Okja (2017)

Impression: What a strange and imagination-filled adventure this movie is? I am not sure what category to even place it in. It’s a little bit sci-fi-ish, a little kids-movie adventure, a little over-the top comedy, a little action, and a little vegetarian. ūüôā ¬†I definitely had second thoughts about eating pork in my Chinese food the day after seeing it. So if its goal is to use cuteness to make you question eating meat, it has succeeded. This is a new film from the director of Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho. Thankfully, his love of Tilda Swinton as a villain has not subsided. While in that movie she built a character that she described as a mix of Margaret Thatcher, Colonel Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler and Silvio Berlusconi, in this one she is more like a female Donald Trump with an even more evil twin sister which he is trying to prove his worth to, while running a pig butchering empire marketed by cute piglets. But this is peripheral. At the center of the story is Okja, a very cute super pig raised by a farmer and his grand daughter in the Korean mountains. Ten years later, the Mirando¬†Corporation (cleverly named) who gave them the piglet in a marketing ploy wants it back, for more marketing, and to sell its meat. While the farmer acquiesces, the girl will not let her best friend go, and sets on an adventure to bring Okja back home. She runs into an animal activist cell whose leader is played by Paul Dano (always best cast as a fanatic leader!). They are mostly on her side, but also have some agendas of their own. ¬†Their ambiguous relationship to violence is well portrayed: on the one hand they want to avoid pain to all living things, on the other, they are thirsty to beat up people who stand in their way and instigate violent clashes with police. Reading other reviews, some people did not find the special effects all that successful, but I thought the CGI was very realistic, and I totally bought Okja as a central character in this movie. ¬†I especially liked the use of a kids adventure and over-the-top action movie trope to tell a story of corporate greed. The way genres (which I would otherwise think are pretty incompatible) were blended was surprising, but mostly, the wild imagination that was on display throughout the film was thrilling.

Facts:¬†A “super piglet” grows up care-free with a human girl best friend roaming the mountains of Korea, until the food industry wants it back… as food.

Daytime Drinking (2008)

Impression: A very low budget Korean movie which follows a guy who recently broke up with his girlfriend through a slew of very unfortunate misunderstandings. ¬†The comedy is very understated. First his friends ditch him during their planned vacation to cheer him up, so he ends up¬†vacationing ¬†(and drinking) on his own. Then, he ends up at the wrong cabin and meets a crazy girl who he tries to impress. But, her boyfriend keeps showing up. Eventually the lead character¬†ends up without any clothes¬†in the freezing cold in the middle of nowhere, and has to hitchhike his way out. I feel like if this movie had been¬†in english it would have long ago become a slacker cult classic. There is not much talking, but a lot of shots of him looking miserable and waiting, or walking, and any interaction with people just leaves him feeling worse. As the title suggests, there is also a lot of drinking, which also doesn’t end up making him feel any better. I really liked the feel of this film, very low key and unassuming, but also very funny and relatable.

Facts: A guy tries to get over a break-up with his girlfriend, with a road trip and a lot of drinking, gets himself into a lot of funny situations.

The Handmaiden (2016)

Impression: This movie ticks so many boxes for the elements I like in movies: beautiful people in beautiful places, unexpected twists and turns, funny¬†and weird. During the first hour you think you know where it’s going: it seems like a very beautiful, but straight forward, and slightly cheesy period piece. Once part 2 starts, you realize that everything that just happened can be completely reinterpreted with a help of a few pieces of background information you’ve just been given and nothing is as it seems. ¬†A sign of a great movie is when a run time of almost 3 hours feels like no time at all has passed. This is one of those movies.
Facts:  A Korean/Japanese period piece/comedy with unexpected twists and turns reminiscent of The Sting, but with a lot more explicit sex scenes and general weirdness.
Extra: I saw this one as well at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. I  was sitting next to this Haitian couple and during the sex scenes only, the woman felt compelled to narrate and comment on what was going on in great detail, which made it a little awkward.