Seen any good movies lately?

A movie is first and last, entertainment. It should not be taken as a historical fact when facts are interwoven with artistic licence 

THE last movie I can remember actually queuing and paying for tickets was “Bobby”. 

“Bobby” (the movie) is a sugar-coated Bollywood epic of love triumphing over a materialistic and stratified society, love over religious beliefs and how the common people can overcome the unwanted attention of upper crusts by moving to another city — all of which are great subliminal content that are sorely missing in today’s comic-book-inspired universe — but I waited in line and spent my measly allowance because Dimple Kapadia was in it. 

In my 13-year-old eyes, Bobby (the girl) was the bomb, and no other reason was needed to watch the movie three times during its one-week run at the Rex, one of two cinemas in Kuala Kangsar, Perak, in 1975. 

Many movies have come and gone, and of course, with the advent of things like VHS, DVD and streaming nowadays physically sweating in line for tickets is an investment now extinct for the moviegoer, or the concertgoer for that matter. 

My remembrance of Dimple was jolted this week by offspring texting me — a rare occurrence nowadays on account that my kids are all grown and busy adulting. 

“Babah, help me get Coldplay ticket. Urgent!” read one terse communique from the youngest. 

“What’s a Coldplay? Just wait until it comes out on Netflix,” I texted back. 

It’s my standard answer to them whenever they need tickets for Blackpink, Disney on Ice or any of the multitude of international live events that deigned to grace our shores, so I don’t know why they still bother. 

They still sell physical tickets for Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) matches and some other local shows, but apparently, people don’t have to queue in person for tickets nowadays because it is too slow for the mega-corporations, and they need my help. 

“You just register and bid for the tickets, we need as many people to bid for them online,” said another text. 

I told them that I can’t even take the stress of bidding for MySejahtera Covid vaccine slots, or even Khairul Aming’s Sambal Nyet Berapi and until recently Touch-N-Go cards for that matter; what makes them think we have a chance against professional scalpers using bots. It would be a futile endeavour. 

As it turned out I was right and now people, most probably scalpers, are re-selling Coldplay tickets at hundreds of thousand times their original prices. 

But let’s get back to movies. 

This week someone invited me to see “Anwar: The Untold Story”. 

No need for tickets or queuing. Just out of curiosity, I Googled reviews of the movie and all are singing praises of it.

Now, since “Mat Kilau”, I am wary of reviews for this kind of pseudo-historical, pseudo-documentary movies in general. But one review stood out because the writer, instead of gushing over the film, critiqued the acting, the screenplay and its accuracy in portraying a living person. 

I thought that it sounded like a fair review as a whole since the critic railed against the foreign cast, the quality of the dialogue, etc, but judging by the responses in the comment section, many are taking it personally as against the movie subject Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. 

Now, putting it in context, a movie is first and last, entertainment. 

It should not be taken as a historical fact when facts are interwoven with artistic licence — something that happens in movies that are put out commercially for ticket-paying patrons. 

When a bad review of a movie is being taken as a bad review of the subject of the movie itself, this is an indication of pedestal worship. 

With crucial state elections happening soon, releasing such a movie at this time smells purely of commercial considerations, remember Mat Kilau, but the political aspect will also rear its head. 

However, I have little interest not for any artistic or political reasons but on account that I don’t even watch movies on Netflix, except maybe “John Wick”. 

But with such content, no doubt, Anwar’s supporters will clamour to see it and equally opposite those who are not fans of the PM will also see it. It is after all a movie about Anwar and the country is divided on how to perceive him in the light of his reform messages before the last election and the compromises that the present government has been forced to make. 

The interest is not between the hypocrite and the reformer, it is between us the frightened, and what the people fear. 

A public relations (PR) battle is being waged to win over a people who increasingly perceive themselves as controlling nothing. 

With a conduit into the mother lode of such fears, the producers may be on their way to laughing their way to the bank. 

  • ZB Othman is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition