Tuesday, February 14, 2017

20th Century Women (2016) - Why I Turned It Off After 15 Minutes

What hype this movie has! So much enthusiasm and appreciation surrounds it that I have to ask--are people lying or are they dull?

I turned this film off after five minutes because as far as I could tell, nothing about it was worth my time. Items of note that struck me as a waste  of my time follow: 

  • Set in the 70's. Can the nostalgia thing please loosen up a little? We get it, the past is magical, and we can explore so many layers when looking backwards. But come on. It's a cheap way to paint a picture with broad strokes and get away with not telling a good story. Stories can be set in the past, but the past cannot be the main character. 
  • Aesthetics. Many a brilliant filmmaker have used aesthetic elements in film to communicate tones and ideas (Hitchcock, notably). Yet with their success and talent come he dimwits who decide to use aesthetics to take over the movie, stripping them of their subtlety and use and cramming them down the viewer's throat. This movie writes the word as such: ~aesthetics~
  • Still imagery. COME ON. This is awful. Some of these run-throughs of still imagery remind me of such films as Amelie. I don't remember if Amelie ever uses still imagery...or even stock imagery, honestly, but the intention of 20th Century Women is similar to the intention behind the clips unrelated to the film's story in Amelie--it's a quirky way to make a story part of the larger world, reminding the audience that they have experienced these things, that they interact in the same world as these characters. But this film is lazy in its usage, on top of it being passé. The images are not carefully selected, and they are jarringly different from each other and the film. 
  • Voiceovers. The mother and son talking about the other with voiceovers, speaking slowly and deliberately. Again, lazy and silly and uncreative. 
  • The characters. The mother figure is the only one who struck me as "real" in that first 15 minutes. The photographer felt so out of place, and the son felt very detached from the reality of being a teenage boy. And that line that Elle Fanning's character says, about things being harder with him being horny? Ugh, please. 

This film is way overrated and I feel perfectly comfortable with only watching 15 minutes of it. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Resolution - Listen More & Argue Better

Note: The initial draft of this was written the week following Donald Trump's inauguration.  

I am not alone when I say that since Donald Trump was elected President, my mind has been running circles. This is even more true in the last week, since his presidency has been made a harsh reality.

The United States has historically treated its people very differently, depending on identity and income level. The unequal levels of opportunity and protection that this country holds for its citizens are far from new, and the inequality is not new to my own range of knowledge.Yet, I have not been as active or proactive in combating inequality as I have the ability to be.

I hold an identity that often benefits me. I get the long end of the stick in many cases. I am white, cis-gendered, upper-middle class, able-bodied, for all intensive purposes straight, and college-educated, to begin. My identity is something I think about often. How do I contribute to a more equal world when who I am protects me against the negatives of this inequality? In fact, I am not only protected from many negatives, but I benefit from others experiencing them.

Listening is key, being open to criticism is key, and taking a step back from my narrow view of the world to absorb that of others is key. Yet all of these positive steps are in vain unless I consider them in my actions. This step can oftentimes be confusing and challenging.

Not only do I need to push myself to go through this process, but it is very important to me that I use my time and energy to encourage others to do the same. The problem is, I can be stubborn and passionate--personality traits that can be very useful when used correctly, but detrimental to a cause when used incorrectly. My emotions have often gotten in the way of arguments, and my stubbornness has made me seem unapproachable. Even if I am making a strong logical argument, the emotional exertion I exude is enough to turn people off. It makes sense; I wouldn't react well to that type of treatment either.

I have realized how important it is for me to take the fire I feel about social injustices and put it towards a product, as well as keep my emotions tame when discussing these issues with others. I have learned that asking questions can be the most productive way of challenging the opinions.

In the face of this election, I am making an effort to listen more, ask questions more, and stop going on tirades about the issues I care about. I must learn to communicate effectively, not just passionately.

My plan is to reach out to loved ones who have differing views than I, or more interaction with people who do, and ask them for their advice and their perspective. My immediate circle does not support the Trump agenda--be they republican, democrat, independent, libertarian. They do have different perspectives on why his agenda is harmful to our whole. I need to hear what they have to say, and shut up for a minute.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hello, My Twenties! // Age of Youth (2016)

Once you've binged on all of the standard "good" Netflix television, there's nothing left to watch unless you start choosing shows at random. Embarrassingly, I reached that point. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have stumbled upon this treasure: the South Korean dramady known on Netflix as Hello, My Twenties!

Screenshot from trailer
Netflix seems to have recently acquired a lot of East Asian programming, and they are not marketed as well as other foreign TV/Film is, in my (serious) opinion, which is deeply unfortunate. My own biases come into play as well, and honestly, most of the shows don't look appealing at first glance. The larger-than-life stereotype of South Korean media precedes it, and I have inadvertently written it off. I know that I am not the only one to do so, and it is unnerving how complicit Netflix and other outlets are in this as well.

In many ways, the show reminds me of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in that its comedy is big and centers on single women. Yet, somehow these thematic similarities are not as strong as the similarities that the show has simply for its country of origin, according to Netflix. For example, all 25 of the "more like this" shows listed are East Asian shows. I argue that not having a single show "like this" from any other part of the world shows that Netflix pockets these show together, no matter their content. Two of the four genres Netflix tags for Hello, My Twenties! have Korean in the title (Korean TV Shows, Korean Dramas) and the other two are vague and overlook the comedy of the show (TV Shows, Romantic TV Shows). I would love to see this show represented more accurately, so that more people will be likely to enjoy it for what it is as opposed to writing it off due to stereotypes. In the process, stereotypes across the board will be broken down. 

Anyway, I had exhausted the Netflix programming I was interested in and despite this, my boyfriend is a media-holic who constantly needs noise in the background while he works, and I either needed to choose something or have to deal with an intense true crime show. I opted for the random click, with the mindset of oh boy, what are we getting ourselves into. Soon, I was  coming home from work and immediately turning on the show, staying up past my bedtime to watch another episode in its entirety. 

It starts off stereo-typically South Korean, larger than life in an overwhelming way. The show opens on Eun-jae (Park Hye-soo*), who happens to be my least favorite character, as she moves into a new apartment in Seoul with four female housemates. Eun-jae is a doe-eyed little babe, just starting her first year at college. She is nervous and awkward, and I can't help but find her totally annoying. 

The series takes turns exploring the lives of each of the housemates, who each have very distinctive personalities.

Screenshot from trailer
In addition to Eun-jae, we have Kang Yi-Na (Ryu Hwang-young), who is tall and attractive, with a bold confidence and over-it attitude that exudes from her sassy quips. Song Ji-won (Park Eun-bin), the quirky weirdo who has never had a boyfriend and is alternately distressed by this and boldly whatever about it--my absolute favorite of the five. Jung Ye-eun (Han Seung-yeon), who is a little over-the-top, always dressing in pink, very concerned with her appearance and her social life, particularly her boyfriend. Finally, Yoon Jin-myung (Han Ye-ri), who works multiple jobs and is struggling to keep her head afloat, stubborn in her self-sufficiency. 

As in reality, these women would not have become friends if they weren't living together. Somehow, becoming roommates with other women,  brings me closer to them in a way that would not have been possible or even necessarily desired had I not lived with them. The series shows the ups and the downs of their intermingled and individual lives--revealing beautiful moments of unexpected friendship and loyalty, and painful moments of tension. I can't express how well this show depicts female friendships. Some of the loving, loyal scenes between the women nearly bring me to tears with joy. 

In addition to all of the relatively normal story threads, the women all have hidden pasts that they are dealing with, and a ghost seems to be haunting the house. I hate to give any of the plot surprises away, but trust me when I say that the drama gets real. And it gets good. 

Screenshot from trailer
The writing on the show is fantastic. Humor comes in unexpected ways, and I laughed out loud like I did with Chewing Gum and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, reveling in the absurdity and cleverness of different lines and plot lines. The editing is superb--quickly changing tones drastically but smoothly, purposefully done to keep us on the hook. Mid-late season in particular had me hating the writers and editors because I knew I was being manipulated, but I loved it. 

There are many more hidden treasure moments in the series--from the single woman who they rent from, always shown enjoying herself in her garden, to the men in and out of the girls' lives, to the after-episode interviews with the characters. It's fantastic. 

As always, my criticism:
  • There are stock video clips interspersed throughout, making the tone very weird. Especially when considering that the stock videos never seem to represent Korean people--mostly white ones. 
  • The same two-three songs are constantly used, and I wish that there would be more diversity in song choice. (Apparently this is common in K-Drama?)

Overall, I highly recommend Hello, My Twenties! to anyone who enjoys well-done "big" comedy and female-driven media. It is such a fantastic, relatable series. Both my boyfriend and I are completely invested. 

*Written in the structure of family name followed by first name, as generally written in Korean

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Resources for Talking to People Who "Don't Get It"

This section is primarily for personal use because it's easier to catalog things here than in a word document I will inevitably forget about.

I am cataloging a few items I think will be helpful in an effort to communicate issues of justice more clearly to people around me, primarily those I love, who do not understand their significance. I hope to aid in understanding issues of justice and pinpoint ways that people can contribute to a better world effectively and meaningfully.

FUCK: Donald Trump was Elected President
Black Lives Matter and White Privilege 
Gender Violence, Reproductive Justice
White Saviorism 
Criminal Justice System

  • This profile about a female front-line anti-ISIS fighter
  • Article on Japanese internment camps
  • Article on Guantanamo Bay
  • Representation statistics

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lovesick aka Scrotal Recall (2014-)

Netflix really wanted me to watch Scrotal Recall. Despite its insistence, I never did because hello, it's called Scrotal Recall. Ew.

Dylan (Johnny Flynn), an adorable British blondie, tests positive for chlamydia, prompting him to reach out to all the women he has ever slept with to let them know. The series chronicles his present-day interactions with these women as well as the key moments from these relationships/hook ups past.

Screenshot from trailer
The first question you're probably asking is: why would his guy contact all of the women he has ever slept with the moment he finds out he has an STD? Wouldn't it make more sense to go backwards, rather than going straight for that random person he hooked up with six years ago or whatever? Yeah, I don't know. I'm totally glad he's taking responsibility and letting everyone know, but this logic just doesn't make sense. It's the entire foundation of the show though, so...

Scrotal Recall originally aired on the UK's E4 channel, but season two was all backed by Netflix who, realizing the reason for its unpopularity, took it upon itself to rename the show Lovesick.

The first season was surprisingly fun. The episodes travel through time, chronicling not only the romantic relationships entangled in Dylan's life, but also the friendships. The audience watches the growth of characters in one episode as they would over the course of many seasons of a traditional show. It is done well, and it works, capturing the fluidity of time and experience.
Screenshot from trailer

Evie (Antonia Thomas) is consistently well-acted and magnetic. She is friends and housemates with Dylan, though she watches his changing relationships with a look of sadness and longing in her eye, wishing she were in his lover's place. Though the series centers on Dylan, Evie's character is the more engaging, dynamic one. The audience is endeared to her, rooting for her.

The series also features Luke (Daniel Inges) as the pair's sleazy friend whose loud confidence and escapades with women propel both Dylan and Evie's plot lines in silly, unexpected ways.

That first season captured me, but the second, headed by Netflix, tried to change the show's direction while keeping the same format. Season Two relies more on remembering the chronology of these time traveling vignettes while developing a more traditional, straight-shoot plot thread. The people involved in the show are talented, and if given the a better script I bet the show would continue to be great, but as is it is a little confusing.

Screenshot from trailer
The show worked when Evie and Luke were the only characters surrounding Dylan whose roles and histories were consistent, but by adding Abigail (Hannah Britland) to the mix it gets to be a little much. Perhaps if she were someone new he has met rather than someone with a history that is lost in the swirl of other histories it would work better. As-is, I forget many significant details and don't see a true connection between the two. If she had been new, the series could have explored telling someone you just met that you have an STD and working through that.

Watch the trailer here