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Sunday, December 31, 2006

VIDEO: Filmmakers Anonymous, Indiescene Cafe.

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

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

Top 10 Most Disappointing Films of 2006

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

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

Friday, December 29, 2006

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

Swifty's Sis in Comic Fiesta 2006

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

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

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

Have fun watching.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

VIDEO: Family Vacation in Shanghai 2005

Family vacation in Shanghai 2005

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

Monday, December 25, 2006

Junichiro Tanizaki - Seven Japanese Tales

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

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

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

Curse of the Golden Flower poster

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

Friday, December 22, 2006


Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro in Confession of Pain

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


The tap dancing Mumble in Happy Feet

What a beautiful film!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ayumi Hamasaki - Secret

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


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

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yasunari Kawabata - The Master of Go

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


Eragon poster

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

Saturday, December 16, 2006

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

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

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

Friday, December 15, 2006

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

Weekend In Ipoh Part 1: Day And Night In Ipoh

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

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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

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

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

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

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

D.B. Weiss - Lucky Wander Boy

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Video: Goodbye Perth, Hello Malaysia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's a pretty personal video.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Video: Cousin Wee Suan's Wedding Tea Ceremony

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

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The State of Malaysian Badminton + Squash Legend Nicol David

Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong winning the semis

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

Friday, December 08, 2006

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

Perth at night

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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sifow's Blog and Me

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

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

CASINO ROYALE is one heck of a James Bond film

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale

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

'The Illusionist' vs 'The Prestige'

The Illusionist poster

The Prestige poster

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

Friday, December 01, 2006

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What I'll Miss About Perth (1): His Flatmates

I'm currently chillin' in my friend, Amir's house after moving out from the Murdoch University Student Village, Flat 90, a place I've called home for the past 2 and a half years. And in less than two weeks, I will be leaving Perth for good.


Everything else about it is almost great. Here's a quick list of everything I loved about staying in the Student Village.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blogging is depressing

Tifa Cosplayer 5

Justin says:
Blogging feels so hopeless
Swifty says:

More 'Girl Disconnected' Production Photos From The Corridor Scene!

Based on the test viewings thus far (test viewings amongst my teachers, fellow film students etc.) The 'Corridor Scene' from my latest short film, Girl Disconnected, is one of the most well-received scenes of the film. Some called it the turning point of the film, where it just elevated to another level of filmmaking (compared to the first half of the film). Another friend of mine just shook his head and smiled, saying that it was certainly 'trippy'.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bye Bye, Robert Altman.

Robert Altman with his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars

Legendary film director Robert Altman is not someone most casual Malaysian film fans would have heard of, his films, many lauded as classics, are unseen by most. Therefore, his death two days ago wasn't much of a news for most. On the other hand, many film blogs that I read everyday are writing their own eloquent tribute to him, they are the people whose lives were touched by Altman's films.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Conversation on 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan'

Poster of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Swifty says:
Borat left me slightly underwhelmed.

Yukio Mishima - The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea

I can't be bothered to review this in any real depth, so I'll just excerpt parts of it and laugh at them. Much like the previous review, you're pretty much aboard the train at this point or you're not. Despite overseas acclaim (it was even made into an English movie starring Kris Kristofferson...what the fuck?), this novel, about a doomed romance between a sailor and a widow offset by evil kids, probably isn't one of Mishima's major works. It feels almost like a novella or really long short story, something that could have gone in one of the collections Acts of Worship or Death in Midsummer (discussed here)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Received Some Awards Nominations for End-Year Murdoch University Film Festival.

Two of the short films I wrote and directed this year, Vertical Distance and Girl Disconnected, have been nominated for a few categories in the end year Murdoch Film Festival held on the 3rd of December.

Conversation on Matthew Barney's 'Drawing Restraint 9'

Bjork and Matthew Barney in Drawing Restraint 9

Watching Drawing Restraint 9, an art film by American artist Matthew Barney, is possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mainly because Barney's films are only available in festival circuits, there will never be any DVDs, and it will not even get a limited theater distribution.

The film (along with Matthew Barney's previous works, the Cremaster Cycle) was screened in Perth because of the 10-day Artrage Festival held few weeks ago. Desperate to witness the film ourselves, Justin and I went for the screening at the RMax theater. Initially hoping to be blown away by watching this film on a huuuuuuge Imax (the RMax theater is an Imax theater... whatever that means), we were disappointed that the film was only projected upon a portion of the screen. Bah.

Anyway, Justin and my thoughts of the film are illustrated in the following MSN conversation. The film stars Bjork and Matthew Barney himself.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Silk Shoes 비단구두

Poster of Silk Shoes

Silk Shoes (비단구두), a 2006 Korean film directed by Yeo Kyun-Dong (a Korean who shares my surname? Incredible!) is about an elaborate hoax staged by a film director on a gangster's aging father to make the latter believe that he was returning to his home in North Korea.

Clint Eastwood's Flag of Our Fathers

Poster of Flags of Our Fathers

Prior to watching a film based on historical events, I would actually read up about the event, not because I'm the type who desperately seeks factual accuracies in such films, just that making comparisons between facts and fiction can be kind of fun. In the case of Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, I went to read about the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima (and the personal history of the six flag-raisers, especially the surviving three) on Wikipedia, which is what this film mainly revolves about. You know, that iconic photo taken by Joe Rosenthal prior to the battle at Iwo Jima.

the flag raising in Iwo Jima

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Live-Action Prince of Tennis Movie

Poster of The Prince of Tennis live-action film

Prince of Tennis is a faithful adaptation of the popular manga and anime series. When I said faithful, I meant to say that characters perform superhero feats in tennis games, levitating thirty feet into the sky to return a serve, causing stormy clouds to gather above the stadium (darkening the skies, covering the sun) when one decides to concentrate, performing mid-air acrobatics, unleashing devastating serves that could engulf a tennis ball with flames, or creating some kind of vortex or force field which causes the ball to fly towards his direction no matter where the opponent was aiming.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Castle of Cagliostro

Lupin and Jigen in The Castle of Cagliostro

Justin: I've pretty much given up on anime; the combination of no time to invest in long series combined with the loss of the initial luster at having seen all the really necessary stuff means it's hard for me to get excited by it anymore. Throw in the tendency for new series to be incredibly derivative and it's not surprising I haven't watched anything in months.

The solution? Go back in time...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shooting of Girl Disconnected Wrapped!

Shooting of Girl Disconnected wrapped on the 12th of October November, 2006, two nights ago, and I pulled an all-nighter to piece the entire film together. Things are looking well, I'm doing sound recording and everything to finish this up, submission is on 16th of October November, Thursday. A day before my mom's birthday (and the world premiere of the latest Bond flick, Casino Royale)

I generally edit the footages not long after a shoot, for the sake of lessening my post-production work, but because of this, I am incapable of doing my shoots in consecutive days (two back-to-back days is fine, but anything more will kill me... but then, since we've been a 3-men crew, it's a miracle that I'm still alive). Anyway, I'm excited that everything's going to be finished soon. For the time being, I'll share with some of you more screenshots of my film. (these scenes, from the last few shoots, definitely display Brian the Cinematographer's mastery with lighting)

There were lots of frustration involved in this production. Desperation leading to creativity. People bailing out and not honouring their verbal promises. A supposed big production where costume design and special effects teams were expected turned into yet another indie guerilla filmmaking endeavour with the support of volunteers and friends. I look at other groups and marvel at the amount of money they pour into their films, some nearly a thousand, some nearly two thousand, with a major crew and the help of outside professionals. They raise the stakes, and they are good motivation to ensure that despite the limitations we face, Girl Disconnected can still remain a work of quality (otherwise, it'll suck if this film does not accompany my previous film, Vertical Distance, to compete at the end year Murdoch University Film Festival). But I would never have achieved this if I hadn't had a great cast and crew that helped me realize this dream project (well, contrary to most dream projects, this one was just something that I had been working on for a few months, I rarely have anything that I spend years working on, having a short attention span and all)

Anyway, enough with that. Will go back to editing after finishing this entry.

I'll give everyone a proper shoutout when everything's really done.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Stephen Frears' THE QUEEN

helen mirren as queen elizabeth II in the queen

Have I ever spoken about my personal interest of the British Royal Family? Especially those of the early 20th century, a generation before Queen Elizabeth 2, we have the Abdication of King Edward VIII (for a commoner woman he loved, Wallis Simpson, how romantic and dramatic! ... of course, there were more than that, with her having Nazi connections and all, but that's a tale you should go read on Wikipedia, not here) King George VI (father of Elizabeth II) taking over reluctantly and then with World War 2 taking a toll on his health, indirectly causing him to die at the age of 56 (similar to how King George V's health was affected by World War 1). I'm even kinda intrigued by Prince George, Duke of Kent (younger brother of King George VI), who died in a mysterious plane accident and had a colourful personal life (long string of affairs with both men and women before his marriage... good-looking guy, he), or the youngest Prince John, who died from epilepsy when he was only 14, and since then, no members of the royal family will ever be named John because it's bad luck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Short Fiction of Yukio Mishima

Mishima is a writer associated with scale and grand gestures. Apart from his colorful life and the obviously theatrical nature of his public suicide, his novels are full of, to put it bluntly, action - in a 'literary fiction' genre often filled with tepid introspection and obsessive minimalism, that Mishima's books are full of swordfighting, arson, suicide, and desperate tragedy is definitely part of his appeal. Although his writing is capable of great subtlety, restraint, and delicate beauty, these qualities usually form one half of a chiaroscuric contrast, shadowing the dense psychological monologues and eruptions of violence.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Alfonso Cuaron's 'Children of Men'

Children of Men poster

Alfonso Cuaron's dystopic, post-apocalyptical sci-fi Children of Men, starring Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, is unlike most sci-fi films. While it takes place in 2027, the world in that film is very much like ours right now, just perhaps with larger LCD screens, and well, more chaotic, with London city itself becoming a warzone. No flying cars, no fancy technology gadgets, no holographic images, or skyscrapers that reach the skies, thus making the film disturbingly realistic, and plausible.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Onyanko Club

I'll be honest: most everything I know about Japanese music has come as a result of the tireless efforts of Taka. If it wasn't for his more-euphony-than-James-Joyce command of the English language and his unquenchable passion for "80' electorical dance sounds", I'd probably still be listening exclusively to mid-90's NYC metallic hardcore (Orange 9MM, Helmet, Quicksand, etc.).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Brief Hiatus To Finish Short Film, Girl Disconnected.

I'm near the ending stages of my film, Girl Disconnected, which is due on the 14th of November. (I have to finish it in time for the uni film festival) So there won't be much time for me to post here.

Will be spending my time editing, planning the last shoots, and more editing. For the time being, here are some screenshots. Shot the scene at Fremantle Beach. Click thumbnail for bigger versions.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Guilty, Cat-Eating Wench, Nakagawa Shouku... EXPOSED!

Nakagawa Shouku, the guilty, cat-eating wench

Two days ago, I found out about Japan Probe's Delicious cats! entry via BoingBoing, which has some rather, ah, disturbing photos of a cute Japanese girl pretending to eat her cat.

We have since dubbed her 'the guilty, cat-eating wench' thanks to a comment at Japan Probe's entry.

[1:10:01 AM] Swifty says: by the way, guilty cat-eating wench is an idoru
[1:10:08 AM] Justin says: Who?
[1:10:18 AM] Swifty says: that guilty, cat-eating wench

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Haruki Murakami And Creative Expression. 'Our' Generation vs. 'Their' Generation.

These pedalicious little DiGi Charat Cosplayers disapprove Haruki Murakami's ways.

The following MSN conversation occurred last night while Justin and I were working on the previous Haruki Murakami Is Wrong! entry. As you can see, we aren't some mindlessly insecure, whiny bigots who take pleasure in blindly bashing a famed literary figure just to make ourselves feel better. An earnest and intelligent discourse WAS exchanged between Justin and I prior to posting the entry. Once again, it's profanity-laced, so don't read if you don't want to defile your virgin eyes.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is funny and touching

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine was a film I watched just a few days after The Devil Wears Prada (my Anne Hathaway-centric review here). A charming gem of a film (... charming gem of a film? Man, I sound like those middle-aged critics now!) that was this summer's surprise hit, I was unable to write a review for it because, well, seriously, there's nothing much for me to say. I liked it very much, I enjoyed it greatly, both moving and funny, the film wasn't a life-altering experience, but there's really no flaws I can point out.

Friday, October 27, 2006

If Ian McEwan's SATURDAY becomes a movie, this is my dream cast

Book cover of Ian McEwan's  Saturday

I picked up Ian McEwan's Saturday after I finished Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (check out my review) two weeks ago, eager for another quick read. As mentioned in my previous book review, I bought this in a '3 books for the price of 2' deal, along with Never Let Me Go and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love In The Time Of Cholera (*sigh* the mere mention of this book makes me want to swoon like a lovelorn virginal teen girl), so I had no prior expectations of it at all, and neither have I actually read anything by Ian McEwan.

After the sense of hopelessness and resigned helplessness I felt from reading Never Let Me Go, I was desperate for some fastpaced action, some intensity, something to neutralize that lingering feeling. Knowing that the entire novel takes place in the span of a Saturday, I decided to read Saturday, praying for some explosions and humour that can appease the uncultured bloodmonger in me, well, not really, but that, along with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale were the thinnest unread books I had lying on my shelf, I chose the former over the latter because it seemed like a lighter read.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Anne Hathaway... yummy

I've always been secretly in love with Anne Hathaway after watching The Princess Diaries. Those big doe-like eyes, so mesmerizing, so hypnotizing! That smile, so dazzling that the radiance of the afternoon sun would've paled in comparison, that beauty, so indescribably great that watching something like The Princess Diaries was like a life-altering experience, albeit a life-altering experience kept a secret until this very day. I was 17 then, but I would remain bewitched for nearly half a decade.

Sunday, October 22, 2006



Sometime during 2002 (or was it 2003?), disillusioned with annoyingly underaged pop groups and still dealing with the heartbreaking disband of his much beloved SPEED, the Great Swifty, who suffered from Erotomania, lost faith in mainstream Japanese pop, and experimented with the non-mainstream, into what is generally referred to as Contemporary Japanese Groove Music (their jazz stuff).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths

Book cover of Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

Enough has been said and written about Jorge Luis Borges that you don't need to take it from me. Whatever I can possibly say about Borges's writing will automatically be swept under in the mass of history and commentary attached to him; in the same way that I'd hesitate to directly review Joyce, Faulkner, Nabokov, or Proust, (except perhaps to offer the heresy of a negative critique) so Borges presents something of a problem: writing this review almost feels superfluous; you probably already know and love his writing. Or maybe not; maybe I'm being falsely modest; maybe this review will be the one that convinces you to run out and buy his books as soon as possible.I hope so, since this is the only reason I'm writing it: to whore out Borges so he can give you the same intensely beautiful mindfuck he just gave me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Stanley Kubrick Marathon!

Stanley Kubrick

It had always been embarrassing back then, to admit to people that I've never seen a single Stanley Kubrick film before (Artificial Intelligence: A.I doesn't count). Harbouring such a shameful secret, how can I even call myself a lifelong film buff, let alone a filmmaker?

Visiting Fremantle Beach, An Unexpectedly Romantic Place.

Can't write much, I'm in the midst of a Stanley Kubrick marathon (just watched A Clockwork Orange, currently watching Barry Lyndon while typing out this post) as the professor of my Advanced Screen Production unit said last week that referencing his films would be useful when directing my own Girl Disconnected. (Yes, surprisingly, I haven't seen a single Kubrick film before, except for three quarters of Eyes Wide Shut few weeks ago on television)

Therefore, I'll be posting photos of Fremantle beach that I took on the 9th of October, when I was doing my location hunting. A nice-looking beach was crucial for my film, and I wrote my script with the Fremantle beach in mind after visiting it for the very first time few months ago (check out the video here, I went there with Justin and a bunch of cute Japanese girls... and guy, from Himeji, Japan).

Why a beach? I didn't grow up living near a beach, and besides some vague memories of my childhood when I last visited Penang (I couldn't be more than six), or seeing it from inside a car on the way to Singapore, I don't think I've ever actually been to a beach all my years until I came to Perth. Beach activies like, ah, playing with water, playing beach volleyball, swimming, sunbathing, etc etc. were things I've watched on television or read in books, but would never really bothered trying in real life. (getting sand in my shoes? Truly an annoyance!)

Sunday, October 15, 2006


J-pop band Zone

The appeal of ZONE isn't difficult to explain: girls with guitars. This simple, retardedly awesome premise lies behind much of the popularity of Shonen Knife, the 5 6 7 8's, and uh...in a different genre, Sleater-Kinney and L7. But the one thing uniting those fairly disparate bands is that they're all - to a greater or lesser extent - PUNK.*

Friday, October 13, 2006


The Departed movie poster

I ranted about how people were being too negative against Hollywood remakes last week in my The Lake House review, It's absurd to see how many people have long decided that The Departed would suck despite the fact that it has Martin Scorsese directing, and having big-name cast members like Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin in it. To the asian movie lovers, this is a sign of Hollywood 'running out of ideas', and in desperation, that had to 'remake' Asian films. Like duh, as if Asian films don't 'borrow' from Hollywood films at all.

It's unfair to compare a film with its remake, just like how I usually don't review a film by comparing it to its source material. But alas this how a lot of people will review The Departed, and you'll hear things like:

John Fowles - The French Lieutenant's Woman

Book cover of French Lieutenant's Woman
I'm not a fan of Victorian fiction. I find the obsessive, minute focus on provincial social conventions to be both myopic and irrelevant, the prose ponderous, and the structures pat and formulaic. Some people like this sort of thing; they're often the same sort who think James Ivory was a significant director. I could argue that much modern interest in Victorian fiction is as much a genre-interest as something like Tolkien-derivative fantasy (and indeed, both genres in their prime rely on three-volume works, the Victorian three-decker novel and the modern-fantasy trilogy), but I'll try to stay on topic. So, I have to hand it to John Fowles - in this book, he makes the Victorian era seem interesting and exciting. True, there's the completely idle upper-class toffs, servants and 'upstairs-downstairs' drama, and depressing Anglocentrism that generally produce reader despair, but Fowles looks on all this with a cocked (if often nostalgic) eye. And, his writing is incredibly technically strong - not only in the prose itself, but in his sense of construction, the way he points at the seams of his own novel - but not to excuse any rips in them, rather to keep you paying attention.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Su-Ki-Da 好きだ、

Poster of Su-ki-da

Su-ki-da, directed by Hiroshi Ishikawa, is a slow-paced arthouse romance that I watched with Vivienne and Ayumi on the night of Justin's birthday party, we were reduced to groaning in agony as the film became too slow and, as said by Variety's review, selfishly inert.

Despite being a filmmaker myself, and yes, facing numerous snide accusations of being 'artsy fartsy', I still think of myself to be rather uncultured, I didn't 'get' Godard's 'My Life To Live' (I loved Alphaville though), and I wasn't blown (sorry) away by Antonioni's 'Blow-Up' (... despite the nudity) and his latest short film in Eros (despite even more nudity). I also didn't 'get' many Malaysian indie works that are lauded by film fests around the world. Maybe I am... slow. (but not THAT slow, since I can still enjoy Wong Kar Wai films, haha)

So, for me, sitting through Su-Ki-Da was quite tough (especially during a party!!). Especially with a film filled with jump cuts, cryptic silences, shots of various cloud formations and long takes bereft of movement.

Miyazaki Aoi in Su-Ki-Da

Story's about a pair of 17-year-olds, Yosuke (Eita), who is constantly playing a plaintive, unfinished tune on his guitar, while Yu (Miyazaki Aoi) has the hots for him, but does nothing but hangs around with him, and occasionally confides in older sis (Oyamada Sayuri), who is forever stuck in the kitchen... cooking.

So, the entire first half of the film is like this.

- Yosuke sits at the grassy fields, playing that tune.
- Yu sits there and watch.
- Shots of clouds.
- Shots of scenery.
- Yu goes home and speaks to older sis.
- Shots of clouds.
- Shots of scenery.
- The next day... the cycle repeats.

It's entirely introspective, a mood piece, atmospheric, you are supposed to FEEL the poetry of nothingness, its bland listlessness should be interpreted as well-depicted realism. It is like reading a Haruki Murakami book, but without the annoying surrealism.

Anyway, nothing occurred between the two (BOOOOO!). Seventeen years later, the duo met again, Hidetoshi Nishijima plays the older Yosuke and Hiromi Nagasaku plays the older Yu. Unfortunately for us, things remain just as excruciatingly slow, with a random tragedy that struck in the end.

Miyazaki Aoi and Eita in Su-ki-da

Yeah, Su-ki-da has nice scenery

There is a scene in the middle of the film where there's a really long take of Miyazaki Aoi's Yu shortly after she confessed her love for Yosuke. Yosuke remained offscreen, we see a range of emotions displayed by her throughout the scene, from initial shyness, to barely concealed joy and excitement, to heartbreaking disappointment. Marvellous acting.

The scene would be replicated later by her older counter part Hiromi Nagasaku.

As much as I seem to be complaining about this film. There are moments that linger.

Su-ki-da trailer


Poster of BeerfestA film from Broken Lizard, the comedy group behind films like Super Troopers (saw it once quite a while ago on television, can't remember it much) and Club Dread ( didn't see it), the five members of Broken Lizard are Jay Chandrasekhar (usually the director), Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. They write and star in their films.

I'm lazy to explain the plot, so I'll just copy and paste it from the Beerfest Wikipedia entry:

"The plot begins with two American brothers, Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd (Erik Stolhanske) Wolfhouse, who are mourning the death of their immigrant grandfather Johann Von Wolfhausen (an uncredited Donald Sutherland), founder of the Schitzengiggle German beer hall in the United States. They learn from their great-grandmother (Cloris Leachman) that they have an opportunity to travel to Germany to deliver their grandfather's ashes. Jan and Todd gladly take this opportunity when they learn that Oktoberfest will be occurring at this very same time in Munich, Bavaria.

While in Germany, Jan and Todd find "Beerfest", an underground drinking game tournament run by Baron Wolfgang Von Wolfhausen (Jürgen Prochnow). As the brothers arrive, they witness the German national team defeating the Irish national team and discover that the German Von Wolfhausen competitors are relatives of the American Wolfhouse family. The Germans explain that Jan and Todd's grandfather Johann had stolen a beer recipe decades ago and demand the recipe back from the unknowing brothers. Jan and Todd engage in a drinking contest with the Germans but are soundly defeated. The brothers travel back home and swear to get revenge on the Germans...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kazuo Ishiguro - Never Let Me Go

After finishing Michael Moorcock's The Dancers At The End Of Time (which was a rather sprawling read), I sifted for the number of books which I've bought but haven't read. I needed an easier read, something smaller in scope and scale, can be finished in a shorter time as I was in the midst of preparing for my film shoot. And voila, I picked Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, which I actually bought in '3 for 2' deal earlier this year, along with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love In The Time of Cholera (OMFG! GREAT BOOK!! MOST ROMANTIC BOOK I'VE EVER READ!) and Ian McEwan's Saturday (currently reading, second chapter, seems promising).

The last Ishiguro book I read was When We Were Orphans, six years ago. Fresh out of high school, I was untrained for something as subtle as that, and even though I remembered being slightly moved by its ending, and raving about it to my indifferent cousin, I cannot remember a single thing about it now. Er, it has to do with a private eye searching for his missing mom, right?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Retro-looking Trains, Ballerinas and Fairy Rabbits. More Production Photos From Girl Disconnected.

My skin is currently peeling after the major sunburns I suffered during last Friday's grueling shoot.

Thankfully, the subsequent shoots for the production were much easier as we were in a more controlled environment. One in the university's TV studio, and one in the Bassendean Railway Museum. The scene with Justin and Grace (the rabbit) was shot during Mooncake Festival two days ago, while the train scene was shot early yesterday.

So here you are, some more production photos from my upcoming short film.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Mars Volta

When I was in my late teens, casting around for new music to listen to (this was the golden age of Napster, when you could find anything, and people's tastes were expanding), I started getting into 70's progressive rock. Now, prog has a bad reputation - it's considered uncool and unlistenable by the mainstream media, appreciable only ironically. But my average mix tape contains Norwegian black metal, Japanese girl-pop, Chinese rap, and underground U.S. noise bands, so I could give a fuck less what the mainstream media thinks. The prog bands looked serious, like they cared enough to give their music unconventional themes, arrangements, time signatures, and song titles. They wrote multi-part suites, invented the concept album (as a distinct entity, not a vague muddle like Sgt. Pepper), brought in orchestras (ELO), dabbled in jazz, maxed out the solos. They had outside influences, like film and literature and fantasy and technology. In short, they were trying to keep it new.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The nihilistic, hardcore DOG BITE DOG 狗咬狗

Sam Lee getting bitten by Edison Chen in Dog Bite Dog poster

Dog Bite Dog (狗咬狗) starring Edison Chen (his first role since last year's Initial D) and Sam Lee (a once-promising actor demoted to appearing in numerous B-grade crap films in recent years) is hardcore. Heck, I can't even think of another word to describe it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Talladega Nights: Ballad of Ricky Bobby

poster of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is funny like hell. It pokes fun at NASCAR racing, and your generic 'rise and fall and rise of hero' in sports film, most plot cliches were included here: the hero's disastrous accident that traumatized him mentally and emotionally, the hero's loved ones talking to him while he lies comatose in the hospital, the hero's best friend who turned against him, the hero who turned from cocky to humble throughout the course of the film, the supportive love interest, the smart mentor with all kinds of unorthodox training methods.

Yeap, all these were there, and hilarious. Gotta love those overacting and crazy melodrama. And as funny as Will Ferrell was as Ricky Bobby, he seemed more like a straight guy compared to the supporting cast like John C. Reilly's Cal Naughton Jr, Gary Cole as Ricky Bobby's estranged dad. But the entire film is definitely stolen by Sasha Baron Cohen (whose Ali G film I've never seen, unfortunately) as the evil gay French driver, Jean Girrard, who plays lite jazz on the jukebox, and reads L'Stranger (The Outsider) by Albert Camus WHILE RACING, oh, and speaks with an over-the-top French accent. (I don't think I can ever look at an Albert Camus book again without thinking of this film.)

It's hard for me to describe about him much, you just have to see the film yourself to know how damned good Sasha Baron Cohen was. For more memorable quotes of the film, check them out here. I'm definitely looking forward to Borat.

"Hakuna Matata, bitches!" - Jean Girrard

Best line ever.

Talladega Nights trailer

THE LAKE HOUSE (Hollywood remake of the Korean film IL MARE)

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in The Lake House

A film that reunited Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock since 1995's awesome SPEED (a film that made me spend most of my childhood and high school years sporting a crew cut just because I wanted to be like Keanu, and then decided to allow my hair to grow longer after the Matrix came out, so I can STILL look like Keanu), and a remake of an okay Korean flick, Il Mare.