Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Sky-High Viewing

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra about Liberace
On my flight back to Vancouver I watched three movies: Don Jon, Behind the Candelabra and Despicable Me 2. It's an eclectic mix, but I've been wanting to watch them and glad I was able to catch up.

Behind the Candelabra, about the relationship between Liberace and his much younger lover Scott Thorson was very compelling thanks to the top notch acting by Michael Douglas as the top entertainer and Matt Damon as the young man who was still trying to figure out his identity.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon
I admire Joseph Gordon-Levitt for writing and directing Don Jon. He examines how pornography can affect young men's perceptions about love and relationships, that the highly-sexualized images they see online are contrived and not very fulfilling.

Despicable Me 2? It was fun, not particularly clever but an interesting storyline. Love the minions, who are apparently going to have their own movie...

I also like watching documentaries which YTSL knows all too well and watched one called Wonder Woman! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, which talks about the origins of the comic book character and how her existence empowered but also hindered the women's liberation movement.

Comic book aficionados were interviewed as well as historians and Gloria Steinem recalling in her childhood how Wonder Woman was very inspiring, but that men didn't take the feminist movement seriously.

The documentary even interviews Lynda Carter who played Wonder Woman. She either has an amazing skin care regime or has a very good plastic surgeon because she hardly looks like she's aged at all.

Lindsay Wagner who played the Bionic Woman looks more "real" and is also interviewed. She says she receives fan mail from women saying that because of you I work at NASA now, that show that even a comic book character on TV can have a lasting impression on a girl.

Parker Mah and Bethany Orr interview a Chinese immigrant
And then I watched Being Chinese in Quebec or Etre Chinois au Quebec. Two fourth generation Chinese Canadians, Parker Mah originally from Vancouver and Bethany Orr who was born in Hong Kong but her ancestors had roots in Quebec, go on a road trip to find other Chinese Canadians in the predominantly French-speaking province.

Not only do they have this in common but also their ancestors came to Canada in the 1800s and had to pay the head tax subjected to Chinese immigrants. It wasn't until 2006 did the Canadian government apologize and financially compensate only those who were still alive or their spouses.

Mah and Orr try to quiz mainland Chinese immigrants in Quebec about the head tax but they don't know anything about it so the documentary then quickly shifts its focus to interviewing Chinese Canadians on how they got to Quebec and how they like living there.

It's impressive to see the mainland Chinese immigrants speak decent French though a bit haltingly. For the most part they are able to express themselves and quite like Quebec. Many find the people are friendly and humorous and their laid-back lifestyle teaches the Chinese to relax and have some balance in their lives.

One young family immigrated to Quebec for a better life for their son, another who has two PhDs is working in a convenience store because his French isn't fluent enough to get a teaching job. They also meet two young Chinese women at a nearby university, one of which explains she couldn't understand why the receptionist said "Salut!" every morning because to her it sounded like "stupid" in Mandarin!

The two intrepid reporters also talk to second and third generation Chinese Canadians who recall having to translate everything for their parents when they were growing up, the racism they endured, and how these experiences inspired them to do community service work, or to become a lawyer to defend their rights, or even to be a politician.

We also see the varying degrees of linguistic ability. While Mah is fluent in English and French, he can't speak a word of Chinese, though Orr speaks Cantonese but can't read or write. They meet a third-generation Chinese Canadian whose family runs a restaurant and she is trilingual in French, English and Cantonese.

Mah is impressed and reflects on his own upbringing -- that his parents were more keen on him integrating into Canada than know more about his own ethnic culture.

It was interesting to meet the different people and their various outlooks on life and identity. One would probably assume that the Chinese Canadian experience in every province would be very similar in terms of the variety of experiences.


  1. How would you rank the films in order of your liking them?

    BTW, when I was a kid, I was a big fan of the Bionic Woman and Lindsay Wagner! :)

    1. Hi YTSL -- I liked Behind the Candelabra the most, followed by Don Jon and Despicable Me 2 pretty much tied.

      Did you try to be like Bionic Woman?!