Maybe it’s seen as silly to hold on to 2001: A Space Odyssey as a high water mark for an SF movie these days, but the degree of ignorance, stupidity, and shallowness on display in Oblivion provokes such rage in my that I can’t help but compare.
Be warned: here there be “spoilers” though, frankly, nothing I could do or say would spoil the movie more than the people who made it already have. But I’ll but a cut up so you need to click through to see why the film is moronic.
Also, curse words. Because I am that disgusted. If curse words offend you, skip this post and just trust me, you don’t need to go and spend money to be intellectually offended to the degree this film will do.
It’s just that it was heartbreaking seeing this movie, because for that kind of budget, and with that cast, I know people who could make an amazing SF film. A mindblowing one. Instead, that money and that cast’s time was taken up making…
So Mrs. Jiwaku and I have been in Saigon a little more than a week now. A million things have been happening, but the funniest and most blog-worthy at the moment was what happened at the Immigration desk, after I got my visa stamp and just before we exited out into the airport proper to be greeted by our friends Nick and Chris.
Mrs. Jiwaku went first, and the immigration officer had nothing much to say to her–he just looked at her for a moment, fiddled with her passport, and stamped it.
I’ve left a comment clarifying that “the first SF story” should be qualified as “the first English-language SF story” and also noting that depending on how you define “SF,” one might consider Jack London’s Star Rover the first in the English language.
Note: This is another post from lat semester, when I was teaching a film class. I am not teaching now, but the thoughts seemed worth posting. (Because right now I’m too busy to write much new for the blog, but feel I should post more often than I have been.) The post is definitely not intended to be any definitive discussion, just interesting notes from a small class discussion.
I had an interesting discussion in my class today about horror across the three cultures represented in my Understanding Anglophone Cultures Through Film course: Korean, Japanese, and Anglophone.(1)
We watched the Korean film <<여고괴담>> (Whispering Corridors 1), Juon: The Curse (Part 1); and the little-known but (in my opinion) excellent The Haunting of Julia, also published at one point as Full Circle. (The film is based on Peter Straub’s novel, which in different editions also has borne each of these titles.) I haven’t read the book–I kept seeing a copy in a huge used bookstore near my apartment when I was in undergrad, but when I saw the movie and decided I ought to read it, the thing finally had been snapped up by someone else, doubtless someone who’d also seen the film on the Showcase channel late one night. However, I’ve seen people say it’s easy to tell that the book was Straub’s first (horror) novel, so maybe I didn’t miss much… I don’t know.
Note: This is a post from late December. I was too busy to finish writing it, so I’m posting it a bit late.
Those following my SF in South Korea series have no doubt been wondering why I haven’t posted anything new in a long time. The fact is, not much has happened as far as I’ve heard about. I do have some reviews of older SF movies that Miss Jiwaku and I have dug into–specifically, Half-Moon Mask (Mask Bandal) and Wooraemae–but I’d rather talk about those once I’ve seen the whole series, and in both cases, that’s a lot of DVDs to get through.
I was swamped back in February, so I forgot to post about the application deadline for Clarion West, which was a couple of weeks ago, but for those who are working in a creative capacity–not just as a writer, mind you–the Launch Pad workshop is open for applications.
Basically, it’s a crash course in astronomy designed for people who could use some training in the area to better handle related subjects in their creative work. In my class, we had mostly fiction authors (and not all of them exclusively writers of SF), but also a science comedy team. Screenwriters, film directors… if you’re a creative person using science in your creations, and you can afford the tuition, you should definitely apply.
There is now a stereotype for psychics in Korean cinema. (Assuming there wasn’t already one, that is.)
Psychics are tall and pale as Snow White. They are skinny and their eyes do weird, sparkly blue things. Even if they’re from a poor background or living in poverty, they are obviously plastic-surgeried, and they look as if they belong in the back line of the photographs of a Korean boy band. Also, when they do something psychic, they look kind of crazy, and their eyes get really big too.
At my goodbye party last week, we were talking about the future collapse of the TEFL industry when brute-force autotranslation gets good enough that most people will only study foreign languages the way that some people still do math by hand. (I mean without a calculator–that is, out of academic requirements, a sense of old-fashionedness, or rare personal impetus to do so.)
UPDATE (8 March 2013): This event was a huge success, selling out all the seats in the cinema to a very appreciative audience. We’re happy it was so well-received, and hope that it will inspire the organization of similar such events in future! I’ll post photos when I get the chance…
ORIGINAL POST: Fans of H.P. Lovecraft in Seoul will not want to miss the upcoming Cthulhu Festival of Film in Seoul. The evening will feature three film adaptations of Lovecraft’s stories: one Korean, one German, and one American. There will be subtitles for all films, to accommodate both Korean-speakers and English-speakers.
Sometimes, when you’re teaching, you learn things. The other day, in my Greek Mythology and Biblical Narrative course, we had a discussion interesting enough that I feel like I learned a few interesting things. Figured I’d share:
On Modernizing/Adapting Myths:
In class, I was discussing the idea of archetypal figures with students in my mythology course, in the context of adapting ancient Greek mythology to a modern setting. We were specifically discussing their homework from a week before, which involved writting up synopses of their own for an imaginary adaptation of The Odyssey to a modern (post-1950) Korean setting. (They’d just watched — and we’d just discussed — the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of it to Depression-era Mississippi, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, so it seemed like an appropriate assignment.)
I have a huge list of links marked “to post” which, to be honest, I find kind of daunting. I used to post links a lot more, but lately my blog is mostly devoted to housing my ongoing project, Blogging Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, along with occasional posts on SF or Korea-related issues.
But I have had a few tabs open on my browser for over a week, which seem worth posting to me, and having been delayed for my critique group’s meeting by an annoying fridge-related disaster (though less delayed than another member), I am now sitting in a coffeeshop. While I’m taking a break from reading Bulfinch’s Mythology for the course I’m teaching, I figure I’ll post those links, and a few more while I’m at it.
I guess I blinked a week or two ago, as I missed Cabin in the Woods’ very brief release in Korea. This suggests it was a probably a good film, since good films here are rarely shown more than a week. Resignedly, Miss Jiwaku and I schlepped it down to the local cinema to watch 연가시 (apparently known in English as Deranged, which is not the best title choice, but then, it’s not the best movie so I don’t think the foreign title’s a problem).
Deranged is, just barely, Korean science fiction, so I figured I’d give it a review here. In any case, Deranged concerns an outbreak of what apparently is called a hairworm or a nematomorpha among humans. Now, these critters are real, and pretty interesting in the way they exert mind-control on their hosts; but in the real world, they exploit bugs like roaches and crickets. (And there’s a whole host of such critters out there, too.) Herein lies the bit of speculative extrapolation that makes the movie SF: in 연가시 the worms begin to parasitize humans, and in so doing, they exert the same kind of mind-control: the victims get insanely thirsty (kind of the opposite of the hydrophobia that dogs and other creatures develop when they go rabid); eventually, the human victims throw themselves into bodies of water — lakes, rivers, fish-tanks outside sashimi restaurants…
The explanation? Well… that’s a spoiler, so I’ll get into it in the extended section of the post, but before I do, I have to say, I was very disappointed with this film. To me, it went something like a mashup of the “outbreak” plotline in 괴물 (The Host), the mega-disaster storytelling of 해운대 (Tidal Wave), and a pinch of the whole generalized, non-specific zombie vogue.
The worst part of the three is the similarity of Haewoondae, which if you haven’t seen it was an off-putting ensemble narrative-type film about a tsunami striking Busan, killing a bunch of people (though unfortunately not the whole cast). As I noted when I mentioned it here, almost every major character was annoying and immediately hateable, to the point that I was actually rooting for their demise from early on. I felt the same way about most of the characters in Deranged. I can’t help but wonder why, in Korean disaster films, the focal characters are always either passive ninnies, or raging pricks. There’s usually no in-between.
As in The Host, the narrative in Deranged centers on a family, with the dad being the primarily viewpoint character. He is immediately unlikeable: in the presence of his (asshole) boss, he’s a fawning wimp, but as soon as he gets home, he transforms into a raging asshole himself. Admittedly, every time we see his wife and children they are eating and drinking–in fact, everyone is eating and/or drinking something in almost every scene for the first thirty minutes of the film; and the dialog in that part of the movie is almost always spewed out through mouthfuls of food. (I’ll admit, I’ve seen a lot of South Koreans talk with their mouths full, so it’s not particularly weird except that it’s constant, and pretty over-the-top. I felt kind of ill about fifteen minutes into the film.)
Other characters include some kind of cop or something, who is also kind of a raging asshole; the cop’s girlfriend, who works at the CDC and who is okay, if a little ineffectual, because she works for a boss who is–you guessed it–a raging asshole.
(At one point, when most of the country is already in a panic, he is still insisting on media control for fear of a panic. Uh… frankly, from what I know of the Korean Center for Disease Control (my ex interned there for a little while), they deserve a better depiction than that.) About the only likeable character is a coworker of the raging asshole dad. He was okay.
The zombie stuff was also okay, I suppose. I kind of wish the filmmaker had been willing to push things further: one of the few interesting moments in the film was seen through the eyes of an infected person trying to figure out a way of satisfying her own parasites’ mind-controlling demands. More of that would have been interesting.
But instead, what we mostly get is melodrama, and the only character growth allowed is, predictably, for the raging asshole dad to realize that maybe he’s been a raging asshole unnecessarily, all this time! Mom? The kids? The CDC officer? Nobody else really grows. Nobody develops, except for dad’s flip-flop. And worse, Mom and the kids are just plain annoying in the passivity. Mom does toughen up and finally do something, before the end of the film, but by that point I was kind of ready for her to die tragically… and I can’t say she really grows or develops. It is, insultingly, her maternal instinct that drives her to her moment of heroism. (I’ve nothing against maternal instincts, but are they really the only reserves female characters should be allowed? I think not.)
An then there’s the explanation I promised. Well, of all things: there’s a xenophobic element.
Of course there is. Isn’t there always, when it comes to outbreaks and pathogens and basically anything bad or evil happening in Korean films? Deranged is no different.
This post is part of a series titled "SF in South Korea":
I’m still thinking this over, since I first mentioned it last January.
Had an interesting talk on a couple of weekends ago with some of my Korean SF-fan friends about Lovecraft, the contents of which surprised me. I though ol’ H.P. was popular here, given that a large number of his works had been translated and published — in some cases, there are collections containing some of the same stories, worked over by different translators, put out by different publishers, even. But I was told that Lovecraft hasn’t really caught on in any appreciable way, which also makes it hard for anything built off his work to catch on here. (One example is Stross’ Laundry books, which I was told can’t really have a following here because most people can’t follow the Lovecraft references.)
These e-cards have been getting popular all over Facebook, but I haven’t yet seen anyone use the medium to write a “short story.” Doubt there’s a new story format here properly, but when I saw this image, I couldn’t resist. Not that there would be a gill in an armpit, but…
Well, there have been a few Korean SF film projects going on lately, and the most recent film in process now is a time-travel effort titled AM 11:00. I don’t know when it’s supposed to come out, though I feel like I saw an ad for it already — but that can’t be, as they only started shooting in May, right?
So, recently, the Seoul SF & Fantasy Library relocated to Mapo-gu. The new location is near Hong-Ik Dae University, and is a wonderful space: large, bright, and very versatile, as well as above-ground — it is on the third floor of the building in which it is located. I was meaning to take some photos of the wonderful place, but it slipped my mind before I left, so that will have to await an update for this post.
Well, I just cracked open the novel Heathern, by Jack Womack, which pretty much describes a world on its way from our familiar, 1980s world into the horror of the most dystopian of his Dryco novels. Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:
A baby almost killed me as I walked to work one morning. By passing beneath a bus shelter’s roof at the ordained moment I lived to tell my tale. With strangers surrounding me I looked at what remained. Laoughter from heaven made us lift our eyes skyward. The baby’s mother lowered her arms and leaned out her window. Without applause her audience drifted off, seeking crumbs in the gutters of this city of God. Xerox shingles covered the shelter’s remaining glass pane, and the largest read: