Friday Night at the Movies – Crazy Rich Asians

Given my earlier post, nobody should have been surprised that I went to go see Crazy Rich Asians at my first opportunity.

I love to go to the movies in Jerusalem on Friday nights. The timing has to be just right in order to get as few people in the theater as possible. If the movie screens over sunset, all the people who keep Shabbat won’t be there. The secular people who wouldn’t miss Shabbat dinner with their families are also at home; they’ll head out around 10pm for evening entertainment. So I check to find the movie that’s been playing for a while and is playing right at sunset. Result: Nearly private screening! Crazy Rich Asians just came out, so there was a “crowd” of about 40 people in a 300-seat theater.

Friday night at the movies in Jerusalem, 9pm

Short review: Two thumbs up! Go see it! Here’s the trailer.

Long review: Below the trailer. Spoilers abound!

As an avid Korean drama fan (let’s not go so far as to say addict; I never binge watch, I marathon watch, so I feel I’ve accomplished something…), I was ready for this film. Or at least I thought I was. So many of the deeper nuances were lost on me. Plus, Asia is a big place. These Crazy Rich Asians aren’t Korean.

If you want to dip your toe into the K-drama (or Chinese drama or Taiwan drama) world, this movie is a good place to start. This is a 16 to 20 episode rom-com crushed into a 2-hour movie. And it has a lot of the tropes.

  • Independent girl – succeeds on her own merits
  • Semi-clueless boy – master of industry probably, but has been in his isolated world
  • Future mother-in-law hates the girl
  • Catty girls trying to tear down the independent girl
  • Birth secrets
  • Pointless shower scenes to provide “fan service” for the ladies
  • Everything is over the top
  • Independent girl wins and brings everyone up with her (We are all Independent Girl!)

The future mother-in-law is brilliantly played, but in comparison to K-dramas, this lady is a marshmallow. She has one great scene and then they have to move on. If she had taken a note from a K-drama mama, the viciousness and intrigues to get rid of this girl would have gone on for a few episodes (may I suggest Secret Garden or Boys over Flowers? Or in Chinese, Meteor Garden 2018). But this is also a Hollywood movie, we wouldn’t see as much of the deeper conflict between getting what you want (love) and family loyalty and honoring elders. Our clueless guy has spent too much time in New York and is ready to give up his family in a second (so he says).

A huge gutted fish in someone’s bed does send a message, even if you don’t write nasty comments using fish blood on the windows. Yeah, I’d have to say the catty girls tormenting our heroine were K-drama level.

Think of the most over-the-top wedding you’ve ever been too. Did they flood the church to create a mermaid-themed wedding with everything glittering and each person waving a lit flower while standing in what appears to be tall reeds? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Had it been another genre, flooding the wedding would have been the start of the tsunami plot line.

It was fun to watch and I enjoyed every minute. But I missed stuff.

At the beginning of the movie, we see our heroine playing cards. Her opponent has 2 pair. Even if you are not a poker player per se, you might have enough cultural knowledge to know that this is a good hand. At the end, we have a mahjong scene between our heroine and the future mother-in-law. The point isn’t the game, but the symbols in the game are obviously important to the scene. We understand that our heroine thinks really hard and lays down a tile that’s good for the future mother-in-law’s hand and it seems that m-i-l wins, but then our heroine shows her tiles. She gets up from the table and leaves with her own mom. Future mother-in-law is left at the table with an expression of acknowledgement? Respect? But what are the symbols within the game? Think how much more interesting the scene would be if you have cultural context. Luckily, my friend SHC is an excellent resource and sent me a great article all about that scene!

This morning I was scrolling through Instagram (the algorithm seems to think I have an interest in Asia, I wonder why that is?) and I found a letter that the director of Crazy Rich Asians wrote to Coldplay for use of their song. When I was watching the movie, I heard the song and enjoyed the fact that it was a cover sung in Mandarin. The song, of course, is “Yellow.” That’s nice, I thought. But I didn’t understand until I read the post this morning that: The. Song. Is. Called. “Yel-low.” Wow. I can be so dense sometimes.

Not a translation of “Yellow,” but lovely nonetheless

On my path to global citizenship, there is one thing I know for sure: I know nothing. But acknowledging it is a fine place to start.

In the meantime, go see Crazy Rich Asians and watch a few K-dramas while you’re at it.

“Living in a Film”

Real life is overwhelmingly busy right now and the news is just crazy, so I’ll do what I do best and turn to fantasy.  My fantasy world exists in Korean dramas.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I really, really enjoy Korean dramas (k-drama for short).  So this post will seem like it is completely out of left field, except that I’ve titled it using Israeli slang:  חי בסרט (hay b’seret), which means “living in a film (or movie).”  Usually it refers to someone being a drama queen and having everything be overly dramatic all the time, but I’m going to use it literally.

*cultural note:  If you’ve never seen a k-drama, you can just as easily substitute rom-com, but k-dramas have some special features that adapt really well to my life in Israel.

My life is a (failed) k-drama.

When I use the term “failed,” I don’t mean it in a negative way.  It’s just that the k-drama set-up is all there and then . . . nothing happens.  So if you’ll follow my logic here: my regular life is quite uneventful but fully set up for something fantastical.  And that is a lot better than following the news and seeing what’s going on in the “real” world, which feels like someone took a page from // insert name of your favorite TV show of intrigue//.

Heroines in k-dramas often live in rooftop apartments with a great view.

I live in a rooftop apartment with a great view. (Rooftop is not to be confused with penthouse.  A rooftop apartment means that it’s a possibly illegal addition to the building and they are tiny.)

rooftopK-drama rooftop

Heroines in k-dramas often work a lot of part-time jobs and have joie de vivre.

I work on a wide variety of projects and have a lot of joie de vivre.

The cast of most, if not all, k-dramas wear coats in the house during the winter.

I’ve already explained the cold in Jerusalem, and I find I often wear my coat in the house.  (Their sets aren’t heated and they have many more coats than I do, but I think I wear my coat inside in part because my dad wore his coat in the house too.)

heirs22   heirs
Coats inside.

rihannaLyrics to Rihanna’s song “Umbrella” (this may be more familiar some readers)

Scene: Outside.  On a street corner.  Waiting for the light to change in the pouring rain.

I approached the corner thankful that I had remembered to bring my big umbrella.  I saw him standing there and the rain really started coming down just as we realized that we had a full cycle to wait before the light changed.

He was very tall, thin, wearing a well-fitting suit, but no overcoat or hat to protect his bald (shaved?) head.  I noticed that his shoulders were already wet from the rain.

As he stepped back away from the curb to avoid getting splashed, I stepped forward and shared my giant umbrella.  (Cue music!)

The top of my head was several inches below his shoulder, so I had to lift my umbrella quite high.  He was surprised as he looked down at me, and mumbled something about not minding the rain so much – but he still stayed under my umbrella.

We commented on how long the traffic cycle was until our crosswalk sign would turn green.  But mostly it was just traffic noise and the plopping of rain on the umbrella.  (Erm, awk-ward!)

Then the light changed and since his legs were so much longer than mine, he reached the other side before I did – without the shelter of my umbrella.  He wished me a “Shabbat shalom u’mevurach” (a peaceful and blessed Sabbath).

He went his way and I went mine.

And then . . . nothing.  Absolutely nothing happened.  (Unless, we have a time jump to 5 years later . . .)

umbrellaThis is not my meme.  It was just out there on the internet.

This interlude is an absolutely 100% true thing that happened to me last week.  The set up was all there and then #kdramafail.

How I learned to stop worrying and love technology

I was originally going to title this week’s post “Summer’s over: Back to the war, I mean, school.”  That more or less sums up this week in Israel.  Kids went back to school on September 1.  Then there were rockets fired from Gaza (fyi, they landed in Gaza).  Five American yeshiva students took a wrong turn into Hebron and were nearly lynched (a Palestinian protected them and they were rescued by the IDF). A law was passed that has a clause in it that forbids journalists from including their opinion in newscasts.  They may take that to the Supreme Court, but it is certainly an interesting development.

All in all, it was a crazy week in Israel.

I don’t have kids.  I don’t live near Gaza or Hebron.  I’m not a journalist, so I’ll state my opinion if I want to.  Instead, this week I jumped on a fascinating, amazing technological wonder.

Anyone who knows me would never describe me as an early adopter.  I got a smart phone after everyone I knew already had one.  I got a tablet only after at least half the people I knew told me how great it was.  Truth be told, I like pen and paper.

And yet.

I like Korean dramas (k-drama).  Those dramas led me to Korean pop music (k-pop).  I don’t speak Korean, so I have to find streaming sites that include subtitles.  Those searches led to sites in English about Korean pop culture.  And those led me to the fabulous world of Korean technology.

This week I downloaded an app on my phone that lets popular Korean musicians and actors broadcast live via the internet directly to their fan base and interact with them by responding to viewer comments in real time.  As of today, 51 artists have their own channels – though it doesn’t mean they all have broadcasts yet – and the list is growing.

The most important icon on my phone right now

The most important icon on my phone right now

The broadcasts are saved and most of them are eventually subtitled.  A couple of my favorites have their own channels already and I’m hooked.

But what’s really amazing to me is the whole phenomenon.  This is interactive reality TV speaking to a generation of kids who swim in technology (and me, though I’m not a kid who swims in technology).  Korean artists tend to be well-mannered and incredibly sweet and so it seems there is a genuine desire to connect personally with their fan base and this is the newest, slickest, most personalized way to do it.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other apps I’ve probably never heard of are left in the dust when your favorite actor/musician is having FaceTime with millions of fans simultaneously.

Think about this:  A famous band (choose your generation’s most famous) fills a theater, a stadium, a giant field.  They go on a world tour.  They sell albums.  They are on TV and radio, get fan mail, interact with fans on the internet in various formats.

Now picture this:  The lead singer of a famous Korean band broadcasts for 30 minutes and the broadcast is saved (and subtitled within a day).  Within 2 days the broadcast has received over 23 million hearts (you can send more than one) and over 800 thousand comments.  In that particular broadcast, the lead singer asked people to send their phone numbers and he actually called two fans and chatted with them.

Obviously, the real-time personal connection to everyone in the world simultaneously will help the bands and actors make a gazillion dollars.  This is the natural next level of fan service.  And at the same time, this conveniently located app on my phone is a TV channel with a schedule and video-on-demand.

Will this be a revolution in interactive real-time viewing?  Who knows.  This app has only been out for a short while.  All I know for sure is that it is a hell of a lot more fun than watching the news in Israel.