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]

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

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

Kamjagiya

I can’t focus, so let me share something real quick. There are certain Korean words I’ve picked up listening to K-pop, watching K-dramas, and mostly, watching and rewatching the same Red Velvet videos (Level Up Project, behind-the-scenes, V-Lives, fan edits, you name it), and while it isn’t enough to call a starting point, I’m surprised every time I recognize anything. Some words are so specific to the people who said them that they’re indelible, like how Seulgi says “Bashta” about a beer, or Eunji with (I think) “그래” in a scene from Cheer Up, and Yeri the same in a V-Live. Wendy says “Yorubun” a very particular way at some point, but I don’t remember the context. … More Kamjagiya

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part II

I have to stress that Twenty-Five Twenty-One is beautiful. Of course, there’s the delicate soundtrack, and the story itself is people rebuilding themselves in the wake of economic recession, but I honestly, chiefly, mean the visuals. Where I’d expect any ‘90s-set period piece made 30 years later to desaturate, the colors of Twenty-Five Twenty-One are boosted. Grass is green, the gym is orange and red, the night sky is blue, and Na Hee-do actually gets orange and pink with emotions. I’ve already covered the camerawork, but there’s also the editing, like that small moment in episode nine where Coach Yang beckons Hee-do with a quick gesture and we punch in on it for just a second. It’s a super-confident production, and while that helps the big moments land, it’s also just a very pleasant watch. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part II

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One

By traditional logic, Twenty-Five Twenty-One has a lot to live up to. Its writer/director team is Kwon Do-eun and Jung Ji-hyun, whose previous collaboration was 2019’s Search: WWW, which blew me away. This, of course, is K-drama, where I’ve had to rethink all the rules of everything. In this case, what drew me to Search: WWW was the actress Lee Da-hee and the promise – fulfilled – of her badass character. I came for Scarlett and stayed for the simmering romance and the slowly-unfolding tragedy. This is like the difference between being a fan of a movie franchise and being a fan of a director. If Production IG were to announce a new Ghost in the Shell the same day that Mamoru Oshii announced a new movie, I know which one I’d watch first. Sure, the Oshii movie might be better (guy’s so experimental it’s kind of a toss-up), but Ghost in the Shell has Scarlett, so to speak. So to speak. So when the makers of Search: WWW roll out a new K-drama, I can reasonably predict the same level of simmering romance and slowly-unfolding tragedy. Being that it’s about a high school girl who wants to be a real good fencer, it doesn’t speak to me the same way as the imagery of Lee Da-hee stomping on people or sliding over a car hood. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One

South Korea Takes a Big Step [Podcast]

This month, I’m joined by regular QNA cohost Donovan Morgan Grant for a spoiler-filled and plot-summary-free discussion about recent Netflix release Love and Leashes, our own private movie event of the year. Which of us blinks first and discloses their sexual proclivities? Given that the shock of this movie is its novelty as K-drama, is it actually a major step forward for fictional women in the workplace/bedroom? And if so, can we say that it’s then a step forward for even non-fictional women? … More South Korea Takes a Big Step [Podcast]

K-Drama Report: My Name (2021)

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 (2021)