SB6 Set Visit 2018 – Day 1

As promised here I am posting again after a couple of years’ absence. I have no excuse for going away for so long. I’d say sorry for my lack of updates but those who know me actually knew I haven’t been absent in social media. So if you want better updates of my happenings, there’s Twitter and Instagram (and even another TwitterTwitter!)

Anyway today I’m writing from Singapore. I’m on an overnight stay before journeying to Johor Baru, Malaysia, for a set visit with Cinemax. I’m visiting the set of US Strike Back season 6 (season 7 for you Brits because the Americans refer to Strike Back S1 as Strike Back: Origins or something like that) in JB and I’m excited. Obviously I’m a fan of Strike Back because of Richard Armitage and John Porter, and the first season was a blast. Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester took up the mantle of co-leads brilliantly after Mr. Armitage went away for The Hobbit. So that the show came back after the Stapleton-Winchester era came to a close in US Season 4, I’m pretty happy. I’m even happier that I got to do another set visit of SB.

Back in 2014, I went to Bangkok to visit the set of US Season 4, where Michelle Yeoh guest starred. She wasn’t there when I visited the set, having finished filming her scenes already probably, but I got to talk to Stapleton, Winchester, Michelle Lukes, Milauna Jackson and Christian Antidormi. (Sully is a great interviewee, by the way. We doorstopped him on location at the train station that doubled for airport and he answered all of our questions with relish and lots of laughs. He’s a huge dude in real life but he sat down when we talked to him so I was saved from having to look up all the time.) The Fab Four of US SB was actually fabulous in real life. One of the best set visits I ever did, period.

So now I’m anxious and a bit worried about tomorrow’s set visit. I know a lot less about ‘the new guys’, Warren Brown and Daniel MacPherson. I mean, yes, I’ve watched Brown in Luther (I’m still pissed off they killed Justin!) but I barely remember MacPherson from The Shannara Chronicles. To be honest, I’m actually a little hazy on what the reboot season (US Season 5) is all about… I haven’t finished even the first episode. (Okay, so maybe I’m not THAT devoted a fan…) Also, the set is actually in a jungle. An actual jungle. With trees and all that. I’m not sure I’m cut out for that environment. This could turn out to be the set visit from hell…

Right now I’m trying to focus on other work (yes, work, I brought a laptop to a set visit trip abroad because I have work) so I don’t worry too much about tomorrow but it’s not effective. I was focused on working earlier and forgot about my anxiety but then my brain started overthinking again and I’m, like, screw it. I’ll just write a blog entry to try and express my worries ‘out loud’. Usually it goes away after I do that. Let’s see if this blog is successful in making me chill.

On the meantime, allow me to reminisce a bit more. Here are a few more pictures from the Bangkok set visit 4 years ago.

Bangkok skyline, 18 December 2014.

A post shared by Ma Vie En l’Air (@mavie_en_lair) on

 

Alley in a Bangkok market.

A post shared by Ma Vie En l’Air (@mavie_en_lair) on

 

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Coming (Back) Soon in 2018

I’m resurrecting this blog. I’ve been away from my personal writing for too long, being so busy with my articles and reviews. I feel like I’m stagnating in terms of creativity so I thought this blog would be a good way to start writing on a more personal note. But so that I can have a fresh clean start, I plan on starting to blog more in 2018. Hopefully the plan doesn’t get disrupted by this little devil called Real Life. See you soon!

On writing about films

Recently Dhania asked me a question that, I have to admit, was kind of difficult to answer. She asked me whether or not I could give her a tip or a suggestion on “becoming a film critic/journalist/whatever it’s called” and whether or not she “should take film lessons”.

This kind of question always stumps me because… well, how do you advise someone else about writing about movies when you yourself feel like you still have a lot to learn?

(Also, I do kind of dislike the term “critic”. Just… no. Don’t use it. Not with me, at least.)

I’ve decided to give this question an answer – finally – and to do that I shall draw from my own experiences.

So, you like movies and you want to write about it? Then just do it. That’s what I did. I set up a blog (Livejournal), I created a tag (cinema) and I wrote about movies. I didn’t only review films (which is, giving my opinion about a movie in a creative way, trying to be as objective as possible) but I also shared news, ranted about silly celeb things, made lists of films I want to watch/have watched/do not plan to watch/recommend to my friends who can’t be bothered to check out movies on their own, post pictures and everything else under the sun. I guess I just like writing and I like writing about my hobbies and one of them happened to be about movies.

You know how sometimes people go, “Oh, I want to have a blog and write about movies” but then they don’t because blogging seems to be a hardship and they just can’t find the time to do it even though they procrastinate a lot? Well, I can already tell you that these people won’t ever become a film critic/journalist/writer/whatever. If you really want to write about movies, then just write it. It doesn’t matter if your blog’s layout is elementary or if your grammar is poor, just write. You watch movies and then you write about them. That’s all.

I didn’t study film per se but I made a short while I was studying in university (I have a degree in Italian language because I wanted to become a football commentator but my professors were movie buffs and one of them gave us an assignment to make a movie in Italian. I wrote the script and we filmed it.) My final paper was on Ettore Scola, the great Italian filmmaker, who also happened to be one of my professor’s cinema heroes. So in a wayknow how to make movies, but it’s not like I’m a total expert on it. Sure, go to a film school if you want to… in the long run, though, it’s not absolutely necessary for anyone to study film if they want to write about films.

What helps is your passion for films. I got this job as a film journalist who writes about movies because of Harry Potter. Seriously. No joke. My former chief editor (who was then working at another movie magazine) offered me a chance to write about the sixth Harry Potter movie – The Half-Blood Prince – because I know the topic inside and out. I lived and breathed Potter so writing that 12-page feature only took me, like, 3 days. The research part was already halfway done because I was in the fandom and I knew people and I kept up with every single news piece about the movie. Former chief editor only had to hear me talk about the importance of Draco and Harry’s rivalry/relationship before he said, “Why don’t you go and write about it for me?”

After that, it’s just a matter of expanding your horizon. You like fantasy and sci-fi movies? Good. Now go watch something else – horror, supernatural, thriller, drama, comedy and everything else that is outside of your comfort zone. You cannot make yourself “a fantasy film expert” because what if you have to write about directors like Ang Lee? To write about Ang Lee, you can’t just know about spiritual movies, but you also have to know superhero blockbusters, historical dramas, LGBT films and Mandarin-language films.

(In TFI, we do like to joke about having areas of expertise, though. I’m pretty much the go-to person for anything geeky but my friend is über passionate about indie and small films. And there’s another guy who’s into horror movies and we just send him to all the horror screenings because he can stomach it better than the rest of us.)

Anyway, recapping all of that: blog and/or write a lot. Understand (a bit) about how movies are made. Find your passion and personal taste; cultivate it. Then expand your horizon.

I think that’s it. There’s nothing else I can suggest. This is all I know.

Well, I could get technical and tell you how to review movies – that is, according to the standard we apply in the magazine – but I won’t. Everyone’s different when it comes to reviews. This is a topic for another day.

(I hope this helps, Dhania. Sorry if it’s not much.)

And You Ask Me Why I Hate Reading Tabloids

If there’s one thing that annoys me more than anything, it’s sensationalist journalism. In Indonesia you can find it everywhere – newspapers, magazines, online sites that claim to be reporting the news – and it really does piss me off when it happens.

Earlier today I opened the local cinema website to check out new release schedules and something caught my eye on the left side of the page, which was this headline: Jeremy Renner Tidak Menyukai Perannya sebagai Hawkeye di The Avengers (exact translation: Jeremy Renner doesn’t like his role as Hawkeye in The Avengers)

This headline made me wrinkle my nose because well, my job being what it is and me being an Avenger fan, I would have heard if Renner said that he didn’t like being Hawkeye. In fact, I would’ve probably ranted about it and called him an ungrateful S.O.B. because that movie raised his profile as an actor to high heavens, more than Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol did. But no, I have not heard of this. Although I did know he recently talked to one of the US websites about how he thought he wasn’t given much to work with in The Avengers.

So I searched the interview and found his recent interview with LA Times Hero Complex: ‘Bourne Legacy’ star Jeremy Renner on ‘Avengers’ action and more

And this was the part that apparently got quoted by a million of other news outlets:

HC: In “Avengers,” you sort of get to play both sides. What was that like?

JR: At the end of the day, 90% of the movie, I’m not the character I signed on to play. I’m literally in there for two minutes, and then all of a sudden… All I could really work on was the physical part of it all, because that didn’t change. That was just the biggest challenge to overcome in playing the guy. Also, we’re pretty much introducing a new superhero character to everyone in a movie where there’s a thousand superheroes. So there’s not a lot of back story or understanding we can really tell about who Clint Barton is, or Hawkeye, and is he working for SHIELD or not. There’s a lot of unanswered questions, even for me. And I was OK with that. At least I was still in the movie. And I was glad for that. The closest thing I could really link to was Scarlett [Johansson’s] character, Black Widow, because they have a history. And that definitely plays in the movie, I think. And obviously, you can’t go into too much just because there’s so much story to tell, but you definitely get a sense that they’re connected, and that there’s something really, really important that ties them together. And I could try to summarize it, but it can go a lot of places. That excites me, though, that there’s room for other things.

Very diplomatic, wasn’t he? As an actor Renner probably did feel like his talents were wasted because there wasn’t really enough of anything for him to do. Even when Barton went rogue, he really was mostly acting every inch the action man. The heavy duty emotional drama is left to Tom Hiddleston, who was pulling out everything in his arsenal to piss a lot of people off. I could understand if he wasn’t at all satisfied with that as an actor but my point is, he didn’t say, “I didn’t like playing Hawkeye.”

The 21 Cineplex website mention Contactmusic.com as their source and here is their original article on the piece: The Avengers – Jeremy Renner: ‘I Didn’t Like Zombie Hawkeye In The Avengers’

To me, that headline was also very misleading. The article’s first paragraph that stated that Jeremy Renner hated playing ‘zombie Hawkeye’ was also misleading. Because, once again, he didn’t say it.

HC: Did you prefer playing evil Hawkeye or good Hawkeye?

JR: I prefer the good, because if we go to the evil part, or hypnotized or whatever the heck you want to call it, it’s kind of a vacancy. Not even a bad guy, because there’s not really a consciousness to him. The interesting part was being guilty about the bad things I did do when I was hypnotized. I think he’s already an interesting enough character. To really kind of take away who that character is and just have him be this sort of robot, essentially, and have him be this minion for evil that Loki uses. Again, I could just focus on the task. I was limited, you know what I mean? I was a terminator in a way. So yeah, fun stunts. But is there any sort of emotional content or thought process? No. That doesn’t exist in that time [that he’s hypnotized]. It happens to be for most of the movie.

HC: Are you disappointed?

JR: You know, there are a lot of people in that movie. And a lot of important characters. And my character, I felt like if I can help serve story, then I did my job.

I have no idea where these people who recycle other people’s stories could claim that a certain actor hates something, hates playing something or hates playing in something, without actually conducting the actual interview themselves. Did Contactmusic.com meet up with the Hero Complex folks and actually ask them, “Hey, did Renner sound really bitter and like he was really hating on The Avengers?” (It could happen but I doubt it.)

I just wonder about how it is possible for someone to take an actor’s words out of context and spin it into something that has highly damaging implications. No wonder some actors don’t like interviews. They could so easily be misquoted.

Maybe I’m being naive and idealistic again. After all, this is Hollywood. (Also, it’s just about Jeremy Renner and Hawkeye, not world peace or some shit like that.) But it really is a shame that this practice is common everywhere. There are only a handful of sources that we can really trust for reporting actual news and even then you still have to take everything with a grain of salt. We just can’t believe everything that we’re being told about. There’s always the chance of what is being said has already been recycled and when that happens we need to look for our own facts before you start influencing others.

My complaint here is really for 21 Cineplex. First of all, I am mostly unimpressed by their website. It looks fugly with the clutter and huge-ass graphic. I need the website for one thing and one thing only: find out movie schedules. I don’t need the news part of the website, unless it’s about special promotions and important announcements regarding their operation of the cinemas.

Secondly, since they insist on having news, I thoroughly dislike the way they present the news from recycled sources. Their writing is shitty (again, it’s an example of Indonesian tabloid-style sensationalism) and I don’t trust the content. Case in point: their reviews.

21 Cineplex website has a review section that is often very spoiler-y. I can hardly click on a review without finding out what the movie is all about, down to the last scene of the movie. I hate the fact that they call it a “review” section because all they do is outline the plot synopsis from beginning to end. There’s hardly any critical analysis of the movie. And there shouldn’t be any because it’s not their job to rate movies, but to sell them. The nature of their business beats the purpose of having reviews on their website. If they insist on having reviews, then they should stop calling it ‘reviews’.

And finally, considering their equally crappy and highly inconvenient online ticketing system, M-Tix, I have no idea why they don’t focus on improving it instead of hiring people to write second- and even third-hand news instead. (I may have another post coming up outlining my problems and dissatisfaction with M-Tix but I still don’t have sufficient data so that’s for later. Much later.)

I don’t know why I’m annoyed with this whole situation. Maybe I’m just bitter that people click on this website more often than they buy my magazine that actually contains better, more credible news. Maybe I’m sick and tired of meeting and talking to so-called movie buffs who regard themselves as ‘experts’ by reading news from dodgy sources and then dare to behave like they know better than me. Maybe today is just a really bad day and I had a very bad morning and I am looking for ways to channel my frustrations out.

Whatever it is, this situation is aggravating me and I will continue to complain about it until it changes. So I’m bitchy and a total nitpicker but I simply can’t shut up about it.

A Movie Weekend in Singapore

Last weekend is pretty much a huge clusterfuck for the world: the Norway massacre, Amy Winehouse’s passing and my other blogging site went down. My condolences to the people of Norway, Winehouse’s family and fans and myself (because I can’t blog over at Livejournal and it just really sucks when this happens). And as if that’s not enough, for anyone living in Indonesia such as myself, we’re also still dealing with the Epic Movie Crisis of 2011 in which no blockbuster Hollywood movie is playing in Indonesian cinemas because A) the government is being stupid, B) the movie distributors are also being stupid, and C) apparently the Indonesian media can’t report news worth crap.

As for me, being the movie buff who’s more than just a little obsessed with Harry Potter, I hightailed it out of the country on Friday, flew to Singapore and stationed myself for three days in Shaw Lido cinema in Orchard Road to watch these summer movies that are not playing here in Indonesia. It’s my second trip to Singapore to do the same thing – the first being in last May, where I watched eight movies in the span of 60 hours – and I managed to amuse myself before the real world caught up with me and made me want to dig a hole and hide there with a Hobbit (preferably in the form of Martin Freeman, of course).

Arriving in Singapore’s Changi Airport at 9.30 AM on Friday, July 22nd, the first thing I did after passing the immigration line was to get a cab to go to the theater. Having paid SGD 19.80 in fare, I arrived at 10.15 AM in Shaw House in time to buy a set of movie vouchers from the ticket box and exchanged them with six movies that I wanted to watch. The first thing I watched there was X-Men: First Class, which I think is a movie that everyone ought to watch every Friday morning to kick start their weekend, and I made a note in my little black book of secret, random thoughts about it, writing “McFassy Bendervoy bromance first thing in the morning gives a whole new meaning to ‘first class’.”

After that, it was onwards to the second movie – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. FINALLY. I’m usually the first person in the planet to watch a new Harry Potter movie but this time around I had to wait a week to watch it. But I have no regrets because it doesn’t matter how soon or how late I watched it, my first viewing of it left me completely in tears. If you’d asked me right after the movie finished what I thought about it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you because all I remembered was crying for more than half of the movie, especially at all the Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape’s moments.

I don’t know if watching  Green Lantern after Potter was a good idea but it wasn’t like I was given a choice of the showtime. The movie plays only once throughout the day and the 5 PM showtime was the only time I could watch it. So still riding high from the Potterdrenaline I watched as whoever wrote the script of the movie screwed up the story of one of DC Comics’ best superheroes (of 2010, at least, because Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night series was one of the best things to have happened last year). I’m also putting the blame on whoever decided to cast Blake Lively in this movie. But at least Ryan Reynolds remain extremely pleasing to the eyes so it was NOT a total lost.

My movie line-up for Friday ended with the clad-in-CG-costumes superheroes, allowing me to have dinner and meet up with a friend rather early. But come Saturday morning, it started all over again. I watched the 10.30 AM showtime of Kung Fu Panda 2 and both laughed and cried myself silly in the theatre; the movie was indeed made of awesome.

And I knew for sure this time that I made the right choice of watching that movie first before the next one because my 12.30 appointment at Shaw Lido’s Theatre 2 is going to be with a long, exhausting and utterly explosive movie directed by Michael Bay. It really is just better to start with something light before a movie like Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. That way, whenever you start feeling frustrated at Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s complete lack of talent, skill and ability for acting, you can just remember how Jack Black and Angelina Jolie’s characters in the previous movie have sort-of-kind-of-did-that-really-happen inter-species romance, giggle for a moment and say, “Really? Po and Tigress? REALLY?” To be honest, though, Transformers 3 was very good. The only bad thing about it was the female lead, if you could call her that. Other than her utter unimportance to the story and her bad acting, I liked this third Transformers installment quite a lot and not only because Alan Tudyk’s Dutch is probably the best character the franchise could have ever had. Then again, I’ve always been a fan…

Finally, I ended the day’s moviegoing activities by watching Your Highness. Mind you, this sort of comedy is really not my thing… it’s juvenile, it’s crude, it’s gory and it looks cheap (did they not get a special effects budget?) But surprisingly, I laughed a lot and it’s probably the first time ever in the history of me liking movies that I actually enjoyed Natalie Portman’s performance. Go figure!

Sunday was a day of repeats. I watched Harry Potter and Transformers again… and managed to come up with more substantial thoughts about other than “OMG SNAPE YOU WONDERFUL MAN YOU!” Which is good… because one of my assignments this month is to write a review for the movie for the magazine. I almost didn’t watch Transformers for the second time but, I thought, oh well, it shouldn’t hurt to watch Optimus and Megatron try and kill each other. Plus, it was worth spending money to see Alan Tudyk again. So I did. (Fair warning: I’m stalking this actor from now on!)

Having a movie marathon weekend is so much fun. I just wish, of course, I didn’t have to do it in Singapore. I think it’s extremely ridiculous that we don’t get to watch summer blockbusters in Indonesian cinemas. Some sources have been saying that the situation has been resolved now, the movies are coming back, and in fact HPDH Part 2 and Transformers 3 are going to play very soon in cinemas, and they are coming back this month, etc. But seriously? We shouldn’t have to be made to wait this long to watch them in the first place.

I’m not saying I don’t want the government and the movie distributors to collect their collective crap together, but I’m only saying: don’t you have a more efficient way to do that without sacrificing the people’s need for cinematic entertainment? Yes, I realize that not everybody thinks movies are all that great and I know there are other forms of entertainment that we can still enjoy, but have you tried talking to a foreigner about not being able to watch Harry Potter or Thor? Have you ever tried telling people who live abroad, “We don’t have Hollywood movies in Indonesia anymore”? Have you ever tried explaining the whole situation? If you have, then you should have felt what I felt when I tried doing – extremely ridiculous and pathetic.

Anyway, rant aside, this weekend has been fun for me. Of course it makes discovering the news about Norway and Winehouse, plus meeting a dead Livejournal website, all the worse because, after having so much fun, these incidents felt all the more rage/sorrow-inducing. But I can’t imagine where I would be right now if I hadn’t watched those movies before finding out for the nth time what a sad world we live in… I’d have probably drowned myself in a pond somewhere out of depression. The fun and entertainment those movies provide, at least, allowed me to escape to several fictional worlds where I can recharge my happiness levels if even for a short while. That’s why I enjoyed the trip and that’s why watching those commercial blockbusters was, is and always will be essential for my well-being.

Having said that, here is what needs to happen: WORLD, START MAKING SENSE AGAIN. You’ve had your chance to screw us over this weekend, now right yourself and make us happy again without us having to resort to Hollywood entertainment to smile.

New Magazine, New Articles, Upcoming Projects

Hello! It’s been a while since I wrote here. I truly didn’t mean to abandon this blog – trust me, I didn’t! But my job got the better of me (has been since the last half of last year) so I sort of didn’t have time to open this… WordPress thingie.

OK, first of all, updates!

Did everybody hear? Indonesia now has a local edition of Total Film. It’s originally from the UK (here’s the website, if you don’t know it already) and it’s my favorite movie/entertainment magazine EVER. Why? Because it’s deliciously snarky and very British. It also lives up to its name of being TOTALly full of FILM, which I like. There’s less gossip, more information on films when you read this (not like when you read, say, Entertainment Weekly). But anyway, I’m a contributor there now.

I do the Abridged Scripts in this magazine. And I also translate a bunch of things. My major translations includes ones about Public Enemies for the dummy issue, Sherlock Holmes for the second issue, Shutter Island for the third and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland for the fourth. But I’ve also already done 2 of my own articles for them – New Moon (first issue) and Where the Wild Things Are (third issue). As you can see, I’ve been busy. And when I finally have the time, I will publish my original stuff in this blog. (God knows when that’s going to happen, though…)

But, anyway, I’m in the middle of preparing another movie article – an original – for the magazine. I can’t let you know yet what the movie is, but it’s one of the ‘big’ movies this year. And of course, I have to prepare an Abridged Script, too… can’t decide what movie it is I want to do for the script. Heh.

So, in an attempt to keep this blog alive, I’ll start posting my movie reviews here. Whether they get published in TFI or not, I’ll be writing about movies here. (Or at least, I will try to.) I have half a mind to write my review of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief right now (I just watched the movie today), but since I haven’t read the book… that’s going to have to wait for now. In any case, I won’t let this blog die…

Stay tuned, OK?