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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Asia pwns the Oscars!

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Okay, okay... yes, Walski watched the Oscars - not live, but the repeat last night. It's about the only awards show that Walski will voluntarily watch, being a movie buff and all that.

Image hosting by PhotobucketAnd the 81st Oscars was truly one where Asia ruled... okay, with the help of Britain, by way of director Danny Boyle, who brought to the industry the delightful Slumdog Millionaire - and 8 Academy Awards. But apart from the big winner, an Asian country also bagged the Best Foreign Language Film award, which went to Okuribito (Departure), directed by Yojiro Takita, from Japan.

Slumdog bagged a total of 8 oscars, out of the 10 nominations that the film received (via

  • Best Picture
  • Best Directing - Danny Boyle
  • Best Song - Jai Ho (music:A.R. Rahman / lyrics: Gulzar)
  • Best Score - A.R. Rahman
  • Best Editing - Chris Dickens
  • Best Sound Mixing - Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
  • Best Cinematography - Anthony Dod Mantle
  • Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Simon Beaufoy

Slumdog Millionaire was also received nominations for Best Sound Editing (won by The Dark Knight), and also provided one of the other two nominees for Best Song, "O Saya" (music: A.R. Rahman, lyrics: A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam), while the third nominee was "Down to Earth", from the animated film, WALL-E (music: Peter Gabriel & Thomas Newman, lyrics: Peter Gabriel).

Walski kinda regrets the fact that he didn't go watch the film when he was in the UK. But friends who had seen it have told him what an excellent film it is.  
(the night Asia took center stage, and more, in the full post)

Walski, for those of you who don't already know, has a very eclectic taste in music. And so it was quite heartwarming to see A.R. Rahman receive the accolades he did during the 81st Oscars. While not a fan of Indian films, Walski has known about A.R. Rahman and his music for close to a decade, and is very happy for the awards he got at the Oscars.

A.R. Rahman during his second acceptance speech (for Best Song), said something Walski thought was quite profound. Listen to it carefully (starting from timeline 1:07).

"All my life, I've had a choice... of hate and love... I chose love, and I'm here..."

You're probably thinking that this is another "Yeah, so what, Walski?" moment. Walski's take on this is that A.R. Rahman is referring to the fact that there is an underlying tension between Hindus and Muslims in India. And he chose the path of not hating the "other" - evidenced by the fact that he's collaborated with many fellow Indian artistes from various faiths and cultures during his career (this YouTube vid is a fine example). Something, Walski thinks, is very relevant in the current environment in Malaysia. Hate would probably have landed A.R. Rahman six feet under by now... love, instead, took him to the Oscars.

A.R. Rahman - Walski salutes your achievement! You've done your nation proud, and Walski can safely say, that all of Asia should be proud of what you have accomplished.

For those of you who are not very familiar with who Danny Boyle is, he's the guy that directed the British cult classics Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, both of which starred a relatively unknown actor (at the time) by the name of Ewan McGreggor. You may be more familiar with two other films that Boyle directed, however, The Beach (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio), and 28 Days Later... (all links in this paragraph from

But all in all, Walski thought that the 81st Academy Awards was a tribute to how the Asia has contributed to the world film industry, a trend that started when Hollywood embraced John Woo starting in the early 90's.

The one semi-sad thought that waltzed thru Walski's mind, though, as he was watching the award show - it will be a long, long time until we ever see anything from the Malaysian film world so prominently celebrated on a global scale.

And it's not for lack of talent, mind you. The creative arts - be it music, film, stage drama or even writing - requires a conducive environment, free from undue interference from those who appoint themselves as guardians of what's acceptable as "Malaysian".

The creative arts cannot thrive in an environment where the operative phrase is "conform, or else". And so two paths are available - push the cramped envelope, and risk censure, censorship, or worse, punitive action. Or, go with the safe, lowest common denominator, "acceptable" stuff, that more often than not, is banal and crappy.

In fact, Walski predicts that out of the films celebrated last night, either winning an award, or even being shortlisted as finalists, some may not even reach our shores. One of them is Milk, the bio-pic of gay-rights activist Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California (via Wikipedia). If the mo-fo's at Astro bleeped out "gay" and "gay marriage" during the Oscars replay last night, what chance is this film going to have in an openly and vehemently homophobic country like Malaysia?

And for those films that do make it to our shores, what guarantee is there that they'll be shown intact? Yet, we have the nerve to even mention Intellectual Property from time to time, and how it should be respected.

Malaysia, as demonstrated by Astro last night, can't even bloody spell Intellectual Property properly, let alone respect it. The space in that envelope, it seems, gets smaller, and smaller with each passing moment.

And you wonder why the pirated DVD industry thrives in this country....