Sunday, December 31, 2006

VIDEO: Filmmakers Anonymous, Indiescene Cafe.


Filmmakers Anonymous, at Indiescene Cafe (29th of December 2006)


Since my return from Perth more than three weeks ago, I've been stuck in limbo, like a Wong Kar Wai character perpetually stuck in a stagnant state of existence whilst the rest of the world blurs by like the flitting of a hummingbird's wings. While taking my (absolutely needed) rest after months of working on my last short film, Girl Disconnected, my filmmaking endeavours were put on hold, just so I can figure out what the local filmmaking scene is like. In Perth, I got to know how things work, how to contact actors, composers, production houses, etc. Over here, I feel like a helpless foreigner.

Top 10 Most Disappointing Films of 2006

While I'm waiting for Youtube to process my latest video (of the Filmmakers Anonymous held in Indiescene Cafe two nights ago), I'll put up a top ten list of films that left me disappointed this year despite its hype. Yes, note that this not a top ten WORST films, just top ten DISAPPOINTING ones, basically films that I heard so many good things about, expected so much from, only to end up disappointed in the end. So films that I expected not to enjoy, and ended up having my suspicions confirmed (The Da Vinci Code, Eragon, Lady In The Water etc.) are excluded from the list.

Let me begin, oh, and it's all in alphabetical order, it's too painful to relive which one was more disappointing than the other:

Friday, December 29, 2006

VIDEO: Comic Fiesta 2006... my little sister is a cosplayer!


Swifty's Sis in Comic Fiesta 2006


The Comic Fiesta is a fan-based convention in Malaysia that is meant to promote anime, comics and gaming (ACG) by allowing fans to interact amongst each other and introducing them to other aspects of ACG fandom, like fanart, doujinshi, that kind of thing. I had the privilege to serve as their committee member and as an emcee during the 2003 event, prior to my resignation. Certain circumstances forced me to leave the Comic Fiesta message boards last year, but I have nothing but gratitude and love for them.

And despite my departure, my sister remains an ardent supporter of Comic Fiesta, and actually went to cosplay (dress up as an anime/comic/video game character) in their latest event on December 17 with a couple of her friends, Jing Ling and Michelle (I'm putting their names here because them, along with my sis, were the ones who shot the video, NOT ME). However, seeing the great time they had there, I might as well help them edit a short video of what they had shot just so their memories of that day can forever be preserved.

My sister is the one in orange (in case you STILL don't know that by now). The song I used is from Kahimi Karie, whom I wrote about earlier this year.

Have fun watching.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

VIDEO: Family Vacation in Shanghai 2005


Family vacation in Shanghai 2005


This video is shot during my vacation with my family in Shanghai more than a year ago (sometime during early December 2005, but I can't remember what was the exact date). I'm actually going to Shanghai again early next January, so I was suddenly compelled to finish editing this video today. I actually had an older version which I did two months ago using the editing suites in my university, prior to editing my last short film, Girl Disconnected. But the older version was more than 8 minutes long, and it bored my sister to death, so I assumed that uploading that would do the same to my dear loyal readers, hence, the re-edit. The resolution of the video should be higher than most of the other videos I've posted here (since the video transfer was done using the comps in uni, not my own laptop... I didn't get myself a Firewire cable until two days ago... unbelievable)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Junichiro Tanizaki - Seven Japanese Tales



"Here, the exploration...leads into a tangle of relationships as bizarre and unhealthy as those of Tanizaki's earlier novel, The Key,"
-from the introduction by translator Howard Hibbett

"Unhealthy" is an apt word to describe the fictional world of Jun'ichiro Tanizaki. Although now accepted as a pillar of modern Japanese literature largely on the basis of his re-translation of Genji and the sprawling novel The Makioka Sisters, Tanizaki's early work was better known for its aesthetic obsessions and outre subject matter - a typical Tanizaki story would concern something like stealing a girl's used handkerchief and licking it, or the joys of prostitution in China (John Updike memorably called him 'the most masculine writer of the 20th century'). Compared to Mishima, who dealt with characters at least as fucked up, Tanizaki's protagonists are far less self-conscious, less guilty or conflicted - where a Mishima character would analyze their neuroses in a dense psychological monologue, a Tanizaki protagonist is usually enjoying himself too much to be at all reflective.

Zhang Yimou's CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is a movie about a dysfunctional family

Curse of the Golden Flower poster


If you intend to watch Curse of the Golden Flower (满城尽带黄金甲), the latest film by Zhang Yimou, don't expect this to be a martial arts film. There's no high-flying wire-fu that you've seen in Zhang Yimou's previous fares like Hero or House of Flying Daggers (both films more well-received in the West than the East, I personally liked the former, but really dislike the latter). Adapted from a 1934 play, 'Thunderstorm' by Cao Yu, Curse of the Golden Flower is more period drama (with a little bit of fighting, and a really large-scaled, spectacular-looking battle scene in the end) set during the 10th century about the most dysfunctional Royal Family ever.

Friday, December 22, 2006

CONFESSION OF PAIN

Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro in Confession of Pain


Three Chinese films opened in Malaysia yesterday to compete (sorta) for the Christmas week. The local Chinese film, Love Conquers All, directed by Tan Chui Mui (my review here), Curse of the Golden Flower (directed by Zhang Yimou, starring superstars Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li and Jay Chou) and finally, Confession of Pain (directed by Infernal Affairs duo Alan Mak and Andrew Lau, starring Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Shu Qi and the world's most famous Chinese blogger, Xu Jing Lei). Golden Flower is most likely going to be the top film this Christmas due to its massive promotional campaign, however, if you were going to choose between Love Conquers All and Confession of Pain, I suggest you go see the former since it's better for you to contribute to the local indie film industry than to suffer the colossal disappointment I had last night.

HAPPY FEET

The tap dancing Mumble in Happy Feet


What a beautiful film!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ayumi Hamasaki - Secret



For me, the height of Ayumi Hamasaki's career was the 2002/2003 Rainbow / I Am... era. On those two albums, Ayu and Max Matsuura forged an original and intensely modern sound, one that combined the futuristic gloss and production of electronic dance music with the grind and guitar base of hard rock, all leavened with strong pop flourishes that somehow sounded more ambitious than any of Ayu's previous material (which had been good, to be honest, if a bit sugary and conventional). Appellations like 'dancy metal-pop' or 'club-core with solos' sound ridiculous, but accurately describe the albums' innovative fusions. And they were albums, too, with transitions and spaced-out interludes to bridge the more disparate songs. Because of the unified production, a straight up club track like 'Connected' could segue easily into the driving rock of 'Evolution', and the whole thing felt seamless. For a while, Ayumi Hamasaki really did feel like the most modern pop star in the world, one who could get mentioned in grasping Time magazine supplements and still make you want to put her singles on your playlist.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

VIDEO: Weekend In Ipoh 2: Unlocking My Mother's Past


My father, my cousin and I went on a road trip to uncover my mother's past


This is the second and last video of my weekend in Ipoh (first one is here, my mother's hometown. Shot on the 10th of December. Shot mostly when I was in my cousin, Hing Yip's car, as we all went for a brief tour through the city, trying to find the schools my mom had attended during her teenage days. (my mom was at my grandmother's place back then, and we were desperate for some fresh air)

Unlike most of my previous videos, you'll actually get to see a few glimpses of me... doing random stuff and making weird expressions.

To overseas readers, well, now you get to see another part of Malaysia you've rarely seen before, and have I mentioned that Ipoh is also film star Michelle Yeoh's hometown?

The music I used is 'Doot' from, once again, Adrianna Krikl.

Tell me what you think after you've watched it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

LOVE CONQUERS ALL by Tan Chui Mui (you can watch the entire film here now)

UPDATED (July 7, 2014): You can watch the entire LOVE CONQUERS ALL here.


LOVE CONQUERS ALL from Da Huang Pictures on Vimeo.



Picture from Love Conquers All


I woke up from my beauty nap yesterday and saw messages on MSN from Suanie asking whether I would like to attend the preview of Love Conquers All, the feature-length debut of Malaysian female director Tan Chui Mui, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year when she was at a seminar with director James Lee and my dad in the Sin Chew Jit Poh (the country's leading Chinese newspaper) discussion about the Malaysian indie filmmaking scene.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yasunari Kawabata - The Master of Go


Yasunari Kawabata is a writer I admire immensely. Although perhaps slightly limited in his range of themes and stories, he has a truly world-class sense of technical perfection and stylistic beauty, and the best of his novels and stories (Snow Country and Beauty and Sadness are my favorites, with the excellent Palm of the Hand Stories perhaps being his masterwork) are so satisfying and haunting as to make him unquestionably deserving of his Nobel Prize. Someone (can't remember the source) compared reading a Kurt Vonnegut book to eating an ice cream cone, and if that's true, then a Kawabata book is more like a high-quality Italian gelato - cold, perhaps, but exquisite, and best when served in small portions. At one point I pretty much blindly accepted him as a god; and while after much consideration I've decided Mishima at least equals him, he's still up there for me as one of the masters.

ERAGON

Eragon poster


I had no high hopes for Eragon. All I've hoped for was some campy, silly fun where the filmmakers would choose not to be too faithful to its source material, after all, the source material, the first book of a fantasy trilogy published when author Christopher Paolini was 19 (back in 2003), isn't Lord of the Rings nor Narnia, just a work of a fantasy fan that happened to appeal to many other fantasy fans due to the popular, conventional fantasy elements he had used in his book. In my opinion, it's much better for a filmmaker to not view a source material with so much reverence that he would end up not being able to take the necessary creative liberties that could optimize the quality of the film, we know what might have worked on paper wouldn't have worked onscreen.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

VIDEO: KL's Writer's Circle: Meeting 15-Year-Old Novelist Lim May Zhee And Bibliobibuli Sharon Bakar.


Video of Swifty at KL's Writer's Circle, Meeting Author Lim May Zhee and Sharon Bakar


I attended the KL's Writer's Circle today that was held at the MPH bookshop in 1-Utama shopping mall. I learnt about this event from the blog of Lim May Zhee, a 15-year-old girl who self-published her novel, Vanity Bee this year and made some news. However, as I was still in Perth back then, I was entirely unaware of her until I recently detected a link to this blog from this entry of hers after I came back, where I was credited for inspiring her to make this wacky little webcomic. So, that was how I found out about her, who apparently, is becoming a rising star in both the literary scene and the blogosphere since dear old Kenny Sia himself had mentioned her in one of his magazine columns, calling her, I paraphrase 'Malaysia's answer to (Singapore blog queen) Xiaxue (it's all right, Dawn, you're still my queen), but without broccoli for brains'.

Friday, December 15, 2006

VIDEO: Weekend In Ipoh Part 1: Day And Night In Ipoh


Weekend In Ipoh Part 1: Day And Night In Ipoh


I'm going to be doing a 2-part video of my stay in Ipoh last weekend. (from the 9th to the 11th of December, I posted my entry about the badminton craze in my country during this period)

Ipoh is a city in Malaysia that's the capital of the state of Perak, just a 2-3 hours away from Kuala Lumpur (it really depends on how fast you drive :D). It's the hometown of my mom, and also international movie star Michelle Yeoh (of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Memoirs of a Geisha fame). YES, to the uninitiated, Michelle Yeoh is MALAYSIAN, she's not from Hong Kong, nor China, nor Taiwan.

Justin Reviews 'Sukeban Deka: Kôdo nêmu = Asamiya Saki'

Thursday, December 14, 2006

[Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2006] Arrivederci amore, ciao' and 'Mio miglior nemico, Il (My Best Enemy)'

The Italian Film Festival 2006 was held during my last two weeks in Perth at the Luna theaters (a chain of theaters in Perth that specializes in arthouse fare, or local Aussie films). I've long made my decision to catch some of the movies they were showing since attending the same festival the year before. After all, it's not really that easy to see an Italian film anywhere.

Last year, I had the pleasure of watching Manuale D'Amore (Manual Of Love), a wondrous romantic comedy I loved so much that I rated it alongside Fellini's 8 1/2 as one of the greatest Italian films I've ever seen! Unfortunately, during the same festival, I also saw the indescribably agonizing Cantando Dietroi i Paraventi (Singing Behind Screens)... a film that scarred me until this very day, you can check out my really brief and not entirely comprehensible reviews of both films here.

Anyway, like last year, I saw two films in this year's Festival.

D.B. Weiss - Lucky Wander Boy



I picked up Lucky Wander Boy (Swifty: Official website of the book here) on a recent trip, mainly on the strength of its premise but without any real expectations, since the book is about, among other things, video games. A 'gaming novel' is not a prospect that would seem especially earmarked for greatness, and so D.B. Weiss's debut came as a welcome surprise: while perhaps not great in any real sense, this is certainly a very good book*, with more-than-capable prose and much trenchant humor.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Video: Goodbye Perth, Hello Malaysia.


Goodbye Perth, Hello Malaysia - Video of Swifty's last day in Perth


I've mentioned before that I was stuck with limited Internet access back in Perth. Basically, I was using the Internet system in my university as I was staying in the student village, and I had to pay for my internet fees based on the bandwidth I was using, for example, 10MB will cost around 50 cents, thus making it impossible for me to actually upload or download any videos and music, hell I even had to disable the images in my browser just so that I don't have to spend that much a day for my surfing. Yeah, It was THAT bad.

Anyway, I've whipped together another video to share with you all today (I'll be doing that pretty regularly from now on since, well, I am the very first Malaysian listed at the Vlog Community, I'm definitely going to make up for the lack of videoblogging I've done in the past few months I was in Perth.

But anyway, this video of mine is shot during my very last day in Perth (5th of December, 2006), just a short and simple video of my dad and I driving to the Perth International Airport, and this video is my farewell to Perth, my home for the past two and a half years. Less of the flashy stuff I usually had on my videos, more focus on the introspective mood and the atmosphere I had back then.

The program I used to edit this is the Adobe Premiere Pro 2 (I also use it to edit my last two short films), unfortunately, without the facilities I had in university, the quality of the video capture's pretty bad (it's fuzzier and lower definition compared to what I would get if I were using those editing studios in uni).

Music I use for this is 'Away' by Adrianna Krikl, whose other work I had used for the opening of my last short film, Girl Disconnected.

It's a pretty personal video.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Video: Cousin Wee Suan's Wedding Tea Ceremony




There's an ulcer in my mouth, so I'm not really in the mood to write another lengthy entry, thus I'm merely posting a video for your enjoyment.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The State of Malaysian Badminton + Squash Legend Nicol David

Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong winning the semis


Badminton is one of the most popular sports in Malaysia, its popularity mostly contributed by the fact that the wife of Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir's a hardcore badminton fan. I, like most Malaysians, would root for the the national badminton players during major sporting events, like the Olympics, the World Championships, the various tournaments, or Thomas Cup (the Badminton equivalent of the World Cup?). As a child, I used to watch in excitement as our own players advance deep into the tournaments, rooting for their victory.

Friday, December 08, 2006

What I'll Miss About Perth (3): Friday Nights

Perth at night


One of the biggest annoyances in Perth is the fact that shops are closed before 6pm, while many restaurants would close by 9:30pm, the only thing that seemed to open for 24 hours is McDonald's. Basically, the city of Perth itself feels entirely lifeless once the sun has already set. Can be pretty annoying when one needs to do some emergency shopping, takes a bus to the city, only to realize that most shops are closed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sifow's Blog and Me

UPDATED (April 27, 2014): It's been 8 years since this blog post was written by Justin. Since then, Sifow had announced her indefinite hiatus in 2008. I'm not sure whether she still sings, but as of April 2014, after her hiatus, she moved to this new(er) blog, where she still updates quite often.



Sifow is hot
I've written about my future girlfriend's music before, now to take a look at something equally influential, equally interesting, something everyone reading this should be well-familiar with: blogging.

CASINO ROYALE is one heck of a James Bond film

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale


All right, I said in my previous entry I'm going to write something heavy, but I'm still not ready for that, so I'll just churn out another film review for a film I saw last night (first movie I saw in Malaysia since my return two nights ago!).

'The Illusionist' vs 'The Prestige'

The Illusionist poster


The Prestige poster


My next entry will be rather heavy, so I'm just going to warm up by writing about two movies I've seen recently, The Illusionist and The Prestige, that happen to 'look' fairly similar, both are about 19th century magicians. To me, these two films brought back memories of those years when there were competing volcano films (the crappy Dante's Peak vs that Volcano film starring Tommy Lee Jones, which was kinda bad, but in my opinion, not as bad as the former), and asteroid films (Armageddon vs Deep Impact), or 3D cartoons about insects (Antz vs A Bug's Life, both really good flicks). But obviously, both are really different films.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What I'll Miss About Perth (2): Public Transport

I find it rather apt that what I have suffered during my last few days in Perth would be pretty much what I have suffered throughout my whole stay here in the past two and a half years.