Saturday, July 4, 2020

Itaewon Class: Dropping the show after 15 episodes


In my post on what I've been watching, I highlighted Itaewon Class, including everything I found refreshing and was enjoying about the show (at that point I think I was about halfway through). Unfortunately, I ultimately found it to be a letdown, particularly in the final stretch starting around episode 14. I figured I'd do a more holistic review now that I've seen the majority of the show, including what made the close such a cold disappointment versus its frenetic beginning.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Book Review


I've been on an audiobook tear lately, starting with Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere (which I'll review separately, but in short didn't find that compelling) and Everything I Never Told You, the latter of which surprised me in how much it swept me up and made me think. In fact, I breezed through all 11 hours of this recording in 2 days, finding it difficult to stop once I was sucked into the complex, multi-dimensional and tragic lives of each Lee family member and the central mystery around their middle daughter's death.

Part of it was the beautiful writing, which reads easily and poetically, painting clear imagery of each family member and offering us access into their deepest of thoughts, both conscious and unconscious. Another part was the realistic and deeply heartbreaking portrayal of being an Asian American and a bi-racial household in the America of the 1950s to 1970s, with unnerving parallels to the struggles around racism and conformity that still hold true today. And lastly, the suspense - what exactly happened to Lydia, the daughter who we the reader learn immediately is dead? We weave through timelines and generations to uncover everything that built up to this conclusion, and what's most satisfying is that ultimately we learn exactly what happened, but are still left with questions.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

What I've been Watching During Quarantine + My Drama OST Playlist


To be honest, quarantine hasn't changed my habits much as even prior to it most of my free time was consumed by shows. That said, I've certainly been able to make more progress on certain Kdramas and other things on my list, and have also marathoned through some of the more popular hits.

I also created a Spotify playlist with some of my favorite drama OST tracks from over the years - take a listen if you're as big a fan of Kdrama songs as I am! I tried to be fairly selective, only picking songs that struck a certain emotional chord with me while watching (surprisingly few vs the total number of dramas I've seen). I also wish Spotify had a broader selection of older/less popular drama OSTs but oh well. I'll be keeping this playlist updated as I find more favorites. Note I do have older posts with my favorite Kdrama OSTs and Taiwan/China drama OSTs in case you want to take a listen.

So in case you're curious, here's the list of shows I've been working my way through during quarantine.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

My Favorite Korean Drama Actresses


Let's be honest - most actors and actresses in the Kdrama scene are purely there for their looks, with very few actually having true acting abilities. Consequently, there are only a few actors that I actually enjoy watching and find likable in and of themselves, especially in the recent era of younger, idol-turned-actress domination in the Kdrama landscape.

I'm going to admit that as a fellow lady, I am much more critical of female roles, which have a tendency to be written in broad, simplistic strokes with "hard-working" yet unrealistically beautiful leads that I find hard to relate to. That said, there are certain actresses that somehow manage to bring their A-game to nearly all of their roles and are able to transform even the most one-dimensional of parts into something complex and easy to root for. Below are the ladies that I either respect for their talent or just plain like - you know, the ones who seem like genuinely good people who are dedicated to what they do. Just to caveat, I'm a little behind on Kdramas from the past couple years, and thus have a bias towards stars of the mid-2010s era.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Kingdom: Season 2 Review


I've lost count of the number of people I've now told to watch Kingdom (my season 1 review here), which released its second season at probably the best possible time. Nothing like a strange fiction-reality parallel of a easily contagious ailment to distract us during a perpetual lockdown. I managed to marathon through the six episodes in the first day of release (March 13th), which was both satisfying but also saddening because now I need to wait another year before season 3 (or will there be a season 3? See my thoughts after the spoilers section).

What's worth noting is that every single person who's acted on my recommendation to watch this series has gotten sucked in and powered through within a week. So if you haven't yet seen any of this, give it a chance as it's one of the most sharply plotted and worthwhile dramas I've seen in years. The trick is to make it past season 1 episode 2, as that's when you grow adjusted to the horror elements and when the story and intrigue pick-up.

This review though is to cover my thoughts on season 2, which finally resolves the incredible cliffhanger that we ended season 1 on. Read on for my full thoughts.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Parasite: Movie Review


With the Oscar wins, I figure I have to finally put in my review on Parasite, a film I watched months previously. Parasite falls into the indie thriller genre of films that normally wouldn't pique my attention, save for the large amount of hype it received among US audiences. While more dark and morbid than the movies I find myself leaning into these days, I was thoroughly entertained throughout its run time and sucked into the many twists.

Like most things, it's a story better enjoyed spoiler-free, so that you can be properly caught off guard when the movie suddenly veers into a new direction. What makes it unique is that it successfully weaves between entire genres, moving with steadfast strength from comedy to drama to horror. It's for sure worth a watch, if only for the very effective and relevant social commentary it makes.

Friday, January 3, 2020

What I watched over the holidays


The holidays are nothing if not for the time to binge dramas and movies. With all the new streaming platforms, the options are vast, and I had quite the few weeks of doing nothing but sitting and watching everything I could. Here's my quick takes on all the new shows I caught up on:

Friday, December 27, 2019

My Favorite Podcasts: True Crime

True crime and other nonfiction podcasts were initially made popular by Serial, although I confess to having been bored stiff while listening to both its famed season 1 episode as well as the recent season 3 series around the ineffectiveness of the justice system in Cleveland. For me, a true crime podcast must be salacious and suspenseful enough to keep my attention while also feeling substantive and educational enough to be worth my time. Below are some of my favorites in this genre, and would love to hear any other recommendations you may have.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

When the Camellia Blooms: Series Review


I'm moving ahead and calling this the best drama of 2019, and one that even long-time Kdrama retirees will lap up and adore. When the Camellia Blooms hits all the right notes, remaining uplifting, funny, edge-of-the-seat-suspenseful and romantic, while avoiding so many Kdrama plot traps and cliches. It navigates through its story with precision and ease, perhaps a bit languid at times, but never failing to pick back up and deliver its punches with whole-heartedness and tear-inducing heft. I love this drama, and can't recommend it enough.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Becoming by Michelle Obama: Book Review and Reactions


This was a marathon of a book, but after forcing myself to sit through all 15 hours of Michelle Obama's Becoming (the audiobook version narrated by her), I have at last finished it. I had hoped that Michelle's book may be more stimulating after hearing her interview on Oprah's podcast, but alas, the book falls into the same predictable narrative stream and carries the same self-aggrandizing tone that other recent famous-people-mid-life-autobiographies have done. It's not that it isn't worth a read, as there are plenty of juicy nuggets regarding life in the White House as well as thoughtful interludes and reflections on the challenges faced by minority groups in the US, but it's also more than a little long and meandering and surprisingly frustrating, ultimately not worthy of 15 hours of one's focused time. I can only recommend the audiobook, and only if you listen to it while doing something else. 

Below, I'll go through the main highlights of the book as well as my reactions to it (it was mixed to say the least), including what my key frustration was.