Over the last weekend right up till Monday morning I was involved in a 16mm short film production, my boss, having been the DOP of the shoot, have had me taking up the post of 1st camera assistant. Although I was rarely, if ever behind the viewfinder I must still say it has been an enriching experience learning the ins and outs of a film production, where my job scope was a multitude of varied tasks including prepping the SteadiCam for my boss, checking zoom and focus distance, as well as the dolly operator ( well, the guy that pulls the trolley lah ). Man I tell you that is tough. You have to be sure to keep a constant speed at all times to achieve a smooth dolly, something which the very experienced bunch of gaffers and grips have told me, requires a considerable amount of “feeling”. Just pushing a goddamned trolley right, what’s so hard ? My foot. I make it a point to be more appreciative of all the steadiCam and dolly shots in future films that I watch.

Watch out for the screening of the short film on Arts Central soon.

Nov 20th 2003
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Watching 2 ultra violent films back to back was not the easiest way to spend a peaceful, idyllic Sunday, but they were films that I had already planned to watch beforehand. Descriptive words like “empty”, “void” and physical, frenzied parodying of the “human blood fountains” were attributed to the movie Kill Bill by one of my friends. ( whose taste in film happens to be slightly different from mine ), However, he remained solemn and relatively quiet after the Japanese film Brother, whose stark and realistic portrayal of bloodied gunfights and Yakuza honour, as well as pathos ending the night with an air of eerie stillness. Violence can see so many different forms.

Oct 20th 2003
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First day of work, Wizards of Light. Its a photography studio covering commercial photo work, running the gamut from product to fashion shoots. Today the term desk bound job ceases meaning for me ( yes, I still have a desk, albeit spending less than five minutes at it for the entire day ), with 2 fashion shoots packed back to back, in between buying Milo “bing” and Marlboro Menthol Light for my lead photographer and the clients, I must say its quite a change for a job.

Not that I’m complaining though, learned quite a few things today, tons more to pickup, but we’ll see if this photographic passion of mine will stand the test of time.

Oct 15th 2003
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Watching Len Wiseman’s UnderWorld, then Yoji Yamada’s Twilight Samurai in one evening was a jarring, cinematic dichotomic trip. These are the last 2 films that anyone should be comparing by virtue of their vastly different, intrinsic genres but it was interesting to note.

1) UnderWorld is Len Wiseman’s directorial debut, uninspiring start; Twilight Samurai auteur filmmaker Yoji Yamada’s no 77th ( I’m not sure if I’ve even watched 77 Japanese films hitherto ) film, a masterful piece.

2) Where the latter was a film graced by its use of quiet, cinematic sublety ( in a scene where a simple holding of hands was sufficent to create an intense carthasis and emotional emancipation ), the former is sucked void of any, ( a supposed romantic kiss exchanged between the 2 protaganists had about the same blandness if one were swallowing chalk. )

In this respect as least, less is certainly more. Glad I watched it in the right order, or it would’ve been a bad evening all the way.

Oct 5th 2003
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Korean director Kim Ji-Wun’s beautifully shot horror film A Tale of 2 Sisters is a compelling, albeit somewhat confusing tale of a dysfunctional family dealing with the return of 2 sisters upon recovering from a rare and unknown illness. The presence of any supernatural forces is quickly played down here, rather employing more implicit methods of intimidation that are by far the more scary and effective.

Whilst we seldom associate beauty with horror, the latter preferring subjects of grotesqueness and fear as bedfellas, A Tale of 2 Sisters succeeds in the cinematic marriage of the 2 with its elegantly staged camera work; often indulging in long, aptly paced shots of the largely vacant household interior as it takes relish in plunging the viewer headlong into the suffocating reek of the morbid tension, until the silence finally claws and screams for a release. The informed colour palette adds further strength to the mood and visual style with saturation jacked up to almost superfluous levels; blacks in the film are graded so intense they threaten to suck you into an endless, horrifying void, whilst the reds and ochre so vivid you can almost lean forward and smell the coppery reek of blood. At the end, the images will leave you fairly disturbed, but its intrinsic beauty will beckon for your attention more.

Certainly one of the more classy and calculated horror flicks I’ve watched of late, once again vindicating Korea as a filmmaking powerhouse.

Aug 26th 2003

The Medallion Sucks.

I haven’t seen such hogwash in a long long time. Now there was this HK movie couple years back starring Leon Lai called Bullets of Love that came close, but The Medallion sets a whole new record for traumatic cinematic experience.

This is so bad, its not funny.

Aug 21st 2003
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“Marriage is a Crazy Thing” is one interesting movie. There’s just something indescribably honest and introspective about Korean arthouse films ( notable are 2 other films, “One Fine Spring Day” and “Take Care of my Cat” ) that I am unable to describe lucidly with my limited vocabulary and lexicon but which I shall dub as the “korean aesthetic” for easier referencing in the future. Only this time, it takes on a more adult theme with some fairly explicit love scenes, but that hardly gets in the way of good storytelling.

Here’s an illuminating review : http://www.koreanfilm.org/kfilm02.html#marriage

and ditto : http://www.asiandb.com/browse/movie_detail.pfm?code=5293&mode=review&num=475

Go watch it before its gone.

Jul 27th 2003
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As much as I enjoyed Ang Lee’s treatment of the story and the movie itself, let’s leave the debate on the merit of the show and talk just about Mr Green himself.

ILM’s rendition of the Hulk has been nothing short of breathtaking. ( One writer in a local newspaper passed him off as been “rubbery”, and I’ve since dispatched David Banner’s mutant mouse after her, god bless. ) For the uninitiated, computer graphics are terribly afraid of a few things : close ups ( and we’re talking full, cinema resolution ), water/wet skin, green or not, and notably, bright scenes with lots of sunshine and daylight, because its excruciatingly hard to blend CG and make it believable in such conditions. But here, the Hulk is just flaunting it, plain. In the scene where he bursts out of the containment chamber, water spewing and hands raised in rage, I might as well have believed that he was a living, breathing Hulk. Let’s not even get started on the desert scenes.

Realism aside, my favourite scene has to be the electrifying shot of father and son, rocketing through the sky, their silhouettes etched onto passing clouds like giant impressionist paintings, coupled nicely with Elfman’s dramatic score.

Jun 22nd 2003
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I’m not entirely sure how the makers of the Japanese horror film Ju-on decided on the peerless tagline “The scariest movie ever made”; painfully it is anything but. Gimmicky publicity notwithstanding, no one still has the foggiest idea why folks are willing to spend good money to get spooked, myself a guilty party, albeit a terrible choice this time.

The premise and plot of the entire story, juxtaposed on a nonlinear timeline, escapes me completely so let’s just move on to the scare-o-meter. Woefully, this one barely registers a single hit, resorting so blantantly to cinematic devices already seen in more original films like Ringu and Dark Water, bordering on absolute banality and triteness. Developed photos getting wracked, ghastly figures peering into lifts, did I mention something wierd on TV ? In one particular memorable scene where the protaganist of the moment gets hunted down by her 3 dead friends, I was quite convinced that the filmmakers were on to a parody from Night of the Living Dead or the more recent Resident Evil, whichever one better.

“The scariest movie ever made ?” NOT ! Mr Nakata please, we’re still waiting anxiously.

Jun 16th 2003
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Pixar has outdone themselves once again with Finding Nemo, an animation feature so rich with overwhelming tapestries of colour and vibrancy its hard to appreciate with only one viewing, and where the words “computer generated imagery or CGI” seem to lose coherence with what the eyes actually see on screen. As animators ourselves, me and my friends have expressed both awe and disbelief at the level of complexity and depth of the character animation, which is only achievable by a marriage of immaculate animation techniques and self acting on the part of the animator to immerse himself/herself into the role. And of course, we were more than happy to see David Tart’s name ( http://www.tartamation.com/tartamation/ ) as the credits rolled, an animator from Pixar that taught us for 3 days during a short program back in school. Yes, Pixar ok, don’t play play.

Jun 1st 2003
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With my last film Dolls by Takeshi Kitano showing this coming Saturday, the film festival have once again come to and end for another year. Having caught 9 films altogether ( the biggest number since my first film fest ), many of which were packed on consecutive evenings, I must say its has been quite a chore ( I dozed off in the early part of Russian Ark ). As much as I enjoy watching movies, I don’t believe in movie marathons for I feel to fully appreciate and “digest” the gist of the films you need to cater time for recovery from all the visuals and ideas still swirling inside your head, arty film festival movies more so.

On a sidenote, I’ve become increasing annoyed and resentful of a few individuals who dwell within the Singapore International film festival forum, criticizing any and every directors’ ( including Royston Tan’s 15, which won a FIPRESCI award ) work as been weak, undeserving, sucky, and whatever detracting word they can find. Its amusing how they could spend all their time in the forum writing lengthy reviews discrediting works when they’ve never so much as written a single line of script or shot a single take of film. What even made them think they are in a position to judge a piece of film work ? To quote Al Pacino in the movie Insomnia, where he was chastising an inept superior who never took part in any real action : “You, and all the assholes like you, risk nothing, spend the whole day sucking the marrow out of real cops when you just don’t have the balls to be one yourself. ”

Its at least comforting to realize that the filmmakers themselves are probably too wrapped up in some future work that they never have time to visit any of these forums filled with self consumed film critics.

May 1st 2003
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Director Choi Ho’s modern romance, Who Are U ?, tries to capture the essence of the N (Network) generation, Korea’s young people who grew up with e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones, and the Internet in one of the most wired nations of the world. The film centers on an Internet game called “Who Are You” a sort of ultimate dating game where players pick partners and interact in a simulation of the real world. As far as romance movies go, the plot is nothing new. The role of new technology in the realm of dating is a subject that was explored in 1995’s The Contact, with actor Han Seok-Gyu and actress Jeon Do-Yeon, and again in the 1998 Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks film “You’ve Got Mail”. Who Are You? is simply the latest version, a technological update of this genre.

However, as a snapshot of today’s youth, this film is highly relevant and asks some hard questions. In one scene, Hyung-tae outlines the Seoul skyline with his fingers and says that from that angle, it looks like a scene from a game, an interesting commentary on the increasingly blurred line between the real world and virtual reality.

Although the film’s ending was not really to my liking, finding it lacking in a certain satisfying, emotional impact, I was nonetheless enamoured by the overall youthful and energetic feel of the story, something perhaps lacking in an essentially stolid and mundane real working world, not to mention the wonderful and romantic possibilities existing only within the walls of a deftly crafted film world. For that 100 minutes as I sat in the theatre, I wish I was living it.

Apr 5th 2003
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