Thursday, September 1, 2016

"The End of Fantasy: Framing State TV within Chinese Documentaries"

My essay "The End of Fantasy: Framing State TV within Chinese Documentaries" is now published online (at this link here) by, and thanks to, the China Policy Institute based at the University of Nottingham.

The essay was inspired by locating differences between documentary techniques and state television strategies while attending a conference in the summer of 2014 when Chinese documentarian Wu Wenguang joined a group of film scholars at the "The Tangled Dynamics of Independent Filmmaking in Contemporary China: Wu Wenguang 吴文光 as Artist in Residence at UC San Diego" conference from June 16-22.

I was grateful to attend and participate in the weeklong event alongside excellent scholars and organizers Paul Pickowicz and Yingjin Zhang. Each day we watched hours of documentary footage, including Li Ning’s Tape and Wu Wenguang’s films and more, and in the afternoon we discussed ideas, theories, and questions with Wu Wenguang who responded graciously and kept the ideas rolling. The essay is an excerpt of a longer piece written in response to the numerous films we watched and the conversations inspired by Wu Wenguang’s oeuvre.

An article on the pioneering documentary filmmaking work of Wu Wenguang can be located here. And below is a brief video clip available online:

"Taiwan Cinema" & "Taiwan Literature" Encyclopedia Entries

I am pleased to announce the publication of two encyclopedia entries on the topics of "Taiwan Cinema" and "Taiwan Literature" in a volume just released:

Pop Culture in Asia and Oceania, edited by Jeremy A. Murray and Kathleen M. Nadeau.
A link to the website is located here.

As stated on the publisher ABC-CLIO's website:

"This entertaining introduction to Asian pop culture covers the global superstars, music idols, blockbuster films, and current trends—from the eclectic to the underground—of East Asia and South Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Pakistan, as well as Oceania. The rich content features an exploration of the politics and personalities of Bollywood, a look at how baseball became a huge phenomenon in Taiwan and Japan, the ways in which censorship affects social media use in these regions, and the influence of the United States on the movies, music, and Internet in Asia."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

“The Assassin: Hou Hsiao-hsien's Wuxia Aesthetic” Conference

I'm looking forward to the presenting at the upcoming “The Assassin: Hou Hsiao-hsien's Wuxia Aesthetic” Conference 《刺客聶隱娘》:侯孝賢的武俠藝術」國際學術研討會 at Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan later this June, 29-30 2016. The abstract of my paper is below:

“The Antithesis of What We Might Expect”:
Viewing The Assassin in the New Punk Cinema Tradition

I heard that when The Assassin was screened at the 68th Cannes International Film Festival the reaction among critics was not whether or not Hou Hsiao-hsien’s film was the most beautiful film at the festival, but if it was the most beautiful film ever made. So how is it that countless audience members who are attracted to HHH’s films based on glowing film reviews claim that watching his films is pure torture (nothing happens, they say) before walking out feeling animosity towards his films? To answer this question, I study the film techniques and narrative form of The Assassin as part of the punk cinema tradition. After all, negative reactions to HHH films remind me of those elicited by audiences who enthusiastically attend punk shows--consider the responses to late 1970s England punk band Sex Pistols or early 1990s Taiwan punk band LTK Commune performances--yet depart perplexed because their expectations were perhaps based on traditional norms and reference points that the artists seemingly had no intention of acknowledging. To make this case, I follow a description by Stacy Thompson from Nicholas Rombes’ edited book New Punk Cinema: "But the punk cinema aesthetics is, in fact, the antithesis of what we might expect. Instead of fast-moving narratives, numerous cuts both within and between shots, innumerable scenes, and frequent jump cuts, punk film-makers do just the opposite. To resist the easy commodification of their films, they slow their narrative pace to a crawl, scarcely move the camera, make infrequent cuts and, in general, forego most of the techniques that would lend their films commercial viability” (25). Just as punk music avoids mainstream conventions but retains a loyal following, HHH’s The Assassin eschews techniques expected of popular filmmakers yet resonates with an arthouse scene accustomed to his strategies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Wei Te-Sheng, 2011): Mini-Film Review

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale 賽德克•巴萊 is a four and a half hour epic account of resistance in Taiwan during an era of Japanese colonization in the 1930s. Directed by Wei Te-Sheng, director of Cape No. 7 (2008), the story follows Mona Rudao as he leads a mission--that he knows will eventually fail--with 300 Seediq aboriginal warriors against Japanese civilians and ultimately the Japanese military who eventually crush the uprising.


Mona Rudao is instilled with certainty that he is on the right side of history and that upon his death he will see his ancestors, so the film's most tragic and genuinely heart-breaking depictions are those of women and children on both sides of the multi-faceted conflict who are caught in the crosshairs of colonization. Most of the depictions of the Seediq peoples resonate with authenticity on the screen; however, the small scale depiction (despite some 1500 extras) of the Japanese colonial machinery is not as impressive compared to other historical war films. Over all, a few narrative gaps and a handful melodramatic depictions of nature clearly created via CGI make the film difficult to concentrate on consistently--similar to what happens to viewers who disengage from Zach Snyder films--even though numerous scenes are as memorable, moving, and impressive as any recorded on film today.

Slow Dance (Dane Reynolds, 2013): Mini-Film Review

Surfing is pretty much impossible to describe to people. So it's fitting that surf films are similarly pretty much impossible to describe to people who don't know what a surf film is. Is it a documentary (sometimes), is it a music video with surf footage thrown in (sometimes), does it have a story (sometimes)? Fortunately, there is person named Dane Reynolds who is making the best "impossible to describe" videos over at Marine Layer Productions.

Dane Reynolds film "Slow Dance" is an awesome, avant-garde snapshot of surfer Craig Anderson and his influences. Running at around 30 minutes, it throws together all kinds of mediums and still works. Umberto Eco once wrote: "The artist who protests through form...shows his acceptance of the world as it is, in full crisis, by formulating a new grammar that rests not on a system of organization but on an assumption of disorder." (The Open Work, 141). This quotation applies to this film Slow Dance, I believe.

Here's one more Dane Reynolds video for our collective viewing pleasure.

Come Hell or High Water (Malloy, 2011): Mini-Film Review

Come Hell or High Water (Keith Malloy, 2011) is a Woodshed Films release that depicts the unmarketable, and thus unpopular & generally disregarded, activity of bodysurfing. As the 41 minute film shows, its tough for transnational surfing corporations to make money off of something that only requires a body and swim fins--and only if desired, a contraption of any shape--to plane across a wave. Yet this is at the same time bodysurfing's richest quality. It takes skill, courage, and passion. And it's in the ocean (and sometimes, rivers). It's fun and freeing. The sensation of bodysurfing is communicated here so completely that "torpedo people" will get it, but so will anyone whose happiness ensures they won't get those frown lines that crease the faces of grumpy folks when they're old.

Come Hell or High Water Trailer

Uncharted Waters (Griffin, 2013): Mini-Film Review

Uncharted Waters: The Personal History of Wayne Lynch (Craig Griffin, 2013) is an 87 minute documentary of a pioneering Australian surfer whose influence is imprinted today on surf culture around the globe whether surfers are conscious or unconscious of this fact. Wayne Lynch, from Lorne, Australia, was an innovative surfer in terms of both board design (shorter) and style (vertical surfing) and politics (anti-Vietnam War) in the 1960s and 1970s. Just as importantly, today Lynch's anti-establishment ethos is embodied by anyone who thinks they are sticking it to the Man by catching a wave, including, without any irony, the surf companies who have capitalized on selling this idea for decades. The film resorts to platitudes and generalizations instead of fully uncovering Lynch's demons. Still, it's the most intimate and captivating account of Lynch available. It's well-crafted as well as essential, inspiring viewing.

Uncharted Waters Trailer

Mean Streets (Scorsese, 1973): Mini-Film Review

Martin Scorsese's third feature film, and the first Scorsese film with Robert De Niro, is a stunning early work that deserves continued attention. And not only because it is indicative of what the director would eventually produce, but because it is great in its own right. Even though the title, Mean Streets, sounds epic in scale and scope, in fact the film is an intimate character sketch of a young gangster named Charlie (Harvey Keitel) who aspires to own a restaurant in Little Italy.

Charlie embodies the values of dying traditions, yet he also tries to reinvigorate and re-imagine them in a sexist, racist, and homophobic New York environment; for example, he believes that brotherly bonds should supersede financial relationships and that one atones for one's sins on one's own terms rather than following Christ and the church. This means that Charlie stands close to the fire, both metaphorically and literally, in a film that slowly ratchets up the tension as Charlie's ideals and his reality intersect.

See this link for the New York Times review of the film in 1973.

Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms

電影理論詞彙  //  中英對照
Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms

When I started studying Chinese film history I would have benefited from having list of film terms to memorize so that I could read through articles, interviews, and documents more fluidly. So recently, with this in mind, I created a list of often used terms used in film related books and articles.

What makes this and the following posts in this series unique, and hopefully fairly comprehensive, is that the vocabulary lists include terms that help one describe a film scene (開場   kāichǎng   opening scene) and analyze a film scene (意味著   yìwèizhe   signify) in addition to providing typical film personnel (攝影師    shèyǐngshī   cinematographer) and film production terms (中景  zhōngjǐng  medium shot).

The terms are divided into five categories for Chinese language learners. Each category below links to a specific page with its own vocabulary set:

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms
2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms
3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms
4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene
5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1 and Part 2

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms

電影理論詞彙  //  中英對照
Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms


This post features film genre terms. Additional learning Chinese links include:

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms
2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms
3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms
4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene
5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1 and Part 2


Film Genre Terms

悲劇     bēijù  tragedy
动作片  dòngzuòpiàn  action film
動畫片  dònghuàpiàn  animation
短片     duǎnpiàn  short film
諷刺     fěngcì  satire
改編     gǎibiān  adaptation
歌舞片  gēwǔpiàn  musical
賀歲片  hèsuìpiàn  Lunar New Year movie
經典     jīngdiǎn  classic
記/紀錄片 jìlùpiàn  documentary
恐怖片  kǒngbù piàn  horror film
連續劇  liánxùjù  TV series
通俗劇  tōngsújù  melodrama
愛情片  àiqíngpiàn  romance film
色情片  sèqíng piàn  pornography
文藝片  wényì piàn  melodrama
喜劇片  xǐjùpiàn  comedy
續集     xùjí  sequel
藝術片  yìshùpiān  arthouse film
預告片  yùgàopiàn   trailer

2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms

電影理論詞彙  //  中英對照
Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms


This post features film technique and production terms. Additional learning Chinese links include:

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms
2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms
3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms
4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene
5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1 and Part 2


Film Technique and Production Terms

編劇  biānjù  screenwriting, screenwriter 
編輯  biānjí  edit, compile
大遠景  dàyuǎnjǐng  (big) long shot
底片  dǐpiàn  film negative
淡出  dànchū  fade out
淡如  dànrú  fade in
道具  dàojù  movie prop
電影節  diànyǐngjié  film festival
電視  diànshì  TV
俯瞰  fǔkàn  look down at/ crane shot
服裝  fúzhuāng  costumes
服裝設計  fúzhuāng shèjì  fashion design
化裝  huàzhuāng  makeup
海報  hǎibào  poster
剪接  jiǎnjiē  edit, montage (v.)
剪輯  jiǎnjí  edit, montage (n./v.)
劇本  jùběn  script
劇照  jùzhào  film still
焦點  jiāodiǎn  focus, focal point
監製  jiānzhì  producer
聚焦  jùjiāo  focus
膠卷  jiāojuǎn  unexposed film
膠片  jiāopiàn  film
近景  jìnjǐng  close-up
鏡頭  jìngtóu  camera lens, shot
寬銀幕  kuānyínmù  widescreen
快鏡頭  kuài jìngtóu  fast motion
開麥拉  kāimàilā  camera
立體  lìtǐ  3D
錄音  lùyīn  sound recording
媒體  méitǐ  media
慢鏡頭  mànlùyīn  slow motion
拍攝  pāishè  shoot/film
票房  piàofáng  box office
取景  qǔjǐng  viewfinder (on a camera)
人物  rénwù  character
攝影機  shèyǐngjī  movie camera
攝製  shèzhì  produce a film
數位  shùwèi  digital
數位化  shùwèihuà  digitalization
首映  shǒuyìng  (first-run movie)
文本  wénběn  version, text
印片  yìnpiān  film development (printing)
影城  yǐngchéng  film studio/center
影片  yǐngpiàn  film
遠景  yuǎnjǐng  long shot
遠鏡頭  yuǎnjìngtóu  long shot
音響  yīnxiǎng  sound
中景  zhōngjǐng  medium shot
自傳  zìzhuàn  autobiography
製片廠  zhìpiànchǎng  film studio

3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms

電影理論詞彙  //  中英對照
Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms


This post features film personnel terms. Additional learning Chinese links include:

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms
2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms
3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms
4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene
5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1 and Part 2


Film Personnel Terms

布景师  bùjǐng shī  art director
編劇  biānjù  screenwriting, screenwriter
編劇  biānjù  write a script/ scriptwriter
場記  chǎngjì  clapper loader or 2nd AC
導演  dǎoyǎn  direct/director
電影明星  diànyǐng míngxīng  movie star
巨星  jùxīng  star
女主角  nǚzhǔjué  female lead
男主角  nánzhǔjué  male lead
評論家  pínglùnjiā  critic
配角  pèijué  supporting role
審查  shěnchá  censor (censorship), examine
攝影師  shèyǐngshī  cinematographer
協理  xiélǐ  assistant manager
影評人  yǐngpíngrén  film critic
演員  yǎnyuán  actor, performer
主演  zhǔyǎn  leading role
主角  zhǔjué  leading role
作曲家  zuòqǔjiā  composer
助理  zhùlǐ  assistant

4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene

電影理論詞彙  //  中英對照
Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms


This post features "describing a film scene" terms. Additional learning Chinese links include:

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms
2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms
3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms
4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene
5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1 and Part 2


Describing a Film Scene Terms

包圍  bāowéi   surround
扮演  bànyǎn   perform, act
背景  bèijǐng  background
表演  biǎoyǎn perform, act
表現  biǎoxiàn  display
場景  chǎngjǐng  scene, setting 
場面  chǎngmiàn  scene, appearance
成份  chéngfèn  components
長鏡頭  cháng jìngtóu   long take
地點  dìdiǎn   site, place
對白  duìbái  dialogue
縫合  fénghé  suture
構想  gòuxiǎng   visualize, conceptualize
觀念  guānniàn   concept
觀眾  guānzhòng   audience
觀點  guāndiǎn   point of view
畫面  huàmiàn   tableau
黑白畫  hēibáihuà  ink-painting
劇情  jùqíng  plot, diegetic
基調  jīdiào   central theme
技術  jìshù   technology, technique
景色  jǐngsè   scene, landscape
景觀  jǐngguān   landscape
景觀鏡頭   jǐngguān jìngtóu landscape shot
極其  jíqí   extremely
結構  jiégòu  structure, composition
角度  jiǎodù  angle, perspective
角色  juésè   role
階段  jiēduàn   stage
客觀  kèguān   objectivity/ objective
空間  kōngjiān open spaces
開場  kāichǎng   opening scene
領悟  lǐngwù   comprehend, understand
類型  lèixíng   type
媒介  méijiè   medium
片段  piànduàn   fragment
配樂  pèiyuè   dub background music
情景  qíngjǐng  scene, circumstance
情節  qíngjié   plot
實驗性 shíyàn xìng  experimental
聲音  shēngyīn  sound, voice
視覺  shìjué   visual, visual sense
視界  shìjiè  visual field
視角  shìjiǎo  visual angle
視野  shìyě  field of vision
說故事 shuō gùshi  tell a story
飾演  shìyǎn  perform a role
題材  tícái  subject
物質  wùzhì   matter, substance
寫實  xiěshí  realistic
形象  xíngxiàng  image, imagery
心境  xīnjìng  state of mind, mood
敘事  xùshì  narrate
現場  xiànchǎng  scene
現實  xiànshí  real, reality
細節  xìjié    details, particulars
肖像  xiàoxiàng portrait
虛擬  xūnǐ   fictitious, virtual
鮮明  xiānmíng  bright, distinct
仰角  yǎngjiǎo  angle of elevation
原本  yuánběn  original
原著  yuánzhù  original work
影像  yǐngxiàng   image, portrait
影壇  yǐngtán  film circles (in the industry)
影子  yǐngzi  shadow
影展  yǐngzhǎn  film festival
影評  yǐngpíng  film review
意境  yìjìng  creative concept
意象  yìxiàng  image, imagery
樣貌  yàngmào  appearance, shape
議題  yìtí  topic
運動  yùndòng   move, movement
音軌  yīn guǐ    soundtrack
主觀  zhǔguān  subjectivity/ subjective
主觀鏡頭  zhǔguān jìngtóu subjective (POV) shot
仔細閱讀  zǐxì yuèdú   close reading
作品  zuòpǐn    works, productions
展現  zhǎnxiàn  unfold, develop
狀態  zhuàngtài  condition
組成  zǔchéng   compose
縱橫交錯  zònghéngjiāocuò   crisscross

5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1

電影理論詞彙  //  中英對照
Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms

This post is part 1 of a list of terms which might be used to analyze a film scene or cultural studies topic. Part 2 can be located at this link here.

Additional learning Chinese links include:

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms
2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms
3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms
4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene
5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1 and Part 2


Cultural Studies and Film Studies Analysis Terms


暗示   ànshì   suggest
曖昧   àimèi  ambiguous, shady
不具   bùjù   incomplete, insufficient
不息   bùxī    incessantly
不自覺   bù zìjué   subconsciously
不變   bùbiàn   fixed, constant
保守   bǎoshǒu  conservative
保持   bǎochí  maintain
保留   bǎoliú   retain
捕捉   bǔzhuō  seize
本質   běnzhì   essence, nature
標榜   biāobǎng   flaunt, excessively
表情   biǎoqíng  expression
表達   biǎodá   convey
邊界   biānjiè   boundary; border
邊緣   biānyuán   margin, edge, borderline
傳達   chuándá   transmit
出現   chūxiàn   appear
創造   chuàngzào   create
呈現   chéngxiàn  appear
層面   céngmiàn  layer, surface
差異性  chāyìxìng   difference
採用   cǎiyòng    use, adopt
揣摩   chuǎimó   speculate
次要   cìyao   secondary
穿插   chuānchā   alternate, insert
超越   chāoyuè   exceed, transcend
錯亂   cuòluàn   in a state of confusion
動人   dòngrén  moving
單 純  dānchún   simple, plain
多層次  duōcéngcì   multilayered
對比   duìbǐ   contrast
得知   dézhī  v. know, learn about
調度   diàodù   manage, control
顛覆   diānfù  subvert
分析   fēnxi  analyze
反射   fǎnshè   reflect
反應   fǎnyìng   respond, reaction
反映   fǎnyìng   reflect
彷彿   fǎngfú  seem
氛圍   fēnwéi   atmosphere
符號   fúhào   symbol
複雜   fùzá   complex
豐富   fēngfù  rich
負面   fùmiàn   reverse side
風格   fēnggé   style
公式   gōngshì  formula
功能   gōngnéng  function
感言   gǎnyán    impressions
概念   gàiniàn  concept
歸納   guīnà   sum up, conclude
溝通   gōutōng   communicate
觀察   guānchá  observe
觀看   guānkàn   view
過於   guòyú   excessively
關懷   guānhuái   concern for
關連   guānlián   connected
高度   gāodù   high degree, height
含意   hányì   meaning, implication
含蓄   hánxù  contain
喚起   huànqǐ   arouse, recall
回應   huíyìng  response
回顧   huígù   review, retrospective
宏觀   hóngguān  cosmos, macroscopic
忽略   hūlüè    neglect, overlook
恆久   héngjiǔ  constant, persistent
核心   héxīn   nucleus
毫無   háowú  completely lack
混亂   hùnluàn    chaotic
混沌   hùndùn   primal chaos, muddled
基本   jīběn   fundamental
境界   jìngjiè   boundary, state
建構   jiàngòu   construct
接受   jiēshòu  accept, receive
接合   jiēhé    connect, link
檢視   jiǎnshì  inspect
激賞   jīshǎng  praise
積累   jīlěi    accumulate
節奏   jiézòu  rhythm
簡單   jiǎndān  simple
精確   jīngquè    precise
精華   jīnghuá   essence
經歷   jīnglì   experience
經濟   jīngjì   economy
緊接著  jǐnjiēzhe  immediately after
解構   jiěgòu  v. analyze, deconstruct
解讀   jiědú   decipher
記憶   jìyì   remember, memory
解釋   jiěshì   expound, interpret
刻意   kèyì   meticulous, painstakingly
考古學  kǎogǔxué   archeology
跨國   kuàguó   transnational
跨文化   kuà wénhuà  transcultural
屢屢   lǚlǚ   repeatedly
歷史性  lìshǐxìng  historic, historicity
理解   lǐjiě    understand, comprehend
理論   lǐlùn  theory
論述   lùnshù   discuss, expound
連結   liánjié   join, link
類似   lèisì  similar to
描繪   miáohuì depict, describe
描述   miáoshù   describe
明確   míngquè    clear
模擬   mónǐ   imitate, simulate
模糊   móhu   vague, blurred
美學   měixué  aesthetics
美術   měishù    fine arts
馬克斯主義  mǎkèsī zhǔyì Marxism
內涵   nèihán  intention, connotation
濃厚   nónghòu   strong, pronounced
濃密   nóngmì   dense, intense
偶發   ǒufā   occasional, spontaneous

5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 2

電影理論詞彙  //  中英對照
Basic Chinese Cinema Studies & Film Analysis Terms

This post is part 2 of a list of terms which might be used to analyze a film scene or cultural studies topic. Part 1 can be located at this link here.

Additional learning Chinese links include:

1) Learning Chinese: Film Genre Terms
2) Learning Chinese: Film Technique & Production Terms
3) Learning Chinese: Film Personnel Terms
4) Learning Chinese: Describing a Film Scene
5) Learning Chinese: Cultural Studies and Film Studies Terms, Part 1 and Part 2


Cultural Studies and Film Studies Analysis Terms


判定   pàndìng   judge, determine
批評   pīpíng   criticize
旁白   pángbái  aside (remark)
普泛   pǔfàn  widespread, universal
評審   píngshěn  examine/evaluate
評論   pínglùn  review, critique
陪襯   péichèn   to enhance by contrast
頗為   pōwéi  somewhat
全球化  quánqiúhuà  globalization
區別   qūbié   distinguish
巧妙   qiǎomiào   ingenious
強勢   qiángshì  emphasis
強調   qiángdiào   stress
情緒   qíngxù   emotion
親密   qīnmì   intimate
仍舊   réngjiù    still, as before
善於   shànyú  be good at
實際   shíjì   reality, actual
庶民   shùmín  the masses
思念   sīniàn   long for
手法   shǒufǎ  skill, technique
散發   sànfā   diffuse, distribute
深刻   shēnkè   profound
深度   shēndù  depth
生存   shēngcún  exist
疏離   shūlí   become alienated, drift apart
設定   shèdìng   establish
試圖   shìtú   attempt
試論   shìlùn   deal with
詩學   shīxué  poetics
說明   shuōmíng  explain
凸顯   tūxiǎn   magnify
探討   tàntǎo  explore
推測   tuīcè   infer, conjecture
提供   tígōng   supply
提出見解   tíchū jiànjiě   state one’s opinions
特徵   tèzhēng   characteristic
特效   tèxiào  positive effect
突兀   tūwù   towering, unexpected
唯一   wéiyī   only, sole
宛若   wǎnruò   be just like
文化學  wénhuà xué cultural studies
為例   wéilì   as an example
無形   wúxíng   invisible, intangible
無法   wúfǎ   unable to
無窮   wúqióng   infinite
學術   xuéshù  academic
宣傳工具   xuānchuán gōngjù   means of propaganda
形容   xíngróng  describe
形體   xíngtǐ  form, structure
心理   xīnlǐ    psychology
性質   xìngzhì   nature
戲劇性   xìjùxìng  dramatic
系統   xìtǒng   system, device
象徵   xiàngzhēng  symbolize
顯得   xiǎnde  look, appear
顯示   xiǎnshì   show, display
一貫   yīguàn    consistent
仰賴   yǎnglài  rely on
優雅   yōuyǎ  graceful
元素   yuánsù   element
印象   yìnxiàng  impression
因果關係   yīn-guǒ guānxi  causality
娛樂   yúlè    amusement
寓意   yùyì   allusion, message
延續   yánxù  continue
引發   yǐnfā  evoke
愈發   yùfā   even more
意味著   yìwèizhe   signify
意義   yìyì    meaning
意識   yìshi  consciousness, mentality
有效   yǒuxiào   effective      
有系統   yǒu xìtǒng  systematic
游離   yóulí   dissociated, drifting
藝術   yìshù   art, skill
遠向   yuǎnxiàng   long time
隱含   yǐnhán   imply
隱喻   yǐnyù   metaphor
隱約   yǐnyuē   indistinct, faint
隱藏   yǐncáng   hide, conceal
韻律   yùnlǜ   meter, rhythm
預感   yùgǎn   premonition
預示   yùshì  indicate
主題   zhǔtí   theme, motif
仔細   zǐxì   careful
專訪   zhuānfǎng   report (n.)
指出   zhǐchū    point out
指涉   zhǐshè   refer to, reference
指示   zhǐshì   indicate
政治   zhèngzhì politics
暫時   zànshí   temporary
直指   zhízhǐ directed at/aimed towards
直接   zhíjiē  direct, immediate
真實   zhēnshí  real, authentic
真正   zhēnzhèng   genuine, real
秩序   zhìxù  order; sequence
自然   zìrán  natural
自覺   zìjué   conscious
著重   zhuózhòng   stress
質疑   zhìyí   challenge
重要性   zhòngyàoxìng   importance, significance
針對   zhēnduì  aimed at
雜亂   záluàn   disorderly

Friday, April 22, 2016

Taiwan Films: Symposium, Screenings, and New Book Release

Butler Library, Columbia University

The link to the press release for the April 21-22, 2016 Columbia University "Symposium and Screening of Taiwan Cinema to Celebrate New Book by Columbia University Press" is here:

The book release is for An Annotated Bibliography for Taiwan Film Studies by Jim Cheng, Sachie Noguchi, and James Wicks. The symposium includes presentations by Professors Guo-juin Hong, Robert Rui-Shou Chen, and James Wicks and screenings of Banana Paradise / 香蕉天堂 (Wang Tong, 1989, Buddha, Bless America / 太平天國 (Wu Nien-Jen, 1996), Maverick / 菜鳥 (2015), and 10 + 10 (Hou Hsiao-hsien et al., 2011).

An Annotated Bibliography for Taiwan Film Studies (Columbia UP, 2016)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Transnational Panels at AAS, Seattle 2016

I remain fascinated by the transnational as a theoretical framework. The organic ways in which this approach can take into account border crossings, while recording the unequal power exchange that might occur when bodies, ideas, and products move across national and other boundaries, seems to ensure that the transnational remains a relevant approach in multiple disciplines today.

However at times, when the “transnational” is used, the theoretical framework of the term is assumed rather than explained. In addition, the connections and differences between transnational studies and global creative industry studies are not always clearly delineated.

Regardless, it was a global creative industries panel that I found used a transnational approach most comprehensively; namely, the “The Rise and Fall of the Anime Boom in the US: Lessons for Global Creative Industries” panel which was interdisciplinary, well-organized, and collaborative. It was also probably my favorite of the Association for Asian Studies conference this year. Featuring commerce data, theory, and authoritative sources including numerous interviews, I was most inspired during the presentations by Nissim Otmazgin’s conclusion that one simultaneously locates deterritorialization (cross-continental mixture) and reterritorialization (distinct national characteristics) when analyzing anime as both creative content and commodity. The dialectic here is one that includes nuances and complex valences. In the process of uncovering these various dynamics, interestingly one still finds aspects of the center-periphery model firmly in place (a supporting comment along these lines can be located on my blog here).

Panels that addressed the transnational also included “Transnational Art in East Asia: The Politics of Exhibitions and Performances in the Twentieth Century” and “Transnationalism, Borderlands, and the History of Archaeology in Twentieth-Century East Asia,” among others.

The former looked at documents from Xinjing that provide local accounts of Aurel Stein's early 20th century expeditions (Justin Jacobs) and cultural exchanges between PRC and US archeologists (Clayton D. Brown), among other thought-provoking inquiries. The latter included discussions of art exhibits and exchanges between Japan and the PRC in the 1950s (Yanfei Yin), KMT art exhibitions in France between 1924-1964 in France (Jennifer Chernick), and Areum Jeong’s fascinating account of activists who are documenting and memorializing the Sewol ferry disaster of 2014.

I was grateful to participate in a panel, inherently comparative in its approach, entitled “Divergences and Convergences: Comparative Studies of Contemporary Literature, Film and Theater in PRC and Taiwan” with papers analyzing theater (Hongjian Wang), poetry (Brian Skerratt), fiction (Chialan Sharon Wang), and film (link to the panel papers here and my abstract here) on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Surprisingly, oftentimes Taiwan and PRC studies are not brought together in such a manner. A transnational comparative approach is essential when doing so, I believe.


Multiple presentations included "Transnational" in their titles; however below is a list of panels that contained in "Transnational" in their panel titles.

61. Legal Shades of Grey: Transnational Commerce in Early Communist China – Sponsored by Historical Society of Twentieth Century China (HSTCC)

92. May Fourth and Its Aftermath in a Transnational Context (missed due to having a panel at the same time)

173. Transnational Art in East Asia: The Politics of Exhibitions and Performances in the Twentieth Century

203. Transnationalism, Borderlands, and the History of Archaeology in Twentieth-Century East Asia

325. Construction of the Early Manchu State: Manchus and Their Transnational Relations from Aspects of Economy and Ideology – Sponsored by the Manchu Studies Group

333. Affiliations, Networks, and Identities: Transnational Chinese Religions in the Modern Period

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cold War Panels at AAS, Seattle 2016

During the Association for Asian Studies conference this year (Seattle, 2016) one of my goals was to attend panels that focused on the Cold War. I have an article in progress that deals with Hong Kong/Taiwan film during the era, so I'm particularly interested in the state of current research on this topic.

Of course, it's not possible to attend all of the panels that address a given topic, and at times interesting panels are scheduled at the same time. And I don't intend to use this forum to critique, or provide a comprehensive state of the field; rather, I just want to record a few highlights and impressions that will likely stay with me for some time following the conference.

On Friday morning, the "Framing Devices: Cold War Manga/Manwha and Popular Media in Japan and Korea" panelists collectively did a marvelous job identifying ways visual texts in new mediascapes "forged in Cold War geopolitics" portray bodies that are ethnicized, nationalized, gendered, at times sensualized, and displayed under a surveillance regime.

The "More than a Mouthpiece: Media Culture in Cold War China" panel, chaired by Jerome Silbergeld, featured presentations on: The Chinese Student Weekly and youth magazines in Hong Kong from 1952-1960 (Poshek Fu); the communal nature of TV viewing in 1970s China (Nicole Xincun Huang); the adaptation of a US television show in China in the early 1980s (Yinyin Xue), and Radio Culture in Cold War Hong Kong (Xiaojue Wang). The panel as a whole reminds one to keep in mind the intersection of multiple media cultures when analyzing the period. For example, as Xiaojue Wang presented, Wong Kar-wai's film In the Mood for Love (2000) includes Cold War-era radio as an important part of its soundtrack.

Saturday's "East Asian Intervention in the Cold War" panel included a presentation by Evelyn Shih on adaptations of 007 films into spy comedies. Examples of these adaptations, one from Taiwan and one from Korea, show the ways that Cold War espionage narratives became the source of humor even as their stories and characters mirrored regional and global conflicts.


Multiple presentations included "Cold War" in their titles; however, below is a list of panels that contained "Cold War" in their panel titles:

38. Framing Devices: Cold War Manga/Manwha and Popular Media in Japan and Korea

163. More than a Mouthpiece: Media Culture in Cold War China

223. “Cure the Sickness to Save the Patient”: Rescuing Thought Work from Cold War Ideology

273. East Asian Intervention in the Cold War: Breaking the Cultural Codes of Race, History, Genre, and Gender

331. Roundtable: JAS (Journal of Asian Studies) at AAS: Contemplating the Cold War in Asia

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Transnational and Totality, A Brief Comment

“In my use of the theory of transnationalism, I align with Fredric Jameson’s view that capitalism can be considered a totalizing system when globalization regards cultural dominants valued by various regional, national, and local cultures solely as hindrances to discard or overturn.(1) Otherwise, simply stating euphorically that cultural exchange--in this case the inspiration, production, and distribution of cinema--is a two-way street, offers too much latitude for global capitalism to disguise its dominance and maintain the unequal power relations it has produced.” 

(1) please see Fredric Jameson’s discussion of totality in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Duke UP, 1992.

-- from James Wicks, Transnational Representations: The State of Taiwan Film in the 1960s and 1970s, HKUP 2014. “Introduction,” xix.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Association for Asian Studies Conference, 2016

It was excellent participating in the Association for Asian Studies Conference in Seattle. The conference included many outstanding panels. Info regarding the panel I presented in, chaired by Hongjian Wang and Chialan Sharon Wang, is below:

"Divergences and Convergences: Comparative Studies of Contemporary 
Literature, Film and Theater in PRC and Taiwan
Friday, 12:45pm-2:45pm

Discussant: Perry Link, Princeton University

"Native Grotesqueness: Contemporary Native-Soil Literature in China and Taiwan" 
-- Chialan Sharon Wang, Fengchia University
"Future Ancestors: Luo Yijun and Wang Anyi’s Postmodern Family Histories" 
-- Brian Skerratt, Chinese University of Hong Kong
"Sympathetic Portrayals in a Sea of Anti-Japanese War Films: Café Lumiere and Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" 
-- James Wicks
"The Fraternal Twins on Stage: Experimental Theater in Mainland China and Taiwan since the 1980s" 
-- Hongjian Wang, Purdue University

 Seattle provided a beautiful setting for the conference.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Devils on the Doorstep (Jiang Wen, 2000): Mini-Film Review

Jiang Wen's (director, writer, star) classic Devils on the Doorstep (2000) is a dark and brooding portrayal of 1945 China at the tail end of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Jiang Wen's film focuses on a group of peasants in rural Hebei China who are asked to hide two prisoners--a Japanese soldier and a Chinese collaborator--by a mysterious figure in the middle of the night who threatens to destroy the peasants' small town if they do not comply. Torn between following this strange order, staying true to their heritage and sound moral character, and avoiding the watchful eye of the encamped Japanese army, the peasants undergo a series of trials that occupy the liminal space between humor and terror until the film's climax. The film is shot in black and white with the exception of an unforgettable sequence captured in color.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Symposium: “Taiwan Cinema: Yesterday and Today” & Book Release

I'm grateful and excited to participate and present at an upcoming symposium & book launch for An Annotated Bibliography for Taiwan Film Studies (Columbia UP). An Annotated Bibliography for Taiwan Film Studies is my second book--it would not have been possible without Jim Cheng, the primary author, researcher, and director of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University who invited Japanese Studies Librarian Sachie Noguchi and myself to co-author it. Link to the event below:

April 21-22, 2016
Columbia University
Sponsored by Columbia University Libraries, Columbia University Press, 
Weather Head East Asian Institute, and Ministry of Culture, Taiwan.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953): Mini-Film Review

Yasujirô Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) represents an elderly couple's travels from small-town Japan to a bustling Tokyo in order to visit their grown children. Although the film moves slowly, interestingly the same question which drives audience interest across multiple film genres--namely, "what will happen next?"--is relevant for viewers here. In a sense, we (always?) already know the answer, so we can reflect on the images as they appear.

Ozu layers imagery in the film--traditional interior shots are collections of right angles, outdoor shots are comprised of diagonal stair-cases and train tracks, people move across streets and boats slide evenly across still water--contrasting stasis and movement. He is rightfully regarded as a master of the long take, even though his technique seems less noticeable today when compared with directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien--whose Café Lumière (2003) was produced as an homage to Ozu's film--and others. However Ozu, I believe, does not get enough credit for his dialogue, which is yet again evenly paced here. It carries the tenor of a film which is a meditation on inter-generational family relationships and the passage of time. 

Tokyo Story Trailer on YouTube

Friday, February 26, 2016

Making a Murderer (dir. Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos, 2015)

... just finished the 10 episode documentary, Making a Murderer by directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos. Although it could have perhaps delivered its story in 7 or 8 episodes, I would highly recommend this thought-provoking series in its entirety. One of the primary questions of the story, as referenced in the title, is whether or not a man who was wrongly accused for 18 years was hardened into a criminal due serving time in the penal system--thus creating a criminal, which would explain his behavior after release--or if he was falsely accused for a murder after his release for which he is currently serving time. The evidence in the series strongly supports his innocence and thus it is heart-wrenching to consider that Steven Avery is in prison for a crime he did not commit.

This story has stayed with me, and it made me think about the ways narratives sustain ideas. Narratives can almost supernaturally suspend ideas for an indefinite period of time, like a note played on a wind instrument that is held beyond what we believe is possible. Sometimes they sustain ideas that are worth maintaining, ideas that would otherwise be fleeting. But by the grace of the author in general, and Ricciardi and Demos specifically, we focus on ideas longer here than we might otherwise, which leads us to new thought-associations that might not be realized if an idea were to emerge and drift away without the framework of a story.

Narratives do many things: they concretize ideology, they over-simplify chaos, they impose conformity where there is diversity. But when a narrative suspends an idea, as it does in Making a Murderer, so that we can walk underneath it, view it from multiple perspectives, sit down and stare at it, forget it when we doze off and then think of it again...the elephant in the room stays there a bit longer.

Sometimes a narrative represents an elephant in the room that is surprisingly calm, patient, impressive and awe-inspiring, and we never realized that such harmony within nature was possible. At other times, as we find here, the elephant in the room--in this case specifically the corrupt judicial system of Manitowoc County--keeps violently ramming into things, destroying precious objects, and it won't go away--and its presence is troubling because it is preventable.

This narrative sustains an idea, based on a historical circumstance, beyond our level of what are we going to do about it? That's a good question here.

"The truth always comes out": Making a Murderer Trailer on YouTube

Friday, February 12, 2016

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Zhang, 2005): Mini-Film Review

Zhang Yimou's 2005 film Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles depicts a Japanese father who travels to China to follow paths taken by his estranged son who discovered his identity by losing himself within the culture and landscape of the mainland. The father's personal mission is conducted hastily since his son has a terminal illness. Along the way, he finds his own path and meets a Chinese boy who helps the elderly man understand the rift that separates him from his son in Japan. What interests me most when viewing it today is the way its parable-like structure provides a vantage point into the psychology of China-Japan relations.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles Trailer

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cassandra's Dream (Allen, 2007): Mini-Film Review

Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream (2007) fits into the director's exploration of subterfuge, vice, and murder in the vein of Match Point (2005) and Irrational Man (2015). Here we find another Allen film in which violence is never isolated but rather violence begets more violence, characters possess an inherent understanding of right from wrong and a clear sense of where the line between the two is positioned, and perhaps most interestingly: characters who have had their debts repaid are more likely to be aware of their moral compass in comparison to those who have been given wealth without earning it on their own.

Cassandra's Dream Premiere at the Toronto Film Festival

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997) & Whale Rider (Caro, 2002)

"Appeals to audiences of all ages and expectations" is the title of a brief film review I wrote for the San Diego Reader. The link is here. The rough draft was titled "Films I Like to Watch with my Daughter" and it covers Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997) and Whale Rider (Caro, 2002).

Princess Mononoke Trailer

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Hateful Eight (Tarantino, 2015): 3 Questions

3 questions come to mind after watching Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight:

1) To what extent is violent artwork necessary? Not in the sense that it appeals to a minor demographic that craves the grotesque, but for all of us in society at large. I've always thought it's not essential. Yet in the west, people have been required to read tales like these since Homer--as a young person I always questioned why the Euro-American tradition considers The Odyssey a classic when it's method of justice is essentially a bloodbath. After all, and to put it bluntly, Odysseus "harms" the suitor Melanthius' scrotum and also hangs his faithless housemaids who kick their feet until their last breaths; echoes of these literary scenes clearly occur to The Hateful Eight characters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) respectively. Even the crucifixion, a representation of which the camera dwells on at length in The Hateful Eight, is violent. And in the end, violence remains. And in the west, these stories are told generation after generation...

2) Is racial harmony only possible when a common adversary is shared? At the end of the film, both Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) share a laugh in harmony while (and only when?) Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) slowly hangs.

3) Is a healthy society one in which biases are openly expressed, or is it one in which people are restricted from offending each other? Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has argued that a healthy culture is one that tells painfully blunt jokes "as part of his maybe dubious strategy of countering racism with “progressive racism” or the “solidarity” of “shared obscenity”—the use of potentially uncomfortable ethnic humor to expose uncomfortable political truths that get repressed or papered over by politeness." Without exception, the characters in  in The Hateful Eight are racist, sexist, ageist, and every other "-ist" condemned in U.S. culture today.

O.K. It's a great movie so I have more than three questions, and the film answers these questions in interesting ways, but I'm stopping here for now.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Best Thing About the Star Wars Prequels

The best thing about the prequel trilogy is the way they have become memories over time. When watching them the first time (and the second time, and tenth time...I've watched all of the episodes so many times with my kids because Star Wars films and Mario Kart are excluded from our family's two-hour screen time rule) it's impossible not to cringe when Jar Jar Binks opens his mouth, Anakin opens his mouth, the battle droids open their mouths, Dex in Dex's Diner opens his mouth, and other things open their mouths.

Arguably, spinning isn't that great of a trick.

Despite Ewan McGregor who single handedly redeemed the franchise, and some really cool scenes that I love: the seismic charges in Episode II when Obi-Wan is evading Jango Fett:
 The soundscape in the prequels is stellar.

...and the moments of silence in Episode III when Anakin and Padme contemplate their fates by looking out over the Coruscant, what is most important to me is how we can picture a young Anakin on Tatooine during the age of the Republic, the Jedi Council, Obi-Wan's duel on Mustafar, and the separation of the young Skywalker twins--without the feeling of embarrassment when watching the films in their entirety.

It's impossible to retain every detail of any film. Like our own memories, we rely on a few images from the past as reference points that signify the whole. When it comes to Star Wars prequels, I take pleasure in remembering only the best details the longer I am distanced from them--probably similar to what has been recorded in happiness studies such as this one from the University of Chicago.

The way in which the past stories remain most effective as memories are wonderfully captured in these videos below. Thanks to Matt Brown (on Twitter @thehangedman) who introduced them to me.

Darth Vader Remembers, posted by Make It Dirty on YouTube

Obi-Wan Remembers The Truth, posted by Shahan Reviews on YouTube

 Star Wars Poetry, posted by Mca Free on YouTube

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Ritchie, 2015): Mini-Film Review

Guy Ritchie's 2015 caper isn't perfect, but the 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes seems pretty odd (as is the 42% given to Woody Allen's outing from the same summer). Sure, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. left my 14 yo behind when we watched the film on Blu-ray the other night, but he was tired after soccer practice, and nationally syndicated reviewers aren't 14, right?

I thought U.N.C.L.E. had to be shot on film to create its retro feel, but no.

Ritchie's films draw attention to technique without relegating story to the background. This one establishes location with innovative shots, integrates (yellow) subtitles and text (of all sizes) in an entertaining manner, and provides character and historical background details creatively. Its car chases could give the Furious franchise pause, and while many scenes would seamlessly fit in a 007 film, this one has a sense of humor to boot. It's funny but no spoof--I laughed so hard during one scene at the theater that I looked around in embarrassment to see if I was the only one laughing and fortunately I wasn't.

One of the film's backstories (of Uncle Rudi) seems to be awkwardly placed, but (as with many films) on repeat viewings you can tell why the filmmakers elected to place the info. where it is, although I think it would have been more effective if presented when the character was first introduced. And actor Alicia Vikander delivers a few lines as unconvincingly as Hayden Christensen in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones--a furrowed brow only expresses so much.

Most importantly, it's disappointing to see a fairly weak female role in a year with such strong female leads in some of the best western mainstream films: Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015), The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015), and Inside Out (Docter & Del Carmen, 2015).

But Guy Ritchie's montage+music sequences are nearly always on point (as they are in Snatch), and I'm a sucker for the split-screen style almost whenever its used because of its link to comics (I even loved it in Ang Lee's Hulk in 2003).

Split-screen montage? Check.

Finally, what's with all of the strapped-to-a-chair torture sequences in 2015? We have them in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Spectre (Mendes, 2015), and Star Wars. Extracting information from our hard drives seems to be on the forefront of filmmakers minds these days.

We're paranoid that people will figure out how to extract our hard drives.