Majulah feminisme untuk industri filem negara ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Monday, May 3, 2010

Majulah feminisme untuk industri filem negara

Hooperz
My rating:




I've been trying to find out what, if any, connection there is between the makers of this movie and Red Films, the production company behind Gol & Gincu and last year's Pisau Cukur. I'm surprised there isn't; Hooperz is a girl-power comedy-drama that fits right in amongst those two. It's no surprise that Red Films - who also produces the women's-issues TV magazine programme 3R - makes movies with strong female empowerment messages, but the fact that there are other Malaysian filmmakers who do... wow. Considering how ridiculously sexist (and often downright misogynist) Malay movies can get, this is very good news indeed.

Especially since Hooperz, like Pisau Cukur, is leaps and bounds better than the average Malay movie.

The Hooperz are a college netball team with a major teamwork problem; namely, they don't have any. They comprise Atylia (Intan Nor Saina), whose deformed hand just happens to make her a great shooter; Wan Zulaikha (Melissa Maureen), the team captain whose straight-A grades still aren't good enough for her over-achieving family; Sue Lin (Dawn Jeremiah) the perpetual klutz; AJ (Zazleen Zulkafli), who makes up for her lack of good looks with sass; Azwar (Akma Abdullah), who is frequented by hallucinations of a dancing baby; Saidatul (Anita Baharom), the spoiled rich girl, who with her best friend Nino (Juliana Evans) are constantly feuding with the others on the team. Coach Q (Amy Mastura) is at wits end with these girls, so she brings in a new Coach D (Adibah Noor) to whip them into shape. But even as they finally start winning matches, the revelation of certain ugly secrets will test their friendships - particularly those revolving around Nik (Remy Ishak), Atylia's childhood crush, who is involved with more than one member of the Hooperz.

Wan Hasliza and Rosihan Zain, you guys are awesome. Together you wrote the wittiest, cleverest, and downright funniest screenplay for a Malay movie since Setem. This movie is funny in dozens of uniquely Malaysian ways; for instance, Wan Zulaikha's prim and proper family who speak in grammatically-perfect Bahasa Baku. I'm almost certain they're an extended (and much deserved) pisstake on Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and their moronic dictates on the Malay language. The flashbacks of all the Hooperz girls' backstories are hilarious - in particular, the one where Sue Wei's family takes her to three different medicine men, all played by Khir Rahman (who looked like he adlibbed his scenes - and if he did, dude, lu terer lah). Even the bit where Coach D scolds the team "Permainan kamu macam taik!" and Azwar mutters a scandalized "astaghfirullah" got a huge laugh out of the audience, whom I bet were starved of genuinely witty observations of Malay and Malaysian behaviour.

What's impressive also is how well-drawn the characters are. Each member of its ensemble has a distinct personality, and the aforementioned flashbacks do a great job of explaining their family backgrounds and how they turned out the way they are. This makes all of them a terrifically appealing bunch of girls; even Saidatul, who is the ostensible Libby of the story, is fun to watch without becoming a hissable villain. Of course, the trajectory of the story is that the Hooperz will band together in time to become both a formidable team and fast friends, because this is after all a "girls rock!" movie. Now, TMBF is an avowed sympathizer of the feminist cause, so perhaps I'm biased... actually, naah. It really is good. The storyline is quite daring in how it touches on issues such as teen pregnancy and sexual harassment; it's refreshingly aware, compared to how far the vast majority of Malay movies have their heads jammed up their asses, not just over gender issues but about reality as a whole.

Sadly, a few things hold it back from being truly great. One is that the netball scenes are pretty lackluster. Sports scenes are to a sports movie what action scenes are to an action movie - they provide tension, thrills, and plot momentum. A sports movie should make its sport exciting even to audience members unfamiliar with it, but co-directors Rosihan and Sheikh Munasar couldn't manage that - there's no ebb and flow and no tactics during the netball matches, even after an animated interlude of Coach D's lecture on the strategies of Hannibal of Carthage. (In a Malay movie! Sofistikated giler!!) And there's a distinct lack of technical polish to the whole film, particularly in the audio and editing departments. I'm normally quite harsh on local films that are technically deficient, since most of the time it indicates a half-assed attitude on the part of its makers - but Hooperz is clearly made with love and care, and I'm guessing it just fell victim to a rushed production schedule.

But its biggest weakness is that, for all that its clever and witty writing - and don't get me wrong, that's a pretty big achievement - it never develops any real comic momentum. A good comedy needs plenty of jokes to earn chuckles from the audience, but it also needs one or two big comic setpieces to draw the LOLs. The lack of any, plus the fact that the second half is more dramatic - and plus the dull netball scenes - means the movie gets progressively less funny. If the humour level had been kept up, it could've weathered any number of other flaws - occasional bad acting, weak conclusions to a few subplots, slack editing, and an ending that cried for a proper denouement. I could feel the audience's interest level flagging towards the end, and I just wanted to scream "No! Don't feel bored! This is a good movie! Appreciate it! Tell your friends!"

So it's far from perfect, but it's good in so many surprising ways that I really want it to do well at the box-office - and I really hope its cast gets some well-deserved attention too. The great thing about these girl-power films is that (like Pisau Cukur before it) everyone seems to be having a great time playing these characters; their performances are more enthusiastic than polished, but their enthusiasm is infectious. The film also features a number of cameos including Yasmin Yusoff, Mustapha Kamal, Rashidi Ishak and Othman Hafsham (remember him?), and they're all good in their bit parts; even the child actresses who play Young Atylia and Young Saidatul are impressive. Now, ahem, before going in I expected to drool over Juliana Evans, who, yes, is indeed drool-worthy, although her character Nino doesn't get much screentime - but good goddamn, I am now crushing big time over Dawn Jeremiah. Where has she been all my life?? Please make more movies Ms. Jeremiah squeeeee!!

Okay yes, it has plenty of cuci mata value, if my mentioning that will sell more tickets. (Yes, that's it. I'm not perving, I'm helping to promote the movie. Ya rly.) But seriously, go watch it if you have any interest at all in Malaysian films. Everyone involved deserves more chances to make more movies, especially Wan Hasliza, Rosihan Zain and Sheikh Munasar (and Dawn Jeremiah XDDDDD okay I'll stop now). Also, here's a shoutout to art director Ujang, who designed the enjoyably flamboyant netball players' costumes. Hooperz isn't actually a feminist film per se - it's just a film that respects, understands, and has boundless affection for its female characters. Does that have any connection to it also being so much sharper, smarter, wittier and more imaginative than the average Malay movie? I like to think so. I should think there is indeed a strong correlation between respecting women and having a brain.

NEXT REVIEW: Ip Man 2
Expectations: doubtful

24 comments:

fadz said...

whoohh! nice one! same points again!

The Wan And Only said...

thanks for the review... I thought I'd skip this but I think I will put the complimentary pass to good use... :)

vovin said...

'how ridiculously sexist (and often downright misogynist) Malay movies can get'

I prefer to take this as worldwide issues rather than stereotyping it. (as it also happen in Hollywood or French cinema for example)

But then, yeap, it's cool to stereotyping ourselves as one British girl i met who stereotyping Englishmen.

- vovin

TMBF said...

@The Wan And Only: By all means, go watch it. :)

@vovin: ??? Tak paham...

BTW - yes, I recognize the incongruity between lauding this movie for its feminist values and perving over the actresses. Facets, I haz it.

gwailo said...

got english subs?

TMBF said...

@gwailo: Unfortunately no.

gwailo said...

doh!

My Winona said...

Ujang did not design the costumes. Two young female costume designers did. Personally, for this film, I'd give credit to the DP and the first assist. dir. But that's just me knowing too much. 'Bagai langit dan bumi' Afdlin Shauki once said, comparing how local filmmakers make film and how Hollywood does it. The script is good, not great. The execution, heh heh heh.

TMBF said...

@My Winona: Ooh, an insider speaks! Kudos to the two designers then; and don't be shy to name them, if they did a good job they deserve to be credited. (And don't be shy to dish the dirt either, you're anonymous here after all ;) Also, I think the script really is very good, if only compared to the average local film. So few people actually watch them - because they suck so very often - that most people don't know how bad or good they really are.

Anonymous said...

errrr, actually my winona the costume designers is not 2 young female designers, they are just wardrobe assistants, the wardrobe designer for Hoopers is Mohd Sharum the guy behind Embun/Rock/Mukhsin & Muallaf.

And i won't give credit to the dp, I felt the color should be more vibrant like pisau cukur, Hooperz visual look like a 80s hong kong movie.

My Winona said...

Oh, now I remember the guy. My mistake. Yeah he's brilliant.

For your information Anon, the visual look of the film rests on the director. He communicates the tone he wants to the DP during pre production (that's months before the shoot), and the DP tries to nail it to the best of his abilities. If he can't, then they compromise what can be done. Research here is important.

In Hooperz case, the DP got a field test on the camera only days before the shoot. Which I think showed that they weren't too bothered on the importance of technical planning. Btw, a Red Cam is used to shoot this film. It's the first time the DP used that type of camera. So who's to blame for the retro look? Who knows, and frankly who cares.

Oh, incidentally, how do you know the visual look of Hooperz is not what the producers wanted? Also, if the production had wanted vibrant colours, but they got bland colours instead, they could do some damage control during post. Because this film was shot in DIGITAL after all. Sigh, I can talk about so many things on how this film could be better, but ultimately, it all boils down to production planning, the funds to make the film and the talents involved (I'm not just talking about actors).

I'm just glad the film is a tad worth watching because of the decent script and funnyman Khir Rahman.

Btw, TMBF, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

my winona,

To answer your questions :
Oh, incidentally, how do you know the visual look of Hooperz is not what the producers wanted?

I dont know! i said that base on what i felt after i watched the movie.

One of the wardrobe assistant is my college mate, that's how i know about sharum.

But its funny for someone who know too much about the production like you, don't even remember who design the costume. :D
no wonder my favorite actress Mislina Mustaffa is credited as Mislina Tahir in the movie.
hahaha

My Winona said...

Haha.

I was more concerned over the technical feats and the logistics of the project than your friend, who, in spite of his talent and height, was pretty cool and unassuming. I think the wardrobe team did a good job thus didn't stand out amidst all other production issues. Ergo, he is missed out (",)

Hoh, so you, as a lay audience spotted a mistake in the film. Aiyah, what more with me who studied filmmaking. I'm just an observer to the production, with minimum involvement to the whole process. Sayang the good script could have been translated better into visuals if not in the hands of feature debut directors.

Anonymous said...

ah mann..reading ur reviews just effing irritate me.. i can picture u as one of those guys who think their urban thinking is way hipper than everyone else... scrolling thru ur reviews and judging by the amount of stars uve given.. i mean.. come on mannn... this movie deserved lessssss....way less... but i guess.. with all those ultra malay bull shit happening in ur head.. and the so called hip-hop too phat or watever skater boy mind set u have... ahh.. i cant really blame u...

drop dead and die

Anonymous said...

Wat does Robin Hood: Prince of Theives, American History X & Hooperz have in common?
The original director (read: the guy who actually called the shots) were kept out of the editing room.

Everybody on set knew wat was goin on.

So stop ass kissin dat bald twat why dont you hack :P

TMBF said...

@Anonymous (the last one): Your point is?

Anonymous said...

My point is..stop glazing Mr.Zain's turd. The only way anyone could enjoy Hooperz is if somebody, say from the production team, paid them. Oops..

Kalau dalam politik, ini lah yang di maksudkan sebagai genjala politik wang.

Hope the money was worth it. Hack. No wonder la this industry selalu sangat dodgy kan?

TMBF said...

@Anonymous: Well, I merely directed my praise to those whose names were on the credits. I have no idea what went on behind the scenes. Since you appear to know, I'd guess that you're one of those who were shut out of the editing room.

And here's a newsflash for you: trashing a project you were involved in speaks volumes about your lack of professionalism. Getting so hot and bothered about people enjoying the movie speaks volumes about your insecurity. And hiding behind an anonymous ID speaks volumes about your cowardice.

"...stop glazing Mr. Zain's turd." Sheikh Munasar, is that you? :D

Anonymous said...

You, one who huffs & puffs, who understand 'set ups & pay offs', 'character's backstory & story arcs' actually arrive & conclude, I must be the guy who was shut out of the editing room. Eureka! Using a Candlestick while doing the heinous deed in the Observatory room no less! How much did your parents spent on your education Sir?

Macam M. Night Shaymalam. Lazy & predictable giler. You make Inspector Clouseau looks like Sherlock Holmes bub. Listen you know what they say kan? Don't assume.You make an ass of u & me k?

I was not involved in said project, so my professionalism is still intact. Just a humble observer of the local film industry. Gettin hot & bothered when a hack spewing non-stop blatant bullsheet well..that's just within my rights meh. Its easier to use anonymous ID coz Im just not IT savvy enouf to understand how this thingamajig works. If it helps & gives you a peace of mind,then my name is Alan. Alan Smithee. Nice to meet you.

The anonymous dude who wanted you to drop & die, dat wasn't me btw.

My beef with your review is dat it is jus full of bs & lack of honesty, as oppose to the other Malaysian made film's reviews. Thing is I actually agree with most of your review but to give it an unworthy review & unwarranted additional stars to a Gol & Gincu (don't get me stated on that mess) wannanbe wrapped in a netball, is just well..'a storm of opprobrium'. Everybody who saw it on the big screen will tell you the same I'm sure. I still have my ticket stub from the 1st day of release. There was 33 people in that tiny hall at Cineleisure. Including the poor fella who sacrifice his complimentary pass on the back of your recommendation.

So after all said & done, you're either in Zain's pocket or you want to be in Ms.Jeremiah's panties. Either way, you're stll a 1st class hack & a skank.

Anyways, here's two gems for your Not Comin To M'sia : Jacques Audiard's Prophet & Wes Andersons's Fantastic Mr.Fox

Anonymous said...

You, one who huffs & puffs, who understand 'set ups & pay offs', 'character's backstory & story arcs' actually arrive & conclude, I must be the guy who was shut out of the editing room. Eureka! Using a Candlestick while doing the heinous deed in the Observatory room no less!

Macam M. Night Shaymalam. Lazy & predictable giler. You make Inspector Clouseau looks like Sherlock Holmes bub. Listen you know what they say kan? Don't assume.You make an ass of u & me k?

I was not involved in said project, so my professionalism is still intact. Just a humble observer of the local film industry. Gettin hot & bothered when a hack spewing non-stop blatant bullsheet well..that's just within my rights meh. Its easier to use anonymous ID coz Im just not IT savvy enouf to understand how this thingamajig works. If it helps & gives you a peace of mind,then my name is Alan. Alan Smithee. Nice to meet you.

The anonymous dude who wanted you to drop & die, dat wasn't me btw.

My beef with your review is dat it is jus full of bs & lack of honesty, as oppose to the other Malaysian made film's reviews. Thing is I actually agree with most of your review but to give it an unworthy review & unwarranted additional stars to a Gol & Gincu (don't get me stated on that mess) wannanbe wrapped in a netball, is just well..'a storm of opprobrium'. Everybody who saw it on the big screen will tell you the same I'm sure. I still have my ticket stub from the 1st day of release. There was 33 people in that tiny hall at Cineleisure. Including the poor fella who sacrifice his complimentary pass on the back of your recommendation.

So after all said & done, you're either in Zain's pocket or you want to be in Ms.Jeremiah's panties.

Anyways, here's two gems for your Not Comin To M'sia : Jacques Audiard's Prophet & Wes Andersons's Fantastic Mr.Fox

Anonymous said...

Hope u appreciate the Director's cut & the deleted scenes Hack.

"what we do in life... echoes in eternity!"
Gladiator (2000)

TMBF said...

@Anonymous: Dude. I could choose to get upset and offended by your insults.

But it's pretty obvious that you're a regular reader, you keep coming back, you add to my hits, and you read my posts closely. And you're even recommending movies to me to review.

You're my fan, buddy. And it behooves me to give my fans thanks and appreciation. :)

Anonymous said...

I was a fan till I saw dat pathetic review. It reminded me of just what's wrong with this beloved country of mine.

Hope the money you got for it, is enough for your sex change operation hack. If tak cukup, you could always ask you-know-who :)

TMBF said...

@Anonymous: And yet you keep coming back.

Yes, I'll be doing some Not Coming to M'sia reviews soon, so look out for them! :)