Monthly Archives: February 2008

Towering Mermaid

Absolutely love this movie. I miss my mom…… It won at the Japan Academy Awards which I suspect not many people notices compared to the Oscars although this movie beats a lot of the Oscars nominees hands down. I loved ALWAYS – SUNSET ON THIRD STREET very much too and I have UDON still unopened in the box while STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKES is now on the way to my house.

Ah, how wonderful this is although I am also very much saddened by how much the general movie audience in Malaysia is missing out and in many of their minds, perhaps TRANSFORMERS is the greatest movie in the whole wide world last year. Well, to each their own, I guess, and this is one reason why I get really skeptical when people declare that they are movie fans. Not that I am a snob or anything, it is just that I get annoyed by people who are uninitiated but yet talks loudly as if they know everything, proclaiming this, proclaiming that and saying people stupid just because a certain poor soul happened to miss that movie or can’t remember its name. The more you know, the less you talk because you know how little you know and instead open the ears more in hope of learning.

Tokyo Tower – Mom & Me, And Sometimes Dad

Contra this to one of our upcoming big movie release in Malaysia called DUYUNG which boasts the highest number of print run, at 61 prints, and over 200 CGI shots (irrelevant to the story I would say and pure waste of money) and an exotic location, I have nothing to say except to hide and run if my friends at the Japan club asks me about the movie. I don’t really want to put DUYUNG down so much as I would want to question the integrity of the director who permits people to contaminate his supposedly work of art (if any). What self-respecting director will do such thing, yes? Well, we know which director this is and I am sure people in the know would not be surprised by what this director is capable of doing for the sake of money.

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Guru Wu Qingyuan, Oscars

The Oscars is this coming Monday. Not that I am overly excited about it. It is only the Oscars, not the Hong Kong Film Awards. But what is going to be fun is that some of my colleagues will be coming early to the office this Monday and watch the Oscars together. That will be fun. I have done that before in my old company when Dom made breakfast and we watched the Oscars, occasionally jumping out loud when our favourites won. I remember dancing to the tune when Reese Witherspoon won the Oscar for her role in WALK THE LINE. Those were good times and it gives me kicks, just like when I have Aces Four of a Kind and got called by Kings Four of a Kind, or when after a big battle chase, I finally captured my opponent’s stones in Go. A lot of kick in that.

Per my previous post, I have finally watched THERE WILL BE BLOOD and Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is top notch. He is my favourite to win his second Oscar for Best Actor in Leading Role. After watching all the 5 nominated movies for the Best Picture category, I will stick with NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, overall excellent direction, plot, acting, etc. but most importantly, it gave me the small kicks throughout the whole movie. Yes, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, JUNO, MICHAEL CLAYTON and ATONEMENT are each wonderful movies. But of all, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN got right into my heart and is the most unforgettable. As for the Oscar for Actress in Leading Role, I have not seen all of the movies there but I really liked Marion Cotillard for her role in LA VIE EN ROSE.

Back track a bit, I was reading a book on confronting reality and was on a chapter on management basics when a colleague came in and we chatted, on movies mostly as he is himself a major major movie fan. To think of it, just for record’s sake, if not also a recommendation for whoever interested, my all time favourite management thinkers are Peter Drucker, Jim Collins and Ram Charan. They are pure management geniuses but what I also like about them is that they are humble, down to earth people. Not some loud mouth, show off guys who thinks that they are the most charismatic people on earth. These three thinkers have an air of understatement, a certain simplicity and clarity of thought, enlightened. Just like the taste of tea over rice (yes, again).

A note of Weiqi (or Go), a friend asked about some information on Weiqi especially for people who wants to pick it up and become good players (players ranked Dan just like the black belt system common in Taekwonda or in Six Sigma, for example). There are some good books on Weiqi, particularly the following:

Lessons in the The Fundamentals of Go by Kageyama Toshiro

Opening Theory Made Easy by Otake Hideo

The Elementary Go Series

Of course, in this age of the internet, there are some websites too such as the American Go Association that contains a lot of information.

But in my personal opinion, nothing can be compared to really getting your hands dirty and play some games. There is a maxim that says that to reach 1 dan, one must have lost 1,000 games. So, there is a nice place to play on line and it is absolutely free. The site is called KGS Go Server. Then next most valuable is to get someone that is stronger to review the games played. This is the fastest way to improve, in my opinion.

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Je T’ aime, Lydia. HKFA. Ichikawa

News are mostly by nature bad. Today, Lydia Sum, affectionately known to us who grew up with her as Fei Fei (“fat fat”), passed away. Who could forget her laughters, the joy that she brought to the TV screens? This follows the news of the death of Kon Ichikawa. Amid the news of so many deaths happening all around the world, the screwed up weather in China, Darfur, bird flu in Jakarta, etc. one wonders in what kind of world we are living in. The fact is, ironically, people have been dying all these while. Disasters happen. It is just that the digital age has enabled the distribution of news more widely and rapidly. Because of this, we feel that “there is so many bad news”. There are bad news in older times too, just that those didn’t reach us. Now that I have subscribed to the Malaysia Kini and The Star SMS news alert, my SMS has been going off every other hour, sometime every other minute.

I don’t think I really need so many news.

PARIS JE T’AIME is going up in the GSC International Screens soon and this will be followed by the Iranian Film Festival. It is a good thing that we at least have international screens although the fact is that it pales in embarrassing comparison to say, Singapore or Hong Kong or even now Indonesia. The Blitz network of cineplexes in Jakarta is doing a pretty good job at bringing a more diversified movie experience to the citizens there. In Fact, PARIS JE T’AIME was shown there last year and of course the DVD of the movie is everywhere. One wonders what GSC is thinking releasing the movie so late, PLUS the fact that they have completely missed the Valentine’s day promotion opportunities.

I love the movie which comprises of 18 shorts about love in Paris. Each one of them is very well made and shows a different aspect of love. It reminded me of my trip to Paris and it made me yearn to return to that city. My favourites among the 18 shorts are Quais de Seine, Bastille, Parc Monceau, Place des fĂȘtes, and 14e arrondissement.

Re the Hong Kong Film Awards, someone asked me on how I would rank the 5 nominated films. Well, here it is in order of preference:

1. MAD DETECTIVE
2. THE WARLORDS
3. PROTEGE
4. THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT
5. EYE IN THE SKY

Re MAD DETECTIVE, yes I am aware that there isn’t really much of a story in the movie and the style is stale from an overdose of recent Johnnie To movies but I really thought that the idea of showing the different personalities very smart, especially so having different actors acting out the different personalities. There are cool moments like 7 guys walking down the same path and funny moments when all of them are cramped in the car. The execution is great and I love the whole look and feel of the movie.

However, I do feel that THE WARLORDS is a better made movie on all fronts, from the story (which was based on history, anyways) to the acting, art direction, camera works, CG, etc. Everything seemed perfect and I watched this movie 3 times in the cinema. I liked it that much. But ultimately, it is a huge budget movie with stellar stars and talent behind them. Hey, they are supposed to deliver, no? But did they exceed expectations? For me, it exceeded a bit, but did not really far exceed. It also did not excite me as much as MAD DETECTIVE.

PROTEGE was stored long behind in my memory but several scenes stuck in my mind for a very long time. I remember it as a very good movie, with great performances from the stars, especially from Zhang Jingchu. The story idea is quite fresh and found some “copycat” in AMERICAN GANGSTER, and personally I felt it was better executed in PROTEGE (am referring to the personal drug farm tour and drug making process etc). There are some flaws here and there – some relationships doesn’t really make sense, some overacting especially from Louis Koo but in general, it is a good movie.

THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT – perhaps the greatest bad about this movie is that it is promoted as a comedy, from the trailers to key art but is in fact a damn hardcore drama. Beautiful art direction although do not look very fresh to me – countless directors have played with colours, say Wisit Sasanatieng, Yon Fan, etc. – but I have great admiration for the acting of Siqin Gaowa and Chow Yun Fat. There isn’t much story except that it tells of the life of an aunt, a good aunt but got cheated over and over again and when the credit rolls, I feel that my heart was so heavy, I didn’t feel like eating.

EYE IN THE SKY, I went to watch this movie with very high expectations and when it started, I remembered I was glued to the screen. The pacing was great and the screenplay very good. However, as the film progresses, it loses steam and starts to become rather predictable and for us who is on a heavy diet of Johnnie To’s films, it started to feel that this is not it. Of course it is not! It is not a Johnnie To film although is produced by him but is a directorial debut of his longtime writer. So the story felt like a Johnnie To film but the visuals does not correspond. It is a weird feeling and although a good movie with a strong screenplay, will have to give this a pass.

Next up, the Oscars! Coming next Monday, I have seen all the nominated best films except for THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Hopefully can watch it in the next few days, then will comment on it. So far, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is my running favourite.

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New Year Poem

As with the tradition of this blog, here’s a poem for the new year. This year, it will be from Neruda. You can find the previous years’ here and here.

LOVE SONG

I love you, I love you, is my song
and here my silliness begins.

I love you, I love you my lung,
I love you, I love you my wild grapevine,
and if love is like wine:
you are my predilection
from your hands to you r feet:
you are the wineglass of hereafter
and my bottle of destiny.

I love you forwards and backwards,
and I don’t have the tone or timbre
to sing you my song,
my endless song.

On my violin that sings out of tune
my violin declares,
I love you, I love you my double bass,
my sweet woman, dark and clear,
my heart, my teeth,
my light and my spoon,
my salt of the dim week,
my clear windowpane moon.

Translation: William O’Daly

Isn’t that beautiful? Neruda is a genius. For this new year, let’s spread the words of love.


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Meme & Stephen Chow

Some photos of Stephen Chow when he came over for the CJ7 interview with us. He is so thin and his teeth is so straight and white! He is a natural talent, even during a normal conversation, he is really funny, most of the time not on purpose.

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I was tagged by YTSL for a meme on Six Unimportant Things About Me. To be honest, I don’t really know what is important and what is unimportant. Often times, things that I thought is important turns out to be unimportant and vice versa. I guess life is like that. We always oversee things that is important as unimportant, such as calling our parents once in a while so that they know what you are up to, keeping a good diet, drinking more water, etc. And we also confuse ourselves on things that we thought is important but is in fact unimportant, such as being overly stingy, mixing with the wrong friends because we thought they will bring us wealth and fame, stabbing people’s back for advantage, over-partying, etc. Anyways, here is what I thought is unimportant about me:

1. I like to mix my rice with a lot of gravy, curry, sour-chilly gravy, etc. But for really good quality rice, I like to enjoy the rice on its own.

2. I am beginning to get addicted to “Revive”, the isotonic drink by 7-Up.

3. I thought I can write stories and make movies.

4. I have always wanted to be a monk but lack the guts and will to actually do it.

5. I think I have speech impediment.

6. I love to smell books.

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Welcoming the Rat, Beyond our Ken

Another year gone and I am now back from India almost 1.5 years now. India was like a dream, sometimes a nightmare but sometimes also a sweet dream, especially so the first hand experience of life and work there and to feel the economic boom that is happening at neck-breaking pace. It was a truly golden opportunity to see first hand how economics well managed can have such a great impact on people’s life. India has always been said to be the world’s largest democracy but true economic freedom, a true free market, did not happen too long ago. Whenever I ponder on economics, I cannot help but admire the genius of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and gang. Yes, even Marx and Engels whom I believe are geniuses whose ideas have been (wrongly) politicized, much like how Islam has been (wrongly) politicized, in my opinion. For example, Engels have long foreseen the problem with central planning by this now famous question: “..what guarantee we have that necessary quantity and not more of each product will be produced, that we shall not go hungry in regard to corn and meat while we are choked in beet sugar and drowned in potato spirit, that we shall not lack trousers to cover our nakedness while trouser buttons flood us in millions?” Afterall, economics is all about the efficient distribution of scarce resources which have alternative uses.

On another front, the hottest news now is of course the Edison Chen scandal, involving and damaging the lives of so many people. Again, I think this whole scandal is beyond what is commonly coined as stupidity. I feel that there are a lot of politics behind it as well and the rivalry between the two entertainment groups (Emperor and China Star) is common knowledge and is widely regarded as the powers behind the making of these scandals. Well, these are just speculations and I just hope that there are no more sacrificial lambs but alas! I think this whole episode won’t end so easily. Some heads must roll.

Now, some interesting stuffs re Hong Kong. Yes, the nominations for the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards is out and PROTEGÉ received 15 nominations followed by THE WARLORDS with 13 nominations. Ann Hui’s THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT, received 9 nominations followed by EYE IN THE SKY and MAD DETECTIVE with 8 nominations each. The top line nominations looks like this:

BEST FILM

* THE WARLORDS
* PROTEGE
* THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT
* MAD DETECTIVE
* EYE IN THE SKY

BEST DIRECTOR

* Peter Chan Ho-Sun (THE WARLORDS)
* Derek Yee Tung-Sing (PROTEGE)
* Ann Hui On-Wah (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)
* Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai (MAD DETECTIVE)
* Yau Nai-Hoi (EYE IN THE SKY)

BEST SCREENPLAY

* Xu Lan, Chun Tin-Nam, Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah, Huang Jianxin, Ho Kei-Ping, Kwok Jun-Lap, Jojo Hui Yuet-Chun, James Yuen Sai-Sun (THE WARLORDS)
* Derek Yee Tung-Sing, Chun Tin-Nam, Lung Man-Hung, Go Sun (PROTEGE)
* Li Qiang (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)
* Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee (MAD DETECTIVE)
* Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin-Yee (EYE IN THE SKY)

BEST ACTOR

* Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing (THE DETECTIVE)
* Jet Li (THE WARLORDS)
* Andy Lau Tak-Wah (THE WARLORDS)
* Lau Ching-Wan (MAD DETECTIVE)
* Simon Yam Tat-Wah (EYE IN THE SKY)

BEST ACTRESS

* Teresa Mo Shun-Kwun (MR. CINEMA)
* Zhang Jingchu (PROTEGE)
* Siqin Gaowa (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)
* Rene Liu (KIDNAP)
* Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin (SIMPLY ACTORS)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

* Charlie Lam Chi-Kin (EXODUS)
* Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai (THE WAROLORDS)
* Venus Keung Kwok-Man (PROTEGE)
* Kwan Pun-Leung, Yu Lik-Wai (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)
* Cheng Siu-Keung (MAD DETECTIVE)

BEST EDITING

* Oxide Pang Shun, Curran Pang Jing-Hei (THE DETECTIVE)
* Lee Tung-Chuen (THE WARLORDS)
* Kwong Chi-Leung (PROTEGE)
* Tina Baz (MAD DETECTIVE)
* David Richardson (EYE IN THE SKY)

BEST ART DIRECTION

* Anuson Pinyopotjanee (THE DETECTIVE)
* Alfred Yau Wai-Ming (BLOOD BROTHERS)
* Yee Chung-Man, Yi Zhengzhou, Pater Wong Ping-Yiu (THE WARLORDS)
* Yee Chung-Man, Kennerth Mak Kwok-Keung (PROTEGE)
* Yank Wong Yan-Kwai (THE BESIEGED CITY)

BEST ASIAN FILM

* SECRET
* THE SUN ALSO RISES
* LUST CAUTION
* TOKYO TOWER: MOM & ME AND SOMETIMES DAD
* GETTING HOME

above list thanks to The House Where Words Gather

In the 14th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards which precedes the Hong Kong Film Awards, the best film went to THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT. However, the two awards do not really mirror each other. Here are their respective awards in the past 5 years:

Hong Kong Film Critics Awards

2006: Election 2
2005: Election
2004: McDull, prince de la bun
2003: Infernal Affairs II
2002: Chinese Odyssey 2002

Hong Kong Film Awards

2006: After This Our Exile
2005: Election
2004: Kung Fu Hustle
2003: Running On Karma
2002: Infernal Affairs

My personal Hong Kong movie viewing is such that it is in a state of disarray with me forgetting what movies I saw over last year. Perhaps I should really start to keep a notebook like what YTSL did. How else can one keep track of the literally hundreds of movies that have been seen? Many of the Hong Kong movies last year were just crap but some are really good. Of those nominated for Best Film for the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards above, I have seen all and found that all of them are pretty damn good. The weakest I felt was EYE IN THE SKY while THE WARLORDS is a superbly made movie. My personally little heart favourite? Well, it’s MAD DETECTIVE and I found that the movie is really cool and the idea of actually showing the different personalities on screen and how they interact rather interesting. Plus I liked the whole look and feel of the movie. Some “smaller” films which I loved: HOOKED ON YOU and MR. CINEMA.

Non-Hong Kong movies: Wow! Just too many to talk about; ATONEMENT which just won at the BAFTA, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, LA VIE EN ROSE, PERSEPOLIS, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, etc. were all good films which I loved. There are just so many. Well, in the context of the Hong Kong Film Awards list above, I have seen all except for TOKYO TOWER which is on the way to my house now but my love goes to GETTING HOME. Just a brilliant piece of under-stated work. Of course, LUST, CAUTION is the favourite to win here.

This post can go on and on but I think I will stop here. There are just so many movies to talk about and I have not even started on the DVDs that I have seen plus the hundreds of screeners for the channel. Maybe I should really start a log book. Not should. I must start a log book. There is really no way to track all the movies. This blog included since I am now a lazy pig and seldom posts ;-)

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