Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Winners

Here's the list of winners.
It's, for lack of a better word, all too predictable, so much so that I can't even be bothered to have an opinion about it.
What is far more interesting is the future. As the business goes online and the audience begins to interact with films rather than being passive observers, will the whole idea of the auteur finally implode? If today's indies compete with industry heavies, tomorrow's director wannabes deal with a fickle consumer crowd and if TV is any indication, democracy will cater to the lower denominator.
Hmm, maybe that is too bleak, but look at it this way: when sound came, silent films soon became extinct. In the same way, when a new business model, a new distribution network emerge, some types of films will simply be harder to make. Unlike, novels, music or art (except large installation pieces and such) which require very little resources and hence are mostly a result of individual effort, films are massive collaborative business deals. The idea of the auteur is a myth. The idea that you can make any film where your vision takes you is probably not realistic. That is why money men matter so much in movies.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Real Bauby Story

Sometimes they say art transcends truth which reminds me that I must read Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolano in which he explores how "literature is an unnervingly protean, amoral force with uncanny powers of self-invention, self-justification and self-mythification."
Here's the back story of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. Basically, it comes down to this: the film does not reflect the truth. It's beautiful but untrue. Does it necessarily detract from the work? I think to say no would be lying.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


It's not exactly, you know, epic! But how can one hate Juno, it's like hating Friends: makes everyone think you're mean. Although, the impression I get from the film is Wes Anderson making a light-hearted sitcom. Juno's father reminds me of Wilson from Home Improvement, Tim Allen's neighbour who we never see, who gives such penetrating, cheesy advice. It's just inevitable that I have to compare it to a sitcom because of the non-stop one-liners. There's no situation you can't handle by making a wisecrack.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rvw: Persepolis

Persepolis (PG, 95 minutes)
One of the surprise nominees for this year's Best Animated Film is the adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels, Persepolis. This French animation, done mostly in black and white, is the coming-of-age story of a young girl in Iran who is sent to Europe to escape the rising wave of Islamic fundamentalism that swallows the country. However, she returns home to Iran after being unable to fit in, but she still remains a stranger in Tehran. It's a deftly told story, with many charming and powerful moments, such as Satrapi's devotion to rock music that lands her into trouble with the authorities. The version screened here is dubbed in English, and the American-accented English is occasionally jarring. Nonetheless, it's still a powerful film that's an extraordinary piece of work. Rating: A

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just For Oscar

How wonderful that they finally made up. Now, we can get back to schmoozing and partying. Meanwhile, have we grown any wiser? Beyond the hype and the hate, is there any meaning to all the hoopla? I think the answer to that is that it's all about the hoopla. Always has been, always will be.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

NUS Arts Festival 2008

The NUS Arts Festival has already started, but screenings go on until 22 Mar. Click here for the program.
There are several Israeli, Spanish, Finnish and Dutch films showing. There's also the rest of the festival.

No Country For Old Men

I really like this gripping gritty film in the bleached scrubby open country of West Texas based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy. Seldom do you see a film that does not succumb to the need to assuage our sense of uneasiness with a pre-determined moral universe. Here, the implacable and inexplicable evil is Anton Chigurh played by Javier Bardem, who descends upon his victims like the scourge, meting out death impassively and randomly. It is one of those rare films which disrupts our sense of an ordered universe and forces unto us an elemental anxiety. Ah those wonderful Coen brothers.
The other Oscar contender which is also being shown on GV screens is the apocalyptic There Will Be Blood. I only managed to catch the trailer, but compared to the austere brooding desolateness of No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, reminds me of those old Hollywood trailers promising adventure, romance, war... basically a colossal over-the-top drama that has something for everyone. Well, maybe it's just advertising, so I'll have to see.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

CJ7 wins CNY three-way battle

Stephen Chow's CJ7 took away the gold over CNY, raking in US$2 million during the long weekend. Jack Neo isn't too sad, however, as there was plenty of money to go around as Ah Long Pte Ltd took in about S$1.47 million, despite mostly scathing reviews. Even Jay Chou didn't fare too shabbily, as his Kung Fu Dunk took in just a little less than Ah Long did with S$1.4 million. Seems like Singaporeans definitely liked to spend their Lunar New Year in the theaters.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


What should you make of a film called Diary of the Dead, which follows Night of The Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead? If the director was George Romero who reinvented the zombie, you pay attention. It would certainly be a relief from the tired cannibalizations of old horror titles into what George Romero calls 'torture porn films' or the army of wronged restless Asian females determined to crawl out of dark crevices with bad hair.
"They are lacking metaphor," George Romero says. Ooh metaphor, wasn't that popular in 1994 in a film called Il Postino? I still remember my English Literature teacher talking about it. It's like suddenly people realize what she's been doing her whole life.
Well, looks like the most critically acclaimed film to open this week is Juno. The trailer is somewhat tweeny, at least to me: it's gritty because the girl's pregnant and got problems, except she's all Hannah Montana about it. Harsher critics call it a stealth anti-abortion film. Hmm, it opens on Valentine's Day...

Where're our film critics?

NUS Assoc Prof Dr Kenneth Paul Tan has a new book on Singapore cinema (well, and TV too) out in mid-Mar 2008:

By Kenneth Paul Tan

Series: Social Sciences in Asia, 16
ISBN-13: 978 90 04 16643 1
ISSN: 1567-2794

Through close readings of contemporary made-in-Singapore films (by Jack Neo, Eric Khoo, and Royston Tan) and television programs (Singapore Idol, sitcoms, and dramas), this book explores the possibilities and limitations of resistance within an advanced
capitalist-industrial society whose authoritarian government skillfully negotiates the risks and opportunities of balancing its on-going nation-building project and its "global city" aspirations. This book adopts a framework inspired by Antonio Gramsci that identifies ideological struggles in art and popular culture, but maintains the importance of Herbert Marcuse's one-dimensional society analysis as theoretical limits to recognize the power of authoritarian capitalism to subsume works of art and popular culture even as they attempt consciously — even at times successfully — to negate and oppose dominant hegemonic formations.

I'm all for more academic writing about film, but it's clear that the films here are props for what's really a social science work.

So where's the writing that analyses the films in and of themselves, or with respect to other films? Is the odd article on Criticine enough?

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Despite being critically acclaimed (as many films are nowadays) and bagging several awards, notably two Golden Globes, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly has failed to attract local audiences who are too distracted by a cute Chinese alien and a slam-dunking pop star. It does not help that the film is being shown in the remote regions of Vivo Europa, psychologically remote of course.
It is an emotionally resonant film, based on the memoirs of Jean-Dominique Bauby who after suffering a stroke, was completely paralyzed less one eye. It is visually gorgeous too, albeit a conventional sort of beauty. I guess, that's my only problem with it: it's uplifting but predictable, almost like a feel-good Hollywood movie. Wait a minute, it's nominated for four Oscars...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Movies opening January 31st

Big opener this week is Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, which is rated M18. The non-mainstream fare includes Away from Her and the film adaptation of The Kite Runner, which has run into plenty of controversy. It all sets the stage for the Lunar new year showdown between CJ7, Kung Fu Dunk and Ah Long Pte Ltd, which all open next Wednesday. Our money is on Stephen Chow to be the big winner, though Kung Fu Dunk is probably likely to get a nice chunk of box-office as well.