Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movie weekend

Apparently, it must have been movie weekend. I suppose, when the temperature is hanging around "cold enough to snow" (and we got 30 whole minutes of it! thunder snow, no less!), that is a good time to spend inside watching movies. So that is what we did on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday night we watched "Aftershock" (or 大地震). I have to say that is probably one of the better movies that I've seen in recent years, especially for something that was produced in mainland China. One of my criticisms of movies coming out of China in recent years is the overt politicization and/or nationalism that seems to pervade the great majority of them. Perhaps there many people who enjoy them; I am not one of them.

But I did enjoy Aftershock. It was emotional, I didn't have to suspend my disbelief and, while the disaster scenes at the beginning of the movie may not have hit some of the high standards that have emanated from Hollywood in recent years, it also wasn't a movie about only the disaster. I felt that the mother in the movie was a bit of a martyr but I also understood (and admittedly agreed with) her attitude and choices. The children were also realistic to me and it was great to see such a wonderful story being told (that was not as depressing as some movies feel they have to be these days). As I put it to my better half, this was one of the best movies I'd seen in a while. "Out of China?" was the response. "No", I responded, "period". I enjoyed it and it didn't matter to me where it came from. I wish there were more stories like this sometimes.

Saturday was an old favorite, Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring). Of course, now I have to go back and also watch The Two Towers and The Return of the King, but that goes without saying. Combined with the fact that I also need to go watch Star Wars Episode I in 3D soon, you could argue that it is a week or rehashes, but that's ok. I happen to like each of the movies.

Sunday was "The Flowers of War", another Chinese movie by Zhang Yimou. While I've not been impressed by Zhang in recent years (as much for his philosophical changes and willingness to toe the government line), I have to admit that this movie was almost a guilty pleasure. There were parts where I felt the movie was good and moderately realistic and other parts where they seemed to be carrying things to excess (a single Chinese sniper wipes out an entire Japanese patrol single-handedly?). I enjoyed the story even if it seemed to swing wildly between excess and sappiness, often in all the wrong places. I know enough of the story of Nanjing during that time to believe the worst of the Japanese but there were times it really annoyed me, too. More of the politicization and nationalism that I mentioned earlier. And that doesn't even mention the fact that they kept saying "Nanking" rather than "Nanjing". Perhaps someone can tell me if that is actually accurate or playing to Western wordplay... Regardless, while not the best movie I've seen, it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, either (though I did have to really suspend my disbelief at times).


  1. Nanking -> Nanjing
    Peiking -> Beijing
    Canton -> Guangzhou

    It all depends on the system used to romanize the Hanzi.

    Wade-Giles was common,(created in the 1890's) and still is used in Taiwan & Hong Kong, but Pinyin is the standard in the mainland since the 1950's.

  2. Sorry, I wasn't clear in my question. I know the Wade-Giles system (I learned that before I learned the pinyin system). What got me during the movie was hearing the Chinese actors say "Nanking" instead of "Nanjing". I couldn't figure if that was the local dialect and how it is pronounced or if they were trying to play to Western tastes which may be more familiar with "Nanking" rather than "Nanjing" (since it is often referred to as the "Rape of Nanking" in the West).