Suggested List of 2015 Oscar Nominations

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 4:42 am


Doug Liman — Edge of Tomorrow



JK Simmons – Whiplash








How To Train Your Dragon 2



X-Men: Days Of Future Past


Song of the Sea

Big Hero 6
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
The Lego Movie

Leviathan (Russia)
The Fatal Encounter (South Korea)
The President (Georgia)
The Tribe (Ukraine)

REVIEW: племя | The Tribe

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm
This is the twenty-eighth film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival. It is the first Ukrainian film I've seen, and also the first one told entirely in sign language; every single actor communicates only with sign language throughout the film, without exception. Without subtitles. 

In fact, there's probably no other film like this.

The idea is that while we lose out in understanding the precise content of their communication, we get the gist of what's happening based on the characters' settings and circumstances, and the actors help us along by signing constantly at an intense pace (they seem to be arguing or scolding each other most of the time). Also, it's worth mentioning that it is not a silent film; the audience is hearing what the characters cannot.

What's the setting? A teenage boy enters a boarding school, presumably for the deaf, and is quickly admitted into the school's alpha male gang, owing to the boy's firm physique and robust strength. The teachers are present only in the beginning of the film — for example, there's a very familiar scene in a classroom with a teacher signing her lessons to the class but one of the alpha male gangsters is interrupting it with his own cheeky signing, leading to silent altercations with the teacher — but after a while they seem to largely disappear from the scene, and we're only shown the interactions among the students. Those interactions are also fairly familiar tropes, with the alpha male gang bullying the younger kids.

On the other hand, there's a subplot involving two girls who are close to the alpha male gang because the gang pimps them out to the truck drivers nearby. One of the girls is the lover of one of the alpha male gang, so things get complicated when our main boy first engages her sexual services, then later falls for her. This leads to a couple of sex scenes, shown in its entirety.

The film makes use of fluid long takes, and many scenes are filmed entirely in one take; the Steadicam work here is stellar and I didn't notice any issues with focus. And these aren't slow-moving shots; the camera is generally swooping along as it follows the fast-walking boys, coming to abrupt halts sometimes as they are interrupted by something, and then continuing, which sort of mirrors the staccato like gestures of the characters. Other times there are static long-shots, with lots happening within the frame, like when the alpha male boys come to ransack the younger boys' room, or when one of the girls go through an excruciating experience of an illegal abortion. (How excruciating? You actually hear her voice.)

The film leads to an explosive final scene, again filmed in one long take as we see our main boy, now innocence all gone, walking up 7 flights of stairs and turning the tables on the alpha male gang. It is both surreal and cathartic, and reminded me slightly of what happened at the end of von Trier's Dogville.

All the actors did well; Grigoriy Fesenko is perpetually brooding as the protagonist. I didn't find out whether all the young actors are actually deaf, or if they're not whether they knew sign language beforehand.

It's probably not the sort of film that you can walk into without knowing its nature and still enjoy it; but, knowing what you're walking into, it's certainly an interesting experience, and not as difficult a watch as one would imagine. You will notice of course that, with the content of the conversations missing, you're more aware of the physical poses and gestures of the characters, and sometimes you're surprised by the fact that something happening nearby isn't registered by another character because he or she isn't looking in that direction and thus isn't aware of it.

An unusual film that's a recommended watch if it's available to you.

How Good I Think The Film Is: 7/10

Did I Fall Asleep: Might have.


at 5:49 pm
This is the twenty-seventh film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival.

Tahar Rahim, one of the most watchable actors from France, was the reason I decided to catch the film (even before I read the synopsis). He's played various characters in France, and then a Celtic tribal leader in The Eagle, and then an Arab in Day Of The Falcon, and now he's … an Armenian Christian at the onset of the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during WWI.

The film begins as these films do, showing us the relatively happy lives of a family just before the storm clouds of war rolled in, starting off with the words "Once upon a time … once upon no time …". Nazaret (Rahim) is father to two cheerful daughters and has a wife who sings him to sleep (the song consists of a hypnotic repetition of the word 'chanoi'). The ominous war finally arrives at his doorstep as Ottoman soldiers turn up at their village without warning and seize all adult men to become slave workers, and just like that Nazaret is torn from his family. The work is hard and meaningless (I never really understood why in war movies and prison movies do we always see hostages/convicts hauling stones in wheelbarrows and breaking them down), and the soldiers are moderately bullying. One day, however, all the Armenian men are taken away by a separate group of Ottoman soldiers and … executed. Nazaret somehow survives, though not unscathed, in a way that the title of the film hints at.

By then Nazaret's spirit is crushed, and he wanders from place to place, at first being rescued by deserting soldiers, later finding his sister-in-law in a camp of dying Armenians before she expires herself, and then arriving at a village where he is taken in by the kind owner of a soap factory. Nazaret works hard and tries to survive, but then a coincidental meeting leads to a sudden revelation: his daughters are still alive! From here Nazaret's adventures begin proper. He travels from place to place, looking for information about his daughters, and when he finally finds out their fate, his next destination to seek them out is a surprising one, and one that embiggens the scope of the film even further ...

There's probably been other films that've dealt with the topic of the Armenian genocide but I haven't seen them before, but it's hard to believe there's any that matched the epic scope of this film, even though the film does quite intimately focus on the experience of this one Armenian man. 

Interestingly, it's directed by Fatih Akin, a German Turkish director of whom I've only seen one of his earlier films Im Juli (In July), which starred Moritz Bleibtreu (who makes an unexpected – for me, slightly distracting – cameo here). While the Turks are indisputably the bad guys here, they're not unsophisticatedly vilified; there is a scene set after the end of the war which sees the Turks ignominiously walking out of the town while the Armenians curse and stone them from the pavements (a scene that is of course reminiscent of so many movies set during wartime Germany, including Schindler's List with the Jews walking out and the Germans cursing them and a kid yelling repeatedly "Goodbye Jews!"), when an Armenian manages to thr
ow a stone that hits a Turkish boy squarely in the eye and he bleeds profusely, you kind of feel for that kid for that moment, and so does Nazaret, who puts down the stone he is about to throw.

Also helping with the epic feel of the film are the evocative sets and locations, from the simple, rural Armenian towns in the beginning of the film to the various kinds of desert scenes, moving on to authentic recreations of the early 20th century look of the surprising countries the film takes Nazaret to.

Once again, Tahar Rahim doesn't disappoint. But I knew that already. :)

How Good I Think The Film Is: 7.5/10

Did I Fall Asleep: Don't think so.

REVIEW: The Mule

Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 7:01 am
This is the twenty-sixth film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival.

It's based on a true story, though I haven't been able to find the Wikipedia article about said true story, which I really wanted to because parts of the story strained credibility. Which makes it really interesting!

The year is 1983. The film centres on Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson, who also wrote and co-directed), a really naïve man with an over-protective mother (obviously), who works at a dead-end job at an electronics store. So when his best mate Gavin (Leigh Whannell, whom you might know of as the writer of the Saw trilogy and other James Wan projects) offers him a slightly dangerous job of smuggling 1 kg of drugs through his stomach from Bangkok with the promise of 8,000 Aussie dollars in return, Ray takes it after some amount of hesitation.

Naturally, where the story gets really interesting is when Ray is detained at the Melbourne airport. The customs officers couldn't find anything, so the detectives who take charge of the case, the intentionally violent-prone Croft (the world's favourite Australian character actor, Hugo Weaving) and the default good cop Paris (Ewen Leslie) put Ray up at a hotel room and attempt to wait Ray out ... I mean, the bloke has gotta shit at some point, right? Ray is in on their plans and begins to ... constipate himself. This is as simple and effective as dramatic conflict gets in a movie. It's the opposite of a race against time.

Meanwhile, other things are building up around Ray's story. Gavin is pressured by the drug lord whose drugs are in Ray's stomach to get the drugs and kill his friend Ray, perhaps both at the same time. The lawyer assigned to Ray's case attempts drum up sensationalism about Ray's case to the media, but is entirely blockaded by the yacht race that has the nation gripped. Meanwhile, Ray's over-protective mother attempts to help her son by sending over laxative-laced steak ...

The ordeal Ray goes through in trying to avoid jail by holding his shit in literally (one doesn't often get to type 'holding his shit in literally' often, really) is both awesome and stomach-churning to watch. One could almost smell the fart in the room from the way the detectives cringe their noses, and the sound editors helpfully gave us an audible account of Ray's bowel grumblings.

Despite the waiting nature of the story, the film never sags through its middle act, which is kind of a feat, and as an audience member you get used to the incredulity as the X in 'Day X' goes into double figures. In the third act a number of subplots come together and get resolved in a satisfying if slightly incredible manner, but we come to like Ray (or rather, feel sorry for him) and wish to see him get through this alive.

I did ask the question in my head, given that the film stated that this was based on a true story, how much of what we see happening at the end of the film was true.

Overall, a pretty good story in a pretty good Australian production. Check out the excellently edited trailer below.

How Good I Think The Film Is: 7/10
Did I Fall Asleep: Nope.

REVIEW: 그들이 죽었다 | We Will Be OK

Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm
This is the twenty-fifth film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival.

Gosh, I really regretted picking this film. I didn't remember why I picked it when the movie started as I had forgotten the synopsis, but soon I understood why: the film deals with a group of filmmakers who are finding the business rather difficult to get into.

Except that the whole thing is just rather aimless and boring. Our main character is Sang-seok, who is in ennui. His friend Jae-ho decides that he's not getting enough roles as an actor, so why not make their own films? So Jae-ho pulls together just a few friends who constitute his skeleton crew, but doesn't know a thing about directing, and annoys his DP by not getting location permits first, and perplexes his actress when she saw that they're filming with an iPhone. By the middle of the film the little filmmaking venture Jae-ho is attempting has clearly fallen apart.

Then the film changes direction with its story; it's not a subplot, but a new plot. Sang-seok meets a karaoke girl and kind of uses her as a rebound after finding out that a girl he slept with was totally not interested in him. He goes back home, tries to write a screenplay himself, then tries to kill himself, then coincidentally finds the karaoke girl living not far away from him. The karaoke girl firmly believes that the world really is ending on 12.21.2012, so Sang-seok invites her to spend the last day with him. Except that at the end of that half of that film, in what feels like a spontaneous move on the part of the film's writer-director, that sequence changes into "oh, Sang-seok was just imagining all of that for his screenplay". And then it pulls out a Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World ending, except that it's not at all emotionally satisfying, quite the opposite.

As I mentioned, it's all rather aimless and boring, and it doesn't help that the characters aren't likable, except maybe the karaoke girl (not very, just a bit). For sure it's a low-budget film and its plot is partly dictated by the available resources (which is very little), but ultimately the filmmakers failed to give the film a purpose for the audience to watch it.

There's the fact that the actors all use their own names for their characters; Sang-seok is Kim Sang-seok, and Jae-ho is Baek Jae-ho, who also wrote and directed it. Baek's explanation as to why they did it made sense: if audiences remember the characters then they'll already remember the actors' names. After all, they really are a bunch of filmmakers who are trying to break into the Korean film industry (which is over time resembling more and more of the impenetrability of the Hollywood studio system, spurred on by Korean society's celebrity worship), so one could imagine there's a lot of autobiographical element in the film. ... But what happens if the film is annoying to the audience? Would we think of those names favourably?

There's a scene showing Sang-seok's ennui that led to his misguided suicide attempt. It lasts about 2-3 mins, and felt like forever without a point; could've been done in 20 seconds.

Another random comment: Sang-seok actually looks better in person than in the film. Odd.

Probably the least enjoyable film at the film festival for me.

How Good I Think It Is: 2/10
Did I Fall Asleep: 20 mins at some point in the beginning, and then here and there after that.

REVIEW: National Gallery

at 6:03 pm
This is the twenty-fourth film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival. This was the film I gave up Boyhood for. If only I had been able to get into an earlier screening, I wouldn't have to make such compromises, sigh …

It's nothing more than a documentary that shows us the going-ons of London's National Gallery. I have fond memories of the place, it's probably my favourite of London's museums or galleries. I was never good at art, nor did I have the aptitude for art appreciation, but I remember feeling happy walking past all those paintings and looking at them. 

One of the paintings, a portrait of a young man, had caused me to halt my steps and stare at it longer than usual. I was happy to see it again in the film, made me smile.

Well, having been there, what does this film offer that's special? Besides showing us the gallery space and the visitors who look at the paintings and the guides who explain to the members of the public the stories behind the paintings, it also takes us into the restoration rooms where deteriorating or vandalised paintings are meticulously retouched, the discussion meetings between administrative members of the gallery, a life drawing class with nude models, etc. The film is just that, and more of that, over and over again. It doesn't get more straightforward than that.

The parts I enjoyed the most are the tour narration bits: one female guide always invites her audience to stand in the shoes of one of the characters in the paintings, and then weaves the context and the story within the painting to get people to appreciate the painting in front of them more strongly; another male guide who takes younger children and tweens around naturally takes a more talking-down attitude, but also does it in a way that I personally found engaging.

Other than that, I struggled to stay awake in some parts of the film's nearly 3-hour running time. Director Frederick Wiseman does tend to allow his subjects to talk onscreen. I mean, sure, he shot the entire conversation in all cases, but was there a need to include almost all of it? It's hard to care when you keep having to discover the context and references of what these people are discussing regarding the gallery and the paintings and the people, especially after 2 hours of it and still more to come. 

Perhaps it's something that would be appreciated by people who like people-watching. But personally I would've shortened the film significantly, perhaps down to half, and it wouldn't have lessened the experience for me, possibly enhanced it because I would've kept awake for all of it, because it's not like I gained more from listening to ten minutes' worth of discussions about how, for example, how effective are the members of the public's experience of the gallery (it doesn't help that the woman who was arguing her case was so politely diplomatic that she took ten times longer than necessary to make her point), or five minutes' worth of the pity it is that the placement of a particular painting resulted in a shadow across the top 10% of it but well, there's no better place for it ... as opposed to just a minute or two of those conversations.

Based on one of the scenes in which the National Gallery's budget was being debated, it seems the film was shot in 2011. Did it take that long to edit ... and still be this long?

In a way the film reminded me of Into Great Silence, a German documentary film about French monks in a secluded monastery that is almost the same length as this film that is every bit as patience-demanding as it sounds.

How Good I Think The Film Is: 6.5/10
Did I Fall Asleep: Many times, but in a film like this it actually doesn't matter.

REVIEW: The President

at 5:43 pm
This is the twenty-third film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival. It marks the first time I've seen a Mohsen Makhmalbaf film. It's not too bad.

It's a really nice idea for a film, and one that taps into the zeitgeist. A dictator rules his country with an iron fist. Unfortunately at this point I fell asleep for about fifteen minutes, but in between I was vaguely aware of two women in the dictator's limousine arguing bitchily, presumably the dictator's daughters. I read in a synopsis later on that later on the dictator would order the entire city's lights to be switched off as a prank, then finds to his surprise that it couldn't be switched back on. This was the straw that broke the oppressed citizens back, who finally revolt and launch a revolution to overthrew the dictator.

When I woke up, it was for the scene when the revolution begins. Travelling in the limo with his grandson, who at 5 years old has been trained to be respond to His Royal Highness and calls his grandfather Your Majesty, the people suddenly attack, and an exhilarating and extended sequence with the limo trying to escape the city ensues, a sequence that I found rather unexpected for a low-budget film and one produced in that part of the world. By the end of that chase, the president's bodyguard is dead, the driver has fled, and the president and his grandson are left alone in the middle of a desolate town. The president has effectively lost his country.

For the rest of the film, the president, who along with his grandson have always had everything done for him, is forced to learn how to disguise himself and blend in with the crowd. He traverses the country that formerly belonged to him, pretending to be a street musician (he does know how to play a guitar), and sees the consequences of his reign for the first time. Women are raped and nobody lifts a finger to help. People are so desperately poor, they couldn't possibly have anything to pay taxes with. Political prisoners are tortured, and some who started with a bright future but were unfairly imprisoned came back home and found only despair and heartbreak. The president just looks on, neutrally, and we're never entirely sure whether he is ever empathetic over his former subjects' plight, or just far too concerned with his own life and his grandson's to care.

Through the film we hear radio reports updating the status of the country, with the revolutionaries overrunning the country and the bounty on the president's head increasing at hyper inflationary rates. I often write such radio report updates into the film scripts I wrote, but friends insist that it doesn't work, "too much words"; well, it works here. 

The film is filmed in Georgia and uses Georgian actors, but the film invites us to think about this not as a story set in a specific place or time, but as a story that has been happening a lot lately in various parts of the world, and also since time immemorial. Makhmalbaf did mention that he was not able to make the film in many countries, because of the theme about fallen dictators and their comeuppance, and Georgia was one country where he could.

It's a fairly straightforward film really, but that's not to say that it's any less powerful. What happens in the film isn' anything surprising to us, and in fact some of what happens in the film might be inspired by real life examples; for example, where are dictators found by their angry citizens if not holed up somewhere? Look at Gaddafi.

Yet it's also a story that hasn't been done before for a film, at least not in this way. (I'm obviously not including Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator in the same category!) It can be a bit slow at parts, but it's an interesting film so it's worth catching if it appears anywhere near you.

How Good I Think The Film Is: 7/10
Did I Fall Asleep: 15 mins in the beginning, and probably a minute or two here and there.

REVIEW: The Drop

Friday, October 10, 2014 at 7:23 am

This is the twenty-second film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival. When the 20th Century Fox trumpet music blared to the logo of Fox Searchlight after the lights went down, I almost wanted to cheer: it felt like a lifetime ago since I saw a Hollywood production.

Starring the ever watchable Tom Hardy, a surprising Noomi Rapace (her accent work has improved further), an even more surprising Matthias Schoenaerts (the Belgian actor who appeared in Jacques Audiard's Rust & Bone alongside Marion Cotillard … I didn't think he could do an American role so well), and James Gandolfini in his last film appearance. The cast was the reason I picked this film. I was surprised by what the film turned out to be.

Watching the trailer, one might expect to see a slow-burn suspense drama about Tom Hardy's character, Bob facing increasingly tense and threatening situations to his life and the people around him. In fact, that description is largely true, except the film is even slower-burn than that, if that's possible, to the point that really, not much is happening, or just barely.

The 'drop' refers to gangsters transferring money across town but using busy bars such as the one Bob works in as a drop and switch point for the cash that comes in in envelopes perfunctorily hidden by newspapers. Bob's partner in running the place is Marv (Gandolfini), though Bob seems to do all the work. One day they are robbed, and the Chechen gangsters who are doing all that money-transferring are not pleased. This is the first twenty minutes of the film, after that the whole idea of the 'drop' becomes somewhat secondary as a plot … I mean, it's still pivotal to the major turning points of the film that happens later, but we're barely at the bar for the middle hour of the film.

In fact, the movie spends time with Bob … learning how to take care of a pitbull puppy he found in a dumpster. And also the woman, Nadia, whose dumpster Bob pulled the puppy out of … Nadia is sweet but untrusting of men, and she has good reasons. Then there's the nosey detective (John Ortiz) whose MO in questioning witnesses consists of asking about everyday things before switching to crime-related question he wanted to ask suddenly so as to disorientate the witness. And then there's Eric Deeds (Schoenaerts), who goes around making strange threats, like wanting the puppy back from Bob (in order to abuse it more), or else he'll get it back anyway and then he'll beat it to death. He's creepy, threatening, and generated a few 'wtf' moments.

If it's a character piece, it's just not very interesting to watch. I fell asleep a couple of times. Sure, Tom Hardy sunk into his character brilliantly here, and had already proved in Locke that even if he's the only person onscreen for 70 mins we'd still watch him. He plays Bob as a simple-natured, good-hearted man until mounting pressure from circumstances around him, which took the entire film to  build up to, finally cracks out a different side of him, one wholly unexpected to come from that character … and this will likely be true even if you've read this sentence.

As for the rest of the actors, all good ones, in a story where most scenes constitute dialogue discussing what has happened and speculating what might happen (with a cute pitbull puppy running around from time to time) and the occasional threatening scene by various characters, there's really not much for the actors to play with to stand out from.

It's really an odd one. I don't know whether to recommend it. Well, maybe watch it if you like all the actors.

How Good I Think It Is: 6.5/10
Did I Fall Asleep: Inevitably, yes, for a few minutes.

REVIEW: Paper Planes

at 7:15 am
This is the twenty-first film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival.

A children's movie with a simple story. Dylan lives with his father, who is depressed after his wife's recent death and just stays at home and watch TV all day long, even though his own son has moved on, creating a frustrating household for Dylan. By chance, Dylan is suddenly found to have a special talent for throwing paper planes, he is encouraged to try for the national championships in Sydney. The rest of the film is about how he prepares for the championships, his frustrating relationship with his father, how he deals with the arrogant bully (there's always one in such films), and how he courts the Japanese girl who happens to be the paper plane champion representing her country.

It's all fairly predictable stuff, but with young actor Ed Oxenbould virtually carrying the entire film on his shoulders (he's there in almost every scene of the film) but doing so capably, it's a nice enough encouraging film for kids that age. I do question the characters written for Sam Worthington, who plays Dylan's dad, and for David Wenham, who plays the bully's dad. Worthington's character is so inexplicably irresponsible here that I thought there might be further revelations later in the film for such a behaviour, but no, he's just being all depressed and shit coz his wife died, to the point that he would rather sit at home than attend his son's competitions, and then grounds his son when the son takes some money in order to pay for his bus fare to go for the competition himself, since he himself wasn't in the mood to take him to it. … What the hell? Under the circumstances I don't think Worthington could be blamed for what is clearly a terribly written role.

Even worse is Wenham, who, untypically for bully dads isn't an asshole, but is a popular golfer who dishes out good advice for his son, but his son doesn't listen to him, and he doesn't chastise his son about it, and seems almost indifferent to it all. Is he a good or bad dad? How about both? There seems to be almost no point for his character to be in the film; he has one job just before the climax, to dish out platitudes to help Dylan, technically his son's competitor, to figure some things out. In fact his platitudes weren't clear, but Dylan nods knowingly anyway as if he understood (I certainly didn't).

I also have a problem with how the bully (portrayed to the maximum level of arrogance by Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke) is dealt with by the plot. He spends the whole film so assured of his abilities to win that he rubs everybody the wrong way, and in the end loses (this despite pushing Dylan off the staircase and causing Dylan to sprain his wrist, an incident that also does not bear any consequences), and just because he lost he suddenly becomes reformed? Clearly there's a lesson to learn here about forgiveness and admitting your own mistakes, but it was not dealt with at all. He just meekly takes his third place; first act him would have thrown a massive tantrum.

The advice dished out by the Japanese girl to Dylan is pretty good though.

The music in the film is rousing and energetic almost all the time, almost too much. The use of Japanese drums did come in at a perfect time though, not used too early, and generated a strong feeling of 'yeah, let's do this!' in the audience. The visual effects work isn't too obvious.

How Good I Think It Is: 6.5/10
Did I Fall Asleep: Nope.

REVIEW: 카트 | Cart

at 7:10 am
This is the twentieth film I saw at the 19th Busan International Film Festival.

Inspired by true events, the story is about a group of female contractual employees of a supermarket named The Mart, cashiers and cleaners mostly, who were unfairly terminated before their expected termination date, in order to make way for cheaper and more efficient "outsourcing" (it's a term bandied about but I didn't fully understand how outsourcing would work for these jobs, not from the English subtitles anyway). 

Now, these are working class ladies, and there's something about middle-aged and older Korean women which inspires certain emotions: they generally work really hard without complaint, are very maternal figures, and depending on the scene are lightning rods for generating tearjerking moments or respect and admiration.

And what transpires is that a couple of mothers (one a single mother, the other has a husband so absent in their lives that she feels like one) bandied together to form a union with all the terminated female employees. The union is naturally ignored by the company (of whom we only see that particular supermarket's general managers and supervisors, and we get the sense that the larger corporation behind them is applying pressure on them to sort things out).

What to do? The ladies stage a strike, effectively shutting down The Mart. The managers (all men) are taken aback. Since when do women do things like that? They're not supposed to have the balls for it. No biggie, they'll just wait them out. And so the women find themselves living permanently in the supermarket; to entertain themselves they cook and sing and share sad stories about their lives. We get a sense that this isn't a high-paying job, but it's what little they have to support their families. These are familiar themes for movies, of course (shares themes with Norma Rae and Made In Dagenham), and one that isn't surprising for Korean society, but it is the first time for me watching it in a Korean film.
After many days, the police are sent in to forcibly pull the women out. I was waiting for a scene where an older lady collapses from the assault … and of course I wasn't disappointed. :p The movement seems doomed, except that an assistant supervisor, seeing his own days numbered, as are the other regular workers of the supermarket, combines forces with the women to continue the protest until they all get their jobs back.

From this point onwards, the film starts to meander. I assume the film is trying to stay true to true events, because what happens is nothing much. The employees continue their protest in the face of utter indifference not just from the company but also from the customers who come to buy their groceries everyday without acknowledging the workers in front of them. There were at least two heart-tugging riot scenes, but never mind that the customers just stepped back, they were never shown sympathising with the cause of the workers. The only time you hear the customers, they are complaining that this is inconveniencing their lives.

In fact, an early scene with a customer did make my blood boil. The single mother cashier is doing her job of checking the upper class woman customer's items, which offended the woman who says she felt like she is being accused of stealing. She complains so high up that she returns with her son to force the single mother cashier to kneel down and apologise to her. That scene made me so angry I wanted to see the woman hacked down to pieces.

There's also a subplot involving the mother with the absent husband and her mildly estranged son, which plays out conventionally: she's really nice and works hard for the family but is often oblivious to what her son is thinking about, so the son is a complete arse and not respecting her in the beginning but by the end he understands her and supports her. The actor who plays the son is some guy from some band called EXO, and when he appeared on stage with the other actors the thousands of girls in the auditorium were screaming out their lungs as if it's Robert Pattinson (people had to cover their ears). His acting was decent, but a couple of times when he was slapped onscreen the thousands of girls flinched, and you can imagine how audible that is. I don't get Korean celebrity worship. A film festival volunteer, Korean herself, rolled her eyes hard *urgh* when I mentioned it – "I don't understand that either," she says.

Ultimately, while the film is well-intentioned and the acting was good enough all across the board, I felt the film wasn't tight enough, the tension and conflict dissipated before the halfway point and never quite regained. Perhaps the film is accurate in how it portrays the way these movements fizzle out after enough weeks and months go by, when the oppressors are able to wait out the protestors, who feel that they are not achieving much and thus lose the momentum and the motivation to continue. The film does end with one last confrontation scene that ends not with a resolution, but a depressing note that in real life the employees only got half their demands.

How Good I Think It Is: 6.5/10

Did I Fall Asleep: One of the advantages of watching a film at the Open Cinema – it's pretty hard to fall asleep, with the cold and the din from the street.

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