Sunday, December 29, 2013


2013 is nearing its end, and what a weird year it's been!

I was organizing my planner for 2014 by perusing my 2013 planner and fishing out pertinent events and dates, and it was a rather interesting way to look back on my year and see what's happened. Per month, this was my 2013:

I spent the holidays with my family, in brisk (for California) weather, only to return to shiver-inducing cold back in Korea. Brrrr!
LAX (Los Angeles) to ICN (Seoul / Incheon).
박수건달 ("The Gangster Shaman"): Pretty funny, a little touching, and good fun, as long as you understand some of the more Korean / Confucian motivations behind some of the characters.
7번방의 선물 ("Miracle in Cell No. 7"): Though I cried buckets, even through the tears, I could feel how the movie was just contorting itself into a crying jag-inducing sobfest. Not a film that I would re-watch.

Cold. Ilsan is prone to bone-chilling winds, and my bones? They were thoroughly chilled. I did get to go on a lovely little trip with the staff of the film I had worked on (courtesy of the production company, as the movie did really well in the box office!). I warmed my chilled bones in Malaysia, cooked my chilled bones in the boiling humidity of Singapore, then ... had to come back to frigid Korea.
ICN to KUL (Kuala Lumpur) to SIN (Singapore), then back to ICN.
베를린 ("The Berlin File"): Frankly, I wanted to re-watch this movie with English subtitles. The North Korean dialect was tough for me to decipher (my Korean friends said they didn't understand a lot of it, either) and the plot was a little hazy and confusing. I didn't dislike the film, just wanted to watch it again with English subtitles. Though I haven't watched it again, and haven't even tried to find English subtitles, so ... there you go.
"A Good Day to Die Hard": Fun! I like Bruce Willis (I was oddly really riveted by him and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Looper"). The only thing about this one was that I found Jai Courtney's American accent a little off at times, which was distracting. He's adorable, though.
"Chinese Zodiac" (a.k.a. "CZ12"): My co-workers and I went to the Korean opening of this film, as we had worked on it. It was nice to see Jackie Chan, the producers, and the cast and crew that were able to come to Korea. I can't really comment on movies that I've worked on because I get so numb to them by the time post-production's over.

This was the month that I booked a trainer for three months. He put me through my paces thrice weekly, at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. Looking back on it, I miss him and my regular exercise- it did make me feel better. I need to find a good place here in Seoul...
Three girlfriends and I went to Busan (부산) to visit another girlfriend and to see the cherry blossoms. It was full of fun, food, not as much booze as one might think, and hysterical laughter as only a group of women can produce. One of the girls is married now, another's getting married next year, and it feels like the group is drifting apart. Aww...
Busan (부산)
사이코메트리 ("Psychometry" or "The Gifted Hands"): Terrible. Just ... terrible. Waste of good-looking actors. Ugh.
"Oz The Great and Powerful": Great visual effects (yay, Sony!) but not a spectacular movie. It's a good movie to turn on while doing other things (I constantly have movies or TV shows on while I work, putter around, clean the house, what have you).

This was a busy month! My mother arrived from L.A., staying with me for a while before moseying on down to Jeonju (전주), our hometown.
A co-worker of mine got married, so a bunch of us carpooled all the way down to Daejeon (대전) to go to the wedding ... only we got stuck in traffic (as did a lot of other guests) so we missed the ceremony and ended up just eating lunch, seeing a bunch of people we hadn't seen in a while, and then getting back into the car for the long ride back to Ilsan.
Several friends got together and we all went to EulWangRi (also spelled EurWangRi, what a ridiculously tough name to spell in English! 을왕리) Beach, which, don't let the pictures on that website fool you, is a crap beach. It was fun because it was a trip with a bunch of friends, but the beach portion was laughably bad. I taught my buddies how to play soju pong (beer pong with soju! higher proof = more fun!) and we (they) had lots of raw fish, which I had lots of raw beef (beef tartare is delicious in Korea).
I also went on a quick trip to Hong Kong for the film awards (we lost), which was a nice few days away from work obligations.
Daejeon (대전)
EulWangRi (을왕리)
ICN to HKG (Hong Kong), back to ICN
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation": A surprisingly fun movie. I'm partial to loud, obnoxious action movies (courtesy of my dad), and this was loud and obnoxious, but it had enough heart and oomph for me to have fun.
"The Host": Eh. I haven't watched or read the "Twilight" series, but I imagine this is what they'd be like- overly angsty, overly romanticized. I could see my fourteen-year-old self really liking this movie, but 31-year-old me wasn't very impressed.
"Song for Marion": I watched a matinee with my mom, and we both cried. It was a great little film, touching and well acted (Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave were amazing) and a perfect movie to watch with Mom.

May was the first anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death (we celebrate death anniversaries in Korea), and for the first time, my entire nuclear family gathered in Korea. My dad arrived, followed by my sister, who had had a tough few weeks following the illness and death of her furry firstborn, Gouda. I miss his fuzzy little face with his teeny little rubbery tongue.
My sister and I traveled together to Jeonju, where a lot of our family met up to celebrate my grandfather's life. It was bittersweet. It was also a lot of fun, for our family to be in Korea together for the first time since my sister and I were in elementary school!
Jeonju (전주)
"Star Trek Into Darkness": Great movie, as it should be, on a $190 million production budget. Nothing much to say about it, just ... Star Trek, J.J. Abrams, etc., etc.

My birthday was a bit of a blur, but I was happy my sister was with me to celebrate. Yay! The sister left for L.A. first, then Dad, then Mom. It was very quiet to be home alone after months with people around.
"Man of Steel": I thought that I had really enjoyed this film, but I haven't re-watched it, which makes me think that I didn't really like it all that much. Hmm. Henry Cavill was lovely, but needs to watch his British accent slipping into his American.

I got a week off of work this month, so went on a quick trip to Tokyo. All I remember from the whirlwind visit (my first to Japan!) is that it was almost unbearably hot and humid. Sticky and gross. I didn't know Japan was so much more humid than Korea, something I will not be forgetting anytime soon!
It's traditional for Koreans to escape the heat of the cities during the sweltering summers, so off we went to CheongPyeong (청평). It was fun, though it rained (why, Korea, why?? hot rain is so icky!), so we ended up indoors much of the time (I still managed to get sunburned, though).
Perhaps the heat is why so many movies premiere in the summertime? I was actually surprised at how many films I watched in July!
ICN to NRT (Narita / Tokyo), back to ICN
CheongPyeong (청평)
"World War Z": It was good, though I seem to recall that I got bored in the second act. I was wholly back into the action by the third act, though!
"Pacific Rim": I've never watched "Sons of Anarchy," on which I hear he's great, but Charlie Humman was terrible in this movie. Idris Elba, Charlie Day, and Burn Gorman almost saved it for me, but then Rinko Kikuchi and Robert Kazinsky hammered the last nail into the coffin. This movie, though, is great for re-watching (see March's "Oz the Great and Powerful").
"RED 2": Brian Lee (Byung-Hun Lee, 이병헌) was fantastic. I love that they gave the stereotypical Asian villain a twist. Anthony Hopkins was great, as well. It was a fun movie, which I enjoyed more than the first installation.
"The Wolverine": Hugh Jackman with epic sideburns, a wifebeater, and a snarly growl. Exactly what I expected, with more samurai swords and neon pink hair than anticipated.

It was my last day at my first company in Korea. I wish I could say it was touching or bittersweet, but it really wasn't. I think it was past time for me to have taken my leave, so I did it with minimal fuss. I remain on good terms with the people there, but I believe I made the right decision.
I moved to Seoul (Gangnam) this month, which turned out to be quite a simple affair. Movers in Korea are fantastic! The guy had the truck loaded up and ready to go in the blink of an eye, and then had the truck unloaded and was off before I could even offer him a beverage.
I watched a lot of Korean movies this month! Unusual for me, but they were the ones that seemed watch-worthy.
설국열차 ("Snowpiercer"): Solid. I liked it, mostly because Tilda Swinton is astoundingly, disturbingly wonderful. I thought it was a good film, and especially good considering what a tough time the Korean director had in directing his English-speaking actors.
숨바꼭질 ("Hide and Seek"): No. Just ... no. I will never be watching this one again. First of all, I didn't know it was a scary movie, so it doubly scared me. Second of all, even while I was scared witless, I could see where the plot was going and that annoyed me.
감기 ("The Flu"): Good, but way too similar to "Contagion," which, in turn, was very similar to "Outbreak." I like "Outbreak" best of the three- Dustin Hoffman was awesome and Morgan Freeman reliably Morgan Freeman-y.

I started working at my second company in Korea while adjusting to living in Seoul, which is surprisingly different from living in Ilsan. I'm always a little down in September because my father, mother, and sister all have birthdays this month and I wasn't there to celebrate with them.
"Elysium": I had the weirdest sense of deja vu when I watched this movie. I don't know why; I don't know what other movie it reminded me of, just that I felt that I had watched it before. I think perhaps the utopian environment reminded me of "Aeon Flux," while Matt Damon's exoskeleton reminded me of lots of other films. Not to say I didn't like it- I did! It was fun, had a good message, and I liked Jodie Foster's coolly evil character.
관상 ("The Face Reader"): Lee Jong-Suk (이종석) was a horrible casting choice. The kid is cute, I'll give him that, but he looks like he came straight out of a Seoul plastic surgery handbook, which is to say, he doesn't belong in the Joseon Dynasty. And while Jo Jung-Suk (조정석), who doesn't look exactly as Joseon as he could, compensated with superior acting skills, the kid just doesn't have the chops to be convincing. I was distracted by him in every scene in which he appeared (him, and his oddly shaped nose). It would've been an okay movie otherwise, but man, I had a tough time with that one character-- it was a small but important role.

I was off to Busan, at the last minute, for BIFF (Busan International Film Festival). I got to see a close girlfriend, become better friends with a co-worker (who was in Busan, her hometown, for vacation), and meet some people that I rarely get to see. I love the KTX!
Busan (부산)
"Gravity": Beautifully shot, natural 3D, and amazing sound (I watched this in a sound-enhanced theatre, which I think is called SOUNDX or something like that). I loved this film, but it was energy-sapping to watch. I was exhausted afterward!

Off I went to AFM (American Film Market), marking the longest I've gone without going back to L.A. (10 long months). It was an okay film market, but I really appreciated that I got to take a week off afterwards to be with my family before coming back to Korea. I didn't do much in L.A.; I barely had enough time to decompress a bit, hang out with the family and cats, and eat lots of food that I can't get in Korea before I had to get back on a plane. Sigh.
ICN to LAX, back to ICN
"Thor: The Dark World": Exactly what I expected. Christopher Eccelston was great, as usual. Natalie Portman continues to confuse me in these Thor movies. Her character's so ... ungrounded. Tom Hiddleston seems to have so much fun playing Loki, it comes across so clearly. Good fun- it felt like a summer movie, though the weather outside told me that it's winter!

Two weddings this month (!) and one company-wide year-end dinner. One bout of tonsillitis down, one sinus-congesting cold in progress, and two more days (including today) left in the year. Whew. I'm ready to be healthy again, though I have a feeling it won't happen until the weather warms up (it hit -12 degrees Celsius this past weekend, which has to be illegal).
"About Time": Unexpectedly touching little British film. I had no idea Domhnall Gleeson was such a dorkily charming guy, having only seen him as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films and a tweaked out nerd in "Dredd." It was predictable but still sweet, and Bill Nighy still amazes me with his ability to overact and yet be poignant. Very nice and worth re-watching, once I can get my hands on it.

24 movies (more Korean films than I've ever watched before!), 9 flights, a long overdue family reunion in Korea, countless glasses of soju, and much laughter and tears have gone into this year.

Though I am turning 33 by Korean age reckoning in just two days (eek!), I am grateful, for I feel like I am more centered, mature, and balanced than I have ever been.

I have learned to take things in stride (a little more, at any rate), I have more confidence, I have figured out that I need to at least try to let the little things go, and I am (mostly) at peace with myself, shortcomings and all.

This must be what it feels like to be a grown-up!

Though I miss my family terribly (including the cat), I find myself thinking of Korea as home. I don't know what 2014 holds for me; I don't even know when I'm going back to the US or if I'll even go back at all (perhaps I'll be offered an exciting new job in an exciting new country??), but I'm okay with it. Not knowing is part of the fun, which I am finally coming to appreciate.

So thanks, 2013, for all the memories! Here's hoping 2014 is bigger and better and funner and sweeter!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

메리 크리스마스!

Merry Christmas!!

It's already the morning of the 26th here, which means I am at the office, still full from all the Mexican food I devoured very late at night last night.

For some reason, I thought that perhaps Christmas day would feel more Christmassy ... but it didn't. The forecast called for the possibility of snow last night, for which I was pretty dang excited, but no snow. Boooo.

Still, if one looks, one can see signs of Christmas in Korea. It's odd because stores and restaurants are all open Christmas Eve and Christmas, and it doesn't feel any different from any other days. I realized how much emphasis Americans place on Christmas- usually, when walking into a restaurant near Christmastime, Americans will greet customers will "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or something of that nature. Koreans are the same. Some of them are wearing Santa hats or antlers, but their behavior and demeanor are exactly the same.

Anyway, despite it all, I sought out and found sparkly lights (though someone ought to tell Koreans that proper Christmas trees shouldn't be purple!) and some Christmas spirit. Along with Arctic weather.

Though I'm still a little sad that I'm not with my family, I wasn't as disconsolate and inconsolable as I thought I would be (frankly, I thought I would be a blubbering mess!), even if I did get a little teary-eyed when I FaceTimed with my family on Christmas Day (Korean time). 

I'm fighting to stay healthy and not succumb to the tickle in my throat, which is proving tough, what with the weather and all (high of 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the next week, ugh). 

Regardless, merry, merry Christmas!!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Shopping

It's very weird not being in LA in December. And what's weirder is that it's now December 23 here in Korea, but I'm not getting that Christmassy feeling, despite the cold wintry weather. I think I need my family, my mother's wreaths and garlands and red ornaments, my father's outdoor Christmas lights edging the roof, my sister's purchasing of obscene amounts of butter, and the insistent meowing of the cat, fat with her winter coat, to feel appropriately Christmassy. Even when it snows (it's been snowing on and off for a few weeks, but nothing that sticks for long), it doesn't feel as Christmassy as it does being in LA, walking around in flip-flops, drinking iced coffee.

Despite my somewhat depressed Christmas spirit, I went out and saw some Christmassy sights and did a little Christmassy window shopping (eye shopping in Konglish, which sounds disturbing to me- shopping for eyes??). I'm proud of myself for going out when it's been so dang cold that I fear my nose and ears will fall off due to frostbite before winter's over.

This is the crosswalk between The Galleria East and West (Korean site, English site here). The Galleria's a department store in the Apgujeong neighborhood (압구정) of the Gangnam District (강남) in Seoul. The Galleria's on Apgujeong Rodeo street (oh, Korea, really?), a very posh street in the already very posh Apgu area.

I really liked the lights and the Christmas tree-shaped stack of Christmas presents. Though the Galleria in Apgujeong is "luxury," selling designer brands and such, their food court and grocery store make me feel like I'm back home, so I love it. Their grocery store (in the basement of Galleria East) carries a lot of stuff that I can't find anywhere else, or have to travel very long distances to find. Some of the things I buy here are Sriracha sauce, tortillas, flavored salts, pasta in shapes other than spaghetti, chutney (for a country that pickles and jars vegetables like crazy, Koreans don't make chutney at all), cheese (REAL cheese! Stinky cheese!), charcuterie ... the list goes on and on. Yes, because it's the Galleria (the branch in Apgu is actually divided into and called Luxury Hall East and Luxury Hall West), prices are marked up disturbingly high, but that's supply and demand. The food court is generally bustling, but not nearly as loud as in other department stores. I think the acoustics were well-planned in the Galleria. And the food court has a Vato's Tacos, which is nice.

One of my favorite dishes is naeng-myeon (냉면, also spelled naeng-myun), which, seeing as how it's an average of about 25 degrees Fahrenheit lately, is not a good idea. But I was craving naeng-myeon, so as a nod to the cold weather, I had it with grilled skirt steak (is it still called skirt steak if it's from a pig?). This is a really delicious combination, which sounds weird but tastes good and is pretty dang addictive. Yummy.

This was at SeoRae (서래 갈매기살, website's in Korean and English), a chain of skirt steak (skirt meat?) restaurants. They sell other cuts of meat (pork and beef), of course, but I quite like the skirt. One of my favorite ways to eat steak in L.A. was skirt steak, Argentinian-style. It's not the same as Korean-style grill-your-own-meat, of course, but it's still good.

Coffee (yes, mine is iced, even in this weather!) at Willium Cafe (links to a Korean blog with nice photos), close to my office. It's tucked away and quiet, and has teddy bears that live there. Aww. I'm a sucker for a cute teddy bear, though I don't like owning them, as their fur seems like dust traps to me. (I'm so not a romantic soul...)

A very odd thing lately is that I sometimes forget that I'm in Korea. I don't know why, I don't know how, but I sometimes think I'm in LA, and that I can just get in my car and zip to my parents' house. Perhaps the cold is addling my brain.

Anyway, hello from Korea and happy Christmas Eve Eve!


Thursday, December 12, 2013


Wow, has it been a long time since I posted!

Korean winters have always kicked my butt, but this winter is particularly cold- it was apparently -8.9 degrees Celsius this morning (Korean link). That's 16 degrees Fahrenheit. O__O I went out with only two layers on over the past weekend, and I'm getting my punishment- a cruel cold (flu?) that came with a fever, swollen lymph nodes, a throat so scratchy and painful that I want to pull it out of myself, and the inability to breathe. Fun, huh?

I miss my family constantly, but even more so during the holidays. It's starting to feel all kinds of Christmassy, with a huge downpour of snow yesterday (snow! snow! snow!), so I'm really missing the fam.

Anyway, what I really wanted to share was some work by Jee Young Lee (이지영):

Two of my favorites, but there are a lot more to see here (English) and here (Korean). And she doesn't use Photoshop! That blew my mind- things are so easy to fix in post now (post-production, for you non-film people) that I feel like we've become lazy photographers and lazy filmmakers. I know that I have. I don't concern myself much with lighting or shadows because I know those things can be addressed later. Terrible.

So I'll try to post more, since I've been seeing lots of Korean-style Christmassy things (some of which are hilarious) and am going to spend my first holiday season in this country (scary).

The cold / flu is getting gradually better, so crossing my fingers on that...