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
I don’t know when you can consider yourself a fan of something, especially for things with prominent fan culture, like K-pop. For some, I imagine, being a fan is like taking on an identity. I certainly remember what it was like being a groupie, following the cast of a TV show around Hollywood for events and shows and things. It was pretty weird. I made some good friends, though. One of them so good, that when I was leaving Los Angeles last summer, he suggested we hang out and do a double feature of The Raid 2 and The Night Comes for Us, rather than go out to a bar — which I hate doing. Not a socialite, but I did sense that I was developing as a social creature with this new group, because barring my fellow Indonesian kung fu enthusiast, it was made up entirely of women. I’d had a single woman friend before – a token, but for a time she was also my only friend – but this was a new experience. Essentially, I had to learn how to talk to them, to make sure I was doing my part to maintain a good space. The show we were fans of was all about a diverse, inclusive world, so it would have been weird to not replicate it ourselves. For the most part, there was no drama, nothing weird happened, and unlike all my prior friend groups, there was no competition of any sort. No rivalries, no gatekeeping. … More 01/18/2022 – Naeun’s Turn
Today is the ten-year anniversary of Apink, one of my favorite K-pop groups. I don’t have anything big planned to commemorate such an achievement, but I have been working intermittently behind-the-scenes on a podcast episode dedicated to them, something like “Apink: A Musical Journey” or “The Art of Apink.” I don’t know, whatever sounds less dumb. But I don’t mind being dumb, because Apink makes for sometimes simple pleasures, with their easy, listenable sound. This is their overall character, “soft” or “cute,” so they lull you and when the surprises come, they hit hard. There’s the gradual “maturing” in tone they’ve developed in the past few years, with hits like “I’m So Sick” and “Eung Eung” — both excellent — but I don’t want to look at that as a change of style. I think it’s all one thing, that there’s a central driver behind songs as disparate in theme as “My My” and “Dumhdurum.” We’ll talk more in-depth about their artistry later. … More 04/19/2021 – Congratulations, Apink!
I love everything about this song — the music itself, of course, and also the MV. The colors, the lavish detail, the frowny-girl scowls, and even Naeun’s cornrows (speaking of appropriative). This is a really bold outing for Apink, as far as I’ve seen (having missed a few of their more recent evolutionary steps, namely “%%”). It pops. There’s a big synchronized hair whip in the choreography, and I think that’s the quintessence of the piece. It’s fast and fun — it’s a real jolt. And it’s lean, maintaining a consistent vibe throughout, rather than peaks and valleys. … More K-Pop Pick of the Day: “Dumhdurum”