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December 26, 2005

Final Blog Entry

Everything needs a good title.

The screenplay just isn't working, and the reason the film project isn't working is that I don't know how to write the next draft. The last six months working on the screenplay – well, it's like chewing gum. You chew gum for flavour. So you chew and chew, and then the flavour gradually fades away but you continue to believe that you're squeezing out more coz of the residual flavour stuck inside your mouth. At some point even those are gone and you begin to think that you should spit it out – but then people encourage you to keep chewing, "don't give up".

But eventually, you realise that it is completely pointless to continue chewing on a flavour-long-gone gum, no matter how much you delude yourself, how much you want to delude yourself.

And even though this is supposed to be my way out of a boring existence in uni and a way into the film industry – well, I suppose the message is, get real, idiot.

Not that I didn't get the message. Obviously it was obvious that I was just deluding myself the past half year. But when you're trying to write, you tend to throw those thoughts out as far as you can.

So the story of Jeremy Wakeham ends here. He will not appear on celluloid, because he has failed as a sympathetic character, and his story is apparently not worth telling.

And the two things a film must have to succeed are a great script and a great cast. I didn't even get past Test No 1.

And to be honest, even if I do punch out a great script, I'm not confident about getting the right actors. It's not like I have a chance to employ James McAvoy, Jordan Metcalfe or Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

I feel like a fool, even though I'm making this decision with a clearer mind than when I was trying to create scenes in my head. This is how it feels like to have Loser and Failure written on your forehead.

And Peter Jackson gets to make King Kong.

Final Rants And Observations

Malaysia is one of a few non-Western countries with a great love for cinema (what a lie – a great love for movies) with a reasonably high command of English who heard, in KING KONG, Jack Black as Carl Denham uttering the words "I'm a movie producer, you can trust me" and not have any inkling that that was supposed to be funny.

And, as much as I like to see Jamie Bell as rising young star – what the hell is the Jimmy subplot doing in King Kong?

Just went to Australia. The country sucks. I could write a long paragraph about why – or I can keep it to myself.

Chances of more entries appearing in this blog due to sudden influx of inspirations that allows the screenplay to continue to be written, or as a useless site for rants: 50/50.


November 26, 2005

University Sucks

I've been trying to consider the problem of why university sucks. I know I don't like it, but the more I try to reason it the more I find that I can't. This probably isn't of importance for most students – the majority seem to be enjoying their time here, whether it's those who are really here for that studying shit (the ones who are scribbling throughout lectures … scribble scribble, fucking annoying, no?) and the ones who slack and party their way through and do weird stuff like walk on the lecture tables to get from one end to the other because it's cool. And everyone else in between (life is a spectrum/continuum).

It is important for me for another reason – I need to be able to answer that question if I am to write my screenplay.

I tried googling to see whether anyone else agrees. Well, I came up with some random sites denouncing certain specific US colleges … which is irrelevant of course. When I do find others who agree … well, the guy also realised he doesn't have a coherent reason why he hates university.

Particularly for me, I guess it's because I'm not doing well here, academically. Used to be one of those A students – and the thing is I never had to try to get an A. I just do. Here, somehow things are different. Friends seem to enjoy being all righteous, saying the right thing - university is different from high school, mate. So what?

Then there's the loneliness. The boredom. The going to lectures wondering what for, when all I do is fall asleep. The assignments … the frustration for doing something that seems somewhat important yet so pointless.

As you can see, not exactly good reasons to denounce university.

I'd really like to know – and I know I will never find out, coz statistics is such a big fucking lie – what proportion of the student population have the same sort of thoughts. It might be surprisingly huge. But as I said, on the surface, everyone else seems to be enjoying their time here.

In which case, I'll be told to just shut up and get on with it.

If I ever thought out the reasons, though – the film is potentially huge. If only I can remove everyone's dependency on university … suddenly things like top-up fees and various other arguments become irrelevant.

Irrelevant.


November 14, 2005

Films Worth Watching At The End Of The Year

… and there are many. You have no idea, huh?

(Note: Not strictly speaking end of the year, as UK releases tend to be later compared to the rest of the world. So backward.)

MUNICH

As soon as he finished promoting War of the Worlds, Spielberg dived straight into this one – leaving him six months from production to release date, which was even shorter than for War of the Worlds. He might not finish it in time for the Oscars. Starring Eric Bana, the story is about a group of Mossad-hired assassins sent to kill the Palestinians who were involved in the killing of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Not your favourite action thriller, this one – seems more like a serious exploration of guilt and the damnation of one's soul in participating in something one can never reveal about.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Read below.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

For a lot of people their interest in watching this one is due to having read the book and liking the story. I couldn't give a damn about the story – it's set in Japan, involves the curious world of the geisha, is directed by Rob Marshall (reason enough to see it), and stars three major Chinese actresses.

KING KONG

Originally I thought – ach, give this one a miss. I never liked LOTR, and King Kong? What the hell? The first trailer was a disappointment. Then details arrive – it's gonna be three hours. Now I'm paying attention. Any movie over 2 hours I usually like – or if not, will try my very best to enjoy. Long movies are great. Then there's Jamie Bell, rising young star. Then there's Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody. And Jack Black in a serious role. And then more trailers appear, and the special effects looks more sound than LOTR. So yeah, I'll be watching this on the big screen.

RENT

Starring Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs … and a whole bunch of other people we don't know. Early previews indicate this one would be good. Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes …

SYRIANA

Do you like political conspiracy thrillers? I do. They're so difficult to write – but when written well, hoo boy, it doesn't take car crashes to excite you. No, mere words are needed to send you going crazy over suspense, mouth agape. This one has a long cast list – (a very fat) George Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper … and so on. The trailer was not bad, great choice of music – does suffer from giving too much details though.

THE NEW WORLD

From the director of The Thin Red Line. Story of John Smith and his men arriving at the New World. Captured, he gets to know no other than Pocahontas. This isn't your cartoony Pocahontas – she's like 15 or something. They try and understand each other – but soon the Indians and the white men will have no peace. Trailer indicates scenes were Pocahontas is taken back to white man's land.

SHOPGIRL

From a novella written by Steve Martin. A dramedy that slants more towards drama. Seems to be about loneliness, trying to make connections. Looks interesting. Stars Claire Danes and Steve Martin and Jason Schwartman. No, there aren't any sex scenes between him and Isabelle Huppert here.

THE FAMILY STONE

Another film with hundreds of movie stars. The list goes – Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and so on. Looks like a good comedy, with charm and feel-goodness.

JARHEAD

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal – another rising young actor very shrewdly choosing his roles. Directed by Sam Mendes. If you know that name, I know you're going to the theatre already. A war film where the soldiers get bored with war coz nothin's happenin'.

PRIME

Meryl Streep. Reason enough to watch a movie, don't you think? Anyway, Meryl Streep is a therapist with a patient in the form of Uma Thurman scared of embarking into a relationship with a guy younger than her. Meryl Streep is also a mother with a son in the form of Bryan Greenberg who's just found himself a girlfriend. Those two parts of her life collide – go figure. Trailer indicates it'll be really funny.

CASANOVA

Okay, I'll be honest. The only reason I wanted to see this one was because of the last bit shown in the trailer. Heath Ledger plays Casanova, trying desperately to court Sienna Miller. He arrives at her house with a pig in tow. "May I enter the house?" Sienna Miller sends her maid to greet him. "My mistress says the pig cannot come in."

Then she grabs the pig. "But the animal, we'll take." Door slams.

THE PRODUCERS

From the twisted mind of Mel Brooks, apparently. It's not Tim Burton twisted though, but it's really really funny. Starring Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Uma Thurman (again) and Will Ferrell. Two producers decide that the best way to make money is to produce a flop. And very quickly they find the flop they were looking for – Springtime For Hitler. Guaranteed to shock and anger! Some of the wittiest lines ever found in a trailer …

(After Uma Thurman does a dance …) "I'd like you to know, my dear, that even though we're sitting down, we're giving you a standing ovation!"

Uma Thurman: Do la dance again!


Noon, Monday, Week 8

Where am I now?

The Script – is not yet finished, but at least I found a way to continue the story.

My RAE Project – is still vague. The others who are more enthusiastic about economics (which includes like 98.6% of third year econs students … lemmings) have probably found their topics, their one question. But at least the tutor seems obsessed about my scatter diagrams.

My Two Essays – are far from completion. This year, they seem to have made it very difficult for us to write essays. Picked titles where there is like, one relevant journal (not that relevant after all) – basically no help, no starting point for us to branch out from. I'm not freaking coming out with new explanations or arguments to write these essays, these 2000-word essays. It is a waste of my time. Much of economics is.

I still have other random stuff to do. Where is that package? I need to call to get my £100 pounds back.

And I still don't know how to take control of my moods. Moods are like horses – some people seem able to just grab the reins and direct the horse. Me? I'm in the carriage, too lethargic to come out and take control of the horse.

So what now?

I slip away and die.

"You deserve to die, you worthless whiner," so says you.

Whine whine whine,
Nothing you can dine.


November 05, 2005

How Much Is This Blog Worth?

Darn.

Well, let's compare it with Malaysia's top blogger, Kenny Sia.


Kenny Sia's blog is worth $1,068,674.22.
How much is your blog worth?

Oh my-


November 01, 2005

Gout Regout

Gout returns.

That's a sentence structure that's usually reserved for super-hero types. Well, gout isn't. It's a pain in the arse. No, a pain in the joints – the heels. I can't walk – completely incapacitated. This after a few days of trying to suppress a chesty cough and on the verge of falling into flu (which I managed to avoid, yay! … oh …).

I must be the only person in Warwick who has gout. Okay, leave out people above 25 … i.e. the lecturers, staff and so on … yeah, okay, there might be students above 25 …

Point is, gout usually affects older people. And as much as I used to take pride at being perceived as older (in Malaysia that's how we say more matured … like, you guys say bowler hats, cap, and so on, we just say hat for all of those), gout almost NEVER happens to people below 30. I'm the freaking outlier.

So anyway, when I tell people who are familiar with gout – mostly my medic friends – that I'm having to deal with it, they always seem to come up with a sentence that includes these five words, "... so young already got gout ah …" (that last one doesn't count, it's a phatic utterance in Malaysian English). For my medic friends, the next thing they say is exactly the same as well, except I can't reproduce it … they give me a list of symptoms, treatment, prevention, diet information about it, and it's all the same information. I'm always surprised by that, because they all give the information in the same order. But on the other hand, I guess it's comforting that the doctors of the future are all agreeing with each other. (Except when they happen to be wrong.)

As for the script, yet another idea.

Make it like A Beautiful Mind. In that film, the audience is led to believe one thing, then the story twists inside out. That is not done because Ron Howard and co. are being coy. It's done because it's the best way to represent the disease of schizophrenia to the audience – we are being led to experience exactly what it is like to be told that your best friend, career, etc doesn't actually exist.

So, what I think would be interesting, is to present the story first not through Jeremy's POV. We present it through the eyes and thoughts of those he meets when his lives start changing. So yeah, the audience wouldn't know what is going on at first. Maybe we play out three different days – some will have gotten the hint by then. Then, halfway through the film, we switch to Jeremy's POV - and he begins telling the story from before everything happened.

This is a radical departure from the story I first had in my head, and also quite a radical departure from my storytelling principles. You see, making the story like that, I'll have to utilise techniques that give the film a Chris Nolan feel. Nolan's latest film is Batman Begins (lucky bastard) … but that's not the point. In his first movie, Following, he jumps the story back and forth seemingly without any reason. Basically it makes the audience think harder, because they have to spend some minutes figuring out where the scene lies chronologically. And I guess that works because if he hadn't done that, the story would have been real boring. (It already is, even at 70 mins.) Then he does Memento, the much-loved Memento (freaking no. 22 at IMDb.com), which you probably know, goes backwards. And how does he do transitions for such chronologically screwed up movies?

He straight cuts to black for a few seconds, then straight cuts to the next scene. I didn't exactly like that. I mean, it works, but it rings pretentious to me.

But then, the guy got to direct a multi-millon dollar film in Hollywood. For his fourth film. Maybe I should take the hint.

So yeah, I would have to mess up the storyline a little. Just to make it more interesting. And after all I said about Nolan, no it isn't exactly like what Nolan was doing.

But then, maybe after I've made it, I won't be loved. Critics will call me a hack – that technique's overdone, they say.

You can't please everyone.


October 27, 2005

It Returns

Follow-up to Where Has It Gone? from Cinematic Concerns

It occured to me today where it has gone.

It refers to the creator of interesting stories once found inside my head, but that has mysteriously disappeared these days.

Turns out it didn't disappear, per se. It just needs a catalyst to work. What catalyst?

It occured to me when I was on a train today. Went to Birmingham to get some shopping done – that and long-time-no-eat duck rice. On the way back, on the train, very naturally, a stream of ideas for a new movie came into my head – and yes, they were very interesting ideas, at least to me. And there was no struggle, it just all flowed. I was thinking, what I want to happen next, and it comes, and I think, how bout if we do this different, and I come up with a better idea – all happening within seconds. Then another. Then another.

And now I have enough material to write, oh, half a script – the general outlines of it anyway. Can it be made? Dunno, coz this one's too controversial, so I won't talk about it.

Anyways, it was when I reached home that I remembered.

I haven't traveled in a vehicle in a long time.

I used to do that in the past – a lot. That's coz my school tended to be far away from my house. During primary school I would have to take hour-long school-bus rides to get home. During secondary school we have a car-pooling system but it still takes half an hour to get back.

And it was then that my mind wanders and conjure up all these stories.

The moving images outside the window helps me think.

That was the key all along. I knew it, all this while – yet I've forgotten. I've forgotten coz when I'm staying on campus, there's never a need to get on to moving vehicles.

Now I remember.


October 25, 2005

Time For Assessment

The deadline I set for myself to complete the script is this weekend. Probability of that happening: zero. Now that is a serious claim. Probability of one dying in a plane crash is not zero. Probability of one dying along with the rest of the world due to asteroid impact is also not zero. Get the point?

So I think it is fair to bring myself down and face facts.

The script is too difficult to write – maybe it would never work, even if you give it to Kaufman or Haggis. Maybe that's how impossible it is to write the script.

Now, I don't want to say that I'm giving up. Coz then friends would be saying stuff like, oh, don't give up, just try harder, don't be so hard on yourself … I wish, I don't have any friends like that. They couldn't fucking care less what the fuck I'm doing – I'm just a laughing stock, an imbecile who wishes he could be in Hollywood and talks about films all the time; in other words, someone to avoid.

The problem could be this though – I'm supposed to be giving up, but I'm not.

Coz the fact is this – I'm beginning to think that I'm not mature enough to write this script. What, you ask – isn't this a film about a student? I think when I presented this idea to a few people, the film they imagine in their head is, yes, a student production.

Hell, no. I'd rather not do it if it turns out to be just another cheap-ass student film. Anyone can make student films. Not everyone can make a serious, mature, thought-provoking and at the same time, emotional film. Yes, this is the nature of the film I'm making. It has to be good enough that people remember it, think about it. It cannot be a forgettable story.

Which brings me to the next point. You probably read that and felt – well, yeah, everyone wants to do the best film they can. That's not the point – the problem is, I couldn't articulate the point. Half the time when I talk to people my mind goes blank. In the first place, the ideas in my head are muddled – it's like locating for stars in a galaxy: there are billions of them, but they are so far apart that you can only see one clearly at a time, and you can't see the relation and association between them unless you see the big picture; but if you finally do see the big picture, the details get obscured.

Point is, I can't talk to people articulately. How am I supposed to direct if I can't talk to people, express what is inside my head?

So basically, I can't write, and I can't direct. Maybe, maybe not. But at this point that looks to be the case.

I tried, tried so hard to think about what could happen in university – but I can't, becoz I happen to think that university is boring. Nothing much happens here. What can happen here that is dramatic? Yet real? I mean, it's so much easier for me to engineer a story about a virus spreading in the university … if I can blow up some buildings, even easier. But to write an ultra-serious story that requires dramatic moments to work, but not being able to find them coz I'm locating it in a place where nothing much interesting happens (within a day) … I'm screwed.

And, I realised, that as much as I want to make this film a bit of a thesis about why university is a complete waste of time - I can't even reason out why I dislike university so much. I know it's partly because I'm not doing as well academically as I used to be, partly because I don't have any close friends around, no one to spar and debate with on the same level, and partly because I didn't achieve anything here. But that is just me. For this film, I have to find a reason why we all don't belong here. All this while, I know that university is pointless, that we should all find different paths into our careers instead – but when I tried to find the reasons in my head:

COMPLETE BLANK.

You might say – well, that's coz you're wrong, uni is a great place, a fun place, best years of our lives, plus we need the degree to survive in the work place today – the usual cliched reasons one writes into high school-type essays.

My answer to that would be that university doesn't do a lot in terms of giving you the necessary knowledge to survive in the real world. You're here for three years and more – and what comes out of it? Thousands upon thousands of whiny graduates who lament about being in debt, at the same time lamenting that they spent too much, most of them without a clue what financial health is, hence the insecurity about debt. We're not taught the practical knowledge in schools. We have to learn them by ourselves from others who don't have much clue as well in university. Then the real learning starts in professional/unemployed life – a few years too late.

Your reasoning's flawed, you say. University can be a sort of training ground to prepare us for the real world. A time to build up networks, when we have time to do so. Who knows, the guy next to you might be an MP and might come in handy in future times? It is a time where we can make mistakes – and not having to suffer too much from it.

And there goes my flimsy reasoning right out of the window. Along with the film. Scrapped.

And yet I was so sure I had the answer to that in my head a few months ago. Serves me right for not writing it down.

So what now? Scrap it and go back to a life I hate into a future that my university education did not prepare me for because I chose to come here when I did not belong here?

I'm saying no to that. But saying isn't anything. So what if I say no to that – what am I going to do about it? Sit there for a few more months trying to think of what else I'm trying to say through my script?

Should I consider turning it into a short? Should I consider writing a new story, something easier? No, writing anything's hard. I've had this story in my head for two fucking years. Should I just abandon it?

I'm really trying to say no.

I can't do this for long. Something must happen, and soon.

(Fog of disillusionment and hopelessness sets in. Author gets buried deeper and deeper like quicksand. Slowly he begins to give up hope and accepts his death.)


October 15, 2005

Where Has It Gone?

I used to write stories and publish them on the Net during my early teen years. It was when the age of the Internet was beginning, when I was probably the only person in class who has an Internet connection, when half of my classmates probably don't know what the Internet is, when I myself don't fully understand it, in the same manner that I didn't understand what a computer is when I was five, but I enjoyed playing around with it anyway.

Back then, websites don't have flashy, colourful stuff. Usually it's black on grey, and you make things interesting using larger or smaller serif fonts. Images and stills were rare. Modems were 14.4 kbps. And back then, there were websites which allow children around the world to write stories and publish them.

And boy did I write.

It started with one website for kids, with story-writing being one of its facilities. The first story I wrote was basically a rehash of Independence Day, a film I saw and liked so much that it stayed in my mind for months. (And in hindsight I realised it was a turning point in my life – it was the movie that made me think of the world in terms of film reality, and laid the seeds for my desire to get into filmmaking.)

I can't remember how I felt about it, but I guess I enjoyed it, coz I went on to write many more stories for the next three years; eventually thinking about the stories would take up hours of my time. But it all came very naturally, no struggle, no accompanying headache or migraine, no agonising over writers' block – if it doesn't come I just don't write.

And very interesting stories they were. Usually I feel like writing a story because of its high concept – story about the longest train in the world and the inevitable disaster, story about a plane carrying an airborne and extremely virulent virus forcing it not to land (yet land it must when fuel runs out), a story about a hero trying to stop a terrorist who possesses incredible weapons such as sound bombs and asteroid bombs from completely wiping out the US, a (very long) story about the downfall of Atlantis which involves the entire continent being flipped up into the sky before sinking (and managing to justify that logically). Sometimes I feel like writing a story because I could play around with the details – a ghost story where the investigators have benevolent ghosts to help them solve cases, kids escaping from a haunted house purely by cooperation through some of the weirdest stuff to ever come out of my mind, the (unfinished) sequel to that when one of the kids grow up to go to college, Agatha Christie-like murder mysteries, and so on.

The grammar was bad (even though I took pride at having the best standard of English compared to everyone I knew back then), and the descriptions were childish. The dialogues were very immature where everything said seemed to be exposition.

But hell, they were really imaginative stuff. I really enjoyed writing them coz I thought they were good, interesting stuff. Things other people won't have thought of.

What I want to ask is … what the hell happened?

Why can't I tap into that part of my brain anymore? I sit here now trying to write the damn script and I have absolutely no idea. That doesn't make sense! It used to come so easily. I'll come up with something, then twist it and mould it until it looks out-of-shape enough yet fitting as part of the storyline. Now I couldn't even come up with something – everything feels bland, cliched. Everything that comes out of my mind gets shot down. They're all so normal, the ideas I came up with.

I made very sure that I want to do this story right – I will not make the film if I am not happy that the story is good enough, imaginative enough. At the same time I don't know what to write. Maybe I shouldn't do it?

This makes me feel so stupid. I marvel at myself at a younger age for being able to write interesting stories – I no longer understood how I did it. It's like us modern-day humans staring back at the ancient Egyptians, wondering, can they really be more advanced than us? The bloody thing sitting at Giza is very hard to ignore.


October 03, 2005

Some Interesting Blogs

Woke up today with a sense of lots of things that need to be done – and then realised … what? What needs to be done?

I don't know. Damn.

Still, that feeling is there. It's kinda stupid really. Feeling guilty coz there's so much to be done but then not knowing what they are. It's like paying with your emotions just to survive.

Well, I know I need to complete the script for one.

Instead, I ventured off to reading blogs.

So I'll just list a couple down. These are by Malaysian bloggers by the way … Malaysians (and Singaporeans I guess … we're always together … hey, stop laughing …) are probably one of the most active bloggers around the world, if not the most.

First one is by a fellow filmmaker friend of mine, who is currently making a short … but for some reason has recently started doing inhumanely narcissistic posts about himself. Which are hilarious. And then you read the comments, and you realise there are people who took it seriously. Which is more hilarious. And then my friend Swifty goes on the 'defensive'. Which reaches new heights of hilarity.

Find out more at Swifty's blog.

That leads me to Kenny Sia's blog. Kenny is from Sarawak (East Malaysia), and is probably one of the top bloggers in Malaysia, logging thousands upon thousands of visitors everyday … apparently. Anyways, his posts are funny. If only he would write a screenplay … yeah, my friends will know what I mean when I say that …

Find out more at Kenny's blog.

Now I need to get back to that screenplay.

Hate writing screenplays.

Bah.


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