So Close

I’m a talker. I talk to movies, I talk at the screen. It’s weird, but I do it. I was fully expecting to come into a review of So Close focused on how it’s the guiltiest guilty pleasure, how its predictability is disarming on purpose and that purpose is just north of lurid, but then it pulls a turn with 30 minutes on the clock that had me shouting. The climax plays out and I’m sitting there with “Here she comes.” “This is where she comes in.” “She’s coming back.” “Could they really…?” and then the credits roll and I am just “What the fuck?” “Are you fucking kidding me?” “What the fuck?” It’s the next morning as I write this [diary entry] and the sting resounds still. … More So Close

Three the Korean Way

Gosh, I remember — and don’t you dare deny that this happened — I remember when Parasite was at the height of its celebration, and one of the ideas floating around online was that Korean cinema isn’t only defined by violence and revenge. And if you look, a lot of the blockbusters of the past few years were romantic-comedies or historical dramas. However, my experience with Korean film is absolutely defined by violence and revenge. That’s how it was marketed, that’s what got me interested. So consider this a disproportionate response to something I saw on Twitter a year ago. I think Korean revenge is important. And today, I want to explore three of its examples and ask the question that bubbles at the edges of your mind while in the throes of these films: why? That scurrilous online claim had to come from somewhere — why is there so much Korean revenge? And should revenge define the nation’s cinema? … More Three the Korean Way

Sisters of Mulan Part II: Golden Swallow vs. The White-Haired Witch

Whether it’s Wang Cong’er taking up her righteous sword against the Qing Dynasty or Ching Shih living the freest possible life yet expressed, rebellion lies at these restless hearts. Where there is war, there are warriors, and where there are warriors, there are warrior women. It’s really that simple, and so I think it’s only right how we’ve gone to great lengths, by way of mythology and science both, to complicate it. Selective history is exactly that — it is conscious. Before I raise hell about all the Chinese warrior women omitted from my American public school education, what about all the important American women of history I only learned about later and at random? Why were they excluded? Did the people who made the choice to exclude even know about them? Were they excluded for them too, and then, who was the original excluder? By George, this goes all the way to the top, or at least, to some rather unpleasant gentleman. … More Sisters of Mulan Part II: Golden Swallow vs. The White-Haired Witch

The Royal Tailor

A lot of the Korean pop culture I’ve witnessed so far eschews context, even before exportation to America. There’s a propulsive energy to movies like Parasite and The Handmaiden, like “Wowzer, where did that come from?” and you’ll see highly-paid and highly-respected Korean celebrities doing absurd things in the name of cinema (or variety shows). A film like The Royal Tailor doesn’t stop to observe its absurdity, doesn’t replicate the audience to lie prostrate before it and be judged, and this allows the earnest deliveries of lines like “I’ll make sure your clothes never see the light of day!” The magic trick, then, is that this line is a gut punch. … More The Royal Tailor

#Alive

Zombie movies stopped being weird a long, long time ago. And I don’t mean “millions of Milla Jovovich clones” weird — though before I fall into this visible trap for genre snobbery, is that any better or worse than Return of the Living Dead III’s zombie power loaders? To my mind, still, there’s a difference between Paul W.S. Anderson and Brian Yuzna. There’s a difference between in-groups and out-groups, the names made in the heyday — teeth cut, conventions defined, practical effects — who attach to a classic like Re-Animator, itself apiece with Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive and the original Return of the Living Dead — the good ones. Whenever a zombie movie passes before my eyes — or I watch a zombie movie, whatever — all of this history trots out again for parade, all this embittered narrative and stolen history, borderline appropriation / vandalism of our darkest realms, us — genre champions — for coercion into the mainstream. What you call perhaps the last bastion against genre monopoly by superheroes I call… the rape of the natural world! … More #Alive

Crisis in Xinjiang: Introduction

I’ve been racking by brain recently with how to introduce the humanitarian crisis in Xinjiang to With Eyes East, a movie/K-pop blog. It’s important, generally, and especially important as the current video duo on the YouTube channel is about Chinese history. It’s crucial context for the next installment of “Sisters of Mulan,” which partly discusses the authoritarian Mainland government. My first thought was to attempt outlining a “solution pipeline,” not to present myself as answer-having, but to discover our part in the answer — I was imagining something like “write your U.N.,” and by the time I get there, the whole thing looks ridiculous. It’s an enormously serious situation, and I feel terrible applying my brand of naive slacktivism to it. So before I do come up with a personal solution here, here are two very helpful articles from Just Security, the first communicating the urgency and the second recommending proper responses from world bodies. … More Crisis in Xinjiang: Introduction

Chadwick Boseman

It was not coronavirus, it was not the police. It was cancer, that most apolitical tragedy — awakening no rage, activating no power. That’s been the American experience in 2020, and so his death stands alone as an unanswerable injustice. Chadwick Boseman is the face of a cinema project unprecedented in the U.S. — film … More Chadwick Boseman

Sisters of Mulan: The Warrior Women of China

What about Mulan? I always thought she was a real historical figure, maybe because she was also pretty. The movie has only a dash of the supernatural — seasoned just right — and we certainly never learned about Chinese history in school, so how, before I looked it up, could I have known, how? Well, it turns out that the Mulan story dates back to a poem, not an actual, factual woman who rode off to war in her father’s place. But that’s such a good story, I want it to be real. And because our perception today of Mulan is so tied in with female empowerment, that she’s the Disney princess who kicks butt and challenges a woman’s place in society, shouldn’t that have some basis in reality? Obviously you can enjoy the Mulan story or the movies any way you’d like, and feel empowered by them, so the answer is no. But if the answer is yes, the question “Was Mulan real?” becomes “Is Mulan believable?” And to answer that question, I’d like to take a look today at the historical figures with similar stories, and their depictions in movies. Because it’s not enough that Mulan has spiritual sisters, we have to understand that she does. And so, our story begins where a lot of great stories begin. … More Sisters of Mulan: The Warrior Women of China

Top 5 K-Pop Songs

Yes, this is the absolutely definitive top five K-pop songs of all time, according to someone who’s been listening to K-pop for, like, a year. I trust that this list will evolve as I continue on in my Koreaboo journey, so maybe I’ll make it a recurring feature. There’s just something about this music that makes me want to surrender to hyperbole, to shout superlatives and classify things as number one best, not to evangelize but simply to accurately express my feelings. And this isn’t a one-way thing, man. I need to know your top K-pop songs, however you reach me. Email, Twitter, a thrown brick upon the temple, message wrapped around it. Two notes before we begin: first, I’m doing one song per group, so that this doesn’t become a Red Velvet show. And second, you may be frustrated to discover that all these songs are by girl groups. Whenever I say “K-pop,” you know, on the street, a brick in your hand, that’s pretty much what I’m talking about, though that obviously makes for somewhat serious omissions. Whatever! Everybody ready? … More Top 5 K-Pop Songs