Reflecting on the film An Education (2009): The Hardest Lesson Is Not Always Taught in School

There’s no shortcut to success. Well unless you are really lucky you might be able to live the high life depending on the variables of your circumstance and whether it works in your favor. If you were to ask me, I’m a big advocate for education but think the system is entirely broken and only the privileged benefit from it (I’ll try not to get political) and most of my good friends are book smart, but street smart not so much.

Good girl falls for the bad boy. It’s a classic tale and that has been told several times. It’s as most girls believe themselves to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast thinking they can tame the wild beast. My mature self is thinking: no dear, life is not a fairy tale and yet we girls were to born to believe it otherwise. Wolves simply don’t care. If they are hungry, they will devour you even if you are sweet.

In this film, directed by Lone Scherfig, written by Lynn Barbe, tells a story about a 16-year-old girl named Jenny who got seduced by a man twice her age. Pressured by her dad and school, Jenny sought anything but a boring life because she really is nothing but boring. All she does is prep for the exams to get into Oxford University and once she gets her degree, she’ll continue the tradition. Yes, a boring life. Until one day, all of that change when she got rescued by a guy who drove a fancy maroon car. He noticed her standing beside the street in the pouring rain with her cello and decided to pull up and offer her a ride, claiming he didn’t want the cello to get damaged by the rain. Sounds reasonable enough. Instantly, she is wooed by his random act of kindness.

Sounds kind of romantic but crazy at the same time. You see, not only was the protagonist blinded, but her parents were also blinded by this seemingly charming guy when she brought him home. He’s a classy crook by profession. No seriously, he really is a criminal that gets away with the law. That’s because he is so good at it. He’s so good that he deceived her parents into believing that he has inside connection with Oxford University. Like any parents, they just want the best for their child. So, they fell into his deception and allowed her to date him even though he’s twice her age (I believe I mentioned his age earlier).

As an audience, the film sort of try to make its viewers empathize with the situation but it was hard for me. I think it’s partially my cultural background as I was taught never to accept gifts from men, especially from strangers. So, I found some events in the film unconvincing even though I knew what it was implying. When dealing with a wolf in sheep clothing, it’s hard to put your guard up because everything happens so quickly. And when you are young, you lack experiences so you don’t know any better. I was once a teenager too. We think we know but we don’t know and it’s not really our fault because wisdom comes with experience and there really is no shortcut. At least that is the message I got from the film.

Yes, I know I was stupid. The life I want, there’s no shortcut.

I quote the protagonist.

Overall, decent film with dramatized effects. Good thing, the film is not all tragedy but a lesson to be learned. Perhaps, that’s why it’s called An Education. So go to school and get an education and be self-sufficient so that you don’t get your heart broken by a no-good sugar daddy.

Reflecting on The Apartment (1960) Film

Do you know what a mensch is? I didn’t know what it mean before I watched this film. What better way to define a person with integrity and honor by showing what it’s not by starring a bachelor whose goal is to climb the corporate ladder by succumbing to bribery? He allowed his superiors to conduct extra marital affairs at his apartment in the exchange of promotion. Now, I recall reading company’s manual on not to accept bribes because things like this do happen! This film falls under romance/comedy and perhaps that’s just my cup of tea lately, a happy ending with a bit of romance.

Truthfully, I was not all that different from the protagonist C.C Baxter except I wasn’t as mischievous and I did not work for an insurance company. Like him, I wanted to climb the corporate ladder. Unfortunately the company I worked for did not have much growth opportunities to sustain my “bachelorette” lifestyle (it really just means I rather be alone than settle with the wrong person). Plus, people recognized the color of my lipstick and the outfit I was wearing for the day rather than my leadership skills. So promotion was far from reach. In the end, after 5 years, I got no where because 1) the company got acquired 2) I was suffering from mental fatigue and 3) the new company did not align with my basic principles. On the bright side, I met some friends and acquaintances and found love and love conquers all. So I guess being cute has its perks or I was just in the wrong field of work.

So, that is why I enjoyed this film. It’s a happy ending where an ambitious man realized that climbing the corporate ladder is not worth the happiness that he yearned for all along. He was always a little lonely after all when he realized that he was falling for the Operating Elevator Girl by the name of Fran Kubelik, a naïve but charming girl who failed typing test because she couldn’t spell, which was the reason she ended up in that job role to begin with (Why am I beginning to feel like her?). But most of all, she didn’t deserve to be used as a side thing for some sleazy big corporate man who happened to be married with two children. Hmm…, did I recall watching something similar to this, a film about a blonde cheerleader who thought she found the love of her life, called Lying Eyes? There’s a lot of humor to this film that I enjoyed because it’s such an old fashion idea but still rings truth to modern day society: The nice girl falls for the wrong guy and can’t seem to fall for the nice guy who is a bit of a crook himself but realizes how great the good guy is so she leaves the wrong guy for the good guy. Like I said, a happy ending.

I know I made the plot sounds so basic and it wasn’t just the happy ending I liked, but it was the décor and the way it was filmed made it so timelessly romantic. The apartment scenes were just well done, apart from the busy office and bar scenes which highlighted the bachelor lifestyle, making it full of excitement and possibilities but in the wrong sense. Fraternity can only last so long when it’s time to settle down and that is what the protagonist learned. As I mentioned, a happy ending. Glad to see he finally turned around and become a mensch. Quit his job and stop supporting his superiors’ extra marital affairs by drawing some boundaries. Now the only problem Baxter has is to find work. Back to square one, but that’s okay. One door closes but a new one opens. That’s how we should see life. At least that’s how I remain optimistic and happy. Love this film!

Pulse (回路,Kairo) Review: Help Me Escape Loneliness

Our world is ancient. People born and people die since prehistoric time. But what happens when there’s no more space left in the afterworld for those who have passed away? What are they? Ghosts? Wandering souls? When that happens, they bleed into our realm. The ghosts walk among us. So never open The Forbidden Room or else you will experience death, the eternal loneliness.

Pulse directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, released in 2001 in Japan and 2005 in the U.S, is a philosophical horror film with a touch of science fiction all mixed into one. Quite frankly I was pleasantly surprised this showed up in my recommendation of films to watch on Amazon Prime Video. I have been searching for this film for a while and seen it several years ago but forgot the title. If it were a video game, I would play it in a heartbeat. In fact, some of the horror titles I enjoyed in the past were released around that time:

The film is not as straight forward so watching it with full attention and twice is recommended. It’s like reading a heavy novel. There’s a lot to digest and piece together. Each frame, each scene ties well together, painting a world that is on the brink of human extinction. The scariest thing about this film is the internet and the red tape. Some places are just meant to be sealed away.

Why do we connect to the internet? Why do we need to connect with others? Most normal people go about wanting few interactions with people as possible or don’t see a need to fill up the void inside of them. That’s why if humans are too far apart, they are drawn together but get too close, they die. What’s the point of getting close? As Harue Karasawa (character from the film) explains a grad student programming project:

Two dots get too close to each other, they die and if they are too far apart, they are drawn closer together.

That’s the world we live in.

Take a moment to think about this abstract idea. How many times have you been honest with a friend but only end up hurting them instead? What’s the point of friendship then?

For horror fans, I don’t need to tell you to watch it because you might have already seen it, especially if you fall into the millennial age group. Japanese horror was a sensation back then. I remember the The Ring terrified many in theater including myself and I became interested in Japanese horror ever since.

One thing I took out from this film is that if I ever need to feel the need to connect with anyone, it might be wise just to turn off the device and connect with real people. Don’t glorify loneliness. It’s eternal death. Humans are no different from ghosts if we are pacing back in form in our rooms, trapped in the internet world.

Savage Streets (1984) Review: The Hunting Bow Heroine

I’ve been thinking a lot about films and I’m beginning to really enjoy the medium. It’s like poetry. It’s full of imagery and it gets to the point, especially someone like me who is on the go and dislike details. I guess I’m a bit savage myself–me think in few words and like simplicity.

According to Miss Young, the school teacher in this film, poetry contains the following:

  • Rhythm
  • Rhyme
  • Meaning

I could see it. There are few catchy phrases that were cheesy but entertaining. The right songs are played in each scene, echoing the edginess theme. Lastly, the film has a good message. We could all take some notes from Brenda, the fiery protagonist played by Linda Blair who also starred in that terrifying film called The Exorcist. She is bold, daring but just. And she is only a teenager–a teenager who dares to lit a cigarette in the classroom and tells her sentimental poetry teacher to back off. As she said, teachers only know their students for 1-2 hours. They don’t know them on a personal level and what they are capable of. Grr…feisty.

[Okay! Forgive me for my poetry rant. Let’s talk about the film.]

Savage Streets is at its savageness. It’s a comedy/drama that’s not to be taken seriously. Unless you are a teenager reading this review, you may find the film offensive. Why? Because teenagers don’t really know anything in life other than peer pressure and seeking one’s identity and purpose in life. Unless you had a rough life like Brenda where you are forced to grow up fast, then that’s a different story. Brenda has to be tough because she got a deaf mute sister to care for. It’s no surprise she takes the lead among her female friends. She is like the hunting bow of the streets with her pack, walking in the night fiercely and patrolling the streets from injustice. Like Scorpion from Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion, she is on a mission to put bad boys in their place. Brenda doesn’t wait for the law to set things straight and offer her justice. Instead, she gives that neanderthal, punk villain Jake what he deserves. She hunts and strikes that barbaric savage down with her sharp arrow. I could hear her say through her eyes: “I got you bad boy!” Like a true heroine, she defends the weak from the domineering apes that prowl the streets.

I can’t tell you exactly what happened in the film because that would ruin the fun. Watch this film with friends, significant other, or by yourself and I am pretty sure you would get angry but then have a great laugh. Well depending on your sense of humor. Mine is pretty morbid. Overall, fun film to watch–a few outrageous scenes and nudity that don’t make any sense other then the fact it’s there for eye candy. On a second thought, it might not be a good idea to watch with an easily jealous girlfriend. There’s nothing more annoying than being accused of stealing someone’s boyfriend like in Brenda’s case. It’s not Brenda’s fault that men foolishly gravitate towards her hotness. I guess some men just want to get burn.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) Review: The Anti-Material Girl

Should I have changed my title for this review to a story about a Classy but Penniless Gold Digger who Can’t Survive on her Own? That would mislead the readers on what I think about the beloved character Holly played by Audrey Hepburn. To call her a gold digger is far from the truth. However, at a glance it’s hard not to judge since that was the first impression I got from looking at the cover despite what critics say and what my older peers thought. In fact an older woman recommended this film to me. Now I see why.

Before I provide you my personal input about this classic film, let’s talk about the plot. It’s not all bad as it sounds if you are a carefree-loving wild cat and are on the liberal side of life. This film is about an unmarried woman who appears to be happy. She’s wild, fun, and entertaining. But underneath it all–she needs help more than anything. For example, she doesn’t know how to budget money; she makes her living through entertaining sugar daddies; She throws lavish parties; and doing things out of the norm. Sometimes I wonder how a classy gal can afford such things. Then again, her acquaintances have big money. Also being beautiful has its perks. She draws men to her like moths to a bright lamp at night. Even her neighbor, a writer struggling to make it big–named Paul Varjak, comes to her aid when she needs him. What a lucky girl just for being beautiful. In the end, she settled with Paul out of love when she could have picked one of her millionaire acquaintances, which makes this film a heart warming story. All it took for Holly to say yes to Paul is the prized ring found in the Cracker Jack box. The particular scene where the Tiffany’s sales clerk agrees to engrave the initial on the Cracker Jack’s ring for 10 dollars implies that love doesn’t have a set price. And most importantly, what is the probability of finding love? It’s worth more than all the diamonds you can buy. It’s a bold statement to women that you don’t always need diamonds to feel loved.

In conclusion, films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s point out the cold hard truth to material women. What it got right about love is that “love is plenty enough,” I quote from the film. Now that’s gold because to love is a rare emotion that some of us might never experience in our lifetime. So why trade the emotion for material security to fill the empty void in our hearts? What women really need is emotional security. The film says no to material things, but yes to immaterial things. How ironic is that, considering Tiffany’s is a jewelry store? The writer Paul Varjak is the jewelry store. He makes her feel like a diamond. Great metaphor! Overall, I love this film!

***

Enjoyed this review? Want more of Audrey Hepburn? Please check out my other review:

The Children’s Hour Review: When Lesbian Is Not Sexualized

Batman Begins (2005) Review: Conquer your Fears and Fight for Justice

Not going to lie, I miss going to the theatre, drinking overpriced fountain drink and eating popcorns. Batman Begins is quite fitting for this time, especially during this pandemic. As soon as I saw the film available on Netflix, I can’t helped but draw the correlation with our current fear to bats as it is the likeliness original source to Covid-19. If you want to conquer the virus–you have to become it. That’s the only way we can get rid of the virus called Covid-19 fear. Okay, I shouldn’t joke around about the deadly virus so lightly. But sometimes you got to make yourself laugh at the situation. It’s good for your sanity. To understand your fear is the beginning of conquering it. This film couldn’t be more fitting to the current major event. When it comes to hunting for metaphors, like Covid-19, I do not discriminate–that’s why I’m reviewing western film for a change. So let’s dive into the cave, I mean review.

Batman Begins explains how Batman came to be and his role in Gotham City. To fight criminal you have to think like a criminal. Instead of abusing one’s power–Bruce Wayne rises above the crookedness and corruption, which makes him the legend and the perfect defender of justice. It’s a great film in the sense we see a positive character development who is forced to tackle tough questions about good versus evil, but most importantly justice. My eyes were glued to the screen when I first saw this film in theatre and it still has the same effect on me till this day: I watch the film from the comfort of my living room. There’s a sense of Zen when viewing this film, especially towards the first 47 minutes. It unfolds and lay out for the audiences to see the growth of Batman done beautifully. Young Bruce Wayne was lost when he loss his parents to a robbery incident which scarred him emotionally throughout his youth and adult life. Then later, he was found when he turned away from revenge, the path of destruction.

The fighting scene in the snow between Bruce Wayne and Henri Ducard–is one of my favorite scenes in the film along with the hide and seek scene with the ninjas in the temple. Why you may wonder? Simply because I love a good fight; martial arts is a form of discipline to master the self and one’s surrounding. I learned from this film that first you must ease your mind and accept that you have no control over issues that are out of your hands. Secondly, you must not walk the path of criminals as there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Third, you must conquer your biggest fear by becoming one with it. Lastly, you fight for justice if you are capable to do so. Living with a purpose to serve gives you a sense of direction in life. This is what it means to be a good person which leads to a good leader which ultimately gives birth to Batman. Strong beginning led to a strong ending. The total length of the film is 2 hours and 32 minutes.

In conclusion, the film is cinematically beautiful and it doesn’t go overboard with annoying supernatural special effects like the transformers action-packed films (I like substance; not all show). Batman, Scarecrow, Falcon are all humans who use different methods to perform their deeds whether it’s for good or for evil in the society. A weapon is only a weapon depending on who possesses it. Bruce Wayne uses his fearful power to fight for justice instead of oppressing people. He was once afraid of bats but then he became the fearful bat who brings terror to criminals and justice to Gotham City. He’s a well liked iconic hero. Perhaps, that’s why I was fond of Batman as a kid and even till this day. He’s just an ordinary man in a cape, a good person. We need more of that: We need good leaders.

Mignonnes Review (2020): A Film for Pedophiles?

Netflix has some interesting shows. Growing up, my favorite channel was the International channel. I was always intrigued with how others live and think. At one point in my life, I watched nothing but international films. So it’s no surprise that Mignonnes also known as Cuties caught my attention. But what really pique my interest about this film was how controversial it was among the conservative groups. The film involves pre-teen girls, performing sexually suggested dance. Despite the conservative criticism, I found the film refreshing and educational. It’s about time we take into a look into the female psyche, especially young girls making a transition into womanhood. We’ve live in a male centric perspective way too long. Let’s hear more from a female perspective.

Cuties released in August 19, 2020, directed by Maïmouna Doucouré speaks much volume on the negative effects between young girls and the media, but more importantly it shows the cultural war between one’s traditional upbringing and the internet world. Yes, some of the scenes made me feel uncomfortable, watching young girls twirk and dance like one of those rap music videos will make anyone in their right mind gasp. It takes a mature audience to scratch the surface of the film and its meaning. The film depicts the realistic struggles of what a Senegalese-French girl goes through, which makes the viewing an insightful watch because it’s not your typical teenage angst films, in fact it’s not even teenagers we are dealing with–it’s preteen. Wow, I remember the time when I started to rebel against my mother in middle school by skipping school and developing eating disorder. Young girls are highly self conscious of their bodies and I was no exception. Back then, I didn’t have the internet available, but I did have access to women’s magazine such as Allure, Seventeen and Vogue which unfortunately are not the best material to give advice to young girls on how to be a woman. Watching this film, I can’t help but cringed thinking, “Don’t grow up too fast. Sexiness is overrated!”

Would I recommend this film as pure entertainment? No. Watch the film if you want something a bit controversial that would open a dialogue to discuss about the effects on how society, culture and particularly the internet have on young girls. Overall it’s a well made film. It’s bold, daring, and a little disturbing. Now I understand why my mother disapproved me from participating in a dance activity after school when I was 10 years old despite the fact I saw no harm in it. The predator gaze is real.

The Revenger (1980) Review: I Fight in the Name of the Kung Fu Cop

Going around beating people in the name of righteousness sounds rather noble. Doesn’t it? In this case, The Revenger is simply about REVENGE!!! Far from serious, the undertone of the film is light hearted and humorous. I found myself laughing right off the bat as there are plenty of humorous catchy lines that made me laugh hard.

If you are a fan of the Shenmue video game franchise, the tone of this film is all too familiar. The first part is played by the father who goes around setting things straight in the society with violence. Out of revenge, the villain sent his sister to destroy the hero for being humiliated. One day, the hero rescued his future wife from bandits which was all a setup by the main villain. As they say what goes around comes around. The villain used his own blood (sister) to get close to the hero’s heart. Romance blossomed between the hero and the villain’s sister and so they both experienced great happiness and conceived a child together. Until one day, the hero got trapped and killed by the villain and his gang. Fast forward, the hero’s son is fueled with revenge when he learned how his father died. By grace, his mother stopped him from revenge and warned him that “hatred will destroy [him].” Instead of seeking revenge, the son goes on a quest to collect his father’s bones. After all, the cycle of revenge must stop! Lets not make it into a Jerry Springer Show!

What’s interesting about this film is its statement: Your enemy is closer than you really think. He could be your uncle. Who said blood means loyalty? Family members fight among each other. Those you love is the one that hurt you most. In summary, such serious topics could have been extended and made this film epic. It’s all too short and a little wonky because the transition scene from the father and the son was played by the same actor–Tung Li. I was so confused because I did not see the child growing up! Nonetheless it’s a good film to watch if you want a good laugh.

I would leave you folks with my favorite line from this film: ” It’s all over between us like this bridge is broken!”

The Revenger

Okay, I take that back. I hope to see you next time for my next review and the following reviews after that!

Parasite (2019) Review: The Insects of the Society

Have you read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis? Let’s pretend you haven’t read it, then I shall give you a quick summary because if you came to me and ask me what Parasite is all about — I would tell you it’s the opposite of The Metamorphosis. You see, there is one thing they both have in common: It’s about the “filthy insects” of the society that no one aspires to be. Hey, I’m just being real. Unlike The Metamorphosis where the protagonist became a burden to the family, Parasite logically provides a rationale to why leeching is justified. If you think about it, the working class is like the earthworms we find in the garden. They are buried in the underground and hidden from society’s sight, but play a vital role in sustaining the glamourous lifestyle for the wealthy.

Now by no means, the film tries to justify bad behavior as acceptable in the society. Instead, it successfully illustrates the poor’s real struggle by giving them a voice, a different perspective that most often societies are too ashamed to acknowledge. It does bold things by tearing down and distinguishing the rich from the poor. From the wealthy perspective, money can buy many things. Money can ease the mundane worries that life throws at us. In contrast, from the poor perspective, money is power and money can also make one become delusional into believing that the world is a safe haven. For instance, the character Yeon Kyo, the naïve wife, does not deserved to be conned, however, her niceness stems from the fact she never had to deal with the daily struggles that normal people do — such as something as simple as cooking. Unfortunately, this is the beginning of a tragedy and the downfall of the Park family.

For my final thought, the film is a bit of a tragedy and at the same time, a bittersweet victory for the working class. The film does not condemn the rich for their naivety nor depict them as evil villains who suppress the poor from rising above in the society. The rich people in this film are just simply nice folks who provide jobs for the poor, but have become too delusional to relate to the struggles of the lower class. In the end, it’s the working class that rise to the top because they actually do the real work. Seriously, no pun intended. You can’t argue against this notion, which makes this film a powerful statement to the society. I can see why this film was voted for the best film of 2019 by critics.

Ghost In the Shell (1995)Review: The Future of Humanity Is A Stream of Conscience

What are we? We are nothing more than a ghost in a shell. In the near future, the world will erase nations and races. What do we get, something beyond AI. Ghost in the Shell, based on a manga by Shirow Masamune is a film that I have never got around to watching until now. I wouldn’t understand it anyway if I were a kid. Let’s just say it’s some pretty deep stuff. It’s so deep that it’s almost omnisciently god-like. It made me wonder if God is a computer?! After all, life is nothing more than just information of simulated experiences. Are humans really different from machines?

In this animation, Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg for Section 9, an anti-cybercrime Japanese Law enforced organization, was given the task to hunt down the cyber criminal known as Puppet Master whose identity is sexless, originated from America and is the most extraordinary cyber criminal hacker. What is its intention? It seeks to spread its kind through the network of information. As a living organism, it is fated to die and therefore it wishes to merge with another entity to pass on its “DNA”. Who do you think is the lucky bride? The Major, who is a mirror of the Puppet Master.

It’s a great animation to watch and if you want to dive into deep philosophical questions about what makes human a human. The Puppet Master, also known as Project 2501, is a bug which has its own desire and freewill separate from its programmers (sounds kind of scary). It wishes to complete itself from one particular frame of mine that is make up of a single entity. In other words, it’s trying to create an entirely new entity–something beyond humans and AIs; something like a godly being who knows and sees everything. After all, variety is good for the continuation of existence. Different viewpoints like variety of genes, ensure a higher chance in the birth of stronger beings. I can see why this film is a masterpiece. Apparently, the bug in Project 2501, like humans, wants to procreate. Woah, that’s some deep stuff I just watched.