Mar 28, 2011

"Sucker Punch", Indeed.

I'm not the person people turn to to ask for opinions on movies. I don't watch a whole bunch of movies, and I'll pretty much watch any movie regardless of they look nice or not. So, if you want to stop reading now, it's fine by me, because I am going to write about what I saw in "Sucker Punch", and it might spoil your appetite to watch it. Why am I writing this? I think its probably because I watched it twice and I still can't love it.

What the hell is wrong with it?

One, there are five huge elements of eye-candy up there in the screen. Two, the action is over the top. Three, its visually stunning. Four, the weapons and ass-kicking are nice. Finally, there's a happy ending (kinda), plus there's a twist in the story (kinda). So what's wrong?

Oh yeah, the story.

Encik Snyder has already made a few movies before this, and one of them I love the most is "300". (It was something new for me... plus 300 half-naked men with rippling muscles? What's not to like? Ahahaha!) If you've been reading movie reviews, you won't be surprised to hear that Encik Snyder makes beautiful-looking movies that are weak at the storytelling department.

Now, I love a good story. It doesn't matter if it has a trick ending, or if it's complicated. A good story is a good story no matter how it is told. What makes a good story for me? There's a purpose or a goal (it doesn't matter if the hero manages to achieve it or not) that I can sympathize with. I can feel sorry for the hero or root for him. What makes a great story? For the story to have a heart. You know what I mean; it's when you can feel the movie inside out. (And maybe you do feel that way for this movie, who knows.)

Make no mistake, "Sucker Punch" has a story. A haphazard one, but a story is nonetheless there. I feel that if they cut up the movie into small, bite-sized pieces, this is what you'd get:

The first story would be a Cerekarama-like story of a little a girl and her sister, trying to survive a lecherous step dad. One night after their mother passed away, the Big Mean Stepdad wanted to do something nasty to the little sister, but big sister took the Stepdad's gun to kill him. Something happens and she accidentally killed lil sis instead. Big sis got the blame and Stepdad throws her into an insane asylum. The End.

The second story would be about a girl convicted of a crime she accidentally committed, trying to find a way to escape the high security asylum while picking up some comrades along the way and dodging crazy wardens. The End.

The third story is set in an action packed future/past fantasy world where steam powered Nazi zombies, dragons and Tengu samurais exist, and it's up to five extraordinary girls to stop the raging war to find peace and harmony in the land. The End.

The fourth story would be a Hallmark TV movie about an old man who is really an angel trying to save the soul of one delusional girl named Sweet Pea with quirky advices like "if you don't believe in something you'd fall for anything", and in the end she rode into the sunset in a bus after finally getting freedom. The End.

See? With stories like these, how can Encik Snyder go wrong?

Boleh. Bolehhhh. By not knowing how to stitch these four separate stories all together and create something you can connect with. Maybe, he took different scripts and put it in a shredder and then pieced them together. The question here is: what is Sucker Punch about really?

Female empowerment? Then why give the characters slutty clothes, heavy make-up, and cheap names like 'Baby Doll', 'Sweet Pea' and 'Blondie'? Why are all the women treated badly by the men in the movie and then die when they fight them? Okay, so the women kick ass, use heavy artillery, katanas, guns, even a cute mecha. But when I think about it, do women need tools (dangerous ones at that) to feel empowered? Don't give me shit like "Oh, its to be ironic." The only thing this movie got right was not showing 'the pleasure of fighting and killing on the girls faces.

Anti-establishment? Not really, they never truly win over the 'system'. They got her in the end.

Women's point of view/voices? Nope. Sorry. It didn't show or feel anything like that. What it did show was how a man might think a woman might think. Degrading to women adalah.

PG-rated porn? Have we stooped so low? Pushing the boundaries of what's okay and what's not in movies? Showing titillating scenes but not actually showing the whole package? Has Zack Snyder found a niche? Will there be a deluge of movies like that in the future? Like "porn for tweens"?

What? What is it about? Maybe I'm not that experienced in watching movies, but I know what I like and what I don't like. I felt cheated for a number of things: no actual dancing done by Baby Doll, no more scenes that gave me goosebumps after the title sequence, the poor choice of casting Vanessa Hudgens, the feeling of repetitiveness until I can guess what's coming up come next, the distracting songs after the samurai fight, Baby Doll's ending (really? a kick in the groin is her last action sequence and then she turns into a vegetable? I was expecting a Molotov cocktail at least. Why didn't they use the lighter till the end?). So many things...

If I watch a movie, I want to cheer for my hero, even if he's an anti-hero. I want to get the feeling deep in my heart that he's going to be fine in the end, that nothing can stop him, or that he'd need to make a sacrifice but its okay because it''s for the good of others. I want to laugh and cry and boo and hiss when I watch movies. But "Sucker Punch" was only like that till the temple fight with the Tengu samurais, which gave me a lot of hope. But the ending, even with the "twist", was nowhere near as good as the beginning. Sure it was pretty, it was also easy to understand (its color coded for convenience between reality and fantasy), but lord I was hoping for so much more.

I told my brother my opinion on this movie and he said "What makes a human different from an animal? What makes God choose us over his angels? The ability to make a choice. Free will."
This movie is all about choices, both good and bad. You keep on making them if it kills you. You may have the tools to go through life (in this movie: the map, the fire, the knife, the key) but you are still the decisive element in your life.You make that choice of how your life is going to be.

Mar 22, 2011

Ross, The Rockstar!

After drawing the pictures for Munirah and seeing them posted on her Facebook profile, this is what happened.

Ross wanted one too.

I didn’t have any confidence because of the problems I encountered drawing Munirah and I was afraid that it would take much longer this time. As was the case with Munirah, I have never personally met Ross before. But I do know him from something he did for Rizal a.k.a Syaoran. Ross did a makeover for his blog. And I’ve read Ross’s Feline Channel posts. That was a long long time ago.

I told Ganaesh all my misgivings and he told me to at least give it a shot. I said okay, and started sketching. There was a picture in my head already, of him picking up a cat. After I sketched that I asked Ganaesh what he thinks.

"The smile needs to be wider. He has a wiiide mouth. :D"

I asked him: what does Ross do?

"Well, basically he is a rockstar coder and designer la."

I imagined a guy so terer, that he can code with his feet.

After all that I realized something: it’s not appropriate as a profile pic. I was horrified. But Ganaesh said they were fine and that Ross would love them especially the second picture.

He was right. :3

It was a pleasure drawing the both of them. It gave me challenges that I’d never could have imagined. And the greatest surprise was this:

Ross’s brother VECTORIZED the picture.


P.S:  It just occurred to me that I never use ‘Fird’. Isn’t that his name? Isn’t ‘Ross’ the surname? What?

Mar 16, 2011

Ah My Munirah!

Remember a few posts back when I said I was drawing pictures for Munirah? Well, its finally done! (Yay me!) Well, it was done quite a while back, but I finally finished writing about how I finished drawing the pictures! :D

She’s a rather difficult subject for me. It took me a few tries before I got it right. And by ‘right’ I mean that I was satisfied with the result. I even almost gave up once.

I love making profile pictures, they are very easy to make. It’s just a frame and the face. The trick is to make the face resemble the real person as closely as possible. Profile pictures are also easy to colour because of the limited space. Draw + Scan + Colour = Instant gratification.

At least, that’s how I felt before I tried drawing Munirah.

I don’t know her personally, and I’ve never seen her before. I don’t know what she likes or hates. And my reference is just Ganaesh and her LinkedIn profile picture. That picture… I’ve done things to that picture that would/might get me a lawsuit in real life. But seriously, it was way too small and the information that I could gather from it was very limited.

I was ready to give up after the second try and just tell Munirah that I couldn’t do it. But one day Ganaesh said he was going out with her for a yumcha session and I told him to show the first two trial pics to her.

You know what she said?

She loved them and wanted me to colour them. I was so happy I drew this comic. :3

And I made a breakthrough! I could draw her cute! I just had to change the angle! *slaps forehead* I’m such an idiot!
On that high I made the third pic, which was my favourite of the three.

The original file name was F***ingCuteAwesomeMunirah.jpg. I loved it that much.

But I never showed them to her until all three were complete. I wanted it to be a surprise. So I coloured them one by one. I was having trouble deciding what the background colours should be. I got nervous when I finally finished them all, but I sent it to her anyway and waited for her reply.

And you know what?

She choose the third pic as her profile picture.


Mar 10, 2011

Ketika Aku Kecil...

Warning: long introduction is long.

Blog ini tiada kena mengena dengan lagu Ana Raffali itu. Walaupun kami pernah bersekolah bersama-sama, sekuliah dan pernah menjadi groupmate dalam satu assignment, tapi dia sangat elit bagiku yang sekadar budak kampung dari Sabah ini. Aku begitu kekok apabila berbual dengannya, walaupun secara kasual. Bukan aku benci dia, tapi kami punya vibe bukan satu frekuensi. Dia bahagia dengan rakan-rakannya, dan aku bahagia dengan rakan-rakanku.

Secara peribadi, saya tidak ingin dia menang Juara Lagu lalu, bukan sebab dia tidak pandai berkarya atau saya membencinya, tetapi sebab saya rasa dia perlu masa lagi. Dia akan dibenci kerana perkara remeh-temeh kerana dia muda, cantik dan seorang wanita, dan lagu-lagunya akan dikutuk. Orang akan mendengar lagu puitisnya secara sambil lewa kalau dia menang. 

Tapi kalau dia kalah, tetapi menang pada tahun ini atau tahun depan, itu lain cerita. Orang akan menyayanginya kerana ada usaha yang boleh dilihat, orang-orang tua akan menjadikannya sebagai contoh kepada anak-anak mereka, “Nah, lihat Ana Raffali itu. Dia kalah dulu, tapi sekarang lihat! Dia menang! Walaupun dia muda tetapi dia berusaha. Awak pun harus berusaha seperti dia.” Ah, sayangnya dia menang. Sekarang dia mempunyai masalah untuk membuatkan orang take her and her song seriously. Kasihan, good luck to her.

But I digress. Blog ini bukan mengenai dia. Blog ini mengenai diriku, diriku tika kecil suatu masa dahulu.

Mungkin anda musykil. Si gemuk ini kecil? Bukan saiz ya para pembaca sekalian, tetapi usia. Pada suatu masa dahulu, aku pun pernah menjadi anak kecil yang tidak comel dan nakal. Dan inilah ceritanya…

When I was young I thought I was a typical little girl. At this age, after sharing my story with many friends in one of those “when I was little” sessions, I know that my years growing was not… average. Some find it lacking, some find it extreme. I just take it as normal.

I live in a little kampung (village) somewhere in Penampang, Sabah. It doesn’t even have a cool, unique name like (I dunno) Kampung Ais Box or Bundu Tuhan (both of which are real places, by the way). My kampung’s name is sometimes mistaken with another kampung with the same name but a different spelling. Its called Terawi (without the ‘h’). I once asked my dad if it means anything, he said it refers to an old gambling game. I guess my kampung was a gambling den during my ancestors’ time. They were probably having a bit of fun naming the place after their favourite game.

It was still a proper kampung then. Houses were wooden and on stilts. If there were any concrete or cement used in construction, it meant you’re well off. Some houses still used rumbia leaves for the roof. My grandmother’s house, two houses away from mine, had bamboo flooring. It was very cool because you could see the dirt ground and chickens under it. There were no stairs. What she had was a block of timber with steps carved out of them. It was an adventure, that house. I often go there to keep an eye on my grandmother when my parents were away (actually she was the one babysitting, but my parents told me this so I’d feel importantlah).

You could see animals roaming around my kampung: buffaloes being pulled by their noses, goats being led by their owners, poultry running around, children playing in the dirt. And of course, we had the padi (paddy) fields and fruit orchards. Cars were still something special then. We’d also play hide and seek around parked cars sometimes, during Kaamatan and New Year when families came home for the month-long school holidays. When my teachers or friends ask me where I’m going for the holidays, I’d say that I’m going nowhere. I’m already in my kampung, so balik kampung is redundant.

When you’re a kid, a one-month holiday is like a year. It’s the best time of the year, except for the whole "doing manual labour" thing. I could be digging in the garden, cleaning up pig muck, feeding chickens, or carrying sacks of padi around; it all depended on the whims of my parents that day. In fact, every kid I knew in the village did this. But off-duty, I’m OFF!

I’d be digging for worms, looking for broken pieces of glass bottles (they looked like crystals, you see), ‘borrowing’ my neighbour’s fruits, ‘lastik’ing some birds that were having a feast at my mom’s padi fields; generally getting myself dirty and driving my mom crazy. (Don't know what a lastik is? See the pic below. :3) There was this one time, I don’t remember what I did but it was bad enough that my mom picked me up and put me in an empty oil drum (we used it to gather water). I was a small kid and I couldn’t climb out of it (not a skill I ever got a hang off, it’s because I’m afraid of heights), and all I could do was sit in there while I wait for my mom to pick me up again.

But it never occurred to me to cry in there. I had my imagination, the blue sky was beautiful and I made a hole in the barrel. My aunt dropped by to visit my mum and dropped by to see how I was. She laughed when she discovered I was smiling. I was an irreverent child. She left me there and my mom soon came and released me.

I do get hurt easily, I get scrapes and bruises. I got stung by bees, pecked by angry mommy chickens, bitten by my neighbour’s dog, bitten by mosquitoes, snapped by crabs, poked by thumbtacks. stapled myself by accident, hit my thumb with a hammer. I mean, they didn't all happen at the same timelah, but often enough for me to make my own first aid kit.

When I couldn’t fix myself up, only then would I tell my parents. Like when I accidentally put my feet in a bowl of hot soup and burned myself, I had a week off from kindy for that. Poor mom had to hold me in her lap to give me a bath. So it wasn’t weird if I had Handyplast taped all over myself those days. Some scars, I still have them. Like the scar I got when I played police and thief in kindergarten and I fell and cut my knees on the sharp rocks, or the scar I got when I accidentally stepped on the mosquito coil stand at my grandmother’s house.

I still did what girls were/are expected: sewing, cooking and cleaning. But they were never satisfactory, even till now. The only thing I improved in was my sewing. I still do that every so often.

So in one of the designs for the background image of my Twitter profile, I had my childhood in mind. With my slingshot in hand (which my dad hand-made for me) and a bunch of stones. My favourite rambutan tree, heavy with fruit. A hand-made ladder up the tree. A small bag, to put treasures in. My mom shouting at me, and the family dog beside her (I draw her smiling but she was actually very fierce and we always keep her in a cage). And one of my most favouritest things in the world: the blue sky.

I don’t miss my childhood, but it’s a nice time to visit once in a while. I hope you enjoy the pics! :D

Extra trivia: I use DestroyTwitter as my desktop Twitter app. Geddit? :3

Mar 8, 2011

My First Art Competition

This is the ‘other story’.

I was in primary school and my teachers though it would be a great idea if I entered an art competition. At first I thought I was the only one, but it turns out there were several other kids in my school that would also be representing the school. Some of them I knew, because they were my classmates and good friends. I was a straight-as-an-arrow kinda kid. I still am. I had no experience with the real world except for my imagination and the rare outings my parents brought me to. So, being the good little kid that I was, I went along with it.

I don’t remember how old I was, maybe Standard 3 or 4. But I remember telling my parents about it and how supportive they were. They even brought me out to but new colouring materials. I wanted oil pastels but they bought me Panda brand wax crayons. I remember the wonderful smell of those Pandas but I was never tempted to eat them. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the oil pastels but I was determined to do my best.

On competition day, I was there with my mom. My friends and teachers were there. We, the contestants, were all scattered all over the community hall floor, claiming our piece of ‘land’, marking it with colours and paper. When the judges announced the topics, we began to choose one, and started drawing. I remember choosing “My village” because it’s the safest topic and because that’s where I lived. The organizers gave us these plastic corrugated boards to draw on and I thought it was so cool.

Armed with my 12 colour Pandas, I started to colour. So did the other kids. I wasn’t treating it as a competition; I treated it as any other art class, because I don’t really understand what ‘competition’ meant. I was busy colouring, when I began hearing my teachers talking, the same teachers who suggested I enter this competition.

They were going from student to student; talking about drawing they liked the best. They would say that Student A’s work is beautiful and should win, and Student B’s work is very neat and could win at least second prize and so on. I don’t remember what they actually said about mine, but I remember being compared to my best friend and I remember how they cooed over hers. They didn’t look at mine after that.

And I stopped what I was doing. I looked around me. Every one of their drawings had brilliant splashes of colour. They were bright and even had shading and tone. Everywhere around me I saw Buncho oil pastels being used. Sets of 24, of 36, of 48. And I looked at my wax crayon coloring. At that moment I understood what the term “competition” was. I wanted my teachers’ approval; I wanted them to look at my drawing again. I started clutching at straws. I asked to borrow oil pastels from my neighbours. But I knew, deep down, that it was too late.

When the results were announced, I was still hoping to be mentioned. But my name never came up. I was disappointed. The walk to the pickup truck felt so long. I didn’t hear whatever my mother said to me. Probably not much, as is her way. We were quiet in that ride home. All I could think of was how inferior my drawing must have been to the judges, they were probably disgusted by it just like my teachers.

I never entered any art competitions after that, until I entered Form Six. That one had a shorter story; not very interesting.

Did I win?


Why Do I Draw?

I don’t know why I draw.

I get so excited when I have an idea or an inspiration to draw something. But seriously, I have no I idea why I can do it or why I do it.

I don’t like to say that it comes naturally or that it’s a talent that I have. That would be conceited. And it wouldn’t be true because I remember practicing and getting comments on how bad it was. There’s always someone else more awesome, talented, and inspiring at drawing than me. But that’s another story.

I would say that it’s another way for me to communicate my point across. Like talking, yeah that’s it. Drawing is like talking for me because my vocabulary is limited. (Heck, I can’t even tell a proper joke!) My drawings do the talking for me.

Though I can’t tell you why I draw, I can however tell you this: I get a kick out of other people’s reaction when they see my drawings. Especially when they laugh at the jokes.

My friend saw one of my drawings and said, “Is there anything that you CAN’T do?”

Yeah, lots. Like cooking and cleaning, gardening, being a proper dog owner, being socially acceptable (I’m so weird sometimes), telling a funny joke, keeping fit, etc.

I told her all this because she had this look, like she wanted to idolize me or something. I’ve seen that look before on other faces. I don’t want that, I don’t want people to know I can draw and treat me different from before. It’s weird for me. She laughed, said “that’s true”. We’re okay, I’m still the goofy lurus bendul friend.

That look. It was like that in high school. It was fun for awhile, being known as someone who can draw. People mention your name and predict that you’ll be a great artist one day, but it loses its appeal fast. Up to a point where I can’t draw and I find that it’s no fun drawing anymore. It felt like a competition I had to win, it felt like I needed to prove myself to them. And being a teenager is hard. You feel everything. Every emotion and reaction is magnified. The slightest thoughtless comment is the equivalent of the end of the world. Shamefully, I admit, that I quit. I quit for a long, long time.

I’ve matured a bit since then. I still feel shy letting others see my work and I still brace myself for any comments. I can receive comments (both good and bad) better now. I know there’s always someone better than me out there, but I can be one of them one day.