Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Well I am back from NZ. I had an awesome vacation. When the computer is back, up and running, I will upload a lot of photos from my trip.

Thanks to Dan and Greer and their families for welcoming me with open arms.

Dan and Greer are finaly married!!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Well its now time for my 3rd annual "Oscar Selections for 2008. The same logic applies as last year. This is who I would vote for, if I had a ballot. The "Dark Horse" selection is one who is gaining last minute support and might pull off the upset.

Winners to be announced on Sunday, February 24th.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Atonement (2007): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster
Juno(2007): Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Russell Smith
Michael Clayton (2007): Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent
No Country for Old Men (2007): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin
There Will Be Blood (2007): Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi, JoAnne Sellar

This was a very easy choice. There Will be Blood. The hype is over "No Country" but "Juno" looks like the dark horse. I have seen all 5 of these films and "Blood" tells the most complete and most deservingof this award.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney for Michael Clayton (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises (2007)

Just Give the award to Daniel-Day. He really pulled this one off. Dark Horse is Viggo, for his role of the Russian gangster.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Julie Christie for Away from Her (2006)
Marion Cotillard for Môme, La (2007)
Laura Linney for The Savages (2007)
Ellen Page for Juno (2007)

My vote is for the upset of the night, Ellen Page for "Juno". I saw all 5 of these films and her acting is what made this small, independent film into a blockbuster. Dark Horse is Marion for her great role.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild (2007)
Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton (2007)

Myvote would be for Philip Seymour Hoffman, he really captured the role of a man who broked a deal with the devil to save Afghanistain from the USSR. The Dark Horse is Javier Bardem for his role as a killer.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There. (2007)
Ruby Dee for American Gangster (2007)
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement (2007)
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton (2007)

Once again, I would vote for the child actress, in this case its Saoirse Ronan. Her eyes told why she did the things that she did. The "Dark Horse" is Amy Ryan. What she brought to "Gone Baby Gone" was unfracking believable.

Best Achievement in Directing
Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton (2007)
Jason Reitman for Juno (2007)
Julian Schnabel for Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007)

My vote is for Paul T. Anderson. I just have a funny feeling that the Coen Brothers will win this one. The dark horse is Jason Reitman for "Juno"

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Juno (2007): Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl (2007): Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton (2007): Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille (2007): Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco
The Savages (2007): Tamara Jenkins

My vote is for Brad Bird. My gut states, Diablo win this one in a rout.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Atonement (2007): Christopher Hampton
Away from Her (2006): Sarah Polley
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le(2007): Ronald Harwood
No Country for Old Men< (2007): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood (2007): Paul Thomas Anderson

I realy think that whoever wins this one, wins the Oscar for "Best Film ' also. My vote is for P.T. Anderson.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Atonement (2007): Dario Marianelli
The Kite Runner (2007): Alberto Iglesias
Michael Clayton (2007): James Newton Howard
Ratatouille (2007): Michael Giacchino
3:10 to Yuma (2007): Marco Beltrami

My vote goes to "Ratatouille" Dark Horse is "The Kite Runner" In both of the films, the music really helps the film.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
August Rush (2007): Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack, Tevin Thomas("Raise It Up")
Enchanted (2007): Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz("Happy Working Song")
Enchanted (2007): Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz("So Close")
Enchanted (2007): Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz("That's How You Know")
Once (2006): Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová(“Falling Slowly” )

I loved "That's How You Know", so that would be my vote. The Dark Horse is “Falling Slowly” I would not be real suprise if, "Falling Slowly" were to win this award.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Persepolis (2007): Vincent Paronnaud Marjane Satrapi
Ratatouille (2007): Brad Bird
Surf's Up (2007): Ash Brannon, Chris Buck

For all of the selections, this one was the hardest, "Ratatouille" and "Persepolis" were both in my top 5 films of the year list and they both brig something very different to the table. My vote here is for Ratatouille. I would not be disapointed if "Persepolis" were to win here.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Fälscher, Die (2007)(Austria)
Beaufort (2007)(Israel)
Mongol (2007)(Kazakhstan)
Katyn (2007)(Poland)
12 (2007)(Russia)

I have no idea why "Persepolis" or, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" are not in this category. This is where Oscar ticked me off. The above 2 films should be in this category, but, sadly, they are not. My vote is for Mongol. My gut feels that "12" will win this but my Dark Horse is "Katyn"

Well this is who I would vote for. We will see next week.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stupid Is As Stupid Says, or How the Korean Media Learned to Conflate Namdaemun, Kwangju, and 9/11 Beyond Any Sense of Historical or Emotional Meaning

Popular Gusts put it perfectly: "A Collapse in Perspective."

Now, I think the fire at Seoul historical South Gate is a tragedy, one I feel deep in the gut, because I value the culture and history that Seungyemun embodies. That's also why the destruction of the old National Museum formerly in front of the Kyeongbokkung on account of having been the headquarters of the Japanese colonial administration during the Japanese occupation similarly made me feel sick to my stomach.

Yes, it had been built by the Japanese, but it was also the home to the first and successive Korean presidential administrations, and its cold, marble walls had been home base for much of South Korea's modern history. Period. For better or for worse. The Republic of South Korea had been signed into existence there, for Pete's sake.

Using the same argument, one would then have to tear down City Hall, the old Seoul Station, the Bank of Korea, rip out much of the railroads, redo the entire #1 subway line (after all, the reason you have to get on the #1 on the "wrong" -- left -- side of the tracks to get on is because that line is most directly connected to the KORAIL train system, which has trains running on the left because major railroad construction in Korea was started by guess who), etc. Once one follows that line of logic, it doesn't actually go anywhere useful but burrow even deeper into a state of blissful historical amnesia.

Hey, I understand that – Korean history throughout the 20th century pretty much sucked. Loss of sovereignty and military occupation; forced labor and forced conscription into the Pacific War; occupation again; an incredibly horrific civil war; martial law; authoritarian rule; the suppression of unions, free speech, and the exploitation of feminized labor; Kwangju and military crackdown; then, finally real democracy not even two decades ago.

But the way many people collapse not "history", but the collective lived experience of real pain, instability, and general suffering, even as it exists, readily accessible within the realm of presently living memory, is what defines the real "perspective compression" for me. Put in simpler terms, it's like this:

Imagine your female coworker, who sits at the desk next to yours, is kidnapped on a Monday. You hear she was beaten on a Tuesday, tortured all Wednesday, then gang-raped and sexually humiliated all Thursday through. On Friday, the beatings have started again to the point that Monday seemed like a good day, when, suddenly and unexpectedly, she is found and liberated by the police late on Saturday.

She spends all day Sunday "recovering" before she gets some sleep and performs the best cover-up makeup job in the history of mankind and shows up to work as if nothing happened. You're shocked to see her, after hearing about what she had just gone through, but as obvious as it is that she doesn't want to talk about it, you find it strange when she smiles and asked you how YOUR week was.

Yeah, the analogy doesn't hold up upon close logical inspection, but I think it to be a useful emotional metaphor for the sheer terror that was the 20th century for South Korea, even as people cluck about a few physical vestiges of colonial rule, even as everyone buys their $6 Starbucks coffees, worry about whether the free break at Outback steakhouse is too dry this time, and complain about "slow" 100 mbps internet connections.

Perspective, anyone?

And I know that history isn't experienced by a country in the same way that an individual experiences one's life. The collective memory of historical "knowledge" has to be actively taught and passed on from generation to generation – which is why I find the emotional authenticity of young, Korean 20-somethings who "hate" Japan about as flimsy as their love seems true for Playstations, Nikons, and DVD's (guess who invented that?).

What's fascinating about the Korean case is that much of the "hard knock life" for many people here is well within one's own living memory, or at least those in close emotional proximity to even the youngest of the young: these are the brothers, aunts, parents, and grandparents who bring emotional weight to a pretty difficult past.

Yet, Namdaemun is being called the "Korean 9/11." Give me a break. That's not just insulting to my sensibilities as an American, but just insulting to anyone who who bothers to think for 5 seconds about Korean history before saying utterly silly things like this.

Is the patently ridiculous notion of a single, vindictive ajussi burning down one of the nation's most prized cultural possessions really on the par of the military coup of Pak Chung Hee in 1961, his assassination in 1979, the Kwangju Massacre in 1980, or the collapse of the Seongsu Bridge and Sampoong Department Store in 1995, the Taegu gas fire explosion in 1996, or...?

Do I really need to go on here?

Talk about a "collapse of perspective." I don't mean just in terms of saying that the Seungyemun fire cannot be to Koreans what Pearl Harbor or 9/11 was to modern Americans, or the Alamo to die-hard Texans, or the Wounded Knee Massacre to the Lakota Sioux; I also mean this in terms of a collapsed and historically amnesiatic Korean perspective, in which an admittedly horrible incident (in which no lives were lost, by the way, and the perpetrator immediately caught) gets compared to moments that quite literally changed the course of a nation's history.

Yeah, I'm sad. But this isn't the first fire there, and it isn't even the first time Seungyemun has been reconstructed (or in need of complete reconstruction). My incredulity at empty, rhetorically suspect statements such as "this is Korea's 9/11" lies in the fact that Korea's already HAD a "9/11" – many, in fact.

The fire that presently occupies the minds of many here is the Mini-me of historical tragedies, or moments where you remember "what you were doing when you heard." If and when I'm 90 years old, I may remember getting up in the morning, reading the Marmot's Hole, and being extremely saddened by watching the old South Gate burn; but I just as likely won't.

See, compared to 9 frickin' 11 – this can't reach the level of sheer horror, fright, and anger at watching the twin towers collapse, wondering how many thousands of people deaths I had just witnessed on live television, hearing that the Pentagon had been attacked and rumors that the White House was next, and fearing that World War III might be at hand. This is because many of us came to the creeping realization that it might not mark just several thousand Americans perhaps having died, but perhaps might be the harbinger of doom for thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions more to come.

In an instant, I realized that Pearl Harbor had just been demoted to #2 as the worst attack on American "soil", except for the fact that much of Pearl Harbor hadn't been on soil, and that, sneaky-deaky as it was, was still an attack on a military target. 9/11 was some shit you might see in a Hollywood blockbuster movie trailer and sneer while picking through your popcorn, "Bullshit. That could never happen."

And I wondered about my friends in NYC, especially the ones working in finance and Wall Street. And I continued to wonder as "all trunk lines are busy now" when they wouldn't answer their phones. I wondered if some people I actually knew were dead. And I came to find out that yeah, someone I knew from high school had actually lost his life in the very moment I saw his building collapse on TV.

So the Korean newspapers can spare me the 9/11 comparison. And it's not as if it had been just Americans watching and thinking thoughts like mine, but people around the world. Did not Koreans remember where they were when they heard the horrible news of September 11, 2001?

Which makes silly rhetorical reaches such as "Korea's 9/11" even more stupid. But as Denzel said, "Shit gets deeper."

'Cause when you think about it, such dumb rhetorical devices don't do justice to Korean history, or the Korean sense of loss in a moment like this. How about an incident that actually changed the course of Korean history, that actually involved people dying in large number at the hands of others, that define true "memories of murder?"

Kwangju? Hello, McFly?! Helllllllo?!

Is the "thin tin pot" (quick to boil, quick to cool) memory of the Korean people actually so shallow, or is the Korean news media really as vulgar and stupid as it seems? On this one, I'm going to have to go with the latter and simply *tsk, tsk* along with many Korean folks at the yellow news media, slow-to-act authorities, and dumb stuffed suits who seem to be in collusion in making sure that, all too often, "stupid is as stupid does" in this country.

Or, as stupid says.


Now for comments on above article...

Sure, the media's overreacting -- but you know, hyperbole is, like, the greatest invention ever in the history of anything ever!!!!!!

Also: re using 9/11: bud, my Korean students start talking to me about 5-18 and 6-25, assuming I know what they mean, in the same way. I think it's a generally acknowledged fact that Met sometimes overstates his case in order to get people talking and thinking -- I believe that's the reason why discussion boards here are more lively and interesting than any other Korea blog -- because people feel strongly enough to say their piece, after reading Met's stance.

I see the 9/11 parallel insofar as
1. it had the same "I can't believe my eyes" kind of shock value,
2. something fell in a big cloud of smoke and ashes,
3. it was broadcast as it happened on live TV
4. it was COMPLETELY unexpected
5. it hit Korea "where it hurts" the same way the NYC attack hit America where it hurt
6. everybody was sad and stunned the next day.

However, that's where the parallels end -- my shocked emotion watching the gate go down was the same disbelieving feeling I felt when I watched the Twin Towers fall, in the same way that constipation and intestinal cancer are both bowel problems.

When Sungnyemun collapsed, here are things that DIDN'T happen, unlike after 9/11:

1. older men didn't stay home for fear of street violence and reprisals, and none were threatened or bullied at work
2. no pojang machas or soju tents were firebombed or vandalized
3. there were no videos of self-hating second generation Korean immigrants celebrating in the streets of LA (the way there was video of street celebrations in certain america-hating countries and districts)
4. Korea will not go to war because of this
5. no anarchist, or hate-founded organization was found responsible for the attack, and found to have intentions to continue with other attacks
6. no televangelist blamed the attack on their country's tolerance of gays
7. 3000+ people didn't freaking die!

Meanwhile, let's go easy on Korea and the media during this sad time. Not everyone's calling it the Korean 9/11, and they don't seem to be reverting to the usual ideological scapegoats and "evildoers", either -- even Roh Moo-hyun hasn't found a way to make it LMB's fault. . . yet.

South Korean Food Feeds North Korean Army: Report

The Chosun Ilbo reports that South Korea has known for years that its food aid to North Korea was being diverted to front-line North Korean military units manning the DMZ, but said nothing about it:

South Korean military authorities have known since 2003, when the Roh Moo-hyun administration was inaugurated, that North Korea has transported rice supplied by the South for humanitarian purposes to frontline units of the North Korean Army. The South Korean military has admitted it found no fewer than 200 South Korean rice sacks transported to North Korean Army units on about 10 occasions to the demilitarized zone including Gangwon Province between 2003 and recently.

This is the first corroboration by the South Korean military of testimony by North Korean refugees that the food aid provided by South Korea is being diverted for military purposes. But despite their knowledge of this fact, neither the South Korean government nor military authorities protested to North Korea or asked it for an explanation, apparently for fear of provoking Pyongyang.

I know. I was shocked, too.


AND FROM ONE FREE KOREA...............................................................................................................
FRACK appeasement

Today, the Chosun Ilbo helps us to peel away the myth of unmonitored “humanitarian” aid to North Korea. The aid wasn’t going to the people who needed it the most, and Roh’s government knew it all along.

South Korean military authorities have known since 2003, when the Roh Moo-hyun administration was inaugurated, that North Korea has transported rice supplied by the South for humanitarian purposes to frontline units of the North Korean Army. The South Korean military has admitted it found no fewer than 200 South Korean rice sacks transported to North Korean Army units on about 10 occasions to the demilitarized zone including Gangwon Province between 2003 and recently. [….]

[D]espite their knowledge of this fact, neither the South Korean government nor military authorities protested to North Korea or asked it for an explanation, apparently for fear of provoking Pyongyang.

A senior government source in Seoul on Wednesday said South Korean sentries “repeatedly detected North Korean soldiers unloading rice sacks bearing the logo of the Korean National Red Cross and the letters “Daehan Minguk” (Republic of Korea) from trucks or stacking them up in their units in the eastern and central frontline areas including Gangwon Province. South Korean military authorities have reportedly taken several photographs of such scenes. [Chosun Ilbo]

Let us consult the archives:

At least since 2000 when we began providing assistance to the North, no one there has been starving to death.” – Former UniFiction Minister Lee Jong-Seok, April 2006

I try to do more than read the news for you here, since you can do that yourself. I also try to add value by putting the news in factual context and provoke thought. Here are some previous posts that will, I hope, put this in context:

- In 2006, a guerrilla cameraman caught a whole trainload of aid being diverted onto a military base, after the distribution of that aid has supposedly been monitored. This incident occurred in the far northeast. Given the state of North Korea’s infrastructure, that aid probably wasn’t transported to anywhere near the DMZ, but was probably consumed by officers and members of the elite between, say, Hungnam and Chongjin.

- In 2005, another guerrilla cameraman interviewed a starving North Korean soldier whose intestinal tract had been destroyed by “substitute” foods, such as noodles made from grasses and tree bark. He had been sent home to die. So we know that not all soldiers have been eating well, either, particularly among the lower ranks.

- Also in 2005, yet another key piece of guerrilla camera footage found fully sealed sacks of rice donated by the World Food Program for sale in a market in the northeastern city of Chongjin. Clearly, a significant amount of international aid is being diverted by people with the means to do so — probably corrupt officials or military officers — who resell it for a profit. Only those North Koreans with a good income (senior officials and private traders) can afford to buy this higher quality food.

Finally, we know from Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard’s must-read book, Famine in North Korea, that aid diversion is not always as simple as it would seem. Noland and Haggard think that simple corruption plays just as big a role as massive-scale top-down diversion on the regime’s orders. Maybe, but I’m starting to believe that a combination of both is mostly to blame. Let me explain.

First, we know that massive scale diversion probably is happening; the Chosun Ilbo piece is the latest evidence of that. Second, we know that even with diversion to the military, not all soldiers are eating well. Why not? Either soldiers are starved as punishment for infractions, the diversion is not sufficient to feed every soldier, or (my guess) corrupt officers are rediverting some of the aid that is meant for their soldiers and selling it in the markets for personal profit.

One can imagine the effect this must have on morale. (Indeed, it’s hardly necessary to imagine; we’ve started to see mass defections by military personnel in fleeing distance of the Chinese border.) Another likely effect is that it could lead to overstatement of North Korean military personnel strength. Since aid is likely distributed to military units on a per-capita basis, commanders have an incentive to overstate their strength, thus to squeeze more aid out of the central government. This practice was common enough among the South Vietnamese army that U.S. advisors coined a term for it: ghost soldiers. Inspectors general and advisers would thus find that this created a perverse incentive for commanders and province chiefs to let units fall below the strength required to be combat effective.

This is just one example of how corruption corrodes a regime. With food in much shorter supply this year than last year — when conditions were already bad — the corrosive effect will spread, and is spreading, to the greater North Korean population.

So what? Don’t soldiers need to eat, too? Yes, but remember two key points.

First, remember Noland and Haggard’s chilling finding that in the past, the regime actually reduced commercial purchases of food when it received enough international aid to meet the needs of the military and the elite (pages 11-13). It essentially used food aid as balance of payments support. This suggests that the regime manages the hunger of its “expendable” population, possibly as a method of control. It also suggests that aid mainly serves to prop up the regime but does not serve its intended humanitarian purpose.

Second, remember that by 2006, There was much less international aid to go around. In 2005, North Korea unilaterally terminated the World Food Program’s international aid programs, on which 6.5 million people had ostensibly depended. It also terminated most private aid programs that worked outside the WFP. It later let the WFP back in on a greatly reduced scale, to provide only the minimum marginal subsistence level of aid for 1.9 million targeted recipients from specific vulnerable groups — kids, the elderly, and pregnant women. This reduced program wasn’t designed to comprise the recipient’s entire diet, just enough to make the difference between an insufficient diet that would lead to stunting, wasting, stillbirth, or death, and one that would allow the person to survive. When aid isn’t distributed according to the carefully targeted plans of the donors, the needy starve and the actual recipients eat more than they really need.

Why does Kim Jong Il let that happen? Because we give him that option.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

blog will be short for 2 weeks. I am flying to Auckland then to ChristChurch, then taking a bus to deelin.

Dan and Greer are finally getting married. I am so happy. Will have full report when I return.

I am at Incheon Airport now, awaiting the flight.

FYI...WTF did the Dallas Mavericks just do with that trade, Did not want to loose Devin.

This should be a very intresting rest of the season.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

부끄러운현장, A Shameful Scene
Don't know if I got that translation right. Anyway, a commenter on the Metropolitician's site tells us that this picture of Japanese tourists in front of Namdaemun is currently the most-viewed story on Cyworld News. Kawaii! I guess some of the comments at the bottom of the page aren't very nice, but that's to be expected. There are a couple of other photos in the set:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ajussis ruin everything


February 12, 2008
"Ajussis Ruin Everything"

Oh, get ready for a rant.

After my arrest for being verbally assaulted by a drunken ajussi, and after exchanging similar stories of drunk older men with anger issues ruining other people's fun, me and the friends made this running punchline: "Ajussis ruin everything."

As much as it irritated me at the time, I just chalked up my experience in the police station, and the fact that the police were even listening to this soused asshole's story, as merely another sign of 1) how society bends over backward to apologize and make room for the behavior of older drunk men, and 2) how refusing to punish them actually emboldens them and harms society.

People usually talk about "jeong" and understanding people's situations in the same breath, which usually results in drunk men's actions being excused "because he was drunk" or "he had a tough life" or some other such excuse.

A friend of mine described a drunk ajussi on the #1 line (which my readers know that I, as a rule, avoid like the plague because of the high number of drunken male idiots who take it) who pulled the emergency cable lever on the subway, bringing the entire train to a screeching halt. When the engineer and police came to the train, his answer for why he pulled it: "궁금해서." He was "just curious."

That's actually pretty funny, if you're used to life here. "궁금해서." And I'd bet you anything that he was taken into the station, scolded, and let go with a warning. No harm done, right? Well, that poor old guy's got a hard life and hey – he was drunk, anyway. Not his fault.


I feel the same way about the walking waste of flesh who torched a national treasure because of some gripes about his hard life or whatever debts or what-have-you; can you believe he had tried to set fire to another national treasure just last year? They let him off with a suspended sentence so he could go off and torch Namdaemun!

No harm done, right? He apologized, after all:

"국민에게 미안하고 가족들에게 미안하다" ("I apologize to both my family and the Korean people.")
So the judge should let him off easy, huh?

Don't even get me started on the cases of teachers caught molesting/raping students over the years who are given administrative leave because firing him would "hurt his family." Ahhh, I get it. Feel sorry for him because he has a family, but keep him in the system so he can be a public example of society saying that even if you get caught raping your middle school students in a noraebang (that was back in 1995-96, I believe), nothing will happen to you.

Don't even get me started on how women are vilified in the workplace if they dare report sexual harrassment and get someone fired ("She ruined his life!")

Or the case back in 2004 or 2005 or so of the two middle school girls who were serially raped for more than a year by dozens of boys after one of the initial boys secretly taped them having sex, blackmailed her into having sex with his friends, and then started charging other boys for the privilege. The result? When the girls finally reported it, they were accused of being "prostitutes" by the local police and the girls received curses and death threats by many of the boys' parents who said they had "ruined their sons' lives."

Yeah – not that the parents were at all embarrassed about having raised immoral little rapists – after all, boys will be boys?

No harm done, right?

I just got an email this WEEK from a friend I meant to email back, but kinda put off because I didn't know quite how to respond (perhaps I even shut it out a bit since I didn't want to deal over the vacation?) – she got assaulted by some ajussi (hey, nothing new, since I had several female friends assaulted by random ajussis last year!) and was arrested just like me!

Or, when I saw a man slapping the living shit out of his girlfriend within ear and eyeshot of a police station (!), when I went in to call the cop out to look at them, he begudgingly peeked out the door and said, "It's OK. They know each other."

In a nutshell, here's what pisses me off about this, since I see a pattern here and not just some random crazy guy: there's a huge sense of male entitlement that starts from when mamas rub their sons' gochus while peeing, continues unabated with the implicit knowledge that you can feel up, push, or even hit women with minimal social consequences, and that public drunkenness and rudeness – which are crimes in many other countries – is par for the course here.

I'm a foreigner, so I'm like an ajussi antenna; a night, I literally try to avoid certain spaces entirely – the #1 line, the Jongno area, or anywhere where large numbers of working-class men gather for drinks, for example – in order to not attract the ire of some drunk asshole who has a chip on his shoulder about foreigners.

If one is another kind of social magnate for drunk ajussis – say, like an attractive women click-clacking past a group of them, or someone else whom ajussis might tend to find and interest in – I'm sure that person treads equally carefully in such spaces and areas.

I'm just sick and tired of the deep-seated sense of older male entitlement to take out one's own bullshit on others. It's so common, that I think this particularly Korean kind of gendered social malaise goes unquestioned, in the same way that the fish doesn't notice the water around it.

It reminds me of why America refused/s to think about what it is about a particular kind of social malaise that caused mostly middle-to-upper class white males from the suburbs to commit so many mass shootings in the 90's – the possibility to raise the question of "What's gone awry in suburbia?" is a legitimate one, but that question might raise too many uncomfortable followup questions.

And I think this is triply true for Korean society: why do it 봐줘 the ajussi so much? What are the costs of so much entitlement as a man here? Why are these angry ajussis staggering around, starting fights, lighting subways on fire, or national monuments?

And perhaps is Korean society crippled by the "jeong?" I mean, damn. Nobody's really punished here – people are always telling each other to "consider his situation" and "let him off, just this once" or believe that exceptions should be made because we "feel sorry to him."

This isn't the sort of thing that can be talked about academically, with evidence and whatnot, but is a pattern that to me, is clearly there.

I guess, as am American, I draw the line, even when I have "jeong" for someone. People are responsible for their actions, drunk or not. If you can't be, then one shouldn't drink. And it's only in cases where someone gets run over by the idiot drunk, or one of them burns down National Treasure No. 1 that many realized that "봐줘"ing and overlooking things because of "jeong" just makes things worse, not better.

Our little in-joke goes on – "Ajussis ruin everything."

I wouldn't be surprised if, upon being asked, "Why on earth did you want to burn down our country's most sacred and valued cultural treasure?!" the guy answered:


In this society, that would almost make a sick sort of sense. What they need to do is lock that fucker under the jail until he dies of natural causes.

Namdaemun! WTF?!

Sad. Lock that walking piece of human trash up until he leaves
Reaction to gate

Reactions from Korean about the arson attack that destroyed Korea’s 610 year old National Treasure No. 1, the Namdaemun (Sungnyemun) Gate have ranged from outright anger, sadness, to even the bizarre:

Oriental topography experts said the fire at Seoul’s 600-year-old structure may have something to do with the mysterious “fire-torching” energy from a mountain in southern Seoul.

“From the perspective of Oriental topography, it is possible that the energy torched the fire,” said Jeon Hang-soo, head of Korea Oriental Topography Research Center. “Basically, Seoul is more densely filled with the energy than any other cities due to the shape of mountaintops surrounding the city ? spiky and sharp. Mount Gwanak in Southern Seoul notably has the characteristic.” (…)

Some experts in Oriental topography said the number of crimes in the capital might increase in the aftermath of the gate’s collapse.

“As Namdaemun, having served as a guardian restraining the `hot-temper’ and `easy-fighting’ energies from Mount Gwanak disappears, we will see the number of crimes in the capital escalating until its restoration,” predicted head of the topography research center. “The restoration of Cheonggye stream has largely contributed to mixing the hostile energy with peaceful one from the manmade waterway, resulting in weakening the violent energy.” [Korea Times]

This is great news, the next time a GI or a low quality foreign English teacher commits a crime in Korea they can blame it on the “mysterious fire torching energy” from Gwanak Mountain that burned down the Sungnyemun Gate.

Koreans view the damage to Namdaemun Gate

Another bizarre response came with the front page article in the nation’s largest newspaper the Chosun Ilbo:

Koreans were reaching for the superlatives on Monday. “The Korean equivalent of the 9/11 attacks happened while the whole country was watching.” “The Republic of Korea’s no. 1 National Treasure or no. 1 national pride turned to ashes in an instant.” (…)

Baek Sang-bin, a professor of psychiatry at Gangneung Asan Hospital of the University of Ulsan said, “Just as Americans were thrown into a panic after watching on TV the World Trade Center buildings, the symbol of the U.S., collapse in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Koreans now feel a great sense of loss and frustration at the sight of the Namdaemun collapse. The disaster in Seoul didn’t pose any threat to their lives. But they psychologically felt the equivalent of feelings the American had in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.” If they happen to watch the scene of a disaster with their own eyes, people regard its consequences as happening to them personally and feel great unease and panic, Baek added. [Chosun Ilbo]

I think this is just another example of how people in the world in general, not just Koreans do not understand what the 9/11 attacks really meant. 9/11 wasn’t just about buildings falling down but about a loss of life and how American life was about to drastically change. Nobody died with the gate burning down and Korea isn’t about to go to war with anyone over it either. The gate will be rebuilt and life will go on in Seoul, for the people in New York, Washington, DC, and America in general life will never be same for a long, long time. More proper analogy would be if the Statue of Liberty burned down and fell into New York harbor, not 9/11.

Enough of the bizarre, most people interviewed seemed to be genuinely very saddened by the destruction of the gate:

“I could not believe my ears when I heard the news. It was our pride. How could such a thing happen?” 25-year-old university student Kim Sun-mi said. “This is really heart-breaking and I thought I had to come and see,” she added while clicking away with her camera to get pictures of the tragic site.

“It’s really a shame. I have worked in this area for seven years, but never imagined such thing could happen,” a street vender selling egg buns said. [Korea Times]

Some people especially netizens were extremely angry at the government for not properly protecting the gate:

Internet users expressed their fury toward the government for having failed to manage such valuable national asset. The Web site of the Cultural Heritage Administration was abuzz with criticisms toward the office’s staff for having had an alleged laid-back attitude at the beginning of the fire.

It was reported that the administration and fire fighters could not decide on how aggressively they should fight the fire for fear of unnecessarily damaging the highly valued building.

A netizen who identified herself as Kim Yun-mi, a mother of two, said government officials should take responsibility for the tragedy. “I could not give any answers to my children as to why the building could not be saved,” she said.

The administration drew more blame upon itself when it was later revealed that 23-year-old Kim Young-hun had warned the authorities last year of a possible arson attack on Namdaemun also known as Sungnyemun.

Civic groups also expressed regrets. The Young Korean Academy said the fire was a “manmade disaster.” “If there was not enough protection, they should have not opened the gate to the public,” it said. [Korea Times]

Others people directed their anger towards the arsonist who set fire to the gate:

Thousands of people gathered around the base of the charred gate Monday, and many said they were shocked and angry at the arsonist, and at the South Korean government for not protecting the historic structure.

“Whoever is found guilty, he should be executed in front of Namdaemun,” said Ahn Myung-su, 70, who traveled 90 minutes by subway to visit the site Monday.

Her friend, 67-year-old Kim Jeong-suk, agreed.

“He deserves to be put to death by every single Korean throwing rocks and stones at him in front of the gate,” she said, crying. “His entire family should be killed, too.” [Stars & Stripes]

That sounds like some pretty pissed off people. I don’t think they will get their chance to stone him or kill his family but at least the arsonist has been captured:

A 70-year-old man has confessed that he set a fire to the country’s No. 1 national treasure, police said Tuesday.

Police officers have inquired the suspect, identified by his last name Chae, since late Monday after discovering at his home clothes and a bag similar to those described by witnesses who told police they saw a man appearing to be in his 60s near Namdaemun, the site of the fire, with a backpack and a ladder.

A bottle of paint thinner was also found at the suspect’s home, police said.

Police said Chae was apprehended on Ganghwa Island, west of Seoul, on Monday on suspicions of setting a fire that crumbled down Namdaemun (South Gate), a 600-year-old gate in the capital, on Sunday night.

He was confirmed to be the arsonist who set ablaze a part of a former royal palace, Changgyeong, in central Seoul in April 2006 and caused some 4 million won in damage.

Police said that he seemed to commit similar crime again in anger against the alleged wrong handling of the compensation for his land confiscated for housing construction, which he had claimed when arrested for the arson of the Changgyeong Palace in 2006. [Korea Times]

Pretty outrageous that this guy torched another Korean cultural asset and was allowed to torch another one because no security was put around it. Personally I blame Japan. Hopefully the proper authorities will be held responsible for allowing this happen because this is quite a disaster and hopefully leads to improved security of Korea’s remaining cultural assets.

Note: Roboseyo has pictures of the remains of Namdaemun Gate and reactions of the Koreans watching the scene that are worth checking out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

National Treasure #1 Burns

Sungnyemun (Namdaemun) gate, Korea’s National Treasure #1, caught fire this evening around 8:45 p.m. according to breaking news reports on Reportedly it’s still smoldering. I hope the Marmot knows how to insert photos because there are some dramatic ones on the wires now, and tomorrow I am sure there will be something to photograph.

Sungnyemun used to be off-limits to the public, being out in the middle of a traffic rotary. Then-Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak restored pedestrians’ walk-up access to the gate in 2004, which seemed like a fine improvement. But now that the oldest wooden structure in Seoul has caught fire, if it turns out to have been linked to vandalism (I blame Japan!) maybe this is due for a re-think.

There are lots of electric lights on the thing, though, and it could just as well be an electrical fire. But if you ask me, if the public can walk up to National Treasure #1, it ought to be manned by a guard 24-7.

UPDATE (by Robert Koehler): The Chosun Ilbo reports the wooden pavilion — the oldest wooden structure in Seoul — has begun to collapse. This is an absolute disaster.

UPDATE 2 (by Robert Koehler): The gate’s wooden pavilion has totally collapsed.

Check out these photos at Flickr, too.

NoCutNews reports that the gate’s alarm system went off at 8:47pm, indicating someone entered the structure before the fire. This, along with a witness claiming to have seen someone exit the gate just prior to the fire, raises the possibility that this was a case of arson.

UPDATE 3 (by Robert Koehler): From Yonhap:

Makes you sick, doesn’t it?

Police say it’s not yet clear whether the fire was caused by arson. The Cultural Heritage Administration, meanwhile, said it will take some two or three years to restore the gate. The last time the gate underwent a major restoration was 1961-1963, when it was taken apart and put back together again to repair damage sustained during the Korean War.




Whoa – Namdaemun Is Ashes

Guess this won't be a happy week, as my previous post had wished.

Namdaemun has completely burned down, to its stone base. [HT to the Marmot, which you should be reading instead of the English-language Korean dailies for recent news, since there's not a peep yet from the Korea Herald, Korea Times, or JoonAng Daily]

 Image 003 2008 02 11 Nisi20080211 0006117524 Web

 Newsroom Image 2008 02 11020111890 60100060

Click here for YTN news coverage past and present fires of national treasures.

Prime suspect is a drunk ajussi [source], perhaps homeless? Anyone surprised? And how many security guards were on duty to guard Korea's most valuable treasure, which is placed in the middle of a busy thoroughfare and anyone can walk up to? That's what I want to know.

Sad, man. Really frickin' sad.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Well this the the 3rd annual Mike McStay, "Best Films of the Year" list. As always I divide the list into 5 sections, The Best, The Worst, Surprise of the Year, Disappointment of the Year and WTF!,why was this film made?



A few things to add before we get to the list.

1. Like last year, i saw a lot of film from all over the world, So I will include the imdb link and where the film came from.

2. I, once again, included films that I liked in the disappointed and films that I did not like into the surprises of the Year. I made the list longer, so there are 25 films listed for each category. I thought that it would cover a lot more films.

3. A lot of the films have not had a theatrical run in Korea. So you will see a open in Korea date on the film. If it has already played or no date picked yet, I left it open.

4. Once again, the main award is the "Flynnie" Its a take on my first name "Flynn"

Well 2007 sure did have it moments, we saw robots, dragons and wizards go to war.
We saw a killer barber, A rat who wanted to cook and a girl who becomes a woman in Iran. We saw an illegal surgery, the story of on of the greatest Christian Church Songs and we saw real sex depicted in a film. We may have said good-bye to Spiderman and maybe hello to more Transformers. We saw more IMAX releases this year. We have also seen a writers strike that will see the slowdown in film within 2 years.

We also saw a lot of Korea films loose a lot of money at the box office. We may see higher ticket prices because of that.

Now lets start with the list. I will start with #25 and work my way to #1.

#25 Mongol

Kazakhstan's official submission in the Foreign Language Film category for the 80th Academy Awards (2008). Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

Now I had heard of the film and it sure sounded interesting. The story recounts the early life of Genghis Khan and I could not believe it. It was a well written and great cinematography in the film. I was able to watch the film with English Subtitles and it is definately worth a look when it comes to DVD.

#24 The Namesake

Once again a film I was not expecting a lot from ends up being one of the best films of the year. Please watch the scene about when the father tells his son why he named him Gogol. The film really tells about the differences between the 1st generation immigrants and their children that were born in the USA.

#23 Enchanted

I was so happy to see Walt Disney go back to 2D Cartoons, even for the short time that it was shown in this film. If you could imagine one of Disney's princesses coming to 2008 NYC, then you have the idea of this story. Seeing her sing and watching the animals in NYC react to her was a great idea and came across great on the big screen.

#22 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End


I really have no idea why I like this series, but I have and once again I loved the story in this film. It is a popcorn film but a very good one.

21. The Bucket List

Now when you put Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman together in a film,I thought it was a huge risk. We ll I was glad that I was so wrong on this. When 2 men find that they are going to die and make a list of things they want to do before they die. The film is a story of life and how we live it. Well worth a look when you decide to watch it.

#20. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Lately, I have hated all of Sidney Lumet's films. So when I heard the good press about this film, I was doubtful. Well, get ready for one heck of a ride, if you ever decide to watch this film. It was a great story and had one heck of a very sad ending.

19. Juno

Released in Korea Feb 2008 6th or 21. (I have 2 different dates for this film)

Now this film sure had a very interesting timing, a young girl becomes pregnant after having sex for the first time and then Jaime Lynn Spears announces her pregnancy. It was as art imitating life. The film has been nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year 2008 Oscar. Also Ellen Page has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. It is a very interesting story about a new life and what to do with it. The independent film has already broken the 100 million $ mark in the USA.

18. Rise of the Footsoldier

Now this is the film that American Gangster should have been. It takes a look at the rise and fall of U.K. gangster Carlton Leach. This film is not for children and shows a very rough outlook on life. Please see it when you can.

17. Amazing Grace

Opens 20 March 2008 (South Korea)

If you have attended Church, then you have probably, at one time, sang this song. The film is about the person who wrote this song. The film talks about how a group of men finally ended the slave trade in the U.K. I loved Albert Finney's take on the author of the song, John Newton.

16. Atonement

Opens 21 February 2008 (South Korea) Nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year 2008

To be honest, I had no real desire to see the film. I kept hearing a lot of good reviews for it so I decided to watch it. Wow, what an ending, this film has. I will not spoil anything of the film for you. Watch the entire film and try not to leave.

15. Memories of Tomorrow or Ashita no kioku (Japan)

Nominated for Best Film Award of the Japanese Academy (2007) Winner for Best Actor Award of the Japanese Academy (2007) (Ken Watanabe)

The film has a very simple story. It is about a successful businessman's family life is shattered by an early onset of Alzheimer's. It was a film that you knew how it was going to end and at the end of the film I was still surprised by it. Film is available on DVD with or without English Subtitles.

14. 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days or 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (Romania)

Opens 2008.02.28 (South Korea)

To be honest, I have no freaking idea why this film was not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Category for Oscar this year and some crap films were. This is the 2nd year in a row that I have selected a film from Romania in this category, 12:08 East of Bucharest being last years selection. The film talks about a woman who assists her friend to arrange an illegal abortion in 1980's Romania. This film will not be for everyone but it deserves a look and a serious WTF to the Oscar for not nominating this film in The Best Foreign Language Film!

13. Grindhouse Well this film has 2 camps. Either you love this film or you absolutely hate this film. I chose the first and made this my #13 selection of the year. If you really want the Uber geek version of the film, may i recommend this.
Please see the film as it was originally released as 1 film. I loved the fact that I got to see Death Proof here in Korea and the audience wanted to see the other film also.

12. Eastern Promises When David Cronenberg does it right, it is worth a serious look and this film definately deserves it. I could not believe how much the Russian gangster Nikolai scared everyone around him.

11. Hot Fuzz
My review of Hot Fuzz

What I remember most about this film is, that I went to CGV and watched it with Korean audience. I was catching all of the jokes and the audience did not. After the film, one person asked me "Why Laugh?" I tried my best, but neither of us could understand the other.

10. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Their is an old Chinese saying about revenge. "He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself." That theme show up a lot during this film. If you like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, then please rent the DVD, when it is released.

9. Exiled or Fong juk (Hong Kong)

Now talk about a gangster film! I had no idea what was next or anything. The film is about when, A friendship is formed between an ex-gangster, and two groups of hitmen - those who want to protect him and those who were sent to kill him. It was a great story and please try and find it on DVD.

8. Gone Baby Gone
My Review

I have always liked Ben Affleck, I do not know why. But I have usually liked his work even when a lot of people have not. So when I saw that this was going to be his first released film, as a director, I decided to check it out. I thought it was a great film and really surprised me.

7. Lust, Caution or Se, jie (China)

My Review of Lust Caution

I have seen the film 3 times now and I still do not think that I have caught all that the film was trying to show. Good luck on trying to find English Subtitles for this film. Please see the uncensored version of the film.

6. Reign Over Me

my review

When Adam Sandler tries a serious role, it is usually not received well but critics to give him props for it. I could not believe that he went after this role and pulled it off. I actually believed him and wanted to see more of his back story.

5. Superbad

Now, I thought that I would really not like this film. What a great film this was and especially the 2 DVD Unrated set. I saw a lot of the crazy things that I did as a teen and I really can't believe that, the names may have changed, but the real story is the same. I have no idea if we will ever be able to see this in Korea. I have no idea how anyone could even try and translate this.

4. Persepolis

Of all of the missed nominations, I could not believe that this film was not selected Best Foreign Language Film. I must give props to Harry for turning me on to this film. I was able to watch it in the original French with English subtitles. The unusually drawn animation tells us about a poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution and ends with her leaving Iran forever. This is a great story and I think that all young ladies need to read her book and to watch her movie and see how one little girl became a woman.

3. 300
My Review

When I saw that this film was coming to IMAX, I took a few fiends of mine, who had never seen an IMAX film before. This made them want to see more films in the IMAX format. I have it on Blu-Ray and regular DVD. It is well worth a viewing if you have not yet seen the film.

2. There Will Be Blood

Opens on 2008.03.21 (South Korea)

Nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and a few more. If i had a vote on the academy ballot, this would be my vote on the 5 films that they would give me to vote on.

Daniel-Day-Lewis has always been very interesting to me, either I have loved his acting In the Name of the Father or really hated it The Last of the Mohicans. So I had no ideal about this film, that was until I saw it. This film deserves to be seen on the big screen and I have so far seen it twice and I still need to see it a few more times. I am still not sure that I have seen all that this film has to offer.

Now for the moment that I award the "Flynnie" to my #1 film of the year.

1. Ratatouille

My Review

I thought that this Pixar film could be a so-so good one, I had no idea that it would become a great one. I have seen the film at the CGV about 10 times and most of it in a digital format. I just think that It was a well written and a great story that can be shared with the entire family.
Now if there is a best of the year, then there must also be some very bad films that were made also.

Now lets look at these so called films.

The worst films of the year list.

#25 Hannibal Rising

In what was supposed to be a great 4th film about Hannibal Lecter ended up being one huge bore and disappointment. This series has never recovered from the horrible movie ending to Hannibal

#24 AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem

Now the cartoons for Alien vs Predator have been awesome. The movies have been awesomely bad. I have no idea why, but both films have failed on so many different levels. The film leaves the door open for a part 3. Why? I have no idea.

#23. I Know Who Killed Me

Lindsay Lohan acting lately has been bad movies and a lot of drama with the media. I have no idea why anyone thought that Lohan could act.

#22 Punch Lady

To be honest, even after watching the film, I still have no idea about the film. What was even sadder about the film was the Korean audience hated just as much as I did.

#21. Balls of Fury

Bad men defeated by ping-pong? I saw it and wanted to know why this was made.

20. Attack on the Pin-Up Boys

Now I have no idea what ticked me off more. Was it the blatant rip-off of the Beastie Boys or was it the very bad acting?

19.The Messengers

I see more dead people and I saw my time wasted by watching this one.

18. Feel the Noise

I felt something after watching this film. Was it the "Noise" no; Was it me becoming sick, Yes.

17. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

There are certain films that a lot of critics like and, for some reason, never clicks with me. This is one of those films. I found it to be a 2.5 hour bore with a lot to do about nothing.

16Perfect Stranger

Once again, we are shown that Hallie Berry can not act. Once again her films dies at the box office. Please: No more movies from Ms. Berry

15.Code Name: The Cleaner

I can remember when Cedric "The Entertainer" could make me laugh, All I remember that this film was not one of those times.

14. Bratz

There has to be a reason for this film, I sure could not think of one. I know that I was not the target audience for this film but ,please, some actual sanity in this film sure would have been nice.

13. A Mighty Heart
My Review

Still not a fan of the film for, my review, reasons.

12. Pathfinder

This film deserves, never to be seen again. No real plot or story, Yes it thats bad and yes, I thought 11 films were worse.

11. Nancy Drew

Well, I was not the target audience of this film. Maybe a good film was here, I sure did not see it.

10. The Show Must Go on

Well if you have ever heard the old song, "Don't believe the hype" It surely applies to this film. All of the talk of this being a good film and we get the same, old, tired, Korean Gangster film. What a huge waste of time.

9. May 18
My Review of May 18

2 of my film reviews have really ticked off a lot of people. This film was the first one. My feelings about this film have not changed since my review.

8. The Reaping
Freedom Writers

Tie. Both films had Hillary Swank and both films failed because of her very bad acting. When she brings it, she wins Oscars. When she does not, we are left with these messes.

7. The Abandoned

A very bad horror film that left me wanting my $ back. What a huge waste of time this one was.

6. Epic Movie

Well is was to be a parody of a lot of film. In the end it was a huge waste of film that brought no laughter. It did make me wonder who gave the "go" for this film. He should be fired.

5. Are We Done Yet?

Is this film series done yet? It keeps getting worse and worse.

4. Lions for Lambs
My Review

A 2 hour lecture and UA wonders why the film tanked? Better luck next time Tom Cruise.

3. The Golden Compass
My Review

This film has really left me puzzled. It has done great in the overseas markets but a huge bomb in the USA market. I really do not an answer for that. Part 2 of this trilogy still has a release date for 2009.

2. Hostel: Part II
My Review

Over the last few months, I have really soured on the new horror, "Torture Porn" I know that it is cartoon but is this all we can consider to make us scared. What happed to us? If this is Horror?

Now along with the "Torture Porn" markings I now announce, "The Flynnie" for the worst film of the year 2007 goes to

1. Captivity
My Review

My review pretty much states my opinion of this piece of junk. Please do not see this film at all cost.
Now for what I considered "The Surprises" of the year. These are films that came out of nowhere or where huge dice were rolled and they paid off whether at the box office or with the critics. I will give the reason why I put this film in this category.

25 Charlie Wilson's War


It was a good film that could have been great if it was given a hour more to develop more. At 90+ minutes, it all seemed rushed. To be this good for a rushed film is what put it on this list.

24 Beowulf

In 2D, the film is so-so. In 3D IMAX, its worthy of the name Beowulf. It was a huge gamble that maybe will recoup the cost but it was a well worth try at the first legendary tale.

23 Stardust

The box office on this film in foreign markets was interesting to watch. It slowly built up a share and kept it for awhile. Nice film and good job of selling it outside of the USA.

22 The Girl Next Door

What a look at one person can force other to do. Great job of making a film.

21. P.S. I Love You

How do you say good-bye to the love of your life? A very well told story about that. A nice surprise from Ms. Hilary Swank; a chick-flick for all.

20. Muk gong Battle of Wits (International: English title)

Now, a very nice surprise film about war in China. I had no idea what was happing next and it sure made me happy that I paid to see this film.

19. Killer of Sheep (1977)

Now this student film has been quiet for a long time and was finally given a limited release in 2007 in USA. What a history lesson this film was and what a look at what was actually going on around this person. Listed this year for surprise and its release from darkness.


From the plot. Every year, one in 700 people wakes up during surgery. When they planned her husband's murder, they never thought he'd be the one.

A small, wicked, horror film that left me thinking, Payback it a Bytch.

17. Why Did I Get Married?

A small film by Tyler Perry. It takes a real look at marriage and why we do it. A real good, small story. People could learn A lot by watching this film.

16. Hairspray
My Review

Every time i think that John Travolta is finally finished as an actor, he has a year like 2007. I never liked the 1988 version of this film. I loved this version. Seeing John and Christopher Walken as a happily married couple was just too much. A huge gamble that worked.

15. No Country for Old Men
Opens: 21 February 2008 (South Korea)

I really have no idea why a lot of people are falling all over themselves in trying to promote this film. I saw it as 3/4 a good film then the last act of this as, "You have got to be fracking kidding me!" This was the pay-off, and the main candidate for Oscar 2008. A real surprise for a lot of people is why its on my list.

14. Otoko-tachi no Yamato Yamato (International: English title)

Once again, a earlier released film that I put on this years list. It has slowly worked itself out of Japan and started to get some serious publicity in 2007. As a former soldier, I stood and saluted at what happened at the end of this film. A small little film that needs to be released wide ASAP.

13. The Game Plan

"The Rock" and Walt Disney working together. I did not think it would work. Well, the Box Office proved me wrong. A small film that shows, "The Rock" can become a decent actor.

12. Smokin' Aces

I was not expecting much when I saw this film at CGV. I had heard a little about it. I had no idea that it would be as good as it was. It was nice to see a huge chess games and in the end everybody became a pawn in one huge game of murder-for-hire.

11. Disturbia

All I saw it was a huge teen rip off of Rear Window with the flavor of the year Shia LaBeouf. A lot more people liked it and are helping LaBeouf into becoming a huge teen idol.

10. The Simpsons Movie
My Review

This film could have bombed big time. Before it came out a lot of fans were saying that it would destroy the TV show. Well, the show is still going on and the movie is doing well in DVD Sales. This is the one American film review where I also, ticked of a lot of readers but asking a simple question on the twitch website. Will Korean nationalism translate into this film doing good here in Korea. More Koreans worked on this film than D-WAR. (It did not do that great of business here in Korea. I was the only one laughing at most of the jokes.)

9. Big Bang

I had no real desire to see this film, the only reason I did was, that I had a friend visit me from the USA and he wanted to see a Korean film. So we picked this one. For a small film in Korea, this told one hell of a story of a man who has finally had enough and decided to strike back. A very good small film, that is work a DVD rental.

8. Voice of Murderer

My favorite Korean Film of the year. It has also received small publicity from NYC Film Festivals. When you start to realize that you are listening to real evil, it really started to mess with your mind. The real kidnapper was way smarter that the Korean Police ever were. As of today, he is still at large and can never be charged for the murder, due to the statues of limitation on murder in Korea has past. After the film is over, you actually hear the real kidnappers voice. Please watch it on DVD when you can. A very small film that showed the incompetency of the Korean Police and how evil men can be.

7. Katyn Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards Nominee.

For those who have no idea about this moment during World War 2 please click here. I have said it before and will say it again. If good men do nothing, while evil prevails, then damn all of the good men straight to hell. I knew how the film was going to end and it was still hard to watch it all go down. Please see it when you can.

6. Once

Well this film has puzzled me, I thought it was so-so and the critics have been praising it. It has received an Oscar nomination for "Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song"If you want to see a good love story, then try this one. I listed this film because of all of the top 10 list this film has received.

5. Wild Hogs

Just when I think that both John Travolta and Tim Allen are finished with acting, they make this film. I have no idea why it worked, but it did and, for now, saved the careers of Tim and John.

4. Knocked Up

What an idea for a film and it worked. Party boy gets nice girl knocked up and he has to grow up. No idea if this or Superbad will ever play in Korea, so try and download or buy the DVD. A huge surprise for Judd Apatow.

3 The Kite Runner

I had heard that this film would take a very different look at the Taliban and Afghanistan. To watch his story before the Russian soldiers came and to see what happened to a child because of teaching was sad. A good look at the film. A really good film that will haunt you for a few days.

2 Alvin and the Chipmunks

Now this film could have been a huge failure due to todays children forgetting about "The Chipmunk Christmas Song" It was not and became a huge hit for Fox. The film was funny and I was actually laughing at this story and I knew what was coming next and I was still laughing at it.

Now the 1 film for best surprise of the year was a huge box office gamble that could have blown up in so many different markets but it did not. So "The Flynnie" for "The Biggest Surprise Of 2007" goes to

1. Transformers
My Review

This is one of the things that I do love about Korea. Every now and then Korea will get a big film before the USA does. This one opened in Korea in June 2007 and went to sell over 7 million tickets here in Korea and did O.K. during its 4 week IMAX run in November 2007. When you listen to the DVD director's commentary, on everything that could have gone wrong with this film, to everything that started to go right with Korea, Japan, Steven Spielberg instance of cost maintenance. It worked and made a truck load of money. The HD-DVD crown won a small victory when this film will be released in HD-DVD format only.
With the best surprises of the year, there must also be the most disappointments of the year 2007. I will list the reason why I thought the film was a disappointment.

#25 National Treasure: Book of Secrets

So, let me see if I understand this; One man helps to find 2 of the greatest treasures in the world and this is supposed to make sense? This film was such a joke, it was more like a bad cartoon that an actual film. It deserves never to be seen on DVD.

#24 Hansel and Gretel (Korean)

It was supposed to be an adult version of H and G. In actuality, it was a huge joke that failed on many different levels here in Korea. A bad plot, bad story and box office failure, is what greeted this film during Christmas 2007.

23. The Astronaut Farmer

Well it sure sounded nice. A little farmer who wanted to go into outer space. Well he did and so did our lunch, after watching this film.

22. Because I Said So

When a chick flick fails, this is the result. It was just a pain to watch and a mess of an edit job.

21. Secret Sunshine (Korean)
My Review

I still can not believe this film won at Cannes. It was so telegraphed. My review above still stands on this film.

20. Boku wa imôto ni koi wo suru My Sister, My Love (Europe: English title) (Japan)

The film is based of a Japanese comic book and it was just a bad story with a bad plot attached.

19. Dnevnoy dozor Day Watch (International: English title) (Russia)

As much as I liked Nightwatch, I hated this film. It just left me very flat and not wanting to see #3 next year.

18. Dan in Real Life

i thought that Steve Carell could make me laugh. In this film, he did not. The intentions were good, but in the end, it was a huge let down.

17. 28 Weeks Later

I liked 28 Days Later... . This one just was not as good as the first one and without Danny Boyle, why was #2 even made?

16. The Number 23.

There had to be a reason this film was made. As of this review, I still do not know that reason.

15. The Heartbreak Kid

The film was a remake that should have worked. It had Ben Stiller and "The Farrelly Brothers" In the end it was a mess that will only waste your time if you ever decide to watch this.

14. 3:10 to Yuma

as a huge fan of the original I was very unsure about wanting to see this remade. What a waste of 2 fine actors Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. I still can not believe that critics love this film.

13. Black Snake Moan

I was really looking forward to this. Samuel L. Jackson and Craig Brewer. In the end what I got was a huge disappointment.

12. Shoot 'Em Up

I still have no idea why I liked this film. The reason its on this list because a lot more did not like this film. Its a Popcorn action films that delivers.

11. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
my review

Was this film ever frustrating me. It could have been a great film instead of a so-so film.

10. Desu nôto: The last name Death Note: The Last Name (International: English title) (Japan)

As much as I loved the original I hated part 2. It just left me feeling like a golden opportunity was missed here.

9. We Own the Night

In what should have been a run at the "Oscar for Best Film" ended up a mess with an inane plot and some very bad writing. Really disappointed by this film.

8. D-War
My Review

Of all of the reviews I did this year, this is the one that upset the Korean Netcitizens the most. Some of the replies were priceless. I have heard of D-WAR 2, I am still wondering what we did to deserve that.


I usually love a good story. So after I saw this film, it left me stunned. I still have no idea why a lot of people have put this film in their top 10 list. It brought nothing new to the story of the Zodiac Killer. It was just a rehash, polished up, version of what we already knew.

6. American Gangster
My Review

As I said in the review, I still like the movie. I just thought that it could have been done so much better and maybe actually tried to show fact instead of the legend.

5. The Kingdom

Once again, I was thinking, "OK nice preview, Now I want to see the movie." Once again, I saw every move coming and the ending was a joke.

4. Premonition

I really do like films that make me think. Sad to say, I saw all of the thinking in the trailer. Why was this film made. It was a waste of talent.

#3 Ghost Rider

Now one of my favorite Marvel Comics was made into a movie. I wanted to see this film. It had Sam Elliot, Nicolas Cage, Peter Fonda. It should have worked. In the end it failed. It was a bad script and some very wooden acting that caused this film to fail.

#2 Sunshine

I was so looking forward to this film. Danny Boyle directs a saving the planet film. It should have worked and a lot of critics eyes, it did. To me, it soon became a bad slasher film, set in outer space. When the film was over I was so disappointed. All of the great potential wasted with this badly acted film.

So now I must award, "The Flynnie" to the film that, to me, was the hugest disappointment of the year.

#1. Evan Almighty

Now I have no idea who's brilliant idea it was to do a sequel to A Jim Carrey film without Jim Carrey. The failures of Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd and Son of the Mask and maybe Ace Ventura 3.

I kept hearing that the cost of this film was going to break the 175-200$ million cost. i was thinking, this is going to be a huge bomb. It was a bomb and a huge disappointment for Steve Carell. May Hollywood adopt a new law. "NO Jim Carrey sequels without Jim himself in the film.