The Obligatory

Hmmm…. I am not a film critic and therefore am not obliged, as Roger Ebert said he does, to come up with a top 10 list or something. However, I am a film lover. I love watching movies and I do watch a reasonable number of movies a year, both good and bad movies. I don’t know how many movies I watched this year but on average, I think I watch at least 7-8 movies a week (in the cinemas, on DVD, VHS and VCD and on TV) and yes this is despite me having a full time job and also spending about half a year in India in the construction industry.

The most I watched in a week was 25, that’s about 4 a day. This happened towards the tail end of my stay in India when I discovered that superb DVD rental shop called Cinema Paradiso located near the Hyderabad Central shopping complex. Add to this enjoyment, there’s a great Subway shop right below, I always managed to get a bite of the superb chicken ham sandwich (superb by Hyderabad’s standard and my desperation for anything that does not taste Indian).

I wished I have kept a detailed journal of the movies that I have watched along with a capsule review of it so that I can keep track but alas! I am such a weak-willed animal and could never do anything consistently and I lack discipline, both physically and mentally and most of all, I am definitely a lazy Lao-Tzu-an (if such a term exists to justify my wu-wei). Hahahaha…. too much philosophy will corrupt the mind.

Ok, seriously, maybe I can do so much as to indicate that few movies that I thought are worthy of one’s time, starting from my country Malaysia and moving beyond. Because of me having not watched too many movies, this list is a list based on some ignorance because I could not watched all the movies in the world and the world produces about 4,500 movies a year.

Malaysia – Malaysia released again about 20+ movies last year but most are forgetable movies. The movies to watch are RAIN DOGS, LOVE CONQUERS ALL and GUBRA with RAIN DOGS leading the way by quite a large margin. Directors to watch out for: Ho Yuhang, Yasmin Ahmad, Amir Mohammad. Tan Chui Mui is also to watch out for. There is something in LOVE CONQUERS ALL that clicked for me (I don’t know about you). On the box office side, CICAKMAN led the way with a box office collection of close to RM4.5million, followed by REMP-IT. Two very forgettable movies, but somehow made quite some money. Sigh… Une generation purdue c’est moi.

Thailand – Maybe I have not watched too many new Thai movies this year but maybe Thailand’s film industry is not doing very well also. This is sad given the potential that it has shown. I hope in 2007, we will see some more exciting Thai movies. For Thailand in 2006, INVISIBLE WAVES and Wisit’s THE UNSEEABLE are a good attempts. Thai directors worth checking out, if you have not: Wisit Sasanatieng (CITIZEN DOG, TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (TROPICAL MALADY, BLISSFULLY YOURS), Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, 6IXTYNIN9).

Philippines – The only movie I watched from this territory that was released in 2006, THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS, was worth the time.

Singapore – Ooops… only watched I NOT STUPID TOO which was ok. I think I should pay more attention to our neighbour.

Indonesia – Indonesia’s film industry is now experiencing a come back, with some good movies made in 2006. BERBAGI SUAMI is good. I have not watched EKSKUL but it swept the best film award at the recent Festival Film Indonesia and should be worth checking out. In terms of box office, the horror movie KUNTILANAK sold more than 1.5million tickets while HEART also made it to the box office, both in Indonesia as well as in Malaysia. KUNTILANAK will be released in Malaysia soon. Directors to check out: Nia Dinata (CA BAU-KAN). Watch out also for movies produced/directed by Mira Lesmana.

Hong Kong -heh heh, here it is. I have watched almost 30 Hong Kong movies released in 2006, I think. Worth checking out are A BATTLE OF WITS, FEARLESS, ELECTION 2, EXILED, MC DULL: THE ALUMNI and MY NAME IS FAME.

Korea & Japan – Again have not watched much new Korean and Japanese movies but among those watched THE HOST is very good. THE KING AND THE CLOWN and THE PRESIDENT’S LAST BANG (yeah, those are 2005 titles, not really 2006 but I managed to watched only recently) is good as well, although I would prefer the latter to the former. From Japan, ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET and NANA (yeah, again both 2005 releases) are really worth checking out. I really wish we can get Korean and Japanese releases faster here in Malaysia, if not on the big screen, then on DVD. We are always about 1-2 years late! Am looking forward to HULA GIRLS from Japan.

India – I have watched quite a few new Bollywood movies last year. I think about 10 new Bollywood movies. Not to mention catching up on older Bollywood/Indian movies, I think I have watched about 20-25 Indian movies last year. Among the new movies, LAGE RAHO MUNNA BHAI is very good, followed by RANG DE BASANTI and FANAA. On DVD, BLACK is really superb.

China – China is catching up very fast and is becoming one of the top five movie production country in terms of number of films produced (close to 300). Number one is still of course India at about 1,000 films a year. However, like India, the films are very regional, small budget and could not travel and as such, the rest of the world could not really see as many films from this territory as they should to do justice in passing any judgments that is valid. Anyways, while the Fifth Generation guys are getting more and more money to go bigger budget, the Sixth Generation continues to impress, such as Jia Zhangke’s STILL LIFE, Zhang Yang’s SUNFLOWER and Wang Xiaoshuai’s SHANGHAI DREAMS are very good works (yeah, last two are 2005 movies but still….)

Middle Eastern – Part of my job is to evaluate movies and recently, I have watched a considerable number of older Iranian movies, no, not your famous Kiarostami, Makmalbalf, Majidi type but some more obscure Iranian movies. A couple of them are actually quite good. However, I have not watched any new Iranian movies released in 2006 but am looking forward to THE UNWANTED WOMAN that won the Best Film and Best Director prizes at the 51st Asia Pacific Film Festival recently. Middle Eastern movies are not easy to get here, partly because of the censorship (for example, movies from Turkey will have some difficulties coming to Malaysia) and also because of political reasons. From Turkey, I managed to watched MUSTAFA which is very good but am looking forward to MY FATHER AND MY SON. However, I have just recently watched YACOUBIAN BUILDING from Egypt and it is indeed very good. Last heard, they plan to release a cut-down version for Malaysian release but I don’t think it is going to be good having one hour shaved off.

Mat Salleh/Western but Non-Hollywood – Sorry to have to re-label this part instead of the original “Europe”, not that there isn’t enough movies from Europe (European Union as a territory is the second largest film production territory in the world after India) but it is some sort of a revenge for the people from that part that labels movies from Asia “Asian” movies despite them coming from many different countries, heh heh. A few of movies that I thought was worth my time watching: VOLVER, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY and CACHÉ (2005 film but I consider it 2006 somehow). I watched a lot more older European movies on DVD that I have not watched – Fellini, Bergman, Rohmer, Antonioni, Bresson, Kieslowski, Wajda, Bunuel, De Sica, Truffaut, Godard, and from North America: Casavettes, Wilder. It is like a great catching up game and there are still so many movies that I have still not seen! How can I say that I am a movie buff and this is also a reason why I am never confident to talk movies with people who knows their stuff (or pretend to know their stuffs and frighten me by asking me if I have seen such and such a movie that is so obscure, perhaps only 10 people in the whole world has seen that movie but that is their trick, you see).

Hollywood – By Hollywood, I mean those big budget studio backed Hollywood produced movies that has a marketing budget that can be as huge as the production budget. I only remember two Hollywood movies I have seen that I thought is all right, one is THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and the second is THE PRESTIGE. HAPPY FEET is also ok la. The rest of the Hollywood movies, I did not think highly of except perhaps some silly fast-food entertainment. BORAT? Over-rated to the first degree! On the supposedly more indie side, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, A SCANNER DARKLY and CLERKS II shine.

Okay, the above should be the meat of this post. It is meant to be a brief note on some movies that I thought was worth watching from around the world and this of course implies that there are many other films that I have not watched (the world produces about 4,500 films a year, remember?), or films that I have watched and you have watched but somehow I did not include in here because of various reasons, and for that, please excuse me. Again, I really wished I have kept a journal on each and every one of the movies that I have watched so that I can share it but there is a voice that is always telling me that there is really no one interested at all and this whole thing of keeping a journal and writing short reviews on those movies is really a self-agrandisation scheme that my unconcious mind is trying to trick me to make believe that I am bigger than what I am. No one is really interested, so why do it? Why the time? A movie is personal, like religion, it is between me and the movie and nothing should come in between. Bwah haha. Yes, agree. I think, therefore I am lazy.


Photo taken by my wife during the New Year countdown at KLCC. She seemed to be using some black cardboard over the lense that is exposed 30 seconds technique. I have no head of what that means, doesn’t covering the lense equal to a total black out even though she kept waving the cardboard in front of the lense? Hmmm…. I think she used some Photoshop magic also… hmmm….

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Filed under Movies, Movies (Highly Recommended), Thoughts & Commentaries

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