South Korea's Highly Entertaining Exports
'Squid Game' further illustrates the strength of the country's entertainment and film industry.
My daughter and I are about two thirds of the way through Squid Game, Netflix’s smash-hit South Korean television series that has taken the pop-culture world by storm. And I must say that the show — thus far, anyway — has lived up to its hype as an engrossing horror-thriller.
The story follows characters from different walks of life who are all deeply in financial debt. Each has been approached and invited to participate in a series of children’s games at a secret, undisclosed location with the grand-prize winners receiving an enormous, life-changing cash payout. What the participants don’t understand when they sign up, however, is that losing not only means elimination, but also execution.
I don’t want to get much more into the plot since I’d rather not spoil it for anyone. I’ll just say that while the show is quite violent (as you’d probably imagine), it shines in how it illustrates the sometimes forgotten value of human life, the desperation of individuals in a competitive culture, and agonizing no-easy-answer moral dilemmas.
These bluntly honest themes are common with other high-quality South Korean offerings, including the extraordinary Bong Joon Ho film, Parasite, which won Best Picture at last year’s Oscars.
I loved Parasite, and though it may have been the movie that drew major international attention to South Korea’s entertainment and film industry, I’ve been marveling at it for some time, beginning with 2013’s Snowpiercer (also from Bong Joon Ho).
Snowpiercer (which later spawned a television series) is a wildly imaginative post-apocalyptic flick starring Chris Evans. It was based on a French graphic novel of the same name, and tells the story of passengers who boarded a high-tech, motion-sufficient train just as a climate-altering experiment inadvertently sent the planet into another ice-age. The passengers are now the last living humans, traveling the globe with the poor among them contained and suffering in the rear train cars, while the affluent enjoy the over-the-top luxuries of the forward compartments.
Though Snowpiercer isn’t for everyone (some of my friends think it’s terrible), I think it’s freakin’ brilliant, with some scenes and societal narratives even rising to what I’d consider poetry.
Do you like the zombie genre? If so, you’ll want to check out another South Korean “train” movie: Train to Busan.
The Sang-ho Yeon film is a ton of fun. It’s heavy on action and features those fast-moving, fast-turning zombies, the kind of which we first saw in 28 Days Later. Only, the South Korean actors are way more physical and spazzy.
But if you’re looking for a good place to start, and haven’t given it a go yet, check out Squid Game. You should know after the first episode whether you want to stick with it until the end. I’m guessing you will.
Have a favorite foreign film or television show? Let me know what it is in an email, or in the comment section below.
Last week, advance review copies of Restitution arrived in the mail. ARCs are essentially pre-release promotional copies used to generate early interest and solicit reviews. Though they’re not the final product, and certainly subject to last-minute changes, there’s something very rewarding from an author’s perspective about getting to finally see the physical copies and hold them in your hand.
I’ve already sent a few copies to notable folks, in hopes of generating some blurbs (including for the back cover), but I also took about 50 of them with me to a little thing called FallCon…
Last weekend I represented my book publisher at FallCon, an annual bookseller event put on by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association. The MPIBA represents hundreds of independent bookstores in 13 western and mid-western states, including Colorado. This year’s event was held at the Renaissance Denver Central Park Hotel.
Having done lots of in-store signings over the years, I knew some of the bookstore reps (including the great Nicole Sullivan, founder of BookBar in Denver), but was meeting most for the first time. I enjoyed the experience, especially an evening “speed dating” event, where I and twelve other authors rotated from one table of booksellers to the next, delivering 4-minute pitches for our books. It was great way of getting our work in front of indie stores who may not have otherwise given our books a look.
I also enjoyed getting to meet and hang out with a couple of fellow BQB authors I’d previously only talked to digitally: W. Aaron Vandiver who wrote Under a Poacher’s Moon, and Lisa Clonch Tschauner who wrote Reclamation.
What a bunch of great looking covers!
Obligatory Dog Shot
Learning to roll his “R”s.
‘Daly Grind’ readers have probably figured out by now that I’m not really into new music. I’m mostly a fan of 70s and 90s rock, and there aren’t many young artists who catch my ear. One exception is an indie folk rocker from the UK named Jake Bugg… though I admit that a big part of his appeal is that he has a very retro sound.
Bugg first came on to my radar when his great tune “Trouble Town” served as the theme song of the British crime-drama series, Happy Valley. It was so old-school that I figured it had actually been recorded in the late 60s or early 70s, and had somehow just previously escaped my notice. But nope, it was released in 2012… when Bugg was just 18 years old.
His first few albums were great, though I was disappointed when he fairly recently took his sound in more of a pop direction. Before that happened, his label released the 10-inch “Messed Up Kids” EP that included some material off his second full-length album, plus some exclusive stuff.
One of those exclusives was the song, “Strange Creatures,” which I first heard live when I saw him at a small venue in Denver in 2018. It became one of my favorite songs by him.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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