Monthly Archives: March 2012

Bunohan the Second Serving

Watched Bunohan the second time with M (Malaysian, Raja Yoga Instructor and Practitioner), F (Iranian, PhD candidate in Literature), S (Iranian, Documentary director) and Fern (Portuguese, Architect). And of course, K, my wife.

It was a Sunday evening, at Mid Valley. The hall was about 70% full. The weather was a bit cloudy but was otherwise fine.

This time around, I paid more attention to the architecture of the movie. I spent more time looking at the screen instead of reading the subtitles.

This post might contain spoilers. Perhaps some really serious spoilers. Read on if you do not mind.

From the beginning, the story is supposed to be a folklore. What happened in the movie is just “hearsay”. No one really knew what happened. This was made clear at the beginning where the guys sat in the dark chatting and we hear the real names of the actors being mentioned. That is the real world, or is it?

We are challenged from the beginning itself on what is real, and what is not. An existential question. Some discussions followed after the movie between us.

Essentially, this is a Shakespearean drama. F mentioned King Lear. Cain and Abel. Fern said the movie is very “European” in feeling.

Ilham himself is interesting. A cold-blooded assassin. But engrossed, throughout the movie, to relocate graves and to find his mother’s grave. And at the end, asked for his life to be traded with his brother, which he knew will not happened (I conjectured this romantic side of him). He knew his request to have his brother spared will not be honored given his experience in that dark trade. But he still asked. This is a great transformation for this character. Or perhaps he never changed. He was forced into the trade but how and why? He mentioned far-away lands, Paris, Marseilles. A romantic assassin who never left his mom and the memories with her. This is a painful man. A divided man. A romantic man. The magic realism moment with the talking bird is actually him talking to himself. His other half talking to the other half.

The use of local folklore, buaya jadian, hantu budak, etc. gave another layer to the movie, making the story-telling that much more interesting compared to a pure linear way of story-telling. It seems like the spirits knew everything. The spirits are themselves nature. I love the scene where Mek Yeh spoke to the hantu budak, on the songs, on love lost, on stories lost, etc. I read some critics saying the actress does not perform on par with the other actors who performed brilliantly but I beg to differ. I think the character suited her very much. She is the all yielding, earthy type of character and I think she played it well.

The cinematography is so beautiful, it is almost distracting the story and other more subtle elements.

This movie made me think of Yasmin Ahmad. I really miss her movies sometimes. Bunohan is of course not Sepet and Sepet is of course not Bunohan. Yasmin is like Ozu. Dain is like Kurosawa. But that’s just me.

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1848 Australia

Initially, I wanted to start a whole new blog on 18xx games but decided it is probably too much work. I think I will just incorporate them into this main blog at the moment until I can justify a new blog by itself. The next one on line is 1861 but in this post, let’s talk about 1848 Australia.

1848 is an 18xx game set in Australia for 3 to 6 players. Designed by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler, it was published in 2007 by Double-O Games that publishes many interesting 18xx games such as 1844 (2003), 1824 (2005) and 1880 (2010). I will talk about each of these games in future articles.

COMPONENTS

The map is not very big, containing almost 60 hexes which is just slightly smaller than the map of 18TN which has about 70 hexes. The situation for 1848 is actually much worse because many of those hexes are desert hexes and the result is that the tracks are very much concentrated on the bottom part of the map. The map comes unmounted and printed on cardboard stock just as in 1844 or 1880 which is ok although I would prefer mounted maps. The map has bright and interesting colors and it is easy to read.

The tokens are 1cm thick and feels very good. The stickers are not on the tokens yet and you will have to do it yourself. There are no instructions on how to apply those stickers but the designer has clarified in the 18xx Yahoo group and the way to do it is to apply the company sticker on one side and the Bank of England sticker on the other side. There are two sets of white tokens. One set is to mark the par price. Apply the $70 on one side and the $80 on the other side. Then the $90 on one side and the $100 on the other. The balance of the White markers are the gauge marker. There are also 20 red markers to mark loans.

 

I usually do not play with the paper money supplied in 18xx games and use poker chips instead. I find it much easier to handle poker chips and also easier to estimate the cash holding of companies and players that way. However, in 1848, the publisher supplied a set of nice play money printed on cardboard stock and with bright colors. It is very attractive and also easy to handle and does not fly around if there is wind. But it is still difficult to get a quick estimate of the cash holding and it is still harder to handle compared to poker chips. I will stick to my poker chips.

The company charters, the stock market, train roster etc. are not laminated and is quite flimsy although they are nicely printed and the color is bright. The trains are printed on the same card stock as the play money and they are also attractive. So are the company share certificates. Track tiles are also not laminated.

 

The Rulebook is okay and made the rules quite clear. Perhaps this is a second revision and they also included a FAQ at the back which was helpful.

One sometimes really appreciates the quality of production of Deep Thought Games but this 1848 is still not bad although I would like my components to be laminated just so that those greasy fingers or the accidental liquid will not spoil my game.

UNIQUE SELLING POINT

There is something unique about each 18xx variant. The uniqueness of 1848 lies in the Bank of England and its ability to give interest-free loans and take in companies in receivership. Interest-free loans + a small map + companies with many tokens = a fierce tokening battle on the board.

Companies may voluntarily take up to 5 loans of $100 each and for each loan, the share price drops two steps to the left. If in the case of a compulsory train purchase, the company can take more than one loan at a time but for each, the share price drops 3 steps to the left instead. When the company’s share price drops to the left-most column, it goes into receivership. The company pays each shareholder (except the director) the par price for each share and if the company does not have enough cash, the director will have to top up.

The Bank of England will then take over the company’s station markers and adds to it the revenue for the city that the station marker resides, on top of a fixed revenue depending on the game phase. This total revenue will then be distributed to all shareholders and the amount can be quite big. Also for each loan taken, the price of the Bank of England’s shares will increase. This price will never drop because loans do not need to be repaid.

The timing of buying shares in the Bank of England and the willful manipulation of companies into receivership is one of the interesting aspects of the game.

The other unique selling point is the availability of “The Ghan” trains. These trains are available for sale after the purchase of the first 5/5+ train and its route consists of only 2 cities/stations. It always starts at the company’s own station and always ends in Alice Spring. It can skip any cities in between but it cannot pass through cities that has been tokened out (i.e. blocked by other companies). The Ghan does not count against the company’s train limits but it also does not meet the requirement that the company must own a train. The Ghan is really useful and also not expensive. It costs only $200. The sad news is each company may only own one The Ghan.

Finally, 1848 is unique in that historically, the Australian colonies were independent before the founding of the Federal State and because of that, each made its own decisions on which track gauges to use. There are three main types and these are reflected in the map as three differently colored regions. In the game, whenever there is a track that lays across these different color borders, a white token is used to mark a gauge change and this gauge counts against the train’s limit. Therefore, a 2-Train may never run from one station in one area to another station in another area because the gauge will count practically as one zero-valued city. However, companies may purchase “+” trains which will allow the train to pass through exactly one gauge change. In our example, if the train is a 2+ train, then it can travel from one city in one area to another city in another area through one gauge change. This brings about interesting decisions on which trains to purchase given the company’s plans and strategy.

THOUGHTS

I think 1848 is a very interesting smallish game. It takes about 4-5 hours to play and offers many interesting decisions. It is one of those games that I will want to play if time does not allow me to play a longer game.

The fierce battles on the board where companies try to token each other out which the help of free loans and in the hope of getting all the K-K bonuses provides tension though out the game. The timing in purchasing the Bank of England’s shares and the possibility of engineering the receivership of your own companies adds extra layers of strategic possibilities to the game.

For more information on this game including the Rulebook, visit this site: http://www.lonny.at

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Bunohan, bunohen, bunoheh

It has been quite some time since I attended a movie screening, not to mention a premiere. Going to a movie premiere is like opening a letter from someone you have just sent a love declaration letter to. You do not know what is inside the reply. The girl might have rejected you and preferred to remain friends but the girl might also say yes and how long it was that she hoped you have written to her.

Hmmm… maybe that is a little dramatic but the point is that going to a premiere is very exciting. You have heard about the movie for some time, the hype is building up, etc. and now is the time for you to see it yourself.

This was what happened to me for BUNOHAN. The marketing and PR work was superbly executed, creating a lot of hype and anticipation. After months on end anticipating, the Malaysian premiere was last night and I was lucky to be able to watch it.

Not that many people cared about what I think about the movie but since this blog is a lot about what I do and what I think and since I do write quite a bit about movies, I just want to record down my thoughts on BUNOHAN.

Poetic. Complex. These are the two words that comes to mind immediately. The surface storyline does not sound extraordinary. In fact, if summarised to just a couple of sentences, it sounds just like any normal local movies. But as in all good movies, what is extraordinary lies with the execution of the movie itself.

At its core, it tells the story of a powerful conglomerate from Kuala Lumpur who wants to acquire a piece of inherited land and the things people do to protect that land and the things people do to acquire the land, by hook or by crook. Bla bla bli bla bla bla…..Yawn…..

But that is the McGuffin, nothing more. At the end of the movie, one wonders what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false. As Lao Tzu said, what is beautiful is in fact ugly, what is ugly is in fact beautiful. The use of folk lore and myths, the supernatural, adds another layer to the movie in the Jungian sense. Myths and symbols, the collective unconscious.

BUNOHAN can be appreciated at many levels. At the most basic level, one enjoys the story, the fighting, the beautiful mise-en-scene. The deepest level, I don’t know what. I have not really fathom so deeply but it inspires one to think, if he or she is willing. It tells about the society, about our own inner demon, about what it means to be family, about what it means to have a tradition and such.

The acting is superb, especially so from Faizal Hussein. The tempo at mid-way through is a bit slow and the story does not develop much midway through. The curiosity surrounding the story of Adil’s parenthood can be heightened. The fighting scenes can be made more exciting.

Let’s perhaps look at this compared to Farhadi’s A SEPARATION. It is also a story of a family and their struggles. It also has a Hitchcock-like mystery. The shooting style and mise-en-scene is very different of course. The tempo in A SEPARATION is much faster. But at the end of it, it is also about confronting our inner devil, about the society that we live in and how we, as a part of this society, fit into it or fight against it and try to make some sense out of it.

But the million dollar question is will it give OMBAK RINDU a run for its money? The answer is perhaps it does not need to. Malaysia needs talented people like Dain to lift it up another notch. We need good substantial movies. Others can go ahead and make a lot of money but at the end of the day, what remains and will be remembered of a civilization is its arts and culture.

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