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WeiQi Report

Jun. 12th, 2008 | 05:14 pm


Haha... this is fun :-) So cool huh, this game.

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Different opinions

Jun. 12th, 2008 | 01:43 pm

I don't know, maybe there is really something wrong with me. I don't seem to be in the loop most of the time. I don't really dig things, I guess. If not, why is it that I don't seem to like what most people like? I mean, most people likes to watch football or read Tom Clancy or loves Formula One but I don't seem to be "in" and as such my circle of close friends and topics of discussions at social places is usually rather limited. I am not whining or anything, this is my personal choice, but this thought came out again when I read a review of INCREDIBLE HULK by one of the more popular reviewer in Malaysia. His conclusion for INCREDIBLE HULK is this:

"Well, not quite as solid as Iron Man, but wild enough to please."

OH MY HOLY BUDDHA!!!! What????????? Not as solid??????????? Oh no..... either there is something wrong with him or there is something wrong with me. I thought that the character development in INCREDIBLE HULK is one million times more solid than in IRON MAN. IRON MAN is fun to watch etc. but it is hollow! Oh my goodness.... "not quite as solid". I can't believe my eyes....

Ok, enough ranting.

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SEPI Comments

Jun. 11th, 2008 | 01:00 pm

Sepi, 2008

dir: Kabir Bhatia

[There may be spoilers, so read on if you don't mind]

I don't know Kabir Bhatia personally but I have a feeling that he is a Wong Kar Wai fan. From his first movie CINTA to now this brand new movie SEPI, I cannot but feel the Wong Kar Wai in his movies. I may be over sensitive but dialogs like "expiry date of love", running it off when one is down on love and the BLUEBERRY NIGHT shot between Baizura Kahar and Pierre Andre just jumps out. Anyways, Wong Kar Wai is a master when it comes to the theme of love and loneliness, so if this is taken as a tribute to him, then is is well justified.

SEPI, like CINTA, is made up of several different stories linked up by one event (sounds very WKW huh?). Okay, okay, enough of WKW references. Unlike CINTA that is made up of 5 seperate stories, SEPI is made up of only three. I thought quite highly of CINTA and naturally I have quite a high expectations of SEPI. Both movies are about love but the producer made it very clear upfront that the two movies are not related in any ways.

The stories in SEPI deal with lost and loneliness, but then it is also about love found and second chances in love. To me, it is also about love at first sight which I also believe to be the most impactful and strongest type of love there is, whether it is puppy love or not. By strongest, I do not necessarily mean strongest in terms of bonds or love to eternity type but more on the strongest assault on one's heart there is. All three stories involve a love triangle, which again, to me, is the most real type of situation many people faces in real life, and is the most complicated of all.

The first story is about finding your true love and sticking to your heart. The second story is about love lost and found and the third story is about knowing what love means.

Afdlin Shauki plays Adam in the first story and his delivery is always on the dot. Unable to find his true love, he remained single until one day, the scent of a flower brings him to meet this woman, Ilyana played by the ever so beautiful Vanida Imran. To complicate things, Ilyana is already engaged before she met Adam and Adam has a very fierce admirer, Suzie - played by Nasha Aziz, whom he eventually promised to marry after knowing that Ilyana is already no longer available since she must honour her promise. This brings us to a very delicate scene where we see Afdlin in his very emotional self and a subtle scene where he looks at a sympathetic little girl with tears welling in his eyes. That is just a superb moment in the movie. With this, Adam is back to square one, a lonely person all over again. All sepi again.

Eja plays Marya in the second story, the story which I think is the strongest of all three and has the best conclusion to it. Sufi, played by Tony Eusoff, just lost his beloved wife in an accident and could not let go of his sense of guilt. He runs and runs so that he can run away from reality until one day he met Marya at the park. Love at first sight, sparks everywhere, but unfortunately, Marya is already a married woman. She craves for a child but so far, God has not given the couple any yet. Marya's husband, Zain played by Riezman Khuzaimi, sells fish and is having financial difficulties. In a moment of losing his sense, Sufi tried to buy Marya from him but later, after knowing that Marya is pregnant, Sufi got to his senses and secretly helped out the family financially. Although Marya's heart is with Sufi, she has to stick with Zain for the good of their child and after many, many years, we see Marya in her old age, and looked for Sufi in the park where they first met but is met by Sufi's only child who told her that Sufi has passed away. Before he died, he told him to return something to Marya, and this something is the memento of their first love. A beautiful story.

The third story is set in a college where a young, brash and confident kid, Ean played by Syed Hussein, falls at first sight for Imaan, played by Baizura Kahar. Ean is good looking and is thrilled by the strong character of Imaan who didn't fall on her feet like other girls do. In fact, she criticized him for lacking in the sense of artistic appreciation and said that he is a horrible stage actor. Challenged, Ean begin to want to know Imaan more and to also want to learn how to act. Through a series of encounters, Ean begin to truly fall in love with Imaan and Imaan begin to have strong feelings for Ean too. However, Imaan already has a boyfriend, Khalif played by Piere Andre, for whom she can do anything for, let alone getting rid of Ean. She proceeded to ignore Ean and in times of loneliness, Ean begin to understand what love is, what loneliness is and acted it out in the stage with this understanding. Imaan went to a celebration party after the show but saw Khalif outside. Afraid that Khalif will misunderstand, she rushes out but is met with an event that will change her life forever and bring her back to reality. There is a twist at the end which I will not divulge here.

Overall, although I would prefer that the director actually leave the stories as they are instead of showing us the candy eye endings, they are pretty good stories themselves. In real life, things are not as sweet as the ending of the stories in this movie and many people have gone through days of extremely loneliness and still not being able to find their love, let alone true love. Things are a lot more complicated and the final outcome of a relationship is most often not the one that is the sweetest. This is one reason why ASHES OF TIME is so great. Like in a lyrics of one Chinese song, "If this is the best conclusion, why are you still always in my mind?".

Sepi will be in the cinemas on the 26th of June nationwide.

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SEPI HAPPENING

Jun. 10th, 2008 | 10:37 pm

One of the signs of local Malaysian movies has still a long way to go compared to say, their Indonesian counterpart is media screenings. Just today, I attended the media screening of M. Night Shyamalan's THE HAPPENING in the morning and then proceeded to another cinema for the screening of SEPI, a new local Malay movie in the afternoon. The attendees is markedly different, I can perhaps say that it is as if I live in two worlds. In the Shyamalan screening, I see a lot of representatives from the English and Chinese media plus also from the Malay media but in the Malay movie screening, almost ALL the representatives are from the Malay media. Journalists from the English and Chinese media could not be seen. I find this very disheartening and I don't think any good can be done to the local film industry if this continues on.

The arguments goes both ways: the non-Malay journalists think, mostly, that Malay movies are really crappy movies and is a major waste of their time. Malay movies only interests Malays, ergo, only journalists from the Malay media need to attend. From the producers and distributors point of view, well, since these non-Malay media journalists are so arrogant, to hell with them! We don't need them anyways to make the money. Its a lose-lose situation.

I would really like to appeal to the non-Malay media journalists to attend more and more of the Malay movie screenings and cover the local movie scene with as much zeal as they would want to cover IRON MAN. The quality of local Malay movies, or movies from those handful of Malay directors, is improving and I think deserves more attention and publicity to bring in more non-Malay cinema-goers.

SEPI is a case in point. The movie is not bad, even very good if compared to one of the recent supposedly big box office movie. The stories are quite strong and the direction is purposeful. It is also technically good (unlike the boom mikes that keep coming in frame in THE HAPPENING - I can't understand how this can happen in a production of this scale - maybe the video-assist is faulty or someone is confused on the aspect ratio). Afdlin Shauki playing the Adam role is the most affecting and together with Vanida Imran, the pair is simply superb. There are quite a few flaws in the storyline and I thought the director compromised the ending but still, it is a pretty decent local Malay movie. It is nowhere near the league of TEMPTING HEARTS or COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY (oh my Buddha - these two movies simply took my heart away) but this is a different argument altogether.

There is a handful of producers and directors that truly wants to break out and I hope to see more and more non-Malay media journalists at these Malay movie screenings.

By the way, THE HAPPENING is really not very happening. I think I am getting sick of Shyamalan's style and he should really stop making movies like this. It is worsening and at this rate, he may be out of the business in no time if he doesn't work on something refreshing. The movie started really well, then half way through, it loses steam and it felt like he himself doesn't know how to end the story. It just floated like that, very unconvincing. Al Gore turned spooky. Even the very graphic scenes couldn't lift the movie up if there are no fresh ideas that can hold up. No fresh stories that can hold up.

Anyways, I plan to watch KUNGFU PANDA again this weekend. This time, the Cantonese version.





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Mentors and Mentos

Jun. 9th, 2008 | 11:25 pm

A lot of recent business books or articles talk about the mentoring system. I am also a champion of mentoring and I think one really learns a lot and grow a lot if one has the right mentor.

For me, in my career, strictly speaking, I have only one mentor, without whom I will be no where near what I am today. He took the time to know me, took the time to converse with me and took the time to teach me and inspire me. He will go to great lengths to even write several pages of notes explaining some things to me, often reprinting articles that is relevant to my job and when I have an idea, he will go to great length to test it and if it works, he is my first champion. I remember quite early in my career, I came up with a way to predict the success probability of movies based on a set of criteria and a point rating system and it somehow seem to work with the data. He loved it and encouraged me, even using it as part of the production proposal.

There are so many things that he helped me with, nurtured me and planned my career growth path. He even included me in his PhD. thesis, a very rare privilege of which I have in return learn a great deal. He has influenced my love for movies and enhanced my understanding of the principles of economics. I reminisce the time spent with him with the fondest memories and all of us that are trained under his wings will remember just as fondly. He is no other than Dr. Nihal, a person to whom I will be eternally grateful to.

In Weiqi (or Go), the person that I will be eternally grateful to is Mr. Tiong, the president of our Weiqi Association. From the first day I knew him, he is tireless in imparting weiqi skills and knowledge to us. His passion in weiqi is as great as ever and his passion to help new weiqi players is legendary. Never ever being stingy and without holding anything back, his only wish is to see more and more strong weiqi players in Malaysia. There was a time when I really thought I will quit playing weiqi and just play once in a long while and give up hope on improving, I think of him and somehow I am inspire to not let go of the game and to at least maintain my playing strength. Now that I am beginning anew my training, he again proved to be ever passionate and teach me the game, explaining in detail the game and playing with me, even after evryone is long gone. For this, I am very thankful and with this, I hope I can increase my skills one or two more levels. I will be eternally grateful to him for inspiring me to play this wonderful game of weiqi.

I herewith, thanks both of my mentors and I believe anyone who have experienced what I have experienced will agree that the mentoring system is a very powerful system.

P/S: By the way, just watch INCREDIBLE HULK today and thought it to be a very good movie. The character development is superb and after the movie, I seem to know HULK a lot better despite watching him since I was very young. I can feel this HULK. Unlike the Ang Lee HULK.




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Some Photos

Jun. 3rd, 2008 | 09:11 pm

Following the trip to Bali, here are some photos from the trip. It is a very beautiful place. All photos taken by my wife with her Nikon camera.



















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Weiqi and Surfing

May. 29th, 2008 | 11:47 pm

Back from a 5 day trip to Bali which was very enjoyable. It is such a culturally strong place and I thoroughly enjoyed myself basking in the sun surfing the waves and immersed in Balinese culture which is strongly influenced by Hindu culture.

At the same time I was in Bali, the 29th World Amateur Go Championship (WAGC) is being held in Japan and Zaid Zulklifi is representing Malaysia in this top Go event of the year. Last year Boon Ping went and achieved a very good result and Zaid looks like doing quite good after the first 3 rounds. He is ranked 5 dan and have been playing Go for only the past 5 years. As such his achievement is rather good after picking up the game while studying in London. Read his own account of how he started playing Go here: http://msiago.wordpress.com/

As for myself, I am now in the midst of preparing myself for the Beijing Go event this October and begin to start to study and play more seriously. Have been slacking for the past couple of years or so. Am now working on the Train Like A Pro series and replaying pro games, plus games on KGS (under a new name so no one will recognise me and interrupt my games and/or start to comment on my moves which most of the time I don't think is valid comment and uncalled for). I hope to achieve 4dan with this new KGS account by this October.

On yet another note on Go, there is a couple of "tests" designed by a Alexander Dinerchtein, a Russian Pro with a ranking of 3danprofessional from Korea. One is a test on an estimate of your Go strength and the other is a test on your Go playing style.

I took the test and here are the results:

On Go Strength: http://play.baduk.org/

*****
Thank you! Your score is 148 from 200.
You are about European 1-dan (you can convert this grade to other ranking-systems by using this table )

Please don't be disappointed if this mark is lower than your real grade.
We were mainly trying to test your understanding of the game.

Your actual rank depends on your reading skill, your ability to make decisions under time pressure, your state of health and many other factors.

*****

Based on the rough estimate of Go strengths, European 1 dan is more or less equivalent to Japanese 4dan, American Go Association's 3dan and KGS 2dan. This looks like about right but when we discuss on Go strength, it is always an estimate and like the disclaimer in the test above, it really depends on your reading skills and decision making under pressure.

On Go Playing Style: http://style.baduk.org/

*****

Your style is flexible

Your Go style is flexible: you can play for territory as well as for influence.
Usually you make such decisions according to the whole-board situation or the playing style of your opponent.

You may force him to choose the strategy he hates. For example, if he likes moyos, you can play for influence yourself, just for making him angry.

Your Go style is actually the best one.

You may improve your Go by studying different things, but I suggest paying attention on yose and positional judgment.

*****

Sounds like the test is quite accurate but that i probably because it says my style is actually the best one. But the truth is that the suggestion that I should pay more attention to yose (end game moves) hits right on the point. I have a huge problem wrapping up a won game.

Well, sounds like a lot more to do before hitting 4dan on KGS by this October (i.e. roughly equivalent to European 3dan, Japanese 5-6dan and American 5dan).

Like they said in the book Built To Last, we must aim for BHAG!!!

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Polish Films

May. 20th, 2008 | 10:18 pm

Talking about Andrzej Wajda, it reminds me of an incident which is very funny and which I still remember to this day. In fact, this is one of the many, many incidences like this which truly brightens up my day. We have this so-called, often self-appointed and self-projected illusion, movie expert in the company and this person needs to be seen as knowing everything about movies, especially in front of the bosses. We were having dinner, with the boss of course, and a movie came up in the conversation when we were talking about movie censorship in Malaysia. The movie is PROMISED LAND and apparently it was banned in Malaysia. When the boss asks which movie is that, the person, who obviously doesn't know about the movie, struggles and spoke some crap and I came in and ask if it is Andrzej Wajda's THE PROMISED LAND. This person, in the trademark move, blinks the eyes continuously and said yes yes, it is Andrzej Wajda's movie (pronouncing Wajda's name exactly the same way I pronounced which amused me big time).

There are many moments that happened in the course of my work here with this person and whenever I caught that person bullshitting (which is a lot of times and characterised by an incessant blinking of the eyes and/or looking at other people around the table for rescue, and then giggle then change topic) I find myself laughing loud inside and definitely made my day.

So with this, here's some notes on Wajda's MAN OF MARBLE, a very remarkable film.

Man of Marble, 1977

(Czlowiek z marmuru)

dir: Andrzej Wajda

Halfway into this movie, three things come to my mind. First is Citizen Kane. Second is Mao Tse-dong and third is Amir Muhammad. Of course many other things got my mind to work, and movies like this one is great because it sets my mind free. It let's me ponder on history, philosophy, politics, economics, film techniques, aesthetics, all at once. And by this, I mean real history, real politics, not some imagined settings which are not only biased but totally wrong.

There are not many Polish directors that are well known. One can actually count them with one hand. Roman Polanski is Polish but I don't consider his movies really Polish, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi. Anymore that one knows, one then can be considered a learned world movie buff (actually there are a couple more names that should be quite familiar to people who digs world movies). These bunch of directors made some really interesting and good movies, including Polanski. Here's a sample:

Polanski: KNIFE IN THE WATER; THE PIANIST (non-Polish films: ROSEMARY'S BABY; CHINATOWN)

Kieslowski: THE DECALOGUE; Three Colours trilogy; NO END

Wajda: ASHES AND DIAMONDS; A GENERATION; LANDSCAPE AFTER BATTLE; MAN OF MARBLE

Holland: EUROPA, EUROPA; A WOMAN ALONE

Zanussi: YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN; CAMOUFLAGE; POSSESSION

In fact, Wajda's new film, KATYN, actually made it to the nominee list in the recent Oscars, so one should be quite familiar with him (in fact, I was offered the acquisition of the rights to KATYN and THE DECALOGUE plus a few other Polish movies, so stay tuned to the channel).

MAN OF MARBLE is about a young lady, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), who is making her diploma film and picks a subject that interests her but the "authorities" would rather forget (reminds me of Amir Muhammad). Told in the CITIZEN KANE style, her subject is a person, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), a bricklayer who has been identified by the authorities to be used as propaganda tool to show the people the power of the labourers and the potential growth and prosperity of the nation under Stalinist rule. However, Birkut soon fell into disfavour and is then conveniently forgotten. Agnieszka is interested to know what happened to Birkut and went all out to look for witnesses and the people involved to get a true picture of this once hero. As she went further into the investigation, the authorities put an end to her work and stopped her from using the camera and films. Once steely and determined, we finally see her breaking down in the presence of her father who encouraged her to go locate where Birkut is now. Encouraged, she found his son and got to know what happened to Birkut.

This film is a study on the Polish society under Stalinist rule and how they manipulate and create icons and idols to support their political agenda. We see the same thing happening in Communist China under Mao Tse-dong as well, where a particular common citizen is chosen to be the example to the whole country. Sometimes, whole towns are made model-towns for propaganda purposes. Propaganda songs are sung everywhere (one particular song actually mentioned Malaysia, I think it is talking about Chin Peng's struggle in Malaya - that gives an idea on what era this film is set). At the end, Wadja showed us how he reconstructed a made icon and found a man whose only objective is to be honest and work for the welfare of the people but is a sad victim of political propaganda and agenda, and then had to live a broken life which he didn't really recover from.

Wajda is widely acknowledged as to be the forerunner of a new generation of Polish filmmakers after the second world war and shortly after Stalin's death, made his first movie A GENERATION. The movie is a marked move away from the propagandist films made before and Wajda continued to push the boundaries further and further with his next movies such ASHES AND DIAMONDS. Together with Zanussi, they sort of started a movement called "Cinema of Moral Concern" with the expressed objective of morally examining modern Polish history and and modern Polish life.

MAN OF MARBLE, one of the films from the "cinema of moral concern" movement, is a truly fascinating film. Watch it if you can and if you are interested in history, politics, movies, you will love this film.

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Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

May. 16th, 2008 | 09:45 pm


This is a very good message and a very nice song. A Malaysia like this is likely to be a better Malaysia. Why isn't Yusoff Haslam here? That will be a breakthrough ;-)

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Channel Promotion

May. 15th, 2008 | 11:01 am

I have been avoiding to do this for a long time because in principle I do not like to mix my personal blog with work. But the setting up of the channel website is taking a lifetime for reasons I cannot understand, so maybe once in a while, I can blog about the channel's programming highlights. There are over 100 movies played on the channel every month, of which about 20% of them are fresh titles and the balance 80% repeat titles. Out of this 20% fresh titles, there is about 4-8 titles every month that is the key highlight and these titles are further programmed in a way that will appeal to a large target market, from the aunties to the young, from urban to rural. So here it is:

A. For those who loves to watch locally made Malay movies:

1. HARU BIRU - a Que Haidar drama action. It didn't make a lot of money in the box office but this movie deals with the social problems in Malaysia and the spoils of youth in contemporary Malay society. I will consider this a relatively high grade Malay movie compared to some other dumb but more successful movies in the box office.

Premieres 4th May. Repeats: 9, 13, 19, 25,31 May.

2. ZOMBI KAMPUNG PISANG - this is a wonderful movie from director Mamat Khalid. A comedy which is more of a social satire and B-grade movie spoofs, it is a very smart and well made movie with an ensemble cast headed by Awie, who, in my personal opinion, is a more talented comic actor (as seen in BAIK PUNYA CILOK) rather than a macho romantic as in SEMBILU.

Premieres 9pm 18 May. Repeats: 23, 27 May.

I will consider the above two movies the better made of the local Malay movie crop of craps.

B. For those who loves a more "niche" type of movies (which more me means more intellectually stimulating type):

1. SANCTUARY - a movie by Malaysian Ho Yuhang of which I have previously reviewed on my website. Go there to read more. Yuhang is one of the more talented local filmmakers. Although sometimes loud-mouthed, he is smart, intellectually disciplined and has some sense of humour that is lacking in many other filmmakers.

Premieres: 7th May. Repeats: 17, 20, 26 May.

2. HOLIDAY DREAMING - this movies hails from Taiwan, a land where the local film industry has been suffering for a long time from the onslaught of Hollywood movies but is recently seeing a revival.

Premiere: 31 May

C. For those who loves Bollywood movies:

1. GURU - This Mani Ratnam movie stars Aishwarya Rai and hubby and is a sure Bollywood entertainer.

Premiere: 2 May. Repeats: 7, 12, 21, 31 May.

2. ANTHONY KAUN HAI - translates as Who is Anthony, this movie by Sanjay Dutt (Sanju Baba) is an action comedy. Sanjay Dutt is quite a good actor and seeing him in LAGE RAHO MUNA BHAI is really fun, for example. We see his normal fun and charm in ANTHONY KAUN HAI as well.

D. For Hong Kong/Japanese/Korean movie lovers:

1. DOG BITE DOG - Edison Chen (heh heh!!) acting in this action thriller. Sam Lee is good in this movie. But beware, the intense action may upset your stomach.

Premiere: 16 May. Repeats: 21, 26 May.

2. 200 POUNDS BEAUTY - A very entertaining Korean Rom-com. Good movie to watch to unwind after a day of work.

Premiere: 10 May. Repeats: 13, 21, 29 May.

3. THE GREAT YOKAI WAR - by the ever great Takashi Miike, this action-fantasy is a welcome change from Miike's who is more well known for his violent flicks (although this is not entirely true).

Premiere: 17 May. Repeats: 20, 28 May.

For more comprehensive synopsis, please Google them or search on IMDB.

The above movies will be my pick if you ask me for a handful of movies to look out for in the channel.

Coming up in June, it is also quite exciting. We have:

1. FLOWER IN THE POCKET
2. AFTER THIS OUR EXILE
3. PAN'S LABYRINTH
4. MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER 3
5. BAIK PUNYA CILOK

So look out for this. Am in the process of closing a bunch of very good movies, which I will announce when the deed is done! Very excited!

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