The Muppets have been on my mind, ever since Mrs. Jiwaku started working on a painting which is, essentially, a mash-up of the Coen Brothers’ film Barton Fink with Jim Henson’s Muppet characters.
And you’ll probably be wondering what The Muppets have to do with bigotry, though I swear, if you stick with it, it’ll make sense. (And no, I’m not talking about the recent Muppet movie and racial coding of characters. I’m talking about Jim Henson as a political subversive, something I talked about in my classes, but am pretty sure I haven’t posted about here before.)
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.
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.
(Note: I’ve added and update, because it turned out I had more to say.)
Original Post: Just saw Cloud Atlas. I think Mrs. Jiwaku’s response is a pretty fair one: “It’s a commercial-deep movie.” Which is to say, a commercial movie can only be so deep, but this one tried for that. (So did Life of Pi, which we also saw recently, but that film failed in my opinion.)
I haven’t seen a lot of Korean films lately, in part because not much has appealed to me. However, if you’re like me, and you like good Korean films but haven’t seen many for a while, the film you should check out is called 26 년. (Which, for those of you who speak just a little Korean, translates as “26 Years,” not “26 Bitches.”)
Here’s a video on Youtube with some animations made straight from the original art:It’s the long-awaited awaited cinematic adaptation of a popular webcomic by a Korean artist called Kangfull (강풀); readers of my series on Korean SF will recall that this is the same person who wrote the script for the sequel to The Host (2006), a sequel that never got made. This is not the first film adaptation of Kangfull’s work: his 순정 만화 was also adapted for the screen, though it did poorly. (I haven’t seen the 2008 film; I tried to read the latter comic, but didn’t get too far: the creepy story of a 30-year-old businessman falling in love with a high school girl was too much for me. On the other hand, 26년 is one series of graphic novels (a 3-parter) that I made sure to buy, as I want very much to read them someday, yes, in the original Korean.)
I don’t know how well 26년 is doing, either, though I can say that the timing of the release was controversial.
So Miss Jiwaku and I finished watching the full series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer — it was her first time all the way through, and my second — a few weeks ago. I tried to sum up the experience, but it was pretty difficult. Hundreds of hours of fairly iconic TV don’t really boil down so easily as all that. There’s a lot I could talk about, but I figure I can post a few different things as they come to me, or as they come to me.
Today, what I’m interested is “nonstandard” relationships, and how I see them explored in the show.
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 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.
… stays in the film… for-ever. Which is troublesome when what happens in editing and post-production is what happened to Snow White and the Huntsman.
Which must haunt actors, editors, camera operators, and everyone else subject to the pressure of studios and of directors. (I don’t know who’s to blame in this case: director Rupert Sanders I’ve never heard of before, so it may not be his fault — or it just may — but someone really screwed up the film.)
I’ve seen a few movies recently that I liked, or thought were interesting:
The Avengers: Yeah, it’s Joss Whedon. I do love some of his stuff; others, not so much. I think he did a fine job on this movie, but I was not as blown away by it as other people I know. It was fun, but not so fun I felt I needed to see it again. (Though maybe I could be talked into seeing it in IMAX.)
I haven’t read The Hunger Games or the other books in the series, in part because I hadn’t caught much buzz but also just because I’ve been busy with other things. (The first book has been on my shelf about a year, as have many other books.) But I hadn’t heard much of the buzz, like I said, but it seemed like a potentially interesting North American, SFnal treatment of the Japanese film Battle Royale, so I thought we might as well give it a shot. When I heard there was a movie coming out — which was not long before it did come out, by the way — I got curious and Miss Jiwaku and I booked a ticket for the opening night, which I think in Korea was on Thursday night.
Don’t get me wrong, Fantasia’s a great cartoon for what it is.
But the “Rite of Spring” section is marred, in one way I knew about already, but also in another way that I didn’t know about until just now.
The way I knew about is the music: Stravinsky objected — and quite rightly — to the performance, which isn’t quite right — but especially to the changes they made to the music: cuts, rearrangement of material, and so on. But that’s the price you pay for mass media entertainment, and the big bucks, I guess.
Apparently, there has been an explosion online regarding an incident in which Korean performers donned blackface for a performance over the Lunar New Year:
Yeah. And this isn’t all that rare in Korean media.
In fact, Matt over at Gusts of Popular Feeling hits the highlights with an excellent and carefully-researched history of Three Decades of Blackface in Korea, though it’s not an exhaustive history — he doesn’t get into every example. Just the big ones, and especially those in programs (as opposed to in advertisements). Like, for example, the all-Korean production of Roots here. Yeah, seriously. Go give it a look, and I’ll wait here. While you’re at it, some useful thoughts over at Roboseyo.