Dangal

5 out of 5

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“Dangal” is Hindi word for wrestling. Like the sport, the film is intense and exhillirating. It is based on a true story of Phogat Sisters, four sisters plus two female cousins from Haryana, India who are all wrestlers. The film puts two of Phogat’s eldest, Geeta and Babita, as well as their father Mahavir as the main characters.
The story starts with Mahavir having to give up his dream of becoming an international wrestling champion due to financial difficulties. He then takes an average joe job in order to support his family. His new dream is to have a son whom he can train to be a champion. But instead, his wife got him four daughters.
At first, Mahavir is disappointed. But then he realizes that gold is gold, regardless it is won by a boy or a girl. He then starts a grueling training regime for Geeta and Babita. Resulting in the girls having to endure physical pain as well as mockery from their  schoolmates and fellow villagers.
The great thing about the film is that it touches several important issues like gender equality and child marriage without being preachy. In the beginning, Mahavir  sees that daughters are only good for doing chores. As a father he is quite grim that his girls will have to be married off at a young age. In India, especially the rural places, girls are married from the age of 7 to 15 year old. But through wrestling, Mahavir finds out that his girls can have better chances in the world. Not just giving them ability, but also the opportunity to contribute something big to the country.
The film is well-acted. Aamir Khan who plays Mahavir is a perfectionist as always. But the credits should go to the girls. Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar as young Geeta and Babita deliver solid performances. Their chemistry as sisters as well as their commitment as wrestlers shone throughout the films. Fatima Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra as adult Geeta and Babita continue to bring that through the second half of the film.
This is more than a regular coming-of-age or an inspirational film. This is willpower, by the father and by the daughters. Like Mahavir said when he was interviewed by CNN, “if a female can be a prime minister, they can also be wrestlers”. Kick-ass wrestlers for sure.

 

 

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Headshot

2 out of 5

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If The Raid and The Raid 2 each got 5 stars, then Headshot is just eeeehh… Ironically 4 of the actors here were in The Raid 2. But the acting…. Good Lord! It seems like everybody forgets to do that.

The fight scenes are decent, although the shootout rivals Hot Short Part 2. But not in a good way. Seriously this is from Mo Brothers who made the gore awesomeness Rumah Dara. Also, having Chelsea in a film is like having Katherine Heigl. Red flag.

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Dawn of Justice

2 out of 5

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Zack Snyder should never be allowed to direct ANYTHING again!

This film is an emotional blackmail to all fans. Forcing them to watch this atrocity just based on the sentiments toward the characters. Shame shame shame. Nobody behaves like themselves. This is decaf served in a fancy cup.

Stick to The Death of Superman comic and Justice League….or bring JJ Abrams

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Cinderella

2 out of 5

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Little Mermaid sacrifices her life for the sake of the prince. Belle has the power every beauty stylist wanted, the ultimate makeover. While Ella has her remarkably beautiful glass slippers. Practically, the glass slippers are the only exciting things to see in this rather… I must say… bland story.
Since 1990s, Disney’s revived their female characters to be more independent, more vivacious, and surely to not have a damsel-in-distress mentality. Jasmine, Merida and the Frozen sisters have taught girls out there that one’s fate cannot be decided by anybody or bloodlines. Esmeralda taught us living life to the fullest, Mulan taught us honour, Pocahontas taught us trust and love know no boundaries, while Tiana and Alice told us to take a risk and be an entrepreneur. That after she got lost in the Wonderland, Sister!
Ella taught us to be kind, loving and courageous. Well, actually her mother told her that. Perhaps she passed away too soon, before she could add that those things without a struggle is just wishful thinking. And it was such a pity that Gandhi lived in a different era than Ella.
So it baffles me that after spreading messages about girls standing up on their own two feet, Disney’s released a live-action Cinderella with the same ideology with the 1950 animation…. and this is from director Kenneth Branagh.
Perhaps, Lily James should take Downton Abbey’s Lady Rose to Far Far Away so she could give Ella some schooling.
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Sukiyaki Western: Django

5 out of 5 sukiyaki western django

It took me 8 years to finally got my hands on this gem, and it was worth the searches and patience. For those of you who don’t know who Takashi Miike is, he is the Japanese equivalent of Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez or Oliver Stone or Guy Ritchie. You name it, the guy’s crazy.
Miike is mostly known for his yakuza-themed films such as Ichi the Killer. He also made a very quirky dramedy called The Bird People of China, which was one of the hidden treasure of the world of international films. Perhaps, younger audience might have known him from his Crows Zero series.
Anyway, Sukiyaki Western: Django holds itself together as high as other foreign-made western films such as Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci’s Spaghetti Western, or the Kimchi Western film The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, starring Lee Byung Hun. Sukiyaki Western: Django is a mix between Corbucci’s classic Django story and the historical rivalry between the clans Genji and Heike. All set in a fictional town called Nevata.
Now for me, the gut to make foreigners speaking English in a foreign made film has to start with a foundation of a very good concept. If not, it would only be seemed like a film full of people making sounds as if they were chewing pebbles whilst speaking. But Miike successfully combined good concept, storytelling, and acting. After all, whatever the language is won’t make any sense it it’s not delivered with good acting.
The main character, The Lone Gunman, played by Hideaki Ito, manages to appear aloof, yet likeable at the same time. History is all about perspective, so it’s interesting to see one of Japanese beloved historical figures, Yoshitsune Minamoto, leader of Genji clan, depicted as the main antagonist. Played by Yusuke Iseya, Yoshitsune maintains his rakish charm, but he’s also an in-and-out jerk. On the other hand, his rival, Heike leader Kiyomori Taira, is portrayed as an oaf with his own string of lucks. But the applause should go to Kaori Momoi as Grandma Ruriko a ka The Bloody Benten. Grandma got game!
The plot is simple, as any other western films. A stranger rides into town and gets caught within the local conflicts. Gunshots, many people die, and the stranger leaves town whilst muttering a really worth-quoting line. But the way Miike puts everything together is one of Asian fusion as it’s best. Denim, chaps, and katanas apparently can be worn together in harmony. Perhaps, this is the best Asian mash-up film within this decade. Kitsch at the most entertaining way, unlike some other films. Yes, I mean you, RZA.
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Melodies from the greens

???????????????????????????????White Shoes and the Couples Company performing in Tanah Tingal
There are too many shopping malls in Jakarta. It’s not like the people need them, it’s just the way to get the most tax, rather than keeping an open space. Jakartans are hungry for different kinds of entertainment, activities that do not need to be done indoor and could still be enjoyed by everybody, young and old.
That’s why two sisters, Teges and Kleting, had an idea to throw a concert in their estate, Tanah Tingal. Tanah Tingal is located in Jombang, Ciputat. The 10 hectare land is functioned as city wood that includes a reservoir, a kindergarten, a primary school, and family home. Kleting told me that her family estate is often rented for weddings and company outings. Which made her and her sister thought, why didn’t they make an event open for public? They have enough space to begin with.

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Luckily, the sisters are friends with one of Indonesia’s most celebrated indie bands, White Shoes and The Couples Company. The band immediately took liking to the sisters’ idea and almost instantly, contacted their friends and acquaintances about going to do a performance in Tanah Tingal. Within a week, Kleting and Teges got at least twenty friends willing to open food and drink stands for the event. They also announced via social media and White Shoes’ official website about the date and the tickets. Since this event was their first trial, the sisters only opened the venue for 400 visitors. The tickets were sold out within days.

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Whatever you do, have White Shoes’ live music as your background
 Apsari, lead singer of White Shoes told me, her band was looking for a way to get intimate with their fans. Things had been quite tricky, especially many of the fans now have their own families. “The concert here [in Tanah Tingal] is perfect. We also put a fairy tale corner, where children could enjoy reading and listening to stories,” she said.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA???????????????????????????????my friend, Tania, on her cake stand
So there it was, on a balmy Sunday afternoon, White Shoes and The Couples Company’s cheery sixties melodies drifting through the leaves. Almost everybody, adults and children, danced. It felt almost like a child-friendly Woodstock (I do not want to say Kid-Chella, as Kanye West might sue me and accuse me of stealing his daughter’s birthday party’s theme).
Aside from White Shoes, there were also performances by the band’s own guitarist, Ricky Virgana with his own brood; 12 year old Sisilia on the cello and eight year old Sachi singing Morissey’s “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” in perfection. Another  performances was by Hightime Rebellion, a fairly new alternative band, which I recommend you to search them on Youtube.

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 The concert went for about four hours. With 30 minutes breaks every hour. During that time, the audience could hang out with the band members. Everybody agreed that there should be more activities like this in Jakarta.  It’s a city of 24 million people with minimun open space. Jakarta is trying too had to modernize itself, but forgetting the most essential thing about becoming a modern city; convenience. Convenient lives that means ease of access for everybody, whether it’s transportations, educations, and recreations such as this.
Until that Jakarta arrives, let’s us enjoy this rarity. Good afternoon, everybody.

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pak raden

The National Monument (Monas) is always such a mess. For many years, the government is trying to kick hawkers out of the area to make it more civilised, and it has been a constant battle of will – a cat and mouse game – that almost grow stale in the memories of many Jakartans. But on one delightful Saturday afternoon, Jakartans are finally treated like we should’ve been – to enjoy Monas like the place deserves. And… we have the perfect companion for that moment.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMonas’ never ending hawkers
Pak Raden (literally Indonesian for Mister Sir) always holds a soft spot in my heart. As one of my childhood heroes, Raden (Sir) Suyadi is the creator of famous 1970’s to early 1990’s famous puppet show called Sandiwara Boneka Si Unyil (Unyil’s Puppet Show). Suyadi himself always appears in public as his alter ego, Pak Raden, a character he made as part of the show.
After Unyil ended, Pak Raden also disappeared from the public. Few years back, he resurfaced, suing the government-owned television channel for not paying him copyrights for his works. It was a bitter feud, with him on the losing side. He re-appeared every now and then, with helps from NGOs and production houses, giving public storytelling performances.
This Saturday is like that. Pak Raden wants to reconnect with his Unyil Generations by giving a performance in Monas. Lo and behold! The Unyil Generations actually come with their children in tow, sharing the enjoyment of listening to Pak Raden’s fairy tales.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe sits on a chair – complete with his costume; Javanese traditional outfit, thick eyebrows, and impressive mustache – playing a wooden puppet. His breath wheezes, but his voice is still loud mimicking many different sounds. He takes out several well-known puppets such as Grandma (above), Mei Lan, and the famous Unyil. But the story itself is about Mei Lan who runs away from home because she doesn’t want to help Grandma washing dishes. She then gets lost in a deep, scary woods.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe famous Unyil
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe scary robber
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe one who always cracks me up whenever I see him, The Crazy man
Ever a Hans Christian Andersen’s fan, Pak Raden’s stories always has moral lessons in them. Sometimes they’re too childish if you’re way above 12 years old. But his charm and charisma are always polarizing. You’ll end up sitting down like a good child, paying attention to his gestures and expressions.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsome of the crowd’s reaction listening to the tales
What breaks my heart is the condition of the puppets. The paints are fading, the clothes are dirty, and there are tiny chips on the wood. Almost every Indonesian knows that Mr. Suyadi is not living in an idyllic condition because he never received royalty from the government. He does everything he could to preserve his creations, but sometimes, time is hard to fight against.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut of course, like Mei Lan who finally gets herself out of the wood with the help of a fairy who teaches her a magic song (and the audience also sing along), the afternoon finishes with delight. Pak Raden actually gives one more performance, though. Telling a short story about a Sultan who tries to find happiness and finds it in acts of friendships.
He tells the story whilst drawing sketches on a whiteboard. I forgot to mention that Pak Raden is also a sketch artist. He actually took his master degree in France (1961-1964), studying arts and animation.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter he finishes his drawing and story, he sits on his wheelchair and enjoys tribute from young artists and performers. The performances could be polished a bit here and there. But what most important is that Pak Raden realizes that he is still in touch with current generations. Kids and kid at hearts everywhere always love good storytelling, regardless the development of technologies. And younger generations realize that there is a maestro they will always remember.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhow cute is he sipping coke from a bottle whilst listening to a performance dedicated to him?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs dusk sets upon Monas, Pak Raden waves good bye to his fans, both new and old. Saying how happy he is being able to do his favourite thing. Telling stories to people.

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