29 Februari

To be honest, I don’t usually watch Malaysian films. When Masumi asked me to recommend her any Malaysian films at the DVD store, I told her I don’t know what to recommend because as far as I could tell, contemporary Malaysian films are limited to sappy romance, silly comedy or horror. Some even combine the 3 genres into one story.

Today was different though. I had some time to kill and I thought, maybe I could watch a Malaysian film. After browsing on Iflix for a bit, I decided to settle on “29 Februari”.

29 Februari is a love story/musical directed by Edry Abdul Halim about a man who was born on the 29th of February, and only ages once every four years. It’s like the opposite of the movie Jack (1996), where Jack would age 4 times faster each year. 29 Februari was able to hold my attention for the whole 1 ½ hours. Okay, I took a nap in between because I was sick but that doesn’t count!

The story started in 1896, when Budi (played by Remy Ishak) was born. His father is working for the British in Kuala Lumpur. We view the world from Budi’s point of view, when even after 40 years, he looks like he’s 10 and was shunned by the other children for being “old”. In 1941, the Japanese invaded Malaya, the British forces were called to Singapore, Budi’s father was entrusted with the property left by the British.

What came next is perhaps the most devastating part of the movie, his father is captured and beheaded by the Nippon army.  Budi is then raised in an orphanage and sells woven baskets for a living. One fateful day, on 31 August 1957 (he’s 61 at this point), he meets the love of his life, a Chinese girl called Lily (played by Jojo Goh). In case you haven’t noticed, this date was also the Independence Day for Malaya.

Budi and Lily fall in love and dated over the next few years. Interracial marriage was uncommon at that time and with strong opposition from Lily’s family, they were separated. Iflix didn’t have subtitles so I couldn’t really understand the dialogue between Lilly and her family.

Not wanting to go through the arranged marriage to another man, Lily runs away from home. Budi spends the rest of his life looking for her and eventually finds her in 2012 (he’s 116).

One look at this and you could see that it has a high production value. The setting, the backdrop, the props and costumes was on point. Even the insertion of the actual colorized footage from the formal declaration of independence was brilliantly done. I have not seen a lot of local films that are under the “Fantasy” genre so this was like a breath of fresh air.

My pet peeves about Malaysian films is the dubbing quality. Sometimes I can’t tell whether the characters are actually talking or the voices that we hear are just internal monologues. Sometimes their mouths don’t move but they are actually talking to another character.

Next, this is supposed to be a musical. And a musical it is just because the main characters sang a few songs. Or was it the same number over and over, I’m not so sure. The numbers were nothing memorable but it wasn’t as cringy as I thought it would be.

I just wished that there is more storytelling, like how did Budi end up opening a flower shop, or did he have any other girlfriends after that, or how did his close friend die. I don’t know, it just felt like Budi was a bit one-dimensional. And just when I thought that this story is going to be different, they gave me a typical Malaysian film tragedy ending.

Or as my mom would say “Sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga”.

I thought it was well-made but there are always room for improvement. So yes, I would recommend this to Masumi and watch her reaction to it.

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Girl’s Step Movie

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Girls’ Step is a straightforward teen story about unexpected friendship and finding your own true self. There’s nothing new to see here, nothing that hasn’t been done before. But still worth a watch.

Nishihara Azusa (Ishii Anna) is a 2nd year high school student struggling to fit in with the popular kids and just be liked by everyone. All the cool kids are apparently in the school cheerleading squad. While they let Azusa hang with them, she was more like an errand girl, buying them lunch and stuff.

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Introducing Azusa, the protagonist

One day, Azusa along with 4 other girls were called by their PE teacher, Fujiwara sensei (Otozuki Kei), telling them that they were failing the class. I was only watching this movie for Otozuki, by the way. The girls had to do a street dance performance at an autumn festival or fail the subject. Not surprisingly, all the other 4 girls were the very unpopular ones. I’m so sorry, I don’t really remember the other girls’ names.

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For easy reference

The teacher called her friend, a dance instructor to help the girls out. They started practising at the school gym, the same venue the cheerleaders use for their team practices. Immediately, the dance teacher could see that Azusa has potential.

A side note, Ishii Anna is a dancer for LDH’s E-Girls so I bet she had to really water down her moves to make it like she’s just a beginner.

Autumn festival arrives and things didn’t go so well at first. Then, with Azusa’s encouragement, they picked up the pieces and the audience were cheering them on. Even the popular kids didn’t seem that mean after all.

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Underage girl (right most) is off. Get it together!

It didn’t stop there. The girls were actually enjoying each others’ company and perhaps even dancing that they decided they wanted to enter a dance competition. Initially, Megane girl was unable to join, but she really loved dancing. Throughout the practice, things start to get a little bit shaky between them. Popular kids start questioning why Azusa is still hanging out with the unpopular kids. Azusa, who still has no backbone and wants to be accepted, started to back away from her dance teammates.

Underage girl actually has an adult boyfriend, who likes to call her over to his house for Netflix & Chill (although in Japan, I heard people use Hulu more, so I guess Hulu & Chill?). Underage girl started to miss practice and school altogether because she was sick. Why though? We’ll find out later.

With Azusa missing in action, the team kind of broke up and everyone went on their own way. Yankii girl was just pissed off at everything. She just wanted to dance, guys! I forgot what the Other girl was doing. When dance teacher came by to the gym, no one was there.

But they weren’t happy with the way things are now. As Asuza was just staying home, thinking about the choices that she made, she received a call from underage girl. She left the house immediately, running to her friend’s aid. Turned out underage girl was pregnant and she was having a miscarriage. As she was being treated at the hospital, the gang was somehow reunited. Yankii girl, who only knows violence and profanity, decided to take matters into her own hands. She was going after underage girl’s boyfriend to set him straight with a baseball bat.

The boyfriend didn’t want anything to do with them. He was already getting humiliated as they confronted him in front of his workplace. The gang was finally reunited and a good, loud cry fest in public was definitely what they needed. Underage girl was suddenly healthy enough to start dancing again despite the miscarriage she had the day before.

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Aww…I had secondhand embarrassment watching this

Practice resumes. Popular kids are now nicer and let the dance team use the whole gym to rehearse. The competition day arrived, compared to the other dance crews there, they were clearly the underdogs. But who cares, what’s more important is the experience and the friendship bonds they gained from this journey. The popular kids were also there to help out and support them.

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Final dance scene

It was not a bad movie, I actually enjoyed it. There was a few things I didn’t include though, like Azusa liking her neighbour, or the dance teacher’s backstory.

Did I mention that Ishii Anna is super cute? She looks so pure when she cries or smiles. Members of E-Girls love seeing her smile. You should check out episode 3 of Koibumi Biyori where she plays the role of a blind girl. Otozuki only had like a few minutes of screen time but I can see her Otokoyaku-ness peeking through.

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Kimu<3

So this is a good movie to watch if you have nothing to do on a Saturday evening and you just want a simple, feel good, maybe even inspirational movie.

There were good songs too. Take a listen to Generations – All For You and REVOLVER, and Nishino Kana – Go For It! I was expecting some E-Girls song to be in but nope.