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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kevin's Favorite 25 Movies: 15-11

Now we're getting down to the nitty gritty as they say...exactly who says that besides sportscasters I'm not sure, but it's a saying. Anyway, with these five selections I am finding myself struggling more and more with trying to stay on task and keep these write-ups short. There is so much to talk about with all of these movies, that really all i can keep saying is that if you haven't seen any of them yet, do yourself a favor and start making a list. We're almost to the top 10. Here we go:

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15) Heat
dir. by Michael Mann

Heat is one of the all time great action films. If Martin Scorsese is the master of the East coast crime saga, then Michael Mann certainly can be called the master of the West coast crime saga. In what is his most fascinating and technically impressive film, Mann gets two giant actors to come together on screen for the first time ever in a clash of noble policeman and noble criminal. It's really one of the last times either Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro were any good and they play each character to perfection. Of course by now everyone has certainly seen the famous 'sit down' scene where the two iconic actors share screen time for the first time ever.

It's not just that these two great actors are playing this scene, and their characters, to perfection, it's the fact that they succeed in making stock characters (the out of control cop and the suave criminal) interesting again. Credit has to go to DeNiro and Pacino for this, but also to writer/director Mann who is always interested in the softer side of the male who inhabits a world of violence. Look at any Michael Mann film, whether it be the sympathetic killer in Manhunter, the crook who wants out in Thief, the philosophical hitman in Collateral, the emotional Mohican surrounded by a bloody wilderness in Last of the Mohican's, or the strictly platonic (maybe) relationship between Crocket and Tubbs in Miami Vice. Whatever film it may be Mann has a distinct style and a distinct way of directing the male characters in his movie; and no movie is more male than Heat.

It's not just an action film with brilliant shoot out scenes, but also a character study of the types of men that live these lives and the choices they must make. For example, Val Kilmer's character is doomed throughout by his relationship with Ashley Judd, he constantly is costing the group of criminals (headed up by DeNiro) some kind of anonymity. But what happens when Kilmer's character screws up and his girlfriend kicks him out? He stays with DeNiro, who lectures him on how this will hurt their next job, but sympathizes with him anyway, because he has never felt what Kilmer describes (DeNiro's speech about what an old mentor of his said about being able to walk away, is brilliant). It is this longing and loneliness that separate Heat from your standard crime film. Sure, the action is exciting and exact and sometimes thrilling, but it always heightened because of the amount of time and effort Mann and his actors have put into making these generic crime characters three dimensional. And I haven't even gotten into how good looking the movie is...seriously, Michael Mann is almost always unmatched in American cinema when it comes to visual flare. See all of his movies.

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14) City Lights
dir. by Charles Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin's City Lights was my favorite film all through High School. It has dropped some on this list simply for the fact that I have seen more and more films since then. But it's power and beauty still resonate with me. It's a film where you will laugh and laugh and laugh (loudly I might add) and then you will weep and weep and weep. A feat that only Chaplin could really pull off. As is evident in the scene above (the last scene of the film) Chaplin knew how to tug at the heart strings with his pantomime. It's a beautiful thing to watch, and really there is rarely another film that will consistently make me tear up by the end.

City Lights is essentially the greatest romantic comedy ever made. The film is about Chaplin's classic character the Tramp down on his luck (as always) and wandering the streets. He happens upon a beautiful flower girl who he learns is blind. They make conversation and hit it off, but when a wealthy man gets in his car outside of where they are talking, the blind flower girl thinks that the Tramp has left. And this is the very simple (although not for Chaplin, he agonized over this scene of mistaken identity for days) set up for what is the greatest silent film ever made. If you are not familiar with Chaplin's work than I highly recommend you start with City Lights. It's classic Chaplin comedy (the boxing sequence is still one of the funniest things I have ever seen) and a wonderful example of how you don't necessarily mind being sentimentally and emotionally manipulated by a director when the manipulation is done so well. Just a great classic American film.

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13) JFK
dir. by Oliver Stone

If you appreciate editing in movies, then this is the film for you. Holy crap this must have been a nightmare for dual editors Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia. Director Oliver Stone throws every trick he has into this film: archival footage, different lenses, high-key lighting, black and white film, 16mm, and a loose canon style that gives the film its much needed maddening pace and feel. It's one of my all time favorite films as I was hypnotized by Stone's "study" of the assassination of John F. Kennedy at a very young age. When the film came out on video in 1992 I watched the film almost every other weekend. I couldn't quite put my finger on it at such a young age, but every scene felt so fresh and alive with it's kinetic editing and different shooting techniques, I was totally enthralled by the picture. The film clocks in well over three hours, but it never feels that long as you are totally enthralled by the details of the investigation.

It's one of the greatest procedural films ever made, and even if you no interest in the conspiracy theories or Oliver Stone's films, you should still see this movie for its epic scale. It's not just the editing that's the amazing feat -- although it is the star of the film, just watch the opening credits and then watch the clip above, yes the acting is good, but the pacing of that scene is perfect. It's an intense scene based solely off of archival footage and oddly shot scenes in grainy 16mm and silhouette -- the cast is amazing as well.

Stone assembled a brilliant cast of supporting characters, a plethora of skilled veterans and character actors ranging from: Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker(!), Jack Lemmon, Laurie Metcalf, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, John Candy, Jay O. Sanders, Walter Matthau, Sally Kirkland, Donald Sutherland, Ed Asner, Brian Doyle-Murray, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Wayne Knight (his name is even Newman in the movie). Whew! Okay, so the entire supporting cast is amazing, but this is really Kevin Costner's show amongst the actors, as they surround him with great performances he is more than up to the task. Never before or since has he been as good as he was in JFK. The final monologue at the end in the courtroom is as an amazing piece of acting as you are likely to see. It's a long speech, and Costner nails it, making us care and making us realize that when he isn't directing himself, he's a pretty good actor. For it's insane editing (that Stone would make even crazier with his next two films the very good Nixon and brilliant Natural Born Killers) and the amazing acting by Costner and the entire supporting cast, Stone has never made a movie as interesting or engrossing as JFK. If you liked All the President's Men, The Insider, and Zodiac, then you need to see JFK, the best procedural film ever made.

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12) Glengary Glen Ross
dir. by James Foley

I need not say much about this film, it can do its own talking...seriously, just watch the clip above. For all of the great actors and the competent director James Foley, the film belongs to the words penned by David Mamet. The man is a genius. A writer who requires certain actors say his words. They have a beat or rhythm to them, and he can write profanity like no one else. Glengary Glen Ross is so funny in its creative use of profanity and dialogue, that sometimes you forget just how good it works as a unconventional Noir film. All of the elements of the Noir are here in James Foley's film and he has a wonderful cast to help him translate Mamet's play from the stage to the screen. The best scene of the movie is the clip I posted above, it almost has become a part of pop culture now (thanks to the Simpson's) and is the cliche for any kind of business or corporate moitvational speech. Ed Harris and Al Pacino are the loudest ones in the movie, and because of that they get the most laughs (although it's when Pacino is quiet and talking to Jonathan Pryce in the bar that he gets his best monologue in). But notice the quiet desperation of two very sad characters: Shelly 'the machine' Levine (Jack Lemmon in what may be his finest performance) and the fumbling George (hilariously played Alan Arkin), these losers are exactly the kind of desperate, down-on-your-luck type characters you come to expect from a Noir film.

There are so many great scenes, scenes I won't ruin by explaining them do yourself a favor and see this movie. It's a perfect example of a movie where the dialogue drives the action. It has some hilariously pathetic characters, and just some plain pathetic characters (Lemmon's performance as Shelly Levine is like something Ricky Gervais would think up; brutally awkward yet you cannot look away). It's also one of the most quotable movies you will ever see. Every now and then I find myself, for no apparent reason, saying things like "yes, boots!" Or, "have you made your decision for Christ!" You may be scratching your head after reading those two quotes, so really the best thing for you to do is to make some time for yourself this week and watch Glengary Glen Ross.

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11) Robocop
dir. by Paul Verhoeven

Good 'ol Robocop. I feel a certain affinity towards this film. I don't remember how old I was when I watched it (that is to say, how young I was), but I have fond memories of this brutal and violent movie growing up; I always joke around that this film was my favorite babysitter growing up. The movie is a masterpiece of violence. It plays stupid with cardboard cutout good guys and bad guys shooting up the streets in the fight for territorial supremacy. The territory is futuristic Detroit (see because Detroit in the 80's was like Oakland today) and it's a bad place to be if you're a cop. The plot leads us down some familiar territory, but really, is the story going to surprise anyone at this point? It's in the action and the violence that this movie (still) shocks and surprises.

When I was younger I couldn't believe the amount of violence in this movie, and later on in life when I was in college, I bought the X-rated directors cut on Criterion DVD, and it became even more of a favorite. At this point in my life though I didn't just enjoy it because it was an awesome blood-soaked futuristic action movie. No, now I was old enough to see what made the film so great. See, not only is it an enjoyable campy sci-fi action film (like most of Verhoeven's work, see Total Recall and Starship Troopers), but I began to recognize how the film doubles as a wrly comic vision of a dystopia run amok by the postmodern and cyberpunk imagery that was so popular at the time. The film can play dumb (if you look at it on its surface) or it can play smart (dig a little deeper and you'll see the humor), either way you get a great movie.

It's a pivotal sci-fi movie as it introduced some state of the art special effects , and to a lesser degree, explored the human/robot (android) dichotomy. Wait...what? Oh yeah, and it rules because there is a guy who is covered in toxic waste and is hit by a car, Ed-209, the dad from That 70's Show is the head villain, and the movie just revels in how blood thirsty it is. Yes, you can take a serious look at the film and some of its postmodern imagery, and I have no doubts that director Verhoeven had some of those ideas in mind when he was making the film. But man, as a pure action film from my youth...this movie rules and will always be one of my favorites. I am sure Troy will have it much higher on his list, after all, he introduced me to it. What a great big brother eh? Oh and for those of you wondering just how the picture above pertains to Robocop...all I can answer with is...I'll buy that for a dollar!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Juicy Couture: Something Looks Familiar

Whenever I go shopping, I can't help but say things like, 'This Zara top looks very Prada,' or 'Hmm, this shop is filled with Marni-esque stuff.' (Although I have been trying to voice it out loud less.) This year, while browsing through Juicy Couture accessories online, I can't help but see the similarities between the Juicy bags and bags by other designers. Now I'm not saying Juicy copied other designers. There are just elements of the bags that remind me of other bags.
The first thing I thought was, this looks like a Goyard bag. But after staring at the bag closely for awhile, it occured to me the print is of little puppies. And after staring at it for even longer, it starts to remind me of LAMB bags, which I didn't think was totally original either. What a web! (Or maybe just a triangle.)
The Gucci one is too cutesy for me and the Juicy one is too preppy and seems to be made of terry cloth (-says it all.) While the two technically have very different designs, they superficially look similar to me.
Reminds me of a Gucci F/W07 bag. I think it may even have been featured in an ad. Does anyone remember it and think so, or did I just imagine it?

It doesn't look exactly like a Gucci bag but that gold, circle metal piece in the middle is like the metal piece on a lot of the Gucci 08 bags.

Again, it's the metal plate on this Juicy bag that reminds me of another designer's bags. Can anyone guess?
I love this type of gold hardware that looks like a lock on handbags. The designer bag that has a lot of gold fake locks is by... it starts with the same letter as the one above.
This one is sort of obvious. One is by Dior and one is by Juicy. One is super expensive and one is relatively affordable. To be fair, both are equally cute, though not exactly my style.

Note that I am not saying Juicy copied the other designers. Nowadays with so many choices and designers out there, designers just seem to be inspired by other designers' designs or elements of the designs a lot. It reminds me of Derek Lam saying "There's no such thing as original design...... In a way, that's what fashion's about." Afterall, it's why certain designers are held higher than others, and why some designer collections are considered 'directional' in terms of trend. Anyway, it was fun just to look at the bunch of Juicy accessories together like this, wasn't it?

Image Credit:,,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

touch me not

One of the best times we had when we were children was to run in the school compound and make a lot of noise. We liked to play catch and we could scream with delight.

And when we were tired we would go and tease the "touch me nots".

Our science teacher Mr. Tiong had taught us about mimosa and how sensitve the leaves were. So we incorporated the term touch me not into our game of catch.

It is so strange that so many years later I can still remember the girls (and a few of the more daring boys) who would play with us and we screamed "touch me not". To stop any one touching us we would squat down and this made us untouchable. It was just such child like pure fun.

Today any kind of touching might even bring a young boy to court!! Teachers are also sensitive and are always on the look out for ways to punish and condemn boys who pinch girls. But they do not realise that some girls are worst bullies than boys. Many girls have indeed turned out to be more gangsters than their male counterparts.

But the availability of touch me nots in the school compound gave us one of our best science lessons we ever had. It was so hands - on and practical. Thanks Mr. Tiong.

Native to Brazil, this short lived evergreen sub shrub is usually treated as an annual. It is grown for its curiosity value- the fern like leaves close up and droop when touched, usually re-opening within minutes. It has prickly stems and small, fluffy, ball shaped pink flowers in summer. It grows to a height of 5 ft and spreads around 3 ft- a perennial plant, it grows to a height of 0.5m with a spread of 0.3m. In some areas this plant is becoming a noxious weed. The stem is erect, slender and branching. The leaves are bipinnate, fern like and pale green- closing when disturbed. The flowers are pale lilac pink, occurring in globose heads and appearing in summer. Indigenous to the northern hemisphere, it is adaptable to most soils in an open, sunny position, and is drought and frost tender. Due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the air it does well on poor soils. "Sensitive Plant" folds up its leaves when touched or exposed to a flame. This plant requires a medium light exposure, an evenly moist soil, and temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees. One should use caution when handling seedlings because the plant dislikes root disturbance. Mimosa may be difficult to grow and is sensitive to over watering.
Photographed in Manipur

Rattan Clothes Basket

A photo by Stephenlnc.

We used this kind of clothes basket to keep clothes in for repair or for recycling. A pair of scissors would be in the basket with other things like threads and needles.

In some families, this kind of basket was for keeping babies' clothes. Sometimes the basket was hanged up so that ants would not crawl into the clothes. That is why you can see a smaller handle on the bigger handle.

Apart from these two uses, I would not know what else it was used for.

This kind of basket was very sturdy and hardy because the best rattan was used. That is why it can stand the test of time.

What did your family use it for?

Rattan Food Cover for the Table

This is a photo by Stephenlnc. Another family treasure.

When we were young,we used to lift the food cover up, just to have a peep at what mother had cooked for us. And hungry like wolves, we could not really wait for everyone to be gathered together for lunch or dinner.

The food cover was always a good item to have to keep away flies. But I lovingly remember that it was also a cover to keep our dishes from the prying eyes of neighbours. We would also have a good laugh when a nosey neighbour (Ah Moo) came around and wished to have a peep. And my mother would humbly say that we did not have much on the table. But she could have a slice or two of the chicken and a little bit of rice.

Our Ah Moo was quite poor as she did not have very skilled sons to bring back a good income and her husband died when he was very young. So she and her two sons and the daughters in law and grandchildren squeezed into a three room flat opposite our house in Kung Ping Road.Life was quite a struggle for all of them. She told us quite often that they could not pay their rent. But she was a very good listener in spite of her lack of education. And I am glad that her daughter in law (the first Iban Chinese I ever met) has become a really good grandmother and a very resourceful and enterprising lady. The old lady has long been gone, but her grandchildren are indeed doing well.

She was also the lady who got all our ears pierced. And according to her, we would not turn into pigs when we die. Well, that was the folk lore told by her.

I am glad that my mother not only opened her doors to the old lady, but removed the food cover for the kindly soul to share some of our food.

I still have such a food cover although it is more practical and "fashionable" to use the cellophane wrap which is so easily available these days.

My children also think that something is missing from one's kitchen if we do not have such a rattan food cover.

Aluminium Basin

A photo by Stephenlnc.

This is a treasure from our Foochow past. A basin like this was multipurpose. First of all, it is very portable and could be carried any where in the house.Secondly, it is very light weight. Thirdly, it is long lasting and the basin in the photo must have been in Stephen's family for more than 30 years!!

The basin is used as a baby bath tub, a wash basin for clothes, and vegetables. My aunt had one and she used it to make all her preserved vegetables like Chow Chai (vegetables preserved in lees, or ang chow, and salt - keng chai).

Very often, this basin in the past,was used to "warm up water for the confinement lady who was sitting out her month". That was during the time when there was no electrical water heater or even electrical kettle.

And in the evenings, warm water would be poured into this basin to wash the feet of our elders. My great grandmother used to soak her bound feet in the tub in the evenings and she would take hours in the bath room. And later any one who used the bath room for a long long time would be likened to her.

And lastly if my dear readers can remember the olden days, our mothers used to "boil" our white cotton clothes , white bed sheets and white pillow cases,in this kind of basin every now and then to starch them and to make them very white. They also used some kind of soda to whiten the clothes. Today housewives are very fortunate in having all sorts of detergents to help them do their laundry.

And finally, if the basin became dented and full of holes our dear elders would fill them with soil and grow spring onions, and any other vegetables in the backyard. What a way to make full use of a household item. It was definitely reuse,recycle and reduce.

Thank you Stephen. A picture can churn up so many memories.

It's Getting Hoot In Here!

Chad Stone

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

SS08 Trend- Bronze and Blue Hues

One of my absolute favourite things to do every season is to scout out the latest eye shadow palettes. They are almost always drool worthy, making me want a piece of everything, even though I already have more make-up than I need.
This season the consensus for eye shadow seems to be bronze and blue hues. This look above from Sephora is the epitome of these two shades.
Smashbox calls it Desert Chic, with these Heat Wave (left) and Oasis (right) palettes.
Stila (left) just calls it their limited edition summer palette, while Lancome (right) calls it the Brazilian colors.
Shu Uemura has something similar with their Fleur de Rose (left) and Fleur de Source (right) palettes from their 25th Boutique Birthday Make-up Collection. I tried out the look for the Fleur de Rose palette, and besides bronze they also seem to favor a tinge of pink/red. The colors go on really strongly. The pink/red doesn't exactly make me look like somebody punched me (I asked), but let's just say that pink/red, dark purple and bronze (the suggested combo) is not exactly the most flattering colors for my fair skin tone. I think this Fleur de Rose palette has potential though, if you use only one or two colors at a time.
Other brands favouring the metallic bronze trend are Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier. Bobbi Brown also has a pink tinge, with their Bronzed Pink Look using the Bronze Pink metallic shade above (left). Laura Mercier has these really cute eye color pots (right) for their Gold Digger collection (they come up with all sorts of names for bronze....), that has an eye shadow shade AND a complimenting shade of their loose powder. I tried it and combined together, they go on extremely strongly. This is not for the faint heart. As much as I liked the double decker combo, it was definitely not my style.

To be honest, none of these bronze and blue palettes are really my style. Perhaps with the exception of the Fleur de Rose, none of the colors in these palettes seem to go together really well. Maybe it is just me, but despite the "look" shown above from Sephora, I just cannot imagine what I would do with these colors. It is a sad day indeed when this season's eye make-up palettes fail to excite me.

Image Source: Sephora, Shu Uemura, Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier

Kevin's Favorite 25 Movies: 20-16

Woo Hoo! Here's selections 20-16. Troy has is up on his blog, check 'em out. I have come to realize that this list is getting harder and harder to write about and rank. I mean, all ratings are arbitrary anyway, because I would gladly take any of these films to a desert island with me. But I keep finding myself reshuffling all of these selections and moving them around into different slots. Well, at least number one has stayed the same, but I found myself with these selections moving a Bergman film out of the top 10 and into the number 16 slot. Please don't smite me Lord Bergman, you are still the best filmmaker to ever have's just...well these are favorite,anyway...I'll explain later. Enjoy!

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20) Casino
dir. by Martin Scorsese

Remember how I talked about the difference between best and favorite? Well this is a perfect example of why this list was so hard to come up with. Certainly not the best Scorsese film (Raging Bull is) or even the most radically unusual or visually appealing of his films(I love the underrated Bringing out the Dead), but Casino is a film that I just kept coming back to.

Yeah's Goodfellas-lite; so what? The wonderful performances and dialogue, the shiny and beautiful cinematography amongst all the brutal violence, the sheer madness and fun Scorsese and lifelong editor Thelma Schoonmaker have splicing this thing together. It's just a blast to watch. Every time it's on tv, I end up getting sucked in for 15-20 minutes, especially when Joe Pesci is edited for television, which adds a whole other element of funny to the film. It has all of the classic Scorsese moments with its quick cuts, brutal violence, lush cinematography, whooshing cameras, long tracking shots, great soundtrack, and a wonderful and completely over the top performance by Joe Pesci. It's not as good as Goodfellas, and not even close to as perfect as Raging Bull, but give me the option of which three to watch, and I would go with Casino.

I don't know what it is about the movie that I like more than Goodfellas except for the fact that maybe you can see Scorsese and his cast playing it more for comedy than they did with their previous outing, which was better at the drama part. Casino is funny and violent, and anytime James Woods and Don Rickles can steal the spotlight from Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro, then you know you have something special.

The clip above is something that is found all throughout the film (and Goodfellas for that matter) as Joe Pesci's intensity makes a simple conversation spiral into something so tense and oddly funny that you are not only caught of guard by the subtle and quick change of tone, but by how subdued he is in his threats. It's so uncomfortable, but you can't look away. It's something that Scorsese has mastered, the art of directing Joe Pesci. Because really, he hasn't ever been this fun to watch. He takes this scene and turns it into something special by slowly leading up to all out insanity, any other actor would want to jump right into the threats, but for awhile, Pesci's character has you thinking he might be cordial, and then before you know it, you'll find yourself being stabbed in the neck with a pen. The man plays crazy like no one else. And he is the main reason why Casino is so entertaining.

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19) The Killer
dir. by John Woo

I was first introduced to this fine film when I was in 7th grade. I used to rent this movie all of the time. I was in awe of the poetry in which John Woo portrayed violence. It was as if his actors were in a ballet of blood and bullets. Also, I was obsessed with Chow Yun Fat as he was a total bad 'A' in this and in Hard Boiled. It's too bad that he never clicked in American action films, because he was an icon of the Hong Kong action thriller. The story is irrelevant as it was typical John Woo soap opera mixed with some of the most amazing action sequences you'll ever see. The film is based on Woo's favorite film, Jean Pierre Melville's Le Samourai, a story about a hitman who is betrayed by his own mentor. The scene above is an homage to the classic scene from Melville's film, one that Woo said inspired him for all of his Hong Kong action films.

The film holds a special place in my heart because it was one of those films that first got me interested in what inspired a director and the films he liked. When I read about Woo's love for Melville's film, I went out to all the video stores and tried to find it. When I finally did come across a copy of it, I was at first bored, because it was nothing like a John Woo film. How could this director I like so much like such a boring movie? Surely there must be more to it, more to why he likes it so much? So I watched it again and dug a little deeper, which was hard for a 7th grader (now going on 8th took me a year to find the movie), but I persevered and found what it was that Woo loved about the film. The idea of the lonely hitman and a film interested in the personal/emotional conflict of the hired killer, instead of the physical conflict. Well Woo meshed those two ideas together beautifully in the best Hong Kong action film ever made. The last scene at the church may have the most bullet to gun ratio I have seen in any movie. It's just insane. Truly a fun movie, and it will always be one of my favorites. Plus, the films popularity and cult status started the trend of a guy needing to have two guns, because it looks cool (its popularity referenced by Samuel L. Jackson in Tarantino's Jackie Brown) and establishing the two-shot of the bad guy and the good guy pointing their guns at each other at the same time -- also referenced by Tarantino in the final scene of Resevoir Dogs.

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18) Fletch
dir. by Michael Ritchie

One of the funniest movies I have ever seen, Fletch still holds up today for its sheer lunacy and irreverence, and its rapid fire one liners and gibberish uttered by star Chevy Chase. Chase cracks wise whenever he gets the opportunity and he's also good here when he has to be semi-serious. The films iconic score still gets stuck in my head, and whenever I hear it I always just laugh and smile and start quoting lines to myself. "I'll have a bloody marry, a steak sandwich and...a steak sandwich." "I'm Dr. Rosenrosen." "Moooon river." And well...I don't want to ruin the best ones if you haven't seen it yet, but my favorite exchange:

Pan-Am clerk: Mr Stanwyk, you are confirmed on Pan-Am flight 441 to Rio de Janiero tomorrow evening eleven PM first class.
Fletch: That's terrific, thank you.
Pan-Am clerk: You re-confirmed this morning.
Fletch: You bet I did. I'm a bearer for detail. I hope there's nobody sitting next to me. You see I always travel first class and I er, take both seats up. I'm in bridge-work, construction. These fold-outs take a tremendous amount of space up and I need the space.
Pan-Am clerk: I'm afraid there is someone sitting next to you.
Fletch: Oh for God darn, darn! Who is it? Mr Sininlinden?
Pan-Am clerk: No, the name's Cavanaugh.
Fletch: Cavanuagh. Ah, is that Maurice or Pierre?
Pan-Am clerk: Sally-Ann Cavanaugh.
Fletch: Sally-Ann? Well, terrific.
Pan-Am clerk: In fact, you purchased the ticket for Miss Cavanaugh.
Fletch: Doesn't mean I want her sitting next to me does it?

But, yeah, the movie never fails to make me laugh as all of Fletch's disguises are brilliant and hilarious and actually further the plot, instead of just providing quick humorous site gags and lame jokes. I have always been a fan of Chase's smart ass humor and his cynicism, and he has never been better than he is here in Fletch. It's too bad that so much went wrong in the Chase's career. Aside from Christmas Vacation and a brief, hilarious bit role in the Norm MacDonald comedy Dirty Work, he has been pretty much forgot how to bring the funny post-Fletch with awful films like: Cops and Roberson's, Snow Day, Man of the House, Nothing but Trouble, Spies Like Us, Vegas Vacation, and yes...I'm sorry but I have to say it...The Three Amigos. It's just not that funny. Especially when you compare it to Fletch. Plus, I mean really...we would all like to forget Caddyshack II. Poor Chevy Chase, at least we'll have has Irwin Fletcher to look back on as the pinnacle of your career, a character that is one of the most memorable and most quotable in any comedy.

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17) A Nightmare on Elm Street
dir. by Wes Craven

Wes Craven's seminal horror film still gives me the willies. It was one of those rare moments in horror (especially for the 1980's) where the director decided to go for atmosphere over gore[edited to add: okay okay...I mean gore in the sense that it is meant to look real, and gross you out like todays torture porn horror films. I realize that the clip above has a TON of blood, but in no way is that meant to be taken seriously]. Everyone knows the story of burned up child murderer Freddy Kreuger terrorizing the kids of Elm street in their dreams, so there's no real point in rehashing the major plot points. What's so great about the film, and one of the reason it still holds up by today's standards is the way that Craven used the gimmick of dreams to create a surreal horror experience. With rotating rooms, bizarre special effects, nonsensical moments (like a goat in the high school highway), there were almost always key signifiers telling you that the character was now in the dream world and something bad is going to happen.

Craven also evokes a certain amount of fear because really, who hasn't at one time been afraid of the bogeyman? That's all Craven is doing here is taking the basic bogeyman storyline and setting it in the middle class neighborhood of Elm Street. Much like what John Carpenter did with his teenagers in Halloween, Craven too uses normal looking kids who seem like they would be just your average teenager. Even by todays standards to special effects still seem creepy; scenes like the latex wall, Freddy's arms stretching longer and longer, and Freddy's tongue coming through the phone.

The most famous scene of the film (the clip above) is still one of its best, even though I have seen it about 100 times. The end of the movie still rules and I can only imagine how truly surprising that was to have a horror film that had no clear resolution by the end. I mean, at least Halloween and Friday the 13th you knew you were still in the real world, even if the villains got away at the end; not with A Nightmare on Elm Street. The final moments evoke even more uncertainty and an overall sense of eeriness because it suggests that the whole movie was a dream. Nothing was to be believed.

The film was also successful because Freddy was portrayed as a scary bogeyman type character. After the success of this film, New Line Cinema wanted to make as much money as possible and decided to turn Freddy into a wisecracking sardonic killer, appealing to the college demographic, the studio was no longer interested in marketing Freddy as a scary monster, but rather someone you would like to hang out with. When Craven came back to the franchise ten years after the first film with New Nightmare, he made Freddy scary again, and built off the end of his original film, where nothing is quite as it seems and we are not supposed to believe anything is safe. A truly classic American horror film, especially considering it came out during the heyday of crappy slasher films.

Click here to view video

16) Cries and Whispers
dir. by Ingmar Bergman

I don't want to write too much about this film, because really I could write all day about it. What I will say is that it may still be one of the scariest films I have ever seen. When you watch Bergman's film about the pain of the past and coping with your demons, you just want to hide sometimes. The film is brutal and blunt, and yet its heavy themes are juxtaposed by some of the most beautiful and colorful imagery Bergman ever filmed. I don't know how often I can revisit Bergman, hence making it hard to justify putting one of his films on my favorites list. But he is my favorite filmmaker, the one who resonates with me the most. Every time I watch a Bergman film I am a better person because of it. His films have changed the way I have looked at life. He is like a great religious philosopher who instead of writing, picked up a camera and decided to visually present moments of genuine catharsis.

If this were a list of 'best' films, then this would be in the top five. Visually I don't think Bergman was ever this good, although Persona is a very close second. It's as powerful as anything you are likely to see. It came out the same year as The Exorcist and is just as unsettling. The opening scene (in the clip above) is a perfect example of how Bergman uses silence to suck you in to his films. His films are a meditative and contemplative experience unlike anything any filmmaker (save for Fellini) has ever tried to create. He is hands down the greatest filmmaker of all time, and Cries and Whispers is his best film , and the one I revisit the most.

Hoot Fuzz

Angry Clothespin (?!)

Some Like It Hoot

Brad, Sacred Tattoo

Hoot Rod

Frankie G.

My Cheating Hoot

Becca Marsh

A Slide on My Mind

A young girl on a see saw. Black and White photo circa 1972.

Notice the puddle and the few drops of water in this very artistic photo. You feel the loneliness of being abandoned by a loved one.

This is a good model. Try to build your own garden see saw.

Asian children enjoying a good day out.

A double swing - you can share so many moments of happiness, may be just mother and daughter time, two good friends together, or now two old retirees sharing memories of the good old times.

Another see saw. A comment - Life is full of ups and downs - We tell our kids that we are happy when we are up and sad when we down. Now prices of things are going up and up.....we need to look at "up" in a different way.

Hope you like these pictures, mostly taken from various websites available in the Internet; why I never took photos of Sibu children's playgrounds with my box camera is still a mystery even to myself. I live to regret that as I have so many good memories of my childhood days in the playgrounds. But I am sure many of my readers have these pictures in their minds. Playgrounds have meant a lot to most of us when we were growing up as kids were meant to play happily and safely in the playgrounds where see-saws, swings and slides were made available for them by the local government authorities.

Children's playgrounds also bring to mind one unforgetable teaching experience. Many years ago I was teaching a "special class" English writing. I had a great deal of fondness for this bunch of kids because they were very honest, straightforward and most of the times, amusing. They were not those who eventually became doctors, lawyers and engineers. Each day offered fresh experiences to me.

And one of the gems that I gleaned from their writing was this piece from the many compositions I received on "My Wish". Each student was allowed to choose a picture to "inspire" them to write their composition. We had the usual brainstorming session for a good vocabulary list. And then we helped each other to put up some examples of sentence patterns. It was quite a fun way to start writing.

This particular naughty boy at the back grumbled a little, saying that his wishes would never come true. Some of the girls giggled. A few boys glared. And when he came to choose a picture, he took the last picture - that of a slide. And he looked at me,

"Teacher, what bad luck I have!! I have this lousy picture. Others have such nice pictures of film stars, singers, houses!!"

I comforted him by saying, "You can wish to become a builder, a contractor, an engineer, and inventor!"

He looked so sad and forlorn. And I thought he would just scribble anything and hand in a messy composition.

But I was wrong.

He wrote: " ...My life has been going downwards like the slide. Nothing but bad luck all the time.

When I play in the playground and sit at the top of the slide all I can see are happy families. A father is at the bottom of the slide to catch his son. How happy. How secure. If I have a father waiting at the bottom of the slide for me,I will then not be afraid of a fall.

But. I have no father to scoop me up and laugh happily with me. My mother is so sad, sitting on her swing, waiting for my sister to finish her time on the swing.

I play alone most of the time.

My greatest wish is that in the future I will make my mother and sister happy.

And I want to be the best father in the world if I cannot be much else."

Every day after I marked his composition I would look out for him and wish him well.

And as I write this little memory of one of my greatest lessons in life, how to be a great mother, and take my children to playgrounds and catch them when they come down the slide, I think of this poor boy. I wish too that he is a great father today.

But most important of all, I wish there are lots of safe playgrounds for children to play, to develop and to enjoy PLAY in the real sense.

I enjoyed the swings in the playground of Old Street while waiting for my grandmother to come from Sg. Maaw by the motor launch. And as I grew older, I continued to sit on the swing and ate the kompia I could buy from the last shop ,a biscuit shop on the street. The first shop,near the temple, was called Hock Chu Huo.

There were only two children's play grounds in found in Old Street and the other one at the junction of Archer Road and Tun Haji Openg Road. Other playgrounds are part of the various school compounds which had the extra space. Apart from that there were very few other actual playgrounds that I can remember. One fairly good playground was the one in Sungei Merah.

More readings:

Scott's Emulsion Cod Liver Oil

In the 1920's to 1940's one of the most feared diseases was tuberculosis or TB and the Sarawak government did try to contain it. Although TB was prevalent in mostly highly densely areas like the Chinatown of Singapore in the 50's, it nevertheless was prevalent in Sarawak. Many men were placed in the TB wards of the hospitals and in fact the Sibu Lau King Howe TB ward was often avoided. It was placed on the north side and its main door was gated. All utensils and crockery were separated from the normal patients' wards. I cannot remember exactly but it seemed that even the cooking was also slightly different. So great was the fear for the disease.

One of the fine activities of the missionary wives was to help bring some essentials to the hospital wards. Collaborating with the nursing sisters and doctors of the Lau King Howe hospital, these wonderful ladies and a few of us students helped to sell stuff like Sun Valley Orange toothpaste toothbrushes,combs .towels.etc For my friends and I it was a good opportunity to learn what it was like to work in a hospital. We were not afraid at all to go near the TB patients and sell them the things they needed. They found that we were good listeners.

We learned a few of the old wives' tales about how people contracted TB. One was that a man who had multiple wives would suffer from TB!! Another was exhaustion from work. Several old ladies even told me that if a man did not wear enough clothes because he was poor he would soon have TB.

One of the normal Foochow community practices was to give children a lot of Cod Liver Oil as a protection against this deadly disease. Many men and women who looked very thin would buy Cod Liver Oil as a supplement. So perhaps Cod Liver Oil was the first food supplement of that era.

Perhaps it was because of this association of TB with thin people that fat babies were favoured in the 50's and 60's!!

Many families would have multiple bottles of the white Scott's Emulsion Cod liver Oil. The empty bottles were used to mark divisions in the vegetable gardens! This was very typical of the then frugal society. Some people even recycle the bottles as milk bottles. But later the beer bottles became the favourite recycle-able bottles for chinese wine,soya bean milk,and others.

I still remember with fondness and a smile a typical scene of a loving mother lining up her six kids and pouring a spoon of cod liver oil for each of them. This comradeship of a sibling queue for cod liver oil must have made the swallowing of the fishy supplement easier. My siblings and I had our share of cod liver oil too and so did all my cousins, upriver and downriver of the Rejang . Mothers never seem to stop buying them. And sometimes the shops go out of stock.

Scott's EmulsionChildren's Health Supplement : Scott's EmulsionScott's Emulsion is rich in cod liver oil which is a natural source of Omega-3 Vitamin A & D, calcium and phosphorus. It helps children to build their natural body resistance to infections like coughs and colds and develop strong bones and teeth during their growing years.
It is a brand trusted by mothers for generations to help protect their children from coughs and colds, so that they will grow strong and healthy.
Scott's Emulsion is available in two variants : Original and Orange flavours.
Adult Health Supplement : Scott's Cod Liver Oil CapsulesScott's Cod Liver Oil Capsules come in easy to swallow golden capsules rich in natural Vitamin A & D and polyunsaturated fatty acids - Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which help to build resistance to infections, maintain healthy tissue and promote strong bones and teeth.
Scott's Cod Liver Oil is available in 100's and 500's Capsules pack.
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