To Live / 活着/ Huózhe (1994 Film) – Of Family, Survival, Mao Zedong’s Communism and China

BY RUBY GEGE

*I shall not rate this film, because I am not worthy to. Watch it and save your soul!! Seriously, you have to watch this film.*

I discovered one thing today while attempting to learn Mandarin through films – NEVER EVER CHOOSE A SERIOUS POLITICAL FILM FOR LANGUAGE-LEARNING!

It never works. Instead of learning about the pronunciation, you got yourself a two hours political course on the subject of the film instead, and in this particular film I’m reviewing, the modern history of China.

linkI am now overwhelmed with the general feeling of over-exposure and complications (in a good way) upon watching To Live (活着), a 1994 film by Zhang Yimou, who ranks amongst China’s best directors. Zhang’s earlier works (pre-2000) are nothing short of amazing. Watch another of his film called Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂) and you’ll understand why. Unlike the more ‘cultural’ Raise the Red Lantern, which dealt with the issue of family, customs, wives and warlord-era China, To Live revolved around the life of a small family during China’s transition to Communism and the aftermath. 

Before watching the film, I have a general understanding about China’s history. Marred by many ups and downs, natural and political disasters, one cannot help but be awed by the massiveness of that society’s resilience. Mao Zedong, the famous and super-influential supreme leader of China from 1940 to 1970s, was a very important element in To Live. Though he was not portrayed as a character, the life of the main characters were mostly affected due to his policies (which some argued to have caused great GREAT difficulties and regressed China into the backward era). His pictures were everywhere, his ideas were imbued into so many books attached to the characters’ lives, called the Red Book, treasured by the young Red Guards who were literally obsessed with him.

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Jiazhen, the wife and Fugui, the husband

Notwithstanding the politics, To Live or Huózhe really is a tale of a family’s survival through turbulent times. We have a father, Fugui, a mother, Jiazhen, a daughter, Fengxia and a son, Youqing. During 1940s, the family was of a relatively wealthy prospect and belonged to the landowners class until Fugui gambled all of what’s left to the point he became homeless. His wife, Jiazhen, had already left him with the children due to his gambling habits. We see the fall of Fugui, a spoilt man-child who had a massive awakening call upon being homeless – he started working to take care of his ailing mother. Knowing that he’s a changed man, Jiazhen returned to him with the kids and they became a family again. From then on, the family learned the hard way to survive the circumstances so severe I cried my balls out throughout the film – forced labour, war, death and more death, death of people, death of culture and death of happiness.

All from the perspective of Fugui, Jiazhen and their children.

Jiazhen and their children, Fengxia and Youqing
Jiazhen and their children, Fengxia and Youqing

Three major historical events that altered the family’s life (to the worse, I’d argue) were:

1 – The Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communists, led respectively by Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Zedong. FYI, it’s very important to know about the conflict here to understand Chinese history. Our male lead, Fugui, learned how to earn money by starting a shadow puppet troupe but was forcibly conscripted into the Kuomintang army, where millions died during the war. He surrendered  to the Communists, became a prisoner of war and was allowed to return home to his family a few years later. By now, his children had already grown up several years.

It’s interesting to note that Fugui, at first, did not give a damn about whose side he was own. All that he cared was earning money to take care of his family. He did not subscribe to any political ideologies – for both always caused death anyway, Kuomintang or Communist – and wanted only TO LIVE (thus the title of the film).

2 – When The Great Leap Forward (大跃进) happened from 1958 to 1961, Fugui’s family had already adapted themselves to the communist society. They wore simple peasant clothes, as the working class was deemed to be the main class of the society. They completely eradicated any proofs that they once belonged to the upper class and made sure that their loyalty to the communists ideology was visible by putting their ‘working class certificate’ on a frame. Yet, again, it was not because they totally believed in the political ideology – or maybe they did out of habit because they thought there’s no other way to live – but because they wanted to stay out of trouble and lived life peacefully.

The family's original upper-class way of dressing prior to the war
The family’s original upper-class way of dressing prior to the war
The family, adapted to the working class lifestyle
The family, adapted to the working class lifestyle

The Great Leap Forward was basically a radical social and economic policy started by Mao Zedong aimed to transform Chinese economy from agragrian to a communist economy through rapid economic expansion. During these times, Fugui’s family had to donate all iron they had to the government – supposedly to make weapons to ‘liberate’ Taiwan, which was the Kuomintang’s control.

I find it disturbing how people use words like ‘liberate’ or ‘free’ but the act doesn’t really portray such a thing. Like how China wants to ‘liberate’ Taiwan – and I’m sure when you ask a Taiwanese, they don’t really want to be ‘liberated’? At least not by China. The same thing when USA tried to ‘liberate’ or ‘bring democracy’ to Afghanistan and Iraq and we all know  how that ended. Thanks so much, superpowers who really had nothing important to do than assert their imperialist tendencies.

A propaganda poster. Always rampant in certain societies with certain ideologies
A propaganda poster. Always rampant in certain societies with certain ideologies

All the kids in school had to devote themselves to hard labour by melting the irons at school. Fugui and Jiazhen’s little son, Youqing was an active mischievous boy who was loved by his parents. Seeing him sleeping after three days of hard work, Jiazhen tried to persuade Fugui into letting Youqing sleep a little more. However, Fugui insisted on waking him up as to maintain the family’s ‘image’ as a good Communist family.

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A picture I found online. The industrialization of China’s economy

Youqing died in an accident later after reaching school as a wall fell on him whilst he was taking a nap. Just a few hours before, his mother affectionately packed him lunch full of dumplings and his father carried him so lovingly to school, telling him if he wants to have a good life, he must work hard and care for his mother and sister.

The family bravely overcame the loss and sadness over losing their only son. Maybe because they did not have the luxury to keep mourning. They needed to move on in order to live.

Note that the Great Leap Forward caused the Great Chinese Famine, which had been said to cause death to over 76 million people. Yup, you read me right – 76 million. That is like… three times the Malaysian population.

3 – The Cultural Revolution (文化大革命) occurred 1966 to 1976 and most consider it a failure nowadays as Mao Zedong’s way to return to power after being pushed aside due to the tragedy of the Great Leap Forward. I have to say Mao Zedong was really smart, though. He had all these massive ideas in his head and turned them into a massive movement which influenced a massive amount of people who were massively obsessed with him. It’s massive in every sense of the massive word.

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Propaganda poster during the Cultural Revolution. Mao was portrayed as the father figure, the leader.

The Cultural Revolution aimed to eradicate the Chinese people who Mao accused of being ‘capitalist’. One cannot talk about the Cultural Revolution without mentioning the Red Guards, a group of youths who responded to Mao’s appeal to somehow ‘save’ the country from capitalism. In reality, the Cultural Revolution was deemed a failure – indeed, it was Mao’s strategy to retain power until he died. Millions of people died (again) and violence were rampant. Anybody who were against communism were arrested and cultural and religious places were ransacked.

The film did not really display the great damage of the Revolution. However, it hinted the way their lives were being affected by it. Fugui, who was an experienced puppeteer, was forced to burn his puppets as they were deemed counter-revolutionary to Mao’s ideas – because supposedly, they represented kings, princes, nobility, all things luxurious and bad for communism.  Fugui did not fight back and let his daughter burnt it and I cannot help but the scene symbolizes how culture, art and heritage are often sacrificed in the name of a ‘greater good’ or a ‘greater idealism’. When, really, the main purpose of destroying cultural arts is to assert dominance and control over the people.

Reminds me of the states in Malaysia (especially Kelantan) and how they ban certain cultural arts that were deemed ‘bad’ in the name of religion. The cultures have existed for hundreds of years. Islam came to Kelantan around the same time. They co-existed harmoniously alongside each other since forever. Now, they’re banning it? Why? How does the arts affect one’s faith? Islamization? Arabization? To be a better Islamic state? But then why now? Why did not the religious clerics made a noise hundreds of years ago? Are we implying that, God forbid, the clerics during the 1400s and 1500s were more broad-minded than the current ones?

Hmmm….

Back to the Cultural Revolution, the family managed to find a good husband for their daughter, Fengxia. Since Fengxia was a deaf and mute, they had to be careful in choosing a husband and preferred him to also have a form of handicap. Most probably to ensure that Fengxia was not placed on a lower level than her husband. The husband, Erxi, was a polite factory worker who also headed the Red Guards in his workplace. Even though he was a cripple and could only walk properly on one foot, he was a highly political youth.

Erxi, like the rest of the Red Guards, were OBSESSED with Mao Zedong. They put his posters everywhere, distributed his Little Red Books. During their first day, Erxi helped his girlfriend’s family fixed the roof of the house and they made a big painting of Mao Zedong together on the wall. It is supposed to be a super romantic sweet scene, which it was, really……. with Mao Zedong’s smiling portrait at the background.

The date between Fengxia and Erxi. Aren't they sweet? Yes? No?
The date between Fengxia and Erxi. Aren’t they sweet? Yes? No? Chairman Mao definitely thought so. Can’t you see him smiling there?

Another hmm….

Note that personality cult (worship of a figure) is also practiced in North Korea, an extreme communist country as well. I think this strategy helps a lot in controlling a country. If people worship someone, they won’t speak up against him. No rebellion and they won’t ‘waste’ their time thinking. Place your trust in your leader! Hmmm?

The Red Guards demonstrating in Tiananmen Square during the Revolution
The Red Guards demonstrating in Tiananmen Square during the Revolution

Erxi and Fengxia were wedded happily – again with Mao’s picture on the background. The most disturbing scene for me was when the chief led the wedding guests to sing a wedding song to the couple – a happy song with VERY COMMUNIST lyrics:

Nothing compares to the Party’s benevolence,

Chairman Mao is dearer than Father and Mother,

There’s nothing as good as socialism,

No ocean as deep as class feeling,

Maoist Thought is revolution’s treasure trove,

Whoever opposes it, we take as our enemy,

Now can somebody tell me why the hell would someone sing this song in a wedding? A WEDDING?

But then, it was a different time.

Fengxia had a short time of full happiness with her husband. She got pregnant and died after childbirth – the moment of her death was another heartbreaking scene to Fugui and Jiazhen. I was shocked and scared for them – please don’t take their remaining child away! They lost their son, now their daughter was dying, too. The circumstances of Fengxia’s death was also tragic – she bled after giving birth. And during the Cultural Revolution, doctors were sent to hard labour as they were deemed ‘too educatd’ – thus inclined to capitalism. The hospitals were run by inexperienced nurses/students.

Therefore, it can be said that the couple lost their children due to the policies introduced by Mao. It was not direct, but it was related in every way. Their son, Youqing died after melting irons during the Great Leap Forward, Fengxia bled to death and there were no doctors to save her due to the Cultural Revolution.

ALL THEY DID WAS LIVE. AND THEY LIVED.

To Live is essentially a film of human spirits. The strength and perseverance of Fugui and Jiazhen. They did not give up and surrender to hardship and grief. They fell and rose back up again for their family. Even though their lives were often intertwined with sorrow and tragedies, they lived. Their lives were far away from happiness and satisfaction but they lived.

The couple at the twilight zone of their lifetime, with their grandson.... Exhausted, tired.
The couple at the twilight zone of their lifetime, with their grandson…. Exhausted, tired.

The film, for me, symbolizes the hardships and struggles of people living during that time and that era. All the oppression and suffering they had to endure. But China survived. The society survives. Do we really have to wonder why China is such a huge economic superpower now? Do we really have to wonder why people in China are so diligent, so hardworking, so selfless? Take a glimpse into their history and you’ll know why.

And there goes my two hour political course on the subject. Thank you, Director Zhang Yimou. Now my head feels super heavy.

 

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THE STRUGGLE FOR SANITY – A FAN’S PERSPECTIVE ON A KPOP BOYBAND’S DISBANDMENT (DBSK/TVXQ/TOHOSHINKI)

BY RUBY GEGE

Ruby Gege is going to rant today and she’s going to rant HARD! If you are not really into the topic of Kpop boybands and their disbandment issue, I suggest you skip reading the post. But if you are, come on in and join me in the festival of a fan’s heartache and suppressed memories.

1. THE EXO THING (WHICH IS NOT GOING TO BE THE MAIN POINT OF THIS POST)

Me and my fellow chingu, Maertai Fatma have been quite upset for the past few days concerning the EXO problem – Kris, their M leader is leaving the group. Fatma is affected by it more severely that I am. To say that I’m not upset is an understatement – indeed, I am. I love Kris, I love EXO, I think they have great dynamics. Therefore, if he is leaving EXO for real, I will never look at EXO the same again and most probably I will leave the fandom as well. Not because I don’t love the other 11, but because I will always have this intense attachment towards the original structure of any Kpop groups I love.

However, at the same time, I feel happy for Kris (or should I say, Wu Yifan?). If the rumours about SM abusing his rights are true, then to be free is the only way to live. I heard of rumours about him being sick and all. So, for him to try and get out of the mess is the only humane way he could think of. To be free of that mess and perhaps, if all goes well, he can start again and live the life that he wants to have. I pray that for him and hope that like Hangeng, he can be successful in any fields of his choosing in the future.

2. THAT JUNSU PERFORMANCE OF TOHOSHINKI MEDLEY

BUT that is not what I came to talk about today. No. Today, I am going to rant about an issue – or shall I say, heartache (cue for an over-dramatic obsessive fan) – that has been residing very silently in my heart for years… or more specific, since 2009.

It all began when my little sister showed me a video this morning of a certain South Korea singer named Junsu singing a medley of songs from a boyband he used to be a part of – DBSK/TVXQ/TOHOSHINKI.

Crazy rant start……………. NOW!!

Oppaaaa!!!! Junsu oppaaaaa!!!!!!!! Arghhhh, I’ve missed you like hell!!!!! It has been 4 years since I last heard your voice. Oppa, sorry that I ignored you after the breakup! Oppa, you sing so well! Oppa, your voice never change!!! Now I miss DB5K!!

3. THE START OF DBSK AND A FAN’S PROCESS OF BEING CONSUMED BY KPOP DEVOTION

Okay, so, background story – when I was fifteen years old and really, Kpop in Malaysia was literally unknown at all, I fell in love with a South Korean boyband named Dong Bang Shin Ki, literally Gods of the East. They were basically the HUGEST BOYBAND in Asia, full stop. They were young – around 20 years old – dancing and singing their hearts away, capturing thousands of hearts belonging to innocent young girls like me. (Yup, I was innocent once!)

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From left: Junsu, Jaejoong, Changmin, Yunho, Yoochun

Like any other crazy DBSK fans (or officially known as Cassiopeia or Cassie), my teenage years were dedicated to them. I listened to their songs, watched their videos ALL THE TIME, put up their posters all over my room, had DBSK songs as my ringtones and alarms They became my oppas (or older brother) and my bias, Yunho was my imaginary boyfried/husband/lover/myenergyboost. Simply put, to the sixteen years old me, they were my everything.

These five men – Jaejoong, Yunho, Yoochun, Junsu and Changmin. Five most important men in my life. Aside from my family, of course. I was consumed by them, wholeheartedly. They became super successful, both in South Korea and Japan. They were the reigning kings – no other boybands could come close to their success. It seemed like they had everything they could ever wish for – legions of loyal and super devoted fans, fame, great songs, opportunities to perform in big stages, going international and traveling.

4. THE BREAK-UP OF DBSK – THE BATTLE, THE UGLY DOWNFALL, THE FANDOM’S HUGE MELTDOWN

Therefore, when three of them – Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu chose to leave SM (the company that managed and basically controlled DBSK’s lives), all fans were taken aback. Surprised. Yet not so much. We were sad. We went crazy and my heart broke. The news killed me. They were DBSK – my oppas. The closest things I’ve had to boyfriends (yes, people, a Kpop fan can be that delusional!). They were my obsession and my happiness.

They were DBSK. “There’s no way they can ever break-up!” was my first reaction. Then, I began questioning myself – “what the fuck am I supposed to do now? How can my life be without DBSK?”

Truthfully, though, some of us kind of expected it – boybands and their 5 year curse. After many great albums and memories together, the fact remains that Jaejoong, Junsu and Yoochun decided to leave, Yunho and Changmin decided to stay with SM. I blamed no one, for I did not have the right to. I was sad. I felt so helpless. After all those emotional investments, I had to deal with the repercussions all by myself.

“Damn you, Ruby! Who told you to be so obsessed?!!” I scolded myself. But then, I never regretted being a Cassiopeia. Despite the break-up, the DBSK boys did give me four of the happiest years of my life – all the excitement and pride I had over their success was unforgettable.

The legal battle between SM the company against JYJ (Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu) was painful, bitter, ugly, complicated and took three years to settle. That was the legal part. Most importantly, the boys – 3 versus 2 – never rekindle their relationship, or at least to the public eyes. It is of utmost probability that the boys have cut contact from each other. To find their own ways in life by leaving or staying, the friendship between my five oppas was severed. To see them not being on the same stage again, or to hang out together again, to attend variety shows again… just the simple thought of them being friends was also being made impossible.

“How could that be?” was the question all Cassiopeias were asking for many years. But that was it. The end of DBSK with 5 members. The real end of an era.

5. A FAN’S REACTION TO THE DISAPPOINTMENT

I tend to be very violently in self-denial when things like this happens. So what I did was – or the 19 years old me – was to leave the DBSK fandom completely. I deleted that part of my life, moving on pretending that I was never their fans. I deleted all traces of DBSK in my computer – gazillions of photos, videos, interviews. I just could not continue loving them as they were if they were together. It was hard, it was difficult.

And I could NOT listen to any of their songs (as DB5K) for the next four years. Why? Because their songs are so good when they were together. Their voices as five matched perfectly! The high tones of Junsu, Jaejoong and Changmin and the low tones of Yoochun and Yunho. As if heaven arranged them to be in a group (though I am aware that that was all SM’s work). So each time when I listen to their songs, I’d remember why I loved them so much and why my heart ached so bad when they went their separate ways.

I could not handle that. So yeap, I left the fandom. To stay sane (again, I am being over-dramatic so bear with me).

Even Fatma and Palah, though they are not DBSK fans, sang their song once in the karaoke sometime around last years. It was Mirotic, I think. Three years had passed since the break-up and I still could not handle listening to DBSK songs without experiencing mental seizure. I literally screamed and covered my ears and avoided looking at the screen like a crazy woman. Then, I realized… it was to that extent… Damn it, boys!!

6. THE RECOVERY AND THE BITTERSWEET MEMORIES OF THE PAST

As of now, DBSK (as two, Yunho and Changmin or we fans call them HoMin) and JYJ(Jaejoong, Yoochun, Junsu) are two separate entities. The public have accepted the fact that they are two different groups. The fact that there used to be five of them now is a matter of the past. People remember, people know but people have started to let it go.

So did I. Slowly. I began to listen to HoMin songs. When they debuted as a duo, still using the DBSK/TVXQ name, I have to say, they are still, if not more, talented. Same goes to JYJ. They still have a lot more to offer to the public. They are genuine artists who had been well-trained in their crafts. Therefore, it is not surprising their fame survives past the ugly separation and trauma. Both groups are famous in their own right and for that, I respect them. Truthfully, I also enjoy their performances. JYJ or HoMin, they know how to dominate the stage like mad!

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The new TVXQ/DBSK
JYJ
JYJ

But, still, I avoid updating myself about their news. They became a thing of my past. I love them, still, but I will forever prefer them as five. I would come across their news once in a while. I know they are coming out with albums and all, dramas, whatever projects etc etc and I wish them all the best. But it is safe to say that I am no longer the devoted Cassiopeia I used to be. I am finally at peace with the separation. I stopped caring about them. Which is sad. But, DBSK will always remain special in my heart. They were the first boyband I loved. Their fandom was the first fandom I joined. Their careers were so intertwined with my formative years. How can I ever forget them, to be honest?

BUT that Junsu video happened. That medley happened. And I watched it this morning. And somehow I realized I miss his voice so much. Amongst the DB5K, he has the best voice for me. Intense, beautiful and passionate. I was wailing and screaming… “Oppa!!!” to my sister’s handphone like a crazy woman. But not out of anger or sadness or trauma but out of the beauty of his Tohoshinki medley. I am now reminded again of the reasons why I loved DBSK and to my surprise, I realized my heart does not ache anymore.

Junsu oppa in tears after the medley... Which reduced me to tears as well.. Damn TT
Junsu oppa in tears after the medley… Which reduced me to tears as well.. Damn TT

I am brought back to the sweet memories of my younger days when I was a Cassiopeia, remembering the moments when the sixteen years old me would sit in front of the computer, completely awed by the beauty of that Kpop boyband named DBSK. How proud I was… How happy I was… And how great and legendary DBSK was as the reigning boyband in Kpop history. I am happy that I used to be a part of that. There was a reason why they were so successful and there is a reason why even after the separation, the success remains.

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The happier days… like yearssss back.

Yes, DBSK now is in my past. Which is weird. I never thought I could come to this stage. The Cassiopeia inside me thought I would mourn forever, denying myself of their talents. But this morning, I surprised myself. Seeing Junsu’s medley performance, I did truly enjoy it (though I cried my eyes out!) He was great. His voice was AMAZING and I have never been prouder. Seeing JYJ and HoMin does not really pain me anymore. It makes me miss the younger days, yes, but not in a negative way. 

DBSK with its five original members may never be again… but they will never die. They are still there, in the fans’ heart, mind and soul. We remember them, we miss them and we preserve them in our memories. At the same time, life moves on. The original five have moved on and I have to say, they moved on quite well, successful in their own endeavours. I may no longer be in the fandom but inside me, there is always a Cassiopeia, loving the colour red, who would always deem the five as her Oppas.

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DBSK’s equally legendary Cassiopeia, forming the Red Ocean

My rant is officially OVER!

*Fuuhhh!! Can somebody tell me why writing this is suddenly so therapeutic? Hahaha!! Notes to

the fans who are currently experiencing this whole separation thing – you will survive!!*

 

GUNDAY – Hindi Film Review

BY RUBY CHINGU

Gunday-Poster-NewDirected and Written by: Ali Abbas Zafar | Starring:Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan

RATING – 6/10

It has been quite a depressing week in Malaysia. The Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is still missing, the terrible haze in Shah Alam, the city where I’m staying and the general emotional helplessness continues to break our hearts as all around the world fervently hope for the missing flight to appear and the mystery to be solved. The tragedy led me to think of many things, the same way when my father passed away. Now would be the good time to tell your loved ones that you love them and try to achieve your dreams and to fulfill your wishes, as we never know when our time on earth will end. A sad morbid thought but that’s reality.

Alrighty, moving on to the more cheerful stuffs!

gunday-4_660_112113025925PLOT SUMMARY: The film I’m about to review today is Gunday, starring the ever-so-shameless-but-entertaining Ranveer Singh (or more affectionately, Ranveer Baba) and his baba friend, Arjun Kapoor. The premise of the film is about two childhood friends, Bikram and Bala, who became refugees resulted by the independence of Bangladesh. Identifying themselves as Indians, they survived their childhood by committing illegal acts of stealing coals for the older guys. As they managed to escape the depressing life in the refugee camp, they landed in the town of Kolkata, where their fearlessness in breaking the law and the bad guys resulted in the boys building a massive business empire, albeit always related to illegal dealings. Main point the film tried to convey is that though they were basically Mafia dons, they had the heart of gold. Like all the heroic Mafia dons in Hindi films, they did a lot of charity and ruled over the needy people of Kolkata with kindness and compassion. Then, entered the beautiful Nandita (Priyanka Chopra) into their lives. Both Bikram and Bala fell in love with the same woman and promised each other that they would respect whoever Nandita chooses to be with. As per usual, what Nandita did in entertaining the flirtatious behaviours of both men and ended up in choosing only one caused a drift in Bikram and Bala’s relationship. Other than that, they also faced challenges in the form of ACP Sarkar (by the amazing Irrfan Khan) who had been tracking their criminal activities for a long time.

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REVIEW: Overall, the film is very very entertaining. It has all the ingredients to a great Hindi film – action, that dirty ruggedness of a masculine Indian man, some romance, some underground don-related stuffs and great item songs. However, the main ingredient that made Gunday so enjoyable is the brotherhood of Bikram and Bala. The chemistry of Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor is superb here. BROMANCE TO THE CORE, BABY! They did everything together – lived off the streets together, built a business together, committed crimes together, slept next to each other on the same bed wearing the same clothes all the time together to the point I find their relationship to be extraordinarily sweet but gay.

The minus point I’m very unhappy with is the fact that they drifted apart due to a woman, which makes the film kind of predictable. Nevertheless, Priyanka is sooo stunning in her item songs (highlights: Tune Mari Entriyaan and Asalaam-e-Ishqum). She’s stunning but that’s just it. She was not much of a presence compared to Irrfan Khan who played a cop that has been trying to put Bikram and Bala in jail for years.

Now, to the acting of Ranveer Baba and Arjun Baba. In all honesty, I am not a fan of Ranveer. He’s great and all, I know. He was amazing in Band Baaja Baarat, the film that ALMOST made me fall in love with him. I have yet to watch Ricky Bahl and Lootera, though. But in Ram Leela, Ranveer did not impress me much as an actor. I enjoy watching him more in real life than in films, which is weird because it is supposed to be the other way round. Ranveer as a person is infectiously funny, bubbly and simply crazy (note: do watch his interview in Koffee With Karan, the 4th season). Unfortunately, it seems like the character of Ram in Ram Leela and Bikram in Gunday were tailored for that side of his personality. Thus, I kept thinking that I am seeing the same Ranveer Baba over and over again – the happy, sometimes conflicted but naturally funny and confident man that he is.

But damn, Ranveer Baba can surely dance like there’s no tomorrow! And he’s super hot! I know he’s hairy and oily and all…. but still, I think he’s hot. That’s the problem, though. I find myself to be strangely attracted to this actor yet at the same time I don’t really like him that much. Hmmmm, now how did that happen?? Hahahaha

30ot506h2vttebnd.D.0.Arjun-Kapoor-Gunday-Film-PhotoNow we go to Arjun Baba. Okay. Let me just put this out there – ARJUN KAPOOR IS AN G-R-E-A-T ACTOR! Unexpectedly, he is the one who actually brings more emotional depth and layers to Gunday. I first saw Arjun in Ishaqzaade, in which he was great as well. But in next film, Aurangzeb, he totally challenged himself by playing dual roles of a pair of twins with completely different personalities. I love how Arjun seems to be quite selective in his works and refuses to play the same character over and over again. He’s young and hot and new and he could easily choose to do that but he did not. So, yes, I am very proud of him. He did not manage to get the girl (Nandita) in Gunday, as she chose the obviously hotter and more oily Bikram (Ranveer) but that made Bala more humane and wounded. Thus, Arjun got to deliver a wider emotional range compared to Ranveer. While the latter’s character as Bikram was limited to a cheerful mischievous sweet lover, the former’s character as Bala was an embittered man of few words with a tough exterior but a soft kind heart. He displayed his disappointment over losing Nandita’s love so well – his facial expressions during the song Saaiyaan are so heartbreaking! *cries*

God, am I Arjun’s fan now? I think so. I did not really like him at first but after seeing how well he acted, I am super excited to see his next performance. Go Arjun Kapoor! I believe in you!

IN CONCLUSION, ARJUN KAPOOR’S ACTING IS THE BEST THING IN THE FILM.

Now, what don’t I like in the film? The actions scenes are overrated. But then, that’s a given for all masala films. And too many chest exposure. I mean, I do love naked guys but do they have to be oily and sweaty ALL THE TIME? There was this one fight scene where Ranveer and Arjun were running towards each other, topless and wet, and I can literally see their chest muscles bouncing up and down. I mean, I’m not sure…. is bouncy chest supposed to be sexy? I mean… this sweaty sex and all… I’m not sure… But hey, if you like it like that, you like it like that and who am I to judge? Hahahahahaha.

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The slow-motion muscle running thing I was talking about

Watch the film if you like a good bromance story. Plus, the music by Sohail Sen is super great. And also, do appreciate Arjun Kapoor’s performance! Heheheehe.

P/S: Never stop praying for Flight MH370 and the people in it. Also pray to the Search and Rescue team members who are working very hard to find the plane and rescue the people inside it. I pray that everyone involved in the incident is safe and sound and I hope the loved ones can be reunited with them. Dear Allah, do give them strength to face this experience.

New Characters Keeping the Boat Afloat – Thoughts on The Following Season 2

BY RUBY CHINGU

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The staffs and actors of The Following Season 2 have a massive responsibility on their shoulders to continue the psychotic greatness of the series’s season 1. How many episodes can you write about an obsessive pursuit involving a former FBI agent and  a serial killer? Since the show is pretty much centered around Joe Carroll, I was worried that I’d be sick of the character soon.

However, the excitement continues on for season 2, MAJOR THANKS to a number of super interesting and equally (if not more) psychotic characters in the show. Season 2 has progressed up to Episode 5 by now. Safe to say, ‘BORING’ will not be in my dictionary for this show anytime soon. Here are the characters that keep me tuning in to the show every week:-

1 – Lily Gray

imagesThe formidable matriarch to a small cult that admires Joe Carroll. Lily was introduced in the beginning of the season as a victim of a mass murderous rampage in a New York Subway. At first, all of us thought that Ryan Hardy was going to develop a love-line with her. How could we not – Lily is beautiful and graceful. She is an art dealer and looks, in every way possible, a harmless human being.

Damn, how wrong we were!

For Lily is actually quite a serial murderer herself. She adopts a number of children who are, in nature, killers as well. Calm and collected much like Joe himself. For the first time ever, Joe Carroll has a counterpart that can match his charisma and strength. If Joe utilizes his charisma as a teacher to woo his followers, Lily uses her softness and motherly charms. As Joe begins to come out of his hiding, Lily is the one responsible to providing him a safe haven. Unlike his past followers, Lily Gray is not just someone who wishes to be accepted by Joe Carroll. She is more like a protector. I can notice that she also wishes to maybe put Joe under her control. Her ulterior motives are still vague to me – if you are a serial killer as so fuckingly rich as Lily Gray (she’s a billionaire), why would you want to let another leader into your cult? Therefore, she might be genuinely a follower and she might be not. Who knew?

But damn, Lily and Joe looks so hot together!!

2 – Mark Gray

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One word – AWWWWW!! I mean, awwwwwwwwww. Isn’t Mark Gray the cutest cutie pie you have ever seen in The Following? That puppy eyes, that innocent smile….. Again, awwwwww…. Ignoring the fact that he’s also a psychopathic serial murderer, Mark is a demure sensitive young man. He’s also the twin brother of the masculine tough Luke. Why do I love Mark so much? Because he looks submissive. And he reads. And he’s quiet most of the time. And he’s careful. And he seems to be a nice guy when he’s not killing anyone. His niceness, though, makes his character a tad bit unpredictable. I can’t really say what’s going to happen to his character. Is he more demonic than his tough brother, Luke? Or is he more (though unlikely) human? I don’t know but I am sure excited to see his development. His character, so far, is the only character capable of make me feel all giddy and girly…. Hehe

May I just spazz on the greatness of Sam Underwood? I mean, he’s playing two completely different characters, Mark and Luke, and totally nails it. Even my sister can’t believe that the characters are actually played by the same actor. I LOVE YOU, SAM!! I LOVE YOU! I SWEAR I’M GONNA HUG AND KISS YOU IF I EVER SEE YOU IF YOU EVER COME TO MALAYSIA (PLEASE DO!!) The characters are so complicated yet he plays it with confidence that keeps me in awe. In every episode, mind you. He’s the sole reason I am tuning in every week to watch the show. He makes this second journey all worth it.

3 – Detective Max Hardy

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Max’s appearance in the new season gives our main character, Ryan Hardy, a side we’ve never seen in him before. With Max, Ryan is a caring uncle with a fatherly concern. Max shares many traits with her uncle – she’s firm, smart, kick-ass, brilliant and highly courageous. Her youth also means that she is less emotionally-damaged than Ryan, which makes her the ultimate babysitter to Ryan’s crazy obsessions towards Joe Carroll. Without the knowledge of anyone, she assists Ryan in his pursuit of Joe, which could lead to her expulsion from the force.

I have a feeling that she did not participate the pursuit because she was really interested in it. I think she did it because she is worried about her uncle. Rather than letting him handles things on his own and keep her out of the dark, she would rather stay by his side (within all that chaos) so long as she can watch out for Ryan. This uncle-niece relationship is so fresh, I am loving it!

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Aside from the characters, I am also terribly excited to see how the story in Season 2 will unfold. I have a few predictions in mind – Joe Carroll would want to re-establish his cult again. I think he still has many followers that have yet to be exposed to the FBI. The followers we saw in Season 1 might only be a small percentage of his following, to be honest. He had his eight years in prison. He was also allowed access to his mails and internet correspondences. To think that there are so many serial killers worshiping him creeps the hell out of me but that is what makes the series so enjoyable. Psychotic in its baddest form, hehehe. Thank God it’s only a freaking series.

Even though they share an amazing sexual chemistry at the beginning of Season 2, I have a feeling that Joe and Lily will have a fallout. Joe is the established leader of the following – he’s the God and supreme focal point of all these psychopath people. Lily is the woman who brought him back and provides him with protection, money and shelter. I think Lily is going to be pretty much as what Roderick was in Season 1 – the power behind the Carroll throne. But then, Lily comes with a twisted cult of adopted children/killers of her own.

Hahahahaha. I am seriously praying for an episode where Joe’s cult and Lily’s cult go against each other like in a big fat war. The followers protecting Joe, their father and the adopted children protecting Lily, their mother. It is going to be super epic – and disturbing – but epic.

As for Mark and Luke – I am sure they are also going to have misunderstandings of their own. Then, we have Emma, Joe’s number one follower who still, regrettably, cannot get over her obsession over Joe. At times, I just wanna shake that bitch’s shoulders and scream at her – “MOVE ON, BITCH!!” Why would you obsess over a leader who had left you when you have someone like the puppy-eyes Mark who obviously has a crush over you?

Please, Emma. FYI, Emma is slowly becoming the character I dislike most in the series. Maybe because I am so used of seeing her in Season 1. I have this habit of differentiating the followers in the past and the followers in the present. I also dislike how Emma does not seem to have an individuality of her own. I am sure she’s an amazing killer but I really wish to see her not clinging to Joe. I mean, she’s real attached to Joe as a I don’t-know-what. Does she look up to Joe as a teacher? A dad she never had? A god? A brother? A lover? A husband? A protector? What? What? Be clear, bitch!

But it’s okay, Emma. I have faith in you. Promise me you’ll return to your interesting self at the beginning of Season 1. And please please please…. don’t repeat the stupid mistake of choosing Joe over the men who genuinely love and care for you…. Please don’t waste anymore cute guys in the show. We can’t survive on the awesomeness of Joe alone.

P/S – Am still upset about NBC’s silence about Dracula’s continuance. Are they or aren’t they continuing the show? Please say yes…. Pleaseeeeee….. I need more Alexander and Mina lovin’!!!!!

 

DHOOM 3 – 2013 Review

dhoomby Ruby Chingu

Directed by: Vijay Krishna Acharya| Starring: Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Katrina Kaif

Rating: 6/10

Sorry for the late review.  I have been planning to review Dhoom 3 for quite some time now but never got a chance to do it until now. I have been seriously waiting for months to watch this, thanks mainly to Palah and her enthuthiasm to watch her object of devotion, Katrina Kaif, on screen. We indulged ourselves in the beauty of the songs, the music videos and the trailers in anticipation of the movie. I was looking forward, particularly, to see Aamir Khan, whom I had a crush on since I was 6 years old.

I went to see the movie at the cinema, dragging along my little sister. The story of Dhoom 3 is centered around a circus performer, Sahir of The Great Indian Circus, who was also a robber with a vengeance against the bank which had shut down his father’s circus business and led the latter into committing suicide. His crimes were committed in Chicago, though the Hindi writings hints he left at the crime scene prompted the Chicago police to seek the help of 2 Indian policeman, Jai (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali (Uday Chopra). At the same time, a circus newbie with the name of Aaliya (Katrina) entered into their lives, further complicating things.

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Truth to be told, I am quite disappointed with the film’s writing. The plot has many loopholes and the investigation targeted against Sahir did not make sense. For example, the scene involving Aaamir Khan’s bike turning into a jet ski then into a bike again. And the fact that an intelligent robber forgot to wear a mask during a chase with the police. And the fact that the police failed to recognize him when he came offering them help to catch the criminal, who was actually him in the first place. Get what I mean? No? I didn’t, too. It’s not me, it’s the story.

I expected film to be slick and intelligent, with a substantive cat and mouse chase between the roles played by Abhishek Bacchan and Aaamir Khan. However, their roles were reduced to really just performing stunts and actions scenes. I would say the film is hugely entertaining, though, and is visually spectacular for an action masala film.

*SPOILER ALERT*

dhooWhat saves the film for me is Aaamir Khan’s performance NOT as Sahir but as Sahir’s twin, Samar, a brilliant man with the personality of a child. Sahir’s masterful evasion from the police who had been hunting him down was made possible with the help of his twin brother, Samar, who looked exactly like him. Unlike the arrogant confident Sahir, Samar is a man-child who was trained to listen to his brother at all times. He had no lives of his own, his existence was kept secret by his late father and later, his brother. They claimed to care for him, though in my opinion, they used him to further their purposes, all in the name of The Great Indian Circus.

He wasn’t really a bad man. But he was never really though to be a good one. Sahir, his twin, had his own version of a moral code – fuck the capitalist banks, fuck them all. Samar pretty much believed the same and kind of resigned to a life being Sahir’s shadow and go-to-guy in the events he needed to esape from the police. However, Samar was allowed to be himself, his own person every Sunday per week, where he would escape the circus plus criminal life with his brother and enjoyed a day of fun at a local theme park. Those kind of Sundays had been his release, his happiness, pretty much the definition of Samar as a person truly unconnected with his twin.

Aamir Khan played the role to perfection. And to think that he actually had to play dual roles that belong to two different extremes – the cold-hearted Sahir and the innocent naive Samar. The performance is in itself more enjoyable than the film as a whole.

I know it sounds pathetic. But yes, this film should really be called The Tale of Samar: Years of Living in Sahir’s Shadow. Because it sure felt like it when I was watching it.

dhoom_3_-_katrina_kaif_0Anyway, now we go to Katrina Kaif, who played Aaliya, Sahir’s assistant and Samar’s love interest. The insignificance of her role was also a major disappointment for me. From the look at the poster, I initially assumed that she would be playing a vital character and perhaps was to be involved with Sahir’s crime. Because our Katrina looked so badass. But of course, she was not. That huge expectation was crushed by the reality that in this film, Aaliya was a mere eye-candy with terrific dance skills. She kept the audiences glued to the screen with her beauty and performance prowess but nothing more.

I sincerely think Katrina has been given better roles than Aaliya.

The ending kind of sucks for me, because the twins committed suicide by jumping off the bridge. The degree of their evilness was also lacking for me. They were BAD but not that bad. They were bad people with a justification to be bad. They wanted revenge on the bank who had drove their father to suicide. Which is also, for me, kind of disappointing. For the villain is not that villainy. The aspect made the story a bit too safe. I was expecting more thrills, more suspense. Of course I got them but not from the story but the visual and sound effects.

Maybe because Aamir Khan was the lead actor for this fim, my expectations were sky-high. Like so high you can’t even see it. Perhaps his previous records of being such an excellent actor with an excellent taste in films are not helping him this time. For it made me wonder why he would choose a script with way too many loopholes. BUT only an amazing actor like Aamir who could pull off the roles so compelling in a way, it stayed with me for several weeks after I watched the film.

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Notwithstanding my opinions on the film, people should go watch this movie. It is an entertaining movie and an important one at that, having been declared as the HIGHEST GROSSING HINDI FILM ever!! That surely proved that despite the weak plot, the film works in a way. I walked out of the cinema, feeling somewhat happy. And a lot in love with the enduring charms of Aamir Khan. *faints*

MUSIC – The songs in this film are great, great, great!! The Dhoom Machale anthem, Malang and my favourite, Tu Hi Junoon!

TO EACH ITS OWN MERITS – BBC Sherlock and CBS Elementary

BY RUBY CHINGU

I am here today to talk about what have been the most important series to my life in the past 2 years of my life, BBC Sherlock, and what seems to be the increasingly important series in my current  life, CBS Elementary. Both have been adapted from the very famous Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. TV producers had and have been using and modifying the same stories of Holmes again and again and again and suprisingly…. we the readers and audiences never really get tired of the detective tale, aren’t we? Palah Chingu wrote a review covering both series a few months ago. Since I have just finished watching the first season of Elementary, I have this crazy urge to let out my thoughts about the two series, too. Like, seriously, who can ever resist our modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes?

BBC SHERLOCK

sherlockbbc2I love the series. I love it to death with an indescribable devotion. You see, BBC only produces around three to five episodes of Sherlock per season. Sometimes, the fans have to wait several very long months until the next season shows up. Each and every single month that passes, trust me, a Sherlock fan would be praying for the BBC crew to just fucking start shooting so that we can go crazy over seeing Sherlock and his best friend, Watson on screen together.

It is a brilliant highly intelligent series. The episodes are superbly written and directed. But then, I’d expect no less from BBC. Come to think of me, I do think Brits TVs are much more careful and meticulous in their productions. They don’t rely on too much gloss, they love to inject a bit sense of intellectuality here and there. It’s exactly like that for Sherlock. The first time I saw it, I thought – what a motherfucking great series! It’s so complicated, I don’t get what shits Sherlock is saying most of the time – but hell, I am sure addicted to it. The writing makes the episodes very unpredictable and the twists in the episodes – unlike other cliched detective series – really does blow your mind.

SHERLOCKBenedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes – need I say more? His acting turned me into a helpless Cumberbitch. Gifted with a face with unique features, Benedict gives Sherlock this out-of-this-world character. He’s a genius – no, make that a super genius, second only to his brother, Mycroft – who views human beings around him as those of a lower less-intelligent species. Despite how egoistically selfish and vain that sounds, he’s not that wrong. He is super selfish, he is a bastard, he is mean, he gives very mean comments to people who actually care about him. He has no reason and rationality unless they are vital for his investigative works. Apparently, he is not a psychopath but a high functioning sociopath. Bottom line is, he’s crazy. I love this new interpretation of Sherlock – if our intelligence agency is made of men like him, I will never have to worry about the safety of the world anymore. However, in all honestly, I would not like to know him in person if he exists in real life. I have no doubt he’d be a real pain in the ass.

Sherlock (2010)

Sherlock does not emote, period. Except for perhaps in some very sweet moments with his one and only John Watson, played by Martin Freeman. John, as Sherlock calls him, is possibly Sherlock’s link to the world of normalcy. Not that our John here is an exemplar of what is normal but next to Sherlock, he is pretty much the only sane person Sherlock lets into his mind. They met as roommates and overtime, John became Sherlock’s confidante, best friend (albeit strangely), and partner. Watson is essentially the ‘wife’ in Sherlock’s life. He’s reliable, he’s polite, he’s soft-spoken, he’s flexible, he looks normal from every angle. He wants (or thinks that he wants) the normal life. The hope, however, is constantly diminished by Sherlock’s presence. He cares for Sherlock when people gives up on doing so. He embraced Sherlock’s craziness (and selfishness) reluctantly since he realized nothing can change the person his best friend is. John mourned for months and years after Sherlock died before his eyes. The first time I saw Sherlock cried when he was telephoning Watson prior to the jump (though later we’d know that the death was faked. Of course it was fucking fake!). The first time I saw Sherlock apologized was also when he asked for John’s forgiveness for pretending to be dead, knowing how crushed John would be.

sherlockwedding_2781381bThe chemistry between Benedict and Martin (God, this sounds GAY!) is so amazing, it makes me want to cry. The way they look next to each other is different – Sherlock has that dark I-am-such-a-mysteriously-brilliant-man look whereas John looks just like….. someone who would be called John. Your next-door guy whom you’d expect to mow the lawn every now and then. The way they talk to each other is also cute – Sherlock would go yap and yap and yap and John, most of the time, has to listen and bear with his sentences cut short by his genius detective friend. They are always constantly together. John is often annoyed with Sherlock, though he gave up of ever expressing such feelings. Sherlock found a person he thought he’d never find in John – a friend. Most importantly, they love each other. (Again, very very GAY!) The writers seem to notice the explosive fandom the series has created over this couple that they actually intensified to a whole new level in Series Three. John was literally – I tell you – Sherlock’s damsel-in-distress. Hahaha, people, I give you – the GREATEST BROMANCE TO EVER EXIST ON PLANET EARTH.

CBS ELEMENTARY

key_elementaryFirst time I heard that CBS would be producing their own TV series based on Sherlock Holmes, I was quite pissed off. Why create another one when we already have the amazing BBC version? Why can’t they buy the copyrights and show the series in America? Are the writers in US out of ideas already? They seem to have been adapting sources out of their country for some time now. I mean – I could not think any other actor could play a modern Sherlock other than Benedict. And I was sure that Elementary would suck, big time. I was convinced the series was rubbish without even seeing it.

Hell, I was very very wrong. Foolishly wrong.

I am going to be very honest now. Story-wise, BBC Sherlock is much better and superior. I think BBC Sherlock also has better directions, pace, and a more elegant cinematography, which resulted in more impact to the audiences’ minds. Elementary has some smartly-written clever episodes. At times, it has average episodes. But BBC Sherlock’s writings are not just clever and smart – they are brilliant. But I think such comparison is fairly obvious. Sherlock has 3 to 5 episodes per season but CBS writers have to dig their heads to come out with clever stories for 24 episodes. I mean, the writers are not robots, people. BUT ELEMENTARY is one hell of an addictive series, made up of awesomeness and pure joy.

???Why? Because of Jonny Lee Miller, whom I wrongly accused of being unable to interpret the character as good as Benedict. In truth, he’s great. And there is no comparison at all because his acting makes Elementary a totally different show from Sherlock. Jonny’s Sherlock is a genius nonetheless. However, he is a bit more relatable. His emotional range is significantly expanded. He CAN emote – he fell in love once. He is a recovered drug addict whose father hired a sober companion, Joan Watson, to ensure that he does not relapse and return to his drug habits. In a way, he’s very flawed. He is also essentially a man-child. He does not really place much important in hygiene of himself and his apartment. He is obsessive over his cases and works for free as a consultant detective for NYPD. Why? Because he does not need to earn any money. He is a spoiled brat who lives off the money from the trust fund he inherited, which means he came from an insanely wealthy family. That explains why he’s immature 90% of the time. He’s often giddy, anxious and impatience.

Oh God, I love seeing him on screen. I completely fell in love with Sherlock Holmes! I find him so endearing and adorable! Now, Jonny’s Sherlock is someone I would not mind meeting in real life. Hehe.

lucy iuLucy Liu‘s interpretation of Joan Watson is also impressive. I was skeptical at first when I heard that CBS was going to turn Watson into a female character. The first thought that popped into my head was – are the writers going to make them sleep together? Cause sex and romance would pretty much destroy the professional and friendship-based chemistry Sherlock and Watson have in all the other versions. Good news, they don’t (or at least not yet and please keep it that way). Our Watson here (because Sherlock does not address her as Joan) is a calm and collected sober companion who would change his career into a consulting detective and Sherlock’s partner. As a former surgeon and an experienced sober companion, she comes off as a healer to broken things. Patients, drug addicts etc etc. She is supremely patience, smart, confidence and, though at times amazed at Sherlock’s skill, never deems Sherlock as a superior being. She also has a very clear mind and a great sense of control – something that Sherlock lacks.

elementary-super-bowl-cbsNow let’s talk about their chemistry. It did take me a few episodes to get over the GREATEST BROMANCE OF ALL TIME and neutralize my head to accept the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. It is surprisingly refreshing to see them together. The dynamic between Sherlock and Watson here is completely different. Sherlock calls Watson, Watson, perhaps because he’s not used to the name Joan. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think Sherlock here is less affectionate to his partner compared to the BBC version, which does not make it a bad thing. Their dynamic relationship is akin to a relationship between an elder sister and a mischievous younger brother. Now, you don’t normally express your love to your sister, do you? Sherlock does care very much about Watson but he does not have to tell her because he knows she would always be there for him, to limit his impulsiveness and to control him. Yes, that’s the main difference between the BBC and the CBS versions of this chemistry – our Watson has the power to ACTUALLY restrain Sherlock.She was, at first, his sober companion – meaning she had to make sure he does not relapse. She made sure his habits are under control and forced her way into his life, though he disliked it at first. As time passed by, our man-child Sherlock realized that with Watson, he is a better man, a better recovered drug addict and a sharper detective. And God, I do find it enjoyable to see a Sherlock that listens and abides to someone’s opinions but himself. Now that is what makes this so sweet. Sherlock, being a recovered addict, did want to go back to his drugs but he confessed the only thing stopping him was that he did not want to disappoint Watson, who has been nagging on and on about it. When Irene Adler was staying at their apartment, he also insisted Watson to stay, because “this is your home,” as he said to her. I mean… that is so motherfucking sweet, I almost cried.

Ok… I’m done.

NOW that is a very long gibberish paragraphs of spazzings and fangirls over Sherlock and Elementary. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, thank you for creating the stories. I love your novels and love the fact that people keep adapting your stories again and again. You make my life so happy.

TVXQ – SOMETHING [Commentary]

by Ruby Chingu

Palah and Fatma Chinguz will be so annoyed at this post but what the hell… Imma do it anyway.

Seven years ago, when I was an immature eager youth, I was absorbed into the word of super-fanatic fandom of TVXQ, a boyband (almost the only boyband ever at that time) from South Korea. It was my first introduction to the world of K-Pop, which I have now abandoned. However, TVXQ, being my first major devotion, will always have a special place in my heart as it reminded me a lot of my teenage years where life was less bitter and revolved mainly around cute guys, cute guys and more cute guys. Little did I know at least half of them eventually turned out to be gay. *sobs*

I am beginning to sound like a 40 years old. Grrr…

K-Pop is an eccentric visual-centered universe. Everything is about looks, dance moves, flashy music videos and less about the quality of the music itself. Idols, or singer/dancers MUST be pretty or handsome. Despite the seemingly shallow appearance, it says a lot about the world today. We cannot deny the fact that visually-pleasing things make us happy and relieve us from the ugly nature of reality. And K-Pop is one of the best escapism medium I have encountered. However, the excessive focus towards the visual and not the musical quality of the artists would sooner or later bore the hell out of the listeners with the repetitive cycle. It is inevitable. In the effort to maintain their popularity, entertainment companies would try their best to re-invent the images of these girl groups and boybands (IMAGE, not music). The images are recycled again and again to the extend of being formulaic. Upon reaching adulthood, I found my interest towards K-Pop has diminished altogether – a surprising thing since it used to be the focal point of my life.

When my sister told me that TVXQ has just released their latest music video for their tenth album, I did not really feel any excitement but curiosity. I was their fan for six years and could somehow predict whatever products they were offering to the public. Upon coming home to my sister’s iPad, I was prepared to be majorly disappointed. I pressed the play button and locked my eyes towards the screen for a good four minutes to their new song titled ‘Something’.

Something? Like really? Like you guys cannot think of a better name after coming out with 6 albums?

However, the song and the music video, despite the oh-so-lame title, is actually quite good. Not very TVXQ-ish, I have to say. Honestly, I was expecting the music video to be all robotic, surreal, out-of this world dancey with awkward facial expressions like their previous  videos. The weird expressions are still there but TVXQ’s Something utilized the swing jazz style, an unexplored territory for the group mainly known for their heavy choreography and over-the-top rock influenced music. The song is fun and their vocals are great. For the first time in many years, they have produced a song that many adults can enjoy. My sister, not so suprisingly, dislikes the song and preferred the weak Catch Me single, which, for me, was more hype than substance.

She’s fourteen and a fan of Girls’ Generation. Her opinion, clearly, can be disregarded. Haha.

Something is also the only South Korean song I’ve listened to for the past 3 months. I’m happy to know that it is a feel-good song. Compared to their previous lead singles, Something can be said to be the most innovative. The boyband has no choice but to reinvent themselves for the sake of their fans, who are also aging alongside them. They can no longer sustain their popularity by relying on their fandom. The older people gets, the higher expectations they have for the favourite artists in terms of music and maturity. Good looks and suave moves aside, K-Pop idols have to produce albums that are worth listening to in the car or iPods on the way to work. TVXQ seems to be heading that way, I suppose, and this single serves as a good sign.

It makes me feel glad. They are doing well though they are pretty much a part of my history now. *sobs*