Monthly Archives: November 2014

Inadequate Review: Interstellar

This highly anticipated film from Christopher Nolan succeeded once again, but with some flaws.

If you are reading this review, first of all, I don’t know what you are doing with your life; secondly, you must not try to avoid spoiler. Because I will tell you that the story has a happy ending, surprisingly.

Astrophysics, relativity, time and space. If you are one of the people would consider any technical or theoretical flaw unacceptable, then this movie is not for you. After watching the movie, my wife and I had a very extensive conversation about the whole space traveling sequence, and found quite a few things impossible with this film. However, none of this hindered our viewing experience. As an audience, I found myself completely emotionally engaged during most of the film, closely following the characters throughout the entire amazing interstellar journey, fighting through improbable odds to get back the space station and save human race. After pilot Cooper decided to make the ultimate sacrifice for Dr. Brand and human race, he fell into the black hole where not even light could escape. Director Nolan used quite some of his imagination and magic tough to build us a 4 dimensions space. This scene was so amazing, and almost literally mind-blowing. As a person closely related to science, I have always had trouble in imagining what a 4 D space-time looks like (not that I am good at imagining any things), let alone to explain it to anyone else. But director found a way to present and communicate this complicated theoretical idea to a very large general audience with such ease. Although conventional wisdom tends to believe nothing survives in that gravity pull from black hole, I am certainly willing to admire that this film take advantage of some unknown theoretical area and great deal of imagination to explain the whole story from the beginning.

Besides the scene of Cooper black hole experience, I found the Dr. Mann planet plot was extremely intense. Before meeting Dr. Mann, everyone talked about Mann with such a glowing manner and absolute positive tone. It just smelt fishy. When Dr. Mann was woke up from deep sleep in water, he simply lost himself and cried uncontrollably. It is hard to imagine how people should react in that kind of situation, cry would be the most logic option. And Matt Damon did a great job in this role. Yes, it was Matt Damon who played Dr. Mann. I found he was a little too famous, and almost distractive in the movie. Anyhow, I digressed. And when asked about the broken robot, Dr. Mann behaved a little awkwardly. I thought to myself, oh, well, it is all downhill from here then. Apparently, Dr. Mann was so desperately looking for human contact, and he sent out fake positive signal, and tricked the crew to the frozen planet where even cloud was even frozen. He set up Cooper, broke his mask, almost killed him, then hijacked the aircraft with the intention to steal the space station? I think. The big revealing as Dr. Mann was getting closer and closer to jeopardize this entire mission was intense and nerve-racking. However, I have to say how Dr. Mann didn’t see the danger of opening the airtight gate was beyond me. But then again, hey, he was basically insane. As the blast happened, the camera took the position straight far above everything that was happening, and the entire theatre was silent all the sudden. In that moment, the silence was so powerful. Looking at all the debris from the space station floating away and the station spinning away from the far above, I felt like I was staring at the end of human race. It was so helpless! I hold my breath while watching pilot cooper miraculously pulled off the high difficulty docking onto a fast spin station. I can’t believe that he did it. Later, my wife told me that she knew everything was going to be fine, as all of this kind movies are, and she wasn’t nervous at all. I grinned. Maybe I was way more emotionally involved in this kind of stuff than others. One thing I have to say that if the station was spinning at a very high rate, it would be impossible for human to actually achieve that task. Just imagine what will happen if putting an animal in high speed centrifuge.

The most moving scene was when Cooper came back from the water planet, and watched all the video messages from the earth. Looking at our son literally growing up in front of you must be a tough and emotional experience. I felt my eyes were a little watering during this. I have always fell for this kind of stories, love of family, heroism, desperation, or being forgotten, and probably more. And this one combined two of them perfectly.

And this leads me to the miserable ending, which I don’t think it made too much sense in the movie. During this entire dangerous journey, Cooper’s love for his daughter was the main motive for him to go on. And the director spent the first one forth of the movie to set the stage for world ending, and Cooper/daughter relationship. Throughout the storyline, it sometimes was the daughter who brought forward some story development. Needless to say, when Cooper woke up in the hospital on human heaven station, he had all of these emotion to express, all of the stories need to be told. But when he saw his daughter, maybe it was her aged appearance that made her unrelateable to him, Cooper barely had five sentences with his daughter before he stood up and left. My jaw is currently still left on the theatre flood. Well, not literally. But I, as a audience, who filled with all these emotions, ready to experience with Cooper for this happy ending, was left unsatisfied. This is it? This is all you have to say to your daughter after surviving from HUGE wave, murder, explosion, and BLACK HOLE. By the way, Cooper has a son too. If Cooper didn’t even acknowledge his death or existence in the final big family reunion, why introduce such a role? This role almost contributed nothing to the story. It was very redundant, and unnecessary. The final happy ending was so full of flaws that it took me out of the movie and left me with such a bitter taste. Why Cooper as a hero returned to the human station, but was merely acknowledged by a reporter? He went through a worm hole, and black hole, and some kind of 4 D dimension space, and came back, and was hardly a celebrity? I found that so difficult to accept. Maybe human race finally evolved after the nature disaster, and just simply mind their own business.

As a person who always afraid of looking into the infinite space, I found this movie just justified my fear. Human was so trivial, and so helpless in the space, what we can do to save ourselves was almost by some miracle. But this is neither here nor there. Despite of my resentment of the ending, I still like this movie quite a bit. It was a great viewing experience if only for the visual effect, and I would recommend anyone to see them. And in fact, I have already done that.

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Irrelevant Comment: “Why Mandarin Won’t Be a Lingua Franca”

Reading the article “Why Mandarin Won’t Be a Lingua Franca” on time.com gets me to think a little. (http://time.com/3585847/mandarin-lingua-franca/) Well, yes, I don’t use my brain very often.

Recent APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit brings China into highlight, and somehow led the author Andre Martinez to consider the future possibility of Chinese language as an international language. And the author did lay out quite a few obstacles that Chinese dialect needs to overcome to be relevant in such consideration. Interestingly, as a native Chinese speaker, I have thought about similar topics from time to time. Although I do agree with the conclusion in the article that Chinese is unlikely to replace English on international stage, my logic still differs from Mr. Martinez’s.

In my cynical opinion, whether one particular language dominates the international dialogues is mainly dependent upon one thing, “money”. The truth is that the language that the most powerful economic entities/countries use would be widely adopted. If we look back in human history, it is undoubtedly that Spanish was way more popular in terms of population percentage when Spain was the most powerful nation in Europe. Chinese was widely adopted by some Asian countries way back when China was a wealthy and powerful nation. When Great Britain blew open the door to Asian market in 1850s, the English language was also widely accepted in many Asian countries. The initial reason why English became more widely used than other language was solely because of the Britain troops set their feet on almost every continent, every country. We don’t need to go into glory/bloody details about how they achieved this.

Thanks to industrial evolution, English maintained the dominant status after WWI. It is undeniable that when a nation, or certain region drove the world’s technology development, the rest of the world would have no choice but follow. This gave English significant advantage over other languages. Western world was way more advanced in technology, and economy, for over 100 years, and English-speaking countries hardly bother to learn other languages for various reasons. In order to communicate, the rest of the world has to speak English.

Just like many people whose mother language are not English, I often think Chinese is a more beautiful language than English is. The author claimed that Chinese “is just too hard for outsiders to attain fluency”. I don’t know how to judge that, but I do think Chinese is a way more complicated language. One single character could have quite a few meanings dependent upon the situation it is used, and those meanings may not relate to each other. This actually comes in handy when giving a name to children. Chinese names often have some meanings, either some wishes or expections. Chinese could be very concise more often than not (Well, yes, it also depends on who is speaking.) One example, in English, there is a saying “Still water runs deep”. There happens to be a phrase with the exact same meaning in Chinese “静水流深”, it pronounces as “jing shui liu shen”. It saved a few syllables from English pronunciation. I have to say that I am not close to be a fluent English speaker, and my opinion could be far more biased than I would like to admit. So, take this with a grain of salt (自行斟酌, zi xing zhen zhuo).

English might be as neutral as the author claimed it to be. I don’t know if that is a good thing. For example, I know that Chinese and Spanish both use different word when addressing senior individuals (I am pretty sure there are other languages have the same thing, apologize for my ignorance). This is actually one of the very important human sides in a language that do not exist in English. Out of respect, people often use those particular terms to address their grandma, grandpa, parents, older relatives, or the papa next door. But in USA, the most common way to address the other people in this situation is using first name, which is considered to be very disrespectful in China. And it took me very long time to get used to this.

Chinese is more flexible and versatile than many people know of. Because China was way behind these developed countries in science. We learned a lot of the knowledge from western world, but still in Chinese. Many characters, and words were created according to either their English meanings or pronunciations.

At last, just like majority articles published in TIME, the author can’t resist the temptation to remind readers of the unpopularity of China in Asia when writing articles relating to China. Don’t wanna dive too deep in political conversation, just merely point out that, popular or not, that is almost irrelevant in this subject. And China is far from a powerhouse no matter in military nor in individual average economy growth. So, we are not a threat.

Anyhow, no one should expect Chinese to threat English “for global preeminence” in the future. And American citizen rejoice. No need to fill the brain with other unpopular languages.

Inadequate Review: Gone Girl

On Sunday, after I abandoned the plan for outlet trip, my lovely wife suggested that we go and see a movie. A couple of her friends had very good things to say about “Gone Girl”, and we haven’t done too many fun stuffs together since we moved into Windy City. So, why not go and see a movie? After some extensive research, we decided to go to the Showplace ICON theater, which turned out to be quite a good decision because of its convenient location and FREE PARKING. You can’t overstate how valuable this is nowadays, especially in a big metropolitan city.

I managed to maintain minimum exposure to this movie because of my lack of interest, didn’t even watch the trailer. In retrospect, my lack of knowledge and low expectation definitely made the movie more thrilling to me. Movie started with a attractive but mysteriously terrifying smile from Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) coupled with a voiceover question from Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). This somehow instantly drew my interest. After a normal trip to his sister’s bar, Nick found his wife gone missing with a suspicious and disturbing scene at home. The broken coffee table, genuine expression from Nick, and the careful inspection by the detective, all led me to think it must be a case of kidnapping. However, as the investigation progressed, my doubt about Nick was gradually raised by Nick’s lack of social awareness in the press conference and emotion detachment from the searching process. As the investigation goes on, Amy’s diary also in parallel narrated how their romantic relation started and how the marriage made a wrong turn when both of them became unemployed, even described some physical conflict between them. Nick even pushed her toward the stair handle. Although all of these seemingly pointed the possible involvement of Nick in Amy’s missing, I somehow just couldn’t believe that is the truth. And then, the diary was found by detective, all of those credit card purchase was found in the wooden shell. The master plan of Amy was revealed by Amy herself. Everything was setup to kill Nick, who had a fair with his college student. I was so relieved for Nick at that time, because at least he knows what was the truth. Although lawyer’s help seems have positive impact on Nick’s case, It appeared that Amy had already planned all of these on her list and calendar. I was seriously doubting Nick could leave this clean, until Amy’s waistbag fell on the ground unexpectedly. I thought the subsequent robbery left Amy no money, and seemingly no options but to live miserably. But apparently, Amy was such a mastermind that she came up with a backup plan right away. Her wealthy former lover believed her twisted story and rescued Amy, took her to his isolated huge mansion by the lake, thinking they could rekindle the romance between them. However, Amy didn’t want that. Nick’s confession toward camera seems impressed Amy. She planed to fake a rape scene again, just like what she did before to her exboyfriend. What shocked me was that she went to such an extreme that she slashed his throat while having sex with him on the bed. His blood spilled all over her, but Amy just barely flinched. The very next day, after all of the drama, robbery, murder, Amy drove back home, showed up before the front door of her house, fell into her husband’s arm in front of all the cameras. There is no way that I would have guessed this astonishing turn of events. Because I just can’t understand why killing a man and reuniting with her husband would somehow be more feasible than maybe simply hiding and staying with someone loving her. Nick apparently didn’t believe the story that Amy told FBI, and demanded the truth from her. Amy told him everything in shower, Nick was stunned. In the following days, Nick was so uncomfortable to be around her, but he wouldn’t dare to say what he wanted to say. He knew she was a psychopath, and he was terrified. Right before the arranged media interview, Amy revealed that she was pregnant, and Nick would have to maintain that marriage with her for a while. Nick explored, and slammed her head against the wall. Ironically, that is when this couple was finally frank to each other. Amy wanted Nick to help her maintain the marriage because of her brand. And he just needs to follow her instruction, hold her hands before she stepped down stairs, and tell the media what she wants him to say. He surrendered. That is how the story ends.

This movie touched upon so many different aspects of our life, husband-wife relationship, social media’s hunger for story line, public relations manipulation, and how ourselves are portrayed by others. There are so many topics involved in this movie, I found myself can’t stop thinking about them, the logic of the film development, the ethic questions of all parties involved, and how this film is reflecting in the real life questions? I have not read the book before. After a few conversation with whom have read the books, many of my confusion about the story became clear.

My first question is why would a wife become so extreme, and go so far to put his husband in the jail simply because of cheating? Amy’s whole life is under disguise from what I understand. She pretended, or tried to be what a man wanted. That explains why Nick and Amy had such a smooth start. Everything between them was so perfect, and spontaneous. Nick said all the right things, and Amy behaved naturally and responded so right from a male perspective. She maintained her size at 2, and said all the right things when recession hits and Nick became unemployed. But when a man wanted to leave her, she became a hateful and desperate monster, because the man would not respect his roles in the play, or her effect in this play. So, she set up a rape against her exboyfriend, and she wanted to send Nick to jail. On the other hand, it has to be said that the movie director deliberately made Amy the super villain, while the original storyline is more balanced. After unemployed, Nick became very depressed and manipulative, a basically A-hole, according to the book, driving Amy crazy. This aspect was merely introduced with a roughly 5 min scene in this movie. Cynical side of me initially attempted to defend the actor’s behavior based upon the limited information when chatting with my wife. I think unemployment could greatly challenge a man’s ego, more than many other obstacles. Coupled with the silent pressure from the wife, it is not hard to imagine Nick could just become very depressed, and defensive because of his self-esteem issue. “So what should the wife do?” my wife questioned me. I really have no idea. I am that kind of person believing that people should take care of their own business regardless of the circumstances. Ultimately, no one could change your fate except yourself. In that situation, the husband could be down, but I guess maybe the wife could show some weakness, and let the husband think that his effort is needed, and surely appreciated. This perhaps could motivate the other person, and give them the purpose that they could be searching. Wife could simply say “I need you to get out of your slump, I need your support for us to get through this.” You get the idea, I am not guarantee this could work, just offer an option. Because you could encounter the possible unpleasant passive aggressive response, such as “Find yourself another guy then. This is who I am, who don’t wanna do anything.” In that case, “Good luck”.

The other big question is why Amy thinks it is more attractive option to go back to Nick after killing Desi. When Amy spent her whole life to be someone a man wants, she grew the appreciation for the man who respects her effort, and is willing to “perform” according to her preferred script. And when Amy saw Nick expressed his regret on television, emphasized that he wanted Amy to come back and become the man that Amy wanted, Amy was truly moved and realized that this is a much more appealing storyline to the “audience”. Desi became a inevitable victim or “villain” in the exciting story. She killed the “kidnapper” and reunited with her husband victoriously! Amazing Amy was brave and strong, a true role model for the society. Even the pregnancy was also part of the plot, for the perfect ending in the story.

The “Gone Girl” covered so many other aspects in the real world, such as, letting the audience experience how the media leads a discussion and draws audience’s interest about any topic. It would be fun for anyone to watch this thriller, with or without the previous knowledge of the novel. In fact, having watched this movie really made me wanna open the novel.