An Introduction to the ‘Korean New Wave’

Out of all the media I have consumed, nothing compares to the roller coaster of excitement that is seeing a new film out of Korea. After a turbulent 20th century (and even during the 20th century), the pennisula has produced some of the most celebrated films of recent memory.

My aim is to create a short guide that you might benefit from viewing first as you delve in to Korean Cinema. These films are often the most accessible foreign language films available and simply wonderful to watch.

The Good The Bad The Weird directed by Jee-woon Kim (2008)

Korean New Wave

Who doesn’t love a good Western? The Good the Bad the Weird is a Korean Western set in the 1930s in the former Japanese province of Mantruria. Two outlaws, a bounty hunter, and a whole host of others set out to posess a treasure map.

This film has got it all! Shoot outs, fight scenes, epic chases, Barbarians with hammers, you name it!

The Good the Bad the Weird succeeds in delivering a classic genre film in a truly unique way. It is funny, supenseful, and full of heart. I would recommend starting with this film first because it perfectly encapsulates what is so great about the Korean New Wave.

Train to Busan directed by Sang-ho Yeon (2016)

Korean New Wave

When is the last time you were actually emotionally invested in a Zombie movie? Wait no longer! Train to Busan is the story of a group a passengers survining the outbreak of the Zombie virus while stuck on a train from Seoul to Busan.

At its core, the film hangs on the relationship between the two leads, a father and young daughter. It keeps you emotionally involved throughout the entire film. It is very touching and saying more would ruin the film.

The zombie stuff is still awesome! It is the only film that I know of where you can watch someone puch Zombies to death!

Joint Security Area directed by Park Chanwook (2000)

Korean New Wave

Joint Security Area is the story of an investigation of a shootout in the DMZ between North and South Korea. Instead of uncovering malice and hatred, they uncover the tale of tragic friendship.

Joint Security Area is one of the best dramas I have ever seen. It is poignant and eternally relevant. The film is powerful and stays with you forever.

You can read more about my thoughts on it here.

Korean New Wave

I hope this will serve as a useful guide to start on your journey with Korean Film. There are still many wonderful films premiering every year, so don’t miss out on the fun of the Korean New Wave!

Thanks for reading!

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Creek Adventures

Playing in the creek has been one of my favorite activities since I was very young. The trickling water and the area around it are full of little mysteries to solve and things to learn. 

For the past week or so, I have been rekindling my relationship with my creek and capturing images that interested me. 

creek

Salamanders have presented a new puzzle to solve. I have not studied them, but I look forward to learning more about them.

creek
creek
creek

I feel grateful to have an endless source of entertainment just out of my backdoor!

Stop Trying to Make Art

“Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them hope.”

– Charlie Kaufman, BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture 2011

I’ve been working on this screenplay to try to get in the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. It was dark, sad, and a lot different from the stuff I usually do. It felt like I was imitating filmmakers that were popular at Sundance, although I didn’t want to admit it.

Eventually, I had to scrap the script because it just wasn’t me. I started to dig deep to see why I would try to abandon writing the things that I am normally interested in.

I realized that I was “trying to make art” instead of being vulnerable and actually doing the work. As silly as it sounds, writing a gritty familiy drama is less traumatic to me than showing someone a video of me running around in a chicken suit. 

The family drama will ring hollow because I don’t really care about it, but I put my heart and soul into every one of my dumb, no budget shorts. They are personal without trying to be, they are my art without any of the pretension of award ceremonies.

Art doesn’t become art because an external force bestows the title on it. A work is rises to that level when you love it enough to keep making it, even though no one else cares.  Art isn’t made for an audience, you make it because you are burning to tell that story.

 

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

 

Long Exposure Photography- Sunrise

Recently, I had the opportunity to capture the sunrise. I wanted to do some long exposure photography again, this seemed like a good excuse.

For this outing I shot with the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 and my Nikon D3100. For most shots I was shooting wide open at for about 30-15, but as the sun came up I moved more to 1/100-1/200.

I did mess with them a little in Lightroom and convert them into .jpegs also.

More than the color, I really like the texture of the images. It reminds me of an oil painting in a strange sort of way.

It’s really fun to edit long exposure photography because of all of the data you have to play around with, but Nature’s color balance is usually good enough.

long exposure photography

I’m generally more of a night person, so it is always a treat to see the sunrise. It’s a miracle that happens everyday!

I know these aren’t great photos, but I’ll definitely try to experiment with this again and get better ones!

_

Thanks for reading! Got any tips for getting sunrise photos or any cool ones of your own?

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Character, Action, and Dialogue

Creating an interesting character is my favorite part of writing. Writers like to obsess over dialogue, while important to fleshing out a character, is like judging a person solely on their shoes.

Action informs the character more so than the things he says, in my estimation. Words can deceive or have double meanings, but a choice is honest. You can say that you love your wife, but when the ship sinks and dive after your mother, leaving her to drown, we know where you allegiances really lie.

In the film, American Psycho, Patrick Bateman says all the right things, but he brutally murders people (or at least fantasies about doing it). Which reveals more about him, his words or actions?

JEAN 
Thanks, Patrick. I'd love some.

Bateman walks in with a bottle of wine and a corkscrew in 
his hand and hands her the sorbet.

Jean is eating the sorbet.

JEAN 
Want a bite?

BATEMAN 
I'm on a diet. But thank you.

JEAN 
You don't need to lose any weight. You're kidding, right? 
You look great. Very fit.

BATEMAN 
(Weighing the corkscrew examining the point for sharpness) 
You can always he thinner. Look...better.

In the critically acclaimed film, Boyhoodyou get the impression that dialogue is supposed to serve the purpose of action.

INT. BOWLING ALLEY CAFE - EVENING

The family sits around a table enjoying their snacks, while
Dad smokes a cigarette.

                      DAD (O.S.)
          Alright, let me tell you what's
          happening in Iraq, alright? Exactly
          what every thinking person in the
          world knew was gonna happen before
          they got started. Bush and his little
          numb-nut fanatics he's got around
          him, they don't give a rat's ass.

                      SAMANTHA
          That's a quarter.

                      DAD
          What's a quarter?

                      SAMANTHA
          You said a-s-s.

                       DAD
          Oh, sorry.   My bad.

                      SAMANTHA
          And my teacher says it's a good war,
          because it's better to be safe than
          sorry.

                      DAD
          That's what they're teaching you in
          school? Alright, listen to me.
          Listen to your father, okay? That
          is the lie. That's the big lie.
          Iraq had nothing to do with what
          happened at the World Trade Center.
          You know that, right?

                       SAMANTHA
          I guess.
                                        23.

            DAD
Alright. Who are you gonna vote for
next fall, MJ?

            MASON
I don't know.

            SAMANTHA
He can't vote. He's not eighteen.

            DAD
Yeah, oh -- alright, who would you
vote for?

            MASON
Kerry?

            DAD
Anybody but Bush!   Okay?

            SAMANTHA
Are you gonna move back?

            DAD
Uh... I'm plannin' on it.   You know,
I gotta find a job.

            MASON
Are you and mom gonna get back
together?

            DAD
I don't know. That's not, uh...
entirely up to me, you know?

            SAMANTHA
I remember when I was six, you and
mom were fighting like mad. You
were yelling so loud and she was
crying.

            DAD
That's what you remember, huh?

            SAMANTHA
Yep.

            DAD
You don't remember the trips to
Galveston, camping in Big Bend, all
the fun we had?

            SAMANTHA
Nope.
                                                    24.

                      DAD
          You ever get mad at your mother?

                        SAMANTHA
          Yeah.

                      DAD (O.S.)
          You ever get mad at your brother?

                        SAMANTHA
          Yeah.

                        DAD
          Yeah.    You ever yell at him?

                        SAMANTHA
          Oh yeah.

                      DAD
          Yeah. Doesn't mean you don't love
          him, right?

                        SAMANTHA
          Mmm...

                      DAD
          Look, the same thing happens when
          you're grown up, alright? You...
          You know, you get mad at people.
          You know, it's not a big deal.

                      MASON
          What'd you do in Alaska?

                      DAD
          I worked on a boat for a while.     Um,
          I tried to write some music.

                      MASON
          Did you see any polar bears?

                      DAD (O.S.)
          No, but I saw a Kodiak bear.     It was
          fuckin' huge.

                     SAMAMTHA (O.S.)
          Dad! That's fifty cents for the F-
          word!

Dad reaches into his wallet.

                     DAD
          I'm sorry. Here, take a dollar,
          alright? Keep the change.
                     (MORE)
                                                          25.

                       DAD (CONT'D)
           You guys are gonna be seein' a lot
           more of me. Okay? I missed you two
           real bad, while I was gone. Okay, I
           want you to know that. I just needed
           to take some time. You know, to...
           Just... Your mom and me, okay...
           Well, your mother, okay, is a piece
           of work. Alright, I think, I think
           you know that by now. Alright? And
           I'm just, I'm so happy to be with the
           two of you. Okay. And I'm sorry
           about that bumper business. Alright.
           I'm gonna get better at stuff like
           that, okay?

As a token of reconciliation, Dad high fives them both,
smiling.

In a fragment from American Psycho, you learn more than an entire scene from Boyhood. Why?

Boyhood is full of noise, but it doesn’t really tell us anything. You should be able to flip to random page and understand the point of the piece. Is this movie about Dad? Samantha? Our protagonist (Mason) is so passive that it could be easy to forget about him all together.

Consider action more than empty dialogue next time you write something. Sometimes silence (or even just less words) really is golden.

_

Thanks for reading! I hope it was helpful.

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On Bonsai Presentation

Last weekend, I attended my first meeting of the Atlanta Bonsai Society. The guest speaker was Austin Heitzman, the renowned craftsman from Portland, Oregon, and he spoke about the bonsai presentation.

Bonsai presentation

Heitzman explained why it is important to choose a stand that meshes with your tree. It it enhances the story that the piece is telling. My favorite example was a juniper that was collected while a mountain lion was stalking the collector.

Bonsai presentation

He also explained how the stand can enhance the feeling that you want to convey with the bonsai. If it is a strong, thick tree you can use stark edges and a wide base to accentuate the tree’s strength.

Bonsai presentation

Or you can use delicate detail to highlight the intricate foliage.

Bonsai presentation

I really appreciate bonsai because of the attention to every little detail. Nothing is too unimportant to ignore with your tree. It resonates with me for the same reason that I like to write screenplays and shoot films.

I’ve heard people say, “What is the big deal with bonsai? They are just tiny trees,” and what I think they miss is the storytelling aspect. To me, bonsai is minimalistic storytelling at its finest.

 

The Summer of Bonsai

This summer I purchased a starter tree from a nursery. I have a vague memory of walking through a mall as a very young child and seeing a display with one or two trees. Bonsai has captured my imagination since that first encounter.

I had a starter tree once before, but it died from neglect, so I was determined to get it right this time.

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It's still alive! #bonsai

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Despite keeping the tree alive, there was still a disconnect. I read a book on the subject of bonsai care and aesthetics, then started to view the activity more as an art form than as a time suck.

The central tenet of bonsai is naturalism. You shouldn’t see the artist’s touch when you look at the tree. This seems paradoxical becuase you are shaping the tree through cutting, wiring, and stunting the growth.

Bonsai
Classic Styles

I started studying the art form in my spare time. Gradually, I gained more knowledge and became more confident.

To me, the scariest thing about bonsai is the wiring of the tree. I’m afraid that I will snap the branches or worse, the trunk. However, wiring is where the true artistry of bonsai comes into play.

Rather than going withthe present moment, I struggle against the task and contort myself unnaturally under the self-imposed stress. I want perfection. I know intellectually that bonsai aesthetics require naturalism and asymmetry, but I want perfection.

 

It came together when I saw this video of a man creating a bonsai out of a Chrismas tree. The tree was plucked from a local nursery and it was transformed into something special.

bonsai

I went outside and re-wired my tree. I was mystified. It looked so much better from a simple perspective shift. The tree was imperfect, but that’s what made it beautiful. 

Bonsai

My tree finally look right. It looked like a bonsai! A weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I could get more trees.

Thia breakthrough helped me look at all of my other projects in a new light. The perfectionism had tainted what would have otherwise been cause for celebration. Being so fixated on what I wanted, I overlooked the beauty of what I had.

bonsai

I hope to take the lessons I hae learned through practicing bonsai with me. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys nature and reflecting on one’s day!