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My Short Films

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Swifty Comments About Tropfest 2006 Results And Also Its Scandal.

All right, the results for Sony Tropfest 2006 is announced! (Check out my recap of the event here, which will help you know which film is which) So here are the winners:

FIRST PRIZE
Film: Carmichael and Shane
Director: Alex Weinress and Rob Carlton
State: NSW
Prize: QANTAS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
1ST Prize Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

Swifty's Thoughts: It's the crowd-pleaser of the night, and made with very low budget, but like many good short films, its success lies in the storytelling. Leaves a really deep impression. I wonder whether all single fathers of twins will do the same to their kids after watching this.

SECOND PRIZE
Film: Burst
Director: Juliet Lamont
State: NSW
Prize:
2ND Prize Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

Swifty's Thoughts: Like I said before, this is a beautiful, heartwarming short film, so it's deserving of a prize. I even thought that this would win the first prize too.

THIRD PRIZE – TIED

Film: The Story of Bubble Boy
Director: Sean Ascroft
State: NSW

Film: Fishy
Director: Dale Sidney
State: VIC

Swifty's Thoughts: One that makes you laugh, one that disturbs you. I personally prefer Fishy over Bubbleboy, but then, Bubbleboy is good with its lyrical, rhyming voiceover narration.

COINTREAU WOMEN IN FILM AWARD
Film: Goggles/Last Stop
Cinematographer: Katie Milwright
State: VIC
Prize:
Cointreau Women In Film Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

Swifty's Thoughts: I think this is a new award to reward the female filmmakers. Not sure. Among Last Stop and Goggles, I liked Last Stop more, but that's because my memory of Goggles is rather hazy.

SONY FOUNDATION YOUNG TALENT AWARD
Film: Pacific
Actor: Harry Greenwood
State: NSW
Prize:
Sony Foundation Young Talent Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

Swifty's Thoughts: The scenery in Pacific is incredible. And it is a film with heart, just that I wasn't too taken in by it. But yeah, it's a good film.

BEST MALE ACTOR
Actor: Rob Carlton
Film: Carmichael and Shane and How Many Doctors Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?
State: NSW
Prize:
Best Male Actor Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

$3000 cash
Presented by NICOLE KIDMAN

Swifty's Thoughts: Well, Rob Carlton appeared in two films, one won the major prize and the other won 'Best Comedy', and then he himself won the acting awards for both films he was in, definitely a great night for him. Although my lady friend was more like 'What???? That wasn't acting!!!' Er, well, maybe he made things seemed so effortless that we forgot it was acting? Although in truth, I was more taken in by the acting from the guy in Fishy, and the two guys in Silencer.

BEST FEMALE ACTOR
Actor: Belinda King
Film: The Sister
State: NSW
Prize:
Best Female Actor Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

$3000 cash
Presented by NICOLE KIDMAN

Swifty's Thoughts: Was rooting for the woman in Burst, but then, I remembered Belinda King was simply splendid as the pissed off sister in The Sister, and managed to have all audiences rooting for her as the film went on. So good on her!

BEST COMEDY
Film: How Many Doctors Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?
Director: Marie Patane
State: NSW
Prize:
Best Comedy Trophy
Presented by DINASOUR DESIGNS

$1500 cash
Presented by STREETS

Swifty's Thoughts: It's pretty damned funny.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Film: Silencer
Cinematographer: Tonu Huu
State: QLD
Prize:
Best Cinematography Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

$1500 cash
Presented by KODAK

Swifty's Thoughts: Shot like a stylish and intense Hollywood thriller with high budget, Silencer does have pretty freaking good cinematography.

BEST SCREENPLAY
Film: Applause
Writer/Director: Michael Noonan
State: QLD
Prize:
Best Screenplay Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

$1500 cash
Presented by STELLA ARTOIS SCREEN

Swifty's Thoughts: Yeah, it's pretty witty. And it also helped that it was in a foreign language!

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Film: The Story of Bubbleboy
Composer: Hylton Mowday
State: NSW
Prize:
Best Original Score Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

$1000 cash
Presented by SONG ZU

Swifty's Thoughts: Like I mentioned in yesterday's recap, The Story of Bubbleboy really had some great editing.

BEST EDITING
Film: Fishy
Editor: Seth Lockwood
State: VIC
Prize:
Best Editing Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

$1000 cash
Sony Vegas+DVD software package valued at $949
Presented by SONY MEDIA SOFTWARE

Swifty's Thoughts: Yeap, Fishy is totally disturbing, and intense, and insane, and a psychothriller wouldn't work without great editing.

THE TROPICANA AWARD
Film: The Sister
Director: Belinda King
State: NSW
Prize:
The Tropicana Award Trophy
Presented by DINOSAUR DESIGNS

$1,500 cash & coffee for a year
Presented by the TROPICANA CAFE

Coffee machine & beans
Presented by LA CASA DEL CAFE

Subscription to Sydney Morning Herald OR The Age for 1 year (valued at $350)
Presented by SYDNEY MORNING HERALD or THE AGE

Dendy Cinemas Gold Pass (valued at $1,500)
Presented by DENDY CINEMAS

Swifty's Thoughts: I have no idea what's the Tropicana award for, but good on her. Gives hope to all people who film stuff via Mini DV... like me.

But here's something, one of the short films, Janos Zuzmara's Snakepit, was disqualified from Tropfest after being exposed for being a cheat when viewers voiced out its similarity to a 2004 short film called Snakeman by former Victorian College of Art student, John Inglis. Then, it was revealed that Zuzmara and Inglis are actually THE SAME GUY! And yes, Snakeman was aired before back in 2004, meaning that this short film wasn't made specifically for Tropfest. Although Snakepit IS a re-edited version. (More information of this can be found in this article)

Being a filmmaker myself, I am just as tempted as this guy to succeed in festival circuits. And what can be better than having your own film shown at the biggest short film festival in the world? And having your films judged by the likes of Toni Collette and Guy Pearce? (Or even receiving an award from Nicole Kidman?) However, I really can't see the satisfaction of winning something like this via cheating, I mean, just look at the consequences he has to face now, will people still believe in him when he will be remembered as the guy who cheated in Sony Tropfest 2006? And the screening of his short film meant that some other short film that was probably more deserving had lost its opportunity because of this. Which is quite sad.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Swifty's Adventures In The Sony Tropfest 2006

The Sony Tropfest is said to be the biggest short film festival in the world, cos' of the massive number of audiences watching the chosen finalists during the festival. Sixteen finest Australian short films, broadcasted simultaneously to 130 000+ people from all over the nation. (I wonder whether we can get a tenth of that number if such an event is held in Malaysia) I went to the last one last year and was definitely mesmerized. Yet my joy was slightly dampened by the fact that I was alone back then (Guestblogger Justin had to visit his aunt and cousins).

I went again last night for this year's Tropfest, this time with a lady friend, Chings (Guestblogger Justin, being the president of the Japanese club, had to show the new Japanese exchange students around, I guess cosmic forces from the universe are preventing him from attending Tropfest). And the following are photos I took while everyone was getting ready for the show. Unlike Sydney (where the festival was cancelled for the very first time due to a HEAVY downpour, those poor folks... check out Konrad West's account here, or Ed Cooke's, or Ju:Femaiz's, there were numerous livejournal users talking about it too), Perth's event was pretty uneventful (it drizzled abit, but that was it). Here are some photos I took during the event (click for larger versions). The Tropfest signature item of the year is a bubble, thus all contestants have to incorporate a bubble into their works. Some make it obvious, some just mention it subtly.

Sony Tropfest 1

Sony Tropfest 2

Sony Tropfest 3

Sony Tropfest 4


And here's the video I shot whilst Chings and I were on our way to Sony Tropfest.

Anyway, due to Sydney's cancellation, the awards presentation, which is usually held after the broadcasting of the short films, was cancelled as well. And until now, the winners have yet to be announced. Darn. Anyway, here are my thoughts on each of the sixteen short films shown last night. Some spoilers included at my comments.

APPLAUSE

Summary: Struggling to find motivation, office worker Werner Brim is confronted with the most unusual situation, replacing the couch and coffee table in his office is a live audience, and they want to be entertained. My Thoughts: Pretty amusing. Imagine working in an office, with a live audience watching you, cheering when you, er, finally get to do something. I like the how sweeping and inspirational music score was playing while the audiences were cheering enthusiastically when the guy finally started making phone calls, over-the-top melodrama, until they found out his actual job. Funnier cos' the voiceover is in some foreign language.

GOGGLES

Summary: Seven year old Billy encounters a couple of bullies on his way to the pool. My Thoughts: Unfortunately, due to the fact that I reached the venue rather early, and waited more than an hour and a half for Tropfest to start, I was feeling rather tired when this short film was showing, and I think I might've missed huge chunks of the dialogue, and the plot itself. It has something to do with the guy speaking out against the two chicks who were taunting him or something, but I can't remember their exchange. Good acting by the kids though.

TOUGH CROWD

Summary: A petulant little girl proves a tough crowd for a tireless mime artist. My Thoughts: The petulant little girl is played by a grown man. Which makes things really funny (and gross, like the obscene gestures 'little girl' does when unimpressed by the mime artist's amazing tricks), originally feeling rather exhausted, I was entirely rejuvenated by this particular short film.

THE STORY OF BUBBLEBOY

Summary: In a stab-happy world, a sad outcast wrestles with his demons. The Story of Bubbleboy is a film about being trapped in the past and redeemed by the future. My Thoughts: No, this has nothing to do with the Jake Gylenhaal film, the short film's told in a voiceover, and it's entirely rhymed, which gives it a Dr Seuss-like feel. The guy wraps himself with bubbles, and it's funny. But I'm particularly taken in by the music, especially the one when the credits were rolling.

CARMICHAEL AND SHANE

Summary: A single father has a unique approach to raising his two-year-old twin boys - pick a favourite. My Thoughts: Co-producer, co-director, writer and actor Rob Carlton did this film with his two twin kids (I assume the kids are his, since they all have the same surname). And it's absolutely funny like hell. Using the rule of economics to raise kids, rather having a definite winner and a loser than to have two losers. It's one of the crowd favourites of the night.

FISHY

Summary: A perfect Christmas dinner is wasted on a picky snapper with impossibly high standards. My Thoughts: If seeing a wacko applying lipstick on a DEAD frozen snapper, putting jewelries on it, and then forcing food on its agape mouth does NOT disturb you, I have no idea what does. I think this psychothriller/drama's pretty damned impressive.

GLITCH

Summary: Tim has a problem. The house he lives in no longer obeys the law of logic. At times like this, there's only one man who can help. My Thoughts: Great editing made this film really quirky and weird, where the guy's clothes just change in different shots, and other different weird things happening in the house. All because he opened a letter with attachment. The man who could help is some guy called Norton. Pretty witty stuff.

SILENCER

Summary: A secret rendezvous. A loaded gun. A most unexpected arrival. Nobody said it was easy offing your best mate. My Thoughts: ... and that's because thought bubbles are appearing behind both of your heads. Filmed like a suspenseful action thriller, the crazy confrontation between the two gun-wielding men were made pretty funny because they could see, well, the thought bubbles behind their heads.

CARNIVORE REFLUX

Summary: In a lifetime, the average meat-eating human will consume 10 cows, half a tonne of fish, 760 chickens, 37 sheep, and 42 pigs. My Thoughts: Also told via rhyming voiceover narratives, this really amusing animated dark fantasy has a bunch of meat-eaters gathered together to eat meat. And it's all kinds of meat, like, ah, dinosaurs (stegosaurus sandwich! diplodocus tail!), dodos, gorillas, dogs etc etc, creatures are hunted down to be eaten by a bunch of meateaters. Then they just started puking those stuff out, and all their previous meals just reincarnated and ran away. Kinda gross too, but great.

LAST STOP

Synopsis: Even the single act of taking public transport seems to be fraught with peril these days. Especially if you're from somewhere else. My Thoughts: A guy left his bag in a public transport. Everyone else in the tram wait patiently to spring into action. Full of tension, and good acting from the entire cast.

PACIFIC

Synopsis: On a lonely beach, a chance encounter with a fisherman is the key to a young man letting go of his past and embracing his future. My Thoughts: Dramatic. Beautiful cinematography and scenery, very good acting by the main guy, yet somehow, it didn't move me like it should, perhaps not enough emotional investment was given for the guy. I guess. But still pretty good.

THE SISTER

Synopsis: Amelia finally stands up to her sister, and discovers its a piece of cake. My Thoughts: Could be a biopic by the filmmaker. But this seems like the one with the lowest budget, but worked well because of good acting and interesting storyline (entire thing takes place in a dining room, where a girl is growing increasingly annoyed with her annoying angelic and patronizing sister and the guy the sister wants to set her up with).

HOW MANY DOCTORS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHTBULB?

Synopsis: Rosie visits the local medical centre for a routine check-up. Unfortunately, it's anything but routine. My Thoughts: Chick has to open her legs for the doctor (Rob Carlton, in his second short film of the night) for examination, then things got increasingly awkward when the doctor's lightbulb went off, and he asked other doctors to help him fix it, while the chick has to remain there...

SNAKEPIT

Synopsis: Australia, two guys, a small room, 63 deadly snakes... only one man at home. My Thoughts: I assume this is a documentary. Seeing a snake devouring a mouse is disturbing, and well, the screams and wails made by the cameraman were pretty damned funny, but I think would've reacted the same way if I were put in the same situation. Being in a small room with 63 deadly snakes, man.

A ROOM WITH AN ASKEW

Synopsis: A room askew and a meal that may never happen. My Thoughts: I think this might be made via stop-motion technology, with models and stuff. And its technical accomplishments are pretty damned impressive. However, the entire piece is rather, ah, abstract. A weird room with weird shit happening, and a dude trying to eat, only to have more weird shit happening. Has a pretty dark and morbid feeling.

BURST

Synopsis: To forgive is to set yourself free. My Thoughts: This one is absolutely beautiful, and is my bet to win the big one (or at least an acting award for the actress). A woman and her young son (daughter? can't tell) seeks her estranged elderly father, only to be driven away. Then the child ran to his/her grandfather's home again, and this time, the old dude blows bubbles out of the door, and er, damn, I suck at describing it, but it's seriously pretty heartwarming and awesome. Hell, I choked a little during the ending when father and daughter reconciled. But bubbles were utilized beautifully in this film.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Predictions for Oscars 2006

this Yuna cosplayer is excited about the OscarsYes, I did say that I was going to make my predictions a day before the Oscars, but considering that most awards events are already over, there's really nothing that can affect my predictions anymore (note: you always need to worry when a supposedly hot favourite for a particular award loses momentum towards the end, this has happened many times before). Last year, I was so blinded by my love for Sideways that I made some costly errors in my predictions.

Right, so let's begin. After the Oscars, I'll revisit this entry and see how many I've gotten correct.

Best Picture

This year is difficult. All nominated films are good films, but I don't have a personal favourite amongst them. They were more like films I appreciated more than I like. But Brokeback Mountain (my review here) will most likely win, despite the media making it seem as if Crash would upset it. I like Crash (my review here), and I think was probably more entertained by it than Brokeback Mountain, but Brokeback will win.

Prediction: Brokeback Mountain
Preference: None. I don't have a particular favourite this year, which is a rarity. (I used to root for a particular film for this category during the past few years, them being Sideways, the three Lord of the Rings films, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, American Beauty etc.)


Best Actor In A Leading Role

It's Heath Ledger versus Philip Seymour Hoffman. One can say that Heath did better cos' his entire performance came from his own imagination whilst Philip had the real life Truman Capote (my review for Capote is here) for reference. But not everybody could pull off Truman Capote that well. Philip's the hot favourite, he'll win.

Prediction: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Preference: Philip Seymous Hoffman (well, it's time for a character actor to get his due)

Best Actress In A Leading Role

Felicity Huffman would have a chance if Transamerica's box-office grosses were more than 1.5 million. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. So Reese Witherspoon will mostly definitely win this one for Walk The Line (my review for it is here, where I also made a bold prediction that she would win too).

Prediction: Reese Witherspoon
Preference: Reese Witherspoon

Best Supporting ActorThis Yuna cosplayer SHOULD be my mascot

Unfortunately, I haven't seen Syrania, so I wouldn't know why George Clooney's the hot favourite here. But since he's most likely rewarded for this than writer or directing Good Night And Good Luck (my review here), he'll win it. I prefer to see Matt Dillon winning it (to think that a guy who was once in There's Something About Mary, a comedy classic IMO, mind you, winning an Oscar is mindblowing), or Paul Giamatti, since the guy was robbed of a nomination for Sideways last year.

Prediction: George Clooney
Preference: Mat Dillon or Paul Giamatti

Best Supporting Actress

I haven't seen Junebug, so I don't know how good the much-lauded Amy Adams' acting was. But I think Rachel Weisz will most likely win this one for her role in The Constant Gardener (my review here).

Prediction: Rachel Weisz
Preference: Rachel Weisz

Best Director

Many predicted that Ang Lee would win for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon back in 2000. But Steven Soderbergh scored an upset victory for Traffic. I doubt an upset will happen again. Yay, let him be the first Asian director to win this!

Prediction: Ang Lee
Preference: Ang Lee

Best Animated Film

I've yet to watch Howl's Moving Castle. And I am torn between Wallace and Gromit (my review here) and Corpse Bride. It is most likely that I would like Howl's more than these two, but I guess Wallace will win it. But speaking of Tim Burton, I am briefly reminded of a conversation two days ago at the uni cafetaria, when me and two other students of the postgrad diploma course ran into this (sorta weird) bald Chinese dude. He seemed more interested in speaking to Catherine from the exotic and mysterious Peru than me, which annoyed me mildly. But this part of the conversation stuck out most to me:

Bald dude to Catherine: Tell me, what do you think of Magical Realism?
Me: Aha! Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges?
Bald dude (turns to me): No, I meant Tim Burton.
Me: Oh.
Prediction: Wallace and Gromit
Preference: Hard to say. I'm not rooting for either Wallace and Gromit or Corpse Bride (mostly because of its downer of an ending, bah!)

Best Foreign Film

Most said that it's most likely a fight between South Africa's Tsotsi and Palestine's Paradise Now. I have seen neither. Er... Roger Ebert predicted Tsotsi, but more people seem to be talking about Paradise Now, so I'll go with the latter.

Prediction: Paradise Now
Preference: None. Didn't watch any of the nominees.

Best Documentary

Again, I haven't seen any of the nominees. But sleeper hit March of the Penguins will most win this.

Prediction: March of the Penguins
Preference: None.

Best Original Screenplay

I like Good Night, and Good Luck for being so effective despite its simplicity (my review here). But Crash will most likely win (which makes Paul Haggis the winner for the second consecutive year).

Prediction: Crash
Preference: Good Night, and Good Luck.

She is sickeningly adorable, no? Why are you think of Tammy of NYP when you have her?Best Adapted Screenplay

Brokeback Mountain will win. Easily.

Prediction:
Brokeback Mountain
Preference: Brokeback Mountain

Film Editing

The Constant Gardener's fast and rapid cuts mesmerized me. The nominees were pretty conventional.

Prediction: The Constant Gardener
Preference: The Constant Gardener

Art Direction

King Kong was visually spectacular (my review here). King Kong will win.

Prediction: King Kong
Preference: King Kong

Cinematography

Good Night, and Good Luck and Brokeback Mountain have pretty good chemistry. Superhero films like Batman Begins won't win. Memoirs of Geisha got too much negative reviews to really win a single Oscar. Much have been said about The New World, but so little people have seen it that I doubt it'll get anything either. I'll go with Good Night, And Good Luck. I would like to shoot a black and white film as pretty as that.

Prediction: Good Night, And Good Luck
Preference: Good Night, And Good Luck

Sound Mixing

King Kong. Definitely King Kong.

Prediction: King Kong
Preference: King Kong
Forget Tammy of NYP, cute Yuna cosplayers mean much more!

Sound Editing

Actually, if King Kong deserved more Oscar nominations than just the technical ones, but never mind

Prediction: King Kong
Preference: King Kong

Original Score

You hear the Brokeback Mountain score everywhere nowadays.

Prediction: Brokeback Mountain
Preference: Brokeback Mountain

Original Song

Neither of them were memorable. And I didn't see Hustle And Flow. It'll be funny if it wins though.

Prediction: In The Deep from Crash
Preference: It's Hard Out There For A Pimp by Hustle And Flow

Costume Design

Pride and Prejudice vs Memoirs of Geisha. Neither films I've seen, but my personal disdain for Geisha has me rooting for Pride and Prejudice.

Prediction: Pride And Prejudice
Preference: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (it has some good costumes)

Makeup

Er, hard one, I'll assume that they'll try to award George Lucas one last time. So I'm going with Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith (it has good makeup, see poor old Ani after he got burnt, HAH)

Prediction: Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith
Preference: Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith

Visual Effects

King Kong. Easily.

Prediction: King Kong
Preference: King Kong

Swifty Continues Scheming About His Upcoming Masterpiece While Preparing For Sony Tropfest, A Film Fest.

People care more about Tammy and not me? How long is she going to dominate Technorati? Tammy this, Tammy that, NYP Tammy this, NYP Tammy that, blah blah. Aaaargh! Calm down, the Great Swifty must calm down. Suppress my jealousy, suppress! I must forgive Tammy for stealing my thunder.

This is the part where someone will say "dude, if you're tired about Tammy NYP, then why in the blue hell are you talking about?".

Well, I don't know, I just love contradicting myself. It's a little something you do if you have a self-deprecating sense of humour despite being a massive narcissistic hunkilicious hunk.

Now, how many Aussies are going to the Sony Tropfest this Sunday? Seems like a lot, including this animator/illustrator chick whose work got nominated. I'm definitely going. It's a short film festival showing the finest short films of the year in Australia, beamed nationwide. This annual event is usually pretty damned popular, held at this pretty large field, where everyone could bring their own food and drinks + a rug so that they can have picnics while watching the films. (I wish there will be a day when such events can be held regularly in Malaysia with resounding success, I feel somewhat sad that this seminar about indie filmmaking held last week had pretty lukewarm reception... seven speakers and fifteen audience members is kinda bad, why can't people love movies more?) I didn't post about it last year, but I'll be doing it this year (and also keep an eye on others chronicling this event). Watching good short films motivates me to do better.

It was yesterday when the tutor of Screen Productions 2 was showing the Best Drama of last year to us, and it was a psycho character drama of sorts about this cleaner woman who works in a train station, living a boring mundane life where she has to repeat everything everyday while suppressing her personal frustrations. Then she has some kinda hallucinations of some little girl, so she started chasing this little girl into the toilet, and the little girl locked herself in a cubicle. And then the cleaner woman screamed "stop hiding inside!" and the girl was like "you're the one who is inside!" (i'm obviously paraphrasing, the film itself should sound better) Pretty deep and intense stuff. Abstract, but deep, and intense. Some good shots. And Amelia, main actress of my short film Forced Labour is in it too (in a cameo, in a very feminine role! ... and I noticed that I spoke about her thrice in three days, if you people still haven't watched my short films, you oughta be ashamed of yourself, GO WATCH IT NOW)!

Then the Best Documentary's about a stripper who happens to be an artist. Think her name's Alia Leadebrand (according to my notes), and it's rather educational despite being only five minutes long. I mean, we get a glimpse on her business, the people working with her, and all those stuff. Since I'm doing a mockumentary, it is necessary for me to draw more inspiration from other documentaries.

Of course, to cram a story as massive as what I've intended would've been rather ambitious, but I'll be working on the screenplay for quite a while. Here's a sample conversation with Justin that will give you all an idea what kinda of story I actually have in mind for my upcoming short film. (to those who haven't read my site before during the past few days, here's what I wanted to do on my short film)

"I'm going to screw up people's expectations, make them think that it's just some silly little slapstick mockumentary that's trying to be oh-so-intelligent, then it will immediately shift gears and become something rather poignant, thought-provoking and most of all, POETIC. It'll be stylish like Wong Kar Wai's stuff, YET a MOCKUMENTARY!" - The Great Swifty To Justin
I can't help but realize how awed I am with my own lofty ambitions. There was a time when I didn't place film students in high regard, feeling somewhat annoyed that they were studying what I've wanted to study for years and not appreciating what they have, or display the kind of passion, or knowledge I have for films. To understand my oh-so-godly great knowledge for films, here is another sample conversation I had with Justin whilst suffering through Shunji Iwai's April Story. A critically-acclaimed film that neither of us could really 'get'. It's aesthetically-pleasing, but er, NOTHING HAPPENS at all in the film. Or perhaps some STUFF did happen, but it couldn't generate a single ounce of feeling from me. Maybe I was missing something. This is strange considering that I am a massive Shunji Iwai fan, I declared Love Letter as one of my ultimate fave Japanese films, and was awed by the poetry displayed by the All About Lily Chou Chou.
Justin: Man, what was the name of the actor who played Bill in Bill and Ted?

The Great Swifty: ... Alex Winter.
Pardon me, this site is pretty much a lovefest for myself, so that readers of mine can understand why The Great Swifty calls himself The Great Swifty. Er, where was I? Ah, yes, film students. Right, they became so engrossed with the technical aspects of filmmaking that they might actually lose their genuine passion for films (well, it is a personal belief anyway, and I'm not saying that ALL film students are like that, just many of them), or are so desperate to 'express their feelings' in their short films that they somehow alienate their audiences with sheer pretentiousness. As for me, well, my short film should be able to ENTERTAIN myself, and hopefully entertain my audiences. I do not think that films is just a medium for entertainment, it can be more than that, of course, it's just that I wish there are more short films that can attempt to entertain (while being deep and thoughtful at the same time). Just some personal thoughts. What do you people think?

And speaking of entertaining short films, I've recently fallen very much in love with this 2002 short film by Australian-based Nassiem Valamanesh called 'Little Noel Wants To Fly', which was the basis for the idea I got for my upcoming short film (where characters seem to interact directly with the audiences, hence a mockumentary-feel). I've seen his other work called My Beijing Friend on ifilm.com (I tried to search for it, but couldn't access the page), which, in my opinion, wasn't as good as 'Little Noel Wants To Fly'. But it left a deep enough impression for me to immediately recognize Nassiem's name when I watched 'Little Noel Wants To Fly' nearly a year later.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

To Direct or Produce? That Is Swifty's Question.

Professional Development in Screen Production is an interesting unit for third year film/media students who really want to get into the business. Therefore, one has to choose between different modules that can help sharpen their craft: cinematography, directing, producing, sound editing, editing etc.

Each module will last only for half a semester, therefore one is supposed to choose two modules for the entire semester. Being a postgrad student, I was stuck with the directing module since it is taught by my supervisor, and she just wants to keep an eye on me and the other three. Whether I want to do any other module during the second half of the semester is entirely optional.

After directing (which is merely about theoretical approaches and such about directing people), I have 'directing actors' (real practice where I get to work with real actors) and 'producing' to choose from. For one wanting to get a job, producing should be a more logical choice since it overlooks the business aspect and the organizing of the entire filmmaking process. Keeping things under budget, setting up a schedule, ensuring that the script actually 'works' etc etc. After all, the producer is usually the one representing the film company/sponsor, and he has to make sure that the film being made is 'marketable', and that the ones involved in the film will not screw up, spiral things out of budget etc.

Since I was pretty much a one-man-crew when directing the past two short films, I was more or less the producer of my own works too (... since I DID fork out my own cash, so no, I wasn't crediting myself merely to assuage my ego). But taking the producing module might perhaps assist me better in organizing things like that better (I foresee myself not having a real crew that soon), and possibly more useful in trying to get a job.

Yet directing actors would help me improve one of the weaker aspects of my filmmaking skills. If one have seen my previous Forced Labour, one could see that I was unable to really direct my actors in emoting. All I could do was ask them to pose, and fight, or smoke, and then using fastpaced, rapid cutting to conceal the shortcomings in this aspect (basically, speed up the pace of the film so quickly that people will think of it as a 'cool' film without noticing the performances that much).

I was incapable of directing my actors into conveying more complex emotions. It's not strange, imagine you are my main actress, and you hear this from me (this is what happened when directing the last scene, the 'flashback' of Forced Labour).

The Great Swifty: All right, (points at a certain direction) Your poor husband has just gotten shot, bang bang, and he's lying on a pool of blood, DEAD. I want you to look entirely devastated, yet your character is too cool and emotionless to show it. Yeah, therefore only your eyes can display your anguish.

Amelia (my main actress): Er, hmmmm. (frowns)

The Great Swifty: Okay, just think of Infernal Affairs, Tony Leung's reaction when Anthony Wong was tossed off the hotel and fell onto the taxi. See the range of emotion upon his face that he was struggling to hide, the pain, the anguish!

Amelia: But I've never seen Infernal Affairs.

The Great Swifty: Oh well, I know, I'll just let the camera run, and you can try all kinds of emotions you can, and I'll take the one that works best.
So, now you know what a difficult time Amelia went through. I was crazy to ask a first-time actress to emulate, ah, the guy who happened to win the most number of Best Actor awards in Hong Kong film history. I'm sure that wasn't the way to direct actors either. So taking the 'directing actors' module would've been useful for me.

Hence my dilemma, should I take the 'directing actors' or 'producing' module? I was conflicted for a while, before I was struck with a sudden realization. I have a degree in marketing and literature, and that should have already helped me acquire SOME skill sets I need as a producer. By being a business student, I am capable of approaching things from a business point of view, and also organizing and working in a group environment, and being a literature student and lifelong diehard film fan, I've read and written more than enough to be able to know what sort of screenplay would work or not (after all, in my opinion, it'll be difficult for a producer to try to correct one's screenplay when he or she doesn't even know that much about screenwriting and films in general, hm).

There were times when people would wonder why I would study business, literature and films when they are seemingly so different from one another, and what can I get from doing all these? Although it had been my plan all along to be more diverse and versatile, that no matter what, these three will somewhat complement each other in certain situations (useful for indie filmmakers like me who have to produce, write and direct?), time will tell whether I am right or not.
The Great Swifty to his mom: Hah! You can't blame me for being so multi-talented!
Perhaps I sound too idealistic and optimistic in this entry, and one can simply snort and say 'HAH, he doesn't even know the way society works, real world isn't supposed to be like this! Just another dreamy filmmaker who doesn't understand that one has to toil and work hard to achieve what he wants!'. I may not have spoken about the possible pitfalls and the bad aspects of the route I am taking, but it does not mean that I'm entirely ignorant to them (I tend to roll my eyes when someone tells me things like 'you sure about all these? Showbiz ain't that easy, yo'. I felt that my intelligence had been insulted), or impractical to the point when I think I can immediately be invited to Hollywood to make a big-budget summer blockbuster, or win the Oscars, or sweep festival awards. It's just that I need to keep myself going with my boundless enthusiasm (along with my fiery competitive spirit, hah!), instead of just being entirely jaded and then worry about my possible failure. Being practical is good, but pessimistic? Nah.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Swifty Pitches Idea Of His Upcoming Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Mockumentary

Her name is Merina, and I believe she is Vietnamese, living in New York or something. She has written a book, or writing a book, not sure.The Postgraduation Diploma in Media Production course in Murdoch University is a rather strange course, anyone undertaking this course will have to go through a crash course to learn stuff within a year which normal undergraduate film students have to learn in three years. Basically, the first semester will be me, going through classes like Screen Production 1 and 2 SIMULTANEOUSLY (this shouldn't be done if you were an undergraduate), the Screenwriting unit, and a Directing unit, so that I can produce a short film during the second half of the year.

Including myself, there are only four people (supposedly five, but the guy is perpetually missing, and the other three in the group are 1) Anne, an orange-haired Australian woman who is married and wants to do a documentary 2) Catherine, a girl from Peru who wants to write and direct a gothic, angsty film 3) Pam, a fellow KLian who is into photography and wants to make a documentary too) doing this course, and we all work under one supervisor, whom we have weekly meetings with every Tuesday mornings. And yesterday was the very first meeting/seminar we had, where she showed us the work of last year's Postgrad Dip group.

I'm sure Merina is desperate to see my film masterpieces tooIt was a short film. About an Australian girl who went to live in Toronto (although the film was OBVIOUSLY SHOT IN PERTH), and stayed with a Canadian standup comedian (who performed in empty nightclubs, although I'm sure it wasn't the director's intention for the nightclubs to be empty). Some sort of attraction bloomed between the two, but the girl didn't choose him in the end, and she reconciled with her estranged mom on the phone.

The sound editing and mixing were rather bad (it's a tricky part, that's why I covered my short films with music all the time), the establishing shots were jarring, and unconvincing (shots of some famous Toronto buildings, including the CN Tower, won't make me believe that the film was shot in Toronto, puh-lease, when everything else felt sooooo Perth-like). On paper, this is a story that would've worked, since it was somewhat similar to the classic HK film, An Autumn Story, the leads were reasonably attractive and charismatic, and yes, they could act. It had more to do with the filmmaker herself being unable to make an effective enough short film for me to feel anything (characterization was iffy, some subplots were pretty 'huh?' since you never knew WHY she was in bad terms with her mom, just a scene of her not answering her mom's phone, and then screaming at her mom via the phone etc.)

Thus I was more than motivated when I saw it. I am a twisted human being who is desperate to prove myself better than anybody when it comes to creative works (I picked up writing because a girl who used to be good at writing in primary school snorted at the fact that I was into reading, thus I wanted to 'surpass' her, unfortunately, she gave up writing during secondary school...). Unlike Justin, knowing that I myself was better than my peers will never be enough, I'm too egoistic, too narcissistic, I want MORE people to witness my greatness. And this is my MAIN SOURCE OF ENERGY when it comes to writing and making films (or even maintaining this site, let's face it, my DAILY LINKS which everyone tend to OVERLOOK are actually more up-to-date than many tech sites or popular blogs in Malaysia, I was already introducing EGOSURF more than a month ago before everyone started playing with it today).

Hence, my increasing enthusiasm and motivation had driven me more to make my short films. During Screen Production Lecture, when shown last year's best short film in class, a beautifully shot tale (the film's bathed with golden sunray etc.) that happened to be rather cheesy (poor girl angst about her dead boyfriend, had some flashbacks of him and then killed herself and saw the ghost of her boyfriend taking her away). My main motivation is to do something even better. I'm THAT competitive, why am I always such a relentless self-promoter? It's all for the competition.

Merina looks fab in black and white, no?And today was the funnest of them all, during the Professional Development In Screen Production, everyone was asked to pitch their film ideas that they want to develop next semester. Not many went out to do so, but I absolutely didn't let go of this opportunity, thus I stepped in front of everyone and delivered my pitch.

The Great Swifty: I want to do a mockumentary that takes place in a post-apocalyptical future, when the Internet is entirely gone, and a girl has to go on a Lord of the Rings-style quest to restore the Internet to the masses (just because she wants to communicate with her boyfriend via Internet again). She'll have a documentary filmmaker and her little brother, who would've been an Internet hacking genius if the Internet had existed accompanying her in the quest. It'll be This Is Spinal Tap meets Alphaville.

Someone: What's the budget?

The Great Swifty: Ah, it's going to be pretty low. I intend to use as little special effects as possible. Just cheesy B-movie style ones, the most I would go with would be something from the old Dr Who shows.

One of the tutors: So, is the boyfriend going to be in the film?

The Great Swifty: Yeap. In one of those generic emotionally-charged endings. (note: I went into details, but I won't reveal it in this site) It's a satire where I make fun of our increasingly profit-driven society, and also people's dependence on the Internet. Oh, and the main girl happens to know kung fu.

And that was it. I earned some applauses and laughter, some people seemed to like the idea, and yes, I will most probably be channeling what I wanted to do with Aisyalam (a noirish Malay-language sci-fi film that had to be shelved) into this project of mine. Hopefully I can do some smaller projects while preparing for this big one.

Merina would've worked well in my films. I guessBut being the overambitious mad genius I am, the fact that I wanted to do a mockumentary (a mockumentary is a fake documentary), I even went for a documentary class today. Lots of deep stuff were discussed by the lecturer.

Documentary Lecturer: It is a creative treatment of actuality, according to John Grierson, father of documentary! It is more accurate than merely calling it a factual, realistic approach applied especially to film or literary work, or a reconstruction and reenactment of another time and place for a current audience, a graphing of history through cinematic image and taped sound. But it is mediated reality, not holistic reality!

The Great Swifty: Whoa. Deep.

Documentary Lecturer: According to John Searle, it is a condition of the adequacy of a precise theory of indeterminate phenomenon that should precisely characterize that phenomenon as indeterminate, a distinction is no less a distinction for allowing for family of related, marginal, divergent cases.

The Great Swifty: OMFG. I'm so going to post this on my site today.

Then we were shown 'Hotel Of Dreams', a Senegalese documentary by Danish filmmaker Helle Toft Jensen, a tale of a Europeanized Senegal dude who built a hotel in his village only to suffer when it got poor business, and also unintentionally alienated other villagers. I don't remember watching that many documentaries besides, er, the Michael Moore ones, and Tupac Lives, so it was interesting for me to view something that was, well, lower-budget. Whole thing was only an hour, but I made a mental note on copying whatever I could for this upcoming mockumentary of mine. If you are interested to read more about 'Hotel of Dreams', you may check out this article/review.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Swifty's Thoughts And Predictions About Hong Kong Film Awards Nominees

Well, being the top-rating site in Technorati that is related to 'Asian Cinema', I guess it is necessary for me to voice out my thoughts and predictions about the upcoming Hong Kong Film Awards 2005, which will be announced on the 8th of April (more than a month after the Oscars).

Best Film

Seven Swords
Perhaps Love
The Myth
Election
Initial D

I predict that Perhaps Love will sweep the awardsComments:
I can't help but feel disgusted with this category. Isn't this supposed to be the top prize of the awards show? Then why the hell is some crap like The Myth nominated for 'Best Film? I would rather have something like Crazy N The City (a surprisingly fabulous film) or 2 Young (a film that is affecting despite Jackie Chan's son being in it) in its place. Initial D is a fun film, but not the kind of film to win awards. Seven Swords (which I never got to see) had lukewarm reviews, thus it's more or less between the musical romance Perhaps Love and the triad drama Election. Despite being a lifelong Johnnie To fan, I do not think that Election is one of his better films (it pales in comparison to the likes of PTU and The Mission, and I take Infernal Affairs 2 over this anytime), in fact, I was rather underwhelmed by it. As for Perhaps Love, it WAS Hong Kong's entry for the Oscars (it never got nominated though), therefore I assume they probably like this more. So I'm going for Perhaps Love.

Best Asian Film

Ke Ke Xi Li, China
Hauru no ugoku shiro / Howl’s Moving Castle, Japan
Three Times, Taiwan
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Korea
Be with You, Japan

Comments:
This is unbelievable, but I have yet to see a single nominated film (even Howl's Moving Castle). So I'll take a wild guess and go for Ke Ke Xi Li.

Best Director

Tsui Hark (Seven Swords)
Peter Chan Ho Sun (Perhaps Love)
Derek Yee Tung Sing (2 Young)
Johnnie To Kei Fung (Election)
Andrew Lau Wai Keung & Alan Mak Shiu Fai (Initial D)

Comments:
Tsui Hark is unlikely to win, neither will Derek Yee Tung Sing (when he had won last year for the much superior One Nite In Mongkok). Initial D is amazingly stylish, but it wasn't that long ago when the two directors have just won their awards for Infernal Affairs (okay, it was kinda long ago), they won't reward the award to a film that doesn't have much of a chance to win Best Picture. Johnnie To had just won two years ago for Running On Karma, so I'll go with Peter Chan Ho Sun, who hasn't done a feature film since the much-lauded classic Comrades: Almost A Love Story nearly a decade ago.

Vanessa the hot babe is absolutely blown away by my fantastic skills in predicting the awardsBest Actor

Aaron Kwok (Divergence)
Tony Leung Ka Fai (Everlasting Regret)
Andy Lau Tak Wah (Wait 'Til You’re Older)
Simon Yam (Election)
Tony Leung Ka Fai (Election)

Comments:
Aaron Kwok won the Golden Horse award last year for Divergence, but winning the Golden Horse doesn't mean that he's a lock for this. But he should be a favourite. Andy Lau was good in the schmaltzy Wait Til' You're Older, but it wasn't his best work. Tony Leung Ka Fai, who won back in 1991 for Viva La Rose (I think), got nominations for two films, Everlasting Regret and Election. Simon Yam won't really win since his role in Election didn't challenge him much. Thus far, the most lauded performances were Aaron Kwok's and Tony Leung's (in Everlasting Regret). I'll go for Aaron Kwok since he was in a much flashy and showier role. People would love to let this Hevenly King complete his comeback and help more in the Hong Kong box-office in the future. (winning an acting award will make him more legit, and thus marketing his future films will be much easier than Tony Leung's) Too bad neither Takeshi Kaneshiro nor Jackie Cheung were nominated for their performances in Perhaps Love.

Best Actress

Zhou Xun (Perhaps Love)
Karena Lam (Home Sweet Home)
Sammi Cheng (Everlasting Regret)
Sylvia Chang (Rice Rhapsody)
Karen Mok (Wait 'Til You're Older)

Comments:
As much as I like Karena Lam. And as much as I've once rooted for Sammi Cheng, the former won't win while the latter's era is over. Sylvia Chang has won before in a pretentious sappy melodrama whilst Karen Mok will always remain underrated. Zhou Xun's performance in Perhaps Love was a tour de force. She'll win it.

Best Supporting Actor

Alex Fong (Drink·Drank·Drunk)
Hu Jun (Everlasting Regret)
Liu Kai Chi (SPL)
Wong Tin Lam (Election)
Anthony Wong (Initial D)

Comments:
I'll be somewhat pissed off if Anthony Wong wins again. If he does, it'll be the 45305305830583053439624727272 Best Supporting Actor award he wins from the Hong Kong Film Awards. Alex Fong was weird as a flamboyant triad leader (I've gotten used to see him in cool manly roles). Wong Jing's dad, Wong Tim Lam's nomination was probably just to honour the veteran. Liu Kai Chi's not really a big-name actor, but I would like to go for him. If I really have to predict someone, I, unfortunately, will predict Anthony Wong, but I'm rooting for long-time TV actor Liu Kai Chi.

Best Supporting Actress

Zhang Jing Chu (Seven Swords)
Teresa Mo Shun Kwan (2 Young)
Su Yan (Everlasting Regret)
Karena Lam (Ah Sou)
Maggie Shiu (Election)

Comments:
Go Karena Lam. I've only seen 2 Young, and Election, both Teresa and Maggie's performances were solid but unspectacular, so I'll stick with Karena Lam. Hah.

Best Screenplay

Aubrey Lam & Raymond To (Perhaps Love)
Derek Yee Tung Sing & Chun Tin Nam (2 Young)
James Yuen Sai Sang, Jessica Fong & Lo Yiu Fai (Crazy N' The City)
Cheung Chi Kwong & Susan Chan Suk Yin (Wait ‘Til You’re Older)
Yau Nai Hoi & Yip Tin Shing (Election)

Comments:
Among these five, Crazy N The City and Perhaps Love are standouts. But I think Perhaps Love will get it.

Best New Director

Mathew Tang Hon Keung (Before Twenty…. Before Too Old….)
Kenneth Bi (Rice Rhapsody)
Stephen Fung (House of Fury)

Comments:
Didn't see Rice Rhapsody and Before Twenty. Stephen Fung was competent with House of Fury, but lacked the flair he showed in his debut work. I'll still go for him.

Best New Performer

Fiona Sit (2 Young)
Isabella Leong (Bug Me Not!)
Annie Liu (Ah Sou)
Michelle Ye (Moonlight In Tokyo)
Jay Chou (Initial D)

Comments:
Hong Kong is desperate for a new box-office king, and how else to encourage one than to award Jay Chou with this award? Face it, even if he does nothing but farting throughout Initial D, he'll still be awarded. All right, seriously, he was better than expected (sure, he was wooden, but the role in the film never expected more from him)
vanessa the hottie actually wants to take photos with me

Best Cinematography

Venus Keung Kwok Man (Seven Swords)
Peter Pau (Perhaps Love)
Peter Pau (Wu ji / The Promise)
Cheng Siu Keung (Election)
Andrew Lau Wai Keung, Lai Yiu Fai & Ng Man Ching (Initial D)

Comments:
Perhaps Love is a beautiful film. Ah, the scene of Zhou Xun and Takeshi Kaneshiro embracing under the falling snow owns them all.

Best Film Editing

Angie Lam (Seven Swords)
Yau Chi Wai (Divergence)
Wenders Li & Kong Chi Leung (Perhaps Love)
Patrick Tam Ka Ming (Election)
Wong Hoi (Initial D)

Comments:
The editing in Initial D was mindblowingly good. It's unlikely to win, but I'll still root for this.

Best Original Film Score

Kenji Kawai (Seven Swords)
Peter Kam & Leon Ko (Perhaps Love)
Joe Hisaishi (A Chinese Tall Story)
Lo Tayu (Election)
Chan Kwong Wing (Initial D)

Comments:
Long-time Studio Ghibli collaborator, Joe Hisashi had always been great, thus his compositions were one of the reasons why I wanted to see A Chinese Tall Story. I'm not sure, I haven't seen Seven Swords, while the score in Election and Initial D didn't leave much of an impression. Eerrrr, I'll go with Peter Kam and Leon Ko for Perhaps Love. Again. (I'm foreseeing a Perhaps Love sweep in the awards show)

Best Art Direction

Eddy Wong (Seven Swords)
Yee Chung Man & Peter Wong (Perhaps Love)
William Chang Suk Ping (Everlasting Regret)
Bill Lui Cho Hung (A Chinese Tall Story)
Tim Yip (Wu ji / The Promise)

Comments:
The Promise is shitty, but I'm sure everyone would try to do something to award it.

Best Costume / Make Up Design

Poon Wing Yan & Shirley Chan (Seven Swords)
Yee Chung Man & Dora Ng Li Lo (Perhaps Love)
William Chang Suk Ping (Everlasting Regret)
William Chang Suk Ping, Bruce Yu & Lee Pik Kwan (A Chinese Tall Story)
Tim Yip & Kimiya Masago (Wu ji / The Promise)

Comments:
Yeah, The Promise again. Films that suck can always get away as long as they are big-budget.

Best Action Choreography

Lau Kar Leung, Stephen Tung Wai & Xiong Xin Xin (Seven Swords)
Lee Chung Chi (Divergence)
Jackie Chan, Stanley Tong Kwai Lai & Richard Hung (The Myth)
Donnie Yen (SPL)
Yuen Wo Ping, Yuen Shun Yi & Ku Huen Chiu (House Of Fury)

Comments:
Donnie Yen for SPL. Despite what my friends said, I was amazed by the fighting scenes.

Best Original Film Song

"Perhaps Love" (Perhaps Love)
Composer Peter Kam
Lyric Yiu Him
Sung by Jacky Cheung

"Endless Love" (The Myth)
Composer Choi Jun Young
Lyric Choi Jun Young & Wang Zhong Yan
Sung by Jackie Chan & Kim Hee Seon

? (Wait ‘Til You’re Older)
Composer Peter Kam
Lyric Andy Lau Tak Wah
Sung by Andy Lau Tak Wah

"Drifting" (Initial D)
Composer Jay Chou
Lyric Fang Wen Shan
Sung by Jay Chou

What Swifty post can live without a Vanessa picture?? (2 Dragon Reloaded)
Composer Joe Lei
Lyric Joe Lei
Sung by Ronald Cheng

Comments:
Perhaps Love by Jackie Cheung. Although Jay Chou is unlikely to lose.

Best Sound Design

Steve Brugess & He Wei (Seven Swords)
Kinson Tsang (Perhaps Love)
Kinson Tsang (A Chinese Tall Story)
Roger Savage Wang Danrong & Roger Savage (Wu ji / The Promise)
Kinson Tsang (Initial D)

Comments:
Kinson Tsang for Initial D. The roaring of engines. Vroom vroom.

Best Visual Effects

Peter Webb (Seven Swords)
Wendy Choi & David Tso (The Myth)
Eddy Wong & Victor Wong (A Chinese Tall Story)
Frankie Chung Chi Hang, Don Ma Wing On, Cecil Cheng Man Ching & Tam Kai Kwan (Wu ji / The Promise)
Eddy Wong, Victor Wong & Bryan Cheung (Initial D)

Comments:
I'll go for Initial D. The Promise sucks. Even though I'm sure the committee will view its crap special effects as a historical achievement despite it cartoonish bulls that look even more cartoony than the ones in Lion King.

Swifty Reviews 'Just Like Heaven'.

Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven
I watched my DVD of 'Just Like Heaven' a day after Valentine's Day, early in the morning, when I had just struggled out of bed, and was desperate to warm my frozen heart with a cheerful romantic comedy (I spent Valentine's Day alone, doing nothing but write a poem for someone who was rather far away), and any long-time readers of this site should know by now, I am a sucker for romantic comedies, and knew pretty well that this is a film that will most likely cheer myself up.

Yet there is one thing I have to say about supernatural romances, with the exception of Ghost (... okay, maybe there's Corpse Bride too), I don't recall any other major human/ghost romances from Hollywood that actually leave a deep impression, much unlike Hong Kong, when during the 80s and early 90s where films from this particular genre were everywhere, and pretty much regarded as classics of their own (Chinese Ghost Story, Happy Ghost, My Wife Is A Ghost, and countless other Hong Kong films which English titles I don't know come into mind. Hell, I even recommended 'My Left Eye Sees Ghost' as one of the perfect HK Valentine's Day films), perhaps it has to do with the fact that in Hong Kong, these supposed romantic comedies which started out wacky and crazy would usually become poignant and bittersweet, where we audiences can't help but lament the fact that regardless of how hard they try, our protagonists will never overcome such a major obstacle of one being actually dead, where the ending is usually never entirely happy, with the ghost heading off for reincarnation, and the hero seeking solace from meeting someone who looked entirely like the ghost (damn I hate cop-out endings like that).

By not giving too much of this particular film, I will just say that Just Like Heaven is a much harmless and fluffy film without much poignancy (well, at least not as poignant as its Hong Kong counterparts). It's pretty much a high concept romantic comedy like 13 Going To 30, which works like most romantic comedies, except more gimmicky. The gimmick of this film, long revealed by this film's trailer, is that Elizabeth's (Reese Witherspoon) a ghost, but like the ghosts in Sixth Sense, she didn't even know that she's a ghost, she was just a hardworking young doctor who got into a horrible car accident. David (Mark Ruffalo) is a depressed dude (whose reason of depression will not be revealed in this film) who rented Elizabeth's apartment after her accident, only to be haunted by him.

Initially freaked out by this meddlesome, control-freak of a ghost, he, like all protagonists of romantic comedies, gradually fell in love with her. But how can things work between those two when one of them happens to be a ghost? Unfortunately, I had already revealed much of this film in one of the paragraphs above.

Mark Ruffalo, who seems to be in most romantic comedies these days as the chick's love interest (he tends to appear in films that usually serve as a star vehicle for the female star) is likable as the main guy, while Reese Witherspoon is once again, well, Reese Witherspoon in a romantic comedy. (you won't see her displaying the sublime Oscar-nominated acting skills she did in Walk The Line in this much lighthearted fare) And Jon Heder, in his first role since Napoleon Dynamite (since seeing this film, I've been trying to convince everyone that Ligers do exist), is here too! Albeit in a very minor role with barely more than two or three scenes (despite the trailer trying to convince us otherwise). Jon Heder's funny here, but then, his role as a spiritualist is not something someone can screw up easily anyway, I won't mind seeing him in much complicated roles, and I'm rather surprised to see that he ain't actually an ugly guy after all (... this sounds wrong). Director Mark Waters was responsible for Mean Girls, a film I hold fondly in memory more because of whom I was watching it with than because of the film itself, who had managed to make a nice-looking film (it's flooded by beautiful sunlight, nice scenic view of San Francisco etc), and viewing some deleted scenes in the film, I noticed that he actually managed to avoid some mistakes other directors who have made with such a film (a scene where Elizabeth was flying around a park was thankfully excised, along with a scene where hero was tearfully voicing how much he missed the absent heroine to his best bud)

There is not much I can say about this film. Fans of romantic comedies will enjoy it even though this film has a rather disappointing ending (it was draggy for no apparent reason at all than for us to see a generic rom-com type scene where the hero and heroine are angsting and longing for each other). But other than that, it doesn't break new ground, nor blow anyone away, it's just an average movie that's only for entertainment.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Screenwriting workshop. An idea for a new short film?

this hot babe seriously wants to see my future film projectsAnd thus, classes have finally started. During the screenwriting workshop, when each person is supposed to develop a screenplay that he or she will be working on throughout the entire semester, I started pondering about the numerous stories and ideas I had in mind that I could try developing so that I can attempt to shoot it during the second half of the year. (I'm currently doing Postgrad Diploma in Media Production, just finished my Degree in Marketing and Literature last year, a weird combination indeed).

According to the class tutor, to have this work as a story that can impact its viewers, it has to have a protagonist viewers can sympathize with, a conflict to add to drama and an antagonist to prevent viewers from reaching its goals. My two previous short films (A Boring Story and Forced Labour) didn't really follow this formula that much as they are mostly more like mood pieces, but I do agree that to have a short film work more effectively, I have to stick with something as conventional as this.

Seriously, she is probably smiling at the thought that Malaysia's favourite son is going to show her his upcoming masterpiece film projectIt was difficult for me to just simply adapt something written by Justin (since the ones he she is practically begging me to finish my short film as soon as possiblehad written are definitely not what my lecturer/course supervisor is asking for), hence I sifted through my memory banks to find the one great idea that can work for this situation. Something that can separate me from the others. I needed to draw ideas from others, thus I started my surroundings.

Looking on my right, a Peru girl who now lives in Australia, I saw that she has written some tale of angst and gloom about some girl who was perpetually angsty and gloomy and was always plagued by nightmares. It was going to be a tale about how she would BEAT this angst.

Doesn't really help me much.

Looking on my left, I see a tale about the difficulties of cultural barriers in a foreign land, the isolation, the separation, a poor angsty girl coping with all these. It was a tale about a girl trying to overcome these difficulties!

Hence, I nodded to myself, and launched into another story about an angsty girl, alas, it ended up being a story about a girl, but not exactly an angsty one. And yes, I was drawing ideas from my Blogosphere tale which SOME people just didn't realize was a SATIRE, which reinforces my feelings that many people just don't read between the lines, and stories are just stories, just like movies are just movies, never deeper, never any meaning behind anything. Right, here's the synopsis I came up with:

This is a story that takes place in a post-apocalyptical world, in the near (but unspecified) future when the internet has collapsed entirely. Miyuki, a normal young girl, who is unable to communicate with her boyfriend due to the lack of internet goes on a heroic quest to return internet to the world. But standing in her path are the shadowy figures of the mega corporation which have controlled the entire world by taking control of the internet by themselves and allowing only those with massive amount of money to use it.

With only her younger brother, Dexter, who would have been the greatest internet hacker in existence if the internet was still around, and her neighbour, Ed, who is an aspiring filmmaker desperate to shoot a documentary (and happens to be secretly in love with Miyuki), by her side, she and her two faithful companions have to brave evil assassins, massive robots and large armies to reach the headquarters of the megacorporation to confront the evildoers. Will this serve as an inspiration for the people of the world, who were almost driven insane by the loss of the internet? Will this begin an uprising against the megacorporation?

The entire story will be told like a fable, with voiceover narration. Dialogue between characters will be kept to a minimum. Stock footages and sound effects will be used for the supposedly epic sequences. It will be shot in black and white to generate a noir-ish atmosphere. So that I can get aw

The style of this film is influenced by Godard's Alphaville and numerous other low-budget B-movies, although the budget is going to be lower.


It looks promising. If I can pull this off.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Swifty Reviews 'Casanova'

Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller in Casanova
The role of the title character in Casanova was chosen by Heath Ledger after he did Brokeback Mountain. It was a logical choice, if I were an actor, I would want to be in a much lighthearted and cheerful fare after doing something as depressingly angsty as Brokeback too. The director of this film is Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom, whose better-known films are Chocolat, Cider House Rules and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, so I guess he is quite a serious director (although the aforementioned works do possess certain hints of humour)

Casanova is pure farce, a comedy of mistaken identities and romance that is unlike most other films by Lasse Hallstrom. When it was released in the United States last year, it received rather lukewarm critical and commercial reception (it barely made 11 million dollars in the box-office). I'm not surprised, this is an unspectacular movie that is so cheery and airy that you will most probably forget about it once you've walked out of the cinema, and this is the complaint of many reviews I've read. It lacks substance, it's not Oscar-bait, Heath Ledger didn't deliver another Oscar-worthy performance etc. blah blah blah, but I don't really think Casanova is trying to achieve either of those.

Many film critics walk into a movie hoping to be impressed, and by not doing thus, they end up disappointed, and unsurprisingly pen a less than glowing review of said film. I walked into the cinemas not expecting to be impressed by this film, just to be entertained, and I have to say, I was entirely entertained by it, there wasn't a single second when I was bored, this is a crowd-pleaser with a happy ending (which... was another complaint of some film reviews). With veteran cast members (Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt, Lena Olin etc.) who went into scene-stealing mode, probably having a good time too, I guess.

Casanova is famous for his exploits as a lover, to the point when his name has entered the English language, and is used to suggest someone being a promiscuous lover, and yes, back in the 18th century, there was indeed a man called Giacomo Casanova, a writer and adventurer whose extraordinary life and adventures are recorded in his memoirs. And apparently, his adventures are pretty damned interesting, according to Wikipedia entry, and Roger Ebert's review, he was a magician, an author, a lawyer, the secretary to a cardinal, a politician, a violinist, invented the national lottery, was a spy and a diplomat a magician, quite amazing, really, and I doubt all of these can be fit into a movie. This one is mostly fictional, and it's about Casanova (Heath Ledger) being at the height of his, um, powers (at the age of 25), and then genuinely falling in love with a woman called Francesca (Sienna Miller).

It all happened when was he was ordered by the ruler of Venice, the Doge, to marry someone in order to escape Inquisition, thus he engaged himself to Venice's most famous virgin, Victoria (Natalie Dormer), who is actually much naughtier than she looks. Giovanni (Charlie Cox), who lived right opposite Victoria''s, and had been in love with her for years, was absolutely pissed, and challenged Casanova to a duel. But his sister, Francesca, took his place instead since he wasn't that good with a sword (a bladed one anyway) and fought Casanova to a draw. Revealing herself as a beautiful woman, Casanova was immediately in love (and realized that he made a mistake with asking for Victoria's hands), but Francesca was a modern feminist who despised everything Casanova stood for, and was already engaged to a fiance she had never met Paprizzio (Oliver Platt), a marriage of convenience arranged by Francesca's mother (Lena Olin).

Casanova tried to win her heart by referencing to feminist literature that Francesca seemed to like, not knowing that those books were actually written by her using a pen name. Hilarity, mistaken identity, romance ensue.

Like I said, this film is entertaining, it's not amazing, it's not mindblowing, it's just a harmless romantic comedy which might be better to watch on the small screen. Filmed in Venice, this is a very beautiful-looking film that made me want to go to Venice immediately (... it IS one of my dream places). I was briefly discouraged by Luciano Visconti's pretentious Death In Venice that it was a dark and gloomy place (well, it IS about some dirty old man lusting after some young boy and then dying in the end anyway without the young boy ever knowing about his existence), but bloody hell, the Venice in Casanova just looked stunning. Oh, and the pics below are from Flickr, not from the film itself, couldn't find a good enough screenshot to prove what I'm saying.

Venice at nightVenice during the day


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