Category Archives: Movie Awards

Bombay, Hong Kong, KL – Movies Movies Movies

Ah, here is another movie related post.

So the Astro Kirana Short Film Awards is happening on the 27th Feb night. I am elated that this is happening since I was responsible in putting up the first one, from proposing it to seeing it happen. It is a very good initiative from Astro to help aspiring filmmakers by giving them a platform to exhibit their work and to give an opportunity, via Tayangan Unggul, to further their career in film making.

Next on my “To Blog” list is the Hong Kong International Film Festival. YTSL alerted me that the programme is out and I immediately checked out the programme. Oh my goodness! Just look at the list of films, especially so the tribute to the 25th anniversary of Film Workshop where such great movies like SHANGHAI BLUES, PEKING OPERA BLUES, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, SWORDSMAN etc. are featured.

Also, look at the other programming, the tributes to Bergman, Antinioni etc. and the variety of films by new talents. It is an amazing festival, and needless to say, our Yasmin Ahmad’s TALENTIME will also be shown, despite the fact that the film is not yet shown in Malaysian cinemas, a huge shame.

I have written about SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and since it really won so many awards at the Oscars, this film became ever more hot. However, I still do maintain my position that this film feels “fake” to me, despite the fact that I do like this movie in general. I have compared it with Mira Nair’s SALAAM BOMBAY! and I maintain that SALAAM BOMBAY! is a far superior movie.

SALAAM BOMBAY!, which is in my top 100 movies of all time (item number 10 in the top 100 movies list), is about a child that has to go through the difficult life in Bombay in order to make Rs500 so that he can go home to his village and see his family. In his quest to save the Rs500, he works as a tea delivery boy, amongst others, and met many other kids around the block. With them, he encountered prostitution, drugs, deceits and lies. He also found friendship and some happiness along the way.

The way SALAAM BOMBAY! is told is so much more solid in that one can really feel for the children and from the little things they do to each other (for example when the little girl gave the hard-earned money after a hard day’s work to the boy because she knows that he needs it) and the occasional joy such as the dancing sequence to the scene where the little girl pretends to talk to the boy over the phone up to the final scene there the little boy sat on the pavement alone, missing his home, his family and friends and while playing with his top (gasing), started crying. We FEEL every moment of it. What a heart wrenching movie this is!!

For those who has not seen SALAAM BOMBAY!, I will say forget SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and watch SALAAM BOMBAY! instead.

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Slumdogs are not Dogs

Well, for a start, the previous post is supposed to be a movie post as YTSL has pointed out but alas! I am too much into Go nowadays ;-) Anyways, I have managed to publish the Introduction to Go in pdf format and as such have mitigated the problem of formatting for different machines. If you are interested, please download it here (Introduction to Go – Malaysia Weiqi Association Study Pack Module A. Just right-click the link and choose “Save as”.

Now, for movies. I think what one indulges in really depends on the people that one mixes most with. It provides the environment for mutual support and encouragement. When I was in the movie and entertainment business, I was very much into watching movies and was really, really serious about it. It is not that my Go friends were lesser then, it was about the same, but my passion for movies exceeded Go at that time.

Now that I am in the furniture business, I do miss my movie buddies but because they are not really “around” me like they used to be, my passion for Go took over. Add to this the fact that we have much more Go activities in the association recently and the brutal fact that I have no interests at all in the furniture industry, it is not surprising that Go became the main focal point for me to spend my hard-earned free time.

Now, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is all the rage now. It is now shown in the GSC International Screen and last checked, it was very much full house despite the fact that the pirated copies are everywhere. Indeed SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a very engaging and interesting story, not one of those common run of the mill movies that is littering our cinemas nowadays, especially those junks that are coming out of Hong Kong (but recently watched BEAST STALKER starring Nicholas Tse and Nick Cheung and it is a really good movie, so please do watch it if you can).

I like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE but being the counter-pop person that I am, I am going to write about what I dislike about it. First of all, it gives me a feeling of fakeness. Of course it is fake because it is fiction, you might think. Not really that. I mean, for those who has some experience of India, you will know that the slums depicted there and the children’s suffering there is not fake at all.

To better explain what I mean by the feeling of fakeness, let’s compare this to Mira Nair’s SALAAM BOMBAY! which was also nominated for an Oscar but for the Best Foreign Language Film category back in 1989 and not the main Best Film category as is SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

The thing is that after watching SALAAM BOMBAY!, there is a very real feeling that emerges for the kids, of their plight and suffering, and the little joys of their life. One does not feel that the story is made-up at all but it is as if one is a voyeur, peeping into other people’s life, and feels for the people that we are peeping, sometimes even sharing some of their feelings and pain. But I don’t seem to be able to find this feeling in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

The kids in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE are really great. I love to watch them. But the grown up kids are so NOT slum-like products. I don’t know but from whatever observations I made from my 6-month stay in India, those poor kids won’t turn out to be like the grown up guy in the movie. Neither will the girl, both in terms of looks and temperament. I don’t recall, just for example and am not saying that they are from the slums, our office chaiwalla and driver being anything remotely resembling those two fellow, both in terms of looks, thoughts, temperament, etc.

So in the end, although an interesting story well executed, there is a feeling of fakeness around it. But I do hope that it wins the Oscar though, although I thought THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a better movie. I have not watched MILK and NIXON.

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Hongkie Donkie

As noted in my previous post, the nominees for the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards have been announced and I have commented on the nominees. However, the ever great http://www.lovehkfilm.com guys have put together a list of their own and this year, they actually got together a panel of juries which includes my geeky friend YTSL. I find this list makes much more sense compared to the Hong Kong Film Awards list and based on this list, I find it much harder to choose the winner. Just a quick look at their nominees for Best Picture:

Best Picture
Nominees:
– Exodus
– Hooked on You
– Lust, Caution
– Mad Detective
– The Sun Also Rises

Compare this to the Hong Kong Film Awards:

Best Picture
Nominees:
– Eye in the Sky
– Mad Detective
– The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
– Protégé
– The Warlords

The first list tells you that it is compiled by people who are true Hong Kong movie fans and the second list tells you that these people are more of the political type rather than the movie fan type.

On the first list, I have a huge problem in deciding whether I would like HOOKED ON YOU to win or for MAD DETECTIVE to win. EXODUS is another one that I also wanted to win. All three movies are superb Hong Kong movies. While LUST, CAUTION and THE SUN ALSO RISES are very good movies and is no less than the three movies above, I felt it is less “Hong Kong”. At gun point, I will choose HOOKED ON YOU as the winner.

The second list? As noted in my earlier comment, MAD DETECTIVE is the winner and this is a no brainer.

Meanwhile, the discerning you will also notice that they are again organising the Asian Film Awards this year. The awards was a huge disappointment last year. Horribly done despite the stars and the movies. This year, the movie selection is much worse. Also, they may as well call it the East Asian Film Award.

But the great excitement now is really the 32nd Hong Kong International Film Festival. Woo hoo!! Just look at the programming and you will drool and drool non stop. These guys really know what they are doing. I will be in Hong Kong for the Film Market but alas! will return after just one week and although I can catch the first week of the Film Festival, my meeting schedule will be so packed I won’t have time to run off for a movie and there are many movies that I would like to watch!! Say Yoji Yamada’s KABEI and Bodrov Sergei’s MONGOL for example, both of which will be screened while I am there. Also, it is a huge pain that the Edward Yang and Ingmar Bergman specials will only be held in April. Arghhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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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 fêtes, 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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Winner

Here’s Mohd. Syafie (famously known as “Mukhsin! Mukhsin!), winner of the Best Young Actor category during the recent Malaysian Film Festival in Penang.

What do I think of the festival? Well, normal fare as can be expected.

Best Movie went to CINTA which is ok but what is not ok is that TENTANG BULAN got nominated for Best Film and better films such as MUKHSIN did not. Best Director went to Suhaimi Baba for WARIS JARI HANTU. I think this is ok although I was rooting for Yasmin Ahmad but WARIS JARI HANTU is a well made film nonetheless. Best Actor is definitely Rusdi Ramli. I think he is very good in WARIS JARI HANTU. Also, Vanida Imran for Best Actress is also a good choice. Well, nothing too exciting. Everybody sure did get a piece of meat.

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Chinese New Year and everything else

Chinese New Year has entered the 11th day today and this coming Sunday will mark the 15th day, referred to commonly as “Chap Goh Meh”, and marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebration. Well, I am heavier by a few kilogrammes but it was all fun except for the hot weather that befalls Chinese New Year, every year.

The Chinese New Year (“CNY”) movies are all bad, so far, although I do like PROTÉGÉ (which I do not consider a CNY movie -“Hor Sui Pin”) quite a lot despite the many cuts but still, there is originality in the story and Zhang Jingchu’s performance was superb. Although Derek Yee has better movies (ONE NITE IN MONGKOK, C’EST LA VIE, MON CHERI), PROTÉGÉ is not bad by any standards.

The OSCAR is bad mostly, especially so when INFERNAL AFFAIRS suddenly became a Japanese movie and that THE DEPARTED actually won Best Picture and Martin Scorsese actually won his Oscar for Best Director for it. Somehow somewhere, I felt good because it meant something for the Hong Kong film industry but felt bad generally because I did not think highly of THE DEPARTED and thought Marty has done much better movies.

However, yesterday redeemed all those bad experiences, lousy CNY movies and the Oscars. This is because I saw three great movies almost back to back yesterday: MUKHSIN, THE GO MASTER and I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE.

Whao! Whao! Whao! Clap! Clap! Clap!!!! A movie fan’s day.

I saw Mukhsin in the preview yesterday with Yasmin, the cast and crew and a host of other guests. Particularly pleasant is that it is the first time in my 8 years’ experience in the industry where bloggers are formally acknowleged. There is a separate registration marked “Bloggers” right in the center, with “Media” and “Guest” by its side. Bloggers are also acknowledged in the speech. This is cool.

Before I say anything, I will like to say that I LOVE, love MUKHSIN. There are so many great moments in MUKHSIN, far more naturally and matured compared to SEPET and now quickly ranked as my favourite Yasmin Ahmad movie, with SEPET at number two and then GUBRA. I have not watched RABUN though. Some moments in MUKHSIN are very magical, for example, the opening rain song dance scene, the very subtle kite flying scene, the Nina Simone scene is so poetic, so subtle, it shooked me deep down in my heart. Such a sweet movie it is, so real yet so sweet, so bittersweet. Towards the end of the movie, I feel tears forming and because the hall is rather full, I held the tears. If I am watching it at home, I would have let those tears flow like a stream in spring. Afterall, I am a sucker for movies like this.

Next up, Tian Zhuangzhuang’s THE GO MASTER which I have been wanting to watch for so long and finally managed to watch it from a screener from Berlin. Wow! I am a Go player and Go Seigen is like the Go God to me, as well as to a lot of Go players. The movie is beautifully shot, the story beautifully told. It is a movie for us Go players, a dream come true, to watch the life of our idol on screen. However, fortunately, the movie managed to steer clear of all technical Go playing and did not succumb non-Go players to the torture of not knowing what is happening. It has a few defining Go games, such as the Shin Fuseki game and the Atomic Bomb game but it does not affect the flow of the movie itself. The story is intact, well told, of how a Chinese Go expert endures those trouble times of World War 2 and how he struggled to live his dreams. Brilliant movie.

Next up is Tsai Ming Liang’s movie that I have been waiting to see for a long time, I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE. As in Tsai’s other movies, his minimalist style puts to great effect another study of human loneliness. While I would prefer his earlier THE WAYWARD CLOUD, this movie is also particularly effective and affecting, combining elements that made Tsai his mark – use of water, old songs, Lee Kangsheng, loneliness, sex, long takes, minimal dialogues etc. I have followed most of his movies from REBELS OF THE NEON GOD up and for each one, although I am risking sounding pretentious here, I love each one of his movies, which I find really calming to watch. Leisurely, I take my time to look at the screen, taking in the details at my own time, feeling the movie and then suddenly, getting pleasantly shocked by some ingenius scenes, and then more. The same magic happened in I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE.

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