Monday, July 14, 2008

Union for the Mediterranean!

Yesterday, a new union was born to this world. Instead of speculating about the ill fate awaiting this union, let's just be optimistic for a second and look at its chances of success. The last thing the world needs right now is another useless union.

This new baby was part of Sarkozy's election campaign. And even before seeing the light, the then proposed union was met with objections from some parts in the north and the south of the Mediterranean sea. While the only south objection came from Libya (a country whose leader is famous of objecting just for the sake of gaining more publicity), the north's objections were even more bizarre; they came mainly from Germany which is not even part of the Mediterranean culture (if we can call it that way) and asked for the inclusion of all 27 EU members!

So here we came to the modified version of the union with most of the European countries along with some Arab countries and Israel as part of it. While it is obviously no more about the Mediterranean, this regional union brings together extremely diverse cultures; the north and the south.

So what are the chances of such a union to succeed?

I think that the answer of this question depends on what kind of success we are hoping for. I would consider removing the pollution from the Mediterranean sea as a huge success. A more optimistic person may think that it will enhance trade, stop illegal immigration, or maybe even reducing the gap between the north and the south in all areas. An extremely optimistic person may think it could help to bring peace to the most troubled region in the world.

Back to reality, I don't believe there's much room for improvement except for, maybe, environmental and trade issues. I also hope that it may improve the human rights record in some countries, but that's all. The only way for the success of such a union is to have realistic goals and to work steadily to achieve them without much propaganda (less meetings and fewer cameras). Adding a list of impossible goals will just undermine its credibility.

Building bridges between the east and the west is always a welcomed step. The newly born Union for the Mediterranean may seem very small next to greater unions like the UN (both in scale and value), but at least this time all parties are equal; there's no vetoes, there's no permanent and non-permanent members and, more importantly, there's no USA.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Watch: Kung Fu Panda

Taking place in China, the movie tells a story of a Panda (Po) who aspires to be a Kung Fu warrior. Po works in a noodle restaurant with his father (Mr. Ping) who wants Po to succeed him in managing the restaurant, but wants to be sure that he's ready to be given the secret ingredient. Po keeps his dreams for himself, but his desire to be a Kung Fu warrior is to big to be hidden. So when the opportunity comes, will Po be able to seize it?

From the movies title it is really easy to know that Po will seize this opportunity, the question is how? But what's more important is that from this moment in the movie, all the fun begins. I went to this movie with not very high expectations having been disappointed by many of the previous Dreamworks 3D animated movies (Shrek 2 - Shark Tale - Madagascar). I also thought that the movie would be very childish (something like Hoodwinked) and may not be enjoyable by adults (I am 23). However, it was really enjoyable for most of the time, and I had some pretty good laughs every know and then.

The concept of the film is fine. A Panda playing Kung Fu may sound a little like a Rat who is cooking, but repitition is something we are used to in animated feature films (AntZ & A Bug's Life, The Wild & Madagascar, Shark Tale & Finding Nemo), at least this time they were two different animals! The message within the movie (moral lesson) was also done before in some animated movies, but nevertheless it perfectly fits the story line.

The characters design is the best aspect of the movie IMO. While most of the attention is given to the Panda and its struggle with its heavy weight, the movie is rich with a variety of characters that range from the old and wise tortoise Kung Fu master (Ogoway) to the snow leopard villain (Tai Lung) passing through a tiger, a monkey, a green tree viper, a praying mantis and a Japanese crane. Did I mention that Po's father is a goose?!

Kung Fu Panda is a fairly enjoyable CGI movie. Its main audience is of course kids, but if you're an adult who love animated movies, you'll most propably like it.

  • Amazing traditionally animated intro.
  • Nothing exceptional in the voice acting, maybe except for Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).
  • Cartoonish character design that goes well with the theme of the movie.
  • The music seemed to be nice, but I could hardly hear it in most parts of the movies (well...except for the intro and the casting).
  • Progress of events is mantained throughout the movie which makes it far more enjoyable than some previous Dreamworks CGI movies.

My Score:4/5