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Monthly Archives: November 2005

on ffi 2005.

i, nauval, wholeheartedly and dutifully accept the fact that i have not watched the following films shortlisted for official selection to compete in festival film indonesia (ffi) 2205:

gie
brownies
ketika (does watching 1 disc out of 2 discs count?)
virgin

because it requires tremendous efforts to see indonesian films on a big screen here, and financial constraint forbids me to travel back to indonesia on regular basis.

thus, watching 3 films out of the 7 selected ones will be deemed not qualified to put any comments or judgment towards the festival.

i hereby refrain myself from giving any opinion on the result of the festival …

yet let me praise joko anwar for getting his film selected as an opening film for asian festival of first films recently held in singapore. the gesture of appreciation is given to joko for his hilarious debut which shows his penchant towards film, and the film was made with a clear and concise concept on how the film would look like on a big screen. not to mention to generate good, healthy laughter among the film’s intended audience.

for cornelia agatha and sauzan, good luck. may one of you walk with the coveted prize.

for rudi sudjarwo and his ‘tentang dia‘, next time do not ever do deus-ex-machina concept again, ok? ending a story by forcing one of the main characters to disappear in such a banal manner is hardly any logical, at least not to the mind of modern audience. we are convinced that this may work in any novels by graham greene, yet your film does not stand alongside the merits of them.

oh, have i said too much?

for the rest of you, do check the mecca of indonesian film reviews in sinema indonesia. the guys there have surely done a commendable job, and i tip my hat off to all of them.

i wonder if they ever drop by here, though. i doubt so, since we differ greatly in examining films.

the reason why i do not leave any comments on the blog is as simple as:

i don’t have an account in multiply.

 
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Posted by on 11/30/2005 in English, Film

 

admit it,

you’re scared.

yes, i am.

i’ve never been this afraid in my whole life.

you’re scared, aren’t you?

yes, in fact, i’ve been scared recently.

of what?

of questioning if it’s normal or not.

about what?

that i am much more terrified to live on my own in my home country than here, in a foreign land.

and i’ve to face it alone.

i’m scared.

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Posted by on 11/27/2005 in English

 

Pride and Prejudice

I assume that those who happen to drop by this blog and reading this have already been familiar with the novel, having read it as a compulsory reading if sometime during their pre-college or college days they choose literature as the subject, or by the very least, be already familiar to the story, thanks to the hype surrounding Colin Firth’s wet suit or Aishwarya Rai’s song-and-dance numbers in polished English. Whatever your resource is, I can assure you that the version of Pride and Prejudice being examined here does not change anything at all from the core of the story, thus leaving me not having to describe anything that happens between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.

In fact, there’s nothing wrong at all with this exquisite film. At the time of rising trend in turning classical literary works into some self-proclaimed modern re-imagining adaptation, often indicated by changing the setting of time and place (remember the less-than-great “Great Expectations”, anyone?), Joe Wright decides to stick to the truest nature of the book by keeping the background of the story intact. Such a relief indeed to see a period drama with girls wearing corsets hidden under layers of their enchanting dress while parading themselves in majestic castles, and not since Merchant-Ivory team that a director can treat a classic work into something precious and beautiful as this.

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The perseverance to keep the spirit of the book thus leads us to witness a fine acting ensemble, led by Keira Knightley in her spitfire performance as rebellious Elizabeth Bennett, an unlikely heroine at the time of women’s reservation. Keira’s determination indeed works like a magnet that captive audience to long more of her presence, and not even a scene where she fails to lit up the screen with her ethereal beauty alongside her bravura acts. In accordance to the film’s release at the end of the year during Oscar campaign season, I strongly believe she can pull off the same effect like what Winona Ryder did on 1994 with her “Little Women”, i.e. to emerge as an underdog, and slowly build the way up to scoring a nod for Best Actress in a film based on a beloved classic novel.

Her other compatriot is the hilarious Brenda Blethyn playing as her mother, a busy-bee woman whose mind is occupied in finding good men for all of her daughters. She might be over-the-top, yet her antics give the film necessary laughter whenever she appears on the screen. Talk about being an effective scene stealer here.

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And now comes the part that personally I dislike most: bashing a good film.

So the acting is superb, the screenwriting manages to stay faithful and keep the spirit of the book well, the direction is deft, the score is enticing enough, and what could possibly ruin the whole 135 minute of the film?

Believe it or not, it is the ending.

Here in Singapore, we are very unfortunate to be given with the US version, which contains additional scenes, and I have to warn you that these additional scenes deem unnecessary, and to some extent, these scenes linger on to my mind, way long after I watch this film more than a week ago.

Of course, I respect my readers’ preference not to have any spoilers, yet I do strongly suggest that if you manage to watch the UK version, it is slightly shorter and the scene the director picks to end the film is, indeed, a bang.

Whereas for the US version, what is meant to be sexy on the first place, turns out to become, sadly, an out-of-place laughing stock.

Anyway, I guess this is the first time for me to say:
Leave the theatre before the final scene appears, and you’ve got a beautiful film to treasure.

 
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Posted by on 11/26/2005 in English, Film

 

Prime

Before we begin, let’s talk about, or rather, let’s walk down the memory lane of good ol’ days. The same activity that I did when I watched the film, and soon enough you will be able to see why.

I remember Uma Thurman on her pre-Kill Bill days.

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She stormed to cinematic world with her classic, fragile beauty as shown on her luminous face, and at first Hollywood seemed clueless not knowing what to do with her otherworldly grace. Surely “Dangerous Liaisons” showcased her acting, and “Pulp Fiction” cemented her cult status, not to mention scoring an Oscar nod for that, but it was not until “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” she can be at her complete ease with her physical quality and make use of that in such a comical way. As further enhanced in “Beautiful Girls” where she still stands tall among an ensemble of fellow young actors, Uma has come full circle in accepting herself and her beauty, and play along with it nicely to equip her with amicable comic timing in every comedy she has done so far.

I remember Meryl Streep on her days in late ‘80s/early ‘90s.

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Already touted as a great actress by then, as proved by her 2 Oscars and 6 other nominations as of the year 1990, she surprised filmgoers and critics by taking comic roles successively in “She-Devil”, “Defending Your Life”, and the most hilarious of them all, “Death Becomes Her”. A challenge that she conquered brilliantly, indeed. Who can forget her maniacal expression when her face turned backwards in “Death”? Her sarcasm in “She-Devil” brought down Roseanne’s wits, and she easily matched Albert Brook’s style in “Defending”. Thus, the status of a great living actress is not too much, for she has proved her skill both in dramatic and comic roles equally wonderful.

Now, a film featuring the two actresses baring their souls to the core, when they have to show their range of acting skills, in a comedic film, what can we expect?

As simple as: class-act performances!

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In Prime, Uma and Meryl bring out their aforementioned comic skills to their scenes together that prove to be nail-biting and riveting. Look out for them having to chew the uncomfortable awkwardness after finding out that as a shrink (Meryl) and her patient (Uma), now they find themselves as supposedly nemesis to each other after the patient dates the shrink’s son (Bryan Greenberg). Worse, eventually the couple falls in love despite their age difference, not to mention having an overprotective mother who insists on the same-religion marriage.

Thankfully, the awaited solution proves to be satisfying, and I have a good suspicion on how the director and the writer, Ben Younger, can go away easily with this. But no matter what it is, the jovial mood he has on making the film is apparent enough, and such a wise decision indeed to have many scenes featuring Uma being goofy and Meryl turning mad filling up the screen together, sparking good and loud laughter.

After all, it is not everyday we get a mother talk about her son’s penis to his date.

 
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Posted by on 11/25/2005 in English, Film

 

Chicken Little

Oh. My. God.

So we all know that Chicken Little is Disney’s latest bait to test the water on what will happen after Pixar leaves them for good after “Cars” is released next year. A sad move, but such a move is necessary, and you will know why after you finish reading this piece.

Assuming that you watch this film during the holiday season, when you will take your kids or nieces or nephews or basically any people under the age of 12, I plea to you all to pick any other films to watch, because you don’t want to see your kids getting harmed by the film. Why? Because, oh God, do you all really want to know why?

Here’s a spoiler.

The film will be listed in my annual top films of the year as …

THE GAY-EST FILM OF THE YEAR!

Everything in this film screams “Gay” out loud in pride! Do you want some proof?

Let’s start by the commonly perceived Disney’s convention in omitting the mother-character in almost every single (animated) film released by the studio. You’ve got Bambi’s mother killed within the first 40-minute of, well, “Bambi”; and whoever knows about Ariel’s mother? Then of course, Belle has no parents, and Nemo’s mother dies when he is still being an infant. I was convinced that Disney finally getting sober when “The Incredibles” was out, for finally Disney managed to break the boundaries … which sadly, did not last that long.

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Moving on, having your son imitating Chicken Little singing “I am the Champion” (a narcissist version of “We are the Champion”) under a spotlight made from a torchlight put on his bed will cause him being vain and God only knows what sort of effect will be derived by having the late Freddie Mercury as an idol.

And soon enough, Runt the Litter will be cemented and clamored as a gay icon, thanks to his “Streisand collection” (and his persistence to keep it), sadistically singing Spice Girls’ song during karaoke session, and talk about being a good buddy to a girl in distress over her not being popular and less self-confident about her look? This speaks loud.

Not that I don’t have a good laugh throughout the film, but I could not help pitying Disney over its waning magic in providing the audience with narrative storytelling that compels us to our seat and looking at the big screen with awe. The story that revolves son-father relationship has been told too many times, which could work differently if it is presented in a different angle. Yet, the plain manner certainly did not help elevating the film to be a distinctively feel-good flick, especially knowing that a similar theme has previously been explored in depth in “Finding Nemo”, released in only 2 years ago.

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Patching the plot holes with mindless pop tunes certainly would not do any good to the film, even worse, making the film becoming the most uninspiring Disney film in years, scoring-wise. Notice how recently Disney’s film seldom made to the Original Score nomination in Academy Awards? That’s another issue altogether, yet I can’t help thinking so after seeing the mess of the film in its musicality.

This concerns me most, especially for parents/uncles/aunts out there, if you happen to see your kids/nieces/nephews belting out pop tunes instead of show tunes, wouldn’t you worry that the girls’ will be popstar-wannabe and the boys’ will be non-culturally polished gays?

Whatever it is, my final say goes to Pixar: Run for your life, the (Disney’s) sky is falling!

 
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Posted by on 11/23/2005 in English, Film

 

Kiki’s Delivery Service

I remember when I was a kid, I made sure that I got up early in the morning on Sundays, so as not to miss my favorite cartoon series. From Unyil, to Dash Yonkuro, to everlasting Doraemon, and the short-lived Asari-Chan, although this came out on Saturdays during the time when I had just started studying here.
Somehow there was this inexplicable nature of seeing a cartoon on Sunday morning, it could be the feeling of a holiday that results in a jolly feeling during and after watching the cartoons, knowing that my 1-2 hour sitting in front of a television was not a waste, and I found myself recharged with energy to do any activities afterwards.

I could not be more glad to revisit the worth taking experience again earlier this morning, when I decided to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service, one of Hayao Miyazaki’s stellar works that made him a living legend.

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Such a praise never seems overrated though, for Miyazaki has been known for his heartfelt storyline without being weepy, and Kiki is no exception on this department. But if you look for otherworldly fantasy with larger-than-life characters, you are bound to disappoint.

This is what I was surprised at. Having been familiar with his works such as “Spirited Away” or “Princess Mononoke”, I expected some monsters to eat Kiki alive or turned her parents into pigs. Yet, Kiki’s greatest enemy, if only there’s any literally, is a group of crows who still act and behave like, appropriately, crows themselves. The only exception perhaps Jiji, her talking cat, but then, aren’t all the commonly-perceived witches equipped with one?

There you go, even without defying convention by twisting Kiki into some complicated or complex characterization, we still get hooked following the story of Kiki, a young witch who at the tender age of 13, must start living independently to sharpen her skill as a witch. The journey never fails to amaze us as Kiki, the witch, turns out to be an ordinary girl who starts getting a grip of her life while seeking for her truest identity.

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Feminists who complain how recent films seem to deter from portraying good female characters might find solace on the film, as such a rarity to find any films, be them animated or not, to have a strong character of woman carry the whole film throughout. It is definitely another Miyazaki’s element which has been persistently reserved in most of his works, and knowing that the film was made in 1989, anti-Hollywood film critics may quick to point out that the film is ahead of its time.

Children will love having Kiki as their sister or friend, or simply daydreaming to be one, to be able flying around with a broom and a talking animal as their faithful companion, thus starting to get the film’s merchandise, and thankfully, it was given a lesser treatment in business-minded Disney, despite handling the film’s international distribution.

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For me, I simply have a good time watching Kiki’s journey to be able to know what she wants to do with her life, how to live on her own terms, and be responsible for it. Too much? I don’t complain on having my Sunday ruined, right?! 😉

 
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Posted by on 11/20/2005 in English, Film

 

Love and Death

Watching any Woody Allen’s films set in anywhere but New York, a city filled with its sophisticatedly advanced and highly educated people according to him, is always interesting, in particular to his early works pre-Annie Hall. The much younger Woody Allen had already known by then to where he should be headed with his wits and penchants for twisted philosophical views, and satisfying audience based on box-office takings certainly has never been his main priority.

An auteur, they say. The directors who insist on translating their visions to the big screen as concise as possible, thus high risks are nothing new on their menu. They may face constant downhill or uphill, and this should not bother them, for they will keep on making films despite critics’ wariness, for these madly creative conductors hang on to their beliefs that when they die, both existing and newly found fans will dig up their works, all of them, calling their less-successful works as “underrated”, “hidden gem”, “underappreciated”, etc.

Perhaps then, Woody Allen is one of the few remaining auteurs still alive and kicking his creative gears in producing films every one or two years. So much anticipation is reserved for his upcoming “Match Point”, an oasis of his recent string flops, yet his failures are things I find them hard to decipher, especially after seeing his earlier works, including Love and Death.

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You don’t have to wait until the end credit rolls to find the film as ‘a Woody Allen film’. His admiration towards Ingmar Bergman is obvious enough on the presence of Death, a direct in-joke of the same character in the higher maestro’s classic “The Seventh Seal”, the split faces of Diane Keaton and the actress playing Ivan’s wife, and to those who nose on trivia, the mention of “The Magic Flute” as the greatest opera Mozart ever made during a pre-opera show scene also works double as it can be referred to other Bergman’s earlier work.

More importantly, what constitutes as a Woody Allen film is the director’s wits, a result of years doing stand-up comedy. Intelligent without being pretentious, Allen’s jokes are often punching you hard in minds, and the film’s laugh-out-loud-by-minute proves his excellence in delivering not just a comedy, but a mind-blowing film filled with originality in turning history to a hilarious result unthinkable at the time. Of course, you may think twice on being a pacifist during war season then.

Woody Allen’s deft comic timing is equaled by his muse of 1970s, Diane Keaton, who started developing her own comical sense, and she carries her deadpanned role easily, and watching her devilishly naïve in doing her wrongdoings gives the film a sense of pleasure to watch. After all, it is unlikely to find any other actresses can easily utter philosophical quotes in such a zany act to remain thoughtful.

And being one of great directors who has been widely known to bring out the best from his actors certainly will only cement the towering Woody Allen’s legendary reputation.

 
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Posted by on 11/18/2005 in English, Film