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Monthly Archives: January 2006

Fearless.

Strange how I feel scared in giving my piece of comments about the film, as opposed to its title.

And the more I feel my fear, the stranger it becomes since I grew up with gong-fu genre. Back in 1980s when Beta videocassettes ruled the world the way DVD does now, I was exposed to the world of martial arts films, thanks to my parents’ weekly visit to a video rental store nearby. Thus, I heartily understand that beneath a simple plot which usually revolves around revenges and preserving dignity of the main characters, lies words of wisdom flowing towards the end of the films. In addition, I am also aware that for male-centred stories, the ladies have to step aside to become backdrops of the films, but for female-centred stories, the guys will always be the sidekicks, or the villains.

The rules are what makes Fearless is a sacred film to look up to.

First, the film does not try to pay tribute or homage to the genre, nor it tries to enhance with overused CGI-ladden visual effects that work well with confusing Hero and not with plot-less The Promise.
Fearless gives indeed what an old time gong-fu flick had: a simple storyline that requires your brain to rest and to blink once in a while to alert yourself on your whereabout, and open your eyes widely for action sequences exquisitely choreographed by the master himself, Woo-ping Yuen.

Second, the inescapable notion that the film would be Jet Li’s last martial arts film affects our judgment, and as much as we laugh over predictable sequences, be them during action scenes or those very few dialogue ones, there seems to be a bound to respect his effort to be back to the root that brings him fame and fortune to the global world of film.

Fearless

Thus, it is only right then to applaud the filmmakers involved to choose a story which leaves no potential sequels behind to avoid any further cliche that would only bring down Li’s hard-earned reputation as a martial arts actor who ages well like a fine wine. Take a look at his multi-layered facial expressions in some dramatic scenes, a great departure from what he initially came up with more than two decades back.

I tip my hat off, take a bow, and salute Jet Li, leaving my fear behind and closing the chapter of his terrifying Hollywood years with what he knows best, a martial arts film. Period.

 
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Posted by on 01/30/2006 in English, Film

 

(have i been) back for good (?)

i guess now it’s time
for me to give up
i feel it’s time

i guess every move taken in this dearly life, it will eventually reveal its own dualism, something to reflect how desperately i’ve been fighting against one supposedly-dismissed thing prior to put my feet upfront: denial.

i guess every turn taken in pedestrian walks under the cloudy skies will get you thinking, why is it that you have to reduce your expectations gradually, leaving almost to nothing but hopeless particles of dust, centering in your skin, leaving pores here and there?

i guess every one who has lived long enough at his comfort zone will understand the meaning of on-hold sacrifice, never been fully released to its fullest extent, still holding on to it whenever possible.

whatever i say,
whatever i did,
i didn’t mean it,
i just want you back for good.

wherever i will go, i may roam.
wherever i will stay, i should venture.
wherever i will take this tiny feet to, i must make my presence felt.
and that’s good.

 
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Posted by on 01/27/2006 in English, Personal

 

Garasi

Let the music speak for itself.

But this is a film, right?

We are very much tickled with the above two statements upon watching the film which tries to revive a rock-film genre. As music is strongly linked to this kind of genre, Garasi does what it knows best: pulsating rhythms that make filmgoers tap in their feet despite the sorrowful lyrics or the gothic-look of the band’s members, the score that works within the same note of the soundtrack, altogether potentially gives a way for spawning merchandises, in particular, a rocking soundtrack album.

Set aside the music, what else do we have?

Sadly, not much.

Garasi

What draws me to the film prior to watching it is the premise of the film that tries to balance the narrative structure of storytelling with the rock genre as mentioned early on. What I have seen later is the imbalance of the two, leaving each one standing on its own, and not supporting one another. Thus, we will see the highly-energized scenes of the band’s performances do initiate our heads to bang and nod, but once they stop, we are retreated back to the literally dark scenes which will take our eyes for a while to get used to. Patiently waiting for the next few minutes, we will see Prima Rusdi excels in writing dramatic scenes and their twists, particularly the climatic revelation between the band’s singer and her mother (in addition to the slip-in of criticism towards gossipy news which is subtly done very well). And Prima knows not to dwell on this kind of scene for too long to create a good impact to the entire film, leaving the path back to the rock scenes to quench the thirst of the film’s intended audience, i.e. teens or youngsters with high aspiration in music.

There goes how the film will appeal, and for those who prefer to scratch their heads over its simplistic story line, let the comical scenes entertain you instead, for the film knows what it aims best, that is, to rock, the hard way.

 
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Posted by on 01/24/2006 in English, Film

 

The Constant Gardener

Keep telling yourself that this is a love story.

And to have a love story that could span into some other multi-layered stories enriched with complicated subtexts is what makes the film applaudable, and certainly what has put Fernando Meirelles as a director with an edge.

Recalling the quick-cut scene-changes style of City of God, Meirelles once again establishes himself as a director with a penchant for non-conventional narrative storytelling. Audience is forced to sit through the entire 120 minutes of the film to arrange the puzzle, despite some lengthy scenes, yet quickly redeemed with pulsating scores from Alberto Iglesias, and breathtaking looks of Africa as captured by Cesar Charlone, the cinematographer.

The puzzle itself may contain numerous characters whom at times seem to be merely passing by to enjoy their limited fame, although the same cannot be said of Bill Nighy, Danny Huston and Pete Postlethwaite who light up the screen with their dignified turns that make their scenes compelling to watch. Especially the latter, with the least screen time among the three, yet audience will root for more, only to get some salvation towards the end of the film.

The Constant Gardener

However, as the puzzling story is centred at the unconditional love story between the film’s two leads, so is the ensemble which would only work should there present the two leading actors, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. Fiennes succesfully channels his transformation from a tight-up diplomat to be a tormented husband who listens to his gut feelings to save his love. Although the transformation here is far from the physical ones as what he previously did in Sunshine or Spider, the subtleness is felt throughout his entire presence.
While Weisz never gets a chance of character-transformation as her partner does, she radiates the screen with her fearless persona that bowl over every single character in the film. In short, without further spoiler of this write-up, the tagline stating “Love. At Any Cost” does indeed reflect and revolve around Weisz’s character, almost entirely. This surely explains why at times, the film seems to be on her shoulder.

And to carry the task effortlessly, Weisz has earned her own spotlight amidst the crowd surrounding her life with The Constant Gardener.

Once again, a love story never fails to prevail.

 
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Posted by on 01/24/2006 in English, Film

 

Revolver

Why do I find it hard to come up with any reviews on this film?

I came to the theatre with, I can’t help it, a high expectation on this film, knowing that it comes from the guy who blew my mind with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and made me believe Brad Pitt (once) did deliver a performance worth of praises in Snatch, although God only knows why he made Swept Away. Forget about the latter, Revolver is his latest vehicle supposedly showing his going back to the root of the former two films mentioned, a genre he seems to be at his utmost ease with: gangster.

Alas, his gangster films are filled with his penchant towards philosophical wisdoms, which serve well with British humor, and this film is no exception. From the time we see the extreme close-up shots of clues written in a white card for Mr. Green (Jason Statham) to the dialogues revealing the messed-up mind of his opponent, Macha (Ray Liotta at his most enjoyable performance), some intelligent audience will find the film a pleasant entertainment to pass two hours by, yet on the other hand, the average audience may find the dialogues tedious, and the only thing to keep them glued to the seat is the action scenes, generously scattered throughout.

Revolver

Yet, those who are familiar with Ritchie’s works know very well that violent action scenes are not his cup of tea. He will take you through the motifs of every single action slowly, feeding us with visually descriptive scenes to make us belief that behind every character’s gesture lies complicated thoughts that drive them.

Now, does it succeed?

It is up to you to measure the performance of A-list cast which includes the aforementioned Statham, Liotta, Vincent Pastore, Francesca Annis, yet the one who keeps us intrigued with his constantly focused act is none other than André Benjamin, also known as André 3000 of OutKast. He slips through every single scene he’s in with a charming presence that leaves us wanting more. The same feeling I had when I watched P.Diddy in Monster’s Ball.

At the end, my expectation may not be fully met, but seeing a director believing in his own style by not trying hard to redefine the genre he’s familiar with, is more than a relief to me.

 
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Posted by on 01/20/2006 in English, Film

 

The 63rd Golden Globes Awards – Post-Show Reaction

Seriously, the show kept me glued to my seat as it had a few surprises at the beginning, yet as other critics’ choices have gone so far, what followed towards the end seemed to be repetitions of familiar picks.

Yet, what turned out to be the delights of the night came from TV categories. Who would’ve thought that Geena Davis could be capable of doing ad-libs, and did it very well? Who would’ve guessed that Sandra Oh finally deserves recognition she’s been long to receive? And again, any show with the presence of Desperate Housewives’s stars would always be glamorous. Add Eric McCormack, the result is even more hilarious.

On to my comments now!

Best Picture (Drama): BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Comment:
It highly deserves so.

Best Picture (Comedy or Musical): WALK THE LINE
Comment:
See above. Biopic is always a tough dan likeable subject.

Best Director: ANG LEE (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN)
Comment:
He can’t hardly wait for the coveted Oscar soon. And a nice tribute to anyone celebrating Chinese New Year soon!

Best Actor (Drama): PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (CAPOTE)
Comment:
I told ya, he’s been overdue.

Best Actress (Drama): FELICITY HUFFMAN (TRANSAMERICA)
Comment:
At least she should get one out of two.

Best Actor (Comedy/Musical): JOAQUIN PHOENIX (WALK THE LINE)
Comment:
Everyone’s darling, and …

Best Actress (Comedy/Musical): REESE WITHERSPOON (WALK THE LINE)
Comment:
… so is she.

Best Supporting Actor
: GEORGE CLOONEY (SYRIANA)
Comment:
The very first surprise of the night, right when the ceremony just started. I figured out that since it was not possible for win in the other two categories he was nominated in (Best Picture and Best Director), and in addition to the weak listing of Supporting Actor category, Clooney charms voters easily, especially when they recognize he had to put extra 30 pound for his role! Oh, how Hollywood loves sacrifice.

Best Supporting Actress: RACHEL WEISZ (THE CONSTANT GARDENER)
Comment:
What did she do with her hair? To look unrecognized?
What has been unrecognized is her consistently good performances in every single film she’s made so far. Frankly, I couldn’t come up with any predictions why Weisz could come on top, but her winning will guarantee her an Oscar nod, and now it’s a matter of eliminating stiff competitions from Maria Bello and Gong Li to proceed further.

Best Screenplay: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Comment:
A surprise over everyone’s choices on more serious theme in Crash or Good Night, and Good Luck., but a beautifully heart-rending story like Brokeback deserves a royal treatment.

Best Original Score: JOHN WILLIAMS (MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA)
Comment:
See? Having two giants in cello and violin never hurt a chance to win.

Best Original Song: A LOVE THAT WILL NEVER GROW OLD (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN)
Comment:
See? A beautiful and tender song, indeed.

Best Foreign Language Film: PARADISE NOW (Palestine)
Comment:
See? No Man’s Land and Osama won in this category before, can’t you see the pattern?

There you go, the first glam show of the year. If there’s anyone to thank, I’d like to thank one particular smart cameraman who keeps framing Anne Hathaway despite her merely being seated next to Ang Lee. What a choice for such a luminuous beauty!

Oh, and thank you Anthony Hopkins. A short speech indeed for such an award, yet it doesn’t reduce your majestic presence in the film industry throughout.
(What I’ve been meaning to say is that you succeed in not doing what Barbra Streisand did when she accepted the same award a few years back. A 24-minute speech!)

Goodbye, and good luck.

... i win for Comedy/Musical?!

 
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Posted by on 01/17/2006 in English, Film

 

9 Naga

Imagine you are in a foreign country, being there for the first time, and you decide to hop on a bus, taking a trip that lasts for 105 minutes from one point in the West to the other end in the East.

When you jump aboard, you will see unfamiliar faces revealing their characters, yet you can’t trust your instinct to believe in face value, but you’d rather wait for them telling their stories which may transport you to disbelief, as the stories will actually reveal their multi-layered characters. Of course, part of the stories will bore you to death, especially if they decide to give the explosive parts within the first half an hour, while you still have more than one hour to reach your destination.
How do you fill the gap hole?
One option will tell you to enjoy the scenery, something you might need to keep you well informed about that new city you are in. Otherwise, you can (pretend to) nod in whatever agreement those people telling you, and slowly sink yourself to doze off, right until you see that the terminal of your last stop is within the horizon.

There goes how you should watch 9 Naga.

9 Naga

The unsteady pace in telling the stories might be exactly what you experience when a car you’re in hits a bumpy road, after a brisk pace, you are forced to take a few gears back, and slowly build up the speed again, right before hitting another bumpy ones.

In this case, we are given a blowing promise within the first 30 minutes when Rudi Soedjarwo decides to lift the story up, pumping our adrenaline with some gritty scenes done exquisitely well, without either being banal or vulgar.
After all, this is the theme where Soedjarwo finds himself familiar with, having directed Mengejar Matahari which shares a similar brotherhood theme, and even Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? that puts a strong emphasize on sisterhood.

Yet, what follows afterwards is one big hole with overtly long, unnecessary scenes that seem to be filled in order to make the duration lasts longer than 90 minutes, something that Soedjarwo should be able to avoid. A conspiracy theory might predict that Soedjarwo tries hard to compromise the highly macho-theme with a touch of feminine side with a few light-hearted scenes, although the effect tends to prolong the film circling to nowhere.

Thankfully, the balance is more than enough to make the film as one of the rare films to bare the multi-faceted layers of its male characters. This is the field where Soedjarwo excels best, and he never shies away from exploring their emotional outbursts to a good extent. We get to see a tough man with a gentle heart and being responsible towards his family in his own way, whereas the other get to provide us with enlightening comic efffect, much needed in a film with such a ‘heavy’ theme like this.

No matter how heavy it is, your trip has ended, and when you look back, you realize that it shouldn’t take that long to reach your destination. But you are still grateful for the people you meet along the way.

Isn’t it a worth taking trip after all?!

 
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Posted by on 01/16/2006 in English, Film