Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Historical Context: Li Chengqi

Li Chengqi (李成器) was the eldest son of Emperor Ruizong. At the age of six, he was named crown prince when his father became emperor, but he was demoted from that position when his grandmother, Wu Zetian, became emperor.

Later, his brother, the future Emperor Xuanzong, staged a successful coup and restored their father, Ruizong, to the throne. As the eldest son, Li Chengqi was expected to be renamed as crown prince. However, he voluntarily yielded the position to Xuanzong. Initially, Ruizong was hesitant about this decision because under Confucian principles, the eldest son was the proper heir to the throne. However, Li pleaded with Ruizong, saying "During times of peace, the eldest son should come first, but during times of difficulties, those with merit should be chosen." Ruizong finally relented and named Xuanzong as crown prince. Li accepted a position as adviser to Xuanzong.

Li had a close relationship with Xuanzong, despite constant rumours that he could threaten Xuanzong's claim to the throne. For his part, Li remained humble and stayed out of political matters. Instead, he enjoyed studying music and the arts. He was known for his proficiency with music from different cultures and was particularly skilled at playing the flute and drums. As emperor, Xuanzong treated Li and their other brothers very well. He built mansions for them near the palace and often invited them to enjoy food, drinks and music together. As the years went on, their other brothers passed away one by one, and Li was Xuanzong's only surviving brother. Thus, Xuanzong valued him even more. He often sent gifts and food to Li and personally visited him on his birthdays.

Li died at the age of 63. Xuanzong greatly mourned him and posthumously named him as Emperor Rang (讓皇帝), meaning the "emperor who yielded", in recognition of his status as the proper heir.

Watch this clip from Deep in the Realm of Conscience which shows Li Chengqi's affinity for the arts and the yielding of the crown prince position to his brother. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Deep in the Realm of Conscience Thoughts

Producer: Mui Siu Ching
Genre: Historical
Cast: Steven Ma, Nancy Wu, Annie Liu, Kenneth Ma, Edwin Siu, Alice Chan, Chrissie Chau, Jacqueline Wong

  • This series tried to do too much. It started as a historical drama, became a detective series, and then turned to palace scheming, with a mixture of romance and failed comedy in between. The series had a large cast, which meant each also had their own story to add to the clutter. 
  • So much time was wasted on the useless story lines that the final face-off between the Emperor (Steven Ma) and Princess Taiping (Alice Chan) turned out to be a huge letdown. The whole climax was half-baked and poorly edited to fit within a span of less than one episode. 
  • The "scheming" in the series was predictable and overused. Anyone who has watched another palace series can guess what is coming next. 
  • I was expecting a lot more scheming between the four bureau heads. It was a waste of the veteran actresses they lured out of retirement for this series. 
  • The rhyming lines were ANNOYING. The effort to combine a serious historical drama with Can't Buy Me Love style humour was terrible. 
  • The lost sister plot was a big waste of time. The final revelation about the sister's murderer was a mere footnote and irrelevant at the end.
  • Have you ever seen a palace with so few people working there? Must have spent all the money on the costumes and sets. 
  • Speaking of work, the duties of the palace maids apparently consist of spying on guards bathing in the river, gossiping, and romancing. There is also no regard for palace rules. Servants and maids can enter whenever they please and speak out of turn without consequence. 
  • Annie Liu is the mandatory goody two-shoes character, which meant that I was automatically going to be annoyed with her, but her accent only made it worse. Why didn't they dub her lines? Annie does look gorgeous in ancient costume though. 
  • Alice Chan had a great presence that was befitting of a princess and trounced all the other women. But her character seemed to have faded into the background during the second half of the series. 
  • I like seeing new faces in TVB dramas, but there was no need to have Chrissie Chau play this concubine role. I was waiting for her character to turn evil, but she remained naive and dumb until the end. 
  • Steven Ma's performance is all about his subtleness. Watch those subtle changes in his facial expressions. It is acting at its finest. 
  • Nancy Wu and Edwin Siu both turned in solid performances, but they didn't really stand out. 
  • Kenneth Ma already seems like a boring person in real life, he does not do well with a boring character like this one. The romantic line between him and Jacqueline Wong was forced and should have been cut.
  • Savio Tsang deserves a mention for the excellent scene he did in jail before his execution. 
  • Hands down the most cringeworthy acting was by Andrew Yuen as the imperial physician. The scene where he was found guilty and pleading for his life was comically bad. 

Rating: 3/5. No sequel please!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie Challenge

I was recently challenged on Twitter to post my 10 favourite movies. Here were my choices (in order of posting):

1. Inception - the concept was mind-blowing and the film was a masterpiece by Christopher Nolan.

2. Inside Out - surprising how well Pixar was able to distill the inner workings of the mind into cute little characters.

3. Avengers: Infinity War - an epic culmination to a 10 year journey.

4. Wonder Woman - a kick-ass female superhero and one of my favourite movie quotes: "When it comes to procreation, men are essential, but for pleasure, not necessary."

5. The Imitation Game - a cool movie that got the gears in my mind turning.

6. Shaolin Soccer - my absolute favourite as a kid. Must have watched it 7+ times.

7. Love Undercover - one of the first films I watched of Miriam Yeung. Been a fan since.

8. Zootopia - spot-on commentary for today's society.

9. Gone Girl - an amazing thriller that takes many turns.

10. Eye in the Sky - it is breathlessly intense and Helen Mirren is phenomenal.

Honourable Mention: Black Panther - I would have included it, but I figured there was enough representation of superhero movies in my list. Still a stellar film.

What are your favourite movies?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018