Weird Japanese movies

A couple of days ago, I watched two extremely weird Japanese movies back to back. The two respective movies are Beat Takeshi’s Glory to the Filmmaker(Kantoku, banzai !) and Takeshi Miike’s Happiness of the Katakuris.

The former is about Takeshi Kitano, having gone bored of making gangster movies, embarking on various attempts to make movies of various genres. And failing at every juncture. Theoretically, that is what it was supposed to be until it became episodes of surreal and bizarre comedy skits.

The latter is a black comedy about a family opening a guest house in a former garbage dump. Until when guests started arriving and started dropping like flies, leading to more bizarre events happening in the movie. It is somehow also a musical and feel good family movie.

Both share a common thing in that both directors are considered A list directors in Japan and are also darlings of the arthouse circuit. Beat Takeshi is at least more popular for his brutal gangster movies rather than his comedies. Takeshi Miike on the other hand, comes with a notorious reputation for making weird, sexual and extremely gory movies that pushes the envelope of good tastes.

Yet, both Glory and Katakuris have very little violence and goriness in it. There is virtually no sexual scenes except for some comedy routines.

I find that Katakuris to be the superior of the two movie that I watched. If only for the fact that the story is intriguing and the characters are compelling. Glory virtually has no story to speak of, only a plot and premise. And both are paper thin.

However, in terms of weirdness, both of them ranks as the weirdest movies I have ever watched.

I won’t even hazard a guess at what Glory is really about. But it does provides an interesting insight on how movies are made and the decisions that filmmakers make during the creative process. The strength of Glory lies in the fact that it is not trying to be anything and it is definitely not trying to break new grounds. Admittedly, some of the gags fall flat and some scenes just scream of slapstick. However, what makes it intriguing to watch is the sort of over the top elements that Takeshi can present in it without the movie falling apart in a incoherent mess. The resulting feeling is much like watching someone making a cake and adding ingredients like bat guano, spinach, turtle eggs and more bizzare stuffs and see how it all blends together. And to Kitano’s credit as a veteran director, he manage to pull it off before everything collapses in its melange of oddity. This scene alone is worth watching the movie:

As for Katakuris, for a movie about bodies piling up, zombies (well for a short bit) and Japanese conman pretending to a spy and related to the British royal family, its surprisingly heart warming and entertaining. Cheesy late 80s and mid-90s style musical scenes, the movie works exceedingly well as good cinema and even more so as great entertainment. One thing that one must say about Takeshi Miike is he is a director who really knows his craft. Making 70+ movies since the the early 90s must have taught him a few things.

When compared to Glory which has a haphazard and choppy feel to it, Katakuris is nearly flawless in execution. But of course, Katakuris has a very clear premise which was helped by good acting ensemble, a surprisingly strong script and musical numbers. There isn’t as much WTF moments as in in Glory with the bizarreness having a gentle *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* feel to it. Case in point is the scene with conman, Richard Sagawa, and his musical and dance number with one of the Katakuris, Suzue. It is just so splendidly corny and yet, it has a silliness that is not really self-concious. The musicals, the silly happenings and weirdness generally is all part and parcel of the universe that Katakuris inhabits.

There are certain things I didn’t quite like in it. Like the claymation animation that substitutes for when things got a bit too outlandish in the movie. Like when a volcano erupts. And I did think that the initial build-up was too slow. The movie generally had a very low budget feel about it and there is a lack of polish. However, these are minor quibbles which do not get in the way of a great movie experience.

Both movies are highly recommended if you are in the mood for something a bit different or just looking for weirdness. Watch it back to back and have a weird and wonderful time.

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Wolverine 0.5 (X-men 2 )

I have no great fondness for the X-men movies, I confess. Which is why, I took my time to finally watch X-men 2 after donkey years it was released.

I didn’t quite like the first movie. I thought it boring and overrated. The fact that it was Wolverine-centric was a huge turn off for me. I am a Cyclops-man and I just could not appreciate all the hoo ha about the clawed one. When X-men 2 was showing in the cinemas, I just did not bother to go and watch.

When the third one came out, I similarly had no great inclination to watch. But as I was bored at the time, I still went and watched despite my gut feelings telling me that it will be bad. I was wrong though. It was far worse than I had expected.

But recently after the great X-men : First Class, my curiousity was ignited again. So I sat down and finally watched the second movie. I have to say, it is the best movie of the original trilogy, though it doesn’t come close to the standard of First Class.

The best thing about X-men 2 is Wolverine. The worst thing about X-men 2 is also Wolverine. In a nutshell, the entire movie somehow got revolved around Wolverine despite the fact that the movie is about main villain, Stryker and his vendetta on mutant-kind.

Like I say before, I never could quite appreciate Wolverine as a character. Granted, he is cool – just like Han Solo is cool in Star Wars. Yet, I never felt he was integral to the X-men story like Xavier and Magneto is. But for some odd reason, the writers of X-men 2 seemed to weaved the story around him.

The first X-men didn’t quite appeal to me because I felt that the entire struggle between Xavier and Magneto became second fiddle to Wolverine. I hope I am not making it sound as if I hate Wolverine with a passion. But it always seemed to me that Wolverine is a superfluous character in X-men – both in the movie and in the comics.

I was proven right somewhat. In First Class, the movie returned correctly to the struggle between Xavier’s dream and Magneto’s mission. This is basically the heart of the X-men story and as a result, it felt genuinely like an X-men story. It’s like in Star Wars. Take away Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and you take away the two most important characters in the movie. The entire struggle between good and evil will become meaningless. However, take away Han Solo, you could still have a workable story – just that it lacks a lot of style and verve.

Story wise, X-men 2 is actually the weakest of the three X-men movie. The first one set up the X-men universe nicely but like I mentioned, sunk under the weight of Wolverine’s presence. The third one had an intriguing premise of the war between human and mutants but it suffered from a bad execution and the wrong director.

2 though, is like the Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy. It had drama, humour, romance, heroism and tragedy as well as great fight scenes and special effects. The story when you looked at the entire trilogy in its entirety, serves as a great bridge to the last and final installment of the series.

But rather than reviewing the movie proper, I would like to discuss about what basically nagged me about the entire X-men trilogy. As I mentioned, the entire trilogy felt too much like a Wolverine and the rest movie. The minor characters could not really shine due to the focus on him. But somehow, his character isn’t as strong as it could be at the same time due to the lack of screen time for Cyclops.

For Wolverine to work, you need to play him off Cyclops in the love triangle story involving Jean Grey. Singer basically gave Cyclops the short end of the stick in the X-men movies. His characterisation was changed to make him out to be like a boy scout and WASP-ish jerk.

This is an entire failure on Singer’s part to understand Cyclop’s character. Cyclops is a tortured figure who struggles with his powers and his role as a leader in the entire scheme of Xavier’s dreams. He is the pillar in which Xavier’s X-men is built upon. He yearns for personal happiness but he is always tied to duty and loyalty to Xavier’s vision. Jean Grey loves him not because he is merely a “good guy who stays around” but as a noble, honourable and principled man who always doubts himself but remains strong for everyone depends on him.

Wolverine though exhibits the sort of rugged alpha maleness and Malboro man like freedom is altogether a different kettle of fish. In the comics, Cyclops and Wolverine are polar opposites, much like Xavier and Magneto. In fact, they are both a mini mirror image of the struggles between Xavier and Magneto – with Cyclops being the inheritor of Xavier’s dreams and idealism, while Wolverine is always expedient and ruthless.

Singer by making Cyclops a poorer character actually takes away a lot of Wolverine’s raisen d’tre and attractiveness to Jean Grey. So, the romance between Wolverine and Jean Grey were reduced to adolescent lust in the movies. Also, it focused too much about Wolverine’s past – which isn’t really all that interesting after his solo movie came out.

Back to X-men 2. The nicest things about X-men 2 was that you could see many interesting X-men characters like Nightcrawler, Iceman, Pyro and Psylocke. However the problem is they didn’t actually do much due to Wolverine’s inflated presence in the story. Nightcrawler was built up nicely but ended up reduced to being a teleporter guy. I realised with a movie with as many characters as X-men, it is hard to focus on all the characters. But still, being reduced to the Ice-powered guy, the Fire-controlling guy, the teleporting-guy, the girl what is like Wolverine just don’t do justice to them.

Which comes down to this. Why do I like X-men First Class best of all the X-men movies? No Wolverine. And that made all the difference.

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A Game of Thrones review

Good but not good enough. That would describe my feelings about the recently ended tv adaptation of the Game of Thrones. George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest fantasy novels series of all time. After 6 years of waiting for the next book, the drama series from HBO did well enough to appease cravings. For now.

The series adapted the first book of the series, A Game of Thrones. The producers probably saw fit to just use the title of the first book, instead of the more wordy “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

Basically, the story of a Game of Thrones is very simple. An honourable warrior and soldier, Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark was called to serve as a Prime Minister to an incompetent king. The said king was his former comrade in arms in his younger days and Ned helped him to win his kingdom, deposing the former tyrannical empire that controlled the land called Westeron. During the course of the story, Ned has to use his wits and resources to outsmart the feuding noble houses of the land as well as survive in the hostile political arena of the royal court. Meanwhile, the story also follows the journey and development of his 6 children, who all have different personalities and fates.

The drama series is very well made and very faithful to its source. Sean Bean plays the role of the title character very well and made it his own, down to his thick brogue of an accent. I am not sure if they speak with a Sheffield accent in the north of Westeron, but the way he presented himself, they might just well have.

Production values of the series is very high with well designed costumes and sets. However, you can tell they are struggling abit with the budget of the series because some of the CG landscape of the series are a bit ropey and there are no big action set pieces of armies clashing. But then again, there aren’t that many of it in the first book. What is memorable about the Game of Throne novels were not really the huge action set pieces but more of the political battles between the characters.

The lead writer is David Benioff of the movie, Troy, fame. Now, Troy is a personal favourite of mine, despite its huge flaws. The movie has its shining moments as well as its more weaker points. The adaptation of the Game of Thrones unfortunately displays the same annoying weaknesses of Troy. Therein lies the biggest problem of drama.

Benioff added several new scenes to the books which either worked very well or simply was a drag to the pacing of the story. Unfortunately, there was more of the latter. Fans of the book has griped continously the unnecessary “sexposition” scenes, many involving Rosie – a prostitute from Ned Stark’s homeland. The character was given way too much screen time, to the detriment of more interesting events from the novel.

Now, the fact that such a minor character’s hogging the screen time is forgivable should the series be a 26-30 episode parter per season. However, as it is, it is just only a short 10 parter. The development of such a throwaway character is uncessary given that they could hardly cover the entire length of the novel. Many more interesting scenes are sacrificed while Benioff seems to enjoy ramping up the sexual contents of the show.

Also, too much melodramatic scenes dragged down the overarching political story of the Game of Thrones. Essentially, the story is very fast paced in the novel. However, too much of the critical scenes are not given enough room to breath while some of the more length melodramtic bits dragged down the pacing of the show. So, the sequences involving Jon Snow, Tyrion and Rob seems abbreviated while the ones involving Robert, Cersei and Littlefinger seemed overly long.

However, not all of Benioff’s additions were bad. The scenes involving verbal battle between Varys and Littlefinger were delightful and well written. It would have made Martin proud with its witty one-liners.

Other than Sean Bean, the rest of the cast were superb. Emily Clarke is superb as Daenerys Stormborn. She may not fit with the age of the character of the novel, but she plays the role of the character with the same spirit. It was great watching her progression from a naive Imperial princess to become the proud Khaleesi (wife of the chieftain) of the Dothraki people.

Similarly, Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion is just spot-on. He managed to bring out the wit, cunning and humour of the character. There have been criticism of his English accent in the series as spotty. But unless you are really anal about things like this, then it doesn’t really matter. There are rumblings about Dinklage possibly winning an Emmy for his portrayal as Tyrion. I would say that he fully deserves to win if he is nominated.

The other cast members that stood out strongly is Maisie Williams as Arya, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime and Aiden Gillen as Littlefinger.

Meanwhile, I feel that they have entirely miscasted Michelle Fairley as Catelyn. She is far too old for the role. Her characterisation seems to mismatch with the strongwilled woman of the book who loves her family passionately. Fairley’s Catelyn was more bitter and had too much iron in her. Similarly, Sophie Turner did not do as well as Sansa and had none of her intelligence in her portrayal.

But overall, the first season of the Game of Thrones is good despite a few missteps. Also, it had one of the groundbreaking event in television history. I am hoping that a second season will be stronger, with more drama, more politics, more battles and more action. Let there be a Clash of Kings !

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There and back again….(and Xmen, Thor and Green Lantern).

I am back again. I don’t know how many times I have type these words due to many abandoned blogs in the past. I will make a supreme effort to be consistent now. This will be one of the blogs that I intend to maintain, one being my political blog and another my ones dealing with all facets of things that I enjoy in my social life. This idea I got after I divided my facebook into separate political and social accounts and it worked wonderfully. This blog is the social one, in case you are wondering. It will be largely about books, sports, movies, drama series, photography and the simple things that I enjoy. No, I don’t intend to make any money from this. I am writing this for the sheer joy of writing. I will only upload this blog once a week and on every Friday – as often as I can do it humanly possible. There are still some posts from last year when I created this blog. I’ll just keep them there for posterity.

For the first topic of my return to active writing, I will address the 3 big superhero summer movies that I have watched so far – Thor, X-men : First Class and Green Lantern.

Thor has got to be the superhero movie which I liked most of the 3. That said, it is largely due to the fact that I like Thor the most of all the characters in said 3 movies. Never much of a X-men fan (though I like Cyclops) and GL Hal Jordan just leaves me cold.

What I like most about Thor is that it captures the spirit of the comics perfectly. Now, in terms of comics mythology as well as character faithfulness, the creator of the movies has changed certain things. But it is better for the movie. I am very glad that they made Natalie Portman’s character, Jane Foster, an astro-physicist. For her to play the role of a nurse would just revive the lameness of the entire romance and soap opera with Thor’s alter-ego, Donald Blake, in the comics.

The movie is superbly written by Jan Michael Strazynski who also revived Thor after the Civil War storyline in the comics. As such, the movie very much had the feel of Strazynski’s run – which is about gods walking among mortals. That is no bad thing as the director, Kenneth Brannagh, maintained a very good balance between the epic scale of the drama in Asgard while telling an engrossing tale about Thor’s exploits in the mortal world.

X-men : First Class though is pure X-men. It is my favourite X-men movies, including the Singer movies as well as Wolverine. Though I confess I had not watch the second movie of the series. Not being an X-men fan and also, not seeing the big hoo-ha about the comics, I did not exactly had great expectations about the movie. However, great word of mouth and reviews encouraged me to go and watch it.

I have to say, First Class is among the Top 5 of best comics movies ever made. It totally captured the great themes of the X-men series – the appearance of mutantkind and the resulting conflict between humanity and them. Also it had the soap opera that X-men fan loves. The movie is the best of the X-men movies because I felt that it correctly made Magneto the heart of the movie. In Magneto, we understand and feel most of all the anger, fear and hopes of a prosecuted race.

Just as the previous X-men movies are very Wolverine centric, First Class is Magneto centric. But unlike Wolverine, Magneto’s importance to the X-men mythology is of the greatest importance. Without the duality of the conflict between the dovish Xavier and the hawkish Magneto, the drama and scope of the X-men mythology would not play quite as well.

Both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were superb in the roles as Xavier and Magneto respectly. McAvoy’s Xavier is charming, idealistic and inspiring while Fassbender’s Magneto is brooding, troubled and yet, shows a deep loyalty to his friends and fellow muntantkind.

The movie has a combination of drama, action and of course, great set-pieces despite a slow first 30 minutes. When it hits its peak in the final act, the movie cements itself as a classic in superheroes movies.

It does have its weaknesses though, with a totally non-convincing subplot involving Mystique. The secondary characters were just not developed enough. The special effects were spotty in many areas. But an impressive effort from Matthew Vaughn, who has only just made actioners in the past. I look forward to a sequel.

Finally, Green Lantern(GL), the weakest of the 3 summer superhero movies so far. Basically, GL – specifically Hal Jordan, suffers from a lack of recognition and respect in his place of the DC mythology. He has been unceremoniously dumped as a GL in the 90s by hipster, Kyle Rayner. Also, he also suffers the most from being the least interesting Lantern of all. Alan Scott, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and most of the 3600 other Lanterns had more personality than him.

The movie however largely played up his gungho alpha male test pilot jock persona, which was established as a DC Universe canon for most of the 90s and 2000s. So for anyone saying that he isn’t like that, they haven’t been reading comics for a long time.

GL the movie is easily the least interesting of the the 3 superhero movies so far, despite a rich mythology and background story. I understood that current Green Lantern writer, Geoff Johns, served as story adviser for the movie and a lot of the movie is based on his run. But not being a Jones fan, this hardly excites me.

As it is, GL is an okay watch. Brainless popcorn movie with some cool bits. The story though lacks something to be desired. Ryan Reynolds basically carried the movie with his personality – just as Robert Downey Jr did with Iron Man.For some reason, GL reminded me too much of an Iron Man lite. It could have been better but it could have been a whole lot worse. As it is, it does merit a watch.

The special effects were good and unfairly maligned beforehand. Mark Strong did a great performance as Sinestro. Seeing Kilowog is a lot of fun. Part of me did wish that GL will do well because this will make it easier for other DC properties to be developed in the future. But the producers have to up the ante if they want to make a 2nd movie.

So, 2 good and 1 fair comics movies this summer is not bad at all, seeing how bad the movies were last summer. Frankly, I can’t wait for Captain America next.

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Photography

Most of you should realise by now that I do photography as a hobby. I didn’t really take up photography all that long. I bought a DSLR last year in February 2009. However, before that I have been taking pictures as with my digital compact camera. I try to learn what I can with whatever tools that I have.

I can’t really say that I have a lifelong interest in photography. For me, photography was way too expensive as a hobby during the film days. It was one of those things that I could live without. Like most people, I enjoy looking at beautiful photos. Landscape in particular.

So naturally when I took up photography, landscape became the main genre that I focused on. I have said to friends before. I like the Zen-like feeling of being totally alone and meditating on my environment, while taking beautiful pictures of the environment. In this state, I find myself closest to the universe and appreciating the eternal cycle of life. If you saw my photographs and you see that I take lots and lots of landscape photographs, and many of the same places, it is because I could not yet transmit the images the way which I see them. My technical skills too lacking at this juncture.

After a year of serious photography, I realise that photography more about the photographer than the photographed. It tells a lot about the personaliy traits, the quirks and the fancies of the persons’s mind. No two person see the same subject matter in the same way. And no two person express the same way what he wishes to photograph.

I find photography to be an amazingly rewarding hobby. Beyond the usual ego boost when someone praises your picture or the feeling of achievement when your technical skills improves, there is for me the feeling of understanding that I receive when photographing a subject matter – be it landscape, portrait or animals. This understanding makes you appreciate life in all its glory and majesty. Being here right now. If you don’t see clear enough, you take a step closer. Take a step back and you see the bigger picture. Isn’t life that way?

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Why I hate England (and all other World Cup stuffs)

I have never made secret of my dislike for England as a football team in the World Cups. For England-supporting Malaysia, I am something of a renegade. But let me be clear. I dislike England but I don’t hate them. I hate Italy, Argentina and Portugal – three of the dirtiest teams in the World Cup. I could never just muster enough energy to hate England.

I first encountered the World Cup when I was a wee lad of 9. It was Spain 1982. The adults were talking about something magical called the World Cup with awe and wonder. I just had to get involved – being the nosy and fat 9 year old kid I was then. So, I promptly betted with my much older cousins that Italy will win in the 1982 finals. Yes….my first experience of watching football was also my first time I betted on football. :p

History was made when Paolo Rossi scored and won the finals of 1982. I got some cash out of it. It was the first time I stayed up late at night to watch footie. I totally loved the experience and it probably made me a football fan for life.

Ever since then, each World Cup was my magical destination….ferrying me to a world where the grass for each pitch was a perfect green and the people wrapped in a dazzling array of colour. None more impressive to me than the totally awesome quarter finals between France and Brazil in 1986. I was 13 and that World Cup was the defining one in my footie watching life.

I learned a few things in that 1986 World Cup:

1) France played sexy football (of course, at the age of 13…sexy was a foreign word for me)

2) Brazil played sexier football (except that France won !)

3) Argentina are a bunch of dirty diving cheats.

4) England played horrible football, crappy long ball stuffs…

leading to my conclusion that:

5)  Supporting England is pointless.

Even at 13 years old, I could see that. Therefore, that started a my laughing at England whenever they lose. Maybe it helped that Maradona cheated and eventually won the World Cup despite the feeble English protests. I guess the footballing world don’t take England as seriously as Malaysians.

Over time, I learned to dislike England even more. In the horrible, horrible Italia 90, the spectacle of Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne weeping after England got kicked out in the semis finally sealed it for me that they are team of laughingstock. Hey, I was brought up in the with the classical Chinese alpha male credo that a “real man will only shed blood and never tears”.

Over the years, I learned to love the awesome total football of  Cruyff and Holland. Only that it wasn’t as sexy as French and Brazilian football. That is why it comes 3rd in my holy trinity of France, Brazil and Holland. I grew to hate the horrible defensive Italian football and eventually added Portugal to my list of  teams to hate.

With South Africa 2010 in full swing, the old favourites and old hatreds returns as strong as ever. I am irritated by the vuvuzelas. The low scoring matches is getting on my nerves. The Jabulani ball is stealing the show from the stars. But hey, it is the World Cup. Greatest show on Earth. For 30 days, I escape to my magical wonderland again.

And I get to laugh at England when they stumble yet again….

Happy World Cup to fans and non fans alike. May the best team (Holland) wins !

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Neverending battle

I have finally finished reading All-Stars Superman after a long, long hiatus. I have wanted to get the second and final part of the All Stars Superman compilation. However, I did not have the chance until recently.

I have always been more of fan of Superman than Batman. Even as a boy, Superman may have been the first superhero comic that I encountered. Batman always struck me as kind of dull. Superman however is just way awesome with his amazing arrays of powers. (However the ending of the first Superman movie always struck me as kind of dumb even though I was a small kiddie when I watched it).

As I grew older, it was not so much the powers of Superman that attracted me to the character. I loved the cast of Superman and the world that he inhabits. I love the entire mythology and the big cosmology that he occupies. I love the fact that only a villain as powerful as Darkseid can rightfully be called his equal in the field of battle. More than that, I love what Superman stands for.

Far from the banner of Truth, Justice and the American Way that Superman paraded, it is the quiet heroism of the spirit that I find more attractive in the character. Superman is always for giving everyone a chance and every being given the room to grow to his best potential. Paul Dini and Alex Ross’ Superman : Peace on Earth captures this essence of Superman at his best.

Despite that,  I feel that the only writer who truly understands Superman and his mythology is Grant Morrison. Morrison is the writer for All Stars Superman. The series reimagine Superman in totally new scenario, removed from the decades old continuity of the traditional comic series.

Morrison is best known for his more alternative comic works, The Invisibles, often claiming it to be the inspiration for the Matrix series. He is also a practising chaos magician. With such a background, one can see that he would bring a skewed vision to the Superman mythos.

However,  his Superman is refreshingly close to the classic Superman of old. He does not doubt his mission and purpose in this Universe. He has a quiet nobility and a patrician air of men from another era. Even the Krypton mythology in All Stars Superman comes straight out of the famous Silver Age of Comics.

Morrison gets so many things right about Superman that one can say that he is born to write the character. For one thing, Morrison understands that Superman is an inspirational figure, who transforms the lives of those around him in a positive and uplifting manner.

However, Morrison totally nails another crucial aspect of Superman which all other previous writers of Superman in recent times fail to do so. It is the wonder of his existence in a wondrous mythos. At heart, Superman lives in a realm of incredible superheroic fantasy. It is the almost childlike wonder of this superhero fantasy that we encounter the fabulous creatures and vistas of the Superman world. Zibarro and his loneliness in an nightmarish and comedic Bizarro world, the fantastic science and high technology of Krypton and despite all this, Superman’s nobility, resoluteless and positive force shines through. For Superman, the battle is neverending….

Frank Quietly’s art is a hit and miss with most people. Personally, I find it gorgeous. He is the perfect artist for this series. He may have miss the note entirely at certain scenes. But overall, he brings Morrison’s script alive.

The ending for the series is one of the most moving and inspirational in all the Superman comics that I have read. It is a masterpiece in every sense of the word for Superman, superhero comics and for Morrison most of all.

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Is Najib really on track?

Najib is a very likable leader. Even as a supporter from across the political divide, I have to admit that Najib is a politician who has his charms. There are few Malaysian politicians who have the statesmanship and decorum of Najib and fewer still who has his political pedigree. This is no surprise as Najib has been groomed to be the Prime Minister of Malaysia since returning from his studies from London.

However, Najib as the Prime Minister of Malaysia is a perplexing man. He recently polled an amazing 72% approval rating by the Merdeka Institute. For a politician coming to the second year of his office and despite the various controversial manner in which his administration has been conducted, that is an incredible performance.

However, a deeper look at the results of the survey shows that all is not rosy on the surface. Najib only scores 50% when asked if respondents were confident of his achieving his political reforms within two years. Also, 58% of those surveyed said that his administration is plague by weak execution despite having good plans. (Source: Malaysiakini)

What does this mean for interested observers of Malaysian politics? The honest truth is Najib’s  political direction and administration is plagued by chronic split personality and inefficiency. He is like the captain of a ship that has set a course but it is actually going every which way.

Najib needs to make up his mind about whether he wants to be a Prime Minister for all of Malaysia or if he is the Prime Minister for Umno and Barisan Nasional.

A prominent MCA politician has called for Malaysians to give Najib a chance. Najib is portrayed as a moderate leader who will govern Malaysia well.  Forget about the extremists and lunatic fringe of Umno. Najib is a man who cares for all Malaysians.

However, the question that must be posed is this : It is not so much that Malaysians must give Najib a chance but more so that Najib must give his concept of 1Malaysia a real chance. Split personalities statements which can be construed as endorsing Perkasa is jarring with his administration’s 1Malaysia policy. A promise to clean up corruption and efficiency is defeated by extravagant promises during the recent by-elections . Is it any wonder that the people in this survey have no confidence in his achieving his political agenda?

Is lip service without execution without a viable option anymore for continued success in Malaysian politics? The quick demise of the Abdullah administration has served a warning for any Malaysian politicians that easy solutions and losing sight of the ball will lead to a very short political career.

The survey has indeed shown that despite his personal popularity, Najib’s performance is in question. His popularity may stem from his largesse in doling out goodies. As to whether this will translate to victory in the coming General Election, it remains to be seen.

(Pic source: http://www.klpos.com/news/2009/02/02/3.html)

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The Moderate Path

My name is Alex Tan and this is my blog. I am a businessman, a political worker, a writer and a film-maker from Malaysia.

The name of this blog is the Moderate Path. This is because of my own personal views of a principle which I believe in. Three of the greatest philosophers and teachers in this world, Buddha, Confucius and Aristotle, taught us that the path to happiness and truth lies in the moderate path. This is something that will lead humanity to the path of enlightenment and away from the destruction and emptiness. As such, I believe in moderation in everything in life, be it politics, sports, war and personal conduct. Only by avoiding extremism will the human spirit find itself balanced.

I will write  mainly about politics, sports, movies and other matters which I am interested in. My views in this blog may be such that you may or may not agree with me. I do not mind people who disagree with me and I may learn from different points. However, I ask that all comments be made in a fair-minded and reasoned manner. I will not entertain jibes, heckling, insinuations and unwarranted attacks. This is not a blog for the purpose of attacking certain individuals or factions. It is to further our discourse and raise the level of discussion beyond name-calling and taking potshots at people.

As a political worker in the camp of Pakatan Rakyat, my political views will be to argue to support the position. However, there is always room for debate and moderation and not fall victim to blind partisanship. I ask that when you do debate with me, do so with a sincere and open heart and do not do this to further your personal agenda to elevate your political parties or figures.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoy my writings and I also hope to have many excellent discussions in the future.

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