Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Recent Reviews

I have recently finished a few books and movies that deserve reviews.

1. FOLK TALES FROM KOREA. This is a fun collection of folk tales - mostly from oral sources. I had a few surprises as I read. Many of the tales have people turning into animals or animals turning into humans - mostly foxes and tigers - always evil figures. After many of the stories, I found myself scratching my head saying, "And the point was ...?" There is a great emphasis on respect for elders, finding out hidden truths, and success of underdogs. Some of the stories would make great movies (as I'm sure they already have). Some were just plain silly and fun, like the story of General Pumpkin who decimated whole armies with his flatulence (powered by massive consumption of pumpkins)!

2. NORTH KOREA. This book, written by Korean scholar Bruce Cummings, left me very sad at how badly the USA has messed up our relationship with North Korea. After reading this book, I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of our neighbors to the North. In many ways, their actions and attitudes are very understandable given our mostly hostile stance toward them. I was deeply surprised that atomic weapons were a regular part of our war strategy in Korea clear through the 90's (and maybe still - though there are no nuclear weapons on US bases in South Korea now). I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand Korea (North or South).

3. CHINATOWN (#21 on AFI's top 100 movies of all time). This is a very good tragedy, staring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. It's kind of a story about how messed up life can be sometimes. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and noble actions, everything goes wrong and the bad people get just what they want. That sucks, but it's true. This story is beautifully crafted and poignantly depicted. However, it still lacks the moral power that I really want in a movie, so it loses a star on that count. I'll give it 4Js.

(Only 4 movies left out of the top 25. Making progress.)
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