Laure Shang

21 Feb

The result of watching nine weeks of I am a Singer (我是歌手)?

I have a become a huge fan of Laure Shang (尚雯婕). She’s a fabulous singer with immense range and feel, but with her own brand of funk and personality that is very rarely seen with such class these days. I love her song choices, her voice – really an awesome singer.

 

Her rendition of 你怎么舍得我难过 is really captivating in a no-frills kind of way. Baring her vulnerability just as it is, not covering it up with histrionics or anything of the sort.

 

And then her achingly beautiful rendition of 可惜不是你 evoked so many lost moments and vanished memories for me. She is so simple in her presentation, simple yet thoughtful. It really gets you in a very special way.

 

She’s even fun in a foreign language! Even though her English sounds a touch rough, she just goes for it with panache. Go girl!

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Breaking Up With Downton Abbey

1 Jan

99

That’s it. Downton Abbey, you and I are officially finished.

It’s a rather dismal New Years Eve post but honestly, I’ve put up a lot with you this season already and this time, I’m not forgiving you. Really.

Matthew and Mary, the two central characters of Downton Abbey that makes the whole show work. And now you kill off Matthew? I get that Dan Stevens wants to try something new and do something different with his career, which is totally understandable. I could accept Matthew, or even Matthew and Mary being written off the show. But not Matthew being written off the show via a car accident, which kills him. You have him beat the odds and give him miraculous recoveries in the second season only to get rid of him in a car accident? That’s unjustifiable character murder! You might as well wipe out the entirety of the conflict for the past three seasons and the central thematic conflict of the story while you’re at it.

Matthew represents youth and change that was ushered into an ancient family because of an accident, and the whole theme of tradition versus change through the war was ultimately represented through his and Mary’s relationship. And while Matthew represents change, Mary represents tradition. The tight, strict bonds of tradition and its demands and expectations on a young woman. We spent two seasons watching them grow out of their molds and learn about each other, watching Matthew understand tradition and Mary accepting change. I mean, we spent the first two seasons wishing and hoping and building up to the climax of the two of them finally being together, and overcoming their different social mindsets and family backgrounds to be together.

Even in the third season, watching them learn how to live together, to combine their character and moral standards. Watching them learn to live and understand each other’s different worlds. I could deal with Sybil’s death because there was room in the plot and material. But now Matthew? I’m sorry, it just make any sense to hack off the main plot hinge on which the former three seasons hang. It’s just lousy writing. Period. A petty parlor trick that brings down the whole house of cards. Do you really still expect to tell a story after you pull out the central human embodiment of the theme of this show? It takes two to tango, you know.

And the worst thing is, it doesn’t have to develop this way. I don’t even buy the whole “Matthew loved Mary too much so he had to leave this way” junk. Do these scriptwriters have brains? What did you say, something about reality? You want it to be realistic? Having Matthew and Mary divorce would be more realistic and a better play out of the tension and clash of the two existences you’re trying to embody. Or even having Matthew having to move away or having to separate with Mary for a few years would work better, with Mary coming home to Downton for an extended stay in Season 4 or something. And then Season 5 (why do they even need five seasons anyways?) could be the resolution of that conflict. And you wouldn’t need any scenes with Matthew in it. They had a whole 90 minutes to execute something to convince me and what was the result? Am I supposed to think this is the same writer and production team behind the glorious first season? Because what they just pulled was a pretty awful plot move and narratively speaking makes no sense at all unless you follow the Downton contract renewal news. And all of this happens on a Christmas special too. Is that even legal?

Reality, capturing the true grittiness of human existence, I get it. But I know when a masterpiece has descended into the “drama for drama’s sake” realm. Downton has become more than just a work of art, but a cash cow. And when producers and writers go into “cash cow” mode, nothing’s the same anymore. It’s not the same Downton that I fell in love with and treasured anymore.

That being said, Downton, you who once owned my heart, we are so breaking up. To me, the “Christmas Special” never existed, and we are totally through. You were great for two seasons, and even when you slipped in the third season, I forgave you and gave you one chance after another. But not anymore. If I watch the fourth season of Downton, it must mean that I’ve lost my mind.

重紫 Chong Zi – A Review

28 Dec

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image credit: 颖果

I saw this mesmerizing picture while browsing the web the other day and it just brought back all the amazing moments of Chong Zi. It’s not that the story was revolutionary or that the characters were transcendental, but there was something there that fixated and captivated my attention all the way until the last words on the final page.

The story of a young girl yearning to be loved and accepted by the people around her, only to be turned away and repelled again and again because of the devilish aura inside her. Right away, there is a moral issue that is brought to the forefront: what makes people evil, and how do we qualify people as evil? And the answer that author Shu Ke (蜀客) provides is just wonderful. That we are all humans. We all do good things and we all make mistakes. Just because we are born one way or another doesn’t mean we are beyond salvation. And that’s what makes us human.

This book is not without its flaws though. There were times when I felt that the critical moments of action were passed over and too much time spent turning over the same thoughts in the characters’ heads. Some of the characterizations were wonderful and I loved, like pure-hearted Demon Lord Wan Jie or the cold and calculating Tian Zhi Xie, while some of the characterizations felt a little flat, like the immaculate Luo Yin Fan, despite all of his struggles between love and duty. Some characters were useless to the plot, like Zhuo Hao or Qin Ke.

But Shu Ke convincingly brings us along on Chong Zi’s journey from a weak young girl to a powerful demoness not by her own will, but forced by the people and society around her. And each step of the way, Shu Ke leaves us details and clues, bits and pieces of information that together meshed a wonderfully complex world. Nobody was outrightly righteous, nobody was outright evil (well, maybe some) but they all were living and making decisions to the best of their ability. At the end of the day, what is right and what is wrong, or more importantly who is good and who is evil becomes blurred and grey.