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Monthly Archives: June 2006

Sacred Heart.

Ferzan Ozpetek. The sole name and the mere factor that drew me to watching Sacred Heart, and leaving any expectation or pre-conceived opinion behind.

Well, I was wrong. I couldn’t resist occupying myself with certain hope that Ozpetek will once again embrace gay-themed stories as he did superbly with Facing Windows and Hamam, the former being one of my favorites. Yet, as I patiently waited for a little under two hours and after Barbara Bobulova took her clothes off in a public train station, I knew that I was in for something else.

This time, Ozpetek removes his usual clout: women having trouble accepting the presence of gay characters in their lives. Instead, he crafts a character inside Bobulova who has to walk through an unbalanced bridge of being a good Samaritan and a corporate leader at the top of her game. Irene (played by Bobulova) is best considered as an example of many of us who often question our lives instead of being in contentment with whatever things we already posses. Thus, as briefly glimpsed above about her full-frontal nudity in a public place, our heroine reaches the peak of her emotional troubles by having a larger-than-life outburst. Again, a deviation from the director’s staple of leading ladies who’d rather oppress their conflicted minds, and making the films intriguing to watch.

Wait. By saying that, does it mean the film in spotlight here not as intriguing as the others?

Intriguing, maybe. After all, the theme of doing unconditional good deeds to others while walking a fine line of living a fabulous life is always interesting to watch. Yet, if Ozpetek’s others are still enjoyable to watch despite their heavy-weight drama, this time Ozpetek fails to create the same interest in his audience, particularly the writer here. By the time Irene does her wandering, we hardly care about her motivation, because Ozpetek presents her, or rather, clothing her with only an outer mantle that somehow discourage us to get further peek inside her skin. As such, Bobulova’s terrifying act reminds me of what Christian Bale did in The Machinist: suffering-for-art not supported with a convincing work of art, i.e. good films.

Thus, a token of remembrance in this film would likely to come from the nudity scene of Irene, which by now might be gone off to become overmentioned. But apart from that, there’s nothing much to tell. The same theme worked more effectively in a comedy like Mr. Deeds Goes To Washington apparently.

 
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Posted by on 06/30/2006 in English, Film

 

Paradise Now.

Upon walking out of the cinema right after the credit ended, I couldn’t help wondering to myself, what caused that hyped controversy and commotion surrounding Paradise Now. Is it the heart-rending storytelling of a suicide bomber, or the lip-lock scene inside the car between one of the bombers and a girl?

I may not be exposed that much to the current upstream in Middle East country, but I couldn’t help getting myself jolted looking at a few good seconds of the kissing scene, with the backdrop of a chaotic country in the middle of war. Of course, to justify a little bit, the girl is a modern girl recently returned to Palestine after completing some studies. In what seemingly a stereotype-yet-still-valid depiction of someone from a developing country going home after spending some time in a more modern and established land, the girl is also shown wearing pants and tight shirt, instead of burkha like her fellow citizen.

The same modern-sentimental point-of-view as reflected in the above paragraph was unconsciously reflecting in my understanding towards the film. Not only applied to the kissing scene, which by now has irked me most as it actually is a very disposable scene, but also the understanding towards the story about the final hours of two suicide bombers. Storytelling wise, it couldn’t be more gripping with some hilarious scenes peppered evenly throughout the film. In particular, the scene where a suicide bomber is making a heartfelt goodbye speech to his mother before he goes on a duty, only to find that his speech is not recorded yet because the camera operator forgets to load the camera with a film.

Yes, folks. Sensing a deviation of talking about the heavy-weight theme of the story, and focusing to the light-scenes-that-matter-most is what I’ve always been aiming at. Again, I’m not in any fair position to discuss the suicide bombing, as I believe that it’d be best left to any political analyst around. What I’d like to believe most is the ability of the film to crack me up in a wide smile once in a while, soon to be replaced with gripping scenes of cat-and-mouse game between the bombers and terrorist groups marching ferociously in the film, and that’s more than enough to keep me glued to my seat.

That concludes that Paradise Now has given me a sheer joy of pure cinematic entertainment.

 
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Posted by on 06/29/2006 in English, Film

 

Superman Returns.

Like any thing we have to make in our lifetime, there’s no formula for success. There’s no pattern to guide us how to make an achievement of, aptly put, being successful. However, one thing that stands out above the rest is the passion.

The passion to treat the subject with a great tender, like carrying your own baby, and develop it well, so that he has a character evolution that also transforms the people around him. They will have their own distinctive characters that make them appear full of flesh, and we are keenly awaiting their appearance every time.

The passion to believe that what you want to achieve is a success, in every aspect, in every target market. While it often deemed almost impossible to bridge a critical and commercial success, remember that miracle does happen. You know you’re taking care of a big name, but remember, by now the big name has grown. You’ll only need to grow it a little higher.

The passion to have a little faith on faces you’ve doubts of pulling the charactes through, yet, once they get a deft direction, they will work wonderfully. That even applies to the villains.

The passion that the legacy lives on.

The passion is what makes Superman Returns.

And he will.

 
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Posted by on 06/28/2006 in English, Film

 

let’s derive.

What drives you most?

What excites you?

What leads you?

What thrills you?

What have you done to achieve those?

What?

Nothing?

Or a little something?

What if you fail?

What if you succeed?

What if you finally quit?

What if you decide to march on?

What happened?

Who knows?

Where else can you go to make your passion your profession, at last? At the very last?

But, what if you realize that you are best left out being appreciators rather than the main players in that field of your interest?

What if you realize that if you don’t have the cut there?
The persistence?
The resistance?

What if your admiration has to stand quite afar from the spotlight?

What if you’ve been right all along?

What if your sacrifice fails to bloom?

Mark that word. Sacrifice.

 
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Posted by on 06/27/2006 in English

 

The Dorm.

There are many good things to talk about The Dorm. Apart from the hardly arguable fact that they make the film compelling to watch, they lead to one obvious matter: the film stays away from the horror genre, and plunges to a terrifyingly good dramatic works.

Gone are the mindless, often numbing, creature-filled horror Thai films, which actually revive the film industry in the country to be one of the most sought after in the world. Yet, the director Songyos Sugmakanan, who was also on the board with My Girl a few years back, chooses to follow the path of his fellow comrades whose penchant over crafting a masterful storytelling win over predictable shocking values often way too much to see on any horror films.

Instead, Sugmakanan cleverly presents the film more as a father-and-son story, a theme often reliable to provoke thoughtful minds, like The Return. Indeed, it is interesting how the overall plot is triggered from a coming-of-age endurance the main character has to go through while he is facing obstacles from somewhat a full-of-misunderstanding communication between him and his father. And once we are settled in this dramatic territory, we will forge the temptation to get silly scared over the creepy background, which in many surprising ways, never overwhelms the film’s tender, touching story.

Alas, if we think that Thai film industry is at the brink of overexposed tiresome, perhaps this film in spotlight is a rejuvenating, and outstanding, work the industry should be proud of.

 
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Posted by on 06/26/2006 in English, Film

 

makin’ whoopee

Let’s just say we make love.
Once, twice, thrice a day.
Even more, even less.

But do they mean anything to you?
The stroke of whoever fingers on the back
The sweet tender words whispered through our necks
The gentle tap on whoever shoulder

Let’s just say I have enough of that
Yet I yearn for more
Let’s just pretend we never endure deeper than that
Yet we constantly, religiously, and tremenduously embark on it all the time

Maybe you never get to experience our sensuous sessions
You go for quickies, I go for embraces

But today
I think I tickled your senses.

PS: what would it be if I kissed you back at that time? Will it be a greater love than ours? Will it be an eternal regret?

 
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Posted by on 06/25/2006 in English

 

Cut Sleeve Boys

Beauty pageant. Colorful furs and wigs. Steroid bodies. Hunky studs. Fashion equips.

Just every common stereotype labelled to the campiness of gay life is mentioned, we’ve got to see all of them in Cut Sleeve Boys, the title itself refers to a slang, sort of, used to describe gay Asian male in UK. Whereas the premise of cultural clash of East vs. West has been brought up to the big screen through a hardship look (Yasmin), or a bone-tickling manner (East is East, Bend it Like Beckham), here the first-time director Ray Yeung chooses to focus instead on the ‘fabulous’ side of gay, leaving the cultural distinction of the characters being both Asian and gays at the door.

Which means, while the film does an almost knock-out premise, it never takes itself seriously. The film opens with the story of Gavin, a closet gay working menial jobs, who encounters death while involving in a slightly unfavorable sexual intercourse with a stranger. From this point on, the story begins, and we are required to determine ourselves how the death makes an impact to Gavin’s two best friends, Mel and Ash. Their lives as two Asian gays revolve around the listed words right below the title above, and more. Yet, they remain within the jovial side of the chosen life, while the enduring part of their cultural lives remains a yearning for us wanting for more.

As such, who can’t resist watching a maniacal ego man is having a silly catfight with a beauty-pageant-obsessed balding guy? Yet, while its fun lasts for a good an hour and a half, one can’t help looking beyond the horizon as often inserted in a few scenes of the main characters making out with their Caucasian partners: that above every campy life, there’s substance to make everything becomes contentment.

 
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Posted by on 06/24/2006 in English, Film

 

What’s A Marriage To You?

from a conversation with two women in their mid-20’s who soon are going to attend another friend’s lavish wedding, and all of them happen to be my dear darling friends, it is decided that:

a marriage is a state of mind.

regardless your age, your mind-blowing independence, your financial security, or your maniacal family intrusion, you’ll never be able to force a marriage into you, unless your mind says “i do.”

wholeheartedly.

peer pressure? now that’s something.

what’s your take?

 
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Posted by on 06/21/2006 in English, Personal

 

Lentera Merah.

Any afficionados of Asian horror films, particularly from Thailand, will quick to notice that Lentera Merah feels like a second-rate material from the factory. Thus, when Hanung Bramantyo, the director, tries to make the film to be in par with other films from that particular genre grouping, the result is somewhat confusing.

Why so? While it wishes to reach the maturity of thrilling horror, influence of Indonesian-style horror films, as seen on the penultimate scene, bogs down the intention carefully crafted from the beginning of the film. The premise of the film, which revolves around the publication of a campus magazine aiming to reveal nothing but the truth, is intriguing enough, as seldom we see horror and political-themed story match into one. Yet, this plot is twisted into another creature-filled horror films, and instead of beguiling audience with thoughtful lines, the film quickly chooses deus-ex-machina solution, by resoluting the problems through religious intervention.

If that sounds familiar, because it has been used way too many times. While Bramantyo clearly has reduced its presence, yet it has become pivotal enough in the whole structure of the storyline. It might be interesting to see how Bramantyo polishes his future thrilling horror films, if he will make any, because what we get on the film, at least, shows an interesting start.

 
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Posted by on 06/20/2006 in English, Film

 

a few certain characters.

In writing a screenplay, a screenwriter is constantly told by his or her own consciousness to define characters on the written screenplay through their actions. How one behaves or reacts to situations surrounding them truly reflect their truest characters in real life.

Point taken.

Yet, knowing that bad screenplays come out more often than the good ones, what we often see on both big and small screens are passive (main) characters who do not create anything to happen in their lives. In screenplay-writing terms, this kind of unfortunate mishap is better known as “off-the-page”. The passive characters are the kinds that seem to stand or look still, and having their presence reduced to minimum throughout the storylines, usually we hardly relate to them, making it hard to create sensory connections, be it empathy or hatred.

Such a numb experience, leaving a devastating effect in a long run.

Why these passive characters exist? A simple and quick answer to this question would be to provide a counterbalance for the active ones, in order to achieve that stated ‘status’. By any means, the kind of mindless response is perfectly fine. However, if we are willing to dig deeper, we might be able to retrieve many more possibilites why they have to exist. Or rather, we might want to derive any possible causes why they exist on the first place.

Let’s see.

Passive characters wait for some things to happen. As stated above, they’d rather wait than create. They believe that they will cause things to happen around them through their minimum act of doings. Of course, the means to achieve whatever intentions they have might be some intangible tools we are hardly aware of. Mantra, prayers, these kind of things have greater chances to be perfectly abused of from their holy initial usage.’

If waiting is not vivid enough in depicting the characters, perhaps it is best to say as well that the passive creatures carry too much pride within themselves. So much so with this pride emblem applied inside their heads and minds, this elite club will remain elite eternally, because they will go to the distance in preserving the pride. Stooping low to get to the dirty core of life is strictly a no-no option, because pride, or often disguised with another word called ‘dignity’, is something too fragile to gamble.

In other words, that particular famous Jane Austen’s novel should be re-titled as Pride and Patience, and what we get to see is a novel resembling the line shown in a monitor next to a dead patient. Straight. Linear. Freakingly straight line with no dynamic movement.

Thus, no matter how we dress up these characters, they are bound not to create any spark within us to notice. They choose to hide themselves under the thick particle of dust, while looking at better things ahead from a faraway place, and binoculars are not a must option in this session.
And they will keep thinking:

“Maybe it’s better to stay this way. Maybe this is the good thing to come. Maybe, I have become way too comfortable in this.”

Maybe. But at the moment, my question to myself on being the kind of people I’ve uttered for the previous 500 words so far is:

“Have you been right all along, that some people are best left to be appreciators rather tan doers, because they’ll never be good in doing what passionate them most?”

I can’t face the answer.

 
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Posted by on 06/18/2006 in English, Personal

 

Stoned!

Who is Brian Jones?
He is one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones in 1962.
Okay, and what made him matter most?
He died at the age of 27, believed to be suffering from overdosed drug and alcohol consumption.
Okay.
Hold on a sec.
You said, ‘believed to be’?

And that’s how the film is intended to be, which also explains why Paddy Considine has a strong presence, despite not being the title role. Playing a supporting character which soon becoming a pivotal one as the story progresses, Considine shows a remarkable intensity that it is always pleasantly intriguing to see him chopping the scenes with his grit. The film relies heavily on him.

Does this mean Stoned fail to capture ‘the wild and wicked world of Brian Jones’, as the secondary title suggests? Stephen Woolley, the director who reportedly spent not less than a decade researching materials for the film, manages to lift the film above any other biopics with too much to tell and too much to show. However, the choice to trace down the remaining days of Jones, with not much activity to show in a big screen, leads the focus seemingly shifting to Considine’s character, leaving Leo Gregory, who gives an equal marvelous performance as Jones, does his acting to his own good.

As such, the film might be less wicked, yet what remains on a big screen is purely nostalgic for those living in the heyday of swinging ‘60s.

 
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Posted by on 06/18/2006 in English, Film

 

Transamerica.

After ‘turning ugly’ has become a major staple for any gorgeous Hollywood actress to impress critics with their acting skills and a sure bet to, at least, get a nod in Academy Awards, soon another trend will emerge: being a transvestite.

Thanks to prosthetic penis and Adam’s apple, these two latest invention in acting make-up will give a chance to any aspiring thespians out there to prove their ability to bring them in within themselves, and we’ll see how far they can go with those tools. But let me hold my reservation and doubt, whether any of them will up to the par set by Felicity Huffman in Transamerica.

Playing as Bree whose days of becoming a complete woman are marred with a life-changing road trip, Huffman is far cry from being a frantic housewife we see weekly on television. Instead, she not only lowers her voice to match a man’s tone, but she goes to letting her character’s ambiguity becomes her drive for every gesture she makes. From flinching when she tries to embrace her son, or fidgetting when a cowboy made a pass on her, these are the moments to show Huffman’s triumphant performance that will surely be remembered for years to come.

As such, deglamorized oneself is a matter of inner strength. That leads to a fine, exemplary performance.

 
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Posted by on 06/17/2006 in English, Film

 

Ekskul.

Excuse me.

The first ten minutes watching Ekskul, I began making this mental note: style-over-content. The stylized editing, the glorified violence, the overwhelming scores, the move has been used in many John Woo’s films, or Quentin’s, and the most recent film that sticks to my mind most is Running Scared by Wayne Kramer.
Call it MTV-style, this is the platform any young filmmakers these days find themselves at their utmost ease. They can show(-off) their apt skills in filmmaking, and that is as far as they go.
Story-telling wise, usually they tend to complicate otherwise simple narrative story, and again, we can see how far Pulp Fiction has influenced filmmakings for the past decade.

For all the influences, the film we observe here may still be trapped under those overwhelming look of a music video taken fresh from MTV. Yet, the same quality actually makes the film gripping enough for one to sit throughout the film, without at once flickering or despising, and this is despite some undeveloped characters, such as the annoying headmistress of the high-school where the story is built, or one particular girl who does not rise beyond glancing empathy look to the main character.

Excuse these few minor undamaging problems, then this film is a thriller for teens worth watching.

 
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Posted by on 06/16/2006 in English, Film