Queendom of the Gods

First and foremost, congratulations to WJSN for winning Queendom 2, though the real winner of course was Taeyeon, filling in for Lee Da-hee. I got into Girls’ Generation a bit sideways, so I’m only now reconciling with the scope of Taeyeon’s celebrity. For anyone else who doesn’t fully understand, Taeyeon is an idol for idols. I’ve seen a number of other idols talk about how cool it would be to one day meet Taeyeon, and I saw Bomi all nervous before being in the same room with her. That’s one thing I’d love to really get, the X factor of knowledge that might come from growing up with all that pop culture. The implicit things like Taeyeon’s godliness or what do Koreans reference in their day-to-day? I’ve picked up on some of it, like references to White Tower or The World of the Married? Anyway, speaking of K-dramas, what was interesting about Queendom 2 for me was Bona’s return of the king, where she joined her group after having missed more than half the show due to Twenty-Five Twenty-One. … More Queendom of the Gods

New K-Drama Alert! The Witch is Alive

The Witch is Alive is the show that Lee Yu-ri cut her hair for, and what makes it unique for me is it’s one of those “first-sight purchases,” or whatever the real term is. The only reason I watched Twenty-Five Twenty-One is because it was the same team as Search: WWW, and the only reason I watched Search: WWW is because of Lee Da-hee. And all the K-dramas I’ve watched and all the ones I’ve loved, it’s never been the premise itself that hooked me. Or even the poster, but I got an eyeful of the one above (POV: being disposed of) and knew everything was gonna be alright. … More New K-Drama Alert! The Witch is Alive

Genre Evolution [VLOG]

Trying something new — forgoing video essays for something far more specific: Kermode Uncut? Not a flattering comparison for me, but I just like the structure of those videos. I just have to work on cutting down on the chitchat and, you know, video quality.

My Red Velvet Spotify Playlist [Podcast]

Well, everyone, it finally happened. A friend of mine said to me, “I’m trying to get into Red Velvet. What do you recommend?” Those are the most beautiful words under Heaven. It more than made my day; it answered with the sweep of catharsis a long-running anxiety I’ve had about the art of recommendation itself, that it’s been lost, that people don’t really mean it when they ask anymore because criticism and curation have been so thoroughly decentralized, but here she is: “What do you recommend?” … More My Red Velvet Spotify Playlist [Podcast]

Underworld Politics

By happenstance, I waited more than a year to revisit the world of Johnnie To’s Election, finally sitting down to watch Election 2 (A.K.A. Triad Election) kind of on a lark. I was all geared up for Reign of Assassins while the world is in Yeoh mode, but then a flip switched in my head. I liked the first Election well enough, despite that its depiction of gangsters took me by surprise. They were always getting hit by cars or eating plates or never, ever firing a gun. I also struggled to keep up with the story, thrown immediately into the deep end with way too many characters all talking about many other characters. But by the end, it weirdly clicked. Oh, shit, that’s a hell of an ending. Now that I kind of understand, I’m wondering if the second and final Election movie will be clearer to start out. Nope! But what is clearer is that it’s phenomenal. … More Underworld Politics

New K-Drama Alert! “Our Blues”

This looks really great, and it’s special for a number of reasons. But first, especially after Twenty-Five Twenty-One, I appreciate an “older” cast. Older than 19, which is what Ji-woong was, by the way. Our Blues reunites Shin Min-a and Lee Byung-hun, two of Korea’s biggest stars who co-starred in A Bittersweet Life as well as a show called Beautiful Days, possibly as siblings. Also starring is Kim Woo-bin, who’s dating Shin Min-a in realidad. It’s like a big happy reunion, with at least one more notable name — Noh Hee-kyung. … More New K-Drama Alert! “Our Blues”

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part IV – Endgame

As part of my tortured logic with “perfect episodes,” there can’t be more than one per show! There has to be a best episode, right? Maybe you can imagine, then, me biting my nails after making the declaration for episode 13, because episodes 14 and 15 were eliciting a more powerful emotional response. However, episode 15 especially showcases why structure is important in that make-believe conversation, because when Twenty-Five Twenty-One moves into the endgame, its units of story divide as sequences and then scenes. For me, the climax of Na Hee-do and Go Yu-rim’s story was the series’ emotional peak. We already knew the outcome, that Hee-do defeats her ultimate rival, so it’s doubly impressive that the match was so thrilling and the conclusion so cathartic. Striking right to the heart of the show’s themes, the duel also ropes in journalism, expressing how both athletes have matured. They’ve developed a trust that transcends direct communication. Instead of the victory screams that have punctuated the tournament, Hee-do pulls off her mask to reveal silent tears and Yu-rim does the same. I broke. This is a show that took its time, and didn’t mine breakups or sudden tragedies for repetitive drama. When the big hit came, it landed. And then I recovered, checked the runtime: it’s only half over. From there, the episode veers into unexpected territory, forfeiting its whole for the next phase of story — and it’s a doozy. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part IV – Endgame

Your Guide to the History Behind Twenty-Five Twenty-One

The Korean drama Twenty-Five Twenty-One begins in 2021, a couple of years into the COVID-19 pandemic, before flashing back to 1998, a year into the “IMF crisis.” Director Jung Ji-hyun noted this parallel in a press conference, confident the historical event would resonate with modern audiences. Based on the show’s ratings and buzz, at the top of the charts week after week, it appears the analogy clicked – as but one gear in a clicking machine so engineered by Jung and screenwriter Kwon Do-eun. Twenty-Five Twenty-One is a beautiful television series, artfully composed and thrillingly performed. It’s the kind of production that inevitably spins out of passion, and maybe even mission. There’s a lot being said about Korean history and culture, so what were those events that inspired this story? … More Your Guide to the History Behind Twenty-Five Twenty-One

Enough

Red Velvet has already come back, so soon after the ReVe Festival 2022, kind of compounding my anxiety that the lead single “Feel My Rhythm” will be forgotten — or, if not forgotten, uncalculated in the Best of Red Velvet calculations to come. I say this because — and this is personal heresy — it might be my favorite Red Velvet song? … More Enough

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part III — A Perfect Episode

Just before starting episode 13, I wondered, “When’s the plot gonna start?” and on cue, it’s here that the story begins to come into focus. Or, if not “story,” at least the nexus of all the show’s elements, delivered by our most intriguing character, Coach Chan-mi. I think it’s a little bit funny how Twenty-Five Twenty-One posits that most ancient rivalry, between fencers and news reporters, but it does make sense especially when abstracted from the framing. Part of what weighs the drama of this episode is our knowledge of Baek Yi-jin’s struggle to regain his place in society. While bearing a his mark of shame, he’s taken up odd jobs and eaten a lot of shit at the bottom rung. Though every authority figure in his life advises against a personal relationship with Na Hee-do, he can’t simply leave the newsroom because we know what starting over means. And suddenly, standing there in the snow outside Yi-jin’s house, the times have once again conspired against Hee-do. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part III — A Perfect Episode