Despite all of the bad things that I had to say about the first film, Ip Man was still genuinely enjoyable due to the freshness and authenticity of its martial arts scenes. I am sad to say that this is not true of the sequel. While there is certainly a frisson of thrill as one anticipates the showdown between Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, the overall quality of the fights in the sequel is dramatically lower, making it a thoroughly average martial arts film.
One of the reasons why the first film was so exciting was because it featured martial artists with styles that were visibly and palpably different one from the other, even to the inexpert eyes of martial arts laymen. This was possible because the film frequently used full body shots of the actors and long camera takes. This contributed to the feeling of the fights being authentic and grand, making every punch and every kick feel real and visceral.
Continue reading Ip Man 2
My wife and I went to watch this film at the 1 Borneo Mall on Christmas Day, mostly because her father is staying with us at Kota Kinabalu at the moment and he was bored. I’m not going to go into detail about the story, so if you haven’t heard about it yet, check out its page on Wikipedia.
What really struck me about the film was how safe the producers played. Just about every single event in the film is predictable in the worst possible way: courteous and cultured martial arts master who, of course, is also a Chinese patriot, kicking the asses of arrogant and barbaric Japanese invaders, heroic sacrifices, etc. etc. Haven’t we seen all this before? Apart from the boring similarities with Jet Li’s Fearless, released just two years ago, the film isn’t that accurate a portrayal of the master’s life, if his biography on Wikipedia is anything to go by.
Continue reading Ip Man
I know I’ve defended vernacular schools in Malaysia earlier, but this latest move by Dong Jiao Zong puts me in a bit of a quandary. My libertarian instincts tell me that the schools should be free to teach whatever subjects in whatever languages they feel like and parents should be free to choose which schools their children should attend accordingly. Threatening to mount a nationwide strike over the issue however strikes me as a tad heavy-handed especially since there are already independent Chinese schools which have voluntarily switched over to teaching science and mathematics in English with good results.
The organization justifies its actions, as always, mainly based on the fundamental right of Chinese Malaysians to be educated in Chinese if they so wish but I can’t help but wonder if the real reason might not be a more pragmatic one. After all, I seriously doubt that many of the teachers currently teaching the two subjects in Chinese are able to competently switch over to teaching them in English. Even if the schools were able to recruit enough replacement teachers, that would result in a huge number of unemployed or underemployed teachers, something that Dong Jiao Zong would understandably find unacceptable.
This isn’t a frivolous point by the way. If Malaysia doesn’t have enough teachers who can teach in English competently, then it doesn’t make any sense to force everyone to teach in English, as this blog post highlighted earlier this year. Trying to retrain teachers who used to teach the subjects in either Bahasa Malaysia or Mandarin to switch to teaching in English doesn’t work very well. On the other hand, it’s easy enough to see that moving to teaching the subjects in English should be the the way forwards and unless the schools are given some pressure to move in that direction, they’ll just hope that this is just a fad that will hopefully blow over and won’t give serious thought and effort into switching over.
This post grew out of comments that I made in a post on Jed Yoong’s blog which linked to another blogger’s post calling for all vernacular Tamil schools in Malaysia to be closed down. I think it’s worth taking the effort to explain that in this context, “vernacular schools” refers solely to primary schools that use Chinese and Tamil as the medium of instruction, while still receiving government funding, as opposed to those that teach using the national language, Bahasa Malaysia the so-called “Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan”.
There are a couple of obfuscating factors at work here that needs to be explained. One, the original call to close down Tamil schools cited the generally poor quality of these schools as a primary reason. As Jed Yoong quoted from the original writer of the post, Balan:
One of the contributing factors leading Indian youth to gangsterism and other criminal activities is their inability to excel in education, particularly when they enter secondary school.
The new environment and being not conversant in Bahasa Malaysia which is the medium of teaching in secondary school have resulted in students dropping out after their PMR and SPM.
The reason this happens is the poor quality of Tamil schools in the country. Most of the Tamil schools in the country are poorly managed, lack facilities and are helmed by substandard headmasters and teachers.
Continue reading Vernacular Schools in Malaysia
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.
Continue reading Culture. Who owns it?
No one can be Chinese, wherever they are in the world, and be ignorant of Louis Cha, better known as Jin Yong, if only because television production companies insist on making a new version of a series based on one of novels every few years. I’ve always personally regretted not having ever learned Chinese well enough to comfortably read the original novels. After all, I was into comic-book superheroes, sword and sorcery adventures and space opera. Kung fu fighting heroes and heroines in a fantasy version of ancient China seemed like a perfect fit.
Continue reading Wuxia in English