Monthly Archives: June 2008

The good ol’ days of theatre going ….

A recent discussion over Fat Dragon’s Chinatown blog prompted this post…

Remember the good ol’ days where we went to see movies in real theatres. Stand alone. Majestic. Cool. Well, for the Roaring Forties generation anyway.

Some names of KL theatres come into mind. REX. FEDERAL. CATHAY. ODEON. – For English movies. CAPITOL, PAVILION – for Chinese movies. MAJESTIC – for Indian movies. These were run by Shaw Brothers, Cathay cinemas as opposed to todays Tanjung Golden Village, GSC & Cathay cineplexes.

These names really stir up fond memories. Bruce Lee blazed and kicked his way through the silver screen in REX. The sen-surround vibrations of EARTHQUAKE the movie & the chariots of BEN HUR, shook the seats of ODEON.  Jacky Chan snaked & eagled his way through PAVILION. Crocodile Dundee knifed his way through in FEDERAL. Bobby sang and danced his way in Majestic. Gosh, such fond fond memories indeed.

Although the theatres were scattered all over – Rex (Jln. Sultan) near Chinatown, Cathay & Pavilion (Jln. Bukit Bintang), Capitol & Federal (Jln Chow Kit), Majestic (Jln. Tuanku Abdul Rahman), theatre times were almost always fixed at 11am (morn matinee), 1pm, 3pm, 7pm, 9pm, 11pm. I remember being able to catch 3 shows in a day during peak movie runs. For eg. you can see a movie in Federal and then pop over to next door to Capitol (which is in Jln Chow Kit) for the 1pm and 3pm movies respectively and then take a bus for another movie at 7pm say in Cathay or Pavilion.

I also remember rushing for shows after school on Fridays with my friends as BBGS was only about 15 mins walk to Cathay or Pavilion. Note it was done only on Fridays coz we were let off school early. Then we would run along Jln. Bukit Bintang, grab a roast beef sandwich or something like that from Arby’s or a burger from Mc D & run off  to catch the 1pm show there. The thrill was to run, buy food & yet catch the movie on time. 

The movie experience itself was also different. There were two levels of seats. Downstairs and upstairs. For the downstairs seating, there were the RM1.25 seats (which were close to the screen – those days the gradient of the cinema floor was non existent and you had to crane your neck to watch the movie) and the RM1.60 seats (which were from the middle upwards). Upstairs was 2 or 2.50. Cant really remember coz we usually bought the RM1.60 seats.  You normally only bought upstairs tickets when it was a special occasion, or if you were to watch with parents (coz that meant they were paying) or that special someone. So it was somewhat of a novelty to sit upstairs.  Then also there were the FREELIST tickets. Till today I’ m not quite sure how ppl get hold of these tickets.

Those days the seats were not as comfortable as now but then there was always an usher with a torchlight who would show you the seats if you came in late and the lights were switched off. Talk about service right???

And the tidbit stalls… can you remember you could get jagung boiled in salted water, boiled kacang in paper cones, kacang putih, ice cream, crackers, all sorts of noisy snacks ….  It was a cycle galore of multi racial vendors peddling all sorts of snacks.  They were the illegal ones of course as the cinema management would always have a store of their own. But hey, contraband snacks always taste better, no?  

By the time we could drive, I remember having to line our cars to wait for cars of movie goers for earlier shows to vacate the parking lot …. so so fun indeed.

Now alas, it is the age of cineplexes, where you can catch all movies under one roof. There is no need to run for shows. No need to juggle schedules for theatres in different locations. No need to line your cars up in a neat row to drive into the vast sandy lots. No ushers .. Oh I do miss the simplicity (or the young ppl would say the complexity, given the inconvenience) of those days ….. Oh but that’s the movie experience of a Roaring Fortier that once was….



  • Rex theatre is officially still a movie theatre but it really is endangered given the preference for newer multiplexes. 
  • Odeon showed movies until 1997. It has since been turned into an arcade selling saris, clothes and knick knacks of sorts.
  • Coliseum‘s colonial style theatre continues to show Indian movies, is now privately owned by a doctor. The building gazetted by the govt to be a National Heritage.
  • Federal was turned into two cineplexes but eventually closed down in 2001
  • Capitol was a Chinese movie hall until 1996. After that it switched to Indian movies and eventually closed down in 2000.
  • Pavilion closed down in 1996, became a dance club after that and the building was eventually demolished in 2000. Cathay  closed down shortly after Pavilion in 1997. They are both now parking lots. Sad.

 For a complete list of classic movie theaters in Malaysia and a glossary of their history, check out this link.



Passing the buck generation…….

Well, there have been many titles coined for the various generations… baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y & apparently now its the Cosmic Generation. Whatever it is, a few personal experiences has prompted this blog. It is making me rethink whether the new generation of today deserves such lofty titles. I think a simple Passing the Buck generation will suffice.  

Well..the young today seem to have silver spoons ingrained in their mouths..or should I say golden spoons.

With the maid culture and all, I have personally witnessed children screaming at the top of their voices to the maids for a drink to be brought right in front of them when the kitchen could only be a few feet away from them.

The work culture has also changed. The youths today seem to be the ones selecting the jobs asking more questions of the employers i.e. “Is it 5 day week?” “How many days leave do I have” etc. A friend even told us that an applicant came late and he had the cheek to say the he was late because it was his mother’s fault. She was late picking him up. Hey, if you’re old enough to look for a job, you should be well equipped to go for an interview on your own, right? This is just one example but I notice the youths today are filled with  excuses, excuses, excuses. There is no accountability at all. It’s always someone elses fault. Sigh.  

Where has their sense of responsibility gone? Is it their inborn nature or is it their upbringing?

2 cases in point.

A young staff wanted to take off earlier from work despite the prevalence of a deadline to be met. He apparently had to attend his father’s (a renowned corporate figure) birthday party. The superior refused to release him. Lo and behold, the HR dept got a call the next day ticking them off for working his son so late the day before. Believe it or not.

A manager and her team went for a marketing visit. The visit was to be followed up by a formal quotation. Despite the manager’s urging & threats, the quotation was not done and the manager had to do it herself, or risk losing a lucrative deal. The young staff just didn’t care. All they had to lose was their jobs.  Believe it or not.

Well, believe it. There are a lot of children out there whose parents have already set aside trust funds for them, insurance funds, investment funds – you name it & quite a few have 6 digit account figures. Seriously, their monthly salary is probably just treated as pocket money for shopping.

I say the young have become a passing the buck generation because they feel that there’s always someone who will pick up after them. Someone who will come up with a safety net when they fall. I fear that the young today will have very high IQ’s but very low EQ’s. Being apart of the cosmic generation also means that their lifestyles have also turned inward as they get more and more preoccupied with computers, computer games, surfing etc. How well does the social media of today help develop a child’s EQ, their sensitivities towards others, their sense of caring, their appreciation of others? How well does Facebook, WAYN, Friendsters etc develop us emotionally?  How well does the social media of today inculcate values such as responsibility, accountability etc?

Well, you tell me.   


And what did the girl mean by “Miluju Tebe” in ONCE???

What a beautiful movie, “Once” is!

I know we Malaysians are catching it late but at least GSC’s international cinema circuit is showing it. Thanks for that!

“Once” is an Irish film that is essentially a love story told through music. A street vendor is attracted to a busker cum vacuum cleaner repairman’s musical efforts and a friendship strikes between them. Things are complicated by external factors i.e. the girl is married with a daughter & her estranged husband is away in the Czech Republic. The boy on the other hand yearns to be reconciled with his ex. In the middle of all this, they both share a passion for music and eventually develop feelings for each other. On the musical front, the both of them joined up with 3 other musicians to make a recording of the boy’s compositions in a bid for him to get some recording deals in London.

The movie stars real life musicians Glen Hansard (songwriter, vocalist & guitarist for Irish rock band The Frames), & Marketa Irglova (songwriter, musician, singer).  All but one were original songs written by them in the movie. It was refreshing to be able to explore  the on-screen character’s emotions and thoughts through songs in the movie. Feel the pain of unrequited love in Marketa’s life as it is depicted to be an uphill climb in the song “The Hill”. Feel the intensity of the guy’s frustrations as he goes through the motions of lost love with his ex – girlfriend. Join him in the emotional roller coaster as he grows red singing songs like “Say It To Me”, “Lies”, & last but not least “Falling Slowly”.  And yet …… it all came together so romantically, in the movie.

My take on the movie….I think its original, it deals with real life people with real life ups and downs, its totally unpretentious & authentic.

Some quick facts on the movie:

1. The Movie was done on a shoe string budget.

The movie was shot for only €130,000 ($160,000),  75% was funded by Bord Scannán na hÉireann (The Irish Film Board), plus some of director John Carney’s own money. How did they do it for so cheap?

  • The director sacrified his own salary to give to the two actors.
  • Expensive lighting was dispensed of, so natural lighting was used.
  • No sets were built, some scenes were even shot in friends homes for eg. the musical party scene in the film was shot in Glen Hansards very own flat.
  • The skeleton crew shot the movie in only 17 days. The speed of the movie probably explains why the Dublin street scenes were done without permits.

2. Did you realize the GUY and the GIRL are unnamed in the movie.

Interesting. Although their names are not revealed to us, we the audience, still managed to feel a closeness to the characters. We sensed their pain, their frustrations, their hopes. Maybe it is this very anonymity that drives through the point that it could be you or me or anyone in the audience experiencing all these emotions in the movie. Brilliant.

3. Other Glen Hansard / Marketa Irglova collaborations besides acting together in the movie.

  • Hansard collaborated with Irglova in composing and performing all but one of the songs in the movie. The soundtrack album was released on May 22, 2007 in the U.S. and on May 26 in Ireland.
  • Hansard’s first solo album, released Apr 21, 06, The Swell Season, on Overcoat Recordings was in collaboration with Irglová, and 2 other musicians.
  • They are a also a “collaboration” in real life. They got together while doing a promotional tour in the U.S. although Glen acknowledges that he knew all along he was falling in love with Marketa but had reservations because she was too young. Marketa was 17 when she made the movie and Glen 36. Well, their passion for music seems binding enough. They now live together in Hansard’s flat in Dublin.

3. Glen Hansard was not the first choice to play the lead role

Director John Carney wanted Cillian Murphy, an actor, to play the lead role. Cillian was to be one of the producers & investment partners too. However he pulled out when he heard that his co star was going to be a 17 year old. He did not think the film would work out.

As for Hansard, he was originally called to  provide songs and anecdotes of life as a busker given that he’s busking since the age of 13. After Cillian turned the role down, it went to Hansard. Well, there’s no denying, the film worked out fine, winning the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. As for the 17 year old issue, that worked out fine too since Glen’s song collaboration with Marketa  won them the Best Original Song for the Academy Awards 2008. The song “Falling Slowly” even peaked at #2 for the Irish Song Charts.

4.  Great acceptance speeches at the Awards ceremony, if only there was time for 2 speeches ….

When Glen Hansard & Marketa went up on stage to give their thank you speeches … poor Marketa was cut off as soon as she started to speak by the orchestra music (which was a cue to indicate that their time was up). The organisers insisted that it was an accident but the host Jon Stewart was gracious enough to invite Marketa up again to give her thanks.

Check out the blooper and both their acceptance speeches here  in this link.

5. Some production secrets. 

The movie was filmed using two handycams and through a long lens. This meant that the actors did not have to mind the cameras too much. This way, they could be act more naturally and this was important given that most of the actors in the film were relatively inexperienced or not experienced at all. A bonus that came out of it was that this gave rise to some script improvisations which added to the authenticity of the movie. In fact, some of  the street scenes were truly authentic as passersby did not even realize that a film was being made.

6. And so what did she mean by “Miluju Tebe” …?

This was one of the most memorable moments in the movie. On a romantic motorbike jaunt, the ‘GIRL’ reveals, much to the ‘GUY’s’ consternation, that she is married, though her estranged husband is back in the Czech Republic. When the guy asks her if she still loves her husband, she replies in Czech, “Miluju tebe” but coyly declines to translate what it meant.  

The answer was unsubtitled. So the audience is left wondering, “Did she say YES or NO?” …..  but actually, she was telling him “I LOVE YOU”.…. if only he knew what she had just said.

I shan’t spoil it for you by telling you if the love between the two of them is requited or unrequited – so go watch the movie if you can…

7. Well, the movie title ONCE is more ominous for both Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova than you think.

Both Hansard and Irglova give the impression in interviews that they are unlikely to pursue further acting, so this could be a one off thing for them. Irglova has spoken about being nervous in front of a crew, saying “I don’t think I would be a good actress, overall”, and Hansard generally refers to the movie as a one-off, talking of “moving on… living a different life”.

 Well, I do hope they will change their minds coz I really like these two. They seem so natural, so genuine and a critic even described Marketa as being ‘luminous’.   Yes, I certainly hope to see more of them, so for me….

ONCE is definitely not enough.

 P.S. Check out Glen Hansard’s guitar in the movie (& in the pic above)…its seen better days & sports a huge hole in the middle. But I thought it showed great character and seemed to be a convenient resting place for Glen’s fingers 🙂 BTW, it truly is Glen’s guitar in real life.

P.P.S. For a sampler of some of the songs in the movie check out these links: