Friday, October 31, 2008

The Shame! The Agony! The Horror!

There's an animated movie coming out in Singapore at the end of the month. It's based upon a much-beloved young adults novel that's been read by many a student (well, because it's used as a literature text).

The novel tells a simple and touching coming-of-age tale.

The movie, on the other hand, is a strong contender for the "Ugliest Animation In The History Of Mankind" award.

Bear in mind that it actually looks rather decent when viewed at this tiny size. Blown up on the cinema screen, everything looks weird, everything feels weird, and everything moves weird. Hell, lots of scenes feel downright creepy. I've had the unfortunate privilege to have seen the trailer multiple times over the past couple of weeks. The more I see it, the more I want to dig my eyes out.

It could be the downright hideous character designs, with their glassy, lifeless eyes. It could be the sinister-looking dancing monkeys. It could be anything. Hell, it's probably everything.

Could it be due to the "uncanny valley"? I'm not sure if they even look human enough to qualify for that. I just know that I have an immense hatred for the movie just by looking at the trailer. Even the trailer for Beverly Hills Chihuahua didn't disturb me as much.

Where the hell did the fucking dancing animals come from, anyway? There definitely weren't any in the book.

Here are some Fun Facts, culled from a local entertainment rag:

1. CG supervisor Steve Read was Technical Director on the 2006 Best Animated Feature Oscar winner, Happy Feet.

2. It took four artists eight months to create and texture the cast of animals and humans.

3. The 150 variations of foliage required seven people three months.

4. Each minute comprises 1440 images, totaling 130,000 pictures for the entire movie.

And here's my response:

1. Looking at the full credits for the very movie mentioned, Happy Feet, you may find that while it is true that Mr. Read was Technical Director, there were so many TDs on the film, you could literally hit one by randomly throwing a rock.

2. & 3. Pathetic. Again, look at the full credits for Happy Feet. Now look at the credits for Sing to the Dawn. It's clear as night and day. Happy Feet wasn't even an amazing-looking picture - it's no Pixar, that's for sure. But it looked decent enough. You don't get "decent" by grabbing 11 people (probably underpaid fresh grads from a polytechnic) and making them your animators for an entire movie - and giving them 11 months to do it! But you know what, it's typical of Singapore companies to do just that. And what you get, is fucked-up shit. And what the hell is up with the 11 months when everyone knows that this movie was announced over half a decade ago?

4. Duh. 24 frames a second equals 1440 frames a minute. So what if it's 24 f.p.s.? It doesn't matter when obviously no research has been done by the animators into how a person or animal actually moves. Every single character moves like a fucking action figure - like there are far too few points of articulation. Again, cheapness shows.

I am appalled. I am disgusted. I am furious. I am ashamed.

This blight on local film should never have seen the light of day. It should've been put out of its misery at birth, had its legs tied together, weighed down with a rock, and drowned in the nearest river. At least that would've been merciful. To release it in theatres is simply insulting to the audience.

These are dark times. Dark times, indeed.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Joustin' June, Bat-Mite!

Sex and the City
Let me preface it all by saying that I don't much like Sex and the City, the TV show. While I do find the sexventures of Samantha pretty funny, and I like the attitude that Miranda gives to everyone, I find Charlotte incredibly boring, and I simply abhor Carrie. Whenever the girls gathered in my living room for the latest episode, I'd launch into a rant about her ugly horse-face, her horrendous and ridiculously impractical wardrobe, and her twee narration with the most fucking lousy excuse for wordplay in the history of television. So what made me think the movie might be any better? It's simply an episode of the TV series, stretched out to beyond epic proportions, with a plot thinner than the sheerest lingerie on the show. But what makes me absolutely hate this is how insulting it is to women, depicting them as nothing but shallow caricatures who'd sell their mothers to a whorehouse for an LV bag - but worse, how blind most women are in not seeing this and loving this crapfest so much. Why four ostensibly intelligent women would persist in fucking up their lives in the stupidest, most unbelievable ways imaginable is beyond me, as is the popularity of this shitty-even-for-TV movie. I can't say it any better than this, so I'll just shut up now. (Please read the article I linked to. It's really fucking amazing)

Kung Fu Panda
Usually non-Pixar animated flicks feature movie star voices, bad scripts, terrible lines and pretty damn ugly animation. But this is the rare exception. While it doesn't have the best script in the world, it's surprisingly decent, and really quite entertaining. I was worried that it might be insulting to Chinese culture and martial arts in general, as The Forbidden Kingdom was (unintentionally, I'm sure). But again, it wasn't, and in fact seems to be a homage of sorts to classic kung fu flicks. Jack Black provides lots of energy, and there are some genuinely funny moments and gags, especially those that play on genre conventions. It does get a tad too slapstick for my liking in parts, but I can live with that since the rest of it's so much fun.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
When the first Narnia movie came out, I wrote a parody essay of it entirely in Singlish. I'm not even considering doing that for any future entries; the entire franchise isn't worth the effort. The direction is rote and yawn-inducing, and the pace is plodding, save for a rather nice night battle. The action seems to be a really dumb PG-13 type of thing, where you can hack at a person and he can fall down dead, but you can see any blood at all. The title character is shallow and one-note, and the actor in question can't act to save his life. Also, Christian allegory is fine for Christians, but for other people, it means that there are huge gaping What The Fuck moments abound. But this is true of anything to do with organized religion in general. (Re-reading my thoughts on the first instalment reveal that the main issues I had then still persist in this one - only this one's worse because of the distinct un-Swinton-ness of the endeavor)

Went to see this with Angeline, and it was one of those times where we had completely differing (and mutually antagonistic) opinions of a movie. Is it because she longs to be a romantic writer and feels for the protagonist's struggle more? I don't know. What I do know is that my thoughts can be summed up with the lines below:
Q: How does one empathize with a completely self-delusional, needy and annoying heroine?
A: One doesn't. One just wishes the movie would end sooner.
Really, I was simply angry with the movie for wasting my time. And I also wanted to smack the protagonist for being a pretentious, annoying little bitch. Also, why on earth did Ozon want to do a movie in English?

Shine a Light
I'd never really been into The Rolling Stones and their music - I mean, I actually Wiki-ed them before watching the film so I wouldn't go in completely blind and ignorant. Still, a Stones fan or a fan of rock in general (like Glen, who I saw it with) would probably get a lot more out of it than I did. My main thoughts were that it looked fucking amazing (for how can 18 top cinematographers go wrong?) and that The Stones, even at their age, have incredible energy and stage presence. It's a real blast, for sure - and now I even know a few Stones songs!

The Incredible Hulk
After the surprise phenomenal hit that was Iron Man, Marvel can't help but disappoint slightly in their next movie outing. It's by-the-book, nothing like the risk-taking but rather uneven Hulk of Ang Lee, but it's still a decent popcorn flick, if you can turn your brain off. While the action isn't anything mind-blowing, at least it's comprehensible (unlike Michael Bay's), and the pacing moves along briskly. Marvel must be doing something right; its movies are a lot better than they used to be. Norton, always dependable, and Tyler add a nice human touch to all the smashing - it says a lot when the best scene is simply a half-whispered conversation between the two of them in a doorway.

Angeline and I agreed on this one, if I recall correctly. The modern-day fairy tale (which is a genre I enjoy a lot - I do love Neil Gaiman's writing, you know) is very charming and full of whimsy, even if it's less funny than what the trailers seemed to indicate. The Moral Of The Story, when it came, was rather heavy-handed, but overall it's still a very enjoyable movie that's carried on the able shoulders of Christina Ricci and her prosthetic nose (or, rather, snout).

Get Smart
I wanted very much to like this, and I must admit I did laugh - but too rarely for me to really enjoy the movie. Carell is very good, but I'm not such a big fan of the update, for somewhere in the action-movie bits, the old-school low-tech charm of the original series is lost. Neither does all the humor work; sometimes, the lamest old jokes are still the funniest. Still, there are worse ways to spend your time and money, and I'd rather give it to Carell than to fucking Adam Sandler.

文雀 (Sparrow)
Tim now has a good review of this on his site, having watched it at the Chicago International Film Festival while I sat on my ass for months and didn't blog. I don't need to say much more, other than I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful caper through the streets of Hong Kong, lovingly sketched by director Johnnie To. It's paper-thin and ultimately doesn't mean anything, but his enthusiasm and playfulness leap out at you from every frame.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wakes and Funerals and Sleepless Nights

And regular work as well all add up to a very exhausted Cinewhore.

The last episode of First Class aired on Tuesday night.

My uncle (or to be more specific, my 姨丈, i.e. my mother's sister's husband) died that very night.

One of the more embarrassing ways to exit this world, I think, to have your heart give out on you in the shower.

I didn't know him as well as I should've. But the same words came from everyone who came. He was a good man. And he really was. A perpetual smile for everyone. And when he smiled, he smiled with his entire face and his eyes and his heart. He didn't deserve to go in such a manner at all, and at such a young age (mid-50's).

His 16 year-old daughter, my cousin, gave his eulogy today just before his body was cremated. I learnt it's really hard to keep a camera steady when tears are obscuring your vision with every blink.

She's a strong girl. I think she'll be OK. Eventually.

For now, I need to get away from death.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Best Graffiti Ever

As seen on a wall in Melbourne, while riding a bus to the airport:

God calls it immaculate conception
Mary calls it RAPE