Post-Oscars Movie Blitz: Amour (2012)

July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized by pacejmiller


And so we’re back to my post-Oscars movie blitz (fr0m 2013, that is), with just a couple more waiting in the wings before I can finally move onto something else more…contemporary.

The second last Best Picture nominee I managed to get to is Armour (meaning “love” in French), possibly the most depressing experience I’ve had in years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant film that explores the depths of devotion, sympathy, empathy, mortality, and ultimately, what it means to be human, but it’s not the type of movie there you’ll be walking out of the cinema exchanging high fives.

Directed by Michael Haneke, who gave us the frightening Funny Games (both the original and the US remake) as well as 2009’s acclaimed White Ribbon, Amour starts off with a death, and backtracks to the lives of Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an elderly couple in their 80s.

This is kind of a spoiler, but very early on something happens and one is forced to take care of the other. It’s a heartbreaking and unflinching portrayal of what I’m sure happens to a lot of elderly couples, many of whom don’t have the resources that they do — though that does not make the story any less traumatic.

With this kind of film it’s easy for the director to overplay his or her hand and turn the movie into a sappy, melodramatic mess. However, while Armour undoubtedly tugs the heart strings, it does so a-matter-of-factly, with a sombre dignity and skilled subtlety. It is a deserved winner for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars.

The performances are also remarkable. Riva got most of the acclaim and accolades (including the Best Actress nomination) for the way she portrayed Anne’s fragility, fears and anger, but I thought Trintignant was every bit her equal and the film wouldn’t have been the same without either of them. Isabelle Huppert is also very good as their daughter.

But I can’t honestly say I enjoyed Armour. At 127 minutes, it was a little long, and it felt long because of the deliberately slow pace. And the sense of inevitability just added to the pain and anguish. It’s a film I can certainly appreciate for its filmmaking brilliance, performances and ability to strike hard at the audiences’ emotions, but it’s not a film I would recommend to people looking for something to lift their spirits. Probably also best to avoid if you are old or depressed.

3.5 stars out of 5

An Afternoon at Hangzhou’s West Lake

June 17, 2011 in Uncategorized by pacejmiller

An old school drawing of West Lake in Hanghzou

On a cold, windy March afternoon, we decided to take a boat ride on Hangzhou’s famous West Lake.  We had just eaten a massive meal at the excellent Wai Po Jia (review here) and really needed to walk off the food babies, so after disembarking we spent a couple of hours wandering around the outskirts of the lake.

Here are some random photos I took along the way.

(click on ‘more’ to see)

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Movie Review: The Lost Bladesman (2011)

June 16, 2011 in Uncategorized by pacejmiller

It’s amazing that Chinese films are showing at my local mainstream cinemas these days.  One such recent film is The Lost Bladesman, based on the life and times of legendary warrior Guan Yu from the awesome Romance of Three Kingdoms stories.

I’ve been a huge fan of Guan Yu since those Dynasty Warriors games on the Playstation, which are still being churned out these days.  One of the missions in the game requires Guan Yu to escort his sworn brother’s wife/concubine(?) through five passes and requires him to slay six of Cao Cao’s generals on the way.  That’s what this movie is essentially about.

Guan Yu is played by Hong Kong action hero and geniune martial arts expert Donnie Yen, who is a strange choice in some ways because he is nothing like Guan Yu physically (Guan Yu is supposed to be a giant dude with a red face but Yen is a tiny dude with a normal face).  He demonstrates decent range as an actor, but of course it’s his fighting abilities that carry the film.

Speaking of action, the film has plenty of it.  It can get a little crazy at times, but I suppose it’s fitting considering how much of a legend Guan Yu is supposed to be (so much so that he is regarded as a diety by some and idolised as one).  Without giving away too much, the fight scenes often resembled a Dynasty Warriors game, which is pretty cool, I guess.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen so many of these new generation Asian martial arts films (since Crouching Tiger), but The Lost Bladesman doesn’t particularly stand out.  I enjoyed the story and the action but on the whole it didn’t do a whole lot for me.  The ‘five passes six generals’ story is only a very small part of Guan Yu’s legend and I was actually expecting to see a lot more of his other battles.  Granted, it would have been impossible to tell his entire life story in a 107-minute film, but it felt like I wasn’t getting the full picture.

Nonetheless, fans of Asian martial arts films will appreciate many aspects of The Lost Bladesman.  It’s beautifully shot, decently acted (Jian Wen, who plays Cao Cao, was a standout) and packed with well-choreographed action sequences.  The dramatic elements didn’t resonate with me but I admit there was some potential.

3 stars out of 5

PS: I don’t understand the title.  He was not lost at all.

Misty Trees by Nine Streams

June 11, 2011 in Best Of, China, Travel, Uncategorized by pacejmiller

‘What the heck?’ I hear you say.

That’s what I said at first too.  Jiu Xi Yan Shu (direct translation: Misty Trees by Nine Streams) is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Hangzhou, but apparently not a lot of tourists know about it — or so we were told by our taxi driver.

To be honest, there’s not a lot there to do, but the sight of the thick trees surrounding a misty lake is a marvellous sight.  Reminded me of Crouching Tiger and the various Chinese martial arts films that followed it.  Definitely worth dropping by and taking a few snaps if you have a few minutes to spare.

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

WordPress Resources at SiteGround

July 28, 2010 in Uncategorized by pacejmiller

WordPress is an award-winning web software, used by millions of webmasters worldwide for building their website or blog. SiteGround is proud to host this particular WordPress installation and to provide the following resources, which facilitate the creation of WP websites:

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Free WordPress themes
The WordPress theme gallery at SiteGround contains a rich collection of free to use WordPress themes. The themes are suitable for any type of blog and are easy to customize for the particular use the webmaster might need.

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