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The Asian Women's Blog Carnival, edited by [livejournal.com profile] ciderpress, is up.


A few music reviews & mp3s:

A while back I listened to the soundtrack of Delhi-6, AR Rahman's latest project. It's better than the work he did in Slumdog Millionaire, but I don't think that's saying much. There are a couple of songs that I like, but there's nothing that blows my mind, and somehow after all this time of churning out soundtracks that are good rather than great, I still expect that of him, the absolute brilliance of another Dil Se or Roja. He's the one that singlehandedly got me interested in Bollywood pop, but now I wonder if gaining so much mainstream recognition has permanently hampered his ability to produce something that amazing again. And, even with the songs I liked in this soundtrack, such as Masakali - what I found great were the lyrics and the way they were sung, which had little to do with him and everything to do with Prasoon Joshi and Mohit Chauhan, while the production, which was all his, reminded me a lot of Uye Udi Udi Udi from Saathiya, which he had released years ago (and which I like more!), and all this time he couldn't come up with a new sound? I get the impression that he's got a stock of five or six formulas that he uses again and again, with a little tweaking here and there, and sometimes it's the tweaks I find jarring and questionable because they don't seem well thought out. Also, this album seems to be getting rave reviews everywhere, which just makes me dislike it all the more.

That said, I did adore Rehna Tu. It flowed so smoothly, seemed at once serious and whimsical and bemused. Also, I cannot believe that's AR Rahman singing, and I would not mind BW love songs so much if they all had lyrics such as this.

And now, the song that I'm currently head-over-heels in love with: Maan Bawra, sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, produced by Afsar-Sajid, written by Shahab Allahabadi, from the movie Aasma. It was the only song I liked in that movie soundtrack, but I liked it to a scary, scary degree. It has a somewhat conventional arrangement, though one that proves that conventional arrangements can be the best! Because the melody is beautiful, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is always amazing, and the lyrics make me go so starry-eyed. I would love BW love songs if they all had lyrics such as this. The first couple of verses translated (I think. my Urdu is not the best ^^;;):

my restless heart searches for you
the scales of gaining and losing
all my life's wishes
this sky this place
it all seems still

the innocent heart was lost
sometime it stopped beating
a madman sitting having lost his senses
life is crying
talking to myself and laughing
in a crowd, feeling alone
the beating of the waves sounding between my breaths


I just caught up on all twenty scanlated volumes of Nana and I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT THE THINGS THAT HAPPENED HAPPENED. ANY OF THEM BUT ESPECIALLY ONE. I want to review this because it's one of those manga that gets more and more compelling as it goes on, which shouldn't be possible after a while, but I am still dumbfounded and gaping and all that is coming out is incoherent caps.

(Also, Yazawa Ai has done a series with Courtney Love?? HOW SCARY.)

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Just watched the Pakistani (I cannot say Lollywood seriously) movie Khuda Ke Liye, which deals with both religious extremism and racial profiling. I didn't like it as much as I was expecting to. There were parts where the acting was awful (pretty much all the England scenes), some of the casting was questionable, and the script could've been tightened considerably. Also, I didn't like the scenes where Mansoor was detained in an American prison, because they felt exaggerated and unrealistic. What's happening is already so awful, the way the US is imprisoning and torturing individuals it decides are terrorists. There is no need to present it as even worse - doing so belittles the gravity of the situation, makes reality seem okay.

That said, I really liked a couple of the songs on the soundtrack.

Mahi Vay
The spoken words BUG ME. The only time they ever work for me is in hip-hop or R&B. In songs like this they're distracting; if I wanted to listen to poetry I would read it (and the lyrics would be a lot more meaningful than these). That said, I love the production, and the last minute and half of the song got to me in a way I can't even explain. One of those things that makes my skin tighten and toes curl; I've listened to this song over & over again and I still don't know why.

Allah Hoo
The beginning reminds me of the Muslim call for prayer, and the singer's voice is resonant and gorgeous. I also like the way its produced, the beats that kick in after the first minute, how trance-like the production becomes.

This is one of my favorite songs ever, from a movie that was released a few years ago whose name I can't remember:

Kailash Kher - Allah Ke Bande

Minimal production, just the singer and a guitar. The singer's voice is so raw, and the lyrics are amazing. The imagery slays me. An angel whose wings have been torn and broken, laughing while he falls. It should be depressing, but the melody, Kailash Kher's voice - it soars, even when he's singing girta hua woh asmaan se/aakar gira zameen par (falling from the sky/falling to the ground), and near the end it sounds more like a celebration than anything else.

lyrics )
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I was expecting a lot from the drama, because it had universally rave reviews, and the plot seemed different and intriguing - a woman detective in the Chosun Dynasty who solves crime while dealing with the stigma of being both a woman and of low-status. Then I watched the first episode, and was alternately bored and amused (for all the wrong reasons). They used wire-action for the fight scenes, the kind of thing you'd see in wuxia movies and dramas where people walk up walls and trees and fly, rather than the more realistic (comparatively) martial arts style that I've gotten used to seeing in kdramas, and for me personally it didn't work. I kept on having flashbacks to the Prince of Tennis and the increasingly insane tennis moves that Ryoma used. I'm not sure why I had such a negative reaction, because the other times when I've seen this style it's worked for me, but here I found it obvious and boring. All the slow motion flying in space when they keep the same posture for seconds on end, predictable and uninspiring martial arts moves in between the special effects, and in one scene where they were playing a version of polo the heroine did these gravity-defying acrobatics that I just gaped at because, y'know, it's really not necessary to do multiple mid-air cartwheels in order to hit a ball across a goal - you could just hit it. They meant to portray the heroine as cool and kick-ass in that scene, and all I could think was that they were trying way too hard, and for that and other reasons, such as the fact that at times she could be very servile, I ended up disliking her. Also, the romance bits bored me. The silent pining for each other only works for me when (a) I'm already invested in both the characters and (b) it's very subtle, and I have to figure it out on my own. Here it wasn't subtle at all, and it came at a time when I wasn't at all invested in the characters - quite the opposite, in fact.

The Legend/Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi/Four Gods
cut for length; no major spoilers )

An eighty-one episode historical kdrama. I'm only on episode eight, and am somewhat surprised by how much I'm liking this so far, considering that I don't care much for the romance that was featured in the first few episodes or Jumong, the lead. I think its because it feels like we're not supposed to like Jumong right now, and also there was enough political intrigue and martial arts to keep me entertained in between the romance, and I'm really curious about how well they're able to do the hero arc. The only major negative note I have right now - I hatehateHATE how passively accepting the ex-priestess is, and it looks like they're setting her up to be a major love interest. I weep.

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Of the four kdramas I've watched recently, three have had a "hero fakes his own death thus causing major trauma to his loved ones and when his loved ones find out (usually years later) they forgive him completely" storyline*, two have had a "hero experiences temporary amnesia" storyline, and all four have had a love triangle. I used to think that Bollywood could get cheesy and melodramatic; I now realize that I had no idea what those words meant.

more on Hong Gil Dong:
This drama really bugs me, because there were times when the writing and dialogue and action were so clever and fantastic and deep, which just made the negatives all the more glaring. One of the things I still can't get over is how stupid they made Yi Nok, for no reason other than to get some laughs out of the ridiculous predicaments she got herself in and had to be rescued from. I don't find the stupid infantile girl portrayal funny, in the same way I wouldn't find exaggerated portrayals of dirty savage indians funny. It's magnifying and presenting negative societal prejudices in ways that reinforces them, which I find annoying at the least and infuriating at the worst. I didn't find it infuriating in this drama, just annoying, because the rest of the females on the show were clever (sometimes). But the fact remains that Yi Nok was the heroine, the one with the most screentime, the one that the guys ended up falling for, the one that you were supposed to identify with and sympathize with the most. I feel like the message a girl watching this show goes away with is that brains count for nothing (which is a good thing because girls have fewer than guys!), that acting stupid and cheerful is the most failsafe method of being desired and loved. And that the creators of this drama were women just makes it all the more wtfish.

more on Time of Dog & Wolf:
I've realized that if Lee Junki hadn't starred in this drama, I wouldn't have liked it very much, and would probably have dropped it after the first few eps. No one else angsts as prettily as Lee Junki does (and that's including the Blue Spring dude), and if I hadn't had that to distract me I might've gone crazy from trying to reconcile all the plotholes and could never have forgiven the sheer amount of crazyness that all the cast engaged in. As it is, I still feel like I should make a manual on things that Korean secret agents (and those associated with them) should and shouldn't do. The little things like:
(a) if you're working undercover, you probably don't want to leave a disk that has information about your real identity lying around where anyone could find it.
(b) if you're a good guy tailing the bad guys, you probably don't want to confront them in their territory without any backup and then, instead of running away when you find you're outnumbered 40 to 1, start yelling at them.
(c) if someone that's always manipulated and lied to you tells you to do something, you probably shouldn't do it.
(d) if someone you care about seems like he might be working undercover, you probably shouldn't demand that he reveal his real identity to you where others could hear or chase him around or generally act in ways that are likely to get him killed.

I could go on and on. But, yes, I like to think that kdramas have made me a more tolerant and forgiving individual, because after watching them real people are starting to seem like emotional and intellectual geniuses.

* to make matters worse, it is often presented as the hero doing something noble and self-sacrificing, when in any reality that is not kdrama reality such a thing would be interpreted as dumb and unnecessary. then again, that is true of a lot of things that happen in kdrama reality, so.
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Finally, a kdrama I feel like pimping! A thorough review of Time of Dog & Wolf can be found in this soompi thread, but here's the basic non-spoilery storyline: When he's young, Suhyeon's mother is killed in front of his eyes by Cheongbang, a Thai criminal syndicate. Suhyeon gets adopted into an NIS agent's family (from what I can gather from watching this series NIS is Korea's FBI/CIA equivalent) and grows up to be an NIS agent, and in a quest for revenge infiltrates the Cheongbang.

I didn't expect to enjoy this drama this much. The first episode I thought was slow, and later on there was a love triangle between Suhyeon and his adopted brother and Suhyeon's childhood friend (who turns out to be the daughter of the leader of Cheongbang, the guy who killed Suhyeon's mother, instant contrived angst right there) that I found boring (though, to be honest, that's true of 98% of the romance stories I come across). But, ohman, Suhyeon was just so awesomely dysfunctional and messed up, and a third of the way through there's a plot twist that should fall flat on its face but that ends up working beautifully. I'm on ep13 right now and I can't wait to see what happens next. The tension! The intrigue! The spies and double-spies and double-crossings!

slight spoilers )

Also, it doesn't hurt that Suhyeon is played by Lee Junki, the pretty boy in the King and the Clown, who imo looks even better in this series.

example:Read more... )
I almost feel like making an "isn't lee junki awesome *_*" tag for this journal now.

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I've been watching a lot of kdramas recently, and have mixed feelings about them. I like them more than jdramas because they seem more professional, from the picture quality to the writing to the acting, and for the most part the characterization doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out. But at the same time, the pacing and quality of kdramas is very uneven. I really liked both Hong Gil Dong and The Legend in the beginning, but in the second half, each episode they progressively got worse, and with The Legend, by the end even the characters I'd adored left me indifferent, and the storylines I'd found interesting had somehow turned so dull.

I'm currently watching Time of Dog & Wolf, which aside from the romance story I'm finding very interesting (and it totally doesn't hurt that the guy in the king & the clown is the lead - so much eye-candy XD). I can't really rec it, though, because I'm only up to episode seven, and who knows if it will degenerate the same way as the others have done.

Anyway, review.

Hong Gil Dong's somewhat of a Robin Hood tale (though, as [livejournal.com profile] tarigwaemir pointed out in the comments, isn't an adaptation of the story but is based on a Korean novel) set in an ancient korean period that reminds me of France before the revolution, where the nobles lived in luxury on the back of the peasants. Hong Gil Dong's the illegitimate son of a noble, but because of inheritance laws is regarded as little better than a slave. For most of the first episode he goes around wrecking havoc and generally acting as a frat boy on kung-fu steroids; then various stuff happens, such as him getting framed for robbery then murder then treason, and he undergoes a Joseph Campbell-type transformation and becomes a hero.

The thing that makes this drama great is how compelling and believable and non-cliche HGD's transformation is, how seamlessly the drama goes from moments of complete hilarity to heartbreak, and how clever the dialogue and writing is. The characterization, with one exception, is completely awesome. Aside from HGD there is also the prince trying to lead a revolution against his insane brother, and the story is as much about him becoming a king as about HGD becoming a hero, and the way these two interacted, how they prodded and pushed and challenged each other, was amazing. One of my favorite moments in the series is their first swordfight (you can find a screencap of it, as well as the prince, in this post) which is probably the best fight scene I've seen ever.

I said that the characterization, with one exception, was awesome. The exception was the female lead, Yi Nok. I liked her in the first couple of episodes, where with her grandfather she was trying to trick the townspeople into buying bogus medicine. But after that she become so extremely stupid, and I'm talking stupid in a 'think of all the blonde jokes you've ever heard and multiply them by a hundred' way. This is totally not an exaggeration, btw. As just one example, a scene where Yi Nok's rescuer is trying to keep his identity secret:

slight spoiler )

...and that is not even the worst of it. I keyboard mash. A lot.

But, on the whole, in the beginning, I loved this drama, and was ready to rec it with glowy-eyed praise, until I stumbled over later developments, which made me hate it. major, MAJOR spoilers ahead )


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