I’ve been very disappointed with movies as of late. I know that I am partly to blame, having watched such garbage as The Devil Wears Prada and John Tucker Must Die (didn’t finish) on the airplane, but seriously – how do these educated and trained professionals allow themselves to become a part of such worthless productions? No, that’s a silly and naive question, but I sometimes wonder – why and how do crappy films get made? At what point does a movie cross the line from potential meaningful/well-made movie to banal/cliche-ridden/slick-commercial-gloss product? In the screenwriter’s head? The director’s editing room? Or maybe the studio executive’s bathroom while he takes a dump and thinks about the movies he’ll finance this year?
I was disappointed with Borat. For all the hype and good press, I found it somewhat entertaining but not really that funny. I’m the type that loves offensive jokes and enjoys people being mean on screen for laughs but only if there are elements of cleverness and, even better, hints of irony. Borat, for all the hailed intelligence of creator Sacha Baron Cohen, seemed to abandon irony and quickly degenerated into a Johnny Knoxville-type of Jackass humor. Funny here and there, but things get old pretty quickly. I’ve heard and read about people praising Borat for its boldness in exposing Middle America’s bigotry and ignorance, but maybe somewhere between watching Michael Moore documentaries and the Tonight Show, the novelty of catching Americans saying stupid things sort of wore off for me. I sort of yearn for another Napolean Dynamite or even another Zoolander – cultural commentaries slash comedies without such blatant attempts at shock value.
But I hate being too preachy about movies. After all, people watch movies for all kinds of reasons, whether it’s to put their minds in cruise control or to satisfy some sort of cult obsession or, in my case, an almost always unrealistic hope that the movie will entertain, inspire, touch, and challenge my way of thinking. So when I say I’ve been disappointed by movies these days, I should fault myself for allowing myself to watch what I know will be bad movies in the first place.
Holiday season. Moviegoing should increase for me starting this week. I’m thinking Little Children, Casino Royale, Volver, and Fast Food Nation. Any good foreign recommendations (besides Volver)?
Haters-of-the-Word: Photos from Korea! (jk – read on as well!)
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to come up with something interesting to say about my one-week visit to Korea, but aside from making the descriptive lists of things I did and the people I met, I’m not sure if I spent enough time there to fully grasp and articulate the dual feeling of displacement (from New York) and the return back to the country in which I was born (if that makes any sense). In a way, I felt comfortable, and many things, the hospitality and the food especially, were familiar and homey to me. But then there were moments when I felt like an outsider, a confused observer trying to get accustomed to a culture that seemed all but foreign to me. I kept wondering as I rode the subways – will anyone notice that I’m different, that I’m actually American? Of course not – I look just like them. I then held my American book close to my face, hoping it would somehow distinguish me from the Korean crowd.
As I tried the different foods and wandered the different neighborhoods of Seoul, I kept trying to come up with a list of observations that might have made a colorful blog entry, but the entire experience felt too dreamy, a sensory-overload that paralyzed me from thoughtful reflection and limited me to banal games of what-might-this-be-the-New-York-equivalent-of. The photos that I took tell only a fraction of what I actually saw – at times I did not even trust the camera to do a sight or experience any justice. It’s not that anything was extraordinary or for-my-eyes-only, but there was a point when I didn’t want to visually document things anymore and instead, I let things seep into my memory and hoped it would resurface later on, perhaps in deep sleep or a deja vu.
It’s not even that I visited my birthplace or my home town. I stayed in Seoul, where I rarely visited when I was a child. It was, however, the thought that I might have lived through the changes in Korea in the last seventeen years, that I might have studied crazy hard for high school entrance exams, that I might have dated the girls who shopped at Galleria, that I might have gone to the army, and that I might have found Zest or This Plus to be my favorite brands of cigarettes that made me wonder – am I happy where I am now and would I have been happy if I had stayed? A silly thing to ask, perhaps, but seventeen years after my family boarded the United Airlines flight to JFK by way of San Francisco, it was just something that seemed to cross my mind during my week in Seoul.