Friday, April 30, 2010

Blue skies over Hong Kong

View of Ma On Shan (mountain and town)
from the other side of Tolo Harbour

A small section of the 22 hectare
Tai Po Waterfront Park

Last night, I watched a psychedelic animated movie called Sita Sings the Blues (which I will not be reviewing because there are plenty of readable reviews available of Nina Paley's 2008 film already. Also, its main maker has made it free to watch online here -- so you can easily judge this creative offering for yourself.)

I will share here though that chief among the things I like about this movie are the blues tunes that feature in it. And what with this being one of those weeks that have had its share of negative incidents as well as more enjoyable moments, the number entitled -- and containing the lyrics -- "If you want the rainbow, you must have the rain" (sung, like many of the other songs in the movie, by the late Annette Hanshaw) really spoke to me when I heard it -- and again earlier today.

A little bit of context with regards to the latter: I have the kind of job whereby deadlines come quickly one after the other. So once I get to the office, I pretty much have my nose to the grindstone until the end of the work day -- with the notable exception of my lunch hour... which I make a point of taking away from my desk and usually in the company of friendly colleagues.

As luck would have it though, none of my usual lunch companions were about today. But rather than give in and do such as eat alone at my desk, I bought a sandwich and bottle of juice and then carted them and myself away to a nearby park to eat outdoors.

And as luck would have it (and this time it actually was good), it turned out to be a beautiful time of the day -- one during which I was able to breathe in clear air and view blue skies over Hong Kong (in stark contrast to that widely-reported super high pollution day last month) and so many other beautiful sights! Consequently, my mood lifted quite a bit and I wasn't only able to enjoy my lunch time but also go back to work afterwards feeling considerable refreshed.

So yes, indeedy, with regards to knowing full well that life invariably has its ups as well as downs. And, also, it being so that even while, into every life, some rain must fall (as the proverbial "they" say), the rain does sometimes also pave the way for a beautiful rainbow's appearance! :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peak puzzles and more (Photo-essay)

After hiking up to near the top of Victoria Peak and spending time taking in the views there and walking around Victoria Peak Garden (where the Governor of Hong Kong's Mountain Lodge once stood), my hiking companion and I decided to explore the area for a bit before hiking down in a westward direction all the way down to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir and Pok Fu Lam Road (from where we would end our hike by taking the bus back into Central).

Funnily enough, while we saw a bunch of interesting sights that day, this hike has come to be most remembered by us less so for the scenic views it yielded and more for... our coming across an example -- my second, her first -- of insects doing what comes to them naturally. All in all, what we had thought would be a pretty conventional hike turned out to be at times quite surreal in a fun way -- with some of the reasons for our thinking being offered up on view in the following photo-essay... ;b

Eye-catching vegetation
that, alas, I cannot identify... :S

Is this dolphin-shaped garbage receptacle
up on The Peak an Ocean Park exile or reject?! ;b

Why is this bench located where no view can be had?
(This especially when benches encountered on

previous hikes usually pointed to grand vistas

that were worth pausing to savor?)

I mean these ferns are pretty enough
to take a photograph of and share it with others
-- but to park a bench in front of??

Don't grasshoppers perch atop
rather than hang from beneath leaves?, you know, this pair of grasshoppers
going about perpetuating their species! ;b

Okay, okay -- move on, already, pretty please!

A surprisingly overgrown and presumably not
frequently traversed
section of Governor's Walk

To be continued...!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mimi Private Eye (Film Review)

Back when Mimi Private Eye was filmed,
the pagoda in the picture stood amidst rural greenery

Last week, I forewent my usual Sunday hiking to have lunch with two fellow film fans (at the Cafe de Goldfinch that has a special place in the hearts of Hong Kong movie lovers on account of it figuring in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love and 2046) and then a viewing of yet another movie in the Hong Kong Film Archive's ongoing Patrick Lung Kong retrospective program. And while I usually get a lot out of my Hong Kong hikes, it's also true enough that the day turned out to be a very enjoyable Sunday indeed -- thanks in no small part to the fun company of my two friends for part of it and the big screening viewing of the 45-year-old movie whose review now follows:-

Mimi Private Eye (Hong Kong, 1965)
- Chun Kim, director
- Starring Jeannette Lin Tsui, Kenneth Tsang, Patrick Lung Kong

Like Pink Tears, this entertaining offering which revolves around a female teenager with a passion for reading crime novels who, along with her photography-obsessed elder brother, gets embroiled in a murder investigation dates back to 1965 and is directed by Chun Kim rather than Patrick Lung Kung (who, instead, served as assistant director as well as co-scripted the work with its primary helmer and plays a significant role in front of the camera for the film).

But unlike the romantic melodrama that had Julie Yeh Feng as its star, this movie which has Jeanette Lin Tsui playing its eponymous character is actually an unusual combo of crime film and comedy. Additionally, unlike Pink Tears, it is neither a Shaw Brothers production nor -- and I think this speaks to the Shaw Brothers movies having had a higher budget than most other Hong Kong cinematic efforts from the same era -- is it filmed in color.

But as Hong Kong movies have shown time and time again, a lower budget work is not necessarily a lower quality nor less enjoyable effort. And this especially when the filmmakers have charismatic stars like Jeanette Lin Tsui and Kenneth Tsang to work with -- and these two talented thespians proceed to work well together as well as play their roles with so much zest and generally help to invest the movie with large doses of good fun along with youthful energy.

On a more critical note: when watching a movie like this, I sometimes am moved to wonder whether people really were more naive and innocent back then. To be sure, there are times when certain characters' lack of guile can be endearing and part of the work's nostalgic charm. But at other times, they -- and the movie with them -- can seem to cross the line and just seem plain dumb.

Still, I don't want to sound a too negative note about the work because I do think it continues to be a good watch so many years after it was first made. To be sure, something that I consider a major plus in its favor is that while too many films start with a bang but then end with a whimper, drag on too long and consequently overstay their welcome or just plain conclude in a generally unsatisfactory manner, this movie's last 10 minutes or so may well be its best.

At the very least, its climactic chase sequence is noteworthy in its ability to seamlessly go back and forth between nail-biting suspense and guffaw-inducing slapstick. And it's an added bonus for people like me who love recognizing real-life Hong Kong locations in the territory's movies -- as well as have a general passion for Hong Kong cinema -- that it managed to include the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda (AKA Pagoda of Gathering Stars) that is Hong Kong's sole surviving ancient pagoda into the picture! :)

My rating for this film: 7.5

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Addiction (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Considering how I tend to think of Hong Kong as a bastion of law and order (where, on a personal level, I am able to be regularly out and about in the city on my own late at night), it's ironic to realize that it came to have the position it does in the world in large part due to a substance banned all over the world because of its ability to lead people into serious addiction. More specifically, Hong Kong Island was ceded by the Chinese Qing government to imperial Britain as one consequence of the former losing the First Opium War (1839-1842) against the latter; with the rest of the territories that now make up Hong Kong also coming under imperial British rule before the 19th century came to an end -- and all of it only being returned to China in 1997.

The last opium den in Hong Kong closed down in the 1970s -- and these days, the major addiction that the authorities are waging war against is that involving nicotine, not opium. (Therefore, we can safely assume that when they put up signs that say "Smoking can kill" (as can be seen in this Photo Hunt entry's lower photo), they mean the kind of cigarettes associated with such as the Marlboro Man.)

Although he was originally condemned on the grounds that his actions were a major catalyst for the First Opium War, Lin Zexu (1785-1850), the incorruptible Chinese scholar-official who sought to wage war against opium, has since come to be viewed as a Chinese hero. Among the monuments erected in his honor are a Lin Zexu Memorial Museum and a 3 meter high statue of the man in the grounds of the Lin Fung Temple where he stayed at on an official visit to Macau in 1839. Also, June 3rd, the day that Lin confiscated crates of opium in his campaign against the drug, is commemorated as Anti-Smoking Day in Taiwan!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pink Tears (film review)

The Clock Tower at the tip of Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the few
recognizable structures
that can be sighted today as well as
the 1965 Hong Kong movie I viewed last Friday

For those who asked for more movie reviews on this blog, I thank you for your interest -- though I have to admit to feeling somewhat intimidated by the strength of some of your enthusiasm! And without further ado, here's one more to add to the collection:-

Pink Tears (Hong Kong, 1965)
- Chun Kim, director
- Starring Julie Yeh Feng, Ling Yun, Petrina Fung Bo Bo, etc.

The Hong Kong Film Archive's splendid Patrick Lung Kong retrospective that goes on through to May 8th includes three reference works (Chor Yuen's The Joys and Sorrows of Youth, John Woo's A Better Tomorrow and Derek Yee's The Lunatics), and a few works that he was assistant rather than primary director on. This 1965 Shaw Brothers production is one of the latter -- and the difference between it and the Lung Kong-helmed works I've thus far seen are quite noticeable even though the Hong Kong Film Archive programme catalogue states that "It's not difficult to recognise how Chun's skillful employ of mis-en-scene within the confines of romantic drama... inspired Lung to repeatedly return to the genre as a director, rising above genre restrictions to pursue his own interests."

For one thing, this melodrama about a widow who happens to be a glamorous courtesan as well as loving mother is in Mandarin rather than the Cantonese of such as Prince of Broadcasters or The Window. For another, it boasts the kind of sumptuous sets that are characteristic of the circa 1960s Shaw Brothers movies. For a third, its focus is not on young adults but, rather, a woman (essayed by Julie Yeh Feng) with the kind of curves that bear testimony to her being in her physical prime, the pianist-music teacher who falls for her (Ling Yun) and her pre-teen daughter (Petrina Fung Bo Bo -- who I still can't quite believe that I had the privilege of meeting earlier this year!) who also happens to be his music student.

Alternatively, I'll grant that this movie is similar to those that Lung Kong would go on to helm in that it does seek to socially educate as well as tell a bitter-sweet tale of a good woman and good man who find numerous obstacles standing in the way of their long-term love and happiness. Also, much to my great pleasure, the film is yet another from that era that begans with establishing shots of Hong Kong -- and this time in color rather than black and white -- that allow audience members to feast their eyes on panoramic views of a city with far fewer and lower structures than are to be found in the present day.

Still, when all is said and done, the best thing about this film has to be its charismatic female lead. Admittedly, it can be a bit disconcerting to see Julie Yeh Feng in a Shaw Brothers rather than Cathay movie. And for all of her obvious sex appeal, I do think she's best when playing elder sister to Jeannette Lin Cui (in such as Our Sister Hedy and Sister Long Legs). However, I'm not going to complain much about Yeh Feng's appearance in this movie -- not least because the audience is treated to her singing the kind of soulful song that tears at one's heart and -- yes, I admit it -- got my tears flowing (if not the first time around, then later on in the work after certain events take place that give added weight and meaning to the song's lyrics).

My rating for this film: 6.5

Monday, April 19, 2010

Up to (near) the top of Victoria Peak (Photo-essay)

There's a common misconception that if you take the Peak Tram up from Central, you'll get to Victoria Peak (AKA The Peak). But the truth of the matter is that rather than reaching the summit of Hong Kong Island's highest hill (or mountain), the fact is that the area which is crowned by buildings such as the anvil shaped Peak Tower actually is only Victoria Gap - and is more than 150 meters below the summit of Victoria Peak proper.

Something else that many people don't realize is that Victoria Gap is the hub for a number of hikes -- including a scenic 3.5 kilometer loop and longer ones down to Aberdeen, Admiralty, the Mid-Levels, and Pok Fu Lam. Thus it was that when my hiking companion and I went hiking in the area one nice October day, we found ourselves able to enjoy a surprising amount of piece and quiet as well as beautiful scenery just a few minutes after we headed away and up hill from our hike start at Victoria Gap...

Not quite what one expects to see at the beginning
of an official trail -- especially one known as
The Governor's Walk -- but we pressed on nonetheless!

Shortly after, my hiking companion and I were rewarded with
this view of Victoria Peak that most people haven't seen
A few minutes after that, we came across this
natural rock formation that I reckon rivals Tai Lam
Country's Park "The Monkey" for monkey-ness... ;b

Part of the surprisingly uncrowded --
and, to be honest, also surprisingly crumbly -- trail
that we went along for part of our hike that day

A cave we came across up on Victoria Peak
that gave my hiking companion and I the creeps
as it got us imagining that an illegal immigrant
or wild man was going to burst out from there!

Not long afterwards, however, we came across
this frog-shaped garbage bin... and realized
that we were back in civilization! ;b

Victoria Peak Garden (in the foreground of the photo)
-- not quite the summit yet but still some 150 meters
higher than Victoria Gap and 554 meters above sea level

Yes, it takes a bit of effort to get up there --
but I do feel that the views really are worth it! :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"That's worth flying all the way to Hong Kong for..."*

A meal for two that looks well balanced --
with carbs (rice), vegetables (tung choi), meat, dipping sauces
(including one made from plum) and liquids (tea and beer)...

...but one look at the meats gets one realizing
it's more decadently delicious than good for you! ;b

Earlier today, a friend enquired when I started writing my blog -- and it was a with a bit of a jolt that I got to recalling that I started this blog back in 2006. Looking back to that time in my life, I also got to realizing how different it all was for me then. For one thing, I was living in Penang rather than Hong Kong then. For another, I was just watching on TV -- and in Hong Kong movies ;) -- things that I get the chance to do, and go about doing, as a matter of course these days.

As an example, one of my favorite TV shows back then was Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations -- with his Hong Kong episode being one of my favorites in the series. Watching the episode for the first time, it tickled me to no end that he was taken to dine at the Four Seasons Claypot Rice place that my mother and I had previously discovered and would regularly go to on our visits to The Big Lychee.

But it's thanks to Mr. Bourdain that I learnt about other great places to eat in Hong Kong -- including the Tung Po Seafood Restaurant that I recently ate at again this past Wednesday, and the roast meat place whose roast goose many people (including myself) reckon has Yung Kee's beat (and at which I had a really satisfying dinner post hike with a friend last Sunday).

And while I wouldn't go so far as Anthony Bourdain, who can be heard intoning in the TV show that at Yat Lok Barbecue Restaurant, "it's all about the goose" (because I think that the rich tasting roast goose and the fluffy white rice complement each other and bring out the best aspects of the other ingredient), it's certainly true enough that even while the suckling pig may look like the more delectable meat in the photo, it really was the goose that made this meal as yummy as it was... :b

*And yes, Anthony Bourdain really did say that Yat Lok's roast goose is worth flying all the way to Hong Kong for. Talk about a major free endorsement from a foodie god! :DDD

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Covered (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

This week's Photo Hunt theme has so many meanings that I couldn't resist and thus went ahead and covered two of them rather than just one! So, firstly, the upper two photos out of the four I've in this blog entry show Lantau Island mountain tops covered by clouds. And should anyone wonder, the beautiful carved triple arch is that of Po Lin Monastery, situated on the more famous of two Ngong Ping plateaus in Hong Kong -- and for the curious, here's a glimpse of the less well known Ngong Ping that hikers love more -- while the high rise buildings in that otherwise idyllic green location belong to Tung Chung, one of Hong Kong's many new towns.

For their part, the lower two photos show examples of Hong Kong's many of covered walkways that attest, among other things, to The Big Lychee being a place where people really do walk about a lot. And having a government intent on ensuring that pedestrians can easily and conveniently get about even when it rains (something that can happen a lot -- and with a vengeance -- over here).

(For those who don't recognise it, the upper of those two lower photos is of part of the over 800 meters long Central-Mid-Levels escalator that is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. And for the record: the final photo in this blog entry was taken from inside an underpass in Sham Shui Po -- across Victoria Harbour and what can seem like a whole socio-cultural world away from Central and the Mid-Levels, yet also very much covered by the authorities' efforts to make sure that Hong Kong is full of covered walkways!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fire of Conscience (film review)

You'll get much clearer views of this Tai Hang creature
if you watch Dante Lam's latest... ;b

Before anything else, thanks to those who wrote nice things about my recent Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) film reviews on this blog and also in e-mails to me. And although I'm still in two minds as to whether to resume reviewing movies in earnest, here's going ahead and sharing my thoughts about a Hong Kong movie that had its world premiere at this year's HKIFF but which I waited until after the fest ended to view in a regular cinema/multiplex:-

Fire of Conscience (Hong Kong, 2010)
- Dante Lam, director
- Starring Leon Lai, Richie Jen (AKA Richie Ren), Wang Baoqiang, Liu Kai Chi, Michelle Ye, Vivian Hsu, etc.

I first heard about this crime action thriller whose Chinese title translates as Fire Dragon late last summer -- when excited friends living in the atmospheric neighborhood of Tai Hang reported seeing film crews shooting a re-enactment of its famous fire dragon street parade over a few nights, during which personalities like Chin Kar Lok (who action directed the Dante Lam movie) and Richie Jen also were spotted in the area.

And although the amazing creature had previously been captured on celluloid in such as Lawrence Lau's Ballistic (2008), the prospect alone of seeing it in its glory in a movie got me looking forward to checking out this film that tells the story of two cops: both of whom were born in the Chinese year of the dragon; one of whom may look, as someone teased him, more like a bad than good guy but actually is a dedicated policeman; the other of whom is far more bad-ass as well as just plain bad than his physical appearance and demeanor gets people assuming.

So it's pretty ironic then that I feel obliged to report that the portions of this film in which the fire dragon metaphorically as well as literally figures are by far the weakest sections of the work for many reasons -- and are what make its conclusion feel too forced and so much less emotionally impacting than the director's The Beast Stalker (which, more than by the way, was my second favorite Hong Kong movie of 2008).

On the brighter side, when a parade involving a 67 meter-long fiery 'dragon' made up of thousands of burning incense sticks and stalks of dry straw and 'pearl' grass is a visual low rather than high point of a film, this can't but mean that this movie which cautions against judging books by their covers offers up plenty of amazing sights. Among those absolute stand-outs are the seriously incredible opening scenes that consist of imaginative tableaux of the kind I don't think I've ever seen before in a film (and most definitely not one out of Hong Kong) and a chase scene that ends up with two man taking an amazing tumble several feet down onto a busy Causeway Bay road.

Upon adding into the equation such as an explosive moment that is at least as gasp-inducing as the one involving a soldier getting way too close to a cannon's mouth in Peter Chan's The Warlords (2007) and a scene that involves a woman giving birth that is more eye-opening than that in Tsui Hark's Time and Tide (2000), one can be forgiven for thinking that Dante Lam primarily conceived this movie as a series of scenes that would visually wow audience members. If he did so, then he very much succeeded.

Somewhere along the line, however, he (and/or scriptwriter Jack Ng) also looked to have the kind of conclusion that introduced a sense of karma like the first Infernal Affairs (2002) as well as tied things up a la The Beast Stalker (and -- this observation coming from my having just viewed Park Shin Woo's White Night (2009) last night -- many a Korean film). This, alas, the filmmakers were less successful in enacting. Consequently, Fire of Conscience concludes in a way that fails to satisfy, not least because it's so much less powerful and effective than the rest of the movie deserved.

My rating for this film: 8 (despite it unsatisfactory ending because so much of what preceded it had been so very good, even amazing)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Aberdeen Country Park hike redux (Photo-essay II)

And so it goes... in this case, here's a second photo-essay of the second hike in as many weeks that I went on in Aberdeen Country Park back last summer. (Yes, I'm that far behind in my hiking photo essays!) So, without further ado, here are more photos of a hike taken in the heat of the summer in one of Hong Kong's oldest -- having been designated one back in 1977 -- as well as easily accessible country parks; one during which my hiking companion and I discovered that one week can make a whole lot of difference as far as blooming flowers go (as we saw far more this time around than on our previous Sunday's hike):-

Walking along the hiking trail, one sometimes could see
exposed roots of plants to one side

On the other side, there were scenic vistas that included
views not only of concrete structures but, also, sections
of Ocean Park (including its colorful hot air balloons) and
the Police Training School seen in films like
Infernal Affairs II

As this sign post shows, there are many
route possibilities within Aberdeen Country Park

A species of flower I see a lot on my hikes in Hong Kong
-- and which I think is the Hong Kong Gordonia
(that has, as you can see if you click to enlarge the photo,
attracted its share of ants!)

A view from a different angle of the same species of flower

Can you spot the millipede in the photo?

One of the many species of beautiful flowers I see
while hiking in Hong Kong but, alas, cannot as yet identify

A photo that shows how close Aberdeen Country Park
is to Aberdeen town (and vice versa)!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The final two films of my 2010 HKIFF

A sign of how fast things change in Hong Kong --
since those banners were put up,
Brand HK has controversially changed its design

As the proverbial "they" say, all good things must come to an end. And so, at the beginning of this week, I attended my final two screenings of the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival -- at least of the official period since I have tickets for one screening later this month of a Yasujiro Shimazu film as well as to the Patrick Lung Kong retrospective at the Hong Kong Film Archive that actually goes on through to next month.

To be honest, I'm not sure whether I'll be writing up reviews of those latter films -- or that of Dante Lam's Fire of Conscience (which I saw this past Thursday outside of the film festival). But, for sure, here in this entry are reviews of two films I saw this Monday that brought my personal HKIFF-ing to a satisfying end this year:-

Apart Together (Mainland China, 2010)
- From the Galas programme
- Wang Quanan, director
- Starring Lisa Lu, Ling Feng, Ma Xiaoqing, Monica Mo

As I prepared to go view this film whose three leads (82-year-old Lisa Lu, 72-year-old Ling Feng and 76-year-old Ma Xiaoqing) have a combined age of 230 years, I got to thinking how, while I had felt as well as thought many things thus far at the HKIFF, I actually hadn't encountered a genuine tearjerker at the fest.

And with Lisa Lu conveying a sense of restraint early on in this drama about a woman who was left behind in Mainland China in her first year of marriage while her husband went off to what he thought would be a temporary exile in Taiwan, only for more than 50 years to elapse before they would meet again in Shanghai, I wondered if this work would go for the emotionally reined-in path in its treatment of an inevitably emotional story (not least because it has many real-life parallels).

But before the half way mark, I got all choked up and found tears coursing down my cheeks when her character disclosed at a family gathering that for the past 50 years or so, she had felt that she had lived for her family but now that she had reached an age where she would have just a few years left on earth, she wanted to live for herself -- by going off to Taiwan and spending the rest of her days with her first -- and, it went without saying, true -- love. And by the same token, I was so very shocked when one of her children reacted vehemently to her mother's words -- and re-positioned them as a betrayal of the family and, in particular, the man who Lisa Lu's character acknowledged had saved her, including from a suicidal attempt during the Cultural Revolution, and given her reasons to continue living.

At the same time as I was reacting in an emotional manner to the film's proceedings, however, I also got to intellectually realizing that the work's presentation of different views about the elderly woman's situation and planned decision is what makes it rise so many others with similar subject matter and themes. For in steering a path between the romantic and pragmatic (along with one that shows how one really can't have it all), Wang Quanan has come up with a truly moving but also thought-provoking and thoughtful meditation for the ages about how love counts for a lot but cannot and doesn't conquer all because other factors -- and people -- need to be considered too in real life.

My rating for this film: 8.5

The Window (Hong Kong, 1968)
- From the Hong Kong Auteur, Lung Kong programme
- Patrick Lung Kong, director
- Starring Patrick Tse Yin, Josephine Siao Fong Fong, Patrick Lung Kong, etc.

This 1968 film's two Patricks -- whose most famous collaborative effort was the previous year's Story of a Discharged Prisoner -- do double duty (with Tse Yin producing the movie as well as being it lead actor, and Lung Kong having a supporting actor role as well as directing the work) in this drama about a pickpocket who develops a guilty conscience after he inadvertently causes the death of the father of a blind girl.

And even while Patrick Tse Yin exudes charisma and star power in his role as the criminal who decides to reform and become a better man, he's also very generous in allowing the movie's female lead, Josephine Siao Fong Fong, to shine so very brightly as a young woman will ill luck for the most part but also the good fortune to have good people (including a maternal neighbor along with her father) bestow her with care and love.

As with Prince of Broadcasters (which I viewed one day before the HKIFF's official opening day), Patrick Lung Kong has managed to successfully marry a melodramatic romantic tale with a social drama -- or, at least, infused what might otherwise have been your standard (and probably even tired by the late 1960s) melodrama with insights into then contemporary Hong Kong society, particularly those disaffected youth living on its fringes (but, as he attempted to show in this film) but definitely not beyond redemption.

On a somewhat quibbling note, I wish Patrick Tse Yin's character had been more sensitive and also imaginative in describing things he saw for the blind individual he came to care for deeply using ways and words other than those related to color. Also, sad but true: some of the movie's melodramatic moments really can be too over-the-top for our cynical age -- to the extent that it drew laughter from some members of the audience at the screening that I attended.

Still, rest assured that such concerns definitely did not stand in the way of this turning out to be the second movie viewed in a day that got me all weepy. Indeed, I got so sniffy at certain points of this work that my strong advise to those who read this review is that if you ever get a chance to watch it is: make sure you bring tissues -- because chances are that you're going to need them!

My rating for this film: 7.5

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vertical (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

According to Emporis, there are 7,650 skyscrapers in Hong Kong, putting the city at the top of world rankings. ...36 of the world's 100 tallest residential buildings [are located] in Hong Kong, and more people [live] or [work] above the 14th floor than anywhere else on Earth, making it the world's most vertical city. (From the Architecture section of Wikipedia's Hong Kong entry)

It's not often that I begin any blog entry with a quote -- and from Wikipedia, no less! -- but the above words go a long way towards explaining why my choice of subject for this week's Photo Hunt was a no-brainer and contextualizing the matter of urban Hong Kong's verticality.

Some of you might find the views to be breathtaking, others scary and ugly -- and then get to thinking that high density Hong Kong must be an awful place to live. To the latter especially, I just want to point out that the first photo was taken while out hiking in the Quarry Bay Extension of Tai Tam Country Park (a natural section of the Big Lychee that is as physically attractive as it is surprisingly close to the city) while the second was taken from the top of a bus. (Among the attractions of high density living in Hong Kong is the convenience of it all -- with such as public transportation, grocery and other stores, and pretty much everything you need often being just a stone's throw away.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pictures from another Aberdeen Country Park hike (Photo-essay)

As the first post-Hong Kong International Film Festival weekend (one that -- touch wood -- the weather forecasters currently predict will be without rain on Sunday) looms, my thoughts have turned once more to hiking. So rather than continue with my HKIFF reviewing at least tonight, I'm going to go ahead and put up another set of hiking photos from several months ago -- taken just one week after the previous hike (whose photo-essay I put up here):-

Early on in our hike, my companion and I caught sight
of this unusual botanic arrangement

Not what you'd expect to see
out in the wild
or a country park

...but this pillbox that I'm thinking dates back to
the Second World War is a reminder that
sections of
what is now country park land in Hong Kong
where troops marched through and battles were waged

The kind of scenery one expects more to see
in a country park -- even one which actually
is not all that far away from civilization

Small waterfalls along the path
of a hill stream that flows down
one of the Aberdeen Reservoirs

Another rusting metal door spotted

Another World War II-era structure --
this one in
not as good condition as the one
we came across
earlier on this same hike

My hiking companion likes to take photos of bugs
and I of flowers -- so this scene satisfied the both of us! ;)

To be continued... but of course! ;b