Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pretty Poddy

I love my new 40GB Poddy.

I'd better, it cost almost a third of my salary.

Still, it's very pretty.

Shortest post ever.

Monday, September 27, 2004

This Sounds Like Heaven Right Now...

From the mind and fingers of numero uno:

I wish I could see some finish to the endless days sitting in front of my two best friends and worst enemies (mmm...cliches are fun) - AVID and Final Cut Pro. I am currently in the process of formulating a thesis paper on the metaphysical ramifications of non-linear editing's use of the "in" and "out" in determining what shots are included into a movie. have you felt your life getting cut in and out recently?

Seriously. It really does sound like heaven.

I had a long conversation in a stairwell today with a colleague. She's on a short-term freelance contract, so she kinda has a different mindset from all the fulltime staff I've seen. I snuck a smoke (we're totally not supposed to smoke there, plus I was sick) while we bitched about how disappointing our lives were creatively and how utterly disgusted we were with ourselves for selling out.

Like she said, it's like we've been given a gift - the ability to see things from a different perspective. It's what studying abroad, and especially, studying film, gave us. But we're completely not making use of it at all. We're doing mindless, trivial work that any bugger off the street could do. If we don't get out of it soon, our minds will atrophy. Then we'll be exactly the same as all those old farts that don't even consider the alternatives and simply respond, "No, no, no." all the time because it's the simplest fucking thing to do. Why give anyone a chance? Why do anything risky? Stick to the status quo. We've been doing it for so long, it must be the right way.

Why does there have to be a right or wrong way? Isn't the world, aren't human minds capable of considering both?

It felt good to be out in the open. But all too soon, it was time to head back in. Into the cold (the air conditioning is really freezing). Back to our computer screens with our stupid little Excel worksheets threatening to suck our brains out.

I wish... I wish... I...

I felt nostalgic. Really. It reminded of the past summer, which had been one of the best ever. Of the mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights spent on the ol' porch at 809 Noyes. With a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, talking about life, about art, about everything we felt passion for. Or not. Knowing that there was more beer, more wine, and another bowl waiting to be packed inside. And the rest of our lives ahead of us.

I wonder if I'll ever be able to relive that. I sure as hell hope so.

Malaysian Film Festival Part 2

Final notes from the Malaysian Filmfest.

Started Sunday off with two programs of shorts. There are a couple of words that can be used to describe the majority of the shorts offerings... "rancid" and "abyssmal" come to mind. Most of them look like really bad student film, some aiming for pretension and failing miserably, and some not even reaching for anything yet still failing nonetheless. Out of everything there, almost 2 & 1/2 hours' worth, barely five were decent. Most of these were animated shorts, and they succeeded because of an offbeat sense of humor, which I always enjoy. The one good narrative live action short was a solid horror piece in which a woman saw her doppelganger everywhere in her home. It tried to be a bit of a mind-fuck, which is admirable, and mostly succeeds. I believe it was called Inside Out, and funnily enough, it didn't seem very Malaysian... more British instead.

The feature film that ended the series was The Beautiful Washing Machine, a very indie, very uncommercial DV film made on a shoestring budget, about the alienation and sexual repression among the Malaysian Chinese. Pretty awesome. It's got many things which I like - slow, deliberate pacing, never talking down to the audience, long and graceful takes. And best of all, it's made on DV and makes me wanna make my own movies again. (DV's probably the only thing I could afford right now.)

Canon's got a DV Fest competition in Singapore which I might take part in, if I can think of a good script idea. 15 minutes or less... Time to get the ol' creative juices flowing again; they've been dormant far too long.

Spent the entire day blowing my nose and sneezing repeatedly in the office. I hate going to work sick. Maybe I was contaminated by dirty needles when I went for the blood donation drive on Sunday morning... But somehow, I doubt it. Need to get more fluids in me. Later.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Malaysian Film Festival Part 1

Like I said, I've been going to the Malaysian Film Festival for a couple days now after work, and seen three movies so far. And you know what, they've got a lot more balls than I'd care to admit.

Let's start with the shittier ones.

Paloh was vaguely comprehensible at best, but that was mainly because of an extremely fractured timeline. When will people learn that unless you're good at it, it's best to leave it linear? Wicker Park was a prime example, and now this. Flashback followed by flashback within the span of a few minutes spells trouble, especially when you have a cast of over ten main characters and you don't even know who to follow initially.

I'll give them one thing though, they're fuckin' ambitious. It's set in the 1940's, during the second world war, with Japanese troops (well... more like local turncoats) and the Chinese Communist Party running around and planning ambushes and the like. There's a lot of angst, and it's really too bad that the main thread is a forgettable love story with no chemistry between the leads. In fact, the presentation of this was so coy I wasn't even sure they were supposed to be a couple.

And I also fell sleep somewhere in the first half hour, which doesn't help trying to make sense of a fractured timeline. It was rather pretty though.

Finally, boo for recycling a few actors from the next movie, Spinning Gasing.

I don't know how this movie travelled to so many festivals. I guess having it aimed directly at the foreign market helps - entirely in English, expository explanations of local cultural practices, etc. That's just cheap. Band movie/road trip/interracial romance/girl finding herself. Yawn. Been there, seen many many others do that, and do it much better. Bad acting (across the board, except the female lead) doesn't help. The less said the better.

But you know what, from what I can see, they don't seem to be afraid of the censors over there. If anything, they're even more paranoid than ours, it being a Muslim country and all. But these people... well, like I said, I have to give them credit for not giving a fuck. Racial, political, religious themes, themes that a Singaporean filmmaker would run away with his tail between his legs from (I blame the government - boo authoritarianism), they embrace. Kudos to you for that.

Finally, the only movie I can endorse, Sepet. Yes, it's unashamedly sentimental. Yes, it's about an interracial romance. But by making this the focus instead of losing it in a plot about so many other non-related things, it works. I admit, it does start off pretty shakily, with the scenes establishing the two leads' love for each other's culture a tad heavy-handed. But it recovers and goes on to deliver a sweet little movie, albeit rough in spots. Overly long conversations tend to do that, although if it was along the lines of Tarantino's dialogue, I might have forgiven them for it.

The leads are great. That's the best thing about using not-so-established actors. or even non-actors: Sometimes you can get such genuineness out of them, such sincerity, that no matter how cliched your lines may sound, they pull it off. Not that established actors can't do it too, case in point Spider-Man 2, but it's always a lot cooler when non-professionals do it.

The Philip Crippen school of film theory states that good movies are about pretty people kissing, in pink, with monkeys. This doesn't quite have them. They don't kiss, because, well, good Muslim girls aren't supposed to. There's not much pink, and I don't believe you see monkeys. Although I might be wrong, this is Malaysia after all. But damn, they're pretty people.

It's strange how many of the scenes that "get" me in movies aren't necessarily the ones calculated to "get" the audience. Yes, I do go "aww" sometimes when I'm supposed to, but often, it's a throwaway shot, or line, or scene that reaches in and grabs hold of my soul (if I have one, that is). Like in this movie. It's all very sweet and all, but the one scene that made me really cry (well, not bawl, just... ah, you know what I mean) was comprised of one static shot. An old blind busker plays on his keyboard in the middle of a busy market. Passersby walk across screen in front of him, and behind him. And he keeps playing. Sounds like nothing, doesn't it? I don't even understand myself.

I admit, I'm a closet romantic. Godammit.

Now quit laughing.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Blog Overhaul

Yep. Been meaning to overhaul this and choose a new template for quite a while now, and finally did it. Unlike #1, I'm not fluent in any type of computer language whatsoever and so can't create a cool title banner thingy and put awesome pictures of Elvis' monkey on my blog. Which is really too bad, since I bet everyone would love more pictures of monkeys. Speaking of which, I wonder how #1 & Miguel's animation turned out. Mad, mad monkeys and flying elephants. Whee!

Oh yeah, and I never really liked that green on my old blog page to begin with. Too sickly. Feh.

Been spending my time after work that last couple days watching movies at the Malaysian Film Festival. So far, there's been one pretty decent one, one awful one and one over-ambitious, incomprehensible one. Will write more on that later.

Met with the exec producer a couple days ago, she wanted to play around with ideas for a new drama series with lawyers. It seemed pretty cool, and I was asked to write the outline/pitch draft. Bad idea. Turns out I'm pretty terrible at it. I spend hours trying to describe it in vague yet specific yet cool-sounding ways before finally going "Ah, fuck it" and typing a page of shit. Then I leapt straight into character descriptions and backstory and that took me a really short time to write. Ah well. That's bad for me, means I can't pitch for shit.

Where's Elyanow when I need him?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Corporations Are Evil (But You Knew That Already)

Hoo hah. Big shake up in the evil corporate world recently, at least over at my end. The Big Two merged last Friday, and I guess I should be glad that we're the ones taking them in like some huge amoeba wrapping itself around its dinner. But then again it's really sad, since I always thought they were the ones with more innovative programming, who were more willing to take a chance on cool concepts. In an ideal world, making cool and awesome shows like adapting Shakespeare to Singapore TV would be embraced and much-loved, but unfortunately Singapore viewers apparently have as much depth as a yapping chihuahua. Thus its demise.

Our big CEO of CEO's had a "townhall meeting" (lame... why not simply "general meeting", or "meeting"?) yesterday. I, for one, was thoroughly disgusted. He repeatedly hammered across the fact that what was most important to him was profits. He had visited the "other side", and they had told him they felt he was very "commercial". He wore it like a badge of honor. In fact, he put them down for not thinking of the bottom line first, and putting expression before profits. Now I know we're all corporations, and hence must be keeping that in mind, but I'd like to think that a balance should be struck whenever possible. If you keep on putting out stuff for the lowest common denominator, anyone with half a brain is going to get turned off (i.e., me) and stop watching TV forever. And so what'll happen when your core audience, the older people, die off? You have no more viewers.

Of course, pronouncing "category" as "ca-TEH-gory" didn't endear him to me at all. Jesus fucking Christ. It's not that hard.

He also repeated that he wanted people to be loyal to the organization and not him. Hmm, somehow I don't see either one being on the horizon for me anytime soon... First, I have never been "loyal" to any organization, unless I was a member of the board or something. Otherwise, why should I have any personal stake in it? Secondly, loyalty cannot be asked for, it has to be voluntarily given, reciprocated, so to speak. If you haven't given me anything worth a damn, why the fuck should I be willing to lay down whatever it is you want me to lay down for you? You don't pay me enough, I don't feel like I'm having a great creative time, so why the fuck should I be grateful? I know you're probably getting tons of money, and even you will be ready to drop everything and head off at the drop of a hat should someone offer you more. So who are you to tell me this? Motherfucker.

Anyway, it all took way too long because the morons who gave him a list of questions sent by email neglected to read through them and combine all those that were similar... and it's amazing how so many people can ask the same two questions over and over again, and more amazing how he can answer the same two fucking questions over and over again. It also surprised me how evil and petty some of the letter were, directed against the "other side". It's not a personal vendetta, people. It's just business.

The well-worn corporate cliches didn't help too. Running a marathon/long race, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, puh-leeze. My grandmother could do better in her sleep. And looking around, I didn't see many people fidgeting and falling asleep like me. No, I saw a good portion of the crowd nodding along to what he was saying, applauding at certain points, and even laughing at his lame-ass attempts at humor. These are the people I'm working with? How absolutely mind-blowingly depressing. Fuck you all.

I hate corporations. They're simply pure evil. I didn't realize how much I'd sold out until now.

At the end of it all, I actually felt dirty. I wanted to jump into a shower and wash all the bullshit off me.

Imagine how I would feel at a George W. Bush rally.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Three Monkey References!

Finally, a week (two, in fact!) where I have no shoots going on, and almost nothing to do! I'm currently waiting for the next script to be done, which won't be done until the Exec Producer finishes the rewriting (apparently she's also the Script Supe/Doctor) on the previous one. I've kinda gotten a few hints on the contents, and should be able to start sourcing locations pretty soon. People who live in 3- to 4-room HDB flats, I may be calling you up soon...

We did some standuppers today, which are apparently named after the fact that the presenter delivers his lines while standing up and looking very sincerely and seriously into the camera lens. Lame. I'm getting more than a little pissed with this particular sound guy, especially since I did so much sound recording in NU. He's just one of the laziest and most incompetent motherfuckers I've ever seen.

Case Study #1:
Location: A courtroom set in a studio
Crime: Using wireless lavaliers on actors when they're only shown in medium to close-up shots, and when they're standing up and sitting down all the time. Additionally, not affixing said microphones well, such that any movement jostles the mics, thus resulting in you calling out rudely for an additional take. Also, not hiding the cables resulting in wasted takes. Answering calls on your cellphone in between takes when everyone's trying to move as quickly as they can. Finally, and almost unforgivably, not holding a boom even once throughout the entire day.

Case Study #2:
Location: On a grass field next to a street (Standupper)
Crime: Still sticking resolutely to your fucking lavalier and calling for a retake everytime a fucking bus, bike, or truck drives by. Hello, if you point a directional mic right at the guy (and you can since these are, again, closeups and medium shots), you're cutting out the sound from behind you, i.e., street noise. And we do not appreciate you fucking up takes because of a "cable problem", whatever that is.

He needs an ass-whuppin', that's for sure. He also has a face that just brims over with attitude and makes me wanna hit him really hard with a monkey wrench.

I originally put "wrench" for that last line, and upon re-reading it, realized that "monkey wrench" would be funnier. Plus, everyone loves MONKEYS.

Oh yeah, also got my ears re-pierced on Saturday. The holes had closed back up in the one week that I was acting. It was really cheap though, merely S$8 compared to the US$40+ I spent on them before. But then again, service was non-existent and I felt like a product on an assembly line. Ah well, you pay peanuts and you get... MONKEYS.

It's kinda funny how so many people in my office are so terrible at Chinese. I just got roped in to translate a few newspaper articles into English today after I passed a colleague's desk and read a headline out loud. She was amazed and begged me to help her do them as she was, apparently, really bad at it. Jesus, I thought everyone was supposed to be bilingual in Singapore. It's nice though, it gives me something legitimate to do tomorrow instead of spending my entire day trying to surf the net discreetly. More fun than a barrel of MONKEYS.

I'm Such a Cinewhore

Somehow, even though I had an insane schedule last week, I managed to see a whole bunch of movies. Some of which I'm almost ashamed to admit I saw, and even more ashamed to admit I even kinda liked. I'm such a whore.

13 Going On 30
Yes, I know, its target demographic is little 10-16 year old girls. But I have a soft spot for Jennifer Garner. And, you know, it's fluff, but it's fluff that works. Sure, some spots were cringe-worthy, but she pulls off the role of a kid stuck in an adult's body with remarkable ease.

I think I was probably really tired and looking for something - anything - to amuse myself with. It worked.

Alright, I'll go stand in the corner as punishment after I post this.

Do I have to be whipped, too?

You sick fucks.

Les Choristes (The Choir Boys)
Dead Poets Society with younger boys and singing. By the book sentimental piece, often tries a little too hard, but not as hard as some Japanese or Korean movies. Works best when it doesn't try to - nothing beats a slow push-in on an angelic boy's face as he sings his solo proudly. Clumsy present-day-we're-all-grown-up-and-reminiscing framing sequence. Too black and white, and not enough shades of gray in-between. Would it be too much to ask for characters with a little more depth?

Wicker Park
Awful. Awful. Awful.

Where do I even begin? How about with structure? It's one thing to fuck around with the timeline. Plenty have done that before, and done it well - Pulp Fiction, Amores Perros, 21 Grams (a little more questionable). But not this time. The first few flashbacks were fine, since you were kinda learning a little more, but then when they started piling up faster than drunken fratboys at a party, you know there's something seriously wrong. Plus, you don't really give a shit, since there's nothing compelling in any of the characters or their situation whatsoever.

Oh, and their situation. Contrived can't even begin to describe it. "Two years ago" in the movie's timeline, there are missed connections due to someone not delivering a letter, and deleting the messages in another person's answering machine. Two years ago, cellphones were already pretty popular, I'd think. And certainly they'd have email, unless they were trapped in Tibet or something. But no, they are kept apart purely by the contrivances of the script.

You'd think they'd learn their lesson, and get fucking cellphones already.

And they do. Although that doesn't seem to help matters much, and before you know it, even more contrivances step in and confuse matters until you pretty much feel like stepping in with a shotgun and blowing everyone away. Apparently their answering machines have the amazing ability of being able to record messages only when the script calls for them to do so. The rest of the time, all you get is a dial tone.

Liked seeing Chicago on the big screen.

Hated the editing. Every time you go into a flashback, there's a freeze frame and then a zoom-in. UGH. Also goes into split screen a couple times for no apparent reason. Annoying opening titles that look like a fucking powerpoint presentation.

As for the acting, I'll leave you with quotes from the review in The Onion:

Few actors have less expressive eyes than Josh Hartnett. Dark abysses at the center of a vaguely simian face, they convey all the emotion and vulnerability of coal.
As she was in Troy, fetching newcomer Diane Kruger is called upon to display the kind of irresistible magnetism that inspires epic displays of worshipful devotion. And, as in Troy, she's nowhere near up to the task.
Rose Byrne gives a performance far better than her surroundings deserve, radiating neediness and despair even as the film contorts into ever more unnatural shapes.

I knew it was going to be awful. Yet I still went. Sometimes we have to see bad movies to make the good ones seem even better.

Oh yeah, and they totally raped The Scientist, a Coldplay song I really like. Fuckers.

Three... Extremes
A compilation of 3 horror shorts, each from a different Asian country, each with a director acclaimed in his own way. "Sequel" to the first Three, which was extremely uneven - two of the shorts sucked ass, while one was unbelievably good. This time around, even though nothing quite matches up to the quality of Going Home, the best segment the last time, everything's a little more even, and it's all decent.

It starts off with the wonderfully macabre Box by Takashi Miike, he of Audition, The Happiness of the Katakuris and Visitor Q. Much mindfuckery, gorgeous production design and cinematography await. It's great how he sets scenes up to be completely cliched, up to the point where you expect the sudden screechy music and the ghost with the long hair to flit quickly across the screen - and then he doesn't do it. He just insists on sidestepping all the cliches that come with the territory, and instead delivering a narrative that slowly gets under your skin so you're squirming with discomfort at, for example, a man playing with a doll. Brilliance. I need to watch it again, given all the different levels of mindfuckery going on. But I'll be happy to. And with little twin contortionist girls, a midget, and a bizarre circus act, there's really no reason not to. I mean, come on, you gotta love midgets.

Next comes the weakest link, Fruit Chan's Dumplings. It's shot by the incomparable Chris Doyle, even though it's not his best work. There's a shot that looks normal, until the male actor exits frama right, but then passes in front of camera from the left, and then you realize the camera's been shooting a reflection all this while! Pretty fuckin' slick. All in all, it's not so hot. Crazy lady sells dumplings made of human fetuses to aging women desperate to maintain their looks. Sounds cool, but unfortunately it doesn't really go anywhere. And there's a distinct lack of mindfuckery.

Park Chan-Wook's Cut finishes it up. He recently got the Grand Prix at Cannes for Oldboy, so he's apparently quite the talk of the town. Anyhow, a horror movie director gets kidnapped by a crazed extra, and put in between a rock and a hard place - he has to strangle a random little girl to death, or every five minutes one of his wife's fingers gets hacked off with an axe. Most of it happens in real-time, which is pretty damn cool, and the concept is smart too. Production design is gorgeous, reminding me of the Cremaster Cycle. Tension is pretty high, even though mindfuckery is, again, absent - but sadly he manages to destroy everything in the last minute (literally) by having an inexplicable ending. Or maybe I was stupid and missed something. Whatever. It's great all the way until the end. Kinda reminds me of Signs, in that respect.

My second time viewing this movie. I really really like it. It's got a tight script, with a good throwaway line almost evey second. The visual gags are pretty good, and you can really tell that the screenplay has been written and re-written so many times to cut out all the fat. How can you not love all the bizarre characters in there? I have lots of fun every time, and by far, my favorite gag is the one involving the $100,000 in the briefcase. The Deus ex Machina written on the chest of money is pretty funny too, and it's there to make the smart people feel better about coming to a dumb comedy.

Fuck you, Singapore censors. You took out two scenes - the kiss between the two girls near the end, and Ben Stiller doing the Milkshake Song after the credits. Fuckers. Obviously we can't have girls kissing each other in movies. Impressionable females will follow suit and become lesbians, and the birth rate will fall even further, and then we'll really be in deep trouble. Or maybe it runs counter to Traditional Asian Values, a.k.a. convenient excuses you, and the powers-that-be, cart out at the drop of a hat. And I guess said Values don't really have any latitude for the Milkshake Song, do they?

Ah, go fuck yourselves.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Not Quite Rashomon

Looking over the shoots I've been on since I started work, it's no wonder I'm having freaky dreams. Let's see... prison riot, skull smashing, and now geriatric rape. What a bundle of joy and positiveness.

Yep, yep, rape scene to be shot tonight in a (possibly gruelling) all-nighter. It shouldn't take that long theoretically, since there's only one rape (duh), but apparently there are multiple versions that have to be shot, since everyone tells a different version in court. Damn those re-enactments. Especially when they aren't that different.

No, Rashomon it is not.

On another note, I've been getting emails from the CRC listserve again, which means New Student Week is here. I wish I was in Evanston, just for a little while. I can't believe it's only been two-and-a-half weeks since I started work (and this blog); it feels like forever. But then again, murder and carnage get old pretty fast, I'd imagine.

Dark clouds loom on the horizon. Literally. I hate having to turn the lights on at noon.

Sperm-Shaped Worms!

This is a really bizarre dream I had last week. I jotted notes after I woke up, and it's here in all it's glory. Everything's in bits and pieces, but that's the nature of dreams, isn't it?

I'm in the toilet of an old building with Yam and Kiwi. I'm smoking in there, even though I know I shouldn't be. Ash out the window.

In a mall now. Kiwi wants to take a piss. He does so against a wall or potted plant. A woman screams at him when he's done. "Take it out!" He turns around, but covers himself up. She takes a polaroid and runs away. I chase her. When I catch up, I grab the polaroid. It's just the image of a blurry face. I tear it up.

Upstairs in the mall. It resembles Tampines Mall. We go down an escalator. I call my mom and tell her I'm going home. At the bottom of the escalator, we split up.

A store detective approaches and tells me to go into the supermarket. I think that he wants to put handcuffs on me, so I offer my wrists. He puts plastic thumbcuffs on instead. Many witnesses (to the polaroid incident? to the smoking? what??) come forward and want to question me. They're people I've seen in the mall earlier.

It's now night, and everyone is in an old school. We go into a japanese-style room. It's huge, with paper doors and everything. A teacher from high school is there, Mr. Teo TH. He's the caretaker.

I'm asked to strip. For some reason, Kiwi is also there. All the women turn around, and I do so. Now Yam is there too. I ask, "How did you get here?" He says, "NS list." (??!!)

I have to go piss. The cuffs have gotten elastic, and I'm now playing with them and stretching them out to my wrists. As I piss at the urinal, I see a few black sperm-shaped worms fall on the ledge in front of me. They wriggle around.

Back in the room, I feel gross. Something's wriggling under my skin. I strip again (I don't know when I put my clothes back on) and roll on the ground, screaming. People rush to me, and start pushing out worms from under my skin like you squeeze pimples. The same sperm-shaped worms, just like in the toilet. They burst out of my skin and wriggle on the floor. They are quickly squished, and their guts ooze out. This goes on for a while. Soon there is a huge pile in the middle of the room.

I stand up, and want to tell my side of the story (what story?). But they say it's too late, and we'll continue tomorrow.

I wake up, and think, "What the fuck??!"

I just re-read what I typed. Boy, I am one sick fuck.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Classic Cars... Mmmm...

Short post today.

Wrapped at around 10pm. We were scheduled to go till midnight, which was a little ridiculous. You don't need 5 hours to shoot 2 scenes. I still have a 7am calltime tomorrow. Oh well, at least I'm not acting in that one.

I think my piercings have closed up, after I had to remove them for about a week because of the shoot. Dammit. Hopefully not... The problem is, I don't really have any experience putting them back in since I've never done it. And I can't really see them, which makes things doubly hard.

I got to drive a 1960's MG convertible today. OK, fine, so I only drove it for less than 100 feet. In total. After several takes. Still, that was cool. I wish I had a classic car.

Or maybe not. Their clutches and gear systems can be a little weird.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Of Butterflies and Sharks

The Onion has a pretty good bi-weekly (?) column called Commentary Tracks of the Damned that "reviews" the commentary tracks of truly bad DVDs and lists their crimes against humanity. One that caught my eye was the one for the Ashton Kutcher shitfest The Butterfly Effect.

For those of you who don't like to click on links, here are some of my favorite lines:

Crime: Giving a lead role which requires convincing portrayals of a convict, a frat boy, a paraplegic, a genius, and a mental patient to Ashton Kutcher, an actor who has thus far shown he can play everything from a dumb guy in the '70s (That '70s Show) to a modern-day dumb guy (Dude, Where's My Car?) to a real-life dumb guy who plays pranks on his dumb buddies (Punk'd).

"I mean, walking into a room and being believable and offering your mouth for someone's dick is not an easy thing to do."

Heartwrenching dialogue.

And you HAVE to read this next article. Please, if only for the children.

Finally, to cap the day off, I had the (many would say mis-)fortune of watching Open Water. And with the definite misfortune of sitting next to people who insisted on talking on their phones during the movie, which didn't make me like the movie one bit better.

I hate people who do that. I wish it was legal to use a heavy metal object to hit such an offender in the head until his/her phone was permanently grafted to their skull. The worst thing was, it was a couple, and they were both doing it simultaneously at one point. If they weren't on their phones, the girl was commenting on the action in Malay to her other friend, who was next to me.

Which brings me to another pet peeve: People who think the world of their observations and make them loudly during a movie. I hate it enough when it's in a language I don't understand, like Malay. It's worse when it's in English, because I can then know exactly how banal and moronic it is. It's fine if you have a witty comment - bad movies can often be made infinitely better this way - but often, it's along these lines:

Couple surface after the dive. The previous scene has very clearly shown the boat leaving.
Woman behind me (to boyfriend): "Aiyah, the ship left already!"

Water is teeming with sharks.
Same woman: "So many sharks!"

Spoiler ahead! (If you care, skip the next paragraph)

Female lead lets male lead go (after he's dead) and then casts off her stuff. Sharks are circling. Finally she submerges into the water of her own volition.
Again, that silly woman: "She's drowning herself!"

Spoiler over...

"1.00pm" fades up on the screen.
Woman beside me: "One pm."

I can read, thank you very much. If you think your companion can't, then please, just whisper it quietly into their ear. And I can generally read plot points when I'm paying attention, as I'm sure most audience members can. Giving evidence that you can do so, and loudly transmitting said evidence to the room, merely qualifies you as a lame person who should be fed to the sharks, preferably while you were fully conscious.

Ugh. Anyhow, about the movie:

I can't say I truly felt anything more than the occasional shiver when a shark appeared. In fact, I almost wish the male character had his leg ripped entirely off instead, because the two leads were annoying me. They didn't seem to have a lot of chemistry together, and scenes where they desperately said "I love you" to each other in the face of death seemed to ring false. Also, making audiences irritated with your bitching and whining doesn't make you more sympathetic, and neither does trite, exposition-ey dialogue.

Heavy-handed scenes of people having fun on their vacations also makes me annoyed. Yes, we understand that they are in peril while all the rest of the vacationers are sipping magaritas or relaxing by the pool (safe water vs. dangerous water... ooh, what ironical juxtaposition). After a while, it fell into an easily predictable pattern:

Scene of leads bitching / in danger / bitching in the face of danger / etc.
Dissolves between shots of water - closeups, wide, etc. - marking the passage of time.
Another scene of the leads doing whatever it is they're doing.
Heavy-handed sequence of other tourists having fun on their vacations.
And repeat ad nauseum. Or, until you finally decide to kill the fuckers off because even you are getting annoyed by them.

Which is not to say it's all bad... at least there was one point where I went, "Ooh, that's pretty clever." And here's the lesson:

If you have an ultra low budget and need a scene set in a storm, throw a low-level light on the entire scene and shoot it that way. In post, simply do quick fades from and to black, as if lightning was lighting up the scene momentarily and voila! Thunderstorm simulated! Of course this only works if you have really good sound design.

Alright, now get off your lazy ass and go make your own movies.

Final quick note: Zhang Yimou's Hero is at the top of the US box office for the second consecutive week?! That's pretty unbelievable. I haven't seen it, but from what I've seen in articles, Chris Doyle's cinematography looks pretty fuckin' gorgeous.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Philistine

Read an article today in the Straits Times that just completely pissed me off.

A local hack "filmmaker" had the audacity to start a scriptwriting course. Here are some choice quotes...

There are too many people making artistic films here.

(And that's bad because...?)
Translation: I can't understand any of them.

I think it's important to make films which a lot of people can understand and enjoy. And to do that, you need to learn how to strengthen your writing skills and add depth to your concepts.

Translation: Lowest Common Denominator is vitally important, as it's where I made all of my money from. I also speak in oxymorons because there is no depth inherent in catering to the lowest common denominator, and additionally none of my movies have ever had any hint of such depth to them.

I mean, Jesus motherfucking Christ.

And the fact that he's charging hundreds of dollars for this angers me. But not as much as the fact that there will probably be losers falling over themselves to sign up for said course.

What's even more laughable is that one of his major accomplishments is stealing a much-loved film from a Middle-Eastern country and completely fucking it up. It's amazing how neorealism can be transformed into an inept political satire in the clumsy hands of the wrong people. A reviewer on has this to say about him: "Subtlety is an art, which he lacks immeasurably".

All this seems to be in support of my theory that in order for local film and TV to progress significantly, we have to wait for the older, less educated generation to die off. It may sound cruel, but I believe in it, at least at this point in time. This is a uniquely asian phenomenon, I suppose... Or perhaps in recently-established nations. I guess Australia must've been the same in its early days, huh?

I guess all I can do now is bide my time... and try to get more involved in local film (At least the more decent ones). Which might be a little tough, considering I know no one.

On a related note, sometimes I wish I was doing student film still. Those who are still doing that, you have no idea how lucky you are, to be working with people who all have a passion for what they're doing. When you work for a corporation, too often you find crew and "creative personnel" who have been worn down by the system, or who didn't give a shit in the first place. They treat it like a job, and they just don't care anymore. When you have people who want to stop shooting just because you're running an hour over... I dunno. I guess that's acceptable in the real world, but to my (still) idealistic mind, it's harsh.

Welcome to the real world, I guess. It will fuck your shit up.

The Nine-Eleven Post

Argh. It's been a whirlwind of activity since I last posted, and for good reason too.

At the beginning of the week, I was in a good mood. Besides a studio shoot on Monday (which I thought I didn't have to go to but apparently I did and so was late by two hours... but such is life), there didn't seem to be anything particularly bad on the horizon for the week. No shoots = (slightly) more decent hours. On Wednesday, I was told, one day before shooting started, that they couldn't find anyone for a part in a particular episode and they wanted me to fill in.

Which is all well and good. As many of you know, I have done some work on camera in the past... the K-Welch's UFO cameo being a particularly... memorable one (*snigger*). So I read the script and found that apparently I was the main character. Great, you cast your main character last? It doesn't make any sense at all. And also, since I'm in most of the scenes, it results in me having another four days of shooting. After which I start immediately on my next shoot, which includes an all-nighter on the second day. Ugh.

But all in all it hasn't been bad. I'm a much worse actor than I thought I was, and I'm sure I'll hate the episode when it finally airs, but hey, at least I got to bash someone's skull in with a stick yesterday. Fun fun fun. A couple times I missed the mark and hit something I wasn't supposed to, like the tripod. Bad, bad killer. I'm terrible at remembering lines on the spot though... I need at least 15 to 20 minutes to prep beforehand, and often, that luxury isn't available.

Leaving soon for another day's shoot... I think I only have 2 lines today. Good. I'm feeling so sore from overexertion yesterday (I guess I was too violent) I don't think I can use too much of my brain.

To commemorate September 11th, I have decided to wear my "Fuck Bush" T-shirt today. To everyone in Evanston, I say: Remember to vote that fucker out.

And the moment of silence...


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

You Fucking Bitch

Like I said, I met up with a senior last night and we got to talking for a really long time. 5 hours, to be exact. Well, not exact, it's kind of a ballpark figure, but you know what I mean. And it got me thinking:

Am I ever going to get to do anything in this company? I mean, obviously I'm doing shit now, but not really doing anything. By that I mean anything I can look back on and be justifiably proud of down the road. Who the fuck cares about a TV show? Unless you're creating a legend like The Simpsons or something, and those are few and far between. And more urgently, how long does the shitty assistant director thing last before I get any real control?

I heard from someone it usually takes two years to move up to director. Two fucking years. How unbelievable is that? And I go on set and I think I can do better in most of the situations that I see.

I need to be able to create something to feel productive. What's the point in working 14 hours a day when you're only running around doing something anyone else can do? I can write, edit, sound design, and direct. Yet I'm not doing any of those. And without practice, you become rusty. I wanna work on my own stuff, or at least some other projects where my opinions matter in the whole creative cycle. Telling extras how to perform their role is not a creative enterprise, whatever they might want me to believe. (Well, they never explicitly said it...) But then the hours kind of make it insane to even contemplate doing anything extra.

I ask: What is the point for a company to throw all that money (and everyone knows going to NU is not cheap) into a "scholar" (I detest that fucking word) and then to not use them well? Throwing them into low-paying, brainless jobs you can give to any shmuck around doesn't make sense, yet they're constantly doing it, if reports are to be believed. Why? It just seems so... pointless.

Yes, I am in a line that I love. But so what, when I'm not doing anything I feel for?

Even if it's rewriting scripts, I'll take it. You should see some of the trash that gets approved.

Pictures on the Wall is still something I feel insanely proud of. Yet I know it's not perfect. There were many compromises we had to make, perhaps too many. But goddammit, I put over half a year of my life into it, and it is my fucking baby.

Maybe that might explain the inexplicably paternal mood I find myself in in recent months.

Which is why I hate the woman from Chinese Drama with all my heart and soul. Fucking condescending bitch. Simply by your comments you have painted yourself as an ignorant philistine unaware of any craft, any art. You are as common as the fucking stray dogs that line the streets in Bangkok (Thanks, #2, for that image) and you do not deserve to be in the same room as me. (By the way, this happened quite a few weeks back, so I'm already mostly over it... believe me, you don't want to be there during that time.)

1. You are not communicating anything, I didn't know what you were trying to say. You were trying to not use dialogue, but your images were not communicating.

Reply: Then you are a fucking moron. It's so amazingly simple I don't think there's any way of making it simpler. You fucking blind retard.

2. Your editing is very "loose" (I use this word as a direct translation from chinese)

Reply: FYI, I spent half a year editing the damn thing. How dare you. Martha has the finest eyes around, and I bet she could put yours out with a rusty nail any day.

Finally, you make TV soaps for intellectual retards. I make my movies for human beings.

On a better note, I'm showing the movie at the home of an NU/TJC friend tomorrow to some other NU kids. Apparently he has a projector. Woohoo. Jingli will be going as well. What a coincidence: he's played a child dying of cancer before too.

Also finished logging a ridiculous number of tapes in a ridiculously short period of time today. I think my bosses were surprised. So pleasantly surprised one of them called and asked if I could log the tapes that were shot today by lunch tomorrow. Damn, sometimes it doesn't help to be too good at something. Oh well, at least Avid is my bitch. Even though MediaLog (apparently also by Avid) is kind of annoying. Imagine not being able to play backwards. Ugh.

Eh. Whatever. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Bleagh. I stop making sense.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Masturbation and Harry Potter

I bet that got your attention.

Bah. I've been wanting to post for the past couple days, but always felt too damn tired. Well, you try working 14 fuckin' hours a day in the sun. Anyhoo, lotsa stuff to spew.

Friday: Finally got into some hard rockin' action. We had a human torch and a burning set on location today. Pretty fuckin' cool. The poor guy was set on fire over five times, definitely a no-no on a Hollywood set - the damn unions would come down so hard. All this action got me thinking: If they can set aside some of the (over S$20 million) profit they made last year (according to a company memo) to pay the crew and staff better, they might actually get better results! DAMN! Who ever heard of that? What a novel idea! (Who the hell sends out these memos anyway? Don't they think we'll get more and more disgruntled when we compare that kinda absurd amount to our meagre wages?)

Spent most of Saturday bumming around Orchard Road (which hopefully #2 remembers fondly) and bingeing on Erdinger. Tasty.

Had a nice long chat with Jingli... over said Erdinger. He's a really great kid (I use "kid" in the general, 20-and-below kind of sense)... It's kinda scary to hear what child actors face, especially the ones that make it big. I really hope Thomas knows what he's getting himself into, if he ever makes it to the top. Then again, his intensely common-sensical mom will slap some Polish sense into his little head should he get too big for his boots, and I'm sure she'll take on any psycho fan with no problem. Still, it makes one wonder how many of these kids are actually in the biz out of their own volition... it's a scary world out there, especially if you're a kid celeb.

Hmm, I've tried to write that previous paragraph so anyone can kinda guess what I'm talking about, which was a little tough. Goddamn exposition.

My ass is really sore now after fucking myself with a hard bicycle seat for almost six hours today. Took a bike ride around an offshore island, Pulau Ubin, looking for locations and boats to shoot in/with. Since I hadn't been there before, it was kinda cool. However, even though it is much less urban than mainland Singapore (HA, "mainland"... it's still a little fucking island), it's no less commercial. You can see signs with "ICE COLD DRINKS" in like half the houses that you pass. And with all the bike tracks and paved trails... I dunno, it was a little disappointing. However, I did find a nice house, and the owner even has boats. He's so nice he's even willing to let us shoot a rape/manslaughter scene there. We'll see what the production manager says though...

I'm getting more than a little pissed with the traditional asian thing of only moving out after you get married crap. I need my own fucking space, dammit. Living with parents is like having someone read the paper over your shoulder constantly - it doesn't matter if they make noise or not, their very presence is felt, and it's intensely annoying. And I mean, what's the point of trading one form of bondage for another? Once I find some roommates, I'm moving the fuck out. It doesn't help that my brother took over my entire living space while I was gone. When I came back, I had to live out of my fucking suitcase for a while. That's just wrong. His shit is everywhere, and I have no room for mine. That just makes my entire living situation almost unbearable. Yet daddy still tries to guilt-trip me, making it seem like sacrilege to even entertain the thought of moving out. C'mon, I've lived on my own for three years, you should've been used to that by now.

I should stop whining. It makes me sound like a little bitch.

Had another long chat with a friend and we came to the conclusion that Christianity is bullshit. But Christians are fucking scary. I expounded on why I hated The Passion. And also on the masturbatory elements in Harry Potter 3's opening sequence (I'm still very proud I saw that reading). She's going to send me a link to a 2-minute filmmaking contest. That sounds kinda cool. We'll see.

In the meantime, I see outsidebowie has a new post from #2. Poor #1... good luck with the animation.

Work beckons again in the morrow. Goodnight everyone.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The First Gasp

Damn. So I finally caved. Here's my blog... and now for the first time, my bitching and musing will not only be confined to the select few (unfortunates?) that hear them, but will be published for the entire english-reading world to see.

I guess this is just a quick and easy way to let my many awesome friends in the US of A to know wassup. That's certainly a good enough reason. And also it might help me to bitch electronically so I can maintain my composure at work... heh.

Anyhow, that week with #2 was amazing, even though it pretty much broke the bank for me. It's such a bitch to have fun all the time without a job, because that inevitably comes with high monetary costs. And even now when I do have a job, I'm still getting paid peanuts. But more on that later.

After that I took a break of 2 weeks or so before starting my job in one of the Big Two in Singapore broadcasting. I'm apparently an "assistant director", but the job description here includes location scout, transportation, getting big props, art crew, etc... It never ends. I've been working 14 hour days, 5 days a week. It seems to be the norm in my company at least. Fuckers. It's only my first week, and I can't recall having ever yearned for a weekend that much. Actually I'm lying, I was pretty desperate for the weekend to roll around during my army days. But that was a long time ago. That's one of the good things about NU, at least for me, there not really being a difference between a weekend and a weekday.

I really should be getting to bed, but there's just a quick note on dreams... It's weird, but I've probably dreamed more this week than I've had in the past couple years. Maybe it's just that I've been waking up in the middle of my regular sleep cycle, and so can remember them better. I dunno... the human mind is a bizarre thing, and mine is more bizarre than most.

One weird one that I particularly remember involves Thomas. Some of you know him as the kid actor I had in my directing project. Well, for some reason, in my dream he was my neighbor, and he lived in the same apartment building as I do in Singapore. And I don't think he was my kid actor, he was just this kid that I watched grow up and was pretty close to. He was maybe a year or two older in my dream than in real life... I was about to go on a long trip somewhere indefinite, and he was real beat up about it. I remember hugging him and consoling him for a long time before I was about to leave, but he just kept clinging on... and then reality intruded and I consciously thought: "I'm having a dream. This is my kid actor." Then I woke up and it was time to go to work.

Yeah. So that's it. Kinda weird. Thomas isn't half as needy in real life. But not that I don't miss the kid. He was real cool to have around set and a great kid all-around. I wonder how he's doing in Colorado/LA/wherever the hell he is...

But enough. I still have a 7am calltime tomorrow, and it's almost midnight now.