I love Koreatown in the springtime…

Wherein I blog about all things Korean in Los Angeles

Bittersweet movies November 25, 2007

Of all the movies I saw at last week’s film festival, I’ve now identified my clear favorite. But first I have to say I didn’t hate any of the movies I saw, although there was one that wasn’t completely my thing (it’s not a movie any of you recommended, so no fears there). I was delighted that I finally got to see My Wife Is a Gangster, and I can’t figure out why MWIG 2 is so readily available while MWIG 1 doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, even on Tiger Cinema the last I checked (shame on you, TC). MWIG 1 didn’t disappoint, although I was prepared to be disappointed since I’d been dying to see it for so long. High expectations, you know. But no. Hilarious movie.

But not my fave.

Trust me to go dark and pick a totally non-comedy gangster semi-redemption pic for my favorite film. The Raven Favorite Award for KOFFLA 2007 (that’s the festival’s abbreviation) goes to A Bittersweet Life.

If you haven’t seen this movie, SEE IT. But if you hate antiheroes, don’t see it, because Lee Byung Hun’s character is an antihero extraordinaire. But after years of being a ruthless, conscience-free mob enforcer, he suddenly encounters a situation where his conscience won’t let him follow orders, and the movie follows his journey from there. Dark, bloody, tense, and awesome. It can be hard to portray an antihero sympathetically and get into his mind so we can understand him (witness Michael Clayton, which I just saw… oops, I can’t talk about that here, it’s not Korean), but A Bittersweet Life manages it.

Not to sound shallow, but Lee Byung Hun is also total eye candy. But he could have been hot as all get out and I still wouldn’t have liked the movie if it had worked less well.

Also in the movie were Shin Min Ah and Lee Ki Young, both of whom have been mentioned here before. Lee Ki Young even got a whole post dedicated to him here. Despite what I said about him then, he clearly does get shoved into gangster roles a lot. And as for her, well, all I can say is she pulls off the sweet and innocent act with grace, but c’mon, how often do real gangsters end up with sweet, innocent mistresses? Of course, real gangsters probably don’t look like Lee Byung Hun either. Her character was necessary for the story. It worked well enough. I let it slide.

P.S. The photo is from english.chosun.com.


Korean Film Festival ends tomorrow November 17, 2007

If you haven’t caught any of the films yet, tomorrow is your last chance! Four films will be showing. I’ll be at the second two: My Wife Is a Gangster and the closing film, The Show Must Go On. I believe the director will be there for that one.


They’ve got parking! November 16, 2007

The Korean Film Festival has somehow prevailed on the City of Los Angeles to cover the meters near the theater so festival goers can park there all day without paying a cent. This is exciting! And here everyone thought I was going to blog about the actual festival. No. I’m blogging about the parking. I think I’ve been in LA too long… Anyway, if you’re going to the festival and you don’t feel like looking for street parking in the neighborhood north of Beverly, feel free to park at one of the meters with a red cover.

Okay. Now I’m actually going to talk about the festival. It kicked off with a panel with Roy Lee, Jonathan Kim, and Zak Kadison (if you don’t know who they are or want to know what the panel was about, go here), followed by a reception where folks could feast on egg rolls and kimbap and fruit and sundry other goodies while chatting with the panelists and Kim Tai Shik, director of the opening night film. The good thing about the reception was that it was small enough that you actually could chat with these people if you chose to.

The opening film itself, Driving With My Wife’s Lover, wasn’t exactly what I expected. I don’t know why I thought it was going to be plot-driven, but it was actually character-driven. I think Kim Tai Shik did a good job with it, but you have to be into arthouse-type movies to appreciate it. If you are, check it out.

At certain points random things happen in the film, and Kim Tai Shik said he put them in precisely because they were random. He said random things happen in life, and they can take on meaning to the people they’re happening to. So he stuck a few into his film, I guess to see if any meaning would stick. Maybe it did; he seems very open to hearing what other people see in his work instead of prescribing what you’re supposed to see.


Korean Film Festival reminder November 14, 2007

The 2007 Korean Film Festival is almost here! It starts tomorrow. Click for the schedule. And for synopses of the various films, go here and click on the film posters.

I’ll be at the panel discussion, and I’m currently planning on seeing the opening and closing films plus My Wife Is a Gangster (I’ve been dying to see that one forever, so there’s no way I’m missing it), Save the Green Planet (sounds funny), and A Bittersweet Life. I need to catch one or two more on Friday and Saturday, but I haven’t decided which yet. If anybody who doesn’t know me wants to say hi, look for the tallish white girl with dark hair and glasses and a press pass.

The festival is at the Fairfax 3, conveniently located on Beverly. Gotta love a theater named after a street it’s not on.

If any of you are going and want to do a guest review of any of the films, let me know.


Home Decor November 12, 2007

Filed under: furniture & housing — Raven @ 1:46 pm

Everything I know about Korean interior decorating comes from kdramas. Well, pretty much everything. I like how mobile some Korean homes are, at least in the kdramas: you can pick up the bedding and put it away, you can pick up the table and carry it around. The same space becomes so much more multi-functional. It’s way more practical than having a bunch of heavy furniture that mostly just takes up space (although that seems to be what the richer folks in the kdramas prefer). Too bad I didn’t decorate my apartment Korean-style.

Speaking of which, I was recently at KCC and took a stroll through their exhibit on Korean history, which included a full-size model of a sarangbang (μ‚¬λž‘λ°©), the room used by the man of the house (I’m soooo tempted to translate it “lovenest,” but I know that’s not what it means). I could totally live in a room like this:


Here’s another view of it. Despite the different lighting, both pictures were taken at the same time with the same camera, just on different settings. Nobody told me I couldn’t take pictures, so I snapped away. Granted, I looked around first to make sure nobody was watching. πŸ™‚


This type of simple decor is very appealing, I think, and it’s probably very feng shui, too (this is LA, you know I had to bring up feng shui). Now to see if I can modify my apartment to look like this…


Winter Sonata: The Verdict November 6, 2007

The verdict was life’s too short to watch a kdrama you’re not that into, even if it would be good for your Korean. And anyway, a drama you *are* into would probably be better for your Korean because you’d actually be inclined to watch it! So I sent Winter Sonata back and am now waiting to see what Tiger Cinema will send me next. It’s never the next thing on my queue. Don’t get me wrong, I like Tiger Cinema. But they still never send me the next thing on my queue.

In the meantime, I’ve been rewatching My Lovely Samsoon, also known as My Name Is Kim Samsoon. The first time I saw it I thought it was about average, but I’ve now realized that you have to skip half the parts with Jung Ryu Won and all the parts with Daniel Henney, and then it becomes great. I know I’m going to make enemies among the Daniel Henney camp by saying so, but there it is. Virtually every time he appears onscreen the conflict goes bye-bye, and who wants to watch a drama that’s conflict-free and is all about being happy and cheerful and finding out where your mom grew up on Jejudo? Not me.

But when Kim Sun Ah (Samsoon) and Hyun Bin are onscreen, it’s amazing, especially when they’re together. Loads of conflict and sexual tension. Both of them can do more with a look than most people can do with ten sentences.

Also, the more I rewatch this drama, the more I like Samsoon’s outlook on life. She’s realized life’s not all romance and flowers and love rarely lasts forever. I love the way this drama ends, too. Oh, and it’s fun to watch the restaurant scenes and see how baking is integrated into Samsoon’s life and worldview.

So there it is. If you’re tempted to watch Winter Sonata, go watch My Lovely Samsoon instead. Just remember that on first viewing it may seem so-so, but on second viewing if you skip the Daniel Henney scenes you’ll appreciate this drama’s true greatness.

P.S. For the many of you who have been reading about the upcoming Korean film festival, I’ll probably be posting updates in the days preceding it and will definitely be blogging about it while it’s going on.


Korean Film Festival coming up! November 2, 2007

I’m so tempted to just post the press release. But then everybody would know I managed to get my hands on it… Oh wait, I just gave that away. Oh well.

Anyway, the first annual Korean Film Festival in LA (first, that is, according to the release, although I’m positive I heard about one a couple years back) will be taking place November 15-17 at the Fairfax 3 Theaters and will include more than 15 films. I don’t know if there are going to be any panels or Q&A sessions or anything, although I’m hoping so. The opening film will be Driving With My Wife’s Lover (the title alone makes me want to see it), in which a guy finds out his wife is having an affair with a taxi driver, so he seeks out the guy and hires him for a long-distance taxi ride. What he’s hoping to accomplish I don’t know; I guess I have to see it to find out.

The closing film will be a gangster flick called A Show Must Go On and starring Song Kang Ho, although it sounds like it’s less gangster flick and more work/family comedy in a gangster setting. That could be interesting. The festival is sponsored by KOFIC USA (the Korean Film Council, see link to the right), which says this about itself: “KOFIC’s objective has been to increase the awareness and appreciation of Korean films by promoting the development of both Korean and Korean American films.” Hey, I wonder if they’ll give me money to make my Korean-lead movie. But maybe before asking them I should do something like, you know, write the script…

Anyway, this festival is also sponsored by the Korean Cinematheque, the Korea Times, and the Hollywood Reporter, and its theme is: “It’s Alive: Korean Film Genre Hybrids and Hollywood Remakes.” I’ll be there in a professional capacity, as press, but the blog will benefit as well. πŸ™‚