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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Hors De Prix' (Priceless)

Poster of Hors De Prix (Priceless) starring Gad Almaleh and Audrey Tautou


Hors De Prix is the second film I saw from the GSC French Film Festival, after the heart-wrenching La Mome (La Vie en Rose). I've always wanted to catch this film since reading Sebastian's rave review on his blog last month, besides, it's already not much of a secret that I'm a sucker for romantic comedies anyway. So, after getting Sebastian's confirmation that it's a good date movie (as long as the female companion does not feel insecure and tiny about the fact that the pretty Audrey Tautou's boobs are always threatening to pop out from the fashionable dresses she's wearing in the film), I invited a lovely lady friend to see the movie with me.

(Random, but here's Mingle2's list of ten worst movies to watch during the a first date, and Cinematical's seven films NOT to watch during Valentine's)

HORS DE PRIX is about a gold digging, scheming 'adventuress' Irene (Audrey Tautou) who mistakenly woos a mild-mannered hotel waiter Jean (Gad Elmaleh) thinking that he's a rich suitor due to some wacky circumstances. When she discovers his lowly status, Irene runs off (hoping to find another sugar daddy). But love-struck Jean has no intention of letting her escape, and pursues her to the Cote d'Azur. Quickly running out of money in his attempt to win her heart, he adopts his beloved's lifestyle... by setting himself up as a gigolo for a wealthy widow (Marie-Christine Adam). Irene at last accepts this new Jean (since both of them have become equals, working in the same... er, industry or something). She starts to give him advice (in making the best out of his situation), the cynical seductress grows closer and closer to him, not realizing that she's finding true love in a world of superficial wealth.

Typical lighthearted rom-com stuff. A review on today's Sin Chew Daily called this film the least 'French' film of the French Film Festival, saying that it feels more Hollywood than French. (Of course, Sebastian would disagree, saying that Hollywood hasn't been making screwball comedies like this without resorting to cheap toilet gags and gross-out humour.) Its Hollywood influences aren't surprising, since director Pierre Salvadori has stated in a Q & A session (according to Sebastian) that he fell in love with cinema because of Hollywood comedies during the 30s and 40s.

This film is pretty entertaining and funny, the nice acting from both leads make you care for the characters, and make you want to see them together. Elmaleh's Jean is someone you can laugh and sympathize with, from his attempts to pose as a suave millionaire early in the movie to his antics to please the wealthy widow, and also all the nice and 'awww'-inducing sweet little things he does for his beloved. Audrey Tautou's materialisic and gold-digging Irene can easily be a character you are repulsed with, but since she's Audrey Tautou, a simple look of guilt and uncertainty can sort of make an audience member forgive the fact that her high-spending ways have bankrupted Jean, (indirectly) forcing him into a gigolo, and despite what he had done for her, she still entertained thoughts of returning to a sugar daddy.

So this Audrey Tautou is NOT the Audrey Tautou I'm used to watching in AMELIE and THE DA VINCI CODE, and while she does look really pretty and elegant in this role, and as usual, put up a good performance... I wonder what the movie would've been like if (a younger) MONICA BELLUCCI had played her role instead.

... I think my mind would explode. (or it might just destroy my mind like the nonsensical 'Combien tu m'aimes?' (How Much Do You Love Me?) did).

Verdict? It's a nice and entertaining date movie. If you want to watch something less challenging in the French Film Festival (which will end this Sunday), this might be it. At least the lady friend enjoyed it a lot.


Hors De Prix (Priceless) trailer

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

R. I. P. Izumi Sakai (Zard)

Updated (September 2, 2012): Zard is a pop group. And Izumi Sakai was its lead vocalist and leader. I always referred to her as Zard because to me, she WAS Zard. But I decide to revise this blog post so that I can try to separate the Sakai the person, from the group.

I was pretty shocked when I read about singer-songwriter Izumi Sakai's death on today's newspapers. Known more popularly as the face of Zard, she was the biggest female solo singer of the 90s. Zard was one of the earliest Japanese artists I learnt about when I first got into J-music back then, so her passing does make me feel that a small fragment of my past is gone, it's a feeling rather similar to how I felt when Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui died.

Zard aka Izumi SakaiI liked Zard's songs a lot, but I can't really call myself a fan. Having always been very low-profile and mysterious, rarely appearing on TV programs like Hey! Hey! Hey! Music Champ! or Pop Jam, Zard had always been just a voice to me, not a gimmick nor a mere product, all I could do was like their songs, and Sakai's voice. There weren't any outlandish outfits nor tabloid-baiting controversy, it was all about the songs, not the image, not about being crazy or cartoonish. So I guess a Zard fan could only afford to like them for their songs and nothing more.

Sakai discovered that she had cervical cancer in 2006 and had her tumour removed. However, she returned to hospital in April 2007 when the cancer had spread to her lungs, and had taken daily walks since then. During one of the walks in May 26, she accidentally fell from the stairs and was discovered later by a passer-by. She was sent to an emergency room, but unfortunately it was too late. She died from a brain contusion. She was only 40.

Which song of hers do I remember most? Some of her songs were used for anime series like SLAM DUNK, DETECTIVE CONAN and DRAGON BALL GT. Strangely, the one I remember most would be her 2000 single, PROMISED YOU. I think that might actually be my all-time favourite Zard song. the following's a video of her performance, she looked absolutely ethereal.


Rest in peace and thanks for the memories. Read other reactions to the Zard Tragedy on International Wota.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'La Mome' (or La Vie en Rose)

Poster of La Mome (La Vie en Rose)


Just came back from seeing LA MOME (LA VIE EN ROSE is the US title) with my dad at the French Film Festival in GSC 1-Utama.

(I'll refer this film as LA MOME in this entry.)

LA MOME (French for 'The Kid') is a biopic of the legendary French singer, Edith Piaf (1915-1963), whose famous songs include "Non, je ne regrette rien" and "La Vie en Rose". "La Vie en Rose" is a song you can still hear everywhere today, since it's been covered by many many different artists (check out the list of artists who have performed the song).

Here's a 1954 video of Edith Piaf performing the song:


Edith Piaf performing La Vie en Rose during a concert in 1954 (see how awed audiences were by the performance)


I first read Edith Piaf's backstory on Allmusic.com nearly two years ago and I was struck by how dramatic and tragic her life really was. Hers was a rags-to-riches tale, where she endured one tragedy after another despite achieving international success as a singer.

As a child, Edith Piaf was left to live on the streets by her mother, she grew sickly and was on the verge of dying before she was rescued by her father, a street acrobat... only to be left under the care of her paternal grandmother (father went off to join the French army), who ran a brothel. She became momentarily blind due to conjunctivitis, then joining her father again for his street performances, later becoming a street singer herself, and also losing a toddler daughter when she was a teenager. The love of her life, Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash, she got involved in a car accident that started her addiction to morphine, and she finally died of cancer at the age of 47.

This film, which goes back and forth from her very last days to her early years as a little girl and eventual rise to stardom, covers most of the major events I mentioned above. But eventually, the film ceases to be a conventional, straightforward musical biopic, as its narrative becomes more fractured, one moment you see her in her 40s, then her 20s, then her 30s, then 40s again, then 30s, etc etc. Her joyous romantic love affair with Marcel Cerdan, her decadent hard-partying lifestyle, her debilitating health, her increasing fear of never being able to sing again. Audiences have to plunge into one moment to another, getting an idea her whole life as a whole.

Unlike a Hollywood musical biopic like RAY or WALK THE LINE, there is something expressionistic about this film that make many images linger with me after I walk out of the theaters. There doesn't really seem to be an attempt to repackage nor dramatize Edith Piaf's story to heighten the drama, there's nothing sentimental nor glamourous in the depiction of Edith Piaf's life, and thus this is really not a film where audiences get to go deep into the mind of Edith Piaf, there is some sort of distance maintained, and by doing thus, it makes Edith Piaf even more mythical.

Production values are great, the cast is great and the make-up is amazing. I think writer-director Oliver Dahan did a great job. There are scenes that are really visually beautiful, and one standout scene to me is the morning she finds out about Marcel Cerdan's death, which is done with a long single take. One needs to see it for him or herself to know what I'm talking about. Like I mentioned before, there are many moments in the film that linger: young Edith Piaf being doted after by a kind prostitute, singing for the very first time after her father's street performance, captivating the audiences onstage for the very first time after some formal training, Edith Piaf's first date with Marcel Cerdan, and then watching his championship boxing match, middle-aged ailing Edith Piaf knitting alone at a beach, and the performances, oh my god, the performances.

Those scenes are when we really hear the voice of Edith Piaf (original recordings of Piaf are used because... it's impossible to replicate her voice now) and they are simply electrifying. I had goosebumps during the scenes where she performed her signature songs.

But obviously, a LA MOME review can never be complete until the reviewer gushes over Marion Cotillard's acting. In LA MOME, it's truly an acting tour-de-force, she truly BECAME Edith Piaf, to the point where I've forgotten that I was watching a movie with an actress acting as Edith Piaf (or that only ONE person was playing the grown-up Edith Piaf!!). In a perfect world, she could've won next year's Best Actress Oscar IMMEDIATELY, because hers may have been one of the great performances in cinematic history. I'm not kidding. Compare the two pictures below:

Marion Cotillard
How Marion Cotillard really looked like

Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose (La Mome)
Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Mome


In conclusion, really good film. But sad, really sad. Might make you feel really depressed after it ends. Anyway, Dad and I are now newly converted Edith Piaf fans.


Film trailer


Monday, May 28, 2007

In Defense Of Film Critics...?

"Filmmakers need an audience, that's for certain. but do filmmakers need film critics? hmmm... i wonder. One thing for sure, filmmakers have absolutely no use for self-proclaimed film experts or film pontificators."
The above quote is a post by filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad (Sepet, Gubra, Mukhsin) two days ago at the Malaysian Cinema mailing list, during a discussion (it's ironic that the whole thing was sparked by a short film of a new member I introduced the mailing list to) two days ago. Which started to make me... think.

What is a film critic? Perhaps to many, they are those who are paid to write film reviews and criticism on printed press (or online). Immediately, the term 'film critic' makes one think of Roger Ebert, or the late Pauline Kael.

Many regular filmgoers or lover of mainstream cinema tend to have a negative impression towards film critics, feeling that the latter are too snobbish, too highbrow to enjoy popcorn entertainment, that they embrace abstract arthouse films that no sane person can like. After all, most of the time, a normal filmgoer enters a cinema expecting to be entertained, whilst a film critic seems to watch a film waiting to be impressed. Ultimately, the criticism leveled by a film critic upon a well-liked (among normal audiences) film will come across as too pedantic or nitpicky.

Numerous filmmakers have shown their own disdain towards film critics. M Night. Shyamalan, in his last film, LADY IN THE WATER, tossed in a cartoonishly snobbish film critic character (to get killed in an ugly manner). Roland Emmerich named the useless mayor character and his aide after Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel in his 1998 GODZILLA movie. Here's even a quote by indie filmmaker Vincent Gallo:
"I never apologized for anything in my life. The only thing I'm sorry about is putting a curse on Roger Ebert's colon. If a fat pig like Roger Ebert doesn't like my movie, then I'm sorry for him. "


So yes, some people are always defensive towards their own creative works, including myself. It's human nature. It's just a matter of how much you let others affect you.

But ultimately, dissing film reviews by film critics is like dissing a person for having an opinion. Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. What is wrong if a film critic happens NOT to like, say, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 as much as you do? It's not the end of the world. I doubt a particular film critic, or film scholar, or film academician would feel that riled up if they happen to meet someone who does NOT like Robert Bresson or Hou Hsiao-Hsien films as much as they do.

Even if these critics decide to diss people for not sharing their opinions, suddenly becoming entirely condescending towards mainstream audiences, ranting against popular culture, this is really a matter of CHARACTER FLAW (or to put it bluntly, BEING A ASS), not because of their PROFESSION. A film critic dissing other people for their opinions is no different from other people dissing a film critic for their reviews. It's, well, uncool.

In the 50s and 60s, the French New Wave (which influenced many independent Malaysian films of today) is started by a group of radical French filmmakers who reject classical cinematic form. Some of the most prominent pioneers among the group like François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette, were, ironically, FILM CRITICS for the famous film magazine Cahiers du cinéma.

Is there a double standard where they can be forgiven for being film critics (or self-proclaimed film experts or film pontificators) because they are filmmakers? While Truffaut's status as a legendary director is undeniable, how can one overlook his role as a critic who championed the films of Alfred Hitchcock (I've just posted two blog entries in a row that mentioned Hitchcock!) as artistic works?

(Even award-winning local filmmaker Tan Chui Mui has served as a Cannes Film Festival correspondent for Sin Chew Daily, penning out her reviews for the films she saw at the festival. Is she not being a film critic as well?)

A couple of other posts came up, I'll just highlight two.

The first one is from Kairospirit:

"You only need to look at history to know that there have been many,
many great film analysts, critics and academics who have contributed
greatly to the art of cinema without even shooting a single frame
themselves.

Admittedly there are indeed some out there who try to pass themselves
off as important "critics" but are really just spewing a bunch of big
words and terms which few even understand or use, and of course, name-
dropping."


Kairospirit's second paragraph was more an attack on self-indulgence, arrogance, snobbery and elitism, traits possessed by people who aren't necessarily film critics.

The second post is by chinvinsen.

"Filmmakers need to realise that everyone in the audience is a film critic. Everyone is just as able to tell someone else what they've watched, what they've felt about what they've watched, give their views on it, recommendations, complaints, or even ask others not to bother. Some members of the audience happen to have a wide network of people listening to them at coffee breaks, gatherings, or casual conversations by phone, email, sms, chats. Some have blogs to post their views, and some work for publications who post their views onto a medium that reaches even more.

It is simply too easy to label one of the above categories of your audience with a tag different from the others. After all, what is a critic? Someone whose views are valued by others who are interested to hear it, whether they agree with it or not. Everyone I know is one.... probably even yourself."


And that's the whole point! What is a film critic? Since when are film critics limited to only those professionals who write for printed press? We have evolved past that. Everyone's a film critic, their different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, education, intellect, tastes, all these allow them to voice widely different and varying opinions and interpretations of the same film.

That, to me, is the beauty of film criticism.

That is the reason why everyday I would frequent sites like Rottentomatoes, Cinematical, Twitch, Lovehkfilm, or Lunarpark6. That's the reason why I frequent blogs of film critics like Matt Zoller Seitz or Michael Guillen.

That is the reason why I would encourage people to leave their opinions of a film on this blog (notice how many times I've said "tell me what you think after you've seen this movie"), or even ask others to leave me links to their film reviews. Just to see what other people have to say about a film I've seen. Why do they like it when I dislike it so much? Why do they hate it when I liked it so much? Why do we both like this film? Why do we both hate that film?

A film can be kept alive when people can keep on talking and discussing about it. That is how a film can prevent itself from being forgotten by audiences after it isn't showing in the cinemas anymore.

A filmmaker who cannot accept film critics is a little similar to an author who cannot accept fanfiction.

As a (small-fry) filmmaker myself, I don't think I'll ever question whether I need film critics or not. Nor will I prioritize film audiences over film critics, or be more bothered by the words of film critics over film audiences. Are they not the same? Film audiences are film critics just as much as film critics are film audiences. The only difference is that some have a bigger platform to voice out their opinions. And some, being opinion leaders, can sway others too. But that is not limited only to professional film critics.

I've met my share of self-proclaimed film experts or pontificators myself, in university (film studies and screenwriting classes... *shudders*) last year and screening events this year. Many seriously annoyed the heck out of me, some even make me want to strangle them (and other sadistic things in my mind not fit to mention in this PG-13 blog). But I can assure you that this definitely has more to do with their attitude problems than anything else.

Sure, film critics can be douchebags, but not all douchebags are film critics.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A NIGHTMARISH Acting Audition... Method Acting is bad?

Alfred Hitchcock hates method acting
Alfred Hitchcock hates method acting


I'm currently helping out with a short film.

(There are also other job offers I'm still pondering, my Sin Chew Daily interview seems to have its benefits :D)

The director and I had an audition yesterday trying to find the right actors and actresses for the four primary roles of his film, and we were meant to meet up with two actresses and an actor.

(For the sake of protecting everyone's identities, I'm not going to divulge real names)

It was a nightmare.

The actor I met yesterday, whom I'll call Method Actor, provided an interesting experience. Hungry for the main role, he was peppering the director and I questions about his character, which is supposedly a good and professional thing, before he went... a bit too much with it. Some of the worst things happened when the director went out for a while, leaving only me, an actress (I'll call her S) and Method Actor around for the line-readings.

Method Actor and S happen to be acquaintances, coursemates or something.

These two are supposed to play ex-lovers (the male character still loves the girl a lot, and hasn't been able to get over their breakup) so Method Actor asked the S to remove her cap, so that he can stare at her, to DRINK HER IMAGE (my own words) and understand WHY his character would love her so much. This is pretty much what happened:

(S removes her cap)

Method Actor: Yes, I can see your face better now. I can understand why my character the hero loves your character the heroine, you being so obviously HOT and all.

(S smiles awkwardly)

Method Actor: So, what kind of relationship do we have?

(S stares, unsure how to answer the question, I was sitting next to Method Actor, so I answered immediately)

Me: Just a brief and fleeting one. the heroine never loved the hero, he was just a fling, they went out for two dates, he's too pathetic, so she ignored him since then. But the hero's an emo private eye, so he never ceased to love her, and was unable to let her go.

Method Actor: (looks at me) And you are... who? The director?

Me: The producer.

Method Actor: Right. So, it's just a brief relationship. Did they HAVE SEX?

(S stares)

Me: No.

Method Actor: Oh, right. Was the heroine a tease? Like, did the heroine ever, like, show the hero her cleavage, or things like that?

(S looks uncomfortable.)

Me: No.

Method Actor: Okay. I'm sorry, I need to ask these questions to understand the character more, so I can act better.

S: You're really... professional.

Method Actor: Absolutely, even though I'm not getting paid for this, I want to ensure that you will get the most out of me.

(Method Actor suddenly takes out a cigar)

Method Actor: You have a lighter?

Me: (stares at the cigar) Er... no.

Method Actor: I'm playing a hard-boiled detective, I NEED to really smoke to maximize the effect of the scene you want me to read now. I'll get an ashtray.

Me: This is a non-smoking area. Smoke some other time.

(note: Swifty tends to have a REALLY negative reaction when someone smokes in front of him, friends of Swifty tends to know NOT to smoke in front of Swifty. And he's talking only about cigarettes, not cigars)

Method Actor: Damn.

The director returns, the line-reading begins between Method Actor and S. Taking the director's encouragement to ad-lib to heart, Method Actor suddenly added George Bernard Shaw's "Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power!" line during a monologue he was supposed to be delivering.

I raised a brow.

After the first try, Method Actor decided that he was unhappy with his own acting. He decided to elevate his method acting to another notch by suggesting that he should REALLY BE TIPSY to perform this drunk scene.

Method Actor: I need to order some alcohol.

Me: That's unnecessary. And you won't get it here.

Method Actor: But this is a CHINESE restaurant!

Me: (grimaces) Yes. But this is a DIMSUM* restaurant.

(* To those who didn't want to follow the Wikipedia link: Dim sum is a Chinese light meal or brunch, served usually with Chinese tea. It is eaten some time from morning to early afternoon with family or friends. Dim sum consists of a wide spectrum of choices. It includes combinations of meat, seafood, vegetables, as well as desserts and fruit. The various items are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. In contemporary Cantonese, a dim sum meal is usually not referred to as dim sum chan, but as yum cha (literally "tea drinking"), consisting of traditional Cantonese-style dim sum snacks. What is referred to as dim sum chan is rather a cross between Western-style high tea and fast food, consisting of Hong Kong adaptation of Western pastries and appetizers, also referred to as dim sum, or more specifically, say1 dim2 (Western snacks/pastries/appetizers)

Anyway, Method Actor is, well, a METHOD ACTOR. He (kinda) subscribes to method acting, an acting technique in which actors try to replicate in real life the emotional conditions under which the character operates, in an effort to create a life-like, realistic performance. "The Method" typically refers to the generic practice of actors drawing on their own emotions, memories, and experiences to influence their portrayals of characters. Some of the more famous method actors are Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Ellen Burstyn, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Paul Newman and Marilyn Monroe (if I'm not wrong, Jim Carrey and Christian Bale are method actors too).

The great director Alfred Hitchcock had never tolerated the method approach as he believed that actors should only concentrate on their performances and leave work on script and character to the directors and screenwriters. In a Sight and Sound interview, he stated that, 'the method actor is OK in the theatre because he has a free space to move about. But when it comes to cutting the face and what he sees and so forth, there must be some discipline'

Another quote I really like from Hitchcock is: "When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?, ' I say, 'Your salary.'"

I wasn't really against the idea of method acting back then, I used to encourage my own actors to come up with their own backstories and motivations for the characters they play (but only AFTER I've shown them one-page copies of their character backstories, I was asking them to expand upon those, NOT to create something new)

But after meeting Method Actor, I think I might actually start to agree with Hitchcock.

Dennis Hopper demonstrating method acting during an interview in 1983

A video warning the dangers of method acting... it leads to COMMUNISM!

Alfred Hitchcock is a badass

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Swifty Reviews "Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End"

Jack Sparrow and his lady friends


Just came back from the My.fm-organized preview of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (I'll refer it as POTC3 in this review) with my dad.

I liked the first POTC movie a lot, was entertained by the second one (dazzled by the visual effects, amused by Jack Sparrow... that's it). My review of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean movie last year was somewhat positive, probably because I felt it delivered what SUPERMAN RETURNS couldn't. Yet POTC2 is pretty forgettable, and having forgotten much of the plot in that movie despite having only seen it a year ago, I had some trouble trying to follow the plot of this movie.

The strengths of the more epic and darker POTC3 are similar to POTC2's (unsurprising, since both films were shot back-to-back), visually stunning, awesome set pieces, occasionally funny, nice highlight moments for Johnny Depp's iconic Jack Sparrow. Unfortunately, it also has POTC2's weaknesses, like being rather dull when there aren't any action nor comedy, and characters have to provide expository dialogue to explain character motivations and the plot we are going through. But I think POTC3 is a more satisfying film because it has a sense of closure, and also because Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa (villain of the first movie), and his surprise appearance at the last shot of POTC2 was, to me, one of the best parts of that movie!

Barbossa, thanks to Rush's wonderful (but definitely overlooked) performance, is one of the highlights of the movie. I guess his absence is what made POTC2 so... lacking. And with him around now, his constant bickering and funny rivalry with Jack Sparrow really injects some fire into the film. So yes, Barbossa rocks!

So yes, while there are many fun parts in POTC3, and yes, it's really visually mindblowing, I am still slightly underwhelmed by certain aspects of the film. Mostly because it feels quite convoluted, to the point where I have no idea what was happening half of the time! There are lots of double and triple crossings, political agenda, mythical backstories, multiple sides fighting each other and sometimes changing alliances, all these aren't exactly that engaging, even though they made the film feel epic in scope.

... It's a film based on a Disney ride, and I cannot follow the story! Should I start worrying or not? I'm not sure whether I was alone, that my own intelligence and processing skills have degenerated so badly to the point that I can get confused so easily, but after looking at the reviews available on Rotten Tomatoes now, I guess I'm not the only one having this trouble with PoTC3's plot.

Chow Yun Fat's role as the Chinese pirate lord, Sao Feng, is pretty small (2-3 scenes), and his performance is... I don'tknow, pretty awkward (I think it has to do with the fact that I recently saw him in the Chinese film, THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT, where he was much more natural and charismatic). But at least he gets to be in a major Hollywood box-office blockbuster. Orlando Bloom's Will Turner remains bland and boring (disappointing when, after the end of PoTC2, I expected him to become more interesting). Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann looks good.

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) in Pirates of the Caribbean 3There's really not much I have to say about Johnny Depp anymore, except that the best parts of the film are when he's hallucinating, where he sees many doppelgangers of himself. Jack Sparrow is obviously the highlight of the movie, but he still made me wish that he could do more, instead of kinda being pushed aside as the movie focuses more on the love story between Will and Elizabeth. Jack Sparrow just feels, I don't know, relegated to being merely some kind of a comic relief.

Like I said before, visually, this film is really awe-inspiring, there are moments that are poetic, and the special effects and production designs are really amazing, images and locations that stood out are 18th Century Singapore, sea filled with floating ghosts, Davy's Jones Locker where Jack Sparrow was trapped in, thousands and thousands of industrious little crabs bred from stone, and my favourite, the Shipwreck Cove where all pirate lords from around the world gathered for their brethren meeting. The rousing finale has a battle between two ships swirling around a maelstrom.

There are several lost opportunities, to me, like the whole Calypso subplot (the goddess of the sea, sealed in the body of one mortal), which has a lot to do with Davy Jones' backstory. I have expected something more emotional about this, but it didn't happen. I was also expecting to see the other pirates (they seem very colourful and exotic, being from different parts of the world and all) of the Brethren in action, but that didn't happen either.

In the end, PoTC3, to me, is like a roller-coaster ride, it has its highs and lows, it's good when it's really good, it's bad when it's really bad, and it's unbelievable that it's all in this one film. But still, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 IS better the rather forgettable Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

I won't mind a PoTC4, who doesn't want to see Jack Sparrow again? It's just that, in my opinion, it should be different from the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, since there are characters like Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner who aren't needed in future stories anymore (even in this film, everything between felt tedious and a little boring), kind of a reboot, but please don't let it be a prequel.

Tell me your opinions when you guys have seen the film.


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End trailer

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rum of Heartsdales. Hot!

Rum of Heartsdales

"I ride boys like a motorcycle."
-Rum

There's an interview about her and her sister here.


Blue Gate Crossing 藍色大門, Beautiful Taiwanese Film!

Blue Gate Crossing

"Maybe someday, a year later, or maybe three, if you start liking boys, you must tell me. Don't laugh, I'm serious."

I have chosen to rewrite my upcoming short film, RED BEAN SOUP (tentative title), due to the fact that I ceased to believe in it anymore, and had lost motivation to complete its previous incarnation (I wrote it in prose form in an attempt to overcome writer's block, an experiment that seemed to work initially, until it became unnecessarily tedious). The flawed characterization of my female protagonist prompted me to rethink the entire concept of my supposed romantic short. (Chewxy and Justin pointed out that she was too anime-ish, and not realistic nor deep enough)

I've started to write since yesterday using Final Draft, I screenwriting program I've never used before until last week. It was pretty insane how I managed to write my previous screenplays (for both VERTICAL DISTANCE and GIRL DISCONNECTED) with Microsoft Word!!!

Anyway, I accompanied my mom to the PALACE OF THE GOLDEN HORSES Hotel (a 5-star deluxe hotel) today for a press conference regarding a Buddhist event (which my mom, being a publisher of a Buddhist magazine, had to attend), and while she was away, I sat at the lounge, typing away on my laptop. Was making some nice progress, but still needed more inspiration to keep me going, especially because my short film was intended to be in Mandarin despite the fact that I'm writing my script in English. (Obviously, I'm much better at writing in English compared to Chinese, but you can find some Chinese blog entries I've posted sometime during the end of 2005 if you want to)

So I decided to watch BLUE GATE CROSSING 藍色大門, a 2002 Taiwanese film, on my laptop. Knowing full well that the film's in Mandarin, and is about high school romance, something similar to Japan's jun-ai (innocent love), but without the senseless tearjerking, and retaining something exclusively... Taiwanese (hard for me to explain this). Basically similar to what I intend to do with my own short, RED BEAN SOUP. I remembered reading about this film when I was at Shanghai earlier this year on a book that listed some of the greatest Asian contemporary romantic films. This film was listed with the likes of LOVE LETTER and MY SASSY GAL!

BLUE GATE CROSSING is a surprisingly good film, very good, actually. It's slight, but very affecting. Just a simple coming-of-age love triangle between three 17-year-old high school students (two girls and the one boy who comes between them).

Girlish Yueh-chen (Liang Shu-hui) has a major crush on schoolmate Zhang Shi-hao (Chen Bo-lin, who is so good in here that I forgive him for appearing in TWINS EFFECT 2), a member of the swimming club. So obsessed she is with him that she collects (or steals) his pen, homework, goggles, shoes, water bottles and other belongings. It's kinda creepy, but sad, since she also believes that by writing his name repeatedly on a notebook until the pen runs out of ink, he will love her in return.

Too shy to speak to Zhang, Yueh-chen sends her best buddy, tomboy and actual protagonist of the film, Meng Ke-rou (Guey Lun-mei) as an intermediary to collect information about her crush. Sometimes, Yueh-chen asks Meng wear a mask of Zhang's face so that Yueh can pretend that Meng is Zhang and slow dance with her. But anyway, Meng approaches Zhang, checks out on him, and he starts to fall crazily in love with Meng. But Meng is also confused with her own sexuality, since she believes that she's actually a lesbian who is in love with Yueh-chen, and that the only method to ensure that she's hetero is to kiss a man.

Sounds like a Hollywood rom-com, or something from a John Hughes 80s teenage film, but BLUE GATE CROSSING is actually more subtle and chaste. The cinematography is really beautiful, in fact, it's one of the most beautiful I've ever seen in such a movie, while the performances are natural and unforced. There aren't any big dramatic moments, nor manufactured emotional climax, yet various moments of the film linger.

The poetic ending is great, very quiet and elegant, look at the first video below. I have to admit that my eyes watered a little during Meng's final voiceover.

"Seeing your flying color shirt, I'm thinking, one year, three years, five years from now... what would we become? You're kind and cheerful, you'd be more handsome. And I can see... years from now... you're in front of a blue gate. , under the 3pm sun. You still have a few zits. You're smiling and I run to greet you. You nod. 3 or 5 years later, or even later, much later, what kind of grown-up would we be? PE teacher? Or mom? Though I can't see myself even with my eyes closed. I can see you."


The blue gate refers to their schoolgate, and the transition from teen to adulthood. Beautiful.

Anyway, highly recommended for anyone who can get their hands on it.

On the other hand, feast your eyes upon different video clips of this film.


The ending of Blue Gate Crossing


Music video of the title song 'A Little Step' performed by Cheer Chen. Nicely done, I like the song too.


A fan-made music video for Harada Ikuko's song, Kazeiro Natsukoi, using clips from this movie. Nice song, but the editing made the video feel a little slow


UPDATED (28th of June, 2011): RED BEAN SOUP, the film mentioned at the beginning of this blog post was never made. I ended up writing and directing a string of short films and producing a number of feature films that allowed me to travel to many film festivals. Funnily, and coincidentally, I then met lead actor Wilson Chen a bit more than 3 years after writing this post, at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2010. And lead actress Guey Lun Mei 4 years after this was posted, at the Shanghai International Film Festival 2011.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Maids for hire



Nude Fun

Do note here that I will charge an iniquitous sum of RM800 per hour and if you fail to abide, my mop will be going up a part of your body.

I will dress in ANYTHING except a chicken costume because I am there to look provocative and sexy, not like I recently knocked my head.

You will not get a refund if you find the aforementioned maid lacking in the breast department.

You will keep that dissatisfaction to yourself.

If you want to place an order, contact me at 012-of-course-this-is-a-joke-do-you-take-me-for-an-idiot or e-mail Swifty (he is my pimp! Oops. Did I say that out loud?) for further details.

Note: Hey Swifty, how come when I post photos, it is clickable but when you post it is not? Teach me how to do that!

VIDEO: Celebrating Mother's Day 2007

I'm a week late, but here's a video of my family celebrating Mother's Day last Sunday at this awesome seafood restaurant.

Had two guests with us that day: Auntie Tai, a family friend, who had to celebrate with us cos' her kids were in UK, and my cousin Fung Ming, who had to celebrate with us cos' her parents were in her hometown Ipoh.


Swifty's family, celebrating Mother's Day 2007


So, how did you guys celebrate Mother's Day?

Related links:
My Top 10 Great Mother-Child Movies

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

(note: the cousin Hing Yip in this video is cousin Fung Ming's younger brother)

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


Saturday, May 19, 2007

I LOVE Asobi Seksu!



One album I've been listening to a lot in the past week is Asobi Seksu's CITRUS. Asobi Seksu's a shoegazing rock band based in New York, their lead vocalist is Yuki Chikudate, who said in an interview with Pitchfork that one of the creepiest fan experiences for her was when she was surrounded by a bunch of hardcore otaku who called her Asobi and talked to her about anime. The band name, Asobi Seksu meant 'play sex' 'fun sex' 'playful sex' or something like that in Japanese.

What a coincidence that both Justin and I have been getting pretty into female Japanese singers named Yuki these days, just that his Yuki is in Japan while mine's in US.

CITRUS is an album I grew to love more and more after my first listen. To the point where I can't go through a day without listening to it at least once. (last album that did that to me was Late Night Alumni's Empty Streets)

Been listening to it usually when I'm writing the screenplay for 'Red Bean Soup', my supposed upcoming short film. But instead of really inspiring me, it made me stop writing, as I managed to discern some flaws with the current draft that make me want to actually revamp everything from scratch. (basically, I stopped, ah, believing in what I was writing) So... I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.

Anyway, here are some music videos from the tracks of Citrus. Only two so far. So you guys must... MUST watch them!



Thursday music video


The first one's THURSDAY, which is one of my favourite tracks in the album. Justin sent it to me some time ago, I listened to it, liked it, and strangely, gradually loved it, thus prompting me to get the entire album. This music video made me love the song even more, strangely.

Here's another:


GOODBYE music video


Seem that they have a bigger budget with the GOODBYE music video. It's cool, but reminds me a little of some of ENON's videos with the CGI and stuff. Er, and I'm not saying this because both bands have Japanese female lead vocalists.

Anyway, here's a music video of WALK ON THE MOON, a song from their previous self-titled album.


WALK ON THE MOON


Tell me what you guys think. Besides the fact that it'll be awesome if I can use something by them in any of my future films when I become less of a small fry filmmaker as I am now. Haha.

Go to Asobi Seksu's MYSPACE page too if you want.

Asobi Seksu is Yuki Chikudate (lead vocalist, keyboard), James Hanna (guitar, vocals), Haji (Bass) and Mitch Spivak (drums)



Thursday, May 17, 2007

Swifty Reviews 'Nada So So 涙そうそう'

Nada So so, starring Satoshi Tsumabuki and Masami Nagasawa


Updated (18/5/2007): Added music video of the 'Nada So So' song's Chinese version by Joi Chua.

NADA SO SO (TEARS FOR YOU) is directed by Nobuhiro Doi, whose previous film is the highly popular IMA AI NI YUKIMASU. Like that film (which, to me, really isn't as good as its vastly superior TV dorama series), NADA SO SO belongs to the 'Pure/ Innocent Love' (Jun-ai) genre, but different in a sense that it focuses more on sibling love than romantic love. Though obviously, it's still as much as a weepy tearjerker as the other films of this genre.

Just look at the poster above. Can something like that NOT be emo?

Before the beginning of the film, my cousin and I were already making bets on which lead character, the male or the female, will die tragically in the end.

I'll lift the plot summary from IMDB:

8-year old Yotaro gains a 3-year old step-sister, Kaoru, when his mother marries a jazz musician who plays in a club in Naha, Okinawa where they live. Before long Kaoru's father deserts them, and not long afterward Yota's mother becomes terminally ill. Her dying wish is for him to watch out for Kaoru at his grandmother's place on a small island off the coast of Okinawa. He fulfills her wish and becomes very protective of his younger sister who calls him "nee-nee."

Thirteen years later Kaoru (Masami Nagasawa, Crying For Love In The Center Of The World, check out my review) returns to Naha and comes to live with him as she starts high school. Yota (Satoshi Tsumabuki, Haru No Yuki and Fast and Furious 3: Tokyo Drift) works hard making deliveries of vegetables from an open-air market by day, and in a restaurant (he is a licensed chef) by night to save money to fulfill his dream of having his own restaurant. He also assumes the role of pushing for Kaoru's entrance to a university. This allows less time for his beautiful posh girlfriend Keiko, the daughter of a doctor who wants her to follow his footsteps, and preferably without her working class boyfriend.

There are also some complications when Kaoru begins to develop some feelings for her stepbrother that goes beyond pure sisterly love. GRAVEYARD OF FIREFLIES, this is not.

This film is engaging to watch, but not entirely original (though not something I was expecting in something like this), present day moments intercut with flashbacks of Yota's childhood, where events that happened to him are bittersweet and tragic in an over-the-top manner, like Yota's eloquent speech at her deathbed, kiddie Yota promising to protect toddler Kaoru under a heavy rain but not before Kaoru wandered out of her bedroom in the middle of night to the seaside and weep about missing her stepmom (or was it her home? Can't remember), and more happy moments between the two little kids where they bond and show glimpses of how they become so virtuous as they grow.

I wasn't really moved, but I was fascinated by the tragedy, even darkly amused. I felt bad with myself, and this guilt made me continue watching. Especially as the film went on, and from its original whimsical, lighthearted tone (the present day scenes are actually rather humourous) to its inevitable descent to, well, one tragedy after another. It reminded me of a conversation with Tina, a dear friend of mine from China I met during my days in Perth (she was Justin's flatmate and had a cameo in my short film GIRL DISCONNECTED as Chang-e the Moon Goddess) who firmly believed that Zhang Yimou's TO LIVE is actually a black comedy and not a tragedy. That the important deaths in the film is really to wring out laughter than tears (but then, Zhang's film is pretty satirical).

And this kept me interested, after all, this is a film, which spans five years, is briskly paced, well-acted (both leads were nominated for acting awards at the Japanese equivalent of the Academy Awards, although Masami Nagasawa also earned a nomination for Worst Actress from the Japanese razzies... harsh), has good production values. The cinematography makes Okinawa look as idyllic as some Hawaii-like paradise.

But the best part of the film, to me, was really when folk singer Rimi Natsukawa's hit song of the same title started playing during the end credits. You see, this film is actually based on the song written during a collaboration between BEGIN and Ryoko Moriyama (Moriyama's lyrics are about her memories of her brother who passed away long ago) I heard that her legendary performance of the song famously reduced many audiences to tears when Natsukawa performed it during 2001's Kohaku (a prestigious Japanese music program held every New Year's Eve).


Ryoko Moriyama singing Nada so so (I personally think hers is the best version)


Rimi Natsukawa singing Nada So So


Nada So So film trailer


Joi Chua's Chinese version. 蔡淳佳 <<陪我看日出>>


BTW: Masami Nagasawa's SOOOOOOOO irresistibly cute in this film! The Japanese Razzies are mean.

Masami Nagasawa

Masami Nagasawa in pyjamas

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Melbourne Portable Film Festival + The Most Discouraging Post Office Worker Ever.

I received an email last Wednesday from the Portable Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia, inviting me to submit my short film, GIRL DISCONNECTED to the festival for competition. Needless to say, I was absolutely elated.

After all, this happened just one day after my Sin Chew Daily newspaper interview was published, and that this was also the very time I've ever been invited to submit my works to a foreign film festival. It was stated in the email that a member of their (the Portable Film Fest) research team found GIRL DISCONNECTED (I wonder how, the member's Malaysian? My film wasn't shown anywhere in Australia outside my own uni... very mysterious) and that's why they wanted me to submit it to the fest.

So, immediately I burnt a copy of GD and put it into an envelope, deadline's on the 30th of May, I couldn't afford to miss it. I headed to the post-office to send my stuff to Melbourne.

And had the misfortune to meet the most discouraging and pessimistic post office employee ever. He's a young Malay guy.

Basically, our conversation was like that (originally in Malay, but I'm translating it to English)

Me: Heya, I want to send this package to Melbourne aia express mail.

Him: Sure, fill in the form.

(I filled in the form)

Him: That will be 66 Ringgit.

(I stared at him in horror)

Me: SIXTY-SIX! THAT'S EXPENSIVE!

(He nodded)

Me: Er... ah... (frowns) If I send this normally? How much? And how long does it take to reach Melbourne?

Him: 3 ringgit 50 cents. Will arrive in 2 weeks. One thing though, we can't guarantee that it'll reach the intended recipient.

(I stared at him in horror. Again.)

Me: What? But this is urgent! Howwwwww?

Him: Maybe you can try to register the post, it's another 3 ringgit.

Me: Oh, so if I do that, it'll reach the film festival?

Him: Not really, just that if we accidentally lose your parcel, we can inform you the bad news.

Me: Er. Okay.

(I filled in my particulars for the registered post)

Me: Right. Here you go. Hey man, be careful with it, okay? I mean, it'll reach in two weeks, right? It's important, I'm sending my stuff to a film festival!

Him: Sorry sir, like I said, we can't guarantee. It might reach in two weeks, or three weeks, or four. Or it might never even reach the intended recipient.

He shrugged and smiled.

I was horrified.

Anyway, dear POS MALAYSIA: Thanks for instilling sooooo much confidence in your customers. Your employees seriously need a role model like...

Kevin Costner in The Postman


Related posts:
Two scenes from GIRL DISCONNECTED.

Video of me talking about GIRL DISCONNECTED at Filmmakers Anonymous 2, Central Market Annexe on February 2007


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Special: Top 10 Great Mother - Child Films

In order to celebrate Mother's Day, I'm listing out my personal top 10 films about mother-child relationships that I like.

(Compiling a list of good films about mother and child relationships just seem so much harder than those about father and son...)

THE LAND BEFORE TIME

The Land Before Time


This is THE ultimate movie about motherly love. The death of Littlefoot's mom after she valiantly protected him from a Tyrannosaurus Rex is one of the most traumatic scene I've ever watched as a child. Anyway, til this very day, I feel that Disney's LION KING, which came out 6 years after this animated masterpiece, is a rip-off of heavily influenced by THE LAND BEFORE TIME.

Here's the scene where Littlefoot's mom tells him about The Great Valley



TERMINATOR 2

Terminator 2


Besides being one of the greatest action sci-fi films of all-time, Terminator 2 is ultimately a film about motherly love. Like Littlefoot's mom, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) was unafraid of anything when she had to desperately protect her child from danger... even when facing someone like the near-invincible T-1000. She had such a lasting impact on her son that in T3, it was pretty obvious the grown-up John Connor was attracted to the Claire Danes character cos' she reminded him of his mom.

Here's someone's tribute to Sarah Connor.



THE SIXTH SENSE

The Sixth Sense


This isn't really just a story about a boy who sees dead people, or some dude who didn't know that he had already become a ghost after getting shot at the beginning of the film, but also a great mother-son story.

Their bonding scene in the car towards the end between Lynn (Toni Collette) and Cole (Haley Joel Osment) was the most emotional scene of the whole film. Both of them deserved their Oscar nominations.



REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

Sara and Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for A Dream


More like a cautionary tale, but not only about the consequences of being addicted to drugs. It's also a tragedy of miscommunication and growing distance between mother and son. Things wouldn't have gone straight to hell if Sara (Ellen Burstyn) and Harry (Jared Leto) had well, spoken and understood each other more. They ended up doing some really stupid things that led them to the dark and hopeless ending.

Here's its trailer:



PSYCHO



Guy killed his mother and preserved her corpse for many years, while his mind became dominated by the persona of his mother, which made him totally psychotic.

A true showing of one's love for his mother.

Okay, I'm just kidding.

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER

All About My Mother by Pedro Almodovar


Not really a mother-son film, since the son died pretty early in the film. But still a film about motherly love, about how the woman dealt with the loss of her son, and how she lived her life after that. My memories of this movie are pretty vague since I watched it not long after it came out, but a good movie for mothers to watch, I guess.



FREAKY FRIDAY

Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday


Haven't seen the original, but I thought the 2003 Jamie Lee Curtis/ Lindsay Lohan version's pretty good. Mother and daughter cannot get along, then they switch bodies, and are forced to adapt to the other's life, gradually learning to understand each other more. Pretty surprised that this movie's only made four years ago, with all these news about Lindsay Lohan since then, it definitely felt much longer ago when I saw this.

Here's the moment when their bodies were switched.



BACK TO THE FUTURE

Back to the Future


Guy travels back in time, stumbles upon a younger version of his mom, and younger version of his mom develops a crush for him.

Real motherly love.

Okay, I'm kidding about this film too.

IMA AI NI YUKIMASU いま会いにゆきます



The only Asian film in the list. Woman dies and returns to her husband and young son one year later during rainy season. I prefer the TV drama version, but the film version's depiction of mother and son relationship is still very touching.

Here's the trailer.



Well, that's all I can think of. What about you? (... maybe 5xmom will have some suggestions)

BTW: Happy Mother's Day, mom.


Cinema Paradiso. Original vs New Version

Phillipe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio in Cinema Paradiso


**Mild spoiler warning for both versions of Cinema Paradiso**

Was watching the director's cut version of Cinema Paradiso (called the 'New Version') on DVD with my dad a few nights ago. Now already regarded as a classic, I've definitely heard of this 1988 Italian film (made in 1988, released internationally in 1990... I think) for a really long time, but never really had the opportunity to find either the chance, or the mood to watch it even though my dad has the DVD of the original for years.

Dad managed to borrow the Cinema Paradiso: New Version DVD from his friend, which he hadn't seen, so we watched it together. Father and son watching a nice coming-of-age story of a boy and his friendship with a father figure, awesome.

To the uninitiated, film's about a famous film director who returns home to a Sicilian village for the first time after almost 30 years to attend a funeral of Alfredo, an old friend. He reminisces about his childhood at the Cinema Paradiso where Alfredo, the projectionist, first brought about his love of films. He is also reminded of his lost teenage love, Elena, whom he had to leave before he left for Rome.

This film is a MUST-WATCH!

Ahhh... I think it's a beautiful film that reminds me why I love films at the first place. If you actually love films, I think you'll love this even more. There are moments in the film that just feel... magical. And man, the score by Ennio Morricone, I've heard it so many times in awards presentations and the likes (and most recently, in movie The Holiday, the Jack Black character made numerous Morricone references) but I never knew that it's actually from this film!

Released in 2002, the director's cut is actually nearly an hour longer than the original. Director Giuseppe Tornatore gives us more extra stuff than Peter Jackson did with the extended versions of those Lord of the Rings films.

In the original version, Elena remains a lasting memory for Salvatore (Toto), the protagonist, but in the 'New Version', he actually meets up with Elena again, both of them already middle-aged, and she's married to an old friend of his. Turns out that all those years ago, Alfredo reluctantly manipulated Elena into leaving Toto just so Toto can follow his dreams and become a film director*.

I feel that the new revelations from the Elena subplot in the director's cut sort of diminish the Alfredo/ Toto friendship. And the structure in the third act just becomes a bit awkward and weird. Some like this new version more because the film becomes more complex, the relationship between Elena and Toto more tragic and less mysterious, there is an added layer to the film. Alfredo's 'betrayal' makes Alfredo more selfless because he doesn't want Toto to make an impossible choice, yet, a betrayal is still a betrayal! Somehow, when the famous 'kissing montage' ending came, I was really more numb than really affected.

After the film ended, dad, feeling slightly disappointed by this version too, popped the old DVD of the original version into the player just so we can make our comparisons. We fastforwarded to the last act of the film. (you didn't really think that we would have a 5+ hour Cinema Paradiso marathon, did you?)

I think I like the more fable-like, mythical feel of the original. More simple and innocent. Maybe being a romantic at heart, I would rather that Elena remains just a lasting memory. It's mostly because I embrace open-endedness just so I can fill in my own blanks. With her subplot being so open-ended, I'm allowed to believe and imagine that someday, Toto (who remained single all his life, drifting from one loveless relationship to another) would finally find Elena under different, and happier circumstances. Sigh...

The feeling I got from the new version? It's as if GONE WITH THE WIND has an extended ending with Scarlett finding Rhett again only to find out that he's already married to some random woman and has a few kids of his own**. But of course, the idea of GWTW being longer than its original 4 hours is already scary enough.

Still a really good movie, but definitely not as good as the original, to me.

Anyone else with any thoughts?

Gotta add a video of the ending. Powerful stuff.


The famous 'Kissing Montage' ending in Cinema Paradiso


* Er, hits a bit too close to home for me...

** I'm disregarding of the existence of Alexandra Ripley's SCARLETT, the 1991 authorized sequel of GONE WITH THE WIND.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Most Beautiful Languages in the world (...and the ugliest)

A MSN conversation:

Justin says:
Actually I don't really like English for writing either
Justin says:
It's has too many guttural sounds
Justin says:
French is easier to get consonance in, words flow together better like for writing
Swifty says:
oooh
Justin says:
This is why German literature sounds like shit
Justin says:
Try reading Thomas Mann out loud, it sounds like someone has throat cancer
Justin says:
Japanese, the sounds also go together better
Justin says:
Than English I think
Justin says:
Probably Chinese too, I don't know
Swifty says:
Yeah
Justin says:
I think I like French more in theory though
Justin says:
I don't actually like the accent, just the flowing quality and the ability to transition shit
Swifty says:
Hmmmm
Justin says:
Serious, like
Justin says:
It's like what I was talking about last night
Justin says:
Why French and Japanese have so much literature
Justin says:
Japanese, the words sound similar so it's easy to have puns and ambiguities
Justin says:
I was listening to this video of them reading Mishima out loud in Japanese and it was awesome
Justin says:
Like they were reading the final scene of Sea of Fertility
Justin says:
And the last phrase was really beautiful
Swifty says:
... weren't you the one who told me that book readings suck?
Justin says:
It works better if you read it in your head, yeah
Justin says:
They do suck usually, because
Justin says:
People try to act shit out
Swifty says:
Mmhmm
Swifty says:
Yeah, those are dumb
Justin says:
Or inject false emotion into it rather than focusing on the rhythm
Justin says:
This reading of Mishima was very mechanical and emotionless, which made it more beautiful
Justin says:
Like, my view of writing
Justin says:
Is that it's like frozen music that you have to play in your mind
Justin says:
I mean I read my shit out loud WHEN I'M ALONE
Swifty says:
Ooooh
Justin says:
But that's to try to get the rhythm
Justin says:
I wouldn't do it in front of anyone else, since they're supposed to perceive it immediately while reading
Swifty says:
Yeah
Justin says:
I wish I could write in Japanese seriously
Justin says:
You can do awesome shit with rhythm and sound
Justin says:
I was reading Wataya out loud, it sounds awesome

Risa Wataya


Swifty says:
hmm
Justin says:
Like
Justin says:
All the syllables have vowels after them
Justin says:
There are no sharp consonants
Justin says:
Like English words are like
Justin says:
nrtshwryfh
Swifty says:
Hahahaha
Justin says:
But all japanese syllables are like wa, ka, ga, ge, ke, etc.
Justin says:
So the rhythm is very easy to establish
Justin says:
That's why they can possibly rap better as well
Justin says:
I mean I think Japanese rap sounds better in some respects
Justin says:
Like
Swifty says:
No, Nas ruuuuuules!

Nas


Justin says:
Think about it
Justin says:
Some languages don't really allow rap
Justin says:
Yeah but
Swifty says:
Yeah, better than Chinese
Justin says:
Look at how that is
Justin says:
Rappers don't actually rap in straight English
Justin says:
They use a lot of invented words and abbreviations
Justin says:
Because it makes it easier to fit the rhythm
Swifty says:
Hmm yeah
Justin says:
A lot of rap has like
Justin says:
Half rhymes as well
Justin says:
Like it will not be an actual rhyme
Justin says:
But will sound close to it
Justin says:
I think in Japanese, there are so many similar sounding words that it's easier to have actual rhyme all the time
Justin says:
I don't know though
Justin says:
I might just be talking out my ass
Justin says:
Can anyone seriously rap in Chinese
Justin says:
Do you think
Swifty says:
Er... Jay Chou?

Jay Chou


Swifty says:
Actually, I would say that it's easier to rap in Chinese
Swifty says:
since they're all like, single syllable words
Justin says:
But does this actually happen in real life, do you think
Swifty says:
Hm? Rapping?
Justin says:
Chinese people
Justin says:
rapping well or having hot rhymes
Swifty says:
I don't know, I never really followed C-Pop.
Swifty says:
But they have lotsa rap-like songs
Justin says:
Wouldn't the need to maintain intonations for meaning make it more difficult
Swifty says:
Not really
Swifty says:
They use lots of wordplays
Swifty says:
Actually, come to think of it, they are pretty good in rapping in chinese
Justin says:
Yeah it's the same
Justin says:
All the syllables are the same shit
Justin says:
Hold on a sec
Justin says:
Let me get this one thing
Justin says:
German rappers probably suck
Justin says:
http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1854602&lastnode_id=124
Justin says:
石室詩士施氏, 嗜獅, 誓食十獅。

氏時時適市視獅。

十時, 適十獅適市。

是時, 適施氏適市。

氏視是十獅, 恃矢勢, 使是十獅逝世。

氏拾是十獅屍, 適石室。

石室濕, 氏使侍拭石室。

石室拭, 氏始試食是十獅。

食時, 始識是十獅, 實十石獅屍。

試釋是事

Swifty says:
shi shi shi shi shi shi
Swifty says:
all in four different tones *
Justin says:
They have the same shit as that in Japanese
Justin says:
There is this one thing like "Ni wa ni wa ni wa niwa ni wa tori ga iru"
Justin says:
Almost every title of a Japanese show is a pun
Justin says:
Urusei Yatsura **

Urusei Yatsura


Swifty says:
Uh huh
Justin says:
Okay in conclusion
Justin says:
The point of this post is to shit on germanic languages
Justin says:
English and German are rubbish ***
Justin says:
(thesis statement)
Justin says:
French has good euphony and consonance but sounds like shit when actually spoken
Justin says:
That is an addendum or footnote
Swifty says:
Oh, we're dissing Germans?
Swifty says:
It's all because of Gunter Grass...

Gunter Grass


Justin says:
Not dissing Germans, just their language
Justin says:
Gunter Grass is a Nazi


* Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den is a Chinese poem by Yuen Ren Chao, a linguist who lived from 1892 to 1982. The poem was created as an illustration of the large degree of homophony in Classical Chinese; it consists of 92 characters that are all pronounced with the sound 'shi', each syllable enunciated with one of four different tones (Chinese is a tonal language). Chao created the poem as an argument against the romanization of Classical Chinese, although he did support the romanization of the modern written form of Chinese known as Vernacular Chinese.

Classical Chinese is a written style of Chinese that is based on 2000-year-old forms of spoken Chinese, and is not congruous with any modern spoken dialects (the variation between different Chinese "dialects" can be as great as between different languages of the Romance language family, bringing to mind the aphorism "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy"). The poem is understandable when written in Chinese characters, or if it were pronounced by a speaker of Old Chinese, who would enunciate the distinctions between the tones; however if the Classical Chinese were spoken aloud with the dialect of a modern speaker, the syllables would be indistinguishable. For this reason it is also not understandable when romanized, as the characters of the Latin alphabet are mapped to individual phonemes (sounds). (from Everything2.com)

** The title roughly translates as "those obnoxious aliens". The word urusei is a crude way of saying urusai, which means "noisy" or "obnoxious", and is also a slang phrase for "shut up!" (As in, "You're being obnoxious, so…"). The second word in the title, yatsura, is the plural form of yatsu (奴, yatsu?), the low-respect pronoun for "the person over there" and carrying the connotation of a hooligan or jerk. However, the kanji for star/planet (星, sei?) is used; hence, the title can be seen as an untranslatable combination of "Those noisy hooligans" and "Those jerks from the planet Uru".

*** "French has good euphony and consonance but sounds like shit when actually spoken" - Justin



Risa Wataya Interview (Feb 2007)


German rapper who ain't happy with what Justin said


Chinese rapper gal, Duan Si Si, totally gangsta!




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