Wednesday, February 27, 2013

3 Most Obvious Things About Movies That Local Audience Apparently Still Doesn't Get

They don't need my pity. But there are times when I can't help feeling sorry for our industry.

While some are content and just go with the flow, there are others who wish to elevate our industry to new heights. Or at the very least, the heights where our industry used to be back in the P. Ramlee era. I can't say that the movie-going culture has dwindled (nor would I know), because people still flock the cinemas. But more often than not, it's movies like Transformers, Skyfall [2012] and The Avengers [2012] that they'll shell out money for.

Nothing wrong with that at all, that goes without saying. You go ahead and see whatever movie you want to see. All I'm saying is, local movies have relatively little drawing power in comparison with Hollywood films, and not without a good reason. I too, would rather sit through American Gangster [2007] for the umpteenth time than give another one of those Pailang movies an hour of my time. The problem is not always as simple as local producers not wanting to branch out.

Last night was Raja Lawak finale, ah? Good. Can you write me a script and send it in tomorrow?
You see, the amount of restriction and scrutiny imposed upon our industry is so great, it's like storming Omaha Beach. In short, they expect our film-makers to produce world-class products with one hand tied behind their backs. Today, however, I don't want to talk about people who sit in offices telling us Malaysians what we can't watch, what we can't do, say and hear.

Today, I just want to talk about three things that our audiences have to get over, before we can even dream about "memartabatkan industri seni".

#3 "Actor" has the word "act" in it for a reason
Yeah, this guy didn't actually get shot. Obviously.
Believe it or not, the root word for "acting" is not "actual". I thought that was common knowledge until Nur Kasih was the in thing, and I was made aware of this single most obvious thing out of the three things that I'm gonna point out in this blog post. I heard them say "Pelakon dia kaki clubbing" in a very dejected tone. Though I've never seen a single episode of Nur Kasih, I thought it was painfully obvious that it wasn't a documentary.

So, urm... I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm afraid I have some more reality checks for you; Ralph Macchio didn't actually learn karate from a janitor (Gasp!), Michael J. Fox never really went back in time (Gasp! Gasp!), Christoph Waltz was never a Nazi officer (But he played it so well!) and the list goes on. Although I do have a nagging suspicion that *Keanu Reeves is immortal.

Why is this even an issue, I believe, is not simply due to the society's obsession with celebrities and what they do in their own time. It's a little deeper than that, and not to mention unhealthier. People just love to cover up their own shortcomings by pointing out how "unholier" others are compared to them. Celebrities are an easy target because they get a lot of media exposure, it comes with the job.

Although sometimes that's rather unfortunate...
Am I defending their right to consume alcohol or whatever? If they are a Muslim, of course not. But I'm not gonna preach to them either. All I'm saying is, it's ridiculous to dig up other people's dirt, get mad when you find something incriminating, and then expect them to apologise to you. Imagine if you were running around in a paddy field, and then you find a leech sucking blood from your leg. How stupid would it be to demand an apology from the paddy farmer for having leeches in his field?

And of course, if you're looking to cop out by saying that you only wish for them to "kembali ke pangkal jalan", I have to ask, is that really the way? The reality is, acting is a job. Some do it with more passion than others, just like any other job. Plain and simple. What you see is not what you'll always get. Just like how you pretend to love working on a Monday when you'd rather be home sleeping. The difference being, no one's gonna judge you based on that.

In short, if you'd like to get to know an actor better, watching them on screen is not gonna help. The whole point of acting is to not be themselves. So get over it.

*I'm fully aware that only God is immortal. That thing I said about Keanu Reeves is what we call a "joke".

#2 What it means to be free from censorship

When word of this got around, I was one of the minorities (it sure seemed like it) who were ecstatic about it. Think of all the things that we can finally do, and the kind of stories that we can tell. Finally we can explore themes such as religion, racism and other social issues, political scandals, police brutality, and everything else we used to have before the '70s.

Alas, I don't know where our entertainment industry inherited the reputation, but judging by society's reception towards this announcement, apparently a bulk of them thinks that our industry is full of degenerates that do nothing but masturbate when they're not working and also whenever they sit behind a desk. Therefore if we give Malaysian film-makers free rein, apparently this is what we're gonna end up with;

"Hish... Apa ni? Porno tu apa? Aku langsung tak penah tengok dowh!"
Why so negative?

I still stand by what I said that movies get way more hate than they deserve. But people just love taking the easy way out, don't they? I mean, this is another one of those instances where our society would rather believe that a problem can be solved simply by pinning the blame on something or someone. I'd like to point out that there was a time when there was no such thing as movies, but people killed, plundered and raped anyway. So where did they learn to do that?

*Fap fap fap fap fap*
So anyway, I guess this is what they think movies can do;

By that logic, I guess I'm a ticking time-bomb just waiting to explode and become of these things; a commando, a cyborg, a cop, a taxi driver, an American psycho, a member of Project Mayhem, an assassin, a crusader, a playboy, a plunderer, a rapist, a WWII veteran, a gladiator, an archaeologist, a time traveller, and the list goes on.

But I digress. Even they know that's not exactly the case. It's just that movies are an easy target as well, just like actors. Not to mention it's easier to blame something else for your own shortcomings, wouldn't you say? What you need to realise that this is the Information Age where sooner or later, the bubble in which you keep your children will burst one way or another. There's no perfect solution, but stowing them further underground is definitely the worst. More on this in a minute.

So let's just say for argument's sake that somebody's actually gonna take advantage of the situation and incorporate explicit sex scenes (complete with penetration and whatnot) into their movies. Well, shame on them. But you're not going to ban the usage of internet just because there's pornography out there, will you?

#1 Movies don't promote, they either reflect or examine
So yeah... WWII takkan "menjadi ikutan para remaja"
There seems to be a general belief that life imitates art. While no one can shoot that theory out of the water, over here we take it a level higher by insinuating that if it weren't for movies (and the West), this country would have been one heck of a utopia. This is a lil' continuation to the point I raised earlier, about how unfairly movies get blamed for all the social woes that we have today, but this time from the movies' perspective.

Hope that made sense.

Allow me to give yet another example; the popular TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother. We all love it (even though the whole Ted-Robin-Barney on-again-off-again relationship drives me up the wall). The series provide us with characters and situations, but it's really up to us what to make of it all. Depending on where you stand, Barney Stinson may indeed be awesome, or just a funny guy who's overcompensating for the hollowness within him by being all flashy (without substance-y).

What we see is not nearly as important as what we take away from it.

So... Barney is overrated, and Ted is spineless. Marshall FTW!
So if we were to have something very similar to How I Met Your Mother made in this country (Macam Tu La Abi Jumpa Umi?), I wouldn't be surprised if the powers that be would outright ban it with the pretext of upholding morality. They wouldn't entertain the thought that Malaysians aren't that stupid. If they think we are, well maybe they ought to rethink their one-question-one-answer approach towards "educating" youths, where only straight-As matter.

Now that we're in the Information Age, I believe this is the single most important thing we could impart to the younger generation. We can no longer hold others responsible for what we think, what we say and what we do. We are responsible for what we think, do, and say. The sooner you realise that, the better.

So if you ever wonder why plenty of movies from first world countries can really blow your mind, and we have to settle for Wawa Semput and Apa Celop Toqq, there you go.


John Derrick Deyton said...

I have to agree with every single thing you had to say here Mamu. They are all pretty much true and just knowing that these things occur here in this country is such a shame. I think it all comes down to the culture and religion in the country don't you think so?

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

I can't say for sure, but I think it has more to do with culture than religion. Too many holier-than-thous making too much noise.

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