Category Archives: films

Reel Asian 2017 Articles

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival is heading into town and I’ve been dispatched by Ricepaper Magazine to cover it. A few pieces were also done for Looseleaf Magazine, a Project40 Collective publication based in Toronto. Since festivals want press coverage before the festival is open to the public, I’ve been busy writing and watching the films as of late. When my husband asked what it meant that I was dispatched to cover this, I told him that it meant he had to babysit more!

I’ll continuously be updating this page as more work gets published, the Reel Asian Film Festival runs November 9-18, 2017 and a lot of the films get only one showing, so grab tickets while you can! For inspiring film makers there are lots of seminars on how to hone your craft or handle taxes, but you have to reserve your spot ahead of time.

For parents with krakens, there are Wee Asian events on weekends with free animation films and crafts for children. It’s at the TIFF building which means lots of space and large bathrooms for diaper changes.

Events

Reel Festival Overview of events

Press conference coverage for The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 

Wee Asian Diary Entry 

Film Reviews

Summary post of all film reviews

Stand Up Man (Canada, 2017)

Bad Genius ฉลาดเกมส์โกง (Thailand, 2017)

Dear Etranger 幼な子われらに生まれ (Japan, 2017)

A Whale of a Tale おクジラさま〜ふたつの正義の物語 (Japan 2017) 

The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 

Interviews

Summary post of all interviews

Simu Liu, Kim’s Convenience Actor

Aram Collier, Director of Stand Up Man

Nattawut Poonpiriya, Director of Bad Genius

Yukiko Mishima, Director of Dear Etranger

Kristine Estorninos, Reel Asian Head of Programming

Looseleaf Magazine article

Film review: Jesus is Dead (Philippines, 2016)

 

Advertisements

Ad Astra Schedule

Ad Astra (a fantasy, science fiction literary convention) will be held in Richmond Hill April 4-6, 2014.

As a guest panelist, I will be appearing on the following panels. Here are the dates, times, room numbers and panel topic:

Saturday, April 5
Oakridges 11:30am-12:00pm – Author reading
Whitchurch 12:00-12:30pm – Author signing
Markham B 1:00-2:00pm – The LEGO Movie: Everything is Awesome
Markham A 3:00-4:00 pm Advantages and Disadvantages in the Self-Publishing Game

Sunday, April 6, 2014
Markham A 1:00-2:00 pm Creating Authentic Settings in Urban Fantasy

Sheepishly, I admit my print book isn’t ready but my e-book should be done in time by the time Ad Astra hits. I’ll have postcards from my Kickstarter campaign to sign and give away to remind people to pick up the e-book or print book at a later date.

As one of the new authors on a list of 50 authors, I’m not even sure if anyone will show up for my book reading or signing! But I have cookies for those who do! We’ll pig out and chat!

Looking forward to geeking out about the LEGO movie, talking about self-publishing and creating new worlds in fantasy!

Fun medals for Hobbit fans

A few days ago I saw the second Hobbit movie and made it through the whole thing without peeing. As a small person with a tiny bladder, this was a huge deal for me! My husband with his iron bladder said in amusement in the end that I deserved a medal.

So what the heck, I’m still jet lagged anyways and don’t feel like unpacking; why not make medals to share with everyone who survived the movies without peeing?!

Medals can be downloaded for fun here: https://jfgarrard.com/medals/

Feel free to share this ridiculous joy and take pride in the fact that you are a champion!

Q & A with Simon Horrocks, Third Contact Director

Happy New Year everyone!

The year 2014 is the year of the horse which means that many people will be working hard and creating new projects this year.  No exception to this is Simon Horrocks, who is not only a director; he is also a cameraman, composer, cinematographer, editor and screenwriter.  He may also be a makeup artist and gourmet chef, but I didn’t see that in the imbd credits of his new film.

We met on twitter on December 31, 2013, as he was busy spreading word his Indiegogo campaign to bring his film, “Third Contact” to CanadaThird Contact received its World Premiere at the Internationale Hofer Filmtage on 25 October, 2012 in Hof and was a successful Kickstarter campaign with 435 backers for a London BFI IMAX event.

3C screenshot 1

Hi Simon, thanks for taking the time to do this quick Q & A with me.  I watched the trailer for your Indiegogo campaign and was quite intrigued as I used to work in a mental hospital and love dark films.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to create this movie after years as a professional composer?  You did some work on short films; did they serve as a catalyst for you to start working on your own film project?

I was a professional composer, writing music for TV shows such as Oprah and NBC sport, BBC daytime shows, plus the occasional Playstation game. My main passion was filmmaking. I’d wanted to be a director since before I knew what it meant. So I’d also been writing a lot, selling and optioning a few screenplays, but none of them made it into production.

I’d also been involved in a few shorts. When I fell on hard times as a composer, I had to get a ‘day job’ for the first time in 20 years, working in a cinema. But this gave me the opportunity to decide I was ready to write and direct my first feature film.

Often bad things that happen to us can be used as an opportunity to change ourselves. I took that opportunity.

In regards to your Third Contact, can you tell us a bit about the plot and themes?  

The film is about a psychotherapist who has lost faith in the world, but when disaster strikes, he uses it as an opportunity to rejuvenate himself and embarks on an obsessive investigation into the mysterious deaths of two patients.

Although the film is part scifi, exploring philosophical implications of ideas in quantum physics, its also a love story and a story about madness, depression, obsession, regret, loss. So I believe we can all connect with these themes.

The interesting things is, although it might be considered an ‘arthouse’ film, I’ve found people who don’t normally watch those kind of films get something from Third Contact that they weren’t expecting.

How was this story inspired?  Did it take long to write?

It was inspired from what one critic described as a ‘goldmine of ideas’. I had already worked on a script back in 2006-7 using the idea of quantum suicide. So I approached the subject again, but in a different way. I wrote the first draft in about a month or so, then had my filmmaker friend, Verity (who I met working at the cinema), read the script and give me notes.

I wanted Verity to help because she is a very unique and talented filmmaker, who I knew would be sympathetic to the work. I knew she wouldn’t impose any screenwriting rules, she would just assess it as a story. So after about 3 drafts and 6-7 month, I was ready to make the film.

When did you first learn about the idea of quantum suicide and why is this so intriguing?

I read an article about it around 2005, while I was looking into various quantum mechanics ideas. It had such a striking name, I had to find out more. The idea of subjective-immortality was very interesting, and I thought about this idea for a long time. It certainly changed the way I saw the universe and life in general.

I think a lot of current ‘scifi’ stories are basically future tech stories, which are old stories dressed up in fancy new clothes. Star wars and the current Star Trek films, for example, are basic action films with laser guns and spaceships.

I like my stories, and particularly scifi, to be thought-provoking. And subjective-immortality is certainly that. I could probably make films for the rest of my life on that one subject and never fully explore it.

How many people or countries have seen this film and are you happy with their reaction? 

While we were running the kickstarter, we realised we were now selling the film to the entire planet, as this was the way crowdfundng via the internet works. So we realised we couldn’t just focus on a UK premiere as the main attraction, it had to be a global premiere.

We decided to broadcast the film live over the internet, simultaneously with the film showing in the BFI IMAX, and hold the Q&A taking questions from the audience in the theatre and the online audience via a twitter feed we projected up onto the big screen.

The premiere was seen in 22 different countries by almost 1000 people, including the 300 or so in the theatre.

The reaction was amazing. Better than we ever dreamed of. So many people not only expressed their love for the film but returned days later to say the film had stayed with them.

Filmmaking is very expensive, how did you fund this movie and did you ever think about making it commercial via film festivals or selling the script?  Is script querying similar to novel querying, taking many years to find an agent?

Filmmaking doesn’t have to be expensive. The budget for Third Contact was £4000, which included the cost of buying the camera and the mic. Anyone can pick up a camera and make a feature film. But it will require a huge amount of effort, dedication and people putting their time in for the love of the project.

Someone came up to me after the IMAX premiere and told me I should make the film more commercial, if I wanted a career. I said – we just hired the biggest, most prestigious cinema in the UK and made a profit, outselling all the other shows on the night combined (we are talking films made for $100m +) – the film is commercial. He had to agree.

You have to remember, nobody knows anything. How many publishers turned down Harry Potter? Presumably, because they thought it wasn’t commercial. The idea that Harry Potter isn’t commercial is an absurdity to us now, but for how long did Rowling have to listen to that?

I don’t know anything about getting a novel published, but I did have a screenwriting agent in LA for about a year. From that experience, I realised I didn’t want to be anybody’s writer. I wanted to develop my own vision, and that could only happen outside the industry. The industry are too scared to take risks on anything. If they’re too scared to take a risk on Harry Potter, you know they are really incredibly conservative.

Either that, or its an elitist club, where everyone is doing each other favours. Which means that if you don’t have the right friends, or are not very good at making the right friends, you have no career.

Film festivals work exactly the same way; the major ones do, anyway. Its all about who you know and if you send your film in blindly with the submission fee, you are essentially paying for your own rejection letter. How many of the films which are programmed do you think paid the submission fee?

So, if you don’t have the right friends, be prepared to fight to get noticed. Give it everything, if you really believe in what you are doing. Ignore the naysayers.

What are the steps from script to actually finishing a film?  Did it take a long time?

It took roughly 3 years from writing the first word to finishing the final edit. The steps are long, partly because I was teaching myself how to do things as I went. I’d never shot a film before, so I had to learn how to use a camera. I’d never edited a film before, so I had to learn. Which means re-doing things again and again, to get it right.

We re-wrote the music score 3 or 4 times to get it right. This is very time-consuming.

Do you have any advice for budding film makers?  Would you recommend they try crowd funding?

You don’t need money to make a film. You do need money to promote a film and get it seen. Having said that, crowdfunding is there, and if you show you are committed, people will back you. Filmmaking is about your audience.

If you don’t have an audience, there’s no point making a film. Crowdfunding is a way to engage your audience and involve them in what you are doing. Its a fantastic opportunity to develop your filmmaking voice with your fans, who will be cheering on your risk-taking rather than throwing a wet towel over it, like the industry will.

Will your next film project be a dark story or something lighter? 

I don’t set out to make something dark. I write stories I’m inspired by and passionate about. I personally don’t enjoy ‘happy ending’ films, or films which try to force a positive message on you, because I think it’s a lie. Nothing ends neatly and ‘happily ever after’. Life is messy, complex, bittersweet.

The ‘heroes journey’ template which Hollywood, and supposedly ‘commercial’ cinema, follows slavishly is incredibly patronising to it’s audience. Its saying you are too stupid to deal with any complex reflection of reality, so its going to be simplified for you.

I personally believe its possible to reflect reality and entertain people without patronising them. Why do Shakespeare’s plays still hold up 400 years later? Why do Dickens’ stories still draw big audiences? Because they are gripping stories which reflect the complexity of life.

Back to Third Contact, can you give us a final pitch on how awesome it would be for the audience if they contribute to your campaign?  What are the goodies they receive?

We find ourselves in a position with Third Contact where audiences love the film, but the industry are refusing to take a risk with it. So we have developed a new way of showing this film in cinemas.

We are using our own ‘cinema on demand’ method, using the IndieGoGo.com platform. If you would like to see this film in one of the cinemas listed, you need to make it happen. If we don’t get enough seat reservations, by the events deadline, the show will not go ahead.

For the shows in Canada, you can pledge for a seat for $10. There are other options as well, such as a signed poster of a CD of the original score, or the official Third Contact t-shirt. You can add these for a little extra contribution, which will help us reach the target, so we can then go ahead and hire the cinemas.

If we don’t reach the target, IndieGoGo will refund you. But we hope it won’t come to that. By reserving your seat, you are helping independent cinema to develop its own voice, away from the risk-free industry.

If this works for us, other indie filmmakers will be able to follow us, so you will be reinvigorating cinema and encouraging filmmakers to come up with fresh ideas, by getting involved and supporting us.

Have a great New Year and may 2014 be the best year yet for Third Contact!  Please have a look at his link to his Indigogo campaigns happening all over the place for this film and hopefully it will be showing in a local theatre new you.  The links below are for his campaigns if you want to see something thought provoking!

January 30 – Cube Cinema, Bristol

February 12 – The Cinema Museum, London

February 18 – Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford

February 22 – Central Kino in Berlin

February 24 – Rio Theatre, Vancouver, Canada

February 26 – Mayfair Theatre, Ottawa, Canada

February 28 – Carlton Cinema, Toronto, Canada

March 6 – Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle

March 7 – Late Show at The Sheffield Showroom

March 12 – The Forum, Norwich

Third Contact Poster (small)

Some neat stuff at Fan Expo!

There were a lot of big name guests at Fan Expo in Toronto this year, ranging from George Takei to Zachary Quinto. I wanted to see if I was taller than George Takei, but apparently he is still taller than me. He told me he was 5’7″ and thought it was amusing I was on my tip toes to even talk to him as I couldn’t reach the table! Meeting him and Shaun Yuen (in Walking Dead with super flawless skin) really made the Expo for me as I was excited to meet Asian celebrities! Shaun commented that I should think positive and not negative in general; I wonder if being cynical is a Toronto/NY thing as the people from LA are all super cheery!  Must be the sun…

Overall, the convention took up two buildings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North and South. The distance between them involved a short walk and about 5 escalators! I ended up only going to the dealer’s room twice, both on business, but I had a chance to visit a friend who had a booth at artist alley. Things in artist alley all looked great and professional. The dealer’s room had a huge lego display of hobbit houses, which was super neat! There was also a giant Yoda, Superman and Ninja Turtles Mural. In the North building someone brought in the Bat Mobile from the Tim Burton movie (apparently I’m the only person who can’t tell the difference). There were some cute costumes of course and lots of Dr. Who cosplay!

It sounds odd, but I usually like doing volunteer work at conventions instead of being a regular attendee. I like contributing and doing some work as I am a person who can’t relax! And it’s also a chance to see some behind the scenes stuff too! Every year I forget where I put my pictures, so I will post some here instead of losing them!

People wise, I got the chance to interact with a few and I have to say I am now a huge fan of the Ashmore brothers (Shawn & Aaron). They are super nice and will no doubt do very well in the future. Shawn is in the Following and will be Ice Man in the new X-men movie coming out July 2014. Aaron is in Warehouse 13, a show I have to start watching. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura, Star Trek) is a super classy lady; Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy, Star Trek) is super tall and sexy; Dean Cain (Superman, Smallville) likes to hug people and unfortunately I only got a blurry snap of Zachary Quinto, but I heard that he is a super nice guy.

Pics below for your enjoyment!

zach ss

dr who girls ss

hobbit house s

Ninja Turtles ss

Yoda ss

Batmobile ss

What’s scarier to horror movies? McCarthyism!

Last weekend I caught a film called Blue Kite about the rising of Communism in which people either willingly went along with the reform or they would be accused of being a “Rightist” and sentenced to hard labor.  The story followed a little boy who grew up as he saw various people die around him.  His father was accused of being a Rightist, sent far away to do hard labor and died after a tree fell on him.  The family never recovered his body.  Then his uncle dies due to a combination of malnourishment (there was a famine) and hard labor.  His high ranking Communist stepfather is accused by other party members of being a Rightist as well and dies of a heart attack during interrogation.  The landlady, who started off quite rich in the movie, ends up impoverished as her saved rations are taken from her (the accusers said she bought flour on the black market although the landlady says she saved it to make her son buns to welcome him home) and she is forced to lower all rents as entrepreneurship is not encouraged. 

To balance the situations, there were lots of pro-Communist characters, with one being the boy’s aunt who talks ideally about how they were the pioneers, living in a time of historical change.  In general, many of the people just wanted to live their lives and didn’t care too much about politics.  There were lots of little old lady characters that just wanted peace and quiet for themselves as well as for the younger generations around them.  However, no one really had any choice of not changing as reform started to set into the country.  The movie isn’t about whether Communism is good or bad, but sheds light on how people are swept away by events beyond their control.

thebluekite_01

All the scenes of multiple characters being rounded up by masses of people and then taken away were frightful. It resonated with me that none of the “victims” protested at all. They seem to have decided there was either no point or they were in shock that their friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, etc, were throwing out accusations left and right without any proof. In horror stories, it’s more black and white: monster bad/hungry, humans good. Here, with people you have known turning against you, there is no telling what the motivations are. There was one character who kept saying that she didn’t know what happened and why she was even sent away.

When I told my Viking husband about “Blue Kite” and how it was frightening to see neighbours as well as friends turn against you, he told me to look up McCarthyism. Joseph Raymond “Joe” McCarthy was a Republican U.S. Senator represented the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. During the Cold War, McCarthy started freaking people out by claiming there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. He couldn’t prove his claims and was eventually censured by the United States Senate.

“McCarthyism” was coined by Washington Post cartoonist Herbert Blockwho used the word as a synonym for demagoguery, baseless defamation, and mudslinging. Basically what was happening in Blue Kite was the same thing…life is so depressing sometimes.  This is something which people will use as a weapon when it serves them for whatever gain they want, no matter what country they live in.

mccarthyism cartoon

Jackie Chan…And Why Dubs Are A Necessary Evil…

Had a first world problem today.  The Viking, TIFF goddess and I were suppose to watch Drunken Master tonight; one of the first Jackie Chan movies which gained him recognition as a slapstick comedy, kung fu superstar.  Made in 1978, Jackie Chan plays a young and wild Wong Fei-Hung who painfully learns the technique of the Eight Drunken Gods and then has to protect his perpetually disapproving father from a hired assassin named Thunderleg.  Jackie Chan was booked to introduce the movie and would be doing a Q & A afterwards.

Ten minutes before I order my sandwich to go (to eat in theater due to lack of time between work and movie), TIFF goddess calls me to say that TIFF just emailed her, telling her that the movie will be the English dub version!  Argh!  Wrong reel had been sent – seriously, the man is in town and the audience can’t even listen to his voice on the movie.  Alas, both of us are film snobs, so we made the decision to not see the dubbed film and to just sneak in at the end to see Jackie Chan’s Q & A only (it turned out he wasn’t doing the intro).  The Viking was left out of the decision making process, but he was busy and not answering his phone.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize that the Japanese animation I was watching was dubbed into Cantonese.  Later on, as I watched more Japanese animation in Japanese, I started noticing the differences in the voice acting.  For animation, Japanese voices were always the best, as the actors had proper schooling and everything sounded genuine.  The Cantonese voices were ok, not too horrible.  The English voices were not that great as the voices never sounded like they were taking things seriously.  Over the course of the years, since spending time with English voice actors from Canada and US, the dubbing industry has changed and the bar is being set higher.  I have seen girls rip out their shirts for breast autographs, so there are super voice actor fans out there…However, in the end, I still prefer the original voices the best as there are some things that can’t be translated and they maintain artistic qualities best.

I do recognize that dubbing opens many markets to a different types of media and it is a a necessity for internationalization and globalization of the entertainment industry.  As audiences grow more sophisticated, the need for quality dubbing will continue to rise with higher production costs. The whole dubbing of foreign media started in the 1930s, so this has been around for a long time!  Dubs have no doubt exposed people to many stories and creations outside of their home countries.

Anyhow, after many beers, rabbit pasta and pizza; our party headed upstairs for the Jackie Chan Q & A.  We ended up watching the last 2 minutes of the dubbed film and the voices were awful!  It sounded very cheesy and the theater full of audience were laughing, so I think they were enjoying it.  The Viking told me it sounded torturous and was glad we skipped 109 minutes of it.  The credits didn’t start rolling surprisingly enough and with the snap of a switch, the lights came on and Jackie Chan entered the room.  Many people stood up while clapping and cheering.  He was wearing a white kung fu master outfit with white shoes, which the TIFF goddess pointed out was a very 70s style thing to do.  He spoke intelligently, as he explained how he was always thinking about how to keep his career afloat with different projects and changing all the time in order to learn new things.  A very physical person, he kept demonstrating graceful martial arts moves as he spoke.  Even though I sat far away, I could feel still his charisma and energy.  He made an interesting point on how people elevate others to a higher status through exaggerated stories.  He gave the example that perhaps in one hundred years time, Bruce Lee will have a shrine and will be a god, as more and more people believe in the super human stories of Bruce.  As masses believe in the idea, anyone opposing this god idea would face consequences.  Someone asked about his past promise about making e a movie about Cambodian land mines.  He said that although he was the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), when he was visiting Cambodia, the government tourism board suggested that he defer the project as they were afraid such a film would scare away visitors.  He said he would make it someday, but things take time.  Apparently when he writes a script, it may take 6-8 years.

Overall, it was inspiring to see a successful Asian person whom I’ve always admired live in and speaking impressively.  Also, the fact that he was always learning makes me think that maybe I’m not too crazy either for wanting to do different things all the time as well!

20130612_jackie small

 

Being Sold into Marriage Sucks…lesson from a "Scar Film"

Yesterday afternoon the TIFF goddess took me to see a depressing film called “The Women from the Lake of Scented Souls” (Winner of the Golden Bear at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival).  The main character is a woman named Xiang, who was sold at 7 years of age to a rich family and forced to marry a crippled husband.  She wanted to commit suicide, but didn’t, due to her iron mother-in-law’s lecturing.  Later on, she establishes a scented oil business and made her family the wealthiest in the village.  Her husband would party all night (watching singing and HK movies on boats with other men, as well as drinking) while she did all the hard labor, running of the business, etc.  They have a son who is mentally delayed (also has epileptic seizures) and a normal daughter.  One day her son demands a wife as he sees some children pretending to get married.  Since her son has a crush on a local girl from a poor family, she buys the girl to become her son’s wife after some manipulations of local lenders who couldn’t collect from this family.  The business grows bigger as a single, modern Japanese lady invests into the business, making  Xiang realize that her life is pretty crummy in the rural village and she has a really crappy husband.  In the end,  Xiang becomes enlightened as she realizes she may have destroyed this girl’s life by buying her and forcing her to marry her son.  So she offers to let the girl go.  But the girl cries as she doesn’t think anyone would want her as a wife.

The cinematography was incredibly beautiful in this movie and the people traveled down the river in wooden boats, adding to its exoticism.  The director Xie Fei was there, explaining that he had been sent to this village for “re-education” as he had been a professor during the Communist Revolution.  The TIFF staff who did the Q & A asked if he was sent to the village to learn, as if it was a vacation or something.  Xie Fei just smiled politely and said that he learned a lot about the struggles of women there, as he said the women did all the hard labor while the men partied on the boats, doing no work.  We learn that because of the Cultural Revolution, films were not made for popular consumption between 1966-1977.  He is a “fourth generation” director, which means he had received his training before 1966, but then had his career disrupted by the revolution.  This film is also considered a “scar film” which depicts the harsh reality of rural life, oppression, subjugation of women/peasants, old patriarchal system, death, destruction, war and lots of suffering.

women scented

Are Chinese women gaining more ground in society?  There are articles on rich Chinese women in Forbes and many are more educated than before; but there is much contradictory data on the web.  In a study by National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the New York-based Asia Society, they state that just 10 of the 205 Communist Party’s Central Committee members are women, and no woman has ever held a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body.  In a 2010 survey of women’s social status in China by the All-China Women’s Federation, 61.6% of men and 54.6% of women surveyed said that “men belong in public life and women belong at home,” which actually increased in numbers from a survey done in 2000.  Accounting firm Grant Thornton surveyed 200 businesses in China, of which 94% employed women in senior roles, which is good news.  If you are interested in reading more, there is an article with links about the topic here.

This movie reminded me of my grandmothers as one had an arranged marriage and one did not.  The grandmother that got to chose her spouse seemed happier I suppose, but there were also other factors; such as her wealthier family background, a chance at education and a choice in career (she became a high school principle).  The other grandmother grew up in a rural community and was arranged into marriage at the old maid age of 18.  This grandmother laments that her family refused to educate her, although her father was a school teacher and ended up only being able to do manual labour or crafts for money as a result of this (farm & embroidery work).  Both grandmothers wanted the best for their children and grandchildren, especially the females, and passed on the lesson of the importance of education and not depending on anyone else for survival.  Years later I asked the grandmother with the arranged marriage if she ever fell in love with grandfather, like on the Hong Kong soap operas.  Her answer was that “it was different back then.”  Today, the project manager that I work with listened to my description of all this and commented on how in present day that things are skewed the other way.  People have fantasies and expectations of the other sex which are not realistic.  They are all looking for a perfect someone which does not exist.  The reality is that no one is perfect and being with someone means accepting their flaws.

The Price of Marriage in China is a fascinating article about modern spouse hunting in China in a country by the end of this decade, which will have a surplus of 24 million unmarried men.  Chinese women postponing marriage to pursue careers, but are pressured to try to marry before 28 or they become stigmatized as “leftover women” or shengnu. Opposite are shengnan, “leftover men”, mostly poor rural men left behind as female counterparts marry up in age and social status. The article follows Diamond Love, a dating agency for rich men (fees range from $50,000 USD to more than $1 million USD) who want women that are young, beautiful and of course, a virgin.  Interestingly, the agency rejected a rich woman client who wanted to spend $100,000 USD to find a husband which they said was impossible as she was too successful.  The reporter also follows a mother trying to find a wife for his son who has a lower salary than women he meets.  The girls either reject him, or offer to take care of him for the rest of his life.  Very interesting and long article, have a look if you have time!

How To Warp A Child's Mind…

What do you remember from your childhood in regards to movies, television or other forms of entertainment?  Seeing an old Chinese gangster movie last night made me remember some horrible stuff I saw while I was trapped in the playpen.

This weekend, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) goddess invited me and my husband to screenings of old Chinese movies which were part of “A Century of Chinese Cinema” featuring films from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The first one we saw was Chungking Express (1994), introduced by cinematographer Christopher Doyle.  He said that the apartment in the film was actually his old apartment in Hong Kong and that the movie couldn’t have been set anywhere else but Hong Kong as it paid homage to the city at the time.  He was rambling a bit and perhaps slightly drunk as he laid on the carefully covered grand piano, then started dancing at the Faye Wong song during the credits.  TIFF goddess sighed at the lack of professionalism; but I smiled knowingly, thinking about all the Anime North guests I had taken care of in the past who were just as difficult and had to be chased down all the time to keep their activity schedule.  The ending in which two characters waited for each other for over a year made me wonder if people now would wait such time for true love even it if was uncertain?  Then I remember that my Viking (this is my nickname for my husband due to his red hair & beard) and I had been separated for three years as we were in different schools for a while.  It seems like a small blip of time in our relationship now that we are on year 14.

Christpher Doyle introduces Chungking Express
Christpher Doyle introducing Chungking Express

It was the music in the second movie, A Better Tomorrow (1986) which made me and much of the audience (Chinese girls/boys) feel nostalgic as we grew up listening to this music which infiltrated Hong Kong culture at the time.  The movie was not really about cool gangsters (trend of the 90s) as they were on the “wrong road”, but about comradery and the Chinese title “True Colors of a Hero” explains the extent of sacrifice one would do for their friends.  The long trench coats, brick cellphones, cd players, eighties hairdos and horrible subtitle translations added to the charm of the film.

The songs in the movie were mainly sung by Leslie Cheung, a super talented pop star who came out in the later years and then committed suicide due to depression.  Nansun Shi was the executive producer of the movie and she had some great stories about how everyone thought that the film would fail as nonsense comedies were the trend at the time.  She sounded like a super smart lady who would make a great role model; will have to learn more about her sometime.  “Surely your mother would not have let you watch gangster films as a child!” the TIFF goddess lamented after I told her how the music reminded me of my childhood.

Nansun Shi Q&A, A Better Tomorrow
Nansun Shi Q&A, A Better Tomorrow

I started to recall what the days were like when trapped in the play pen/child jail.  Back in the day, there were barely any Chinese video stores around, so my mother’s friends would record many movies onto VHS tapes and lend them around.  It was important that the children watch Hong Kong entertainment or we would never learn the language!  I remember watching happy children cartoons…which faded into static…then movies with war, monsters, ghosts, vampires and other things that were adult rated would come on as the tape kept rolling.  My most vivid and frightening memory of a movie during my play pen days was one about the Vietnam war and a scene in which a prisoner was tortured in various ways before finally being hung upside down and having his throat slit.  I remember crying out for my mother, but no one came.  I’m sure they were busy with something at the time.  Anyhow, speaking with my brother, he remembers a movie with a clown running around raping police women.  The clown was caught after the police hired a prostitute to dress up as a police women as a decoy.  He was scared of clowns for years and still is, perhaps.

As for me, after the horrible torture scenes, I was not bothered by aliens, monsters or any “horror” genre things after this.  It might also explain how afterwards I started reading lots of Stephen King and Clive Barker to find the initial “thrill” of being shocked again.  My parents assumed I was reading Jane Austin, but they didn’t really care as long as I was reading something to improve my English…My siblings and I turned out ok in the end, but I’m not sure if I would do the same to my child as I think I’m become indifferent to many things compared to my Viking. Horror movies gives him nightmares and he is not my partner when it comes to watching that type of stuff.

Japanese psychological horror movies are more interesting to me now than the American slash stuff as I have read/watched too much of it as a teenager.  The most disturbing scene in the famous horror franchise Ju-On (American remake – The Grudge) for me is not the killing, but it is when the main character tries to hide under her bed sheets, but can’t, as the little boy ghost is there watching her.  Similarly, in the Japanese manga Uzumaki in which people turn into snails and are trapped in a small town; the most horrible scene is when starving business men start eating the snails and saying that it tasted like sashimi.  After randomly picking up that book and reading that panel, I thought with glee – wow, that is so horrible, that it’s going to be stuck in my brain forever!

But for now, I think I’ll pause and listen to this beautiful music from “A Better Tomorrow” while feeling some nostalgia.  Some people tell me that childhood was their happiest time in their lives due to lack of responsibility and worries.  For me, I remember being depressed and a bit suicidal starting at the age of four, perhaps due to watching so much death on film.  My brain was warped early on I suppose, which explains why I’m so dark and cynical sometimes!

 

Life is depressing…and my husband doesn't have enough dwarfs!

After work today, I went to see a film with the TIFF goddess (she is a major Toronto International Film Festival sponsor/hobby film historian).  Entering the TIFF theatre, I was impressed that there were six people in the room.  For some reason, I tend to frequent really odd films which usually have few people in the audience.  Anyhow, just before the movie started, someone walked in and announced that “Lore” (a film about children of Nazi soldiers who have to travel across the country with a Jewish companion) was showing in another theatre.  So 2 people walk out.  Great!  We have a total of four people in the room with me and TIFF goddess making up half of the audience.

The movie we watched was Pietà, a Korean film which made its world premiere in the competition line-up of the 69th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion. It also won at three major international film festivals — Venice, Cannes and Berlin.  I had read reviews in the newspaper where snobby critics said that “The Master” should have won instead of this film in Venice, which made me wonder as I really didn’t like The Master that much.  I am happy to report that this movie was much better that The Master and was very moving, although there was a lot of violence and torture.

Its title refers to the Italian Pietà (piety/pity), referring to depictions of the Virgin Mary cradling the corpse of Jesus.  The main character Kang-do, is a thug who cripples people to collect insurance money in lieu of the payments they owe his loan shark boss.  One night, after a day of crippling people, a strange woman shows up at his doorstep and claims to be the mother who abandoned him 30 years ago.  To test if this is true, he tortures her in various ways and eventually believes that she is his mother.  He becomes attached to her and of course, at this point, you figure that she probably is back for revenge after she says:

“Money is the beginning and end of all things. Love, honour, violence, fury… hatred, jealousy… revenge… death…”

Pieta_poster

Without giving too much away, at the end of this movie, everyone suffers or dies.  The film was quite touching though as it depicted how much a mother is willing to go through for her children, whether it be physical torture or self-sacrifice.  Korean movies always have the most beautiful crying scenes, everyone looks so pretty!  It was sad as well to see all the unfortunate lives who thought that borrowing from a loan shark would give them the ability to make a better life, but in the end there were dire consequences.  The main character is a cold, uncaring person who does a good job at inflicting pain due to his abandonment – however, after developing strong feelings for the new manipulative mother in his life, he does change.  So there was a message of hope for a few seconds.  Alas, did I mention this is a depressing movie?  It is also a moral tale to not borrow from strange loan sharks who charge 10x the loan after a month or to care too much about money as it leads to bad things.

df title

After seeing this, I came home slightly sad over this film and wanted my husband to give me some hugs.  After a few minutes, he started to complain that he had to pay attention to his dwarfs, as he had accidentally drowned one in a well and the other dwarfs were drinking water from it.  Also, the dead dwarf had returned as a ghost to haunt the others.   He is one of many addicted to a game called “Dwarf Fortress“, in which the point is to keep the dwarfs in the game happy with beer (they don’t drink water) while building mines and expanding their territory.  They also like cats and if their cats are killed by various enemies (dragons, goblins, etc), the dwarfs will become depressed, commit suicide or go on murderous insane rampages.  I was feeling grumpy, so I threatened to erase his game.  He gave me the puppy dog look along with, “there are dwarf children, elderly dwarfs and baby dwarfs…”  He then excitedly showed me the new “Dwarf Therapist” program which lists all the dwarfs and the skills they can be assigned as it is difficult to manage his current 91 – which is a small number, as he started to complain that he was being limited by manpower in whatever he was trying to build next.  I told him I was excited for his new therapist program and was now I was going to write about it.  He called me a meanie and that was that!  Great conversations we have in this household!