Sunday, October 31, 2004

Blogger's been screwing up more and more often. Pages don't load, and entries are repeated.
I don't know where the sunbeams end
and the starlight begins
it's all a mystery
and I don't know how a man
decides what's right for his own life --
it's all a mystery
And life goes on.

Friday, October 29, 2004

I thought Maggie Cheung was very good in Clean. Acting in three different languages is no mean feat, and on top of that it was a very unusual role for her compared to what she's been cast before. A former drug junkie trying to pick up the pieces of her life after prison and attempting to build bridges with her estranged son.

(Perfect for the Yellow Ribbon Project. That is, if the authorities can stomach a film that references 80's punk rock culture, shows a legal system that lets drugtakers off relatively lightly, illustrates alternative lifestyles with humanity, and manages to convey feelings without sinking into melodrama.)

Possibly the most interesting thing about 5x2 (Cinq Fois Deux) is probably the reverse chronological order. Francois Ozon's latest starts with a divorce and ends with the first meeting of the two protagonists. Suddenly every gesture, word and incident takes on additional weight.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I have no doubt that corporations can and will screw the public if they can get away with it, although I suppose many people will disagree with me. This is not to say that I don't like free markets -- I'm very much in favour of letting market forces determine the allocation of most goods. The problem is that real life hardly functions as smoothly as simplified textbook models (Those are only aids to illustrate a principle. Only aids!). Market failure happens too often and this is where things get interesting.

Anyway, I tend to be be left-leaning when it comes to intellectual property rights. Having written on the 1998 U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and discovering for myself how industry concerns essentially dominated policymaking debates on copyright and digital media, I found a sympathetic voice in Tan Min-Liang's commentary on the IP provisions of the much-lauded (well, in The Straits Times anyway) U.S. - Singapore Free Trade Agreement signed last year.

Already I'm seeing versions of the DMCA being replicated in the proposed amendments to our copyright laws -- in particular the controversial law that makes communicating a means of infringing illegal, not just the act of infringement. And if anyone thinks Tan's claim that the IP regulations were meant to favour U.S. companies is exaggerated, think again.

Monday, October 25, 2004


Ah well.
(You didn't recognise Puff. And I know a cafe that only plays The Beatles, albeit from before they started drugs. Am I too late?)

Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff, oh

Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.
Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

Together they would travel on boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came
Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name, oh


A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys
Painted wings and giants' rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave
So, Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave, oh


Sunday, October 24, 2004

A very brief listing, because this format and my words are best suited for this:

UNIFEM Singapore and The Substation organised a charity screening of Lilja 4-Ever on Friday evening. The food was good and the movie was depressing. It hits hard, but in an extremely predictable way that strays a little too close to cheesiness. (Thank you for the ticket Shirley!)

Wild Rice's Visit of the Tai Tai on Saturday was impressive in all aspects.

Luna-id's staging of The Physicists was also excellent, but I felt it was paced too quickly for the gravity of the script to sink in. The set design was especially clever -- halfway through the fake walls of the first set are literally pushed down to create a new set for the changed circumstances of the second and third acts. After the play, we hung out at Cafe Iguana for a bit, partaking of their cheap(er) alcohol.

Good memories. Good memories!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Just then, he heard Yao Surong singing. Yao Surong cried while she sang. When she performed in public, some people paid to hear her sing, but others paid to see her cry. This was an irrational place and many people did irrational things. So, shedding tears became a kind of performance and everybody said she sang well.

-- Liu Yi Chang, Intersection (Dui Dao)
Before we could all sink our teeth into yesterday's SFS offering The Story of the Weeping Camel, there was the small matter of the SFS Annual General Meeting. Kenneth -- SFS President, sci-fi aficionado, die-cast toy collector -- gave an explanation of the budget and expenses. Then he nominated a list of committee members for the 2004/05 year. No-one objected, and voila! Welcome to the new Committee, which isn't very different from the old Committee at all.

To an outsider, this process probably isn't "democratic". However no-one doubts the experience and expertise of the existing members and the fruits of their efforts are very much visible and tangible. Why mess with a winning formula? Moreover, they are all volunteers. Sure, they get free movie tickets and priority invites to events that the SFS co-organises, but for working adults the time committment involved is significant. After all, time outside the office suddenly takes on additional value that wasn't there before becoming a cubicle slave. To spend so much of that time on film (which is a distinctly individual, intangible, even unproductive-in-a-material-sense experience) implies a love for the art enough to dispel any doubts as to the sincerity of the Committee Members.

Now, governance of a city or country bears very little relation to running a film appreciation society built on the backs of volunteers and member contributions. It stands to reason then, that the methods of electing national leaders should not be the same.

But I've digressed. This was initially supposed to be a post about the admiration I have for the SFS Commmittee Members. During the AGM Kenneth reminisced about some of the Committee members, providing us glimpses into the lengths they have gone to for love of film. I want to be able to lose myself in something like those people seem to have, but I don't know why I never could and still can't.

btw, The Story of the Weeping Camel is straightforward and unpretentious. Very interesting in that it provides an intimate glimpse into the life of a Mongolian family in the Gobi Desert.
I'm an uncle twice over now. Isabelle Lim was born today at 10.33 am. :D

Monday, October 18, 2004

Surely some of you out there must remember Transformers. An evil, corrupt version of Optimus Prime -- paragon of all that is good and holy as far as giant shape-changing robots are concerned -- is deliciously profane, somehow.
 Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Am fairly annoyed after being told that I wasn't entitled to the 10% discount that Singapore Film Society members get when they buy DVDs at Commercial Press bookstores here. I showed the counter staff my gaudy SFS membership card and the pair consulted another saleswoman but to no avail.

I'm going to pursue the discount anyway because I want to find out where the miscommunication took place. Even if it means that I have to summon the manager every time I want to get the discount there, at least I will know.

The moral of the story? Paying for your items 3 minutes before closing time is a pathetic excuse for: A) not asking to see the manager or B) refusing to purchase the item. The hurried sales staff and the frazzled people behind you in the queue with their sleepy and irritable kids? They can all f*cking wait.

I'm too nice for my own good.
I've waited ages to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. 1930s comic book shenanigans with film noir sensibilities and Frank Capra-esque dialogue that Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow infuse with a palpable chemistry. Stunning CGI used not simply for special effects and scenery but also to fully evoke a dreamlike, flim noir environment. Blurry, soft lighting; black, white and grey with hints of colour. In all, great fun.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Ignore the synopses about the "futuristic setting" etc etc, because 2046 really picks up right where Wong Kar Wai's sensuous and evocative In The Mood For Love left off. Chow Mo-wan (reprised by Tony Leung) is still trying to come to grips with his relationship with Su Li-zhen. Emotionally bereft, his personal and professional lives get stuck in a rut. Chow ends up writing smutty pulp fiction and newspaper articles in between constant womanising and carousing.

The film centres on his relationships with a few of these women in his life -- a clear invitation to compare and contrast these relationships with each other (and of course, with the ones in ITMFL and DOBW) -- and on the story he writes, the eponymously-titled "2046" which is a thinly-veiled allegory of Chow's own emotional stagnation.

Most of 2046's weakness derives from the huge emotional and narrative debts it owes to Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love. If you have not seen DOBW, you could probably still get by. But if you have not seen ITMFL, 2046 will probably make little sense and resonate even less. For instance, the sections with Lulu (played by Carina Lau) and Su Li-zhen (played by Gong Li) are too brief to make any real impression on the audience unless you've already seen DOBW and ITMFL. Carina Lau does well, but it's Gong Li who somehow exudes grace and dignity far beyond the confines of her brief role. In fact I feel she overshadows even Tony Leung, who gives an excellent performance here.

Most the screen time is devoted to the relationships Chow has with between Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) and Jingwen (Faye Wong). Zhang pulls off her role well, but it's not very much different from the impetuous, wild child roles she's played in almost all of her previous movies. The woman is in serious danger of being typecast. Faye Wong spends most her time looking cute with those heartbreakingly large eyes -- especially when she's playing an android in Chow's novel. To be fair, she doesn't get a lot of character development. Kimura Takuya who plays Jingwen's lover and Chow's persona in the novel Chow writes, gets even less.

The best parts of the film are the narrative structure and the visuals. 2046 jumps between past and present (and Chow's imagined future), mimicking how people recollect memories. This isn't confusing however, so long as you're paying attention. With cinematography and costuming by the same folks who brought us ITMFL, Wong recreates his sensuous, almost decadent 1960s once again and populates with a host of frustrated, alienated individuals. However, 2046 lacks the emotional resonance and intimacy that ITML, or even DOBW, has.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Scowling wilfully towards Autobot City, you're Megatron!

Look in a mirror and feel the evil. Then eat the mirror. You eat mirrors for breakfast. You are a badass death robot. You busted on Optimus Prime. You. Are. Megatron. Go outside and burn some animals, because you're worth it.

Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

Monday, October 11, 2004

Found a random note today, abandoned at the bus stop, before our army of cleaning staff or the October rains could get to it. Am sending the note to FOUND Magazine. I don't harbour any hopes that it'll actually be published. Even if it were published I'd never see that issue; not from the other side of the planet.

I'm sending the note anyway, because I can.
Derrida is dead. Long live Derrida!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

There is no doubt that Innocence is visually stunning, but it lacks the philosophical depth and thematic consistency that helped make its 1995 cinematic predecessor Ghost in the Shell a cult classic.

Fascinating visual touches abound -- kanji everywhere, cars styled as if from the 1950s. An eclectic mix of modern Japanese, Chinese and European influences pervades the work. However, there is no sense of these images having any greater significance within the context of the narrative. The boisterous parade scene in particular, with its riot of colour and mish-mash of Chinese and Japanese images, seems more of a parody rather than a homage to its subdued and meaningful cousin in Ghost in the Shell.

Also expected of Oshii Mamoru, this film is packed with textual references and quotes. However, he goes overboard with these in Innocence. The constant quoting and referencing alienate the audience instead of enhancing a mood or provoking further reflection, and the constant exposition doesn't help.

As a stepping stone for further exploration of burning philosophical issues like what it means to be human, Innocence is an excellent start, as the Midnight Eye review implies. In terms of narrative and structure however, it's not as coherent or engaging as the first. Still worth catching though, for the sheer beauty and fluidity of the animation.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Managed to hunt down (with help from hifiguy!) cheaper copies of the US hardcover edition of the last book in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Won't need to shell out $50 for The System of the World at Borders after all!

A combination of hunger, a fit of nostalgia, and the fact that there really isn't a good variety of snacks for sale anywhere in the immediate vicinity of Buona Vista MRT all resulted in my buying a pack of Yan Yan. I open it, and on the inside of the cover there's a printed message saying I've won... another free pack of Yan Yan. The odd thing is that there was no sign of a promotion anywhere in the shop. Even the shopkeepers didn't know and had to call up the distributor for confirmation. Talk about random luck.

Toy technology and design has improved by leaps and bounds from when I bought my last Transformer (from the pathetic Action Masters line) and there are some interesting sculpts and figures out there, like the Beast Machines version of Blackarachnia.

In the last couple of years Hasbro executives have gotten smarter too -- they seem to have discovered the monetary benefits of issuing repainted versions of older toys. Let's take our lady Transformer Blackarachnia as an example. There are three versions of that specific figure. The first is from the Beast Machines toy line. The second is from the later Universe toy line. The third is also from the Universe line, but packaged together with another Transformer (also a repaint) as a K Mart exclusive, and renamed Crystal Widow.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Those bootleg VCDs I inadvertently bought have quality akin to that of a movie recording made surreptitiously in a dark cinema hall using a handheld camera. But Last Exile, the anime series produced to commemorate GONZO's 10th anniversary last year still looks beautiful. Watching the version I now have, is like looking at an Old Master painting through layers of grime and dust. Just imagining what the (official) DVD version looks like invokes admiration and awe.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

For pi-girl: Only music can save the baby camel.

For everyone: this year's French Film Festival. And will Maggie Cheung be coming to Singapore? Please please please.
More on Imelda:

The editing is deft and Ramona Diaz has the knack for choosing choice bits of stock footage to flesh out the life and times of Imelda Marcos. This never becomes a personal quest for Diaz however (unlike the work of a certain overweight white American filmmaker with huge political axes to grind).

Imelda Romauldez Marcos is given plenty of opportunities to exonerate or damn herself in candid testimonies. If her Ptolemaic rationalisations -- her theories of "beauty" and "order" complete with enneagram-like symbols, her insistence that there has never been any human rights abuses in the Philippines, her explaining away the fact that she and Ferdinand Marcos had separate bedrooms -- collapse under their own implausibility, this is hardly the director's fault.

Imelda Marcos's own self-perception is a combination of a messianic complex, monarchical tendencies and beauty pageant glamour all propped up by a stunning, even child-like, lack of self-awareness. The extent to which her vilification is justified however, is up to the audience to decide.

Diaz also presents her rise to power as a product of Filipino society even as Imelda condoned the abuses and tyranny of her husband's regime (as well as perpetrating a few herself it seems). Imelda, ironically enough, remains popular among the Filipino poor despite her blemished past and the fact that in concrete terms she has not really done much for them at all. The audience is invited to draw their own conclusions about how polities view their politicians, in addition to pondering Imelda's life beyond the confines of that infamous shoe collection.
I'm not a fan of horror movies and I never liked gross-out comedies, so the offerings at last evening's SFS core screening (One Missed Call (even if it is by Miike Takashi) and Sex is Zero) didn't appeal to me. I had to run errands downtown though, so I figured I might as well watch something I've been wanting to catch anyway.

Imelda is an excellent documentary (and not in the Michael Moore sense) about a much misunderstood political figure and her times. I was not disappointed at all.

(To whet your appetites, here's an Indiewire interview with the director, Ramona Diaz.)

Hey, The Necessary Stage is restaging godeatgod. After The Visit of the Tai Tai and The Physicists though, I don't think I'll be going to plays for a while.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Heavens. I'm more blur than a sotong in an inkpot.

Sepet is, of course, enjoying a general release run even as I type this. Excuse me while I kick myself.
Malay girl looks for Wong Kar Wai movie at pirated VCD stall. Meets Chinese boy who runs said stall. They fall in love.

Yes, yes, I know I missed Sepet. What I want to know is: will there be a commercial release?

Watched at Japanese Film Fest this year:
It's Tough Being a Man (Otoko wa tsurai yo!)
Osaka Story (Osaka Monogatari)

Monday, October 04, 2004

You have to see her dance! She was so wrapped up in it with all her heart and soul, her whole body a harmony, so without care, so spontaneous, as if that were really all, as if she were not thinking, feeling, anything else; and in that moment everything else surely vanished for her.

--- Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

Sunday, October 03, 2004

South of the Border, West of the Sun is my least favorite Murakami Haruki work. I found it a little too straightforward -- unsubtle even. Driven more by angst and less by imagination and mood.

It seemed that way to me when I read it a few years ago, and upon rereading it I understand more of what Murakami was trying to convey but it's still my least favorite.
"Sometimes when I look at you, I feel like I'm gazing at a distant star," I said. "It's dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago. Maybe the star doesn't even exist anymore. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything."