Friday, April 27, 2007

December 2006 Round-Up

I get the sneaking feeling that no one really gives a shit about these posts except me. Oh well. This is my blog, after all. I finally get to December, which, thankfully, didn't have as movies as November did.

Open Season
Ugly-ass character designs, Ashton Kutcher, a weak plot, Ashton Kutcher, lame jokes, Ashton Kutcher, horrible translation to Imax and Ashton Kutcher all work together to make this one of the worst CGI animations in the history of, well, CGI animation.

Flags of Our Fathers
Some heavy-handed narration and an at-times clunky script threaten to derail the whole thing, but luckily Eastwood manages to rein most of it back. In the hands of a lesser director this could've been an awful disaster, but in his hands it's a rather decent film. Now, having seen both films, Letters from Iwo Jima is by far the better one.

Déjà Vu
Holy plot holes, Batman! Reason and logic are thrown out the window completely, as is narrative cause and effect, as Denzel storms through time and space to save the life of a girl that he spies on using some newfangled time-travel technology. Yep, that's the movies for ya, a high-tech voyeur is actually the hero of the movie. There's a really nifty chase through time in a huge hummer (this description actually makes much more sense when you actually see it) though, so it's not all bad. Just mostly.

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
A movie best watched when you're either completely stoned out of your fucking mind, or ridiculously drunk. Otherwise, there are a few chuckles to be had if you're sober, but unfortunately none of the gut-busting variety. Great cameos though, especially by Tim Robbins as a mysterious one-legged man. Still, it's all rather fun.

父子 (After This Our Exile)
Omigawd, Aaron Kwok can act! It's true, and all the awards he's gotten for this film are well-deserved. For celebrities, it's hard to deliver a performance that makes audiences forget who you really are, but I was pleasantly surprised that in most of his scenes he actually does make me forget that I'm watching Aaron the Superstar. The relationship between this deadbeat father and his young son is drawn out tenderly and often, painfully, making this quiet little film one of the most emotionally resonant Hong Kong productions in quite a while.

墨攻 (A Battle of Wits)
Rah rah rah, Andy Lau is good-looking and smart, and here he comes to save the day, rah rah rah. That's about it, because there's no real surprises in this period flick, apart from finding out that ex-teenybopper idol Nicky Wu is still alive and actually working. The battle schemes aren't really smart enough to be actually witty, and the contradictions between the philosophy that Lau's character pitches and his actions are far too large to ignore, yet routinely ignored.

Sketches of Frank Gehry
This rambling documentary could've been cut to half an hour and still have as much information in it. There's no real in-depth look at Gehry the artist or visionary, because Sydney Pollack is far too friendly with the guy to do any real digging, and as such it's all rather tame and celebratory of his genius. As a result, it's all rather pointless.

Any movie that begins with John Malkovich saying, "I suffer without my stone. Do not prolong my suffering." has to be awful. I can't say this enough, this movie is truly awful, and to inflict further sequels on the world is an evil, evil thing. It's trite and juvenile, with everything lifted wholesale from other books and movies, and it's really obvious that a kid wrote the damn thing. Then again, perhaps some other factors might've saved it. Unfortunately, the cast is horrendous, especially the lead, the CGI looks like shit, the pacing is completely off and the climactic battle is almost non-existent.

La Tourneuse de pages (Turning Pages a.k.a. The Page Turner)
Intense and unflinchingly tight psychological thriller that's all the more powerful for a bloodless climax that's no less devastating. Deborah Francois is breathtaking in the title role as a young woman seeking revenge by worming her way into a concert pianist's household and slowly but surely ripping her life apart strand by strand. Delicious.

滿城盡帶黃金甲 (Curse of the Golden Flower)
While The Banquet was an adaptation of The Bard's Hamlet, this here is an adaptation of a classic Chinese play, 雷雨 (Thunderstorm). While watching a performance of the original play last year, I couldn't stop giggling, since this was the play that kick-started decades of Chinese melodrama, and the clichés were out in full force (although granted, it's unfair to snigger since it is the granddaddy of melodramas, after all). Thankfully, this was relatively cliché-free and rather well-adapted. Gong Li steals the whole show, and Jay Chou shows surprising improvement from his acting (or rather, non-acting) turn in Initial D. Oh, and there was great cleavage on display too, from every female cast member and extra.

The Holiday
In trying to put not one, but two romances onto the screen, this romcom suffers from slack pacing and repetition. While the leads are appealing enough, nothing serves to elevate this from pure, mindless fluff, and not very entertaining fluff, at that.

傷城 (Confession of Pain)
Oh, what an ironic title! I must confess, I felt great pain and disappointment while watching this movie, because there is simply no point to it, and because this came from the team that created Infernal Affairs. Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro mope around for the duration of the movie, there's no suspense whatsoever due to a too-early revelation, and the plot is simply too recycled to have any impact. And I hear Hollywood is doing a remake. Well, it shouldn't be too hard to improve on the original.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
This movie caused me pain too, but in a different way - I laughed so hard it physically hurt. I think enough has been written about it that I don't need to waste my effort. Suffice to say that it's the funniest movie all year, and that Sacha Baron Cohen is a fuckin' genius. Oh, and it has one of the best titles, like, ever.


November 2006 Round-Up

An even more super-overdue posting. Short takes on November 2006's flicks.

Insanity on crack. The sheer ridiculousness and hyper-kineticism are fun for a while, but after, oh, 30 minutes or so you're suffering from overdose. By the end of it all you're fucking exhausted, and it wasn't even that enjoyable. Cool poster, though.

L'Homme de sa vie (The Man of My Life)
Very talky French movie about a man who discovers that he might or might not have some homosexual tendencies. You could fall asleep for most of it and still not feel like you missed anything important. The conversations all want to be Deep and Meaningful, but end up not being very much at all.

An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore says that we're fucking up our planet. And for the love of all that's good and pure, he's right, and it's fucking scary. Even though he doesn't get filmmaker points for this glorified Powerpoint presentation, it's still effective as hell.

Der Lebensversicherer
(Running on Empty)
Someone please make this movie end already. Any warmth you feel towards the complete inhabition of the role by the lead actor is demolished by the overlong runtime and the complete lack of anything actually happening. Oh, and there's a sex scene which feels dirty and disgusting because this is, after all, a European arthouse flick, and people never have good sex in those.

妄想 (Diary)
Over-convoluted, with more twists and turns than a pretzel, along with some pretty iffy-looking CGI. I was surprised that one of the Twins could actually act, but by the final, completely unnecessary plot revelation, I just didn't give a flying fuck anymore.

My Summer of Love
Coming of age movie - yay! Lesbian movie - double yay! But seriously, this is a sensitive and well-made film about friendship, family, love and deceit. Sometimes people lie for no good reason, and perhaps wealth and power make them feel as though they can, because there are entirely no repercussions for them. I hate rich fuckers.

(Wo Hu, a.k.a. Operation Undercover)
With its hundreds of undercover police officers in the mob, it seems 臥虎 is trying to go one better on Infernal Affairs... except 王晶 (Wong Jing), king of lowbrow comedy and exploitation flicks in Hong Kong, is involved. This means that there's moments of bizarre comedy sitting side by side with heavy (well, trying to be, anyway) drama, which, unless you're a master, simply doesn't work at all. Oh well, at least it didn't have breasts all over the place. Wait, that might've been an improvement.

Flushed Away
To be honest, I didn't have high expectations for this at all, especially strange since this is coming from Pixar. But the trailers promised nothing more than a silly flick with potty humor (literally) aimed at the kids. Trailers lie, though, because there's actually quite a bit of droll Brit humor in here that's hilarious, as well as random gags and slapstick reminiscent of Stephen Chow in his heyday. Lots of fun.

Indigènes (Days of Glory)
This is an Important film about Important Issues, and look no further for proof than the French government. Apparently after this film was screened, they changed their policies to recognize the efforts of the Algerian soldiers and gave them proper benefits. However, it doesn't make this any more than a by-the-book war film. Been there, seen that.

Ian Fleming's Casino Royale
James Bond goes hardcore. He's tougher, more of a badass than ever before, and it works, gloriously. From a spectacular opening chase to no poker matches that are no less exciting, this is great entertainment. Too bad about the lacklustre finale - I don't know how any climax set in a sinking building could be any less exciting. Perhaps I was just overloaded from everything that had gone on before. Besides, that whole last act seemed unnecessary.

NAGASAKI・1945 アンゼラスの鐘
(Nagasaki 1945 - The Angelus Bells)
Plays like something from local TV - well-meaning, but so clumsy and heavy-handed in its execution that you just get turned off. Important Lessons about humanity, selflessness and the atomic bomb are presented to you every oh, three minutes or so, to the extent that I felt like I was in a civics lesson in secondary school. And I hated secondary school civics lessons. Then again, the opening credits should've been a warning, seeing how many government agencies supported and endorsed this anime. Anything this loved by any government must not be any good.

Happy Feet
I must admit, I underestimated this movie. "Singing and dancing penguins? What the fuck?" were my thoughts as I watched the trailers. And the annoying "turn off your phone" ad that repeated endlessly in theatres didn't help. That being said, the themes were handled well and the animation was gorgeous. Robin Williams was annoying in multiple roles, but that's to be expected. It was all good up until the ending, which wrapped up a complicated global issue so quickly and neatly that it betrays the entire movie that had gone before.

Janji Joni (Joni's Promise)
Never underestimate a country just because they're poor; they can be as entertaining as anybody else. A film delivery boy must deliver the next reel of a movie from one theatre to another to win the heart of a pretty girl. It's usually a snap for him, but today just might be his unlucky day. Great slapstick, physical humor, visual gags and fun dialogue make for a fun time at the movies.

Der Freie Wille (The Free Will)
This is the cinematic equivalent of a car wreck - it's ugly and horrible, but you just can't look away. I must emphasize though, that it's the characters and the situations that are ugly and horrible, and not the movie, though it's really long and slow (although the deliberate pacing is necessary). It's a credit to the cast and direction that it ends up absorbing instead of boring.

Hundstage (Dog Days)
After the punishing movie above, I somehow felt compelled to inflict further cinematic punishment on myself and went to this utterly ugly movie. Lots of ugly people do horrid things to themselves and to each other. It's quite something when the character that arouses the most sympathy is an annoying retard that goes around hitching rides and forcing her extremely inappropriate questions upon people. I came out feeling very dirty.

This seems to be a good month for coming-of-age tales. Quinceañera is sensitive and moving, as a pregnant-although-technically-still-a-virgin Hispanic girl and her sexually ambiguous cousin move in with their kooky uncle and the three form a makeshift family that seems stronger than other "normal" ones. The writers-cum-directors love all of these characters, and it never really shows that these two guys are gay white men, as far removed from their creations as they can get. This movie has lots of heart, and makes you feel good without a single false or forced note.

From the looks of it, Glastonbury is a really cool festival to hang out at, even though it was much cooler when it first started, with people walking around and dancing naked, and even getting down in broad daylight in public. Too bad this documentary is complete shite, with lots of clips of performers but no point and focus at all.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Anyone Up for Filmfest (or What's Left of It)?

I realize it's a bit late to be asking people to filmfest screenings, but out of everything that's left, I've picked 4 movies I wanna catch.

I plan on getting tickets tomorrow (Thursday), and their screening dates start from Friday night.

Anyone wanna watch anything with me?

Syndromes and a Century (Fri 27 Apr, 9.15 pm, Lido)

Told in two parts like a musical movement, with repeating themes, the two protagonists echo the filmmaker's parents, in the years before they became lovers. This film explores how our memory of happiness can be triggered by seemingly insignificant things. The first part focuses on a female doctor, and is set in a space reminiscent of the world in which the filmmaker was born and raised. The second part focuses on a male doctor, and is set in a more contemporary time. Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a key figure in the new wave of Thai cinema. Tropical Malady, his last feature, won the Special Jury Prize in SIFF 2005.

I've heard this is quite a mindfuck. I love mindfucks.

Things We Do When We Fall in Love (Sat 28 Apr, 9.15 pm, National Museum)

The most prolific member of the Malaysian New Wave, James Lee returns with the second part of his Love trilogy examining the state of contemporary relationships. With his trademark long shots, spare dialogue and naturalistic acting, this film centres on a couple (Amy Len and Loh Bok Lai) who love each other but are simultaneously in love with others. As they drive aimlessly through the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the two play a ritualistic game of courtship and separation that subtly reveals their inability to commit.

I saw one of his previous movies, The Beautiful Washing Machine and liked it. His style is quite Tsai Ming-Liang - super-long takes, etc., but minus the weird sex. So it's really up to your personal taste.

The Boss of It All (Sun 29 Apr, 7 pm, Lido)

The master of Dogme returns with a black comic form of his early days. Ravn, the owner of an IT firm, wants to sell out. The trouble is that when he started his firm he invented a non-existent company president to hide behind when unpopular steps needed to be taken. When potential purchasers insist on negotiating with the "Boss" face to face, the owner has to take on Kristoffer, a failed actor, to play the part. The actor suddenly discovers he is a pawn in a game that goes on to sorely test his (lack of) moral fibre.

I don't really need to explain myself - Lars von Trier? I mean, come on. He's a master, even though he might be a fucking asshole.

Bloody Tie (Sun 29 Apr, 9.15 pm, Lido)

Action movie fans will enjoy this slick, fast-paced urban thriller. Set in 1998 when South Korea's drug trade was booming in the wake of its financial crisis, a hard-nosed cop (Hwang Jeong-min) teams up with a well-connected drug dealer (Ryu Seung-beom) to expose police corruption and bring down the biggest crime lord in the country. Directed by Choi Ho, this hard-knuckle drug thriller exposes the mean streets of Pusan rarely seen in mainstream Korean films. It could be Korea's answer to The French Connection.

And finally, to top it all off, a glorious thriller. I don't know who's in it, but I'd like to end the festival with a bang.

Any takers? Please call or SMS if you're interested. I will probably not watch a movie with you if you don't have my number - duh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Why is it that sometimes when you want desperately to love someone, they insist on doing stupid things to push you away?

I teared while at the parade a few years back. Hell, I even felt some waves of emotion as I sat in the Picturehouse watching The Kallang Wave. I'd thought that I hated you, but that's not strictly true.

Yet you keep on coming up with stuff that just pisses me off, like fucking ridiculous ministers' salaries, claiming to be "democratic", a lack of respect for creative people, and the MDA.

Singapore, my country, I love you, and I hate you.

Oscars, Here We Are (Or, Were)!

So the Oscars came and went, and I never did get around to completing this post. Oh well, better late than never.

The Last King of Scotland
Forest Whitaker plays it big, which is why he got the Oscar instead of Ryan Gosling, because Oscar voters don't take well to nuance. But his performance is effective and chilling, as he switches modes with nary a thought. Never has a portrayal of a tyrant been so charming and charismatic, yet really fucking insane at the same time. In fact, next to him, the lead actor (what's his face?) seems bland, since Whitaker takes a glorified supporting role and runs with it, outperforming everyone else around him. The story around it is gripping enough, if perfunctory at times, but Whitaker's performance lifts it above and beyond the standard confines of its White Man's Guilt genre.

Everything is BIG about this movie, its running time, the performances, the overblown songs. I can't say it wasn't enjoyable, but Jennifer Hudson is so overrated. Her acting is passable, but her singing is so completely over-the-top belt-it-out-without-nuance that it really got on my nerves, especially during that never-ending And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going (in my opinion, I Am Telling You I Don't Give a Fuck), which pretty much takes a baseball bat and smacks you on the head. Repeatedly. (OK, I admit that her rendition of One Night Only was pretty damn good.) Luckily, Beyoncé saves it all somewhat by (a) looking pretty, and (b) the editing during her solo Listen which gave me goosebumps. Eddie Murphy was another nice surprise, although he wasn't good enough to win the golden guy. Watchable, though extremely overhyped.

Half Nelson
There's nothing original in the plot or themes, but again, here's a film in which the performances elevate the material beyond their staleness into something beautiful. And since this is an indie movie, there aren't any big flowery speeches as well, which is always appreciated. Ryan Gosling is simply amazing in his complete inhabitation of his character, and Shareeka Epps proves a surprisingly good counterpoint to him. Together, they make the stock characters human, which is much more than what you can say for most other movies. Was Gosling robbed? Of course. Whitaker's role in Scotland wasn't really the lead, no matter how big he played it - he was competing in the wrong category. The Best Actor should have gone to Gosling. But hey, he's young, younger than I am, and he's got a long way to go. I have no doubt he'll turn out more outstanding work in the future.

Little Children
This has to be one of my favorites of this year so far. Todd Field is an actor's director, and so the story is kept simple, but the performances are really just fucking superb. Besides this, for an actor, Field has a great eye for visual storytelling (or maybe just a really great DP), for the storytelling is one of the best I've seen. Each close up works perfectly, each cutaway and each slow motion shot is timed beautifully. Jackie Earle Haley's performance as the pedophile lends the character great sympathy, and he ends up the most tragic figure in the film, not an easy feat to achieve. The title, for which credit must be given to author Tom Perrotta, is quite easily one of the best titles ever in its sheer perfection and delicious irony. Unforgettable.

Notes on a Scandal
Judi Dench is a scary psychobitch and I mean that in a good way, she creeped me out a lot during the film, which is not that easy to do. I went into the movie without knowing anything about it besides the fact that Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett were in it, and while I can't say I was blown away, I did think it was gripping enough. However, the thing foremost on my mind was: Why didn't I have gorgeous teachers like Cate Blanchett wanting to sleep with me when I was 15? The answer: I didn't have the boy's body, nor his smoothness - the kid's a real playa, slick as hell, and he knows it. Maybe it's the perv in me, but I was rooting for them to keep on getting it on, and I would've loved to see more sex. Ha. What I hated about the film was the Philip Glass score, where he does the same shit he does for every movie - overblown, pretentious arpeggios hammering away. In some other movie it might've worked, but it's particularly jarring here, and does not belong at all.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

By the Way, I Won

I felt I had to make an announcement in reply to this comment for my previous post.
At 11:31 PM, April 21, 2007, 우찌유 said...

They STILL haven't declared the winners yet.

Actually, they've picked them. They just haven't gotten around to actually announcing them.

I won. Free movies for half a year at GV. Except they haven't given me the damn VIP pass yet.

Thanks to everyone who voted. Some of you - Mun, Yujin and anyone else? - won some passes as well. Congrats.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spontaneity is Key

鐵馬騮 (Iron Monkey) till 2.30 in the morning.

It's nice having friends live nearby. Almost like being back in college.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I woke up this morning and thought I had a sore throat.

Then I discovered a huge fucking ulcer right smack on my throat.

Now I can't even smoke properly, only in tiny little puffs because the act of sucking apparently flexes that portion, causing me pain.

I don't know which is worse; this or the three ulcers (including one on the tongue) I got in China simultaneously when I bit myself four times in the same day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

And I'm Back

After 28 days spent abroad, I finally returned to Singapore soil last night. And what a fucking welcome, akin to a slap in the face, reminding me immediately of everything I loathe about this country.

Of course I looked suspicious, a lone traveller returning with four pieces of luggage and a huge H&M plastic bag, all stuffed full of shopping. Again I was picked out and asked to pass my bags through the X-ray.

This time I quickly declared my remaining two packs of duty-free cigarettes, which probably saved me from a fine. However, they were far more interested in my DVDs, which took up three huge plastic bags inside my gigantic duffel bag, as well as the antique opium pipe I bought in 上環 (Sheung Wan).

The customs people told me as long as I had over 5 titles, I needed a permit to bring them in. Otherwise, they had to retain them and send the DVDs to the Media Development (ha!) Authority (MDA), who would graciously decide on my behalf whether the discs were fit for my viewing. They would then, of course, send me a grossly inflated bill for all the hard "work" they did. Total count - 57 titles, with probably close to 100 discs, due to multi-disc sets.

I shan't even bother to rant about this ridiculous dictatorial practice, because we are a democratic country, and certainly not a dictatorship or a communist state, even though it might feel that way at times. I won't even talk about the pathetic stores in Singapore that only carry the latest blockbuster hits, or shitty local versions or China parallel imports without any decent features, or insist on selling DVDs at an inflated price.

Hell, I won't even complain about the two hours I waited for the officer from the Central Narcotics Bureau who had to travel to the airport to confirm that the pipe did not, in fact, hold any opium, and that I could have it, with a stern warning never to bring such drug paraphernalia into the country again. Of course it didn't matter that I intended only to use it as a display piece on my shelf.

What I will talk about is how I will never take the dreaded UA 895 flight from Hong Kong to Singapore ever again in my life. I've taken it exactly twice, and both times I got into trouble with customs. If that's not a huge fucking sign to avoid the cursed flight like the plague, I don't know what is. I think perhaps our 八字不合 (eight characters clash) or something.

Anyway it's of small consolation that the same thing happened to my ex-boss, even though he had far fewer DVDs with him, and mostly Kurosawa. As if the customs idiots would know anything about Kurosawa. At least I'm not the only film-lover that gets fucked over by customs and the MDA. Another small consolation - they completely missed my porn. Whee. But I'd really rather have my DVDs than any amount of porn.

It's really things like these that make me hate my country. They may all seem small and trivial, but it all adds up to a pretty damn good reason for migration. I really like the vibe in Hong Kong; perhaps one day I just might decide to move there for good.

Going back to work today felt weird. But at least I was all togged out in H&M, causing my boss to comment that I looked like I just stepped off a plane from the Bahamas. New look, and hopefully some new direction.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


A complete and utter failure. 'Nuff said.