Character driven stories I've seen recently

1. After the Wedding (2007) --A surprisingly down-to-earth melodrama. Starting in India, Jacob is a boarding school teacher for poor boys. To get funding for the school, he flies to Denmark (his home country) to meet with Jorgen, a successful businessman. Jorgen invites Jacob to his daughter's wedding while he mulls over whether to donate money to the school. At the wedding, Jacob realizes Jorgen is married to his old flame Helene and that the daughter is actually his daughter with Helene (of course). This has all the potential to turn ridiculous, but the interactions between the characters is so simple and honest, that it's hard to dismiss the emotionality of many of the scenes. The rest of the film deals with Jacob reacquainting himself with his old love, developing a relationship with his daughter, finding out why Jorgen had him come in the first place, and deciding where he is needed most.

Helene and Jacob reconnecting.

While the film has everything that could possibly happen happen, it manages to let its characters interact naturally and sometimes awkwardly to the point of discomfort. You learn to care about these characters because they're just good people trying to make the best of the situation.

2. Bella (2007)--One of those Epic Day movies. Nina is a waitress at a Mexican restaurant who gets fired for being late for the last week. Jose is a the chef at the restaurant and follows Nina after she gets fired to return a teddy bear she dropped on the way out. When Jose catches up to Nina, he finds out she's pregnant and has been having morning sickness, which is why she was late. The course of the rest of the movie has to be the most cathartic day ever filmed. Both of them air out issues they've been carrying for years, especially Jose's mysterious past. Through wandering the streets and visiting Jose's home, they learn a lot about each other and form a solid relationship that will impact Nina's decision about her pregnancy.
Nina and Jose at the beach. Note the beard.

The dialogue is sometimes too expository and the level of trust in each other is, for me, shockingly high, but the interaction is somewhat believable. There is no hook up; in fact, they barely touch on this most epic of days, which made their relationship so much more touching than most shown onscreen. This day was all about getting to know each other, and it's a pleasure to get to know them, too.


Love love Fleet Foxes

Shout out to my brother Sam for introducing me to Fleet Foxes. I'm addicted to their song "He Doesn't Know Why". It has a gorgeous melody and sweet harmonies. There's so many things to love about the video, too: beards, vests, goats, a goat on a piano, did I mention beards?

Fleet Foxes He Doesn't Know Why from Grandchildren on Vimeo.

Also, bearded claymation with their song "White Winter Hymnal":

White Winter Hymnal from Grandchildren on Vimeo.

Random links and stuff

1. Is this election over yet? SNL last night wasn't even that funny or enjoyable, unless you count how adorable Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler are in Weekend Update. And then only when they weren't talking about the election. I'm getting a little electioned-out, especially since I already cast my absentee ballot. Anyway, I kind of hate all the coverage, and yet can't stop watching/reading it. The hilarious Larry David agrees: Waiting for Nov. 4th.

2. Even though this guy stopped blogging at the end of August, I just recently found it. For some reason I find race relations from the perspective of black people hilarious, so here's Stuff Black People Hate.

3. Last night I went to one of the only quirky and cool places in Provo: Sammy's Cafe. It's located on 27 North 100 West and has delicious burgers and milkshakes--with whole pieces of pie in them!


What happens when I procrastinate studying

I feel like this picture is for the CoverGirl shoot at the end of all America's Next Top Model cycles. Too bad I'm wearing Max Factor Volume Couture Mascara in black brown. I'm trying out non-waterproof mascara and so far I feel like it's basically the same, but it comes off easier. Imagine that! Anyway, here are my eyelashes.

Now back to intraspeaker pitch changing mechanisms.

Medley of the Day: Fulfilling my civic duty edition

Today I filled out my absentee ballot for Washington state*. This is the first presidential election I've been able to vote in, so I think that calls for a medley about America.

First up, Simon and Garfunkel's "America". Please bask in Art's hair and vest in this live version:

The American dream vs. Reality in West Side Story's "America", complete with fabulous choreography:

I think the most important thing we can learn from the following song is not that "You Can Still Rock in America", but that Night Ranger had more than one hit:

Did you think I could do an America medley without a country song? Here's Waylon "Good Ol' Boys Writer"Jennings with his song "America":

*Would you want to vote in Utah?


Like the corners of mind

Today as I was walking on campus I encountered a smell that took me back to high school.

In high school, I never ate the actual meals they offered in the cafeteria, but went to the student store which was run by students (in a certain class, I think). It was always overcrowded and busy, but it offered cheap a la carte food that I could afford on my $10 a week lunch allowance from my dad. By my senior year, the store actually had a roped line, but those years before, I honed my shoving-through-crowds skills so I could, not so much cut, but strategically get to the front faster. It was lunch-Darwinism, if you will.

The specific smell: pizza sticks and fresh baked cookies. It's an odd combination that's almost gross, but also comforting in a junk food sort of way. Pizza sticks are essentially a thinner and stretched out version of hot pockets. Also cheaper, and I bought them a least every other day with a bottle of chocolate milk. And those cookies, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of them, but they were never baked all the way through, making them that much more delicious. Although, for some reason, I had some sort of dietary conscience that prevented me from buying those cookies on a regular basis. Also, I was sort of broke and couldn't afford the sleeves of 3 for a dollar.

Anyway, the smell just made me want to get a pizza stick and a bottle of chocolate milk even though that was also kind of gross.


Terrifying Politics

I don't think I could say anything to add onto the scariness of uber-conservative viewpoint in America that's found in this video:

Sometimes I wonder how people can think like this and be so ignorant. Where do they get their news? I mean, I guess mainstream media is from the "elite", so they must not be watching or reading anything that refutes misconceptions about Obama. I mean, I was raised in a fairly conservative suburb in Washington state, but the closest I got to discrimination was people making fun of the Russians, Ukrainians, or people from other Slovak countries. Certainly racism and discrimination aren't gone from America, but to have it be so rampant is amazing to me.

Really, this is just to say that sometimes I want to gore my eyes out when I think about politics and its capacity for harm.


I Heart Weird Al

There's nothing I love more than a fake interview with Weird Al. I happened upon this one with Robert Plant. So awkwardly great:

Medley of the Day: Let's folk it out Edition

First up is a song from one of my favorite pandora.com finds: The Wailin' Jennys. They performed the song "Swallow" at the 2006 Pickathon Roots Music Festival in Portland, OR (shout out). Unsurprisingly, they sound awesome live. Favorite lyric: "Now come connect the dot me":

Let's get some Led Zeppelin in here with "Gallows Pole". According to the YouTube description this is "A 'Tribute' to the legend Jimmy Page!!" Yes a "tribute".

Okay, here's another Pandora find, "Too Easy" by Catherine MacLellan. I wish I could pull off that hair. Or have her voice. Really, I just think she's cool. Also, she's from Prince Edward Island = Anne of Green Gables = Gilbert Blythe = the love of my fictional character-filled life.

I'm going to include a Beatles song, "Mother Nature's Son", because I can. It's vaguely folky, with a nice dose of horn. Enjoy the random pictures:


Let's Review 1st Shop of Coffee Prince

A couple years ago my friend Allison suggested I watch some Korean Dramas (or K-dramas if you're cool like that), and I'm not ashamed to say I love them now. They fill up gaps between television seasons, or give a reason to sit in front of my computer for hours on end while procrastinating homework. Not to mention that I'm a sucker for a love story.

Korean dramas typically last one season*. They are fairly wholesome, although can include some nefarious plots. Fake relationships of convenience and deals for money tend to be common plot devices, which leads to love triangles/quadrangles/awesomeness. I've watched some of the more popular ones online with subtitles: My Lovely Sam Soon, Full House**, 1st Shop of Coffee Prince, and most recently Princess Hours. Mysoju.com and Veoh.com have been good and consistent sources for streaming or downloading these dramas. But enough of my introduction, let's talk about my favorite I've seen so far: 1st Shop of Coffee Prince.

Ignoring the awkwardly worded English title, this is a short (17 episodes) and contained love story. The main premise is a little hokey and straight out of Tootsie:
The life of Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) is not easy; she works many jobs to pay off debts and even gave up her feminine image. Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo) is the heir of a big food company, but his grandmother wants him to settle down, so she arranged many dates for him. After Eun Chan bumped into Han Kyul and was mistaken for a boy, Han Kyul decided to hire Eun Chan to be his gay lover in order to avoid the arranged dates. Desperately in need of money, Eun Chan had no choice but to accept. Han Kyul's grandmother also made Han Kyul in charge of a filthy coffee shop in danger of being bankrupt. Eun Chan begged to work at the coffee shop, and not long after, feelings start to spark, except, how would Han Kyul accept his "homosexuality"? (from DramaWiki)
I'm a sucker for corny premises and love stories, and this drama builds them up perfectly. There are just so many things to love in this series:

1. Go Eun Chan is an awesome female character. She has cropped hair, dresses in baggy clothing, and takes on any task, not matter how physically demanding. She's not afraid of work since her family depends on her income. One of my favorite things about this drama is that it avoids making over Eun Chan. Granted in one episode, Eun Chan does get dressed up to go out with Choi Han Sung, a man in her neighborhood who she delivers milk to, but it lasts one night. People just like her and love her for who she is: a tough, but warm girl who genuinely cares about others. Looks aren't what attract people to her.

2. The secondary characters are worth rooting for. Choi Han Sung and Han Yoo Joo have been a couple for years, but recently they've been broken up while Han Yoo Joo lived with another man. At the beginning of the drama we see them reunite, and then watch them struggle to stay together. This couple intermingles with the main couple. Choi Han Sung briefly crushes on Eun Chan (recipricating Eun Chan's initial feelings), making Han Yoo Joo jealous. Also, our main man Han Kyul has had a thing for Han Yoo Joo for years, but has never done anything about it. The relationships are muddled a little bit, but soon it's clear who will end up who. And the friendships between the couples are fun and honest.

3. Family, as in all the dramas, plays a key role in the main story. My impression of Korean culture from the dramas I've watched place a lot of emphasis on loyalty to family and respect to friends as if they were family. These family members often push the characters together or apart. In 1st Shop of Coffee Prince, Eun Chan's family is heavily dependant on her income, which pressures to have a job, which leads her to continue acting like a guy so Han Kyul will hire her. Han Kyul's grandmother wants him to stop being such a playboy deadbeat, so first she sets him up on blind dates which leads to paying Eun Chan to play his gay lover. Then Grandmother makes him take over a failing coffee shop which leads to him hiring Eun Chan. Thank goodness for family loyalty bringing these characters together.

4. The workers at the Coffee Prince are fantastic. The shop employs only men to attract the local college girls. The workers include the dumb, but strong and loyal Hwang Min Yeop; the player Jin Ha Rim; the lovelorn, Japanese speaking No Sun Ki; and Hong Gae Sik, the kind of lazy, but skilled ex-manager of Coffee Prince. They each have their own stories which makes this drama seem less self-centered and more community- and family-centered than other ones. We get to know the main character's environment and how they interact with others, which makes for well-rounded and interesting characters.

5. Han Kyul's wardrobe. They dressed Gong Yoo so well for this role, it's ridiculous. Well fitted button-ups with rolled-up sleeves, perfectly cut slacks, random vests, and sockless tennis shoes. Absolutely delicious. Check out his wardrobe and adorable smile above.

6. My favorite favorite thing about this drama is that admission of the love story doesn't wait until the end. As much as I love people realizing they're in love after thinking they're not, basing a whole show or movie on that can get old. It only takes 7 episodes for things to start to coming to a head: Han Kyul decides he's going to go for Eun Chan even though he believes Eun Chan is a man. It's an absolutely lovely scene:

Of course, the fall out the next few episodes when Han Kyul finds out Eun Chan is a woman is intense and heartbreaking. But there are plenty of episodes for things to resolve and fall into place. And because the drama is only 17 episodes long, drama isn't drawn out too long and the story moves along at a fairly brisk pace.

7. This drama is just great; the thing just works as a whole. All the characters interact together so well, and the sexual tension is so tangible, and you actually feel bad for these characters when things don't work out. In short, 1st Shop of Coffie Prince is just delightful. De--wait for it--lightful***.

*Seriously, American television producers should adopt shorter television series--I'm looking at you The Office (US), Gilmore Girls, Ugly Betty, ER, EVERYTHING EVER. It doesn't mean I don't love you, it just means you sucked by the end (or are sucking now).
**No, not that one.
***Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother, Season 4, Episode 1.