20.3.16

[GIF] Cuppa (2015)

Cuppa photo cuppa.gif

So here's the thing. Of course it didn't make it anywhere, but I like it regardless.

26.2.16

Zootopia (2016)

It's so rare that I got to watch a film before its official opening in the US, an animation all the more so. Such a good chance I cannot not write something about it, especially because the film is awesome.

If you are expecting Walt Disney Animation Studios to continue the good work it has been doing with recent non-princessy stories, namely Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Big Hero 6 (2014), I guarantee you won't be disappointed. I wasn't. In fact, if you've been following the news, you know their successful streak has started to trigger a whole debate about Disney becoming better than Pixar. I admit that I was disappointed back in 2012, the year Pixar released Brave but Disney had Wreck-It Ralph. If you'd associated Disney with "worse" animations, you'd have to reconsider your position. Disney are making better films, that's for sure. Nonetheless, films from these two studios are hardly on the same plane. Disney films have totally different vibes to them, regardless of the quality. I would say a comparison between the two studios is not quite desirable because of the fine line between the characteristics of their films.

Zootopia has a perfect story structure, which reminds me of Ratatouille (2007), my favorite Pixar film. It might be the case that they both only follow the same formula to build their stories, but anyway I'm fond of the resemblance. The two stories, however, are not at all interchangeable, and not just because of the color schemes, which are always more vibrant and more popping in the case of Disney films. A signature Disney move, which makes the whole argument in favor of Disney getting the animation throne from Pixar so sickening, is the scene near the end of the film where they just have to read out the moral of the story. (Maybe Big Hero 6 escapes that treatment, but Big Hero 6 is from Marvel.) I couldn't imagine Pixar doing the same thing, which seems to be saying something about the two different targets. Disney has been doing this since the beginning of time, it's just when the films are better it's easier to accept. And guess what, Zootopia is good enough.

The story of Zootopia is excellent, especially in the context of the US with all the talks on discrimination. Discrimination is something that isn't supposed to exist in a "utopia," though as we audience have been too familiar with the dystopian scifi wave, we know how terrible it could be to live in a dystopia, which is basically created in the image of our real world, and how a utopia could hardly better than its dystopian counterpart. (Doubt it? Read the classic "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin.) Zootopia, to my relief, isn't that kind of totalitarian utopia. It tries to promote equal opportunities, not by cutting down the ones that are better, but by acknowledging the potential of different species in the face of clearly shaped stereotypes. Zootopia is where "anyone could be anything." The American dream, isn't it? The thing about dreams, or utopias, is, however, they don't play out in reality the way we expect them to. Dreams are vulnerable. One massive blow, and they get smashed down, and you're back to fitting in the stereotype, whatever society's seen you as. Nick is just a sly fox. Judy is just a dumb bunny. Predators are just savage. But guess who doesn't conform to stereotypes? Not only our heroes, I warn you, but also the villain. If you like Dan Brown, I bet you'll like Zootopia, because using something one despises for one's own cause is pretty much the common theme. And if you read enough Dan Brown (2 books, in my case), you could definitely guess who the villain is before it's revealed. That's not important, though, because it's not the point (unlike Dan Brown's).

The point really is "life is not a cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your dreams come true, so let it go." I guess our animal characters are not the only ones capable of changing huh? Big thanks to John Lasseter, who's led Disney to this age of stably good productions. "John Lasseter, forever and always" was the first thing that popped up in my head when walking home from Zootopia. (I hope I can say the same about Brad Bird after watching The Incredibles 2. I know we all do.)

I could say more about how fulfilling the story of Zootopia is to me, as every little detail is carefully planned to have a significant effect, but I believe you would get the most out of it by just going to the cinemas and watch it. Please. You won't be disappointed, pinky promise.

24.12.15

2016 wishlist (wish-to-do list)

This is a thing everyone else has been making and I have been resisting forever: a wishlist, a goal list, a resolution list, a to-do list; whatever, a list by any other name would be as daunting. Nonetheless, it is the right way to go.

1. Write a decent senior thesis. I have (kind of) decided on this. I'm writing a historical novel. There are tons of details to figure out and tons of planning to do, but it seems oddly doable.

2. Start and complete a 365 project. To find the beauty in the viewfinder again. I fell out of love some time during this weary year, and it's such a waste. If NaNoWriMo has taught me anything at all, it is that consistency is valuable, momentum is valuable. It's worth building.

3. Graduate. I must be a terrible student if I can't graduate on time. I don't think I'm getting near that terrible yet.

4. Not be unemployed. Unemployment is my worst fear. Permanent unemployment ranks above cockroaches and mosquitoes in the list of my enemies.

5. Travel to Japan. If I'm lucky. This, as many enjoyable things in life, requires money. Remember that Japan is not a cheap country. So if I was unemployed, my only travel destination would be hell and Japan would forever be a dream.

6. Start learning Japanese. Not serious learning, just for the purpose of travel. I have been avoiding it because Japanese is hard. But now I see any amount would be better than zero. Again, huge thanks to NaNo, which leads us to the next one...

7. Win NaNoWriMo. After all those years of knowing NaNo, I finally tried NaNo for the first time this year and fell in love. The community aspect is super helpful and super duper fun. I had a great time. I managed to write most days, except for that really bad week in which I had two presentations and two papers due or so. Next November I won't be in school, so I no longer have an excuse for not winning.

8. Start learning chữ Nôm. I'm not set on this yet. I just think it could be fun and useful, but I'll have to see how things go.

9. Record 300+ index cards. I procrastinated the other day by designing a whole index system. Might as well put it to good use.

10. Keep learning Korean and Cantonese and English. My language skill is a nightmare. With three different things to master I should be able to find joy in learning though. When I'm tired of one thing I can just switch to another. It will work out, right?

11. Write 10+ articles on Medium. I think Medium is a great platform, so I should really make use of it. I have ideas what to write, I'm just lazy.

12. Do more web design. It's fun and beneficial, plus I kinda have a responsibility. I have a bookshop site and a magazine site to complete. Those are the minimum.

Those are twelve things for twelve months, so it shouldn't be overwhelming right?

In general, I hope my 2016 won't turn out to be a disaster. Not that my 2015, or any other year, has, but, you know, just in case.

23.12.15

Goodbye, Camera.

The first episode in the series of “Diary in Screenplay Format.”

18.12.15

2015: Year in Review

Definitely not the kind of things I would normally write, but there's a first time for everything, right?

2015 has been the hell of a year. If I could describe it in one word, the word would be unprofessional™. Mostly inspired by HSBC HK, but I admit, I've had my fair share.

A more in-depth report:
  • The first half of 2015, in hindsight, was pretty terrible, for my health at least. I was taking 6 classes and monitoring a student club and working a part-time job and dealing with my study abroad documents. So there was a time I barely slept for four days straight. (I was sleeping like one hour per night, barely enough to keep me from going insane.) There was also a blackout moment that I could kind of recall. So it was pretty intense. I should have dropped the stupid class, but again, it was a major class. Other than that, I have absolutely no regret. I know we should have done better, we could have done better even, but I gave everything I had already. By the end of the semester, I was a dead fish. A happy dead fish, though.
  • Summer break was short and sweet. Quality time with family. I succeeded in my attempt to be a little productive, but in general, home and productive don't go well together. But I got to eat all the avocados I could eat, so who cares. Mmmmhm. Oh, and more frustrating stuff with my study abroad semester. I survived, but was thoroughly annoyed.
  • But then, Hong Kong! Hong Kong greeted me with her incredible humidity--more humid than Hanoi, can you believe it? I felt pretty much like a freshman all over again, joining OTs and going on trips and stuff. The beginning of the semester was fun and frustrating at the same time when I, again, had to deal with document stuff. People at my home school also had to go through the change in course registration and complained like hell, but at least their new system wasn't as screwed up as HKU's. I couldn't get in a lot of classes I wanted, but the ones I got were quite good too. 5 classes, and I found myself plenty of free time. So I went to see films quite a lot as HK had amazing film festivals continuously coming up and also there was a club in HKU holding weekly screenings (September - October). And then, guess who finally got around to participate in NaNoWriMo in November? I know it sounds kind of stupid, like I went on study abroad where I could have the time of my life, and challenging myself to write 50000 words in a month was my idea of fun? But the NanoHK community is so great, and I always love it when I get to hang out with people and do things instead of talking all the time. (I don't talk, remember?) We did our own things and shared the spirit. Couldn't be any better. Of course I didn't win NaNoWriMo: I was on track until past 20K but then school got in the way, so I ended up with a little over 30K. Still a win, as I'd never written so much in my life. Then for December I went back to write academic papers, but it wasn't too bad. For the whole 4-month semester, I slept almost every day, except for once. That had never ever happened ever since I left for college. HK has showed me that education doesn't necessarily come at the expense of yourself. Truly mind-blowing.
(That was disproportional, as expected of my memory. But I have tons more of things to say about HK, and I'll make sure to write them down, so watch out.)

So uhm, the conclusion? 2015 has been the hell of a year. An emotional roller-coaster ride. Thank you, 2015, for everything, the bad and the good. Though if I could take all the good without the bad, I would make the deal without batting an eye. Haha. It's just I think the bad was valuable too, in a way? But still, bad feels bad.

May 2016 be good. May 2016 be anything but unprofessional and financially unstable. I'm not ready for you yet, but I will be in time.

21.10.15

[GIF] Heart (2015)

Heart photo Heart.gif

Okay this is a different GIF from the one I mentioned the other day. I just like GIFs haha. A lot of fun to make.
A bit of contextualization: 1) My knee was injured during a hike, not because of the hike itself but because silly me fell on the concrete road -_- (of course I also fell during the hike but falling into soil left at most skin-deep cuts; concrete was much more destructive) and 2) I have been listening to various versions of "Breakeven" (links in order of my preference: cover by Maddi Jane | cover by Jayesslee | original by The Script).
What am I supposed to say when I'm all choked up and you're okay?
Not good enough for closure material but it helps. And does a thing without an opening deserve a closure? I'm just trying not to be the coward I usually am, but ugh, it's hard.