Archive for category Entertainment

Seediq Bale Part 1: Flag of the Sun(spoilers)

If you’re in Taiwan, or have some vague knowledge of Taiwan movies, you’ll probably know about the most ambitious project undertaken in their movie history.  If not, then I’ll tell you anyway.  The movie in question is “Seediq Bale”.  It translates to, “A Real Man” in the Seediq langauge, a motif which is repeated throughout the movie.  The Seediqs are a Taiwanese aboriginal tribe, and have actually only recently been recognized as an aboriginal group. The film, which depicts the Wushe incident, presents a Taiwan in the midst of Japanese occupation.  If the title didn’t tip you off, our protagonists are the aborigines of the this tribe (though unfortunately, no actual Seediqs portray any major characters).   The main character is Mona Rudao, a prideful Seediq who resents the Japanese occupation, but grows to be bitter and inactive.  What was once a hunting ground for the Seediqs becomes a mere territory for the Japanese.  Thus, many of the young men are becoming tired and frustrated from their treatment under the Japanese.

However, there is a twist; like a historical movie should, the Japanese are not necessarily the “villains” of the piece.  For all the initial mistreatment that was suffered from the Japanese, there were benefits.  The Seediqs all received education, infrastructure development, and many other improvements.

At this point, I began to give it some thought.  If the movie was meant to paint the Seediqs in a gray light, then it succeeded.  Other than a few arrogant japanese, it is mostly from the Seediq’s perspective about how they’ve been oppressed.   Generally, the Japanese acted only condescending towards the Seediqs, which really throws a curve ball at you; are the Seediqs justified, or did they simply take it too far?  Try as I might, it was hard for me to hate the Japanese, at least within the movie.  Without a doubt, there were many atrocities committed during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan; some which ranged from violent suppression of anti-Japanese groups, to street violence. Considering that I myself am Taiwanese (okay you can make your guesses), it was an interesting perspective;  to be caught between the Japanese who were one of the major influences on Taiwan’s modernization, and the aborigines, people who should probably be considered the true Taiwanese.

Visually speaking, it was a fairly impressive movie.  The setting had a fairly natural feel, with the forest giving off a sense of mystery.  However, some of the CGI was too noticeable.  Perhaps the most blatant offenders were the animals, as well as Mona’s meeting with his father’s ghost.  The animals came off as too fidgety, while the scene with Mona’s father seemed very cliched.  I believe a historical movie should try to stay grounded in reality, not to simply include fantastical elements because they’re common.  The music definitely fits many of the scenes; for the dramatic scenes, instrumental tension can be felt.  For those scenes of reflection, a quieter aboriginal language can be heard in the background.

Overall opinion?  I liked the movie.  But it’s not perfect.  Those who may not enjoy excessive violence may not enjoy it.  There is a sense of pride about Taiwan and you sort of empathize with the Seediqs.  At the same time, the violence of the movie reminds us not to take it at face value.  The Japanese, for all their prejudices and oppression, also had a hand in modernization and development.  There’s no real “right or wrong”.   Instead, we see how these characters, and by extension how some of these historical figures may have been motivated.

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Designated Hero, and “Villain”

Yes, another post about tropes.  This one concerns supposed “heroes” and “villains”.  Many times, movies will assign moral alignments to characters to make us empathize with them more.  Protagonists tend to be heroes, while antagonists tend to be villains.  Though there are also villain Protagonists and hero antagonists too, only one side is going to receive the sympathetic Point-of-view.  However, sometimes the perceived “hero” isn’t as moral as one would think.  And the villain is actually partially justified.  One of the most iconic examples in film is the 1980’s classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.  Ferris, the charismatic hustler skips school and openly defies authority figures, is liked by everyone.  Whether this is due to his actual deeds of consideration or manipulative behavior isn’t made clear.   But like other characters, we are drawn to do what Ferris is doing.   We believe that he is our hero, that he serves as something of a role model.  Upon becoming

Our manipulative, dastardly, villain

more aware, we start to show disillusionment with these “heroes”.  We realize regardless of his personality, he’s been skipping school for a number of days, and breaking the rules.  So by that logic, Mr. Rooney should be the good guy, right? ……

Not all conflicts are all about “good” and “evil”, or adhering to a certain moral code .    In works of fiction, it is often hard to apply any real world morals; one must consider the circumstances and situations involved.  Also, people can exist with extensive codes and lines that they dare not cross.  While other characters will blatantly disregard other lives for their own benefit.  I found Ferris to be a relatively likable protagonist.  Sure, he’s skipping school, but it’s not like he doesn’t care about his friends.  He’s manipulative, but perhaps not heartless.

Even if you take the more pragmatic approach, Rooney doesn’t come off as a “good guy” either.  As the Dean of high school, he doesn’t show much true concern for Ferris.  He makes it clear that he’s only out to get him to ruin his life.  Maybe this is an example of “Tv tropes will ruin your life” but am I wrong for siding with the Designated Hero?  And does a Designated Hero automatically make the opposition “good”?

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Daria Day

A rare moment of triumph

I guess it’s time to review a TV show.   Spun off of the brain-dead classic Beavis and Butthead, Daria follows the female foil of the previous series’ titles characters.  Since the previous series, Daria Morgendorffer has since become a cynical high schooler, who despite her high standards and morals, would prefer to observe her mad world rather than change it.  The one person she considers a friend is her equally cynical yet more well adjusted Jane Lane.  When one sees the characters, there is a fair justification for her jaded outlook.  Though despite the empathy that one may feel with Daria, it is nevertheless a prevalent theme that she judges people too quickly. Caricatures and reasonable figures are littered throughout the series, and Daria judges them similarly simply because of the flaws they may possess. The prime example is probably Daria’s own mother.  While she has her flaws, she is nevertheless one of the most reasonable adults in the series and often helps the protagonist.  Characters occasionally show that they’re more deep than their quirks may make them appear.

Based on personal preference, this show is much more enjoyable than its predecessor, to the point where you could even forget that it was a spin-off (which should be the job of a good spin-off).

It’s generally considered to have a cynical tone, as most characters are fairly selfish.  Reputation and appearance are what matters to most people. This includes Daria as well, as there are instances when she doesn’t want to sink to “their level”, even when it’s not necessarily bad thing.   Stereotypical roles like the jock, cheerleader, sensitive teacher, and authoritative principal are found easily, and it isn’t very hard to simply dislike them for what they are, even if they’re only caricatures.  Yet some stereotypes are deconstructed.  Daria’s sister Quinn is one of the popular kids, but she is forced to conform to the standards of her friends despite clearly having a great deal of intelligence and motivation.   Thus brings up the question; do we follow what is expected, or what is right.

This show is not without its flaws.  Character animation is limited, and is mainly carried through dialogue.  Sometimes, You don’t really know whether to think of it realistically or to treat it as a separate universe.  But it’s all part of the fun.

This is a show that addresses topics that are still relevant today.  I recommend it for those looking for a good contrast to some of the bombastic programming on today.


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TV Tropes: Helpful or Oversimplified?

The beginning of this year, I found a wiki called Tvtropes, which basically organizes various plot, character, visual and many elements which are part of the entertainment.  It just so happened that in English class, we were studying archetypes such as the hero, trickster, damsel in distress, the shadow/villain, etc.  While I do enjoy reading and adding examples to the site, I can’t help but wonder whether reading this site is beneficial; It is a wiki, after all, with information that can be easily edited, and colloquial terms which may or may not be universal.  I merely want to know if those who read tvtropes think it is a good source to consult, say, literary elements.

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