Monthly Archives: June 2005

Totoro's Near Escape

Last weekend a friend from Singapore came and visited us and stayed over for a couple of nights. They brought with them their 3 year old son, who is unbelievably active. I guess all kids around that age is hyper-active. We introduced Totoro to him and he loved Totoro at first sight and played with him, kissing him and all. Since it is now very near his birthday, my wife gave the Totoro to him without my knowledge. The story of this Totoro is that I bought it for her when she fell sick some time back and I wanted to give her a nice surprise. Since then Totoro has been accompanying her and we had some really good time together, especially when did our Chinese New Year MTV. Now that she is giving him away, I felt a bit sad and with a woman's 6th sense, the next day, she decided to buy a new Totoro for the kid instead. So we went to 1 Utama and found a nice one for the kid. Phew! My Totoro was saved at the last minute!!

While we were at 1 Utama, we watched the “Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy” and bought a book, “iCon”, an unauthorised biography of Steve Jobs. I am amazed by Steve Jobs all these while and this book will be the first one I read about his life. Apparently Steve didn't like the idea and banned the book, and all the books published by the publisher, from all his Apple retail shops. I read the first chapter already and will probably write something about it later.

“The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy” was loads of fun to watch, especially watching that depressed Marvin. Hey, he actually saved the day! The movie is not an easy movie to watch and can be boring. After all the action, you will probably emerge from the cinema hall and ask yourself what is going on and what's the point. But for me, it was enjoyable. I was looking forward to it so much.

The crowd in the new GSC cinema is fine but when I walked over to the TGV side, it is completely packed! Incredibly packed! And I suspect they are queing up for “Initial D”. I wanted to watch the movie on Sunday in Mines but it was fully sold out. In fact, news is that the tickets for the movie was fully sold out everywhere. With GSC now out of the game, TGV will find itself struggling hard to accommodate to the demand. People are complaining about GSC, and TGV more so.

“Why is GSC so stupid one? Never show also. TGV that place so dirty and smelly, if can also dun wan to go. Tickets also dun have. Pirate also dun have, if not go buy pirate better.”

Hmmm….. pirates also don't have? Surely they have, I am quite certain about that. Clear copy too. But they are not releasing it. Why? I probably know why but that's a story I cannot share here. If I see you in person and if you are interested, I will tell you the story.

Movies watched over the weekend include “The House of 72 Tenants”, directed by Chor Yuen. The DVD, original of course, was on sale for only RM19.90. I have watched that movie before but for that price, I can keep it in my collection as well as enjoy the special features, including, as I found out later, the dreaded commentary by Bey Logan. I think Celestial is not going anywhere with the Shaw library. They are significantly reducing the Shaw library content from their Celestial Movie Channel and changing strategy now to offer, as their main attraction, contemporary movies. It is all fine but they must not forget that they are here because of the Shaw library, and producing such cheapskate DVD extra features and downplaying the Shaw content on the channel is a terrible sin, at least committed against the Shaw library itself.

“The House of 72 Tenants” is an excellent movie. A comedy and also a social piece on Hong Kong during that era. People are genuinely nice to each other. Sacrifice for the collective good. And as one of the tenants said, “In these times, if we do not help one another, how are we to live on?”. Brilliant piece of work and superb performance from each of the cast. Apparently, besides that, my very learned friend pointed out that this film helped revive the Cantonese speaking cinema. Read her informed review here. And of course, if you all remember, Stephen Chow Sing Chi paid his tribute to this movie via his “Kungfu Hustle”.

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"The key to every man is his thoughts"

The above is a quote from Emerson’s “Circles”.

I was getting so fed-up with the spywares that made my computer crawl like a turtle and I finally did the thing – backed-up my files, re-formatted the drive and re-install everything back. Now, the computer is running so smoothly :)

Today, I went for the launch of the new Golden Screen Cinemas cineplex at One Utama New Wing. One Utama already has a TGV cinema there at the old wing, so this new cineplex is a direct competition. TGV expects to lose about 50-60% of its patrons to this new cinema, according to a source. Many new cinemas are coming up in the Klang Valley, even the Cathay group that manages the Mega Pavilion cineplexes will be coming in to The Curve, which is scheduled to be opened by end of this year. It is a pity, however, to note that all these are happening in the major towns and cities and the smaller towns, including those at the east coast states, still do not have cinemas. So, the pirates and TV still have quite a large market in these areas.

The new GSC cinema is fine, lots of space, a great Golden Class and all but it was rather warm and the lack of space to put up posters is a minus. And they compete directly with TGV. TGV is getting quite agressive now, with plans for many more cineplexes that competes directly with GSC, such as the one planned for in Seremban and Cheras, for example. GSC holds about 55-60% of the market share but if Cathay and TGV teams up and attempts to “fix” GSC, GSC can get into some trouble too, as witnessed now where “Initial D” will not be shown in the GSC circuit, and since “Initial D” is such a strong movie with so much hype around it, GSC being the big boy, will find itself in a very awkward position.

Right after that, we had a meeting with the new guy that has just joined one of our suppliers. With all due respects, he is a really nice fellow but my feeling for people who seem to boasts of his love for Formula 1 racing and begins to ask everyone if he is a F1 fan is too much. I do not go around asking people if they are Go fans. Then he said he loves watching movies and I got a bit excited only to find out that he loves movies produced in Hollywood, not movies as in movies. Then he began to tell us which country he has been to etc. etc. There are people like that in this world. But again, some of them are really nice people and do not have the intention to harm. It’s just that they are not very self-concious. That’s all.

I was reading Emerson again the other day and was wanting to post something here. Here’s an excerpt from his essay “Circles”:

“How often must we learn this lesson? Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. The only sin is limitation. As soon as you once come up with a man’s limitations, it is all over with him. He lacks talents? has he enterprise? has he knowledge? It boots not. Infinitely alluring and attractive was he to you yesterday, a great hope, a sea to swim in; now, you have found his shores, found it a pond, and you care not if you never see it again.”

This passage rings true to me in every way. People must have a continual effort to “raise himself above himself, to work a pitch above his last height”. If not, there will be stagnation and the person cease to grow, and therefore our interest in such a person ceases as his mind becomes more and more dead by the day. Also, don’t you all think it more interesting knowing a new person who interests you? There is so much mystery, so much secrets, so much thrills and fun. But when you get to know the person up close and personal, and you found his/her shore, your amazement ceases. Your interest ceases. And you begin to look elsewhere. The fireworks are no longer there.

Next I have drawn this and wonder if I can share it here:

hmmm….. need explanation?

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The Smiths and The Masses

So, I have finally watched “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, and what do I think? hhmmm….. one word – Hollywoody. Predictable plot lines, lots of expensive action, beautiful lead players, romance, formulaic love story designed to make you “feel it” and of course, the regular and also rather formulaic humour. Boy, am I in a bad mood or what… but I am quite certain that this movie is forgetable and I won’t miss it if I have not seen it, I think. But then again, who is to tell the future? I may dream of Angelina Jolie tonight, but right now, I have very low opinions of that movie, and also the key players. Good entertainment to some people, and at certain points I felt entertained as well. I am not denying that. The crowds’ reaction in the cinema hall confirmed that the movie is successful and it’s entertaining.

Finally, I have updated my website with some photos from the Malacca (should be Melaka, la) trip and also the section on movies have also been updated as well.

Next project is to translate the Sam Hui song….. the lyrics are really tough…. which probably meant that the people in the olden days have a better appreciation of prose and words. Lyrics nowadays are much easier to understand. Perhaps this is the same case as our “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” – art is now for the masses and the masses are generally mediocre in taste and opinion (now whack me for saying that).

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Packed weekend.

As expected, the last weekend was quite rushed, due to a trip down to Malacca on Saturday, then rushing back for the Beethoven 9th concert at 3.00p.m., with the pre-concert talk at 2.00p.m.

It is really nice to catch up with friends once in a while. I mean, people of course catch up with friends all the time, but in this case, to catch up with old friends in a group situation. 7 families gathered in Malacca, with their respective children (!!). It reminds me of how age and life is catching up. Seeing friends' children grow, all around 3 years old now, reminds me that I am quite behind time and I am off my production schedule. That said, some of my other friends are not yet married, or have not have children yet, but somehow, I sort of envy those who already have children. Maybe I believe Lin Yutang when he said, in one of the chapter in his book “The Importance of Living”, that the chief object of mankind is to reproduce and all other things are invented by mankind to take focus off this main object. He wrote a very interesting essay on this and if I have the time and can find it, I will post an excerpt here. Whether you believe what he said or not is not important. Great ideas and thoughts are not to be accepted wholesale anyway. They are meant to be debated and falsified.

Malacca is quite nice but was unbelivably hot the last weekend. We did the usual round in the A-Famosa area for the sake of the children. Everything is really small scale, actually. Famous food in Malacca include the Satay Celup and the Chicken Rice Ball. To be honest, I have never enjoyed either of them. The Satay Celup is gross, with thick peanut gravy and you put your food inside the boiling pot, sort of like the fondue. It didn't taste nice to me and it looked quite dirty. (See the dirty picture by clicking here). The Chicken Rice Ball, however, is my major complain.

I love rice. I have a lot of respect for rice. And I think rice is the Creator's (if there is one) gift to mankind (or, ahem, Asians). But this Chicken Rice Ball thing, what they do is to squeeze the rice into a ball (almost the size of a golf ball), and therefore, when you eat the rice, it's as if you are eating a ball of starch, not rice. And the chicken was not superb either. The chicken in Ipoh is nicer.

Okay, enough of Malacca bashing, but I really enjoyed the hospitality of my friend. The barbeque was superb. The alcohol was superb. The talking and all were superb. It's really nice to gather and do this more often.

Beethoven's 9th was okay, but no big deal. I think either the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra deteriorated or the conductor really sucks. There is no passion nor coherance in the playing. Luckily the choir saved the day with a superb, energetic, and passionate finale. When Benjamin Zander came and conducted the MPO for Mahler's 5th, the playing was really great. Even a Mahler crazy fellow like me, albeit under-educated in music, can praise the playing, then it has to be up to some good.

Movies watched since the last post on 14th June:

1. “AV” (2005) – Hong Kong
2. “Arahan” (2004) – Korea
3. “Love, So Divine” (2004) – Korea
4. “2 Young” (2005) – Hong Kong
5. “Girls without Tomorrow” (1992) – Hong Kong
6. “Swordsmen II” (1992) – Hong Kong

With the brand new website, I plan to do a section featuring, on a monthly basis, one movie that I feel is great. I think I will start with recommending “Yi Yi” by Edward Yang. And perhaps I will include short opinions on the movies that I have watched. The point of doing this? Perhaps no point, perhaps, hopefully, to be able to share some feelings and some stuffs that I think is great with the few people who cares to know what I think about certain things :)

Yi Yi

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Another lyrics..

Here's another lyrics from the theme song of the movie “Tempting Heart”, one of my favourite movies of all time.

Here is a translation I got from the internet.

How long has it been since we last met?
Thinking of where you are now
Suddenly I realize
You have always stayed in my heart
Keeping me company

How far is the distance between us now?
Your scent no longer lingers
Your shadows are still around
I just need to look into the past
And I could still see you

Let the past be the past
I couldn't love you all over again
The white clouds sailed over the blue skies
If we can't walk together forever
At least let us have the courage to remember
Let us have the strength to hold each other
Let me have the chance to let you know
that my heart has been touched before

I still wish to see you
Have been trying to find your news
Actually you have always been with me
In my heart, you are the guardian of my memories

************

The song in mp3 can be downloaded here (if you are using Windows, you can right-click on the link and choose “Save Target As”.

Tempting Heart

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New website

I jumped into the internet bandwagon quite some time ago, not very long, but I think about 10 years ago. I was fascinated by it the first time I knew it. I remember spending so much time on the internet, and especially online chatting. I recall using the ICQ and Yahoo! extensively the last time, and chatting with people, mostly Americans, on all sorts of topics, but particularly on religion and philosophy. Boy, how much have changed and I hardly chat nowadays, except when I am logged onto the Kiseido Go Server.

I recall learning how to create webpages using just the trusty Notepad, no fancy-fancy software. Every line was hard-coded. The plus point is that I learn the basic language. The minus point is well, Notepad is really the simplest HTML editor out there. I had my first website in 1996, I think. It was hosted by Geocities and there is nothing much there. Then it was completely revamped, and I put in all sorts of contents that interests me at that time, which was mostly Chinese history and philosophy. Then came Mahler. That was the first time I learnt to use two of Macromedia's superb softwares, Dreamweaver and Flash. Then life goes on, and nothing gets updated.

Now, I have just created a whole new website at Bravenet.com and this will reflect my current interests. It will have a link to my blog here, will have a photo album, some information on things that I am passionate about, and also a section which I tentatively call “Notebook”. This section will be used to put up whatever thoughts I have, whether its an extention of a blog entry where I feel like elaborating, or an original feeling not published on the blog, or reviews of recent experiences, whether memories on travel, movies watched, music listened and/or books read, or just some ramblings which will amount to nothing.

All these are self-indulgences. I think I am not doing it for anyone, it's just something I like to do since the very first day I got acquainted to the internet. I am just fascinated. So, let me begin this indulgence now all over again….

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Spywares

As you all already know, the internet can be really great but can also be dangerous and annoying. I have applied for a fixed telephone line so that I can connect using the broadband service but before I even get to broadband, I have over 20 spywares already lurking in my PC. I do not have this problem when I used the CDMA to connect to the internet and this problem started only after I switched to the fixed line. I first noticed it when my modem kept sending and receiving information even though the browser is idle. The following is from Microsoft's website.

“Spyware is a general term used for software that performs certain behaviors such as advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration of your computer, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent. You might have spyware or other unwanted software on your computer if:

• You see pop-up advertisements even when you're not on the Web.

• The page your Web browser first opens to (your home page) or your browser search settings have changed without your knowledge.

• You notice a new toolbar in your browser that you didn't want, and find it difficult to get rid of.

• Your computer takes longer than usual to complete certain tasks.

• You experience a sudden rise in computer crashes.”

The full article can be found here.

Out of the 5 points above, I have experienced 4 of them.

A friend recommended that I visit the Microsoft site and download the anti-spyware program. That I have done and I felt slightly relieved after the software detected those spywares and deleted them for me, the feeling is like having the stone removed from your shoe while you are walking, or to empty your bowels after one week not being able to do so.

If you have a similar experience and do not know what to do about it, please visit the Microsoft site, and download this anti-spyware.

My next step before getting the broadband service is to install a firewall and to update my anti-virus programme. By the way, my modem still indicates massive activity even as I type. I just don't know what my computer has received and what information has been sent out.

Lan Yu

Movies watched over the past few days:

1. “Last Life in the Universe” (2003) -Thai

2. “Lan Yu” (2001) – Hong Kong

3. “Born to be King” (aka “Young and Dangerous 6” (2000) – Hong Kong

4. “Beyond our Ken” (2004) – Hong Kong

To watch within the next few days:

1. “Casshern” (2004) – Japan

2. “Love, So Divine” (2004) – Korea

3. “2 Young” (2005) – Hong Kong

All these are old films. Will want to watch “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Interpreter” in the cinema, but maybe not so soon. This weekend is very tight. Looking forward to watching “The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy”, “Initial D” and “War of the Worlds” (I wonder if Spielberg will do a better job on screen than Orson Welles on the radio).

Just a paragraph to stimulate your thoughts before I end this post. I was reading the chapter on Luis Buñuel in Anthony Lane's “Nobody's Perfect”. Quoting him:

“The first thing to say about Luis Buñuel, movie director and disturber of the peace, is that he looked the part. The great filmakers, however rare their own appearance in front of the camera, almost always come to resemble their collected works. No one could sit through a Hitchcock season, for example, and imagine that its creator was a carefree and sexually contented beanpole. Godard is he mad professor, beloved of his students and nobody else; Howard Hawks is the sly jock with money and girls to burn; Billy Wilder grins like a miniature devil from the margins of a gilded manuscript – the imp who knows too much. Buñuel beats them hollow: that square, sawed-off head, the ripe, amusable mouth, the martial breath of brow and chin. And, most of all, there are the eyes. Hooded above and pouched below, they shimmer with the virtues, or vices in disguise, of the Buñuelian gaze: dignity, lubricity, and doubt. You can easily picture yourself being hypnotized by this man; sit through a sample of his movies, and you will think you have been.”

Belle de Jour

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Lan Yu Theme Song

Just finished watching “Lan Yu”. The theme song, particularly hit me quite hard. In this late night, it is bound to be sentimental….

My translation of the lyrics:

I miss you everyday, without end
The lonely me has never changed
When will my sweet dreams come true?
My dear, I wish to see you so very much.

The autumn wind breezes past my face
Reminding me of bygone days
What is really in your heart, my dear?
Why do you leave me here all alone?

chorus

The person who loves you the most is I
How could you leave me in such sorrow?
When I needed you the most
You have left me so silently

The person who loves you the most is I
How could you leave me in such sorrow?
After all that I have done
Have you not felt anything at all?

……

The song in mp3 can be downloaded here

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Published materials

The above is a newspaper cutting from the Metro section in one of the major newspaper in Malaysia. I am not trying to embarass the author but the fact that it indicates that Ozu is still alive when “Village of Dreams” was made and that he is also responsible for the creation of the Chibi Maruko-chan movie made me almost jumped out of my chair.

Publications especially major newspapers should have a very intense checking department where all the facts published are checked although I am not very sure how effective this department is in this particular newspaper. The person responsible for this write-up is obviously ignorant of what he/she is talking about except perhaps regurgitating facts or worse, publishing a write-up supplied by a third party without checking. Published write-ups in a major newspaper whould be properly checked. It is not a personal blog where the author (ahem) has the liberty to make as many mistakes and to express whatever opinions and feelings he wants.

Coming back to this film festival, the programming has just been published and to my horror, I will have to miss the screening in Kuala Lumpur due to a pre-planned trip to Melaka on Saturday (18th June) and returning on the next day to attend the Beethoven's Ninth performed by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir in the afternoon. I guess I will have to travel up to Penang to catch the movies, but it is still horrible since they are not showing “The Taste of Tea” there. Why not show that movie there???????? Well, it has been some time now that I visit that island and it is time to pay that place a visit.

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More about movies….

Lately I have been doing more about movies than anything else, I mean things outside my job, not within the scope of my job although the line can be really gray. I am spending a lot of time on Go as well, doing problems and going through some recent game records. I hardly listen to Mahler nowadays, except on Sunday mornings. Talking about Mahler, he is getting more and more popular these days with the creative types. The latest movie, as far as I know, where Mahler was mentioned was in “Melinda and Melinda”, Woody Allen’s flick last year. Interesting movie this, and we see Woody Allen emerging again after a rather dark period.

I am quite proud of Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC), for their effort in promoting non-mainstream films via their International Screens and for their effort in organising and promoting film festivals, such as the current French Film Festival and the coming Japanese Film Festival.

I am looking forward very much to the Japanese Film Festival which will take place from the 16th to the 19th of June 2005 in Kuala Lumpur and from 8th to 10th July in Penang. The programming is good, among the films featured are “Village of Dreams” (1996) that got an award in Berlin, “The Taste of Tea” (2004) (if this reminds you of Ozu’s “Flavour of Green Tea over Rice”, I think it’s probably intended to be so) and above all, Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953). I still believe my friend when he told me many years back, that every citizen of Earth should at least watch “Tokyo Story” once. I watched it more than once on DVD but am dying to watch it on the big screen. This is the second year that GSC held this festival. Last year, they featured Ozu’s “Early Spring” and “Twilight Samurai” , among others. If Roger Ebert is to be believed, he said, sooner or later, all lovers of films will come to Ozu.

Tokyo Story

Besides providing funding to filmakers, I really do think that the government should support the exhibitors who participate in promoting the appreciation of films. The whole equation (borrowing from David Thompson’s book title) involves everything from getting the ideas onto the celluloid/optical disc to showing them to people. Neglecting them and anything else in between, or pouring money on just the origination aspect of it, will not optimise the return on investment for the money the government has put into encouraging and promoting a better film industry and a better film culture.

Movies watched in the past two days:

1. “Memories of Murder” (2003) – Korea. Based on a true event that happened in the late 1980s, this movie is a mix of comedy, suspense-thriller and social document. It tells of a serial murder-rapist in a small rural province in South Korea, who apparently enjoys his evil ways a lot and thinks the police are a dumb bunch. The movie revolves around two cops, a rural cop played excellently by Song Kang-ho (despite his not so “winter-sonata” look, he is an excellent actor, appearing in such good movies as “Joint Security Area” (JSA), “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and more recently, “The President’s Barber”) and a cop from Seoul played equally well by Kim Sang-kyung. The movie began very much like a comedy, with cops picking up all the “wrong” suspects and torturing them into submission but the pace picked up and became more intriguing as the cops struggled to find the suspect, and already 8 girls have became victim. The 9th girl is a victim of the political unrest during that period – militaristic rule, the wiping out of “the enemies of the state”, etc. In one scene, the female police is smart enough to find out what ticks the murderer but the government could not send more police to assist on that fateful night when the crime was anticipated as they were sent to control demonstration crowds. The movie ended without telling us who the murderer is (in real life, the murderer is still at large) but the process of finding that is excellent cinema. The final shot on Song Kang-ho’s face when he chanced upon a small clue, many years after the incident and now a salesman, is worth very much of the price you paid to watch this movie. This is Bong Joon-ho’s second movie.

When released, the movie sold almost 5.3million tickets. This is a lot when the average number of tickets sold nationwide for a Korean movie is about 1.8million in 2003. The best selling foreign movie in 2003 in Korea was “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King” and that sold about 3.9million tickets only.

2. “Love Battlefield” (2004) – Hong Kong. Is this a gangster movie? Is this a romantic drama? Gangster movie yes. Romantic drama also yes. But after Empire magazine (in their May 2005 issue) defined what is meant by gangster, perhaps these few punks cannot be called gangsters. Anyways, I think it is an absolute good investigation on the nature of love. Romantic love that is. I have always felt that romantic love, if you take sex out of the equation, is not very much different from say, brotherly, or filial love. Love is you care very much about the other person although all your physical actions do not cry that out loud. The more true the love, the more quiet it is physically. At least that is what I believe. Ok, ok….enough of what I think although this is my blog, I cannot over-indulge….. coming back to this movie.

Like Song Kang-ho, Eason Chan is not the “winter-sonata”, handsome Daniel Wu, Takeshi Kaneshiro type. But he is a good actor. He is versatile and natural. This movie investigates his love for his girlfriend (played by Niki Chow) and vice versa. The movie started by telling us how they knew each other, and then how time destroys all fun and excitement and fireworks in their life when things became more mundane, more routine. They tried to revitalise the relationship, try to re-create the fireworks by planning for vacations and outings etc. but of course, they can only become worse. Then one fateful morning when they are to board for vacation, Eason lost his car, and found out later that it was stolen by some very fierce and animalistic gangsters from….. well,….. Malaysia. The gangsters kidnapped him and the rest of the movie tells how Niki searched for him. They found each other finally, and rediscovered the stuff love is made of but it was a bit too late……

Not only was the relationship between Eason and Niki examined, so was the relationship between the chief gangster and his wife. Two very different world, but the love is just the same. The director successfully conveyed the small nuances in a relationship, how couples quarrel over very small things and how they made up again and all these are very real, and happens all the time in real life. Not some punk falling in love at first sight and then fireworks and then sink to the bottom of the sea….. hhmmm….. well….. I don’t know about other people, but this I am personally touched. Like after I watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, or “Before Sunset”. Something like that…..

Love Battlefield

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Hitchiker's Guide

So far, all the reviews I read about The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been great. Looking forward to watching it very much.

Marvin

Movie watched over the weekend:

Because I am playing Go on Saturdays, normally the whole of Saturday will be devoted to Go, which is quite nice. So, it left only yesterday to watch 2 movies, both Hong Kong.

1. “Portland Street Blues” (1998) – I thought I have watched this before but apparently not. A spin off from the popular “Young and Dangerous” series, it chronicles the rise of Sap Sam Mui, one of the key leader of the Hung Hing triad who is in charge of vice in the famous red light district, Portland Street. When I first watched Young and Dangerous (actually it’s only in episode 4 that Sap Sam Mui made an appearance), Sap Sam Mui is only french fries lesbian, hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Only after watching this only did I know she is actually capable of loving men. This movie tells us how Sap Sam Mui got to who she is in the triad. Sandra Ng played Sap Sam Mui (as in the original Young and Dangerous) and she played that role really well, together with her father (played excellently by Ng Man Tat) and Kristy Yeung who played her best friend with a twist in the end (ahem!). Kristy’s performance is also outstanding and introduced her in a big way to the general public but it was Sandra Ng who got the best actress award at the 18th Hong Kong Film awards and deservedly so. Shu Qi also made an appearance and played her role superbly albeit with a very irritating Taiwanese accent. It is weird, however, to see Shu Qi appearing again in a “Young and Dangerous V” though. I don’t know how that connects to this episode. Anyways, all in all, it was a superb performance from the cast.

Well, to side track a bit on Shu Qi. Yes, she is a category III actress who made her name with such category III classics as “Sex and Zen II”. Putting aside that, I do think that she is quite a good actress. Consider her performance in “Millenium Mambo” for example. She is capable of quite a wide range of acting skills, in my humble opinion. She is also in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s latest flick, “Three Times”, which participated in this year’s Cannes but unfortunately did not get any awards (I really don’t think this has anything to do with her though).

2. “Slim Till Dead” (2005) – This is a usual crime “thriller” with the same messed-up, split personality type, Dr. Jackyl and Mr. Hyde type, “Fight Club” type, etc. etc. etc. criminal going out to take revenge on being called a fatty while she was young, and of course, she became thin and pretty now but the fatty girl never left her (I see Freud smiling already). What she will do is to kidnap spokespersons for a slimming center and forces them to slim down to 70 pounds within a week. If not, they die. And we have Anthony Wong being the run-down cop, also with hidden memories, trying to nab this evil person, and on and on and on and on. You know how it goes already. Anyways, we see a superb performance from Sherin Teng though, a veteran in at least the TVB drama industry. She is really charming in this movie, and becoming more and more charming the more mature she got. Errr…. did I also say that Wong Jing directed this movie? Well…… Oh yes, nearly forgotten about it. There is a remake of Fruit Chan’s “Dumplings” in this movie as well.

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Film Industries' Models

For the past two days, I was attending a seminar on the film industries’ models in Asia and Europe. Surely this is not a seminar to discuss what waistlines and hiplines and bosomlines film actors and actresses should have to qualify as a model in Asia or Europe. It is a seminar to discuss how the state/government can do to help the fragile film industry. As the speaker from Korea, Mr. Kim Hong-Joon said, it’s like a forum to discuss guerrila war tactics against the Hollywood domination.

Some very interesting thoughts and facts were presented, if you care about the film industry. Will talk more about this later.

The seminar was organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). You can get more information on the programme and seminar outline from their website, or you can click here for a shortcut.

If there is one thing that screamed out in this seminar, it is this: the national film industry at least for countries in Asia and Europe needs help (yes, even the Koreans have a quota system to protect its industry). Something has to be done. Well, this is not something new, by the way. The film industry was lucrative in its early days, but surely not now. Even in Hollywood, the average rate of return for investment in feature films is about minus 5%. According to a Hollywood financier, only 3 out of 10 movies will do well and one will hit the jackpot. The rest are losers. So one wonders why people still bother to make films. I am not going into that here but it’s food for thought for you, if you have not been thinking about that already.

I am waiting for some slides from the seminar to be able to properly talk about the various schemes and models each country represented used to help their national film industry. In general, we see in Europe the establishment of film funds to provide financial assistance to the film makers. Some of these funds are actually used as grants and do not need to be repaid even if the producers have recouped their investment, as in the case of Sweden.

Oh well, while waiting for the slides to come in, I might as well state some facts here for your interest.

1. In South Korea, as I mentioned earlier, the government protects the film industry by making it compulsory for each screen (mind you, not each location) to play a Korean film at least 146 days out of 365 days.

2. In France, 36% of the film production cost is financed by TV stations. The logic is really this: with the advent of TV, the cinema suffered and as a result, TV should contribute back to the film funds. Something like that. Furthermore, there is a quota for French TV stations as well. They must show 60% European content out of which 40% of them must be in French. Poor TV people….

3. The Swedish film funds actually provide grants of up to 75% of the production cost and these money need not be repaid. The percentage of the grant depends on how big the film is. The smaller the film, the bigger the grant, so a lot of producers actually make small films and earn more money than those commercial people. As Mr. Eiffel Mattsson, the representative from Sweden whom I conversed with during lunch, people are exploiting the fund and new regulations are now being studied to remedy the situation. He also commented on the state of the film industry in his country and is now despearately looking for the next Ingmar Bergman (surely you must have at least watched <Wild Strawberries> and the <Seventh Seal>?)

4. According to the UNESCO stats, 3.6billion people watches Bollywood films while 2.6billion people watches Hollywood films. The Indians actually produces and screens an average of over 1,000 films a year.

5. Thailand do not really have an organisation (like CNC, KOFIC or FINAS) to take care of its industry but plans to do so. However, the government allows up to 8 years of tax free period if films are produced/shot in Thailand. It is interesting to note that the Thais used to produced over a hundred films before 1990 but dropped to 8 films in around 1996. How they have improved now….

I just wonder, if the film industry needs such an enormous state financing, it will cease slowly to be an economic enterprise because it exists not because people want to watch their national movie, but the state deems it important to protect some sort of a cultural heritage. I have always believed that to be able to have a sustainable film industry, it has to be market-drive. State support can only do as much as providing, at most, a quota for the exhibitors to screen national movies and granting repayable, interest-bearing loans of up to say a maximum of 50% of the production cost, but I don’t think giving money by way of grants and subsidies to filmmakers will work in the long term.

There is an envy-hate feeling towards Hollywood films just because they are doing so well and is eroding their national films. [The only two countries that has a 90 over percent share of its film market is the USA and India]. But in the first place, why would Hollywood be so powerful? The answer lies in the their genius in enterprise and the many years of hardwork to establish their network. They control everything from production to the distribution and marketing of the products. They nurture their stars. They make movies that the general public enjoy. And they are conglomerates, controlling various media platforms that acts synergistically to give their product maximum exposure, and also window to recoup their investment. In short, they are agressive people, working very, very hard to survive in a market-driven, competitive environment. Only in this way would any industry, not only the film industry, thrive.

Before I end this post, I would like to share with you here something about this powerful Hollywood sexopoly.

If you really care that much and want to know more about this Hollywood business, you can read this.

Now, if all these cannot satisfy your appetite still, read this: Why Hollywood Rules the World, and Whether We Should Care.

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After a few days….

It has been a few days now that I have started this blog thingy. It is quite fun but the fact that it is actually published, whether there is anyone actually reading it or not, can make me feel quite nervous. Constantly I worry about my grammar and spelling which actually hurt my eyes each time I re-read my posts (and this is probably why authors need editors and copywriters coz they can never check their own work properly. not that I am some author though….).

Another thing that I worry is that my posts are boring. haih….. but well……

Anyways, movies watched over the weekend up to yesterday:

1. Kungfu Mahjong – hhhmmmm….. hasn’t Wong Jing already made one mahjong comedy in the early eighties already….. well, still, we see plagiarism everywhere, from Kungfu Hustle (of course) to the cantonese soap opera. Well this is Wong Jing. Funny thing is that this movie, cheap as it may be and laden with continuity problems and a plot that has been featured almost like a million times in a million movies already, is somehow quite enjoyable. Luckily it was not another “Love is a Many Splendoured Thing”. Thank the Lord Buddha and Wong Jing for sparing us another torturous experience. I do recomend Kungfu Mahjong to any movie fan who goes in to watch this movie just for fun. And if you know how to play mahjong, perhaps you will learn a thing or two. If you dunno how to play, perhaps it will give you an idea why so many people in the world is playing this game.

2. Madagascar – liked it a lot. Just go watch it. Brings back old feelings I had from those old Mickey Mouse flicks, Bugs Bunny etc. etc. Just listen to the way the kids laughed, if you are lucky enough to watch in a cinema hall full of kids. Suddenly you will feel younger and happier. Critically, however, it’s not giving much challenge to those people at Pixar. Bambi, Dumbo is up there. Nemo, Mr. Incredible is near them. Madagascar has to come behind them. But surely way, way ahead of Shark Tale. And of course…. hehehehehe…… all these, in my very humble and personal opinion, is quite a distance away from Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Gibli associates (just watch Grave of the Fireflies (by Isao Takahata), Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa, My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away etc. etc.). Well, a very personal opinion that is. No offense meant… :) One review of Madagascar can be found here.

3. Red Dust – a 1990 Brigitte Lin classic. Cinema can be this great. You will like City of Sadness if you like this too, although City of Sadness can be a tad less emotionally affecting as this. A review of Red Dust can be found here.

4. Memento (re-watching with colleagues) – interesting editing and idea on what memories are made of, but rather stale now on my 3rd viewing.

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