Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Miscellaneous Miscellany

Funny how everyone's making a fuss about Brad Renfro not being included in the Oscars' tribute list of those who died this and last year. But no one seems to care that two bigger names weren't included either - Edward Yang and Kon Ichikawa.

(They don't have to be members of the Academy or nominees, say the rules.)

Well, there you go, another reason why the Oscars are meaningless.

And while Spielberg may think his action of pulling out of the Beijing Olympic Games as artistic advisor is honourable and such a big deal, it's really as meaningless as the Oscars. Spielberg's self-proclaimed noble intention is to help Darfur. But someone should really remind him of this - Clinton's bombing of an aspirin factory in Sudan, because he thought they were making weapons.

So how about Mr Spielberg kindly removing himself from all activities in the US, including breathing on its soil, and moving elsewhere in protest of all the atrocities ever committed (and is still being committed) by his government throughout history and around the world?

But I say screw all that, because there's a new Jim Jarmusch film coming along. The Limits Of Control is being shot in Madrid even as we speak. And it stars Isaach De Bankole, Gael Garcia Bernal, Bill Murray, John Hurt and Tilda Swinton.

Monday, February 25, 2008

No Country For Gold Men

Some years ago, I was asked by my editor to compose a pre-Oscar write-up. She thought she was getting the usual shit about predictions and speculations - who's going to win what, who will be wearing what. She ended up with a 2,000-word rant against the Oscars. Of course, I was never assigned again to write about the Oscars.

That's how revered this American awards show is where I work. There's the inevitable Oscar Pool, and people wasting company time surfing the Net for the latest Oscar scoops. Then there's a silly bunch who go out to get the DVDs of all the nominated films (even if the film got a nod for Best Nail Polish or Best Visible Panty Line or whatever) and watch them before the awards are given out. It's such a big deal that it was no wonder my published rant got quite some response, even via internal email.

Then, on the morning of the show, a big group would be huddled in front of the TV, neglecting work completely until four hours later. No, make that five, since they all go out for an extended lunch to discuss the results.

The Oscars has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of films. Quite simply, it's an event full of self-congratulatory, self-aggrandising crap, where America tries to tell the rest of the world what's good for them and what's not. It's merely another form of hegemony, after the fact that American movies are already a dominating force everywhere. Perhaps 40 years ago, the Oscars still held some meaning, because Hollywood was still making quality films. But now ...

I don't believe there are any other film awards quite like the Oscars, from the point of view that there's a Best Foreign Language Film category, the nominees of which sometimes make it into the Best Film or Best Director category. You might like to take the view that this is a positive inclusion. Sure. But this is an American awards show, and it smacks of a certain smugness when films from other countries are placed within the same judging criteria as for American films.

Even more ridiculous are the criteria for eligibility in the Foreign Language Film category. There must be a certain amount of a foreign language used in the film (ie. any languages other than English). In some countries, like Singapore and Malaysia, English is the second language and used almost all of the time everywhere on all occasions. It's easy to take the view that this is yet another form of the perception of Otherness. But I suspect there's something much more complex at work here.

Then there's the increasing smugness and incongruity of the whole affair. Actors come on stage, make some prerequisite vapid jokes about something or other, somehow able to turn even a scripted exercise into a self-conscious affair. But then again, it's all about the self anyway. The glitz, the glamour, the smart-alecky remarks, by both host and guests, and the really rojak judgement on what's the best of the year.

One film this year tore all the competition to shreds. It's not American, it's not made in Hollywood, it hasn't got a budget the size of a small nation's GDP, and it doesn't feature any fancy special effects. It's made in Japan, has incredible acting, a moving storyline, is simple yet effective. It's called Love And Honour, by the great Japanese veteran Yoji Yamada. It's the best foreign-language film and easily the best among everything in the Oscars list.

If only it had been released in the US and eligible for nominations.

But even if it had, the Oscars isn't known for recognising quality.

Glitz and glamour. That's all there is. That's why some international film festivals, especially the top-tier ones, immediately draw criticism once they seem headed towards the same direction, with more focus on flashy Hollywood stars rather than what the art of filmmaking really is about.

I had the TV on this morning, but wasn't really watching the show. But one thing caught my eye though. Joel Coen's expression when the brothers won Best Film for No Country For Old Men. I thought Joel wore a tired-looking expression that seems to be saying "Well, it's about fucking time!"

Well, it is indeed about fucking time. And it's not even for the best work in their filmography.

During the post-screening discussion at the Berlin Film Festival last year, everyone was noting how poor an opening film Oliver Dahan's La Vie En Rose was, no less because of Marion Coutillard's terribly overwrought histrionics. "She is saying 'Give me the award! Give me the award!" one guy was saying in between laughter. I remember telling everyone that this is the kind of film that wins Oscars. And my prediction just came true.

Friday, February 22, 2008

That Ole Devil Called Genre

It's funny where things are headed. First we have Stephen Chow producing the English-language Hollywood live-action version of Dragon Ball, and they have Chow Yun-fat aboard. And now, we have another movie version of Street Fighter coming up, and they have Hong Kong veteran star Cheng Pei Pei. Nice. Well it sure beats having Jean Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia. But who remembers that earlier version anyway?

Cheng Pei Pei was, of course brilliantly utilised by Ang Lee in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, playing the evil Jade Fox. But that's the thing about CTHD; there are no stock characters with clear-cut motivations, unlike your usual wuxia fare. This thought inevitably brings to mind a recent argument I had with some friends when I voiced my admiration of Zhang Yimou's Hero. They,of course, hated the film, and one of them even thought that Zhang was merely trying to make his own CTHD. That's unfortunately a very shallow way of looking at the film.

The main and most important difference between the two films is that CTHD redefines the wuxia genre while Hero simply transcends it. CTHD adopts all the elements of traditional wuxia - the powerful heroes, the authoritative master, the "evil" villain, death and vengeance - only to turn them all on their heads. The catalyst for all of it is Zhang Ziyi's character, star-struck with the romantic notions of the martial arts world, whose actions simply debunk the romantic myth. There is no clean resolution even after the master dies. Instead, there's disillusionment and hopelessness.

Hero, on the other hand, adopts all the genre conventions only to abandon them halfway. It starts off as an exciting revenge film, before stripping itself of the intrigue to address more serious political ponderings. In the end, wuxia becomes only a beautiful costume adorning a starker matter at heart. And that matter also proves to be a divisive point among audiences, with some accusing it of propaganda. But I would argue that Hero is far from endorsing China's political stand. The simple indication lies in the solemn and poignant mood of its ending. Only Jet Li's Wuming and Tony Leung's Broken Sword change their point of view, but Flying Snow remains staunchly convinced of liberation by assassination. And we do not know what exactly happens to Donnie Yen's Sky. There is no jingoistic triumphant end nor flag-waving. Instead, it leaves us to ponder what heroism really means.

Recently, I watched the two-disc anniversary edition of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. The film remains as fresh as ever, but I was struck by how similar it is to CTHD. Both films transcend and de-romanticise their respective genres. CTHD has its young upstart, Jen, dreaming of the glorious martial arts life, while Unforgiven's Beauchamp, the writer, pens fantastical tales of frontier bravado told to him by gunfighters. Both quickly have their illusions shattered by the stark reality of death and destruction wrought by violence. Life with sword or gun is never as fanciful or heroic as it seems.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Close Encounters Of My Own Kind

I didn't have Internet access for more than 24 hours, and it felt like I hadn't eaten for three weeks. It's a terrible thing, this technology. The computer has now become an extended limb. Are you hearing this, Mr Cronenberg?

Minor problems aside, I did manage to get a new adapter for the modem, so here I am back again. While my world wasn't wired temporarily, I sat and watched all three versions of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, thanks to the DVD box-set that arrived last week. Trust me, it was a gargantuan task.

And most of all, it reminded me of my own very strange UFO experience. But more on that later.

All three versions of Close Encounters - the theatrical cut, the Special Edition and the Director's Cut - have scenes removed and scenes added. Strangely, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and none is better than another. There's quite a bit taken out from the original theatrical version for the Special Edition, but one major addition occurs in both the Special Edition and the Director's Cut: the surprise discovery in the Gobi Desert. Other than that, the Special Edition takes you into the mothership to get a view of the alien cityscape inside, while the Director's Cut completely omits the scene at Roy Neary's workplace after the blackout.

Personally I like the Gobi Desert scene very much but could care less about the interiors of the mothership because it takes away a sense of the mystery, and also only Neary is privileged to see the inside and not us. But I find the theatrical version a bit more streamlined and has a better rhythm in its editing. Somehow the removal of the Gobi scene works. I guess different people are going to like the different versions for different reasons.

The extras are fascinating, with behind-the-scenes looks at the production and special effects, and some very interesting, sometimes laughable "failed" effects and deleted scenes. Lots of trivia too, like how Francois Truffaut's appearance in the film was a huge deal. He had reservations about his English lines, and sure enough, one of them is "They belong here more than we," which everyone thought sounded like "Zey belong here Mozambique" filtered through Truffaut's French accent!

There's one particular scene that got me feeling like Roy Neary, as in "Hey, I know that! I've seen it before!" There's a low-angle shot of Devil's Tower with the starlit night sky as the backdrop. You see star-like lights suddenly moving and then stopping.

Some years ago, I was having dinner with some friends at an al-fresco restaurant somewhere in Petaling Jaya. We had finished eating and were deep in conversation when I leaned back in my chair and looked up at the night sky. It was a clear night and the stars were out. There was nothing out of the ordinary, but I noticed a particularly bright object that looked like a planet. Somehow my eyes were drawn to it. I stared at it for a moment.

Then to my surprise, it started to move.

It moved some distance across the sky and then it simply disappeared. It couldn't have been a satellite or any man-made object, because it was static in the beginning, and because it suddenly disappeared after moving across the sky. And it was obviously a very faraway object, out there in space or above the stratosphere. The feeling I had was as if whatever it was had noticed that I was watching it, so it moved away and hid itself.

I wrote to one of the UFO research groups but they were of no help. They dismissed it as possibly a satellite or weather balloon or something. But of course, I never developed the urge to paint or sculpt a national monument. And I didin't get sunburned. I never heard a five-note melody in my head either.

Till today, I still don't know what I saw. I kept watching the skies afterwards, but never saw anything unusual. It remains the single, strangest, most inexplicable thing I ever witnessed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Indiana Jones And The Flag Of The United States Of America

The studios are at it again. There's a supposedly "leaked" trailer of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull on YouTube. Yes, leaked. Riiight.

Watch the trailer here.

The first thing I noticed in the trailer was the very obvious flag-waving. What's going on? But then again, consider these two facts.

Steven Spielberg has demonstrated his flag-waving tendencies before, namely in Saving Private Ryan. In fact, the film is bookended by the same jingoism flapping in the wind. And the Indiana Jones series, especially the first two films, have never shied away from displaying its paranoid fear of the Other, the same racist perspective as, say, Zack Snyder's 300. Certainly, 300's treatment of Persians, Raiders Of The Lost Ark's treatment of Arabs and Temple Of Doom's exoticising of Asians all grew from the same ugly roots of xenophobia.

But flag-waving, if memory serves me correctly, is a first for Indy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Miscellaneous Miscellany

My Close Encounters Of The Third Kind 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition box-set finally arrived from YesAsia yesterday, so now it's a truly happy Chinese New Year. The box-set is simply delicious, and everything is so glossy. The DVD case is a little difficult to remove from the box though. But I'm not complaining!

First off, all that happy news for Guillermo Del Toro recently may not last, if the lawsuit by the Tolkien estate against New Line Cinema is successful. The late novelist's estate is claiming that New Line failed to pay out a contractual share of the gross profits from all three LOTR films. I don't really give a fart about the boring LOTR films, but New Line sure is giving itself some kind of a reputation. First there was all that trouble with Peter Jackson, and now this. What's it got to do with Del Toro? Well, apart from the monetary damages, the estate is also seeking "the right to terminate any rights New Line may have to make films based on other works by the author, including The Hobbit."

Then, there's that train-wreck of a director, McG, who's going to direct Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, which will star Christian Bale as John Connor. Earlier on, McG had already terrified us with the news that he might be directing the remake of Spaced. Now, say bye-bye to the Terminator franchise, that is if you haven't already done so with the awful Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines. The twist here is that James Cameron recently implied his endorsement of the fourth film when he recommended Sam Worthington, who is in Cameron's upcoming Avatar, to McG.

Talking about remakes, there's the remake of Wes Craven's Last House On The Left, which will start filming in South Africa in April. Last House was originally inspired by, of all things, Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring. Then, there's the Pang brothers remaking their own Bangkok Dangerous with the awful Nicolas Cage in the lead. Here's the trailer, which is strangely in Spanish.

And while we're on the subject of trailers, here's one for the Thai gorefest Long Khong 2 aka Art Of The Devil 3. If you're wondering why the English title's number precedes the Thai title's, Wisekwai's Thai Film Journal informs us that it's because the first film was Khon Len Khong aka Art Of The Devil (1), and Long Khong aka Art Of The Devil 2 was only a sequel in (English) name only. But be warned, these films are extremely disgusting and gory.

Lastly CJ7 has broken records in both Malaysia and Singapore. Over here, although Buena Vista declined to give the exact numbers yet, it did confirm that CJ7 had the biggest ever opening weekend. In Singapore, it grossed S$2 million on its opening weekend, beating out Jack Neo's Ah Long Pte Ltd and Jay Chou's Kung Fu Dunk.

The Year Of Living Dangerously

The Chinese New Year is not yet over, and already the Year Of The Rat looks to be a very interesting and turbulent year. Certainly the Chinese entertainment scene has been turned upside down, rocked to its core and forced into an uncertain future.

Unless you've been living under your mother's armpit all these years, you would know where I'm headed with this. For the past weeks, the Hong Kong celebrity sex scandal has been the hot topic, even threatening to take the limelight away from the fact that Stephen Chow's new movie, CJ7, is good enough to rock cinemas with full houses during the new year celebrations. Things just keep getting nervously more interesting and curiouser by the minute. The big trouble now, apart from rocky marriages and silenced wedding bells, is that Edison Chen's upcoming films face an unknown fate.

The much-anticipated Stephen Fung-directed dance movie, Jump, produced by Stephen Chow's Star Overseas company, might or might not have to have Chen's scenes left out. Chen's upcoming action film, Sniper, also faces uncertainty and it's due out in March. Funnily enough, one person on the Internet somehow got confused about both Jump and Sniper and wrote that Chen had a role in Doug Liman's Jumper. It's, of course, untrue, but you figure that one out.

Chen's role in The Dark Knight is also reportedly being relooked at.

Then there's also the whole stir over The Weinstein Co.'s Shanghai shoot being blocked by China, which is apparently reviewing its co-production regulations and tightening them. Everyone's putting the blame solely on Lust, Caution and Lost In Beijing for getting the Chinese authorities nervous over their graphic depictions of sex, while The Weinstein Co. has said that it doesn't know why its shooting permit has been refused. Shanghai will star John Cusack, Gong Li and Ken Watanabe.

And add to that the crazy weather in China right now, which apparently has companies scrambling to get their pictures into cinemas there, but hasn't stopped throngs of people from seeing CJ7.

A very interesting year indeed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Toughest Police Chief Ever

I feel compelled to write about this because I grew up on the movie Jaws, which remains one of my all-time favourite movies.

Roy Scheider, who played police chief Martin Brody in Spielberg's monster shark movie, died on Sunday at the age of 75. He was a two-time Oscar nominee, and has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows. He was one of those actors who were immensely talented, had great on-screen presence and charisma, but were largely underrated and under-recognised. (Bob Balaban comes to mind as another one of these actors.)

But as Chief Brody, Scheider played what was to become an iconic character in cinema. There's real shock on his face when he backs into the cabin of the boat, cigarette dangling from his mouth, and utters one of the most oft-quoted lines in cinema: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

It was reported that the role was originally offered to Charlton Heston, and apparently Heston was furious about losing out to Scheider, that he vowed he would never work with Spielberg.

Well, thank goodness, because in hindsight, Scheider gave the perfect performance as Chief Brody. I cheered with him when he blew up the shark; the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happening Trailer

A trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming apocalyptic film, The Happening, is up at Twitch Film. The trailer is a messy affair like all Hollywood trailers, cut the same fast, jumpy, flashy way. Hollywood trailers are getting really ridiculous.

I'm a huge Shyamalan fan, so I have no doubts that the film will be very watchable. Shyamalan's strength is that he never loses focus on story and character, as Todd Brown of Twitch Film says. Shyamalan creates incredibly believable characters and he directs his actors superbly. Even when his twists or fantastical elements are not that great, the emotional quotient and the characters of his film pull through, every single time.

Unlike most Hollywood directors today, Shyamalan has the ability and the courage to use old-fashion romance and drama. Whereas a lot of contemporary Hollywood directors just rely on flash and hipness. The thing I look forward to the most in his films are his big emotional moments, like the conversation between mother and son in the car in The Sixth Sense, or the porch scene in The Village.

But The Happening trailer, with its scenes of mass suicides and people jumping off buildings, reminds me of Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Kairo, another apocalyptic themed movie.

SlashFilm here points to the possible similarities between The Happening, Eli Roth's upcoming adaptation of Stephen King's Cell and The Signal. While Roth does gentlemanly admit that he's heard Shyamalan's film is different enough, but between Roth and Shyamalan, give me the latter's films any day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

CJ The Extra-Terrestrial

What's Chinese New Year without a movie from Jackie Chan or Stephen Chow, right? But lately, ever since the international success of Shaolin Soccer, every Stephen Chow movie is an event. Rightly so, because he really is the Asian King Of Comedy, and it's starting to look like he can do no wrong.

With his new sci-fi comedy, CJ7, there are little missteps along the way, but otherwise, it's another very watchable, very entertaining movie from him. What will strike you immediately is how much of a tribute to the Hollywood sci-fi genre it is, what with its opening score sounding very much 80s, the era in which we had films like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Batteries Not Included, and many others. It was a time when we had hopeful sci-fi fables like E.T. and also the darker side of alien beings such as John Carpenter's remake of The Thing.

CJ7 pays tribute to the colourful hopeful spectacle of friendly alien beings bringing hope and salvation to the despairing. And the despairing here is construction worker Ti, a loser with a heart of gold (does Chow play any other kinds of roles these days?) who is a single father bringing up his boy Dicky and trying to inculcate good values in him. But Dicky gets picked on in school simply for being poor. But an alien "dog" soon enters their lives and offers a hope for Dicky to find a way out of his troubles.

If anything, Stephen Chow's last couple of movies can be described as "live-action cartoons." So is CJ7, which is chockful of cartoonish action courtesy of some top-notch, seamless CGI work. But Chow never lets that get in the way of story, and part of what makes his films successful is just that - good, interesting stories and characters. They may not be original, but Chow has become somewhat of a master mixer, mashing up recycled ideas to great effect. This can also be attributed to his spot-on casting and a reliable stock of regulars on whom he can always rely.

But his grand discovery this time is Xu Jiao, the little girl who plays his son, somewhat like the gender-bending exercise Brigitte Lin took on when she played a dude in Dream Of The Red Chamber. Chow and Xu have great on-screen chemistry, and the initial establishment of the father-son relationship has a touching, charming quality.

But the biggest problem with CJ7 movies that deal with children. is its cloying cutesiness, a constant problem with Hong Kong Why do kids have to be cute? Why can't they just be ... kids?

The central character of the alien "dog" is also cute, but thankfully the sweetness level here is more bearable than saccharine. And it's also a bonus that the film doesn't have to rely on its CGI namesake, which, while nicely created and realised, doesn't quite have the needed knock-out impressiveness. So, ironically, for a movie about an alien being, the human characters are far more interesting.

And of course, what's a Stephen Chow movie without the spoofs? This time, there's everything from Mission: Impossible to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to The Matrix, and even Chow's own Kung Fu Hustle. And when a director spoofs his own film, it displays an incredible confidence and an awareness of his own visibility.

The gags come almost non-stop, in what is Chow's loving tribute to the Cinema Of Spectacle, the Hollywood fantasy of lights in the sky that brighten up the darkest of days.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Current Issues

I'm currently awaiting the arrival of these:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition
3 discs, book and poster chart

Troy Director's Cut - Ultimate Collector's Edition
2 discs, production art book, photos, etc.

And currently enjoying this:

Blind Spot In A Remake

Take the Pang brothers' The Eye, multiply everything in it by 10 times, and you have the Hollywood remake starring Jessica Alba. And I don't mean that in a good way.

Granted, the remake is generally not too bad. But, if you've seen the original, you'll have to wonder what the whole point is in remaking an already good film. The story remains largely the same, but the one fundamental change they made for the remake pretty much screws up the whole film. The Pang brothers' version keenly observed a sense of the inevitability of both life and death. That sums up the general cultural view or belief in unavoidable fate, and it made the original a downbeat affair that closes on a note of the unknown for its protagonist, the blind girl played by Anjelica Lee.

But this westernised version is peculiar in a few ways. One is that that sense of plunging headlong into the future is taken away and given a typical Hollywood heroic beat of overcoming the odds. (Or as Modern Talking once cheesily noted, you can win if you want, if you want it you can win.)

Secondly, this is probably the first time I've seen such earnestness in a remake to pay tribute to its source that both the Cantonese AND Mandarin titles of the original are credited in the opening. And at every chance they get, Asian references are included. One of Sydney (Alba)'s neighbours is Mrs Cheung, the dead boy looking for his report card is Chinese, and one of the key fright scenes, as in the original, takes place in a Chinese restaurant. The latter, however, while it deviates from the original, is a nicely done twist.

But the replacement for the calligraphy scene in the original somewhat lacks the coherence that made the original scene exceptionally frightening. (In the original, she was sitting in the dead woman's seat.)

The original story also has its devices deeply entrenched in eastern cultural beliefs, that ghosts crave food even in the afterlife, and other such matters. Once these are removed, the effects are diminished somewhat. And having the loud noises and other jolts magnified ten times does nothing to improve upon the original. (The old man in the lift is extra gory in the remake, as is the "report card" kid. When Sydney's room changes, there's accompanying "morphing" sounds. The hospital sequence is stretched out unnecessarily.) And, I just have to ask, what's with Hollywood and its obsession with roaring ghosts? Can't Hollywood ghosts be a little more on the quiet side?

Lastly, some scenes are just cinematically wrong. Like in the original, we are privy to what the protagonist sees, and we share her perspective of things. Both versions feature her voice-over narration in the beginning and ending. But in the remake, it veers away several times from that, so that we, the audience, see what Sydney isn't even aware of. So who's Eye are we talking about then?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Oh No, Not Again

There is this little horror film that was shown to rave reviews at the Slamdance Festival. Now, Dreamworks has picked it up, because everyone says it's a great scary film. I head on over to the official website to watch the trailer.

And now, having seen the trailer, I'm thinking, oh no, not another one of those.

Yes, Paranormal Activity is yet another mockumentary, complete with supposedly "real" footage and shaky cam. This right after Cloverfield. The reactions have been ridiculous and silly, with some calling it the best horror movie ever made. When a movie like Cloverfield is being hailed as the best monster movie ever made, you'd just have to take such ravings with a huge dollop of cleaning fluid.

The Blair Witch Project did it first and did it well. In hindsight now, that movie was way ahead of its time, made at a time when YouTube wasn't even an idea yet. Because of its nature, the mockumentary ideally shouldn't hold up believability for very long. Maybe by the third film made in such a style, people should wake up to reality already and find the effect deadening. But that is not what is happening right now. People are lapping it up, and it is beginning to seem like the mockumentary style is the way to go. A generation immersed in reality TV and YouTube videos would readily believe anything. How many times have we observed that an online video purported to be real turned out to be a hoax? (Like this one, for example.)

And so that culture has now seeped into the world of cinema and filmmaking. It probably sounds the death bell for good framing, shots and lighting, and provides the ultimate excuse for a badly shot film. Pretty soon, the considerations won't involve technical perfection or an approximate of it, but merely how to achieve maximum effect by throwing a scene right at the audience's face.

And that is a really sad development. Home videographers, hobbyists and YouTube enthusiasts can now look forward to careers in filmmaking and a chance to be recognised as pioneers of something or other.

Those Were The Days ...

Believe it or not, this movie was shown in Malaysia. No, serious, it was indeed released here, but it was back in the late 70s or early 80s. How do I know? Because I saw it ... as a kid.

Last night a friend overseas directed me to this page, from which he had ordered the DVD. He didn't know that the film is banned in his country. He was doubly shocked when I told him it was in cinemas here in conservative Malaysia.

I remember, when I was young, my dad had taken me to see a movie called Mountain Of The Cannibals, and upon my insistence too! This was back in the days when there were no ratings and parents didn't care if a movie was 18SX or 18SG or 18NG (No Go). I remember the excitement about the movie having been shot in Malaysia and featured some well-known Malaysian actors (as cannibals!). I do recall some gore, but as far as Ursula Andress goes, I certainly don't recall seeing much skin-flashing. It was probably a different, cleaner version of the movie cut for Malaysia, hence the altered title.

But according to IMDB, the original cut of the movie contains "a good share of violence and nudity."

It was banned in Australia and the UK. But it was shown in Malaysia. How cool is that? Those were the days, indeed.

Who's Doing What

Stuff we already know:

1. Guillermo Del Toro is directing The Hobbit 1 and 2.

2. Johnnie To is not directing one of the films in the planned Water Margin trilogy.

3. Song Kang-ho is playing a priest-turned-vampire in Park Chan-wook's upcoming vampire film.

4. Matt Reeves, director of forgettable films before he became director of forgettable but big-budget Cloverfield, is directing The Invisible Woman.

5. There's a Benazir Bhutto biopic in the works, as well as a George Dubya Bush one by Oliver Stone.

6. Shu Qi is going to be a jury member at the Berlin festival this year.

7. Bong Joon-ho is returning to the murder thriller with Mother.

8. Johnnie To is right now hard at work making PTU 2.

Stuff we're still not sure of:

We heard that Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus might be shelved after the death of Heath Ledger. Then we heard Johnny Depp will be taking over the role for the Vancouver shoot, because the character goes through a magic mirror and can be transformed physically. Now we hear that perhaps they're opting for CGI instead. So who's doing what?

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