The latest Hollywood blockbuster right now is this year’s remake of the science-fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves. In one of the odder publicity moves, the producers have decided to beam the film into outer space just in case any extraterrestrials want to watch it. The transmission is being directed at the star system closest to our own, Alpha Centauri, which is about 4.37 light years away from our Sun, though the studio notes that it is a wide beam transmission so that any aliens who happen to be travelling within the cone of the transmission or even beyond Alpha Centauri should be able to tune in as well.
More seriously, it’s pretty unlikely that any aliens will be close enough to catch it, and it’s a big question whether or not the signal will remain coherent enough to be watchable at any reasonable quality 4.37 light years away. In any case, since Earth has been leaking radio transmissions into space for decades by now, if any aliens are in Alpha Centauri and wanted to send a reply, we’d have heard from them by now.
I’ve seen meaning to make this post since I got around to finally watching Kung Fu Panda a couple of weeks ago but didn’t find the time. It’s an awesome film as its poster claims, but more importantly, it’s an awesome kung fu film, easily the best one of the year, and it was made entirely in the U.S. This makes it a great example of a point that I’ve been wanting to make. One of my pet peeves is that whenever some Chinese patriot tries to make a case for Chinese nationalism, the issue of Chinese culture and its 5,000 history invariably crops up. This is annoying for two reasons.
One, it seems to imply that Chinese culture and history is somehow better, or more special, than that of any other solely by reason of its longevity. As this old article explains, that’s a poor argument. Chinese culture is indeed worthy of attention and study, but then nearly every corner of the Earth is just as steeped in history. Chinese apologists try to make the argument that Chinese identity is unique in that it alone of all other cultural identities in the world can trace an unbroken lineage up to 5,000 years back, but as the article also explains, that relies on a rather slippery definition of what China, and what being Chinese, means.
I realized after watching The Dark Knight last weekend that ever since Iron Man in May, nearly every movie that I paid to watch in a cinema has been a comic book movie. The sole exception was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Indy’s roots lie in pulp comics anyway, so in a way, that still counts. I suppose that this is partly due to the current state of film-making and CGI technology that allows directors to fully recreate the fantastic visuals of the comic book medium on the big screen and partly due to the successes of X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002, which opened the eyes of the studio bosses to the commercial lucrativeness of comic book licenses. Not every comic book movie since then has been a success, Spider-Man 3 in particular was a disappointing dud even with Sam Raimi still at the helm, but there have been enough films that “get it” to make this a great time to be alive for a comic book fan. Here’s a quick recap of the comic book movies that I’ve watched so far this year.
My wife’s first reaction as we walked out the cinema after watching Prince Caspian was “Aslan is such an asshole.” Indeed he is, and in the same way, so is the personage after whom Aslan was clearly modelled, Jesus Christ and the Christian God.
This second installment of the Narnia series based on the novels by C.S. Lewis has been marketed as a harmless, big budget, family-friendly, action adventure fantasy flick. So harmless and family-friendly that no blood whatsoever is shown on screen even as Gentle Queen Susan perforates countless enemies with her arrows and Magnificent King Peter hacks and bashes his way through the Conquistador-like opposition. But I can’t help but wonder how many of my fellow Malaysians who sat with me in the same cinema were aware of the Christian agenda behind the novels and the films it has inspired. In a country so paranoid about religious sensibilities that The Passion of the Christ was banned in cinemas and the word Allah was, initially anyway, forbidden to be used by a local Christian newspaper to describe the Christian God, it’s a wonder that Prince Caspian is being shown on Malaysian cinemas with an “Umum” rating.
Courtesy of my friend Kien Boon of Boonuhkau, I had the opportunity of watching The 11th Hour at the KL Pac in Sentul on Sunday. It was my first visit to the KL Pac or even anywhere inside the new Sentul development zone and I have to admit that they did a great job in making the area look like an oasis of serenity in the middle of busy and dirty Kuala Lumpur. The price to pay of course is the prominent advertising everywhere on behalf of YTL Corporation, including brightly illuminated banners on both sides of the stage that remained lighted throughout the film and that we felt detracted from the experience of watching it. Nevertheless, it’s heartening to see a new addition to the cultural scene in Malaysia and my wife and I will be paying attention to what performances are going on there from time to time.
The film itself is a slickly produced documentary on environmentalism, focusing on global warming, that was apparently a personal project of Leonardo DiCaprio. As a long time skeptic on environmentalism, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I strongly disliked the film. Not only is it an example of hysterical scare-mongering of the worst sort, it ends up being inconsistent in its message and ultimately contributes nothing new to the subject. Worst of all, it preaches straight to the choir of the green movement, shying away from perspectives and solutions that could be beneficial but are controversial and unpopular among green groups.
My wife and I have been watching the first season of Lost (yes, we’re slow) and one of the episodes featured a classic French song, La Mer by Charles Trenet and after that I just had to search Youtube for the full version of it. In fact, we’d recently spent one evening searching for classic French songs after learning of the surprise win by Marion Cotillard of the Best Actress award for her role in La Vie en Rose, so I thought it would be nice to write a post of some of the songs we found.
When studying the French language at the Centre de Linguistic Appliquée in Besançon, one of the exercises we were given was to transcribe the lyrics of French songs, beginning with nursery rhymes and moving on to classic songs and more modern pop music, which was how I learned about many of these songs. I’d actually guess that most English speakers in Malaysia would actually have heard of them in one form or another, only most won’t know their titles and singers, so here they are.