Red Tails (2012)

I have so many feels, you guys. I can’t.

This may well top Avengers Assemble as my film of the year, and  Avengers Assemble was incredible. And I saw that twice and would happily see it again.

The tension throughout was  incredible – most notably during the aerial engagement scenes. I don’t think I’ve been more on edge during a film since I saw Jurassic Park for the first time and I was…what? 9 years old at the time? Admittedly a large part of the  tension stems from the fact that at every moment I was expecting one of the main cast to die – it’s a war film, that happens.

I admit, yes, I do love watching war films – it’s something I grew up with, thanks to my Dad. A lot of the films  we watched were about just this era – World War Two. More than that though, he used to read books written by ex-servicemen from that time and I suppose that’s where Red Tails really comes through. The books that my Dad and I read really brought through the experiences of the airmen (all the books tended towards the RAF rather than any other service, since my Dad had been in the RAF when he was younger) and not just of the time they spent fighting in the air, but the relationships  on the ground.

Red Tails really captures the loss and heartbreak suffered by those at war – both in the armed forces and to an extend, for the  civilians too. It’s easy to forget, often, that the men doing all these heroic deeds had families back home waiting for them and though the focus of this film is obviously on the pilots, you don’t forget that they all belong to someone – whether as a husband, father or son.

I only have a limited knowledge of the segregation and racism faced by black people at the time (and for that matter, now – I’m a mixed-ethnicity girl in the UK) but seeing this film has made me want to really find out more about the situation then. I think every single film or book that I’ve seen/read about the Second World War has been from an entirely white perspective. The only alternative view I really know well is that of my mum’s father’s experience in Malaysia at the hands of the Japanese and my lack of Hokkien and his lack of English, combined with the generation gap and that he didn’t like to talk about it…well, that doesn’t really give that full a picture (although there is still quite a story there about my Chinese grandparents).

This is a great film.

Rating: 8/10

IMDB Link 

Snow White & the Huntsman (2012)

First off, no idea why “& the Huntsman” is in the title other than to get more of a male audience. This is about Snow White and Queen Ravenna. As it should be. Kirsten Stewart was ok as Snow White. Charlize Theron was really good as Queen Ravenna. Chris Hemsworth was actually really good as the Huntsman, and had a pretty interesting character and story and all. The dwarves. OH THE DWARVES. I loved them all. Ian McShane! Nick Frost! Ray Winstone! Toby Jones! Other people who I recognised but cannot name right now! Bob Hoskins! OH. They were lovely.

So yeah. It was pretty good.

Rating: 7/10

IMDB Link

Antigone @ The National Theatre 24/05/12

I pretty much went into the Olivier Theatre with no idea what the play was about.  Luckily, a fairly friendly man sat next to me and pointed out the Oedipus family tree in the programme, which reminded me that I’d already seen Oedipus at the NT when Ralph Fiennes took the title role (my verdict on that boiled down to “it was good, but really really grim). We speculated a bit on what kind of era the play seemed to be set in – I went with early 80s, he went with 50s until I pointed out the printer/fax machine/whatever. Might have been 70s with all the beige and brown in the set.

Other thoughts:

  1. Play called “Antigone”, but Antigone isn’t really there most of the time. Probably a catchier name than “Creon” though.
  2. The Soldier = very attractive (yep, I’m shallow).
  3. I did like the about-turn from Ismene – she might not have been willing to actually go against the state, but she stuck with her sister when push came to shove.
  4. The whole duty to your family versus duty to the state was interesting. Even more interesting when I remembered about this being written back in the day with the whole ancient Greece thing going on and the role of women being entirely different back then.
  5. Which did make Ismene being unwilling to bury her brother at the beginning make more sense. She’s not supposed to really have a mind of her own, and Antigone’s disobedience of the state (and also her own Uncle) is that bit more shocking/unusual.
  6. Creon was a bit of an arse after the initial bit where he seemed fairly reasonable, wasn’t he? Admittedly, that’s not a technical term…
  7. Poor Eurydice. She’s there for all of five minutes and then she’s dead.
  8. Christopher Eccleston was nicely politician-y as Creon.
  9. I think the comments on gender and the roles of men and women were what caught my attention most while watching (and probably raised the few giggles that the tragedy does have). Possibly because most of my thoughts are on my presentation/essay about women and fundamentalism that I’ve got to do.
  10. Actually, when they were talking about Creon’s son, Haemon, being betrothed to one of the sisters, I thought they were talking about him being engaged to Ismene rather than Antigone. Which made me confused later on. Ismene gets forgotten about after being taken away pretty much. I wanted to know what happened to her.

It was very satisfying to watch.  Glad I knew it was a tragedy, at least, before watching because, with that knowledge, you can see exactly what’s going to drop on Creon when Haemon comes to talk to him.

Not entirely sure what the point of the slowing down of time/slow motion bits were. It was interesting to see, but… yeah.  I’d probably have to think about that more than I have brain-space for.

 

Alkaline Trio @ Camden Barfly 12/05/12

I LOVE ALKALINE TRIO. I also love Dave Hause, who supported. I thought what I heard of The Dear & Departed was quite nice.

Now, this gig would have originally been on Guy Fawkes Night last year… but Matt Skiba’s foot got run over by a truck or something so obviously it had to be rescheduled and the best date to do it was the day before my birthday. Clearly, they love me. 😀

The Dear & Departed were on earlier than I was expecting so I only heard like… the last 3 songs of their set. They were awesome enough that I was crushingly disappointed to discover they’d sold all their CDs already and had to console myself with a Dave Hause T-shirt. I know, I know.

Dave Hause
Dave Hause

Dave Hause however was just as awesome as I was expecting. If a tad unnerved by the quiet crowd. I reckon we were all a bit dazed from the sunny weather during the day. Totally explains it. Randomly, in the last month I’ve managed to see Dave perform three times – first at the Twas the Night Before Wembley  gig on 12th April before Frank Turner’s awesome …uh… Wembley gig (did I write about that one? Possibly not). Then there was 11th May at the Black Heart annnnd of course, this gig supporting Alkaline Trio. Don’t ask me to remember what he played – I only know that I could sing along to only half of them, which clearly means that I need to listen to the album more. He also played two new songs – one of which (the “shine on” one) he played back in April and I really love.  Dan Andriano came out to sing with him for a bit before disappearing off for a costume change for later (really). Every time I see Dave perform I wish that I had thrown caution to the wind and stayed for the whole of his gig at the Windmill in Brixton last year. Although on the other hand, poor weather and dodgy trains aren’t things that go together (coupled with a longer than expected walk to the train station, I know, I’m kind of lame)…

Dave Hause and Dan Andriano
Dave Hause and Dan Andriano

Then it was time for Alkaline Trio. Who proceeded to saunter on stage and announce that in the interests of saving the planet or something, they’d not printed a setlist and that it was going to be an all-requests show. I prefer to think that they decided to do it because they’re awesome. If inviting a logistical nightmare – I have no idea how they managed to hear any of the requests (that and Matt can’t remember some of the songs – oops).

Clavicle, Cooking Wine, Queen of Pain, This Could Be Love, In Vein, Mercy Me and Blue Carolina were all highlights (but is it a highlight when you’ve included nearly half the setlist?) as was Emma, with added Dave Hause.

Dave Hause, Matt Skiba and Derek Grant
Dave Hause, Matt Skiba and Derek Grant

Radio was, as always, a cracker of a song to end the set on. I think I would have liked to hear Sadie, Crawl and Dine, Dine My Darling or perhaps Love Love Kiss Kiss. Or just more songs where Dan took the lead because he does have a lovely voice, even though Matt’s songs are pretty kickass. In fact, I think I could have listened to them for a couple of hours more. All in all, it was probably the most fun gig I’ve been to recently.

Randomly, either Alkaline Trio have a high ratio of attractive female fans or drinking gives Skiba the horn. Either way, it was entertaining. 😉

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Charlie Casanova

So. Someone I follow on twitter has been pimping this film like a mad thing and since I was already in London, I figured I might as well go and see it (it is only on at the Empire Leicester Square in the UK atm).

I don’t know whether I liked it or  not. There were bits that got a bit slow, I didn’t really sympathise with any of the characters and many of the horrific actions of Charlie, the main character,…didn’t really horrify me at all. It probably says something about my expectations of a sociopathic character, the way my imagination works and the kind of media that I consume on a regular basis (and have done since I was very young). Admittedly, I used to hear about these kind of actions on a regular basis from my Dad, who was a psychiatric nurse on a locked ward for violent, mentally ill people – so as soon as I realised that Charlie was a serious nutjob (not a technical term), then none of his actions were that much of a surprise or a shock.

Charlie is both fascinating and hateful all at once – the kind of creature that’s interesting to watch like a science experiment, but someone you wouldn’t want to know in real life. I didn’t understand why his wife or friends stuck with him, from his normal dinner-table kind of behaviour or exactly how he came into their lives and remained there for so long ( I suppose, I only really get it in the case of his best friend from childhood). Is it a case of being too close to someone to see how awful they are or being able to excuse their behaviour because you’re already close and it reflects badly on your judgement if you admit it? More interesting than Charlie on his own, was the way he was able to egg on his seemingly regular, normal-ish friends to do things they would never do under “normal” circumstances. There’s something in there about abdication of responsibility and the sort of general trend there seems to be in stuff I read about in the news (banks, corporations, various people etc) of not being responsible for something that’s gone wrong.

However, I’m too fuzzy-brained to really talk about that now.

I’m not too fuzzy-brained, on the other hand, to boggle at the woman sitting to my right in the cinema that was BROWSING FACEBOOK ON HER PHONE during the film. Seriously. We’re in the smallest cinema screen ever – how is that not going to be noticeable?

Hot Water Music @ The Old Blue Last 2nd May 2012

CONFESSION TIME. I’d never actually gotten around to listening to any of their music. Not really. I had an mp3 of Jack of All Trades somewhere and I’d heard one of the new songs but that was it.

Which is really weird because back when HWM did that split with Alkaline Trio, I got hold of all the Alk3 tracks and liked them and thought “well, you know, the HWM tracks will probably be good too right?” AND THEN JUST NEVER LISTENED TO THEM.

Weird. I know. I even saw Chuck Ragan on The Revival Tour last year and once again (like.. a decade after that Alk3 moment) thought “I should really listen to Hot Water Music, I like all of their friends’ music…”

So yeah. I jumped on getting a ticket for this because…I figured that it was as good a time as any to really listen to a band for the first time and OMGOMGOMG IT WAS AWESOME. :D:D:D:D

Admittedly, that’s somewhat similar to my reaction to the Avengers film when I saw it last week. You get the point though.

And they played the two songs I was vaguely familiar with, so bonus.

HildaMay were cool. I confess here that I didn’t look them up online anywhere so was genuinely expecting a girl band because of the name. I still liked them though.

Sharks were the same as they usually are. I’ve realised that I keep seeing Sharks when they’re supporting someone else. I don’t think I’d put the effort in to see them headline, but they’re ok.

Review: The City & The City

The City & The City
The City & The City by China Miéville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something a little tangential to start with.

I was thinking about this quote I had rattling around in my head and knew that the original piece was said by a man to a woman but I couldn’t quite remember if it was in text or on film, in real life or in fiction but that I had heard/read it twice. In the end my google-fu turned up the film Bright Star which covers the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

So.

That quote:

“The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”

Keats says this to Brawne after she turns up for her first lesson in poetry and he starts to wonder if he’s really up to that kind of task or if it can really be taught.

Anyway, having finished The City & The City, that line got me thinking about something Mieville said in the past about monsters.

“So I want to have monsters as a metaphor but I also want monsters because monsters are cool. There’s no contradiction.”

AND THEN, also about something that I occasionally hear from my favourite DJ on my favourite radio station, what seems like one or two people on tumblr and a handful of my music-loving friends on twitter…which is usually some variation on “Participate, not document” in regard to going to gigs and the sea of fellow attendees with cameraphones held aloft videoing the proceedings (I’m a phone Luddite, so generally I may take an actual camera with me but I still treat my digital camera like it’s a disposable film camera and if I do take pictures, I tend to end up with about 5 or 6 choice moments that may or may not be a little blurry).

(And no, I don’t entirely know what my point with that tangent was.)

The sort of general theme of wallowing in the experience probably applies to most of my take on existence. Which, I suppose, makes sense. I wallow in it. I don’t think too much about what the lyrics to a song might mean, but I enjoy the feel of them in my mouth.

And that’s the kind of approach I had with this book. I realise that, yes, there must be undertones of various messages threaded throughout…but for me that’s not the point. When I’m there, inhabiting the brainspace of the main character Borlu, I’m there. In Beszel or Ul Qoma. Unseeing and seeing. Weirdly (or not) I hear Borlu’s dialogue in Mieville’s voice. Another thing that occurred to me was that I regard both cities as somewhere much like Istanbul, but not. More almost but not quite, which I guess may be the point since any place mentioned in a detective story automatically becomes the alternate reality of whatever real place it might have been set in.

I liked it though. At one point I thought that Yolanda and Mahalia were the same person. I wondered if fic had been written of Corwi and Dhatt working together. I was highly suspicious of that one character who asked those very insistent, pointed questions. Other things.

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Review: Kraken

Kraken
Kraken by China Miéville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love books that deal with religions. Especially made up ones. I love books that deal with the whole world within a world/city within a city/otherside/invisible reality trope.

This kind of SMOOSHES them together. Which is ideal really.

I did read a few reviews where Mieville is accused of sticking in too many made up words and that making it harder to understand. I didn’t get that at all. If you need a word or term for something and there isn’t one, then make it up. At lease he draws on existing language to actually make the new terms make sense.

Although that might just be me, as I learnt a good deal of the vocabulary I possess by figuring out what words meant in context. It’s a pain in the next when I actually have to explain something to my mum, but it does come in handy with crosswords.

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Review: The Journey Toward Reconciliation

The Journey Toward Reconciliation
The Journey Toward Reconciliation by John Paul Lederach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the theme of reconciliation being a journey in this books and the discussion of the various methods that can be used to make this journey. Lederach has very easy to read, almost conversational style – which definitely helped. So often I’ve found that the texts I have to read for my course are an awful slog. This is far from that.
Peppered throughout are stories – from Lederach’s personal experience, from the Bible or ones that have been told to him. This offered a nice break from the more “thinky” parts of the book and offered their own points to consider in a different way.

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A Child of Two Worlds

Spock
Sarek: "You will always be a child of two worlds. I am grateful for this, and for you."

I am of mixed ethnicity. Shock horror. I know. So really, I’m a bit like Spock here, only I’ve got just the one slightly pointy ear.  Now, I’ve ranted a little elsewhere about my various issues with how I get treated, so I won’t really go into that here.

Suffice it to say, I’m Chinese and Caucasian. Or actually more specifically, Malaysian Chinese and White British (randomly, it’s kind of interesting how the  word order goes in both of those phrases).

There are attitudes, habits and tastes that seem prevalent in the British/English world and there are others that are prevalent in the Malaysian Chinese world.

As a child of two worlds, I’ve pretty much grabbed a handful from each pile. One of these is that I don’t really get the real aversion to going back to live with your parents after university (or for that matter, the perceived eagerness of parents to watch their kids fly the nest as soon as they hit 18). In the Chinese side of my family, going home to live with Mum and Dad is totally expected and normal. In the English world I grew up in? Not so much.

There’s also other things like how the elderly are treated (they seem to be put out to die more in the English world), how extended family relates to each other (possibly just a personal thing, but as soon as my English grandparents died, we stopped really seeing the rest of that side of the family) and smaller silly things like taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s house (in Malaysia, you ALWAYS take your shoes off).

So while there’s a lot of sort of English things I don’t get, I don’t think I could ever live in Malaysia. Buying clothes there is a pain in the neck, possibly because I’m just looking in the wrong places but mostly because I’m twice the size of nearly all the women on that side of the family (I’m just built differently). The mosquitoes. I am allergic to the damn mosquitoes. It’s not a good thing. The bruises left over from the bites I got last December have just about faded. The weather! I am not a hot, humid weather person. Give me cloudy, overcast, cool days ANYTIME.

Tea. Oh God. As much as I enjoy Chinese tea and Teh Tarik in all its forms, making a decent cup of “English” tea has proved almost impossible unless I’m in a hotel. It might be the milk. It might be the water. It might be the teabags. Who knows?

The traditional Chinese family structure is also kind of out for me – with the father as the dictatorial head of the family, especially now that I’m an adult. I’m pretty easy-going, but there is only so much being told what to do that I’ll put up with. There’s also the expectation that I’ll get married and have children (but I suppose, that’s a universal thing) – as someone who has seriously considered entering the religious life (and it’s not something I’ve totally ruled out yet), I am content with the idea that I might never marry or have children.

Oh. There’s also the small issue of all the bands I like not visiting Malaysia. I don’t think I could live in a place where I’d never go to see live music. What little I’ve seen of popular culture in Malaysia…seems to be all the stuff I avoid at home in the UK.

There’s also attitudes to sexuality (and the issue of homosexuality being illegal in Malaysia), to women, to race, to censorship and the corruption seemingly rife within  not just the political system there. There are complex issues there.

In the end, despite being a child of two worlds, I’m pretty much English/British with the occasional moment where  I identify as Chinese.