OFF THE BENCH
Must-see films for Thaksin to watch during his break
A group of lecturers from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Arts recently gave Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra a list of must-read books to help him engage in some much-needed soul-searching.
Now that Thaksin has become a caretaker premier on vacation, we at The Nation hereby offer him another list of must-watch movies, in order to further enlighten our much-loved premier. Here are our nominations, and inclusion on the list is not based on quality.
1 "Ong-Bak" (2003)
This Thai film became an international sensation because of its liberal use of Thai martial arts and its timely plot. "Ong-Bak" tells the story of a young boy's mission to recapture a stolen national asset, the head of a revered Buddha statue. It was a big hit in Thailand, touching the hearts and minds of Thais who, like the protagonist Ting, felt that national assets should not be transferred into the hands of foreigners. Audiences cheered when Ting used his muay Thai skills to jab and kick the villains. Some politicians, on the other hand, would probably lease Phuket to Singapore for 99 years if they could get away without paying tax on the deal.
2 "Evita" (1996)
Madonna starred as Eva Duarte, the wife of Argentine President Juan Peron who became a heroine to legions of poor voters before she died in 1952. Based on the stage production, this musical drama promotes populist policies in the form of Madonna throwing banknotes to the citizens, who are eager to collect the easy money. The movie ends when Evita prematurely dies from cancer before she can witness her husband's fall from grace, which stemmed from government overspending. Latin American countries later faced an economic crisis of huge proportions. Then we all sang the memorable lines, "Don't cry for me Argentina./ The truth is I never left you:/ All through my wild days,/ My mad existence,/ I kept my promise;/ Don't keep your distance."
3 "Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman" (1963)
This Japanese samurai flick has been remade several times, with its classic theme of a blind hero overcoming great odds to fight against a corrupt empire ruled by fear. We picked the 1963 version, which starts off with Zatoichi uncovering an unholy alliance between a community leader and a regional strongman. This alliance results in a number of scams, including forcing impoverished girls into prostitution, falsifying tax records and placing farmers in greater debt. Despite its Japanese roots, the movie became a worldwide cult hit, because we all liked to root for this blind samurai hero. Zatoichi crosses swords with the bad guys, to show his disapproval of falsified tax-declaration documents.
4 "All the President's Men" (1976)
Based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's personal account, the two journalists expose the high-profile Watergate scandal that later forced US President Richard Nixon from office. The movie starts when the two young reporters investigate the 1972 burglary of Democratic Party headquarters, but they end up uncovering a political conspiracy involving wiretaps, with a little help from a mysterious source known only as "Deep Throat". The revelations eventually force Nixon to resign in August 1974. The entire episode would never have happened had the media not enjoyed freedom.
5 "Wag the Dog" (1997)
Starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, this movie shows how the spin doctors in Washington can distract people's attention away from the real issues. The movie starts with a lady accusing the president of sexual misconduct shortly before an election, and the White House spin doctors must fabricate a war with Albania to shift public attention away from the president's personal scandal. It shows how the public-relations staff masterfully manipulate the media for political gain. Remember the aborted plan by the Thai government to acquire Liverpool Soccer Club (hint, hint)? And Thaksin's reality-television show broadcast from At Samat district (wink, wink)? Then, boom! Shin Corp was sold.
6 "Rashomon" (1950)
This Akira Kurosawa classic describes a crime from different perspectives. Set in feudal Japan, the story is told through a bandit, a woman, her husband and a woodcutter. Each has a different account of the incident in question. "Rashomon" was reprised just last week, when the Caravan of the Poor sealed off the offices of Kom Chad Luek newspaper. The incident was later told from different perspectives, resulting in a lawsuit and a counter-suit on the same day. Kom Chad Luek staff said the Caravan mob had resorted to intimidation; Caravan spokesmen said they had been nice and friendly; the police remained eerily silent; a twist came when a mysterious Lexus, believed to belong to a certain politician, appeared nearby.
7 "Dude, Where's My Car?" (2000)
A slapstick comedy, starring Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott, it begins with the main characters waking up one morning after a night of partying and being unable to remember where they parked their car. The moral of the story is that some politicians should not let their cars be seen in the wrong place at the wrong time.
8 "Taxi Driver" (1976)
Although this Robert De Niro vehicle has been around for three decades, a number of Thai cabdrivers have only recently assumed some of the characteristics of the main character, Travis Bickle. Cab-driver Bickle, a loner and psychopath, slips deeper into insanity after being rejected by an attractive underage hooker. But a number of Thai cab-drivers have become verbally abusive towards their passengers of late if they find the latter to be of a different opinion politically. Criticism of Prime Minister Thaksin can bring scary looks from the drivers in the rear-view mirror and an attitude of: "You talkin' to me?" Perhaps they should look for a Jodie Foster to come to the rescue.
9 Hail the Judge (1994)
This Chinese comedy is a take on the popular Judge Pao, who was a righteous man who corrected injustices during the Ming Dynasty. Starring Stephen Chow, this version tells the story of Judge Pao's descendant, also a judge. But instead of upholding the law, this Judge Pao is more interested in money. It raises the question of how an idiotic and erratic judge like this one could have attained such a position. Thank God this version of Judge Pao flopped at the Constitution Court!
Jeerawat Na Thalang