2018年1月15日 星期一

Movie review - "Columbus"

picture from https://www.facebook.com/CinemathequePassion

Compared with the name “Columbus”, the Chinese name,《築動心靈》, with the first word implying the involvement of architecture, seems a more explicit representation of the theme of the movie. How architecture can touch the heart, as the name suggests, was what first inspired me to make the choice among the list of American movies scheduled for screening in this month of January.

Actually, the English name is well chosen as Columbus is a city famous for its many modernist buildings. Construction is presented as striking backdrops throughout the story. Buildings are part of life in Columbus. People from all over the world travel there to be on guided architecture tours. There is much discussion about these buildings between Jin and Casey, the leading actor and actress. In fact, it is the architect of a much-talked-about building, though unwittingly, that has brought the two together as Jin is his son while Casey is a student in his class.

However, the movie is more about how the heart is touched. Jin, who has frequent deadlines to meet, has to put his translation work aside to visit his father who has fallen into a coma from which it is not known when he will ever wake up. Casey, a young architecture enthusiast who works as a page at the local library, has to delay her plan of further studies because of her obsession about her mother’s meth problem. The two meet accidentally, thus initiating a friendly, romantic relationship. They gradually become soul mates, pouring out their troubles to each other. This is somehow different from what I understand about the genre of American movies, which are often typified by instant love and quick sex. I am hardly aware of a sex scene and if there is, it is presented in an implied manner. And when they say good bye to each other, nothing more than a heartfelt hug passes between them. The romance between the two is chaste; it is a tasteful romance that sees the value of friendly relationship between men and women as key to something deeper. This is a pleasant surprise to me.

For a person with a particular fondness for documentary movies, “Columbus” inspires me with its natural, true to life approach to the story. I cannot remember any of the dramatic elements except for the catastrophic collapse of the renowned architecture scholar during a speaking tour. Columbus seems an everyday- story movie with the actor and actress acting out their own emotions. This is another attraction of the movie.

Though a lay person to the film industry, I found myself slowly learning to read the mind of the director by interpreting the meticulously chosen angles. I also gradually got used to the scenes that are shown repeatedly without the appearance of the actors. Such an intellectual approach to the story makes the movie more enjoyable than most of the others that seem too intent on making the story clear and precise to the audience.

The movie may seem slow to some viewers and I will not deny having to fight drowsiness for a few brief moments. But this does not make the movie any less worth seeing. At least, it well merits the time I’ve spent writing this review.

2018年1月7日 星期日

Reflections on the movie "Radiance"

Picture from https://www.facebook.com/CinemathequePassion/

For people who see movie viewing as a mere source of amusement, “Radiance” may not be very appealing. It is somehow inadequate if entertainment is what movie viewers are looking for. It is not even emotionally engaging, not initiating laughter or drawing tears, or sending chills down your spine. As I see it, it is more like a literary piece with a faint touch of romance, one you would enjoy reading for the mere sake of its artistic value and for its pacifying effect on your mood amidst the disturbances of daily life. However, the film does arouse some positive thinking about the attitude towards life and on life itself.

Nakamori (Masatoshi Nagase) is among the “viewers” in a panel supervising the first draft of a movie commentary text Misako reads out aloud to be evaluated about its effectiveness as verbal support for the visually impaired audience. Once a professional photographer, Nakamori is particularly critical of the verbosity of Misako’s text. With the eyes open, he wants to prove to himself and to the others that, though semi-sighted, he is capable of watching the movie being screened. He still keeps his camera and makes attempts to take photos of some kids. He gropes his way along the streets, bumping into obstacles and once even slipping over a pool of vomit. This is all due to his refusal to accept his gradual sight loss. Towards the end of the movie, however, he is seen enjoying the movie with the eyes closed, allowing himself to be guided along by Misako’s commentary. He uses a walking stick, too, pacing up and down the streets with greater confidence.

We viewers are thus inspired that nothing in life is permanent. And when something is slowly disappearing, be it health or love, what is left for us to do is come to terms with the loss and try to move on in life with renewed energy and confidence.

This concept about everything in this world being temporary is also implied in a key line of the movie: “Nothing is more beautiful than that which disappears before our eyes”. It appears several times in the movie, hence some sort of a guiding ethic. Misako also talks about her futile attempt to run toward the sunset and capture the light for keeps. We thus understand that something is beautiful mainly because of its brief existence and the peak of its beauty is the moment when it is disappearing. Therefore, we are to treasure it while it lasts so that we will not later lament its loss.

As the name “Radiance” suggests, there are a lot of focuses on light presented in various scenes. Having seen the movie, I realize that it is a blessing that we can still enjoy light in its various beautiful forms and that we should not take our power of sight for granted. I am also grateful that I can watch this thought provoking and reflective movie without the help of an audio commentary.

2017年11月27日 星期一

An Enlightening Advent Retreat

It was the feast of Christ the King yesterday and an Advent retreat was held for the Mong Ha Sunday school staff.

Father Joey Mario O. Mandia, our retreat director, inspired us greatly with useful information in relation to Christ’s kingship. With special emphasis on our need for regular confessions, he explained very carefully how we should live our lives on earth in order to enter the Kingdom of God after death. Finally, he discussed how we became united in the kingship of Christ through baptism and how we should share in His kingly, priestly and prophetic offices in our everyday lives.

His talk initiated a lot of our thinking. And we appreciated the opportunity to ask related questions at intervals throughout the discussion. Indeed a lot of questions were raised and Father Mandia not only answered every one of them with patience and wisdom but also guided us to explore deeper into the issue being discussed.

Among the questions, a few were related to Penance, Absolution and Forgiveness of Sins. We were particularly curious about Hell and Purgatory. There was, for example, concern about the Final Judgment for our friends and relatives who were unfortunately deprived of the identity as children of God. Though Father Mandia humbly referred to this as one of the questions to which only God has the answers, what he said lessened our anxiety and brought us hope about helping our dear ones.

Personally, I was inspired most by Father’s advice to examine our consciences in light of the Ten Commandments. He suggested doing this three times a day. This is good preparation for a confession. What I had not thought of before was the fact, according to Father Mandia, that while reflecting on our wrong deeds, we sometimes discover something good about ourselves. We can then focus more of our efforts on our goodness, however trifling in amount, and gradually achieve reconciliation with God. This, I think, is the best thing that can happen as a result of an examination of conscience.

I am not sure if I am capable of a daily examination of my conscience. But I am very thankful to Father for a very enlightening retreat. His advice has helped me make up my mind to be more serious about going to confession regularly and about the fulfillment of my kingly, priestly and prophetic duties in my life as a Christian.

2017年11月21日 星期二

Do everything to stamp out school bullying

Picture from "South China Mornng Post"

News about the recent bullying incident in a Hong Kong primary school is horrifying. The school authorities are blamed for inadequate attention to the victim’s complaints and for seeming nonchalance about the injuries, both physical and mental, done to him as a result. As the case is now under police investigation, it remains to be seen whether such criticism is justified. However, the case undoubtedly draws attention to the need for more preventive measures before school bullying goes beyond control.

As I see it, schools should attach greater importance to children’s character formation. While equipping children with knowledge and skills may ensure better career prospects, moral education can help them grow to become decent members of society in the future. Children should be guided to understand that the school is a miniature society in which all members should treat one another with respect and friendliness. They will then learn to be caring about others’ needs rather than their own. While still competing fairly for better performance, they will not do injustice to others out of selfishness.

In addition, teachers should be watchful about the children’s unusual behavior. Special attention should be directed towards a child found to be exceptionally quiet or emotionally unstable. Children’s complaints are not to be taken lightly, and bullying incidents, when identified, should be taken care of before they get aggravated.

The part parents play in the child’s character formation is of greater significance as the home is the first place for the promotion of friendly and respectful relationships. Parents should also be careful about their children’s proper use of electronic devices to minimize their exposure to the effects of media violence. In fact, parental guidance on the proper use of the mass media can help children adopt good habits and have a good understanding of interpersonal relationship.

In brief, the school is a place where children should feel safe and enjoy learning and making friends. Everything ought to be done to stamp out school bullying altogether.

2017年9月28日 星期四

Movie review - "Their Finest"

I decided to watch the movie “Their Finest” because of its claim about the British sense of humour. Eager to appreciate the witty dialogue, I was all ears right from the very start. I did not disregard the Chinese subtitles completely, though. Taking care of both languages at the same time could be a bit tiring especially when there were so many details to take in for a good understanding of the story as a whole. But it was worth all the while. I enjoyed the dialogue and regret my inability to remember some of the witty lines.

“Their Finest” is a movie-within-a movie. It is a period piece (1940). During the London Blitz of World War II, Catrin Cole, the leading actress, is recruited by the British Ministry of Information to write scripts for propaganda films from a woman’s perspective. The entire movie is about the formulation of the script ideas and how the script undergoes reconstruction as the movie shooting is in progress. It’s interesting how the script writers, Catrin Cole and Tom Buckley, communicate with each other and with the other crew members about the best presentation of the story. Ideas and dialogue work out among the team and wittiness is often what each of them needs to win the others over in an argument. There are thus plentiful comic moments. And it is Ambrose Hilliard, the one playing the role of 'Uncle Frank', an old actor, who carries most of the wit and humour of the film. Though wearing a sober look on his lined face, he brings laughter almost every time he starts talking. One of his best quotes is: “I can mime smoking but I can’t mime smoke.’

It is the time when London is under nightly attack by the Luftwaffe, but the film is not intended to cause fear or bring tears to your eyes. Though deaths of known characters are reported from time to time, the work of script writing goes on unhindered. Tom Buckley is once seen writing the script on the typewriter when German planes start bombarding London with bombs again. Little disturbed, he simply turns the volume of the radio up to cover the air-raid siren. Everyone seems to have learned to live with such chaos for, though sad at the losses, they know well that life must go on. Is this one of the inspirations for us, people who take a peaceful lifestyle for granted?

“Their Finest” also has some romance in it, though the romantic part seems to come a bit too late. Shortly after the two script writers have declared their love for each other, Tom Buckley is knocked down by a fallen shelf and dies instantly in front of her very eyes. Such a tragedy comes as a heart attack. But the movie still lives up to its claim as a comedy and will not allow the audience to leave with a heavy heart. 'Uncle Frank' pays a visit to Catrin Cole, who is too grieved to get back to her script writing. He says something about ‘death not being supposed to dominate life (the exact words are lost) ’. And after his departure, the lady cheers up miraculously. She is soon found to be watching the film, the one for which she has written the script, tearfully and smilingly, with satisfaction and pride on the face. The movie is a tremendous success. She resumes the work of script writing, with Tom Buckley in her heart as if he were still there working with her, sharing a hope to contribute something meaningful in this time of war and in their own lives.

The movie is a must- see. I recommend watching it twice, once to enjoy the story itself and the second time for the pure enjoyment of the beauty of the script, if, like me, you are interested in something with a Britsh sense of humour.

2017年9月21日 星期四

Stay tuned


Some friends ask me why I have been sharing the videos of teachers posted by the DSEJ. My answer is very simple: they are worth sharing.

Having once been an interviewee myself, I understand very well how much effort has been put into the production of a video of this type. The closing credits showing the list of the crew members involved throws light on the different stages of production. The filming alone may have taken months. Often quite a number of people appear in the film besides the interviewed teacher himself. The scene of the shooting may also vary widely according to the event chosen. Following this are the various post-production processes. In brief, a lot of work is entailed before the final product is ready for broadcasting.

The main attraction, however, is the film itself. Each of the documentary films is dedicated to one particular teacher to be paid tribute to. In the film, the teacher shares freely about himself and about his work. Having once been a teacher myself, I find it interesting to learn about the experiences of other teachers, especially those working on subjects different from my own. It is a great delight to find out how we share the same ideas in our attempts to enhance our students’ academic motivation and, on the other hand, how we differ in our approach when confronted with similar problems. I marvel at one or two creative methods mentioned. Frankly, I would have borrowed them for my own teaching if I had learned about them before my retirement.

From their sharings, I have identified a few concepts that are common among all the interviewed teachers. Almost all have remarked on the need for the teacher to play the role model with his attitude, his expertise and his great sense of integrity. He can then influence his students with his enthusiasm about teaching; if the teacher enjoys teaching, the students will enjoy learning too. Besides, it is essential for the teaching to be coherent with the needs of the students. This can be done by establishing a close teacher-student relationship through frequent contact outside the classroom. It is also emphasized that the teacher should remain persistent in his efforts even in the face of the most difficult problems.

Though a retiree now, I still see this as a great opportunity for teachers, interviewees and viewers alike, to learn from one another's teaching experiences.

Indeed, I am much impressed by the high level of professionalism with which the documentaries are made. A few of this year’s series are scheduled to be broadcast in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

2017年8月19日 星期六

Some considerations about Macau’s Smart City Development

picture from http://europe-ul.com/makes-smart-city-smart/

It is reported that Alibaba group will collaborate with the Macau government to turn Macau into a “Smart City” with the use of cloud computer technologies. This is welcome news to us Macau residents as it brings hope about creating more sustainable environments in our city.

Personally, I am particularly interested in the suggested use of artificial intelligence to optimize transportation management, as traffic congestion has been one of Macau’s ingrained problems. Based on information from different resources, I would like to point out the importance of new urban mobility with reductions in car use and ownership as well as increases in cycling, public and shared transport.

One suggestion is the adoption of the digital car sharing system, which enables people to share the use of a car without having to own one themselves. The individual members of the car-sharing community will have their complementary driving needs identified by an advanced algorithm that uses social profiling and geo-location. An app will help one locate the nearest of the vehicles parked on the city’s streets. After use, the car can simply be parked within a designated area in the city for the next user. The members can thus enjoy the freedom and benefits the car affords without shouldering huge costs. They also play a shared role in reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion.

Besides, I am in favour of a bicycle sharing system. It can be an even better solution to problems of traffic congestion, noise and air pollution by providing access to bicycles as another choice besides motorized vehicles. The bicycles can also connect users to public transit networks, thus solving what is often known as the “last mile” problem. What’s more, e-bikes could be a new tourist attraction, enabling the tourists to move around the city with better ease. As in the case of the car sharing system, great convenience is ensured with the use of smartphone mapping apps to show the locations with available bikes.

However, whether Macau will become a “Smart City” depends very much on government policies and the residents’ support. It is hoped that the above mentioned measures will be given favourable consideration as they are likely to contribute to Macau’s better environments by making a great difference to the current condition of transportation.