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My Short Films

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Swifty's Production Diary: Introducing 'Girl Disconnected'

The title of my upcoming film project is Girl Disconnected. I came up with the concept and story during last semester's screenwriting class, then wrote the final screenplay few weeks ago when I was in Malaysia for the mid-year break.

A tale of unrequited love, yearning, sacrifice, and embracing lost memories, Girl Disconnected is about a girl who flew to the moon searching for her love. Accompanied by her loyal best friend, encountering numerous obstacles along the way, the journey becomes one of self-discovery and unexpected revelations.

This is my biggest production to date, with the film's running time probably being approximately 15 to 20 minutes, much longer than any of my previous works (neither of my three previous shorts are more than seven minutes long). Of course, I'm also working with a much larger production crew (crew member count for A Boring Story and Vertical Distance: 1, crew member count for Vertical Distance: 4, crew member count for Girl Disconnected: Possibly more than 10).

For such a tale, it has to be visually beautiful, hence I enlisted the help of Brian Koh, a hotly sought-after cinematographer in uni who had won numerous awards for his previous works, and Christine Busby, one of university's star producers responsible for producing this year's school advertisement and promo videos. The latter's involvement is invaluable as her expertise also lies in costume and art design, being an active member of the anime community.

For the numerous special effects sequences in the film (despite being a low budget fare, it's still a fantastical story that takes place on the moon), I had been recommended by my lecturer to get a special effects team of four (found two, still need another two) to aid me. Hopefully, they will help enhance the storytelling.

Anyway, the past week is spent mostly on preparations and assembling the production team, tweaking a little with the screenplay and meeting with some lecturers about the film. I'll be going to the University of Western Australia for location scouting (some scenes will be shot there). Watch out for the photos I'm going to post.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Swifty and Guestblogger Justin Reviews 'Hard Candy'

Swifty: After chatting online for three weeks, Hayley (Ellen Page), a (supposedly) 14 year old chick, meets up with Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a charming and articulate photographer in his thirties. Suspecting he's a pedophile, she follows him home, attempting to expose him (heh heh heh, expose, heh heh heh). Much psychological torture occurs. A game of cat and mouse begins, with the mouse constantly winning, and winning, and winning... reminding you of those Road Runner cartoons.

In a review of 'Hard Candy', Todd of Twitchfilm.net said 'the key problem lies in the way the characters are presented. This is a story about pedophilia which portrays the pedophile in a much more sympathetic light than his captor for the vast majority of the film. Hayley is so far over the top, so seriously and obviously ill that just about anyone would appear in a positive light next to her, and Jeff does just that throughout.' Heh, Guestblogger Justin was definitely one of the people who wanted to see Hayley dead too. And in an interview with Cinematical, screenwriter Brian Nelson said "I was at one screening where the chant "Kill the bitch!" came up and I was horrified."

Well, yeah, Hayley's pretty sadistic, and while what Jeff did may have been inacceptable, or wrong, Hayley's just as messed up and insane. So ultimately, there's really no one for me to root for in the film, it's just that being the sadistic, dark-natured being I am, I kinda enjoyed the methods she used to mess with Jeff's mind. But because the methods weren't REALLY that sadistic in retrospect, I ended up feeling a tad disappointed, I mean, I was expecting something like those Saw movies, where you see her forcing him to open his own stomach, reach for a key buried within his guts to escape, or maybe gouge out his own eyeballs just because the key's grafted into his eye socket or something. But nope, nothing like that. I felt just like one of those audiences who went to see Jodie Foster's Contact for aliens, only to realize that the only alien she saw was her dead dad. Gah. Now, don't be repulsed by me, even Howsy had stated in his review that he hoped the punishment she gave him would've been more hardcore.

But man, dissing Goldfrapp is not cool. For that, I can't bring myself to like Hayley. Film's pretty intense, and compelling, but it's nothing special. My appetite remained after watching the film. Might be a good lesson for sexual predators in Myspace, I guess.

Justin: I kept expecting Sandra Oh, the neighbor, to bust in at some random point and kill Haley. This would have been awesome. The correct way to end this film would be for Sandra Oh's neighbor character to have been a partner with Jeff from the beginning. No one would be expecting a female paedophile, much less a lesbian one. A SADISTIC lesbian one. Why wasn't I commissioned to write this?
Miu Miu.

Swifty: Fuck yes! Anyway, the much about the film's background can be read in Michael Guillen's entry at The Evening Class (which, I'm sure is called The Evening Class because every single entry feels educational). Miu Miu.

Watch the remixed Hard Candy trailer:




Thoughts on 'Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning', The Most Popular Finnish Film Of All Time

I downloaded a little 2005 Finnish film called 'Star Wreck: The Pirkinning' yesterday and watched it just now after reading Lainie's recommendation (interestingly, her site is starting to become a daily read for me these days).

My expectations weren't exactly high despite what Lainie said, suspecting the possibility that she might be bitterly sarcastic, and that she was just trying to drag someone else with her after facing the torture herself. But this independently-financed feature-length film, a Star Trek parody (note that it's not a spoof, but a parody), was a pleasant surprise, and good inspiration for a lot of indie filmmakers seeking non-traditional distribution methods (as in, skipping the festival circuits, or seeking desperate distribution deals from major film companies) by immediately tapping into the force of the Internet.

6 years in the making, the film itself was fun to watch, although I felt that the best parts of the film were during the first act, during Captain James B Pirk's quest to take over the world (the 'propaganda video' was GOLD!), and that the subsequent space battle was a bit too drawn out (the rest of the film was pretty much about the battle), it's still really good (and funny) stuff.

Looking at its Wikipedia entry, I got to realize what a huge impact this film had made in Finland, as it is currently the most popular film of all-time in that country with 3.5 to 4 million downloads since it was available last November!!! In addition to the downloadable versions, DVDs are for sale too, with sales increasing AFTER the film was made available on the Internet. Yes, AFTER! Both releases are under the Creative Commons license, where anyone's free to distribute the film around as long as it's non-commercial and credit is given to the creators.

Seeing this, I wonder how many indie filmmakers from Australia and Malaysia may start adopting this method of distribution. (I mention these two countries because one is where I'm mostly at in the past few years, and another is where I'm from) Of course, Star Wreck's fame wasn't gained overnight, as its first short movie was conceived back in 1994, and then there was a fanbase generated via IRC and its message board (I'm making the assumptions based on what was written in the end credits of the film), hundreds of these fans, by the way, were responsible for the filmmaking process.

So, what other aspiring/ indie filmmakers in Australia, Malaysia and even Singapore (hey, I can't leave out my own birth country, right?) are planning to do something like this? Productions like these are usually independent ones, hidden from the public view and knowledge, much unlike those huge studio productions newspapers are constantly harping about. But then, will people of these countries really support the films if it were available online? Well, I guess it's really based on the quality of the film, or whether it has any entertainment value (it doesn't have to be high art... hell, it's preferrably NOT high art. Refer to the most-viewed videos in Youtube, none of them were attempting to win Oscars).

Anyway, enough with my pondering (which will most likely spring very little answers), for myself, I am most likely going to experiment with this distribution method if I make a feature-length film that I feel can appeal to the masses (something my friend Sebastian is highly sceptical about, being the supposed artsy-fartsy dude I am, haha!). Although it's arguable that I AM already using such methods with my video blog entries and my usage of Youtube, but those are for my personal videos, not my films. For now, I'm just more about polishing and sharpening my own craft, seeing whether any of my works could be accepted by a single film festival in this world. The exposure may not be as wide as relying on the Internet, obviously, but the value of being accepted is definitely there. I doubt the new media would really obliterate traditional methods of film distribution (though it will be affected in the long run). Hmm.

Anyway, yes, go download Star Wreck here for free. Besides the stuff you see in cinemas and DVD shops, there're still lots of great stuff waiting for you to explore on the Internet. Give them a chance, otherwise your refusal to acknowledge their existence will soon make you obsolete.

Miu Miu.

(So says the Great Swifty, who is still mildly unhappy that Astro's not releasing 'Trio On A Bed' on the Internet, where's my daily dose of Carmen Soo, Amber Chia and Anabelle Kong?)

Swifty Reviews 'My Super Ex-Girlfriend' and 'You, Me And Dupree'

So, I went for a Wilson brothers (Luke and Owen) double bill yesterday, seeing the latest films they appeared in, My Super Ex-Girlfriend (this one has Luke in it) and You, Me And Dupree (this one has Owen in it). One was a film I was kinda looking forward to due to its somewhat interesting concept, but I ended up disappointed like hell, one was a film I wouldn't bother checking out (and had never heard of until its trailer started surfacing a month ago) until the previous film pushed me into watching another just so I wouldn't feel so empty. I ended up enjoying the latter, probably because it was the lesser of two evils, or probably because it did make me laugh.

Oh well, let me begin my reviews:

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

My Super Ex-Girlfriend has an interesting sounding concept, it's almost like Superman Returns with a twist, imagine Superman actually being PISSED about Lois having a fiance and a son, then decides to make her life a living hell.

That's kinda what I've expected My Super Ex-Girlfriend to be kinda like. A film that pokes fun of the usual conventions you see in the superhero genre, unfortunately, no, it doesn't do it that much. The film is pretty horrible.

While the theater wasn't empty, I've never seen a comedy where everyone was entirely silent. Can you believe it? Not a single scene in the film made anyone laugh, or chuckle, or anything. Just pure silence, I was as uncomfortable with the film as I was with the audiences. So yeah, the movie's about a regular guy (Luke Wilson) dumping a superhero (Uma Thurman) because she's a neurotic, domineering control freak and actually realizing that he loves his co-worker (Anna Faris, the Scary Movie chick).

This could've turned into a really, really funny (and witty) film, or it could've been done in a darker manner with more emotional depth, where the pain endured by a superhero is felt by the audiences as well (like what great superhero films like Spidey 2 and Batman Begins did), and we would start feeling sorry for the superhero character, hoping that she would really get together with that guy she loves. (kinda like a reverse gender Spidey film, actually, hmm)

It's not that difficult for audiences to feel sorry for a superhero character these days, I mean, come on, here's a chick who is constantly interrupted during a date to save lives, and that her superpowers are more like a burden than a gift, where with great powers come great responsiblities... oops. (you should be able to notice by now that the Spidey flicks are my all-time favourite superhero films).

However, this film has taken a different route, and the superhero character was supposed to be (kind of) the villain, a psychotic superpowered bitch bent on revenge. Even so, THAT could've been made funnier, but she merely started tormenting the guy in the last 30-45 mins of the film, and what she did wasn't even that, well, insane, or original. The megavillian character, Professor Bedlam (Eddie Izzard), amusing as he was, was somewhat unnecessary.

But anyway, the film was pretty bad (to the point which I started feeling a little embarrassed towards the end of the film, which seldom happened these days, with my much lowered expectations for such movies). Nothing about the film worked at all. Kinda sad that the film's directed by Ivan Reitman, who was responsible for the great Ghostbuster films. Even Evolution, his previous film, was more entertaining. Unbelievable?

I almost wanted to say, get Bill Murray and do a Ghostbuster 3 where we can see the new-school Bill Murray being his best emotionless, deadpan self... but nah.

You, Me And Dupree

After the disappointment of My Super Ex-Girlfriend, I walked into another hall, hoping that I wouldn't have the bad luck of seeing two bad films in a row.

Thankfully, my sense of judgement may have been affected badly by the last film, so I ended up enjoying this instead. But then, I was with a much more lively audience, where people actually laughed and guffawed through the scenes.

This film stars Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson as newlyweds Carl and Molly Peterson, whose lives are turned upside down when the best man, Randy Dupree (Owen Wilson) moves in as a houseguest. Being the type of guy who 'doesn't live to work, but work to live', and despite accidentally setting the house on fire while reenacting a scene from Last Tango In Paris, Dupree slowly gains acceptance from the initially disapproving Molly... but not Carl, who starts getting jealous as he suspects something going on between Dupree and Molly, which also adds to the frustration he has towards his evil father-in-law (Michael Douglas in a non-heroic role!), who wants him to follow his wife's surname, or get a vasectomy.

No, the film doesn't have much of a story, but at least the it's funny, and that's just what I'm looking for in a comedy. (I really don't have such highbrow tastes, really) Owen Wilson can already be funny just by being, well, himself. But the film would've have worked if Kate Hudson and most especially Matt Dillon (who plays the straight serious guy) hadn't been that funny. I mean, man, I can't even remember seeing Matt Dillon in a comedy since There's Something About Mary (now, THAT is a comedy CLASSIC!), and hell, he was the best thing in Crash!

There's not much I have to say, both films aren't really that good, but My Super Ex-Girlfriend almost made You, Me and Dupree look like a classic.

Watch the a Super Ex-Girlfriend music video with Molly McQueen:



Watch an Uma Thurman interview about Super Ex-Girlfriend by Chuck The Movie Guy:



Watch the trailer of You, Me And Dupree:



And a Matt Dillon (he's a manly man!) interview by Chuck the Movie Guy:



Read other reviews of My Super Ex-Girlfriend:
Movie Thoughts By Allison & Lisa | Razorfine | L & N Line

And other reviews of You, Me and Dupree:
The Chaotic Mind | L & N Line

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Swifty Shows Screenshots Of His Last Short Film, Vertical Distance

It's unsurprising that more and more, readers of this site are forgetting, or are even aware that I'm a writer filmmaker due to the, er, lack of films I've done. Unlike other prolific Malaysian filmmakers like Yasmin Ahmad or Amir Muhammad, two of the short films I did for fun in the past two years, A Boring Story and Forced Labour, were uploaded and viewable only on Youtube, and being short films made only for fun while I was experimenting with various filmmaking techniques (prior to actually taking a filmmaking course like I am doing now), they weren't award-winning material that indie film fans in my own country would fall heads over heels in love with, or land me in the press, or being included in anyone's favourite Malaysian indie filmmaker discussion. I am obscure, underground, still in hiding, still practicising my craft before unleashing it to public.

But anyway, just for the sake of reminding everyone that I'm a filmmaker, I'm posting up screenshots of my last short film, Vertical Distance, which I wrote and directed last semester as a school assignment, and was pretty well-received during its screening in university. Due to the fact that I haven't actually reclaim the rights for the film, I can't really upload it anywhere, or submit it to film festivals, so all you can do is just check out the screenshots (click them for more details... though not that much details were provided).

Vertical Distance Screenshot 1

Vertical Distance Screenshot 2

Vertical Distance Screenshot 3

Vertical Distance Screenshot 4

VerticalDistanceScreenshot5

VerticalDistanceScreenshot6

VerticalDistanceScreenshot7


Vertical Distance pretty much points to the height difference between the protagonists Devin and Mandy. Being shorter than his girlfriend, Devin is constantly plagued with self doubt and angst, whilst Mandy has to suffer the complaints of her disapproving and entirely quirky multiracial friends.

Things came to a boiling point during a supposedly lovely afternoon date when Devin suggested to break up... dum dum dum.

The soundtrack came from mostly Creative Commons-protected works in CCMixter, However, the opening and closing themes are by Rhapsody, a promising two-piece Jazz duo in Malaysia who had been plugged by Cyber-red and Lainie, oh, and myself too in this article of mine. They, along with their friends, also happen to be some of the rare people in the planet to have watched Vertical Distance. (aspiring filmmaker Chewxy, whom I met when I was in Malaysia, would've been one of them too, unfortunately, I forgot to hand him the DVD, it's all my fault)

Well, there you go, an attempt on self-promotion.

Anyway, this weekend, I'll be announcing my upcoming short film that I've already begun preparation on pre-production for.

Miu miu.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Swifty Reviews Pirates of The Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest

UPDATED (25/7/2006): SHIT! Why didn't anyone tell me that half of this review was missing after it was posted? THIS shows how much people actually cared about my film reviews, gee, thanks a lot.

I walked in the cinema yesterday, initially planning to see My Super Ex-Girlfriend since it's the newest release (premiering in both Australia and US at the same time), and also because it's the kind of film no one else would bother going with me. But I ended up seeing Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest (which was the kind of film someone would bother going with me) because I thought, well, since I'm in Australia, and tickets are more expensive, I might as well get something that's worth the price. Besides, due to the schedule, it was impossible for me to do any cinema-hopping (1 ticket = two films).

So, is Pirates of the Caribbean 2 a great film? Nope, but a really good one with really stunning visual effects that make Superman Returns look like a videogame. And of course, Johnny Depp returns to the iconic role which made many people in Malaysia who had never heard of his name jump onto his bandwagon.

When Pirates of the Caribbean was being made, the character of Captain Jack Sparrow was meant to be nothing more than a dashing and cocky hunky pirate (thus it was why they got Johnny Depp to be in it), but his interpretation of it was so bizarre that the character became the film, and the film became all about Jack Sparrow despite the fact that Orlando Bloom's Will Turner was supposed to be the generic 'hero' character. Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner hated it, saying that Depp's performance was ruining the film, well, not long after that, Depp was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. Deservingly.

Film would've also been considered a breakout hit for Keira Knightley too, who, prior to the film, was remembered only as the 'skinny chick from Bend It Like Beckham', or 'Natalie Portman's double in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace'.

After making a surprise 300 million dollars in the US domestic box-office (and 600+ worldwide), expectations of this film were lofty, it was expected to be the biggest film of the year, like The Da Vinci Code (review here) and Superman Returns. While the latter two are somewhat disappointing either commercially (The Da Vinci Code has made 210 million so far, only the FOURTH top-grossing film of the year, Superman Returns has only made 170+ million so far) or critically. Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest was quite simply monstrous, breaking Spider-man 1's three-day box-office record by making 132 million in its first weekend, and currently, it has already made 280 million in the US, making it the top movie of the year in less than three weeks of its release. Number 2 and 3 are X-Men 3 and Cars (review here), respectively.

This is the film that will entertain anyone, and because it IS entertaining, and does not take itself as seriously as Superman Returns (which, despite my generally positive review, is not a film I would bother to see twice) did, people flocked in droves to see it. Besides, your typical teenager would've considered Captain Jack Sparrow much cooler than some has-been superhero who wears a red spandex outside his costume, yes?

Even so, despite being somewhat family-friendly PoTC 2 is really very much the 'Empire Strikes Back' of this planned trilogy, being darker in tone, and having a cliffhanger ending. And I'm not being a geeky Star Wars fanboy (which I'm not) by needlessly tossing in a SW reference into a film review as there are many elements in this film that brings to mind 'Empire Strikes Back', like a goody-two-shoe character (Will Turner) becoming slightly less goody-two-shoe (although, from an amusing interview I read in Empire magazine, Orlando Bloom assured everyone that the transformation will not be drastic like Hayden Christensen turning into Darth Vader and killing everyone... did Orlando Bloom just dissed Hayden Christensen? Whoa, Orlando is DA MAN!), a once-villain becoming possibly-not a villain, but could still be a villain like Lando, then a new love triangle is introduced as well, but hopefully, it won't degenerate into the 'someone is actually someone's sister' plot twist.

Anyway, here are the things that I enjoyed in the film:

- 3-way swordfight.
- Kraken destroying things. Ba boom!
- Davy Jones' appearance. Cool effects. Makes Superman Returns look like a video game.
- Tortuga brawl.
- Commodore James Norrington's change.
- Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) actually gets to fight.
- Someone tying someone up to face the Kraken.
- Will Turner's relationship with Bootstrap Bill makes Will more interesting.
- Yes, Jack Sparrow
- The appearance of an unexpected old... friend in the last shot. YES!

Things that didn't work for me:

- The pacing. The first half of the film was rather meandering and slow. Although things did pick up after that.
- Cliffhanger ending... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! (okay, it worked for me, but it's frustrating!)

So yes, it's an enjoyable film. Unlike most film students, I believe more in the balance between art and commercial, enjoying a Hollywood blockbuster just as much as I enjoy an arthouse fare most of the time, not as great as I've hoped, but still more than enough to make me salivate for part 3! And Chow Yun Fat's gonna be in Part 3! Finally, he has a HOLLYWOOD HIT!

Miu Miu.

Watch a review of Pirates of the Caribbean 2: (via The Movie Blog)



Other Malaysian reviews of Pirates of the Caribbean 2:
5xmom | Viewtru | Ajay | KY | Lanatir | The Visitor | Jon Choo | The Movie Buff | Terenceg

Friday, July 21, 2006

What Danny Lim Has To Say About Swifty's 18? Meme

I've returned to Perth.

The responses to the Danny Lim's 18? Meme started couple of days ago were very encouraging, as numerous bloggers have taken the opportunity to voice what they have to think about the documentary short and the possible factors that may have contributed to this (THANK YOU VERY MUCH!). Hope this will continue!

The following is an email exchange between filmmaker Danny Lim and I yesterday, just so some of you will know what the filmmaker of this documentary himself has to say about the meme.



Dear Danny,

I'm Edmund Yeo, a student filmmaker currently studying in Perth. After the whole incident with 18? and Seoul Film Festival, I've started a blog meme few days ago in order to help spread the awareness of your documentary to as many bloggers and blog readers as possible, and I'm happy to say that many have responded by posting an entry related to your documentary.

A member in the malaysian-cinema mailing list had asked whether I've actually had your permission to start this, or, er, whether you are aware of it, and it prompted me to write an email to you as it would be rather rude to keep you uninformed regarding this meme. I hope you're okay with it.

Feel free to tell me what you think. Hope to hear from you soon.

Edmund




Hi Edmund,

The graffiti itself is a meme that was sprayed and spread without 'asking for permission'.

18? has no copyright and anyone can make copies of it and do as they wish, no permission necessary.

In this regard, what you choose to disseminate through your own blog surely requires no approval other than from yourself.

cheers,

danny




Therefore, please don't hesitate, feel free to participate in the Danny Lim's 18? meme even though you weren't tagged by me, prove to me what an idiot I was for not tagging you, the future of a nation's independent cinema lies in your hands.

Miu Miu.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ultra Blue



Hikaru Utada's Ultra Blue is out.

That is the cover above.

I actually had a very long and in-depth and descriptive review of this album worked out but my computer inexplicably restarted itself and I lost it. I'm incapable of reconstructing all of it from memory and I seem to have lost my ability to write coherently about Ultra Blue. I will do my best, so bear with me. In fact I will just say whatever random shit occurs to me.

I can only write like a music critic on select days. And this is not one of them, unfortunately. My original review had sentences like "The Utada Hikaru of First Love and Distance was a girl, but the Hikki of Deep River, Exodus, and now Ultra Blue has become a woman."

"Musically this album is a continuation of the sound on Deep River. Driving melodies, Japanese instrumentation, and Utada's distinctive vocals. It must be said that much of the material on this album actually predates Exodus, her English-language debut. "

I think there was something like that in there.

Uh, let's see:

"This is Love"...this song is um...driving, and propulsive, a great dance track.

"Keep Trying" recalls her earlier songs, from the First Love era, like "Time Will Tell"

I also wrote a great sentence about how I'd originally dissed 'Be My Last' but it had really grown on me and there was an awesome crescendo around the 3:10 minute part like "Ichiji kan aida ni..."

The crescendo is awesome.

This album is probably as good as Deep River, which had some of the best songs of all time like 'Traveling', 'Sakura Drops', 'Hikari', and um...'Traveling' is the best song ever.

Ultra Blue is really fucking good.

You should listen to or order this album somehow, like from YesAsia or Amazon.

The Great Swifty, Edmund Yeo, lost his virginity while listening to this album.

He called me at three in the morning like "Holy shit dude, I just scored with this sweet-ass Indian girl!"



Then I was like "What music was playing while this happened?"

And he was like "Ultra Blue, by Hikaru Utada. Holy shit, let me tell you about this girl Prema Ramanathan I hooked up with..."

And I was like "I don't give a shit, Swifty, tell me about the fucking CD."

And he was like "Hm, well, on this album Utada has a bunch of new songs like 'This is Love', 'Making Love', and 'Sunday Morning.' There is also 'COLOURS', which is the most emotional song of all time, ever recorded in human history, and if you listen to this song for the first time while watching the video you will probably suffer a brain embolism from the sheer emotion conveyed by Hikaru Utada's plaintive vocals, like watching leaves fall in an autumn forest."

"Swifty," I said, "I heard this CD contains 'Passion' from Kingdom Hearts 2."

"That's right." Swifty said. "This emotional ballad is even better than 'Final Distance' off Deep River. I sure hate those fucking Kingdom Hearts gamers, though. I hate how Hikki is becoming popular with dumbass kids in the US who just heard about her through gaming."

"But shouldn't the entire world know about the genius behind 'Traveling' and 'Automatic'?" I asked incredulously.

"So it would seem." Swifty said. "But in reality, no one ever feels grateful when people they don't respect like the same things they do. These semiliterate middle-school fucks shouldn't have access to the divine instrument of radiant evocation that is Hikaru Utada's larynx."

"I agree." I said. "But look on the bright side: none of them have even heard of First Love or 'Time Will Tell.' They probably think she always sings in English!"

"They haven't seen the 'Hikari' video either." Swifty reflected. "Well...at least I have Koda Kumi all to myself. Now let me finish the story..."


Miu Miu.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Evaluating The Babes of Studio Ghibli Films (Part 2)

Continuing my MUCH OVERDUE (and probably underappreciated *sob*) contribution for the Miyazaki Fest.

Go to Part 1 to read my evaluations of the female characters in Nausicaa and Laputa: Castle in the Sky.



My Neighbour Totoro


My Neighbour Totoro (1988) remains one of those rare Ghibli films that got little love from me despite it being loved by everyone and their grandmothers. Perhaps it was the saccharine sweetness, or perhaps my memories of it were marred badly by the Cantonese version. (most probably the latter)

According to IMDB, the film was originally going to feature just one girl, but because Miyazaki wanted to add more suspense in the second half of the film, and knew that he couldn't do it with just one girl, so he split them into two. And we got Satsuki and Mei. The original girl would have had the characteristics of both Satsuki and Mei, and halfway between the age of Satsuki (8 according to IMDB, 11 according to Wikipedia) and Mei (4).

By finally finding out their actual ages, I knew immediately that it's impossible for me to add them into this feature. After all, I'm supposed to be evaluating BABES, not BABIES.


Mei and Satsuki from My Neighbour Totoro


Despite thus, I think Satsuki easily has the funkiest hairstyle among all Ghibli heroines. And Mei will most probably becomes an even more deadly headbutter than Zinedine Zidane if her oversized head remains oversized after she's grown up.



Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) has only one major female character, and she's the title character. At the age of 13, Kiki may be too young for me to judge as well, although there she may not be more older than Sheeta of Laputa.

Kiki

Kiki
Overview:
Kiki is a kind-hearted young witch whose only magic power is flying on a broom, which kinda sucks because if she were more powerful, she could've exploited them for world domination and such. However, she has an entrepreneurial mind, capable of running an air courier service by herself. By acknowledging the forces of capitalism, she has a brighter future in the contemporary society compared to Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Sabrina

Or Samantha from Bewitched.

Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) from Bewitched

Or the hotties from Charmed.

The witches from Charmed

Appearances:
She's perpetually dressed in her witch garb, despite the mockery and ridicule she has to endure. That's good because she shows great inner strength and character. But bad because she's too stubborn to actually pay attention to her own looks. Being a Ghibli heroine, she has above average looks, but besides attracting the attention of nerd boy, I don't really think that she's a stunner. For now anyway.
6/10

Skills:
- Can fly on her broom.
- Can communicate with familiar/pet cat, Jiji.
- Instead of intimidating anyone like usual witches do, she is universally loved for being nice.
- Manages not to get annoyed to death by nerd boy.
6.5/10

Achievements:
- Brought happiness and love to her customers after starting her air courier service
- Saved nerd boy from plummeting to his doom. Rare Ghibli heroine who doesn't need any saving from romantic interest. Semi-hardcore.
6.5/10

Personality:
She's the kind of person your mother will simply adore, nice, kind-hearted and polite, what's not there to like about her? Of course, she has a bit of a temper, and can easily show her displeasure (when fending off the advances of that nerd boy), but ultimately, this witch is more angelic than an angel, which makes her kinda boring. But once again, anyone's parents will probably love her. People like her make me feel rather uncomfortable because you just don't feel like joking around when she's nearby (besides, she is pretty sensitive and doesn't have that much of a sense of humour)
6.5 out of 10

Overall:
Nice girl. But boring. Needs to tap into her darker side like Sheeta of Laputa did. Considering how bad she has been mistreated by some of those snobbish chicks she stumbled into, a swift act of vengeance (like kidnapping them and tossing them into a cauldron for boiling, and later mincing their meat for sale in the bakery she works for) would've made her cooler. Go to the dark side, baby, so I can love you more!
25.5/40

Porco Rosso

Whoa, Porco Rosso (1992) is definitely a grower. I started out feeling rather disappointed when I first watched it, but that was when I was thirteen, and I absolutely did NOT 'get' the story AT ALL. The subtle, understated, repressed emotions from the bittersweet romance between Porco and Gina flew RIGHT OVER my head. I didn't even know there was anything going on between them (or mebbe Gina has just a mere crush on Porco, that's all), assuming that Fio was the love interest because of the goodbye kiss she gave him... yes, I was stupid. But upon repeated viewings as I grew up, I was bowled over by the sheer greatness and subtlety of this film, how it's not just an action film but also one hell of a love story that make sappy romantics sap everytime we see certain scenes from the film.


Director Miyazaki commenting Marco's transformation: "This film was made for middle-aged men who in their youth dreamed of a pure life, faithful to their principles, but who, little by little, are transformed into 'pigs' through the pressures of working like madmen. Despite their intention to reject merely mercenary goals, they are drawn into the world of hyper-consumerism, and when they look for the purpose of their lives, they feel themselves alienated...these men live in solitude and regret."

Deep!

The two major female characters in this film are Fio and Gina, so I'll be evaluating them.

Fio

Fio from Porco Rosso
Overview:
Tomboyish, sassy gal whose sheer innocence allowed Porco to rediscover that humans aren't so bad after all, which made him overcame his self-pity and reverted back to human form after she kissed him. Talented airplane engineer.

Appearance:
She looks just like any other good-looking Ghibli heroines, but with red hair.
7/10

Skills:
- Airplane engineering skills.
- Not repulsed by Porco when kissing him.
- Seems like a good kisser.
8/10

Achievements:
- Kissed Porco. That takes guts.
- Helped Porco win the dogfight in the end.
7/10

Personality:
Occasionally annoying, but not excessively so, you can't really hate her because she is just, well, so nice. But she has everything that a Ghibli heroine would have, brave, sassy, spunky etc. I will go to hell if I diss her for this.
7.5/10

Overall:
She's an okay girl. But won't really leave a deep impression because she's no different from most other people I've met.
29.5/40

Gina

Gina from Porco Rosso
Overview:
Finally, a REAL woman in this part of the feature. After evaluating a tomboyish chick and a few preteens, I was just starting to feel dirty for myself and was really wanting to reevaluate my own sanity. Gina's the woman who loved Porco, thrice-widowed, she owns a pilot's club/ hotel and had been waiting for Porco all these while, rejecting the advances of the hunky (!!) American pilot, Curtis, who would later become a major Hollywood star. She is like the chick version of Florentino Ariza from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love In The Time of Cholera.

Appearance:
Sometimes, I feel that she might have applied a little too much make-up. But that also separates her from the other Ghibli women I've been evaluating. Highly fashionable (for someone of her time period), classy and elegant.
8.5/10

Skills:
- She sings pretty well.
- Can run a club by herself. Great management skills.
- Does not allow herself to be overwhelmed by angst despite the deaths of three husbands. Nausicaa, Sheeta and many other Ghibli heroines should learn from her.
8.5/10

Achievements:
- Selflessly inspired Fio to inspire Porco Rosso to win the dogfight.
- Owns an establishment for pilots, regardless of which side they work for, to hang out. She is like the chick version of Humphrey Bogart's Rick in Casablanca... (or Pamela Anderson's character in the Razzie-award winning sci-fi masterpiece Barb Wire.)
Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire
- Waited tirelessly for her loved one to openly love her in return, something more difficult than saving the world!
8/10

Personality:
A dignified woman who maintains an air of mystery around her. It is hard to know what she's really thinking. Charismatic and nice enough to keep visitors coming to her club everynight, while commanding their respect. But ultimately, it's her love for Porco that made her such an incredible woman, perpetually waiting for him, yet never becoming to0 possessive (look at the way she dealt with potential rival Fio). Thus she has a sensitive soul. Most people who have seen Porco Rosso will most probably want her to end up with Porco than Fio. She's the kind of woman you usually see who is an object of desire for many, but in the end, you'll know that she's unattainable because there's only one person she will ever love, and you'll rather see her happy than to possess her. Which makes things so bittersweet.
8/10

Overall:
She owns.
33/40


For the next and final part of this feature, I'll be evaluating the babe factors of the female characters from Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Stay tuned.

Trackbacks:
Quiet Bubble: Miyazaki Fest is off and running!
Quiet Bubble: Good neighbors: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Quiet Bubble: Working girl: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Quiet Bubble: A pig’s gotta fly: Porco Rosso (1992)

Related Links:
IMDB thread debating the interpretation of Porco Rosso's ending
Anime Academy Review: Kiki's Delivery Service
Anime Academy Review: Porco Rosso
Anime Academy Review: My Neighbour Totoro

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ywenna and Rhapsody

During the production of my last short film, Vertical Distance in May (interested? Read about me beginning to shoot the film, then some photos of me and my beautiful crew shooting the film, and about me beginning to understand Wong Kar Wai's methods more and more duringduring postproduction of the film), I was burdened with the fact that I don't really have any actual songwriters to do the composing for me, and I because I wanted to open myself the possibilities of submitting my short film to contests, viewings and festivals once I can acquire the rights for it end of the year from university, I couldn't use copyrighted music.

Ultimately, I gathered my music for my soundtrack from three sources, one was CCmixter.org, a place featuring Creative Commons-protected music (which I use for my recent vlog entries), one was from the flutist Arshi Tope (I was fortunate enough to see her putting up a performance in Perth city while I was shooting some scenes by myself), and then, where else but the paradise for sexual predators wonderful place for friends, Myspace?

While searching for Malaysian jazz musicians (needed something like that for the opening and closing of the short film), I stumbled upon Rhapsody, a piano and vocal musical duo whose (from their Myspace profile) 'catchy poppish tunes have jazz overtones, with Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Jamie Cullum, Alicia Keys and Antonio Carlos Jobim among their musical influences'. Yeah, after sampling their tracks, I nodded with satisfaction, added them as my friend and messaged the duo, Ywenna (the composer and pianist) and Nicole (vocalist and lyricist) for permission to use their songs for Vertical Distance. To my relief, they said yes.

So I used two of their tracks, 'Blue Skies' and 'Dizzy' as the opening and closing themes of Vertical Distance. That was nearly two months ago, I have to say that without their songs, my film would never have worked that well, especially the emotional yet implausibly stylish ending, and receive such a warm reception from the audience during its premiere last month. Since then, I've returned to Malaysia from Perth, hoping to meet with them so that I can hand them each a copy of my film.

Well, I finally got to meet up with Ywenna on Sunday (Nicole, unfortunately, was busy) at Starbucks, KLCC. If this were a generic personal blog, I would've stopped writing that much and plaster this entry with photos of myself and Ywenna. I DID carry my camera and camcorder with me during the meeting, but felt that it would be kinda awkward whipping them out of nowhere.

During conversation, Ywenna and I lamented mostly the same thing, that both of us, one an indie musician, one an indie filmmaker, might be suffering a similar fate. That we may be in working in a market that is long saturated by mainstream works, hence leaving little room (for now) for the acceptance of non-conventional creative works. With Hitz.fm, all we get are the Top 40 Billboard hits, and for Chinese listeners, well, are there that many others besides Jay Chou? Ditto with films, where all we get most of the time are Hollywood blockbusters, Hong Kong star vehicles, and Asian horror films. With the lack of variety over the years, people here grew (too) comfortable with these kinds of music and film, thus making it increasingly difficult to allow themselves the chance of exploring something else.

Will there be any room for the independent artists (I use this term for filmmakers, musicians and writers) who try to defy conventions and push boundaries? Or should they cease being unique and conform to what everyone is used to?

I'm launching into these rhetorics because I want to prepare you, my dear readers, for the works of Rhapsody, which cannot be categorized to just one genre, even though there is admittedly a tinge of jazz in all their works, their stuff isn't as conventional and boring as that. Therefore, here's a list of some of their tracks that are available for download. Note that they are all demo versions, so it ain't that clear.

1) Blue Skies
A cute and quirky instrumental track I used for the opening of Vertical Distance. It was so infectiously cheery that my lecturer bopped his head up and down whilst listening to it.
Download (1 MB)

2) Open Windows and Open Plains
Dreamy and languid song that makes you feel as if your windows are opened, and you are facing open plains.
Download (3 MB)

3) Dizzy
Ethereal and moody song I used for the ending of Vertical Distance. So powerful when coupled with the nice images of my film that a girl commented that she felt the chills (in a good way) looking at it.
Download (3MB)

Go download the rest of their songs here.

Here's a brief video of a Rhapsody performance back in May that was shot by Lainie.



They just had a performance on Saturday (15th of July) for the KL Sing Song 2006 at the KL Performing Arts Center which I unfortunately missed (too far, no transport, me live in PJ). However, there's an entry about this on Rhapsody's blog. And Cyber-red wrote about it too.

So yeap, I'm hoping that this will not be my last collaboration with Rhapsody. Look out for a possible music video that I'll be directing for them end of this year! Dum dum dum!

Related Links:
Rhapsody's Myspace Profile
Rhapsody's Blog
The Great Swifty's Myspace Profile (:P)

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Swifty Starts A Meme: Go Plug Danny Lim's 18? The Documentary That Got Axed By The Seoul Film Festival!

Update (21st of July, 2006): Danny Lim's response regarding this meme.

A few of you might have read from the news recently about the veto-ing of Danny Lim's 2004 documentary 18? at the Seoul Film Festival. If you haven't, here's an excerpt from The Sun's article:

AWARD-WINNING FILM PULLED FROM SEOUL FESTIVAL

By Llew-Ann Phang

The Sun. 14 July 2006.

PETALING JAYA: What’s behind the documentary “18?” that it had to be vetoed by the Malaysian Embassy in Seoul from being screened at the EBS International Documentary Festival (EIDF) there?

Festival organizers Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) had to close the curtains on the award-winning documentary by Danny Lim after the embassy rejected it for featuring “an anti-government political activist.”

The embassy’s choice for the festival‘s Five Nations Fair, being held from Wednesday to tomorrow, is Hisham Abdullah’s 45-minute “Songs of Change”, which tells the story of Kelantanese dikir barat activist and tukang karut Halim Yazid.

Lim, who is a senior writer with Off the Edge, said the festival director informed him of the embassy’s rejection late last week.

Lim said that even though former exiled activist and Internal Security Act detainee Hishamuddin Rais appeared in the documentary, he did not make any political statements.
And an excerpt from The Star's article.

Filmmaker baffled by decision to axe 18?

KUALA LUMPUR: Independent filmmaker Danny Lim, whose documentary 18? was reportedly vetoed by the Malaysian embassy in South Korea from being screened at a festival there, said he did not think his film would court any controversy.

Made in 2004, the documentary examines the sudden appearance of socio-political graffiti around the city. Most of the graffiti feature the number 18, while others were caricatures of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and also cartoons about the National Service and human rights.

The Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS), organiser of the EBS International Documentary Festival, had to pull the film from the festival line-up after the embassy rejected it for featuring an “anti-government political activist.”

Lim: His 2004 documentary has won several awards
But the embassy has since denied that it had any power to veto the inclusion of Lim's documentary and had only recommended some other documentaries for the festival.

Lim said he was confused about the situation pertaining to his film.

The senior writer with an English magazine said the only political activist who appeared in his film was former ISA detainee Hishamuddin Rais.

“And he only talked about the origins of graffiti, such as cave paintings,” he said. “He also talked about whether graffiti was an art form. What if I made a documentary about the breeding habits of dugong, and I interviewed a political activist who happened to be an expert in that field? Would that be approved?”


I first read about this on a post from the malaysian-cinema mailing list (which I've just joined two days ago) So far, the only person (that I know of) who has blogged about this issue is Howsy who suggested that this may be a repeat of Amir Muhammad's Lelaki Komunis Incident? (Amir's involved in the production of this film and was the one who recommended it to the fest)

The film was vetoed by the Malaysian embassy in South Korea from being shown in the film festival because it features an 'anti-government political activist' - former ISA detainee Hishamuddin Rais. The embassy later denied this and said that they don't really have the power to veto the film and all they did was recommend some other films.

So be it. I am sure they are very supportive when it comes to matters like this.

Here's some info about 18?:
"What is 18? This mysterious number is but one of a prominent crop of graffiti that has popped up around the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Sprayed at strategic urban spaces and applied with a seemingly socio-political agenda, the 18? graffiti and its like (eg "Legalize ganja", "Ada apa dengan National Service?", "Pertahankan Hak Asasi", etc) brazenly takes its place alongside advertising banners and billboards in our urban sightlines.

What does it mean? What is it selling? Why? Who did it? 18? - the documentary - attempts to uncover the mystery behind the graffiti."
The film had won the Gold Prize in the Short Film: Documentary category of the 2005 Malaysian Video Awards, and was also the runner-up in the amateur category at the 2005 Freedom Film Festival. It was screened at the Singapore International Film Festival last year, and at the Jakarta Film Festival in 2004.

It is available for download at Danny Lim's website (50MB). Or you can even watch the thing via Youtube below:





The Malaysian independent film industry is said by many to be undergoing a movement of sorts that is referred to as 'a new wave'. Many works from this country are being shown in festival circuits, garnering accolades from foreign countries that are unfortunately not noticed by our own countrymen due to the lack of media coverage.

If allowed to grow unhindered, I think, and I want to believe, that there will be a bright future for Malaysian films, and that we can establish ourselves as, in Yasmin Ahmad's words, a filmmaking hub (of sorts) that will be noticed internationally. But once again, maybe I am immature and naive, thus I believe so much in the future of Malaysian filmmaking, that viral marketing will play a major role in expanding and causing the maturation of Malaysian cinema in an international stage.

Therefore, awareness has to be raised for works that are deserving, appreciation has to be given when necessary, criticism has to be given as a necessity. I wish more people can watch 18? not because I am so blown away by its greatness that I want to share this with everyone, I have my complaints, not with the content, but more with presentation, so pampered by the (seemingly) slick production values attempted by film students in my own Murdoch University that when I first watched this documentary hours ago, I was slightly disconcerted. To me, it is not a perfect film, many stylistic choices chosen by the filmmaker is not something I agree with, I didn't like the sound mixing, I didn't like some of the framing (I couldn't see some faces clearly because of the light, and angles), and the amount of talking heads used might be too boring for those who are not used to something of such languid pacing.

A film is seldom universally loved, for everyone who lauded 18?, there will always be someone like me who picks at what is regarded as the most superficial aspects of a film, like, well, production values. Yet at least I am still talking about this film.

I am starting a meme for the first time ever. And I'm not sure whether it'll be successful. And because this meme is started by someone who has never started a meme and whether it'll be successful is suspect, I will keep things VERY simple. All you have to do is do any of the following:
  1. Post Youtube's embeddable player of 18? on your entry.Post a link to Danny Lim's site to download his film. (if you are nice, you can even start a mirror site for him)
  2. Voice out your opinions about the film , whether it is positive or negative. It can be a line, it can be a word, it can be a paragraph, it can be a fully essay, it's all up to you. No one's going to berate you for your opinions, you don't have to love the film, but at least spread it around.
  3. Tag three others to do the same.
All right, I'm tagging the following people for this meme:

Alynna
Char
Chea Yee
Chloe
Dabido
5xmom
Jolene
Kenny Sia
Kyels
Liz
Maya
Minishorts
Otto
Simon
Soo Han
Suanie
Lainie
Vincent
Wingz

It's a large number because I'm starting the meme here. But obviously, I'm sure a majority (if not all) of those above will not participate. However, if you can choose to participate even if I didn't tag you, and I will plug you all the same in return.

I'm posting a list of links under the 'Related Links' section below to every single entry that has replied to this meme if they want me to (just drop me a comment). I'm beginning with Howsy's. And to make this more effective by directing more traffic towards the following links, I will also give a brief summary what's there.

Related Links (constantly updated. Last update: 26/7/2006):

The Sensintrovert: Not Another LKT-like casualty: Danny Lim's 18? Axed From Seoul Film Festival
Howsy's entry has excerpts of the news articles from The Sun detailing this incident.

I hate to sugar-coat my words for you: This might just be about patriotism... or not.
Alynna's the first person to reply to my meme. (thanks) She chooses not to tag anyone because she believes in free will and that anyone who wants to participate in this noble cause will do so without being tagged. I hope she's right.

无聊小站:马来西亚涂鸦很低级
Wong Teck Jung's Chinese entry shows the honesty of his opinions about the documentary and he also muses about the graffiti drawn.

The Laments of a Broken Hearted Silhouette: 18?
Kyels gives an impassioned essay about the Malaysian political system and the culture that may have been brought forth from this system, resulting in what was recorded in the documentary.

CIJ: Local film withdrawn from Korean festival due to embassy's objection
CIJ executive director Sonia Randhawa: "This is a blatant example of censorship, following closely after the banning of Amir Muhammad's semi-musical documentary The Last Communist, we urge the festival to accept submissions based on quality and commitment, rather than succumbing to political pressure." (via Kian Keat)

Han is good: 18?

Fellow filmmaker Soo Han voices his dissatisfaction with the axing of the documentary and some factors that may be detrimental to the struggling indie film scene.

reduced and recycled: 18? eighteen? 0011000100111000?
Xpyred points out that the axe-ing of the documentary is a very ironic thing to happen. Someone has fallen into a well-laid trap... but who? Click to find out!

The MovieBuff: What is 18?
The MovieBuff explains the controversy that surrounds this short film.

D'Blog: 18?
Dabido has much to say about the film and this issue, providing numerous of his interpretations and thoughts on what this film was about, what the graffiti was about, and the ramifications of this film getting axed.

Little Girl In A Reverie: Danny Lim's 2004 Documentary 18? Meme
Jolene/ Jayelle tries to keep the meme alive despite her confusion regarding the whole issue, and for that, I am grateful.


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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Evaluating The Babes of Studio Ghibli Films (Part 1)

Sometime in late April, Walter of Quiet Bubble announced his intention to call for a Hayao Miyazaki blog-a-thon, which I had initially wanted to participate, until I had to suddenly take over the production of my last short film Vertical Distance (originally just the screenwriter, I ended up directing the damned thing). As I had to work on my own film for weeks, I had to miss Quiet Bubble's actual Miyazaki Fest when film blogs around the world were writing articles dedicated to the legendary Japanese director.

I first discovered Hayao Miyazaki back in 1992 when I was eight. Laputa: Castle In The Sky was the first film I've ever watched by him, and until this very day, it occupies a special place in my heart, it's unlikely that anything can supplant its position as my all-time favourite Miyazaki/Ghibli film. Laputa: Castle In The Sky definitely changed my life then, I spent four consecutive nights watching and rewatching it, too blown away by its flawlessness and greatness. Since then, I collected every single other film Miyazaki did after he formed Studio Ghibli (most of his pre-Ghibli works are too obscure for me to find, though I do own a considerable amount of them as well). He is a part of my life, through the years, from a child til today, where I have embarked upon a filmmaking path of my own.

This entry could've been a nostalgic look at the list of Miyazaki films I've seen that helped shape and redefine my beliefs and views in life, of how I grew to love Porco Rosso, of my personal indifference towards My Neighbour Totoro, of my unexplainable affection towards Kiki's Delivery Service, or my mild sense of disappointment with Howl's Moving Castle. It could even be detailed articles or reviews of these movies, where I attempt to articulate my readings and interpretations of them.

However, this isn't such an entry.

Instead of focusing on the films, I will focus on the characters of the films. But instead of doing a deep psychoanalysis upon the characters for a lengthy piece of character study, I am doing something utterly shallow by evaluating and rating the female characters of Studio Ghibli films based on their personalities ("if she does exist? Will I be attracted to her?") and looks ("yes, they all look the same, but there is something about San that makes her hotter than Chihiro...")

Enough talk (even though I know that what I'm doing now is highly admirable and worthy of praises), the numerous candidates I am evaluating for this feature are from Nausicaa until last year's Howl's Moving Castle. Female characters from Ghibli films NOT directed by Hayao Miyazaki will not be listed here.

I evaluate them based on four different categories in a point system value. From a scale of 1 to 10, I will judge their appearances, personalities, skills/talents and achievements, then adding them up for the overall score.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) has two important female characters, one being the title character, Nausicaa, and the other's the antagonist, Princess Kushana. The tandem of Nausicaa/Princess Kushana is very similar to the San/Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke (1997). one represents nature, the other represents modernization/ civilization/ industrialization, both ended up on different sides during a war, and had to cross blades. And yeah, both Nausicaa and Princess Kushana are hot in their own different ways.

Nausicaa


Nausicaa


Overview:
A question that had lingered in my mind ever since I first saw Nausicaa was, well, whether Nausicaa was wearing pants whenever she's in her usual blue military garb. I always thought that they were white pants, but as time went on, I started noticing that they might not be pants, and that they only seemed so because of the colour of her skin (which is really really fair). This means that she was actually wearing just a small skirt all these while, even when she was flying on her Mehve (the glider). Incredible! Of course, my little sister had protested against this numerous times, saying that the whole theory is just a product of my overactive imagination and dirty mind.

Could it be?

Appearance:
Technically, Nausicaa's free-spirited ways of living would have have robbed her of her chance to groom herself more properly, and being in a postapocalyptical world that's ravaged by pollution and war, I doubt she would have the time to really pay attention to her own looks. Fortunately, there's no need for grooming or making up, Nausicaa's blessed with natural good looks, which contributed a lot to her popularity in the Valley, I guess. While I'm not the type who comments on fashion, if my suspicions about her perpetually wearing nothing but a miniskirt (and nothing underneath), then she's definitely hardcore.
8 out of 10


Skills:
- Can talk to insects which is a plus since she can save money on insecticides or bug sprays.
- Reasonable fighting skills.
- Can fly on her Mehve.
7 out of 10

Achievements
- Fulfilled prophecy of saving the world.
- Possibly wears only a miniskirt during her adventures.
9 out of 10

Personality:
Unfortunately, my impression of her is tainted by the horribly butchered cantonese-dubbed version of the film, Warriors of the Wind. I've only seen the full version once a couple of years ago, but during my childhood, I've seen way too many times of the lame butchered version, so my impression of Nausicaa had always been nothing more than a feral, overserious, overbearing, tree-hugging perpetually sullen goody-two-shoe. And I hate goody-two-shoes who take themselves way too seriousy. So sorry dear, She doesn't impress me that much in this department.

But then, being in a Miyazaki film, almost every single protagonist is (sort of) a Luddite. So her tree-hugging ways isn't really that bad a thing if you think that technology is EVIL as well. And it's unfair of me to judge her based only on the Cantonese dubbed version when she's probably a really complex lady with deep emotional depth that was never explored in the butchered Warriors of the Wind. Yet she bores me. Don't think I can really hang out with her that much.
6.5 out of 10

Overall
Too bland and boring for one as dark-natured as I.
30.5 out of 40


Princess Kushana

Princess Kushana

Overview:
Warmongering babe who destroyed the peace in the Valley of the Wind with her large powerful army. Tried to seek weapon of mass destruction (that God of War thingie) to aid her in her quest to eradicate all Ohmus (those huge armoured gigantic insects) who cost her an arm and leg, and destroy the Fukai (Sea of Corruption, badly polluted wastelands that cover most of the world) Not really a villain, just a person with different viewpoints and different methods of dealing with her enemies.

Appearance:
Princess Kushana is a good-looking chick. Exquisite fashion sense too. Look at the tiara she wears, look at her chiseled features, the time she probably spent on her hair. Like what her second-in-command said, when she's not dressed in her battle armour, she is strangely attractive, even with that robotic limbs, if you don't find them too eerie, that is. I think she's more attractive than Nausicaa, but I, er, did find the robotic limbs too eerie.
8.5 out of 10


Skills:
- Also a competent fighter, though instead of using primitive weapons like Nausicaa, she's probably better with firearms and stuff.
- Ability to command a huge army, must probably have good leadership skills.
- Can go through violent massacres without flinching.
7 out of 10

Achievements:
- Killed Nausicaa's dad. Hardcore.
- Setting Nausicaa to a path of saving the world. Meaning that she indirectly saved the world too even though her actions could've actually destroyed it.
7 out of 10

Personality:
Ambitious, driven to success, manipulative, Princess Kushana would've been my kind of woman. Lacking the flawless qualities of Nausicaa, Kushana's flaws make her more human than her deitified nemesis. And one as dark-natured as I would've been more interested in her. However, she IS a pretty selfish bitch who is incapable of listening to warnings and opinions, thus making her a lot less smarter than she thinks she is. Having an ego is cool, I don't mind that, being an egomaniac myself, but she lacks the smoothness (that Nausicaa has) to have people serving her without question, which can be quite problematic. In simpler terms, she has bad social skills and can only resort to death threats and such. Bad girl. Bad bad girl.
6 out of 10

Overall:
Bad girls can be interesting. Unfortunately, Kushana is way too single-minded to be one of them. Besides death and destruction, revenge and war, it's highly improbable that Kushana could talk about, or think about, anything else. Which is boring for an intellectual peace-lover like me.
28.5 out of 40

Laputa


There are only two important female characters in Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986), one is the heroine Sheeta, the other is Dola, the old woman who leads a bunch of air pirates. Obviously, for the sake of not wanting to haev any of my readers lose their lunches, I will focus only on Sheeta.

Sheeta
Sheeta from Laputa

Overview:
Mysterious girl who possesses a magical crystal and a hidden identity that make her a target for government agents and pirates. Sheeta is blessed with a rather shitty sounding name that til this very day I can't stop myself from making fun of, and so much misfortune had befell upon her that she seemed as if she were from a Korean melodrama, but ultimately, her growth throughout the film made her an entirely wonderful character that might or might not have been my very first anime crush back when I was 8, I don't know, I'm not sure and this is getting a bit too creepy. How old is Sheeta? Pre-teen if based on the Japanese version, but mid-teens when you look at the Cantonese or English versions, I hope it's the latter since it'll make things less creepy here.

Appearance:
Despite her eternally somber demeanour (which MIGHT have enhanced her delicate features), Sheeta has the fortune of being better-looking than everyone around her (or the only girl of her age around), since her only competition is the aged Dola. However, she still looked too young for me to judge how pretty she'll become, but being an anime heroine, she's unlikely to become a cow. 7.5 out of 10

Skills:
- Can cook.
- Can command powerful, destructive robots.
- Can levitate thanks to her magic crystal.
- Can convince any non-evil person to aid her in her quest even though they've only met her three minutes before.
- Grows a spine at the right time during face-off with film's badass.
8 out of 10

Achievements:
- Saved the world.
- (indirectly) destroyed her own homeland.
- Earned the eternal love and friendship of pirates.
- (indirectly) killed the film's badass.

8 out of 10


Personality:
Sheeta is an angsty gal. And it is scary when she is angsting because when she does that, she spaces out, and will accidentally mutter words that can trigger powerful robots that destroy things in sheer berserk rage. She is a girl who is constantly plagued with bad luck, that any places she goes would end up getting destroyed, and that people are so moved by her sheer innocence and naivete that they would easily do all kinds of things to protect her, including giving their own lives. That makes her rather fascinating because despite her gloomy fate, she remains unirritating, and does not seemingly take herself as seriously as, say, Nausicaa.

The aforementioned climatic face-off with film's evil arsehole Muska is definitely inspiring. From a girl who is initially weak and helpless, she finally gathers her courage and stops running, bravely condemning the villain for his evil ways and does not flinch at all even when the guy shot her, er, pigtails off. Yeap, she turned hardcore, and instead of being your generic Miyazaki heroine who would hesitate to take anyone's life, she actually had the guts to mutter a magic word of mass destruction that indirectly murdered the evil Muska (and his underlings who may have still remained in Laputa). And even when she is riding off into the sunset with the pirates, she does not seem to have any complaints about them stealing treasure away from Laputa. Hell, she's even happy for them! Your generic Miyazaki heroine would've reprimanded them for their greed, AND make me yawn.

Therefore, I have many reasons to believe that Sheeta is NOT some boring holier-than-thou goody two shoe and that she can pretty much does anything just to survive. Such women fascinate me.
9 out of 10


Overall:
Watching Sheeta grow from annoying damsel in distress to courageous heroine adds much to the amazing experience of watching the great film.
32.5
out of 40

In the next part of this feature, I will evaluate the female characters of My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Porco Rosso.

One of the greatest challenges of this is illustrated well by my little sister's question. "Er, how can you even say who is more pretty than the other when they all look the same?" Well, little sis, all these requires true discipline and art.


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