Monthly Favorites · Uncategorized · wrap up

January 2019 Wrap Up

January 2019 was a stressful month for me but let’s be honest, January is never a great month for me. It’s too bad it happens to seem like the longest month of the entire year. It’s just that time where everyone is going back to their daily routine and all the fun festivities and chill time are over. You have to start reevaluating your life (as I did) and believe me, I was worried about a lot this month from taxes to money to school to what I’m going to do with my life. The thing about agonizing over big decisions that determine your life is that the process is painful but finally, finally you start to get out of your head and little by little you start to plan out the stepping stones until you feel it is feasible. I’m finally at that point and hopefully February will be better. At least it’ll be shorter. To end on a happy note, let’s end with the obligatory food pics 😉

50969929_1924589614316013_287534668759171072_n
Noodology – Tomato Soup with Beef and Rice Noodle
51766008_282959269050017_9108218096723689472_n
iSno Cafe Shaved Ice
51188935_2236066556668565_2137737843219365888_n
More noodles! Noodle Street – Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

But in the meantime, let’s talk about all the stuff I loved or didn’t in January. Starting with books:

Image result for the lost sistersThe Lost Sisters by Holly Black (4/5) – You know I never read short stories when it’s part of a series because I never saw the point but this short story proved me wrong. It gave more insight into Taryn’s motivations from the first book which we can all agree was confusing and sketchy at best. But, I sympathized a lot with Taryn after this story and although I do not agree with what she did (the betrayal!!), I can at least understand it.

The Wicked King by Holly Black (3.5/5) – You know, now thatImage result for the wicked king the shock of all the plot twists has died down, I can look at this book with a more clear head. I definitely do not think it was as good as The Cruel Prince. It definitely felt like a filler book; the development of the characters were sacrificed for the sake of plot development, the worldbuilding was shot to the wayside, and suddenly there are a lot more one note side characters used for advancing the plot. Of course that did not prevent me from squealing at all the Cardan and Jude scenes (yo, dm me when you get to the end of Chapter 15), and of course at that killer, killer ending. I will be waiting with bated breath for the last book. Also, shoutout to Alicia from A Kernel of Nonsense for Image result for the king of attoliabuddyreading this with me. The reading experience was so much more fun with you! 🙂

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (4/5)– I’m not sure what was going through my head when I decided to quit this series at the beginning of the second book a few years ago because this series is simply amazing!! I’ve read a lot of YA books with political intrigue and none of them have really come close to the subtle machinations and plotting that this series has. Rest assure I will be doing a full review of this series once I finish the fifth book.

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (4/5) – The fourth book in the Thief Image result for a conspiracy of kingsseries. Another amazing installment.  This one follows a different character but I grew to love him just as much as the main characters. Again, review to come. Also, the new covers are WAY better than the old ones. Sometimes cover changes can be really good.

Image result for daughter of the forestDaughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (DNF) – The ultimate reason why I DNF’ed this was because it was boring. It’s a very interesting book if you look at it through a feminist lens (talk to me about this, I wanna know what you think), but I grew wary once the Lady Oonagh was introduced. Of course, the female villain of the story has to wear low cut clothes and be “ladylike” and be promiscuous and sly. I hate the virgin/whore dichotomy.

 

Movies

Image result for bandersnatch netflix

Bandersnatch (C)– Yes, the concept is novel and cool but only for about 10 minutes. The reason why I like watching TV and movies is because I can watch the characters come to their own conclusions. It’s part of the fun of watching characters different from you, but these “choose your own adventure” modes are you just being a stand in for the character. I could also argue that the story wasn’t right for this gimmick. If it were an adventure story such as surviving in the jungle where the choices have a lot more drastically different stakes, then sure maybe. Also, the ending was a bit too tongue in cheek and meta for me. An interesting watch, but not something I’d ever watch again.

Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse (B) – After all these years, Spiderman/Spiderwoman’s Image result for spiderman into the spider verseremains my favorite superhero and that’s because I love his/her origin story. He starts off as a teenager going about his high school life with the usual high school problems but is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a superhero but he’s still a teen! His story is very much a coming of age story. In much the same vein, Spider Verse is about Miles finding where he belongs but trying to live up to his people’s expectations of him. Although the story does become oversaturated what with all the different emotional beats and all the different spiderpeople coming together, it was very entertaining. Oh and yes, I did like the animation. I definitely haven’t seen something like that done in a big studio movie.

Image result for ali wong baby cobraAli Wong: Baby Cobra (A)- I’m really liking stand up comedy right now and this one was no exception. She talks a lot about modern feminism (although she’s not as feminist leaning as a lot of female comics today), her husband, racism, and a myriad of other topics. She’s pretty raunchy and crass and she tells some Asian jokes that you will only really get if you’re an Asian so that was fun.

 

TV

Image result for ugly delicious

Ugly Delicious S1 Ep 7 (A) – I only watched one episode which was episode 7 “Fried Rice” but I really liked it. It had such an interesting blend of talking about culture, race, and even history surrounding the cuisine. Clearly, most TV shows need to be talking about these woke topics BUT it does so in such an insightful way. I really liked the conversation they had about how we perceive authentic Chinese food vs commercial Chinese food and the concept of high end Chinese food. I Image result for patriot act hasan minhajdefinitely need to watch the rest of the season.

 

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj Ep 1-3 (B+)– I think it’s pretty great that more young people are getting more involved in politics, although that obviously comes with consequences like the rise of polarized news. Yes, Patriot Act is a left leaning entertainment news show but I must say though that for what it is, it is informative, sincere and enthusiastic about participating in the political sphere. Minhaj is a really charismatic host and the episodes are 20 minutes long so who doesn’t have time for that? I also really like the infographics he intersperses throughout; they are very concise.

Related image

The Good Place (A) – The Good Place is a show that I did not give a fair chance to the first time I watched it. I mean I quit it after the 5th episode but I gave it a second chance and I loved it! It is so sweet, charming and asks a lot of questions most sitcoms would not dare go near. I’m planning on a review of this as well since I’m all caught up! A must watch if you’ve already seen shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Rec and Superstore, Image result for i am not a robot posteralthough this is probably my favorite out of all of them.

 

I am Not a robot (DNF) – You do not know how badly I want to fall in love with a korean drama right now but can’t find anything that I like (let me know any recommendations). This show moved kind of slowly and the whole robot thing could have led into some icky non consensual territory. Maybe I’m just making up excuses at this point.

You (C) – You may be a Netflix show but it feels a lot more like a CW show. Heck, it even Image result for youhas Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl and Shay Mitchell from Pretty Little Liars. The drama is of the back stabby, cat fighting, petty type. My problem with these types of shows is that the characters get into high stakes drama and then forget about it in the next episode. Dude, your best friend literally backstabbed you and sold you out, you got mad at her, and now the next day, with no explanation, you’re besties again?? The show was very entertaining and does delve into some interesting questions about social media and obsession. It’s a good show to binge watch.

sig

 

 

tv review · Uncategorized

TV Review: The Haunting of Hill House

Image result for the haunting of hill house netflix

Title: The Haunting of Hill House

Director: Mike Flanagan

Based on the book: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Season: 1

Episodes: 10, ~42-71 minutes each

Rating: A-

 

I am so happy I found The Haunting of Hill House. I sincerely wish all horror was made this way and it really proves not only how versatile horror is but also why I love the TV form more than movies. I read the book this show was based on a while ago so I had forgotten a lot of what happened but from reviews I’ve read I understand that the show differentiates significantly from the book. In the show, the story follows 5 siblings of the Crain family in their adulthood as they cope with the aftermath of their childhood at Hill House. Their childhood was filled with strange occurrences and mysterious sightings of evil ghosts. On their last day at the Victorian Hill House, they left with the father in a hurry, only knowing their mother had died. As the story continues, it is revealed through flashback what exactly happened or didn’t happen all those years ago.

The first reason this show is so awesome is the way that jump scares are placed. They are placed in moments after achingly slow buildup and slow camera pans across dark rooms, ratcheting up the suspense and tension from one episode to the next. Funnily enough, the camera basically shows you what the scare is going to be but the real scare comes when you look back again and find the person or  the ghost is not what you thought it was at first glance. This, of course, makes the scare even more psychologically scary as the show does not rely on the violent or absurdly grotesque to tease out scares. In fact the real scares are whether or not these ghosts are the manifestations of the siblings’ inner demons. In fact, it is a relatively slow moving show taking the time to slowly lay down the important pieces of character and story over putting scares down. It is still perfectly paced and the cinematography is so masterfully slow and deliciously tense.

As Steven Crain states, “a ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. But, in my experience, most times they’re just what we want to see.” Steven, the oldest Crain sibling, is an author who writes, he believes, fictional tales of Hill House. He is sick of the fictional voices that his youngest siblings see. They should have gotten mental help for their delusions and figments of imagination a long time ago. Shirley, the second oldest and my least favorite, is a mortician and a control freak having witnessed 4 of her kittens die mysteriously at Hill House. She refuses to say these ghosts exist. Theo, the middle, struggles with emotional intimacy and then, the last two siblings were the ones who saw the most of Hill House’s ghosts. In adulthood, Luke becomes a drug addict and Nell is still haunted nights by the mysterious Bent-Neck Lady. The story shifts timelines going as back as six years ago all the way back to their childhood, each episode focusing on a sibling until it refocuses back to present events and what they will do moving forward. I was honestly surprised I got really emotional during Luke’s episode. He is quite gullible and trusting and genuinely wants to help his younger sister and the people he cares about but through his own naivety and drug addition, he is unable to. This show loves its characters and does not stray too far from its central characters’ development which is still so rare to see in horror but ultimately what I enjoyed most about this show. The siblings are all tied by their unique perspective on death and grief and even represent a deeper metaphor for depression, schizoprenia, migraines, and other mental conditions.

I love how much the show focuses on the house. The Victorian house is an entity on its own and I love each detail on its antiques, its expansive halls and rooms with mysterious treasures. With each episode, more of the house’s history and it’s original inhabitants are revealed. It really built up the suspense and mystery of the house, each sibling having a different relationship with it. It was fully integrated into the story. The story itself did delve a little bit into horror cliches, you know, with children drawing pictures of unsettling things to the age-old “mother is going crazy and hysterical” which only perpetuates the stereotype of female hysteria. The dialogue also leaves something to be desired although I didn’t really notice until the last few episodes. The ending also leaves something to be desired. I was happy we got answers but the ending was so cloying that I felt it didn’t match with the previous episodes. I wanted an uncertain ending but I suppose it does stay true to its characters and the family dynamic. Because the family has been threatened to be torn apart by this house, the ending is fitting that they start to face the demons they’ve been hiding from and come together as a family.

It was really interesting to see the family’s  fractured interactions with one another and their different relationships with or lack of with the others from what they experienced as a child. It definitely added an interesting way of telling each sibling’s perspective and the way each perspective is different because of what they experienced. For example, sheltered by their father and told to close his eyes on the fateful night their mother died, Steven did not see anything supernatural and refuses to believe that Hill House had any ghosts. Their mother died because their father was neglectful and didn’t get her the mental help she needed, causing resentment towards his father. Nell bore the brunt of seeing all these strange ghosts but no one believes her and she starts to believe she’s going crazy, still haunted by her dreams and sights. No one believes Luke either, thinking he is just a heroin addict, and although he wants to become clean, the only way to escape the ghosts he sees is to take drugs. And ultimately, that is what the show was about, the broken hopes and dreams of these siblings, how their tortured past continues to haunt them, but ultimately their inability to face their demons continues to stalk them into their adulthood. Their ghosts are the people they love, the people they have failed, their family, and even themselves. As they each cope and dodge their problems, it becomes apparent the ghosts have not left them. At the heart, it is not about people haunting the house or a scary entity wreaking havoc on lives. It is about the lies we tell ourselves, the denial, and the intimacy of a family that has had a horrible past connecting them for better or worse.

The Haunting of Hill House is so much more than typical horror fanfare and proves that horror can be done just as well for TV as a movie. I loved the exploration of character and mental health throughout and don’t think I have seen anything quite like it.

sig

 

tv review · Uncategorized

Mini Reviews: Period Pieces

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Historical Comedy-Drama | Amazon | 1 Season – 8 episodes (40 minutes) ea. | A

Thank you, thank you, thank you to this show for getting me out of my TV slump. It is so charming and witty, and as a show about stand up comedy should be, funny. Miriam Maisel is the perfect 1950’s housewife with a perfect husband, two little kids, and an Upper West side apartment. In her free time, she supports her husband, Joel’s, comedy side career.. until he confesses he has had an affair. On one drunken night, she does a stand up routine and she slowly starts to realize that she wants to perform comedy on her own. I am liking this trend of exploring feminism and social issues through TV shows set in different time periods. In the 1950’s, this show would have looked very differently. It would have looked down on Miriam’s movement away from family and instead doing things for herself. But it is a great topic for today. The show is very polished with brilliant use of bright, solid colors. It is definitely a happy go lucky portrayal of the 1950’s but is not cloying nor insufferably cheerful  as it does not shy away from the darker side of this era exploring the ’50’s constraining limits on perceptions of women and what women can do.  It explores how women were discouraged from pursuing their interests. The first time Miriam announced she was not accepting her husband back, her mother and father immediately implored her to return to her husband despite the fact that he cheated on her. And although, you, of course, side with Miriam, the show paints effort into the secondary characters, especially the ones you were meant to side against such as her father, mother, and Joel. In true Gilmore Girls style, there is whip fast dialogue and  characters coming up with a perfect comeback as soon as the other opens her mouth.  Though you know they do what they do for Maisel with good intentions, you see where they are misguided in giving Maisel counsel and advice. The one secondary character that makes the show is the inn’s owner, Susie Myerson, who becomes Miriam’s business partner and has a no nonsense and sarcastic personality.

Their blossoming friendship from skepticism to friendship is a joy to watch. The show does get a little repetitive because part of the show is slowly building up Maisel’s revelations, but it is so worth the watch and the 14 Emmy nominations. The editing is seamless, flitting from scene to scene, flashback to present in the most polished way as if it has no time to waste.

The writing is so smart and the jokes written for Maisel’s stand up routine is so relevant to her life and so funny. The first season sort of leaves off on an emotional cliffhanger so I will patiently wait for the second season. It should be noted as well that this show has been nominated for 14 Emmys. A perfectly bingeworthy and heartwarming show.

Anne With An E Season 2

Historical Drama | Netflix | 2 Seasons – 17 episodes (40 minutes) | B+

I completely adored Anne with an E so I was so excited to watch Season 2 when it came out. Though not as compelling as the first, it does present new avenues for the characters without relying as much on flashback. The second season is also different in the sense that it follows two characters for its majority: Anne and Gilbert. While we follow Anne in Avonlea going to school and making new friends as usual, the most notable of which is delivered by a spectacular performance by Cory Grüter-Andrew as Cole Mackenzie. Bigger than life, the kids at https://78.media.tumblr.com/cfeb2fac9a4ccf72a6d0498cc4c4442d/tumblr_pbh5q20aXi1rtvheio2_400.gifAvonlea struggle to find their identity amidst social pressure to deny who they are. This prevalent and circular theme allows the show to break away from having their characters be the “token gay” or the “token black” because everyone in the show is struggling to be their true self despite heavy social and lawful oppression. No one person is isolated in their problems with their identity. While Anne tries her best to revoke feminine standards of the era, it directly juxtaposes with Cole’s desire to blend into the background and the toxic masculine standards he is forced to uphold but has no desire to. There was one particularly inspirational and emotional episode where this theme comes to head. Anne, Diane, and Cole are invited to Aunt Josephine’s party and they  accept who they are as a person despite their own skepticism. If they were born in this day and age, they would have a much easier time, but in 19th century, it was suffocating. I’ve seen a lot of shows try to tackle feminism and racism but I’ve never seen it done quite like Anne with an E. The screenplay capsizes on the microaggressions suffered that take a huge toll on the characters and it is an overt analysis, but it cleverly weaves different aspects of the -ism for a complete and full picture.

I also completely adore Gilbert’s timeline. While Anne is growing to trust her intuition while going through the embarrassing stage of puberty (“What is a kiss?”), Gilbert is on a steamship trying to find his own ambition after his father died. He meets Sebastian whom he quickly becomes friends and learns more about the world than when he was in the little town of Avonlea. He meets different people and he figures out more of what he wants to do out of life.

https://78.media.tumblr.com/88328af534e5160908100a3b2a4c933c/tumblr_pdcv6soqeO1wflkmxo1_540.gif

A decent amount of story is given to Sebastian, the only POC in the show and as you might imagine, the show takes the time to explore racism through his character though he has a fleshed out story for himself especially near the end. Showing his struggles through Gilbert’s privileged eyes accentuates his struggles.

https://78.media.tumblr.com/89e179935059ab09eeb2eb22e88586e7/tumblr_pctbesHWOr1qfy5zmo2_540.gif

And of course, you have Marilla and Matthew who deal with growing old while still taking care of a child. The episodes still follow a sort of episodic formula but the stories tend to span 2-3 episodes instead of just one. I do think some of the storylines dragged on for too much longer than they were meant to last especially with the teacher. I was also sad that we didn’t have any Anne and Gilbert moments! There was literally only a few scenes with them but at the same time they were trying to amp up the tension between them?

Also, compared to Gilbert’s storyline, Anne’s problems feel more trite so I felt they were growing at different paces. And for those who complained about the show’s darkness in Season 1, I think will be more pleased with this season as it does not have as many flashbacks to Anne’s orphanage times and it feels more wholesome. So this season was not quite as developmentally on point but it still feels very inspirational as it was meant to be.

sig

 

 

tv review · Uncategorized

TV Review: Search Party

Image result for search partyTitle: Search Party (Seasons 1-2)

Genre: Comedy, Mystery

Episodes: 20

Created by: Sarah-violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, Michael Showalter

Starring: Alia Shawkat, John Early, John Reynolds, Meredith Hagner, Brandon Michael Hall

Rating: A-

 

A lot of articles have described Search Party as the millennial Nancy Drew and that was pretty much all I needed to hear to start this oddball of a show.

Search Party is the type of dark absurdist comedy that I normally don’t get. The absurd is usually too absurd and the comedy too black for me to really enjoy. But Search Party, Search Party is something special and likewise wholly original from what I normally watch. It features Dory Sief, who at the beginning of the show, sees a missing person flyer of Chantal Witherbottom who went to college with her. Dory has only bumped into her once when she dropped her teddy bear while moving into college. But somehow Dory becomes obsessed with finding her believing Chantal to hold a greater purpose in life for her than running mindless errands for a rich, lonely housewife and coming back home to a loveless relationship with her boyfriend, Drew Gardner. She sets out to find Chantal, stringing along Drew, and her friends Elliot Goss, cliche in his flamboyance and Portia Davenport, ditzy and a little naive.

Search Party is a satire of millennials, of self-obsession, and of the social media that perpetuates this self-obsession. These themes are hidden underneath characters who seem harmless at first but as they are pushed to their limits, (especially in season 2 where they have to keep up with the repercussions of their actions in Season 1), they slowly show their true layers underneath. Although Drew is passive, in Season 2, we see him do whatever it takes to get the job he desires dragging down anyone and everyone he can; he reveals himself to be just as cunning and clever as the other characters. We cheer and clap when these characters are given their due but we also feel a little guiltily sympathetic. Although we know that Dory has an ulterior motive to finding Chantal Witherbottom whom she believes is in danger, we at first think it is either amusing or slightly absurd but we go along with it because what’s the harm? We laugh at the dry humor and the character’s harmless attempts at trying to find Chantal but it quickly devolves into something more sinister.

Our four main characters are incredibly unlikeable. They are entitled, selfish, and unapologetic and unaware of both.  When Dory announces Chantal’s death to her group of friends, Elliot immediately dismisses it but then pulls out his phone to tweet about his sorrow at her disappearance. It is a testament to this show that the moment is disturbing but also incredibly funny and oddly enough, relatable.

The show never demands us to like them as so many shows with despicable characters do.  But instead the show lays the onion on the table, and slowly peels back the layers one by one until the core character is revealed. You don’t have to sympathize with them and yet they are so oddly relatable without someone demanding that they be relatable to us. In fact, tragic backstories are never revealed so there’s not an automatic stake for sympathy. Their few moments of vulnerability are less touching than desperate and frustrating. The ending of Season 1 was incredibly satisfying, surprising, and most importantly, original from so many murder mystery plot twists.Search (1)

Even though this show is definitely a character study, the mystery is just as compelling and gripping especially in Season 2. In both seasons, the progression of the mystery serves to amplify who the characters already are. What will happen if desperate Dory does not find the answer she is looking for in finding Chantal? What will happen when the carpet of privilege and wealth is swept under Elliot Goss’s feet? I think Season 2 is actually better than Season 1 because the stakes are higher. Plot twist after plot twist is revealed. The characters do crazier things because the stakes are higher but their actions are so true to their characters. What’s also compelling is that the side characters including Julian, Dory’s ex-boyfriend who is very blunt, Chantal, ditzy and spoiled, and most notably, Dory’s and Drew’s next door neighbor, April who i certifiably crazy and unpredictable. It is great that they become so fleshed out as they inadvertently become more and more embroiled in Dory’s affairs.

Search Party does not fit the mold of the usual TV show I watch but it is incredibly brilliant in its portrayal of its characters combined with a sharp script and breakneck pacing, it is something I’m wholly glad I gave a chance.

sig

 

tv review

TV Review: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

Related image

Title: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

Written by: Yang Hee-Seung (Oh My Ghostess)

Directed by: Oh Hyun-Jong

Country of Origin: South Korea

Starring: Lee Sung-Kyoung, Nam Joo-Hyuk

Episodes: 16

My Rating: A

All gifs are not mine; most come from weightliftingfairykimbokjoo.tumblr.com


It was honestly a travesty to me when I was watching this beauty of a show that it had very poor ratings and didn’t do very well domestically most likely because it was up against Legend of the Blue Sea.  And honestly I have to ask, why?? It has its flaws but honestly, this show has so, so much to offer. Based on South Korean Olympic gold medalist weightlifter Jang Mi Ran’s personal life, it is essentially a coming-of-age (is anyone surprised, I love CoA) as Bok Joo navigates university and love and friendship. This drama just made my heart feel so full, there is no other way to describe it. It also sounds cheesy but I felt so happy as I was watching as if I was stuck in my own little world with these adorably genuine characters that I grew to love.

As light as it is, it is sad that this drama couldn’t have casted a heavier girl to play Bok Joo as this is a show about weightlifters for heaven’s sake. It especially hurts because throughout this drama,  Bok Joo is insecure about her being overweight, not because she thinks needs to change but because she feels she won’t get a guy because of her weight and people around her constantly tell her that she’s perfect the way she is but the fact that they casted a really skinny actress sort of undermines those statements, sincere as they are. It’s sort of like falsely complimenting someone on what they’re wearing and but then telling them you would never wear it yourself. However. However. I think this drama’s heart is still in the right place. These are the top five reasons you should be watching this lighthearted but hard-hitting drama.

  1. The OTP

Ladies and Gentlemen, this OTP. This OTfuckingP. Forget W. Forget Legend of the Blue Sea. This couple should have won that Best Couple Award on the MBC awards. On all the network awards tbh except kbs because ya know. But this couple is everything. And the reason they work so well together for me is because this is one of the few dramas that truly knows how to execute the hate to friends to lovers trope. Because long before they even realize an inkling of their feelings for each other, they already do so many of the things that lovers do for each other. They genuinely like talking to each other and can go out and have fun with each other but they’re also each other’s biggest cheerleader.

It always warmed my heart when Bok Joo would feel insecure about other boys not liking her because of her weight but Joon Hyung would always tell her, without hesitation, that she was pretty without any sort of romantic connotation. And when Bok Joo would pray for Joon Hyung to win his swimming competitions. Ugh, the feels <3. Usually when the hate to friends to lovers trope is used, drama writers will skim the friends part or skip it altogether to get to the love part. But allowing Bok Joo and Joon Hyung’s feelings and relationship to progress organically, it just feels so much more believable and more importantly, gives me a sense as to why they are together. Not to mention, that Bok Joo and Joon Hyung have some of the best chemistry ever.

   

Their hugs and the way they lovingly and playfully touch each other, as friends and as lovers, are some of the most natural and realistic I’ve ever seen which only sells their love even more. Remember, writers, hugs can be just as swoonworthy as kisses if done right.

Their relationship is so interesting to watch and they’re always butting heads and there’s always conflict but their love and support for one another is so admirable and something that honestly, every on-screen and off-screen relationship should strive for.

2. The OTP’s family and friends

In a lot of Asian families, the concept of “tough love” is almost always practiced where harsh discipline equates to love. When it comes to a lot of parents in Korean dramas, it mostly consists of yelling and then when something tragic happens to the parent (usually dementia), the child will inevitably apologize for being a bad daughter or son. Even in Reply 1997, family dynamics usually consisted of the dad yelling at Shi Won nonstop only pausing for the more sentimental moments. Although I understand this is a cultural thing, I still found it really refreshing that WFKBJ detracts from that formula. Bok Joo’s dad and Joon Hyung’s aunt and uncle verbally show their love. Bok Joo’s dad would always defend Bok Joo calling her cute and even though she was a troublemaker, if anyone else said so, her dad would immediately shut them up. Joon Hyung’s aunt always showers him with smiles and harmless jabs. Maybe it’s the Western culture in me talking because usually Asian families don’t express their love so openly but nevertheless I still appreciated it because it felt like a combination of Western and Asian parenting. But the parents never felt like overly eccentric and cutesy parents that sometimes Western sitcoms have. You can always see that they will support their kid 100%, but they had their flaws and their “I know what’s best for you moments”. I think it’s always nice to see nice parental role models who aren’t constantly yelling at their kids even if it’s for their own good. We get to seem them struggle with parenthood and realize that they are people that make mistakes as well and so they are just as beholden to their kids as their kids are to them. And speaking of supportive network, there’s also two friends that Bok Joo spends most of her time with and they are such friendship goals. Nan He is fun and flirtatious while Seon Ok is no nonsense and practical and they both provide a humorous foil to Bok Joo.

I also found the dynamic between Jooh Hyung and his roommate so amusing and hilarious. Although I did feel bad for him because Joon Hyung kept ditching him and relying on him to make up cover stories. Even though this drama had a realistic quality, it still retained a certain magical/fairytale quality because even though this drama showed the deep-seated conflict behind every family you know that not everyone has such a supportive group of friends and family that love you so much. Sometimes it is just so nice to see TV friends and family unconditionally support Bok Joo especially when she is this age and she’s undergoing a lot of changes and discoveries about who she is. Not everyone has that and it’s nice to see that maybe this is possible. Joon Hyung’s brother is the sweetest and most caring cinnamon roll to grace any TV show and he gets his own little storyline and it was so cute. I also loved the interactions between the coaches and the weightlifting team.

3. The “bitchy” second love interest

I was watching Witches’ Castle last month (not by choice) and of course, there’s the heroine and then there’s Hee-Jae, the lady with the bright red lipstick, who has to fulfill the role of hysterical second love interest who will do anything to get the man she’s supposedly in love with. I’m sure long-time kdrama lovers know this trope well. There’s another love interest–usually pretty–who will do everything, legal and illegal, to get back with the main love interest. Usually this sexist trope just inspires a lot of girl-on-girl hate and is suppose to amplify how great the main leads are but instead just seems contrived and melodramatic. And in the end, she goes to jail or something so viewers can feel vindicated. I was afraid for a time that the writers were going to trap Si Ho into this despicable trope but I should have trusted them because the trajectory of Si Ho’s character was just beautiful.

   

And even the fact that she stubbornly tries to make Joon Hyung like her even though he clearly has no residual feelings for her is an extension of the way she wants to fit everything under her control not the fact that she just has to be that way because it’s needed for extra drama. She struggles with controlling the things that are uncontrollable in her life like her parent’s impending divorce so she turns to controlling what she can (like her eating habits). Yet she continues to compete in professional gymnastics even though she doesn’t even know if this is something she even wants to do. I truly felt for her. Throughout the drama, she struggles to find where she belongs, to be comfortable with who she is. Her last competition scene in the drama brought tears to my eyes. I was just so happy that her character was given the dignity and respect that she deserved.

     

4. ITS SO FUNNY AND THERE’S SO LITTLE ANGST

Surprisingly the thing that kept this drama from sailing off into a bubble of permanent happiness was how little angst there was. Everything happened so organically and plot twists happened at just the right time for it to feel hard-hitting. These characters felt so real because they weren’t dealing with earth-shattering drama but just your normal everyday school drama. And yet the everyday drama felt important from Bok Joo buying a hairclip to impress the boy she liked to the rivalry between the weightlifting team and the gymnastics team, everything really capturing that time in youth where these little things felt important. That’s not to trivialize them but to revel in them. Sometimes the best part of your youth was just spending time eating with your friends while your dad cooks really awesome chicken for you.

It’s also really funny and the humor mostly consists of the characters finding themselves in awkward situations but it just worked instead of coming off as forced. Yet as non-angsty and light hearted as it was, that doesn’t mean it shied away from devastating parts of a coming-of-age story from mental illness to filial duty etc. From familial relationships, where Joon Hyung reconciles with his mom who abandoned him to the struggle of finding what you want to do with your life but falling out of love with it and trying to find what you were meant to do instead. 

5. The visuals!!! The cinematography and editing!!

Despite the contemporary university setting, I found myself loving this world that Bok Joo was in. This was helped by the bright, saturated color palette and the solid, minimalist color blocking. It just gave the visuals a sort of airy feel.

I also never thought I’d say I liked watching eavesdropping scenes in a K-drama but here I am loving those scenes mostly because the camera was showing the scene as less of a plot device than a way to reveal character emotion. And the editing was so great. It effortlessly cuts from a happy, top-of-the-world scene to a more emotional, grounded scene that simultaneously makes you feel both happy and sad. I loved it. It never self-indulges on a particular storyline for too long and even the smallest side characters get a storyline that never feels intrusive. This is even more impressive because sometimes the side characters would get a small storyline in the middle of the drama that would still feel satisfying. Not to mention that the drama comes with such a sweet soundtrack ranging from rock to the usual piano. Listening to the soundtrack while writing this makes me so emotional already.

It probably seems to redundant to mention that all of the acting was so natural and impressive. Nam-Joo Hyuk is effortless in conveying multiple emotions in one look. And just to add a cherry on top of all this, mah bae Lee Jong Suk made a cameo as a character from W in one of the episodes ❤ and it was brilliant. It made me a lot happier than it probably should have.

This drama is quite literally the perfect pick-me-up for those days when everything is going wrong, but it doesn’t have fluffiness to recommend, it has a touching story about a weightlifting girl who tries to find her place in this world. As always, you can watch this drama for free and legally on viki.com or dramafever.com

sig

 

Misc · Miscellaneous · Uncategorized

Drama Review: Descendants of the Sun

DescendantsoftheSun.jpg

Title: Descendants of the Sun

Country of Origin: South Korea

Original Run: February 24-April 14 2016

Length of each episode: 1 hour

Episodes: 16

Director: Lee Eung-bok
Baek Sang-hoon

Starring: Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Jin Goo, Kim Ji-Won


When I first started watching Descendants of the Sun sometime last week, I had no idea how popular it was. During its original run in South Korea, it broke record ratings with a 28.5 percent viewership surpassing another insanely popular kdrama from two years ago called My Love From Another Star (that one was so popular, there’s going to be an American remake, although I don’t know what happened with that project) in only six episodes. It then continued to surpass its own ratings as the show went on. It currently has over 440 million views in China on legal and not-so-legal streaming sites and has been sold to 27 countries and translated into 32 languages. Even the prime minister of Thailand encouraged people to watch it. I should have known because it was getting a lot of buzz even outside of the sphere of kdrama lovers. It was on all of my friends’ snapchats and a lot of people I knew had at least heard of it even if they didn’t like kdramas.

I was skeptical at best mostly because I’m just not a kdrama person. My mom is so I’m familiar with a lot of them and I didn’t really think anything could equal Reply 1997 in my head.

But I watched the first episode and at about maybe 20 minutes into the first episode, I had fallen head-over-heels in love.

The funny thing is, the synopsis is not one I would immediately be drawn to. It’s a romantic drama following a soldier (Yoo Shi Jin) and a surgeon (Mo Yeon) who fall in love. Because of circumstances, they are separated for 8 months. They meet again in a war-torn country called Uruk where Mo Yeon is heading a medical mission and Shi Jin is stationed. Trouble and chaos ensue.

And the other funny thing is, it’s a show with glaring faults and usually I can’t look past those. A lot of the dramatic events end way too early for there to be an emotional punch; they are convoluted and random and the plot has basically no sense of realism. There are some questionable medical practices (STOP GOING INTO THE QUARANTINE, THERE ARE INFECTED PEOPLE IN THERE; WHY ARE YOU PUTTING AN IV IN HIM WITHOUT STERILIZING IT FIRST), I would have liked more backstory for Mo Yeon, also the transitions are very confusing and maybe more a little more depth to its themes would have been appreciated..

Wait, wait, hold up, Carolyn, you literally just said you had fallen in love with this drama. Why are you starting the damn review with what you didn’t like about it?

Because you know what, I didn’t really care about all stuff when I was watching it, for once, it allowed me to mute the critiquing side of my brain, which is actually becoming increasingly hard for me to do and just be swept up in a love story between two people. It allowed me to revel in a touching story. A story that’s full of action, drama and humor. And that’s really the highest praise I can give it.

The best thing about this drama are the characters. You love all of these characters almost from the get go and the actors have such natural chemistry with each other that you love all their friendships and interactions as well. But there’s also a layered complexity to the characters and outstanding character development especially from Mo Yeon. In a lot of ways, she is the main character.

She starts off as an idealistic doctor who believes in saving a human life no matter what. However after being passed up for promotion by other doctors because of connections, she becomes discouraged in pursuing her dreams of opening her own clinic. Her love interest, Shi Jin, on the other hand, kills people for a living and believes in the power of patriotism and commands yet hides his insecurities about his past through sarcasm and jokes. But aside from the magnetic power of the main leads, I also equally adored the side characters. The tough and assertive military surgeon, Myung Joo and her stoic love interest, Dae Young. I love Mo Yeon’s medical team ensemble, pretty boy, Lee Chi-Hoon, sassy and no nonsense nurse, Ha Ja-Ae, and the cynical yet humorous doctor, Song Sang-Hyun to name a few. Their easy rapport with each other is helped by the fabulous character writing and the brilliant actors who know about the art of subtlety down to a T.  I loved them all so much that however melodramatic and cheesy it got, I never minded, which is a testament to these characters. And it is the characters that make you stay till the very end through the absurd plot from unrealistic mafia gang fights and random natural disasters, the viral epidemics and earthquake aftershocks, evil bad guys and creepy hospital managers.

Speaking of the characters, can we please just talk about the romance? I know, I know people are going to be turned off because it’s a romance. But don’t forget that romance is about more than the angst and the cutesy (although if I got even half a penny for how many times I died when Shi Jin looked at Mo Yeon with loving eyes, I could have taken over Apple and Microsoft. Twice. And have some left over to bribe Trump not to continue the presidential campaign..someone’s gotta stop him)

Anyways romance is about revealing more of the character and who they are. I am so, so happy that a couple that I love so much has one of the least problematic relationships in a kdrama I’ve seen. Between the hair grabs (Master’s Son) and the forceful, stiff kissing (Heartstrings, Gentleman’s Dignity), and all around lack of female agency and deleting of female personality, a plethora of assholey main love interests and sexist tropes that saturate many, many kdramas, I was so worried this one was going to end up with me trying to claw out my eyes. Not so with this couple. I just adored their respect for each other. Even when they’re not together, they still cared about each other and never pushed the other person to accept their point of view. It’s just so refreshing to have two people cut the bullshit and say they like each other and not deny it. Shi Jin is able to believe in the value of life because of Mo Yeon and Mo Yeon learns to believe in her ideals again. And omigosh, the girls are sometimes the ones initiating the kisses and the hugs? Omigosh what is this the 21st century??  It is so shamelessly romantic. There are so many cute scenes of witty back-and-forth, boundless flirting, and loving glances against the backdrop of a setting sun. But it never, ever forgets that these two characters are individuals in their own right. It actually physically hurts how cute the two main couples in this show are. And hey, hey, don’t forget the equally cute bromance and girl friendship. It just makes you want to cry. And a side note: all these people are so good-looking, it’s actually a crime. Just putting that out there.

bromancing hijinks

All these interactions are wrapped in stunning cinematography and gorgeous lighting. And it is a very stylized drama portraying violence like in the movie Gangster Squad where the focus is on the slow motion of a bullet instead of the grittiness of war. I mean, just look at the damn poster. I think it elevated this drama to new heights since this drama is so reliant on the actor’s subtle expressions and in any other actors’ hands, it would not have been half as good as it is. Some of the shots are just so beautiful you can’t help but feel swept up in the moment and it does give a little edge to the engaging albeit weak plot as well. There’s no spinning of the camera and a surprising lack of medium shots focusing mainly on close up shots that really highlight the emotion of the scene combined with the gorgeous use of landscape and space. The use of space especially when the two characters are in a room just makes you so aware of their every little gesture and I think the details add so much to the characters.

And to cap it all, I adore the soundtrack too. My favorite one is K. Will’s Talk Love which has been on repeat for the past hour.

But in the end, all I know is that I loved these characters so, so much and I haven’t come across a show that has made me so unabashedly excited and fangirly (the obsessive tumblr kind) in a very, very long time. Let me know if you’ve seen this drama, what you thought of it, if you’re going to watch it, what your favorite Korean dramas are. Tropes that you’re sick of ? And also if you just want to fangirl, don’t even hesitate to comment because I’m still squealing.

Also, I’ll leave a link to the trailer with English subs. And if the trailer interests you, you can watch it on Dramafever or Viki (apparently it has a better translation).

Also, I realize this is a sudden departure from book-related posts but when I feel passionate about something, I just have to write about it.

sigfinal