Saturday, 26 February 2011

West is West

I didn't see East is East which was released quite some years ago, but I came across it when working on my previous research project and recognised the similar title of this film - they're indeed made by the same people! But to be honest, after seeing the film I don't see how 'West is West' - the relevance of the title. If I haven't interpreted it wrongly then it's exactly this that the film sets out to challenge.

The film's set in the 1970s, when racial discrimination is still *publicly* rampant in England (not like it's not now but it's a lot more subtle I would say). It's about a Pakistani father and his half-Pakistani son's journey of self-discovery and root-finding, but to be honest I don't really see a conclusion or a satisfied 'result' here - the boy's transformation from a typical discriminated teenager who hates his Pakistani heritage to someone who knows how to appreciate it is not very well captured, as I don't think a few episodes of 'lessons' with a supposedly wise old man who hasn't really said much about things would be enough for that. The father also doesn't seem to have learned or be able to change much in his journey - he left a mess of his family in Pakistan when he left them 30 years ago, and this trip back home doesn't seem to have changed anything for them. His first wife's heart's shattered long ago and he fails to do anything to compensate, and his action of building a house doesn't really make much sense - he's trying to compensate, I guess, but it's clearly not the way to do it, just like it's not enough for him to send money back every year. At the end of the film he still hasn't succeeded in atoning...

An interesting film but the details haven't been worked out very carefully!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

I Am Number Four

This is totally not the kind of film I'm normally interested in, but to see it at IMAX is a different matter! I had yet to see a film in an IMAX cinema before (not even in Hong Kong, as I wasn't really interested in queuing up for Avator), so it was a new experience, and a nice one! We went to BFI IMAX at Waterloo - it's very new, the auditorium's huge and they claim that the screen's the biggest in Britain! Wow!

Back to the film: it's quite frightening for me, though I didn't see anyone else being frightened in the audience @_@... well, like I said, I normally don't choose this kind of film, with scary-looking aliens like my palms were wet throughout and I just had to cover my ears from time to time! (Stupid, I know!) But other than that there are meaningful bits in the film, like how the 'John' character longs for relationships with people because he keeps on moving since he was a child to run away from the creatures looking for him; the value of home can only be appreciated and understood by people who have no home and no one they know where they are. The best place in the world, like 'John' says, is where there are people you know and care about. Isn't it the truest thing in the world?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

British comedy: knock2bag

Went to this 'community place' near Portobello Market called The Tabernacle to see a comedy show tonight. We arrived a lot earlier after dinner on Portobello Road (great Thai food!), as it says on the tickets that the show starts at 7:30 (we arrived before 7pm), only to find that the performance wouldn't start until 8pm, and we couldn't go in before 7:30 and had to stand outside and wait awkwardly. @_@ Not a good arrangement I would say!

We got good seats, but some women with a heavy accent pushed their way in and had to squeeze into the bench we were seated, so it was very crowded and not comfy. That's not the worst - the worst is that the woman sitting beside me had this terrible cigarette stink in her breath, and she kept burping throughout the performance - ugh, the smell! I simply couldn't concentrate, and couldn't move away from her either since it's really crowded. :(

The show itself was also disappointing. There were 3 acts altogether, and there's this guy who's the MC of the night who kept cracking silly jokes (just like having his own act chopped up in parts) in between. To be honest, I don't think any of the acts was really funny. I don't know if it's me or what, but both S and I didn't enjoy it. The jokes were silly, many of them were of course about sex but that's not the point - it's just that there's nothing funny at all! Some of those jokes I wouldn't even tell when I was a school kid! I was quite surprised to see that lots of people appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely - they were laughing out loud THROUGHOUT, NONSTOP - and S said that we find this weird because there may be this cultural difference. In our culture, when people laugh at silly jokes or things that are not really that funny, we pull a face, frown, or roll our eyes, or, to put it simply, give a 'dik hon' look --> -_____-" but here they may not have this at all, which is why people just laugh silly! (Or perhaps it's simply because they are silly after all.)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Back from Munich!

Took a short trip to Munich at the weekend, 4 days in total. It's a much better trip compared to the one we took to Rome a month ago. Almost everything's better - the way to the airport, the flight, the hotel, the people, the sights...surprising, huh? Rome's supposed to have some world-famous sightseeing spots, but I wasn't in the least impressed. Couldn't help comparing those with other cities and sightseeing spots I've been to (e.g. Beijing's historical places, even Angkor Wat...), and Rome's really a bit overhyped. Munich doesn't have any world-famous sights. Apart from the Octoberfest, it's not famous for anything at all, but the city in my opinion is a livable and beautiful one. You just discover bits and pieces when walking around town, little things that are beautiful, artistic, interesting... and that's what's good about travelling, isn't it? We had a really relaxing trip; no itinerary to 'cover', we just had some guidebooks and planned the night before each day. And it's all good!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Never Let Me Go

Needless to say, I had high expectations of this film. Though I'm not a hardcore Ishiguro fan, I liked Never Let Me Go a lot, and I still remember that after finishing it, my heart was oh so sad, but it's a really good read.

The film's okay, but like so many film adaptations of great books, it's bound to be a bit disappointing. (I actually don't remember much about the film version of Atonement...but the book itself's really great too and I can't imagine the film being better) The Ruth character is a bit more evil than I remember in the book, but Kathy played by Carey Mulligan is good throughout - I particularly like the child Kathy, who's very good in my opinion, and her expressions are eerily similar to the older Kathy! I think the child Kathy's actually better than Mulligan's grown-up Kathy... her emotional scenes are very powerful, especially the one scene in which she listens to the song 'Never let me go', a song in the cassette given to her by Tommy, and she's totally immersed in her own world...very powerfully done, you can almost imagine that carnal desire that she expresses later, but that's in a little girl!

S said he can't understand why Ruth apologises for keeping Tommy and Kathy apart. His reasoning is that, though Ruth deliberately 'seduces' Tommy, it's not like he doesn't have a choice, as he can decide whether he likes Kathy or Ruth. Well...let's just say he's a very weak character who doesn't quite know what he wants then. :P He doesn't seem to be a particularly interesting character to me anyway.

For the book's fans, I suppose the film's still a must-see...just don't set your expectations too high!

* Free programme picked up at the cinema...nice touch! Bet Ant will be interested in having one!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Rome trip 28-30 January 2011

Went to Rome for a 'long weekend' last week - a very short trip actually. The city's not exactly as I imagined it to be, and like S says, it's quite backward in a lot of ways...just look at the graffiti everywhere on the outskirts of the city, it's a little crazy really! The people are significantly nicer than people here, but then this is London and people anywhere else are nicer.

Didn't write my travel journals during the trip, just some notes on where we've been, just for the record... :)

First day:

Late lunch - After checking in, we were told by the very nice receptionist that it's quite late for lunch and most places were closed that time of the day. @_@ It's about 3pm...luckily there's a restaurant nearby that's open all the time. We were reluctant to eat near Termini station after getting off the airport bus (waited for ages for that...), coz the places all looked quite dodgy and the food's mostly 'spoon food' (we always call the ready-made food that's 'spooned' on your plate 'spoon food', 'but but food'!). The place he recommended was okay, prices were a little high (higher than the usual London chain restaurants, we were expecting something cheaper in Italy), but the food's not particularly good though it's freshly made. It's a wonder why they use mostly cured meat (ham / smoked meat) in their dishes - you hardly get any fresh meat / seafood!

Went along the old wall to the Spanish Steps after our late lunch - it's already getting dark. Spanish Steps, despite being a tourist must-see, is quite disappointing in reality. Those are just normal steps, why are they so famous? I don't get it...

Anyway, we walked to Trevi Fountain afterwards. Again, very touristy, but nothing particularly impressive. S asked what's famous about this fountain, and all I know is that it's made famous by a film. Supposedly if you throw a coin in the fountain (with special posture, with your back facing the fountain and your hands crossed or something), you will go back to Rome. Well, whatever! One thing I know is that there are lots of coins in the fountain every day. :P

We had dinner in a nearby 'historic' restaurant. It's supposed to be really authentic and all that, but the food's REALLY bad. I mean, REALLY! I haven't tasted something as bad as that for a long time...perhaps it's even worse than the canteen food served downstairs. @_@ Horrible experience.

Second day

Took the metro to the Colosseum. The metro's horrible, and when compared to it, the tube in London is not so bad! (You can see how bad it really is) Everywhere is like a crime scene... all the stations are just really, really old. Anyway...

Went to Repubblica briefly, took some photos, and went on to the Colosseum...

Colosseum: Well, it's world-famous, but again to be honest I was a bit that all? We're lucky that we bought the Rome pass, so we bypassed the huge queue outside. Yes, I suppose it's a historic site and all that, but I would say Angkor Wat is A LOT more impressive than that!

Also went to the Palentine Hill and Roman Forum (all included in the same ticket)... nothing interesting there either, Palentine Hill is a bit boring even, and Roman Forum, if you don't have an audio guide / guidebook with you, is nothing interesting either. I just kept going through my guidebook for the different 'buildings' in the Forum, but to be honest, who cares? Those are just ruins...and uninteresting ruins at that.

Walked to the nearby Vittoriano, commented as 'an eyesore' in Rome. I personally don't find it particularly unpleasant to look at, but of course it doesn't seem to serve any purpose being such a big structure there! Went up there for some photos, then walked to the Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a church next door. It's quite a nice old church, but we've probably been to too many churches already, we weren't really looking into the details. :P

Walked to Piazza Navona (yeah, it's all walking on that day...didn't make good use of the pass for transport at all), where Bernini's huge fountain is. Went into the church Sant Agnese in Agone there, where supposedly Saint Agnes was burnt alive and executed... just another church.

Walked to the Pantheon after be honest, this is even more disappointing, as there's nothing interesting to look at there - what's it about the big dome and the hole at the top? Hmmm. Anyway, you get free entry there, which is great for Rome...

Last stop: Musei Capitolini. We went in quite late, and we went just because we wanted to make 'good use' of the pass. :P It's already quite dark by then, and there were very few people in the museum (entrance fee is about 15 euro, quite steep for a not particularly famous museum if you ask me), so we almost had it all to ourselves. Some parts of the museum seemed a little creepy even, as the statues and sculptures could very well come alive at any moment! :P

Third day

This day's supposedly reserved for the Vatican Museum, with the Sistine Chapel being the highlight. But we were too unlucky - it's the last Sunday of the month, and enty to the museum was free. When we got there, the line was horrible...basically the queue surrounded the city wall of Vatican! @_@ We gave up right away and went to the St Peter's Basilica instead. Vatican City's okay, but again, nothing particularly impressive. We went to see the Pope's coffins down in the basement, and some people were still kneeling in front of the last pope's coffin, crying... @_@ We went into St Peter's Basilica after much hassle (lining up in the same queue for the second time, going through security all over again and arguing with some rude Italians who jumped queue...), and it is, of course, worth it. It's very big compared to all other Catholic churches I've been to (of course, this is the Vatican!), but other than that everything's quite...normal? We saw the Pieta - I'll confess I'm quite ignorant but I think I've seen it before somewhere else, but I can't remember where it was.

We were also lucky enough to catch the Pope's speech - haha, he appeared high up in the 2nd window of a tall building, you can't even see with your bare eyes who it is actually! :P Of course we couldn't understand anything, but people there were quite happy and impressed after listening to him. @_@

LUNCH! That's the greatest meal we had in Rome...and it's recommended in the guidebook. It's a seafood restaurant, it's not cheap at all but everything's nice!!!

Hmmm we went to a couple other churches after lunch...but to be honest I don't remember much about them. I just remember at the back of one church (we were lost and got there and thought it's closed) there were lots of rubbish birds (seagulls really) which were eating rotten meat (I presume the meat's rotten as it looked hideous)... gross.

Had a rushed dinner near the station before catching the airport bus. Not good again. :(

It's quite tiring to be honest, having to walk so much, but I guess that's a good thing as well! You get to see a lot more walking...

(see my fb album for trip photos!)

And then in a few days' time we're setting off for Munich!!! :) I hope it's gonna be a good trip!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Rabbit Hole

When I first saw the poster of this film, I thought it's a thriller. Then I read a short synopsis, and thought it's about a mentally ill person...all wrong guesses. It's just a film about a couple trying to overcome the loss of their beloved son and all the time on the verge of making the wrong decision.

It's a touching film, and Kidman's indeed quite good in it (she's nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe) - at least I don't see her trying to maintain that 'elegant lady' image. Her face moves naturally, showing her wrinkles and lines, and yet she's still beautiful. The film also got me thinking. How long do you think a person needs to overcome bereavement and 'move on'? I can't imagine losing a loved one and still continue with my life at work or's just impossible even to imagine, and then not everyone can afford to not work like Becca, Kidman's character. Perhaps, like Becca's mother says, the loss never goes away, it just hangs in your pocket like a brick, you carry it around and sometimes you don't realise it's there, but once in a while you reach in and suddenly you're reminded of its presence...and after some time, it doesn't matter anymore. It's just there.

I think the byline on the poster is very well put: 'The only way out is through'. There are things that cannot be explained (Becca is very sceptical when people mention God when they try to figure out 'why'), and no matter how you try to escape it and tell yourself it's fine, like Becca does in the film, you just have to face the sorrow, deal with it, and move on. It's interesting how Becca finds the solution through the killer of her son, but come to think of it it's actually quite appropriate.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Bangkok Traffic Love Story

Ant sent me the link and I watched this film. It seems that this kind of film is getting more and more popular, the kind that deals with the issue of 敗犬 in contemporary society. Sometimes I actually wonder if it's really an issue - I don't see this phenomenon around me! Anyway...the film is just standard chick flick and it's okay... but not worth watching in the cinema.

We've just been back from Rome. The trip's okay, at first I thought we wouldn't have enough time for all the important sites (and of course it turned out we couldn't do everything we wanted to) but I actually 3 days is good for that! We walked a lot on the 2nd day and our legs and feet suffered a lot... @_@ time to admit that we're getting old and we can't travel like we used to! :P
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