My Beautiful Girl Mari

In the Korean animated film, My Beautiful Girl Mari, adult Nam-woo remembers his 12 year old self, who struggled with coping with his mom’s new boyfriend who’s awkwardly trying to win him over after his father dies. At school he encounters trouble from a bullying snarky girl. His one friend Jun-ho is even more bungling and awkward than Nam-woo, but Jun-ho is soon to leave for school in Seoul.

While at a stationery store with Jun-ho, Nan-woo discovers a magical marble while enables him to escape to a lyrical, pastel fantasy land inhabited by an ethereal blond girl. Yes, that sounds very non-PC, but it’s cool and Nam-woo does deserve some respite.

The film is quite realistic in portraying issues modern Korea teens face – uncertainty with fragile families, aging grand parents, and school bullies.

The art is done using Illustrator and has a simple look. It did look like something many people could achieve with a bit of training, but that’s not bad. I liked that the animators made the most of cost-effective tools. The scenery was authentic. I liked that in some instances the setting was an old, dilapidated light house. In American animation, everything seems so new and perfect. In My Beautiful Girl Mari most of the scenes just looked real.

This 2002 can be enjoyed by age 11 and up. Made in 2002, it proved that Korea has a lot to offer the world of animation.

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.

Since the second film in The Hunger Games series is out in China, I thought I’d check out the first film and possibly go to the theater for the second. The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, a strong, brave young woman living in a bleak dystopia. In her country every year two young people are chosen to compete in a brutal competition for survival. Years ago there was an uprising and after it’s put down, the government starts these intimidating games to keep citizens in fear.

When Katniss’ 8 year old sister is chosen, she volunteers to take her place. It’s a rare occurrence that generates a lot of notice. The boy from the district is Peeta, a baker’s son who’s watched Katniss from afar for some time. Their relationship is icy and complex. Katiss and Peeta are taken to the capital city, which reminded me of a high octane Oz. Very sleek and modern in a colorful, yet cold way.

After some training, a make over and opening ceremonies the games begin. Mentors help Katniss and the others but it’s unclear whom to trust. Katniss is a strong woman and expert archer, but her opponents are tough and mostly brutal.

The city folk dress in vibrant colors, while the villagers are in drab grays and blues

The city folk dress in vibrant colors, while the villagers are in drab grays and blues

While Lawrence did a fine job with the role, the story itself left me cold. Many scenes are brutal as characters, who weren’t well drawn to begin with get slaughtered. While I understand the concept of dystopian sci fi and realize that these stories are allegories, I felt there wasn’t a strong message here. Also, the characters lacked development. I never knew as much as I wanted to know about Katniss. I felt I was teased so I would watch the next film. If I’m going to be exposed to people brutally killing each other, I insist on getting more of a reason. My guess is the pay off comes in the final book and that the answer would only satisfy younger viewers and readers, who haven’t seen as much history or as many Orwellian tales.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was a much better film in this genre. Watch that (again). The book might be better as Katniss is often on her own in the film. Perhaps the book has a lot of her thoughts.

One Tree Hill

This teenage soap is something of a guilty pleasure for me. I’m hooked, yet I know this is far from top drawer drama. It’s not as good as The Gilmore Girls or Everwood but this look at a clique of high school kids in North Carolina is satisfying enough. The premise is original. Half brothers, one beloved, the other abandoned begin as rivals. Nathan grew up with his father and mother with all the affluence of the upper middle class, while Lucas and his mother Karen, have struggled to make ends meet since Karen was blown off by Dan her high school boyfriend.

Seventeen years later wounds and rivalry are still acute. Dan is a smug, over-privileged jerk who makes a good villain. Girl next door Haley, edgy artistic Peyton and party girl Brooke provide romantic interest for the boys. There’s all the high drama of a soap: car accidents, elopements, betrayals, murders, teen pregnancy, single parenthood, you name it.

I’m just in the middle of season 4. I’d have missed the show entirely if it weren’t for Sally’s urging and DVDs.

Certain aspects of the show are so far fetched. In an era of hover parents, only Dan is obsessed with his favorite son. Peyton’s father is usually at sea and her mother’s dead. Brooke’s rich parents are either traveling, off-camera arguing or in California where they relocate. Jake, a teen single father, has parents who take no part in his custody battle and very little in helping with his daughter. Rachel joins the cast in season 3 and it’s a mystery why her parents bought a house in Tree Hill as they too are vagabonds never coming home. Who tends the lawn? Who gets a repairperson? These kids never have to deal with any homeowner problems.

Oh, I really can’t believe that while Peyton drove all night to check on her father’s safety when she learned his ship was in a storm, he doesn’t show up for weeks when a creepy imposter stalks and attacks her.  When he is on camera, Mr. Sawyer is a normal concerned father. Implausible.

I do love the literary quotations that often begin or end an episode. I’ve posted a page of them at Ruined for Life.