure an artist to work on a webcomic
With the exception for the last (SECURE AN ARTIST? SECURE???? HAH!), the rest are kinda doable.
Seven Celebrity crushes
- Scarlett Johansson (as if you haven't noticed that already)
- Natalie Portman (Ah, it was Phantom Menace, where she was covered by layers of makeup... yummy)
- Keira Knightley (yes, she and Nat do look pretty freaking alike, can I count both of them as one?)
- Hiro (former SPEED member, current obscure solo singer)
- Monica Bellucci (old enough to be my mom, but there's something wrong with me if I don't list her)
- Utada Hikaru (... why... why did you get married so early? WHY?????)
- Rachel McAdams (newest addition in the list, all thanks to her two movies this year)
Seven often repeated words :
Seven physical traits I look for in the opposite sex :
- Hair (partial to short hair)
- Complexion (has to have flawless skin like me)
- Teeth (a beautiful smile kills me easily)
My Seven Tags go to :Justin
Chosen cos' most of you visit my blog almost daily. Mwaha!
Some of the best speculative fiction has achieved its impact by creating a world identical to our own except for a single noticeable difference, be it absence or presence. What courses might society have taken if, for example, we could read minds? Or had lost the Second World War? Or had just recently intersected with an alien civilization?
West Side Story falls into this tradition: it posits a dystopian America in which menacing street gangs control New York, and violence (both physical and emotional) and repressed homosexual attraction are sublimated into spontaneous, flamboyant eruptions of singing and dancing.
In a technique similar to the lauded 'stargate' sequence in 2001 (a film to which West Side Story can be easily compared), the film begins with a a wash of slowly iridescing colors accompanied by music in order to establish that the action to come will take place in an otherworldly locale. The camera pans over the alternate New York before focusing on the Jets, one of the two rival gangs. As the Jets stroll through their territory, they snap their fingers in unison to a rhythm only they can hear, a collective beat linking their identities. There is a permanent spring in their step, and their movements soon give way to acrobatic leaps and spins. The impact of these early scenes is jarring in a way that resists description, and it is a technique which will be repeated many times throughout the film: internal torment, anomie, and same-sex desires are transfigured by means of a malign grace into something rich and strange.
The Jets encounter their Puerto Rican rivals, the Sharks, who pelt them with cabbages before engaging them in real combat. No punches or kicks are thrown here; the emphasis is solely on demonstrating their respective dance mastery. Jets dive at their foes only to be caught, while Sharks hop and twirl away. The influence of these scenes on West Side Story's descendents, such as The Matrix, cannot be overemphasized.
The brawl is interrupted by officers of the law, who, in an obvious satire of the real NYPD, do not sing or dance but instead threaten to "personally beat the living crud out of each and every one of you." They have not mastered the art that the gangs have, the art of laughing through pain.
Later, Jet leader Riff decides to call a war council with the Sharks to decide once and for all their territorial boundaries. To do so, he must convince former leader Tony to return to the fold. Tony, who possesses dancing prowess that can only be described as psychotic, has left the gang to work in an abandoned warehouse moving crates around at random, which in the world of West Side Story is a viable occupation. This disconnection of livelihood from accomplishment is also present in Brazil and 1984, in which workers toil at jobs which are neither understood nor relevant. Oppressed by this dead-end economy, Tony decides to join the Jets at the upcoming youth dance, which is masterminded by an unnamed, comical authority figure whose incompetence is intended to satirize the bungling higher-ups of Soviet and other totalitarian regimes still extant at the time of the film's production. The dance has been devised by these potentates in order to expend the gangs' raging dance fury in a manner that won't pose a threat to their oligarchy, and for the most part it succeeds, until the word "Mambo" is uttered, and the dancefloor explodes into a turbid, torrid, tempestuous sea.
In an earlier scene, Maria - the sister of the Sharks leader Bernardo - agonizes over what to wear to the dance, before settling on a white dress intended by the filmmakers to represent her vestal nature. At the dance, Maria is transfixed by Tony's supremely corybantic moves, while he imagines her to be the subject of a dream he had the previous night. As Tony and Maria are drawn to each other from across the dancefloor, the movements of the dancers around them slow and the atmosphere blurs and darkens. This is not because Tony and Maria's singleminded attraction abrogates their attention to anything else in the room. It is because Tony's dancing prowess literally alters the fabric of time and space.
The pair are interrupted by Bernardo, who feels that Tony is "only after one thing." He is, and that one thing is the opportunity to repeat Maria's name almost indefinitely, extending his encounter into an improvised solo entitled, appropriately enough, "Maria."
The war council proceeds as planned, and - after cycling through a list of possible weapons such as belts and chains that point to a subconscious BDSM fixation - it is decided that a decisive fist fight will take place between the two strongest members of each gang, due to Tony entering and decrying the use of weapons. "Afraid to use plain skin?" he asks them. Indeed.
Bernardo and Riff shake on it with an exceedingly tentative, effete handshake, a small gesture that betrays the facade of masculinity and points to their deep-seated homosexual attraction.
Bernardo assumes that Tony will be the one to fight, and tells him "When I get through, you will be like a fish after skinning." - implying, of course, that Tony will be limp, wet, and raw - conditions which can also describe a post-ejaculatory penis.
After the Sharks leave, Tony converses with Doc, the owner of the store where the council took place. A remarkable scene ensues in which Tony mentions "A trip to the moon." and describes how "It ain't a man that's up there. It's a girl. A lady." It is a shame the film doesn't devote more time to this future history, although judging from Tony's remarks in this future the moon has been colonized.
Meanwhile, Maria and Bernardo's girlfriend Anita are finishing up a day's work at the dress shop when Maria - dressed in a bright yellow shirt - places a large pink ribbon on her head and expresses her frustration with her brother's pretensions to heterosexuality in the musical number "I Feel Pretty.":
"I feel pretty, and witty, and gay." (emphasis mine) she sings, before donning a crown and imitating Miss America - a gay kitsch icon. It is not the first time this virginal young woman will be lured down the path of same-sex indulgence. Maria and Anita then have an exchange in which key elements of the film's subtext are revealed:
Maria: They fight each other tonight?
Anita: They don't play potsy.
Maria: Why must they always fight?
Anita: You saw how they dance...like they gotta get rid of something. That's how they fight.
Maria: To get rid of what?
Anita: Too much feeling. And they do get rid of it. Boy, after a fight, that brother of yours is so healthy.
The "feeling" mentioned here is, of course, the attraction to other men that the gangs' society has not equipped them to deal with, and which they dispense with by means of extravagant choreography. Presumably, Bernardo is so "healthy" after a fight due to being propelled into a state of frenzied concupiscence by his time spent near the Jets (the gang names "Jets" and "Sharks" are blatantly phallic), and uses sex with Anita in this state as a substitute for anal intercourse with Riff or Tony.
During her next meeting with Tony, Maria asks him to intercede and prevent the fight between the gangs. The two then profess their love, and use nearby props to enact a faux wedding sequence. As they kneel, a beneficient yellow light shines down as if to bless their union, likely originating from Tony's allies on the lunar colony.
Soon after, both gangs prepare for the fight, and both unite their voices in song, with such double entendres as "The Jets are gonna have their way, tonight." and "We'll rumble 'em right." included. The fight commences, with actual fists being thrown. Singing and dancing has failed, and the gangs' attraction to each other is translated into sadomasochistic violence. Before long knives - more phallic substitutes - are drawn, and Bernardo and Riff are killed, victims of their inability to find an acceptable or lasting outlet for their desires. Penetration, in this context, equates with death.
A moving scene follows, in which the young Jet Baby John mourns his lost friend on a rooftop, and is confronted by another Jet, A-Rab.
Baby John:I don't want the guys to see me, A-Rab.
A-Rab: Why not?
Baby John: Well, I'm crying.
A-Rab: You are? What for?
Baby John: I don't know, I'm just...
The intimacy between these two young gay men is all the more more affecting for it being forbidden by their code, as shown all too well in the following musical number, "Cool," which opens with dialogue containing a reference to oral sex and a clumsy anal penetration metaphor:
"Now you all better dig this, and dig it good. No matter who or what is eating you, man, you show it, and you are dead! You are cutting a hole in yourselves for them to stick in a hot umbrella and open it wide."
The lyrics are even more explicit:
Get cool, boy
Got a rocket in your pocket
Keep cool, boy
Don't get hot, cause man you've got some high times ahead
Take it slow, Daddy-O
You can live it up and die in bed
Stay loose, boy
Breeze it, buzz it, easy does it
Turn off the juice, boy
Go man, go
But not like a yo-yo schoolboy"
The references in "Cool" to anal sex, oral sex, and mutual masturbation are almost too numerous to count, and it is the closest any of the Jets come to directly expressing their orientation to each other.
The Jets are then accosted by Anybodys, a pugnacious lesbian who is the only female they feel comfortable around. She tells them that "I hear Chino tell the Sharks something about Tony and Bernardo's sister. Then Chino says, 'If it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna get that Polack.' Then he pulls out the bad news." (referring to Chino's penis)
Earlier, Chino had been romantically linked to Maria, perhaps in an attempt to expunge his feelings for Tony. Realizing that Tony and Maria are incurably heterosexual, Chino takes out his frustration by roaming the streets in search of Tony, whom he wishes to sodomize.
As for Maria, after having sex with Tony in her apartment, she is confronted by Anita:
Anita: Maria? Open up. I need you. (emphasis mine)
Seeing Maria has been with Tony, Anita seizes her - asserting lesbian dominance - and tells her: "Forget that boy and find another. One of your own kind. Stick to your own kind." Anita says, "your own kind" referring to other women. Disillusioned with heterosexual relations by Bernardo's death, Anita seeks to seduce Maria, but to no avail. As Maria sings:
"Oh, no, Anita, no. It isn't true, not for me. It's true for you, not for me. I hear your words, and in your head, I know they're smart, but my heart, Anita, my heart knows they're wrong. You should know better."
Maria wears a blue robe over her white nightshirt in this scene, signifying how her vestal white has been compromised. No longer a virgin, she has become a capable young woman certain of her sexuality. Simply put, she doesn't swing that way.
Anita realizes she has failed, and so warns Maria that Chino is after Tony. Maria sends Anita to the drugstore to deliver a message for Tony. When she arrives, the Jets are gathered. What follows is one of the film's most disturbing scenes. Jarred by Riff's death, threatened by Chino's outright homosexuality, the Jets call Anita a "tramp," a "pig," and a "lying spic." Here, racial hostilities act as convenient masks for the Jets' deep-rooted fear of Anita as a sexually desirable woman.
Anita is assaulted and then held down, while the Jets, desperate to assert their manhood, lift up Baby John and prepare to throw him at Anita in a cruel parody of intercourse. Baby John, who is the youngest gang member and the one seen crying on the rooftop, represents vulnerability, tenderness, and - by virtue of his age - buggery. In other words, all the things the Jets despise in themselves. By attempting to have Baby John defile Anita, the Jets are trying to ritualistically make him one of them, affirm his status as a "man," and erase everything in him that threatens them.
Anita is rescued by Doc, and then tells the Jets out of spite that Maria has been killed by Chino. "When do you kids stop? You make this world lousy." Doc tells the Jets, implying that their surreptitious sex has caused them to neglect using protection, thus spreading disease.
Tony hears of Maria's apparent death and runs out into the street, yelling for Chino to "get" him. He and Maria are reunited, only for Chino to emerge from the shadows and shoot Tony with a gun (yet another phallic substitute). Upon seeing Tony and Maria embracing, Chino realized the futility of raping Tony, and decided instead to end his life. The film ends with the two gangs gathering as Maria breaks down and weeps over Tony's body. Tony, like Riff and Bernardo before him, is a casualty of forbidden desires left unaddressed and grown malignant, like an undiagnosed cancer.
Clocking in at well over three hours, West Side Story can be ranked as a fantasy epic that foreshadows such films as Star Wars, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings - although none of these (save perhaps Star Wars and its lightsbaber/severed right hand symbolism) possess its tremendous social conscience and enduring message for the gay youth of today. It is a difficult film, and this message is frequently concealed within interlocking layers of drama and subtext, but each repeated viewing astonishes more than the last. They don't make 'em like this anymore.
This article is also available at: Everything2.net
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
So the other day I was looking for videos to download when I came upon this new Hikaru Utada single "Be My Last." Needless to say I downloaded it without thinking. Upon first playing it, well...Acoustic Utada is something I never would have expected. Putting on this single fresh from the download, I was expecting either pulsing urban dance beats or a gentle ballad tinged with Japanese percussion and spacy echoes. Instead, over a quiet guitar backdrop, Hikaru poured forth a strange, wavering ululation that eventually segued into a melancholy chorus. "Be My Last" is a strange choice for a single, not particularly catchy and somewhat downbeat - the melismatic portions are also overdone ("whooahahaaaahwhooooaahaaaaaaah" my girlfriend mimiced, not at all impressed). All in all, it seemed like one of the weaker songs she's yet done. Looking for more info, I found the following notice:
"Be My Last (Movie "Haru no Yuki" Main Theme) [CD+DVD]/ Hikaru Utada"
Wait. A fucking. Minute.
Haru no yuki? You know, "spring snow" in English? Spring Snow? Spring Snow as in the first novel of Mishima Yukio's Sea of Fertility Tetralogy?
AAAAHH OH MY GOD ARE THEY MAKING THE SEA OF FERTILITY INTO A FILM SERIES?! AAAAAHHHH OH MY GOD OH MY GOD PLEASE LET THIS BE TRUE!!!!
"Original soundtrack to the Toei Pictures film "Haru no Yuki" (Starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Yuko Takeuchi. Directed by Isao Yukisada. Based on the original novel by Yukio Mishima). Soundtrack arranged by acclaimed film and tv composer Taro Iwashiro."
HOLY FUCKING SHIT! HOLY FUCKING SHIT! HOLY FUCKING SHIT!
Please, Jesus, let the Japanese filmmakers produce all four of your pal Yukio's masterworks. You love them too, Jesus. Remember the part in Runaway Horses where the Imperial Prince asked Isao what he would do if the Emperor was pleased with him, and Isao said he'd commit seppuku anyway? You liked that one, didn't you Jesus? Remember the part in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion where Mizoguchi and the American soldier aborted a fetus by jumping on the mother's stomach and Mishima described it as "like a crushed flower of flesh"? Mishima had insane writing skills, didn't he Jesus? And that wasn't even in The Sea. THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW.
"My hobbies are many, dare to mention, playing classical guitars, making music by using pc, listening pop music especially 80'Japanese pop and U.S.A pops or studing English."
"After that, X did major debut. But in such indies activity condition, their rumor that X had incredible playing techniques expanded to all Japanese bands mouth to mouth."
"That reason is always not just the pioneer on the genre, he [Osamu Tezuka] included hisself messages to his mangas always, for instance anti war philosophy, the opinion for environmental destruction and so on."
On shoujo manga: "By using beautiful atmosphere like old France style or pure love story of knights, the creaters tempted girls very well."
"You will know that there are great etudes in the world like Chopin's piano etudes which are over the scale as ordinary etudes, the expression included the songs, beautiful melodies and the chopin's message or history included the songs."
"If I dare to introduce her charms more, she can sing with very well power of expression. In sorrow songs, she subdue her voice volume and sing like whispering, on the other hand, she sing very powerful as she can in light songs such as summer songs." [Yes, this sentence is a poem]
"At that time, his voice was very beautiful and high tone voice. But he disliked hisself voice very much, and had the voice complex. For that, in the middle of his singer life, he dared to drink very hard every day, and he broke his throat intentionally."
On Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro: "If the watchers are children, their favorite work may be Totoro, but in the point of letting us think about more deep things, peace, love, tenderness, the strong bond between brothers or our happiness that can eat many foods, this movie will be more high splendid movie than Totoro."
"Therefore if you are a man who love 80' electorical, dance sounds, you will be sartisfied with TMN sounds absolutely because TM's becautiful sounds add to their dancable numnbers."
"In addition to that, his song words included very deep message, especially for teenagers, the resistance to schools, the contradiction to society, teen's life future or the mean that teen live even." [perfect summation of everything I stand for. Thanks, Taka]
"Anyway, my hot genre increase more."
"In Japan the main theme is how to chase the county benefit, how to develop their GNP and so on. But everybody do not care about how to cope with our mental problems."
"I heared that the vocal of Capentars died of anorexia. But to but it the other way around, I think that she could write the dericate and honest words."
"Because Japanese idol genre[Jananese word/AIDORU] was born as the unique genre 30 years ago. For instance, tend to gather teenager girls, to put on showy clothes... Anyway, the genre is based on the uniqueness in Japan. "
"Morningu Musume have many Japanese girl teenagers fans, but in addition to them, have many adult men too. The truth will be Japanese uniqueness. Foreigners can not understand the trend."
"Even if what reasons exist there, atomic bomb is NO!"
And Taka's signature line which closes all of his reviews:
"Thank you for reading poor English."
From: "Taka" email@example.com
To: "Justin" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: RE: Your Reviews
Date: Mon, 31 August 2005 07:39:55 +0000
Thank you for sending the thank-you message very much.
I have the more emotion that I want to write my reviews about Japanese
music when the messages to my reviews are send to me like this case.
That is the most my wish that foreigners know about the great things of
Japanese pops and the foreigners hand down to their friends or families..
I will write about Japanese pops reviews from now on, and I care what I
write the reviews that foreigners can understand the JPOP easily, for instance, I write about the genre concretly like folk, idol, rock and so on.
If you have time, sometime please check my reviews from now on.
And I am delighful that you have interests to Japanese culture or
Tokyo is big and great city like N.Y. and Kyoto is very beautiful and
histrical city where even Japanese are tempted.
I wish that the studying to Japan will be great journey.
Thank you very much for reading poor English.
Simply put, Taka is bigger than Christ. I continue to strive to apply his teachings to any and all situations, as well as emulate his Joycean command of up-level puns, syntax, and double meanings. (How Kyoto can be both "historical" and "hysterical" and "tempt" even the Japanese? Genius!
Show your love for him by reading his work, buying the things he tells you to buy, and voting up his reviews.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Therefore, you are exchanging one life for another. The life of someone you love for someone you don't really know, but are you capable of doing this? Or are you going to outthink the guy sitting next to you? If you are, how are you going to do that when he is sitting just next to you, watching you the whole time?
That's basically the whole premise of 'Red Eye', starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, a fun thriller I saw three nights ago. I can't find anything bad to say about it because as a thriller, it delivers. With engaging characters and good performances from both leads, the scenes in the plane are filled with tension while the scenes after they reached the ground were fun when both killer and victim stalk each other, even more exciting when they start bashing each other. I giggled with unrestrained joy.
Rachel McAdams has accomplished a string of strong performances and she has proven to be an actress worth looking out for. (and no, I still haven't watched Notebook, will do it when I have time) Ditto with Cillian Murphy, who was incredibly badass as Scarecrow in Batman Begins.
Well, that's all I can say about the film. Just go check it out.
P. S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LITTLEST MUI MUI! (Yeah, it's my little sister's birthday today)
Justin: In case the title didn't make it abundantly clear, this entry's sole purpose is to introduce THE WORLD to the greatness that is ALEX YONG. Before we get this show on the road, I'll hand the mic over to Swifty for some background material.
Swifty: I am not worthy.
Justin: Okay. Alex Yong could get mad pussy if he tried, but he doesn't give a shit. One time I sat down at a table with a chick, just trying to serve Alex Yong up some game, but he wasn't having it. Too fucking cool.
He has mad hacking skills and figured out how to download from our local library. Because of his efforts, I am now enjoying the tasty K-pop goodness of BoA in both audio and video format.
Alex Yong studies chemistry, most likely with the aim of cooking up crack and scoring a profit in his home country of Malaysia. I have no doubt that his lab power will shut down any prior-operating kitchens.
If Alex Yong had of been a Jew in World War II, the Holocaust wouldn't have happened BECAUSE HE WOULDN'T HAVE ALLOWED IT. There is simply nothing more that can be said.
Swifty: The guy's one cool mothafucka. When we take photos together, my godly looks and blinding charisma are slightly dimmed by his considerable presence. He's the only living person capable of doing that. 'He's so fucking cool that when he sleeps, sheep count him' (quote by screenwriter David Mamet). If he wants to fucking rule the world, I'll be the first to sign up! I'll be making propaganda films about him.
If Alex Yong had been a hobbit, he could've simply walked to Mordor, and pissed on the Eye of Sauron. Gollum will be so scared shitless by his greatness that he'll jump into Mount Doom by himself.
His culinary skills is beyond anything I've ever seen. I find myself addicted to the lobak he makes. In Justin's words, it's better than Buddhist Enlightenment, beeyatch!
Justin: I don't even know what the fuck lobak is, but these nuggets of wholesome flavor-goodness far surpassed anything in recent memory. In fact, given the choice between eating pussy and eating "lobak," I'd hesitate before choosing pussy. That alone should indicate the heights to which Alex Yong has soared in the kitchen.
TANAHASHINABA_ATWOOD: His name may sound like that worthless piece of crap of an F-1 driver, Alex Yoong, but put this guy in an F-1 car and he can grab more pole positions than Schumacher, Alonso or Raikonnen on any given day. Not had the chance to taste his lobak, but from what both Swifty and Justin said, it must really sound awesome. Dude! We've gotta have another cookout again!
Monday, September 12, 2005
I've sure I've lost half of you already just with the title, but before I go any further let me just get one thing out of the way: I think The Sandman is one of the greatest comics of all time, and I have no problem with it in terms of its execution: artwork, writing, and thematic depth and unity. I couldn't recommend it more.
That being said...
Maybe I've just read one too many of his blog entries where he's talking about his fucking IPod or whatever the shit, but I've had a vague feeling for quite some time that Neil Gaiman really isn't as great a writer as he's supposed to be. I think it started sometime around when I was reading Neverwhere and I thought "Yeah, I mean this is pretty good, it's got that 'I'm English so I'm trying to affect a sly, witty prose style in an understated, urbane fashion so I can appeal to naive American anglophiles taken in by the myth of British cultural sophistication and therefore shift units' vibe and some cool stuff in it, but...but. It was too...bland. I kept waiting for some kind of badass intellectual revelation or closing force of momentum, but it never came. This is embodied perfectly in the protagonist, whose name I can't remember but who seemed to have no distinctive traits other than being pleasant and kind in a vague sort of way, and thus thoroughly dull. I guess Gaiman was trying to give him some kind of moment of heroism or something, but...again, I can't remember the details. Nothing sticks in the mind.
I remember when I was maybe 15, I gave my father Neverwhere because he said he was looking for something to read. At the time I went around talking about how awesome Gaiman was because it was just -the thing to do-, and I remember asking him what he thought of it after he'd read it.
"Hm, yeah." he said.
"I think he's still trying to write a graphic novel." he said, and I couldn't get much more out of him. At the time I wrote it off as "Gaiman is the shit and you just can't see it," but I've come to realize he was right. Gaiman cannot reliably write prose; he is a script-writer at heart. This would become clearer to me when I read American Gods.
When I picked this book up, I figured that my doubts about Gaiman's merits as a writer were largely due to him making the transition from words and images to just words - The Sandman was so good, and Neverwhere wasn't bad, so it was only a matter of time before he got over the transition, and his sophomore book was going to kick ass.
Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. I remember disliking this book from essentially the first line (something about the main character looking 'big enough and don't-fuck-with-me enough' that he wasn't bothered in prison; Gaiman's attempts to make his character seem like a badass American were thoroughly outside of his skill area and thus risible), and even moreso once I realized that its plot was a thinly veiled ripoff of Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. However, the book's sheer unoriginality only became more manifest the further I went into it: look, he's using Odin again! Yeah, the same Egyptian gods he had in Season of Mists! Hey, now he's trying to make some kind of cultural comment on America, yay! Look, a completely anticlimactic climax at the end of a plot stuffed with a ridiculous number of convenient coincidences!
And this is the heart of my problem with Gaiman in general: his unoriginality, his fondness for old things. I even remember him saying in an interview somewhere that much of what he was trying to do was adapt and maintain old myths for today's readers. Tending graveyards instead of busting out something new. Old gods, old ideas, old plots.
You don't even have to read his books pretty much - you can infer much of this from just looking at him; there's not many ways to be as trite as wearing all black. A large majority of his fans are even worse; because Gaiman and his work are inherently conventional in a way that suggests the exact opposite, he attracts the kind of followers who think dressing like Death is an original statement. Neil Gaiman is the worst kind of populism, the kind where a readership (and I use the term in its full, pretentious, Marxist Cultural Studies sense, not just the 'Those who read books' kind) is tricked into thinking they're somehow oppositional, hip, or 'under-the-radar' when they are in fact doing nothing but affirming conventions.
If Gaiman hadn't written The Sandman, no one would care about his books. They certainly wouldn't get examined in organs like The New York Times Book Review; at best they'd be seen as just another example of average fantasy fiction: not bad, certainly, although not great: just inoffensive, pleasant, reassuring, entertaining. It's only because comics are perpetually seen as an 'outsider' (and thus cool) artform that he gets anywhere near the kind of accolades he does: caught up in the hype, reviewers and journalists figure anyone who made a great comic (however long ago) must be equally good at prose fiction.
These things become so much clearer when you contrast him with someone like Clive Barker, who is similar in many ways (English, fantasist, concerned with dreams, etc.) while still being strikingly different: when Gaiman uses gods, for example, it's the tried and true pantheon: Odin (over and over again), the Egyptians, Greek mythology, etc. When Barker uses gods, they're ones he's invented out of his own head, and they're usually all the more strange and interesting because of it.
When Barker's at his best, you end up so far inside his mind that you just lose your shit in a sense. I remember reading 'The Hellbound Heart' when I was like twelve or thirteen and just looking up in awe because I couldn't believe that there was actually someone out there in the world who could have thought of some of the shit in it, much less gotten it published. With Gaiman, it's just, "Okay, he's hoping the average reader is culturally ignorant enough to be surprised by the outcome of some Greek myth." Again, you could really see this in American Gods where he's trying so hard to be obscure using these Czechoslovakian gods and whatnot because he pretty much knows his game is up.
I forgot to mention that he stole the "Write Children's Books" idea from Barker as well. But, the reason Gaiman is presently more popular, of course, is because, as mentioned, he's safer. Barker's books are full of authentically fucked up, challenging, original ideas, and while those who write reviews and hand out awards pay lip-service to said ideas, they're not really looking for them, they're merely looking for works which seem to suggest rather than actually contain them, all while churning out the expected pieties and tried-and-true characters and plots.
The only other writer of comparable popularity who pisses me off as much is Chuck Pahlanuik, for many of the same reasons, although also in a different sense. Someone actually said something along the lines of "Chuck Pahlanuik is one of the greatest writers of all time" in one of my classes earlier this year, and I was honest to God five seconds away from punching him in the face. If he had of said Neil Gaiman, I probably would have reacted similarly. Unless he had of been a chick, in which case (s)he would in all likelihood have been dressed up like Death, and I would have just said "WHY ARE YOU DRESSED ALL IN BLACK? DO YOU WORSHIP SATAN OR SOMETHING?" before handing her a copy of The Watchtower, sundry Jack Chick tracts, and my cock.
I don't have that much of a problem with Neil Gaiman. I think he's a good writer, but not extraordinary. I loved Stardust (but hated the epilogue, if the epilogue had never existed, it would've been one of my all-time favourite fantasy books), was slightly disappointed with Neverwhere (it had some cool parts, and cool settings, but yeah, it's kinda bland, can't seem to generate enough emotions for myself, didn't help much when I have a really pessimistic interpretation of the ending too, and despite the fact that everyone I knew convinced me otherwise, I still believe that my interpretation's the more accurate one) and I like most of the short stories in his Smoke And Mirror anthology (the revision of the Snow White story is pretty insane, and others that are kinda haunting too).
But American Gods... that's supposed to be the most critically-acclaimed of Gaiman's novels! It won the Hugo Award (not sure whether he won the World Fantasy Award too or not), yet it was a major letdown for me. I don't know why, maybe because I read this book immediately after getting insanely mindfucked by Umberto Eco's Name of The Rose? I finished American Gods in just a few days, and wondered why the hell were everyone making such a big deal out of it. I like some aspects of the novel, like the appearances of some of the gods, and the quirky relationship between the protagonist Shadow and his dead wife (which I won't elaborate here), but despite the rather interesting setting, the plot itself was just too... meh.
That said, I AM looking forward to his new novel, and I might even want to check out the very critically-acclaimed children stories like Coraline and Wolves In The Wall, along with his award-winning short about a futuristic Sherlock Holmes (I think), but these damned stories better not disappoint me as much as American Gods did.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
On April 2004, when I first resigned from the committee of Comic Fiesta, I was too distraught to elaborate on why I had to leave. I left with a heavy heart. I didn't leave in good terms, and yes, being human, I was unable to keep my mouth shut, and I did tell some people what indeed happened that drove me to resignation, and what I said cast some parties into a negative light (which, I regret to say, wasn't entirely unintentional). It wasn't exactly the most honorable thing to do, but I am not flawless, despite my narcissism and massive ego.
Today, I will say goodbye to you all again. I think I've been banned, but even if it's not the case, my account has been messed up beyond belief after it was being tampered with by a moderator, to the point where I'm unable to login again. And despite Hooli's efforts, she was unable to explain why this problem remained. But it is all cool, this time, I am indeed leaving Comic Fiesta for good. But unlike last year, I leave with a feeling of optimism and satisfaction.
I came back again this year after a 1-year hiatus with a selfish agenda. My website had changed URL, and I needed a place to plug it again, thus I returned. And because of this, I am sure this has annoyed many people. And for that, I sincerely apologize. One of my biggest regrets is my inability to actually connect with most of the forumers here like I did before, perhaps it had to do with my declining interest in anime fandom (not anime, just the anime fandom), and my decision to be as detached from this forum as possible since I really didn't want to get too involved regarding the affairs of Comic Fiesta.
I am not a popular figure. Neither do I aspire to be one, because I don't think it is possible. I am too opinionated, too cynical, too sarcastic. These aren't exactly the characteristics that can be appreciated by people here. Yet a couple of matters bothered me quite a lot during the past few months of my stay here. The gulf between moderators and normal members was seemingly insurmountable, a hierarchical system where the mods and normal members didn't seem to be at equal standing. I was rather bothered because I felt that sometimes, the moderators didn't really have enough faith in the normal members, and the constant suspicion that some of these members might be here to start some troubles.
And because of that, I developed this unfortunate habit of questioning openly the decisions and actions of moderators. Something that can be easily interpreted as an intention to stir up trouble, or challenge the authority of the moderators. I was rather annoyed when sometimes, moderators would sound too patronising and overbearing to the members with their warnings. And sometimes, I felt worse when I saw threads getting locked or completely deleted.
This is the Internet. A medium for communication which would unfortunately misrepresent how a person is like in real life. And because of this, I believe everyone deserves the benefit of doubt, that no matter how bad they seem to be when they are online, they should be decent people in real life. People aren't inherently evil. The lack of faith I noticed didn't seem to happen only between moderators and members, but also between members themselves. Too much tension, too much second-guessing. Sometimes, I would charge in to defend someone everyone hated, because, once again, I believe that an outspoken and opinionated individual isn't necessarily someone trying to stir up trouble in the forum, that despite the way he carries himself, he could be an okay person. Of course, this also happened to be a rather unpopular action of mine. But sometimes, I tend to feel that everyone in this forum should be just a bit more honest with each other, instead of making assumptions. Who knows? My endless bragging and narcissism might have turned most of you off, but if you have tried talking to me on MSN, I might actually seem not that bad after all. But then, that's just wishful thinking. Haha.
But then, once again, my pride is getting the best of me again. I am speaking about the 'problems' of this forum, but in truth, these 'problems' might not really exist at all, and it was probably just my own opinions. So just leave it at that, my dears.
It is rather funny that my departure this time is once again linked with someone who was responsible for my previous resignation. But there is no hatred, no hard feelings anymore. In my own twisted and silly ways, I love you all. Maybe not 'love', that is too strong a word, but I have grown to appreciate the existence of this forum. And unlike before, I sincerely believe that Comic Fiesta will indeed have a bright future, the actions of the committee, under the leadership of my friend, Hooli, has convinced me thus. But know this, the committee themselves can't singlehandedly improve Comic Fiesta, the valuable assistance of the members are needed as well. So, please work hand in hand, trust each other more, no more second-guessing, no more secret grudges, everyone is unique, but everyone is equal.
I bid you all a thousand farewells, and I wish you all the best.
You can always pay me a visit here if you think you can stomach my ridiculously exaggerated narcissism.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Tim Burton's last film, 'Big Fish' was dazzling and emotional, making me forgive him for the Planet Of The Apes remake. But then, father-son movies usually work really well on me. Other recent father-son movies that made tears well up in the eyes of one as manly as I were Oscar-winning Canadian-French flick 'Barbarian Invasions' and Tom Hanks-starrer 'Road To Perdition', which I saw with my dad!
The synopsis of the film is already revealed in the trailers (5 children won a trip in a chocolate factory ran by the eccentic Willie Wonka), so there's not much for me to talk about. This film is a visual spectacle, with really impressive and colourful-looking sets. The acting is good, with Depp and Highmore (kid playing Charlie) once again collaborating after 'Finding Neverland', and Highmore proving that he's a fine, fine child male actor. A successor of Haley Joel Osment?
It's been more than a decade since I've read the book, but if memories serve me right, this is a rather faithful adaptation, except for an added subplot about Willie Wonka and his estranged dentist father (played by Christopher Lee, who remained as menacing as Saruman or Count Dooku). I had wondered, why, all of a sudden, would Tim Burton add a subplot like this? Another father-son thingie after he had already done Big Fish?
So, I went to a wee bit of research, and found out that Tim Burton did have a rather distant relationship with his parents. He moved out from their home to live with his grandmother when he was 12. His dad died on 2000 (and his mom on 2003), and that had him pondering about his relationship with his dad. Did more of that when he himself became a father. And because of that, he could relate very well to the story in Big Fish, and probably needed to add a subplot such as this to express himself.
That's what I liked about Tim Burton, always getting himself emotionally involved with his films despite his commercial success. There's always something to express. And his quirky signature style is usually apparent in most of his flicks. Unlike those crap directors who seem only interested in putting explosions and all kinds of rubbish in their action movies for the sake of having a huge weekend opening in the box-office.
Besides, he's cool, he makes sure his wife, Helena Bonham Carter, is in every single movie he makes. Looking for the obligatory 'Helena Bonham Carter' role is almost something I always do when watching a Tim Burton film (playing the mom in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the witch and another woman in Big Fish, the ape woman in Planet of the Apes, and also the voice of the er, corpse bride in the upcoming Corpse Bride). And Helena's a great sport.
So yeah, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a good film, it's worth checking out. it kinda didn't meet the lofty expectations I had of it, but it's still very entertaining. I'm definitely looking forward to 'Corpse Bride'.
And damn, if only they would make 'The Glass Elevator' too.
From : Raywing
To : Eliar
Subject : We need to talk.
Eliar Swiftfire, my old `friend`, we need to talk. It seems that you`ve been quite an ass during my absence. My my, you retarded son of a bitch, you never change, do you? Egoistic and narcissistic as ever.
Now, fucking listen up. If you try being a smart ass to the other moderators again, I will make you suffer total humiliation. Have I made myself clear? Yes? Good dog.
Of course, seeing that he`s being rather uncivilized and rude with his usage of words, I chose to be condescending send him a simple PM.
From : Eliar
To : Raywing
Subject : RE: We need to talk.
I don`t talk to trash. Your private message will be messaged to (name of the forum admin censored).
I know I sounded nasty. But well, his initial message wasn`t that nice either.
From : Raywing
To : Eliar Swiftfire
Subject : Fuck you.
You`re a fucking moron. A cowardly piece of shit. Badmouthing me after leaving the committee? I knew you were an egomaniac, but not a fucking coward.
It was almost two years ago. And aye, unfortunately, his accusations were right. I was rather angry when the actions of him and his buddy, Xen, were so dire that I chose to resign from the anime club`s committee. In fact, I wanted to take a step further, by exposing his actions, by putting up our ugly exchange shortly before my resignation. It was ugly, with us both behaving like kids, and calling each other names, and ended up with him finally losing it and launching to some profanities.
But hey, I was hurt, man. Despite my inability to contribute much, I did serve as an emcee during one of their events. And to suddenly leave like that was a difficult decision to make.
From : Eliar Swiftfire
To : Raywing
Subject : RE: Fuck you.
How DARE you think that you are a better person than I am? My massive ego and narcissism wouldn`t have bothered you so much if it weren`t for the fact that YOU yourself are the same. If not, you sanctimonious bastard, you wouldn`t be THAT bothered about my personality, and think that you are high and mighty enough to have me conforming to how YOU want me to act.
The whole situation was rather similar to the Narcissism entry I put up back then, remember? It`s like, all people are narcissistic, just that some just don`t want to admit it. And think that they are so flawless that the others should change based on what they say.
From : Raywing
To : Eliar Swiftfire
Subject : Let`s calm down.
Okay, since you`re such a hopeless bastard, I will do something you will never ever do. I will indeed admit that yes, my actions back then were harsh and childish. To get involved in a fight with a fellow committee member based on some disagreements was one of the stupidest things I`ve ever done. I guess this streak in my personality goes back to my childhood. See, my parents didn't want a boy. They wanted a girl. Now, most people in their situation would say 'Okay, we didn't get what we wanted but SO WHAT, he's still our son. Not my parents. They couldn't accept that I was a boy. When I was growing up, they made me dress like a girl - wearing panties, dresses, growing my hair long, everything. Needless to say this didn't go over well with the kids at school. I got called faggot and beaten up every day after school. I told my parents but they didn't care. I think they wanted me to get some kind of operation because they were always taking me to the doctor. I have so many bad memories from this period, of the doctor examining me, asking me what it felt like to be me, STICKING HIS HAND UP MY ASS - yes, that happened, I don't know why. When I got to be about twelve I started getting hair on my chest, my voice changed, and my father didn't like it. If I spoke with a deep male voice my father would kick me in the nuts. He was always saying 'Maybe if I kick those balls hard enough they'll just disappear on up in there!'
Really fucking funny, right? I went through this at least once every week until I learned to just talk with a high girl voice all the time. Once again - the school situation. I'd managed to figure out to change clothes before I went to school so I didn't get beaten up, but my voice always slipped because I was so nervous. People told me I should join the choir and become an alto. Even now, thinking back, I hate those fucking kids so much. Those assholes didn't understand that it wasn't my fault. I mean think about it - you think any kid would dress up and talk like a girl just because he wanted to? But even to this day, I have trouble talking with a regular male voice, my voice is still high-pitched as you know. Well, when I got older I managed to get away from my parents but I was still being affected by what happened. I couldn't break the cycle. I guess that's why I got into anime in the first place. It was because I could relate to the high squeaky voices and the guys dressing like girls. Whenever it happened in anime they always seemed so powerful and cool, unlike what it had been like for me in real life.
When I was alone I started secretly dressing up like a woman again and hoping I'd meet a man who would understand me - seems nuts but one day I eventually met Xen. I'll never forget the first time he put his finger in my ass. We'd been hanging out in my room smoking pot and he stumbled over to my closet and opened it somehow, seeing all my girl clothes. He got really excited and made me try them on, then took pictures of me. One thing led to another and before I knew it...well, that's how we got so close, anyway. He's given me so much pleasure I don't know if I can ever repay him. But, the reason I act like a dick sometimes is because I'm still insecure from what I just described. I'm terrified people will find out about my past, so I feel like I have to act like a bigshot on places like CF. I don't know why I told you all this, I mean with what happened and all, perhaps, in some ways, we are similar.
But not THAT similar, Eliar, I`m a mature adult. You`re a childish loser. You deliberately chose NOT to delete the Lee Kuan Yew post by your guestblogger because you`re a fucking attention whore. You are just desperate for attention. How dare you fucking let your guestblogger post a retarded post like this to insult MY country?
I can never stand the fact that he`s so into name-callings. But I let that slide. Cos` I did feel kinda bad that he would do something like this first. I mean, what the hell? Him being the noble one first? And not me?? The great Swifty??
To tell you the truth, I was rather ashamed of myself after reading his message. Perhaps sometimes, I was too blinded by my narcissism and ego to actually think things carefully. I was wrong about Raywing as well. But deep inside, I had believed that despite his overbearing internet persona, he is a decent person in real life.
He was right in his last sentence, it was kinda wrong to continue putting up that entry. I myself didn`t like seeing my own country of birth
We will never be friends, Raywing and I, because both of us are indeed narcissistic, egoistic assholes. But tonight, he showed me that he was the better man. He could admit his flaws. I have none.
Perhaps, in another world, another life, another universe, we could`ve been friends. I am ashamed of my past arrogance and narcissism.
My dear readers, I want all of you here to be my witness.
I, Edmund Yeo aka Eliar Swiftfire, will try hard to be a better person. Mark my words.
Yes, RayWing says that the above are ALL fictional, and I have to agree, because the first few messages were reconstructed via memory, and were not entirely accurate. And the last one was obviously fictional, as if he would actually be classy enough to make peace with me.
So, the truth? Here's the truth. The actual private message he sent to me at the forum, which, I am sure he will say that it is fictional:
Long time no see! ^^
Ah, if it isn't my "old friend" Eliar Swiftfire.Haven't been around for a long time, but I thought someone was supposed to have left the forum and handed over to his "sister" his account on Comic Fiesta... You know what? I thought you have castrated yourself in order to get that excuse.
Ah well, nevermind.
It so happened that I found something interesting, though it dated all the way back last year... "think I should share with everybody here how fucking stupid Raywing is?" That's pretty cool. I mean, I knew you were an asshole, but I didn't realise that you'd resort to something this cowardly.
And I've heard lately that you've been trying to be a wise guy to some mods and other people. Ah well, I guess old habits die hard, especially harder on a retard?Now fucking listen up, eliar --- I'm giving you a fucking chance and consider this a chapter closed. Here's my warning to you --- If I hear any fucking complaints about you again and the complaint is valid (I'll be fair on this), or you try to stir up some trouble by doing that cowardly thing again, trust me you can forget about coming back to this place and I promise you you'll be so fucking humiliated.
You understand there? Good dog.
P/S: The humiliation calls it quits here. This is for your cowardly acts back then. I'll be fair to you that if you don't try to be a bastard, I will leave you alone. But if your ego is too strong to swallow this and you wanna try something funny, bring it. And don't say I didn't warn you.
Ah, that above Private Message is FICTIONAL too, because you are such a nice and wonderful guy that you are incapable of making threats, right? So, my infavorable response to that PM had to do with my 'oh-so-massive' ego? AH, of course, I'm sure ANYONE with a MUCH lesser ego will easily smile and nod at such an insulting message from you. I'm sure anyone you talk to in this tone will merely smile back at you and agree with what you say because you are such a kind and polite person. Moron. You were obviously trying to instigate a fight.
I'm sure that you are such an HONOURABLE person that you DIDN'T, with GREAT maturity, decide to ask people in forum to join you in your silly little feud against me, by asking all of them to 'pour their wrath' on my blog. It is a good thing that people there display a great amount of maturity and reacted negatively to your determination to bring something personal into their forum, but I guess all those certainly did NOT happen, right? Because they are FICTIONAL! Lalaala! Those people in SGCafe probably didn't understand what a GREAT man you are, you crusader, you crimefighter. Moron.
How about this little so-called punishment of yours? Where you abused your moderator powers and messed up my account so badly that until now, no one can find out why I cannot access the forum anymore? Let me show everyone the print screen I did, so that they can have an idea what a wonderful and mature human being you are.
I'm SURE you weren't responsible for such childish actions. I'm SURE that you weren't the one who left the taunts on my guestbook about your wondrous 'punishment'. I'm sure what you did wasn't defamation, I'm sure your ceaseless braggings to various parties in different message boards that I was 'kicked' out of CF due to my 'incompetence and arrogance' weren't slander, because you are SUCH a great person, and all these were figment of my imagination.
You are unbelievable, you have the ability to come up with excuses for every single thing you do. In your own skewed point of view, you are such a great person that every single thing you did is right, is justifiable, because you are the greatest person in the universe, and that despite what you've done, you do NOT deserved to be regarded as a bad guy. You SHOULDN'T be banned despite your trolling and your abuse of moderator powers because, why? You were doing something NOBLE and GOOD? Sheesh, I wish I have such a high opinion of myself too.
Then for your sake, I hope you will be accepted to the committee again, you fighter of light, you heroic champion of goodness, you upholder of justice. Because you are so high and mighty that you have the right to dictate how a person should live his life, and that how your ideals should be imposed upon anyone. That you have the right to 'punish' another party, and to teach someone a 'lesson of humility' because you are flawless and great that every single thing you do should be praised and respected. My, maybe I should learn from you, maybe I should go around 'teaching' people I meet online 'a lesson' too.
My dear readers, please believe me, RayWing ABSOLUTELY did not commit any of those against me as he is NOT a person of questionable character. Please believe me that RayWing is definitely a good man. I am so sorry for all these misunderstanding, maybe because I didn't know that everything Raywing does has justification, and that to be a 'good person' you must be like RayWing. Yes, you are such a role model that when I am at your age, I wish my life would be like yours, and I am sure people here agree with me. To forever advocate for goodness on the Internet, and vindicating people I met online.
Everybody, please listen up, even if he might be capable of doing what he did to me above, they were all in the name of justice, please don't ever oppose him, because he is just doing it in the name of goodness, and everything he does HAS JUSTIFICATION. Therefore, please do not doubt RayWing again, he is a great human being. Everything he does will always be in the right, he is the embodiment of perfection and honour. Even one as egoistic and narcissistic as I would never ever make such claims.
That is all I have to say about RayWing. And the last. I am NOT important enough to ever make statements about him anymore because he has the right to dictate what I write, and not write, on my own blog. And future comments by RayWing will immediately be deleted, because I am unworthy of such honour from a flawless human being like him. I will consider this chapter of my life closed, because I am too insignificant to share it with one as great as RayWing. I will now get out of your life, because you are too mighty. I will cease to associate myself with you, just like how I did two years ago, because you are too mighty. I am ashamed of myself that I would continue doing such things on the Internet, I wish someday, I will be like you, and have no shame for anything.
One who never ever admits his faults, one who goes around imposing his own will upon anyone else he meets on the internet, one who constantly believe he is right and never wrong, one who is capable of commiting actions of slander and defamation against another and would throw a hissy fit and threatens for lawsuit when being retaliated against. *shakes head in disbelief* Incredible. Despite my own arrogance, I don't think I would actually do half the things done by him.