Oscar Night: Wardrobe, Class Plan, and Prizes…

You’ve made it! The last week of the course, GIFs and final papers completed*, and it’s time to celebrate!

We’re going to meet at our regular 6 pm time tomorrow for a META discussion of the films we’ve seen, the themes that we’ve seen build across them, and consider some of the Q’s that remain…

We’ll also share thoughts and AWARDS on student GIFs.

It’s an Oscar ceremony, so feel free to dress up (or dress in revolutionary garb? Your call…) The red carpet will be waiting!


*If the latter is not the case, of course, you should be sending your professor an email ASAP…

Looking Ahead: Weeks 14 and 15

You’re ready to start again, aren’t you?

Having come through the course in style (and flash, literally), we are now in the home stretch. This week, we’ll take a look at present-day China through director Jia Zhang-ke’s “Still Life (2006) — see here for an excellent article on the background of the film, which takes as its backdrop the construction of China’s Three-Gorges Dam, a project that speaks to both 21st century development, enviornmental issues, and human dislocations…

And next week, in our last class meeting of Wed., April 22nd, TERM RESEARCH PAPERS ARE DUE AT THE START OF CLASS. We’ll also have our OSCARS AWARDS CEREMONY and discuss the broader themes that held our interest across the films we viewed this semester!

If you have any questions about projects, deadlines, or your work for the course as the semester comes to its conclusions, feel free to contact me. Email’s the best route (sfernseb [at] umw [dot] edu).



Preview: “Still Life” 三峡好人 2006

“In the movies of Jia Zhang-ke, it can often seem that all of modern China is a ready-made film set. Either that or Mr. Jia has an uncanny gift for the metaphorically charged location. His films have taken place within the plastic confines of an Epcot-like Beijing theme park (“The World”), amid the forlorn public spaces of a declining post-industrial city (“Unknown Pleasures”) and in an ancient riverside town that is about to disappear underwater (“Still Life,” which won the top prize at the 2006 Venice International Film Festival…).

The story of a man and a woman on parallel quests to find their long-lost spouses, “Still Life” is set in Fengjie, 150 miles upstream from the Three Gorges Dam, the hydroelectric project on the Yangtze River that submerged thousands of towns and villages and displaced more than a million people. Shot while Fengjie was being demolished and prepared for its eventual flooding, the film has a powerful documentary flavor, but it also borders on the surreal. The protagonists wander through rubble-strewn wastelands. Entire buildings crumble on camera. The epic scale of the devastation matches, even as it violates, the region’s majestic natural beauty.”

For more, see Dennis Lim, “Blurring Reality’s Edge in a Fluid China,” The New York Times (20 January 2008)

Image: New Yorker Films

Still Life (2006) d. Jia Zhang-ke

Chinese title: 三峡好人 (san1 xia2 hao3 ren2 – trans. “good people of the three gorges)


Han Sanming…. Han Sanming
Shen Hong… Zhao Tao
Guo Bin… Li Zhubing
Wang Dongming… Wang Hongwei
Missy Ma… Ma Lizhen
Brother Mark… Zhou Lin
Brother Ma… Luo Mingwang



Preview: “Hero” 英雄 (2002)

Director: Zhang Yimou


Nameless (Wuming)…. Jet Li
Broken Sword (Canjian)….. Tony Leung
Flying Snow (Feixue)….. Maggie Cheung
King of Qin (Qin Wang)….. Chen Daoming
Long Sky (Changkong)….. Donnie Yen
Moon (Ruyue)….. Zhang Ziyi


“In ancient China during the Warring States period, the nameless prefect of a small jurisdiction arrives at the Qin state‘s capital city to meet the King of Qin, who has survived an attempt on his life by the assassins Long Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword. Because of the assassination attempt, no visitors are to approach the king within 100 paces. ‘Nameless’ claims that he has slain the three assassins and he displays their weapons before the king, who allows the former to sit closer to him and tell him his story.

Nameless recounts killing Long Sky at a weiqi parlor; later to meet Flying Snow and Broken Sword at a calligraphy school in the Zhao state, where he pitted them against each other until Snow killed Sword and was herself slain by Nameless. As the tale concludes, the king expresses disbelief and accuses Nameless of staging the duels with the assassins, who surrendered their lives to allow him to gain the king’s trust and take the king’s life.

Nameless admits that he is a native of the Zhao state and that his family was killed by Qin soldiers; he also confesses that he defeated Sky without killing him and asked Snow and Sword to cooperate by faking a duel as well. Sword had waited for Nameless on his way to Qin after his false duel with Snow. He told Nameless that the only way to achieve peace was to unite the states under a common dynasty, namely that of Qin, which alone had the ability to do so, thus revealing why Sword gave up his earlier assassination attempt.

The king, affected by the tale and by Sword’s understanding of his dream to unify China, ceases to fear Nameless. He tosses his sword to Nameless and examines a scroll drawn by Sword. The king understands that it describes the ideal warrior, who, paradoxically, should have no desire to kill. When Nameless realizes the wisdom of these words, he abandons his mission and spares the king.

When Snow learns that Sword convinced Nameless to forgo the assassination, she furiously challenges Sword to a fight and unintentionally kills him when he chooses not to defend himself so that she would understand his feelings for her. Overwhelmed with sorrow, Snow commits suicide. Urged by his court, the king reluctantly orders Nameless to be executed at the Qin palace. He understands that in order to unify the world, he must enforce the law to execute Nameless as an example to the world. As the film ends, Nameless receives a hero’s funeral and a closing text identifies the king as Qin Shi Huang.”

Plot summary via Wikipedia.

Term Paper Guidelines

We’ve made it to April! Looking Ahead…

– Our syllabus has a statement of aims for the final term paper, but I’ve posted a set of guidelines to further flesh those out, including formatting and more on themes, in case it’s helpful. See our Assignments page for more. Remember that the deadline is the last day of classes.

– The GIF ASSIGNMENT is due next week. Need help? There’s the GIF How-To post for DS106. Also, don’t forget the Digital Knowledge Center. You may want to schedule an appointment… it’s getting to be a busy time of the semester.

Preview: “Chungking Express” 重慶森林 (1994)

Title: Chungking Express (重慶森林)

Director / Year: Wong Kar-wai (1994)


Woman in wig…. Brigitte Lin

Cop 663…. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

Faye…. Faye Wong

Ah Wu, Cop 223…. Takeshi Kaneshiro


In lieu of a synopsis, and in honor of the legendary film critic Roger Ebert, I’ll provide a link to his own review of “Chungking Express” — it begins this way:

At UCLA last summer, Quentin Tarantino introduced a screening of “ChungkingExpress” and confessed that while watching it on video, “I just startedcrying.” He cried not because the movie was sad, he said, but because “I’m just so happy to love a movie this much.” I didn’t have to take out my handkerchief a single time during the film, and I didn’t love it nearly as much as he did, but I know what he meant: This is the kind of movie you’ll relate to if you love film itself, rather than its surface aspects such as story and stars.

See here for more.

Step Right Up! Final GIF Assignment Now Available!

Ready to dive back into mobilizing frames? It’s time to dig into one of the key scenes from a film for your research paper, taking apart a single scene, a single shot, a few frames of footage… and using that close look to dissect a theme, dig into a moment, and elucidate deeper meaning.

It’s a set up for your research paper, a first step toward the longer analysis. 350 (min) – 500 words (max). For full guidelines to the assignment see our Assignments page.

Need a refresher on how to make GIFS? Where to find Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) tutors & appointments for help? How to contact the Master of the Genre, Jim Groom? It’s all right here in the links at this post.

Deadline — 5 pm on Wednesday, 3/8, via email.

Remember that your GIF is also an entry into our GIF contest too — we’ll be having a Red Carpet Awards ceremony for best GIFs on our last day of classes along with a wrap-up of course themes! Prizes will be awarded…


Preview: “A Better Tomorrow” 英雄本色 (Hong Kong, 1986)

Chow Yun-fat Title: A Better Tomorrow (英雄本色)

Director: John Woo


Mark Lee…. Chow Yun-fat

Sung Tse-ho…. Ti Lung

Kit, Mark’s brother…. Leslie Cheung



Sung Tse-Ho (Ti Lung) works for the Triad, whose principal operation is printing and distributing counterfeit US bank notes. Ho is a respected member of the organization and is entrusted the most important transactions. Mark Lee (Chow Yun-Fat), another high-ranking member of the group, is his best friend and partner in crime.

Ho has a younger brother, Kit (Leslie Cheung), who aspires to become a police officer. Ho keeps his criminal life secret from his brother and encourages Kit’s career choice. However, Ho’s father is aware of Ho’s criminal activities and appeals to him to go straight, lest he end up in conflict with his younger brother one day.

Ho is sent to Taiwan by the boss to complete a deal. Shing (Waise Lee), a new member, is sent along as an apprentice. The deal turns out to be a trap by the Taiwanese gang. A shootout ensues in which Ho and Shing flee, pursued by local law enforcement. Ho eventually surrenders to the police in order to buy time for Shing to escape. After reading about Ho’s capture in the newspaper, Mark finds and kills the Taiwanese gang leader and his bodyguards. However, Mark’s leg is shot in the gunfight, leaving him crippled.

While Ho is in prison, Kit and his father are attacked by an assassin; in the struggle, Kit’s father is killed. Just before dying, he pleads with Kit to forgive his brother.

Ho is released from prison three years later. Remorseful and determined to start a new life, he finds work as a driver for a taxi company, run by another ex-con. Ho spots Mark during one of his shifts; in contrast to Mark’s letters, he realizes in horror that Mark has been reduced to an errand boy and janitor for Shing (who is the new leader of the Triad and set up the trap in Taiwan). During an emotional reunion, Mark asks Ho to return to his underworld lifestyle to take revenge on Shing and reclaim their positions in the organization, but Ho refuses.

Ho seeks Kit out and attempts to reconcile with his brother (who is now a member of the police force), but is rebuffed by Kit, who sees Ho as nothing but a criminal who is responsible for their father’s death. Additionally, Kit is resentful that his familial tie to Ho is preventing him from advancement in the department. In an effort to prove himself to his superiors and further distance himself from the stigma of his brother’s criminal past, Kit becomes obsessed with bringing down Shing’s criminal group, despite Ho’s warnings to stay away from the dangerous case.

Shing finds Ho and presses him to come back to his organization, offering to reinstate Mark if he returns. Ho flatly refuses. Consequently, Shing begins harassing and threatening Ho in order to get him to return, including attacking his co-workers at the taxi company, and having Mark beaten severely. Ho is dismayed but is still hesitant to take action. Meanwhile, Kit learns of a major deal being conducted by Shing and plans to take independent action against the criminals.

Ultimately, Shing’s escalating violence against his friends, a desire to protect his brother, and an impassioned speech by Mark finally convince Ho to join Mark in taking revenge on Shing…

[synopsis adapted from wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Better_Tomorrow]

Preview: “Come Drink With Me” 大醉俠 (Hong Kong, 1966)

Title: “Come Drink With Me” (大醉俠)
Director: King Hu
Shaw Brothers Studio, Hong Kong, 1966

Characters / Actors

Golden Swallow…. Cheng Pei-pei

Fan Da-pei (“Drunken Cat”)…. Yueh Hua

Jade Faced Tiger…. Chang Hung-lit



A general’s son is taken hostage and used as leverage to free a bandit leader. The general’s other offspring, a girl named Golden Swallow, is sent to rescue the son. When the bandit gang encounter the Golden Swallow in a local inn, the prisoner negotiation escalates to bloodshed and the goons are swiftly defeated.

A local drunk beggar named Fan Da-Pei acts as Golden Swallow’s guardian angel, secretly helping her avoid being ambushed at night. That morning Fan Da-Pei, whom we now know only as “Drunken Cat” tips off Golden Swallow to the bandits whereabouts. They have occupied a Buddhist monastery. Under the guise of an acolyte, Golden Swallow penetrates the temple and confronts the man who’s taken her brother hostage. During the brawl she is injured by a deadly, poisoned dart. She escapes and is rescued in the woods by Fan who nurses her back to health. While she’s convalescing, Golden Swallow learns that Fan is actually a martial arts master and a leader of a Kung Fu society, which he otherwise keeps a secret.

The monastery is led by an evil abbot, Liao Kung, who is also a kung fu master and has allied himself with the bandits. He finds out that the beggar carries a bamboo staff, and then realises that the beggar is the former student of the same master. The abbot has in fact killed their master in order to get his bamboo staff, which was rescued by Fan Da-Pei. Now Liao Kung sees the opportunity to gain control of the staff.

Fan Da-Pei is hesitant to confront Liao Kung for two reasons. First, Liao Kung’s kung fu skills are unparalleled, and he thinks he has no chances against him, or at the very least, one of them would not survive a confrontation. Second, despite his evil ways, Liao Kung has actually done a good deed to Fan Da-Pei: he persuaded the master to accept Fan Da-Pei into the Green Wand Kung-Fu school when he was a mere homeless orphan, thus giving him a chance in life. For this reason, Fan is reluctant to fight the abbot even though Fan knows about the abbot’s criminal deeds.

In order to release the General’s son, Fan stages a prisoner exchange. During the exchange, the government soldiers receive the General’s son, but Fan prevents the bandits from releasing their leader. As the government soldiers march the bandit leader back to prison, the bandits attack the procession. Golden Swallow, leading her female warriors, fights off the bandits. The evil abbot forces a showdown with Fan Da-Pei.

Synopsis from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Drink_with_Me

Week 9: Looking Ahead

Welcome back from break!

Here’s our plan for this week:

– Our R-Log is a research log — a report on one of your readings for your research project (article or work on a book) rather than a reading for our film this week. It’s still due at the usual Tuesday night deadline (11:59 pm.) See our discussion site for instructions and post thread.

– Our film this week: Ermo (1994). Preview here!

Film Analysis #2 assignment, as announced in a previous post, is also available. It currently just lists “Red Sorghum,” “Farewell My Concubine,” or “Ermo” as films you can analyze, as these are the ones that are available with subtitles at our online film library (we had a technical problem with subtitle conversion with “In the Heat of the Sun”). However, if you are interested in “In the Heat of the Sun” as your focus, drop me an email and I can assist. FILM ANALYSIS #2 IS DUE WEDNESDAY, 3/18.