K-Drama Report: My Name

I’m three episodes into My Name and already desperate to continue. On paper, it’s tailor-made to my sensibilities, those which I’ve struggled to communicate on this blog. My only remotely successful With Eyes East YouTube video is a wild-eyed plea to Hollywood, or Indonesian Hollywood, or anyone with a camera and a gallon of fake blood, to cast Julie Estelle and contribute to her undoubtedly skyward journey. I hardly got this point across in the video, but Estelle represents, to me, a new kind of action star. Where the Hong Kong heroines from the ‘60s through the‘90s were simply working with a different sort of market — less bloodsoaked and crazy, with notable exceptions — and modern actresses dip from time to time into action with mixed results, say Kim Ok-vin or Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the image Julie Estelle has built for herself so far has the potential to stay gory at the intersection of Indonesia’s auteurs and the international market’s appetite. … More K-Drama Report: My Name

Three More the Korean Way: Wow, Cool Capitalist Critique!

One of the stranger experiences I have on Twitter is witnessing non-Koreans speak in defense of Korean pop culture against the clutches of Hollywood, as it’s both heartening to witness and not something I completely agree with. The assertion is that America doesn’t understand what made these originals so great, that X factor unique to the culture. Admittedly, we have a proven track record, from The Uninvited to Oldboy, to still easternmore scars like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. And yet, we say that a film like Parasite is distinctly Korean but universally understood. Train to Busan is better without a remake despite that remakes are a cornerstone of the zombie subgenre. And then there’s our Squid Game, and if you must take what little remains, hey, The Running Man is good! Believe me, I get the concern that American adaptations won’t capture what the originals are saying — but what are they saying? … More Three More the Korean Way: Wow, Cool Capitalist Critique!

Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist | Recommended Korean Drama

As is customary with the “Recommended K-Drama” feature, I’ll explain my choice, though as always, I’d really rather not. “OMG, actress X” is one thing, but just wait. See, I first heard about Madame Antoine via YouTube, mentioned in a video essay about sexual assault in K-dramas. I’ll be sure to link the video in the future, but not in the context of this post. Specifically, the video discussed female perpetrators, for example the “ajumma” trope, where middle-aged women flock together and harass the young male lead. The problem, the video emphasizes, is that these scenarios are comedic. These women have no compunctions about inappropriate touching, and the usually strong man can’t speak against it because of Korea’s social hierarchy. A cultural thing, but this should ring familiar to anyone well-acquainted with American pop culture, where sexual assault is funny when a lady’s doing it. Accordingly, the video cites a moment from this show Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist, where a girl — a noona, not an ajumma — forcefully kisses a guy under the guise of helping him practice kissing the girl he’s actually attracted to. It’s also a “no becomes yes” scene, for anyone playing trope bingo. Please understand that when I say what I’m about to say, I’m not winking. Sexual assault is always wrong, and that’s a baseline for membership into human civilization. But the truth is, I proceeded to watch Madame Antoine because this scene sparked in me a perverse desire. … More Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist | Recommended Korean Drama

My Wife is a Gangster 3

There’s a tropey thing in movies where the badass hero guy goes big-league, demonstrating killer skills outside his usual environment. Maybe it’s Ray Liotta pistol-whipping the guy in Goodfellas, or Jason Statham beating up the basketball court in The Expendables. We know they deal with bigger threats, so this one’s just for fun — applied badass. I went looking through the Goodfellas listing on TV Tropes and didn’t find anything, though the scene is considered, among others, an example of their trope “All Girls Want Bad Boys.” True enough, in both cases, the badass application makes audience of a woman (“I gotta admit, It turned me on,” says Karen Hill). … More My Wife is a Gangster 3

Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

“Give me Cha Hyeon,” Ga-kyeong says, and as the scene whips between reaction shots and the music swells, I’m bouncing the iPad on my knees, making a positively indescribable noise. Search: WWW often shocked me like this, inducing so much excitement and even dread, then clocking me square in the stupid grin. It was urgent somehow, to even process my experience with it — but I couldn’t. Perhaps it left me feeling so much that my thoughts were annihilated. I’d like to recommend it, but where do I even start? … More Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

Lee Da-hee: Dichotomy

I promise not to make this a regular feature, especially since it’s rare anyway. It’s something I’ve always liked about actors, when an already compelling turn is underscored by just how opposite the performer seems to be in reality. It’s a strange thing to write about, but the actress Lee Da-hee represents an extraordinary case. … More Lee Da-hee: Dichotomy

K-Drama Report: The Beauty Inside (2018)

Yes, I cried. Happy? I am, because it’s been a while. The story as old as this website is my search for another K-drama as affecting to me as the first I saw, Cheer Up! (Sassy Go Go). Last year, I thought it might be Something in the Rain, with superstar Son Ye-jin, a relatively straightforward romance where the twist is that the woman is older than the man by maybe six years. Scandalous! Granted, it was further complicated by the man being a family friend, so to Son’s mother, it was like her two children were hooking up and she did not take that well. Also, it is kind of scandalous, damn it, and would be even in the States. Also, if the woman is taller, but I do go on. Could go on. I’ve seen ten episodes, but a few episodes back, my view rate slipped from days to weeks to months. It was so disheartening because I loved the show from premise on, and I really liked the central couple, as well as Son’s long-suffering friend. The problem was a fatal, repetitive subplot involving sexual harassment, which felt so tertiary to the main plot and certainly prickled me with sensitive subject matter. … More K-Drama Report: The Beauty Inside (2018)

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

K-Drama Report: Man in the Kitchen (2017)

This writeup is destined to be a report card, something I’ll gladly refer back to once I’m more secure in my ability to assess Korean dramas — this is where it began. At the moment, I’ve had a spotty track record. The first drama I’ve watched to completion remains the only: Cheer Up!, which was my QNA pick for greatest entertainment experience of 2019. It’s a colorful, heartfelt melodrama that soars so high yet explores surprisingly wrenching emotional depths. Being used to the 13 or 24-episode counts of American TV shows, I was devastated to find Cheer Up! is 12 in total (and that was before I saw it ends in the middle). I’m currently watching Man in the Kitchen, and by episode three, a thought crossed my mind that draws the sharpest distinction between the two shows: “Okay, I understand why this is 50 episodes long.” It was not a good thought. … More K-Drama Report: Man in the Kitchen (2017)

The Villainess

You ever go on a date with someone fun and you’re, like, a 95% match, but then they say something that grinds the conversation to a halt, and it throws the integrity of the match into question and also possibly the premise of matchmaking itself, that there are no true matches, only fish in an endless sea broiling with riptide and Bermuda Triangles? Well, I didn’t actually go on a date with director Jung Byung-gil, but him and I are that 95% match, and his 2017 film The Villainess is my Bermuda Triangle. It is a siren’s song; it is my doom. … More The Villainess