Thursday, January 28, 2010

실미도 (Silmido)

So I still haven't finished watching "친구." I talked to Boyfriend about it. Since he's Korean and all, I thought he might be able to justify my feelings of dissatisfaction with the film. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Ash: So I watched this movie, "친구," the other day.
BF: Oh yea? What did you think?
Ash: Well, actually I thought it was pretty boring. I didn't finish watching it.
BF: Yea, I guess that might be boring to you cause you're not Korean, but it made Busan guys look really cool.

There you have it. If you're from Busan, check out the film. Otherwise... meh? Of course, Boyfriend is from Busan.

I still feel like I should finish watching it, but alas, I've already moved on. A friend noticed my interest in Korean movies and kindly recommended "실미도." He prefaced this recommendation with "It's not awesome, but it's watchable." More proof that I have have terrible taste because I really enjoyed it.

실미도 is the name of an island that belongs to Korea. The film, which is apparently based on a true story, tells the story of a group of convicts and death-row inmates who are sent to this island to become an elite Kim Il Sung assassination squad. Their identities are erased, but they have a chance to redeem themselves by becoming the greatest heroes to their divided country. In a twist of fate, their assassination mission is terminated, and the government decides to terminate the team as well. The men must fight against their own government and the officers who trained them to preserve their place in history.

Terrible reasons why I like this movie:

I like any story when bad guys are rehabilitated and become awesome ass-kicking heroes. These days we're seeing a lot of films that explore possible "uses" for convicts and law-breakers, but they always seem to be in some kind of death game for the average person's viewing pleasure. I like this movie because it treats the bad guys like real characters who grow and change.

The exploration of identity issues is really cool. All of the men essentially lose their past identities when they are "executed." They must all painfully redefine themselves. One character is the son of a traitorous communist. He must find a way to escape his father's legacy. The best scene in the movie for me is when the men finally realize they are doomed to die. Their biggest fear is that their nation will believe the lies that they are communist soldiers instead of heroes. They end up all screaming their names and writing them in blood on the inside of a bus before committing mass suicide. Very John Proctor. "You have taken my soul. Leave me my name!" Totally badass.

I find the idea fascinating that there are things in our history which have been kept secret and are slowly leaked over time. The ending of the movie is really cool.

I guess that's all. On a side note, this movie is pretty long, so if you plan on watching it, make sure you have a good couple of hours.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

친구 (Friend)

I'm not a particularly subtle lady, so when I want to know about something I usually just come out and ask it... or in most cases (let's be real) I just google the shit out of everything. No surprises then that most of the Korean movies I've seen I heard about by google searching "top Korean movies." This method has not failed me yet. It may be the fact that I have terrible taste (or just no taste at all), but it takes a lot for me to not enjoy a movie. I consider it a blessing that I can be entertained so easily. Well, I had enjoyed every Korean movie that I had seen until yesterday when I attempted to watch "친구," known as "Friend" in English. I found this film listed on some rando's top 10 Korean films. In the company of "Sassy Girl," "Old Boy," and "빈집," I thought it might be good for a try.

I did not enjoy it.

Not that the movie is utterly terrible, cause even then I might have enjoyed it for it's utter terribleness. I just didn't care. Not a single character or situation was able to elicit any feeling at all from me, a sad experience for someone as easily delighted or enraged as I am.

The film is the story of 4 childhood friends as they grow up, lose their innocence, etc. I'm all for a good coming of age story of friendship, so I really have trouble pinpointing exactly what did not do it for me in this movie. Maybe it's simply the fact that I'm a woman and so I felt alienated by isolation in the male friendship world of the film. Maybe that's why I didn't care. I certainly hate to think that's why. I like to think I could appreciate an honest look into male friendship, but maybe that's not true. Honestly I'm still processing.

I didn't actually finish the film. Frankly if a movie doesn't make me feel something in the first 45 minutes, I don't feel guilty about abandoning it mid-watch. I'm going to try to give it another go this week, for fairness alone. I'll let you know how that goes. Perhaps there's some fantastically redeeming ending that will make me eat my words.

I hope so.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

꽃보다 남자 (Boys Over Flowers)

In addition to the hideous amount of movies I watch on a regular basis, I've also sadly become obsessed with a certain Korean TV show. It began through a quest to find something to watch while I'm exercising and has just gone from there.

"꽃보다 남자" or "Boys Over Flowers" in English, is one of several TV incarnations of a Japanese manga by the same name. It follows the life of 금잔디 (Jan-di Geum), a middle class high school student who miraculously ends up attending a super prestigious high school for rich kids. Picture all the trash and ridiculousness of "Gossip Girl" without the sex. Sounds lame, right? It is, but for some reason I'm still watching it. The show is a veritable gold mine of cliches and bad acting, so I'll just highlight my favourite parts.

Over the Top Messages of Consumerism and Class Culture: Poor Jan-di is just the outcast of outcasts at Shinhwa High. Man, does she have a hard life. She takes a lunchbox to school instead of eating at the 5 star restaurant cafeteria, she has to work a part time job after school, she's not even going to inherit a multi-million dollar corporation from her parents, WTF? The amount of shopping and conspicuous consumption montages in an episode alone is crazy. Of course Jan-di's humble roots make her a target for her rich and bored classmates who constantly refer to her as commoner and dry cleaner. Which brings us to...

Slow Motion Bullying Scenes: I know I shouldn't laugh, but they're just too funny. Jan-di is regularly the victim of somebody's evil plan. She gets beat up and humiliated constantly. For some reason these scenes are always delivered in slow motion. I don't know why, but it's awesome. Add the fact that Jan-di is a glutton for punishment and ends up shouting "Is that all you got? More!" every time she gets beat up. Pure magic.

Wide Open Plot Holes: Jan-di goes to this prestigious school on a swimming scholarship, yet somehow on tropical vacation in one of the episodes she ends up almost drowning in about 4 feet of water because of "leg cramps."

A Chance to Learn Some Korean Slang: Since most of the characters are high school students, you can learn a lot of useful Korean phrases such as 죽을래? (Do you want to die?).

All in all I can't tell why I continue to watch this show. It really is awful. For some reason I think it was the most popular drama in Korea in 2008/2009 though. Bizarre. Worth checking out if you're desperate for entertainment.


Monday, January 11, 2010

빈집 (3-Iron)

I watch a lot of movies. It's a sad reality of my life. These days I'm watching a lot of Korean movies in an attempt to a) find movies that I haven't already seen, and b) pretend like I'm practicing my Korean. Last night I watched "빈집" or "3-Iron" as it's known in English.

The movie poster is kind of lame, but take my word for it; it's worth watching.

빈집 means empty house. The story follows a young man who breaks into people's houses while they're away on vacation. He stays in each house for a night, fixing things that are broken and taking pictures with the family portraits. One night the home he thinks is abandoned is actually still hiding a battered housewife. The young man ends up injuring the abusive husband when he returns home and running away with the wife.

The most interesting thing about this film is the lack of dialogue between the two main characters. The young man does not say one line for the entire film, and the woman's lines can be counted on one hand. This exploration of silence and intimacy is reason enough to seek out this film if you haven't seen it already.

The silent hero ends up spending some time in jail where he becomes totally badass and masters something similar to Bagua kung fu. The ending is quietly tragic and yet somehow still satisfying. Definitely check this movie out if you're looking to get into Korean cinema or just searching for something far from ordinary.


Something New

So I've decided to start something new, not unusual for someone who has as much free time on their hands as I do. My old blog kept you up to date on my daily/weekly/monthly goings on, but I've since realized that's a little boring. Seeing how little I care about the daily ins and outs of my life leads me to believe you care even less. But I know how much you love reading my small works of genius, so I'm not giving up on blogging altogether.

My solution: you've found it! This is where I'll talk about stuff you might actually be interested in, mostly Korean stuff since that's where I live, but pretty much anything is fair game. What I like, what I don't like, what baffles me and amazes me, you'll find it here. And let me know what you like, what you don't like, what baffles and amazes you.

Here's to a new start.