Friday, 30 December 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest @ The Old Red Lion

A thoroughly enjoyable production. I had never been to the Old Red Lion before and was surprised to find that it's actually a pub cum theatre - so you can expect a very small but cosy theatre. There's no stage to speak of, the actors are just acting right in front of you, which I think is a great thing - I remember a similar setting at Hampstead Theatre (for the production .45) and it's a brilliant performance. Perhaps I really like being close to the actors...

There's no need to introduce Wilde's famous play, but of course this is a slightly modernised version of it (characters have iPhones and stuff). Despite that, it's still very much Oscar Wilde with all the witty remarks, which is perhaps why it's so enjoyable. It's a very lovely production and I'll surely be back for future performances!

Friday, 16 December 2011


Apart from the big names I don't see why this film's worth seeing at all - Michael Fassbender is good but I personally don't think much of Carey Mulligan in this one. Of course the film's about a sexual addict but I still find the sex scenes a bit excessive and too graphic - sometimes, the line between erotica and porn is really thin. I also find the whole 'plot', if there is one to speak of, quite puzzling - we never find out why Brandon suffers from this addiction and why it seems that both siblings lead chaotic lives. Brandon's especially - he has a good job, is financially affluent, lives in a nice apartment in NYC... what exactly makes him the pervert (I do think that kind of addiction makes him one) he is? His addiction is so serious he has almost lost his mind (and his sister) because of it. It's just sick - and you just find yourself seeking an explanation throughout the film and failing to find one.

BTW, I know Carey Mulligan's hot cake and all that, but her singing isn't all that great - why do we have to listen to that not-so-great song for so long? I almost fell asleep. I wanted to appreciate it but I couldn't, and when she's praised after singing I found myself asking almost out loud 'Seriously?'. Maybe it's just me... but Shame just doesn't strike a chord.

The Artist

A critically acclaimed film - a contemporary production that's a black and white silent film set in 1920s Hollywood. It doesn't feel retro - one could actually imagine it being a really old silent film. The actors are really good in their roles, especially Jean Dujardin - he's totally the George Valentin he plays who 'emits' charisma! I can see why it's popular - we can all be nostalgic sometimes and reminisce about the good ol' days.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Into the Abyss - a documentary by Werner Herzog

Into the Abyss is a documentary about Michael Perry, a death row inmate in Texas. It details his alleged crime (murder, in case you're wondering), how it affects the people around him and the victims' families, and Perry's final journey. It's not the kind of film you want to see, but I'm glad I saw it - it's thought-provoking, and the fact that it's a documentary gives you a real glimpse into these people's lives that a film based on the story wouldn't necessarily provide.

One thing I don't like about the film is actually crucial to the making of it - the interviewer, presumably the director of this documentary, Werner Herzog. I was actually struck by how stupid and insensitive some of his questions are - one (he?) may argue that he intends to prompt a reaction from his interviewees, but a lot of those questions, I think, are totally unnecessary and only show how unskilled he is as an interviewer, though of course he is a much celebrated figure in German cinema. I haven't seen any of his films, and I don't think I'll be rushing to see any after this. Into the Abyss is thought-provoking because of the subject matter (capital punishment) itself, not because of how it's treated in this documentary.

'13' @ National Theatre

National Theatre is actually not that familiar to us - we are more used to the West End theatre scene, so it's an interesting experience. I didn't know before going that there are three theatres there, and quite a lot of space in the area for people to mingle, which is what you don't get in the West End.

13 is a modern play set in present day London, and most of the characters in the play seem to be having the same nightmare when they sleep. The different sets of characters seem to be totally unrelated at first but slowly you see they're all related, as the plot unfolds. Current affairs (London riots, nuclear threats in Iran) and social networking trends are drawn on, but to be honest I still don't see what all these have to do with the common bad dream. To be honest I fell asleep when the PM and the Messiah-like John were having their long chat. I simply couldn't help it - and similarly, towards the end of the play I could hardly suppress my cough; it's just really embarrassing. Overall the play is interesting but it's way too long in my opinion - it's a bloody 2 hours 45 minutes (intervals included)!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Prague - the puppets

Prague's famous for its puppets. I still can't get over the fact that I didn't see any puppet show - a friend told me I have to see it (he couldn't when he was there) and I tried my very best to book, but I'm just really unlucky - the groups I wanted to see were out of town / not available on weekdays (I didn't spend any weekend there). :( 

The puppets I saw are all pretty cool though. Of course there are ones which are mass-produced and aren't of a high quality, but in general the ones I saw are all pretty cute! 

A few pictures I took (I may update this later, when I have sorted the pics... there are too many) 

This is not a puppet but it's very cute! :) 

Prague & Cesky Krumlov trip: FOOD

These are pics of some of the food we consumed in Prague and Cesky Krumlov (can't be bothered to sort all food pics again...). To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with Czech food - I was expecting lots of mouthwatering goulash but all the goulash dishes I had were just okay. S was really disappointed with the bread dumplings - I think both of us appreciate German dumplings A LOT more! But Prague and Cesky Krumlov are beautiful places so it's okay... :) 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Machine Gun Preacher

Saw this quite a while ago and never got round to writing about it. The film had quite an impact on me because being the ignorant me I had no idea there are still so many civil wars going on in Africa. After seeing the film, I kind of understand why there are countless numbers of Africans seeking asylum here, because life back in that place is simply unbearable. Of course, I'm not saying that certain countries have / don't have the obligation to receive refugees, as this is an all-too-complex issue, and in a way it is the ambiguity of the issue which highlights how selfless Sam Childers is. When you're living a carefree life, and in Childers' case, a better and corrected life in the grace of God, few would contemplate abandoning it all and going to dangerous foreign places to rescue people. While his approach of defending the Sudanese people may be questionable (machine gun?!), his intentions are noble.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


To be honest, plot-wise there's nothing much too interesting to write about, so I'm just gonna jot down a few random observations / personal anecdotes here:

Has it ever occurred to you that friendships like that between Adam and Kyle in the film hardly exists in real life? I mean, you are such good 'buddies' that other relationships in your life are kind of sidetracked and your 'buddy' is the most important person in your life, whether you're in a romantic relationship or not. Sometimes I really wonder if it's just me, or that these friendships are just 'invented' to make all of us feel bad about ourselves! Well, what I actually wanted to say is that I wish I had a friend like that...

Anna Kendrick did a good job with Katherine the PhD student there. She feels so 'real', it's almost like she's not acting and she's really one of those PhD students who collect data from patients for their thesis without really thinking about what those people are going through.

And then there's of course the overbearing but endearing mother of Adam's. She's hilarious in her protective ways, but you quickly sympathise with her - she isn't born like that, life has forced it on her. Which reminds me: shouldn't we all walk in others' shoes before judging them?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Castor and Pollux - ENO

Castor and Pollux by the ENO is a modern adaptation of Rameau's opera Castor et Pollux. It depicts the Greek classical story of the two brothers who love each other so dearly they are prepared to sacrifice their life and their lovers for each other. I quite like the modern take, though certain treatments are a bit weird if you ask me - for example, I don't understand why the nymphs have to keep removing their panties when they are trying to tempt Pollux to stay on Mount Olympus (there were ever so many panties to remove, it's both hilarious and embarrassing); and why, when Castor is in hell, the others in funny clothing suddenly begin to remove their clothes and start walking naked on stage. The nudity isn't necessary, in my opinion, as it has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot (or anything, for that matter) and it's actually quite distracting! (It's hard not to stare at the naked people walking around...) I also find the scene where a hand 'comes out' of the hill to 'finger' Phébé quite disturbing... what does that mean???? But overall it's an interesting take and the music's a lot better than other modern operas of ENO's (e.g. The Passenger, Two Boys) we've watched!

On another note, I can see how this story (and in particular, the last scene of Télaïre wandering aimlessly on stage after both Castor and Pollux are 'received' by Jupiter) can be interpreted by feminists as having a phallocentric theme. Romantic love involving a woman does not matter, despite the fact that both brothers are supposedly in love with Télaïre, and both women in the story - the evil Phébé and the loved Télaïre, are abandoned and punished for their love in the end. What kind of story is that? 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

'The Passenger' @ ENO

I'm not an opera person - I mean I would usually choose theatre over opera, but an opera once in a while is good. It's great to have the chance to see The Passenger at the ENO when S's friend was visiting!

The Passenger is about how the encounter of a former SS officer and a former Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz twenty years after the war plunge them back to the past. The subject matter is dark, as are other ENO operas we've seen, such as Faust and Two Boys, but I quite enjoyed it. How we sometimes try our very best to find excuses for our wrongdoings, even though we know we're evil deep down!

I found the episodes depicting the life of people in concentration camps a bit tedious, but in fact they're crucial in showing the 'authenticity' of these people's lives - these people are not just numbers, and it's not just a story, those were real lives of people who had every single right to live just like us. They had their doubts in God, just like we do sometimes - but one thing that impresses me a lot (which is conveyed through the characters) is that despite the horrible circumstances they found themselves in, the Jews tried to live dignified lives. I admire their courage and determination to live as human beings who have dignity - in today's world, with the abundance of material life and the freedom to choose, many people actually forget that human beings are supposed to have dignity. The Jews are indeed a chosen people - a blessed one at that. Despite the hardship they had to go through throughout history, many of their people turn out to be prominent figures who have left a mark in history. I wish - how I wish - 'my people' would be just like them, instead of going the opposite direction.

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen again. I can't say I'm a fan but I do try to see his films when they're released. Midnight in Paris definitely isn't one of his best, and though 'the message' is simple and a bit cliched, it's still an enjoyable film - if you're not expecting too much.

That cliched message - that we always reminisce about the past and think it's the best, when people in every era before us have the same kind of thinking - is actually kind of what I've been going through these days. I find myself looking at my home town a lot these days, sighing all the time - it's really changed beyond recognition, I always say. From a distance, things are especially vivid and you're shocked at how things have gone downhill. How I wish it would stay the way it was, in the 80s when I was a child. Those were the days, and those were the days that are gone forever. As much as I love my home town, sometimes I don't feel I belong there anymore; or perhaps I don't want to belong there anymore, for it has changed so much and there are so many things and people I hate about the place now, I don't even want to identify myself as a member of that community. But the problem is, of course, if you don't belong there, where do you belong? There's nowhere else. No matter how many years you've spent abroad, I still stubbornly believe that those years don't make your adopted country your 'home'. A home is where your roots are, and your roots often go deeper than you think or want to admit.

And back to the message of the film - am I just being too pessimistic then? I don't know, but my understanding of the 80s at home is that people were energetic, hopeful and happy. Things were fair and a lot less chaotic. People didn't complain so much not because they were ignorant, but because there wasn't much to complain about. Life was decent, unlike now.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Braised pork ribs with coke

To me, cooking with coke is just as natural as cooking with soy sauce. I'm not sure if this is a Chinese thing, because I've read gammon recipes using coke. Whatever the origin of this cooking method, coke is a versatile 'condiment' for all kinds of meat! Usually people use coke to cook chicken (mid wings, most of the time), but I love pork a lot more than chicken... (this may be contested another time when I profess my love for chicken...)

Serving: 2 people, as one of two dishes. Served with rice.

Short pork ribs 500g
Carrots, cut into small chunks or thick slices 4-6
Ginger 1 thick piece
Garlic, chopped finely 1 tbsp
Spring onion, finger-long length 10
Cola half cup
Water half cup
Cooking wine 2 tbsp
Light soy sauce 2 tbsp
Dark soy sauce 2 tbsp

1. Rinse pork ribs with cold boiled water, take care to remove small bones. Drain and pat dry with kitchen towel.
2. Heat some oil in a pot, add ginger, garlic and spring onion. After 2 minutes, add the ribs. Brown all sides of the ribs.

3. Add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and cooking wine. Stir-fry for a few minutes.

4. Add coke, water and carrots. Simmer for 45 minutes with lid on. Add salt to taste.

The ribs are really succulent after being cooked in coke! It doesn't matter much which brand of coke you use, but it's better to use the originals, i.e. no diet, zero...


Monday, 10 October 2011

The Help - the film

I was intrigued by the theme of the book when it first came out, but for some reason I never got around to read it. There are probably a million such books that fall into this category though... 

Anyway, so I was really interested in the film after watching the trailer, and I was soooo happy I got tickets to a preview screening on Sunday! Oh well, I did have to get up early (I normally get up around noon so getting up at 9 is a massive thing for me), but it's well worth it I think. The film's quite similar to what I was expecting after watching the trailer(s), and I quite like it in general though there are a few bits I didn't understand. *spoiler alert* For example, why do the black people on the bus have to get off when it's stuck in road because a black guy's been killed? I also don't understand why, if these black helpers know so well their children's destiny will be the same as theirs, they still continue having so many babies. They know it's a life destined for them - their grandmothers and mothers are all house slaves or maids - and they don't like it. Why continue giving birth to children who will follow the footsteps you so hate yourself? And when it comes to the white employers, I don't understand why they still hire these black helpers if they fear 'their diseases' so much so that they have to build a separate toilet outside for them. Remember, these helpers not only prepare their food but also look after their children on a day-to-day basis. It's just hard to understand why the white people still allow these black helpers to be in contact with every bit of their life if they worry about their hygiene so much. 

I must confess I don't know much about black slave history in America and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that's mentioned in the film. I guess the film's good in the way it opens up a whole lot of questions... for me at least. 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Finally... One Day

Okay, I was warned. The reviews here in general aren't good, perhaps because of Hathaway's dubious Yorkshire accent, I don't know, but I did know it's not very well-loved here. That's why it's taken me such a long time to go see it in the cinema, coz I was actually waiting for the DVD to come out, haha!

Well, I went finally, thinking it would be a tear-jerker; I even had some tissues ready in my hand! And then I was completely dry-eyed throughout the whole film. Mind you, I'm notorious for shedding tears easily, so... that explains my disappointment, kind of. I wasn't touched at all. Okay, I did read the book before seeing the film, so I know perfectly what's gonna happen and all that, but if a film is truly touching, you are still touched even if you've seen it a dozen times, no? Somehow I think all the events are a bit rushed - but then, like I noted in my review of Jane Eyre, I'm perfectly aware that this is the constraint of a film. How about this - I don't see anything touching at all in the film. I've read in quite a few places that some women are particularly touched because they're reminded of how we should treasure the ones we have around us when we can, coz we don't know when we would lose them - and my question is, is this what the book or the film is about? Me as a reader and a viewer certainly don't think so. Of course we all read differently, but neither the book nor the film gives me that impression. I wasn't particularly impressed by the book, but I have to say the film's even more disappointing!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Cantonese dessert: beancurd sheet sweet soup with barley

Yesterday I made this super easy Cantonese sweet soup. Usually people add some ginkgo in it, but I didn't have any, and it's not an important ingredient anyway. Some people also serve it with a boiled egg, but again, I didn't have any egg at home! :P Honestly, I think the sweet soup is nice as it is without any other ingredient - I've never been a big fan of ginkgo anyway!

Soak barley (about 100g here but any amount you like) in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain.

Soak 2 big sheets of dried beancurd sheets in warm water for 5 minutes, drain.
Put both ingredients into a pot, and add at least 2L of hot water. Cook for at least 45 minutes over low-medium heat.
Add about 100g rock sugar when the beancurd sheets have mostly melted. Ready when the sugar has all melted.  

Serve hot or chilled. 
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