Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tropfest 2006 Results. My thoughts on this year's '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:

Monday, February 27, 2006

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).

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Predictions for Oscars 2006

Yes, 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.

Thinking of going to Sony Tropfest to find inspiration for my own short film

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.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

To Direct or Produce?

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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pitched an idea for a post-apocalyptic sci-fi mockumentary

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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

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).

Watching 'Just Like Heaven' alone, the day after Valentine's Day

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).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Screenwriting workshop. An idea for a new short film?

And 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).

Sunday, February 19, 2006

CASANOVA by Lasse Hallström

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)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pondering about my future film projects.

It was a discussion I had with Guestblogger Justin a few days ago, about a personal dilemma, a fear that the flames of creativity that burnt brightly within my soul had completely been extinguished, my ocean of genius had been sucked dry by a vortex of disappointment (that occurred when two consecutive short films I wanted to make had to be shelved, or most likely scrapped, after some cast members were unable to make any commitments).

Steven Spielberg's MUNICH is one of his best

Eric Bana and Ayelet July Zurer in MunichDespite my initial ravings of War of the Worlds, in retrospect, it isn't one of Steven Spielberg's finest films (it's one of those rare films reviews of mine that I would want to rewrite if I am allowed to). Yes, it has some stunning set pieces, some decent acting, some chilling scenes, but basically, Spielberg was just recycling his bag of tricks, and despite the fact that I had tried defending the film ending (what happened to the aliens in the end was based on the book anyway), it was still a pretty bad ending (what happened to Tom Cruise's son was NOT based on the book). And after King Kong, I can't help but realize how shallow an experience War of the World was when compared with Peter Jackson's near-masterpiece.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Fanfiction Debate

In many ways, this is a continuation of Guestblogger Justin's rebuttal against Robin Hobb regarding the merits of fanfiction and Mike Peterson's entry about Copyleft. Although I have retired from fanfiction, and there are many things about fanficdom that annoys me (check out my rant here, here, and here), I don't really condemn the mere action of writing fanfiction, and I think I will be pretty flattered if people do write fanfiction based on my creative works instead of screaming bloody murder like Robin Hobb did. Sure, if people tries to make money via this fanfiction, then it might be some sort of copyright infringement (but you can most probably get away with it if you were Neil Gaimnan), but otherwise, I think it works well from a marketing point of view, and from a creative standpoint.

Anyway, for years, I've been a member of this fantasy writers mailing list (join by sending blank email to fantasy-writers-subscribe@topica.com) and I recently got into this interesting discussion about fanfiction with numerous of its members. Will use different colours so that it'll be easier for y'all to differentiate us.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

WALK THE LINE, fine performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter in Walk The Line I am rather ignorant to the details of Johnny Cash (and June Carter)'s history, and I don't remember ever listening to any of his songs before (well, I might heard some when my dad was playing it, but I don't think dad was that into Johnny Cash either), thus I can only evaluate the biopic based on whether it could hold the attention of any viewer who does not know anything about its subject. After all, I'm not anal when it comes to judging the factual accuracy of biopics (I can never understand why some people like condemning biopics that much just because they aren't accurate enough, yeah, I'm looking at those who complained about 'A Beautiful Mind' not examining John Nash's homosexual tendencies), it's more about whether it 'works' for me as a film.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Why did I watch Big Momma's House 2?

Martin Lawrence in Big Momma's House 2Do not believe what everyone else said, Big Momma's House 2 is absolutely a necessary sequel. There is a need to see Martin Lawrence going around dressing up like a fat woman again, and then bonding with three children in your typical Hollywood manufactured warmhearted scenes that are similar to the gazillions (pardon me, but what is bigger than gazillion? Bazillion?) of inoffensive family films out there. There is a need to see Big Momma in a bathing suit to understand the true concept of being grossed out (yeah, look at left pic to suffer what I suffered).

Six years have passed since Big Momma's House 1, but I am sure absolutely everyone's hungry for this sequel, since it did make 28 million during its first weekend in the United States despite everyone pretending to complain about it before its release. And hey, I'm sure we are always craving for films about poor misfits teaching seemingly rich but emotionally lacking people what is it like to be a family. Hey, having a somewhat good intentioned family comedy is good for families, right? Good to strengthen family ties. Yeap. Maybe it'll work for kids, or people in their early teens, but if this is a film meant to appeal to the masses, then the crowd it will entertain will most probably be pretty small.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Recommended Valentine's Day Films Part 3: Hollywood Films

Well, this is the hardest part of my romantic film recommendation series. How can I possibly compile a decent list of Hollywood films when there are so many of them out there?? Hmm. Once again, I'll try to separate them via categories. As for the film reviews, I'm not going to painstakingly put them up, you can do your own search at Roger Ebert's, or head to Rottentomatoes. Click title for info.

Once again, I'm going more for feel-good films than the sad and tragic ones. And I'm also avoiding three hour epics, so nope, I won't be mentioning that little film about that sinking ship (... I'll probably get lynched if I do anyway). I would recommend Brokeback Mountain, but it's too depressing for V.day viewing too.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

CAPOTE, Bennett Miller's impressive film debut, Philip Seymour Hoffman's great performance

I felt disturbed when watching the biopic, Capote. Maybe it had to do with how much Truman Capote reminded me of, well, myself. Except the gay and effeminate part. Both of us are ambitious, egoistic, manipulative, charismatic, persuasive... well, the fact that I’m drawing comparisons between Truman Capote and myself in a film review should speak volumes about my ego.

Anyway, this is a biopic of Truman Capote, but thankfully, it isn't the type which begins with a childhood event and then ends with a death scene. Nope, this, like many of the recent biopics, focuses only on a pivotal event of the person's life, and in the case of this film: the six years Truman Capote spent to write the groundbreaking non-fiction book 'In Cold Blood' (he used a style which made the whole thing look like a gripping fictional novel instead of some dry report. Check out Wikipedia's entry about New Journalism) that became an international bestseller and made him, according to the film ending, the most popular writer in America.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

My Recommended Valentine's Day Films Part 2: Japanese, Korean and Other Asian Films

While compiling the list for part 2 of my recommended Valentine's Day films, which will focus on Korean and Japanese films, I was suddenly struck by a chilling realization that had never occurred to me before. Despite watching quite a number of Japanese films, there just doesn't seem to be an absolute romantic film that really stuck to me. Unlike the Koreans, whose amount of sentimental and melodramatic romantic films are more than enough to flood an entire nation and make everyone die of diabetes, almost every single good Japanese film I can remember isn't exactly pure love stories. Just thrillers, action films, psychodramas, sci-fi tales, horror tales with maybe a bit of subtle romance tossed in as a subplot.

I wonder why. Maybe it's because the Japanese are somewhat more cynical than the Koreans, hence they don't really make all those fullblown romantic melodrama the Koreans are so famous for? But then, to be fair, the Japanese television dramas are entirely a different story, I can remember most of the finer classic J-doramas I've watched over the years that are great romances, mostly those Takuya Kimura stuff. One something light-hearted and sweet? Go for Love Generation (simple love story between two yuppies) or Long Vacation (simple love story between a pianist and a girl who moved into his place). One something that will make you weep? Go for Beautiful Life (simple love story between a hairdresser and a dying librarian).

But this is a list of films, not television, and it won't be a long list like the previous one since it IS very difficult to come up with GOOD Japanese romance films (as I haven't exactly been exposed to that many of them) and I don't intend to let an entire list flooded by only Korean films. Once again, I'm aiming more for happier films, or at least, bittersweet ones, not the depressingly sad ones. But I'll be separating them via categories.

Friday, February 10, 2006

My Recommended Valentine's Day Films Part 1 - Hong Kong Films.

Well, Valentine's Day is coming, and it's up to me, the Great Swifty, to recommend to you all some of the finest romance films (in my own opinion) to watch with your loved ones, or, erm, in my case, by myself just so that you won't feel so alone. All right, it'll make you feel more alone, but hey, who gives a shit when you're watching a good movie right?

So, for the next few days, I'll be providing a list of films from different countries to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Perhaps after HK, I'll look at Japanese and Korean, then Hollywood (which, naturally, will have a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG list).

My personal criteria for such films is simple, they should be mostly romantic, sweet stuff instead of angsty tragic stuff. But then, since tearjerkers do work fine too (for couples, so they can hold each other while bawling their eyes out, not recommended for singles, who will be driven to suicide by the overwhelming angst).

These films aren't in any particular order (well, maybe from the earliest to the most recent), and I shall provide ten of them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

THE NOTEBOOK

Well, since Valentine's Day is coming in a week, I have prepared to get myself into a romantic mood by watching some romantic flicks in the past few days. Two days ago, I went with the Korean flick Il Mare (currently being remade by Hollywood with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in it) and Tim Burton's animated feature, Corpse Bride, then last night, I checked out the much talked about 'The Notebook'.

Despite having the DVDs for quite a while, I've never gotten the chance to actually view it, but to most of my female friends whom I lent the DVD to, almost none of them told me that they did NOT cry at the film. Not knowing whether I could take another emotionally-charged film about Alzheimer's Disease after being emotionally-raped by the over-the-top emo Korean film, Moments of Love (sad and tragic tale of a young woman in her 20s suffering from Alzheimer whilst her poor husband had to suffer, read Lovehkfilm.com's review here), I had always left The Notebook in my shelf.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is heartbreaking


Everything that can be said about this film in a review has already been said by most American critics here. And based on Technorati, it's been the most talked about film for the past few weeks since its victory at the Golden Globes. So what can I say about Brokeback Mountain in this review of mine to make it not sound identical to the thousands and thousands of film critics and bloggers out there? Alas I am at a loss.

Even the Malaysian Chinese media, usually stingy over its coverage on the Awards season, has spent day after day reporting on its awards haul and raining praises on director Ang Lee. Chinese newspapers haven't paid that much attention to the Oscars since, oh, right, when Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came out. If Ang Lee wins the awards for Best Picture and Best Director during the Oscars, he will become the first Asian director to ever do so, not even the legendary Akira Kurosawa had done this. Even if viewer ratings are going to be low in America, I'm sure it'll set records in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Shopaholics 最爱女人购物狂 by Wai Ka Fai


This movie is a difficult one to review, since I walked out of the cinemas with mixed feelings after seeing it. One part of me felt that I was robbed, and agreed with my sister that it was a pretty lame film since everything was so inconsequential, shallow and over-the-top silly. After all, it was just days after I've seen the old Chinese New Year screwball comedy Eight Happiness (starring Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Cheung and Raymond Wong, along with Bobo Fung, Dodo Cheng etc), despite how dumb the latter was, it was a film with heart and sincerity, the scenes between the siblings and their loved ones were affecting.

Why am I comparing Eighth Happiness with The Shopaholics? It's simple, The Shopaholics is directed by long-time Johnnie To collaborator, Wai Ka Fai. And Johnnie To was the one who directed Eighth Happiness (long before he became known for shooting his gritty crime drama and stylish triad films, Johnnie To was known for Stephen Chow movies like Justice My Foot!). And during their collaboration, both Wai Ka Fai and Johnnie To have done some great comedic gems like 'Needing You' (the film that entirely changed my perception of Andy Lau), 'Love on a Diet' and 'My Left Eye Sees Ghosts' (this film made me believe that Sammi Cheng, despite her commercial success, had always been very underrated as an actress).

I have wondered how Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai collaborated in their films, if I ain't wrong, I think Johnnie To was the one who did most of the planning whilst Wai Ka Fai would be the one directing the people on set. And The Shopaholics might have confirmed my assumptions about their collaboration. Johnnie To is the storyteller, Wai Ka Fai's the technical guy.

Friday, February 03, 2006

VIDEOS: The beautiful Green Dragon waterfall at Wuyishan & a 4-year old Chinese tea-making prodigy

Malaysia's most prolific vlogger strikes again! I've spent the entire day editing these four video clips. Basically, it's a continuation of my China vacation videos (yes, it's incomplete). All these clips were shot on the same day, but since some of the stuff I witnessed were so interesting then that I've decided split them, so you can enjoy them separately.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Video of Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner. Wong Kar Wai-style.

Haven't been able to go online for the past three days. PAINFUL! PAAAAAAAAAAAAIN!