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Monday, October 31, 2005

Swifty Announces 'Chubby Cheeks Contest' Winner! The Queen Is Not Amused.

Dawn Yang wins the chubby cheeks contest. Queen Elizabeth is pissed.

Dawn Yang wins the chubby cheeks contest. Queen Elizabeth is pissed.

Dawn Yang wins the chubby cheeks contest. Queen Elizabeth is pissed.




Special thanks to Miss Dawn Yang, who is not oblivious to this blog anymore. And Kenny Sia. And Orson Welles, Notorious B.I.G., who are both unfortunately too dead to know about this blog, and the awesome Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second, who is oblivious to this blog too.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Swifty Wonders How To Resurrect A Mailing List And Tells You A Bit About Japanese Pop Group, Speed.

The age of mailing list is over, message boards and forums are perhaps the best way to build a community these days. Or is it?

Six years ago, (6th of June, 1999) I created a mailing list for a now-disbanded Japanese 4-member pop group called Speed, and for a while, it was HUGE. In mere weeks, the amount of membership surpassed a thousand, and it averaged more than a thousand posts a day. A community was there, with people around the world discussing about their idols, their music, the girls everyday. Hell, some even went to organize outings of their own.

But then, like most online communities, there were ugly conflicts, flame wars, newbies who made themselves look too stupid, older members who were too condescending, and I had to ensure that everything was under control. I thought I was pretty impressive, considering that I was only 15 then. None of these factors were able to ruin the mailing list, in fact, it continued to bloom and expand.

Ironically, the mailing list's downfall was brought forth by the very people it was created for. On October 1999, Speed announced their plans to disband on the following April. People started worrying, wondering whether I would close down the mailing list or not. But I was a naive and headstrong boy, I assured the members that it would remain alive no matter what. Lots of poignant and inspiring speeches were given, the 'as long as we remember them, they'll never die' type, or the 'some bands managed to remain big decades after their disband, we'll make sure Speed will be the same' type.

Alas, mistakes like this were made when you are too obsessed with something, causing you to lose objectivity. I was young and stupid. Speed may have been big during its time, its album was among the top 5 best-selling of the year, ditto with their singles, but that was it. There's no sense of timelessness about them. And by the time they announced their disband, their record sales were flagging, it all coincided with the rise of Ayumi Hamasaki and Utada Hikaru. In truth, they ended their careers with a whimper.

It was said that they disbanded because their recording label's main intention was merely to have this group to groom each of the four girls so that they can embark upon solo careers. It was a grievous miscalculation, neither of them could make a DENT at the music charts. One managed to appear in the Onmyoji films, both huge blockbusters, but hers was a minor role, she is now married and has a child. One was a good dancer, but a poor singer, thus she never released a single after her first album. Another was pretty, thus she had some modelling stints, occasionally appearing in magazine covers, but nothing more than that. The last one had a modest solo career at first... then she just faded into obscurity.

There was a reunion album for charity two years ago. No one gave a shit. Another financial failure. Another clear sign that their era has ended. Time was passing too quickly in the world of Japanese pop for any of them to follow. I doubt any of them can resurrect their singing careers.

My mailing list? I changed it, allowing people to discuss about anything they want to, and for a few years, it managed to sustain itself. But I was merely prolonging the inevitable. My mailing list died a slow lingering death, with members gradually disappearing, the number of posts per month dropping each month. Nothing I did could save it, every single attempt I tried to stimulate discussion was met with indifference.

Earlier this year, I decided to allow all entries from this blog to go to the mailing list, hoping that it can revive it, but I doubt it's working. A few posts from a 2-3 members a month, but no more than that. I could've just put it out of its misery, but I guess I am too stubborn to really give up on something. (After all, my Chinese name does mean 'perseverance')

I seriously have no idea what can I do with it now. I won't mind handing its reins to anyone who wants it as long as they don't mind that the name of the mailing list remains the same (PSML), I can hand it to all kinds of bloggers who want to have their entries appear on a mailing list, and these bloggers can recruit people into this mailing list so that people can easily retrieve and read these entries from their own inbox. Perhaps interaction will cease in this mailing list, but it can still serve as a 'portal' of sorts.

What do you people think? Anyone interested?

(Goddamn, there I was, posting an entry, wondering how I would revive my mailing list, and I managed to come upon a solution of my own, I'm such a genius)

Swifty Reviews 'The Preposition', ponders the state of Australian film industry

Despite being in Australia for almost a year and a half, I have yet to see an Australian film in the cinemas (but then, I haven't seen a Malaysian film in the cinemas at all throughout my entire life...). The fact is, hell, Hoyts (what it is in Australia is what TGV or Golden Screen are in Malaysia) don't bloody show Australian films much, just Hollywood. Well, there were some lame-looking comedies, and a Delta Goodren film during the first half of the year, but that's it. I could've seen the Delta Goodrem film if her goddamn duet with Brian McFadden hadn't made me hate her so utterly.

Anyway, I decided to remedy this drought of mine by checking out the newspapers, finding places where I can see a damn Aussie film. And voila! Turned out that there's actually a cinema at Fremantle which is hidden at the corner thus never really grabbed my attention throughout the thousands of times I've walked past it.

One Australian film I was looking out for was 'Little Fish', which isn't related to Tim Burton's 'Big Fish', but has Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving in it as recovering drug addicts. Galadriel and Elrond as recovering drug addicts, perfect.

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


However, while I was buying the ticket, I was recommended by the ticket seller to go for The Proposition instead, since I had my reservations about waiting for 2 hours to see 'Little Fish'. I wasn't that interested about Proposition, despite the five-star review it got in Empire magazine. And from what I saw in the TV ads, it's pretty much about a grubby half-naked Guy Pearce running around with a gun, hunting for his psychopathic brother.

"It's written by Nick Cave!" The popcorn-selling woman standing nearby enthused.

"Hm... never heard of him." I said.

"He's an icon!" The popcorn-selling woman said. "I think someone like you will enjoy this film much more! It has a lot of violence!"

"All right." I said and bought the ticket, keeping quiet about my secret love for fluffy romantic comedies.

Murderous bushranger brothers Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mikey Burns are made an offer by British Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone, very good in this role) that for them to be pardoned for their crimes, Charlie has to hunt down his psychotic evil brother Arthur (Danny Huston). And so, the angst-filled Charlie (come on, Guy Pearce's roles are usually angst-filled or guilt-filled, he and Jennifer Connelly should start appearing in screwball comedies) had to accept this to protect his younger mentally-challenged bro Mikey (I wasn't aware that he was mentally-challenged until I read the reviews of this film last night, thinking that he was just some whiny little ass).

This story isn't told purely through Charlie's point of view, but Captain Stanley's too, as he watched the inhabitants of the town, and even his own wife (Emily Watson) become increasingly pissed off when they found out about the proposition he made with Charlie. And they were soon demanding for Mikey's blood. Oh, Faramir's in it too. David Wenham plays Captain Stanley's superior, who wants to see Mikey flogged to satiate the bloodlust of the pissed-off townsmen. Something like that. And then, there's Arthur, a cool badass villain (guy on the right at pic below) who stares at the sunset all the time, is pretty poetic, and also very casual when he's killing people.

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So yes, this joint UK-Australia production is a good movie with great acting from the international cast, the pacing is slow, the violence only happened in short explosive spurts, but it didn't bore me. It definitely had a much different feel from a Hollywood film.

Oh, maybe the 'different feel' I described above might also be attributed to the fact that there were only THREE (including myself) people in the cinema. Yes, just me, and this couple sitting a few rows in front of me. Holy crap, after all the heavy promotion, the ads on the TV, the big-name cast, and... it could only get THREE people in the cinemas during a Friday afternoon? Just a couple of blocks away, at this Hoyts cinema, there were huge groups of people flocking in to see Doom. Right, so this western film really isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I didn't expect things to be that bad for Australian cinema.

Throughout the entire year, I've been reading about how the Australian film industry is suffering and such, with the commercial failures of most of their works, including those high-profile ones (like that Delta Goodrem film), and things weren't looking up until the past few months, when a number of good Australian movies came out, like this, and Little Fish, and Look Both Ways (these three films garnered the most nominations for the AFI awards, which is Australia's equivalent of the Oscars), but I guess only the quality and artistic values of the films were improving, and that in term of commercial successes, they still had a long way to go. Come on, when some of the biggest Australian stars are in a film, and it could only get 3 people in the cinema during a Friday afternoon, that's kinda sad.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Zen Mind Rape, Bitch!

zen mind rape

zen mind rape 2

zen mind rape 3

zen mind rape 4



Many thanks to Sonic Youth and Ludwig Wittgenstein (who is too dead to know about the existence of this blog).

Hitomi Kanehara and Risa Wataya. Young, pretty Japanese novelists.

This afternoon, while I was hanging out in a bookshop (New Edition Bookshop in Fremantle), killing time, I stumbled upon a book called 'Snakes And Earrings' by some chick called Hitomi Kanehara, which, according to the cover, was awarded the Akutagawa Prize in 2004... Japan's highest literary prize. I picked it up cos' it was thin, and I knew I could just finish reading the last two chapters easily. But looking at the back of the book, I gasped when I saw the author photo. The author was a YOUNG CHICK! And not a bad-looking one either. The blurb said that she was 21 when she received the award, and further research when I returned to my flat revealed that she, and this other gal, Risa Wataya, are currently the youngest Akutagawa Prize winners EVER.


Image hosted by TinyPic.comImage hosted by TinyPic.com


The left one is Kanehara, the right one is Wataya. Kanehara is a year older than I am, Wataya is a month older than I am. Both are yummy. Of course, when I read through the first chapter and last two chapters of 'Snakes and Earrings', I wasn't really blown away. It was just angst + minimalist + loneliness + solitude + detached stuff. Hm. But then, seeing how simplistic the entire novel was, I'm inspired to join NanoWriMo myself, after all, I could churn out 10000 words in one day (or 12 hours, to be more precise, since the other 12 was my partner posting up her pictures and illustrations) for the novel I wrote during Blogathon, 50000 wouldn't really be THAT hard. Right?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'Night Watch'.

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'Night Watch' (Nochnoy dozor) is a Russian film, and it's much different from any of the other Russian films I've seen... oh wait, the only other Russian film I've ever seen was Russian Ark, which broke records as the entire film, 90+ minutes of it was filmed with ONE TAKE. The first film of a planned trilogy, this is a Gothic fantasy/action movie with vampires from opposing sides beating and killing the shit out of each other (okay, not really, one is supposed to be keeping tabs on the other like police), and was the top-grossing Russian film of all time when it was released last year (the record is broken by another film not too long ago). So yes, I've already heard a lot about this film long before it came out.

Made with only $US4 million dollars, it might only be slightly more expensive than Malaysia's own Puteri Gunung Ledang, I think. Director Bakmambetov used to direct commercials, so he's pretty stylish, and the film's a good visual treat considering its budget (which is even less than, say, a typical romantic comedy in Hollywood). HOWEVER, his flashy editing style may have was a wee bit too excessive... to the point where I ended up getting a headache. Which is saying a lot considering that I personally employ such techniques for my own videos as well. I don't need to see the insides of a car EVERY SINGLE TIME they start the engine, man. Were you confused by the fighting scenes in Batman Begins? Hell, the quick cuts in the last part of the film made me wonder whether there was any fight at all, or was the hero just hallucinating. Yes, it was THAT bad.

The hero Anton (who KINDA looked like Bono when wearing sunglasses) is a member of the Night Watch, a Light Other ('Other' = Vampire) who polices the Dark Others, preventing them from preying on the innocent, or getting overboard in their killing. Then, things got complicated when the simmering tension between the Night Watch and the Day Watch threatened to erupt, and a massive war seemed about to begin. The movie isn't entirely amazing, and it has its flaws, the silliness of how a certain important plot was resolved (the one about the Virgin) stuck out to me, also with the aforementioned editing. Characterization is slight, but still enough to make you want to see hero Anton kick some ass (... which he honestly didn't do much in this film).

The subtitles usage in this film is VERY creative, the text are faint and transparent when a character whispers, then it flares red when someone's screaming in anger, or it floats around the screen when it was a vampire's seductive call to lure her victims. (something I definitely want to use in my future projects) In fact, I could almost say that the subtitles may have been the highlight of the film. Not entirely a mindblowing film as I've hoped, but likable enough for me to look forward to the sequels (said to be filmed in English since it'll be financed by Fox Searchlight, hmmm...) after the cliffhanger ending.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Xiaxue Probed Me.


Xiaxue Probed Me
Xiaxue Probed Me 2
Xiaxue Probed Me 3






Many thanks to Miss Dawn Yang and Miss Wendy Cheng, who remain oblivious to the existence of this blog. Unfortunately.

(Go read the other Dawn Yang webcomics)


My Relationship With Beautiful Blogger Dawn Yang Won't Work.


Swifty and Dawn Yang's Tragic Romance

Swifty and Dawn Yang's Tragic Romance 2

Swifty and Dawn Yang's Tragic Romance 3

Swifty and Dawn Yang's Tragic Romance 4






Once again, pictures are taken from her Friendster account. Many thanks to Miss Dawn Yang, who is still oblivious to the existence of this blog.

(Go read the other Dawn Yang webcomics)




EDIT: (10th of November, 2005)
I noticed a sudden flood of visitors to this particular entry since Dawn Yang appeared in the papers about her signing to an artiste management agency. Well, you can see me addressing this in a more recent webcomic
here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Chairman Mao Explains It All.


Chairman Mao explains it all
Chairman Mao explains it all 2
Chairman Mao explains it all 3
Chairman Mao explains it all 4
Chairman Mao explains it all 5
Chairman Mao explains it all 6
Chairman Mao explains it all 7






Special thanks to Mao Zedong, Lenin and Chiang Kai Shek, who are too dead to know about the existence of this blog.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Swifty And Guestblogger Justin Discuss BEAUTIFUL Blogger Dawn Yang.

From a MSN conversation with Guestblogger Justin.





Swifty Discovers Dawn Yang 1

Swifty Discovers Dawn Yang 2

Swifty Discovers Dawn Yang 3

Swifty Discovers Dawn Yang 4





Pictures are taken from her Friendster account. Many thanks to Miss Dawn Yang, who knows not the existence of this blog.

EDIT: (10th of November, 2005)
I noticed a sudden flood of visitors to this particular entry since Dawn Yang appeared in the papers about her signing to an artiste management agency. Well, you can see me addressing this in a more recent webcomic
here.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Swifty's Video Blog Entry: Meeting Kenny Sia At A Gathering.

Updated (24/9/2006): Shifted the video to Youtube.com

Unlike most of my other vlog entries, this one will have a bit more words in it. So yeah, two nights ago, I was approached by Cynthia via MSN about a meeting up with Kenny Sia, who is currently one of the most famous Malaysian bloggers with thousands of hits a day and dozens of media coverage and such. So, I dragged Guestblogger Justin along for the thingie.

So, in the end, ten people went. Cynthia, Cynthia's bf Kian (who kindly drove us to the cafe), Kenny, Nadia, Nadia's bf Bruce, Eunice, Jackson, Lena (who kindly drove us home, and has a secret, scariest thing is, she actually lived a couple of houses away from mine years ago before she moved away. A long lost neighbour!) and us. I had feared that this would be a 'bloggers meeting' where everyone would be talking about, er, blogging (kinda like attending a Trekkie gathering). Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. It was a decent meeting, with me straying away once the subject shifted to controversial Singapore celebrity blogger Xia Xue. (a better recap of the discussion can be found in Nadia's entry)

Unfortunately, just moments ago, when I saw Kenny's entry regarding this meeting, there was a photo of me that made me look SO HIDEOUSLY FAT that I almost wanted to gouge out my own eyeballs and crush them with my bare foot:



WHAT THE HELL?????????

How could I look like THIS just two days ago whilst guestblogging for Minishorts and become SOOOOOOO ridiculously bloated after that?



... and think that I actually PHOTOSHOP my own photos into making myself look skinny. Damn, I haven't seen myself look so freakishly obese ever since I came to Perth last year and lost 20+kg (yes, that's 40+ pounds). Oh well, at least I didn't look that bad in Cynthia's entry.

EDITED (31/10/2005): The video should be of higher quality than before as I've changed it from .mov to .mp4. Probably loads faster too.




Video 1: The Great Swifty And Guestblogger Justin Meet Kenny Sia



I'm rather satisfied with this video, since it featured some camera and editing techniques that I intend to use on my Hindi short film, and my experiment actually worked (referring to the scene where Justin and I were hunting for an ATM machine).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Finding Meaning In Films

I had a rather lengthy MSN conversation with an aspiring filmmaker friend, Sebastian about my personal disdain when people start asking me about the 'moral' or the 'meaning' of a film, which I forgot to save... unfortunately. Take my own Forced Labour for example, I had to put up with people asking me 'hey! i've just watched it! sooo... what's the moral of the story? what's the msg?'.

While having supper with Malaysian indie filmmaker James Lee back in July, just before I came back to Perth, I did try to ask him about certain aspects of his award-winning film 'A Beautiful Washing Machine' which I wasn't entirely sure of ("Yo, is that chick a genie that sprang forth from the washing machine?", "is she the SPIRIT of the washing machine?" "or is she Patrick Teoh's time-traveling late wife who accidentally time traveled to the future?"), his reaction was only a grin and a simple 'it's up to how you interpret it'. Fair enough.

I tend to feel that films, being personal experiences, should be interpreted differently by each and every single viewer, just like what they do with books and other creative works. Take the ending of 'Lost In Translation' for example, I like the ambiguity, of not having to know what Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson in the end, it was romantic, or it could be sad, or it could be something funny, it all depended on how you interpreted it. And there is no right or wrong in how you interpret it.

By telling my viewers what I was trying to convey in Forced Labour would have been a shallow and silly thing to do, as it means that I'm forcing people to have only one single interpretation of my short film. That's boring. After all, sometimes, I feel that another person's interpretation may have been much more interesting than mine. My lead actress, Amelia, came up with such a poignant and deep reading of the film that I secretly said to myself 'damn, why haven't I thought of that?'.

Hell, the insane theories conjured by Star Wars fans were most probably things that never occurred to George Lucas at all when he was making the film (although his fans tend to give him much more credit than that).

People tend to grow and develop, and films they don't understand at first will make a lot of sense upon future viewings. I used to think that Wong Kar Wai was a smug pretentious bastard who deliberately made films just for the heck of winning some film awards, and the so-called 'artyness' of his films were meant only to provide an aesthetically-pleasing package for something that were emotionally hollow. I was 15 then, and was bored out of my skull after watching 'In The Mood For Love'. Only the technical styles he used in his films stuck with me (which I would then employ sparingly for both of my short films, A Boring Story and Forced Labour). The only Wong Kar Wai film I remembered enjoying as a teen was Chungking Express, but I merely watched the first story, and then bits and pieces of the second story on TV.

Thus I was surprised when I found myself actually ENJOYING Ashes of Time when I first watched it two years ago (right after Leslie Cheung's death, I dug up movies of his to watch as a personal tribute). And earlier this year, despite generally regarded as Wong Kar Wai's weaker works, I was okay with 2046 as well, finding the entire film much more easier to comprehend compared to previous experiences of viewing WKW films. I finally got around to watching Days of Being Wild two months ago, and found myself marveling at the fact that Days of Being Wild, In The Mood For Love and 2046 were actually a trilogy, with recurring characters and all. (Yet Chungking Express, which I rewatched few nights ago, and finally in its entirety, would remain a personal favourite among all WKW works. Perhaps because of its sense of optimism and exhuberance, something different from the yearning and angsting that was in the films of the trilogy mentioned above)

Sebastian had mentioned that it's okay to NOT understand a film when you're a teenager, but if even adults can't understand that particular film, then there's something seriously wrong here. But how wrong is that? Just as I've said before, viewing film is a personal experience, Sebastian managed to grasp the entire meaning of American Beauty when he viewed it recently, but this meaning will still be lost to many older viewers. So does that mean that director Sam Mendes has to tell everyone what was he actually trying to convey in this Oscar-winning film of his? Please don't, I don't want to listen to it.

A filmmaker who seemed condescending and snotty to one viewer can actually give another viewer a whole different feeling. Thus the differing reactions from Guestblogger Justin and I after we watched Luis Bunuel's L'Age D'or (1930) or Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966). He loved them. I was indifferent. But then, even something lauded as a classic or masterpiece like Jean-Luc Godard's My Life To Live (1962) was considered a total bore by both of us ("Jeez, it's just some chick getting into prostitution and messing up her own life. Big deal.") when both of us actually liked his later film, Alphaville (1965), which was a major inspiration for my upcoming project Aisyalam.

But who knows? People grow and change, films that I once regarded as 'great' would become 'not so great' or even fall to 'why the hell did I even like it in the first place?' status whilst the 'WTF?' would actually turn into a 'ah, now i understand!' or 'whoa, this is freaking awesome, so that's what the film is actually about!'. But when I don't understand a particular film, I don't really feel that an explanation is necessary, either you get it or you don't, and explanation will merely cheapen the experience.

How would people feel if I post things like that at the end of my short films? "A Boring Story actually doesn't have much of a meaning, the deadline was a day away, the horror flick I tried to make fell apart cos' my camera sucked, so I decided to make an art flick with a twist ending instead" or "A Boring Story is not a simple parody of art films, it is my personal criticism of modern society who is unable to accept art due to their personal worship of capitalism". Or "Forced Labour is an analogy of my relationship with the Ice Maiden, whose occasional coldness towards me is so painful that I feel as if I've just been gunned down by a gang boss". Or "Nah, I just wanted to impress people with my editing skills, and use suit-wearing gangsters in it for the sake of coolness, thus I made Forced Labour". Or "After watching so many arty films from local indie filmmakers, I intend to make something stylish and cool!". Pretty much kills the fun about experiencing movies for yourself

Friday, October 21, 2005

My Friend Is A Reincarnation Of Xu Zhimo

I was exposed to the famous Chinese poet, Xu Zhimo early last year, and one of the eeriest thing about him is his striking resemblance to my friend (whose name is not really Alan Wong as mentioned in yesterday's post, in fact, he's Alex Yuen, he who worked with me on my novel years ago, but please don't let him know that his photos are being used on my blog).

Now, look at Alex's face in the comic.



And here are two photos of Xu Zhimo.




OMFG. This is seriously disturbing. But yeah, I believe my friend's a reincarnation of Xu Zhimo. The Wikipedia entry failed to give some of the most interesting aspects of Xu Zhimo's personal life, since the guy's love life was discussed almost as much as his poems. Chang Yu-i (his first wife from an arranged marriage, first Chinese woman to get a Western-style divorce, and the first woman vice president of Shanghai's Women's Bank. Her life was chronicled by her great grandniece in the book 'Bound Feet and Western Dress'), Lin Hui Yin (his one true love, she was unattainable and married to another) and Lu Xiaoman (his second wife). More details (might not be entirely accurate) can be viewed in this site.

There was a Taiwanese TV serial called April Rhapsody that dramatized his life, but I think my friend would've been a much better choice as the main actor. Hell, I even want to make a short film about Xu Zhimo getting resurrected from the dead to hunt aliens and monsters whilst reciting his own poems. Anyway, I'm just going to put up a poem from Xu Zhimo.

Chance
by Xu Zhimo

I am a cloud in the sky,
A chance shadow on the wave of your heart.
Don't be surprised,
Or too elated;
In an instant I shall vanish without trace.

We meet on the sea of dark night,
You on your way, I on mine.
Remember if you will,
Or, better still, forget
The light exchanged in this encounter.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Chubby Cheeks contest

(Updated: 23rd of October, 2005): This entry is actually posted on the day Malaysia's first lady, Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood passed away after a four-year battle with breast cancer. The nation is in mourning, once again remembering the cold sting of mortality and the unpredictability of death's touch. My parents have asked me to write something related to this sad event, but I declined, believing firmly that everything kind to say about her has been said or written already by the media and and many Malaysian bloggers. If I have intended to say something kind about her, I would come off sounding too insincere as my knowledge about her is entirely too limited.

I have already alluded to the Datin's passing with the title of this entry. The following web comic, which may soon become a recurring theme on my blog, was pretty an attempt to 'cheer' the nation up. At a time of mourning, when sadness and gloom pervaded the air, a moment of laughter, brief it may be, can only be the best remedy for everything. That is all I have to say.





chubbycheeks

chubbycheeks2

chubbycheeks3

chubbycheeks4

chubbycheeks5




Updated (11th of November, 2005): The winner of the contest is, well, find out yourself.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'Must Love Dogs'

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I am secretly a sucker for romantic comedies, although, come to think of it, it's really not THAT MUCH of a secret anymore these days. They are usually harmless fun, generic and cliched they may be. Of course, some good ones are really good, I still love the likes of When Harry Met Sally, Jerry Maguire, Sleepless In Seattle, My Sassy Gal (which is definitely THE ultimate Korean rom-com, EVER), the list goes on and on, which I don't want to continue sharing with you all since I still have a manly, macho reputation to protect.

So, despite its mediocre box-office performance and critical reception (hey, come on, I don't expect these rom-coms to be Oscar contenders), I went off to see 'Must Love Dogs' this afternoon after a round of guerilla filmmaking at the city (which I will elaborate in future entries, if I'm reminded). I KNEW that this won't suck like the two rom-com stinkers of the year, 'The Wedding Date' or 'A Lot Like Love' because of a more established cast. Come on, we have John Cusack and Oscar nominee Diane Lane here, not Ashton Kutcher (though he really ain't THAT bad... sometimes) and Amanda Peeler or Debra Messing (who wasn't even good in 'Will and Grace', jeez).

The plot is nothing special, generic rom-com stuff. Two divorcees hook up after the woman's sister put up a personal ad of her on the internet, and the one who answered the ad turned out to be just the perfect guy for her. However, like all romantic comedies, there would be many obstacles preventing them from being together until the last few minutes of the film.

However, yes, there are solid performances from the two leads, making them such likable characters with good chemistry that will make you root for them to be together. Also, Christopher Plummer, who plays Diane Lane's dad, is great. Especially in one scene, when you realize that the cool old bastard already had the love of his life, and he's just chillin' now with his numerous lady friends. Badass. Definitely cooler than the dad he played in The Sound of Music. (yes, to the uninitiated, Christopher Plummer is the dad in The Sound of Music)



If you are a fan of romantic comedies, you'll enjoy this, if you're not, this won't change your perception, so don't bother. Not much else for me to say except to put up the great poem quoted by Christopher Plummer's character in the film.
Brown Penny by William Butler Yeats

I whispered, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'Serenity'.

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I saw this film on Monday, which is six days ago, and I should've reviewed this if I've not been so busy dealing with the issues plaguing the production of my short films, and also the two assignments I have to work simultaneously on for my Shakespeare class (a Titus Andronicus oral presentation and a Midsummer Night's Dream critical review). Look at the entries during the past week and you'll understand what I mean.

Serenity is by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and Angel, both TV series I like. However, I am sceptical about this when I heard about this movie few months ago because:

1) No matter how good Joss Whedon is, his medium is the small screen, what can he do with the big screen? Buffy in space?
2) Good sci-fi films are rare these days. SW: Episode 3 is a guilty pleasure.
3) It's based on a cancelled TV series I've never watched, Firefly, and I wasn't sure whether the fanaticism displayed by its, er, fans, stemmed from blind loyalty, or the quality of the series itself.
4) I've never even watched a single episode of Firefly, man.

As months gone by, the trailers don't really do much to impress me either. I see some waif-like girl kicking ass, and that's it... really, Buffy in space?

However, reviews for this film are unexpectedly good, scoring a high 81% in Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. Which left me rather intrigued. And frankly, when I went to see it, this wasn't even my first choice, I missed 'Cinderella Man', thus I chose this instead.

My reaction for the film was rather peculiar. Perhaps watching the series might allow me to be more well-versed regarding the character backgrounds, but it wasn't long before I myself was totally immersed within the universe of this film and these characters. Serenity is a spaceship, and this story is about its crew, a band of misfits (... we see them a lot these days, don't we?) who are into smuggling and robbing, each of them possessing their own quirks that make them instantly likable and recognizable less than ten minutes into the film.

The trailer and the poster gave me the misconception that it will focus solely on this kungfu-fighting telepathic teenage girl, River, but this is very much an ensemble flick where all the characters here had their own moments to shine. In fact, River only had TWO fighting scenes in the film (both are great scenes, by the way, especially the second one). Yes, I am surprised to see all these nameless actors and actresses putting up such solid performances in the film, but the one person who attracted my attention most was the film's villain played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Smooth, polite, dignified, dangerous, cold and, er, many other things, he's definitely badass. But instead of being a mere cartoonish villain, throughout the film, he will reveal hidden depths rarely seen in such roles in other film.

A well-paced film with some nice plot twists and turns that made my viewing experience increasingly enjoyable, when it ended, I knew that it was a pretty damned good film I've just seen, perhaps one of the better films of the year. Many critic reviews have said that this film deserves to become a franchise, the next Star Wars or Star Trek, and that it has more heart and soul than SW: Episode 3, I think I might agree with it. Although I still find it difficult to decide which is the better film, but Serenity is good enough to lure me for a second viewing on DVD if I want to.

Whilst checking its domestic box-office figures, I found out that it had merely made a wee bit more than 20 million, only half of its budget, and since it had slid to no. 9 in the charts (falling from no. 2 the week before), it'll take a miracle for it to not become a box-office flop. Which is quite a pity, really, for a film as good as this.



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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Swifty's FIRST Video Blog Entry: Two Birthday Parties

(Updated: November 16, 2012)

By now, none of the videos are appearing. This blog post was written back in those pre-Youtube days, at that time I hosted my videos on a page called Boltfolio, as you can see, Boltfolio didn't win the video wars.

Even so, I'm keeping this blog post around because it was my first attempt at videoblogging. It's... historical.


----------------------

Hm. Am I the first Malaysian video blogger? ... I'm at least ONE OF THE FIRST, right? Anyway, as I've mentioned last week, I will start putting up video clips I've edited onto this blog.
I tend to film stuff, trips and birthday parties with my camcorder (... after all, isn't that's what camcorders are for?) and then edit them for my collection. Great editing practice for me.

The following clips are pretty small, 10 seconds and slightly longer, and barely more than 900kb big. You need Quicktime to view them. They are both edited last week. Click the pictures to view the clips.

Justin's Birthday Party

Guestblogger Justin's birthday party was held on the 3rd of October, which, many may remember as the day Petaling Street died. And the entry which featured my gorgeous sleeping photo was stuck on top for days.

As per Justin's request, Royksopp's 'Only This Moment' is used for the background track. Pretty great song. Instead of using any flashy editing technique, this clip relied more on camera work and movements, which made it rather lively and kinetic, in my opinion.



Little Rachel's Birthday Party

Little Rachel's party was actually held a month earlier. Back in 2nd of September, I think, but it was edited two days after I finished Justin's video above. I used a tripod while filming most of the footages during the party, so some parts were sort of boring. In order to remedy this situation, I knew that I have to experiment with some editing techniques. No one wants to watch a boring ass birthday party video.

I ended up using split screens, which is inspired by what I did in my last short film, 'Forced Labour'. By using this method, most of the footages, 50+ minutes of them, can be preserved, yet giving some sense of chaos and confusion... a feeling you usually get in birthday parties.

The background tracks are from France-based Japanese, Kahimi Karie.



The four-screen thing may be something I want to retain for my upcoming Aisyalam. On the other hand, I am rather satisfied with the editing work in this video, it seemed to flow, everything was seamless, a trait my older videos didn't seem to possess. The clip below will illustrate what I mean... I hope.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Swifty, After Both Aisyalam and Hindi Short Film Projects Have Been Postponed, Speaks About How Stress Have Taken A Toll On Him.

One adversity after another.

The last few days have been exhausting and stressful. My oral presentation for Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and critical review for Midsummer Night's Review may have been completed yesterday, and my attention shifted upon the film projects, particularly the Hindi sci-fi short film (as Aisyalam is officially postponed).

I mentioned yesterday that a film student acquaintance of mine would lend me a good film camera for shooting, but everything has to be completed by Monday. The idea of racing against time was stressful, especially knowing that I have maybe only ONE DAY to finish the entire fucking short film. Despite trying my best to write down plans and drawing storyboards for this last night, I dozed off halfway. Wong Kar Wai's 2046 was playing on my DVD player, Goldfrapp's Let It Take You was looping on my winamp player. Both would have served well whilst I was drawing the storyboard, but alas, I was too tired.

I tried working on it this afternoon again, hoping that by the time I get the camera at night, I would have a good idea how to frame my shots and everything else. Darren Aronofsky's Pi, which I borrowed from the library, was playing this time. A low-budget black and white film, similar to what I intend to do. Alas, exhaustion seeped into my bones, and sleep took me away without notice, without warning.

I can usually keep a clear mind during crises and adversities, thinking of all kinds of methods to solve them. First, the departure of my Hang Tuah actor, which postponed production, then, my inability to find a replacement, after that, the two Shakespearean assignments I have to deal with, followed by the knowledge that I HAVE to finish shooting my short film in only one fucking day (since the main actor of my Hindi film is only available on Saturdayts) as that is how long I can have the university's film camera. Although I may have been calm, all these did leave me rather tired, and I found myself spending the entire day sleeping.

Being a one-man filming crew can be quite tiring, no matter how good your organizing and management skills are. I don't mind having a crew of my own, so that I don't have to be the one doing so many things at once. I'm fine if I have to be my own director, editor, cameraman, sound editor, producer. But expanding my duties to more than that is taking its toll on me. And all I can do is only mention them on this blog, which, unfortunately, is what most readers here barely give a damn about.

I AM writing for the wrong audience, my filmmaking endeavours pretty much mean nothing to most when everyone's only interested in me praising my own looks, putting up photos of myself doing various stuff. A blog, after all, is merely a comic relief to most, right? I'll revert to that sometime soon, when I am less busy with my filmmaking.

Anyway, just hours ago, I was awakened from my (unexpected) slumber by the chiming sound of my mobile phone announcing a new SMS message. It was from the film student acquaintance of mine, telling me that he was unable to get me the film camera as he needed it for his university project. Therefore, in the end, my original plan of using a good video camera was dashed.

Guess I'll be using my own camcorder for the Hindi short film. The bright side? At least I don't have to fret about racing against time as I can take my time making sure the whole thing's good enough.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Swifty Feels That His Aisyalam Project Is Jinxed.

Never, when I made Forced Labour, did I have to face such adversity. As I've mentioned few days ago, I lost my actor for Hang Tuah (one of the two main guys), thus jeopardizing the fate of this ambitious sci-fi project.

I acted quick, and immediately contacted Johan's (my other main guy) sister's boyfriend to replace Abu, the original actor for Hang Tuah. On Monday night, he sounded interested, thus I sent an email to him immediately. No reply from him, so I waited until Tuesday, no reply either. Yesterday, I finally called him to speak to him in person (it was stressful, since I was at the same time working on an oral presentation on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, and an essay on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream). Guy seemed unsure, told me to wait as he would return to me. Another night went past.

Today, Thursday, Johan finally told me that the guy ain't gonna do it because... JOHAN'S SISTER told him not to do it! Marvellous, a guy chose not to appear in my film because his GIRLFRIEND told him to, that's the manliest thing ever. Tomorrow's shooting for 'Aisyalam' will be cancelled, but I will be getting hold of a high-quality camera from the uni, borrowed from a film student friend who borrowed said high-quality camera from uni. Right. There's still this Hindi short flick I'm working on (Aisyalam's short story).

The catch? I have to return the camera by Monday. Seems I'll have to finish the film throughout the weekend. One obstacle after another.

On the other hand, I just found out today that the action figure I bought for Aisyalam, which I painted completely black so that it could be used in this impression stop-motion sequence HAD BEEN FUCKING WRECKED! I left it in Justin's flat for a couple of weeks, and mysterious, it was found fucking mutilated today. Gee, this Aisyalam project is seriously cursed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Swifty Almost Loses His Eyesight. He Now Appreciates The World More.

I woke up at 8:45am today, by the sound of my insanely loud ringtone of my mobile phone that doubles as my alarm clock. There will be a flat walthrough today, which is carried occasionally to ensure that students have kept their flats clean enough. I had to wake up and mop the floor.

Drowsily, I reached for the table next to my bed, trying to get my glasses... until I realized that it wasn't there. Opening my eyes in confusion, I started looking blindly for my glasses. It was all in vain because of my weak eyesight, well, not entirely THAT weak, just that all I see without glasses, is a blurry haze, where I can still see the shapes and forms, but not its details.

I searched throughout the table, the drawers, the floor, everywhere, yet my glasses weren't there. Tears welled up in my eyes, rolling down my flawlessly beautiful cheeks, making me so heartbreakingly gorgeous that I would inspire sculptors to create statues of me immediately.

I have lost my eyesight. Without glasses, I have become nothing. Everything was a blur.

Stumbling out of my room, I took hold of the mop and the bucket, and started mopping the floor, knowing that the flat inspectors will come in less than an hour. Yet it was futile, how could I mop the floor when I couldn't even see whether the floor was clean enough or not? How? Silently, I closed my eyes, praying for the higher powers up there to grant me my sight. I do not want to spend the rest of my life NOT being able to see anything anymore.

What am I without my eyes? What am I without my sight? I do not have heightened sense of hearing, I would be defenseless without my glasses. Despite my ridiculous intelligence and macho sexyfulness, I'm far away from becoming Zatoichi or Daredevil. Blindly, I mopped the floor, and then, I accidentally stepped upon a wet spot, and fell face first onto the ground. My nose shattered at the force of the fall, followed my teeth, I tasted blood in my mouth, and as I struggled to get up, a puddle of crimson had formed beneath me.

My flatmate, Marlin, a sweet Swedish gal, came out of her room, and saw me, broken and defeated, my face a ghastly mask of blood. When someone is sightless, does the world within his mind become more beautiful than reality? Does he imagine himself being in a world of fantasy and dreams? Of perpetual joy and laughter? Does the most mundane things in life become a source of endless wonder for him? In a Chinese graphic novel I read, whilst taking the train, a blind girl would imagine herself being in a train that would fly past skyscrapers, and into the moon, where fairies and mythical creatures reside in.

What happens when they sleep? How do they sleep? How do they close their eyes when they have no eyes to close, when everything is always pitch black? How do they separate dream from reality? Consciousness from unconsciousness?

"Is the floor clean?" I gasped desperately, after the entire session of imagining myself falling onto the ground and breaking my nose, and then thinking deep and philosophical stuff about blind people. "I can't see!! I've lost my glasses!"

"You poor thing!" Marlin said. "I'll help you look for your glasses. Come on!"

Alas, despite her efforts, she couldn't find my glasses either. I crumbled. I fell apart. The status of Aisyalam remains in limbo, and I now lose my eyesight? How can I even direct the Hindi film if I can't see a freaking thing? How could such a tragedy befall upon me? I laughed hysterically, I laughed so much that it became painful, I laughed so much that I wept. But it wasn't tears that I shed, it was blood.

It all happened mentally, so Marlin couldn't see my despair, couldn't feel my pain.

"Damn. I've lost my sight." Was the only thing I can say.

"It's been a weird week." Marlin agreed. "First, Duane is unable to eat beef anymore, and now you can't see anything anymore."

Duane is our other flatmate, a big muscular dude who eats steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and ended up messing up his own stomach so much that doctors asked him to take a break from steak, stick with a healthy diet until he's feeling better.

Anyway, the floors were clean enough (according to Marlin), so I returned to my slumber, hoping that it was all a bad dream. Without my sight, I couldn't even surf at porn sites... not that I do that, of course. But anyway, I found my glasses again some time later after I woke up. It was tangled with the cord of my mouse, and was dangling in mid-air. Yelling in joy and disbelief, with trembling hands, I took my glasses and wore it... the world was clear again. I will not be robbed of the sight of the most beautiful things in the world.

Immediately, I went into the bathroom and admired my reflection. It was wonderful to see my own face again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Swifty Is Preparing To Shoot Hindi Flick This Weekend.

While I'm still uncertain of the fate of Aisyalam, my upcoming ambitious sci-fi flick in Malay. Its spinoff might endure a much kinder fate.

The Hindi translation of my short film (the side project I mentioned here) is done. Will most probably begin shooting this weekend, as it is only going to be a couple of minutes long, the whole thing will probably be completed within days, I hope.

And no, there are NO singing and dancing in it. It's going to be a rather unique Hindi flick, I think.

Just have to do some storyboarding when I'm free enough (I have two Shakespeare-related projects, a critical review of a play and an oral presentation of Titus Andronicus due in two days) to make this as effective as possible.

Most of the scenes will only take place in a flat and other places within the university campus, and one at Perth city. Perhaps I might just take photos of the production process... but I'll be too busy holding the video camera. Darn.

Hoo boy, it's ironic that just a few weeks ago, I was pointing out to this aspiring filmmaker guy's mistake on trying to shoot his film in languages he doesn't understand (people speak multiple languages in his flick, like the HK movies of the late 90s and early 00s, where despite speaking diff. languages, they understand each other perfectly), but here I am, shooting a film in HINDI! What the hell, the translation of my script (originally written in English) might be totally inaccurate, and I wouldn't even know it.

Swifty Loses His Hang Tuah And Thinks His 'Aisyalam' Project Might Be In Development Hell.

It happened so quickly.

Abu is a friend of Johan's (my Hang Jebat), he was supposed to play Hang Tuah in my Aisyalam (in case you've missed my early entries, it's my upcoming short film which is based on a famous Malay folklore, but with sci-fi and noirish settings). He's rather big, bearded and seemed suited for the role of Hang Tuah. I first met him when he was doing this short film with a friend of mine, and then I met him again when he went to Johan's flat to play Tekken 4. Being quite a big guy, he left an impression. And when Aisyalam was developed, I was more than eager to ask him to play the role of Hang Tuah.

Alas, things weren't as simple as I've thought. He has other commitments, being a bonafide film student (I'm not, I'm a business student who minors in literature), he needs to do lots of shooting, and other stuff for his course. Knowing that this might actually hinder the production process, he finally suggested to me on the phone while I was having dinner with Johan in a Japanese restaurant (Johan was 'buka puasa'ing, which means breaking his fast) that I should actually change actors for Hang Tuah as he can't make any promises.

It's not surprising, Abu is just a mere acquaintance, and all I did back then was approached him randomly and did thus:


Me: Dude! Can you play my Hang Tuah?
Him: Eh? For a short film?
Me: Shit yeah!
Him: For your screen production unit?
Me: Nope, not really. I'm just making movies for competitions and stuff.
Him: Er, okay.
Me: Yaaay.



And no, he has never seen any of my works before. So, I can see how difficult it is for him to commit to this project. Even so, I started panicking. I was in trouble, the 'Aisyalam' project may be in development hell... and we are just FOUR DAYS AWAY FROM SHOOTING OUR FIRST SCENE!!! How can I do this when I don't have my lead actors?

While going off to see 'Serenity' with Johan (a great film, but I'll review that later), my insanely quick mind started playing with the possibilities. Whom shall I replace? What other Malay guys are studying in Murdoch that's into acting?

Here were the following solutions I came up with:

1) Get this guy, Nasir, from my Pop Lit class. However, he looks kinda, er, sleazy, and too short to be Hang Tuah (he's almost half a head shorter than Johan, me thinks). Besides, he's a filmmaker too, clashes of will might happen.

2) Get Vicks who circumcised himself. But the guy's too loathsome, and no fucking way am I going to get some guy who circumcised himself to play a legendary Malay folk hero.

3) Kidnap some random good-looking or manly Malay guys in Perth for the role. Possible, since most of them should be weakened as they are currently fasting and stuff. Even with my zero martial arts skills, I might just overpower someone.

4) Has Johan playing dual roles. Yes, he plays both Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat, so that it can be a pretentiously arty attempt to show that both of these former best friends/ current sworn enemies are alike in many many ways!

5) ... I, the Great Swifty, will play Hang Tuah. After all, all those rumours about Hang Tuah being a Chinese might have people forgiving me for this. But I need to be behind the camera. So...



After finishing Serenity, Johan said that he might try contacting sister's boyfriend for the role. The entire fate of my film might just lie in this guy's hands... a guy I barely know! Although he does look ripped and kinda manly enough for the Hang Tuah role, that I do agree.

Hours went by, apparently, the guy seems interested, I will now send him the screenplay. Will Swifty triumph over this? Stay tuned!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Trasharama A-go-go Film Festival

The Trasharama A-go-go is a short film festival held over here in Australia which showcases, according to its site, 'the cream of Australian Horror, Sci-fi, Bad Taste Comedies, Dodgymentaries, Sick Animations, B-grade Schlock and other Filmic Disasterpieces!!'. Basically, really low-budget B-movies, or even Z-movies.

Last semester, I submitted the old version of 'Forced Labour' here. The original 18-minute-long rough cut with overlong fighting scenes (now deleted and viewable here), and because being too long (the minimum length for entries is 15 minutes), I most probably disqualified myself. Despite this, I was given free passes to the film fest.

And so, two nights ago, on the 7th of October, I went there with a friend to watch these short flicks. I left before intermission as I wanted to catch the bus, so I was only there at the first half of the films. Here are my thoughts of these short flicks. Maybe I'll rate them out of 4 stars:


DIAL A DERO Dick Dale SA
Ad form. Make a phone call for homeless tramps who can help babysit your kids (by teaching them out to smoke weed), puke on annoying suitors, serve as security etc. Amusing stuff.
BABY PEPPER Carl Russo USA
Jonson Baby Pepper Spray. Spray it on babies, they'll feel the pain, but won't get rashes. Also in ad form.
DRACENSTEIN Tom Priestley TAS
Er, kinda animated. Or maybe it's done using paper dolls, I'm not sure. In the forests of Tasmania, mad scientist accidentally kills Dracula, uses his brain for his Frankenstein-like monster. Only a kickass, inhumanly muscular priest can stop him. Great stuff, lots of gratutious violence, like siamese twins getting smacked so badly that both heads fell off and splattered upon the stone wall.
THE CAT'S MEOW Kathryn Walton VIC
Unfortunately, I can't seem to remember which one this is. I might have gotten this mixed up with 'I Love You... Plop!'. Hmmm.
I LOVE YOU...PLOP! Timothy Spanos VIC
Two kidnapped women get murdered in ridiculously grisly methods, like jamming some chick's arm into a blender, or stabbing a chick with a dagger and have fountains of blood spurting out.
TO LET David Collins WA
This one is so hilariously bad that I laughed until I couldn't breathe. Badly done special effects, bad camera angles, bad acting, bad editing, everything I tried to avoid in my own short films, this one has it. It's perfect.
RETURN OF THE KILLER BIKINI VAMPIRE GIRLS John Silvestro WA
I think this might be done by Murdoch Students, since I saw some recognizable faces. But yeah, this is seriously funny stuff where all cliches in vampire flicks are featured. A couple making out in the park at night being murdered, a kickass vampire hunter, lots of blood and lots of gore, bikini-clad vampires running down the streets of Fremantle at night... again, and again, and again.
AN AXE, KNIVES AND VIDEO TAPE James Stafford QLD
One of my faves. A psychotic butcher and his hostage are watching a 'Big Brother-like' reality TV show, before they are interrupted by a salesman... selling all kinds of knives and cleavers. Can the hostage get away?
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD Ali Ramone SA
Guy gets mauled to death by a vicious poodle.
STILL BORN Emma Mitchell WA
Two young couples going to a hospital for abortion found their lives in danger when evil foetuses came alive and turned everyone into zombies. "What is black and blue and does not like sex? A rape victim." Haha! It's done by Murdoch Students.
BOMBS AWAY Sean Lahiff SA
Er, 'documentary' of people blowing things up with, er, firecrackers.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

An aborted fantasy novel project

No, this isn't an entry about world domination. This is more about a dream I had ever since I was 13, a dream that had lasted until today. Eight years ago, when I was 13, the very first day when Internet was installed in my home, I immediately came up with the name Eliar Swiftfire (!!!!) to join a role-playing chatroom.

THAT got me very hooked into role-playing, a little something I am still doing today. After that, I started writing a backstory for this Eliar Swiftfire character (he's a wizard), a tale about a young boy who was chosen, along with a band of other elite mages, to lay siege upon the fortress of an evil necromancer, and miraculously survived. However, he suffered grievous wounds and lost consciousness outside the ruins of the fortress.

A girl training to be a swordsfighter, Nadia, found him, and nursed him back to health. She was a cold and quiet maiden (!!!!!!) yet somehow, they started falling for each other. But Eliar fucked up, and the girl left, and since then, wrecked with guilt and regret, all he could do was try to seek this girl again.

... unbeknownst to him, a massive war was about to erupt within his continent, and he was about to be swept away by forces he cannot control.

I was 13. I thought the backstory I wrote for the character was pretty damned good. I wanted to develop upon it. What kind of war is this? Will Eliar finally seek the woman he loves? What is his role in this war? What kind of world is he staying in?

Lots of questions emerged. I wanted so much to expand upon what I have. Thankfully, a cousin of mine who used to roleplay as well was in the midst of developing a fantasy world for his character (I stole the name 'Swiftfire' from his character, who was called Johann Swiftfire). For a few months, I was excited, attempting to write a novel of sorts based on all the tale.

Alas my cousin lost interest and left. Double alas when I was left with no one to develop this tale with. I was only 14 then and I lacked the writing skills to write something as ambitious and big as this.

My vision then was very simple, create a massive world that combines technology and magic, both fantasy and sci-fi. Write a story based on this world, and everyone else can do the same too. The first person I found to help me out was a senior in my secondary school, Alex Yuen, or Alanded, since then, we spent YEARS trying to develop the entire history and geography for this world of ours, and at the same time map out the whole story we intend to write.

End of 2000, both of us started writing the so-called first draft of our novel, we only managed a few chapters. It wasn't the best-written work ever, and no, I don't think it was as good as my Blogathon story (go to the August archives to read it), but it was pretty damned fun. And it was one of the main driving forces of my writing life. Our styles clashed quite a lot, but it was good practice. Even though it, unfortunately, bore some similarities to Harry Potter books (it has wizards studying in schools too), which, I honestly didn't read until long after I've started planning and writing.

Unfortunately, various factors caused us to abandon this project, Alanded citing that he wants to redo everything due to the massive plot holes that hindered us from continuing the story any further.

That was nearly two years ago. Since then, Alanded had gone to Sydney, and I, to Perth, and became a filmmaker (Hah!).

Eliar Swiftfire, the supposed name of a character in my story, became my pseudonym. Originally a character modeled after me, the name became me. The world? I don't know. Alanded is planning everything from scratch, all we have done for the past few years are pretty much undone. Yet my inability to contact him these days have me wondering what the hell is he planning. (last time I met him, he had stack of notes scribbled for this world of ours) Judging from our last conversations (weeks ago), the world might become too dark for my liking.

However, as I've said before, since I was 13, I always had a dream of trying to create a world. A world where everyone into writing or roleplaying can participate in. Alanded wanted to create a flash-based world, with mini-games and such (think Neopets, or Gaia Online). Short stories, flash animation or comics will be done based on this world. I have different ideas, I want short films too. Things that can add to the flavour ot this.

But will this ever become a reality? I know not the answer. I assume this is not a topic most of my readers here are interested in, however, I may revisit this topic again sometime soon depending on how everything's developing.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Swifty Intends To Make A Hindi Short Film.

The production of my upcoming Malay-language sci-fi epic, Aisyalam, will most likely be postponed to next year as the end of the semester is near, and everyone will be too busy to get involved in such a massive project.

Besides, I have just survived three assassination attempts by four highly-trained ninjas last night, who crashed into my bedroom, and got a brief scare when I thought that the ice maiden had been devoured by purple dinosaurs, or kidnapped by samurai midgets envious of her beauty when she didn't return my calls for the past two days. Fortunately, my pink elephant trampled all of them to death, and I cooked them all for dinner. (my pink elephant ate them, not me)

Although shelving this massively ambitious project was of my own decision, I was dissatisfied with the fact that I wasn't going to complete another short film this semester. I tried to raise 200 million dollars to shoot the film adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, but realized that I haven't read the book, so abandoned the idea. I also wanted to do a documentary about Malaysian bloggers, but remembered that I was in Australia, thus it would be impossible for me to buy tickets for everyone to fly over here to accept my interview.

Thankfully, last week, while I was in the library, scouring the DVD shelves for some family-friendly affairs to soothe my senses (I ended up borrowing the controversial Japanese sex flick, 'In The Realm Of Senses, which grossed me out with the part where the gal cut off the guy's genitals after killing him during a passionate session of sex), I was approached by Jith Joseph, who had a role in my short film, Forced Labour. (he's the Indian guy protecting the pregnant woman from the heroine before she went into labour) Jith intends to audition for a leading role in a big-budget Bollywood film, opposite Aishwarya Rai, but before he can do that, he has to develop his acting skills by capturing a role in this TV drama. However, for his audition, he needs a tape to showcase his acting skills, therefore, he asked whether I could develop a solo project for him. Something simple and easy. I agreed, knowing that it would be good to add another short film under my belt.

The idea didn't come until last night, where various events (from my fight with those ninjas to the trauma of watching that 'ass-to-ass' scene in Requiem For A Dream, from my shocking realization that I shouldn't use 'good-looking' to describe myself as my looks have transcend simple descriptive terms for mortals to my reference to the great series of graphic novels by Grant Morrison called The Invisibles) that happened to me culminated into me unleashing a heartwreckingly touching story that would serve as the basis of this Hindi film.

This Hindi film is actually a spin-off of Aisyalam, thus it will retain the intended mood of being both noirish and sci-fi-ish, with the story focused upon one of the minor characters in the upcoming Aisyalam, a palace guard of the Sultan. It is a touching tale of courage and self-sacrifice, where I will show that even a minor character such as he is just as much as a flesh-and-blood human being as anyone else. It will also serve as a teaser or prelude to prepare everyone for Aisyalam.

But why is it in Hindi? As Aisyalam is originally a Malay-language film, it would be natural for its spinoff to be in Malay too, right? Well, Jith, being a bonafide Indian from India, certainly does not speak Malay, and neither do I want it to be in English (even though the original story typed out by my godly fingers is in English) because I still want to preserve some sort of exoticism for the world of Aisyalam.

... besides, not every single Chinese filmmaker out there can proudly proclaim that he has made a Hindi film.

Once again, I will not try to divulge too much of the plot for this new short film project of mine (which is tentatively titled 'The Short Happy Life Of A Palace Guard In Aisyalam'), besides, it doesn't have much of a plot since it is mostly about the life of an outsider trapped within a claustrophobic futuristic city that isn't like what he has initially thought, and his love for his blind younger sister, who is inspired by this blind samurai who once engaged me in combat two years ago before I awed him with my swordsfighting skills.

I am excited.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Swifty Reviews '40-Year-Old Virgin'.

Just came back from '40-Year-Old Virgin' with Justin. This is one of my most-anticipated movies especially after seeing the raving reviews it had been getting (84% in the Tomatometer of Rotten Tomatoes) and the unexpected domestic box-office success (101 million thus far, very good considering that this is Steve Carrell's first leading role in a film), and no, it doesn't disappoint.

Like most other reviews have said, this is a very good-hearted raunchy sex comedy, with lines and scenes that cracked me up so much that I had tears running down my cheeks towards the end of the film, but none of them I will reveal here because it is better for you to find them out yourselves.

Andy Stitzer (Carrell) is a 40-year-old virgin who is a virgin by circumstances (bad embarrassing stuff happened to him when he was young), he lives alone in an apartment with shitloads of collectibles (he even has Six Million Dollar Man's Boss's action figure! Which is more valuable than the Six Million Dollar Man himself!!!) He accidentally reveals this embarrassing truth to three of his fellow workers, and after that, they launch into a rescue mission to help deflower this poor guy, to hilarious results... and zero success. Then, Andy unexpectedly falls in love with a divorced mother of three (... one of her kids has a kid, so she's actually a GRANDMOTHER!!) . The rest is up to you to find out. The following quote is a review from New York Times.


"The commercials for the film give away far too many of its biggest, loudest jokes, including the body waxing and the sly sendup of the reflexive homophobia that has become a genre staple. What the ads can't (or don't) disclose is the genuine warmth and feeling with which the couple's romance advances, from their initial bedroom fumbling to their bliss-out of an ending. In "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," the sound of one prophylactic snapping is just a single sweet note in the glorious symphony of love."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Thoughts on '8 1/2', 'City of Lost Children', 'The Piano Teacher', 'Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Amores Perros'

Been getting lots of stuff from the university library to watch for inspiration and reference in order to prepare myself for the shooting of Aisyalam. Some brief thoughts:

Fellini's 8 1/2 = Classic Italian film. One of the most beautiful black and white films I've ever seen. A director suffering from creative block constantly having weird fantasies and flashbacks. Pretty surreal, yet insanely beautiful.

Delicatessen = I believe this is Jean Pierre Jeunet's (Amelie's director) first feature-length film. Takes place in an apartment in post-apocalyptic France where everyone lives above the butcher shop. Food supplies are low, so people end up eating, er, human flesh. The hero's a circus performer lured into the apartment and has to survive the attempts against his life. Things are even more complicated when he begins an affair with the butcher's daughter. Entertaining flick.

City of Lost Children = Jean Pierre Jeunet's second film, just before he went to Hollywood to make Alien Resurrection. Ron Perlman is in it! Evil mad scientist kidnaps children to extract their dreams. One of the kids happened to be an orphan being looked after by this sideshow strongman called One, so One, with the help of a little thief called Miette, hafta go save the children from the evil clutches of the evil mad scientist. Good stuff. Jeunet's a great director, has great vision and all.

The Piano Teacher = French film (damn, seem to be watching lots of French films these days) that won some awards at 2001 Cannes Film Festival, like the Grand Jury, Best Actor and Actress awards. Repressed middle-aged piano teacher gets seduced by her student, she agrees, and shows him all kinds of sick and kinky shit she's into, which messes up their relationship.

Midsummer Night's Dream = Oooh. Pretty star-studded Shakespeare flick. Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale, Calista Flockhart, Rupert Everett, Sophie Marceau (!!!!!!!) etc. are in it. But in my opinion, Sam Rockwell (he rules) gives the most memorable performance in the play towards the end of the film.

Amores Perros = Spanish film. Nominee for 2001 Oscar's Best Foreign Film. Watched it this morning. Has three interlinked stories and each involve dogs (the English title of the film is 'Love's A Bitch') that become as important as their human owners. First story's about a guy in love with the wife of his abusive brother, and tries to earn money via dogfighting to elope with her. Second story's about a model who loses everything after a hideous car accident and even her relationship with a guy who abandoned his family for her is marred when her dog runs into a hole on the floor while chasing a ball and doesn't return. Third is about a revolutionary/tramp who supports himself by killing people for hire. Badass. Great film. Insane editing during the opening car chase scene.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Are We TRULY HONEST When Judging Artistic Works?

This will be a serious entry. So before going into it, I'm wishing Guestblogger Justin, Blogathon partner Lune and longtime net (occasionally real-life) pal, Aik 'Egg' Tiong a very happy belated birthday. The first two are now 21, the latter is now 20.

As my two pals, Justin and Lune are both artists, I intend to do an entry about artistic works. Now, I shall start asking you all, my dear readers, do you judge an artistic work, be it a painting, a book, a film, anything, based solely on artistic merits? Or do you factor in intent as well? Do you also factor in the personal status/situation of the author of this artistic work?

Dan Schneider, webmaster of the great cosmoetica.com site (introduced to me by Justin) is a poet, writer and literary critic. A great one. However, he is egoistic and very very outspoken. (check out the so-called literary greats he criticizes on his site, hell, even Shakespeare's sonnets aren't spared!). Back in 1999, a newspaper printed an article about him, where he pointed out the 'incestuous' nature of Minnesota's poetry scene. He has a very confrontational attitude, and most poets in Minnesota were pissed off with him, but he did gain quite a lot of fans himself.

This article had me thinking: Are people actually direct and honest enough when voicing out their opinions of an artistic work? A mother lost her child, and wrote a sad poem about the child, but this sad poem, alas, happened to suck. Are you going to criticize the poem? Or are you going to feel sorry for this woman, and choose to commend her instead? But would commending her stunt her ability to improve herself further? "Awww, what a sweet sweet poem, I want to weep for you!" Are you weeping because of the poem? Or are you only weeping for the poor fate that befell upon the woman?

I will use myself as an example. You happened to watch my short film, Forced Labour, you felt that it sucked so you decide to say so. HOWEVER, you found out that I was terminally ill (touch wood!), will this niggling little fact prevent you from being honest? And thus you end up applauding me for my efforts instead? Or, maybe I'll use Yvonne Foong for example, she's a neurofibromatosis patient and a freelance writer. If she happens to write a shitty poem, is anyone going to point that out? Or will they just nod and say 'ahhh, it doesn't matter, she's such a brave girl, her effort to fight neurofibromatosis is commendable, thus her poem is commendable!'. My opinion? This is rather insulting to her because you are PITYING her, and not being entirely HONEST!!!! How the shit can she improve if no one points out her flaws? Back to me as example, me having terminal illness (touch wood again!) or not will not make Forced Labour any better or worse, wouldn't it be better to tell me what's wrong with it?

Artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers tend to cling to their works, and that shouldn't be surprising considering the amount of effort they have placed upon them. However, I feel that people should be less tolerant and more honest when criticizing these works. If the creators of these works are deluded, they will choose not to listen, and most likely let this hinder them from improving. (if improvement is really what they seek) Then perhaps, they do not deserve to be artists.

I went to a Poetry Challenge with Justin a few weeks ago, and there was this old man telling his sad tale about his mom and dad, his feelings when each of them passed away, and then reciting these two poems he wrote to deal regarding all these. I don't find his poems particularly remarkable, in fact, I would say that they were mediocre at best. His intentions may have been noble, but I just wish that someone would point out their flaws or something. But was he seeking for criticism? Would he appreciate them? I seriously don't know. I guess situations like this can be kinda tricky. At least after that, I was inspired to write my own poems...

I welcome constructive criticism, and even during the days when I write fanfics, I am usually annoyed with one-liner reviews, even if they are positive. Because, well, they are just not constructive. 'haha! veli funny wei!' 'wow, you got good sense of humour!' 'lol!' etc. Some people had said to me that I should be more gracious, because reviews aren't easy to write. But how can I be gracious if I don't even freaking know which part is funny to them? From fanfic writing to filmmaking, I always strive to improve.

Should all artists and entertainers form more and more support groups? Where everyone would pat each other's backs, complimenting their works ceaselessly just because of the process took the achieve it, and more or less neglecting the merits of the end product itself? Or would resembling a critique group work better? Even though it can be pretty stinging and harsh to actually criticize someone's work when the someone happens to be, aw shucks, such a nice NICE person?

"I'm not a racist or a sexist. I object to bad poetry, bad thinking, naiveté, this magnifying of the personal into Plathian melodrama. How can you call yourself an artist and object to that?" - Dan Schneider
I am always afraid of affiliating myself with such invisible groups and cliques formed by artists because I know that by becoming too close might actually affect my rationality and judgement upon these works. Of course, sometimes, I guess this stems more from my loner attitude and is more of a personal quirk. After all, despite feeling that Guestblogger Justin is one of the best writers I've ever met (look at his Xiaxue poem, look at his Ayumi Hamasaki poem, I daresay that both are beyond most published poems I've read these days), even so I still try to be honest with him when I have to voice out my opinions of his writings. Let's take his short stories for example, despite their technical brilliance, some just didn't work that well for me in an emotional level, and I point that out. Of course, I wish I can have the opportunity to be more honest with other artists.

This is pretty much a befuddling dilemma. Ultimately, it is something both parties, the artists and the audiences have to work upon.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Anais Nin - Delta of Venus

So... a few while ago, I was reading DELTA OF VENUS, a collection of erotic short stories written back in the 40s by French author, Anais Nin. Stop snickering, this is serious literature, not smut, nor porn. Amazingly, I cannot remember most of the actual plots in the short stories, I guess it's because everything were pretty much erotic stories, so all of those sex scenes just kinda mixed and blurred in my mind, becoming one whole pool of, er, sex scenes. However, they aren't the kind of rubbish you read in, say, adultfanfiction.net or something, nope, they are all well-written, poetic stuff, which unsurprisingly made critics hail her as the finest examples of female erotica.

Reading this is kinda like watching a porn film, but imagine a porn film that is well acted, has something of a plot (no generic 'random pizza guy accidentally walking into couple having sex and gets to join in', or 'regular bloke meets sexed up new neighbour', or 'two chicks who are seemingly normal friends become naughty after having a raunchy conversation' stuff) and has an arty feel, where the characters, while going at it, will pause suddenly and convey a range of complex emotions upon their faces that would bag them Oscar nominations, accompanied by deep and sensitive voiceovers. Yeah, it's tasteful, it has lesbian stuff too, I fell asleep reading it, hey, when you are assaulted by one sex scene after another, you'll feel numb too.

On the other hand, there's a 1995 film directed by Zalman King based on the book. The entire film is actually on Google Video. I haven't seen it though, but you can check it out yourself below:

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