Recapped!: “BestSeller”

Author’s Note about Korean Names:

Mark this down, people. This is the day I looked up on google about how to read Korean last names. So someone whose name looks like say, Jeong-ho Lee, his first name is Lee. This was an easier example, and makes me look like a dope; but believe me i’d rather look dopey than uneducated anyday of the week.

“My daugther told me! You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to!”

words: Desmond “Neo” Childs

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 Who was it that said, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”?Oh yeah, it was that jerk-warden from Cool Hand Luke. The separated couple in BestSeller, are having problems communicating. And in an uncommon shift of roles (at least in cinema) the woman is without question the problem. Chan-sik is a famous author in the vein of  J.K. Rowling; who has released her latest page-turner. Unfortunately for her, she is later accused of plagiarism and watches life tailspin and then nosedive. Her publicist hasn’t lost faith in her; but thinks it would be a good idea for her to take a trip out into the country to work on her next novel. What happens is truly a unique blend of the supernatural, mysterious, and even thrilling elements into one pretty engaging piece of reel. Was it a little uneven sometimes? Yeah. For the most part though, ‘Bestseller’ delivers the goods in a exciting, “seat-of-your-pants” thriller that actually plays out like one of the main character‘s novels. So in a sense it’s a little meta, but not enough to draw you out of the movie’s story. Before I dig a little more into what I thought about it, let’s take a look at the director, Jeong-ho Lee.

Believe it or not, ‘Bestseller’ is actually Mr. Jeong-ho first directorial effort. He’s primarily been either a producer or assistant director on the majority of his projects. He has assistant directed such works as ‘A Man Who Was Superman‘ (2008), Skeletons in the Closest (2007), Vampire Cop Ricky (2006), and Dead Friend (2004). In regards to his style, there was only a few things that stood out; and not necessarily in a good way. First, the editing of some of the scenes made for a rushed tone early on in the movie. The scenes even out later but the initial half hour or so of the film would’ve used some of the cutting room floor scrapes added back on. For example, the relationship between the author and her “fed up” husband doesn’t seem genuine. And when the twist is revealed, their relationship seemed as if it had plenty of problems; even before the birth of their daughter.

“If you do this, I don’t want to see you again!”

I do, however, want to give credit to Mr. Jeong-Ho’s touch toward the end of the film; regarding the eerily cheerful town. As I mentioned before, the author and her daughter take a trip to a small town. Now two years removed from the allegations of plagiarism; the writer is hoping to pen a novel so original, as to leave no doubt as to who truly came up with it. The town they arrive at is expecting them. Luckily for our protagonist, their welcoming her with open arms. Well, for the most part. In a pretty crafty fashion, the film slowly builds toward a long forgotten tragedy that befell the town long ago. Suddenly, the townsfolk become more suspicious to our heroine. And what about this “friend” her daughter keeps talking to? What part does the “friend” play in all this? And why is the daughter (Sa-rang Park) the only person who can talk to her friend? Sure, there is intrigue all throughout the movie, but I feel like we have to sit through a pretty rushed, conventional wash at the beginning to get to it. I will say that the end result was somewhat worth the wait. As usual, the film is available on Netflix Instant watch. For how long? I don’t know.

Check out the trailer below:

Recapped!: “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”

Many types of sushi ready to eat.

Many types of sushi ready to eat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“He’s not trying to be special.”

words: desmond “neo” childs

The definition of sushi, according to Webster’s online dictionary is as follows:

…cold rice dressed with vinegar, formed into any of various shapes, and garnished especially with bits of raw seafood or vegetables.” 

 Trying to define what it means to be great isn’t nearly as cut-in-dry. According to many, being great takes time. You’ll strive for years to hone your craft. Whether it’s sports, music, writing, dancing, or cooking; becoming the best is something that has to be earned. So says the general public, right? I mean, one can only ride talent for so long without improving a bit everyday. I’m even practicing my craft (writing) everyday, whether it’s working on this blog; writing stories, essays, etc. Those who strive to be exceptional in their choosen craft, must be willing to work tirelessly. To sum up my point here, Jiro Ono, the subject of this film; is great. He’s unassuming, straight-faced, and impatient. He’s a perfectionist, even at 85 years young, who demands a great deal out of his apprentices.

Why is Jiro considered grea? Because of his sushi restauraunt. A 15-seated, modest setup that doesn’t even have it’s own restroom facilities (patrons have to use a nearby outdoor facility). On top of that, the restauraunt that Jiro runs only serves sushi. Nothing else. And really, really expensive sushi. I’m talking the lowest prices run you about 30,000 yen (about $300)! Crazy, right? Yet, Jiro’s sushi joint has garnered many positive reviews. The highly prestiged, Michelin Red Guide gave Sukiyabashi Jiro (name of the restauraunt) a 3-star rating.; which is the highest possible rating for restauraunt and hotels featured in the guide. So Jiro Ono is officially a great sushi chef. However, the truly great ones of any particular occupation; tend to have a ‘secret’ weapon in their arsenal. Jiro Ono’s secret to success, may just astound us all. Which brings us to this question, “What’s Jiro Ono’s secret weapon?”.

Directed By: David Gelb

David Gelb attends the "Jiro Dreams Of Sushi" panel discussion at the Japan Society on March 5, 2012 in New York City.

David Gelb is a working-class director. I don’t want anyone to take that as a derrogatory statement, though; because I mean it as a compliment. The guy doesn’t have a huge catalogue of projects, but what he has produced is solid, even and of good quality. His first directorial debut wasn’t just that. He also co-wrote and starred in, Lethargy (2002), the short which also included Robert Downey Jr. and Edward Burns. While Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (2011) is his most recent work, Gelb has another documentary, A Vision of Blindness (2008), to his credit. He’s also won an award for the film, Lethargy, which he co-directed with Joshua Safdie.

Alright, so the bottomline is this. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a film about turning your typical, blase’ cusine into something truly worth traveling the world for. And many critics and patrons alike quite literally have to travel the world to partake in this guy’s sushi. And it’s because it’s that good! So good, that reservations must be made an entire month in advance. The movie is chaulk-full of facts regarding the prestige and oddity of Jiro and his crew; the price of sushi, as well as the hard work that goes into maintaining it all.

I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the other documentary I really enjoyed about inventor, Dr. Nakamats (click here). However, there was one notable difference between the two films I want to point out. The downside to being either a genuis inventor or master chef seems to be that both were incredibly demanding of their peers and family. However, Dr. Nakamats’ film did a better job of showing the negative side of working with such a person. Jiro Ono is called, “impatient” and “demanding”, but the movie never really attempts to frame the character in a negative light. This could be a problem for us cynical types who see the good in things, but harp on the bad!

As a counter to my own criticism, I’ll say this. Jiro Ono may have been a difficult man in his own right. However, his attitude toward his two sons was no where near as polarizing as Nakamats’ was. Jiro cares for his two sons deeply. He also seems to have developed a philosophy on raising them, based on his own childhood. Jiro’s parents were not present in his life the way they should have been, so Jiro grew up being a bully. He had to work hard himself, and focused on being consistent. Jiro knew this approach would keep him grounded in the traditional way, but also allowed him to crave his own style and niche.

“The dish is 95% complete when it arrives at my table…”

He gives both his sons the chance to be great as well. His oldest son, already 50 years old, in this film, has been primed for taken on the mantle from his father when the time comes. Jiro, understanding that his youngest son couldn’t inherit his original restaraunt; encourages him to open a second store in Rappongi. The result is that Jiro’s youngest son is awarded 2-stars by Michelin and his eldest son was actually the one responsible for the first initial award of 3-stars for the original location. With these events unfolding, Jiro’s dream of making great sushi, along with his legacy will live on through his two sons. Also, like a true legend, Jiro Ono doesn’t forget to give his apprentices their praise saying that he is in the luckiest position on his staff. As the subtitle of this paragraph indicates, the staff around Jiro make the vast majority of preparations to ensure the quality of the cuisine. So in the end, the staff is responsible for the eatery’s fame and prestige. Jiro does however take credit for teaching them everything they know. And he’s right. It takes an apprentice 10 years before they’ve learned everything they need to know to be great. A decade. So, what is it, you do well?

As usual, the film is available on Netflix Instant watch, however long that ends up being. In the meantime, check out the trailer below:

Onna bugeisha (Women Warrior) Marathon: ‘Ichi’ (2008)

Podcast Running Time: 27 min. 20 sec.

Note: Movie Trailer is below the photo gallery, if you’d like to watch it.


Ichi_Review.mp3
Ichi-2008-j-movieIchi_01Ichi_2Ichi-movie-01

What Women Want (2011)

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What_Women_Want_Review.mp3

Running Time: 27 minutes 39 seconds

More Than Blue (2009)

“My wish is for you to grow up and marry a great guy.”

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words: Desmond Childs

What are the things in life you most treasure, but for whatever reason, are unobtainable? Now what are some of the things that are keeping you from being able to pursue those treasures? It’s probably safe to say most of us all have goals, hopes, and dreams. We often have a picture in our head of how best to pursue them too. One thing we all probably take for granted when considering our best-laid plans? Time. No one truly knows the day or hour of their own demise. It can be predicted, however, down to the most accurate possibility. Take diseases for example: Doctors can predict when a patient with cancer will pass away. It’s up to the patient, to decide on what to do with their life until then. And what about those dreams?

What about the people you like?

“I like you”

The great thing about this movie is the relationship between the two main characters. The two kids embraced one another in a weird, brother/sister type of relationship, and grow up together off of the money K is left. They even gave each other names, to which I still do not fully understand the reasons or humor behind “K” and “Cream”. I find it even more intriguing that K’s mom (who abandoned him) was able to budget out money for her son to last him 10 to 15 years. While each of them seem to have been traumatized as kids, the movie implies that both K and Cream (Sang-woo Kwon and Bo-young Lee, respectively) have carved out respectable lives for themselves. The pair work as radio producers at a local station, and K seems to be regarded as one of the best producers. We also see a lot of scenes that continue to build on the dynamic between K and Cream. Remember these two characters are the best part of the movie, and director Tae-Yeon Won seems to understand that. So early in the film we really get to spend time with these two characters. Cream is the eccentric, awkward, sweetheart who really does seem content with her life and K. Then there’s K, whose quiet, awkward, and sincere to everyone he meets. He’s a respectable young man, who has the face of someone who knows more than their willing to tell you.

I do not wish to spoil the rest of the movie, but I’m sure the trailer kind of implies what happens to Cream and K. One of them is terminally ill, and spends the rest of the movie trying to hookup the other with someone. The movie becomes depressing as it edges toward the end. I really felt awful having to watch the two characters I had come to love suffer through what they do. However, there is a twist at the end, and it’s so unnecessary. It’s the kind of twist that doesn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but it is simply there so either to further drive home a point, redeem a character, or give hope. In this case, the twist is really just there to reiterate how horrible the situation is for K and Cream. Not only was the twist not needed, but it adds like another 15 to 20 minutes to a film that had already struck close to home. To use a metaphor: “Killing my rabies-infested pet was hard enough, but I have to kill him while he’s barking angrily at me?”

I recommend this movie! It’s not perfect, but it really excelled at its character building. It also manged to do so in a way that didn’t’ involve verbal exposition. We got to see flashbacks, and subtle references. The movie also forces us to form our own opinions about the characters and the decisions they make. There are a few supporting characters that take advantage of the misfortune that has befallen K and Cream. Should we think they’re heartless? That they lack compassion? Or do we thank them for doing our heroes a favor? And I even wondered about K and Cream. Was it okay for one to be selfish and carry a huge burden alone? Should the other one have spoken up and offered their full support even without being asked too? If you truly love someone, wouldn’t you want to see them do well, knowing you won’t be a part of their future?