Sunday, August 30, 2009

I am in London

I have arrived in London to begin a semester abroad. I will be studying art history/arts administration.

I haven't seen sunrise in a very long time. My flight arrived at around 8:00 AM. On my flight I saw a couple movies each of them worse than the next. I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine (this one took me like 5 minutes to remember), Valkyrie, Dragonball Evolution. Skip them all! While watching Dragonball Evolution, I did give it all my attention though. It was interesting--the life action and the quest to find the dragon balls. I did grow up watching some of the anime and playing its video game. Why did Emmy Rossum even take on the role?

Friday, August 28, 2009


Parmigianino, Madonna with the Long Neck, 1535, Oil on wood, Uffizi

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yousuf Karsh

Update: Karsh photo titled Man Ray is today's (8/27/09) featured work of art from the Met's permanent collection! :D The Met's Website

During my internship program this summer, we visited the Canadian Embassy which is having an exhibit named Karsh at 100: Portraits of Artists. It celebrates Yousuf Karsh's 100th birthday with a small collection of portraits of famous artists. Of the 28 portraits in exhibit, my favorite is the one of Georgia O'Keeffe.

Click here for the portrait!!!

The clean and defined lines of O'Keeffe's figure make her appear strong and dignified despite her looking aged and thin. Her hands stand out and look quite large and the juxtaposing skull, I am guessing, are showcased in allusion to her legacy as an artist. This portrait is powerful.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hiatus in Watching Movies?

I am on my way to Denver for a few days. I will be back on the 25th or 26th.

On a separate but seemingly related topic, I will probably stop watching movies for a while not only because I am going to London at the end of August but for like 3 to 4 weeks, I haven't had the will or patience to sit through an entire movie. I'm paying for my Netflix subscription for nothing. I had Children of Heaven for like 3 weeks and on the 17th, I finally forced myself to watch it. Right now, I have Capote and City of God. (I've had Capote since the 5th.) During my prime, I watched one movie a day! I don't know what to do...Everything I've been writing has been from memory.

Worse yet, in September when I start studying abroad, I probably won't watch anything!

Can anyone guess where this scene is from?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vera Drake

Vera Drake
is a must see film. It is one of my favorites long with In the Mood for Love. Unlike ITMFL, though, VD's pace is faster and the color scheme is earthy and bit depressing. It received the highest honor, the Leone d'Oro, at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, and its leading actress, Imelda Staunton, won the Volpi Cup.

The story is intense and dark, and the end will resonate during the hours after watching the film (at least it did for me. haha). Vera Drake, played by Staunton, is a middle-class, working woman, mother, and wife who cleans the homes of wealthy family. Despite her profession, living condition, and low income, she is a respected individual in her community and is grateful for what she is. She helps out her elderly neighbor and invites a single, lonely neighbor to dinner at her humble home. She has a heart of gold.

Behind her family's back and outside of her work, she provides back alley abortions to young ladies. During the 1950s, the time period when the film is set in, abortions are illegal. She is not paid for performing the abortions. She does it purely to help the young women who seek her help. I will stop the synopsis here since the film is one that you really must watch.

The set of the film is beautiful. Everything about the film feels really authentic. I did a research paper for my film class that talked briefly about VD. British cinema has long been trying to differentiate itself from Hollywood films. One of the ways in which British cinema does this is to deglamorize its actors, sets, and costumes. By doing this, realism is shown as opposed to the flamboyance, "scriptedness" of Hollywood movies. Mike Leigh, who directed VD, does this especially well by capturing real emotions, real settings of the time period. Many of the scenes were even improvised with only Staunton knowing what is to happen next. Leigh was able to capture the shock that the other actors left as the plot revealed.

P.S. The film is heartbreaking.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Soloist

It probably seems like all my movie reviews have been quite positive thus far; maybe for the except for The Holy Girl. For the sake of some balance to my blog, I will now talk about The Soloist, a more recent movie starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.

The film is based on a true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who studied at Julliard but became schizophrenic and homeless. Steve Lopez, played by Downey, discovers Ayers and his talent on the streets of Los Angeles. Eventually, Lopez writes a feature article on Ayers in the Los Angeles which garner some attention for Ayers. Lopez even tries to get Ayers back into the music world by introducing him to a cellist and someone at the Walts Disney Concert Hall.

The story looks great on paper and is an inspirational story, but I think the story is badly translated onto the screen. Foxx's costumes are awful to look. I got pretty annoyed of having to look at him. The character of Lopez isn't given enough attention by Joe Wright who directed Pride and Prejudice and Atonement (Atonement is one of my favorite films). Furthermore, there's a lack of focus on the message of the film. It would have been great had Wright just left the film being a story on the life of Ayers. But at the end, he sort of twisted it into a film about homeless people of Los Angeles. The biggest problem, still, is that the film is poorly executed.

Downey does, however, deliver a great performance as a caring but stern supporter who helps Ayers and hopes the best for him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer in DC II

Here are some more photos that I took in and around DC this summer. Hope you like them!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Children of Heaven

Sorry, the trailer is a bit misleading...

The storyline of Children of Heaven, an Iranian film, is a simple one: a brother trying to find his sister's pair of shoes which he lost on his way home from the shoe repair shop. You wouldn't guess that loosing a pair of shoes is that big of a deal as people now often have a whole closet full of shoes. But to Ali and Zahra, the brother and sister in the film, loosing a pair of shoes means that they would get beaten by their father who is barely making ends meet, reprimanded by their mother who is ill, and that Zahra would not be able to go to school.

The rest of the story is poignant. Ali tries hard to find his sister's shoes. But because Ali was unable to find it, he makes up to her sister by giving her gifts including a pencil and a pen that he was given as a reward for being a top student. The scene where Ali gives Zahra a pencil is incredibly touching--Majid Majidi, the director, was able to make the audience understand that a single pencil is worth a whole lot to this impoverished family. In addition, Ali race in a marathon in hopes of winning third place where the prize is a pair of new shoes.

One thing that I was annoyed by is how useless and pathetic Ali's father is. The father goes into the city with Ali to make a few extra money by gardening for the rich. As they begin going door to door asking if residents need a gardener, the father gets nervous and tongue-tied. He rings the telecom and does not know what to say. He can't even get the words "Do you need a gardener?" out of his mouth. Ali comes to his rescue and draws in their first customer. Furthermore, on their way home, their bicycle's break fails. Speeding down a hill, the father is not capable of stopping the bicycle safely resulting in injuries for both of them.

The sibling connection of the film is beautiful. The two children take the matter into their own hands without ever telling their parents, teachers, or friends what has happened. They share one pair of shoes so that both of them would be able to go to school. When Zahra accidentally dropped one of the shoes into a gutter of fast moving water, I literally gasped guessing how the shoe might not be retrievable and knowing how important and valuable that one single shoe is to them. Aside from these moments that I have mentioned, there are many others that are memorable. One other great scene is when Zahra runs home to return Ali's sneakers so that Ali can get to school on time. During this scene, the camera focuses on Zahra who is small; as a result, everyone else who is taller than Zahra is cut off at the waist. This reminded me of Tom and Jerry where the humans' faces are never seen.

One complain I have, however, is that I wish Majidi had given the film a more rounded ending. Near the end of the film, we know what will happen but Majidi chose not to show that ending which I think would have a positive, uplifting effect. If you enjoyed Turtles can Fly and The Kite Runner, I think you would like COH as well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't Move

Don't Move
features an amazing performance from Penelope Cruz.

Cruz plays an Italian woman named Italia who lives on the fringe of society and is ugly, lowly in class, and pretty much unemployed. Cruz, who is such a beautiful woman in real life, is completely uglified with dirty hair, skin, and gapped teeth. Furthermore, the language she uses are vulgar. Cruz's transformation is surprising and wonderful to see as films so often glamourize their leading ladies.

Besides Cruz's (let me stress again) brilliant performance, the film did not do much for me. The story is only somewhat interesting; too bad it gets dragged behind by its slow pace and choppy flashbacks. I do find how Don't Move, like The Holy Girl, portrays doctors as adulterers despite the profession being regarded as highly respectable and admired. One other point is the significance of the name Italia. The obvious thing is that she is played by a Spanish actress who had to learn Italian for the film. Then, the most obvious thing is that she is not a beautiful woman. Perhaps, this is saying something about Italy...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer in DC I

I spend my summer in Washington, D.C. interning at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design. I did marketing for the Continuing Education department at the College. Some tasks includes writing and revising emails sent to prospective students, analyzing demographic information to find out who and where are our markets, and, for the majority of the time, sitting around, surfing the web, reading,, and researching stocks for my own benefit.

I brought my Lomography LC-A+ everywhere. By the end of the summer, I had taken seven rolls of film. Sadly, two were blank. :( I must have set them up wrong. That's 48 frames wasted! Good thing Target for not charge me for them.

Here are some shots that I found worthy of sharing...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Children of Men & Blindness

Originally, I was going to treat Children of Men and Blindness as separate entries. Then I reflected upon how well the two go together as both films share a stark view on the government. Furthermore, they both chose a pandemic as the catalyst to catastrophic changes in society. If you enjoyed reading 1984, I think you will like both COM and Blindness.

COM, women become infertile, no newborns for 18 years. The society is plagued with problems and chaos; governments fail; UK becomes the last standing country with a totalitarian government and a stern police force. So many political, religious, humanitarian issues are packed into this film. Many times these issues are obvious to spot in the film like reference to Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Other topics are sometimes more subtle like all the allusions to religion throughout the movie. The film almost becomes like an I spy game.

In addition to the allusions, references, which I enjoyed, I also liked the character developments. Clive Owen plays a compelling antipathist who becomes an unlikely hero. Claire-Hope Ashitey, the actress who plays Kee, is a naive, immature girl who grows into a determined young woman risking her life for her child and for the survival of humanity. Michael Caine also did a fantastic job as a John Lennon/Jesus look-alike. It's too bad that Julianne Moore has only a small role in the film. There are just too many great things that I can say about the movie, but I am afraid this post will get too long...

Blindness is very similar to COM on numerous levels. Blindness features Julianne Moore as well, this time in the leading role (The film features many other recognizable faces including Gael Garcia Bernal, Sandra Oh, Mark Ruffalo, and Danny Glover). Both films are based on books of the same titles. Jose Saramago, who wrote Blindness, the book, was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature. In both films, unlikely pandemics change the lives of the characters.

COM, I enjoyed this film on many levels but not so much on the character developments. I loved the techniques used to convey blindness in the film such as the color white, flashes, fuzziness, and spottiness. The director gives you the vision of the actors and actresses through the filming techniques. I also loved the setting of the film. You never learn where these characters live. The film feels truly international, not only because of the cast, but because of the collection of cities where the film was shot. This use of cities gives the sense that no one can escape the disease no matter where you live.

One difference that I would like to mention is that
COM is more of a political film and Blindness is a philosophical film. I enjoyed both films despite the negative reviews for Blindness. I watched COM twice and liked it even more the second time.

P.S. On a very very last note, I loved, what I thought was, the reference to Judith slaying Holofernes in a scene in

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Looking forward

There are two films that I am looking forward to: New York, I Love You and Coco avant Chanel. After watching Paris, Je T'aime, I have been anticipating the release of the portmanteau film based on New York City. New York City is my favorite American city. Sadly, the released date kept getting pushed back from like November 08 to April to May and now October 09. It's strange that they kept changing the date. It premiered all the way back in September 2008 at the Toronto Film Festival. I'm guessing because Paris, Je T'aime was not a financial success, the producer had a difficult time finding a distributor for the NYC version. Limited release: 10/16/09

Since watching
Amelie, I have been following Audrey Tautou. I also loved her in The Da Vinci Code. :p She was courageous, intelligent, yet gentle. I think casting her for Coco Chanel in Coco avant Chanel is perfect. I am confident that Audrey will play Coco Chanel exceedingly well; hopefully this film will be for Audrey what La Vie en Rose was for Marion Cotillard. Limited release: 9/25/09

Monday, August 10, 2009


Of the 20 films that I watched in my international film class, Water by Deepa Mehta is clearly one of my favorites along with Children of Men. Mehta is a controversial, Canadian-Indian, female director. Many of her feminist films address issues in Indian culture including Water which is part of her elemental trilogy.

Water is about widows in India. By Hindu tradition, when a wife becomes a widow, she has "to spend the rest of her life in an institution for widows called a widow's ashram in order to make amends for the sins from her previous life which supposedly caused her husband's death," as explained best by Wikipedia. Mehta brings the viewers to this absurd, harsh, and impoverished ashram as Chuiya, a young eight year old, becomes a widow due to the death of her husband.

Chuiya is thrown into this world that she does not understand. She is harshly treated by the master of the ashram who is obese, mean, and self-centered. As laws of widowhood, Chuiya's hair is shaved; a white sari becomes the only thing she can wear; she can no longer eat fried and sweet food; and she has to depend on alms from strangers. Worse yet, she is treated as a subhuman--people don't touch or talk to widows.

During her time at the ashram, Chuiya influences the lives of other in powerful ways. An older widow, Shakuntala , who becomes like the mother of Chuiya begins to question the reason for the ashram and the religious tradition. In addition, to the journey that Chuiya goes through, there is a forbidden love story tucked into the film. The story of Water is, at times, simply beautiful and heart wrenching other times.

Besides the story line, the visual style of the film is beautiful and delicate. Mehta really knows how to show the beauty of the landscape that she worked with. She captured the rain, the sunset and sunrise by the river in a calm but magnificent manner. I really admire her style in this particular film as much as I admire Wong Kar Wai's. Despite all the controversies that this film has caused in the Indian community (sets were burnt, production delayed by years, filming move outside of India to Sri Lanka), the film is a must see for its beauty if not for its story.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Holy Girl

The Holy Girl has a promising premise and characters: a Catholic teenage girl beginning to realize her sexuality and a married doctor of respectable profession but a flawed man who is also a sexual predator. However, the delivery of the story failed and the director forgot to reward her audience.

The film happens in one small town holding a medical conference. The teenage girl, Amalia, attracted by the crowd on the street goes to watch a performance on a theremin. The doctor, Dr. Jano, taking advantage of the crowd goes on a hunt--he rubs sexually against Amalia's behind. Amalia, who has faith in god, believes that she has just been assigned the mission to save Dr. Jano from his sins. After, what felt like hours of viewing, Amalia aborts her mission and becomes more sexually interested by her friend and herself.

Basically, the whole film builds up to a moment when Amalia is supposed to reveal Dr. Jano's
sinned behavior and when Dr. Jano was going to repent (if I recall correctly). Needless to say, those events don't happen.

THG was not easy. Lucrecia Martel, the director, made the film difficult to watch. Many times the entire mise en scenes are only filled with half a face and a cut off door. With only a bit more space, much of the movie takes place in hotel rooms. The scenes are tight making the viewer uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Thorough out my viewing, I kept stretching to feel less tense and changing the way I sat to make myself comfortable. The muted greens, browns, and greys of the film didn't help with feeling more at ease either. Skip it or skim it; just don't watch the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Changes to Blog

Hopefully, you're all enjoying my blog so far and liking the changes.

I've made a lot of changes to the fonts, colors, and sp
acings of the site. It even has a new name! Pretty soon I will also change the URL to reflect the new name. I will update you all on that later. In the meantime, please keep reading my reviews! Thanks.

This how excited I am about all the new changes.

Update: The address has been taken so I'll probably be making more changes to the name of the site.

Also, has anyone noticed any anomalies with the blog's formatting, fonts, spacing? I was on a Mac and the footers (post date, post by, comments) were tiny. Please let me know if this is happening to you too. Thanks.

500 Days of (Summer)

The days leading up to the limited release of 500 Days of (Summer) and the days after, the film did a lot of advertisement in Washington Post's Express, which I read every morning. They even created a fake front page promoting the film kind of like the ads for LIFE publications on Time magazine. The reviews were great too so I went to watch the film alone. It was my first time going to the movies alone!

I thought the film was going to be a summery love movie because of the title. I was wrong; but I loved the surprises that I got: the twists, the ups, the downs, the laughter, the tears, and the live-action animation! As raved by the critics, the techniques used to deliver the story were innovative and refreshing. I particularly loved the split screens segment which is also one of my favorite scenes.

Needless to say, Zoey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were great. The chemistry is fine; nothing for me to complain about. Since the film is still in theatres, please go watch it!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love is my favorite Wong Kar Wai film and one of my favorite films of all time.

A lot of the times with Wong Kar Wai films, I feel like I'm just watching his films for aesthetic purposely. The images are hypnotic, voluptuous, and sumptuous. Every frame can be a still photos hung in the MoMA and/or the Guggenheim. But sometimes the stories themselves are not nearly as spellbinding probably because the stories get lost in the pace of the films. One such example is probably
Happy Together; I just felt the same scenes and events kept repeating which stalled the film from progressing. But ITMFL is not one of these Wong Kar Wai films.

ITMFL has a moving story line: Two neighbors, played by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, both have unfaithful spouses who go on frequent business trips. Being left alone, the two builds a strong and dignified platonic relationship even though romantic feelings broods beneath the surface. The reason for their platonic love is that they do not want to become hypocrites, like their spouses. They provide company to each other, eat together, and even help one another with their jobs.

In addition to this story line, the film is made even more beautiful with the visuals. Maggie Cheung changes her outfits, which is always a cheongsam, every few minutes throughout the film to signify the passage of time but also the repetitive continuation of her daily life. For example, within a five minute segment, she might wear a white cheongsam in the morning then a red cheongsam at night. Even though not much time has passed, the second half of the segment might have taken place a day after or a week after the first half which explains the change in outfits.

The most memorable moments of this masterpiece are when Cheung descend down a dimly lit stair to buy dinner while crossing path with Leung. This event is repeated two to three times in the film all with different variations and speeds. One night, she walks in the rain to buy dinner. One night, she walks by and greets Leung. One night, she misses Leung just by a few moments. Wong adds even more sexual tension and emotions by slowing down the time of one of these sections.

Music, of course, is another key element of Wong's film. Shigeru Umebayashi's Yumeij's Theme is used liberally throughout the film and I cannot get enough of it. The mood and tempo are completely in line with the feel and pace of the film.

ITMFL is so exquisite but with the perfect balance of somberness, tension, and happiness. The story is bittersweet, and the aesthetic is beyond what any other films that I have watched have achieved.