Sunday, May 23, 2010

Musical Notes

A couple of interesting music-related items that I have recently run across. First, there is this amazing essay on songs about Seoul. Apparently there was a special exhibition at the Chunggyecheon Museum (just ending today, terrible timing by me) about some 1,400 pop songs about Seoul that have been recorded over the years. Some interesting tidbits about Patti Kim, Lee Mija and a lot of great singers from the past.

And then there is this interesting video about the Korean singer Hwang Boryung (who also performs as Smacksoft). Bo is a very cool woman and well worth a listen. I do not know Stuart Reece, the video creator, at all (although some Googling reveals that he is a deejay at TBS-eFM), but it seems that he is intending on starting a series about underground music in Seoul. A very promising start. I hope to see more soon.

Seoul Underground: SMACKSOFT from Stuart Reece on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Meanwhile, over at the other blog (cont'd)...

Just a reminder that I am not updating over here much these days. Over at my "real" blog, you can find:

  • Comments about the Seoul not-so-Foreign not-so-Correspondents Club and their latest anti-journalism controversy
  • A new film market in Singapore
  • A bit about the Barcelona Asian Film Festival
  • A round-up of reviews from Cannes for Im Sangsoo's remake of THE HOUSEMAID (and some other Asian films
  • Saturday, May 08, 2010

    Filming North Korean Films (Almost)

    Far too little is known about North Korean cinema, which for 60 years has been turning out little-known juche masterpieces. Certainly it is one of my big regrets that I was not able to go to North Korea and visit the Pyongyang film studio myself.

    So it was a treat to discover this short documentary by filmmakers Shane Smith and Eddy Moretti, about their travels to North Korea to film the North's film industry. And while they did not get to see any movie making, they did get to North Korea's movie museum and a few sets. Their video is just 23 minutes long, but it is rare to see so much footage from the North, all taken with permission (well, almost all).

    * * *
    Hrm, apparently people have been adding more and more videos about North Korea onto Youtube. Many have English subtitles or are English dubs.

    And plenty more at Juche Korea's Youtube channel.

    * * *

    Oh, speaking of North Korean cinema, a couple of months ago, I mentioned that Johannes Schoenherr was writing a series of stories on the subject. Well, he has been keeping at it, and now there are well over 20 articles at the Daily NK.

    Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    LA Times Smacks Down Korea -- Why Exactly?

    Very strange post on the LA Times' Big Picture movie blog (thanks to The Marmot for finding this) -- it talks about why Korea is getting IRON MAN 2 before Japan, saying that it is mostly because of Korea's high rates of online piracy.

    I say strange because I have no idea why Korea is getting singled out. IRON MAN 2 was released in over 50 territories last weekend, all over the world. Day-and-date releases from Hollywood are increasingly the norm, and have been unremarkable for quite some time.

    Big Hollywood films, especially those released in the May-June area, have usually been released in Korea at the same time as in the United States for years now. Korea usually saves up its big blockbusters for later in the summer, in July and August, often causing Hollywood films to move their opening dates to avoid the biggest Korean films then. But May is the biggest time of the year for Hollywood in Korea.

    That said, even films that get a delayed release can do well. MAMMA MIA! was released in Korea two months after it was in the United States and much of the West, but it made $25 million in Korea and was the fifth-biggest film of 2008. Sure, Korea has a lot of online and offline piracy, but perhaps the situation is more nuanced (and profitable) than some people would like to bellyache.

    I especially dislike media executives complaining about online piracy without any comment about what their RESPONSIBILITIES are. Like they can hold on to their movies, music, TV shows or whatever and release them whenever they want. Sorry, but this is the Internet age, and if you do not give customers a fair chance to buy your content, they are not going to wait patiently for you to release something when you feel like it. Yes, consumers need to respect copyright. But producers also have a responsibility to make sure their content is available in a timely, convenient manner.

    The LA Times would have been much better off asking the more interesting question -- Why is Japan still releasing so many movies so much later than the rest of the world? The Japan market is the unusual one that needs an explanation, not Korea.

    (And in case you are interested, the reason Hollywood films are released so much later in Japan has more to do with its tricky theatrical market than its respect for copyrights. In Japan, it can be hard to book screens, hard to market movies, there is relatively low theatrical attendance for the country's population, high ticket prices and a whole host of difficulties.)