Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: Sound of the Desert (风中奇缘 / Feng Zhong Qi Yuan) or Ballad of the Desert (大漠谣 / Da Mo Yao)

Based on my preference for romance it is only natural for me to stick with Korean dramas. But it’s not always been the case. I grew up watching Chinese martial arts series and reading the translation of Chinese novels (Wuxia). Korean wave didn’t come until a couple of decades ago.

Both Chinese and Korean dramas have their own strengths. The Korean dramas excel at romance. The Chinese dramas excel at martial arts. It is not easy to find Korean dramas with spectacular fighting scenes and it is just as difficult to find martial arts series with achingly beautiful love story.

What happens if we press the switch or merge button? Can we get a martial arts series with beautiful love story? Yes we can. Sound of the Desert is the perfect example of that.

Although I don’t think the fighting scenes in Sound of the Desert are worth any mentioning but at least our heroine can fight her own battle just fine. The biggest point for 风中奇缘 is it has one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve seen in Chinese dramas in a long time (contemporary dramas excluded).  

Some people might find Startling by Each Step (步步惊心 / Bu Bu Jing Xin) romantic, but despite liking the drama I don’t consider it as one of the best romances there is. A romantic story has to make us happy. I don’t mind crying an ocean in the journey of love as long as I get a happy ending. But Bu Bu Jing Xin hurts.

I know it’s hard to give a happy ending to a time travel story particularly if that time travel involved a real life figure like an Emperor who had a real life Empress and a thousand concubines for his pleasure. But still, we’re talking about a drama here, if one could insert a time travel into a real history why shy away from giving the viewers one big happy bang at the end? Death is not what I want after wasting hours of my very precious time.

I understand that sometimes a story could gain more by ending it tragically either through death or separation. A bitter pill might disappoint and anger most readers and viewers but it’ll set that story apart from other happily ever after ones.

Nevertheless, that won’t work for me. I want my precious time and tears to be paid off handsomely and satisfactorily.

I’m not saying Bu Bu Jing Xin isn’t worth your time but there is nothing romantic in knowing that your man sleeps with a different girl every night. That means he is every girl man, not yours. He is theirs and they are his, you are just one among many.

And there is definitely nothing romantic in knowing that your man doesn’t consider you as the most important thing in his life and is willing to sacrifice you for power whenever the occasion arises.

It doesn’t matter if that man says he loves you. What matters is his love isn’t deep enough to forsake everything in his life just for you. He loves you but he still loves something else more. His love means nothing because in the end you end up dying all alone without him by your side thinking about what if and longing for if only. Hurting.

Thanks God that’s not the case with Sound of the Desert / 风中奇缘. It sings a beautiful love song to the hopeless romantic me. I fall in love with it. And I think it has replaced Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre’s place as the most favorite historical (Wuxia) series in my heart.

A great romantic story should be able to present the kind of love that is so great it’s almost impossible to find in real life. It should wow and dazzle us with its beauty and it should be able to touch us with the strength of love in it.

How about 风中奇缘?

It is hard not to feel envious of the female lead in the Sound of the Desert. Seriously. How could a woman be so fortunate like Xin Yue (Jin Yu)? How could men love like Jiu Ye (Mo Xun) and Wei Wu Ji love Xin Yue?

Admittedly, every female lead is loved by usually two gorgeous male leads in every drama (contemporary ones). However it’s not that common in the Chinese martial arts series, it’s always the other way around in Wuxia.

Take Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre for example, it’s the male lead that is showered with love by a number of females. Of course it might have something to do with the fact that the story is written by male and Jin Yong has been accused of being sexist a few times before and looking at his works I can see why.

While Da Mo Yao is written by Tong Hua () a female writer who thanks God has clearly totally different views on how women should be loved and what kind of man deserves to be loved and should be chosen to spend the rest of your life with.

If you have the same penchant for romance like I do 风中奇缘 is a must watch. It will also serve as a perfect introduction to Tong Hua’s works and style.

I hate spoilers but for every book I read or every drama I watch I need to know who the OTP are and whether they’ll have a happy ending. In the Sound of the Desert it helps to know who to root for to avoid broken hearted. The bad news is, knowing the OTP won’t stop your heart from hurting because the other man is just as awesome in an entirely different way.

Shipping is going to be painful because the sound of the Dessert gives us two very different men who are equally amazing in their own ways.

Firstly, we have Jiu Ye (Mo Xun) with his out of this world beauty. He is so beautiful that it hurts just looking at him. His beauty is like the beauty of the snowcapped mountain or like the full moon in the clear sky or like the pristine frozen lake that is surrounded by white. So beautiful yet untouchable.

Secondly, we have Wei Wu Ji who might not have Jiu Ye’s extraordinary beauty but possesses tons of sex appeals. Looking at him is like looking at a bright sun that warms every single cell in your body. His handsome face and perfectly sculpted body ooze sex. He is utterly hot. Not, that he ever shares his hotness with the fairer sex.

Like the untouchable and elusive Jiu Ye, Wei Wu Ji is equally beyond reach of any female or King who wants him. When he finally sees the most beautiful woman in the Kingdom who turns the King into her slave he looks at her with sharp eyes that assess and gauge her while smiling derisively, completely immune to her feminine charms but fully aware of what that beauty is capable of.

The only woman who captures his piercing eyes and cold heart is the wolf girl who saves him in the Gobi desert. 

I fall in love with Wei Wu Ji the moment he sets his arrogance aside and I see his twinkling eyes. I fall in love with him when I see him smirks and when I watch his audacious attempts at skinship. 

Every time I see his twinkling eyes I want to smile. Every time he turns his sex appeal on to the max I want to look for a bed and put it right next to these adorable couple. Every time he opens his mouth and says things that no other gentleman would say I love him more.

Now, let’s have another look at Jiu Ye aka Mo Xun.

Jiu Ye (Hu Ge / 胡歌) is a man of mystery but seeing how most of the rich businessmen in Jian An give him a wide berth and quickly conceding to any man even remotely connected to him, he must have an incredible power and influence.

Although his reputation is known far and wide, only a handful of people actually know what Jiu Ye looks like. He keeps to himself and has no interest in anything that is not his business. He even refuses the King’s order to come to the palace to visit.

His responsibilities are already huge enough as it is. He doesn’t want more complication particularly not with the King with all his court intrigues. There is no room in his life for anything or anyone else. But like Wei Wu Ji his interest is picked by the wolf girl who dares to steal from him in the Gobi desert.

Jiu Ye has always been kind and generous and has no heart for cruelty so it’s not that strange to see him sparing Xin Yue who offers one of her hands to be cut off as punishment for stealing. But for him to give her what she boldly asks and especially to give her the expensive wedding gown that he received as a gift is beyond normal.

He could listen to the objection of his subordinate and refuse her request or give her a man cloth instead of giving her that particular gown. The irony is he ends up never seeing Xin Yue in that beautiful gown. It’s Wei Wu Ji who sees how enchanting the wolf girl is in that special gown.

Another irony in their first meeting is, Jiu Ye purposely lowers his face cover so that Xin Yue could see his extraordinary face. A face that only a handful of people have ever seen.He wants her to remember him and look for him later. 

On the other hand Wei Wu Ji hides his identiy despite slyly sets a honey or is it food trap that will guarantee him a rendezvous with Xin Yue in Yi Pin Jiu the best restaurant in the Jian An.

Xin Yue only remembers Wei Wu Ji and his fake identity and futilely search for him. She ends up meeting Jiu Ye instead who also gives order to his men to look for her. And that’s how fate works against Wei Wu Ji. Or is it his lie? Anyway, like any good General he learns from his past mistakes.

When there is only one you and you live in a world where it’s not okay to live with more than one man you have no choice but to choose one of them. Even if it hurts a lot, you can do nothing but hurt the one you love a little bit less to protect the one you love more.

Like Xin Yue I hurt seeing Jiu Ye gets hurt. He is so kind and good that it is like seeing an adorable little darling being hurt by a vicious monster. I want to put my arms around him to protect him and keep him save from the cruel world. I want to scream please don’t hurt him. Please don’t.

But I can’t blame Xin Yue either. It’s not her fault. 

She has done everything in her power to make Jiu Ye loves her. She tries using her beauty. She tries using her brain. She tries using her feminine wiles. Nothing works. In the end she humbles herself and begs him to love her.

In that very moment we can see why honesty is one of the most important values in a relationship. Wei Wu Ji lost Xin Yue to Jiu Ye because he was not honest with her. Jiu Ye lost Xin Yue to Wei Wu Ji because he doesn’t learn from Wei Wu Ji’s mistake.

All Jiu Ye has to do at that very important moment is giving Xin Yue the same honesty she has shown him. But most importantly, he has to be honest to himself first about what he really wants.

Another reason why I love Wei Wu Ji is because he knows what he wants and doesn’t take no for an answer. In his book nothing is impossible. I love seeing how Xin Yue’s love for Jiu Ye doesn’t stop his love for her. He stands there right by her side to pick her up when she’s down and to brighten her mood when she’s in despair. His warmth warms her and chases away the chills that Jiu Ye gives her.

I love that his love never stops and never tainted or spoiled by jealousy. I love that his love doesn’t hurt. I love that his love is out in the open, shining brightly for everyone to see. And I love seeing that Xin Yue actually loves being showered by his love although she always pretends to be ignorant of it.

I love a man who can love like Wei Wu Ji.

When they love a woman they do everything in their power to make that woman theirs. They show her that they love her that she is the most important thing in their lives and they let her know that they can’t live without her.

Jiu Ye thinks too much about pros and cons. He assumes he knows what Xin Yue really feels. He refuses to believe her declaration of love and breaks her heart thinking that it’s best for her. He does that because he doesn’t believe he could make her happy.

It never even occurs to Wei Wu Ji that he would ever make Xin Yue unhappy. He loves her with his whole heart and is willing to give everything up for her sake, so there is no way that she would be unhappy with him, because her happiness would always be his priority. 

Wei Wu Ji (Eddie Peng / 彭于晏) would loose even more than Jiu Ye in his insistence to love Xin Yue. As the second most powerful man in the Kingdom after the King, he lives under the watchful and envious eyes of many. He is bound by court’s ethics and intrigues but he never lets those things to stop him from loving Xin Yue. 

Unlike Jiu Ye who lets his responsibilities stop him from loving Xin Yue and hurts her instead.

Just like I don’t blame Xin Yue, I don’t blame Wei Wu Ji either for not telling Jiu Ye about Xin Yue where about. He has let and just quietly watched Xin Yue trying to pursue her heart because he knows she loves Jiu Ye but after Jiu Ye coldly turns her down things changed.

He sees that his opportunity to win the battle has finally come.

And I agree. It’s no body’s fault but Jiu Ye. He has his chance and he wasted it. Just how much more a girl needs to do to convince a man that she loves him?

Xin Yue (Liu Shi Shi/诗诗) doesn’t stop loving Jiu Ye, because real love doesn’t stop. What happens is that she finally comes to realize that all this time while she’s so busy in love with Jiu Ye, Wei Wu Ji is already in her heart all without her knowing the exact time he sneaks into her heart.

Hurting Jiu Ye is painful because she loves him. But leaving Wei Wu Ji for Jiu Ye is not an option because that would hurt him tremendously and she simply can’t do that to Wei Wu Ji. So, she bluntly tells Jiu Ye that she has slept with Wei Wu Ji to explain why she can’t be with him.

I understand why Xin Yue is torn apart. I understand her heart breaks every time she sees Jiu Ye. I even understand why she chooses to die in order to save Jiu Ye and could only ask for Wei Wu Ji’s forgiveness for leaving him all alone. 

But, it’s hard for me to accept that. Like Xin Yue I want Jiu Ye to be happy but not by robbing off Wei Wu Ji’s happiness. I love this arrogant man who could have anything he wants in life but wants nothing except for one wolf girl. 

Jiu Ye talks directly to Xin Yue the moment they meet but I love the way Wei Wu Ji initially lets his servant deals with Xin Yue thereby displaying a complete indifference to this lowly girl while in fact his eyes never leave her and his ears never miss a word.

I absolutely love how after ignoring her all this time, the first time he speaks to her is to offer her a ride on his horse with twinkling eyes and a slight challenging smile on his lips. Accompany by an order ‘Quick!’ How could one not love this man?

Another highlight in these series besides the romance is the relationship between Xin Yue and Hong Gu. I love Xin Yue and Hong Gu’s scenes as much as I love Xin Yue and Wei Wu Ji’s scenes. They are so adorable, cute and sweet. Those scenes are just as perfect as all Xin Yue and Wei Wu Ji’s scenes.

The friendship between Xin Yue and Hong Gu is the best female friendship that I’ve ever seen in a historical drama. Xin Yue is also perhaps one of the best female characters ever found in Wuxia if not even better than Zhao Min the Evil Princess in the Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre.

The problem is I’m not a fan of Liu Shi Shi, usually although I’m not a fan of an actress if her character stands out I would end up falling in love with her too. Unfortunately that’s not the case here. I have a feeling that I would never become a fan of Liu Shi Shi no matter what.

On the other hand I have become a fan of Eddie Peng who I don’t know and don’t even care about before. He fits Wei Wu Ji perfectly. So perfectly that I couldn’t even imagine Hu Gu as Wei Wu Ji.

There’s so much to rave about this drama and almost zero complaint. Xin Yue and Wei Wu Ji are my favorite couple at this moment. I love them so much. I love how they view life and I absolutely love how they have no care about what other people think about them. 

But I’d rather stop here and give you a chance to see this wonderful series and form your own opinion.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Love, Rosie vs Love Forecast

As much as I love opposite attracts (translation: cold, rude, chaebol/billionaire heroes and dirt poor, kind hearted but rather stupid heroines), the theme that I love the most for my romance is childhood friends/best friends turn into lovers.

This theme excels in what is most important in any relationship: trust.

If we are being asked how much we trust our best friends most of us would say a lot. And some might say they trust their best friends even more than their own lovers.

Sometimes some people can't be themselves when they are in a relationship. They strive to be what they think their lovers want them to be, which could be tiring both physically and mentally. The best thing about friendship is we could be ourselves.

We know that our friends would still feel the same about us either when we are at our best or at our worst. We have the luxury of having an unshakable belief that they will always be there for us no matter what.

We feel secure in our relationship with them while some of us would never feel secure in our relationship with our lovers.

In friends turn into lovers theme we don't need to be convinced that the male and female leads love each other.

The issues which have to be addressed by the films are firstly, whether their love could endure the presence of 'Ms/Mr Right or to be precise Mr/Ms Wrong, secondly when/what is the moment when they realize that they love each other more than they love this other person and lastly what's next?

I watched Love, Rosie and Love Forecast (오늘의 연애) last month and realize one thing, it's hard to find love. No, I'm no talking about their loves, I'm talking about the fact that I don't fall in love with either. I like both movies alright just not as much as I want to like them.

If I have to choose the one I like better, I'll say I love Rosie. I love everything about the friendship between Rosie (Lilly Collins) and Alex (Sam Clafflin). They share and discuss everything from dating to the planning of their future.

The only thing that Rosie keeps to herself from Alex (besides the fact that she loves him) is her pregnancy. Not because she doesn't trust him, but because she doesn't want to stop him from going to the US and clouding his happiness with her downfall.

The friendship's part in Love, Rosie and the deep love between the leads are the best parts about it. However, that's also why I find the movie frustrating.

Alex is in love with Rosie, Rosie is in love with Alex so what's the problem? I could accept the first time Alex goes to other girl because Rosie is the one who urges him to.

I can understand he chooses other girl because he thinks Rosie's love for him is just a love between friends. I can understand he doesn't want to lose their friendship. But seeing him keep getting new girlfriends  when he is in love with Rosie really irks me.

He is saved and finally has a chance to set things right when his drop dead gorgeous pregnant girlfriend turns out to be impregnated by other guy. This time there's no excuse that he doesn't know how Rosie feels about him.

But what does he do? He makes the same mistake again by marrying his ex girlfriend and that is right after he finally tells Rosie how he feels about her!

I'm so upset by then that I don't even care if the movie is going to end right then and there. In kdramas we are used to noble idiots but what we have here are simply idiots.

I can't understand why someone who is in love with someone else is having a relationship with somebody else or worse marrying that person. It is almost equal to lying and cheating.

For the shake of  happy ending Alex dumps his wife and chases Rosie back to England. It's time for me to be happy, but the final scene doesn't deliver roses and rainbow for me. I feel rather sorry for Alex's wife, she doesn't deserve this.

As much as I like Love, Rosie the movie leaves a bitter after taste with its happy ending. It is not what I want from my romcom. I keep thinking about what ifs and whys.

In case of Love Forecast, I have a bigger beef.

The movie is funny and entertaining and if Lee Seun Gi/이승 or Moon Chae Won/문채 are your bias you'll love it. My problem is I don't love the friendship between Joon Soo (Lee Seung Gi) and Hyun Woo (Moon Chae Won) that much.

Their friendship feels unbalanced because it's Joon Soo who is doing everything for Hyun Woo. Oh, I forget she does come to the police station to bail him out but that seems insignificant compare to how she treats him the rest of the time.

On the issue of love, Joon Soo is the one doing all the loving. Either for Hyun Woo or other girls he tries to love.

I don't think there is a scene where I see Hyun Woo feels anything remotely similar to love towards Joon Soo let alone a scene where she finally realizes that she loves him more than her lover. She ends up with Joon So because her lover ends their affair and the whole thing blows up in her face.

If I don't understand why someone who is in love is having a relationship with somebody else, I find it even harder to understand why a single woman who could choose any man she wants is having a relationship with a married man.

It's hard for me to shake off  the feeling that only evil women steal other women's men. No good woman wants to be a home wrecker. Or course if that man is Lee Soe Jin one might be tempted, but that's really beside the point.

I find it hard to ship Joon Soo and Hyun Woo because I feel nothing for Hyun Woo. I don't connect with how she treats Joon Soo and how she conducts her love life. But most importantly I don't feel the romance.

Love Forecast spend its time to show us how Joon Soo tries to date other girls and Hyun Woo loves another woman's husband but almost nothing in trying to show us the love between the two leads.

Yes, I said that in this genre we don't need to be convinced that the leads love each other, I stand corrected. There's always an exception. It's one sided love in Love Forecast until almost the last moment.

When I watch a romantic comedy I want to see a love story between the leads. I want to ship them because I know they are in love with each other. How would I do that if the story is about their love stories with others?

Hyun Woo does end up with Joon Soo in the end but that's because she can't have her man. What would happen if he decides to divorce his wife and chooses her instead? From what the movie has shown us she would throw a party and expect Joo Soo to arrange it.

I don't hate these two movies, I'm just disappointed because they could be two of my favourite romcom if only.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Freedom of Hate

Today is the birthday of my beloved. But instead of writing love letter to Jo Hyun Jae wishing him all the best on his birthday I’m writing about hate instead. It shows how we never know what will happen ahead of us.

The Garland’s shooting yesterday compels me to write about those lovers of total freedom (which I’d rather call The Haters) aka the organizer and supporters of the so called ‘Art Contest’ in Texas.

They can deny it and lie all they like that they don’t hate Islam/Muslims. But actions speak louder than words. With the kind of actions they do I could only imagine what’s really in their hearts.

Centuries have passed and we’re supposed to be in a civilized world today where people accept and respect other people for what they are, however there are things that never change. There will always be some people with hatred in their hearts perhaps until the end of time.

Some will hate other people because of their colours, believes or ethnicities. Some will hate whoever is not in agreement with them or those who seem to be happier than them. Some will hate because they rejoice in their ability to be hateful.

As if being hateful is something to be proud of.

Someone needs to teach them how to watch kdramas. Someone needs to let them know that almost no body likes hateful characters. Almost no body enjoys a hateful drama. Most audience prefers dramas fill with love, warmth and laughter.

No body loves people who love to throw insults and promote hate. Not in the movie and certainly not in the real life. Hatred is as dangerous as a cancer that destroys the person who has it. 

You can’t be happy as long as you have hatred in your heart. You can never have peace as long as you keep hate and not love in your heart. To those people who hate Prophet Muhammad with all their hearts and do everything in their power to incite hate I have these to say: 

 - Be thankful that yesterday plot was not successful (not that it had any chance to be anyway).
 - Don’t take this incident as a brand new ammunition to renew your fight against Islam. But use it to reflect. To think whether your hatred towards Islam and Prophet Muhammad is more precious than your lives. Your faces are being seen by millions of Muslims around the world, most might think you are beneath them to even give you a second look but some might take too much interest.
- Hating Islam, being an anti Muslim will do you no good and it will not affect Islam or Prophet Muhammad in the least. As a matter of fact it will only increase our love for our religion and beloved Prophet.
 - I’ll share what this incident does to me.

I normally find no difficulty in condemning violent actions and atrocities conducted by criminals/terrorists. But not this time.

I find myself sympathizing with what I think drove them. I also find myself worrying about their fate. I’m afraid that instead of a reward, they will find punishment  waiting for them.

Yes, in case you don’t know if those gunmen slaughter you right there there is a chance that they might go to hell instead of paradise for killing unarmed people. Even when those unarmed people are the enemies of Islam like yourselves.

My consolation is that Allah killed them before they had a chance to take other people’s lives. It gives me hope that Allah might be merciful towards them. I ended up praying so that Allah may forgive any bad intentions that might be had by those gunmen.

I prayed to the Most Merciful to count their love for Prophet Muhammad in their favour and if it pleases Him to receive them as suhada, for only Allah knows what motivated them and what their real intentions were and Allah is the Best of Judge.

Last but not least, if you insist on your freedom to hate just be prepared to receive the results of the freedom of others to hate you back.

If you have enough courage to express your hatred through words and pictures under heavy guards, those who hate you back have enough courage to die to express their hatred towards you.

You see hatred brings nothing but hatred.

I never find it necessary to notice or address people who when they open their mouths (use their fingers) deliver nothing but unpleasantness. My policy towards these people is: just ignore them. Let them be. Stay away from them. Let their darkness swallows none but themselves.