03-04 of #52FilmsByWomen: Selma, Wajdja

Wadjda (2012, written and directed by Haifaa Al Mansour)


[03 of #52FilmsByWomen]
If I were to describe the plot of Wadjda, it would sound almost trivial. But the emotional journey that we follow with the 11-year-old girl leaves a lasting impact, and we could easily read the simple plot as an allegory to how does one reconcile his/her own identity and desires in a very traditional, conservative society.

The aforementioned simple plot is largely focused on Wadjda wanting very much to own a bicycle. Her mother does not allow it, since riding around on bicycles was typically not something girls do in a conservative country like Saudi Arabia. Determined to get one anyway, she joins a Quran recitation competition to win the prize money to buy one.

There are many aspects of this movie that reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki films, mostly because it involves a young girl overcoming challenges and coming to terms with her identity and her hopes. This is probably because there aren’t many stories focused on young girls whose plots aren’t about superficial things (i.e., chasingafter boys, as Miyazaki once famously said). Hopefully this serves as an example of the universality of human beings. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Muslim girl, or a modern Japanese family. We all share similar internal struggles and insecurities, and this is probably why stories are universal.

Wadjda is instantly likeable as a headstrong, resourceful and opinionated young girl who doesn’t always behave in the way figures of authority expects her to, though sometimes she tries. Reem Abdullah plays a crucial role as Wadja’s mother, who has her own struggles between having a difficult job, and maintaining her relationship with her husband, all while trying to be a responsible mother. Also likeable is Abdullah, a boy who is Wadjda’s ever loyal and resourceful best friend.

This is probably one of the most interesting movies I have seen so far for #52FilmsByWomen, and hopefully I’ll get to see more films from writer/director Haifaa al-Mansour.


Selma (2014, directed by Ava DuVernay)


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For a movie that takes place in 1865 focusing on one of the most important moments in the American Civil Rights movement, it seems much of the imagery found within it painfully evocative of modern day events. In what situation has it ever been acceptable for an armed police officer to beat up an unarmed civilian? This injustice, along with how reminiscent it is of real events people face today, works as the powerful and violent narrative stakes looming over characters whose main philosophy is peace.

It was clear from the outset that this film is not a Martin Luther King biopic, as it opens with a montage of Dr. King recieving the Nobel Peace Prize (scenes like these are usually saved till the end of the movie, like in A Beautiful Mind). It is first and formost, a movie about the Movement’s march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. Nevertheless David Oyelowo is utterly fantastic as King, whose performance and screen presence just glues me to the screen every time he’s in a scene.



10 Black holes you’ve probably haven’t heard about

Earlier this month we all celebrated the observation of gravitational waves by LIGO. Among the many rasons why this is a huge scientific and technological achievement is that this is practically a direct observation black holes.

The `black holes’ that we always hear mentioned in the news and popular media are almost always Kerr black holes. These are black holes that rotate. (That is, carrying mass and angular momentum.)






The reason why only these black holes are mentioned is that these are the ones that commonly exist in space, being created when a star collapses and dies. The mass and rotation of the black hole was simply inherited from the mass and rotation of the dead star.

Of course, General Relativity is more than just about what happens after a star dies. In the 100 years since General Relativity was formulated, theoretical physicists have found mathematical solutions describing many more types of black holes.

Here are 10 more black holes you’ve probably haven’t heard about.

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02 of #52FilmsByWomen : Room (2015)


Room (2015, written by Emma Donoghue)

[No. 2 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

A story sometimes becomes much more interesting when told from the perspective of a child. Or more generally, from the perspective of a person whose mental state is different from ours. Seeing things from a different point of view makes us think a little harder about things that we normally take for granted. Sometimes it makes us understand things a little better. Incidentally that’s how science occasionally works.

Continue reading 02 of #52FilmsByWomen : Room (2015)

01 of #52FilmsByWomen: Beyond the Lights


Beyond the Lights (written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood)

[01 of #52FilmsByWomen]
Most audiences can easily ignore plot holes and contrivances in a movie as long they’re invested in the characters. Or when the characters feel like real people, so that we’re immersed in their lives and moment-to-moment interactions that we don’t notice the plot. Beyond the Lights probably lies in the latter category.

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Not an oxymoron; Malaysians needs diverse heroes too


Recently there was an article in the New York Times written by a Umpangan Ampikaipakan which, -as far as I could understand- argues from his Malaysian perspective that the values of American superheroism is universal such that non-Americans could relate to them too. This has caused some controversy because he (perhaps accidentally or not) implies that the push for diversity in comics is actually unnecessary. Of course, this runs counter to all the work and struggles that minorities are putting in to push for more diversity in popular media. Also he has misinterpreted white culture as the entire American culture, where the people in this excellent video explain in detail.

I’m here to say that as a Chinese-Malaysian, I too disagree with the article. Far from being oxymorons, we do need Asian superheroes. More generally, we need to see more diversity in the popular culture we consume. Much of which comes from the US.

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On Neil deGrasse Tyson vs Star Wars


Recently Neil deGrasse Tyson did a Twitter-review on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and pointed out its ‘scientific inaccuracies’. He said that BB-8 would have skidded uncontrollably in the sand, and that Starkiller base would have vapourised from sucking in all that energy from a star.

Of course,¬†many people did not take too kindly to these tweets (just look at the replies to the two tweets I linked above). Slate argues that Tyson misses the point of science fantasy. Though Tyson says the spirit of his tweets are ‘All done with the intent of empowering the viewer to see and appreciate a film more deeply’

Here, let me throw in my perspective. I’m a physicist who also writes fiction, and I can sort of see both sides of the argument here. The problem is, determining what constitute a scientific (in)accuracy in fiction is a complicated issue, largely due to the inherent nature of fiction, which, by definition, carries¬† fictional elements.

[Spoiler warning: Some spoilers for The Force Awakens]

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Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)


As far as mid-tier action movies go, Hitman: Agent 47 is a reasonably entertaining film, if you enter with low expectations. As far as video game movies go, it’s pretty okay, considering nearly every movie adapted from a video game that’s not Mortal Kombat was pretty bad. In any case, it definitely feels like an improvement over the previous Hitman movie from 2007 starring Timothy Olyphant.

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