I love Koreatown in the springtime…

Wherein I blog about all things Korean in Los Angeles

Korean Film Festival in Los Angeles 2010 February 13, 2010

There’s been a bit of a hiatus since the last one of these, but finally another Korean Film Festival in Los Angeles (KOFFLA) is in the works. It’s gotten bigger, promising to showcase over 70 films (I think the 70 must include the shorts, because I don’t count 70 features on the schedule). Screenings take place in various theaters around town, so you kind of have to look at the schedule and figure out where you’re supposed to go for what. Can anyone tell me where the Beverly Music Hall is? A lot of the screenings are scheduled to be there.

Among the interesting folks on the festival’s advisory board are Park Chan Wook (Oldboy, among others) and Kang Je Gyu (Tae Guk Gi, Shiri). Actors Kim Jeong Eun (Lovers in Paris) and Jin Goo (Mother) are scheduled to attend the opening night film Le Grand Chef II: Kimchi War, in which they also star. No word on whether kimchee will be provided at the screening or whether it’s BYOK… Okay, yes, I’m joking about bringing kimchee, although I can recommend several Korean markets where you can pick some up (starting a kimchee war at the screening is not recommended). 🙂

On Friday, March 5, there’s a surprise screening, and the ActorFest on Saturday the 6th also sounds fun. Actually, most of the events sound pretty cool.

The festival runs from March 4-7, 2010. Its website, including the schedule and info on becoming a sponsor or volunteer or Facebook friend, can be found here. I might consider volunteering, except I don’t speak Korean, and I’m thinking that could be a problem.


Do Not Watch February 11, 2010

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 2:18 pm

Well, I did manage to get my hands on that My Sassy Girl screener I mentioned, oh, a year or more ago. I turned it off halfway through and have no intention of going back to watch the rest. Ever. Seriously, if you have any interest in this movie at all, beg or borrow a copy of the original and watch that. The remake is at best a lesson in how not to execute a remake.

As I’d feared, the emotional story didn’t seem to be there, although a lot of the quirky scenes were. But those scenes don’t work without the emotional content.

Granted, the original is a bit slow in the first half too, so maybe the remake becomes awesome in the second half… but I guess I’ll never know.


Director Lee Myung Se: a Master of Visual Cinematic Arts August 27, 2008

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 4:54 pm
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On Friday, Sept. 5, USC will be showing two films directed by Lee Myung Se, namely Duelist and M. Duelist plays at 4pm and will be followed by a Q&A with Lee Myung Se. The Q&A will be followed by a reception, and the reception will be followed by a screening of M. For more details click here.

Due to the fact that it’s at USC and I’m not familiar with the campus or comfortable there, I probably will not go. But it sounds like a fun event. Both films should be watchable. Duelist sounds more plot-driven, M more character-driven. Plot synopses are available at the link in the previous paragraph.

Besides, there’s a reception. Who can object to free food?

The event is cosponsored by these organizations:the School of Cinematic Arts, East Asian Studies Center, Center for International Studies, East Asian Languages & Culture, East Asian Library, Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles, Korean Film Council, University of Notre Dame.


Ripe for a Remake: The Chaser August 2, 2008

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 10:08 am
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The only reason The Chaser (추격자) is a Korean movie is that it happened to be made in Korea. There are no inherent details about the story that tie it to Korean culture. And this means it has a better shot than some at translating into a decent remake. With luck, even a pretty good remake.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, there are plans to remake it with Leo DiCaprio starring, so I watched it with that in mind. The protagonist is played by an actor in his forties, so I’m thinking they’ll write the role younger in the Hollywood version and give it to DiCaprio. I can’t see him getting any other role in the movie. The role of the protagonist is exactly the kind where DiCaprio would excel. It’s dark and the guy’s morality is gray, but he has good impulses (some, anyway).

It’s the story of a cop-turned-pimp who goes looking for the guy who’s making his girls disappear. The pimp is played by Kim Yoon Seok, whom I was delighted to recognize from the kdrama Revenge (부활, also translated Resurrection or Rebirth or Life Again or maybe we should just say The Drama of Many Titles). He played a supporting role in that drama, but a fairly important one, acting in part as the hero’s conscience. I’m fully intending to blog about it sometime. It was a good one.

But back to The Chaser. Kim Yoon Seok turned in a good performance (I have a feeling he always does). It was a solid film, engrossing, dark, with a character I cared about even though I’m not generally inclined to like pimps. The structure was slightly atypical, but not radically so, and it worked. The presence of one character initially made me worry that the story would go off on a tangent, but she turned out to be well-integrated into the protagonist’s journey. The antagonist… well, I could say something about his motives, but I’m afraid it might be a spoiler, so I won’t. All I’ll say is he was definitely the kind of guy you want to see brought down.

One warning, though (actually three). If you don’t like gore, this movie isn’t for you. And if you don’t like dark, it’s not for you. And if you aren’t into antihero protagonists, it’s not for you either.


No Regret July 29, 2008

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 9:00 am
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This movie had been on my radar for a while, ever since JT mentioned it. I finally caught it on Saturday (for those who may be interested, it’s still playing at Laemmle Sunset 5). I can’t write a better synopsis than KOFIC did, so go here for the synop.

I still haven’t made up my mind whether I liked the movie or not. What I do know is it got to me emotionally, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again (I guess that means I liked it, right?). I understand it was quite controversial when it came out. After all, it’s gay-themed and it has some fairly graphic sex scenes. I know filmmakers often argue that the sex scenes they include are required by the story, and I frequently disagree (Lust, Caution, anyone?), but in this case I felt the scenes, which were completely unromanticized, gave the film a lot of raw power. It’s basically a film about despair, about alienation, about crossing lines, and about two people who can never be together. And the filmmakers didn’t hold back.

I wouldn’t have minded seeing a little more detail on why one character repulsed the other so vehemently right away. I don’t think a lot more detail was needed, but a little. I gathered it was partly due to social/class resentment, but I needed it spelled out a little more. And I would have liked to see a little more resolution at the end, although I’m not exactly sure where the two main characters could go next. Maybe that’s part of the point, that it’s not clear where they can go next. All they have is the moment. But I still feel a film shouldn’t end unless the audience has been given at least some inkling of what will happen after the credits roll.

None of that stopped me from finding the film emotionally affecting, though. I’d even say heartbreaking. Its rawness and the sense of alienation it imparted even in the happy scenes will stay with me for a long time.


My Sassy Straight-to-DVD Girl July 17, 2008

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 4:49 pm
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It turns out the English-language remake of My Sassy Girl will not be getting a theatrical release. The folks involved must have realized what I had suspected all along: the movie isn’t worthy of theaters. Judging from the trailer I saw, I think the filmmakers may have replicated all the quirky little scenes but missed the bigger emotional picture.

I can’t link to my source for this news because it was print media (wait, print media still exists?), but I can tell you it was in this month’s issue (July 2008 ) of KoreAm Journal.

I’m hoping to get my hands on a My Sassy Girl screener and give it a watch. If/when I do, I’ll report back. After all, I’ve been judging this movie sight unseen, so I could be completely wrong about it.

Well, probably not.

On the plus side, and also on a new topic, Leo DiCaprio is set to star in a remake of the Korean film The Chaser, which sounds suitably dark (he’ll probably die at the end). He tends to pick his movies well, so I have more hope for this remake than I had for MSG. That news came from KoreAm and this place.


New Korean Movie Theater Coming Soon June 27, 2008

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 4:24 pm

Well, if November is soon. CJ’s new theater will join MPark and the ImaginAsian Center in screening Korean films in LA. Some, anyway. Full details can be found in a Variety article located here.

I’ve been meaning to go to MPark since October and haven’t made it there yet. The ImaginAsian Center I will probably never make it to because of the downtown location. About the only thing I’m willing to go downtown for is slippery shrimp at Yang Chow (oops, am I allowed to mention a Chinese restaurant on here?), and in that case it’s a straight shot down Sunset. I guess when this new theater opens I’ll add it to the list of places I’ve been meaning to go to but haven’t yet (LoPIBMTGTBHY for short).

Kudos to Michael Daines of the Korean Cinema Club for sending out an alert about the new theater.


L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival April 30, 2008

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 2:25 pm

In the grand old tradition of this blog, I’m announcing a Korean-related event at the very last minute. At least this time I’m announcing it the day before it starts instead of shortly before it ends.  The event is the 24th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, which runs May 1-8 and features films from all over Asia (link). Most of the films (at least the ones on the first page) seem to be showing either at the Directors Guild or at Laemmle Sunset 5.

The list of participating Korean films can be found here. Two of these, High Tide (actually a collection of shorts) and Happiness, are being co-presented by KOFIC.

If anybody wants to see Never Forever with me on Friday, let me know.


Filmmakers Development Lab 2007 January 27, 2008

A couple weeks ago I had the chance to attend a ceremony honoring this year’s winner of the top slot in the Filmmakers Development Lab (FDL), sponsored by KOFIC. The lab, for those of you who don’t know, is… Okay, I give up on saying this in my own words. Here’s the blurb from the 2007 FDL website:

The Filmmakers Development Lab chooses five emerging filmmakers from submitted scripts. These Fellows are matched with individual Mentors drawn from the film industry in Korea and the United States. The Fellows and Mentors spend a week in Hawaii in one-on-one sessions developing their scripts. The Fellows and their projects are then presented to producers, financiers, production companies at the Independent Feature Film Market in New York in September, and at the Pusan International Film Festival in Korea, in October. The Lab and its activities are wholly funded by the Korean Film Council, and held in partnership with the Academy for Creative Media at the University of Hawaii, and the Independent Film Project in New York, and CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) in San Francisco.

At the ceremony I chatted with Philip Chung, a fellow from last year, and with this year’s winner, Nathan Adolfson. Nathan was impressed with the way the lab doesn’t just honor you and leave you out in the cold. When they say filmmakers development, they mean it. They want to boost the fellows’ filmmaking careers. They work you hard, but it’s for your own good.

This year they’ve added something new: money. Nathan gets $40,000 to make his movie, but there’s a catch. It gets doled out at a couple of different points in the movie-making process. See, they want this movie to happen. Like I said, not an empty honor.


Nathan said I could talk about his script, so since I’m dying to, here goes. The script is called Model American, and I loved the idea the minute he pitched it to me. Basically, it’s about a Korean gangster in LA who has to flee the city and ends up in an idyllic small town in the Midwest. Naturally, the small-town Midwesterners are somewhat taken aback by the sudden appearance of this stranger in their midst, so he has a rocky time, getting taken advantage of and having to try to learn to live with the people of the town. Then his old troubles from LA catch up with him…

One of the beautiful things about this script idea is that it’s totally mainstream. Sure, the protagonist is Korean, but this is a movie that might play in Peoria (which is what Nathan was going for). I think it’s exactly the kind of crossover Korean film Hollywood needs.

So that’s FDL 2007. I suppose I really should have mentioned this year’s other fellows, but I didn’t. Bad, I know. Applications for FDL 2008 are being accepted starting Feb. 11 through the website (the 2008 part isn’t live yet).

P.S. I still haven’t figured out whether you have to be of Korean descent to make it into the lab or just write a Korean-themed script.


Kang Je Gyu at USC January 16, 2008

Filed under: movies & film — Raven @ 1:19 am
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They’re calling this the 2008 USC Korean Film Festival. I’m still trying to decide whether two films can actually constitute a film festival, but in the meantime here’s the info. Everything happens this coming Saturday, January 19, from 3:30-9:30 at USC Norris Theater. Shiri will be showing at 3:30, followed by a Q&A (hopefully better than the one at LACMA for Secret Sunshine). At 6:30 comes the free food, er, I mean the reception, followed by Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War at 7:30. Admission is free. Here’s the link.

Kang Je Gyu, who directed both films, will be there for the Q&A (you knew I had to mention him since his name is in the post title). These are kind of landmark films. I could tell you why in my own words, but I’m just going to quote the press release:

At a time when Hollywood pressed for unlimited access to the Korean film market and the local film industry feared its imminent collapse, Director Kang released Shiri (Swiri), South Korea’s first blockbuster film. The epic Tae Guk Gi : The Brotherhood of War attracted over 11 million viewers and was chosen as South Korea’s entry to the 2004 Academy Awards for best foreign film.

There you go. If you haven’t seen them already, go see ’em.