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My Short Films

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Visiting Tokyo Tower

Yesterday was Showa Memorial Day, so I went to visit Tokyo Tower with some friends.

My camcorder and my digital camera can never co-exist, if I bring only my camera, I am more likely to take some good photos, but when I'm busy shooting with my camcorder, the quality of the photos from my camera tend to suffer.

I was very surprised that only 20% of the photos I took yesterday were presentable. My camera is useless in taking night photos (it's an old Canon PC1226). Almost everything I took were blurry. Should have brought my mini-tripod.

Anyway, here are the photos:

Taken while we were on the way to the tower.

Heading To Tokyo Tower

Heading To Tokyo Tower 2

Heading to Tokyo Tower 3


It looks somewhat majestic from close. But then, I've actually been to Tokyo Tower twice before, the last visit was 6 years ago though.

As we reached the top of the tower, the sun was about to set, and I managed to grab some shots of Tokyo during the 'magic hour'.

View From Top Of Tokyo Tower

View From Top Of Tokyo Tower 2

View from top of Tokyo Tower 3


The only photo of me and the rest of the people who went to Tokyo Tower with me. I just realized that I've acquired a sexy Louis Koo-esque tan. Or maybe it just happened that the others have fair skin. The guy next to me and the chick in the center are both from Hong Kong. The dude in black and the chick whose face is partially covered are both Taiwanese who have migrated to US, the rest of the girls are from Mainland China.

Me and the rest of the people in Tokyo Tower


And here it is, my one and only photo of Tokyo at night that isn't (too) blurry.

Night View From The Top Of Tokyo Tower


Tried to take photos of Tokyo Tower at night. Didn't work too well.


Tokyo Tower At Night

Tokyo Tower At Night 2


Video of this visit will be up. Soon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Japanese Films vs The Rest Of The World

Nakama YukieI'm totally drained after going through a two-film marathon, both Japanese films (you can see I am trying hard to improve my Japanese language skills ;)), both two-hour long, the first was HERO, the second was STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKES (the 2006 movie, not the old 2001 dorama, STRAWBERRY ON SHORTCAKE), one's a commercial courtdoom drama, another an arthouse film on loneliness and adult relationships, former's entertaining, latter's haunting. I'm now drained, yet not drained enough to not rant.

(I'll be peppering this post with photos of the awesome NAKAMA YUKIE, whom I've liked a lot since I first watched the TRICK series, and also in honour of Gokusen 3 being the top-rated dorama in Tokyo now)

Last night (or two nights ago, since it's past midnight), I read an article on Japan Times called FILM FESTIVALS: HOW JAPAN IS VIEWED FROM AFAR by Alexander Jacoby, and I find myself agreeing with the opening paragraphs:

Ask most Westerners today what images are brought to mind by the words "Japanese film," and the answers may include a ghost crawling out of a television screen, a woman sticking needles into the face of a paralyzed man, gangsters pumping each other full of lead in the streets of an urban jungle, or teenage schoolchildren battling to the death on a remote island. For others, perhaps mainly of an older generation, Japanese cinema means the dramatization of epic battles between samurai in the remote past, or serene, contemplative stories about the daily lives of Tokyo families.

The first set of images, from films by directors including Hideo Nakata, Takashi Miike and the late Kinji Fukasaku, typify the kind of cinema exported from Japan in recent years, favored with commercial releases abroad and widely available in the West on DVD. The second group of films, by revered names such as Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, represent the Japanese film classics sent to the West in the 1950s and now screened at art-house cinemas and in traveling retrospectives.

These two categories, however, do not represent the length and breadth of Japanese cinema. Between the popular genres of J-horror, yakuza flick and animation on the one hand, and the art-house classics on the other, lies a whole undiscovered country.


Nakama Yukie's Gokuzen lookHowever, this common misconception of Japanese films, in my opinion, isn't limited only to Westerners, but also (almost) to the rest of the world, yes, including Malaysia. I am suddenly reminded of a MSN conversation I had with a fellow Monbusho scholarship recipient just a night or two before I left for Tokyo.

Why, of all countries, you chose to study filmmaking in Japan. He asked

Why not? I replied, feeling a twinge of annoyance. Japanese cinema has a long and rich tradition. It's just unfortunate that their finest films are kept within the country, while the more mediocre but obviously commercial films are distributed to other countries, like the (now tiresome) J-horror films, or recent Hollywood-like big-budget blockbusters like the DEATH NOTE films, or the JAPAN SINKS!

Yeah, I'm sick and tired of J-horrors, they are all the same. He said, also seemingly sceptical of my words.

Like I said, Japanese cinema is more than just J-Horror. It's just that we are raised in a country where Japanese films are barely shown in the cinemas. I said.

Why not Hollywood? He asked.

Because I didn't get a scholarship that can pay for all my fees in Hollywood. I replied dryly. And also because Hollywood films have monopolized the entire world, the market's oversaturated with Hollywood stuff. I'm not some generic arty farty anti-establishment elitist who condemns all things Hollywood, but I fear that if I go there, I may end up trying to emulate a style that the whole world is used to seeing. And frankly, I'm not interested in competing against them in what they are best at doing.

Silence.

I continued. On the other hand, Japanese filmmaking is more... insular, less exposed, less known to the mainstream foreign audiences.

Korean films are better lah. He said.

Nakama YukieYeah, because more Korean films are distributed around Asia than their Japanese counterpart. I sighed and tried to go for a simpler explanation. And so they make more money, and thus having higher production values to pull off stuff closer to Hollywood. The kind of films you are more used to seeing.

You know what director pisses me off? Wong Kar Wai. He declared, just like nine out of ten other countrymen of mine have done.

Yah. Because you, and most others, grew up watching TVB soap operas, and Hong Kong action, horror or comedy films. You have a preconceived notion of what a film should be like, so anything different is bad to you. I replied.

It's just like how I've recently gotten a little miffed when someone describes a film as an 'art' film. I would challenge that someone in naming me an 'art' film that he doesn't think is boring or slow. And most often, he cannot reply, and I will say, so, 'art film' is just a label for films you think are boring and slow huh?

Try to sit through a Robert Bresson film. I said. Or the European cinema of the 60s, try the French New Wave, try Antonioni, try Godard, try Rohmer, try sit through films that emphasize more on form than content, more on mise-en-scene than three-act structure, more on mood and atmosphere than body counts and explosions, more on visual storytelling, hidden allegory than obvious expositions. I would like to see how you react. Maybe you'll end up feeling that Wong Kar Wai films are as fast-paced as a Tony Scott film.

I never really end up saying the last paragraph to him, since our conversation really veered towards him brashly challenging me to explain to him the 'whole point' of 2046. Which I did, flippantly.

All my life, I've always been defensive towards Japanese Cinema. Perhaps it's really not the films I'm protecting, but a more abstract concept, like blind prejudice and stereotyping. It's stupid to just label Japanese films as 'extreme Miike cinema', or 'wacky Japanese people doing crazy shit', or 'ancient samurai swordsplay' or 'needlessly excessive melodrama'.

When are things so simple? There's always another perspective to something, another facet, another layer. Hell, I also genuinely believe that some of the finest Studio Ghibli masterpiece animated films should be respected like their live-action counterparts too.

I don't see the point of staying so bloody close-minded, and I don't see the point of being so stubborn with one's beliefs. Why? The world is easier to understand when you mentally reduce what you're not familiar with into caricatures?

Nakama YukieHERO the Japanese movie brings me back to a full circle, from my high school days when HERO the TV series was setting ratings records, a time when I was trying to convince a high school crush the merits of Japanese cinema.

"I don't like them." She said, when an innocent conversation brought us to the topic of Japanese films. "But then, I don't like the Japanese culture anyway."

"You have to watch LOVE LETTER." I said. It was only a year or two since I've seen the film then, and was really eager to introduce people to its beauty. "It'll change your mind. Really!"

"Do you know that the all-time top-rated TV series is HERO? When a show like that is their most-watched programme ever, it speaks clearly of their unrefined tastes." She said.

"Since when does popularity is the sole indicator of quality? Titanic is the top-grossing film of all-time. Does that mean that it's inarguably the greatest film ever made?" I said, feeling a twinge of spite, almost falling out of infatuation for her.

Few days later, I brought her my prized VCD of Love Letter.

Few weeks later, she returned it to me, untouched. Unwatched.

You know some of those stupid shallow women who tend to go for the bad boys because they wish they can change them? The ones who cling to the silly Chinese saying '男的不坏,女的不爱'? (Literal translation: If the guy isn't bad, the gal won't love him) The types who thought that they could domesticate some asshole just to assuage their own fragile starving ego and satisfy their silly flights of fancy?

Hey, I was like that too (aside from the fact that I'm a bloke), blinded by silly teenage infatuation, well-intentioned but possibly ultimately self-serving. Maybe I didn't want her to adopt such a ridiculous stance towards something she barely knew, and thus in my own naive methods, I tried to change her. I got burnt instead.

Yet she had no idea what she was missing.

I like exploring and excavating things, be it films, literature or music. I was once asked whether it's worth it, when I could just spend my time doing something else instead.

And miss out on all these hidden treasure? Thanks, but no thanks. Self-imposed boundaries are not my thing. My curiosity will get the better of me.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Buying A New Jacket In Shibuya

My old black leather jacket can't be worn anymore. For some weird reason, whitish-looking powdery stuff have been coming out of it. For the past few weeks, I've been wearing the same black jersey the whole time (the one you see on the black and white photo I used for the Twitter window at the right sidebar) because my other jackets are way too thick to wear during the Spring.

Besides, I needed to take a walk, and I haven't been to Shibuya all these while either.

Shibuya is a colourful place, and I see lots of costumed musicians performing, and promoting something. The ones in the photo below were standing outside a pachinko shop.

Costumed Musicians outside pachinko shop

Shibuya

Shibuya 2


Navigating through the crowded streets, I found the legendary HMV Shibuya, which has a huge range of CDs not seen in other shops throughout the rest of Tokyo. Hanging out there, exploring one obscure Japanese artiste after another, I am definitely sure that Shibuya has THE best HMV in the whole of Tokyo.

But then, it's unsurprising, since this is the place where Shibuya-kei's from. Now, here's from the Wiki entry about Shibuya-kei for the uninitiated, Shibuya-kei is a subgenre of Jpop that's a combination of jazz, pop, electropop. Initially, the term was applied to Flipper's Guitar, and Pizzicato Five, bands strongly influenced by French yé-yé Music and its most notable proponent, Serge Gainsbourg (been listening to his stuff recently). Other influences include lounge, and bossa nova. As the style's popularity increased at end of the 90s, the term began to be applied to many bands, such as Puffy, whose musical stylings began to reflect a more mainstream sensibility.

Some artists rejected or resisted being categorized as "Shibuya-kei," but the name ultimately stuck. The style was favoured by local businesses, including Shibuya Center Street's HMV Shibuya, which sold Shibuya-kei records in its traditional Japanese music section.

I've always been into Shibuya-kei, being a fan of Kahimi Karie, and often trying to find the works of Chocolat, Towa Tei and all. In fact, I managed to buy myself a couple of Kahimi Karie CDs (singles and albums) and one Takako Minekawa album for a bargain price of 500 yen just before I took the train to Shibuya (I found that CD shop by accident), but that's another story.

Here's what Shibuya looks like at night:

Shibuya at night

Shibuya at night 2

Shibuya at night 3


As I head back to the train station, I see a long queue in front of the Beard Papa Sweets (I was struck by how vaguely familiar the name was, and suspected that I was there once with a lady friend for the Chocolate Fondant, she later confirmed via MSN when I asked her, funny how I'm starting to do things that trace back to memories of her... feh). Anyway, instead of the chocolate fondant, everyone was lining up for the Green Tea cream puffs.

People lining up at Beard Papa Sweets


Curious to taste it myself, I joined the queue. And got myself one of those cream puffs too.

Green Tea Cream Puff


It's pretty good.

Anyway, I didn't have that much of a problem buying myself a new jacket. Of course, initially, I wanted to go ghetto and buy them at some hip-hop ware shop. To my horror, most of the stuff sold there were more than ten thousand yen, too much for me, I thanked the sales assistant politely, and made a lame excuse that "I'll be back", and rushed off.

I ended up finding a Hanjiro shop on top of HMV Shibuya and bought myself a jacket.

And later realize after I got back home that I look like a cosplayer from Full Metal Alchemist... -_-

This is the part where I camwhore with my new coat:

Me in my new coat... ignore the pictures on the left


Please ignore the Ueto Aya pictures (there's one Nakama Yukie though) on my left. It's just decoration.

Now, a closer look of my coat, (it might be hard to see because I'm also wearing black underneath):

A better look of me


It's less than half the price of the jackets sold at the hip-hop shop, and I kinda liked it. It's somewhat cosplayer-ish (sigh), but it's unlike anything I've ever worn before. Japanese fashion rocks.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Swifty Reviews 'Funuke, Show Some Love You Losers! 腑抜けども、悲しみの愛を見せろ'

Funuke, Show Some Love Your Losers


Been getting rather difficult for me to write any film reviews lately, but here you go:

Funuke, Show Some Love You Losers! is a film I knew nothing about when I started watching it, and I finished it feeling rather rewarded.

It's a film about a dysfunctional family, it's driven completely by the four primary characters and the relationship and interaction between them. The opening scene sets the tone for things to come, we see a gruesome traffic accident caused by a cat that's sickeningly funny.

Happening entirely in a small Japanese village, the untimely death of an elderly couple due to the aforementioned traffic accident brings Sumika, an aspiring actress home for the funeral. And she reunits with her family: The woodcutter elder half-brother Shinji, his cheerful new bride Machiko from an arranged marriage, and there's the youngest teenage sister Kiyomi, a quiet, nerdy and asthmatic girl.

Machiko, a constantly cheerful and sweet woman, finds herself often bearing the brunt of her husband's anger and physical abuse, which is both cartoonish and disturbing at the same time. (in her first scene, which is right after the funeral, we see her furious husband shoving her aside (for her latest 'indescretion')... and her slamming right onto the sliding wooden door. Ouch. She's like a Setsuka Hara character from an Ozu film (more specifically, Noriko in TOKYO STORY), but in a way too messed up situation.

Sumika is absolutely EVIL. A failed actress who has a bone to pick with her younger sister due to, ah, a 'manga-related' incident years earlier before her departure to Tokyo. We see her constantly trying to exact her 'revenge' upon the younger sister with all kinds of malicious pranks, which the latter suffers quietly in silence due to her own guilt. Yet she is not entirely a caricature, as we get to know more of her inner thoughts through a series of letters she writes to a film director in the middle of the film (the voiceover monologue will serve as bridges for the film's narration, and also providing information of other characters' backstories, a good way of storytelling without resorting to pace-killing exposition)

The youngest sister Kiyomi is often cycling away for an unnamed part-time job, and has a talent for drawing manga. She is also like an observer, throughout the film, the audiences will discover many twists and secrets of the family through Kiyomi. And some scenes of Kiyomi spying on her family members are staged so well that I wish I've watched this film before I did my CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY.

The eldest half-brother Shinji (in Sebastian's review, he mentioned him as a stepbrother) seems like an asshole at first for abusing his wife, but is wildly protective towards his sisters, and gradually, we see that he's actually more fragile than we thought, silently falling apart as he has caught between the sibling battle between his two sisters. No character is 1-dimensional, as his actual frustration is fleshed out, his behaviour may not have been justified, but at least it makes his actions almost understandable.

This film is helped by its strong performances. The smoldering hot Eriko Sato (whom I mistakenly thought was Otsuka Ai first, but then wondered how did she looked so, ahem, womanly suddenly) was great as the bitchy Sumika.

Eriko Sato
Eriko Sato


Otsuka Ai


Am I the only one who feel that they look quite alike? Except, um, Sato's bustier.

Masatoshi Nagase is pretty good as the brooding Shinji too. Aimi Satsukawa's role as Kiyomi is challenging, but she pulled it off by showing how multi-faceted her character is despite barely speaking most of the time (check out Aimi's blog). And of course, there's Nagasaku Hiromi's multiple awards-winning performance as the saintly Michiro. I noticed some resemblance to Miyazaki Aoi, until I realized that she actually played the older version of Miyazaki Aoi in SUKIDA, a film I initially dissed two years ago, but in retrospect, wasn't very fair with (it just isn't an appropriate film to watch during a birthday party :D).

The film is peppered by numerous unexpectedly stylish and 'hip' visual devices that one would expect to see in a different film. Very innovative, not for what was used, but how it was used, like seeing a photograph in a newspaper interview Sumika's reading come to life so that audiences get to 'watch' an interview scene, instead of 'reading' it themselves. Or how towards the end, a series of scenes split up to become part of a manga page, brings back memories of madcap animated series like FLCL and KareKano.

I particularly liked the quiet ending, which is slightly ambiguous, but hints a possible reconciliation. Not really a mainstream film, but not too arty either, but it's definitely worth a watch, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea.

Director Daihachi Yoshida knows his mise-en-scene well and is able to keep things under control despite this being his debut feature. Hard to find any information of him online, but I'm definitely looking forward to his future works.


AFI Fest's Interview with Daihachi Yoshida



Trailer


Friday, April 25, 2008

The Star's BMW Shorties Article and Eyeris' 'non-review' of Chicken Rice Mystery

An introspective moment
Lim Ming Wei in CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY


My dad just told me that today's The Star had an article about the BMW Shorties' 10 finalists. So I went to check out The Star Online.

All 10 short films went “live” yesterday on www.bmwshorties.com.my where viewers can cast their votes for their favourite flick. The finalist with the most votes will receive the People’s Choice Award.

BMW press and corporate affairs manager T. Vijayaratnam said the winner will be announced on May 15.

The other finalists are filmmaker Shanjey Kumar Perumal, freelance artist Nazim Mohamed Esa, freelance production designer Law Gwo Yunn, multimedia designer Lim Kean Sang, drama instructor Lee Eng Keong, corporate account manager Choong Hui Shen, film producer Yeo Yee Haeng, filmmaker Mohammad Izwan Kamal and film student Wan Mun Hon.

LINK

It's great to be mentioned. Though I guess it was a mistake of mine to not mention specifically that I should be credited as 'EDMUND YEO' during the submission of the film back then, so everyone wouldn't have to suffer with my unpronounceable 'YEO YEE HAENG'.

If some audiences have bothered to pay attention, they'll probably wonder why I'm sometimes listed as a film producer, and sometimes as a student. Haha.

On the other hand, Eyeris had also posted a 'non-review' of CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY on his blog, which is totally worth reading, and flattering. :D

Eh I thought the theme is H2O?
Why chicken rice wan?
Talking about the chicken rice soup is it?
Or maybe the artsy shots of water dripping,
And the shots of water in the lake.
So random wtf hahaha.


Once again, you can watch CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY at the BMW SHORTIES site.

LINK

Thursday, April 24, 2008

KLue writes about BMW Shorties Finalists. Yeo Yee Haeng vs Edmund Yeo

Father and son having dinner
The Father and The Boy in CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY


Seems that KLUE had a short write-up on the BMW Shorties finalists.

Selected by a strong panel of judges that included the indie director -Tan Chui Mui, the thespian - Ida Nerina, last years winner- Abdullah Zahir bin Omar and filmaker - Raymond Red, this years finalists all made films around the theme of H20. The films include, Shanjey Peumal's Broken Bangles, Moe Izwan Kamal's Goat, Law Gwo Yunn's Seven Squared, Nazim Esa's For the Love of Drowning, Mahaletchumi Tavamany's Sing in the Rain, Lim Kean Sang's Dissolve, Lee Eng Keong's Going Home, Choong Hui Shen's F.L.O.W, Wan Mun Hon's Cold Water and Yeo Yee Haeng's Chicken Rice Mystery. The films include a boys quest to investigate his mum's strange behaviour, a little girl's journey to keep her fish alive, 4 guys stuck in a house with no water and the a story of underwater love and its dynamics.


Link

Heh, felt a little weird to see myself credited as YEO YEE HAENG instead of EDMUND YEO in the article. When I first saw that name of mine on the BMW Shorties site, I had to request for them to change my name back to EDMUND YEO. Mostly because I've been using the latter for my filmmaking, and, well, YEO YEE HAENG is really unpronounceable ('Haeng' is supposed to sound like 'Hung', not 'Hang' nor 'Heng' nor 'Ha-Eng') and from primary school to secondary school, and I cringed everytime a new teacher butchered my name.

Heck, during my graduation ceremony in Murdoch University, Perth, last year, I pumped my fist when my name was called not because I was joyous about the graduation, but because they miraculously got my name right.

Of course, til this very day, most of my friends I knew before college still call me 'Yee Haeng', and I did put this name, in Chinese 杨毅恒, for the end credits, so it's not as if I'm entirely severing my own roots. Just that I'm giving everyone an easier name to remember, and not have to suffer with a tongue-twister like 'YEO YEE HAENG'.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

RACE: Four Original Short Plays

I had the pleasure of meeting actress (and self-described theater practitioner) Soefira Jaafar in the middle of last year, and I was asked to help her produce a stage production that her company, RPT (RATHER PECULIAR THEATER) was preparing. Although I was around for some preliminary meetings with her and the writers, I, unfortunately, had to leave RACE due to other commitments (the telemovies CINTA TIGA SEGI and KURUS), and also because I was well aware back then that I was possibly coming to Tokyo to continue my studies, thus making it impossible to stay around for the actual performance in the end.

However, life is full of surprises, as my brief involvement in this had also given me the chance to know the other director of RACE, Kimmy Kiew, whom I've spent most time speaking to only on Gmail chat last year because she was in Korea most of the time. And due to that, as you may know by now, Kimmy ended up with a main role in my short film, CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY:

Mom (Kimmy) readying dinner
Kimmy as Mom in CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY

(Ahem, remember, you can watch CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY at BMW Shorties.)

So here you go, after months of preparation, RPT is finally putting RACE up on KLPac. In fact, their first show is TONIGHT.

Now, here are the info I got from them:

Dates & Times: 23-26 April 2008 @ 8.30pm; 26 & 27 April 2008 @ 3pm ONLY SIX SHOWS!

Venue: Pentas 2, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac)
Sentul Park, Jln. Strachan, 51100 Kuala Lumpur.

Directed by: Soefira Jaafar & Kimmy Kiew

Written by: Ridzwan Othman, Shanon Shah, Kimmy Kiew & Fauzuly Hamdan Tahir (D’boy)


The directors and writers of RACE
Bilingual: Malay & English

Cast: Shanthini Venugopal, Sarah Shahrum, Adrian Seet, Nor Hazlin Nor Salam, Chong Keat Aun, Ahmad Firdaus (Markyong), Sherry Abdullah, Lakshman (Lax) and Iedil Putra Alaudin.

Sound Designer: Melvin Ho

Lighting Designer: Teo Kuang Han

Tickets: RM35 Adult
RM25 Senior citizens, OKU, students (Limited seats)

PROMOTION: **Saturday Matinee Special**
All Seats @ RM25!

Box Office: The KLPac (03-4047-9000)
The Actors Studio @ BSC (03-2094-9400)

Website: www.klpac.com

Facebook Group: Rather Peculiar Theatre (Global)
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8186458238

Facebook Event: RACE Four Original Short Plays
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=9994139074

Email Inquiries to: helloRPT@gmail.com


Four writers were challenged by Rather Peculiar Theatre (RPT) to each come up with a 15 minutes piece, based on the word ‘race’.

Born into the era of Vision 2020, these maturing young writers bring to the table their own brand of industry recognition, artistic experiences and personal attitudes. What result are unique pieces, in English and Bahasa Malaysia, and of varying perspectives and approaches. These reflect the complexity that comes from one word, one generation and one country.

Winner of the BOH Cameronian Arts Award for Best English Play in 2005, Ridzwan Othman, would like you to know that playing a Scrabble game beginning with the word – Angsa, is not a simple laughing matter when played by a child with a knack for using inappropriate words. Or is it? Watch the peculiar effect it has on her parents and teacher.

The multi-talented, award winning singer-songwriter, Shanon Shah sets aside his familiar musical endeavours to share some gossip with you. Once You Pop, You Just Can’t Stop! (Sekali Dah Mula, Susah Nak Berhenti) lets you in on two neighbours, Pn. Farah and Mrs. Nathan, yakking away about each other in the privacy of their separate homes, on stage at the same time. * Gasp*

Fresh from a cultural exchange program in South Korea, Kimmy Kiew seeks a new challenge with a devised piece that is One In A Billion. Drama can be a funny thing. Witness the catastrophic trials of team that is desperate to win a billion dollar prize in a marching competition. Each participant's predicament is compounded by the lack of a good captain. Sedia! Cepat Berjalan!

Fauzuly Hamdan Tahir (D’boy), awarded Best Student three years in a row by the ASWARA Theatre Faculty, sets his ‘mini musikal’ in a detention classroom with four students. Stuck there for different reasons, they get into a battle of Snake & Ladders. Simple though it may be, the unpredictable children’s game sends the students Up & Down, Satu Mini Muzikal, to amusing effect. Performed in Bahasa Malaysia.


The production also features two capable women directors, Soefira Jaafar and Kimmy Kiew, who wield a melting-pot cast of experienced performers (Shanthini Venugopal, Sarah Shahrum, Nor Hazlin Nor Salam), emerging ASWARA alumni/graduating students(Markyong, Lax, Sherry Abdullah, Iedil Putra Alaudin), and other media talents(TV newscaster Adrian Seet, Ai FM Dj Chong Keat Aun.)

It’s a BOH Cameronian Arts Award acknowledged cast & creative team, with 7 wins and 15 nominations, including:

• Most Promising Artist – Shanon Shah (2005 Winner)
• Best Director – Kimmy Kiew (2003 Nominee)
• Best Original Script (English) – Ridzwan Othman (2004 Winner), Soefira Jaafar (2002 Nominee)
• Best Original Composition – Melvin Ho (2005 Nominee – Monkey Business)
• Best Lighting Design – Teo Kuang Han (2007 Nominee – P. Ramlee, the Musical)
• Best Group Performance, Best Community Arts/Arts Education Project, Audience Choice Award and many more.



I would've gone for this if I were still around. Anyone going to this? It should be pretty good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY is up on BMWShorties.com.my

Chicken Rice Mystery
The film is really a comedy...

As I've mentioned last week, my latest short film, CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, had been shortlisted for the annual BMW SHORTIES as one of the top 10 finalists . After watching the other nine finalists, I have to say that I'm in the company of many really good films. Therefore, to be nominated is already a victory for me.

You can watch CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY at the official BMW SHORTIES website (mine's the tenth film). After that, you can vote if you enjoyed my film, if not, then you can vote for other, more worthy candidates.

On the other hand, Suanie really has an awards-worthy cameo on CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY.



P.S. Thanks to Esther and Shadowfox (Suanie screenshot is from him too) for, ah, plugging my film.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Review of KURUS (aka DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY) by Yvonne Teh

Father and son bonding


I was pleasantly surprised that I found this review of KURUS (aka DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY) from Yvonne Teh's ('YTSL') blog yesterday:

Like quite a few other recent art-house type Malaysian films which have got this strain of Malaysian cinema being compared to the Taiwanese New Wave, Days of Turquoise Sky is slow-paced, under-stated and often depicts lives which seem to be rather trivial, yet say quite a bit about the society in which these lives are being led. At the same time, unlike with certain recent -- and, sadly, to my mind, much more critically acclaimed -- examples, this originally made-for-TV work also still feels happily unpretentious.


Read the rest of the review here.

We scored a healthy 7! Thanks, Yvonne! It's cool that director Lawrence Lau was there to see the film as well and discuss about the film with you and your friend.

Related Links:
There are many KURUS-related posts in this blog, just do a site search if you guys are interested!


Trailer 1


Trailer 2

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cute Akihabara Nurse

Went to Akihabara in the evening. Got myself a laptop computer cooling pad, a USB-operated mini vacuum and table fan from the awesome Yodobashi Camera shopping mall. (didn't know about the place until today)

Before that, right when I stepped out of the train station, I saw many people taking photos with a girl in a nurse outfit, so I did the same:

Akihabara Nurse


Simple Japanese Essays I Wrote (... Like A 3-Year-Old Child) About The Twin Towers and Beautiful Women

After more than a week of Japanese Language classes, I find myself enjoying the essay-writing most. Naturally, since I've always liked writing, but a bittersweet affair, since my Japanese language skills is of a toddler's, I was incapable of expressing myself as eloquently and fluently as I do in English or Chinese.

Seeing how I could only write in simple sentences, I can only comfort myself by saying that I write like a Dadaist, foregoing the contemporary academic and cultured values of art by writing entirely without aesthetics and style.

So, here's to share two essays with you all that I wrote in the past few days during classes.

The first one:

Beautiful Women

私はからい食べ物が好きです。
私は黒い靴が好きです。
私は甘い飲べ物が好きです。
私はきれいな女の人がとても好きです。

(I like spicy food.
I like black shoes.
I like sweet drinks.
I really like beautiful women.)


My second one is more of a contemplative, subtly nationalistic nature:

Beautiful Petronas Twin Towers

マレーシヤの湯名有名な建物はツイノタワーです。
昔の世界の一番高い建物はツイノタワーです。
ツイノタワーの下はショッピンクモールです。
ここはにぎやかな名所です。
夜のツイノタワーはとてもきれいです。

(One of Malaysia's famous buildings is the Twin Towers.
Once, they were the tallest buildings in the world.
Below the Twin Towers is a shopping mall.
It is a crowded place.
Twin Towers at night is very beautiful.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Review of KURUS (aka DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY) by Yeo Kien Kiong

Carmen Soo


I recently received a nice film review of the telemovie KURUS (known overseas as DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY) from animator Yeo Kien Kiong (no relation), who saw the film at the recent Hong Kong Film Festival:

“Kurus” is generally meant by “thin”, a word that denotes one’s slim physical figure. In Malaysia (and most probably everywhere else in the world where “popular” physical attraction is concerned), those who are not “kurus” are immediately stereotyped as ugly, lazy and unhealthy. In the eyes of social norm, especially the “non-educated”, these people are often considered as outcasts. It is stereotypically humiliating as both ends of “Kurus” and “Gemuk” ( fat in Malaysian language ) being judged with merits and faults.

Some of the notable scenes in the film include the conversation between Eli and his friend, Iqa at an abandoned shack ( crude actions applied ), where his friend’s desire to become “Kurus” and had a thought where she is stung by a bee and her figure slimmed, only to turn back into “normal” after the stinging effects is gone. Although both characters are portrayed as reckless authoritarians in the world of teens, they demand attention and in need to get into the norm. Thus, same goes to Ali and his friends, each has their own vulnerabilities even though they are considered “Kurus”. All characters portrayed in this film invoke a certain study of parallelism, where both the rich and poor, naughty and nice stood side by side.

I liked this film; maybe it’s because of the sense of balance, a story that leads to move questions to be answered. But the most important of, this film created an atmosphere of rural mundaneness, but with undercurrents of near convulsions in every corner for each character to venture into the unknown.

Personally, like in other film festivals, I can’t say much about the screening of digitally made films because, at times the brightness and contrast that are produced by the projector is somehow quite challenging. As I sat the near end of the upper audience stage nearby the exit, I find that the audio projection is adequate and quite comfortable despite of audience whispering at times throughout the film. It is not a “bad” thing because audience responses are critical of ones team’s creation. Whispers and awe of audiences around me during the film showing indicated the need to know more about different cultural perspectives and the surprises that has installed for them.

For me, the motion picture is set up in such a way that it is photogenic in many ways from uses of colors as well as visual orientation such as: a loan shark pulling out a substance from the plastic bag to, Ali giving Carol a ride home only to be tailed by the red car from behind. Thus, cinematography in this film is interesting and thought provoking.

I don’t know if this is a downside for me to criticize films. Always have the tendency to search for unifying themes. After reflecting upon the film, I felt that the unify theme is more towards Buddhist teachings in general. I guess identifying the spirituality and emotional life of characters are important in any films despite of how silly or violent they can be.
Thanks, Kien Kiong. Glad you enjoyed the film.

Related Links:
There are many KURUS-related posts in this blog, just do a site search if you guys are interested!


Trailer 1


Trailer 2

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Thoughts On The 27th Hong Kong Film Awards

Though I didn't get to catch the live telecast of the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards, I was eagerly following the results on Yahoo! Hong Kong. So here are some brief thoughts on the results. (list from Lovehkfilm.com)

BEST PICTURE



Winner:
• The Warlords

Nominees: Eye in the Sky, Mad Detective, The Postmodern Life of My Aunt, Protégé

Thoughts: Bigger isn't necessarily better, so I'm a little underwhelmed that the uneven THE WARLORDS got the big award over MAD DETECTIVE. Sure, it had awesome production values, the battle scenes were great, but once the film shifted to character drama, it really was kinda weak.

BEST DIRECTOR



Winner:
• Peter Chan Ho-Sun (The Warlords)

Nominees:
Yau Nai-Hoi (Eye in the Sky), Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai (Mad Detective), Ann Hui On-Wah (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt), Derek Yee Tung-Sing (Protégé)

Thoughts: I like Peter Chan as a filmmaker a lot, I like COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY and PERHAPS LOVE (more than most people do, I think), but I really find WARLORDS a lesser piece of work compared to the previous two. But it's undeniable that the staging of the battle setpieces was awesome. Obviously, my favourite film of them all was MAD DETECTIVE.

BEST ACTOR

Winner:
• Jet Li (The Warlords)

Nominees: Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing (The Detective), Simon Yam Tat-Wah (Eye in the Sky), Lau Ching-Wan (Mad Detective), Andy Lau Tak-Wah (The Warlords)

Thoughts: Huh. Didn't expect this. Was thinking that Lau Ching Wan would win his second consecutive award (probably never happened in HK Film Award history before), or that Aaron Kwok will finally get something. I personally thought Aaron's performance in THE DETECTIVE is better than Jet Li's in THE WARLORDS. I'm befuddled by Andy and Simon's nominations. Simon is indeed better in EXODUS, and he really had just a supporting role in EYE IN THE SKY. As for Andy Lau, I felt that he was serviceable, but slightly out of place in THE WARLORDS.


Jet Li didn't know that he had won the award even when they announced his name


BEST ACTRESS

Winner:
• Siqin Gaowa (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt)

Nominees:
Rene Liu (Kidnap), Teresa Mo Sun-Kwan (Mr. Cinema), Zhang Jingchu (Protégé), Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin (Simply Actors)

Thoughts: Definitely the rightful winner of the award. Her performance in THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT elevated the show.


Siqin Gaowa accepting her award


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR



Winner:
• Andy Lau Tak-Wah (Protégé)



Nominees:
- Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (Exodus), Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei (Mr. Cinema), Chow Yun-Fat (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt), Louis Koo Tin-Lok (Protégé)

Thoughts: Yeah, Andy Lau's performance in Protégé is one of the highlights of the show. But that could've happened solely because he's Andy Lau. I'm cool with him winning, I wouldn't mind Nick Cheung winning for EXODUS though. His profanity-laced statement in the police station is one of the most memorable scenes of the film.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS



Winner:
• Siu Yam-Yam (The Pye-Dog)

Nominees:
Maggie Siu Mei-Kei (Eye in the Sky), Karen Mok Man-Wai (Mr. Cinema), Vicki Zhao Wei (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt), Anita Yuen Wing-Yee (Protégé)

Thoughts: Haven't watched THE PYE-DOG, wiil do so one of these nights. But I think Maggie Siu and Vicki Zhao were good in their roles. (the latter was a surprise in THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT, I've been too used to see her in horrible films, or churning out sub-par performances)

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner:
• Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee (Mad Detective)



Nominees: Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin-Yee (Eye in the Sky), Li Qiang (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt), Derek Yee Tung-Sing, Chun Tin-Nam, Lung Man-Hung, Go Sun (Protégé), Xu Lan, Chun Tin-Nam, Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah, Huang Jianxin, Ho Kei-Ping, Kwok Jun-Lap, Jojo Hui Yuet-Chun, James Yuen Sai-Sang (The Warlords)

Thoughts: Yup, deservingly. And I'm shocked by the amount of writers THE WARLORDS had.

BEST NEW ARTIST



Winner:
• Kate Tsui Tsz-Shan (Eye in the Sky)

Nominees: Wong Hau-Yan (The Beseiged City), Linda Chung Ka-Yan (Love is Not All Around), Tsei Tsz-Tung (Protégé), Wen Jun-Hui (The Pye-Dog)

Thoughts: Tsei Tsz-Tung was really cute in Protege :( But yup, definitely Kate Tsui. Seeing a young new actress carry a show so well as a lead in her first major performance was a rarity. A lesser actress would've MURDERED the very good EYE IN THE SKY. Of course, I saw this film months before I saw LUST, CAUTION. Obviously, I was more blown away by Tang Wei, and that's really not because of the explicit sex scenes.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY



Winner:
• Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai (The Warlords)

Nominees: Charlie Lam Chi-Kin (Exodus), Cheng Siu-Keung (Mad Detective), Kwan Pun-Leung, Yu Lik-Wai (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt), Venus Keung Kwok-Man (Protégé)

Thoughts: No complaints here.

BEST EDITING
Winner:
• Kwong Chi-Leung (Protégé)
Nominees: Oxide Pang Shun, Curran Pang Jing-Hei (The Detective), Lee Tung-Chuen (The Warlords), Tina Baz (Mad Detective), David Richardson (Eye in the Sky)

Thoughts: Hard for me to judge, though the only two films that I remotely remember being impressed by their editing were THE DETECTIVE and EYE IN THE SKY.

BEST ART DIRECTION

Winner:
• Yee Chung-Man, Yi Zhengzhou, Pater Wong Ping-Yiu (The Warlords)

Nominees: Yank Wong Yan-Kwai (The Beseiged City), Alfred Yau Wai-Ming (Blood Brothers), Anuson Pinyopotjanee (The Detective), Yee Chung-Man, Kennerth Mak Kwok-Keung (Protégé)

Thoughts: Well, yeah, THE WARDLORDS. It's an epic period piece, after all.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN AND MAKE-UP

Winner:
• Yee Chung-Man, Jessie Dai Mei-Ling, Lee Pik-Kwan (The Warlords)

Nominees: Tim Yip Kam-Tim (Blood Brothers) Surasak Warakitcharoen (The Detective) Stanley Cheung Sai-Kit (Mad Detective) Ma Yu-Tao (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt)

Thoughts: Look above.

BEST ACTION DESIGN



Winner:
• Donnie Yen Ji-Dan (Flash Point)

Nominees: Li Chung-Chi (Invisible Target) Chin Kar-Lok (Protégé) Benz Kong To-Hoi (Twins Mission) Ching Siu-Tung (The Warlords)

Thoughts: The action scenes in Flash Point made me giggle gleefully like a kid.

BEST ORIGINAL FILM SCORE

Winner:
• Joe Hisaishi (The Postmodern Life of My Aunt)

Nominees:
Payont Permsith, Jadet Chawang (The Detective) Andre Matthias (The Drummer) Peter Kam Pui-Tat (Protégé) Chan Kwong-Wing, Peter Kam Pui-Tat, Chatchai Pongprapaphan, Leon Ko Sai-Cheung (The Warlords)

Thoughts: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's go-to composer... not winning? Inconceivable!

BEST ORIGINAL SONG


Dialogue between Gui Lun Mei and Stephen Fung is funny


Winner:
• 逼得太緊 ("Forced Too Close" from Love is Not All Around)
Composer: Dennie Wong
Lyrics: Lin Xi
Performer: Kary Ng Yiu-Fei
Nominees:
- "Brothers" (from Brothers)
Composer: Eason Chan Yik-Shun
Lyrics: Andy Lau Tak-Wah
Performer: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Eason Chan Yik-Shun
- 星光伴我心 ("Starlight Accompanies My Heart" from Mr. Cinema)
Composer: Peter Kam Pui-Tat
Lyrics: Keith Chan Siu-Kei
Performer: Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei
- "Happy Wanderer" (from Ming Ming)
Composer: Anthony Wong Yiu-Ming, Jason Choi Tak-Choi
Lyrics: Lin Xi
Performer: Anthony Wong Yiu-Ming, Zhou Xun
- 問天不應 ("No Reply From Heaven" from The Pye-Dog)
Composer: George Lam Chi-Cheung
Lyrics: Calvin Poon Yuen-Leung
Performer: George Lam Chi-Cheung

Thoughts: No idea. At least it's not Ming Ming. Nothing against the actual song, just that I'll be damned if MING MING would start being referred to as 'the HKFA-winning MING MING'.

BEST SOUND DESIGN

Winner:
• Sunit Asvinikul, Nakorn Kositpaisal (The Warlords)

Nominees: Wachira Wongsaroj (The Detective) Tu Duu-Chih, Kuo Li-Chi (The Drummer) Steve Burgess, Sam Wong Lui (Flash Point) Kinson Tsang King-Cheung (Protégé)

Thoughts: Easy choice.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Winner:
• Ng Yuen-Fai (The Warlords)

Nominees: Suchada Somasavachai (The Detective) Raymond Man Siu-Lun (Mad Detective) Leung Wai-Kit, Don Ma Wing-On, Leung Yiu-Fung, Frankie Chung Chi-Hang (The Magic Gourd) Ho Siu-Lun, Chow Kin-Hung, Ching Han-Wong (Protégé)

Thoughts: ... there were visual effects in Protege?

BEST ASIAN FILM

Winner:
• Lust, Caution (TAIWAN)

Nominees: Getting Home (CHINA) Secret (TAIWAN) The Sun Also Rises (CHINA) Tokyo Tower: Mom & Me, and Sometimes Dad (JAPAN)

Thoughts: If Lust, Caution had been eligible for the HK Film Awards, it would've swept the awards here.

BEST NEW DIRECTOR
Winner:
• Yau Nai-Hoi (Eye in the Sky)

Nominees: Adam Wong Sau-Ping (Magic Boy) Derek Kwok Chi-Kin (The Pye-Dog)

Thoughts: I want to see more films from Yau Nai-Hoi in the future.

=================

So, that's it. Anyone here who wants to share their thoughts too? Did you feel that The Warlords really deserved to sweep all the big awards here?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY Chosen For BMW Shorties' Top 10

Mom (Kimmy Kiew) and Mysterious Handsome Man (James Lee)


On the 21st of March last month, right after I returned from the Hong Kong Film Festival, I immediately submitted a rough cut version of CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, my latest short film, to BMW Shorties. I needed to beat the deadline, so I didn't have the time to really fix the short film as much as I would've liked.

That version, being a rough cut, was obviously flawed, the pacing was off, I used some wrong takes, the majority of the film hadn't had its soundtrack, it didn't flow that well!

(I didn't really reach the final cut of the film until last week, yes, I brought the film over to edit in Tokyo)

So I was pleasantly surprised, and very flattered, when I received an email from the organizers of the competition informing me that CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY had made it to the Top 10 of BMW Shorties. All these while, the poor things tried calling my mobile phone and home phone in Malaysia, and only through the latter did they know that I've left the country!

Frankly, I really wasn't expecting this (I'll be delusional if I seriously thought that a rough cut of a film would stand a chance in this competition), so I'm quite happy with this.

Now, the kicker is that I need to record a 30-second video to introduce the film and explain what is it about just so it'll be uploaded on the BMW Shorties site for people's choice online voting.

So I'm staring blankly at my camcorder, wondering what to say to it. I wish I have a beautiful female Japanese interviewer asking me questions about the film so that it can make things much easier for me.

Satomi Ishihara


Mm... yes.

Related posts:
CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY PRODUCTION STILLS 1
CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY PRODUCTION STILLS 2

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Japanese Language vs My Legendary Ego

Miyazaki Aoi looking obscenely cute!Sorry about the lack of updates. Parents were here for a visit in Tokyo.

I'll pepper this post with random photos of Miyazaki Aoi.

Anyway, my Japanese classes started on Wednesday, and students were assigned to each class based on their results during the Japanese Placement Test on Monday.

A couple of people, and I, were excused from doing the test because we haven't learn Japanese before, and immediately, we were given a level of 1, and will have to take Level 1 Japanese classes.

I was asked to choose between Japanese 1A and Japanese 1B. When asked what their differences were, I was told that both classes are the same, except that Japanese 1A, having 13 units a week (1 unit = 1.5 hour), is more intensive compared to Japanese 1B. Being the diligent person I am who is desperate to learn the language as quickly as possible, I picked 1A...

... and got a tremendous shock on the day that the class started.

Everyone else in the class already know hiragana. And had no trouble when they were being taught to construct simple sentences (for self-introduction).

All the teacher had to do was write words on the whiteboard, and WHAM! Everyone else was already reading the lines, and then asking the teacher (in JAPANESE) the meaning of words, for affirmation of his or her pronunciation etc etc.

I stared blankly.

(Thankfully, a couple of others stared blankly too.)



Swiftly, I took out notes and tried to jot down as quickly as possible what was being taught then. Recording the sentences in their roman form

(namae wa edmund yeo desu, malaysia no ryugakusee desu, o shigota wa mai producer desu, o sen mon to shumi wa ee ga desu, watashi no suki na tabemono wa katsu-don desu!)

It was frantic, it was sheer desperation. It was like a boy who hadn't learn alphabets being asked to write simple essays. And I guess that really was what happened.

For example, when the teacher took out flashcards of numbers and asked everyone to say each number in Japanese, everyone could do it easily, but I myself, who never knew beyond '1 2 3/ ich ni san' had to quickly write down what the rest are based on my own listening. It's hardcore.

Miyazaki AoiOn Thursday, the second day of the lessons, I noticed that a few weren't in the class anymore. I started voicing my worries to the Japanese teacher.

"Erm. Sensei. I have a problem here." I said. "I think I might be too, ah, slow, for this class. I don't know hiragana at all!"

She was immediately sympathetic, telling me that she wasn't expecting everyone in the class to know hiragana before their first lesson and was planning to teach them that.

-_- was my expression.

Then she told me to hang on tight and that she would voice my concerns to others in the department.

During lunchtime, I ran into a few guys who were at the class during the previous day, but had since transferred to Japanese 1B.

"Wait, there's a difference?" I gasped.

"Yeah, man," Said Martinez, a dude from Philippines. "1B's much easier, we are just learning the first fifteen hiragana, how to read them, how to write them, that's the one YOU should go to."

"Okay." I nodded, realizing that I need to transfer.

So I went to ask around my classmates, to see who wanted to transfer with me.

"TRANSFER TO 1B? HAH! That's a downgrade!" Said a girl from China. "I was actually thinking of transferring to 2A!"

"What? They're still teaching how to write hiragana? You mean a class even more basic than the one we're having now?" Another girl from China scoffed in scorn.

-_-' was my expression as I decided not to ask anyone else.

Returning to the class after lunch, the teacher approached me and told me that she had spoken to the department, just when I was going to tell her that I wanted to transfer.

So she said that things will be a little tough for me, and that I'll need SHEER STRONG WILL to stay in the class. If I cannot follow, I can feel free to ask questions.

"Daijobu desu ka?" The teacher asked.

My mind raced quickly to the list below:

Pros and cons of doing Japanese 1A


PROS
- I'll have to learn everything quickly
- I might be able to have a basic grasp in the language by the end of the semester (if I could maintain my sanity)
- Japanese 1A has 13 units compared to Japanese 1B's 10 units. A bit more time to learn and practice... perhaps.

CONS
- Everyone's ahead of me.
- Each class will be stressful as heck. Info overload.
- I'll lose my sanity easily.
- I might not be able to miraculously catch up with others.


Even so, the teacher said that I needed STRONG WILL to stay.

... if I seek to transfer to Japanese 1B, does that mean that I'm weak-willed?

So, after 2 seconds of swift contemplation capable only by one who calls himself Swifty, I forced a smile and said:

Miyazaki Aoi is hell cute"No problem. Daijobu! I'll stay in the class!"

Thus I returned to my seat and begun, yet another roller-coaster ride of Japanese lessons. At night, I tried to learn around 20 hiragana characters. (I succeeded) Jonathan, an American guy in the class, told me that it'll probably take me 3 months to learn them all. But thankfully, I realized that knowing how to read Chinese does help me a little with memorizing the hiragana characters due to some similarities (obviously, it's much easier for me to recognize kanji), so I think it'll take me a shorter time to learn.

Despite my normally massive ego, it'll be a humbling to experience for the first time in my life what's it like to be slower than everyone else in the class. Har. Har.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Orlando Bloom's Japanese Uno (Hair Gel!) Commercial

I was at a shop yesterday accompanying a new friend from Hong Kong, Jason, to hunt for televisions. As he was doing that, something that was playing in all the snazzy flatscreen televisions in the shop caught my attention.

It was a commercial Orlando Bloom did for the Uno Hair Gel, and it also had the Go Go Yubari chick from KILL BILL, Chiaki Kuriyama (who looked infinitely better in the ad).

I realized that Orlando Bloom seemingly had more personality in this 3-minute ad than he showed in all three Pirates of the Caribbean films.


Orlando Bloom's Uno hair gel Japanese commercial

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Miyazaki Aoi poster in the Subway

Everyday, when I walk through the Edogawabashi Station to catch a train, I see this Miyazaki Aoi poster:

Poster of Miyazaki Aoi


And always, I pause a little, struggling to resist this urge to tear the poster off the wall and run away with it.

I seriously need help. Anyone know where I can get these subway posters? Help anyone? People of Japan Probe?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Tokyo. A city of contrasts. Traditional cherry blossoms vs scifi-like architecture

As I was walking back from Waseda University this afternoon, I noticed that the river was filled up with more cherry blossom petals than yesterday.

Cherry blossoms covering the Kanda river


Look closely at the bottom right of the photo, did you see something? (You can click the photo view the large versions.)

There were tortoises! Amidst the pink river! And a, er, big bird.

Tortoises amidst the river of cherry blossoms


And heck, some parts of the river had turned totally pink.

River of pink


Instead of just crossing the bridge over the river like I did in the past two days, I decided to follow the line of cherry blossom trees, to walk along the river. I realized later that I was walking through the famed Edogawa Park. And many people were having their picnic under the trees.

People having picnic at Edogawa park

People picnicking at Edogawa Park

Edogawa Park is actually just a narrow path that stretches along the river, with a long line of cherry blossom trees lined up beside it.

Edogawa Park is beautiful!

More people walking through Edogawa Park


And as I reached the end of the park, I ended up near a subway station, which I took to Karakuen to get my 'alien card' done at the Bunkyo Civics center.

When I was at the center, I noticed that I was actually near Tokyo Dome. And I saw a nifty shopping mall called LAQUA, which has a cool-looking amusement park.

La Qua shopping mall

Roller-coaster in front of Laqua


As I walked past a flight of steps, I couldn't help but marvel at how scifi-ish this place is.

People walking towards Tokyo Dome


People were heading towards the Tokyo Dome, which was going to have a baseball match between the Tokyo Giants and that Osaka team.

Tokyo Dome

Tokyo Dome 2


I thought the dome itself looked pretty cyberpunkish too.

Returning to Edogawa Park at night, I was expecting a solitary walk through a quiet park before I reach my dorm. I was surprised to see the place packed with even more people having their picnic.

Edogawa Park at Night

Edogawa Park at Night 2


During my three days here, I kinda felt that the people of Tokyo were constantly rushing towards somewhere, either towards their work, or back from work, to a stationo out of a station. I remembered how uneasy I was when I made the same observation six years ago during my very last trip in Japan. I felt as if I were moving too slow compared to the others, and that somehow, the constant moving was disturbing, too lifeless, too robotic, too uniform, I don't know, but then, I was feverish then (six years ago, not now), thus I had weird ideas.

Nonetheless, watching the people at the park, Tokyo feels like a city of contrasts. As advanced as the city may look, in terms of its architecture, simple traditions like enjoying the view of cherry blossoms remain intact, unlikely to ever disappear in future generations. People always seem to rush from one place to another, yet here they are, large crowds of them, doing nothing but sitting on the ground, enjoying great food, sharing great drinks, while savouring the view of cherry blossoms.

Funny that they don't take such things for granted.

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