PhDrants watches the movies…

… on most Mondays in the cinema. Great way to cure that Monday blues and the best way to escape my imaginary PhD prison.

I thought it might be a great idea to keep a list on the movie I’d watched this year. As a way to keep track of the movies that have spark some thoughts in me. If I have time, I might throw in a few comments (a few summarising words) on the movies listed and my favourite or memorable movie/scenes of the year.

(This list will be updated frequently)

5th Jan: The Water Diviner (Battle of Gallipoli, father-son bond, brothers, fortune telling ala Turkish coffee style – need I say more how significant this movie is to Australians?)

12th Jan: The Imitation Game (Stunning performance by Benedict Cumberbatch! But I’m more intrigued by the MI6 guy in the movie.)

19th Jan: Unbroken (Comes with a strong message on survival and forgiveness. Memorable quote: a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory)

Rest of Jan: American Sniper (Unbelievably surreal, but is it anti-war? You need to watch it to judge for yourself)

2nd Mar: Kingsmen: The Secret Service (British accent, mindblown actions… save for the CG part)

16th Mar: Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Richard Gere!!!)

23rd Mar: Chappie (Dev Patel 2 weeks in a row… and I did not see that sort of ending coming)

27th Mar: Dior & I (Always have loved pretty things and the fashion industry fascinates me all the time. Learnt a great deal about the brand, the atelier and the people working behind the scenes… Made me Google (and spell the word correctly) “haute couture”)

30th Mar: A Little Chaos (… Professor Snape in wigs. At least he is not singing like in Sweeney Todd. Though I find the storyline and romance interesting, I would definitely love to see more of the actual Versailles… and less romance?)

13th Apr: Love Is Strange (afterthoughts)

20th Apr: While We’re Young (afterthoughts)

27th Apr: Fast and Furious 7 (afterthoughts)

4th May: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Hmmm… I kinda got bored in the middle, feeling a little lost with the storyline. But hey, Hulk and Black Widow as an item? Never really see that coming. And James Spader as the voice of badass Ultron… can’t help wiping away his character as Reddington from The Black List.)

11th May: The Age of Adaline (Though I am not a big fan of chick flick, this movie has an interesting enough storyline to get me sit through the whole movie. I was loving Adaline’s character up to the point where she fell in love and became irrational. Putting the irrational side of love story, Harrison Ford did a great job as Adaline’s ex-boyfriend from ages ago. I can’t help but feel doubtful of his 40th wedding anniversary speech. Pretty sure he still is very much in love with Adaline.)

18th May: When Marnie was There (afterthoughts)

25th May: Woman in Gold (Based on a true story, read all about it in this Wikipedia entry. No surprises in the movie, but it was interesting to watch Helen Mirren and her little accent in the movie)

1st June: Spy (afterthoughts)

23rd June: Minions (got to say, can’t resist the charms of the little yellow aliens! Even if you don’t follow the Despicable Me series, it’s nice to watch the animated movie to get some doses of laughter. I really enjoyed the movie a lot, especially when I am actually watching and laughing along with my mother by my side!)

27th June: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (afterthoughts)

6th July: Inside Out (Yes… there’s a bit of tear-jerking moments in there. Now whenever I thought of my emotions, I will imagine them as little people in my head that push the buttons to generate those emotions… which then leads to memories. Got to say, it is a very entertaining way to depict humans’ (and cats and dogs) emotions and memories.)

27th July: Jurassic World (I vividly remember watching the original one when I was really small… It was scary to me. But this new one might have stretched the story to show that dinosaurs have feelings too… and all the least favourite characters usually die last.)

3rd August: Mr Holmes (Sherlock Holmes is my all time fiction hero and it’s a bit sad to watch an ageing Sherlock Holmes living in seclusion because of his last case in this movie. The movie is almost like a fiction within a fiction within a fiction… Mind-blown. The plot overall is quite simple, and it leads the audience in through flashbacks of Mr Holmes. Probably the biggest mystery of all, for me, is whether Mr Holmes really did met the Japanese father in person.)

10th August: Ant Man (I was wondering what was the rave about the newest superhero movie but YES this is a good one to keep track of. Not saying that Captain America or Iron Man is bad, but Ant Man gave a fresh look into the superhero movie industry. Have to remember that this happens in the Marvel world, so superheroes are pretty common in that particular society. I especially enjoy Michael Pena as the comedy filler in the movie. Will I look forward to see Ant Man in future Avengers movie? Not sure but I would love to see how he would attempt to lift Thor’s magic hammer if people are not tired of the running gag yet…)

24th August: Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation (I like the anti-hero story line and particularly enjoyed Benji’s scenes. Best comic relief ever! The movie definitely gave me the thrill but I won’t expect Ethan Hunt to die in the movie even though he got himself into situations where normal people will not survive well)

7th Sep: Man from U.N.C.L.E (This is one funny espionage movie that I absolutely loved. I almost could not recognise Hugh Grant in the movie, is he that old now? Good plot, not much of thrilling scenes, but absolutely enjoyed the chemistry between the two main casts.)

21st Sep: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (I was deliberating whether to watch this with the thought that this might be a romantic, sappy kind of movie. I was quite wrong. Although there was not much of a romantic plot in the movie, I can see the close friendship between the main casts, and I was laughing my heads off watching the snippets of parodies. What I could not comprehend was how the dying girl doesn’t look like she’s dying though, save for the lack of hair due to chemo?)

12th Oct: The Intern (Just purely by a glance on the poster, I might have thought the movie was about Anne Hathaway as an intern to Robert De Niro. But a quick watch of the trailer proved me to be wrong. This is definitely one interesting way to hire interns for sure. I really admire De Niro’s acting here, he was such a fatherly figure and so wise. Reminds me of my own dad… On a downside, it is kind of hard to believe that couples can work it out after an affair… I am a bit skeptical there.)

19th Oct: The Martian (An addition to the space/sci-fi themed movies, this is probably a good take on what would happen if humans were to live on Mars. Discounting the science stuff, I think The Martian definitely made a huge impression on me. It is definitely less serious as Interstellar and Gravity, and to me, seemed to paint a more realistic picture on what happens in space missions. Presumed dead, scarce food supply, harsh conditions in space… probably worst case scenario any astronaut could have imagined. Definitely a new take on the space-themed genre, and I really do admire the optimism in Matt Damon’s character)

26th Oct: Crimson Peak (I didn’t picked this movie but my movie partner did… I am a total wuss when it comes to scary/horror/supernatural movies. I read the synopsis ahead of watching the movie so that I can be prepared for any nasty stuff that may pop up in the movie. I got to say it wasn’t as scary as I thought, but it does have some parts which made me cringe.)

9th Nov: Burnt (I have a soft spot for food-related topics. This movie depicts the behind-the-scenes of high-class restaurants, and I do wonder whether Bradley Cooper got inspired by Gordon Ramsay for his character here… with less profanities.)

16th Nov: Bridge of Spies (Another World War movie for the year. I think Tom Hanks did a fantastic job in the movie and I really admire the character’s determination and brokering skills. The movie had the undertone about “being caught in the middle”, as can be seen from many characters in the movie. The lawyer, his family, the Russian spy, the American pilot, the American student… all in all, I won’t say it is on par with Enigma in terms of suspense, but nonetheless the story-telling felt real to me.)

23rd Nov: The Dressmaker (Adapted from a fiction writing, this movie delivered dark humour, the Australian way. Beyond that, I think understanding the harsh conditions of the Australian outback and the rivalry between townships are some of the interesting parts of this movie for me.)

7th Dec: The Lobster (Another dark humour… with an ending that no one knows. That left me a bit frustrated though the rest of the storyline was pretty interesting.)

14th Dec: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2 (Phew… this finalises the entire Hunger Games installments. I have yet to read the books but a lot of my friends who watched the movie told me it is pretty close to the books. The emotional roller coaster for Katniss must be pretty draining I assume…)

21st Dec: Spectre (Would this count as a sequel from the previous James Bonds installments? Was a bit lost in between all the chasing and killing actions. But I love the parts where Q and M and Moneypenny were helping James Bond to hunt down the bad guy and save the world. The end where Bond just left with the girl… that was a bit of a let down though. It’s not clear whether Daniel Craig will return for the next installments… but to me, Pierce Brosnan will always be that perfect James Bond.)

35 movies for 2015… to pick one favourite movie, I would go for Minion. Just because I’ll never be able to go pass the cuteness of these yellow creatures and their silliness. Love them!



… and the extension that I dreaded.

Despite my efforts to keep within my timeline of finishing PhD in 3 years, 2015 has not went very well. Changing supervisors and taking the whole drama pretty hard on myself made me question the reasons I came on board the PhD journey. I don’t know how I managed to pass through those few months with my new supervisor panel. I still remember the amount of tears I shed in the meetings, feeling afraid and angry at myself for losing it in front of them.

And then there’s the 6-month scholarship extension.

It allows me to submit my thesis later but I did felt like I failed in keeping my promise to finish this in 3 years. I thought I could achieve the impossible. While there is less 2 months to go before March comes around, I am still hanging a bit of hope to wrap up the writing by then.

I am grateful for being part of the PhD journey, but sometimes I lie in my bed thinking why on earth I am not giving up yet. I am not interested to be an academic (even though I am totally capable of handling the research part of the job) and I am not interested to publish, and I hate presentations. Not even sure whether I see value in my own work at times.

While I seek the light at the end of the tunnel, I know the only thing I can do is to move forward from now on and stop standing still like what I did for the past 6 months. I hate my unproductive self, but I have so little confidence in my own work, and myself, that it’s frustrating and tiring to continue this journey.

Not giving up yet. 2016 will be the year I am done with this PhD. And let me know if there’s such a thing as a thesis fairy… it will drastically help me finish my journey asap…


Thesis writing camp

The school decided to organise a thesis writing camp… 2 and a half days… and over the weekend.

And on my own birthday too.

What a way to celebrate my birthday. I should totally reward myself for writing something then.

Then again, I wish my birthday present is a completed thesis draft.

If I can churn out 50,000 words in a day, obviously.

Hopefully, the sacrifice I made for this weekend is worth it.

I can’t wait to get a bit of time off in Melbourne next week. At least I need a proper birthday getaway… and give myself the chance to eat all the good food in Melbourne.

Getting knocked down…

… way too often by my supervisors.

I actually feel very tired of defending my own ideas now. The moment my supervisors start asking questions “why this and why not that?” I kept my silence and just thinking of scrapping the current one and move on to a building a new thesis from scratch.

Sometimes in our supervisory meeting, I feel like I am stepping into a boxing ring with my main supervisor as my opponent and my co-supervisor is the referee. Before I get to give my best shot at punching, my opponent would have pinned me down and I would have then gave up the thought of even continue the match.

I let my supervisors do the talking most of the time. Heck, I don’t even know how to answer some of their questions.

Why academics are so hard to please?

This just reaffirm my personal distaste to be surrounded by intelligent people. Worst if they are the intellectual kind.

Well, no hope to submit thesis on time then. Extension seems inevitable now.

Tears scorecard…

… I always have a suspicion that supervisors keep a record on the number of students broke down in front of them during a meeting.

I think I just got one strike in their records… damn it. Major fail in keeping my straight face.

Maybe it is not the time to pretend to be strong, and pretend that I’m good at facing uncertainties.

It’s just time to take a step back and reflect on things that happened for the past few months before I move on.

Just not ready to take the leap into battling with the uncertainties yet.

Length of thesis


Back from a extended family holiday which helps a bit with my mood. But writing is still slow. I wonder whether slow and steady will actually help me win the race… unless thesis writing is not a race?

As I ponder about my dateline, I kept on thinking about the word count for my thesis. At the moment, it stands pretty much at 0, since we are detouring from my original thesis at the moment. Hopefully, what I have written will be useful at least for the literature review *nervous laughs*

In any case, if I aim to finish in March next year I figure I will need to write at least 500 words per working day… and it must not be crap.

If making words flow out from my brain is as easy as it seems…

Movie afterthoughts: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief


I like good documentaries, and this one does lives up to my expectations of a good documentary. I have always been curious about Scientology ever since I heard about this “religion” and many would have taken a greater interest on this topic when in recent years the media has been reporting that Tom Cruise is a really high-level member of Scientology.

Oh yes, you will see some Tom Cruise (and John Travolta) footages in this documentary.

I don’t undermine people who believes in Scientology. In fact, we should not undermine anyone who believes in any religion. Extremism within a religion, especially in one like Scientology, is amusing though. From this documentary, I had learnt the great lengths people will go to achieve the highest level of the membership (mostly paying large sums of money), and how Scientology manages to avoid paying billions of tax by making the IRS recognising it as a tax-exempted organisation.

One thing that still leaves me amused is that they actually holds a lavish conference (annually?) and the whole set up looks like Oscars… Very much Hollywood style.

I won’t say it is a though-provoking documentary, but it is entertaining and not so much on the heavy-side. Considering I am not very much knowledgeable of the religion, I find the documentary is easy to follow and narrated nicely. I would consider buying the book to read too.

A long break from supervisors

Just came back from a good break. Spent more time with my family and felt so much love from my parents.

Interestingly, I think June and July must be the traveling months for many academicians… unless they have to deal with examinations.

For now, my main supervisor is away on his conference trips (i think), which coincide with my approved study leave (yay!).

I’m still stuck with where I started a few months ago. Though I feel like I’m in a rut (most of the time) but I kind of learn to take things a bit easy and let the inspiration comes to me instead. Plus, my family members kept on telling me to take it easy and enjoy my remaining few months as a student.

Somehow, I just feel tired about feeling guilty all the time on not working on my thesis. And sometimes, I hate the perfectionist in myself.

And at times, I truly thought of giving up.

Of course, it’s just a “thought”. There’s something that still keep me in this journey, and I think it’s mostly my pride.

If I told my parents I am giving up, I think they will support me haha… I mean, they are really not the kind that push the kids to do well in exams. I think they believe that peer pressure will do all the work for them.

Anyways, next week I’m off again for a trip with my family. I know, it’s kind of silly to rant about my thesis when I jet myself from one country to another. Not complaining about the traveling part though. I just enjoy the times I can have a blank mind and just absorb non-academics things.

I can’t wait to finish my thesis. 8 months to go then!