Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Warning To Blu-ray

There's a nice article at Silicon Alley Insider linking to a Content Agenda write-up about Blu-ray that tells it like it is. The first paragraph sets it up:

"Paul Sweeting at ContentAgenda argues that Blu-ray needs to stop pretending it's a revolutionary new format like DVD and start acting like what it is ... a minor quality improvement that consumers won't pay any more for."

Trawling through my archive, I found that I, myself, wrote this about Blu-ray. I basically said the same thing: that Blu-ray is a minor quality improvement that consumers won't pay any more for.

If I were to indulge in Blu-ray, then I would have to purchase a widescreen HD TV set. Sure, the prices of HD TVs are seeing a reduction now, but Blu-ray discs remain expensive at the moment, and logically will remain so for at least the next two years. There really is no incentive for a consumer like me to invest in both.

Sweeting correctly points out:
"What it is, is a fancy DVD player for those who want to get the most out of their HDTV sets."

Read the rest of his interesting write-up here.

Asian Films Everyday

Ladies and gentlemen, I announce the birth of The Storyboard Daily, the sister blog to this one. I hope to maintain a steady stream of the latest news on Asian films from blogs and other sources. The operative word here is "hope." But if not daily, then at least I will update it as regularly as I can.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Dark Night Of The Soul aka I Eat My Words

In the long, dark hours of the soul, ie. between 2.30am and 3.30am, I was trawling through my archive, and to my utter surprise, found this:

Strange, but I don't even remember writing it. This was back in December of last year, back when I was still very highly sceptical of The Dark Knight because of the ridiculous viral marketing that was going on. I had thought, if they need to plug it so much, then it can't be a good film. So I decided to make fun of it.

Now, I must eat my words!

Yes, I love The Dark Knight and think it's the best Hollywood film this year. I've just acquired the two-disc special edition DVD and was bowled over by it all over again two days ago. Now, looking back at those "questions," a few stand out like a sore thumb.
5. What's the big deal about The Joker anyway? Isn't Heath's just a carbon copy of Jack Nicholson's seminal performance?

Boy, could that be any further from the truth.
6. Doesn't the way The Joker stand in the middle of the street aiming a gun at Bats on wheels remind you of Tim Burton's version where The Joker stands in the middle of the street aiming a gun at Bats on wings?

OK, this one still stands. I suspect it's Christopher Nolan's homage to Tim Burton.
7. Doesn't Heath's "maniacal laugh" sound exactly the same as Nicholson's?

In some of the scenes, yes. But now, I think Heath's laugh is much more menacing.
8. Could they ever top Danny Elfman's wonderful score?

My God, they actually did. In that other entry below, I've already mentioned how the minimal and understated score of The Dark Knight is so effective, using sounds rather than an actual, full-blown score.

So, now I've come full circle. And I realised why The Dark Knight works so well and is a superb and appropriate follow-up to Batman Begins. It's because the story is bigger and more complex; the filmmakers smartly focused on getting a bigger story right, before any other considerations. Compare that to say, Spider-Man 2 or X-Men 2, where the main idea was to provide bigger special effects, bigger action sequences, which ultimately becomes boring. But The Dark Knight resonates and resonates for a long time.

Too bad the extras on the DVD, especially the making-of documentary, isn't quite as spiffy as the movie. There are tonnes of stuff about the special effects, gadgets, action sequences and stunts, and a whole lot more about IMAX. But where's the stuff about the acting, the story development, etc?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Have No Love For Hollywood But This Is Ridiculous

While I do find the occasional Hollywood film to love and rave about, I generally have no love especially for contemporary Hollywood. More and more bad films are coming out of it now than ever. But this, reported in the NST, is just sublimely stupid (a term I've come to appreciate more and more).

The Malaysian Film Producers Association has submitted a proposal to FINAS on how to help local films perform better at the cinemas. And one of the proposed move is:

to increase ticket prices of Hollywood movies to RM20.

Oh, yeah, that's a superbly smart move, if ever I'd seen one. Sure, if I can't afford a RM20 ticket, I'll go watch Cicakman instead. If the ticket to The Dark Knight is way too much for me, I'll definitely go watch Congkak instead.

A letter to the editor by a far more sensible reader of The Star today raised some pertinent but obvious points. Simply, the problem is not the ticket price.

It's a proven fact that those fighting a losing battle with no quick solution in sight often resort to blaming anything but themselves. If the Malaysian Film Producers Association would just get their thick heads out of the holes in the sand, they'd not be in denial that most local films are of piss-poor quality.

Says the letter writer:
"It’s time to get creative with the film-making and not get ridiculous with problem-solving. Raising the prices will only mean cinemas going bust. Pirated VCD/DVD pedlars will be throwing parties every day, and file-sharing programmes will become the most-used service in the country."

Raising the ticket price is not a solution when other cheaper alternatives for moviegoers, like Bittorrent, are available. The layman can see this, so why can't the "Malaysian Film Producers Association"? No wonder we make piss-poor films when our producers can't even understand simple economics and logic. Instead, we get delusional statements like this one from the association's president:
"... some of today's locally-made movies are on par with foreign movies in terms of quality."

Wow, really? Has he actually sat down and compared say, Antoo Fighter with Iron Man? With special effects that are almost 30 years behind Hollywood, sure, we're on par with others. With a massive handicap, that is.

He also goes on to cite Indonesia as an example of how the disparity between ticket prices has helped the industry there. I'm sorry to have to point this out to him, but Indonesia has the capability of making a simple but very enjoyable and imaginative movie like Janji Joni, which even I paid for a ticket to see in the cinema when it opened here.

Would I pay for a ticket to see Brainscan Topi Ajaib (or whatever crap it's called)? Nope, sorry.

An industry that wallows in denial and delusions of grandeur isn't going to go anywhere fast. I just hope some sensible heads in FINAS will prevail.

It's also not fair to put the blame solely on the industry itself. Those critics who blindly praise anything local are helping to perpetuate a culture of patting each other on the back. Honest, constructive criticism is the last line of defence against bad filmmaking, as are informed critiques and opinions. Too many self-appointed "critics" quoting Robert McKee and Syd Field are lending false hope to our filmmakers, who often do not believe in tough love.

But tough love is what is needed, as are sincerity and sensible minds. Too bad they're in such short supply.

Note: I predict that we'll soon hear a storm of protests from the cinema chains.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Is What 2008 Best

As you might already know, I don't do lists. Normally. And I don't believe in ratings. Everything is so grey in the arts that you can't really grade or rate anything, let alone accurately. So I do general rundowns and recaps without assigning an order or hierarchy to anything.

I was excited to see horror novelist Stephen King naming The Dark Knight as his no. 1 film of 2008. But upon second thought, it's actually a no-brainer in such a dismal year. So, a lot of folks would argue that it wasn't a bad year, but most of these folks also put WALL-E as their no. 1 film. Take, for example, Liza Schwarzbaum (of Entertainment Weekly)'s completely misfired comment about her no. 1 film, WALL-E:
"Years from now - yea, unto eternity - all who love movies will rank WALL•E among the medium's most profound, subtle, sophisticated, and gorgeously inventive specimens, ever."

Yet another sublimely stupid statement this year, ranking among the frothing praises afforded to the Watchmen trailer. "Sophisticated"? "Subtle"? "Profound"? Obviously Miss Schwarzbaum hasn't seen any Miyazaki.

I would readily admit that the first half of WALL-E is indeed a surprising new side of American animation. But beyond that, the movie is just another yakkety, run-of-the-mill chase cartoon. Whatever quiet dignity it displayed in the first half gets sucked completely into outer space. Here is a movie that's as utterly and insanely overrated as the local film, Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang.

Enough of what went wrong with other lists. The top of the line movies this year are few. I can mention all of them in one breath, in one sentence.

The Dark Knight, Sparrow, No Country For Old Men (it was released here this year).

If I had seen Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Tokyo Sonata and Miyazaki's Ponyo On A Cliff By The Sea, I'm very sure they would have easily slipped into that sentence.

Special mentions go to Speed Racer, Hancock and The Happening. I do realise that last one is going to get me flamed, but I have a lot of respect for M. Night Shyamalan's work, and I enjoyed that film more than, say, Iron Man, which is another overrated (but vastly more entertaining than WALL-E) movie.

The surprise discovery of this year, for me, was Charles Burnett's endlessly poetic Killer Of Sheep, which finally came out on DVD. And of the box sets I acquired this year, the best is probably the Casablanca Ultimate Collector's Edition, with The Last Emperor Criterion four-disc set coming a close second for its fascinating extras.

Of course, if I could afford the Happy Together 10th Anniversary Limited Edition box set, it would top everything else.

Well, that's it. I did say it was going to be short.

Note that I haven't had the chance to see Ip Man or Let The Right One In, both of which are strong contenders.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jingle Bells

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Up next is the Best Of 2008.

And it's a very short list, for obvious reasons!

Happy holidays.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Listening To Movies

I was flipping through the papers today and came across this article about movie soundtracks. I couldn't really finish reading it after the first paragraph, which really got the neuro-gears grinding overtime.

"Soundtracks in movies are a bit of a cheat, when you think about it. Like canned laughter in sitcoms, a sneaky way to tell us: right now you should be feeling scared, or happy, or sad. You would think that any story and acting that was good enough would not need that kind of help."

Well, that's not exactly accurate. If you factor in the Hollywood norm for providing scores and songs to movies, then yes, because the usual Hollywood method is very manipulative. Otherwise, the general rule is, a good score is stealthy, and you're not supposed to notice it at all. I guess it's different with songs, because those will always be in-your-face.

That's why scorers like John Williams and Howard Shore are like old relics. In contemporary times, these big, sweeping, orchestral scores by the likes of Williams and Shore are passe, more annoying than complementary to the movies to which they play, because they tend to overwhelm and drown out everything else.

An example of a good contemporary score would be The Dark Knight's, composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. The music is most times understated, leaving the job more to a rhythmic pulse than an all-out orchestral swell. It is sounds and beats interlaced with only necessary notes that become a part of the visuals, not just driving them. You see the music, not just hear it. The score literally becomes the pulse that drives the movie. Thank goodness there's none of that now-cliched choral outbreak. If there were, then it's still a good job because I certainly didn't notice it.

But having said all that, Williams' score for A.I. Artificial Intelligence is surprisingly understated, low-key and wistful. But you wish he'd do more of that.

When Films Confound Us

I was reading Kong Rithdee's write-up on Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes And A Century, here at Criticine, and was reminded of something I wrote a while ago. Mostly, it's this line from Rithdee that frustrated me:
"Maybe Apichatpong’s films are not meant to be explained, but felt. They enrich and wrap us whole in their smothering hugs not because they can be understood but perceived. We receive the images through the eyes and they go directly to the heart. Like great music, his films bypass our critical faculty ..."

I've long disagreed with this kind of views on films. Great music does not bypass our critical faculty. If a piece of music or a film truly makes you feel something, then you should be able to articulate why. It's only natural. If, as a critic, you cannot, then you've failed.

Here's the piece I wrote a while back, on another blog:

I was originally going to write, or attempt to write, a review of Mirror, but Andrei Tarkovsky's film proved to be a really hard piece to crack.

There I was on a Saturday night last week, having had supper, showered, and gotten all relaxed in my favourite armchair, I decided to pop this into the DVD player, excited at the prospect of seeing my very first Tarkovsky film. After all, my introduction to Bela Tarr has been no less than awesome, and Tarr is reportedly heavily influenced by Tarkovksy.

After about 30 minutes into the film, I had to switch it off.

I was dumbfounded, frustrated and a little bit incensed, the exact same feeling I got watching Fellini's
8 1/2.

This was probably one of the most self-indulgent crap I had ever witnessed. Where was the story, or at least where was my concern for what the filmmaker was trying to present? If it's autobiographical, why should I care about his mother, his childhood, his whatever? How does it all relate to me, that is, to the universal human condition? Nothing came across.

Mirror is widely held as Tarkovsky's great masterpiece, and even after reading some critiques of the film, I remain unconvinced of its perceived merits. Here's what was written in Senses Of Cinema:
"Tarkovsky made Mirror, a non-narrative, stream of consciousness autobiographical film-poem that blends scenes of childhood memory with newsreel footage and contemporary scenes examining the narrator's relationships with his mother, his ex-wife and his son. The oneiric intensity of the childhood scenes in particular is so hypnotic that questions of the film's alleged impenetrability dissolve under the impact of moment after moment of the most visually stunning, rhythmically captivating filmmaking imaginable."

Correction: questions of the film's impenetrability should NEVER be put aside under ANY circumstances. It is absolutely rubbish to say so. I want to know what the film's about. I don't want to be told that I should just "enjoy the visuals."

Here's the
Time Out blurb on the DVD sleeve that says essentially the same thing:
"See it, above all, for a series of images of such luminous beauty that they will make your heart burst."

There are just too many of these kind of cop-out "reviews" that basically avoids the real question of what a film is about, how it should connect with the audience's sensibilities, what it really offers in relation to universal truths. Mainly because, well, the reviewer or critic her or himself doesn't know!

Take, for example, another confounding film,
Tropical Malady, from Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film's already infamous disparate halves will forever cause confusion and uncertainty about what it all really means. Here's Dennis Lim of the Village Voice's take:
"(Weerasethakul's) films, at once rapt and dislocated, have the flavor of hallucinated documentary. They compel the viewer to look anew at the ordinary, to modulate their passive gaze into a patient, quizzical scrutiny."

That's not exactly explaining what
Tropical Malady conveys.

Here's more from the same critic:
"The film's mysteries are so cosmic that any attempt to ascribe allegory can seem puny."

So, basically what he's saying here is that
Tropical Malady is a failed effort, yet he wrote a glowing review of it. But Tropical Malady is not a failed film. Unlike my encounter with Mirror, I love Tropical Malady. It's one of the few films that truly enrapture me with their themes and ideas.

Tropical Malady is simply about the intensity and primal nature of love and humanity, and the blurring between man and beast. How presumptuous we are, to regard ourselves as beings of greater intelligence when nature is obviously bigger than all of us. We dress ourselves in all sorts of civilities, surround ourselves with a civilisation of our own making. But once primal feelings are unleashed, we are nothing but beasts. The film also explores a little about the nature and relevance of folklore and fantasy. The first half of the film is Man, the second half is Beast. Or is it the other way around?

That's only my take, but a take nonetheless.

For me, if a film gives you nothing to take away with you, however impressive its visuals or mood are, it is then about nothing important, and therefore is nothing in itself.

If only more critics have the courage to admit that whenever they come across films of such nature.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Big Deal

Anyone else feel a little disturbed by this?

No kiss shown, 'Histeria' leads to big letdown

Since its release last week, Histeria has been causing pretty much the wrong kind of buzz (but I suspect, the right kind for the producers) - the alleged lesbian kiss between two characters. Now, this kind of girl-on-girl lip-lock action is rather too passe for any controversy, but of course, in Malaysia where even male-female kisses are snipped from film and TV, it's gotten some people hot under the collar.

What got me a little suspicious about the whole thing is, as evident in the NST report above, the very last quote by a "source." Apparently the press were shown the print that had the kiss, but the public at large got the version where that kiss has been cut.

That "source" said the scene must have been "inadvertently cut" during mass printing in a Bangkok post-production house. In my experience, I've never encountered a case like this, where ONE print is made just for the press preview, while 46 (that's FORTY-SIX) other prints were made AFTER that for circulation in the cinemas. But to be fair, I was told that it is possible that some might make one print first for a preview to gauge the response before going further.

If Histeria was shot on film, it would seem impossible that additional prints made from the master could have "1 or 2 seconds" accidentally cut from them.

If it was shot on video, then transferred onto film, there is a possibility that whoever handled the film recorder could have screwed up a frame or two, but to have the exact moment of the kiss "accidentally cut" would have to be the rottenest of the most rotten luck in the world. And to have that happen 46 (that's FORTY-SIX) times, well, you must have done something really rotten in your past life to deserve such an exact bad karma.

Anyway, what I'm most disturbed by is that last quote:
"The print which was shown at the press preview is being shown in one cinema. We just don't know which at the moment," the source said.

Well, sorry but I'm the last person to try and seek out that "kiss print" by watching the movie in different cinemas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Flushed Away

Here's an example of film criticism/journalism gone down the drain. A review of Cicakman 2 that appeared in the NST:

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bullet Time: Who Did It First?

Let me start off by saying that this post came about because I found, to my surprise, the Matrix Revisited DVD, which has been out of print for some time now, at a local store recently.

When I first saw The Matrix, I wasn't really impressed. But over time, the movie grew on me, and having overcome my initial take that the film was more style than substance, I now accept it as a very entertaining and very clever movie that uses a lot of known ideas and technology of the time and packaged them all in a very appealing way. It's great eye candy, an exciting Cinema Of Spectacle that at least doesn't dumb down its audience. And best of all, it brought the great Master Yuen Wo-ping to international recognition.

Now, in the Matrix Revisited documentary, there's a very funny segment about "bullet time," a special effect that has been largely credited to the Wachowskis. At first, they were trying to figure out how to execute the bullet time scene, and initially thought they could strap cinematographer Bill Pope to a rocket. Of course, that fell through pretty quickly (!), and later everything else they thought up somehow involved the prospect of the camera blowing up.

But what gets me wondering is why the Wachowskis had to think that hard to come up with the innovation when it was already used in a music video from 1997, two years before The Matrix.

That video is Coolio's C U When U Get There, and you can watch it here, complete with two or three bullet time sequences.

Granted at the time of the music video, the bullet time didn't look as polished or smooth as in The Matrix, but the fact remains that someone had already done it two years before. I recall watching Coolio's video and wondering how they did the effect, going around people and objects in a frozen frame.

So, who did it first?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Malaysian Blockbusters Busting No Block

Watching Antoo Fighter was a painful task. It's a case of bad story, bad direction, hammy overacting, regressive CGI effects and unoriginal ideas. With this, it's easy to develop a rash when thinking of whether to fork out money for a ticket to Cicakman 2: Planet Hitam.

The first Cicakman was a terrible bore; for a superhero movie, there's little action and completely no sense of wonder. The background CGI left a lot to be desired. And most baffling was the decision to set it in an unknown futuristic city, which looked closer to New York (complete with yellow cabs! in winter!) than Cyberjaya. Why? Our cities not good enough? Our tropical weather not "cool" enough?

Taken together with Antoo Fighter, a couple of conclusions can be drawn about our local special-effects blockbusters. One, our SFX extravaganzas always involve bad CGI and hammy acting. Two, we're nowhere near competent with this type of blockbusters.

The simple rule is, if you can't do it, then don't. Trying on effects-laden films when your technology is not yet up to scratch is putting the cart before the horse. And it's so easy to forget that expensive CGI isn't all there is to making movies like these. The bottom line is, you still need a good story.

But what do we have? Cicakman bitten by a radioactive lizard? Spider-Man, anyone? A squad called Antoo Fighter battling a band of demons and monsters? Does The Monster Squad or Ghostbusters sound familiar?


Another recent "blockbuster," the supposedly kungfu actioner, Kinta, was previously hyped up so much that we'd expect no less than at least a decent martial arts flick. The initial artwork looked great, as did the trailers. And now comes the actual movie itself, but what a huge disappointment it is.

Not only is it laughable, it's also incoherent and with action that is exciting as a fly hitting the windscreen of a car.

No, actually, where's the action? Whatever few fight scenes it has are repeated in flashbacks, in their entirety. What's that for? Beats me.

Apart from the completely illogical plot, there's the bad dubbing and out-of-place music track. And then there's this story that appeared more than a week ago, where the director basically blames everyone else for the final result. If what he says is true, then everyone from the executive producer to foreign buyers are to be blamed for forcing him to compromise on his original vision of a grand historical epic, including, gulp, western audiences.

Granted what he says is in a very diplomatic tone, but still, it doesn't sound quite right for a director to be seen as basically putting the blame on others. A good director, if forced to compromise (admittedly it does happen all the time), would do his best to strike a balance that everyone would be happy with it.

But having seen the incomprehensible mess that is the film, no amount of explanations can help to justify or clarify matters. It's just simply a bad film. But credit must be given to the lead actors, who are all real-life martial arts exponents, who really gave it their best. Their passion and dedication are really the only good things about the film.

And also, a good journalist, once told that the film was shown in Cannes, would have asked which section of the festival it was, and if it was in competition or otherwise.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tim Burton's Bug Drink

I just recently got my hands on the brand new 20th anniversary edition of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice. Sadly, for such a seminal morbid comedy, this special edition only features three episodes of the animated series in its extras.

I can still remember like it was just yesterday, my schoolmates and I were so obsessed with the movie, we watched it on video practically every week, gathering on weekend evenings and having a good laugh together.

Our favourite part? "Nice fuckin' model!" That cracked us up every time, no matter how many times we watched it.

Why were we so obsessed with the movie? Because it's simply the most imaginative thing we'd ever seen at the time (and to a certain extent, it still is today). I mean, ghosts exorcising people? Who'd have thought of that? There's so much more no-holds-barred, crazy stuff, like that waiting room in the netherworld. Makes you wonder what's happened to Tim Burton these days.

This is morbid humour that could only have come from his mind. He once said that when he was young, he threw a pair of old clothes into the swimming pool and screamed to his neighbours that someone had fallen into the pool and disintegrated.

The new 20th anniversary DVD has a nice, crisp transfer. Some of the special effects, like the sandworms and sci-fi landscape outside the couple's home, may look a little dated, but they still are appropriate within the madhouse context of the movie. The stop-motion animation adds a certain quirky, low-budget cheesy charm to things.

My love for this movie hasn't waned even after 20 years.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Kind Of Shorts That's Not For Wearing

This past Monday, I reluctantly went to the Malaysian Shorts showcase, the regular event organised by Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia. Reluctantly, for various reasons that I shan't disclose here.

It's nothing to do with the showcase itself. No, I dig Malaysian Shorts. I've attended almost every single one in the past.

This time around, there was unfortunately, quite a morose factor still evident in some of the films. Long scenes of people smoking, people eating, and even a kid taking a shit - thrice! (Blame Flower In The Pocket for starting this trend)

I disagree with Hassan Muthalib (who took over MC duties from Amir Muhammad who shirked his responsibilities for some other unknown engagement [I'm thinking it must be those documentaries taking up his time]), who said the short films this time around show a higher production quality.

Save for maybe one of the films, they were all made by professionals or those with experience. The previous instalments of the showcase featured everything from student films to amateur attempts.

Here's what I thought of the films:

For The Love Of Drowning (I hope this is the title, because it wasn't included in the official list, something like a last minute inclusion, which is also why I forgot the director's name)
Metaphorical storytelling that I didn't get, or didn't bother to get. I shouldn't say that this kind of thing is easy to do, but it is! But this BMW Shorties winner has nice shots.

916 (David Ngui)
Despite its earnestness, this one just falls short. Nice production value, but the acting is a tad wanting while the story isn't as challenging as it should be in regards to its subject matter - communists in Sabah and Sarawak.

G16 G17 (Saw Tiong Guan)
Young man wants his mother to relive her romance with his late father at the old cinema. There's a sincerity to this story that gives it the right boost to defeat its own worst enemy - its ending. Someone in the audience said during the post-show Q&A that the ending is "cheesy." I wouldn't call it "cheesy," but it's definitely a rather safe turn into familiar territory. I wished the director Saw Tiong Guan (apparently no relation to Saw Tiong Hin, director of PGL) had explained his choice of ending instead of brushing off the remark by only saying it was his choice.

Adults Only (Yeo Joon Han)
Despite its unfortunate TV-commercial sheen, this Venice Special Mention winner manages to make a lifetime's worth of points in just 10 minutes. Very smart ending that nicely delivers an eye-opening coda. Surprisingly poignant. And you just have to love the use of Big Brother & The Holding Company and Janis Joplin's Summertime.

Eye+Finger (Margaret Bong)
Nice idea about a deaf-mute couple trying to come to terms with the death of their child and with each other. But the emotional quotient is sadly missing. There's a feeling that this should have been a longer piece.

Escape (Charlotte Lim)
An eye-catching opening scene, but I zoned out midway because it doesn't seem to be any different than the other Chinese independent dramas that we've seen. The lack of a distinctive, individual touch bothered me. The closing scene of the grandfather and the grandson walking through the rubber estate is very nice, humorous and touching, though a bit too late.

The Need Of Rites (shouldn't it be "The Need FOR Rites"? but then again ...) (Tan Chui Mui)
Not the best here, but it definitely is so damn engaging. While the scenario of a girl being hounded by a persistent street fortune-teller has endless possibilities, the execution somehow lacks a bit of suspense. Still, the dialogue is fun and ear-catching, no less. It's something we've come to expect from Tan Chui Mui, isn't it? A simple set-up but a whole array of dynamics.

Eaten By Time (Anonymous)
Experimental short that seems to have been made on a whim. At least its running time and sudden end give one that impression. Don't ask me what it's about, though.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The End Of Cinema?

In my "Malaysian Cinema: Time To Move On" entry below, "Ellen" left an interesting comment and link. It leads to a website called Unspoken Cinema, and a post titled "Tarr Bela Quits Cinema."

Now, that title is sure to stop the heart of any Tarr fans. It seems in a recent interview with Cahiers du Cinema, Tarr said he was fed up of the "fucking polite equality existing in the world," and that he wants to "quit cinema, but not right away." It's all rather vague, really, but Tarr has expressly stated he would quit cinema, only there's no deadline, just that he would make one last film. He also expressed dismay at today's audiences who want "less and less a demanding cinema." I definitely share this view, but to quit filmmaking altogether just because of it?

Even so, it's easy to understand his frustrations and see how he wants to avoid being thrown out of the cinema by not-too-discerning audiences, and to exit the doors himself, which would be more dignified. And so, there's a kind of petition going on at Unspoken Cinema, calling for readers to sign and comment there and to start a kind of unofficial blogathon/petition to urge Tarr not to quit, to convince him that there are still believers in his kind of cinema.

I love Tarr's films, and I have only seen three - Werckmeister Harmonies, Damnation and the seven-and-a-half-hour Satantango. It was the hauntingly desolate Werckmeister Harmonies, in its subtle parallel of a certain music theory with humanity itself, that first completely caught my imagination. There was, of course, the now infamous controversy and uproar over whether Tarr's extravagant demands during the making of The Man From London were what drove his producer to suicide.

But it's impossible to deny that the Hungarian master is a unique voice much needed in cinema today, as a counterweight to the too-easily digestible pap out there.

So, head on over to Unspoken Cinema and sign your name, and also blog about the whole issue.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh Boy, Another Remake

I used to have a regular column here called "Remake Watch," but I've since given it up, because it's a little silly to be keeping watch on an equally silly exercise of Hollywood's. Which kind of makes me sillier.

Quite a few shockers in the last couple of weeks. First off, I wonder if anyone else has caught that ad on TV, about Impak Maksima The Musical? I'm wondering if they'll have souped-up cars on stage doing races. Or maybe they'll have dancers and actors dressed up in rubber suits a la Pixar's Cars. What next? Jangan Pandang Belakang The Musical? Gerak Khas The Musical?

Then, there's Spielberg wanting to remake Park Chan-wook's Oldboy. With Will Smith, no less! Now, I happen to like early Spielberg stuff, like Duel and Jaws (which is a great adventure film, in my opinion). But he just started going downhill after Schindler's List, with the exception of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but that's a Spielberg/Kubrick collaboration.

But Minority Report? And Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull?

There's been talk about a Hollywood remake of Oldboy for quite some time now. But now, having those two names attached to it has to be a shocker. My friend and I started to speculate what would happen in the Hollywood version's ending.

Spoilers hereon, if you haven't seen Oldboy.

Hollywood, and surely Spielberg and Smith, definitely wouldn't have the guts to keep the incest twist. So, perhaps this is what might happen:

Smith's character unknowingly beds his own ex-wife, while both of them have amnesia. After discovering the truth, they fall in love all over again and remarry. They live happily ever after, after Smith's character offs the guy who started him on the revenge trail, of course.

How's that?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Malaysian Cinema: Time To Move On

I still remember, like it was so long ago, that every little recognition the so-called Malaysian New Cinema received was welcomed with much fanfare. We'd all get so excited about someone winning some award overseas. While James Lee and Amir Muhammad had blazed the trail first, opening up new possibilities for our cinema, it was later that Ho Yuhang started the awards rolling in, starting the Nantes Festival Of The Three Continents.

Of course, before all of this, folks like U-Wei and Tsai Ming-liang had already garnered the attention of international festivals. But here, for the sake of narrowing the discussion, we're talking about the New Cinema, or New Wave, of digital filmmaking, which has now morphed into a movement that includes pretty much anything that functions outside the mainstream machine, or anything that pushes boundaries or takes off in whole new directions. We can't exclude the mainstream completely, because a film like Mukhsin, a Berlinale winner, is a commercial effort.

After almost a decade now, all is still well with New Cinema. Even now as we speak, there is a massive showcase of more than 30 Malaysian films at the Rialto Theatre in Amsterdam. Some of the filmmakers are also in attendance for various events. And our productions are truly going international, with Ho Yuhang getting funding from Korea and using Hong Kong and Taiwanese talents, while Yasmin Ahmad has just announced a Malaysia-Japan co-production of something called Forget-Me-Not. While on the quiet, our one-time Venice Special Mention winner, Yeo Joon Han, has been moving in the festival circuit with his "comedy with songs," Sell Out!, getting a lot of good press and exposure.

And in Taiwan, we have yet another Malaysian, Ho Widing, making moves into feature filmmaking after going to Cannes with his short films Respire and Summer Afternoon.

Now, at this point, we must be able to take a step back and evaluate the situation.

We've come this far and won so much. While there's a noticeable momentum still propelling Malaysian films forward, it's also time to let go of certain things. For one thing, a sense of direction is important, so that we don't become stuck in a rut. I think we can already notice that some filmmakers are falling into monotony, which almost always leads to self-parody. The independent scene, as a whole, is also in danger of becoming too attached to, and identified with, one style which a local critic recently called "morose films."

And just last week, Muallaf picked up a special mention in Tokyo and there were what felt like too many fists punching the air. My question is, do we really need to react in a manner like we did eight years ago? Back then, even if a film won, say, Best Dressed Director (I made it up, it doesn't exist), we'd all be jumping for joy, maybe even hold a party or two at the mamak stall. But I think Mukhsin's Berlinale win has up the ante, and when you've gone that far down the road, it feels a little silly and pointless to go back to the starting line and cheer that we actually made it to the race. Of course, every win is a cause for celebration, but I'm saying that it should be in an appropriate magnitude. Otherwise, we'll always be cheering at the starting line without actually moving forward.

This is my suggestion. This is my call. Malaysian cinema, let's move on to bigger things, or on to newer and unchartered waters.

Let's see where we can take it.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Return Of The A.I.

If you've been following recent Hollywood releases, you'd notice a very peculiar thing. There have been no less than two tributes to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, in particular to the mutinous supercomputer HAL 9000.

Mild to major spoilers ahead for the movies WALL-E and Eagle Eye. So if you haven't seen them, stop right here. Otherwise, forward march.

If there's still anyone who hasn't seen Kubrick's masterpiece sci-fi opera, even after the recent two-disc DVD release (actually I wouldn't be surprised at all because 2001 isn't an easy film to sit through), here's the lowdown: HAL 9000 kills everyone on board the mission to Jupiter when it realises that humans will jeopardise the mission.

In both WALL-E and Eagle Eye, there is a mutinous supercomputer; in both movies, it resembles HAL 9000 with its "red eye." In both movies too, the supercomputer sees human beings as a threat.

I don't quite know how to pinpoint the reason for these tributes (and could I be wrong in suspecting that there will be more tributes to come?). The one obvious reason we can all see is that this year, it is exactly 40 years since 2001 was first released.

Also, I've read that Kubrick was somewhat influenced by Fritz Lang's Metropolis in making 2001. (Could HAL be the reincarnation of Hel, the dead lover of scientist Rotwang who wants to build a robot in her image?) Metropolis was released almost exactly 40 years before 2001. And now, at almost 80 years since Lang's film first came out, the legendary missing reels have been discovered in Argentina. Of course, all this is just coincidence, but it makes for curious statistics and baffling wonderment.

Perhaps these reappearances of HAL 9000 are just a symptom of our times in which our tools and machines sometimes become too independent of our control. Take a step into a train, and notice that the recorded voice through the PA system sounds more lively than the bored, tired human chatter around you.

Kubrick predicted it after all.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wherefore Art Thou, Red Sorghum DVD?

Having once been obsessed with the Chinese Fifth Generation films, I have most of Zhang Yimou's films on DVD. I own two editions of Raise The Red Lantern, one of my all-time favourite films. I bought the Taiwanese edition in Taipei at a time when there were no proper DVD releases of the film. I own two copies of Ju Dou, one a local VCD and the other an R1 edition DVD. Unfortunately the R1 DVD is full-screen; I can't understand why Razor, the studio that released the DVD, would do so. If you check the specs on Amazon, it says "2.35:1." That needs correcting.

The transfer, too, is rather piss-poor.

MGM's Raise The Red Lantern fares so much better, with a fair quality transfer and the correct aspect ratio.Yet the picture resolution is still a tad wanting.

And now I have two copies of Red Sorghum, the first film in Zhang's "red trilogy." I had the film on VCD for years, having to put up with the crap burnt-in subtitles and terrible picture. Then recently I discovered the China edition DVD and was surprised to find that it had English subtitles. Unfortunately, the transfer is very piss-poor, clearly from an analogue source. The subtitles are passable, with some minor mistakes. But the worst is the aspect ratio. I don't remember anymore what the correct aspect ratio is for Red Sorghum, but the DVD clearly has it wrong. The top of the picture is cut off most times. (DVD Beaver has a review of this Chinese edition here.)

I remember many, many years ago when I first saw Red Sorghum on TV (yes, very surprising that Malaysian TV actuallly showed the film). It was a Sunday afternoon, and I only caught part of it. I remember switching on the TV just as the strange little scene at the meat shop was unfolding. I still recall seeing the cattle head being dropped on the table, and actor Jiang Wen eating it. Then I remember the scenes with the Japanese soldiers. It was all very weird to me at the time. But then anything from Mo Yan is usually a little strange.

Now, seeing it again after so many years, it still has some considerable power, its celebration of peasant resilience and its overwhelming atmosphere of isolation, solitude and devastation. It's definitely not Zhang's strongest work, but it was certainly a strong start.

Now, is Criterion or anyone else ever going to give the rightful royal treatment to Zhang's early films, especially the "red trilogy"? Like the Italian neo-realists and the French New Wave, China's Fifth Generation filmmakers deserve seats in the same hallowed halls.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Watchmen And An Alan Moore Interview

Anyone who knows me knows how hard I've been fighting against the Watchmen movie. There are some of us who feel a Watchmen movie should never be made, let alone a Watchmen movie by a crap director like Zack Snyder, which should be banished right away.

I discovered an Entertainment Weekly interview with Watchmen scribe Alan Moore. It's a fascinating interview where he not only talks about Snyder and Watchmen, but also Malcolm McLaren, South Park, The Wire and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The best quote appears on the first page:

"[Zack Snyder] may very well be [a nice guy], but the thing is that he's also the person who made 300. I've not seen any recent comic book films, but I didn't particularly like the book 300. I had a lot of problems with it, and everything I heard or saw about the film tended to increase [those problems] rather than reduce them: [that] it was racist, it was homophobic, and above all it was sublimely stupid."

Indeed! What's also sublimely stupid is a story like this one, where the writer clearly has no clue what Watchmen is really about, but is lobotomised by popular opinion enough to quote a million other hive-minded, so-called comicbook fans in saying that the uniqueness of Watchmen is that it "is best-known for deconstructing the myth of superheroes, portraying them as people with flaws and weaknesses."

Really? So what have Stan Lee and gang been doing all these years? What then do you call the Fantastic Four and their family problems? What about Peter Parker as a youth thrown into the "myth of superheroes"? What about Chris Claremont's storylines for The Uncanny X-Men?

The real milestone of Watchmen is that it's the first time the power and authority of superheroes are brought into question. How much power does it take to corrupt a superhero, who is at the very core still a human being with human flaws and biases? What would you do if you possess that much power or hold the fate of the world in your hands?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time Capsule

I've had Dinah Washington's This Bitter Earth playing for some weeks now. I owe this current obsession to Charles Burnett's excellent Killer Of Sheep.

You know, the AFI's list of 100 great American films has rightly been called into suspicion by Jonathan Rosenbaum all these years. Lists of what supposedly constitutes great American films almost always get it wrong. But the Library Of Congress certainly got it right in 1990 when it declared Killer Of Sheep a national treasure, and made it one of the first 50 entered in the National Film Registry.

The National Society Of Film Critics later selected it as one of the 100 most essential films of all time. But let's not go there, because I still have a great distrust of lists in general. (And I especially hate books with titles like "1,000 Films You Must See Before You Die.")

It's unfortunate that one of the film's greatest strengths was also its own worst enemy. You can call Killer Of Sheep a "plotless film," but then, seeing what Burnett was trying to do with it, more capturing the essence of life in Watts in the 70s than telling a packaged story, you have to ask if a person's life actually has a plot. Of course not.

In trying to capture what life was like, as opposed to what life was about, in that particular area, in that particular time, about those particular residents, Burnett conveyed the inner poetry of each moment using the most emotionally stirring tool there is, which is music. And his choice of music is just impeccable.

One of the most emotionally impactful scenes in the film is when the protagonist and his wife, their relationship troubled, are dancing wistfully to This Bitter Earth, their silhouettes against a large window, the wife desperately trying to reach out to the husband. You could just feel the yearning and the heartache pouring right out of the screen.

But it was the rights to the music used that kept the film out of circulation for a long time. Back then, Burnett and his then-little seen film must have been quite the urban legend. I mean,this was his thesis film, and already it is quite something so solidly original in its vision, with such a distinct voice and an uncanny understanding of how to translate the everyday into a poetic engagement.

The film starts off with extreme close-ups. You don't quite know where you are, but from what's going on and what is being said (a father scolding his son), you know it's a domestic setting. In almost all the interior scenes, you're never quite sure of the surroundings, because Burnett uses close-ups or focuses on the characters and the characters alone. What surrounds them seems inconsequential, but Burnett seems to suggest that the interiors embody the personalities of their inhabitants, and vice-versa. Only in the larger locale, the exteriors, do we really get to see the people framed by a distinct sense of place. And it's that, I think, which is the larger frame that "controls" the whole "plotless" film.

While Burnett was certainly ahead of his time, and Senses Of Cinema rightfully called him a"one-man African-American New Wave" (actually, I think "one-man American New Wave" would be more appropriate), most (local) filmmakers today seem to think plotless films where nothing much happens amount to something if they just "show." That would actually be "pointless films." Big difference.

Even if nothing much happens on screen, something is always happening within the characters. Burnett perfectly captures the emotions going through a blender, in the faces of his characters, their gait, their speech. It is a story of faces as much as it is a story of places.

That's also why I felt inclined to reprimand my friend Mr Nutshell for his review, where he basically said the film didn't work for him because it "showed too much of the drudgery routine in the life of the poor" where "nothing much happens." He said that perhaps he didn't get the "socio-economic climate of the time" or the "many subtexts that the movie presented."

My response to him was, this is a film about life, not subtexts and not anything socio-economic in particular. And if it didn't work for you, then maybe you've been going through life in a coma. Harsh maybe, but Killer Of Sheep certainly deserves more than just a simple brush-off, and it's definitely my greatest discovery of the year. Never too late.

Killer Of Sheep official site

Criterion Gets Doyle's Stamp Of Approval

The Criterion blog now has a post about the upcoming Chungking Express release. There's still no mention of which cut it will be, but there's a nice story of how the Criterion team managed against all odds to get cinematographer Christopher Doyle's approval of the transfer.

There are those who regard Doyle as an overrated DP, and I wouldn't say I agree, but I do find the quality of his work to be inconsistent, and sometimes unremarkable. Doyle did, after all, admit that he stumbled into the art of cinematography (drunkenly, I think) and never ventured into it as a conscious ambition. But if he meant that little origin story, which has been repeated often enough now, to be a humble reaction to all the praise heaped upon him, I think it's more of the opposite effect. It would make any educated cinematographer who spent years studying the craft meticulously before venturing into it, frustrated by the fact that someone like Doyle could so easily grope around in the dark to become one of the most renowned talents in the art. It's almost like Happy Gilmore stumbling into the art of golf.

Lastly, what I can gather now is that the original Hong Kong theatrical cut was much shorter, and the scenes involving the Bangladeshis and Brigitte Lin were much less. And that the one scene in which Tony Leung's Cop 663 drinks coffee is accompanied by Faye Wong's version of Dreams. In the western DVD releases, that scene has no music.

Asian Horror Vs. Western Horror

It's been a long, long, long while since the last blog entry. I'd meant to follow upon that last post, but you know how things often get sidetracked or derailed. And since Halloween's round the corner and the Hungry Ghost Month was just two months ago, here's something I've been meaning to hurt your ears with.

The thing that I hear quite often about our Asian horror films is that our films are scarier, or at least it's more effective for us, because we have a rich tradition of the macabre, that we have the pontianak, the toyol, the woman in vengeful red, etc; that we have a rich culture of superstitions to draw from. (For more of what Malaysia has to offer in this respect, check out the latest tome coming soon from Amir Muhammad's Matahari Books: The Malaysian Book Of The Undead.) I hear this quite a lot even at my workplace, that being posted as the main reason why our films are much more interesting and scarier.

I feel that's a too simplistic way of looking at it. Let's face it, the western world has its own rich tradition of vampires, werewolves, banshees, incubi, etc. So why should it be any different or less scary? All the ghosts and ghouls are really just symptoms.

The real casue is simply that we, Asians, are unable to let go of life, so much so that we not only believe there is life after death, but that the afterlife is very much similar to the here and now. We believe that people can still crave for food after they're dead. We believe the dead crave the same necessities as the living, therefore the living make burnt offerings of houses, cars, servants, clothes, DVD players, mobile phones, to the dead.

Quite simply, we want to believe things will go on as they are even in death. The netherworld exists on the same plane as the living one. Spirits with unfinished business don't have to do any "crossing over." They're here right now. When the dead and the living exist in the same sphere, then often the past and the present overlap. In Ringu, things from the past never really left, and when conditions are right, both worlds blur into one another.

Something like Alejandro Amenabar's The Others subscribes to this concept, but there is a difference. In the western world, there is a distinct line drawn between life and death, whereas in Asia, that line doesn't exist. If The Others were an Asian horror film, the battle between the living and the dead wouldn't end just like that. They'd still be grappling with each other for the same space. In the end, someone has to vacate, and by that, I don't mean just leaving the house physically.

Because we believe the afterlife is the same as the living world, and that we want the same basic necessities, then something like Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Kairo (Pulse) makes perfect sense in that context. The sphere of the dead is overcrowded, so the living has to vacate the physical world to make space for the dead.

So is it any wonder that western remakes of Asian horror films often fail miserably?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Are You Waiting At The Station?

It's chugging along just fine, and will be arriving soon. Me, I'm anxiously waiting at the station, hoping this time they get it right.

It's Chungking Express I'm talking about, and Wong Kar-wai's masterpiece is getting the Criterion treatment. Finally!

This isn't exactly news anymore, but through all the excitement and bits and bytes we've been getting, there's still one thing I'm not so clear on.

But first, as usual with Criterion, the cover design is exceptionally beautiful. Criterion always chooses less iconic or familiar images for its covers. Like for The Ice Storm, it's the red jacket seen through the frozen window. And for Vampyr, it's a missing scene from the movie with the shadow of a scythe over a sleeping girl. And the most lovely thing about the Chungking Express cover, if you notice, is how the "C" logo gets integrated into "Chungking."

Unfortunately, while the film is getting the Criterion treatment, it's not the royal treatment as we would expect. No box set, and only one disc. The extras sound good though (even if you're sick of Tony Rayns appearing everywhere):

- Audio commentary by noted Asian cinema critic Tony Rayns
- U.S. theatrical trailer
- Episode excerpt from the BBC Television series Moving Pictures, featuring Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Amy Taubin

And the specs:

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack supervised by director Wong Kar-wai

I really hope Christopher Doyle is drunk during that interview; that would be interesting.

But like I said, there's still one thing unclear about this release, and that mainly is: which version of the film will it be?

Over the years, there've been several versions, and the original Hong Kong cut, theatrically released in Asia when it first came out, has long disappeared. I don't remember how long the original cut was, and neither do any of my friends. But later, there was the ridiculous "Quentin Tarantino presents" version from Rolling Thunder, where, as far as I know, some alterations were done to the film, namely there's a song or two missing from the soundtrack.

There's also a R2 DVD from Ica Projects from 1995, and another from the same period from Artificial Eye. The Artificial Eye version you see on Amazon UK has Takeshi Kaneshiro and Brigitte Lin on the cover, while the copy I own features Faye Wong, but I should think both DVDs are essentially the same.

And now, there's a newly remastered R3 DVD out now in Hong Kong.

The funny thing is, all these versions are clocked in at 100 or 102 minutes. And I'm told the UK and US versions are one and the same cut. I can't explain all the differences or possible differences in the original cut and the later ones, because I've never seen the HK version. Very unfortunate. But friends who have tell me there definitely are differences. What's more, there's even rumour of a bootleg version that has a longer cut.

Whatever it is, I hope Criterion will let us know which version it's releasing. I would think it's the original HK cut as intended by WKW because he supervised the remaster of the soundtrack.

Anyone out there knows?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mon Favourite Comedian

Here are some facts I wasn't aware of until recently.

I didn't know that Jacques Tati started out as a stage comedian/mime in music halls before he became a filmmaker. I didn't know that Mon Oncle was filmed after M. Hulot's Holiday. I had thought Mon Oncle was in black-and-white. ANd worst of all, I didn't realise how much Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean stole from Tati's Monsieur Hulot.

Both characters elicit laughs through slapstick routines, both speak little, both drive banged-up cars. But while Hulot is a loveable, good-natured and well-meaning buffoon, Bean is an obnoxious, hard-to-like dimwit.

In fact, the similarities came to a head with the last Mr Bean big-screen movie, blatantly titled Mr Bean's Holiday. I don't know if the movie should be seen a s a sort of tribute to the French comedy great, because there's no element of an homage in the film. What it has though, it a scene directly lifted from Tati's Jour de Fete, where Bean shooting past some bicycle racers mirrors the scene where Francois the postman peddles his bicycle past a group of racing cyclists. The raod trip style of the movie can also be seen as similar to Tati's cars-and-highways epic Trafic.

The other difference is that Tati's work has more pertinent meanings rather than mere gags. His colour films spin a thematic thread observing the incongruities of modern living, but not an indictment or criticism of it, mind you. The manufactured city of Play Time is a magnificent, labyrinthine glass wonder that shimmers with a sharpness and sheen reflecting slick modernity, yet encased inside what seems like a child's dollhouse. The film is really an unforgettable experience, and holds up to repeated viewings simply because Tati packs every frame with incidences, occurances and gags. The later Trafic seems to play this up with triple the magnitude, with even more things going on in a frame and faster cuts.

I'm a late discoverer of Tati's comedy, and it's hard not to lose respect for Atkinson's creation once you've learned of its origin. Monsieur Hulot is a walking disaster of dance-like movements and bumbling trajectories, a contradictory mash-up that could probably be called "graceful stiffness." The wooden puppet-like flinging of the arms and strutting of the legs are as light as air, as demonstrated in one of the funniest moments in comedy, the tennis game in M. Hulot's Holiday. I'd rank that sequence up there with Chaplin's boxing match in City Lights.

Comedy is one of the hardest things to do. It's the worst feeling in the world when no one laughs at your gags. It makes me wonder why some people here think it's so easy to be funny. I don't have to mention names but I'm pretty sure everybody knows the culprits, those who think making funny faces and acting like a doofus immediately make them the kings of comedy. Compared to other local offerings of horror, drama, action and other genres, local comedy is probably the most painful thing to sit through. If you haven't already noticed, there's a disturbing and inexplicable trend in local comedies. Be it on TV or in the cinema, a TV show or a movie, you'll definitely find actors in wigs. Then there's always the tasteless toilet humour and scatological jokes, people shitting, vomiting, spitting, excreting all sorts of bodily fluids.

Local comedians definitely need to learn that comedy really is an art, and that it takes class to be truly funny. Perhaps they need some lessons from Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, Mack Sennet, Charlie Chaplin, and of course, Jacques Tati.

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