Dec 12, 2006

something happened and another thing happens.

in any way, what happened to me a year ago is worth celebrating, no matter what kind of celebration it may be.

and my! it's been a year :)


http://nauval.blogspot.com/2005/12/losing-few-gaining-many.html

Dec 4, 2006

(at least) for now.

the reason why the blog has been deserted for centuries.

the reason why my writing skill has, somehow, been shifted to another kind.

the reason why my life has been turning upside down.



but at least, this is what matters for now.

Jul 26, 2006

oooohhh, this is really interesting.

and if you think that the most interesting part stops at the title above, you're right. stop looking at the entry below. i mean it.

oh well. i should've known that you're easily tempted.

ok, here goes:

Four jobs I've had:
1. A clown.
2. A waiter.
3. A tour-guide.
4. A salesman.

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. Same Time, Next Year.
2. Before Sunset.
3. 84 Charing Cross Road.
4. His Girl Friday.
5. Radio Days.
6. Music Box.
7. Kejarlah Daku Kau Kutangkap.
8. Hiroshima, Mon Armour.
9. Scenes From A Marriage.
(i'm sorry, i can't resist.)

Four places I have lived in:
1. Malang.
2. Solo.
3. Singapore.
4. Jakarta.

Four TV shows I love or loved:
1. Inside The Actor's Studio.
2. Asari-Chan.
3. Losmen.
4. Lenong Rumpi.

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Bangkok.
2. Bali.
3. Bandung.
4. Bandar Seri Begawan.(don't laugh. ok, you may now.)

Four favorite dishes:
1. Rujak Cingur. (any souls out there care to translate?)
2. Nasi Pecel. (gosh, this is getting difficult!)
3. Gado-gado. (look, "mixed vegetables" won't do any justice!)
4. Chicken Satay. (finally! whew!)

Four websites I visit daily :
1. This.
2. That.
3. My Holy Grail.
4. My Precious.

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Holland V..
2. Fong Seng.
3. Spize.
4. Esplanade Library.

Four bloggers I'm tagging:
1. Dody. (he responds.)
2. Avin. (he replies.)
3. Ite'. (she's a wannabe.)
4. Anoe. (she's a waitress.)

Well, technically she was, but psychologically, she is. Sort of.

And I thank this beautiful blog ... ger for such an inspiring relief to my heavily sedated mental state at the time of posting.

Oh, I see two elephants now.

Jul 17, 2006

on walkings.

Around two years ago, back in my comfort zone, I often took a walk on Sunday mornings with my then housemate, Acay. Much to his disagreement that we should jog instead of walk, (in addition to waking up at 6 am on Sunday mornings!), we could not deny that those walks proved to be something of an escape from our daily routines spent at our workplaces, surrounded by static cubicles and robotic tones of behaviors.



It was a perfect escape as we chose the right path to walk. And I don’t bother to put the words “most of the time”, because as far as I can recall, we always walk on the perfect tracks.
Those tracks belong to green grass of open fields lying right in front of us, amidst the breezy winds as whispered by old trees of Portsdown area. Often, there may not be gigantic branches of leaves, but large houses with impossibly spacious yards, where we see ourselves rolling while giggling, recalling the long-gone joyous childhood. Or maybe there were only small houses, and not flats, but they have sunflowers arranged to the nines, and kids across neighborhoods calling and shouting in jovial moods to each other.



Yes, the scenery of natural beauty unlikely found in a country often known for its tedious and boring skyscrapers. A perfect escapade on weekly basis within walking distances. And by now, the vivid greatness has become one perfect memory.



As I decided to bid a temporary goodbye to my comfort zone, and settling in my supposedly-home-country, I have never realized the great impact of the memory. As much as I dismiss the zone, I couldn’t help recalling the fresh air we breathe there, or even barking dogs surrounding me, prompting me to always take cautious moves whenever I see these inhumanely-proclaimed men’s-best-friends. Until now.



And just now, those memories evoked me again, with a different backdrop.
Here I am, in this chaotic city, staying in a walk-up flat right in the heart of the city. What started as simply trying to buy today’s paper, I found myself walking towards a street filled with shops, eating places, traffic jams, bakeries selling breads with jams, video rentals, and air pollution. Yet, I kept walking, and as I looked above, there it was. A few dried branches waiting for rains to drop by.

Hardly any green leaves, hardly any friendly people apart from aggressive drivers, hardly any grass apart from asphalt.



But I’m sure I’ll miss what I’m having now in near future, as much I miss those walks two years ago. When I part with these densed atmosphere, I will long for, miss, and eventually, cherish the moments.

The assurance is, the memory lingers on. I keep on walking.



ps: the images were taken during actual jogs ... eerr ... walks (according to Cay, again! hahahaha!) on those lushful areas.

Jul 10, 2006

a cynical place.

In case any of us has been zoned out or transported to another planet for the past century or two, here’s the latest development from the planet earth:

The cities we live in have somewhat become dangerously some cynical places to breathe in.

In case any of us has not been out of our homes in the past few weeks, this is a good time to start enjoying the fresh outdoor air filled with carbon-monoxide-what-have-you. But now, the enjoyment comes with a price.

As I decided to spend the beginning of the week in my other home in a suburban area, I couldn’t help but holding on to my bag tight, and spare the rest of my fingers to “cover” my pocket. Of course, once in a while, I let some of the fingers go to check other “areas”, to make sure that no strangers would dare to grab, touch or even look at. After all, I’m in a public transportation, not a public bathhouse. Well, not even the latter place exists here.



The protection does not stop there. During the journey, one can only wish to have another set of eyes at the back of the head, to make sure that no pickpockets around. Even when they are actually not around (God knows why they’re not working today), we can’t help shaking off the thought that they might be around at any given time.

Thus, when the journey was about to end, when an automated saying of “Thank you” was uttered while we gave out coins and scrampled notes, who wouldn’t freeze to stop when a becak driver said:

“Allow me to excuse myself, bang.”?

There, the moment of awkwardness, which soon only followed with a hesitant look and reply shown with a half-hearted nod. Worse, soon we checked our bags, wallets, purses, phones, to make sure everything is still intact. Everything’s perfectly in place, and he is giving his perfect smile. A very sincere smile.



We smile back for sure, but is it also sincere? Maybe we smirk, not smile, because our minds still go to our belongings. Maybe we smile, not smirk, because inside, we laugh at ourselves for getting so cynical to the extent that we have gone past a common decency to be polite. As simple as that.

What’s not simple is, obviously, to change. And I am not in any way to judge, nor to ask any of us to change. Anyone who’s seen me in real life will perfectly be aware of my irritated and annoyed look, which somehow has become my permanent fixture, unknowingly.
See? The result of being cynical is this barrier to prevent us from being liked at. Or at least, being the one to be looked at the second time around.

Alas, the options are the options. They are there to choose.

But pardon me for being cynical again, what’s the point of choosing? It’s life, enjoy it!



Oh. Really?

Jul 3, 2006

morning!

What’s your definition of “a morning person”?

Or what comes to your mind when you hear something like “a morning person”?

My friends used to call me as “a morning person”, because I liked setting up breakfast meetings with them. “Let’s meet over breakfast at Holland Village”, and I wouldn’t settle for anyone coming above 11 am. Why? Because at most eating places, the breakfast hour would finish by then. And as Aki, my friend, said, “There’s no better place to have breakfast than Coffee Bean. Free flow of coffee and tea until 11 am!”.



Exactly. For a long time, coffee has been associated as an accompaniment of morning, or everything morning-related. We come to our workplaces in the morning, and guess what’s the most popular destination after gents/ladies? It’s none other than pantry. I remember when I worked in an office before, just right after I put my bag on my cubicle and logged my phone and computer in, immediately I rushed down to pantry and made myself my favorite breakfast: a cup of cereal, with a dash of coffee on it. Sounds, well, I wouldn’t put delicious as the correct term for it, but let’s just say it’s more than fulfilling.

In fact, I begin to wonder from my experience above. Did I become “a morning person” because in any way, I would have to wake up in the morning to rush off to work? Five days a week, we drag our bodies from bed to shower, and we take whatever shirts and pants available from the rack, and still half-asleep, we walk down the road, hurriedly catch a bus or a cab.

The latter proves to be more expensive than the former of course, and is it that expensive to become “a morning person”?

Well, in a way, maybe. In another way, it’s not necessarily so.



Whereas the weekdays prove to be like a guirella-training, the weekends prove otherwise. Sunday morning, we do our laundries, we have that breakfast-with-friends sessions, we grab newspapers, circling sale offerings or available apartments, and suddenly the days look bright ahead. Saturday morning, we take a long walk down to a complex of beautiful houses or settling for a park, another breakfast-with-friends, or your jogging partner, storm off to wet markets for worth-bargaining grocery items, cleaning up your pads, and the rest of the day will be a good day for you to catch up with the latest films in town.

Believe me, I had those. Once, I felt in contentment having all of what I just wrote.

But can one stop being “a morning person”?

Hardly.

Even the luxuries are gone, there can’t be any ways to resist the temptation of looking at yourself in the mirror at not more than 8 am, and freaking out to see your pimples are getting bigger. The first splash of water in your face that morning, the first pour of water in the kettle to boil some hot water, and of course, the first tune you hear in the morning.



So, here I am, penning down my thoughts and my wish to always become “a morning person”, right next to my first cup of coffee, my first piece of writing, and my first song heard today: Carnival by The Cardigans.

How can you say “no” to that?

Now wake up, you are “a morning person”.

Jul 2, 2006

Look Both Ways.

By now, we might already be familiar with many inventive ways to make a film compelling to watch, or for those living in a fast-lane, just to look at. One way to make the film interesting is by incorporating other kind of art into the story, or at least briefly touching it, and it is guaranteed to make our eyes rolled in disbelief.

Think of Frida, a superb example of paintings coming alive, depicting the plots of the story. In an almost similar way, Sarah Watt applies the same concept to her directorial outing, Look Both Ways, here. Although it is not necessarily revealing the plot, the paintings coming to live work well in representing one of the main characters’ inflicted mind.



As such, at any given moment and chances, we might be tempted to deviate our attention to the paintings, rather than the story. Yet, Watt superbly crafts her film, in a way that we couldn’t help ourselves feeling the characters’ aching for affection and their unspoken yearning for comfort. In a story consisting of three strong plots, brought together by one trigger of an incident, Watt intertwines her characters with tender treatments that by the time the end credit rolls, we will look at the big screen and thinking, that we see ourselves in them.

That’s simply a result of a good story.

Jul 1, 2006

a miraculous relief.

just when we thought that we had to surrender our friends, our lovers, our parents, our brothers, our sisters, being succumbed to a mindless game of twenty-two guys chasing one balls and throw it away.

just when we thought that the loud of cheers and jeers from overcrowded cafes start irking us most.

just when we thought we had it all.

here's something to consider:

a cab driver did not have any idea how the match of england vs. portugal went on.

in other words, and as proven with a glee on his face, he did not follow that particular football event i didn't even bother to mention the name!

thank you so much. you made my lonely day and night altogether. thank you.

ps: in case you read this and wondered why i didn't give you a big tip, well, didn't you see how the traffic was like?!

Jun 30, 2006

Sacred Heart.

Ferzan Ozpetek. The sole name and the mere factor that drew me to watching Sacred Heart, and leaving any expectation or pre-conceived opinion behind.

Well, I was wrong. I couldn’t resist occupying myself with certain hope that Ozpetek will once again embrace gay-themed stories as he did superbly with Facing Windows and Hamam, the former being one of my favorites. Yet, as I patiently waited for a little under two hours and after Barbara Bobulova took her clothes off in a public train station, I knew that I was in for something else.



This time, Ozpetek removes his usual clout: women having trouble accepting the presence of gay characters in their lives. Instead, he crafts a character inside Bobulova who has to walk through an unbalanced bridge of being a good Samaritan and a corporate leader at the top of her game. Irene (played by Bobulova) is best considered as an example of many of us who often question our lives instead of being in contentment with whatever things we already posses. Thus, as briefly glimpsed above about her full-frontal nudity in a public place, our heroine reaches the peak of her emotional troubles by having a larger-than-life outburst. Again, a deviation from the director’s staple of leading ladies who’d rather oppress their conflicted minds, and making the films intriguing to watch.

Wait. By saying that, does it mean the film in spotlight here not as intriguing as the others?



Intriguing, maybe. After all, the theme of doing unconditional good deeds to others while walking a fine line of living a fabulous life is always interesting to watch. Yet, if Ozpetek’s others are still enjoyable to watch despite their heavy-weight drama, this time Ozpetek fails to create the same interest in his audience, particularly the writer here. By the time Irene does her wandering, we hardly care about her motivation, because Ozpetek presents her, or rather, clothing her with only an outer mantle that somehow discourage us to get further peek inside her skin. As such, Bobulova’s terrifying act reminds me of what Christian Bale did in The Machinist: suffering-for-art not supported with a convincing work of art, i.e. good films.

Thus, a token of remembrance in this film would likely to come from the nudity scene of Irene, which by now might be gone off to become overmentioned. But apart from that, there’s nothing much to tell. The same theme worked more effectively in a comedy like Mr. Deeds Goes To Washington apparently.

Jun 29, 2006

Paradise Now.

Upon walking out of the cinema right after the credit ended, I couldn’t help wondering to myself, what caused that hyped controversy and commotion surrounding Paradise Now. Is it the heart-rending storytelling of a suicide bomber, or the lip-lock scene inside the car between one of the bombers and a girl?

I may not be exposed that much to the current upstream in Middle East country, but I couldn’t help getting myself jolted looking at a few good seconds of the kissing scene, with the backdrop of a chaotic country in the middle of war. Of course, to justify a little bit, the girl is a modern girl recently returned to Palestine after completing some studies. In what seemingly a stereotype-yet-still-valid depiction of someone from a developing country going home after spending some time in a more modern and established land, the girl is also shown wearing pants and tight shirt, instead of burkha like her fellow citizen.



The same modern-sentimental point-of-view as reflected in the above paragraph was unconsciously reflecting in my understanding towards the film. Not only applied to the kissing scene, which by now has irked me most as it actually is a very disposable scene, but also the understanding towards the story about the final hours of two suicide bombers. Storytelling wise, it couldn’t be more gripping with some hilarious scenes peppered evenly throughout the film. In particular, the scene where a suicide bomber is making a heartfelt goodbye speech to his mother before he goes on a duty, only to find that his speech is not recorded yet because the camera operator forgets to load the camera with a film.

Yes, folks. Sensing a deviation of talking about the heavy-weight theme of the story, and focusing to the light-scenes-that-matter-most is what I’ve always been aiming at. Again, I’m not in any fair position to discuss the suicide bombing, as I believe that it’d be best left to any political analyst around. What I’d like to believe most is the ability of the film to crack me up in a wide smile once in a while, soon to be replaced with gripping scenes of cat-and-mouse game between the bombers and terrorist groups marching ferociously in the film, and that’s more than enough to keep me glued to my seat.

That concludes that Paradise Now has given me a sheer joy of pure cinematic entertainment.

Jun 28, 2006

Superman Returns.

Like any thing we have to make in our lifetime, there's no formula for success. There's no pattern to guide us how to make an achievement of, aptly put, being successful. However, one thing that stands out above the rest is the passion.

The passion to treat the subject with a great tender, like carrying your own baby, and develop it well, so that he has a character evolution that also transforms the people around him. They will have their own distinctive characters that make them appear full of flesh, and we are keenly awaiting their appearance every time.

The passion to believe that what you want to achieve is a success, in every aspect, in every target market. While it often deemed almost impossible to bridge a critical and commercial success, remember that miracle does happen. You know you're taking care of a big name, but remember, by now the big name has grown. You'll only need to grow it a little higher.

The passion to have a little faith on faces you've doubts of pulling the charactes through, yet, once they get a deft direction, they will work wonderfully. That even applies to the villains.

The passion that the legacy lives on.

The passion is what makes Superman Returns.



And he will.

Jun 27, 2006

let's derive.

What drives you most?

What excites you?

What leads you?

What thrills you?

What have you done to achieve those?

What?

Nothing?

Or a little something?

What if you fail?

What if you succeed?

What if you finally quit?

What if you decide to march on?

What happened?

Who knows?

Where else can you go to make your passion your profession, at last? At the very last?

But, what if you realize that you are best left out being appreciators rather than the main players in that field of your interest?

What if you realize that if you don’t have the cut there?
The persistence?
The resistance?

What if your admiration has to stand quite afar from the spotlight?

What if you’ve been right all along?

What if your sacrifice fails to bloom?

Mark that word. Sacrifice.

Jun 26, 2006

The Dorm.

There are many good things to talk about The Dorm. Apart from the hardly arguable fact that they make the film compelling to watch, they lead to one obvious matter: the film stays away from the horror genre, and plunges to a terrifyingly good dramatic works.

Gone are the mindless, often numbing, creature-filled horror Thai films, which actually revive the film industry in the country to be one of the most sought after in the world. Yet, the director Songyos Sugmakanan, who was also on the board with My Girl a few years back, chooses to follow the path of his fellow comrades whose penchant over crafting a masterful storytelling win over predictable shocking values often way too much to see on any horror films.



Instead, Sugmakanan cleverly presents the film more as a father-and-son story, a theme often reliable to provoke thoughtful minds, like The Return. Indeed, it is interesting how the overall plot is triggered from a coming-of-age endurance the main character has to go through while he is facing obstacles from somewhat a full-of-misunderstanding communication between him and his father. And once we are settled in this dramatic territory, we will forge the temptation to get silly scared over the creepy background, which in many surprising ways, never overwhelms the film’s tender, touching story.

Alas, if we think that Thai film industry is at the brink of overexposed tiresome, perhaps this film in spotlight is a rejuvenating, and outstanding, work the industry should be proud of.

Jun 25, 2006

makin' whoopee

Let’s just say we make love.
Once, twice, thrice a day.
Even more, even less.

But do they mean anything to you?
The stroke of whoever fingers on the back
The sweet tender words whispered through our necks
The gentle tap on whoever shoulder

Let’s just say I have enough of that
Yet I yearn for more
Let’s just pretend we never endure deeper than that
Yet we constantly, religiously, and tremenduously embark on it all the time

Maybe you never get to experience our sensuous sessions
You go for quickies, I go for embraces

But today
I think I tickled your senses.



PS: what would it be if I kissed you back at that time? Will it be a greater love than ours? Will it be an eternal regret?

Jun 24, 2006

Cut Sleeve Boys

Beauty pageant. Colorful furs and wigs. Steroid bodies. Hunky studs. Fashion equips.

Just every common stereotype labelled to the campiness of gay life is mentioned, we’ve got to see all of them in Cut Sleeve Boys, the title itself refers to a slang, sort of, used to describe gay Asian male in UK. Whereas the premise of cultural clash of East vs. West has been brought up to the big screen through a hardship look (Yasmin), or a bone-tickling manner (East is East, Bend it Like Beckham), here the first-time director Ray Yeung chooses to focus instead on the ‘fabulous’ side of gay, leaving the cultural distinction of the characters being both Asian and gays at the door.



Which means, while the film does an almost knock-out premise, it never takes itself seriously. The film opens with the story of Gavin, a closet gay working menial jobs, who encounters death while involving in a slightly unfavorable sexual intercourse with a stranger. From this point on, the story begins, and we are required to determine ourselves how the death makes an impact to Gavin’s two best friends, Mel and Ash. Their lives as two Asian gays revolve around the listed words right below the title above, and more. Yet, they remain within the jovial side of the chosen life, while the enduring part of their cultural lives remains a yearning for us wanting for more.

As such, who can’t resist watching a maniacal ego man is having a silly catfight with a beauty-pageant-obsessed balding guy? Yet, while its fun lasts for a good an hour and a half, one can’t help looking beyond the horizon as often inserted in a few scenes of the main characters making out with their Caucasian partners: that above every campy life, there’s substance to make everything becomes contentment.

Jun 21, 2006

What's A Marriage To You?

from a conversation with two women in their mid-20's who soon are going to attend another friend's lavish wedding, and all of them happen to be my dear darling friends, it is decided that:

a marriage is a state of mind.

regardless your age, your mind-blowing independence, your financial security, or your maniacal family intrusion, you'll never be able to force a marriage into you, unless your mind says "i do."

wholeheartedly.

peer pressure? now that's something.

what's your take?

Jun 20, 2006

Lentera Merah.



Any afficionados of Asian horror films, particularly from Thailand, will quick to notice that Lentera Merah feels like a second-rate material from the factory. Thus, when Hanung Bramantyo, the director, tries to make the film to be in par with other films from that particular genre grouping, the result is somewhat confusing.

Why so? While it wishes to reach the maturity of thrilling horror, influence of Indonesian-style horror films, as seen on the penultimate scene, bogs down the intention carefully crafted from the beginning of the film. The premise of the film, which revolves around the publication of a campus magazine aiming to reveal nothing but the truth, is intriguing enough, as seldom we see horror and political-themed story match into one. Yet, this plot is twisted into another creature-filled horror films, and instead of beguiling audience with thoughtful lines, the film quickly chooses deus-ex-machina solution, by resoluting the problems through religious intervention.

If that sounds familiar, because it has been used way too many times. While Bramantyo clearly has reduced its presence, yet it has become pivotal enough in the whole structure of the storyline. It might be interesting to see how Bramantyo polishes his future thrilling horror films, if he will make any, because what we get on the film, at least, shows an interesting start.

Jun 18, 2006

a few certain characters.

In writing a screenplay, a screenwriter is constantly told by his or her own consciousness to define characters on the written screenplay through their actions. How one behaves or reacts to situations surrounding them truly reflect their truest characters in real life.

Point taken.

Yet, knowing that bad screenplays come out more often than the good ones, what we often see on both big and small screens are passive (main) characters who do not create anything to happen in their lives. In screenplay-writing terms, this kind of unfortunate mishap is better known as “off-the-page”. The passive characters are the kinds that seem to stand or look still, and having their presence reduced to minimum throughout the storylines, usually we hardly relate to them, making it hard to create sensory connections, be it empathy or hatred.

Such a numb experience, leaving a devastating effect in a long run.

Why these passive characters exist? A simple and quick answer to this question would be to provide a counterbalance for the active ones, in order to achieve that stated ‘status’. By any means, the kind of mindless response is perfectly fine. However, if we are willing to dig deeper, we might be able to retrieve many more possibilites why they have to exist. Or rather, we might want to derive any possible causes why they exist on the first place.

Let’s see.



Passive characters wait for some things to happen. As stated above, they’d rather wait than create. They believe that they will cause things to happen around them through their minimum act of doings. Of course, the means to achieve whatever intentions they have might be some intangible tools we are hardly aware of. Mantra, prayers, these kind of things have greater chances to be perfectly abused of from their holy initial usage.’

If waiting is not vivid enough in depicting the characters, perhaps it is best to say as well that the passive creatures carry too much pride within themselves. So much so with this pride emblem applied inside their heads and minds, this elite club will remain elite eternally, because they will go to the distance in preserving the pride. Stooping low to get to the dirty core of life is strictly a no-no option, because pride, or often disguised with another word called ‘dignity’, is something too fragile to gamble.

In other words, that particular famous Jane Austen’s novel should be re-titled as Pride and Patience, and what we get to see is a novel resembling the line shown in a monitor next to a dead patient. Straight. Linear. Freakingly straight line with no dynamic movement.



Thus, no matter how we dress up these characters, they are bound not to create any spark within us to notice. They choose to hide themselves under the thick particle of dust, while looking at better things ahead from a faraway place, and binoculars are not a must option in this session.
And they will keep thinking:

“Maybe it’s better to stay this way. Maybe this is the good thing to come. Maybe, I have become way too comfortable in this.”

Maybe. But at the moment, my question to myself on being the kind of people I’ve uttered for the previous 500 words so far is:

“Have you been right all along, that some people are best left to be appreciators rather tan doers, because they’ll never be good in doing what passionate them most?”

I can’t face the answer.

Stoned!

Who is Brian Jones?
He is one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones in 1962.
Okay, and what made him matter most?
He died at the age of 27, believed to be suffering from overdosed drug and alcohol consumption.
Okay.
Hold on a sec.
You said, ‘believed to be’?

And that’s how the film is intended to be, which also explains why Paddy Considine has a strong presence, despite not being the title role. Playing a supporting character which soon becoming a pivotal one as the story progresses, Considine shows a remarkable intensity that it is always pleasantly intriguing to see him chopping the scenes with his grit. The film relies heavily on him.



Does this mean Stoned fail to capture ‘the wild and wicked world of Brian Jones’, as the secondary title suggests? Stephen Woolley, the director who reportedly spent not less than a decade researching materials for the film, manages to lift the film above any other biopics with too much to tell and too much to show. However, the choice to trace down the remaining days of Jones, with not much activity to show in a big screen, leads the focus seemingly shifting to Considine’s character, leaving Leo Gregory, who gives an equal marvelous performance as Jones, does his acting to his own good.

As such, the film might be less wicked, yet what remains on a big screen is purely nostalgic for those living in the heyday of swinging ‘60s.

Jun 17, 2006

Transamerica.

After ‘turning ugly’ has become a major staple for any gorgeous Hollywood actress to impress critics with their acting skills and a sure bet to, at least, get a nod in Academy Awards, soon another trend will emerge: being a transvestite.

Thanks to prosthetic penis and Adam’s apple, these two latest invention in acting make-up will give a chance to any aspiring thespians out there to prove their ability to bring them in within themselves, and we’ll see how far they can go with those tools. But let me hold my reservation and doubt, whether any of them will up to the par set by Felicity Huffman in Transamerica.



Playing as Bree whose days of becoming a complete woman are marred with a life-changing road trip, Huffman is far cry from being a frantic housewife we see weekly on television. Instead, she not only lowers her voice to match a man’s tone, but she goes to letting her character’s ambiguity becomes her drive for every gesture she makes. From flinching when she tries to embrace her son, or fidgetting when a cowboy made a pass on her, these are the moments to show Huffman’s triumphant performance that will surely be remembered for years to come.

As such, deglamorized oneself is a matter of inner strength. That leads to a fine, exemplary performance.

Jun 16, 2006

Ekskul.

Excuse me.

The first ten minutes watching Ekskul, I began making this mental note: style-over-content. The stylized editing, the glorified violence, the overwhelming scores, the move has been used in many John Woo’s films, or Quentin’s, and the most recent film that sticks to my mind most is Running Scared by Wayne Kramer.
Call it MTV-style, this is the platform any young filmmakers these days find themselves at their utmost ease. They can show(-off) their apt skills in filmmaking, and that is as far as they go.
Story-telling wise, usually they tend to complicate otherwise simple narrative story, and again, we can see how far Pulp Fiction has influenced filmmakings for the past decade.



For all the influences, the film we observe here may still be trapped under those overwhelming look of a music video taken fresh from MTV. Yet, the same quality actually makes the film gripping enough for one to sit throughout the film, without at once flickering or despising, and this is despite some undeveloped characters, such as the annoying headmistress of the high-school where the story is built, or one particular girl who does not rise beyond glancing empathy look to the main character.

Excuse these few minor undamaging problems, then this film is a thriller for teens worth watching.

May 30, 2006

The River Queen.

There’s gotta be something about New Zealand and epic.

It seems that in recent years, any films from the country, made in the country, and created by its native residents do have a certain epic quality which make them hard to ignore amidst the crowd of CGI-ridden films in recent years. The sentence actually leads us thinking, what is it with New Zealand filmmakers who can turn otherwise mindless films heavy on visual effects into something of, say, award-winning works?

Peter Jackson gives his emotion to The Lord of The Rings trilogy, and even King Kong is considered one of the greatest dramatic achievements in this time. Andrew Adamson gives a life to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, making the film a pleasant to watch despite the heavy-handed action sequence. Not to be left behind with these two fellow New Zealander, Vincent Ward ambitiously embarks on a project of bringing up a story about a heroine who challenges the race diversion between the white and the Maori tribe in the late 17th century.



The River Queen tells the story of the heroine in a poetic way that often feels like a bridge between Jackson’s usual sweeping action scenes and John Huston’s Western-hearted films. The latter influence could not be more mistaken as the main character, Sarah O'Brien, is given a large portion in handling her emotional conflicts, torn between her Irish heritage, and her enduring motherhood, which eventually led her becoming a Maori herself. The kind of character who faces psychological obstacles in a physical struggle could be played by Humphrey Bogart or Gary Cooper in the past, and this gives Samantha Morton her own edge.

Already known as an actress with skillful talents, Morton gives a daunting performance in such a difficult role like this. Fearless and emotionally naked, she injects the film with her unmistakably commanding presence, making her stands tall above the rest of the cast, as her role is intended her to be. It is simply hard to see anyone else is up to challenges she clearly has gone through in inhibiting her character here.

If only the promotional material is daring enough to put ‘Samantha Morton is The River Queen’.

May 27, 2006

The House of Sand.

You can tell a film is economical by the look of the film.
No one will doubt that Batman Begins is one helluva expensive film, from the sophisticated visual effects or from many sets used in the film. On the other hand, any films like In The Bedroom is said to be ‘small’ and ‘independent’ from the limited sets it uses, or simple from the rural look.

Another way to reduce the cost of filmmaking that tends to baloon these days is by having a limited cast. In Jasmine Women, Zhang Zi Yi plays different roles through different times. There is no harm done in doing this, as long as we are convinced with their portrayal of those variety of people who surely will carry different characters to inhibit within that one singular actor.



This is the point where The House of Sand fails to lift itself up from merely being an economical film. The film, which deals with a mother-and-daughter relationship spans over more than four decades, is set entirely in a desert, sparing us a swooning cinematography, only to already feel exhausted by the first half of the film.

Yet, the film’s biggest problem lies on the choice of Andrucha Waddington, the director, to cast both leads to play different roles. Arguably, both Fernanda Torres and Fernanda Montenegro are among Brazilian’s finest thespians. However, the risky decision to cast both actresses to play both mothers and daughters within different periods of time prove to be a risk not worth taking at all, for we are hardly convinced with their performance. It is not an easy task to carry different characters within confinement of 2-hour duration, and as a result, we simply do not buy otherwise a great idea. For the actors themselves, what could be a challenging role some actors dream of, simply does not work under a half-baked direction.

Thus, this is the film at its most economical way.

May 26, 2006

Heart.



Here are the things you learn from Heart (the movie) that you should apply and consider with your mind, not only relying from your heart (the thing inside your body):

1. a contrived, forced romance should not be made for more than or close to 2-hour long, otherwise any director will run out of tacky lines to utter.
2. running on a tight budget? well, in a matter of film-making, who doesn’t? but sparing the budget for cinematography instead of adding a few necessary cast members is a sin. lucky you, the whole Bandung/Puncak citizen is currently busy tackling their garbage, and not complaining why no one else exists in that area apart from the three main casts.
3. any songs made by melly but not sung by melly should be properly put. where? on the soundtrack album only.
4. if your life is nothing but playing basketball (not even with a team, but just with you yourself and that basketball ring) and painting, here’s my generous advise: get a life!
5. oh, speaking of tacky lines, here’s the thing about teens these days: they are way smarter than that.

Unless we are talking about some hopeless romantics who storm the cinemas, making the film (gasp!) a box-office success. Yes, somehow love-themed stories work best when they despise logic and good quality of filmmaking.

Oh well. I’m out of here.

May 25, 2006

The Consequences of Love.



Watching a film made from puzzles about one’s life hesitantly scattered pieces by pieces throughout the entire film left one feeling puzzled indeed, in a good way: we get hooked.

The Consequences of Love merely revolves around the life of Titta, an old man with seemingly boring routine. He wakes up, he walks down to a lobby in a hotel where he has been staying in for a number of years. He stays there, reading newspapers until late in the evening when he has to go back to his room to sleep.

Having an almost stationery character like Titta challenges every aspiring filmmaker to bring many additional characters whom Titta will observe, or get involved with. Surely Paolo Sorrentino, the director, follows such a rule, with an underlining bait of his past that soon catches him up. Soon, the past and the present life of Titta will tangle him up, in many ways that thrill our mind, and eyes.

The confinement of space, considering the film is almost entirely set in one location, does not confine Sorrentino from exploring unusual looks which recall any of David Fincher’s works. The carefully captured images in this film is indelible enough to stay on audience’s mind, surely I do, which actually complement the impossibly great twisted screenplay and master-class performance from Tony Servillo as Titta on his commanding presence through stoic manners.

Yet, the film moves, inexplicably.

May 16, 2006

The Russian Dolls.

Picking up where The Spanish Apartment leaves us, The Russian Dolls feels fresher, as now the film solely focuses itself on the life of its singular main character, Xavier (Romain Duris in his relaxed performance), particularly in his love department. This means, unlike the predecessor, the film does not have to carry a burden of allocating spaces for multiple characters, which in turn left the first film with a little bit of misled direction.

The focusing does not come with its consequences though, and the one who suffers most from the reduction effect is Audrey Tatou’s character as Xavier’s initial girlfriend, Martine. Halfway throughout the film, the character somehow goes off the film completely, only to be revealed in a lesser scene towards the end, which does not explain or enhance her presence, except to reinstate her annoying charisma built from the beginning.

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Yet, the same cannot be said with Kelly Reilly (that particular shining stripper from Mrs. Henderson Presents) who plays Wendy, Xavier’s English girlfriend. Arguably the only character in the film that breathes full of life, Reilly brings her character in such a charming and likeable manner. Every single turn of her moves, be them as a jealous girlfriend or while hiding her repression of pain, Reilly does them with a believable persona that draws us to her close, rooting for more of her presence.

The rest of returning cast gives a slight brush to the film, which now works as if the audience has graduated from wearing United Colors of Benetton, to a more staple line of Zara. In short, it may not that greatly colorful, but whatever available there are steady ones that will stick to your memory most.

May 15, 2006

Maskot.

If Maskot feels like a throwback to the good old 70s and early 80s Indonesian comedy, then perhaps Robin Moran, the director, feels the right to do so after watching tremenduous amount of those kind films during the preparation of making his debut film here. Again, it is only a possibility.

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However, the statement above is derived as one can’t help drawing many similarities in this film to the films on the era. At the surface, the basic story premise of Maskot is in many ways applicable as if the film was made by Nja Abbas Acup, Asrul Sani or Chaerul Umam. The film revolves around a search for a hen believed to be the symbol of prosperity for a ketchup company. As the owner of the company (El Manik, in a successive roles required him lying on a hospital bed after his turn in Berbagi Suami) has a declining health, he requests his clumsy son (Ariyo Wahab) to be his successor, but he can only be so if he is able to find that particular hen to be used as a mascot for the factory. Eventually, the search trip has become some sort of coming-of-age journey which resolves in a good way guaranteed to satisfy everyone.

After all, it’s a comedy, right? And good Indonesian comedies of both abovementioned decades, think of Inem Pelayan Sexy, Bintang Kejora and the likes of them, relies on the comic presence of the cast. We are not talking about Bing Slamet, Benyamin S. or Ateng-Iskak films here, where the mere presence of these comic figures would evoke your laughter. Referring to the two aforementioned film, for sure Jalal was on the former film, but hardly any comedy actors present in the latter film, which were filled by character actors such as El Manik, Ikranegara and Amak Baldjun.
Following the similar steps, Moran gave sizable opportunities for the supporting cast of his films to shine. Particularly Butet Kertaradjasa, one of the iconic theatre figures of recent times, and Epi Kusnandar of the TV-series Kejar Kusnadi. Both are able to seize their presence with unique wits and unexpected charm that any scenes without them seem to exhaust themselves.

Thus, in the days of endless mindless teenage romance or horrifying horror, having an Indonesian film that feels Indonesian all around is a refreshing take to indulge.

May 3, 2006

the risk of addiction.

so i am addicted to this absence,
which drives me further to making numerous attempts of earning a penny or two maybe,
and not penning my own journal for free.

so i am addicted to the nights,
the companion of flesh and snack,
of two gay guys, one fag hag, and one helluva drinker,
of green teas, or normal ones in alternate.

so i am addicted to the city,
the coffee meets the riots,
leaving me stuck in the unlikely space,
of yuppies, of tough guards, of breezing condensed air.

so i am addicted to you,
the lover of my life,
the hairy bear of my life,
the shivering thoughts sending the hair at the back of my neck rising.

so i am addicted to this life,
of uncertainty, of impossible dream,
of unclear destination, of mindless people and their hopeless defense,
of ambiguity, and the likes of it.

so i am addicted to myself,
living the life i yet to lead.

Apr 17, 2006

where do i leave my heart?

for the past two weeks, i went back living the life i have been very familiar with. being in a comfort zone could not be more exhilarating than this, where people know you for who you really are, and you are free to roam around the city without worrying about what cannot be done to fill your time.

the friends remain the same, their dreams remain afar.

the temptation to go back is always there to lure you, and it cannot be any greater than this time around. after all, what's not to like about your own comfort zone?

actually, that's the key of treating this comfort zone. you hate it.

you loathe it by cursing it with the most comprehensive list of cursive words you can ever think of. you despise it by resisting that living in this zone would only drag you down. you hate it to death.

and by doing so, you keep on living nicely and comfortably till you love it.
and that's the point where you realize you cannot live in any other places.

and you keep on complaining.

and i wish to quit that.

i just wish to live where i can be living.

sadly, it's not here.


------------

who are you? i am a writer.
what do you do? i write.
how do you live? i live.

Apr 11, 2006

one of the highlights

Your Birthdate: April 11

Spiritual and thoughtful, you tend to take a step back from the world.
You're very sensitive to what's going on around you, yet you remain calm.
Although you are brilliant, it may take you a while to find your niche.
Your creativity is supreme, but it sometimes makes it hard for you to get things done.

Your strength: Your inner peace

Your weakness: You get stuck in the clouds

Your power color: Emerald

Your power symbol: Leaf

Your power month: November

Apr 10, 2006

a forecast of a birthday.

i know i'm supposed to continue telling you all about my bali trip, but the past few days were quite busy days for me.
who says one can relax in a comfort zone?
but then again, as i'm turning 27 in less than 24 hours, i'd like to pen a few words to commemorate this special day.

commemorate?
i don't know if i'm entitled to apply such a big word to describe my life, but here goes.

------------------------------------------

In the past, and until now, my dad has always stressed this point to me:

“No matter what you do, be responsible for it.”

Thus, he left me choosing what I wanted to become by enrolling myself in theatre and linguistic as my subjects during my hectic college days. He left me embarking on a corporate work-life, because he knew that soon enough, I got tired of it. He left me cooking on my own, because he knew that he could not eat what the food I made, somehow against his metabolism.

And he left me living the life I am doing now.

While like any common father-and-son relationships we hardly talk about our private life, we have one common faith to each other to keep the trust of being responsible in everything.

Of course, that includes love department.

After more than three decades of marriage, my mum and dad retain their romance, which by now has blossomed into longevity. Sticking to each other for more than half of their lives, I could not stop wondering if it is the same feeling when they began falling in love in those heydays of early 70s, or the love has diverted them to the direction of responsibility.

I used to believe that there are things greater than love in the forte of relationship, one of them being respect. Respect our companion, but more importantly, respect myself as the carrier of consequences in choices. Thus, it leads me to the responsibility itself.

Now, in the passage of my life that soon reaching the number of 27, have I been responsible for what I’ve chosen?

I may need a generous help of other people to give an objective review for that. But what I know from what I’ve been through, I can’t be more comfortable with the life I’ve led so far.

For sure, it has never been easy with the ups and downs, more with my recent decision to leave my comfort zone, and start a new life in what seemingly a chaotic place. The struggle to get through the harshness of life on a daily basis seems to be getting harder only to realize that no matter who I am with, the journey has to be taken all alone.

And losing my own identity to be replaced with being known as somebody’s friend, somebody’s boyfriend, almost takes the meaning of ‘whoring’ to a literal level.

Yet, at the end of the day, I can always look at them with laughter of relief, gladness and other jovial expression to which I can’t always describe vividly. I can always kiss my pillow, sometimes with a teardrop or two, while switching on my laptop to play some meaningful tunes. I can always send an email or two, blurting out whatever things I feel like telling to my friends. They are never away.

A cup of coffee or two, an hour or five, a lifetime unlike any other.

Here’s to my solemn birthday tomorrow.

That, just like any relationships, no birthdays would ever be so perfect. That no matter what, I guess my ultimate birthday wish will never get fulfilled.

That I’ve gotta be more than ready to be responsible of what I choose to be in life, and whom I choose to be with.

Of course, I always have the right to choose who and who I will have my birthday dinner with this year.
I doubt if they are my blog readers, hahaha!

Cheers!

Nauval.

Apr 6, 2006

pre-bali trip: it's all about the style

the journey had started a day earlier actually, right at the heart of the chaotic city, and it's none other than ... plaza indonesia!



being cosmopolitan people who refuse to downgrade the class by shopping at middle-class supermarket with fake french names like carrefour, why didn't we just settle to the privilege nearby? after all, we stayed in pejompongan, and this made our whole preparation easier by acting posh while shopping in such a luxurious place.

there it went, filling our bags with staple of food that included two loafes of bread, jams, crackers, snack, and complete the stylish shopping with snatching a pair of sunglasses with white frames. it is really a smaller version of the one audrey hepburn wearing in 'how to steal a million'! finally my goddess, we share something in common, after years of worshipping you.



and i'm sure, audrey, whenever you travelled during the heydays of hollywood, you always had it with you your fabulous collection of clothes, hats, bags, scarfs, the whole closet of yours. while we are not in the same department, i'll just settle with bringing my precious whitey, my tiny weeny silvery, and the connector to the world.

i was set, nyottie was set, we were all set!



and this time, bali would never be the same.

Apr 5, 2006

in a(nother) nutshell

from
the 4-hour delay. ogoh-ogoh. benoa. the silence day. the korean guest officer. beaches. double six. sand on martini. kudeta. seaside. bye bye nokia. honeymooners. ryoshi. ubud. welcome ericsson.

to
esplanade. holland village. west side story. gay plays. hostel. nude bars. hectic meetings. rushing deadlines. full-time jobs. sight and sound.

... let me have a little sleep, please ...

Mar 26, 2006

Berbagi Suami

With a string of successive records of introductory lessons, Nia DiNata starts to establish her own place among the commonality of other directors in the industry.

Why introductory?

First, she initiates. In Ca-Bau Kan, she brought the unseen historical tale of Chinese heritage to the public for the first time. In Arisan!, she touched the surface of homosexuality to the public unaware of the issue.
The similar pattern continues in her latest effort, Berbagi Suami (literally translated as “Sharing A Husband”, although the official English title is “Love for Share”), and as the title suggests, the film talks about polygamy.

But does the film talk?

Here comes the second point of her directorial trends. She spreads the subject being highlighted, and by doing so, she puts her thoughtful effort to give a politically-correct objective point of view, without necessarily putting in her own belief. Thus, she does not wish to be judgmental or siding to one faith, unlike Oliver Stone in his political series of JFK or Nixon, but rather, she goes for the way Jafar Panahi does The Circle, accommodating as many possible angles as possible, while a little distance away from the likes of, say, The Laramie Project.

It works well, it works not.


The division of the storyline into three (almost) parallel stories, contrasting the risk-and-consequences of polygamy life to one another, gives the audience multiple views of polygamy, leaving the audience choosing on their own. Whether polygamy works by suppressing jealousy, or by leaving the husband for good, or by exploiting every possible chance to make one’s own satisfaction, the effect could not be more satisfying the way a kid is given choices of many flavors in a box of chocolate instead of sticking to one particular flavor.

However, the spread may backlash as it results in the lack of thorough explanation for the subject in focus. This could not be more apparent in the talk-show scene where Salma (played with a great degree of subtlety by Jajang C. Noer) defends her support towards polygamy against her opponent who despises the concept. As the raging discussion continues, while it is still going circle on the facade, DiNata does deus-ex-machina by abruptly inserting the news on tsunami disaster to hijack the whole film throughout, bringing it to another direction.

Which direction will it take then?

The final introductory pattern of DiNata is to leave the audience on their own best to perceive and receive what they see, and perhaps bringing it with them to do any necessary follow-ups on their lives. Certainly Arisan! does not simply end with the two guys embarking on a relationship, and polygamy does not stop when two of four wives leave the man for good.
And maybe this is what DiNata excels best, that in tradition of storyteller, she does not necessarily give the whole story in details. Rather, she tickles her listener by giving a little to think about.

It is understood then that she deserves her own place here.

Mar 25, 2006

all i know of love.

Like all of you reading this blog, I was born to this world from the womb of my beloved mother, as a result from my parents’ act of love.

Throughout the years of my upbringing, I felt blessed that I grew up in what you may consider a perfectly normal, if not ordinary, household, where me and my sisters experienced what it was like to have our own jackfruit tree we were so very proud of, and that old red ‘80s Honda Civic taking us to our late grandmother’s place in other province.

Those were the days when we were often encouraged by our parents to show the world what we had. Shamelessly and tirelessly, both of them always stood by my side whenever I turned up in any talent contests, be them from singing or modeling ones. You are reading the words of an ex-model now!

Little would I know that behind the supportive acts, they had personal problems on their own, like any normal married couples do. It took me a while to understand that my mother often felt frustrated not to meet her husband who was away for work in a long time, or the times when my dad went out for fresh air to clearly avoid heated debates at home which I never heard directly on the first place.

But look what he brought home a few hours later? A packet of martabak for all of us!

The phone did not ring, no words were spoken, and it was hardly the time mobile phones existed. Yet, in what seemed like a silent agreement, they made up. He washed his hands in our small kitchen, she set the table, and we had supper. Life has gone on.

And a good 32 years later from the day they exchanged vows, they continued to love each other, setting an example for me to follow.

Or so they wish me to.

For almost 27 years of my existence in this world, I always yearn for having a companion by my side, simply longing to love and be loved in return, like anyone would wish to.
When I could no longer deny my likings on different kind of love to embark on, I could not find any proper guidance or direction telling me how I should behave and place myself in this kind of relationship. Except one.

I have the example as set by my parents.

Thus, despite the difference, all I know about love and relationship is mirrored what my parents have done for a good three decades. They love each other without asking much, or telling much. They love each other in silence, they love each other in unspoken rages that fades quickly. They love each other in sharing a common space without complaining much, or praising much. They love each other by sticking to each other, be it on the lowest level of degradation, or at the highest euphoria.

My relationship with twinnie has somewhat become static recently. Gone are the days of exchanging mushy entries in both our blogs, and if you happen to see any in mine, well, what can I say? My blog is my home where I have all the endless privileges to decorate it any way I want.
I cannot stop lamenting through some thoughtful process often filled with temptation to lure myself to others. After all, it is not easy to pass through the time without intimacy to satisfy my ego being a lustful human. Yet, what constantly slips through mind telling me of something else.

I want to stick with twinnie for good.

The hard and harsh times may be tough to get through, and writing this entry against the rain in the wee hours of the morning leaving me shedding some good tears. The tears that I often saw when I sit next to my mum who missed her man when she had not met him for months. The tears that I am now having because I miss him.

I know I do.

Does he?

Ruang.

In the days of successive mindless films only highlighting sophisticated use of advanced technology bombarding the cinemas recently, it is more than welcome to have a film that could transport us back to good old times, when a simple story can be told in a very plain, straightforward manner, yet it leaves us yearning for more.

Even the story is the kind of tale often heard in numerous times. It has been repeated in many versions and many interpretations, yet the way the story is brought to life is sometimes what amazes us, while setting aside the fact we have grown familiar with how the story might end.

It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey taken, and how we experience it.

Thus, Ruang gives us the chance to embark on an almost breathless journey from many breathtaking looks displayed on the big screen right in front of our very eyes against the darkened surrounding in a cinema hall. The continuous smooth editing allows us to capture the nuanced atmosphere of the nameless island where the story is set, along with the score, despite often being overplayed, does not glorify or hyperbole the natural beauty to become larger-than-life, but enough to make us feel being taken back to the nostalgia of the past.


The nostalgia theme might be something Teddy Soeriaatmadja has an eye for, as what he previously touched on his previous work, Banyu Biru. But this time, rather than challenging us into the world of surrealism to a raging effect, he wisely penned the script together with Adi Nugroho, making a linear storyline with a crystal clear narrative plot which in turns work pleasantly for us, the audience, and leaving us in amazement. Amazed that only in his second directorial debut, Soeriaatmadja manages to make a successful marriage of filmmaking elements: the technology does not overwhelm the film, but rather, it gives support to a story he has his faith and belief in.

Alas, the story itself does not offer anything new. How many times have we heard and seen a man, in love with a girl he would never be able to have, has to settle for another girl faithfully accompanying him from the beginning without ever asking for anything in return? Such a story does not have any spoilers or twists overtly used in recent films, but to absorb the thematic line, we are not asked to raise our eyebrows to decipher the film.

Because for once, Ruang successfully puts the old-fashioned romance back in a dramatic film we have missed for so long.

Mar 24, 2006

Ekspedisi Madewa

If one starts feeling uncomfortable watching actors in a big screen uncomfortably playing their roles in a film, then the film viewed is in a serious trouble.

Add that with the lack of adequate technical supremacy, something considered vital for the execution of the film here, what do we have then?

We have Ekspedisi Madewa.

The reason why it fails to spark the hysteria of Indiana Jones, as clearly the film is modeled on, can be pointed to many elements. Referring to my point earlier, the star-gazing treatment of a supposedly blockbuster film means that the film is determinedly be carried by a star, or two, as the main attraction. Seeing Tora Sudiro in his static expression throughout many action sequences, as if not sure if he believes in the script that asks him to pull a gun or to climb up, leaves us thinking if he actually screams for help to get him out of the film. Worse, the presence of Arie Dagienkz as the sidekick intended to give the film a fresh air from his humor, falls flat as his joke often seems tepid and unfunny, and not a single scene is able to make him established a character on his own.


Another point to sanctify in this film is its failure to present itself as an action adventure film, to the very least point of getting a proper look. The genre, which relies heavily on the existence of good editing, both in visual and sound department, seems to neglect the crucial technical qualities here. Some unthinkable fatal mistakes, as apparent in shooting the film in a digital camera then blowing it to the big screen, only make us wondering if the experiment of making the film is really disheartening.

Perhaps, the expedition on the subject needs to turn the direction to expedite a proper filmmaking that serves any intended genre, without leaving its audience in unintended confusion.

Mar 23, 2006

Jatuh Cinta Lagi.

Now, let’s play a game of “what-if”.

If Krisdayanti is not a spokesperson for a household product like a washing cream-soap and instead, she goes for, let’s say, a shampoo, will we see a scene filled with nothing but her hair most of the time to state that she is the face of the product and the product is happily inserted on the film?

If the presence of a coffee shop here is replaced by, let’s say, a warung pecel or a hawker centre, will we get to see the women preparing pecel or an uncle bringing us our drinks for a good scene or two, the way we get to see some baristas preparing coffee here in some unrelated scenes?

If Gary Iskak starts acting normally, and understands that being goofy is not the same as being over-the-top annoying, will we ever see the subtlety of playing a male-lead in a romantic comedy the way Hugh Grant or John Cusack easily slip in?

These are merely a few questions flashing through my mind upon watching Jatuh Cinta Lagi, a romantic comedy debut from Rizal Mantovani who revives the horror genre with Jelangkung, but unable to deliver the same revival process to the film here.

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The magic does not happen twice in a lifetime, but to think that blatant product placement gets continually annoying our film-watching experience is the least we expect for a prominent director with extensive video-music making background as of him.

Thus, when we start to look for something else to satisfy our thirst of the genre, again the mission is aborted by the unconvincing turns of the leads. As a female lead, Krisdayanti does not have enough potent to be kooky and smart at the same time as required by her character as a lawyer her, and she has to settle for the former quality which does not work all the time. Iskak has an aforementioned problem which suspiciously rooted from his own misconception of acting in a comedy film, instead of a romantic comedy one. Endhita as the female lead’s best friend, a possible side-kick that could have stolen the film, instead got stolen by the lines she had to utter. Her delivery of dialogues lacks the wit much needed in her presence, thus leaving her smart lines as prepared by the scriptwriter, Ve Handojo, gone off in the dust.

The only revelation is seeing Cornelia Agatha, fresh from her depressive performance in Detik Terakhir. Her kooky turn as an attention-seeker dangdut singer is exhilarating, thanks to her ability in maintaining her comic timing in place, and despite having to act against the leads, Agatha could hijack the film at any given time.

Thankfully, Mantovani keeps her in tact, leaving Agatha’s scenes short but memorable enough to leave us thinking about the film with a smile.

Just don’t get start on that little thing called BuKrim here ...

Mar 22, 2006

Jomblo.

(For the purpose of any non-Indonesian speakers out there, the title can be loosely translated as a singleton, and the word applies to both sexes, although the film largely focuses on the single guys.)

Ooppss! Have I said too much above?

I can’t help it, as much as I can’t help laughing, smiling, smirking, thinking, wondering, and other activities done by a film audience who is fully amused with a film that, despite some bumpy rides towards the end, is consistently entertaining.

Jomblo, with a line-up of four straight single guys desperately wanting to get girlfriends by their sides, may tempt a comparison being a male version of Sex and the City, and make the setting changed from Manhattan to some fictional universities in Bandung instead. No famous clothing line flashing on the screen, but we settle for a staple of T-shirt and jeans, emphasizing the look of regular college guys who less bother about their looks.

That’s why, the move of Hanung Bramantyo, the director, to cast the lead in relatively unknown newcomer, Ringgo Agus Rahman, is something worth a praise on its own, as Ringgo carries his role as Agus, the guy who walks away with his wrongdoings, in a relaxed manner, unpretentious that we enjoy his quirky acts without having to laugh at him. Instead, we laugh with him when he appears in his chicken costume, or when he reaches his peak of desperation to get a strap of condoms.

Such a joke which often being banally used in many slapstick comedies of Warkop DKI in late 1980s works pleasantly well under a script which seems to be carefully written by the director himself, along with Adhitya Mulya who also pens Jomblo, the novel, in which the film is based from.

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If anything bugs me most, is none other than the stoic presence of Rizky Hanggono, somewhat often stumbling down amidst his fellow members of this ensemble cast that comprises of Ringgo, Dennis Adhiswara who shamelessly goes to extra length in making a fun of himself, and Christian Sugiono. The latter himself is suspiciously cast to the credit of his good look, but even so, the quality fits his role as a playboy nicely, thus his presence is a far cry from being an annoyance likely found in many other flicks.

With clean slate of humor, often teasing with sex subject without being gross, and the characters Indonesians could easily relate to, it is hardly any doubt that the film is as a complete as what a good, entertaining Indonesian teen-flick should look like.

Mar 21, 2006

Match Point.

What can we say of Woody Allen who does London?

What I can say about him and his latest film here is to imagine him in his reclusive semi-retirement in a countryside of London, enjoying his fine wine while recalling the good old memories of his glory, and when he does that, he really picks up the good ones to be assembled in a collective work of art. A piece that is worth of an appreciation on its own.

For an afficionado of his works from the days of Take The Money and Run to the recent years of Small Time Crooks, we hardly hold any surprise to what Match Point offers.
But for those less familiar with his past days, seeing the film is still a pleasure very likely to bring them to understand Allen’s stature position in cinematic world, and that position reflects his wit and philosophical mind-games that most of the time would surely jolt us, shaking our heads in disbelief over seeing an otherwise illicit soap-opera drama into a highly praised thriller which goes deeper as a study of human behavior in general.


The object of the study lies on the presence of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a tennis pro has-been who chameleons himself as a desperate social climber, only to hit the jackpot when he strikes a winning game by marrying Emily Mortimer of a reputable family. Thus, begins the question of morale Allen starts asking us: for a climber to reach the top of his destination, is there any limit to the ladder he climbs?

Apparently, the answer points to an indefinite limit of the ladder, as now the climb is heading towards the sultry Scarlett Johansson, a deadly viper, femme fatale, who, in the tradition of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity or Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, is able to mastermind and take over the control from the hapless guy now being a victim himself.

Or is he?

Allen has done this earlier in his Crimes and Misdemeanors, to a much more mind-blowing result, yet that does not mean leaving Match… in a pale comparison, for this London film has its own sleek look, suspiciously resulted from Allen’s shift in his musical score from the usual old-school jazz to classical opera, something to enhance the elegance of the upper-class society portrayed here.
But above all, what distinguishes the film from Allen’s recent works is his ability to leave out his ego completely on the screen, leaving the film with a fresh feeling, as if, hyperbolically, Allen is reborn in the film world. Hardly any single character in this film that we could say, “That’s so Woody!”, unlike, say, Anything Else in which Jason Biggs does Allen at his younger days (to a horrifying effect, Allen himself appears in that film!), and even Crimes... featured Allen in one of the main roles.

Perhaps London air does him good, leaving the spotlight to the beaming greatness of the cast, in particular Johansson who dons her sexy persona to the role she carries and continues haunting the film even when her character rarely presents in the film. Allen himself orchestrates them from behind, giving them deft direction from the clearly-twisted script he pens.

Thus, if London does muse him this well, we look forward to having more of it.

Mar 20, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck.

I wonder if there is any film in recent years that beguile you from the start, and in reflect you give a thunderous clap after every single speech delivered by the main character.

If a statement above seems hyperbolic, then perhaps because the title film on our subject is. Or rather, it is larger than life.

The sophomore directorial debut of George Clooney exactly mirrors his own persona: charming, suave and contented. Thus, when he delivers the subject of television journalism serving as a merciless attack towards the communist witch-hunt initiated by Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950s, Clooney shows that such a resilient persistence has to be done in a grand manner.

The manner is apparent enough through the, literally, smoky screen as we see the main characters continue puffing their way through cigarettes, perhaps symbolizing the perceived image of gentlemen of that era. The backdrop jazz soundtrack provided by Dianne Reeves remind us the insert of Vonda Shepard in Ally McBeal series, that although the presence is considered a background prop, no scenes are wasted whenever they are in.
The combination of the two leads to the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography of Robert Elswit, a deserving Oscar-nominee for his work here, providing illuminous look against the constant terror in the television studio as told to us through a compelling screenplay.


The words as spoken in attention-grabbing style of David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow are indeed echoing the importance of a goggle box called television. Thus, towards the end of the film, after showcasing his star persona in every single scene, Murrow closes his exhibition by giving a toned-down speech, indicating that it is not the television that stupefying us, but rather, how we treat the box as a tool to enhance our mind and our knowledge towards life.

It is by then, a suaver-than-suave persuasion from a person like Clooney can pull it off nicely in this best journalism drama in recent years.

Alas, a film as good as this will leave you wanting for more, long after the closing speech ends with:

Good Night, and Good Luck..

Mar 18, 2006

on a certain sappy song.

For those surviving the horrible hairdos of 80s in Indonesia, and I don’t hesitant in pointing this to people like Rio, Pram, Qyu, Irvan, or the likes of them, they surely remember one unthinkable event, if not unpredictable, coming from one of the ministers known for his famous trademark: waiting for a further guidance from Mr. President.

It happened that during a ceremony held in his office, suddenly he began singing a verse from this song, Hati Yang Luka (A Tormented Heart), one of the iconic Indonesian songs of the era. He continued singing the song in full to the amazement of the participants. When he finished, they burst into laughter and clapped their hands, only to have their moods changed within seconds as the minister declared such sappy and tear-jerking songs were deemed inappropriate for the development of youth in this country.

I couldn’t really recall if there were further bans to those kind of songs from being played in radios or broadcasted on television, but it created quite a fuss among people involved in music industry, and these people objected his one-sided statement by continued creating those melodramatic tunes. For once, such a bravura act of democracy really started that early.

Now, looking back to the event, I could only wonder what would happen if the ban was applied, and no one bothered to protest about it.


Maybe every single guy were forced to listen only to macho group like KISS, Metallica, AC/DC, but not TOTO, especially with the songs like I’ll Be Over You, that’s considered haram maybe. The girls would tie their hair like a ponytail while humming traditional folk song like Ampar-ampar Pisang, but not the love-themed song like, well, can anyone care to mention any traditional songs with mellow themes? I run out of any example here.

Maybe I would never follow the step of my sister who used to be so crazy over New Kids on the Block and Tommy Page, and maybe I would never be able to memorize any Debbie Gibson’s songs. And maybe I would never hear about many more heart-rending songs in many years to come, just like the one I listened to this morning, the kind of song that affected my mind in coming to terms with whatever I am having right now.

These are the songs that, magically, translate whatever we may wish to say to whomever we want these songs to be dedicated to. It does not take a radio to filter my wish, for I only wish the song below to tell my twinnie, who almost never read my blog these days, about my wish.

If that unfortunate minister shall rise again, perhaps I let an orchestra playing that tacky song he condemned on whatever future ceremonies he might carry.

Anyway, nyot, here’s to you.


I thought sometime alone / was what we really needed
You said this time would hurt more than it helps / but I couldn’t see that
I thought it was the end of a beautiful story
And so I left the one I loved at home to be alone
And I tried to find out this one thing is true / that I’m nothing without you
I know better now / and I’ve had a change of heart

I’d rather have bad times with you / than good times with someone else
I’d rather be beside you in a storm / than safe and warm by myself
I’d rather have hard times together than to have it easy apart
I’d rather have the one who holds my heart

………………………………………

I can’t blame you if you turn away from me like I’ve done to you
I can only prove the things I say with time
Please be mine

I’d rather have bad times with you (please be mine) / than good times with someone else (I know that)
I’d rather be beside you in a storm (anytime) / than safe and warm by myself
I’d rather have hard times together than to have it easy apart
I’d rather have the one who holds my heart

I’d rather have bad times with you (surely) / than good times with someone else (surely)
I’d rather be beside you in a storm / than safe and warm by myself
I’d rather have hard times together than to have it easy apart
I’d rather have the one who holds my heart

I’d rather have the one who holds my heart

(luther vandrossi’d rather)

Tacky?
I’d like to think it as thoughtfully and creatively corny.

Mar 16, 2006

on driving while lying.

Here’s the thing. I miss driving.

The sheer sensation of behind the steering wheel, the wind blowing your hair rising to the air …

OK, it only happens in lame music videos of ‘80s.

But in reality, I don’t get that much opportunity to drive a car, especially not in my previous comfort zone where having a car is a very distant dream, and simply I don’t find it necessary to rent one since the public transportation system there is highly reliable. Why not make use of it then? And even after I leave the zone for good, I haven’t decided whether I should register for a driving license there or not.

Whereas in this chaotic city, it’s my own conscience of choice to opt for not driving. The horrendous traffic jam where crimes might happen within seconds, in addition to not knowing the road system, somehow discourage me to do my own driving here.

Thus, the only time for me to drive a car is when I am in my hometown, a newly-developed city which still has the atmosphere of an old town, where you can drive with the sight of greenery mountain within your horizons. It couldn’t be more perfect when I went there at the tip of last year, as I drove this old car every morning against the misty air with breezing winds, and for once, I did not bother to turn the air conditioner inside the car.

Perhaps such a pleasant experience is what drives me to do my own driving at this time around. But more than that, everytime I start hitting the road while changing gears, my mind would start wandering to any thoughtful thoughts. From thinking about what to have for dinner to whether I can get a call back from my last night’s date, thankfully I never hit another car until now, and let’s hope so for the rest of my life.

But one thing I’d like to think about shall I drive a car right now is the fact that our lives are surrounded with lies.

Lies are what bring life to our lives, as what I’d like to believe so.

Especially in a relationship, couples lie, cheat, and hide what’s needed to hide all the time, while they are faithfully holding their loves to their respective partners. It may be sad to come to the realization of such a fact, but some people choose to go on with these lies, and presuming the other parties being na├»ve or innocent.

Maybe our beloved ones know, so we think. But then maybe they have their own dirty laundries as well, so we assume.

The circle would go on, and so is the relationship itself, that takes two to keep each of their own secrets carefully.

Just like driving, sometimes you cheat, by not obeying what street signs telling you, and when you get caught by the police, you utter some excuses while wishing for the police to let you off with your little trick. And while you say that you will not do it anymore, who knows what the future brings? As long as the destination is reached, any roads can be taken, no matter what.

As long as the relationship is kept, sometimes, make it most of the time, we play ignorant to what our partners are doing. I am not in a good position to tell you if this is healthy or not, although you cannot hide that look of being depressed, but whatever state your mind is, be sure to keep your friends and diaries around, to let your feelings out.

Just like what Sheryl Crow says,
"Lie to me / I promise / I believe / Lie to me / But please / Don’t leave"
(Strong Enough – 1994)

And it took me a good twelve years to finally understand the consequences of the lies while painfully accepting them as what they are. At least, it takes me to lie as well when I claim, “I’m fine!”

I guess I really need that driving license next time I pay a visit to my comfort zone. It’s meant to make you feel comfortable, and for certain times like these, I couldn’t agree more.

Happy driving, while lie yourself to relax.

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Jakarta, Indonesia
A film festival manager. A writer. An avid moviegoer. An editor. An aspiring culinary fan. A man.