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A funny scene from the 2010 Hong Kong movie 72 Tenants of Prosperity (72家租客), which I just watched last night.

Haha, I can never get enough of it. XD I’m pretty sure I’ve replayed this clip at least five or six times today.

(I should note that I highly recommend this movie to anyone who likes a good comedy. There’s never a boring moment, and it’s so ridiculous that you just ignore the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever and decide to go along for the ride. And, the cast really is all-star, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

Okay, back to studying for my SUPER AWESOME FUN MIDTERMS! :D

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I made a promise to myself that I will watch all classics, just because of their extraordinary reputation. I itch to know why they’ve been lauded as the best for decades.

So today, I watched Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), starring William Holmes and Jennifer Jones. It’s 1949, and Han Suyin (Jones) is a resident doctor at a Hong Kong hospital. She proudly deems herself “Eurasian” — she’s half English, half Chinese — and goes about her business believing that her heart has died after her husband was killed years ago. She meets Mark Elliot (Holmes) at a dinner party, and despite her initial reservations about this married man, they eventually fall madly in love.

A typical love story, don’t you think? I thought so. And I kind of wished that that was all I had to say about it.

A blatant issue was that their relationship seemed to progress too quickly. It did not correspond to how adamant Han had been about being perfectly fine as a widow, devoting all her time to medicine only, and not having affairs with married men. The first night, they had dinner together; this, I deem acceptable. However, they meet again, two weeks later, and they end up going swimming. I was shocked when Elliot dragged Han around by her hand, and even more shocked when they kissed later that night — what happened to Han’s values? why was this all happening on their second date? were people back in the 50s not more conservative than we are today? On the fourth night they meet, Elliot asks for Han’s hand in marriage. Em… No, thank you? I barely know you?

Another issue was the misrepresentation of Chinese culture. While the scenery is undoubtedly 100% correct — they did film in Hong Kong, after all — many simple things were overlooked:

  1. Han speaks Mandarin to the child she treats in her hospital. She’s in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people, especially during that time period, speak Cantonese.
  2. During the funeral procession in Macao, the music playing is actually wedding music. What a way to confuse the scene.
  3. Han’s uncle invites her in to have tea by saying, “Let us have tea and talk of absurdities.” Erm. Wha? I totally didn’t get why her uncle said this. Yes, Chinese people say, “Let’s have tea!” often, but they don’t tell their guests that they’re just going to bullshit with them for the next three hours while sipping on scalding liquid. No! In fact, which culture does that? Do we do that? “How about we go grab a coffee at Tim Hortons and talk about nothing for our entire lunch break?” If you did that often enough, you’d probably end up a loner.
  4. The fortune telling was absolutely hilarious. Hilarious because it was so absurdly wrong. Firstly, the rice scratchings Han did was incorrect; the process is supposed to work somewhat like a Ouija board — a “force” guides your hand to help you write the message you are receiving. Second, the entire process of kau cim (where Han took the bottle of sticks and turned it upside down until one stick fell out) was abhorrently incorrect. Kau cim is usually performed in front of deity’s altar, not in front of a fake fortune teller. This is because you are asking for the deity’s aid, and you can do so directly. You kneel, think of a question, and begin shaking the bottle at an angle (not upside down). By shaking on an angle, one stick will eventually fall out — this is the fortune that the deity has chosen for you. It was odd how only one stick fell out when Han turned the entire bottle upside down — gravity didn’t seem to give equal treatment to all the sticks in the bottle!
  5. The child that Han adopted was named “Oh-No”. What?! What was that? An attempt at humour? It better have been — otherwise, it is a very bad attempt at creating a “Chinese-like” name.

You would’ve thought that Hollywood spent a bit more time doing some background research before filming, especially since they had so many knowledgeable locals they could’ve enlisted. Nope. I bet the Chinese people acting out the funeral procession were chuckling as they danced to the wedding music.

The goal of this movie was to portray how Han and Elliot’s love overcame the prejudice they faced for having an interracial relationship. However, this theme wasn’t obvious while I watched the movie; what I saw more was the prejudice Han faced for dating a married man. Sure, her comments about being “Eurasian” popped up here and there, but when the gossip came up (for example, brought on by that annoying Ms. Palmer-Jones), it was usually about Elliot’s existing marriage.

Final verdict: Fail. Perhaps a great movie then, but not really worth the time now. A few scenes were just humourous enough to make me smile, but the mismatch between Han’s values and her actions as well as the incorrect depiction of Chinese culture forced me to spend the entire 102 minutes brooding instead of enjoying the film. Thankfully, the ending was a bit more creative, and saved me from enduring more of their overly mushy scenes.

Angelina Jolie stars as Evelyn Salt, a CIA officer, in the new espionage thriller, Salt. While Salt is interviewing a Russian defector, it is revealed to the CIA that a KGB sleeper agent named Evelyn Salt is planning to assassinate the Russian president when he visits the United States. Salt, of course, states that this isn’t true, but when she starts running away, the CIA can’t help but decide to hunt her down.

The whole movie proceeds from there, with high-speed car chases, guns, bombs, and loads of hand-to-hand fighting — exactly what we expect from Jolie. There is never a bored moment due to the adrenaline rush you get as you cheer her on for being able to evade capture and death…but as the movie continues, you begin to wonder: Which side is she on? For she seems to help both the CIA and the KGB. Did she not just celebrate with that KGB gang? Wasn’t she running away from that US Counterintelligence agent? But, the endless action keeps these questions somewhat at bay, and you decide to wait for everything to be explained later.

Things are explained later, in an exciting face-off between her and another CIA/KGB double agent whom she has known for a long time. And it would have probably been good for the movie to end there, for all the secrets to be revealed, and for Salt to return to whichever side she actually is on. However, the movie keeps going, and the ending shot is of Salt bruised and dripping wet, running through an empty forest in the dead of winter. You have to wonder: How on earth is Salt still going to survive? What is she going to do next? I mean, yes, she seems like she is very capable of making things work for herself, but honestly, it doesn’t seem possible for her to survive given her situation.

Final verdict? Lots of fast, furious fun, but ending that makes your head hurt. I’m not particularly a fan of action movies, so that from me is actually a great review. Watch it for the action and the well-executed stunts, enjoy the “which-side-is-she-on” debate, but forget about trying to make sense of Salt’s destiny beyond the movie.

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