Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Anime Month

Anime Month
My Neighbour Totoro
Bangkok's Jam Cafe is hosting an Anime season this month, as part of its regular Cult Movie Night event. (Previous Cult Movie Night seasons have included 'So Bad It's Good' Month, Philip Seymour Hoffman Month, and Noir Month.)

Tonight's Anime Month screening is Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbour Totoro, one of Miyazaki's most beloved films. His later works - such as Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, and particularly Spirited Away - have achieved international recognition, though in Japan Miyazaki is still best known for the magical innocence of My Neighbour Totoro.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time

The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time
Empire magazine has released the results of its latest readers' poll, The 301 Greatest Films Of All Time. The list of 301 films will be published on Thursday in Empire's 301st issue. The #1 film is Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back.

This is Empire's tenth greatest-films list. The previous ones are: 100 Favourite Films Of All Time (1996), Your 100 Greatest Films Ever! (1999), The 50 Best Films (2001), 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time (2002; Australian edition), 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time (2004), 201 Greatest Movies Of All Time (2006), 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time (2007; Australian edition), The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time (2008), and The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time! (2013; Australian edition).

The 301 Greatest Films Of All Time are as follows:

301. Bicycle Thieves
300. Andrei Rublev
299. 28 Days Later
298. Captain Phillips
297. A Nightmare On Elm Street
296. Love Actually
295. West Side Story
294. Back To The Future II
293. Local Hero
292. King Kong
291. Conan The Barbarian
290. Come & See
289. Battle Royale
288. Batman
287. Prometheus
286. Man Of Steel
285. 300
284. The Bridge On The River Kwai
283. In The Mood For Love
282. The Grand Budapest Hotel
281. Persona
280. How To Train Your Dragon
279. Fantasia
278. BeetleJuice
277. Sideways
276. The Wicker Man
275. The Lost Boys
274. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
273. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
272. The Little Mermaid
271. Network
270. Blue Velvet
269. M
268. Dirty Harry
267. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
266. The English Patient
265. Rio Bravo
264. Labyrinth
263. Dead Man's Shoes
262. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
261. Mad Max II: The Road Warrior
260. Blazing Saddles
259. Atonement
258. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
257. South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut
256. Eyes Wide Shut
255. Transformers
254. The Wild Bunch
253. The Hunger Games
252. Scream
251. Metropolis
250. Home Alone
249. District Nine
248. The Red Shoes
247. The Graduate
246. The Warriors
245. Star Trek: Into Darkness
244. Dumb & Dumber
243. The World's End
242. Iron Man III
241. The Crow
240. JFK
239. Iron Man
238. Moonrise Kingdom
237. The Rules Of The Game
236. Akira
235. Casino
234. All About Eve
233. Before Sunrise
232. Zodiac
231. Tokyo Story
230. The Untouchables
229. Grosse Point Blank
228. Finding Nemo
227. The Tree Of Life
226. Dances With Wolves
225. Black Swan
224. Star Wars III: Revenge Of The Sith
223. Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone
222. Brokeback Mountain
221. Goldfinger
220. The Maltese Falcon
219. The Sting
218. The Incredibles
217. On The Waterfront
216. My Neighbour Totoro
215. Suspiria
214. The Seventh Seal
213. Full Metal Jacket
212. Cool Hand Luke
211. Rushmore
210. Miller's Crossing
209. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas
208. Moon
207. Life Is Beautiful
206. Planet Of The Apes
205. Let The Right One In
204. Les Miserables
203. Princess Mononoke
202. Little Miss Sunshine
201. Platoon
200. Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
199. The Lives Of Others
198. The Fountain
197. Synecdoche, New York
196. An American Werewolf In London
195. 8½
194. The Sound Of Music
193. Point Break
192. Grease
191. Field Of Dreams
190. Kick-Ass
189. Sunset Boulevard
188. Star Trek
187. City Lights
186. Top Gun
185. The Fifth Element
184. Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
183. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
182. Sin City
181. The Great Escape
180. Silver Linings Playbook
179. Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom
178. Dazed & Confused
177. Downfall
176. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
175. Dr Strangelove
174. Braveheart
173. 500 Days Of Summer
172. The Searchers
171. The Raid
170. Edward Scissorhands
169. Clerks
168. The Last Of The Mohicans
167. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
166. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
165. The Deer Hunter
164. The Thin Red Line
163. Her
162. Shaun Of The Dead
161. A Matter Of Life & Death
160. Casino Royale
159. Frozen
158. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
157. Beauty & The Beast
156. American Psycho
155. Airplane!
154. American History X
153. Watchmen
152. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows II
151. When Harry Met Sally
150. Unforgiven
149. Cinema Paradiso
148. The Social Network
147. Toy Story III
146. Moulin Rouge!
145. Hot Fuzz
144. Children Of Men
143. Dawn Of The Dead
142. Zulu
141. The Goonies
140. Scarface
139. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
138. Batman Begins
137. Amadeus
136. The Exorcist
135. The Royal Tenenbaums
134. Wall-E
133. Halloween
132. To Kill A Mockingbird
131. Boogie Nights
130. In Bruges
129. Monty Python's Life Of Brian
128. Dirty Dancing
127. Breathless
126. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
125. Annie Hall
124. Robocop
123. The Wizard Of Oz
122. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
121. Superman: The Movie
120. Star Wars VI: Return Of The Jedi
119. Twelve Years A Slave
118. Chinatown
117. Good Will Hunting
116. Requiem For A Dream
115. The Princess Bride
114. Groundhog Day
113. The French Connection
112. Evil Dead II
111. Up
110. Avatar
109. The Green Mile
108. Predator
107. The Terminator
106. Brazil
105. The Master
104. The Apartment
103. The Truman Show
102. Once Upon A Time In America
101. Mulholland Drive
100. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
99. The Blues Brothers
98. No Country For Old Men
97. Almost Famous
96. Singin' In The Rain
95. Rocky
94. Kill Bill I
93. Fargo
92. Withnail & I
91. True Romance
90. Serenity
89. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
88. City Of God
87. The 400 Blows
86. Django Unchained
85. The Wolf Of Wall Street
84. Donnie Darko
83. North By Northwest
82. Spirited Away
81. Inglourious Basterds
80. Some Like It Hot
79. LA Confidential
78. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
77. The Third Man
76. Saving Private Ryan
75. Reservoir Dogs
74. Stand By Me
73. Lost In Translation
72. The Dark Knight Rises
71. Rear Window
70. Psycho
69. Raging Bull
68. Amelie
67. The Silence Of The Lambs
66. The Lion King
65. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
64. The Thing
63. Ghostbusters
62. Titanic
61. OldBoy
60. Trainspotting
59. Memento
58. Toy Story
57. Seven Samurai
56. Leon
55. The Departed
54. A Clockwork Orange
53. The Shining
52. Gone With The Wind
51. Twelve Angry Men
50. Pan's Labyrinth
49. Drive
48. Magnolia
47. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
46. The Lord Of The Rings II: The Two Towers
45. Skyfall
44. Taxi Driver
43. Vertigo
42. Once Upon A Time In The West
41. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
40. It's A Wonderful Life
39. Die Hard
38. The Breakfast Club
37. Seven
36. Heat
35. Gravity
34. Forrest Gump
33. Citizen Kane
32. The Usual Suspects
31. Lawrence Of Arabia
30. American Beauty
29. There Will Be Blood
28. Terminator II: Judgment Day
27. Gladiator
26. Casablanca
25. Schindler's List
24. The Big Lebowski
23. The Matrix
22. 2001: A Space Odyssey
21. Alien
20. Apocalypse Now
19. Aliens
18. Jurassic Park
17. Back To The Future
16. The Avengers
15. The Godfather II
14. Fight Club
13. GoodFellas
12. The Lord Of The Rings III: The Return Of The King
11. Blade Runner
10. Inception
9. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
8. Jaws
7. The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
6. Star Wars: IV: A New Hope
5. Pulp Fiction
4. The Shawshank Redemption
3. The Dark Knight
2. The Godfather
1. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back

[Some films in the list share the same titles as other films or remakes. Note that Some Like It Hot is the Billy Wilder classic, Titanic is the James Cameron version, Beauty & The Beast is the Disney version, Casino Royale is the Martin Campbell version, Scarface is the Brian de Palma version, Ben-Hur is the William Wyler version, The Avengers is the Joss Whedon version, Les Miserables is the Tom Hooper version, and The Maltese Falcon is the John Huston version.]

Chaturon: "I'm ready to be arrested..."

Chaturon Chaisaeng
Chaturon Chaisaeng, who was a member of the caretaker cabinet before last week's coup, gave a press conference at the FCCT in Bangkok today. Chaturon was ordered to report to the Royal Thai Army HQ, along with the rest of the cabinet, though he is one of the few who did not comply. At today's press conference, he affirmed his opposition to martial law and the coup, and stated: "I'm ready to be arrested." Sure enough, soldiers arrived and took him away.

Over the past few days, the coup leaders have issued orders to more than 200 politicians, journalists, and academics, threatening them with arrest if they do not report to the military. Many who did report have since been detained for up to a week at undisclosed military installations, though some of the most high-profile detainees have now been released.

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is no longer under military detention, and Suthep Thaugsuban has also been freed. Suthep was immediately taken to the Office of the Attourney General to answer charges related to his PDRC protests, then taken to the Criminal Court and indicted for murder in relation to the 2010 military massacre. He was granted bail in both cases. He had previously refused to answer the murder charges on four separate occasions.

Coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced that anyone charged with offences relating to national security or lèse-majesté will now face a court martial rather than a regular trial with due process. After Chaturon's arrest, it was revealed that he will be subject to a court martial. Prayut held a press conference yesterday to confirm that his National Council for Peace & Order had received royal endorsement; unlike previous coups, the decree was issued ex post facto and the King was not present at the ceremony.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

National Council for Peace & Order

Victory Monument
Two days after the most recent Thai coup, more details have emerged about the moments before the coup took place. On Friday afternoon, during the negotiations organised following the declaration of martial law, army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha repeatedly asked representatives of the caretaker cabinet if they would be prepared to resign. When they refused to do so, Prayut suspended the meeting and declared the coup.

More than 100 politicians, journalists, and academics have been ordered to report to the military or face arrest. Also, the official name of the group of coup leaders has been changed: they are now known as the National Council for Peace & Order (instead of the National Peace & Order Maintaining Council).

Opposition to the coup has been more noticeable than in 2006, and some token arrests have been made. Demonstrations at Victory Monument in Bangkok attracted several hundred protesters yesterday and today, in defiance of the military's ban on gatherings of five or more people.

Bangkok Open Air Cinema Club

Star Wars
Bangkok Open Air Cinema Club will host its inaugural film screening later this month. The Club, located on the roof of The Hive in Bangkok, will show Star Wars IV: A New Hope on 31st May. (Thailand is currently subject to a night-time curfew, which will affect the film screening if it's not lifted before the end of the month.)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

coup d'état

At 4pm today, the Thai military launched another coup. Army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed the coup in a live television announcement broadcast on all channels, and all civilian broadcasting has been suspended. A night-time curfew has been imposed. The constitution (itself drafted by the military following their previous coup) has been abrogated. Including today's takeover, there have been a dozen successful coups since Thailand's first constitution in 1932.

Since their declaration of martial law on Tuesday, the military had been acting as a mediator between the UDD, the PDRC, the Election Commission, Pheu Thai, and the Democrats, with representatives from each group meeting for negotiations at the Army Club in Bangkok. Prime Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan did not attend the meeting, though Niwatthumrong, the cabinet, and former prime ministers Yingluck Shinawatra and Somchai Wongsawat have been ordered to report to army HQ.

This afternoon, Suthep Thaugsuban, Jatuporn Prompan, and other UDD and PDRC leaders were arrested during the Army Club negotiations. Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has also been detained. It's not clear whether the army launched the coup because the negotiations were not progressing, or whether the coup was premeditated and the negotiations were a pretext to detain the protest leaders. The UDD and PDRC protests have now been dissolved.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

"Martial law is not a coup d'etat..."

Prayut Chan-o-cha
The Thai military has declared a state of martial law, effective from 3am this morning. Army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha made a televised statement announcing that the military has taken over control of national security. In a message broadcast by Channel 5, a station owned by the military, he sought to reassure the public: "We urge people not to panic. Please carry on your daily activities as usual. The invocation of martial law is not a coup d'etat."

The declaration does have some of the hallmarks of a coup, and the military apparently acted without government authorisation. Martial law gives the military wide-ranging powers to suspend civil rights and impose media censorship. Already, ten television stations have been ordered to stop broadcasting, and Prayut has issued warnings against political protest and criticism. (Last week, the PDRC vacated its Lumpini Park base and returned to Democracy Monument. UDD protesters are currently occupying Aksa Road on the outskirts of Bangkok.)

According to the constitution, the military has the power to declare martial law only "in a certain locality as a matter of urgency" (article 188). In other circumstances, "The King has the prerogative to declare and lift the martial law". Today, the military declared martial law throughout the country, not "in a certain locality", and a royal decree has not been issued, thus the declaration is unconstitutional.

The imposition of martial law represents a further undermining of the government's authority, though Prime Minister Niwatthumrong is still nominally in charge. The election, previously scheduled for 20th July, has been postponed indefinitely. As in 2006, it seems that the army does not have the patience to wait for an election, and prefers its own direct intervention.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

"The PM's status has ended..."

Yesterday, the Constitutional Court announced that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra must resign from her post, along with nine members of her cabinet. Chalermpol Ekuru, President of the Court, declared: "The Prime Minister's status has ended. Yingluck can no longer stay in her position". (Yingluck, Thaksin Shinawatra's sister, won the 2011 election; a new election has been scheduled for 20th July.)

Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan, a former Shin Corp. executive, has been appointed caretaker Prime Minister to replace Yingluck. Niwatthumrong was also the head of the government's controversial rice subsidy scheme, and today the National Anti-Corruption Commission recommended that Yingluck should be impeached by the Senate for her role in the policy. Impeachment would result in a five-year ban on political activity, though as she has already been forced to resign, it's not clear how she can be dismissed again.

The Constitutional Court's case against Yingluck relates to her demotion of Thawil Pliensri in 2011. Thawil was head of CRES (the Council for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation which launched the miltary massacre in 2010); Yingluck replaced him with the chief of police, then appointed Thaksin's brother-in-law Priewpan Damapong as the new police chief. The Court ruled that this was an act of nepotism that violated article 266 of the constitution, which prohibits "the recruitment, appointment, reshuffle, transfer... of a Government official" if such action is performed "for personal benefits or for the benefits of others or of a political party".

Yingluck's dismissal is the third occasion on which the Constitutional Court has ordered the resignations of prime ministers associated with Thaksin. The Court dismissed Samak Sundaravej in 2008 for hosting a TV cookery show. The Court ruled against Somchai Wongsawat, Samak's successor, later that year, in an attempt to placate PAD protesters.

Today's verdict seems to echo the Somchai case, another 'judicial coup' to appease anti-Thaksin protesters. Just as the PAD blockaded Government House and Suvarnabhumi airport, PDRC protesters have blocked intersections in Bangkok and disrupted the election. The courts have sided with the protesters against the government, nullifying the 2nd February election and preventing the dispersal of the PDRC.

Neither the Constitutional Court nor the NACC accused Yingluck of actually breaking the law. The Court ruled that Yingluck was legally authorised to transfer Thawil, though the transfer was not "in accordance with moral principles". Likewise, NACC spokesman Vicha Mahakun confirmed that corruption had not been proven: "the evidence is not clear that the accused took part in corruption, or whether she allowed corruption or not".

Yingluck's predecessor, Abhisit Vejjajiva, was also convicted of inappropriate staff transfers: he demoted Piraphon Tritasawit in 2009, and ignored the Administrative Court's verdict requiring reinstatement; and the Court ruled in March that his 2009 dismissal of Patcharawat Wongsuwan was also unlawful. However, neither case reached the Constitutional Court, unlike Yingluck's transfer of Thawil.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Perempuan Nan Bercinta

Perempuan Nan Bercinta
Faisal Tehrani's novel Perempuan Nan Bercinta has been banned by the Malaysian government. The book was endorsed by Malaysia's Prime Minister when it was published in 2012, though last week the Kementerian Dalam Negeri accused it of being "prejudicial to public order".

Sunday, 4 May 2014

"Yingluck should make the sacrifice
of withdrawing from power..."

Last week, the Election Commission announced that a new election will take place on 20th July. An election was held on 2nd February, though it was subsequently nullified by the Constitutional Court. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament last December as a concession to the PDRC protesters who have blocked intersections in Bangkok and disrupted the election. Suthep has also threatened to disrupt the next election, which would probably result in another annulment by the Court.

For the past week, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has pledged to reveal his plan to end the country's political limbo. Yesterday, he finally unveiled his proposals, calling for Yingluck to resign: "Yingluck should make the sacrifice of withdrawing from power". Curiously, he specified that she should quit before the Constitutional Court announces its verdict in the Thawil Pliensri case. A guilty verdict is widely expected, though it's unclear why Abhisit wants to pre-empt it.

Abhisit also proposed that the Senate should appoint an interim government, which would draft a series of political reforms. Those reforms would then be put to a referendum, and a general election would be held so that the government could implement the reforms. This plan is hardly surprising, as Democrat lawyer Wirat Kalayasiri made the same suggestion in the Bangkok Post last month: "the Senate Speaker would have to nominate the next prime minister... whose interim government should make plans for national reform ahead of the next general election."

Abhisit's proposals are similar to those of the PDRC: Suthep Thaugsuban has also called for an appointed group to draft plans for political reform before an election. However, Suthep has rejected Abhisit's plan, as it gives the Senate the authority to appoint the interim government; Suthep's stated aim is that he will seize sovereign power and select a prime minister by himself. Pheu Thai also rejected the proposal, as an appointed government would be unconstitutional.

Abhisit has stated that he will resign from politics if his proposals are accepted by both sides of the political dispute. (This is a safe pledge for Abhisit to make, as his proposals have not been accepted by either side.) The Democrats have announced that they will boycott the forthcoming election if Abhisit's plan is rejected, which seems highly likely. (They also boycotted elections in 2006 and earlier this year.) Instead of their petulant boycotts, they should refresh their leadership, introduce policies that appeal beyond their core voters, and disassociate themselves from the undemocratic PDRC.

Friday, 2 May 2014

We'll Meet Again

We'll Meet Again
We'll Meet Again: Musical Design In The Films Of Stanley Kubrick, by Kate McQuiston, examines Kubrick's use of music and his collaborations with the composers who produced his film scores. Kubrick's contribution to the history of film music is substantial, though this has been largely overlooked in most of the books written about him.

We'll Meet Again is fascinating, not only for McQuiston's close analysis of Kubrick's soundtracks, but also because she quotes extensively from correspondence found at the Stanley Kubrick Archive. Some of these documents, such as Kubrick's letter to projectionists from 1975, are included as illustrations. (The letter to projectionists is also included as a frontispiece in Tacita Dean's book Film.)