Monday, January 30, 2006

Review: Dangerous Flowers (Chai-Lai)

  • Directed by Poj Arnon
  • Starring Bongkot Kongmalai, Supaksorn Chaimongkol, Kessarin Ektawatkul, Jintara Poonlarp, Bhunyawong Phongsuwan
  • Rating: 1/5

Painful and pointless, the meager offering of eye-candy moments for male action fans aren't worth the effort it would take to view this awful movie.

Bongkot Kongmalai (Ai Fak, Tom Yum Goong), Supaksorn Chaimongkol (Andaman Girl), Kessarin Ektawatkul (Born to Fight), morlam singer Jintara Poonlap and TV comedy troupe comedian Bhunyawong Phongsuwan star as five sexy super crimefighters who all have the names of flowers (Lotus, Hibiscius, Rose, Arthurian, Crown of Thorns).

They are out to solve the kidnapping of the daughter (Narawan "Grace" Techaratanaprasert) of a Japanese businessman who holds the secret to the prized "Pearl of the Andaman".

It starts out on an airline flight, with four of the Chai-Lais already on the job, disguised as flight attendants and passengers. The fifth, meanwhile, is on the ground, chasing the bad guys down a rural highway, using her sportscar to try and stop an SUV. With her car too smashed to continue, she gets out and stands in the road, and stops traffic with her dynamite looks.

Back on the plane, it's all hijinx and high kicks as the Chai-Lais foil the kidnapping, which was led in part by the evil transvestite King Kong (Wannasak "Kuck" Sirilar).

If the movie would have ended there, I would have been happy, but unfortunately there's another 90 minutes to go, so more screaming, big explosions, gunshots and a horrible, booming synthesizer soundtrack must ensue before the movie can finally end. And one of the best parts is the ending credits, where there's the spectacle of nine-year-old Narawan blasting everything in sight with an M-60 machine gun.

There are two underwater scenes (cheesecake for the boys) and a traffic chase or two, and a big wire-fu fight scene in the lobby of an office building, where the Chai-Lais are all wearing towels. Try doing some kung-fu kicks while you're wrapped in terrycloth sometime.

Some romance is thrown in. Bongkot's character has her heart-wrenching moments with a boyfriend Krit Sripoomsed (from Buppha Rahtree).

Jintara is paired with Nithichai "Yuan" Yotamornsunthorn from the Dragon 5 boy band strictly for the comedic effect of a young central Thai guy falling for the darker-skinned, flat-nosed, older Isaan singing star. Some jokes are made about Jintara's character - about her speaking the Isaan (Northeast Thailand) dialect and such - that got a lot of laughs. Low-class humor and racism is alive and well.

Later on, when those jokes have worn out (as well as jokes about the cross-dressing King Kong), Jintara shows up driving a tank, but by then the focus is on a cross-eyed villain.

Mum Jok Mok provides some laughs as the Chai-Lai's handler. He appears in an increasingly hilarious variety of wigs.

The action isn't that great. Born to Fight star Kessarin Ektawatkul - a national tai kwan do champion, gets to practice a tough stance while riding atop a moving van, but any hand-to-hand action is framed too tightly and edited too fleetingly to really give any sense that there was any real fighting going on.

It's also sloppy. While the story takes time out for jokes about the cross-eyed woman not being able to drive or shoot straight, you see the rest of the characters just standing around in the background doing nothing.

But you can do something - stay away from this.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

ML Mingmongkol Sonakul's 3 Friends

In the runup to the Bangkok International Film Festival, ThaiDay is going all out to offer previews of upcoming films. Yesterday, Thailand's new English-language daily offered an interview with producer-director ML Mingmongkol Sonakul about her new film, 3 Friends, which is in the festival's Asean Competition.

The movie takes the concept of the fluffy videos featuring model-actresses in bikinis that are sold in convenience stores all over Thailand, and adds a twist of "Survivor", taking actress Napakapa "Mamee" Nakprasit and two attractive gal-pals and leaves them on an island.

It's not the first time Mingmongkol has offered a twist on a genre. She got a one-line idea from Apichatpong Weerasethakul and turned it into a feature film in 2002, I-San Special, which took the audio from an old Thai radio soap opera and had the passengers on a bus act out the dialogue. It was brilliant.

She's also making her name as a producer, for the upcoming Invisible Waves, the Shutter followup Alone, as well as The Tin Mine and One Night Husband.

3 Friends is co-directed by Aditya Assarat and Pumin Chinaradee.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sia Jiang: 'It is not a boycott'

The Nation today follows up on the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand boycott of the Bangkok International Film Festival with Federation president Somsak 'Sia Jiang' Techaratanaprasert saying "don't call it a boycott".

"It is not a boycott but we won't be joining the festival because they did not invite us, so what should we do?" he was quoted as saying.

Three Thai film companies, Five Star Production, RS Film and GTH, want to know more about the FNFAT's decision not to participate in the film festival organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand at a newly opened multiplex theatre at Siam Paragon from February 17 to 27.

The conflict started after the festival's organizers contacted the film studios directly, not through the federation, which upset Somsak, who also is head of Sahamongkol Films.

"This year they went directly to the film companies, which shows no respect for us. It seems they don’t recognise that we represent the film industry," he was quoted as saying.
Somsak says Federation members must abide by its directions, otherwise they would be expelled from the organization.

Sahamongkol also is a major distributor of foreign films in Thailand, which means Brokeback Mountain - scheduled to open in a limited release in Thailand on Valentine's Day - would be pulled from the film festival.

For its part, the TAT says it was simply too busy in the past year with tsunami memorial activities, so it went straight to the film companies in an effort to save time.

"We hope they will reconcile," Tanes Petsuwan was quoted as saying. "The festival is a national event and since we are attempting to put the country in world-class destinations, the success of our film festival will be one of the indicators."

Also at the heart of the dispute is money -- a budget cut, resulting in no funds shared with the Federation for advertising. There's also sidebar film market, which the Federation was a big organizer of in past years.

"The drastic decrease is because many people complained last year that the activities at the film market mostly benefit Sahamongkol Film, which belonged to [the Federation's] president rather than other members," an anonymous industry source was quoted as saying.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

National Film Association: Boycott Bangkok International Film Festival

Wow. Nothing like a little excitement on a Thursday afternoon. I just saw the story on Monsters and Critics that the Federation of National Film Association of Thailand is calling for a boycott of the Bangkok International Film Festival.

In past years, the festival organizers cooperated with the Federation, which reportedly has 940 members in 11 branches of the film industry. But not this year.

Sorasak Sunpituksaree, deputy secretary general of the Federation was quoted as saying that the Federation was "left out" of planning by the festival's organizer, the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

"There are three specific areas we were excluded," Sorasak was quoted as saying. "The first was in arranging the film market which is done through Film Festival Management, the Los Angeles Office of the festival.

"The second was in programming films – our members know Thai films the best, but this year we were not asked for input by TAT in Bangkok or by festival programmers in LA.

"And finally, each year we have worked with TAT to help promote and advertise the festival through Thai 'channels': this year they claimed they have a reduced budget and would have no funds for Federation use."

Federation president Somsak Techaratanaprasert met earlier this week with Major Cineplex CEO Vicha Poolveraluk to ask Major to honor the boycott, Monsters and Critics said.

But since the festival is taking place at Major's new cineplex at the new Siam Paragon, which is a cornerstone in the TAT's strategy to promote Bangkok as a world class tourism center, that was impossible. However, Major's EGV Grand at Siam Center next door might have festival screenings withdrawn. Wait and see on that.

Another nearby theater, SF Cinema City's MBK Center branch, wasn't even asked to participate.

"For a film festival that is supposed to celebrate film and bring together those in the Thai film industry, we find it rather strange that we were not asked to participate," SF deputy managing director Suvannee Chinchiewchan was quoted as saying.

The boycott won't affect the screening of Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves as the opening film.

"Pen-ek's film is a co-production and falls outside the purview of the Federation," Sorasak said.

Also, Invisible Waves is from Five Star Production, which I don't see going along with the boycott anyway. Remember, it was Five Star that boycotted the National Film Awards, which were structured to favor films made by Sahamongkol.

Meanwhile, the festival is continuing to shape up. There's the Sombat Metanee restrospective, being put on with the help of the Thai Film Foundation.

And a number of big-name stars are scheduled to visit, among them Terry Gilliam, who will lead a workshop, as well as Willem Dafoe, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Bruce Beresford, Chris Columbus, Taylor Hackford and Fernando Meirelles. ThaiDay has more on that.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Zodiac: Singapore's first animated feature

Just in time for Lunar New Year, Zodiac: The Race Begins, the first 3-D animated feature from Singapore, is being released across Asia. Posters are up for it in Bankgok, though I had no idea what it was. It's the story of how 12 animals came to represent the Chinese lunar calendar.

Twitch as more on it. Quite simply they say: "The animation looks like crap," and offer that another upcoming Singaporean feature, Kung Fu Gecko, is better.

The Singaporean film comes out as Thailand readies its own 3-D animated feature, Khan Kluay.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Review: Insee Tong (Golden Eagle)

  • Starring Mitr Chaibancha, Petchara Chaowarat Ob Boontid, Kanchit Kwanpracha.
  • Released in Thailand in 1970-71, DVD reissue in 2005 has English subtitles.
  • Rating: 3/5

Convoluted to the point of being absurd, Insee Tong is one of those films to file under the "so bad it's good" category, if you're into that sort of thing.

From a historical standpoint, Insee Tong is important because it was the film that superstar action hero Mitr Chaibancha died while making.

Sorry if that's a spoiler, but that's not how it was supposed to end. And, I've read in places that the original cut of the film actually showed Mitr falling to the ground after he lost his grip from the rope ladder that was dangling from a helicopter that kept going up, up and away.

This 2005 DVD release, freezes the frame at the end and some Thai text comes on to note Mitr's passing at 4:19pm on October 8, 1970.

The story itself is nuts. The opening finds Rom Ritthikrai (Mitr, pronounced mitt, rhymes with fit) doing what he does best - getting stinking drunk at a nightclub and trying to pursuade others to join him. He's retrieved by his faithful assistant Oy (Petchara Chaowarat).

This behavior as a fun-loving drunkard is a cover, for Rom (or Rome) is actually the masked crimefighter Insee Daeng, or Red Eagle, a sort of polyester-clad, horseless Lone Ranger type of hero. He fights crime and then goes on a raging bender. But, there's another Insee Daeng, an imposter (Kanchit Kwanpracha), who's going around killing people.

Somehow, the fake Red Eagle is connected to the Red Bamboo gang, which is trying to seize control of the Thai government and probably the world. Some ties to communism are implied, which fits with the acute red-paranoid era in which this film was made.

Red Bamboo is led by a goateed villain named Bakin (Ob Boontid), who was trained in hypnotism by Rasputin and is able to kill his intended targets by beaming his thoughts and visage through red ceramic Buddha statues, or simply through thin air. He can split himself into three images, making it impossible for gunmen to shoot him.

The special effects involved with Bakin's trickery just add to the overall cheesiness of this film.

Rom had planned to retire from being the Red Eagle, but the imposter running around killing people makes him abandon that plan and change shades, becoming Insee Tong, or Golden Eagle, replete in matching gold-colored, snug-fitting polyester slacks and shirt and a shiny new golden mask.

Most of the mainstream films of this era were still shot on 16 millimeter with post-dubbed sound, though this might have been 35mm. Anyway, some of the sound still sounds post-dubbed, especially the comic relief characters who have these high, squeaky voices, and the bad guys with their evil laughs. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

The film itself is in horrifically bad condition, and there's probably some chunks missing.

This only adds to the "so bad it's good" appeal, especially when a gang of transvestites are introduced, and a police detective goes undercover to try and find something out. I'm not sure what they have to do with the story, but eventually the detective in drag and Golden Eagle have a knock-down drag-out fist fight in the back of a pickup truck. And I don't think the dress-wearing detective was wearing any panties or hose. A suspicious black blotch has been strategically placed.

It's all too crazy, with the story also involving a kidnapped admiral and his daughter, as well as the pretty daughter of one of the leaders of the Red Bamboo gang, who provides a love interest for Rom, and eventually, another rescue by Petchara's character, whose superpower gives her the ability to stare down her prey with her big doe eyes and leave them absolutely cowed. She's the best part of the film, but her appearances are all too fleeting.

The thing is, as I uncover and discover more Thai films from this era, I am starting to understand more about what influenced Wisit Sasanatieng to make Tears of the Black Tiger. What looked on the surface to be influences of Sam Peckinpah and spaghetti westerns really belong the purely Thai-style action films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. And as painful as it might be from time to time, I'm determined to try and see more.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why the Thai film industry stinks

Yesterday was a bonus day for Thai film directors in the Bangkok English-language press. Not only did the Bangkok Post have an interview with Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, ThaiDay had one with Apichatpong Weerasethakul. He talked about his new film, Intimacy and Turbulence, which is being made as part of celebrations for Mozart's 250th birthday. He also talks about the Thai film industry, why Thai actors don't develop as well as actors from other countries, the malaise of Thai society and -- penises.

Of Intimacy and Turbulence, he says the only requirement for Vienna’s financial support is that the core story reflects the composer’s identity. "I don't want to use Mozart's music, as I'm not a classical music fan. But I feel that Mozart's music talks about reincarnation – it looks ahead to the future world with the knowledge of the past world. This is something that hit my heart, so I picked it as a theme. Mozart also talked about magic and mystery. So I say having an ordinary life is magic. I will use my memories of my parents, who are doctors at Khon Kaen Hospital, to supply the story."

"Not many movies, especially Thai movies, talk about ordinary life. I want to see something different happen here. Creating movies about violence is easy – and it can sell, as people are interested in conflict and disaster. But the thing is, I have never experienced the kind of violence that’s in the movies. I want to create something different from other films, but it will also have to match my interests."

"Thai society is very materialistic nowadays. The simplicity of life is gone. There is no calm. No one looks inside the mind. It’s not that people don’t want to, but they forget to, since there are other things to arouse them ..."

On Thai actors:

"I want actors who are not shy toward the camera. They must be themselves, and natural, and not worry that someone is watching them ... I let them improvise. Like this new movie – if there is enough time, I would like to improvise the whole movie. But then, that depends on the budget as well ...
"Unknown actors tend to have more time for the movie, as they don’t have to spare time for television shows, soap operas or other movies. They will have the time to learn to work with the team. They don’t have to worry about the schedule and the money they’re making.

"Thai actors are not so professional, because of the system here. Thailand is a small country and actors also have to be MCs, they have to do this and that. So it is difficult to develop their abilities and skills. It’s not like Julia Roberts, who really has time to spend with her scripts. That’s why our country lacks professional actors."

On experimental film:

"What experimental film gives is freedom. You feel happy after you walk out of the cinema. You want to continue breathing. You have inspiration to try new things, which is something that our country needs – not just for movies, but for everything. Because we have always had things handed down. There has been no opportunity to be creative. Everybody follows everybody, so nothing is exciting.

"Thai movies are now very boring, as they share a certain pattern of thought. Even Hollywood is more creative. With Thai movies, everything is ready-made to the point that I wonder what space is left for creativity."

On Thai society:

"Both mass-market and independent movies must, at the very least, enrich the mind. I don’t see any creativity in the mere attempt to sell. And it is very scary that the government is pushing materialistic policies. The simple pleasures, which don’t require money, have been ignored. TV is full of commercials. Why? Is it because the producers depend on advertising revenue in order to survive, or because the producers are greedy? I don’t know. But it seems that this happens in many parts of society. Kids have nowhere to go. Parks are boring – they have loudspeakers and there’s always new construction. So, then, maybe it’s better to go to department stores. But everywhere is loud. I'm afraid that new generation will be afraid of silence. People tend to appreciate silence less and less. It is so hard to live in this society ...

"Our country needs to find a balance between traditional and new things. There is not much left that can be sold. Creativity is like solar energy. It could shine at any time during our lifetime. It should be applied while the ancient tourist destinations are getting rotten. Visitors will not keep coming to the Grand Palace. The oceans are already dirty. Movies are among of the new things that need financial support.

"In Hong Kong, if you take your short film to make a DVD in the Motion Center, they suggest which festival you should send your film to. They help to facilitate it. At least I want our country to have such a center and it should be quite independent – not like, 'the movie can't show a penis, as it will make the country look bad.' Don't the committee members have penises? It is human.

"The authorities like to claim that people are starving, so why should they need to invest in the arts? They need to look at the long term. Do they want to see people have crude minds? Good art is like religion: it helps people look into themselves. And that helps every part of society, including the economy.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

This year's retrospective: Sombat Metanee

Sombat Metanee, a prolific Thai actor who once held the Guinness record for most filmed appearances (more than 600), will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Bangkok International Film Festival, which will also pay tribute to Sombat with a retrospective that will include Tears of the Black Tiger - a rare chance to see that film screened.

"With as many women seduced as deadly stunts performed, Mr. Metanee is undeniably the standard for Thai action heroes," a festival press release says.

The line-up will begin with his very first action film, Tawan Lang Lued (The Blood Sun), from 1963. Next will be the hit action-comedy, Nuk Leng Tewada (The Holy Hoodlum) from 1975, which he also directed. There will also be two other films from the mid-1970s: a prison-escape film Narok Tarutao (The Hell of Tarutao) directed by Ruj Ronaphop, and the war epic Khun Suk (War Lord) directed by Sakka Jarujinda (and remade in recent years by Thanit Jitnukul).

The showcase closes with Wisit Sasanatieng's Fah Talai Jone (Tears of the Black Tiger).

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Pen-ek talks Invisible Waves

The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee interviews Pen-ek Ratanaruang in today's Real Time section. Click that link while you can.

Pen-ek, of course, is talking about his new film, Invisible Waves, which has him working again with his Last Life in the Universe star Asano Tadanobu, writer Prabda Yoon and cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

The film is set for the competition at the Berlin Film Festival, February 9-19, and will open the Bangkok International Film Festival on February 17, which means Pen-ek and his crew and stars will be adding some serious mileage to their Star Alliance plans, probably flying either Lufthansa or Thai business class back and forth between Berlin and Bangkok to show their faces at gala openings and awards ceremonies.

The film is Pen-ek's darkest yet, Kong and other folks who have seen clips say, which is really saying something, because his previous films, like Last Life or Ruang Talok 69, were pretty dark indeed.

Asano again portrays a Japanese man adrift in Thailand. He's Kyoji, a Macau-based chef who flees to Hong Kong and then Phuket on a mysteriously deserted cruise ship after he's murdered his Thai boss's mistress. On the ship he meets a half-Thai, half-Korean woman (Old Boy's Kang Hye-jeong) and runs into a hitman gets a gun from a mysterious monk (Eric Tsang) sent to whack him.

In the interview, Pen-ek speaks of his movies as "journeys", or "experiments", because, unlike fellow Thai auteurs Wisit Sasanatieng or Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who he says have pretty specific visions, he doesn't really know what he wants.

But I know what I want. I want to see this film. And, hopefully I'll get my chance when it opens in wide release in Thailand in late February.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bangkok film fest lineup announced

The opening film is Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves, which is also in the main competition at the Bangkok International Film Festival.

Most of the rest of the lineup was announced yesterday. Lots of good films, too many to get into here.

Of interest, though, is the Asean Competition:A Thai documentary called Things That Move: Firefly, by Suwan Huangsirisakul, is screening in the Reel World program.

Yet to be announced is the Thai Panorama category.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

The real Thai film awards

Over at, they have the Bangkok Critics Assembly's 2005 award nominees, which have emerged as an alternative to the Sahamongkol-led National Film Association awards.
The awards offer more balance, and offer some love to one of the films that I enjoyed last year, Ahimsa: Stop to Run, from RS Film. It's up for Best Film, Best Director (for Bullet Wives Leo Kittikorn), best actor for Boriwat Yutto and other awards.

The awards will be announced on February 15.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Jet Li Yum Goong

Jet Li's Fearless is due for release in Thailand on March 2. Billed as Jet's last martial arts film, the trailers are pretty exciting, and the names behind it -- stunt choreography by Yuen Wo Ping and directed by Ronny Yu -- has me really anticipating the film.

Fearless has a bit of a Tom Yum Goong vibe, with strongman Nathan Jones in the cast. It was also supposed to have Somluck Kamsing, an Olympic boxer who was among the cast of Thai national athletes in Born to Fight. And I'm pretty sure that's his image being used in the promotional materials for the Thailand release. He's third from the top, with rope wrapped around his arms, just like Tony Jaa.

But Somluck's fight with Jet Li didn't make the cut. I'm hoping Somluck's fight makes it onto a DVD extra, or maybe there will be an extended cut.

Even bigger news, according to both Twitch and Kaiju Shakedown, Michelle Yeoh has also been cut from Fearless. Some folks are bummed, while others are rejoicing, saying the loss of Michelle's role will mean a pared down, more-focused-on-action film. I think it looks awesome -- a real throwback to the Once Upon a Time in China series or Jet's Shaw Bros film, Martial Arts of China -- back to his roots.

Meanwhile, since the release of Tom Yum Goong on VCD and DVD (in Thailand and China with no English subs so far), Tony Jaa's followup to Ong-Bak has started to filter West. And if the reviews will be anything like this one, Tom Yum Goong is in for a much more positive critical reception overseas than it received in Thailand, something that puzzled the heck out of director Prachya Pinkaew.

"I was confused," Prachya told The Nation in a year-end wrap-up of the Thai film scene. "On the one hand we had happy viewers, and on the other people complained about the script and other elements. But I believe we were successful."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Happy Children's Day

Children's Day? In the hardscrabble existence I was brought up in, in central Illinois, I remember asking when Children's Day was, when I noticed there was a Mother's Day, a Father's Day and other days. The reply I always got was: "Why, everyday is Children's Day."

That may be the case in Thailand as well, but Thailand loves its children so dearly, that it also has a special day set aside for them, January 14. In honor of that, I point toward a ThaiDay article in which best-actress winner Grace Techratanaprasert and leading boy Charlie Trairat from Fan Chan and the upcoming Dorm are interviewed.

Grace, or Narawan, currently starring in the girl-and-her-dog drama, A Bite of Love, wants to be a graphic designer when she grows up. She has a computer with all kinds of software at home, she says.

Charlie, who has his own website, wants to pilot single-engine airplanes.

In order to cry on cue, 9-year-old Grace thinks of her grandparents, who have passed away.

Charlie, 13, isn't sure what he's going to do when it comes time to cry. "Maybe I'll have to have onions for my crying scene."

Because of his film roles, Charlie gets teased a lot by his friends and his family. After Fan Chan, "they would tease me about being Focus' boyfriend and call me Jaeb, my name in the film."

Grace probably gets teased too, especially about that best-actress award, but "Sahamongkol won’t let me say anything about the awards," she told ThaiDay as she was hustled away by minders.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Invisible Waves website up

The keen eyes at Twitch have noticed that the website for Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's forthcoming Invisible Waves is up. They say to keep your eyes peeled there for more content, including trailers.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

'Ong-Bak' for sumo

Singapore's Electric New Paper reports on the Malaysian crime farce Baik Punya Cilok (A Right Good Turn), that is a hit in Malaysia (2 million ringgit, or about US$500,000 in box-office receipts since it was released in December), but probably won't play in neighboring Singapore.

The film stars and is directed by Afdlin Shauki.

He says Singapore distributors are not interested. "I don't know why. According to the feedback I got, they are not keen," he told the New Paper. "I know of Singaporeans who are going to Johor to watch it and are posting messages on my blog about how much they liked it."

Baik Punya Cilok is about four best friends who break into a pawnshop to retrieve a family heirloom after the shop owner refuses to sell it back to them. But somebody else steals the heirloom and the four get blamed for the crime.

Afdlin has another film coming out, Buli Balik (Bully Back), a sequel to his 2003 film, Buli. It will be released on January 23, and it's more likely to get a limited release in Singapore.

Next up for Afdlin is Sumo-lah, about an association of sushi restaurants in Kuala Lumpur that hold an underground sumo tournament.

"It will be the Ong Bak for sumo," Afdlin told the New Paper.

He's hoping to recruit Singapore comic actor Gurmit Singh to star, as well as Thai actress Intira Jaroenpura from Nang Nak. According to Afdlin's blog, Intira is now working on MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's next film, Naresuan.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A peak at Noo Hin

Here's an early look at Noo Hin, the live-action adaptation of a popular Thai comic book. It's about a resourceful house maid from rural northeast Thailand (Isaan) working for a middle-class urban Thai family.

Produced by Nonzee Nimibutr, it is directed by Komgrit Treewimol, who was drafted for the job while he was working on Dear Dakanda, according to The Nation. Since Dear Dakanda turned out to be one of the best Thai films of 2005, Noo Hin is something else to look forward to this year.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

A Valentine from Yuthlert Sippapak

I was just mentioning the krasue ghost that is popular in Southeast Asian folklore in an earlier post. And now Twitch reports on a new Thai film featuring that very ghost, Ghost of Valentine, directed by Yuthlert Sippapak, who did Buppa Rahtree, Pattaya Maniac and Killer Tattoo. It's due out February 16, just after St Valentine's Day. It stars Ploy Jindachoti and Pitisak Yaowananon from Ai Fak.

Twitch has links to images, the trailer and more.

Twitch also reports that Yuthlert's awesome horror-comedy, Buppa Rahtree is finally coming out on DVD with English subtitles. More about that is here.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, January 9, 2006

Thai films at Rotterdam

As mentioned earlier, Thunska Pansittivorakul's short film, Vous-Vous Soviens De Moi, is in competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Now Bioscope (via Deknang), as well as other sources, are reporting more Thai films.

Joining Vous-Vous Soviens De Moi in a "Shocking Thai" program are the following:
  • Sleeping Beauty, Manussa Vorasingha
  • Phong-Chu-Rose, Nitivat Cholvanichsiri
  • The Way, Uruphong Raksasad
  • Life Show, Thunska Pansittivorakul
  • Opportunities, Nitipong Thintupthai
  • After Shock, Thunska Pansittivorakul
  • Ghost of Asia, Apichatpong Weerasethakul
After Shock and Ghost of Asia were part of the Tsunami Digital Short Films project that premiered in October at the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

There will also be some feature films: Citizen Dog, Midnight My Love and the Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers, which includes Apichatpong's Wordly Desires.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Review: Innocence (Dek Toh)

Directed by Nisa Kongsri and Areeya Sirisopha
Starring Prayoon Kamchai and Grade 9 students of Ban Mae Toh School
Premiered at the 10th Pusan International Film Festival; screened at the 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok in October 2005, and limited screenings in Bangkok in December 2005 and January 2006.

I thought I'd missed Innocence, which the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee cited as one of the better Thai films of 2005. So when I saw it was still on the schedule at the Lido cinema, I beelined it for the box office and got in line for its once-daily showing.

There was still a pretty good crowd for this documentary about the Ban Mae Toh School in Chiang Mai province. And I was glad I saw it.

Often, when viewing Thai films, I have a hard time resisting the urge to compare them to other films. I can't help it. Innocence is very much like Born Into Brothels, though with vastly happier circumstances and a much more hopeful outcome.

It's the story of Prayoon Kamchai, the school's principal, who has dedicated his life to the school, which is in one of Thailand's most isolated and impoverished areas. Situated in a mountainous area, the school's students are hill-tribe kids, many who come from up to 100 kilometers away. During the rainy season, the single-track dirt roads in the mountains become impassable and the kids can't get to school. The solution was to build dorms and make it a boarding school.

Parents are told by Prayoon not to worry about money. Ways will be found to get by. Education must come first. The schoolchildren remarkably handle the situation with aplomb. Since most of them are from farm families, they naturally take to growing vegetables, raising pigs and chickens and serving up their own meals. The entire student body pitches in for building projects to improve the school as well.

Prayoon is a kind, caring soul whom the children all look up to as a father figure. At one point, he has to go into the hospital for cancer surgery, but comes out it with a clean bill of health. Thank goodness. The teachers are all great as well.

There's one scene when one teacher decides to leave the school to be nearer to his family, and it's positively gut wrenching, there's such an outpouring of emotion during a karaoke party. It's backed up by a disturbing, discordant and psychedelic squawl from the karaoke machine. It's a tough scene to watch.

Of course the big goal for the kids is that when they reach Grade 9 (the highest the school goes) they get a trip to the ocean. It's a journey of about 1,000 kilometers and three days on the road from the mountains of Chiang Mai province to the beaches of Prachuap Kiri Khan. Prayoon uses the trip as a metaphor for their schooling, saying he's taking them from the headwaters of the stream all the way to the ocean. Brilliant.

The documentary is shot on digital video, and making it must've been an adventure for filmmaker Nisa Kongsri (who came out and gave a little talk after the screening) and her co-director, Areeya "Pop" Sirisopha, who was Miss Thailand Universe 1994.

What I really liked about Innocence was that the hill-tribe children are seen as just that -- just plain kids -- and smart ones at that. This is not at all like the pitiable primitives that were portrayed in Vichit Kounavudhi's Mountain People (Khon Pu Khao). And it's a much better image, than say, Luther and Johnny Htoo from God's Army (remember them?).

As encouraging as the results are for the children -- most of the ones featured are continuing their education and have plans of giving back to their communities -- there's still some troubling news: The Thai government reduced the student meal allowance from 20 baht to 12 baht, which will make it harder for the school to keep stocked up with enough rice.

I wonder why the government reduced the meal allowance? Shouldn't such things be increased in this day and age?

The film's website has information on how to donate to help the school by transferring money to a Thai bank account set up for that purpose. Or, if you contact the producers, they might have more instructions on how to send some money to the school.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Southeast Asian film wackiness

Quite few pan-Asian items to share in this post.

First, there's a new organization in Singapore, the Southeast Asian Cinemateque, which is launching monthly screenings of vintage films from Singapore, Lumiere works from Japan, Indochina and France, and films from Malaysia and Cambodia.

Agence France-Presse has a story about it. Among the offerings will be the "lost" 1958 production by Malaysian filmmaker L Krishnan, The Virgin of Borneo, as well as a recently unearthed 1973 Singapore movie, Ring of Fury, which was banned for many years due to its violent content. There's also the Asian-exploitation Singapore-Philippines co-production, They Call Her... Cleopatra Wong, about a sexy secret agent in charge of smashing a drug triangle.

Among the newer films will be Rice People by Cambodia's Rithy Panh.

Films by foreign directors that feature Southeast Asia locations or subjects will also be screened. Among them will be 1967's Five Ashore in Singapore, starring Errol Flynn's son, Sean Flynn, who later went missing while on a photography assignment in Cambodia and is presumed dead.

Cambodia's film industry, at one time dominated by King-Father Norodom Sihanouk, is covered by the Associated Press, which reports that filmmaking is making a comeback after being wiped out in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge and decades of war.

But at a recent national film festival, many of the films shown were locally made low-budget horror films, such as Nieng Arp, or Lady Vampire, about a flying female head with internal organs dangling beneath it. It's a common Southeast Asian ghost story. Thailand has its own version, made a few years back, called Kra Sue, or Demonic Beauty. Hey, they have to start somewhere.

Armed with video cameras, a legion of filmmakers sprang up in the 1990s to churn out low-budget movies and karaoke videos.

"We make movies to suit the domestic market and the demand of our youths," says Korm Chanthy, the manager of FCI Productions, which made Nieng Arp. "They like to watch horror movies because they make them feel excited, thrilled and terrified."

The government wasn't impressed. The filmmakers "injected too much hallucination and superstition" into their work, complained Culture Minister Prince Sisowath Panara Sirivuth. "Their understanding of moviemaking is that it's just business. And they have this misperception that, without training, they can still make movies."

But in the absence of a school, they'll just keep trying. Another producer, 29-year-old Heng Tola, was looking to diversify his computer business when he founded Campro three years ago with several friends.

Making a movie takes Campro about three months and costs an average of $30,000, including about $1,000 for the lead actor.

Despite the current taste for horror movies, Heng Tola believes a more serious trend is emerging, prompted in part by the resentment many Cambodians feel about its colonial past and toward domineering neighbors such as Thailand and Vietnam.

One of the festival entries was a nationalistic epic about a peasant protest against high tax imposed by Cambodia's colonial rulers, the French.

"The Cambodian movie is being reborn after a long absence. Its existence has been up and down, and the question now is how we can make it really stand," Heng Tola said.

The best movie trophy went to The Crocodile - a tale of the heroism of a man who killed the beast responsible for the deaths of several people in his village.

It starred Cambodian pop singer Preap Sovath and cost more than $100,000, making it perhaps the most expensive Cambodian production ever, said Eng Chhay Ngoun, whose Hang Meas Video made it.

More pan-Asian goodness can be found in Issue No 14 of Firecracker Magazine, which covers the Metro Manila Film Festival, Korean films A Bittersweet Lifeand Drink, Drank, Drunk, overlooked Kurosawa films, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and more.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Interview with the culture czaress

Fantastic profile in ThaiDay on Friday about Ladda Tangsupachai, director of the Culture Ministry's "surveillance center".

"Not in my house" was the headline over the article about this former traditional dancer who says cleaning up the oversexed, materialistic Thai culture is her job as the country's 'maid'.

Among her achievements:
  • She opposed the release of City of God on the mass-consumable VCD format, for fear that kids would mimic the violence.
  • When the Thai Big Brother broadcast a scene featuring a young couple making out, dozens of viewers called the center and complained. Ladda condemned the broadcast.
  • When Bangkok Inside Out, an irreverent travel guide by Daniel Ziv & Guy Sharett, came out featuring pictures from inside a Patpong go-go bar, Ladda condemned the book and put pressure on local booksellers to remove it from their shelves.
All the "negative" parts of the culture indicate that Thailand is ill. The disease is materialism. And "the patient," she says, should be "nursed back to health."

She traces the "disease" back to the administration of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat (1958-1962), when the focus was on economic development and slogans encouraged people to work more, earn more money and spend more.

"All they cared about was the money. They didn't care how people earned it," she says. Such policies led people to overlook their culture, she says. "For decades it’s been, metaphorically, the garbage hidden under the carpet."

Though her critics include a number of prominent artists, Ladda doesn’t seem to care about how she is perceived. She describes herself as someone who watches over society and reports to the police if she sees anything suspicious. "I'm not the cop to arrest people or a judge to judge anyone. I’m the maid of the house," she says. "How can I not clean the house if some water spilled on the floor?"

She has her supporters. Along with the many zealots who call the Culture Ministry's hotline to complain about such things as foreign songs being played by ice-cream carts, there's Senator Wallop Tangkananurak, who's an activist for children's rights and welfare. "Somebody has to do it," he says of Ladda's job. "And that person will inevitably be criticized by the public as a dinosaur in this time of globalization."

But Sananjit Bangsapan, a movie critic and filmmaker, says art and culture is too big an issue for any one person to dictate. "She's so naive and narrow-minded. Who does she think she is to decide for the rest of the country?”

He and other critics feel the Culture Ministry is overstepping its role and dictating things - such as whether women can wear skimpy "spaghetti-strap" tops, and what movies people can watch - that should be left to parents to decide, or be a decision for individuals.

Ladda counters that Thais are not yet ready to receive all sorts of messages. Every family, she says, may not have the parental presence to provide guidance on every issue.

Meanwhile, Ladda is working on a ratings system for films, which awaits the approval of the Cabinet, as well as for print media.

"I could just release X-rated films if the people want me to," she says. "But what if the people get sicker because of it – will any producers or distributors allocate their profits to treating them?"

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, January 6, 2006

Variety: Invisible Waves to open Bangkok fest

Black eyes all around, but mainly for me, for not sticking to my guns when Five Star Production hounded me to remove a post that cited a Nation report that Invisible Waves would be the opening film at the Bangkok International Film Festival.

Well, understandably, Five Star was nervous, because at the time, the program at the Berlin Film Festival hadn't been announced, and probably it was thought that the yet-to-be-confirmed announcement of the film being the opener for another festival would've hurt the film somehow.

But, it's in competition for the Golden Bear at Berlin, February 9 to 19, and now, according to Variety (subscription only), Invisible Waves will indeed open the Bangkok International Film Festival, which starts February 17.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

The other top Thai films of 2005

As a counterpoint to my own Top 5 Thai Films of 2005, I offer a look at Kong Rithdee's article in the Bangkok Post Real Time section today, in which he runs down the entire year in Thai film:

Thirty-nine Thai movies opened in the theatres last year, but not a single one of them turned out to be a gem - either as an aesthetic specimen or prize entertainment. To put it bluntly, there was no "best Thai film of 2005", not in the theatres at least.

Here's his take on the movies I picked as the Top 5:

  1. Yam Yasothon - "Television buffoon Mum Jokmok ... took a provincial farce called Yam Yasothon to join the century club despite its shabby quality." [It earned 100 million baht at the box office, one of two comedies to do so. The other was The Holy Man, which Kong also didn't like.]
  2. Midnight, My Love - "If there was a movie worth remembering, though we'd be hard pushed to proclaim it the best film of the year, it was Kongdej Jaturanrasamee's poignant, contemporary, overlong and quite unoriginal Midnight, My Love."
  3. Dear Dakanda - "A cute, saccharine-coated teen romance."
  4. The Tiger Blade - Didn't even warrant a comment.
  5. The Tin Mine - "Insipid to say the least, whereas its box office performance was even more depressing."
He praised the documentaries - Santi Taepanich's Crying Tigers and Areeya "Pop" Sirisoda's Innocence (which I missed due to my travel back to the States) for supplying "meaty stuff to the multiplexes usually swamped with feature films.

"Both of them ... at least helped pry open the door for the release of alternative cinema and refreshed the audience's perception that documentaries do deserve a space on the big screen."

His own "best film" picks went to independent short films: Pramote Sangsorn's powerful Tsu, which was part of the Tsunami Digital Short Films, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Worldly Desires, which was part of the Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers commissioned by the Jeonju International Film Festival and also featured works by Shinya Tsukamoto from Japan (Haze) and Il-gon Song from Korea (Magician(s)).

There was also Vous Vous Souviens de Moi?, by Thunska Pansittiworakul, "an enfant terrible who admits his obsession with penises.

His prolific video works sometimes have the rash quality of a movie made after a scandalously drunken night in somebody's garage, but in he manages to structure a melancholic tale of a robot boy who wants to feel love inside a hallucinatory shell of his fragmented storytelling. The seven-minute movie (which of course contains a shot of an erect penis) was shown at First Frame Festival in January 2005, and recently at the 4th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival."

Vous Vous Souviens de Moi? also has been chosen to compete for a Tiger Award in the International Film Festival Rotterdam, January 25 to February 5.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Top 5 Thai films of 2005

2005 was a largely unsatisfying year for Thai film. But there were still some good films. Here's my top five.

1. Yam Yasothon

Show me some bright colors, and write in some low-brow gags and I'm all yours. Yam Yasothon did it for me, from its psychedelic production design, to the soundtrack and the overall 1960s retro feel of it all. It was also innovative, I thought, putting the comic relief characters (Mom Jokmok and Janet Khiew) in the forefront of the story, and the handsome lovers as a secondary plot. And when Janet's ugly character (with wart and all) came back from the city with her complexion whitened, her teeth bleached and wearing sexy clothes, Mum's character didn't really want to have anything to do with her (though he eventually came around). This is one I hope gets enough international attention to warrant a DVD release with English subtitles.

2. Midnight My Love

Yeah, okay. I like Mum Jokmok. And I loved his performance in Midnight My Love (Cherm), as a loner taxi driver who falls for a body-massage parlor girl (Woranut Wongsawan). He has a dark past that catches up with him though, and the story goes wildly off the rails. But with some faux vintage film scenes, and some nostalgic Thai country-pop from the past, Midnight My Love did a lot to quench my thirst for classic Thai films of the '60s and '70s. This sleeper of a film was directed by Khongdej Jaturanrassamee, who did the funny and frank Sayew a few years back, which is another Thai film that is often overlooked.

3. Dear Dakanda

A sweet, cute romantic comedy. Not really my cup of tea, but I liked this because, as a reader commented in a recent e-mail, there's more to Dear Dakanda (Puen Sanit) than just being a sweet, cute romantic comedy. Though it is sweet. And cute. And romantic. And a pretty good comedy. But it's also heartbreakingly bittersweet. Watch it and see.

4. The Tiger Blade

In a year when Tony Jaa made a film, featuring jaw-dropping stunt choreography, you'd think that one would be a cinch for one of the best Thai films of the year. Well, the honor has to go the The Tiger Blade, the first feature from start-up Mono Film. It not only also had some awe-inspiring stunts, it had temerity to actually not take itself so damn seriously. Yeah, it's just a pulp action movie. Thing is, the movie itself is in on the joke, so there's a sense of fun, making The Tiger Blade a joy to watch.

5. The Tin Mine

I'd feel bad if I left this off the Top 5 for 2005. I think everyone felt bad for The Tin Mine and director Jira Maligool. It was one of the more anticipated films of the year, had a good-sized budget (for a Thai film), was lovingly crafted, featured stunning locations and costuming. But it was a box-office bomb. Nobody wanted to see this story of Archin Panjabhan, a popular Thai author who wrote short stories about his coming-of-age while working at a tin mine in the southern Thailand jungle in the 1950s. The story meanders, and the film felt overly long, yet it was a thing of beauty. And for that, it was sent to the Academy Awards as a possible nominee, and it received National Film Awards for best picture and best director.

Also worth mentioning

Crying Tigers, Santi Taepanich's documentary about Isaan natives working in Bangkok was flawed because it tried to go in too many directions. It could have maybe focused on just one its three or four subjects. Action fans should check it out for the segments involving stuntman Nate Iron Eagle.

Best film I didn't see

I missed Wai Ounlawon: 30 Years Later, which was stupid since I'd actually caught the screening of Piak Poster's 1976 original. No excuses. I hope it screens again and/or gets a DVD release with English subtitles.

Best DVD releases

First, the Thai Film Foundation gets some high marks for its DVDs of Ratana Pestonji's Country Hotel and the 1941 film, King of the White Elephant. Contact the Thai Film Foundation to order these.

Also three films from the 1970s: Choompae, starring Sombat Methanee; Insee Thong, Mitr Chaibancha's fateful final film; and the romance drama Tone were released on DVD with English subtitles and some generous extras. I don't know the name of the company doing this, but they get high marks, even if they aren't fully restoring the ragged prints. Insee Thong is in especially bad shape. They are available at Boomerang and various other DVD retailers in Bangkok, as well as online from various sources (including HK Flix. While they don't make up for all the films released on DVD in 2005 that omitted the English subtitles, it's a good start.

Biggest disappointment

Following up the best DVD releases, the biggest letdown of the year was all the DVD releases - everything mentioned here except Dear Dakanda, which isn't out yet - that don't have English subtitles. The reason they do this -- from what I've been led to believe -- is so they won't have to pay royalties to the subtitlists, leaving that licensing issue for overseas companies to sort out. It's a bummer, and it seems to be the way things are going to go from now on. Guess I'd better knuckle down and take some Thai lessons.

Worst films

This is a hard one for me, because I luckily steered clear of the horror films, such as Scared and Necromancer that are mentioned by other Thai film buffs as being among the worst. Tom Yum Goong is getting mentioned, though I don't think it was that bad. Not among the best, and not among the worst. I did see one, a comedy called Dumber Heroes, that I didn't find funny at all. I would have thought it would be better, starring Thep Po-Ngam, but it wasn't. I didn't even bother writing a review. And, there was The King Maker, which was awful.

Tin Mine wins best picture, best director at Thai film awards

I caught most of the Suphannahong Awards, the Thailand National Film Awards, on Thai Channel 7 last night. Here's the winners, with some of the nominees (if anyone can help me fill in the blanks, please leave a contact or e-mail me):
  • Best Picture: The Tin Mine (GTH Films)
    • The Necromancer (RS Film)
    • Midnight My Love (Sahamongkol)
    • Hitman File (Sahamongkol)
    • Dear Dakanda (GTH Films)
  • Best Director: Jira Maligool (The Tin Mine)
    • Khongdej Jaturanrassamee (Midnight My Love)
    • Komgrit Treewimol (Dear Dakanda)
    • Santi Taepanich (Crying Tigers)
    • Sananjit Bangsapan (Hit Man File)
  • Best Actress: Narawan Techratanaprasert (Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect)
    • Piyada Akaraseranee (The Remaker)
    • Sirapat Watanajinda (Dear Dakanda)
    • Woranut Wongsawan (Midnight My Love)
    • Janet Khiew (Yam Yasothon)
  • Best Actor: Chatchai Plengpanich (The Necromancer; also nominated for Hitman File)
    • Petchtai Wongkamlao (Midnight My Love)
    • Sunny Suwanmethanon (Dear Dakanda)
    • Pijaya Vachajitpan (The Tin Mine)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Sathida Khiewcha-um (Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Sonthaya Chitmanee (The Tin Mine)
  • Best Cinematography: Theerawat Rujinatham (Hitman File)
  • Best Film Editing: Wichcha Kojew (Dear Dakanda)
  • Best Visual Effects: Oriental Post (The Necromancer)
  • Best Make Up: Withaya Deerattrakool (The Necromancer)
  • Best Costume Design: Apinya Chawarangkool (The Tin Mine)
  • Best Art Direction: Ek Iamchuen (The Tin Mine)
  • Best Original Score: Chatchai Pongpraphaphan (Hit Man File)
  • Best Original Song: "Nuen Nai Huajai Phor" by Sansaeb (Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect)
  • Best Sound: Nares Saraphassorn and Ram Indra Sound Studio (The Tin Mine)
A Lifetime Achievement Award was given to MC Chatrichalerm Yukol. They showed a montage of all his films, which stretch back into the '70s, all the way up to Suriyothai, making note of the social themes that his films touch on. Than Mui was not present at the ceremony, but his award was accepted by Sorapong Chatree, leading man in many of Chatrichalerm's films.

Special "Pride of Cinema" awards also went to Prachya Pinkaew and Tony Jaa, director and star of Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong, for making films that brought the Thai film industry world notoriety as well as being box-office hits.

Tony Jaa and a team of martial artists put on a reverent culture performance, featuring the double-handed swordfighting techniques.

The awards were handed out despite a controversy in which Napakapa "Mamee" Nakprasit challenged her nomination for best supporting actress, saying she was the starring actress in her film,Art of the Devil 2. The best actress winner was Narawan Techratanaprasert, 8-year-old daughter of Sahamongkol chief Somsak Techratanaprasert, who is also the head of the Federation of the National Film Association, which hands out the awards.

But I was glad to see the talented Janet Khiew nominated for best actress in Yam Yasothon, as well as Woranut Wongsuwan in Midnight, My Love and Sirapat Watanajinda for Dear Dakanda. And I was glad to see Mum Jokmok get some recognition with a best-actor nomination for his dramatic turn in Midnight My Love.

The ceremony was held on the beach at Khao Lak, a resort area near Phuket, which was devastated by the December 26, 2004 tsunami.

(Cross-posted at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Five Star bows out of film awards

Some hard feelings about the upcoming Suphannahong Awards, the Thailand National Film Awards. Napakapa "Mamee" Nakprasit has disputed that she's only been nominated for best supporting actress, when in fact she was the star of Art of the Devil 2. (via Sebu, thanks!) has translated a letter from Five Star Production, saying that Five Star has asked for an explanation from the nominating committee, controlled by the Federation of the National Film Association (and its chairman, competing Sahamongkol Film studio head Somsak Techratanaprasert), with the result that "all of the Five Star's quota to travel to Khao Lak, Phang-Nga Province for the participation of Suphannahong Award Announcement and Ceremoney has been cut".

So, I guess without travel support from the awarding body, Five Star, Mamee and the rest of the crew Art of the Devil 2, won't be present for the ceremonies. It's a boycott.

By the way, I've asked around for a complete, translated list of all the nominees. I'm just curious. But people are so angry, nobody wants to even touch that.

Update: I have one name, for best actress: Narawat "Grace" Techratanaprasert, for her role in Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Thai animation in the 21st century

Thailand, particularly Kantana Animation, has been pushing to become a hub of sorts of computer animation. And animation is around -- in commercials, in short segments in live-action feature films, such as Sars Wars, and on ATMs. I watched a Godzilla-type movie on a Krung Thai Bank ATM that had me transfixed the other day. Maybe more on that in another post.

Anyway, Twitch has news about Khan Kluay, which will be the first feature-length animated 3-D Thai film. And, I'm pretty sure, it's the first Thai animated feature in a long time. You have to go back to 1978's cel-animated Sud Sakorn.

Directed by Kompin Kemgumnird, who's worked for Disney and Ice Age's Blue Sky Studios, the 80-minute feature portrays King Naresuan's war elephant, Khan Kluay, from his early days up to becoming a battle-hardened champion.

According to the Bangkok Post's Database section, which is the place to watch for news about animation in Thailand, Kantana plans to preview parts of the movie at World Animation and Cartoon 2006, January 7-15 at Impact Arena.

And at Thailand Animation & Multimedia 2006 on January 12-15 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, Kompin will explain the animation techniques used to produce the movie.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Dangerous Flowers images

The sharp eyes at Twitch were able to hone in on the bottom part of these posters and decifer the garble that is supposed to be a website address, so if you want to have a look, just check out Twitch, which is working to expand its Thai film (and other Asian and other film coverage).

Directed by Poj Arnon, Dangerous Flowers (Chai-lai) is the first big-studio Thai action film of 2006, coming out on January 26.

It stars a bevy of Thai pretties, including Bongkot "Tak" Kongmalai (from Tom Yum Goong, Ai-Fak), Jintara Poonlarb, Supaksorn Chaimongkol (aka Kratae), Kessarin Ektawatkul, Boonyawan Pongsuwan, Kris Srepoomseth, Pornnapa Theptinnakorn, performance artist Wannasak "Kuck" Sirilar and Nithichai "Yuan" Yotamornsunthorn from the Dragon 5 boy band.

The previews are playing, and they prominently feature a Thai schoolgirl doing some back flips. That is Narawarat "Grace" Techaratanaprasert, who will be seen in more films this year -- all put out by Sahamongkol Film, owned by Somsak Techaratanaprasert.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)