Here are a few short films and YouKu discoveries my students have shared recently.
Here are a few short films and YouKu discoveries my students have shared recently.
Note: The cliches and vernacular language referring to historic events are used to protect this innocent grad student, not to sound folksy.
Since I’m back in China, I thought I’d share some of my experience with social media here and dig deeper by discovering what some experts say on the topic.
When I first came to China to work in spring of 2009, I could access Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, anything I could think of. Yet 2009 was an important year because it was the anniversary of certain events that I won’t even type here because who knows if I’d have internet tomorrow.
One by one these services disappeared and my colleagues, other Americans and Australians who teach here felt a kind of technology grief, a definite sense of loss and disconnection.
Chinese technology does offer some substitutes, but since I’m not literate in Chinese, I haven’t signed up for them. The government does allow and control social media. The main Web 2.0 services more or less parallel what’s found elsewhere. Weibo is like Twitter; Ren Ren and QQ resemble Facebook; YouKu and TuDou are Chinese YouTubes.
The government does turn off these services and has websites turn off commenting at critical times like last spring when an official in Chengdu was up to no good.
As far as the last item above, I think some elaboration is needed. My students seem familiar with many sites, not as many as Westerns, but they use Wikipedia (for plagiarism and, I hope, actual reserach), and they watch videos and play games online. I do take them to the computer lab to work on assignments and many of them go off task and use a variety of computer games, email services and shopping websites. I think their view of the web is rather narrow, because they don’t learn to use computers in school. It’s clear that they’re self-taught, but they don’t only use one service.
I checked to see how universities and their libraries used social media and none of the three I looked at Shandong University of Science and Technology, where I work, Shandong University, a higher level school in this province and Tsinghua University, one of the top colleges in China, had links to Weibo, Ren Ren or other Web 2.0 services. In contrast colleges in Korea, like Sogang University do contain Facebook and Twitter links for the library.
Crampton, T. (2011). Social Media in China: The Same, but Different. China Business Review, 38(1), 28-31.
En route to China, I saw several films including English Vinglish, an Indian film about Shashi, a woman whose husband and children often tease her about her bad English. To make matters worse, they don’t appreciate her talents like her gift for making amazing Indian sweets called ladoos. When Manu, Shashi’s sister in America, needs her to visit to help plan her daughter’s wedding, Shashi’s nervous. How will she survive in New York with such bad English?
In the beginning it looks like Sashi won’t. She’s nervous and overwhelmed by the rude and fast paced society. Yet she takes action and secretly takes English lessons while her sister’s at work. Her classmates and goofy teacher provide a support system and her language improves. What’s more she’s caught the attention of Laurent, a French chef who’s smitten by her beauty and charm.
The film has a sweet and sentimental tone, that wouldn’t succeed in Hollywood. Shashi is innocent as are the other characters. Yet I got pulled in despite the treacle. I was intrigued that the film didn’t follow the typical path that a Hollywood film would. Instead we’re led to a final scene where Shashi gives a persuasive, touching speech in English on the virtue of remaining true to a spouse when a marriage is hit by inertia and overfamiliarity. I was surprised by how fresh that speech was. I think the innocent tone of the film, the color and the spontaneous dancing and singing worked for me.
Can we already be at week 6 with only one more week of Downton?
Believe it or not, yes.
The black of mourning for Sybil has been replaced by violet by the second hour. My very well read aunt said that after they wore black, mourners could change to gray or violet. Yet, I’m not sure why Edith was wearing whatever color she wanted, creme or red while Cora, Mary and I think Violet stayed in black.
Sybil is baptized Catholic against Lord Grantham’s wishes. He does attend the baptism and manages a forced smile when photographed with the baby, his mother and the priest. Tom’s brother, a real Irish rebel, who’s a bull in a china shop, comes to Downton and plunks himself down to hold court in the servants’ hall until Tom drags him upstairs.
The big story was with Thomas who falls into O’Brien’s trap and creeps into James’ room and makes a move on sleeping James, who wanted no such action. All hell breaks loose. No matter what your orientation sneaking into someone with whom you have no intimacy with and kissing them is not welcome, cool, or smart. Thomas learns that the hard way.
Alfred catches Thomas with James and soon Carson’s told. Dismissal with a good reference is the plan till O’Brien convinces James he better insist that Thomas get no reference, which means no chance of future employment (unless he goes to North America or Australia). I was surprised by how accepting all the characters were of this validation of Thomas’ sexual orientation. Only Carson was steeped in conservative thinking. But at the end all’s well and Thomas will stay. Considering how disloyal and plotting Thomas was, I felt they lost an opportunity as a staff. If Carson and Lord Grantham were wise, they’d let him go with a good reference. I really couldn’t believe that Bates went the extra mile to save Thomas, a man who’s plotted against him time and again. Given time, Thomas is sure to pay him back with deceit.
Edith’s editor flirts with her so just a few months after Sir Anthony has jilted her, Edith already has a good occupation and the possibility of love. Well, poor Edith’s cursed and she learns that the editor is married. He explains that his wife is in an asylum. Since she’s read The Scarlet Letter, we can assume Edith’s read Jane Eyre. How I hope she has the good sense to send him packing. Be strong, Edith! Be the first young woman who’s sisters outshine her who actually has the gumption to distance herself from a flirtatious married man who’s spun a good tale.
Robert eventually agrees to implement Matthew’s ideas for improving the management of Downton. It wasn’t easy, but everyone except Jarvis, the manager who wants to run everything as he did when Victoria reigned, join Matthew’s camp.
Rose, a cousin from London, is sent to stay with Violet. Violet’s happy to have a new project, I mean guest under her roof. However, Rose soon tags along with Edith and Matthew to London. She slips out and meets up with her married lover at a dance club. She’s a handful to put it mildly. She’ll no doubt replace Sybil as the lively young beauty, but while Sybil was into social justice, Rose just wants to be social. Here comes trouble. Soon after arriving, Violet’s figured out how to get Rose to leave early.
I was glad that Tom has decided to stay on rather than to go up to Liverpool.
For those nerds out there:
Bedikian, S. A. (2008). The Death of Mourning: From Victorian Crepe to the Little Black Dress. Omega: Journal Of Death & Dying, 57(1), 35-52. doi:10.2190/OM.57.1.c
N.B. Victorian era predates Edwardian when Downton Abbey is set.
If Thomas (a.k.a. Mr. Burton) cries during an episode of Downton Abbey, you know there’s tragedy. I happened upon news of Sybil’s death last fall when I did a search for some other Downton matter and a British site popped up.
So I was actually all the more rapt as Sybil lost her life in childbirth. Any viewer could tell the city-fied, modern Sir Whatshisname, was wrong and that Lord Grantham should listen to Dr. Clarkson. It was odd, but believable, that this tradition-bound lord didn’t. I kept thinking, “Listen to the women. Listen to Cora on this, Robert!”
The tone of the emotion was just right. Characters were devastated, but there was some reserve. This is not a telenova. And that’s why we viewers feel all the more emotion. When I see say a Malaysian soap opera everyone’s screaming, crying and flailing about in hysteria. I feel nothing because that “works” been done by the actors. When you witness tragedy and there’s been restraint because the situations so sad that words and actions won’t suffice, that’s when the audience feels the most.
One of the most beautiful scenes in this season so far was when we saw Branson at the window holding his daughter. No words and it just lasted a minute, but we knew (or projected) everything his grieving husband must feel. He’s got to be strong and committed to his daughter in spite of his own grief.
We’re in store for a lot of drama. Branson’s role in the family is even more tenuous. He’s still connected by a female the Grantham’s love, but she’s a baby and can’t act as a mediator. Where will they live? What work will Branson, who can’t return to Ireland, take on that won’t humiliate the Grantham’s?
Bravo to Isobel for hiring Ethel. I can see why Mrs. Bird left, but it’s a shame she didn’t try to stay and work through her prejudices. I think Isobel’s great sacrifice isn’t going to be her reputation, but rather her palate. It’ll take Ethel a while to learn to cook.
Congratulations to Edith for the newspaper column. I hope she surprises everyone with her insights and writing. Edith, yes your father and granny disapprove, but don’t flee the breakfast table each time he does. Women need their rights, but they also need to learn to stand their ground.
Daisy, listen to Mrs. Patmore. You’re becoming too much of a grouch.
Robert, it’s true you didn’t cause Sybil’s death, but to get back into Cora’s good graces, you ought to blame yourself as much as possible.(The trailers suggest you won’t.) If you descend into depression than Cora would probably consider rescuing you her mission. If you aren’t huber-contrite and grief-stricken you’ll be sleeping solo ad infinitum.
Whether it’s at the elegant dining table or in the servants’ hall, we see characters disagreeing with wit and intelligence and a touch of restraint that at least indicates that they know they should respect each other. I think this is an overlooked virtue of Downton Abbey and the British of the era. I like to think this virtue is alive and well in England, but I haven’t visited in years, so I’m not sure.
How I wish contemporaries in America and perhaps other places could show more respect and civility. There are zingers but no one is so openly aggressive or mean, while reality TV on other channels seems to compete for new lows. Some sitcoms
O, mores; o, tempora.
The story of an American who defected to North Korea in the 1960s, Crossing the Line is yet another good documentary that I’ve discovered this winter. James Joseph Dresnok tells the story of his life with added interviews with a friend from his youth and men in the army who worked with him. An orphan with little success in school, Dresnok joined the army when he turned 17. He married before he left for Germany. Upon his return from Germany, he discovered his wife was unfaithful and wanted a divorce.
The disappointment stung and compelled him to re-enlist. Then he was sent to South Korea to patrol the DMZ in the 1960s. After forging a pass for a night out, Dresnok ran across the DMZ into North Korea to avoid disciplinary action. This impetuous move was in character with a man who ran away from foster homes and bad situations time after time.
The North Koreans capitalized on this defection and three others that soon followed by using Dresnok and other American soldiers in propoganda. They appeared on the covers of magazines and eventually starred in films playing American villians.
We hear so little about North Korea and these defections were hushed by the U.S. army that was embarrassed that American soldiers would find life in the backward hermit kingdom an option at all. I wouldn’t trade places with Dresnok, but I do see that he and his family have had a unique life. He’s been well taken care of even after attempting to defect to Russia when life in North Korea got burdensome. He and his fellow Americans all married and it seemed the government arranged for that. Dresnok first married a woman who refused to tell him her nationality for decades. (It’s believed she was kidnapped from Romania.) After his first wife’s death, he married a woman whose mother was North Korean and whose father was an African diplomat.
Dresnok’s learned Korean and has adapted to life in Pyongyang quite well. It’s a strange life, but has worked out for him. Without much education and with a penchant for flouting American rules, he would have struggled in the US. In North Korea he has a decent apartment, a seemingly nice family life, and the regard of North Koreans around him.
Bien que Michael Phelps d’une du Chicago Tribune et un examen étoiles et demi diminué mes attentes pour le film Les Misérables avec Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe et Amanda Seyfield et al, j’ai aimé le film. Alors que je suis d’accord avec Phelps que le travail de la caméra était bizarre avec trop de gros plans à mon goût, la musique et des spectacles surmonté cette faute.
La musique a été bien fait et j’avais oublié combien de chansons excellentes le jeu comprend. Oui, l’émotion est forte partout et il ya beaucoup de misère dans l’histoire, mais qui est destiné et sonne vrai. Je pensais que Anne Hathaway joué admirablement et que vous souhaitez l’histoire a eu plus de son sort. Les femmes sont principalement victimes de Les Mis et je pense que cela ne doit pas être le cas à être fidèle à l’histoire, non pas que la précision était l’objectif de la comédie musicale ou qu’il doit être.
Je n’ai pas été impressionné par l’acteur qui était Marius, il semblait bien d’une “average Joe” ou “average Jean,” pour définir le cœur de quelqu’un sur le feu avec un coup d’oeil.
Une autre critique est que ce film devrait être acteurs avec des accents français, pas en anglais. Je semble être le seul à cette idée que si vous allez faire un film sur un pays étranger ne doit pas le son des acteurs comme s’ils étaient de ce pays?
Tous mes critiques sont mineures. Les Mis fascine et vaut pour les habitués. Je m’attends à ce qu’il engranger plusieurs prix.
Be prepared to be blown away. Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry packs quite a punch. This documentary shows Chinese artist cum activist Ai Wei Wei as he stands up for victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and seeks justice after police break into his hotel room in Chengdu and beat him.
The film fascinated me. It follows Ai as he tries to get the government to publish the real numbers of students who died in the flimsy school buildings in Sichuan. With newsreel footage and interviews, it shows the torture and abuse his father endured in the 1950s. I’ve read several books, fiction and non-fiction, about the Anti-Rightist Campaign. The stark newsreels of neighbor denouncing neighbor deepened my understanding of this horrible period.
The documentary shows Ai in New York where he started his art career and in Europe installing current works. Filmmakers follow him as he pursues justice after being beaten by police and detained so that he was unable to testify on behalf of another Chinese activist, who was found guilty.
Ai is mesmerizing. He’s bold, audacious, brave, down-to-earth and shrewd. He’s figured out the power of social media and despite the government’s censorship has attracted a following of Chinese who share his desire for transparency and democracy. These folks aren’t just spectators as we see when Ai protests the government mandated demolition of the studio the government told him to build, hordes show up for his protest. They know they’re being watched and recorded and are willing to take that risk.
Ai knows what the government’s up to and finds clever ways to show it for what it is. Though he doubts he can win, he works within the system seeking justice from the police whom illegally knocked in his hotel room door, beat and detained him. By recording every step of his bureaucratic quest for justice, he shows the world how the government works and that all is not well in the new China.
I found the interviews with fellow artists and Evan Osnos of the New Yorker insightful and trenchant. They show how people who care about China will stick their necks out to make it better, even though they doubt they’ll see improvement.
Living in China myself, I see the good parts and know that experiences like Ai’s and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo‘s are true, but it’s so easy to forget. I’m grateful for this movie that reminds me and fleshes out Ai WeiWei’s life and work.
Never Sorry is available on Netflix.
It’s directed and devised by Armando Iannucci, who created VEEP and In the Loop. It’s a smart send up of the finagling and incompetence that rears its ugly head daily in the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Strong adult language and deft, sophisticated barbs so beware.