Friday, January 25, 2008

see.feel.think.

"My job is to make you see, make you feel, and make you thinks. That is all and that is everything..."

Mahadi J. Murat, writer, teacher, filmmaker, and father figure.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Building Blocks

Q. Why was Legolas called Legolas?

A. Because he likes to play with Lego last.

Ha ha :>

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heathcliff

Heath Andrew Ledger, 1979 - 2008


A reminder, if nothing else, of the briefness of our time in the sun.

Thank you, Heath.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pantasy

"What do you want?"

We're smoking again, me and Nate. It has become a social thing between me and my housemates; I have become the very definition of a 'social smoker'.

It was a relatively cool night, the air resting softly, basking in the after-rain atmosphere. The neighbours lights weave their way through our front gates, carving in its path a beautiful, illuminating play of light and shadow.

"Hmm," he thought out loud, taking another drag. "That's a good question."

I had asked him of what other race would he like his wife to be. "Let's say, for example, that you want your kid to be mixed. You want them to have that Pan-Asian look," I had asked earlier. "I mean, you know that mixed kids are considered to be more beautiful. And beauty gets you ahead here in Malaysia. Easier to get jobs, easier to get money through modelling or whatever, easier to even be on TV and be famous, if they wish. So if you can pick another race to mix with, any race, what would it be?"

A flash of mischief lit up his face. "I'll take a German," he smiled. A pause, letting the thought linger in the air. "Yes, definitely a German."

"A German," I echoed mindlessly, trying to picture Nate with his half Chinese, half German kid. "Not bad, not bad at all."

"What about you?" he turned the tables, waiting for me to inhale, and then exhale the nicotine. "Spanish," came the answer, as quickly as the question came. "But," I hesitated, thinking about it a bit more. "Actually, I don't know. I think someone Scandinavian might also make a good mix."

"True also," he nodded. "I hear that they have a big appetite for sex over there."

"They're white, mate," I answered, flicking the ash to the ground, before throwing the filter and stamping it with my slipper's sole. "They have a big appetite for sex everywhere."

"Not true also. I think that black people might be more voracious."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Like a homeless, hungry man at a buffet."

"Well, maybe it's a human being thing."

"Yeah, but I think others want to do it more than others."

"Hmm."

Pause.

"I've never seen a Malay guy with a white girl," I said suddenly, somewhat off topic.

"Really?" he asked. "There must be a few."

"No," I insisted. "I've seen lots of Malay girls with white guys, but the reverse is...well, I've never seen it. Never even heard about it."

"Hmm," he said. Inhale. "Maybe it's because they want a bigger dick. I don't think yours matches those I've seen in porn," he smiled.

"Yeah, if only you knew, mate," I feebly defended myself. "But their money is bigger. Maybe it's a money thing."

"Maybe it's a confidence thing," he ventured, throwing the stub to the ground.

"Well, I'm confident," I said, before walking closer to the gate, to the outside world. Spreading my arms, I shouted. "I'm confident, I know what I want, I know how to get it! I am confident!"

"Well, that's arrogant," he countered. Pause. "And you still have a small dick."

"Hmm."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing."

“The most we can do is to accept the situation and hope that it will improve.”

Linora Low, on what can be done to improve Malaysia.

Really?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Galaxy: Vs.

Jayken stalked out of the restaurant, nearly bumping into a servdroid as he did so. The door barely slid closed before it hissed open again, Kye stepping harder and faster in pursuit.

"Jayken!" he roared. Jayken didn't turn around, exasperating Kye. "You'll regret this! You go up against me, you're a dead man!"

That did stop him. For a moment, the silence hung in the air, a guillotine hanging over both men. Jayken turned, but it was Kye who severed it.

"You know what I'm capable of," stated Kye, matter-of-factly. The intensity in his gaze as matched by Jayken, but even Jayken could see the fear that lies beneath it.

"And you know what I'm capable of as well," Jayken started, walking closer towards him, until they're standing toe to toe, man to man, one on one. And then, in a lower voice, "I wont' stand back, and just watch you let them die."

Kye's expression changed, the intensity and venom replaced with...something that Jayken can't put his finger on. "You have to play the hero," Kye replied, and at that moment, Jayken knew what it is: sadness. "Even if it kills you."

Jayken stood his ground. Choose, and act. "I'm not playing," he said, balling his fists, "and this is not a game. It's people's lives we're talking about. My friends's lives. And I will do everything within my power, and more, to protect them."

A pause, a moment to let it all sink in. Both had nothing left to say, for beyond this point, action will be the only language spoken.

But both were unwilling to let it end. Yet.

"Your compassion has always been your greatest strength," Kye started, flicking his gaze away momentarily. "That's what I love and respect most about you. At times, I have benefited from it."

Pause. "But you should also know that it's your biggest weakness," he continued, now focusing back on Jayken. "And I shall benefit from it once more.

They held each other's gaze for a long moment, each burning the other deep inside, not willing to flinch or give in, wondering who will give in first.

It was Jayken.

"After the eulogy..." he said, softening his gaze, pushing back the feeling welling in his throat. Pause. Then he started again. "After the eulogy..."

"I know," Kye cut him off. "I remember."

Then he reached out, and put a hand on Jayken's shoulder, squeezing it. "It is done, old friend."

Jayken closed his eyes, feeling the warmth from Kye's touch.

Then he turned and walked away.

*Read Galaxy: The Journey.
*Read
Galaxy: Tears of the Son.
*Read
Galaxy: Across the Stars.
*Read
Galaxy: The Prodigal's Return.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Memory Lane

The sounds of laughter filled the room, a sound that had been a stranger where it once lived.

My family and I are laughing our heads off. We had unearthed a bunch of Hi8 tapes from yesteryears, the earliest of which dated from 1997. That was a time when we were still living in London. During that time, we had also traveled all over the place. If not within London itself, we went all over Britain, as well as the neighbouring countries.

We laughed at how my mother got conned by a Pakistani in front of the Notre Dame church in Paris. At how ridiculous my hair looked 6 years ago, at how cute my little sister was (with an absolutely perfect British accent. Magic!).

My sister gasped at her fashion sense when she was 15. My grandmother looked on with a contented smile, sometimes breaking into a laugh of her own.

My brother…was my brother. He made a lot of noise, which he usually does anyway. But it seems to be louder and more frequent on this night, as if he knew something special was happening.

And me? I cried with shrieks of laughter, as images and memories of yesteryears were erupted within me, the screen a living proof that is as clear and as bright as a sunny day.

After that, I went to bathroom, locked myself in, and cried again.

*Written on 13 September 2005.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

25/7

"No. No, fuck you, Montgomery Brogan. You had it all, and you threw it away, you dumb fuck!"

Montgomery Brogan, 25th Hour

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dogma

It has been hitting headlines like shit hitting the fan. In a sense, the shit has hit the fan. Far be it for me to suggest that the issue itself is shit, but it is, in a sense, ridiculous to the core.

Now it has been decreed that the term Allah can only be used by Muslims, after it was discovered that a Catholic newspaper, The Herald, used it to describe 'their' God in their Bahasa Malaysia section. Cue a lot of furore about this, with the government saying that there is the possibility of people being misled, while non Muslims and sensible folks wonder how language can be copyrighted by a single race/religion.

Only in Malaysia do we actually bother ourselves with this.

While I do consider this whole thing to be ridiculous (Allah, after all, is a part of the Arabic language, not the Muslim language, if ever there is such a thing), I do wonder about the true intentions of the Catholic newspaper.

After all, if they're really serious about writing about God in Bahasa Malaysia, why not just use the Bahasa Malaysia word for God, which is Tuhan? The utility of any word in any language relies not only on the literal meaning, but also those the accepted semantics within that particular culture (which is why subtitles at Malaysian cinemas can be a form of entertainment in its own right).

From personal experience, I know that Christianity has a tendency of trying to convert people. I know that some Christians, if not many, are also trained to convert others. I've had many inopportune meetings with such people. Hell, I had people trying to convert me even while I was filming in Korea.

Not that other religions don't do the same, mind you. For example, I just haven't come across Buddhist monks trying to convert me. I've slept in a temple once, but the only spot of bother that came with that is the fact that I had to wake up at 5am.

But it's interesting why The Herald insist on using the term Allah for the Bahasa Malaysia section. If they're writing it in Arabic, then it makes more sense. But they're not.

And so I wonder.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Post That's Most Likely To Land Me In Jail

"You know Fikri," said my friend's father, as he puffed away on his cigar, "when you go to Korea, just go and stay there. Don't come back here. Just stay there. This country is messed up lah."

A moment's silence, then he turned towards his son. "And you, when you go to Australia, don't come back here. Just make it over there. Leave the old people like me here."

What you have just witnessed, ladies and gentleman, is a conversation that is becoming more and more common. The next generation, in a plan hatched and executed by their elders, are to be dispatched overseas, in search of a better life for themselves and their future kinsmen.

Why is this becoming the case? There are different reasons for different people. Ask a Chinese in Malaysia, and they'll state the fact that they are discriminated against, constitutionally, in this country. That policies and monies favour those whose skin is of a darker patch (though not too dark), namely, the Malays. Never mind the fact that economically speaking, they have many fingers in a lot more pies than they are actually aware of; it's the pies that they don't have that irks them.

Ask the Indians, and they'll say that they're in the same boat as the Chinese. Except that they don't have as many fingers in as many pies; rather, they're stuck as providers for the community. Providers of roti canai and naan tandoori, that is.

And the Malays? The supposed beneficiaries of the aforementioned policies and laws? Well, to put it bluntly, we're pissed with the corruption, lies and blatant spin that we see every single day of our lives. Never mind that we are the majority of the government itself, making up the backbone of parliament, the army and the police force, amongst others; no siree, we're a righteous group, and we demand righteousness to prevail!

And let's not even get started on the lain lain. They might have been here before us, but who gives a shit if a few villages gets trampled over; we need to build that damn dam, dammit!

Of course, the above are highly stereotypical points of view, depending on who you are and where your position within society is. They are not necessarily my own, but this is the discontent that I am trying to point out: that within each and every strata, someone, somewhere, somehow...is unhappy with this country, and how it's run.

So much so that the export of talent to other countries will happen at a much faster rate in the coming generation. How much faster? Personally, I don't know. The numbers are not always available, but with this issue at least, like a seasoned farmer expecting the coming rain, I can feel it in my bones.

Education, for example, is the most common route to escape. A lot of my friends would spend a year or two here, and then finish off their studies in Australia, lengthening it just enough so as to be eligible for a PR status. This makes it easier to live and work in the country, which brings about economical benefits as well. Let's face it: the Malaysian ringgit isn't exactly the strongest around. Waitressing in England brings in about RM7,000 per month.

So you do the math. It's politically, socially, economically attractive to join the brain drain.

Of course, this depends on whether you're good enough not only to get there, but to stay there. Furthermore, you will also need the fabulous moolah, and lots of it: getting abroad is the desire of many, but the reality of few.

Is it my desire? Certainly, it is an attractive proposition, but my desire are far more personal. I want to be a filmmaker, and I have a scholarship to go abroad. Simple as that. I believe that this is something that will make be a better filmmaker.

But once I'm there, will I stay there?

That is the trickier proposition. I certainly believe that I can. I'm not good...yet. But I will be. Perhaps I'll be able to get a job there. Hell, maybe I can even continue to my doctorate and finish it all there.

As of late, however, I have been burned by this desire to change this country. There's a lot of things that is wrong with it, but there's also a lot of things that is right. There's a lot that has to be done, but once we're on track, I truly believe that Malaysia can get right up there with the very best (and trump Singapore while we're at it).

What will I do to change this nation? Quite frankly, I don't know. Haven't a single clue as yet. Nada. For now.

But I know what I want. Running away, living abroad, making my money, fucking a Westerner so that our kids will become beautiful Channel V VJs is not on my agenda. It's all fine and well, but it is also the coward's way out.

And a coward I am not.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Check Out

Is she looking at me?

The thought came to mind, flashing through for an instant, flashing the alarm. I thought I caught a glance there, a little flick of her eyes, in my direction. Perhaps I did, but only in that instant.

Maybe she is looking towards me, rather than at me.

I quickly glanced behind me, to see if there is anyone there. I turned my head back, and see her deep in conversation with her friend once more.

Maybe it's just my imagination. A calling of the heart that overruled the mind, and making me see what I want to see, rather than what actually is.

I glanced back down at my book, wondering what it meant but trying to put it to bed at the same time.

So what if she's checking you out? What're you gonna do about it, anyway? Like you have the guts to ask her out.

Yet, within a few moments, I felt the sudden need to look up. This I did, and...

There it is again!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hero of the Day: Malcolm Mays

I considered re-writing this, but it's such a good article on what is an incredible story.

What was that I said about chasing dreams?

***************************************************

December 27, 2007

Based on a True Story

LOS ANGELES — At home, in gang territory near the 10 freeway, Malcolm Mays, 17, sleeps on the faded carpet of his grandmother’s living room.

For the last week or so, however, he’s been sleeping as often as not in an editing room on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, crashing there late at night after viewing rushes of the movie that he is shooting by day.

To a degree that would make any adult desperate to get into the film industry jealous, he has mustered the support of studio executives, a powerful producer and a top talent agent. It would be easy to tell this as the story of a bunch of Hollywood people doing a good deed in time for Christmas, except that it isn’t. They all say they hope to get as much out of Mr. Mays as he gets out of them.

When he was in the eighth grade, Mr. Mays says, he told his friends he would become rich and famous making movies one day — he hoped to use his money and fame to “make a difference” somehow — and that he’d have his first movie out before he turned 18. “They all laughed,” he said.

A year later he entered Fairfax High School, where the racial tension among students bused in from far and wide was a jarring contradiction to its upscale West Hollywood neighborhood. That fall he was caught up in a black-and-Hispanic melee. A friend was attacked with a knife; Mr. Mays says he saw the assailant lunging and headed him off with a punch. His mother abruptly transferred him to another school. The violence continued without him. Three of his best friends, he said, were killed that year.

But Mr. Mays had found his movie. He banged out a screenplay that year and gave it the name of his main character: Trouble, a boy who means well but always gets into jams, who does the wrong thing for the right reasons. An incorrigible Romeo, Mr. Mays gave his alter ego a Juliet: the sister of a Mexican-American gang member. And he imagined an ending in which the cycle of violence between black and Hispanic teenagers might be broken, after a shocking, sorrowful twist. He bounced from school to school, finishing 9th grade at a community magnet; 10th grade at Dorsey High in South-Central, where his father is a coach; then, at his mother’s insistence, another move, to University High in West Los Angeles, which was safer but a long bus ride from home.

He never stopped pursuing film. When the producer Peter Guber of Mandalay Entertainment spoke at his church, Mr. Mays, a leader of the youth ministry, wangled a meeting. That didn’t go anywhere. But when he injured his leg at Dorsey, the athletic trainer mentioned that his wife worked for Martin Campbell, the director of “Casino Royale,” and Mr. Mays soon had an internship in Mr. Campbell’s office on the Sony lot.

At 15, he co-directed the first of several dramatic shorts, “Open Door,” which was accepted to a Los Angeles short film festival. At 16 his script and plans for “Trouble” were recognized by Panavision’s highly selective New Filmmaker Program, which lets novice directors borrow a camera package.

He just needed a plan to put its camera to use.

Last year he signed up for a mentor program at University High that is run by the United Talent Agency. Howard Sanders, of the agency’s book department, commended Mr. Mays for his interest in a film career. Mr. Mays corrected him.

“He says: ‘It’s not what I want to do, it’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a movie,’” Mr. Sanders recalled. “He knew exactly what he wanted, and nothing was going to stop him.”

The mentor quickly found himself more inspired by the teenager than the other way around. “I learned so much about who I want to be from Malcolm,” said Mr. Sanders, who is 48. “This kid, obstacles are thrown in his way, and yet he remains utterly positive, passionate and confident in his abilities.”

Mr. Sanders introduced Malcolm to DeVon Franklin, a junior executive in Sony’s development department and one of the few African-American executives at any studio. In this “scrawny little kid,” Mr. Franklin said, he saw a glimmer of hope for a new generation of black filmmakers.

Mr. Sanders also pointed Mr. Mays to Todd Black, a producer of the feel-good, true-life movies “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “The Great Debaters,” who had discovered another eventual movie subject, Antwone Fisher, when he was a security guard. Mr. Black too was blown away.

“I never met a kid that age who was that in command of, and secure with, who he was and what he needed and wanted,” Mr. Black said. “He really made me listen to what he was saying, quickly and efficiently. He wanted to get his scripts made into movies, he wanted to go to U.S.C. film school, he wanted a career in the business. He wanted to lift himself out of the situation he was in. He’s almost entrepreneurial. He knew exactly how to work it, but not in an obnoxious way. In a very professional, proper way.”

Mr. Black steered Malcolm to Gary Martin, the president for studio operations at Sony, who said he was reminded of a 21-year-old John Singleton making “Boyz N the Hood.” “You just got the feeling this kid’s got the same kind of chutzpah,” Mr. Martin said. He laid down one condition for helping Malcolm: “Trouble” must have its premiere on the Sony lot.

Mr. Martin got Kodak to donate 50,000 feet of film, about $25,000 worth. He also made a call to Panavision when, according to Mr. Mays, it threatened to cancel the New Filmmaker Program in response to the Hollywood work stoppage. The result? “I had Bob Beitcher, the C.E.O. of Panavision, calling me in my third-period class, assuring me I’d have a camera,” Mr. Mays said.

As Christmas vacation approached, Mr. Mays was a walking whirlwind at his school, lining up actors, hiring a tiny crew, obtaining permits and insurance, putting out one fire after another as problems arose, even while taking his exams. He planned to begin shooting on Monday, Dec. 17, with exteriors at Fairfax High.

But at 3:10 p.m. the Friday before, he learned that his permission had been revoked. An assistant principal at Fairfax, David Siedelman, had just found out that Mr. Mays hadn’t yet graduated.

“You were very professional, I agree,” Mr. Siedelman told Mr. Mays. “You convinced me that hey, you were a former student, an alumni here. You never said you were still a high school student.”

Mr. Mays politely said that Mr. Siedelman had never asked, and that he’d never lied. But Mr. Siedelman said his decision was final and wished him luck.

“As usual, things crash down, right?” Mr. Mays said as he hung up. “But we’ll pick ’em back up.”

True to his word, as night fell that Friday, Mr. Mays bought time by rearranging his production schedule to start with interiors. One of Mr. Black’s location managers began making calls on his behalf to other Los Angeles schools, hoping to find one to replace Fairfax. Mr. Mays raced across Hollywood with a $500 deposit to release the camera from Panavision. And a giant lighting truck with a generator in tow rumbled up to his grandmother’s tiny house, vainly searching for a safe place to park. (Mr. Black and Mr. Martin wrote personal checks for $850 apiece when Mr. Mays couldn’t come up with the truck insurance fast enough, the only cash his powerful supporters have laid out on his behalf.)

He also stopped at Sony to meet with a postproduction supervisor about the arduous editing and mixing process. The supervisor asked if Mr. Mays had a deadline in mind, say, for submission to a film festival.

“I’d like to get it done by Feb. 14,” Mr. Mays replied softly. That’s when he’ll turn 18.

Source: The New York Times.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Heaven on Earth

What is the best? What is the greatest?

It's difficult to decide, for such questions presumes the existence of a perfect answer. And as we all know, ladies and gentleman, such perfection exists only in the eye of the beholder. Thus, the best and the greatest may well be disputed by the best and the greatest for many years to come.

But the eyes of others are not beholden to me. And if greatness can be measured in terms of impact, then the movie Nuovo Cinema Paradiso holds the most for me. Watching that movie, almost 7 years ago, sparked something more than just the normal satisfaction one gets from watching movies.

It sparked the realisation that I am watching something...magical. An ethereal, cinematic creation, that pierced right through my very soul, as I laughed and cried along with the characters.

Thus, what better way to kick start a new year on this blog, by sharing with you arguably the most iconic scene from the greatest...

...no, make that the greatest movie I have ever seen in my life.