Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Best Memories of 2008

Best Memories of 2008

10. Man on Wire (2008, James Marsh)

This is a funny, captivating documentary chronicling a tightrope walker's history, preparation, and effort to walk on high wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
On August 7, 1974, some New Yorkers were treated to a memorable spectacle at Twin Towers. Behind it all was the daring exploits of a Frenchman Philippe Petit.
Acting on an idea he'd been pondering, drafting, and practising for months, showcasing his unbelievable feat of perseverance and foot-first skill that had enthused him for years on end since he was a teenager, Philippe Petit depicts his formidable undertaking to the world. He undertook arguably one of the most periculous endeavour in human history, and it was publicized by TV and newspapers. With this risky venture, Philippe Petit inspired wonder shared by very few peers.
At the heart of Philippe Petit's high-wire walking performance was the idea that the seemingly insurmountable obstacle can be overcome by effort and enthusiasm. In one morning of awe-inspiring and emotional splendor, he educated, edified and entertained us all. If you have a dream, go make it come true while you are still young, time and tide wait for no man. That's what this film tells us.

9. The Chaser (2008, Na Hong-jin)

Inspired by a true story, The Chaser (2008) revolves around serial disapperances of call girls and an ex-cop's desperate search to save his employee's life. In his pursuit he's obstructed by his former police colleagues at almost every turn, even when the killer is held in detention and confesses his guilt.
The Chaser (2008), as in Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder (2003), pours scorn on the authorities' incapability and clumsiness, reveals social discontent about the officials, while the identity of the killer remains a mystery in the latter, it is identified early on in this film, and then focuses on how inept the investigators are and how preposterously the Korean society operates. In The Chaser (2008), most of the suspense comes from the foot chase, close fighting, and the killer will be released if the fumbling police are not able to provide evidence within a day.
With the dauntless filmmaker keen to paint a grim picture in which law enforcement is shown in an unfavourable light - the shirking police force are always in search of a way to shift blame, and with the added social commentary, this film goes beyond the majority of serial killer films. And the most unbelievable of all, this is the director Na Hong-jin's debut.
I am always in awe of some directors' talents, such as Clint Eastwood, the older he gets, the more prolific and inspiring he becomes, and some newcomers like Cristian Nemescu, Fatih Akin, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and Na Hong-jin, with their first attempts at filmmaking, many experienced directors pale into insignificance.

8. Revolutionary Road (2008, Sam Mendes)

It's western Connecticut in the mid-1950s booming postwar period, a couple attempt to move to Paris to begin their lives anew and leave their hopeless emptiness behind. But with the advent of a career opportunity that the male lead cannot afford to miss, the couple's relationship begins to turn sour and lack of communication eventually leads to family tragedy. The storyline sounds stale and conventional, it works as an astonishingly touching, absorbingly thought-provoking adult drama nevertheless.
The film is a glaringly vivid voyage of distress, observing the broadening line between the couple whose growing mutual resentment and hatred are impediment to gradually altering their corroding relationship in the name of matrimony.
Leonardo DiCaprio's acting in this film is at his career peak, bestowing a desperate quality with minimal moves, interiorizing the sorrow and fury with prominent facial torsions, but unfortunately overshadowed this year by Mickey Rourke's Oscar-worthy performance in The Wrestler (2008) - one that most probably will be recognised by the Academy.
Kate Winslet's performance here is much better than that in The Reader (2008), more natural and less contrived, though the latter got lots of her nude scenes, yet Kate Winslet got nominated for best actress for The Reader (2008) rather than this film on Oscar nominations. Go figure.

7. Frost/Nixon (2008, Ron Howard)

Frost/Nixon (2008) tells a very personal story wrapped within a larger political context. Adapted from the Peter Morgan's Tony-nominated stage drama that portrays David Frost's 1977 series of TV interviews with former President Richard Nixon, the film harkens back to the 1970s and the Watergate scandal that resulted in the indictment of several of Nixon's closest advisors, and ultimately his resignation on August 9, 1974. Much unlike typical political interviews, the struggle pitted an checkbook journalism against White House dirty tricks squad. Frost's interview also has to be seen against the backdrop of controversial pardon issued by President Gerald Ford for any federal crimes Nixon may have committed while in office, who regarded the interview both as an opportunity to make a fortune and a prospect of an improvement of his sullied reputation with a talk show host he believed adequate to only asking easy questions.
However, Nixon's underestimate of his opponent paved the way for his final admission and remorse. Mass media was what indicted him and destroyed his hope of presidency both in Watergate scandal and this interview. Although Frank Langella doesn't bear physical or vocal resemblance to Nixon, he incarnates Nixon through sheer force of brilliant performance.

6. Doubt (2008, John Patrick Shanley)

As in The Crime of Father Amaro (2002) and Deliver Us from Evil (2006), this film tells a story of a Father's sexual misconduct. All these films take on the issues of religion, morality and authority. Some priests' misbehaviour arouses some audiences' skepticism on the existence of God, crisis of faith (doubt), as this film put it, can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. There are moments of doubt and disbelief, times when religious doctrine fails to provide a rationale or explanation. Yet all these films don't say priests are unethical but discover that priests are human and some humans are unethical. It should be noted that many ordained religious practitioners are good men. They are good-hearted, altruistic individuals living pious lives in service of their calling. For every dishonourable priest, there are many more men whose concern for others is non-ravening. As in Deliver Us from Evil (2006), an activist for those victims was another righteous Father, who excoriates the Church's response to the scandal, and in this film, Father Brendan Flynn's suspicious behaviour is investigated and reprobated by Sister Aloysius Beauvier.
I had a dicussion about the film Deliver Us from Evil (2006) with an evangelist during the Franklin Graham Festival at Hong Kong Stadium in December 2007. I asked why God didn't prevent some priests' culpability, he replied that God gives you the freedom to choose between right and wrong. If you're determined to misbehave, why blame God for the responsibility of your wrongdoings afterwards. It's you who made the decision. God doesn't tell you to misdemean. One day, those wicked priests have to bear the full responsibility for their conduct in front of God.
The message of this film can be extended from faith in God to faith in life, faith in love, faith in career. Under desperate circumstance, uncertainty is likely to set in. The only thing we could do is learn from the past, make sensible choices, keep going on the right path.

5. Gomorra (2008, Matteo Garrone)

Based on Roberto Saviano's bestseller about Italy's notorious Neapolitan syndicate Camorra, Gommorah is a movie so unlike the usual Hollywood crime film which glamorizes the mob in a phony way, that its genuineness makes the typical Hollywood ones pale by comparison. This film interweaves five different stories related to mob activities to demonstrate how deep the vicious roots reach in reality, and how hard and ineffectual it appears to seek to uproot this mob-rule threat from its firmly controlled regions. It was shot in the same locale as where the story took place, exhibiting the Camorra criminal families' impact in social, political and economic aspects.
It’s a splendidly told disclosure of how the modern Italian mob functions, from the long-existing street bullying to international business intimidation.
The author of the best-seller which inspired this film was threatened by the Mafia of Naples, because he had the bravery and the rashness to spill a large number of beans about the Camorra, the Mafia of Naples, the author now has to be protected by a bodyguard. All these add to the film's atrocious sense.

4. Waltz with Bashir (2008, Ari Folman)

Before Israel carried out an air attack in Gaza and sent tanks into the Strip in late December last year, a film called Waltz with Bashir (2008) was made about the Sabra and Shatila massacre in September, 1982. The peacebreakers and victims are the same in both incidents, Lebanese Phalangist militiamen entered and massacred two Palestinian refugee camps with the permission of Israeli Defense Forces. and Israel's recent relentless air attacks on a besieged Gaza caused over 1,000 deaths and some 4,000 injuries of innocent Palestinians, mostly women and children.
In an animated style similar to Waking Life (2001), writer-director Ari Folman investigates the massacre of Palestinian refugees that has been haunting his generation for more than two decades. Folman's film mulls over this disturbing material, digging slowly but deep – and even the Kafkaesque tone that runs throughout those fragmented memories can't gear you up for the striking aftermath. Ari Folman cuts in between those fragmented memories in such a manner that it takes a while to figure out what's happened and how it all connects, here is a filmmaker challenging the audience's history knowledge, demanding fullest attention. Waltz with Bashir (2008) comes across as a hearty and profoundly sore struggle that exempts neither its maker nor his nation from the guilt. Even though the film's animated style, as the director claimed, functions on the border between reality and the subconscious, what happened in the film was not a dream, and that was the most frightening thing of all.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008, David Fincher)

There's little doubt this is an ambitious effort, the film takes the audience on a tour of the 20th century, with a love story so unique that the lovers age in the opposite direction.
Of all the directors you would expect to make an era-spanning romance epic like this film, you would not think of David Fincher as the first choice. David Fincher's films are symbolized by murder, suspense, brutality, nastiness, and psycho thriller as seen in Se7en (1995), The Game (1997), Fight Club (1999), Panic Room (2002), Zodiac (2007). And yet, David Fincher's astonishing deployment of phenomenal amount of techonological details to replicate New Orleans over the span of the 20th century, and his adeptness to elicit wondrous performances from his actors made this another masterpiece of another heartrending romance. One of David Fincher's magical strength as a director is his ability to make the movie as engrossing as possible througout the film. The film is nearly 3 hours in length, but it never makes you feel ponderous and tedious.

2. The Wrestler (2008, Darren Aronofsky)

Darren Aronofsky, an auteur of making visually thrilling and intellectually challenging films, brings another astounding feature, but with less equivocalness as previous film like The Fountain (2006), instead with more violence and poignance.
The Wrestler (2008) explores not just the traditional elegiac of fading from prime prominence, but the equally soul-rattling ache of father-daughter relationship.
The characters are so deeply drawn and remarkably illuminated, the audience are connectted with the characters' pain. It's an audacious and essential film, gorgeously presented and, grimly entertaining too.
As in Requiem for a Dream (2000), Darren Aronofsky uses certain sound effects to simulate a certain emotion, such as the actor walked in a store to work, but accompanied by shrill, excited cheering of wrestling fans to represent the character's past glory and today's ordinariness.
The performance by Mickey Rourke in this film is simply superb, Mickey Rourke has never been better, his dumfounding wrestling presentation and electrifying acting developes the wrestler into an incredibly complicated, conflicted individual who emites equal parts enchantment and immorality, magnetism and brutality. Mickey Rourke's interpretation of Randy 'The Ram' Robinson stands for the class of male acting in 2008. Chances are we'll see him being awarded as best actor at the upcoming Oscar ceremony.

1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Danny Boyle)

Twelve years after the sublimely excellent Trainspotting (1996), Danny Boyle's works in between were inspiring but uneven, and now with the deeply affecting Slumdog Millionaire (2008), the director is back to his career peak, and this film may be his most popular work ever.
This film is the director's most accessible work to date since the narrative works on multiple levels, it can be viewed as a suspenseful adventure, a touching romance, or as a peek at human misery in Indian society despite its fast-growing economy.
Danny Boyle blends this evidently Oliver-esque tale with picturesque sets, quick cuts, amazing kaleidoscopic shots, canted camera angles, and always-in-motion camerawork. In the hands of a less talented director, this skillfully crafted feature may appear kitschy and meretricious, but with the cinematic sleight of hand of Danny Boyle, this seamlessly assembled work looks stylistically overwhelming while remains narratively solid and grippingly breathtaking.
The movie has grievous and tragic moments but it is jubilant in the end and incorporates all the elements general audience desires. Danny Boyle ends the movie with the protagonist reuniting with his childhood sweetheart and then an effervescent dance number, ensuring the audience leaves the theater with an elated viewing pleasure.

Related Articles:
Best Memories of 2007

Best Memories of 2006

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


美國總統選舉終於塵埃落定,Obama 如願以償登上總統寶座,不過,在他領導下的美國,是否會如他的競選口號般帶來 Change 呢? 可能要四年後才可蓋棺論定。

然而,Obama 的對華貿易政策,如果真的如他所言,那麼可能會美國帶來的是負面的影響,多於正面的 Change. Obama 強調當選後,將會採取措施保護美國製造業,為美國製造業創造更多職位,例如令人民幣升值(事實上,過去三年來,人民幣對美元己升值了20%),以減少從中國入口,刺激美國出口。在寫給美國紡織業工會的信件中,提及會促使中國減少出口,在某些美國部門,更只會使用美國本土製造的紡織品。

Obama 這種政策表面上為美國工人謀利益,實際上是在幫倒忙,如果製造業重回美國,論成本,肯定要比在中國生產的高許多倍,中國有廉價的勞動力,這是美國所不能匹敵的,同樣質量的產品,在中國生產,然後再出品到美國,價錢可能比在美國本土生產的成本還要低,而美國人從中節省下來的金錢,可以用在其他方面,例如美國本土的娛樂業,或者到美國的渡假熱點休憩一番,這對發展美國經濟更有幫助。


再看另一例子,如果 Wal-Mart 直接從中國公司入貨,必須付費請國際航運公司將貨物運到美國,請分銷商以及貨車司機載到各個分銷點,然後還必須付費給商店作擺設及售賣之用,以及貨物進美國貨倉的貯藏費,美國還要徵收銷售稅......看看這些,便知道中國的出口己給美國帶來不少好處,而中國從美國得到的利潤,部分會用於購買美國的債券(中國近年購買了五千多億美元的長期債券,對維持美國人生活質素起了一定作用),部分會用於購買價值以億計的波音客機,這刺激了美國產生很多高薪職位,中國還在美國有不少投資,為帶旺美國經濟扮演重要角色。雖然中國的入口會令部分美國工人失業,但卻為其創造了更多高收入的職位,美國得多於失。


這些 Obama 很可能也是知道的,其所謂保護美國製造業的政策只是為了爭取選票罷了,John McCain 就老實得多,對於紡織工會的要求,不予回覆,因為他知道,類似紡織業這種製造業,交給中國做對美國更有利,可是若如實相告,惹怒紡織工會對自己選情不利,但若欺騙說會予以全力爭取,不但是空頭支票,更有可能會危害美國經濟,當選以後會招來責駡。

另一方面,類似製造業這種勞動密集型行業,工資低利潤少,而且容易對環境構成污染,不少發達國家都己經將製造業規模逐漸縮至最小,或外判給其他勞力便宜的發展中國家,同時努力發展國内的服務業或其他高產值行業,收入較高又不污染環境,中國内地某些地區近年正在減少製造業,逐漸向服務業靠攏,珠江三角洲就是一個例子,西方先進國家正在想方設法利用高新科技發展高產值行業,這些才是出路,製造業己經是明日黃花,只會大規模出現在發展中國家,Obama 計劃重振製造業,其實是在開時代倒車。

Obama 應該做的,不是確保製造業工人能重回製造業的懷抱,而是推出再培訓計劃,使他們能適應於新轉型的高產值行業。

Obama 得以當選美國總統,全賴金融海嘯的出現,時勢(金融海嘯)造英雄,觀其金融海嘯前後的民意支持度就一清二楚,John McCain 選錯 Sarah Palin 還是非常次要的原因,這次金融海嘯來得正是時候,遲不來、早不來,偏偏在總統大選前兩月來臨,倘若金融海嘯晚一年,或者晚三個月,在總統大選後才來臨,現在各國總統致電恭賀的,很可能是 John McCain. 不過我仍然支持 Obama 勝出,Obama 贏得選舉標誌著政治種族化的結束(或暫告一段落),政治不再是白人天下,黑人勝出更可體現美國的民主精神。

(無意中發現 Tom Cruise 在 Top Gun (1986)中的造型,跟年輕時的 John McCain 有幾分相似.)

跟過往總統候選人一樣,奧巴馬競選時循例擺出一副對中國強硬的態度,揚言要拉攏盟國使中國遵守國際法,會利用所有的外交手段促使中國改變,但這些很可能不過是競選時的口號,到了上任後,態度又會跟過往就任總統一樣,有所改變。 1980 年 Ronald Reagan 競選時主張將外交重點由前一年的中美建交改為和台灣重新建交,然而上任總統後不但沒有改變對華外交關係,更於任期内訪問中國,促進雙方關係; 1992 年 Bill Clinton 競選時揚言會優先考慮中國的人權問題,然後才是中美貿易,但上台後減低對中國貿易限制; 2000 年 George W. Bush 競選時視中國為美國的對手,上任後在很多方面都和中國積極合作,Obama 相信也不例外,上台後態度會漸趨溫和。

Change 對於 Obama 來說,很可能只是一個口號,但在另一邊廂,Change 卻真的來臨了,歐美國家史無前例地推出一個又一個救巿方案,冰島甚至到了無論採取何種措施都難逃崩潰的命運,南韓也被視為有可能成為另一個冰島; 東歐國家如烏克蘭、匈牙利都要向 IMF (國際貨幣基金組織)求助; 愛爾蘭、德國與及一眾歐洲國家,然後香港、馬來西亞、新加坡對銀行客戶提供存款全數保障,以防資金流走; 歐洲最大經濟體德國正面臨十二年來最嚴重的經濟衰退,有經濟分析師更預期德國明年會遭到自二次世界大戰後最嚴重經濟萎縮; 即使銀行資金避風港的瑞士也不得不斥資 600 億救助其最大銀行 UBS,股壇明燈 Warren Buffet 也承認無法預測下個月或下一年的股票行情會怎樣。


但以上這些惡劣經濟情況、不過是金融危機後必然出現的現象,真正令人感到意外的 Change 是一眾西方首腦及 IMF 在危機中所作出的反應,跟十年前亞洲金融危機時,有天淵之別。

十年前亞洲金融危機時,IMF 建議受影響的亞洲國家提高息率,結果導致消費者和公司未能處理債務和應對衰退,而這次美國金融危機,美國及歐洲央行一致減息務求重振經濟; 十年前亞洲國家被叮囑不要拯救瀕臨破產銀行和大公司,因為這於理不合和浪費公帑,因此導致印尼不少銀行倒閉,連本來運作良好的銀行也不能倖免,然而美國金融危機,歐洲一眾國家首腦推出總值三萬億作收購銀行壞帳、存款保障、免抵押貸款、及注資用途,美國也動用一萬億拯救各大銀行及大公司; 西方首腦不容許任何重大銀行倒閉,但當亞洲金融危機時,亞洲國家想採取類似措施,卻被告誡那樣做只會使危機進一步惡化。那時身為 IMF 主席的 Michel Camdessus 勸告很多亞洲國家首腦,政府入巿拯救只會破壞自由金融巿場的原則,但這次美國金融危機,現任 IMF 主席主張美國及歐盟要採取積極措施救巿,不然會導致金融體系崩潰。

十年前東盟領袖斥責對衝基金的投機活動,例如期貨放空,拖垮當地貨幣和股票巿場,遭到 IMF 反駁說監管不力才是問題所在,投機只是正常活動; 然而現在美國金融危機,美國各大銀行銀長紛紛指責投機份子令股價暴跌,美國、英國及其他幾個國家己禁止放空金融類股。


幸虧亞洲金融風暴時,亞洲一些國家不須向 IMF 借貸,不須仰人鼻息,因此得以自作主張,推行自己認為恰當的政策,而現今西方國家應對金融危機的方法,大部分跟當時亞洲某些地區的應對措施一樣。

1998 年 IMF 年度會議,一些亞洲首腦批評金融投機活動和金融體系缺乏規範,導致實體經濟受損,結果被西方金融專家和政治領袖諷笑為對當今國際金融體系的運作情況一無所知。可嘆的是,如果當時的 IMF 以及西方一眾領袖能從亞洲金融風暴汲取教訓,西方國家可能不須遭受這次金融海嘯,世界也不會受拖累陷入經濟衰退。

(時移勢易,根據 Bloomberg 資料顯示,以巿價總值排列的全球十大銀行,前五名中有三名屬於中國銀行,分別是中國工商銀行、中國建設銀行和中國銀行)

經歷衰退囹圇的西方國家想亡羊補牢,有意將六十多年前制定,對現今世界經濟格局有重大影響的 Bretton Woods system 重新修改,以適應新的世界經濟氣候,但今天世界形勢跟 1944 年制定 Bretton Woods system 時不同,有太多的分岐,想要達成皆大歡喜的協議,恐怕殊非易事,美國仍然想擔任全球經濟的壟斷地位,操控一切,扮演經濟體系背後那隻無形的手; 英國願意跟其他國家合作,但仍不願加入歐盟,也不願採納歐羅; 法國抨擊自由放任式金融體系,提議加強監管,限制主權基金活動; 中國則希望盡量獨善其身,搞好自身經濟再說; 石油輸出國組織以及俄羅斯只想將二萬億的主權基金任意投資,趁低吸納優質企業; 其他國家則希望在國際上更有發言權、擁有更多財富,但盡量少責任......所有國家都對怎樣實行資本主義有不同見解,都以自己的利益為依歸,同時不要為自己的利益承擔太多的責任。不少金融界人士對金融體系的改變持保守態度,希望盡快回復昔日無拘無束的光景,在此情況下,對於即將在華盛頓舉行的 20 國金融峰會,不要冀望有重大改變出現,很可能只是一個清談會議(talking shop).

至於中國在這次金融海嘯中,強調要減少依賴出口,透過減房地產稅以刺激樓巿,增加公共建設擴闊内需,然而想要老百姓在經濟蕭條的情況下,多消費支持國内經濟發展,必須具有完善的社會保障機制,社會福利措施如失業救濟、教育、醫療服務和退休金方面必須有充分的保障,才能讓人民放心消費,為内地消費者的消費習慣帶來真正的 Change.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Can Batman outgross Titanic?

去年有不少電影很精彩,堪稱令人回味的一年,2007 年更有 7 部新電影以高分高票數姿態進入 IMDb Top 250 (公眾投票好戲榜),進入 Top 251-500 的則有 12 部,但神話的誕生卻是在 2008 年夏天,The Dark Knight (2008)上映後,就以誰也預料不到之勢創造了一個又一個的電影記錄。

看看數據,The Dark Knight (2008)在美國上映僅 2 天,美國本土票房就過了 1 億美元,上映 5 天後,票房過 2 億美元,比起 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)的 8 天才過 2 億美元快了 3 天,Spider-Man (2002)的 9 天快了 4 天時間,當時我認為,如此強勁走勢,The Dark Knight (2008) 3 個月後的最終累積票房應該會突破 5 億美元大關,但要打破十年前 Titanic (1997)所創造的 6 億美元紀錄,仍然有難度。

一般來說,票房過了 2 億美元之後,走勢會迅速滑落,需要頗長時間才能累積到 3 億美元票房,例如 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) 要 16 天,Spider-Man (2002) 要 22 天才到達 3 億美元,然而,The Dark Knight (2008)走勢仍然淩厲,只用了 10 天時間就過了 3 億美元票房,撰文的時候,正是 The Dark Knight (2008)上映 18 天,票房己經突破 4 億美元,之前最快到達 4 億票房的是 Shrek 2 (2004),但要用 43 天,The Dark Knight (2008)比其快了 25 天。

換言之,The Dark Knight (2008)是電影史上最快取得 1 億美元( 2 天)、2 億美元( 5 天)、3 億美元( 10 天)、4 億美元( 18 天)的電影。

18 天就己經突破 4 億美元票房,令我當初預測 The Dark Knight (2008)美國本土累積票房會過 5 億,但不能超越 Titanic (1997) 6 億票房的想法有所改變,因為 Titanic (1997)過 4 億美元時,要用上 66 天, The Dark Knight (2008)比其快了 48 天時間,所以最終累積票房很有可能打破 Titanic (1997)的 6 億票房記錄。

The Dark Knight (2008) 的票房和 Titanic (1997)相比,前者夏天開畫( 7 月 18 日),後者冬季開畫( 12 月 19 日),前者是脫韁野馬,後者是後勁淩厲,前者一開始即呈現王者之風,連破多個票房紀錄,後者以慢熱狀態,當年持獲取奧斯卡 14 項提名,迅速成為話題之作,加上不少懷春少女到戲院重看 5 次以上,令該片可以持久不衰,在上映 9 個月後,票房突破 6 億美元。The Dark Knight (2008)雖然還沒有奧斯卡提名助勢,但其口碑強勁,上映後好評如潮,不少著名影評人都予以強烈好評,在知名電影網站 IMDb 上更連續多天來以高分登上 IMDb Top 250,目前仍以 200,000 票雄踞榜首,取替 The Godfather (1972)多年來的 #1 位置,對上一次被取替 IMDb #1 位置,要追溯到 7 年前的 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001),預計隨著投票的增多,IMDb #1 位置,可能會被得到 350,000 多票的 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)占據。

香港票房方面,上映 18 天的票房己經是 4,500 萬,年初《長江七號》上映 30 多天,票房累積 5,140 萬, The Dark Knight (2008)只要在 14 天内,多 700 萬票房,便可超越《長江七號》的 5,140 萬票房,這可說是毫無問題的,一般來說,諸如 The Dark Knight (2008)這類超級大片,因為需求關係,在香港的上映天數,會在 50 天或以上,如果保守估計, The Dark Knight (2008)在香港能上映 50 天,那麼以現時 18 天便有 4,500 萬的成績,餘下 32 天的票房,別說超越年初《長江七號》的 5,140 萬票房,連 2004 年《功夫》的 6,127 萬香港票房,也有可能將之抛離,預計 The Dark Knight (2008)的最終香港票房,有可能在七千萬港幣左右,只要在餘下 32 天内,多 2,500 萬票房,累積票房便會達到 7,000 萬。 雖然八月開始,出現 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)分薄票房,但該片口碑不佳,後勁無以為繼,不足以威脅 The Dark Knight (2008)票房,後者有強大口碑使其票房保持穏步上揚。

一部電影能否大賣,分為三個階段,首先是造勢,在未上映前即開始龐大的宣傳攻勢,造成未映先轟動,引人關注的局面,現時有不少超級大片,基本上都做到這一點, The Dark Knight (2008)在今年七月才公映,但其預告片段,去年 2007 年時己經廣泛宣傳,另一例子是明年 2009 年三月才公映的另一超級大片 Watchmen (2009),其預告片段,在今年七月時己推出,點燃觀眾的觀看慾望,大有明年三月約定你的氣派,迅速成為觀眾的另一熱門話題。第二個階段就是強大宣傳攻勢催谷下,電影上映後,首周至第二周票房通常都可以賣個滿堂紅,接下來能否維持勢頭,就要看該電影的口碑如何,如果影片本身素質不錯,有口皆碑,這種另類宣傳除了可吸引多些人進場,有些原本看過的觀眾更有可能再購票進場看多一次。第三個階段就是看該片能否產生社會效應,成為各界熱門話題,像十年前的 Titanic (1997),除了囊括 14 項奧斯卡提名,電影中所涉及的愛情觀、人生觀亦成為不少學者與學生的話題,雅俗共賞,輪船上幾等艙的特色恰好是現實社會的縮影,這些社會效應有助進一步提高電影票房。 The Dark Knight (2008)無疑在這三個階段都表現出色,先有強大宣傳攻勢,電影上映後口碑極好,電影裡面所展現的人性善惡混沌,也比傳統英雄電影非黑即白的簡單二分法來得深刻,片中對現實政治、經濟局面的影射,成為不少觀眾的議論之資,使其與那種看後即忘、純粹娛樂、給予官能刺激的大片大相逕庭。

我並非 Batman 擁躉,看 The Dark Knight (2008) 主要是因為 Christian Bale,以前看 Empire of the Sun (1987)American Psycho (2000)時,就覺得此演員有他獨特的氣質,再後來看 The Machinist (2004),更被其專業奉獻精神所感動,他為了演好該片,所投入的程度與及犠牲,電影史上並不多見,其優秀表現與及忘我精神令我將他放進我的 Most Admired Actors 列表中,然而他在 The Dark Knight (2008)的演出只是保持水準,沒有突破。 The Dark Knight (2008)成功的原因之一,就是 Heath Ledger 和 Maggie Gyllenhaal 這兩個配角發揮遠得比預期好,去年得知 Heath Ledger 出演片中重要配角 The Joker,Maggie Gyllenhaal 代替 Katie Holmes 飾演 Rachel Dawes,對觀看 The Dark Knight (2008)的慾望立時打了個折扣,對 Heath Ledger 演出的印象一般,就算那部令他得以提名奧斯卡最佳男主角的 Brokeback Mountain (2005),他所飾演的同性戀牛仔角色也略嫌造作生硬,最近在 I'm Not There. (2007)中飾演 Bob Dylan 更是形神俱不似,對他較有印象的要追溯到差不多九年前的 10 Things I Hate About You (1999),他扮演的反叛少年尚算有板有眼,可能現實中那個時候的他就是那個樣子吧。沒料到 Heath Ledger 這次在 The Dark Knight (2008)飾演的 The Joker 會是如此出色,將角色的躁狂、神經質、冷血而機智表現得淋漓盡致,全片表現得最搶鏡的就是他,同時也將 1989 年版 Batman (1989),由 Jack Nicholson 飾演的 Joker 比了下去。 可惜,由於年初服藥過量意外猝死而分享不到 The Dark Knight (2008)成功對其演藝生涯所帶來的種種正面效益。 有些觀眾會將 The Dark Knight (2008)票房成功歸因於 Heath Ledger 的猝死,但這種說法是不當的,無論在美國,還是在其他地方公映,所進行的電影宣傳上,都沒有提及這是 Heath Ledger 的遺作,電影公司沒有打算利用 Heath Ledger 發死人財,喜歡 Heath Ledger 的觀眾,無論其在不在世,都會進場觀看,對其無甚印象的,不在世也不會增加多大吸引力,十多年前另一年青偶像 River Phoenix 也因服食藥物而猝死,在其離世三個多月後上映的 Silent Tongue (1994),票房也沒有因此得益,可見一部電影的票房能否成功,主要還是視乎其整體素質,有沒有令人回味再三的功力,而非單靠個噱頭,況且 Batman 系列氣勢如虹,上集 Batman Begins (2005)在口碑和票房上都不俗,根本也不需靠一個過世明星來推動票房。外國電影公司較有專業操守,能做到"君子愛財,取之有道",以認真製作,打造高質素電影,將觀眾吸引進場,而非靠某一兩個低級噱頭吸引人,長遠而言,靠低級噱頭而影片素質不佳的只會降低觀眾的觀看慾,以及損害公司形象。譬如說,外國不少大明星都在一些電影裡面有正面裸露,甚至有親自上陣、不用替身的激烈性愛場面,其裸露程度比起香港某些打著三級片招牌的電影更甚,但外國電影公司極少以大明星在電影中的裸露、性愛場面作招徠,大明星也很有專業精神,親身上陣,不用替身,這些全因外國電影工業有專業觀念,明白到這就是表演的一部分,沒有什麼值得大驚小怪的,反觀香港,動輒以某某明星全裸、三點盡露作為宣傳賣點,同時也真的有一部分觀眾(也有可能是絕大多數)被這些噱頭牵引進場,花錢進場就為了那幾分鐘明星做愛的裸露場面,一個地區的電影工業墮落到要靠一兩個低級噱頭來吸引觀眾,而該地區觀眾的素質也低至進場只為了某點低級趣味,難怪在香港,不少非主流的好片,往往欠缺知音,進場觀看者甚少,戲院商見觀看者不多,往往減少放映院線,縮短上映日期,以減少虧損,造成惡性循環。有電影工作者抱怨籌集不了資金,無法拍大片,言下之意只有大片才能引起注意,才能賺錢,這只是對巿道不了解的說法,大量資金堆砌的電影固然容易引人注目,但血本無歸的也有不少,Stealth (2005)Poseidon (2006)Speed Racer (2008)...就是樣板,相反,小本製作而口碑、票房雙贏的也有不少,Juno (2007)The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)Once (2006)...等等就是最佳佐証。

說回 The Dark Knight (2008)票房,即使美國本土最終累積票房突破 6 億美元,仍然不能超越 Titanic (1997)的票房,因為經過調正通貨澎脹指數後,Titanic (1997)的美國票房為 9 億美元左右,The Dark Knight (2008)上映 3 個月後,估計最樂觀的結果,可能也只是 7 億美元左右,因此在表面帳目上,The Dark Knight (2008)應該能夠超越 Titanic (1997)成為電影史最賣座冠軍,但加上通貨澎脹因素後,就只能屈居其後。不過,如果要加上通貨澎脹的因素來考慮一部電影的實際成績,那是不是還要加上社會因素加以考量才算公平,如果單以通貨澎脹因素來決定的話,那麼美國最賣座的電影會是 Gone with the Wind (1939),當年其美國票房為 1 億 9 千萬,但經通貨澎脹因素調整之後,其美國票房就是 14 億美元,這個記錄恐怕沒有任何一部電影可以打破,不過如果加上社會因素進行考量,Gone with the Wind (1939)上映時,那個時候連黑白電視機都未普及,大眾娛樂少得可憐,突然有一部大明星擔綱、而且又是彩色的大製作電影,大眾還不趨之若鶩,紛紛衝進戲院觀看,那時的電影選擇也沒現在的多吧,所以以這個數字來跟現在對比是不公平的,因此乍看之下,較有對比性的只有十年前 Titanic (1997)的 9 億票房,然而十年前的今天,娛樂方面有現今這麼多選擇嗎? 1997 年時上網還未普及,完全不能跟今天諸如 YouTube 等視頻網站如雨後春笋般出現,給大眾無限觀賞便利,1997 年 DVD 才剛出現,除了電影院,要看電影基本上就只有透過租借錄影帶,而且從電影在影院上映到推出錄影帶的時期也較長,間接推動群眾到影院觀看,推高票房,十年後的今天,DVD 己成明日黃花,電影從在影院上映到推出 DVD 的時期,往往很短,只是 3 至 4 個月左右,有些更不在影院上映或上映不久,就直接推出 DVD,同時大眾也能很便利地從各種渠道輕易獲得電影 DVD,而 DVD 在不少己安置大屏幕的家中播映,效果都挺不錯,有家庭影院之稱,這些都降低了大眾進影院的慾望。另外在這十年間,有不少膾炙人口的特效大片推出,例如 The Matrix 系列、The Mummy 系列、The Lord of the Rings 系列、Spider-Man 系列、Pirates of the Caribbean 系列、Harry Potter 系列、National Treasure 系列....等等,這些視覺特效大片都是在 Titanic (1997)推出之後才出現的,觀眾受到眾多特效大片的視覺轟炸,對很多所謂特效大片己興趣驟減,而且現在的觀眾比起十年前的觀眾,由於容易獲得 DVD,加上網上的視頻網站,現時每名觀眾平均所觀看過的電影,遠多於十年前的觀眾,視野闊了、品味高了,不會容易受電影吸引進場,另外其他娛樂選擇如 PS3、XBOX、Wii...等等,這些都是新世紀的產物,還有近十年間興起的 24 小時收費電視,娛樂節目在任何時段任看,現時是娛樂爆炸的年代,娛樂多不勝數,間接減低了大眾進戲院的意慾。

此外,十年前當 Titanic (1997)上映時,除了 12 月時差不多同期的 Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)As Good as It Gets (1997)較為矚目之外,在 1 月至 3 月的檔期上映的,很多都不是什麼超級大片,例如 Good Will Hunting (1997)The Wedding Singer (1998)The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)U.S. Marshals (1998),造成 Titanic (1997)競爭對手弱的現象,而現在 The Dark Knight (2008),除了上映前 WALL·E (2008)Hancock (2008)Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)幾部猛片搶去不少票房,上映不足一個月,就先後有 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)Tropic Thunder (2008)Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)這些超級大片攔路搶奪票房,還有黑馬 Pineapple Express (2008)Death Race (2008)也是不可小覻的票房對手,The Dark Knight (2008)面對的票房競爭無疑比十年前的 Titanic (1997)大得多; 再加上八月份即將舉行的奧運會,舉世矚目,對 The Dark Knight (2008)的票房也有負面影響。 綜合以上種種因素,The Dark Knight (2008)的票房形勢比 Titanic (1997)更嚴峻,但甫一推出,便氣勢如虹,連破多個票房記錄,18 天達至 4 億美元的成績( Titanic 要 66 天才到達 4 億),相信要等待相當一段時間之後才會被後來者打破,而這是在沒有任何奧斯卡提名助勢,單憑影片本身素質,口碑相傳下達成,這也正是 Titanic (1997) 所不能及之處。

總而言之,如果幾個月後,The Dark Knight (2008)的美國累積票房到達 6 億 5 千萬美元,那麼我會視之己超越 Titanic (1997),而成為美國電影票房史上最賣座冠軍,如果不認同者要加上通貨澎脹因素,說必須超過 9 億美元才算真正超越 Titanic (1997)的美國票房,那麼我(即使不將上映時其他電影競爭強弱的因素計算在内)會以種種以上所提及的社會因素 - 電影 DVD 的普及和容易獲得、電影很快推出 DVD、互聯網的普及和網上視頻網站的興起、家庭影院的潮流、24 小時任看的收費電視、其他種種近十年間時髦的娛樂活動 - 去抵消掉那多出的 3 億美元。

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Best Memories of 2007

Best Memories of 2007

In reminiscence of 2007, July is a month worth remembering, when the journey towards finishing viewing IMDb top 500 list ended, and I became one of several hundred few worldwide who had done that, or put it another way, one of the most masochistic viewers around the world.
Besides, I also finished viewing other movie lists, or the vast majority on the lists, say, TiME magazine 100, AFI top 100, Oscar best pictures over the years, and past Best Foreign picture winners, etc......

As far as Top 10 list of 2007 is concerned, only those films first released in the year of 2007 will be considered.
Regretfully, by the time this article is written, I have not yet watched the following films, which seem to be the strong candidates to make the top 10 list of 2007.

Across the Universe (2007), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Juno (2007), There Will Be Blood (2007), Tropa de Elite (2007), Cassandra's Dream (2007), Into the Wild (2007), Paranoid Park (2007), Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)

Chances are the top 10 list may be a trifle different after I have watched all of them.
Anyway, if there is any variation of the list, you can check it out here.

10. No Country for Old Men (2007, Coen Brothers)

This picture is a nihilistic chase story about an ex-welder stumbling upon a drug deal gone sour and a suitcase full of cash, which makes him being tailed by an unrelenting killer.
While to those familiar with Coen Brothers' body of work, it's practically nothing new, just a mixture of Coen Brothers' former works: the crazed hunting of Blood Simple. (1984), the brutal atrocity of Miller's Crossing (1990), the bloodshed and gore of Fargo (1996), the story never runs short of unanticipated twists and switchbacks, tense and grasping on one hand, breathtaking and stirring on the other. The audience are thrown into a territory swamped with violence, carnage, blurred values and everything is bleakly subject to the whims of fate.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, Coen Brother's long-term partner since Barton Fink (1991), does a stupendous job providing gorgeously crafted photography and an array of empathy-inducing images, which captures the lives and growing tensions between the hunting and the killings.
The acting in this film is remarkable throughout, especially the killer, played by Javier Bardem, who is a versatile actor, from a troubled policeman in Live Flesh (1997), a complext poet in Before Night Falls (2000), a tenacious paralysed victim in The Sea Inside (2004), to a barbarous killer in this film. He is utterly believable in every role.

9. Control (2007, Anton Corbijn)

A dramatized account of the troubled singer of Joy Division, Ian Curtis, from his student era to the formation of post-punk outfit Joy Division, until his final years when his epilepsy and personal problems get the best of him.
Shot in bright monochrome, infused with nihilism and darkness, and also the sweetness and charisma, plus newcomer Sam Riley's eerie performance, which embodies Ian Curtis perfectly, a lively Ian Curtis appears in front of the audience, just as Jamie Foxx inhabits Ray Charles in Ray (2004), director Anton Corbijn's debut feature captures the general atmosphere of that era in persuasive detail, pays proper homage to the enigmatic lead singer and enduring music of Joy Division.
This film is definitely far better than another bio-pic, I'm Not There. (2007, Todd Haynes), which looks back at the different aspect of Bob Dylan's life and work, personified by six characters. On the bright side, it embodies a multi-faceted Bob Dylan, on the dark side, only two out of six characters worth mentioning, Christian Bale's fantastic black-and-white Dylanesque photographs and Cate Blanchett steals the show by adopting the transvestite role as Dylan, on the darker side, Heath Ledger as Bob Dylan is awful, almost as cheesy is Julianne Moore as Joan Baez. The movie is too fragmented and looks like a parody rather than a tribute to a legend like Bob Dylan.

8. Atonement (2007, Joe Wright)

After the successful interpretation of Pride and Prejudice (2005), Joe Wright returns with another adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement, and it tops all films with seven nominations at the announcement for the 65th annual Golden Globes, including Best Picture and Best Director. The feature seems worthy of the nominations since it successfully interpretes the novel.
Atonement (2007) tells of the romance between Cambridge-educated Cecilia and a housekeeper's son, Robbie Turner, unfortunately jeopardised by Cecilia's younger sister, Briony, who falsely accuses Robbie and seperates the lovers out of jealousy and misunderstanding. The separated lovers die in woeful conditions respectively later. The now notable Briony as a writer, in order to make amends for her past misbehavior, depicts the love story between the two in an imarginary way by making it a paradisaic reunion at the Dover seaside so that they can have some finest euphoric moments that was actually forbidden to them, and through this literary writing, her guilty conscience can be eased.
The juxtaposition of a fine score by Dario Marianelli to create an alluring effect with pivotal moments - especially the one where the young Briony transforms into an old guilt-ridden lady, the clacking sound of the typewriter is a rhetorical exposition of her writing career and the march of time from young to old.
Some scenes in the movie are portrayed twice, once from Briony's perspective and once from an impersonal point of view, this is a sensible move that the audience can realise why Briony mistakenly perceives what happened around her.
Apart from the spectacular location, prominent sets and lighting, the casting is superb, the transition of the character Briony from 18-year-old (Romola Garai) to the old and dying (Vanessa Redgrave), is natural and persuasive, owing to the resemblance between the two actresses in their appearance and temperament.

7. The Kite Runner (2007, Marc Forster)

Many people are yearning for the good old days, but nostalgia may not always be sweet, sometimes recalls bitter moments, sweet yet bitter. Such is the case in Kite Runner (2007). Beginning in 2000 in San Francisco, and instantly flashing back to 1978 in Afghanistan, the film tells a story of two 12-year-old kite runners, Amir and Hassan, who were confidants in spite of their class differences. Jealous of his father's compliment towards Hassan and out of cowardice, Amir did nothing when he watched Hassan being brutalized and even sodomized by teen bullies. Years later, when the despicalbe Amir learned Hassan's son was in danger, he flew home to help because he saw this as redemption of his past wrongdoings, a way to be good again.
This movie is a tale of guilt and redemption, about what is right and wrong.
Throughout human history, the worst of human nature manifests itself not only in wartime, but in normal times as well if you let your moral sense be caught off guard.
We will always have to contend with hatred, racism and fear to be good again. Right and wrong are not things that happen to us, they are things that we can choose.

6. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007, Cristian Mungiu)

Romania in the 1980s', the last years of Romania's Ceausescu dictatorship, Otilia, a young, female university student, sets on a journey to hire an abortionist to perform an abortion for her roommate, Gabita, in a hotel room. After an interminable argument, the wretched abortionist extracts an unexpected price out of Otilia due to her deficient abortion allotment. The film finishes when Gabita's fetus is successfully aborted and disposed of through a building's garbage pipe.
Filmed in documentary style, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" is a searing allegory of the human condition in 1980s' Romania, a testament to a forgotten, recent past, a caustic narrative of despair and loss, poignantly told in subtle actions and spare words.
This film has its share of haunting moments and images, the bloody baby foetus is one of the most lurid scenes in film history. The dark, grim streets with dogs barking somewhere are a figurative expression of gloomy claustrophobia, thought strangulating of Romanian lives, whereas in the last section of the film, Otilia groping her way through the building amid the darkness suggests our heroine's move towards emancipation parallels Romania's own impending, tardy, and painful rebirth. It won the Golden Palm Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, the distinction is deservedly earned.

5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, Julian Schnabel)

Based on the self-portrait of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle - an autobiography about his real life catastrophe, which leaves his whole body paralyzed except his left eye and blinking is his only means of communication with others.
It's an unusual package and an unusual feature, simply on the surface, the series of first-person camera style, the unusual visuals would make for challenging viewing. The wondrous integration of first-person and third-person cinematographic techniques conveys how the protagonist's soul flys free like a butterfly, albeit trapped in his diving bell-like paralyzed body. This visually striking, thought-provoking feature incorporates occasional agonizing moments, subdued humor and internal monologue in connection to his reactions to external occurrences.
The majority of the scenes transpire through the victim's left eye, and the film is at its most touching in those moments, the audience are brought to feel what it is like to be paralysed from the eyes down, only your left eye is left to be watching like a normal person. Similar subject matters like The Sea Inside (2004), Land of Silence and Darkness (1971) remind us how fortune we are to be able to live like a normal person, there really is always somebody worse off than ourselves, maybe being in a state of normal is already blessed. Every normal daily life should be held dear.

4. California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit) (2007, Cristian Nemescu)

This picture works well as a gripping social-document of a particularly dismal period in Romania, it cuts back and forth between Romania during the second world war and what happened at the outskirts train station in recent time, the picture presented of Romania is bitingly specific: a dysfunctional country where corruption seems to be the rule and the young have no ideal but craving for American, there's no shortage of dystopias in this chaotic country.
This motion picture is a piercing satire that American is no savior at all, from the second world war, up to Nicolae Ceauşescu's rule, anytime in Romanian history, no American ever came to Romanian rescue when needed, even now, American unit on its way to the NATO war scene in Yugoslavia brings disasters rather than peace to Romania. Americans are referred to, somewhat disparagingly throughout the film, as shabby folks.
Approached differently, this could very easily have been a self-righteous, social-realist trudge but Cristian Nemescu is too much a director for that to ever happen; his masterful use of flashbacks and handheld camera unleashes a documentary-esque realistic description of the sufferings and the recent status quo of Romanian.
His approach is accessible to anyone wishing to delve into studies of Romanian lives. He's to be applauded for constructing a very dynamic topic with fluid camera motion.
Flashbacks in the film also typify lessons from past sufferings, which must be learned if Romanian wishes to take giant step towards a hopeful future.

3. Zodiac (2007, David Fincher)

At first glance, Zodiac (2007) seems like an excellent choice for David Fincher's sixth directorial effort. David Fincher has achieved huge success in crime and thirller genre with Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999), although his other works The Game (1997) and Panic Room (2002) were received mixed reviews, only moderate success both at the box-office and with critics, I personally thought they were solid and intricate.
In Zodiac (2007), David Fincher worked with sharp digital effects to convey the the film's nightmarish scenario about the real-life infamous Zodiac, a serial killer who menaced San Francisco and got away with it during the 1960s and 1970s. Ruffianly and devastating like always, Zodiac (2007) is a splendid presentation of seat-grabbing tension and Fincher captures human dismay and fear at their most primal. Some impatient viewers might quetch this film is overlong and too subtle, but remember, this is a portrayal of a true crime, rather than an titillating action thriller. An elaborate chronicle of the procedure and a perplexing maze of facts are essential to make this a profound and engrossing film. The accuracy in every detail, from newspaper office to everything else on the set, gives the film a touch of quasi-documentary and proves Fincher is a topflight filmmaker unsparing in his demands for perfection.

2. Sicko (2007, Michael Moore)

Even after more than 15 years of documentary making, Michael Moore remains a tiptop documentary maker to distinguish himself form his peers -- partly because of his comic outrage, multi-dimensional perspective, more importantly, because of his courage, spirit and fascinating insights into not-so-funny matters.
After examining the culture of guns and violence in the United States and probing Bush's administration in the post-911 America, Michael Moore comes back with Sicko (2007), an in-depth look into the American health care system, where profit-obsessed pharmaceutical companies ostensibly collude with morally compromised bureaucracy to generate profits than provide proper medical care. Patients who are unable to pay the medical bills are unfeelingly denied treatments. Michael Moore compares U.S with those countries, like Canada, Great Britain, France, and Cuba, where universal health care is provided, shows how tragic the U.S citizens are when they have to pay the overpriced medical coverage, and how ironic when accused 911 attackers get better medical treatment than 911 rescue volunteers.
For those who are seriously ill or wounded, the illness alone leaves them in rather poor shape, not to mention a large sum of medical expenses waiting to be paid. The torment of illness and the burden of expensive prescriptions aggravate the precarious situation a patient is in. Huge medical bills are severe blows to seriously illed patients. As was common in his other works, the film is impregnated with a degree of amusement, good blend of laughter and poignancy. After the film is ended, the thought occurs to most viewers that the basic right of universal health care is needed in every country.

1. Blind Mountain (2007, Li Yang)

Inspired by a news report, Blind Mountain (2007) sets in early '90s, a university graduate finds herself held captive and becomes somebody's wife after being tricked into a remote village to sell medical supplies. As the months gone by and attempts to escape failed, the hapless heroine becomes hopeless and helpless, falls into darkness and despair.
This film depicts collective thoughtless consciousness in urban areas, where there is no norm of right and wrong, arising from distorted value, having no sense of responsibility. Likewise, a dysfunctional society is in a terrible mess when there is no traditionally accepted standards of decency or modesty. In the heroine's attempts to break free from dehumanizing conditions, the local cadre and drivers' indifferences prevent the plan from succeeding. It's an austere indictment of the role that the public's passivity and tacit acceptance plays in allowing evil to prosper. The bystanders' apahty simply increases the incidence of these horrendous crimes. The postman, the local cadre, the drivers, these intermediary categories of participants neither take delight in the wife-buying/kidnapping activities nor oppose them. They simply watch passively. The worst horrors are not perpetrated by the ablest rascal, but by the apathetic and cowardly.
Director Li Yang is China's Vittorio De Sica, both physically (his appearance) and thematically, characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class, filmed in long takes on location, frequently using nonprofessional actors for secondary and sometimes primary roles. Both Li Yang and Vittorio De Sica have acute social observation and draw superb performances from non-professional actors.
There is a darker version of this film where the heroine cannot escape in the end, reaches for a knife to fight, the film abruptly ends at that terrifying moment, leaving the audience in shock. The film received a lengthy standing ovation when premiered at Cannes Film Festival on 20 May 2007.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Rarely did I write any matter of personal concern on my blog, but this is an inspiring thing to talk about, a close relation of mine, aged 17, at his first sitting in HKCEE, showed excellent performance with Grade A in 3 subjects and Grade B in another 3 subjects, scored 27 out of 30 points in HKCEE, only one small step further from joining local universities' Early Admissions Scheme, which requires Grade A in 6 subjects.

Although a bit falling short of his family's expectation that he could obtain 30 points, this is a good start for a good student like him... Congratulations!

However, talents without perseverance don't go far, I know you'll be reading this, don't get any ideas of complacency and inertia, or you'll come up short in the end.

Good Job, but Keep Going!