Arrival – my random thoughts

Friday, 5 May, 2017

If you haven’t seen Amy Adams & Jeremy Renner‘s Sci-Fi film Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015)), go watch! I’ve written an extensive post with many video links here.

Here are my random thoughts:


Women’s Horizon (好風景) documentary film review

Tuesday, 9 September, 2014
Women’s Horizon (好風景) HK documentary

Women’s Horizon (好風景) HK documentary

Documentary title: Women’s Horizon (好風景)

Directors: Jo Ho Ka Wui (何嘉滙) and Bryan Chang Wai Hung (張偉雄).

Casts: Kitman, Esther, Kai Kai (佳佳), Charlene, Chan Hei (陳熹).

Film rating: **** out of 5

Film review:

Women’s Horizon (好風景)  is documentary that recorded the different small slices of lives of five Hong Kong women from 2010 fall to 2012 spring. In 58 minutes, the filmmakers were successful in getting the viewers to see how the five women living their lives and for this reviewer, to care about them all. The filmmakers were careful in telling/reminding the viewers by putting up slides on screen part way through the film stating “We are not comparing or judging. We don’t want the audience to generalize all Hong Kong women either. This might only a be a tiny part of their life. Going in front of the camera may cause hesitation or glossing over issues, We want to capture that brief moment of their sincere reality.

Without heavy hands nor trying to sensationalize things, the film gives viewers windows to the women’s work lives, family lives, their aspirations, their disappointments, their dating/love lives, and more. And at one point, we felt like an intimate participant along Kai Kai’s political protest and can emphasize the changes she must have gone through since the beginning of the film.

Watching the film, there are many scenes with Kitman, Esther, Kai Kai, Charlene, and Chan Hei that put a smile on my face, made me laugh out loud, got me thinking, felt sad, and got me scared for what I saw on screen. These are signs of a good documentary.

As far as this reporter knows (plus checking with Jo), Women’s Horizon is possibly the first Hong Kong documentary that wishes/plans to come back to revisit the same documentary subjects in a few years time (if the documentary subjects are willing to participate). Jo mentioned to this reviewer in an video interview that she and Byran were inspired and influenced by the British Up Series when they were planning the documentary in 2010. As a big admirer and lover of the Up Series, this reviewer hopes Jo & Byran’s wishes will come true and viewers will have the pleasure to learn more about Kitman, Esther, Kai Kai, Charlene, and Chan Hei in a few years.

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Women’s Horizon (好風景) film outline,

“[Women’s Horizon (好風景)] Paints a portrait of five unique Hong Kong women. Kitman, a big fan of online sweepstake;; Charlene, a dance instructor and urban fashion shop owner;; Esther, growing up in in a christian community aspiring to live the life within the church;; Chan Hei, was an advocate for the fair treatment of sex workers and is employed at a bookstore;; Kai Kai, Representative of the League of Fanling North Villages and Residents. The documentary recorded their lives from 2010 to 2012. It represents a history of their growth, a reflection of their temporal moods and aspirations for the the future. The images filmed are like five mobile mirrors into individual lives revealings their feeling intentionally or unintentionally. The documentary is not aiming to judge but solely at catching a glimpse of the women’s innermost feelings in this era.”

Here is a trailer,


Goodbye Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Thursday, 4 April, 2013

Terrible sad day for movies lovers to hear the news that Roger Ebert is no longer with us. I’ve got the pleasure and honour to met him once in 2000 at the Toronto International Film Festival. He was pleasant, nice, and larger than life. I remember in one screening, a volunteer had no idea who he was and didn’t let him get into the theatre for a screening which got him quite upset. I think they eventually figured out who Ebert was and let him in.

I love how Ebert writes about movies and can bring out things that I miss even though sometimes our tastes are not quite the same.

Goodbye Ebert. I know wherever you are, they will be playing movies you love non-stop.

Roger Ebert dead at 70 after battle with cancer” Apr 4th, 2013, Chicago Sun-Times obituary

EW, “Werner Herzog on Roger Ebert, ‘the good soldier of cinema’ — EXCLUSIVE

I then read these two pieces by Ebert, “A letter to Werner Herzog: In praise of rapturous truth” and “review of Encounters at the End of the World

Apr 5th, 2013 update:

via PBS, “In this 1994 clip, Roger Ebert answered the question: What final message would you leave for future generations?

TorStar, “For Roger Ebert, it was always about the movies: Howell

CBC, “Roger Ebert mourned by world leaders, film industry vets

The Hollywood Reporter, “THR’s Todd McCarthy Remembers Roger Ebert


Argo, Oscars, Grateful President Jimmy Carter, Ben “WTF” Affleck

Sunday, 24 February, 2013

Oct 15, 2015 update: It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of Ambassador Ken Taylor at 81. CTV News report with video. Global News report (with video).

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President Jimmy Carter vs. Ben

90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good.” — Former President Jimmy Carter on Ben Affleck’s movie ‘Argo’ to CNN’s Piers Morgan.

There’s nothing much right from Day 1 I could do about the movie [Argo]. I changed a line at the end because the caption at the end was disgraceful. It’s like Tiananmen Square, you are sitting in front of a big tank.” – Ken Taylor

Many people (including me) are predicting Argo will likely win Best Picture in The Oscars tonight. So no time is better than now to set the record straight and urge Mr. Ben Affleck, director/actor of Argo to thank Canada and Canadians in his Oscars acceptance speech. If I may be frank and honest, Mr. Ben “WTF” Affleck, enough is enough. Your drama license to twist history to enhance your story telling makes this and other Canadians angry. What will Americans feel if filmmakers from UK or France rewrite history in a “based on real events” movie and minimize the US effort in World War II? Ben, Man up and thank Canada and Canadians in your Oscars speech tonight. If not, I’ve decided to change your name to Ben “WTF” Affleck!

President Jimmy Carter on Argo in Speech at Queen’s University Nov 2012

AP, “Canada deserves Argo Oscar mention, ex-ambassador says ‘The Canadians were brave’, says ex-ambassador Ken Taylor

AP, EX-CANADA AMBASSADOR SLIGHTED BY AFFLECK’S “ARGO”

The original postscript of the movie said that Taylor received 112 citations and awards for his work in freeing the hostages and suggested Taylor didn’t deserve them because the movie ends with the CIA deciding to let Canada have the credit for helping the Americans escape.

Taylor called the postscript lines “disgraceful and insulting” and said it would have caused outrage in Canada if the lines were not changed. Affleck flew Taylor to Los Angeles after the Toronto debut and allowed him to insert a postscript that gave Canada some credit.

Taylor called it a good movie and said he’s not rooting against it, but said it is far from accurate.

“He’s a good director. It’s got momentum. There’s nothing much right from Day 1 I could do about the movie. I changed a line at the end because the caption at the end was disgraceful. It’s like Tiananmen Square, you are sitting in front of a big tank,” he said.

THR, “Ex-Ambassador Again Slams ‘Argo’ for Canada Snub

The full convocation video with President Carter. (portion related to Argo, ~25:55 – 28:15) Queen’s University press release.

An excerpt from the transcript of President Carter on CNN Piers Morgan with my extensive notes,

“MORGAN: A scene from the Oscar-nominated film, Argo, about a daring rescue during the Iranian hostage crisis. I’m back now with former President Jimmy Carter, who was, of course, in the White House at the time. You’ve seen Argo, I take it? How accurate is it from your memory?

CARTER: Well, let me say first of all, it’s a great drama. And I hope it gets the Academy Award for best film because I think it deserves it. The other thing that I would say was that 90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA.

And with that exception, the movie is very good.

But Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only — he was only in — stayed in Iran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.

I was informed about it the first day. And I was very much involved with the Canadian government because the Canadian government would not legally permit six false passports to be issued. So the Canadian parliament had to go into secret session the first time in history, and they voted to let us use six Canadian passports that were false. [Kempton’s note: Lets be clear, I doubt the Americans will issue false US passports to Canadians if our roles were switched. Agree? To me, I am so proud of my government, and the cabinet (?, not the parliament?) in approving the false passports to help our friends in urgent need.]

MORGAN: But when you first heard about this outlandish plan to create a fictitious science fiction movie to get these hostages out, you’re the president of the United States. I mean, if this had gone badly wrong, you would have been an absolute laughing stock. So it’s a bold moment for you, for the presidency, for the country.

CARTER: Well, I don’t deny that, but it was much bolder for the Canadian government to do it because the Canadian government was not involved in the hostage crisis, as you know. They could have been hostages themselves had it been revealed. [Kempton’s note: This is absolutely the case! Remember, other countries (I will not shame them here) were asked to help the trapped Americans and they refused. Canada helped. And by helping, “Argo” is how Mr. Ben “WTF” Affleck decided to thank us?! WTF Ben!]

But as I said, you know, they did the primary work. And as a matter of fact, the American hostages left Iran and landed in Switzerland and landed before the Iranians ever discovered that they had been there.

When I left office, I ordained that we would not reveal any American’s involvement in the process, but to give the Canadians full credit for the entire heroic episode. And that prevailed for a number of years afterwards. [Kempton’s note: This is a right tactical move by President Carter. Totally different from what the movie implied.]

But I think it’s a great film, and it tells a dramatic story. And I think it’s accurate enough. [Kempton’s note: President Carter is nice. I am frank with Ben and is hoping I won’t have to call him Ben “WTF” Affleck after tonight. Will see.]

This article is cross posted in examiner.com by me.


Les Misérables Christmas Eve Musical Preview – One Day More!

Monday, 24 December, 2012

2012 #LesMis Christmas Eve composite

Dear Lovers of Les Misérables music,

One Day More! The wait for our dear LesMis (2012) is almost over! To help me relax and get this article started, I looped songs from the original French concept album and listening to classics like À la volonté du peuple (aka Do You Hear the People Sing?) and J’aivais Rêvé d’Une Autre Vie (aka I Dreamed a Dream)) [HT Aulina for introducing me to the French originals.]

Feel free to listen to À la volonté du peuple or J’aivais Rêvé d’Une Autre Vie as you read along this! Now lets focus on a few things musical.

1) Yes, LIVE Singing!

What does LIVE Singing really mean? The actors & actresses you see on screen, their images and singing would have been recorded LIVE together. So no faking or lip syncing at all! The Live Singing is going to be awesome!

If you haven’t seen the Les Misérables Singing Live Featurette yet, it is totally worth a watch!

Now, the Les Mis promotional machine would want you to believe the film’s LIVE Singing is “ground breaking” and “never been done before” without qualification. The fact is filmmakers in the past have done it. Here is Candice Bergen singing in a comedic scene with Burt Reynolds in Starting Over. Don’t tell me Candice actually recorded this in studio first and then managed to lip sync to the bad comedic singing! :)

I guess I will be happier if the promotional hype is toned down a little.

2) Russell Crowe can seriously act! But seriously, can Russell sing?!

OK, Russell is in a rock band but this is Les Mis! And we are talking about the critical role of Javert! So I had to look for some positive reassurance. And I found Russell and Hugh Jackman singing in this Les Misérables clip. Unfortunately, the clip wasn’t quite the “high notes” I had hoped for. But as luck would have it, I ended up discovering & watching the YouTube clip of Russell and Hugh singing “The Confrontation” at a private Indoor Garden Party at Joe’s Pub NYC.

Sure, the sound quality in the clip and setup was no where near great but it strangely eased my worry a bit more. Not completely, but a little more. I see/hear something in the pub performance, and I trust Russell to be a perfectionist that he would have practiced a ton and done takes and takes and takes … until he and director Tom Hooper think he got things right. Following the “trust, but verify” advice: I trust Russell can deliver but I am eagerly waiting to watch the film to tell decide for myself!

3) Hugh Jackman can sing!!!

If there is an absolute “sure win” performance in Les Mis, it the  awesome Tony-award-winning Broadway star Hugh (also known for being Wolverine) ! His singing of “Who Am I” is wonderful and interesting. I will have a “risky” technical discussion later.

Now, is there anything the awesome Tony-award-winning Broadway star Hugh (also known for being Wolverine) can’t do?! Well, apparently he can make pancake too! Correction: not just pancake but Crêpe according to Anne on Letterman promoting the film!

Hugh Jackman’s opening number at the 2009 Oscars (with Anne)

4) I LOVE Anne Hathaway as Fantine!

If you haven’t done it already, please hear Anne sings and watch she performs I Dreamed a Dream in this trailer.

Anne‘s increasingly skillful acting, her 25 lb weight loss (absolutely crazy in creating the desired look), and her singing combine together will, I believe, create a transcending experience that we have NEVER experience in a LIVE singing musical film EVER.

I have to admit I used to quite like Les Misérables (1998 film) starring Liam NeesonGeoffrey RushUma Thurman, and Claire Danes. But when I recently borrowed the 1998 film from the library to watch again for my LesMis series research, I was only able to watch a few segments. I could not bare to watch it from beginning to end. As a drama with no singing, I found the film dry and a bit too much “Reason Before Passion“. LesMis needs the LIVE singing like we need oxygen, a LIVE singing film version of LesMis can, I hope, achieve “Reason alongside Passion“!

5) Samantha Barks can sing!!!

In case you don’t know already, Samantha actually “starred as Éponine in the London production of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre” for a year from 2010-2011. Have a watch of her spectacular “On My Own” at the 25th anniversary performance of Les Miserables. Based on the trailers and the behind the scenes clips, I totally think Samantha will shine like a bright star in LesMis (2012)!

HuffPost, “‘Les Miserables’ Trailer: Samantha Barks Steals The Show In New Preview

6) Amanda Seyfried as CosetteEddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy

Amanda and Eddie are nice actor & actress and I’ve seen some of their work and love them. And I found this clip “God Is With Us (Eddie Redmayne singing)“. Eddie has a beautiful voice!

By the way, Eddie seemed like a nice guy when he won his Tony.

7) Helena Bonham Carter as Madame ThénardierSacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier

It should be a ton of fun to watch Helena and Sacha (you may know him as the awesome Borat). Because of the types of songs the two roles will perform, I suspect the two talents can easily handle the singing. I was able to find Sacha singing in Sweeney Todd. Have a watch.

By the way, for those who can only think of Sacha as the crazy & rude Borat, here is what Johnny Depp (co-star in Sweeney Toddsaid of Sacha,

“He’s not what I expected. I didn’t look at those characters and think, This will be the sweetest guy in the world. He’s incredibly nice. A real gentleman, kind of elegant. I was impressed with him. He’s kind of today’s equivalent of Peter Sellers.”

8)  A risky technical discussion re singing

I am not a musician nor trained in music in anyway. So to do the research for this article, I asked my music advisor (a trained soprano) for help. She made the point that words have to be articulated and sung loud and clear. Now, I love Samantha‘s “On My Own” at the 25th anniversary performance, but that is not good enough for my “ideal” LesMis (2012) performance. Why? Here comes my risky take. I think Samantha sang “On My Own” in a much too articulated and loud/clear manner! My preferred performance is one that somewhat goes against the years of training professional singers have learned by heart. With sensitive mic near by shooting the scene and the singing, the performer can be free to let the sung words play a subservient role to the core emotion need to be expressed at that moment. Think about what I just wrote and watch “On My Own” again. Am I way off base?

Under the above stated thinking, I personally think Hugh‘s “Who Am I” rocks! I think it may have a chance to become a more enduring performance than the many other “Who Am I” that we’ve heard before.

9) Concluding Thoughts

I think LesMis (2012) should do very well with lovers of LesMis the musical and lovers of musicals in general. But for the film to be a success in the box office for the studios to try something like this again with other musicals (which I hope they do), LesMis will have to be successful with the general audiences.

If I have time and there are enough interest, I may write an article about the business of LesMis (2012). Until then, it is One Day More! Tomorrow is LesMis on Christmas!

Cool references:

1) Songs from Les Misérables

2) Here are À la volonté du peuple and J’aivais Rêvé d’Une Autre Vie for your listening pleasure! :)

3) TIME Magazine, “They Dreamed a Dream: Les Misérables Is a Whole New Kind of Movie Musical

Note: This article will be cross-posted by me at examiner.


My Favourite Documentaries of Calgary International Film Festival 2011

Monday, 3 October, 2011

The joy of attending Calgary International Film Festival 2011 (or any film festival in your area) is to watch great films that you normally may not get to watch. The following are trailers and interviews of some of my favourite documentaries at Calgary International Film Festival 2011.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (trailer, press, and interview)

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (trailer)

Eric Bricker, Director/Producer Visual Acoustics, and me

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman (filmtrailer, pre-screening & post-screening interviews, and Q&A)

Wiebo’s War (NFB trailer, post screening interview, Q&A)


Warner Bros. owns Rotten Tomatoes

Wednesday, 4 May, 2011

THR “Warner Bros. to Acquire Rotten Tomatoes Owner Flixster“,

Time Warner’s Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group on Wednesday said it has agreed to acquire Flixster, the movie discovery service with over 25 million worldwide users per month that also includes film review site Rotten Tomatoes. […]

Under the terms of the deal, Flixster will continue to operate independently and will expand its services beyond movie discovery to enable digital content ownership and delivery across connected digital devices.

The Flixster team will stay in San Francisco, and the Rotten Tomatoes team will continue to work independently from Los Angeles.

This can’t be good news when the reviewer is now owned by the reviewed even independence is claimed.


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