Monthly Archives: June 2008

WeiQi Report


Haha… this is fun :-) So cool huh, this game.

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Different opinions

I don’t know, maybe there is really something wrong with me. I don’t seem to be in the loop most of the time. I don’t really dig things, I guess. If not, why is it that I don’t seem to like what most people like? I mean, most people likes to watch football or read Tom Clancy or loves Formula One but I don’t seem to be “in” and as such my circle of close friends and topics of discussions at social places is usually rather limited. I am not whining or anything, this is my personal choice, but this thought came out again when I read a review of INCREDIBLE HULK by one of the more popular reviewer in Malaysia. His conclusion for INCREDIBLE HULK is this:

“Well, not quite as solid as Iron Man, but wild enough to please.”

OH MY HOLY BUDDHA!!!! What????????? Not as solid??????????? Oh no….. either there is something wrong with him or there is something wrong with me. I thought that the character development in INCREDIBLE HULK is one million times more solid than in IRON MAN. IRON MAN is fun to watch etc. but it is hollow! Oh my goodness…. “not quite as solid”. I can’t believe my eyes….

Ok, enough ranting.

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SEPI Comments

Sepi, 2008

dir: Kabir Bhatia

[There may be spoilers, so read on if you don’t mind]

I don’t know Kabir Bhatia personally but I have a feeling that he is a Wong Kar Wai fan. From his first movie CINTA to now this brand new movie SEPI, I cannot but feel the Wong Kar Wai in his movies. I may be over sensitive but dialogs like “expiry date of love”, running it off when one is down on love and the BLUEBERRY NIGHT shot between Baizura Kahar and Pierre Andre just jumps out. Anyways, Wong Kar Wai is a master when it comes to the theme of love and loneliness, so if this is taken as a tribute to him, then is is well justified.

SEPI, like CINTA, is made up of several different stories linked up by one event (sounds very WKW huh?). Okay, okay, enough of WKW references. Unlike CINTA that is made up of 5 seperate stories, SEPI is made up of only three. I thought quite highly of CINTA and naturally I have quite a high expectations of SEPI. Both movies are about love but the producer made it very clear upfront that the two movies are not related in any ways.

The stories in SEPI deal with lost and loneliness, but then it is also about love found and second chances in love. To me, it is also about love at first sight which I also believe to be the most impactful and strongest type of love there is, whether it is puppy love or not. By strongest, I do not necessarily mean strongest in terms of bonds or love to eternity type but more on the strongest assault on one’s heart there is. All three stories involve a love triangle, which again, to me, is the most real type of situation many people faces in real life, and is the most complicated of all.

The first story is about finding your true love and sticking to your heart. The second story is about love lost and found and the third story is about knowing what love means.

Afdlin Shauki plays Adam in the first story and his delivery is always on the dot. Unable to find his true love, he remained single until one day, the scent of a flower brings him to meet this woman, Ilyana played by the ever so beautiful Vanida Imran. To complicate things, Ilyana is already engaged before she met Adam and Adam has a very fierce admirer, Suzie – played by Nasha Aziz, whom he eventually promised to marry after knowing that Ilyana is already no longer available since she must honour her promise. This brings us to a very delicate scene where we see Afdlin in his very emotional self and a subtle scene where he looks at a sympathetic little girl with tears welling in his eyes. That is just a superb moment in the movie. With this, Adam is back to square one, a lonely person all over again. All sepi again.

Eja plays Marya in the second story, the story which I think is the strongest of all three and has the best conclusion to it. Sufi, played by Tony Eusoff, just lost his beloved wife in an accident and could not let go of his sense of guilt. He runs and runs so that he can run away from reality until one day he met Marya at the park. Love at first sight, sparks everywhere, but unfortunately, Marya is already a married woman. She craves for a child but so far, God has not given the couple any yet. Marya’s husband, Zain played by Riezman Khuzaimi, sells fish and is having financial difficulties. In a moment of losing his sense, Sufi tried to buy Marya from him but later, after knowing that Marya is pregnant, Sufi got to his senses and secretly helped out the family financially. Although Marya’s heart is with Sufi, she has to stick with Zain for the good of their child and after many, many years, we see Marya in her old age, and looked for Sufi in the park where they first met but is met by Sufi’s only child who told her that Sufi has passed away. Before he died, he told him to return something to Marya, and this something is the memento of their first love. A beautiful story.

The third story is set in a college where a young, brash and confident kid, Ean played by Syed Hussein, falls at first sight for Imaan, played by Baizura Kahar. Ean is good looking and is thrilled by the strong character of Imaan who didn’t fall on her feet like other girls do. In fact, she criticized him for lacking in the sense of artistic appreciation and said that he is a horrible stage actor. Challenged, Ean begin to want to know Imaan more and to also want to learn how to act. Through a series of encounters, Ean begin to truly fall in love with Imaan and Imaan begin to have strong feelings for Ean too. However, Imaan already has a boyfriend, Khalif played by Piere Andre, for whom she can do anything for, let alone getting rid of Ean. She proceeded to ignore Ean and in times of loneliness, Ean begin to understand what love is, what loneliness is and acted it out in the stage with this understanding. Imaan went to a celebration party after the show but saw Khalif outside. Afraid that Khalif will misunderstand, she rushes out but is met with an event that will change her life forever and bring her back to reality. There is a twist at the end which I will not divulge here.

Overall, although I would prefer that the director actually leave the stories as they are instead of showing us the candy eye endings, they are pretty good stories themselves. In real life, things are not as sweet as the ending of the stories in this movie and many people have gone through days of extremely loneliness and still not being able to find their love, let alone true love. Things are a lot more complicated and the final outcome of a relationship is most often not the one that is the sweetest. This is one reason why ASHES OF TIME is so great. Like in a lyrics of one Chinese song, “If this is the best conclusion, why are you still always in my mind?”.

Sepi will be in the cinemas on the 26th of June nationwide.

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SEPI HAPPENING

One of the signs of local Malaysian movies has still a long way to go compared to say, their Indonesian counterpart is media screenings. Just today, I attended the media screening of M. Night Shyamalan’s THE HAPPENING in the morning and then proceeded to another cinema for the screening of SEPI, a new local Malay movie in the afternoon. The attendees is markedly different, I can perhaps say that it is as if I live in two worlds. In the Shyamalan screening, I see a lot of representatives from the English and Chinese media plus also from the Malay media but in the Malay movie screening, almost ALL the representatives are from the Malay media. Journalists from the English and Chinese media could not be seen. I find this very disheartening and I don’t think any good can be done to the local film industry if this continues on.

The arguments goes both ways: the non-Malay journalists think, mostly, that Malay movies are really crappy movies and is a major waste of their time. Malay movies only interests Malays, ergo, only journalists from the Malay media need to attend. From the producers and distributors point of view, well, since these non-Malay media journalists are so arrogant, to hell with them! We don’t need them anyways to make the money. Its a lose-lose situation.

I would really like to appeal to the non-Malay media journalists to attend more and more of the Malay movie screenings and cover the local movie scene with as much zeal as they would want to cover IRON MAN. The quality of local Malay movies, or movies from those handful of Malay directors, is improving and I think deserves more attention and publicity to bring in more non-Malay cinema-goers.

SEPI is a case in point. The movie is not bad, even very good if compared to one of the recent supposedly big box office movie. The stories are quite strong and the direction is purposeful. It is also technically good (unlike the boom mikes that keep coming in frame in THE HAPPENING – I can’t understand how this can happen in a production of this scale – maybe the video-assist is faulty or someone is confused on the aspect ratio). Afdlin Shauki playing the Adam role is the most affecting and together with Vanida Imran, the pair is simply superb. There are quite a few flaws in the storyline and I thought the director compromised the ending but still, it is a pretty decent local Malay movie. It is nowhere near the league of TEMPTING HEARTS or COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY (oh my Buddha – these two movies simply took my heart away) but this is a different argument altogether.

There is a handful of producers and directors that truly wants to break out and I hope to see more and more non-Malay media journalists at these Malay movie screenings.

By the way, THE HAPPENING is really not very happening. I think I am getting sick of Shyamalan’s style and he should really stop making movies like this. It is worsening and at this rate, he may be out of the business in no time if he doesn’t work on something refreshing. The movie started really well, then half way through, it loses steam and it felt like he himself doesn’t know how to end the story. It just floated like that, very unconvincing. Al Gore turned spooky. Even the very graphic scenes couldn’t lift the movie up if there are no fresh ideas that can hold up. No fresh stories that can hold up.

Anyways, I plan to watch KUNGFU PANDA again this weekend. This time, the Cantonese version.

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Recent Trends in the Philippines

The Filipino film industry have suffered quite a huge decline since 1997 where almost 200 films were produced at that time and then dwindled to a mere 30-40 films a year in the early 2000. However, since 2006, the industry saw for the first time since 1997 an increase in the number of films produced, from 30-40 to up to about 60 titles.

This increase is widely believed to be contributed to the digital film production movement where many new, young and talented directors emerged equipped with the power of digital film making (much like what has happened to Malaysia). However, much unlike what is happening in Malaysia, the government as well as the public sector such as the exhibitors have played a very important role in encouraging this new trend, by measures such as tax exemptions for digital films and filming equipment to dedicated cinema halls to showcase these movies to organising of digital and independent film festivals etc.

The outlook for the Filipino film industry is bright, and is well on way to recovery, with the local movie share of box office rising to over 30% in 2006 onwards from just over 20% in previous years.

Some good recent Filipino movies:

1. To Marry, to Join, to Share (Jose Javier Reyes, 2006)
2. Mother Nanny (Pablo Biglang-awa, Veronica Velasco, 2006)
3. Blackout (Ato Bautista, 2007)
4. The Bet Collector (Jeffrey Jeturian, 2006)
5. Death in the Land of Encantos (Lav Diaz, 2007)

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Recent Trends in Local Film’s Market Shares

The leading international market for performance of local films in 2007 was once again India, where around 94 per cent of the box office is generated by homegrown films. However, Hollywood is reported to be encroaching on this by as much as one percentage point of the box office each year. Japan was the second-top performing market by revenues but generated only half of India’s dominant total ($800m), and dropped over $120m year on year, following a new benchmark for market share (53.2 per cent) established in 2006.

In total, three local film markets generated over $500m at the theatrical box office, including third-placed France. Below that local films recorded more than $100m in revenues in a total of 10 international markets.

The UK film industry was ranked fifth by revenues, and its 2007 performance was 4.7 percentage points higher than its past five-year average (2002-2006). In fact, the majority of indigenous film industries—22 of the 35—recorded a performance better than their past five-year average, although the largest improvement was experienced in two Central and East European territories: Poland and the Czech Republic.

In particular, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea recorded performances in 2007 with the largest negative balance, with at least an eight percentage point difference. In particular films from Hong Kong recorded a 22.0 per cent share, which was less than half the most recent high they recorded in 2004 (45.0 per cent).

China led in terms of market share of local films (not including India) and was the only international market where local films accounted for the majority of revenues in 2007, down from three territories the previous year, all of which (China, South Korea and Japan) were in the Asia-Pacific region.

In Europe, France was the leading territory by market share (and revenues) of local films, although there were six European territories in the top 10 overall. The Italian film industry was larger in size than both the German and Spanish markets in 2007. With a good 31.7 per cent of the box office from local films, it also ranked sixth by revenue, due to a 9.0 percentage point surge against its past five-year average.

Russia—where box office revenues are still growing fast—was once again in the top 10 but this was in addition to a 7.1 per cent increase in the 2007 performance of local films, and the third time Russian
films had collectively grossed over $100m.

In our study of 35 film markets, Austria was the bottom of the list in terms of market share (although we did not include Slovakia this year), whilst Estonia was ranked the lowest in terms of total revenues of local films, although as a direct result of being one of Europe’s smallest box office markets.

Source: As reported in Screen Digest, May 2008

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Mentors and Mentos

A lot of recent business books or articles talk about the mentoring system. I am also a champion of mentoring and I think one really learns a lot and grow a lot if one has the right mentor.

For me, in my career, strictly speaking, I have only one mentor, without whom I will be no where near what I am today. He took the time to know me, took the time to converse with me and took the time to teach me and inspire me. He will go to great lengths to even write several pages of notes explaining some things to me, often reprinting articles that is relevant to my job and when I have an idea, he will go to great length to test it and if it works, he is my first champion. I remember quite early in my career, I came up with a way to predict the success probability of movies based on a set of criteria and a point rating system and it somehow seem to work with the data. He loved it and encouraged me, even using it as part of the production proposal.

There are so many things that he helped me with, nurtured me and planned my career growth path. He even included me in his PhD. thesis, a very rare privilege of which I have in return learn a great deal. He has influenced my love for movies and enhanced my understanding of the principles of economics. I reminisce the time spent with him with the fondest memories and all of us that are trained under his wings will remember just as fondly. He is no other than Dr. Nihal, a person to whom I will be eternally grateful to.

In Weiqi (or Go), the person that I will be eternally grateful to is Mr. Tiong, the president of our Weiqi Association. From the first day I knew him, he is tireless in imparting weiqi skills and knowledge to us. His passion in weiqi is as great as ever and his passion to help new weiqi players is legendary. Never ever being stingy and without holding anything back, his only wish is to see more and more strong weiqi players in Malaysia. There was a time when I really thought I will quit playing weiqi and just play once in a long while and give up hope on improving, I think of him and somehow I am inspire to not let go of the game and to at least maintain my playing strength. Now that I am beginning anew my training, he again proved to be ever passionate and teach me the game, explaining in detail the game and playing with me, even after evryone is long gone. For this, I am very thankful and with this, I hope I can increase my skills one or two more levels. I will be eternally grateful to him for inspiring me to play this wonderful game of weiqi.

I herewith, thanks both of my mentors and I believe anyone who have experienced what I have experienced will agree that the mentoring system is a very powerful system.

P/S: By the way, just watch INCREDIBLE HULK today and thought it to be a very good movie. The character development is superb and after the movie, I seem to know HULK a lot better despite watching him since I was very young. I can feel this HULK. Unlike the Ang Lee HULK.

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