30 May 2016

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Rants and Weekly Raves #89 (RAWR)

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on May 30, 2016
kakashi: I have a lot to say this week, which is always a sign that a show interests me. I am glad about that.
JoAnne: Yay! Me too!
Shuk: I'm finally seeing bits of light as I finally dig myself out of several projects. Not that there isn't more waiting, of course. But I have managed to watch a few shows for fun. What a concept!
Lafer: Whenever I am sure that I am ready to drop dramas for good, one (or four) pulls me back in!
Jaehyus: same here.
Allow me to put Tom Hiddleston's eye here. I'm just done marathoning The Night Manager and it'll take a while for me to get down from the adrenaline high.
 

Lucky Romance (New)

A categorical no for me.
It's so tedious. Seriously, my reaction less than halfway through episode 1 is, this is still not over?
I don't know if it will ever captivate me the way some shows do, but it's not bad. There's no scream-crying from Hwang Jung Eum which is HUGE for me; it means I am free to enjoy her otherwise appealing personality without wanting to rip her lungs out through her nostrils and then stuff them back in her ears. I like all four leads, in other words. The story is settling in - we'll see how it goes. Jaehyus - they've managed to make Lee Soo Hyuk boyishly adorable in this.
Okay, maybe I'll try it again, just for Lee Soo Hyuk.

The Interpreter (Chinese - New)

So, there is this new Chinese drama called The Interpreter (on viki, here: https://www.viki.com/tv/28160c-the-interpreter), starring Yang Mi and Huang Xuan. I don't plan to watch it, but I did have a look, mainly because it was partially filmed in Zurich! More than that, at the University of Zurich, which is a few hundred meters from where I work. Did I notice anything? No. Anyway, so this is about French-Chinese interpreters (at the beginning, she is still a student and meets him in Zurich, and of course, he's a huge dick). I hate to tell everyone that we don't really speak French here and that you would never study French in Zurich, but hey! Who cares! After a time jump of 6 years, back in China, they meet again, at the Insitute of Advanced Interpretation, where he is the Director. Wanna bet they'll fall in love? :D

Another Oh Hae-young

Damn, how are we going to hate "Pretty" Oh Hae-young now? In all seriousness, I would have walked away from this wedding too (less quietly though, that's for sure). I think Eric has serious issues...
I was very happy that my thoughts about what drives 'Pretty' OHY were on the money.  I don't really want to hate her at all.  I actually feel like it's a blessing that she dodged that hateful woman.
Other than that, Episode 7 did it: I am completely hooked now. I can even accept Eric's not very dynamic acting (his mortification at the weirdest of weird family dinners with the worst timing ever was priceless). Seo Hyun-Jin nails this role (can't tell you how happy I am to see a good actress on my screen!) and the writer does an excellent job in giving her so much depth, so much strength, and so much vulnerability. She wears her heart on her sleeve and blurts out what is on her mind and then goes and sits on her toilet lid and meditates, trying to get over her embarrassment (in vain). She is so adorable.
She is so likeable, isn't she?  Can't we all see a bit of ourselves in her? I'm dreading the moment when she finds out what happened - I just don't know how they make this right for anyone in a way that lets our Hae Young and Do Kyung be a couple.
The rest of the characters are also endearing. Isadora is my second favorite, of course... she has more apparent power in society, but in truth, she is just as vulnerable and sad as Oh Hae-young. And as much as she abuses the younger woman in the beginning, at this point in the drama, the two have somewhat become ... kindred spirits? Mr. Lawyer with the colorful briefs is an idiot, but he means well, in a really dense sort of way. And the younger brother with his "Anna" who "licks him like a dog"... This actor does so well with his side characters, he deserves more (I first saw him in Shine or Go Crazy, but it seems he was in Marriage not Dating too, like so many others in this cast! It's the same director. Who, by the way, also directed Brain.)
All three actors you mention are people I consistently enjoy - and yes, Isadora is awesome.  I will confess that I very much want her to pair up with the idiot lawyer.  They would be an entertaining couple to watch. The brother - he was that irritating cafe owner who fell in love with the poor girl who was pretending to be a rich girl; I saw him in MnD before he was (again) an irritating brother in SoGC. He is very good at making the irritating, funny.
Episode 8 raises a few more issues and brings on the sad... (hands up if you didn't tear up when she "confesses" to her parents!)... and the crazy. Is Eric a tiny little bit completely unstable or what?! That car accident-scene was preeeetty weird. And yet, a part of me understands his blind anger. It's a whole bundle of complicated emotions: he has fallen in love with a woman whose life he destroyed and he knows that he will lose her if he tells her. He knows he should stay away (and she tells him to), but he simply can't. And now he's threatened by the reappearance of Thighs, in more than one sense. He must fear that they'll get back together (as soon as they clear up the misunderstandings) and he must fear to be found out that way. Add a whole lot of crushing guilt to that. At the same time, he is raging mad at Thighs for hurting Oh Hae-young the way he did ... I guess he's of the opinion that there are always options in noble idiocy and that telling someone "I hate the way you eat" is a no-go. But does he have the right to be mad? In my opinion, yes. He did something bad, yes, but that does not mean he cannot have an opinion or strong emotions about it. The way he's doing things though.... immature much?
I think your good or bad deeds have no bearing on your right to feel anything. You can't talk about feelings within the context of rights. They exist, period. Acting on those feelings can be another story, though. What Tae Jin did to her was his own (potentially questionable) decision and how he did it was his own (absolutely questionable) choice. I didn't think it was that weird, what Do Kyung did, not from where we sit, knowing what we know. He wanted to be punished more than he wanted to punish, if you ask me. I think for Tae Jin it was probably VERY weird, though. WTF is this guy about? He has no clue.

And yes, I bawled my eyes out at her confession scene, although I am reliably tearful at some point in every episode. I felt both her pain and that of her mother - I know what it feels like to be the parent who somehow misses that their beloved child is suffering, and there is no pain like it.
I pretty much love everything about this drama, for the time being at least. Her confession scene was one of the most heart rendering I've ever watched. In some ways I feel we're just getting to the meat of the story with Thighs being out of jail and back in the picture, but in other ways I'm worried about where this is going. I, too, feel Eric is becoming a little unglued, which would be understandable if it's due to his fear of the truth being revealed, but am disappointed that his visions have taken a turn and did not include Hae-Young the last time. The two episode extension also concerns me. As it is, I think the karaoke scene and ping pong scenes went on a bit too long (although both were awesome to watch.) It's come to the time when we need to start making offerings to the drama gods.

Five Children

For a 50 episode drama, many of which I've dropped at the point where we are with this one, I am still really engaged and can't wait for the next episode. The leads are the most adorable adults in love that I've ever seen, and I can't help cheering for all of the secondary characters.  
We are juuust about to the point where all the hidden connections are revealed - next week is going to be explosive, I think. I'm pretty sick of the older generation moms at this point. It's not that I don't understand their feelings, I do. I just think they should keep their mouths shut about them. For me it's a huge overstepping of boundaries. I get that it's not the same as it would be here, but I only have my 'here' feelings to respond with on an emotional level, and my 'here' feelings feel like saying a big fuck you to both mothers.
Jaehyus: both those mothers are why I'm sick of this show. They are out of line, though I understand the restaurant mother more, and find her less out of line because she's not totally wrong in wanting her son to marry rather than indefinitely date. But she is out of line for, I don't know, her whole attitude,really. I get it, I would normally be sympathetic and agree with her, but I just feel irritated with her. Also, sick of the JinJoo-Taemin storyline. It's just really boring. Both of them are boring. Please, writer, make them leave.

Entertainer 

Lots of movement this week - Ttanttara Band makes some confessions, and then Ji Nu steps forward, too. Can he just join the band, please? Suk Ho's making serious moves against KTop and its dastardly leader finally. Yeon Seo's ex came back, but only for a visit. Much closure there, but damn, watching Chan Hee figure out it - I knew later on that would hurt but I had no idea how much. I really wish Yeon Seo could have his pretty Min Joo, and that Chan Hee could some day call his Aunty CEO 'Mom' instead, but I don't see it happening - even though Min Joo clearly feels Yeon Seo, too. And then, of course: we had the green umbrella scene, where it becomes apparent that Geu Rin is definitely into Suk Ho the way that he is into her - but! BUT BUT BUT! Ha Neul, in what certainly will qualify as a poorly staged confession, just springs it on her that he doesn't think of her as a sister at all by sliding a ring onto her finger and asking her to date! You're supposed to warm a girl up first, Ha Neul. Sheesh. No matter what, though, I love my little Mangos. They are so sweet.  
At your suggestion, JoAnne, and with hours of airplane time, I picked this back up. It's definitely a sweet little drama and worth the time gazing at Ji Sung, who is pretty near perfect in my eyes. Honestly, I'd love to see him get with Min Joo in the end as I'm still having trouble overcoming the age gap due to the Reply 1988 Hyeri.
That was what I wanted, too, but now it would mean poor Yeon Seo loses out, so I'm conflicted. And the Ji Sung-Hyeri moments of tenderness don't seem like a stretch...but damn, that means Muffin MinHyuk loses out.  Can no one end up with anyone this time around? I like my Mangos just the way they are.

Mirror of the Witch 

Dropped. Not because it's bad ... but because it's not something I look forward to. In fact, it feels like a burden, those looong, long episodes.
 
Yes, they are too long. Shave off any 15 minutes and it would be better. Yet it's still the best fantasy sageuk I've seen so far. And despite this scene dragging out, I felt so sad when I saw this:
I can't disagree with you about editing but I don't mind the extra time all that much. It's so gorgeous (yes, it is!) and twisty and packed with detail that I enjoy everything I see. I do think that one fault might be that the story isn't always portrayed very clearly. Everyone I know was confused by the King in episode 5 - is he the former Crown Prince, who we all saw die? Consensus eventually was that he's someone new brought in, but there's no explanation of it at all, nor is there any explanation for why he, too, has a curse - and such a horrible one, at that, or if he even knows why he's been cursed, or when it happened.
But this dude, please take a shower!

Beautiful Gong Shim

I really planned to drop this after the second episode due to over the top acting, but once again having hours on a plane and the first 4 episodes downloaded I got caught up and am glad I did. It's quirky and heartfelt and really starting to show some potential.

Dear My Friends 

Dropped (or rather, discontinued). Not because it's not good, because it is. But because I cannot deal with the feels.
Wow. This is throwing me for a loop. I was expecting a cute, funny look at getting older, but we are getting some seriously heavy stuff. Episode 4 felt way more like a movie to me and had me churning with anxiety. Of course it doesn't hurt that Jo In Sung is all kinds of adorable. I struggle a bit with the relationships of mother/daughter and husband/wife as they are culturally very different than what I am used to. I continually wonder if older Korean women are this dramatic and nasty to their children and each other. The constant hitting drives me crazy, yet I truly want to know what happens to these characters. I'm curious, though, how Daniel Henney is filming this when he's starring in a US show. Or maybe that's finished for the season? I don't know as I don't watch TV anymore!  
It's turned out really good! I do fastforward some scenes because I don't care about HeeJa and SeongJae, nor about Wan and Yeon Ha. But I really want to know what will happen with Soon Young and her parents. And I want to know if that cool granny who never married and looks after all her family will get her GED and stop hanging out with those leeches and maybe save some money for the rest of her life.

My Amazing Boyfriend

I finished this, and thought it wasn't that bad a show. The pacing didn't bog down into multiple episodes of Noble Idiocy and Angst (side-eye to Fall In Love With (Both Of) Me, Queen of SOP, and sooo many others). Our Supernatural Boy can't emote, nor apparently can he speak Mandarin very well, if the lips-to-dubs ratio is any guideline. But our heroine was the right amount of pluckiness, and her bestie was the best! The bad guy was never a surprise, but the flashbacks still helped to flesh out the character as almost pitiful in his hatred of the man who made his life even possible. I didn't much like the final ending. I very much liked his 100-year-old hairstyle. And it's nice to watch something without subbing, segmenting, or recapping.
The actor is Korean. He was probably given his lines in hangulmal. Now that I'm curious about the villain, I'm thinking to make time for this show. 

Refresh Man 

This was a mixed-bag of an episode for me. We continue with the cute for our newly confessed couple, yes, but they also set up at least 3 potential conflicts that could break the relationship. Number one: her mother's death and Ji Wen Kai's feeling responsible for it and guilty at the pain Yu Tang shows over her loss. It's a big stretch to find him responsible, but I've seen this exact scenario of going out to buy eggs and dying in a car accident before, so I can't pass it off entirely. Number two: the very irritating Hai Di's inciting Yu Tang to feel jealousy and suspicion over Ai Sha. So far it doesn't seem to be sticking, but who knows what happens next week? And number three: Yu Tang's worry that their relationship will be looked at unfavorably by employees of the company. The preview shows her team accepting it, but who knows what happens next, or how the company at large will feel?

I feel like, despite Aaron Yan's pants, it's starting to slow down into those long, uneventful, pace-stealing episodes that so often crop up in these. [sigh] 
 
In addition to making sure they cover all the bases re: future conflict, something more problematic in real life occurs: yes, I'm referring to the scene (eventually edited out of the drama, if you're watching on Viki) where one of the Team 3 members shows up at a store dressed as a 'foreigner' in black face and bright clothing, to drum up interest in Mei Mei. Yes, the scene was removed, and yes, Wen Kai chastises them for making a risky decision - but there are still several scenes where the 'viral video' can be seen in the background, and dialogue within the drama ranged from 'hey it could damage the business' 'oh look, it's getting lots of notice, people think it's funny that we were so bad at it' to 'awww, that's so cute, look at terrible.' In other words, no seems to see it as the unacceptable form of humor that much of the rest of the world does.

I'm conflicted about that. It's not funny to me and never was. I'm very unaccustomed to seeing that sort of thing because I don't tend to associate with people who do find it funny. But I'm in the U.S., and I don't know what it's like in China. I guess there, they still find it amusing enough and acceptable enough to have it on TV and not turn it into a 'we don't do this' teaching moment.
So what does a viewer do? Viki removed it, and that's great, I applaud that. There are people who will stop watching the drama anyway, though. What does that do, really? If you consider it a human rights violation, then you should stop watching TW-Drama altogether, right? But would that get the message across? Do you write a letter of protest to the producer? Will they care, if you aren't Chinese? I think Viki said they would be saying something to their supplier, and I think that's good, too, and the kind of thing that cumulatively has effective clout. But us? What's our course of action?

Do you decide to never watch the actors again, because they went along with it? There are lots of things we see in media from countries not our own that we find shocking - this might be more egregious than most, but it's part of a larger issue of cultural sensitivity. That might not be the right word. We don't know enough about any of it, really. Maybe the actors weren't comfortable, but had no choice without violating their contract. Who knows what went on?

We watch shows from other countries; we see things that offend us. Other people watch shows from our countries; they find things that offend them. Isn't it best that we keep watching and talking to each other? For me, I appreciate that Viki removed the offending scene in deference to their customers who complained. I didn't actually see more than a still or two on Twitter, but it was enough for me to believe that was the right move. I'm not going to stop watching the drama, but I also won't forget the sadness that I felt knowing that this is still a thing that people do. I don't know what else to do here except be a person who will always say 'I don't think that's funny, I think that's offensive.'

Ignorant and racist - and inexcusable
I'm watching this show, but I have not watched past the kissing scenes in Episode 11. Nevertheless, this isn't the first Asian drama with a blackface scene. I also doubt it will be the last. As a Western Asian drama-watcher, I try not to project my mores or my morals onto another culture. I love Thai lakorns, and I do watch the ones termed "Slap Slap Kiss". These SSK shows can (but not always) include rapes, face-slapping, kidnappings, forcible restraints, rich oppressing poor, Get Out Of Jail Free cards for the powerful, abandonment of pregnant women, abortions, in short, everything that I would find repugnant in the real world. But this isn't the real world. This isn't my culture or my country. These shows are produced by countries under Communist rule, military juntas, monarchies, democracies, with long or short histories (or even current issues) of civil rights violations. Can you enjoy a show from a country that practices forced organ donation and oppression of native peoples? You do if you watch anything from China. Does that negate Aaron Yan's pants? No, not really. Can you be appalled at what you are watching? Absolutely, and you can vote with your money and time. Blackface as used in the United States nowadays symbolizes a shameful attitude and a part of our history we will repeat if we ever forget it. But the Jim Crow laws of the 1950's USA don't exist anywhere else on the planet, and we shouldn't assume in our arrogance that we are the Morality Police of the World.

I am not sure I'm entitled to an opinion here. I'll say a few things nonetheless... (not watching the show though). The first time I came across blackface was about two or so years ago, because someone had done it in a KPop video. I don't remember the details, but until that day, I was not aware of that practice - in other words, ignorant (or rather, racism discourses in Europe are quite different from the ones in the US nowadays). However, that "blackface" is a very racist practice should be obvious to everyone immediately - there is no excuse for it, in no circumstances. If a Taiwanese show does it, it is proof of a great deal of stupidity, ignorance, and yes, racism. If they think it's okay for them to do it, they need to be "taught better"; in the very least, we need to tell them. Sure, they do not produce their shows for a Western audience and do not care for our opinion. But: for me, this is very similar to the debate in world politics about "human rights" and whether it is a universal concept or whether it's the colonialising "West" who is trying to oppress "the rest" with their notion of correct behavior. "The West" has done a lot of very bad things in the past, but the codification of basic, universal and egalitarian human rights is one of the greater achievements after the Enlightment. Discriminating people because of their race goes against these fundamental rights. It is not at all wrong to carry those values into the world, with the full knowledge that YES, they are superior.
Making fun of a group of people just for a few "haha" moments cements stereotypes, which reinforces racism. Viki cutting the scene out and complaining to the Taiwanese producers might not change anything. But it's the only right thing to do in a case like this, especially because viki's audience is Western. Wherever we see injustice, we have amoral obligation to speak up. Again and again. Unless you tell other people how much they offend you, nothing will ever change for the better.

Vampire Detective

So much hate about this one everywhere. Typically OCN, I guess. They just don't care enough about good scripts.
The only comments I see are about how funny it is that he's a Vampire Detective but the vampirism is pretty absent. The joke is that he doesn't seem to realize he IS a vampire, exactly... but then again, he's not a vampire in any sense of the word that we'd expect. Otherwise, the case of the week is generally fine, the interaction between the three private investigators is fun, and the best running gag of all is that the cutie-pie medical assistant, every week she turns out to have yet another amazing skill or hobby. It's not badly acted and doesn't stand out as particularly stupid, either, so I can only assume the people who complain come from two camps: wants more vampire, or wants it more like Vampire Prosecutor - which I still haven't watched. I think that keeps me from bad feelings toward this.
The main complaint I hear is about the writing! 

Juhan Shuttai

People are so excited about this on tlist and I like a good jdorama, but after ep 1, I feel rather cold. It's just not that great. But because everyone's still raving about it online, I'll give ep 2 another try. Maybe.

Go Weeeeest

Preacher (New)

Much awaited show! And feared! After Fox completely butchered the wonderful Lucifer, what would they do to Garth Ennis' masterpiece Preacher? As comic books go, this one is a revelation: So bloody, so rude, so brilliant. Would TV ever be able to capture the essence of this? It didn't seem likely. But, after seeing episode 1, it seems they have. The Guardian called it "a gore-coated unicorn with a sick sense of humour, just like the comic book it’s based on" and I wholeheartedly agree, this is it! They managed to capture the batshit crazy characters, the warped humor, and the weirdly apocalyptic Western gunslinger feeling that runs through the source material and didn't even have to stick to it religiously.
I already briefly tweeted with JoAnne about this, so I know she was confused. I am not fully convinced you need to have read the comics to "get it", but the story telling is a little unconventional, I give you that.
Episode 1 introduces us to the main characters: Jesse Custer, "the Preacher", who has a rough past and a horrible, abusive and crazy family on his mother's side (we don't know that at this point though). He is forced by his grandma to become a Preacher (at least in the comics, I hope we do get to meet Grandma in the show too... wow! She's something!), after a destructive love affair and crime spree with Tulip O'Hare (love the casting here!). Of course, there still are a lot of feelings between the two - and she does not know why Jesse suddenly disappeared from her life. Joining them in their adventures is the Irish Vampire Cassidy, who simply falls from the sky after some "complications". Yes. Don't ask :D He's basically a drug addict who happens to be a vampire. We also meet the mean Hugo Root, the sheriff of the town Jesse preaches in (they don't particularly like each other...). He has a son, "Arseface"/Eugene, whom he does not talk to anymore after he tried to kill himself like Kurt Cobain, leading to bad disfigurement. There also is an Emily in the show (not in the comics) who has a crush on Jesse (I like her) and some other side-characters like the Mayor (also not in the comics).
Setting everything in motion is Genesis, an illegal but extremely powerful demon-angel child, who flees his prison in heaven and goes to earth, ultimately fusing with Jesse (that's MUCH more dramatic in the comics!) after a few failed attempts with other priests - making him the most powerful being in the universe. He possesses the "Voice of God" now and can make (most) people do what he commands them. Only: God has left heaven after Genesis is born... he is missing and very silent. Well, Jesse is kinda pissed off about it and goes in search for him. Not in the show though, it looks like he'll be staying in town (fine with me! Small towns are a great setting for great shows). Of course, there's also a couple of (weiiiird) angels on the hunt for little baby Genesis... (I hope that does not mean we will not get to see the Saint of Killers!).
We have to wait two more weeks for the next episode, but oh boy, I'm excited!
It's not that I was confused by what I was shown on the screen. It jumped around a lot and felt weird, but not necessarily in a bad way. I think the problem was that I looked up background on the characters, and then couldn't mesh timelines between comic and show. For example, the backstory on Arseface (in particular his relationship with his father (I am not sure it's the same in the show to be honest!)) and when all this Tulip/Jesse/Cassidy bonding was supposed to have happened (it hasn't happened yet. Cassidy is new to the two others, only those two have history). I'm intrigued but not convinced, but I'll give it another episode before I decide whether to buy the season or not - I'm watching on Amazon. I probably will, though. I was very happy to see that West Texas landscape, if nothing else. There is no place like Texas in the world, and somehow, this seashore bred New Englander loved that dry dusty enormous expanse the moment she landed there. I miss Texas even today, 22 years after leaving.

The Night Manager (Finale) 

Well that was sort of a stale potato chip of an ending, wasn't it? Poo. I mean, yay for the good guys, but poo.
Just started this. Hmmmm, Eton boy Hiddleston is very deliciously tall and looks so normal without Loki gear. I know he's in the talks for Bond - and as much as I'd like a black Bond or a female Bond, if they pick him in the end, I won't mind too much. He's very Bond-y in this.
And I'm .... DONE! Excellent, excellent show, thanks for getting me to watch it, JoAnne! Le Carré is such a master, and this is a masterful adaptation (that's obvious even if I have to admit I haven't read the book). Yay for a female director!!! Casting and acting and script: SPOT ON. I particularly liked Elizabeth Debicki as extremely tempting wife of the bad guy. What a presence! No wonder our hero couldn't keep his hands off her (make it less obvious next time, jeeeeez! My nerves!). No need to mention how good Hugh Laurie is, of course, but he is! Olivia Colman: nailing it! Tom Hollander: I will always hate him, well done. Everybody else, even the minor of minor roles: excellent! So much talent in Britain.

I marathoned this, so I must say, I didn't at all mind what JoAnne calls a stale potato chip ending. I almost couldn't bear the tension, which was pretty much constant and very high. So happy that it ended in a fairy tale kinda ending (I hope the MI6 scum also has it coming though). And now, excuse me while I go watch Tom Hiddleston in everything he's ever been in. Loki, here I come!
I think it's because it was so very tense and exciting that the ending disappointed me a little bit. It was unbearable each week, and then, for the most part, the finale just sort of rolled along almost like another day at work. Yes, even with Jed and Jonathan being caught. It all just sort of seemed like it happened the way Jonathan intended and there was never any doubt, somehow. Even if it wasn' surprising, though, it was satisfying that Dickie went out the way he did. (and if it's true and there's a second season with a Le Carre approved storyline, I'll watch for sure.)
Bring it on!!! I was a needles in the last episode, I even had to fast forward to see whether everyone I care for makes it out alive. Ouf. Do you think he will go see her? And ... whom did he wire the 300'000'000 to? (not me, unfortuantely) 
I'd like to think he does go see her - and I think he sent the money to her, too. Maybe he found out some of Sophie's family.

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