Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘film review’ Category

Everyday Lessons Learned: August 2011, Week 3

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'Kelp Forest' by lar3 on Flickr

This list of things I’ve learned appears to have a food focus this week. Enjoy!

15: Hong Kong’s transit system, the Mass Transit Railway (MRT), makes a huge profit – over USD $1 billion per year. The daily ridership is almost 4 million. According to the Infrastructurist, this is because Hong Kong’s MTR also takes part in developing residences, offices, and retail in the immediate vicinities of its rail stations. Jaffe writes: “This side business generates a huge amount of revenue that can be recycled back into the system itself.” Thus resulting in more profits – a kind of recycling, of sorts!

16: In certain countries, upwards of 40% of an average household’s income is spent on food. Rising food prices have a much greater effect on well-being in poorer countries, where this is the case. See this infographic by Natalie Jones: How Much of Our Spending Goes Toward Food?

17: The documentary Thirst (2004) is a film about the global water supply and a look into the battles around the rights to water. In one of the main focal points of the documentary, the residents of Stockton, CA fight the privatization of their water by OMI/Thames Water. Since the documentary’s filming, there have been a number of updates as well.

18: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is used as an economic indicator of inflation. It tracks the prices of certain common goods and services over time, helping to reach an estimated cost of living which is used to adjust salaries and wages.

19: Ceviche is a Central and South American dish made with fish and citrus juice. It’s served cold and is ‘cooked’ by the citrus. No heat is applied in the preparation of the dish: the proteins in the fish or seafood become denatured by the citric acid.

20: Lobsters can grow to 40 pounds or more in size because they hardly show signs of losing function as they age. Even very old lobsters have the equivalent appetite, sex drive, energy, and metabolism of a young lobster. The best indication of the age of a lobster is its size.

Also, eating lobster used to be a mark of poverty in colonial times:

“Prior to the 1880s, it was unusual to see lobster on menus at all except in bargain-priced lobster salad,” said Glenn Jones, of Texas A&M University, who led the research. “It was considered a trash fish — it was not something you’d want to be seen eating. In colonial America servants negotiated agreements that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than twice a week.”(‘How lobster went up in the world’)

21: Less a “self-driving car” and more a “self-driving shuttle”, these futuristic ULTra pods in Heathrow airport may be headed to other locations, including Tysons Corner, VA:

22: For a look into stem cell research, go see the documentary Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita. I can’t articulate the arguments as well as they’re made by those in the film, but it’s worth watching. And it’s also available streaming on Netflix (I’ve been a bit ill so I’ve been watching more movies than usual).

Written by Crystal Bae

August 23rd, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Short Takes: ‘Overheard’ (dir. Mak and Chong)

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Film: Overheard
Year: 2009
Directors: Alan Mak and Felix Chong

I saw this Hong Kong action thriller movie as part of the 16th annual Made in Hong Kong Film Festival at the Freer Gallery of Art in DC. The festival runs through August 21, 2011 with free screenings of several other Hong Kong films. They’re showing in the Meyer Auditorium at the Freer, and doors open a half-hour before each show.

I found Overheard very suspenseful, with several dramatic twists that I don’t want to spoil for you. Something that caught my attention was the amount of code-switching between Cantonese (branch of Chinese used in southern China and China’s Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau) and English that was present in the film’s dialogue. A character would say something along the lines of “Good morning sir” in English, then continue in Cantonese. This linguistic feature may be exaggerated because it is a movie, after all, but a little research on the subject shows that code-switching between the two are very common, as many Hong Kong residents are bilingual. Both Chinese and English are official languages.

A friend and I agreed that the music was overly dramatic at certain points. You know when you’re watching a film and you’re aware of the background music and precisely which mood shifts the director is trying to achieve using that music? Not a good thing. The film soundtrack is something that should blend seamlessly into each scene, not call attention to itself.

Though the film festivals that run at the Freer Gallery are free, please remember that donations help them keep these public events going.

Written by Crystal Bae

July 24th, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: April 2011, Week 3

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7: Korean director Sang-soo Hong’s 2010 film, Hahaha, is a Cannes Film Festival award-winner in the “Un Certain Regard” category. There was a free screening of this movie at the Freer Gallery in DC on Sunday, as part of the 7th year of the Korean Film FestivalHahaha features comedic (and sometimes very heartfelt) storylines told in flashback by two friends who get together to catch up. The stories seem at first to be separate, but are weaved together by the structure of the film itself rather than by the characters, who don’t realize the proximity of their tales or how vividly perspective can color a scene. It’s also a fun look into social interaction among a quirky group of Korean friends in the small town of Tongyeong.

18: Pulses describe a category of food that include dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas, among others.

19: According to the documentary Jesus CampColorado Springs, CO has the highest concentration of evangelical churches in all of the United States. (And here’s a related story on All Things Considered.)

20: Warner Herzog is the director or producer of more than 50 films. His new documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, explores the prehistoric Chavet Cave paintings. He’s a filmmaker who tries to get into the imagined landscapes of dreams – Herzog once said, “I see planets that don’t exist and landscapes that have only been dreamed” – and in this way, he breathes new life into isolated places, natural places that have been left unexplored. For example, the 2007 Encounters at the End of the World goes to the far reaches of Antarctica, while his 1971 documentary Land of Silence and Darkness ventures into the psyches of disabled people in Germany.

21: The restaurant Sea Catch in Georgetown (at 1054 31st Street NW, Washington DC), along with a few offices and art galleries, is housed in the building which served as the birthplace of the original computer. Herman Hollerith, whose tabulating machines gained recognition in the late 1800s, was the founder of the Tabulating Machine Company (later merged to become IBM). There’s a commemorative plaque there today. (Source)


22: ePUB is an open e-book format (.epub) which has been the primary format used by libraries to distribute e-books. This may see a shift, as Amazon has recently announced that they are launching a lending library, which would allow Kindle owners to borrow e-books from their (physical) library. Amazon’s Kindle file format is a proprietary e-book format, unlike the open ePUB. A comprehensive look at different e-book formats, and how they compare, is available on Wikipedia.

23: Learned the processes behind fracking and horizontal drilling in the April 25, 2011 issue of The New Yorker. In that same issue, there’s a great article on neuroscientist David Eagleman’s experiments with the SCAD machine, measuring human free fall and time perception.

Written by Crystal Bae

April 25th, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Screening of Jem Cohen’s film on Fugazi, Instrument (Feb 27, 2011)

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Takeaways from discussion after screening of Jem Cohen’s film on Fugazi, Instrument:

1 Everything is political. Don’t grow to believe your actions aren’t meaningful. You vote with your feet, as the expression goes. Recognize that political issues are relevant to your own life.

2 Don’t spend all your time praising others for the good work they’re doing, for fighting the good fight. Take that inspiration to go out there and do something.

3 Playing a show and asking people not to crowdsurf and slam dance isn’t “asking them not to dance,” it’s making sure no one gets hurt for coming to hear your music. It’s about a simple request: for people to act like human beings and just show some respect. The comparison Ian Mackaye drew was that this is akin to inviting people into your house and asking them not to stab the other guests.

Written by Crystal Bae

February 27th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

On DC’s West End Cinema

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Notes from a conversation with the general manager of West End Cinema, Josh Levin.

Levin told me that there isn’t a lack of demand in The District when it comes to art-house film, in fact DC is the perfect audience for their films.

“DC has the most educated, the most well traveled, the most diverse in the country,” Levin says.

Written by Crystal Bae

February 24th, 2011 at 7:58 am

Star Trek film

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My day off today – just returned from seeing the Star Trek film (out now in theatres) with some friends. I wanted to post quickly to recommend it, as a non-Trekkie, to anyone looking for an entertaining film. Plenty of excellent CG, and packed full of action with a solid cast. It was pleasantly surprising for me, someone who has probably never seen an entire episode of the Star Trek series before. It’s directed by J.J. Abrams, aka the co-creator of the Lost series.

Sundays are excellent and it feels great outside. Cherish these fine fleeting moments before the humidity moves in full-force.

Written by Crystal Bae

May 25th, 2009 at 12:14 am

Posted in film review

Waltz with Bashir

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I went last night to see Waltz with Bashir (a friend and I wanted to catch it in theatres before it stopped showing), an Israeli animated film about a character struggling to regain memory of his time serving as an IDF during the first Lebanon War – specifically, the night of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Such a political animated film about war may seem contradictory, but director Ari Folman treats it artfully. This is not to say it’s ever anything less than tragic… it’s absolutely devastating.
I noticed the color range in the film contributed much to its effect, leaping from almost monochrome to sharply brilliant. It’s an interesting way to illustrate the way our memories, especially those of the horrors of war, can be so vivid whether or not they’re “correct.” We construct stories to seal the gaps, and similarly, we construct stories to conceal what we’ve experienced. Digging into the rifts can be valuable even when it uncovers a terrible truth about oneself. But the context of war strips away the human element, and that’s probably the most detestable part about it.

Written by Crystal Bae

March 20th, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Posted in film review

Film sidenotes;

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Quickly going to jot down some film notes before I head to my next class. I like to have my initial reactions in writing and I’ve been watching more movies than usual lately. Though I’m certainly behind on seeing the Oscar nominees for this year – out of the nominees for Best Picture, I’ve seen exactly 0. Ahem.
Onto my recent views:

No Country for Old Men (2007): A brilliantly written and suspenseful thriller, directed by the Coen brothers and based on its namesake novel by Cormac McCarthy. Javier Bardem is absolutely bone-chilling here as a murderous sociopath.

Chunhyang (2000): This is a Korean film that I found notable for its mix of both modern storytelling features as well as the traditional pansori musical poetic style involving a singer and a barrel drum player. It’s a universally known tale of love and loyalty in Korea that has been made into a movie for modern audiences by director Kwon-taek Im. Great way to experience Korean culture and history.

As for movies that are currently out in theatres, I’m excited to see Coraline (a surreal animated film which opens tomorrow, based on a Neil Gaiman book), as well as The Wrestler and Slumdog Millionaire. My housemates and I tried to go to see Slumdog last week, but it was sold out at E St Cinema. Sad.
Anyway, I’ll sum up by saying I’m pleased that I am getting plenty of respite from my academic- and job-related duties so far this year. My friend just got me a DVD of Shakespeare Behind Bars which I’m excited and curious about – it’s about Kentuckian prison inmates performing Shakespeare. Reminds me of the episode of This American Life (which I loved) in which Missourian prison inmates get together to put on a staging of Hamlet. You can listen to that one online by following the preceding link.

Written by Crystal Bae

February 5th, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Posted in film review