International Dramas: ‘Business Proposal’

Promotional image of (left) Ann Hyoseop and (right) Kim Sejeong. Copyright goes to Kross Pictures, SBS, and Netflix.

Hi! It’s Annie!

So lately I’ve been stuck in the middle of my favorite K-Dramas and watching ones that are actually new. After watching a few dramas that I liked but didn’t really love, I was seriously considering just stopping for a while and returning to some old favorites. But I was stopped in my tracks from doing this when Jungkook did a recent Q&A on his Instagram and recommended this drama. And then I had something else that was new to watch. I wasn’t really expecting much other than mild enjoyment from this, especially because the synopsis of the show didn’t sell me right away. I feel like I’ve been spoiled rotten because of shows like ‘Crash Landing On You’, ‘Itaewon Class’, and ‘Vincenzo’. But, only a few episodes in, I was absolutely convinced that this would become one of my favorite current dramas out there. And definitely one of my favorites in the romance genre. This show doesn’t shy away from certain tropes while completely subverting other ones, and I constantly questioned what would happen next and was on edge for the next episode. That’s not to say that there’s a lot of action here; it is mostly just very wholesome. So, I’m going to get into this, but before that here is your MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!!

Synopsis: Hari is a fairly ordinary business worker who’s only big connection is her best friend, Youngseo, who comes from a very rich family. Youngseo’s family is determined to marry her off for financial gain, which has prompted her to ask Hari to go on all of her family set up blind dates in her place. Hari is used to acting crazy on these dates to scare off any potential suitors. But things get complicated when the CEO of Hari’s company is set up with her friend, and Hari’s crazy act seems to intrigue him more than drive him way. When he suddenly proposes marriage to who he things is Youngseo; Hari must now hide who she is at work and lie to everyone around her.

The Good:

The Female Lead- Finally! I’ve found another female lead that I absolutely love! I have to say, I was a little discouraged, especially after watching ‘Inheritors’ so recently. But Hari was full of personality, and she didn’t just give up when things got difficult. One of the things I really liked about Hari was how funny she was! I haven’t seen Kim Sejeong in anything before this, but she completely sold me here. Her comedic timing was always on point, she was excellent at conveying emotion without even having to say anything, and she’s just overall likable! It’s difficult not to like her, which works so well for the show because that’s one of the things that gets Hari into the most trouble. As awful as she tries to act, you can still see who she is underneath. I also really liked that the drama made sure to portray Hari as incredibly smart and capable. She’s one of the best workers in her field, so she doesn’t rely on Taemu for his stability. That was also very refreshing to see.

The Male Lead- Taemu was confusing at times, but he’s always adorable. It’s difficult to see what he sees in Hari’s act at first, but eventually you realize that he’s probably more observant than he lets on. Though his immediate need to marry her is still confusing. My favorite parts of Taemu’s character were mostly unspoken however. When Taemu first finds out that Hari has been lying to him, his immediate reaction is that he wants revenge. And watching his silent struggle between his determination for revenge and his want to help her was absolutely amazing. There’s this moment where Hari burns her hand and he panics, and the only reason you know he wants to help her is his widened eyes and a close up on his hand. It was all very ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Matthew Macfayden as Mr. Darcy and I loved every bit of it. It’s just hard not to love this very open and adorably awkward character. He seems reserved at first, but then you realize just how much he wears his heart on his sleeve.

The Second Female Lead- There are two main couples in this drama. There’s the main advertised one and then the secondary, which has so much time devoted to it that it barely feels secondary. And I have to say, I love these two characters just as much as the main ones. Youngseo is the sassy, confident, supportive friend that we all want to have and all want to be. She has the name of her family backing her, but her main goal is to become successful in her field by herself. Something else that was refreshing to see. The women in this drama were really badass! She has this rival, but this drama never does the female rivalry thing for too long. They eventually become semi-friends and it’s more comedic than anything. I absolutely laughed my ass off at “You know I have no chingu!”. Youngseo was more than stubborn, but seeing her flaws made me appreciate the depth of this character.

The Second Male Lead- I think Sunghoon might have been my favorite character in the entire drama. Firstly, it’s hard to get over this adorable and responsible glasses character that’s just trying to do his best. Sunghoon was constantly exasperated by the choices other characters made, because usually he had to clean up the mess, but he was supportive no matter what. Definitely the most loyal friend you could have. The kind of guy who would be by your side in a heartbeat if you need him. I find that the cool and smart glasses character usually is pretty stoic and seems like he doesn’t care. But while Sunghoon can be stoic, you never question how much he cares. He puts his all into every relationship in his life, which is often where he meets the most trouble. I love him. Definitely one of those characters that you feel like would give great hugs. Also, can we talk about the way he took off his glasses to kiss Youngseo?

The Romances- This show was really good at painting every romance as different but just as important. While the main romance is more of an unexpected thing that grows over time, the second romance is one that’s expected by both sides and only doesn’t happen earlier because of a communication issue. And both are treated as just as cute and given just as much time for you to gush over. Taemu wants to hate Hari but finds that he can’t, while Hari wants to avoid Taemu but finds that his presence is something she values. While both Youngseo and Sunghoon like the other but are convinced that the other person doesn’t like them. It’s so different, but it’s all developed brilliantly. When the couples in the show get together, it makes sense. It feels like the right time for them. They don’t try to throw everything off to throw in a random plot twist with either couple. When Taemu’s grandfather doesn’t approve, Hari becomes determined to make him approve instead of just taking it. And when Youngseo’s father calls Sunghoon to try and make him break up with his daughter, Youngseo decides to start her own business away from her family instead of break up. Even when their situations don’t feel natural, the show goes out of its way to make the connection feel natural and strong.

The Friendships- I don’t think I’ve seen more realistic or developed friendships in any other drama. I loved Hari and Youngseo’s friendship possibly the most, because female friendships are often skipped over or just not there at all in many shows both internationally and not. I don’t mean to pick on ‘Inheritors’ again, especially because I did like the show, but that show only seemed to have female rivalries. It was nice to see these characters go through trials together, scream over roaches together, and constantly be there for each other. Not just going to lunches, but also knowing each other’s parents and having sleep overs. Because that’s all stuff I can relate to. On the other hand, the male friendship was also amazing! Especially because the drama went out of its way to show both guys being vulnerable around each other, which is not how male friendships are often portrayed. To me, these portrayals of friendships felt like a step forward.

Trope Subversion: This happened so many times and it was either brilliant or almost parody. There’s a cliff hanger at the end of one episode where Taemu gets into a car accident. The entire series they had been setting up a possible tragedy, as his parents had died in a car accident in the rain and he is afraid of the rain because of this. And in this scene he is shown driving in the rain. But the next episode he has a fractured wrist and not much else and the situation is almost comedically dropped. You know it’s done in parody because throughout the drama, Hari’s parents are watching a very trope-filled drama that parallels what’s actually happening in the drama but it’s all very much more dramatic. So something will happen in that drama, and then the show will instead show a more realistic version. I thought it was both funny and very clever. Another way they did this was by actually improving some tropes. This drama doesn’t have many flashbacks, but when they do it’s always new and interesting information. They did a flashback sequence with the secondary couple, but it was shown from Sunghoon’s perspective when what the audience saw before was shown from Youngseo’s perspective. It made it actually interesting to watch the flashback sequences, which is something I never thought I’d say. This drama purposefully subverts tropes and I honestly hope that more dramas also do this in the future.

The Bad:

Rushing- One of the only elements of this drama that stood out to me as not feeling natural, was how quickly the romances escalated. I mean, Youngseo and Sunghoon went from drunkenly confessing to sleeping together in one night, which was an issue the drama pointed out but also never seemed to really regard as an issue. And then they got engaged after having only dated for a couple months. At least the main couple had more build up, and they did get engaged after the one year gap rather than just a couple months. But they also didn’t see each other for that year, so I still don’t know how to feel about it. For me, I’m ok seeing my favorite couples happily dating at the end of a drama. I don’t need them to be married to feel secure in their ending or to feel like their relationship may lead to marriage.

Year Gap- This was one trope that they didn’t subvert. Though I do have to admit, one of the reasons they used this trope was to subvert the ‘grandfather suddenly dying of a heart attack’ trope. But, I still wasn’t sure why they needed it. Year gaps feel like a lot less time after having been in quarantine for over two years, but I still didn’t see the need for separating the two main characters. Especially because it happened right before the show ended, and they have to end up together at the end, so it felt like it didn’t serve any plot purposes either.

There you go! Seriously not much for me to pick apart with this drama! I would like to thank Jungkook of BTS for the recommendation, because I absolutely loved it. If you’re in the mood to watch a cute romance, this should be on the top of your watch list. Definitely some of the most supportive and wholesome couples I’ve ever seen in anything ever. Today my sister and I will be at the BTS concert in Las Vegas so hopefully we’ll have plenty to talk about when we get back! If you’re going on any of the days, I can’t stress enough how much you need to be safe! As someone who has lived in at least a decent proximity to Vegas all her life, it isn’t the safest place despite what they would have you believe. Be careful of what parts of the Strip you walk at night, especially if you’re alone, be careful about accepting anything from anyone, and also I would highly recommend continuing to wear a mask! Let’s all be safe out there tonight! I still can’t believe I’m seeing them again so soon!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Video Games: ‘Greedfall’ Review

Still of De Sardet from ‘Greedfall’. Copyright goes to Spiders, Focus Entertainment, and Game Source Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘Greedfall’ is one of those games that got pretty decent attention for a game made by a smaller developer, but also flew under most people’s radar. I didn’t even realize this game came out in 2019 until about a month ago, and I adore BioWare-style RPGs. Especially ones similar to ‘Dragon Age’ titles. Similar to ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Greedfall’ is a fantasy RPG complete with multiple skill trees, companions with loyalty missions, and choices that change the outcome of the game. There are a few major differences here though, mostly surrounding its emphasis on diplomacy, its important side quests, and its depiction of European colonialism. I’ve seen a lot of people be pretty hard on this game despite the knowledge that it was created by a team of only 30+ people, so I wanted to write my review to give you another perspective. While this game doesn’t have the quality of ‘Dragon Age’, and it is lacking in some departments, it’s still a really good time and if you haven’t played this game I think you should give it a try. But I’ll explain all of that below. Just know moving forward that I’ll keep this review mostly spoiler free and I’ll mark the spoilers throughout. Let’s get into this!

Gameplay:

I’ve said before that gameplay doesn’t concern me nearly as much as the story does in a video game, but horrible gameplay still makes a game feel unplayable so it’s still important to talk about. The gameplay in this game is what ‘Greedfall’ gets trashed for the most. I’ll tell you right now, it isn’t bad. The gameplay consists of unlocking various abilities with your skill tree and selecting them to use in battle. The skills you use most can be assigned to the D-pad for easy access during a fight. To use other skills, or just to list out battle commands for your character, you can pause combat. (You can’t control your companions during a fight, but they don’t go down as easy as companions in other games sometimes do.) Aside from those, you have the general dodge and attack buttons you can spam all you like. There’s also two bars that charge throughout battles, one allowing you to unleash a very useful strong attack, and the other showing you how much magic you can use until you have to wait for the bar to recharge. Really, none of it’s new for an RPG. And to be honest, there aren’t enough skills to make fighting feel unique and satisfying, especially hours into the game. The monotony of it is only increased by the very few enemy types you’ll encounter throughout the game. Some of the bosses even look the same. That said, it isn’t like this gameplay is game breaking. It’s just too simple. Which is definitely not the worst thing I’ve said about a game’s gameplay.

The gameplay of this game doesn’t just revolve around fighting, though. In fact, this game emphasizes that there are many ways to solve your problems and fighting might not always be the best option. ‘Greedfall’ takes your role as a diplomat very seriously and expects you to act accordingly. So if one of your companions suggests that you sneak into the back of a warehouse instead of possibly angering the faction that owns the warehouse by showing up unannounced, maybe you should listen to them. And if you find a disguise to help you blend in with the workers, why not take advantage of that instead? This is the gameplay in ‘Greedfall’ that really makes it shine. Knowing that there are many solutions to each problem and trying to find the one that will anger the least amount of people made missions so much more interesting.

The Story:

I saw some reviewers trash this story for being bland, but I definitely don’t agree with that. In this game you play as De Sardet, a royal from the land of Serene given the job of becoming a Legate and a diplomat over in a newly established settlement in New Serene. De Sardet is sent by their mother to try to discover a cure for a deadly disease called the Melchior, which has completely ravaged all of Serene and is killing their mother. Accompanying them to New Serene is their cousin, Constantin, who has been appointed the new leader and governor of New Serene and who grew up alongside De Sardet as a kind of younger brother. Once De Sardet lands on New Serene they discover a rivalry between their faction (The Congregation of Merchants), the other factions that have moved to the area, and the Natives of the island. These factions are fascinating and make up the bulk of the story. You discover quickly that the Merchant Congregation has earned most of its power by remaining neutral in most conflicts, which makes you the neutral party in the various rivalries you encounter throughout the game. The Bridge Alliance is a faction of scientists that seem interesting at first, but quickly become the most irritating, evil, and unforgivable faction on the island. I feel like the game tries to make each of these factions good and bad in different ways, but the Bridge Alliance just ends up being bad. Next is Theleme, which is the major religious faction on the island. Their religion directly contrasts with the Natives, which leads to some awful decisions, but play your cards right and they actually wind up as more understanding allies. Then there’s the Coin Guard, a mercenary faction of guards that offer protection to all factions and can be more than a little shady. My personal favorite are the Nauts, a very secretive but loyal band of pirates who honor time spent in their faction with facial tattoos.

The final faction, the Natives, are understandably furious at the way the other factions have invaded their land and mistreated them, but they’re also very wise and often much more reasonable than any of the other factions. And this is where we get to the European colonialism influences of this game. This isn’t one of those games that romanticizes this ideology or the time period in which white people were colonizing places they were not welcome and committing atrocities along the way. The clear villains in this game are always the white people trying to take advantage of the Natives while also attempting to strip them of their culture. But also, know that ‘Greedfall’ doesn’t do any of this perfectly. For one, while the Natives appear more like woodland elves in order to tie them to the fantasy lore in the game, that doesn’t disguise the fact that they’re representing a minority group that already sees stories about their trauma enough in the media. Also (SPOILER) De Sardet is revealed to actually be Native by birth about halfway through this game. Which feels like it’s a quick fix to attempt to make the player feel less like they’re intruding by constantly saving the Natives and making decisions for them as part of the choice-based gameplay, but winds up feeling weird when you note that De Sardet still comes from a place of privilege (END SPOILER). In other words, just remember that white people writing an allegory for the mistreatment of a minority group always winds up with major flaws.

The Characters:

There aren’t as many main characters here as there are in most BioWare games, but I do like what we see here. For one, De Sardet feels more like an actual character than a player character like the Inquisitor from ‘Dragon Age:Inquisition’. This is because De Sardet has a clear personality and rich history that influences the rest of the story. De Sardet’s close relationship with their cousin, Constantin, is an emotional force that impacts the entire game. And the way they reminisce about old times with both Constantin and Kurt, who has been their body guard and fight trainer for a long time, gives De Sardet added depth. As for Constantin himself, he’s a bit of a mixed bag. He can be endearing, but his pretentiousness can get annoying. (SPOILER) Especially after he’s diagnosed with the Melchior. The game attempts to tie his less caring and more haughty behavior to the fact that he’s dying and desperate to find a cure, but that doesn’t feel very believable when we saw him act similarly before he became sick. I ultimately found him a less sympathetic villain than intended (END SPOILER). Kurt, on the other hand, is my favorite companion. He’s usually kind and gives out excellent advice, but there are moments in the story where he can seem genuinely dangerous. I didn’t expect that level of complexity from him, but I love it. (SPOILER) The ‘Treason!’ mission, where he can either betray his own people and help you, or attempt to betray you before deciding he can’t do it, gives him one of the most shocking story twists I’ve ever seen from a companion (END SPOILER). Siora is another favorite of mine. I liked her background as a Native princess who wants peace, but I also loved the added knowledge she provided considering most missions involve the Natives in some way. I felt like her point of view was the most invaluable of all the companions.

My opinions of the other three companions is a bit more mixed. Aphra instantly comes off as a badass, but her distant nature doesn’t really help her stand out amongst your companions. Also, her story is mostly rooted in a problem she already solved in the past, namely abandoning the horrifically awful scientist who taught her. So sometimes her missions, which surround her new studies, feel unimportant. Vasco has a more heart-wrenching story that follows his desire to know his birth family because he was given to the Nauts at a young age. But the story is quickly resolved after Vasco meets one family member and sees that he’s a bit of an ass. That said, Vasco’s one of those snarky pirate captains I can never resist. Finally, Petrus is one of those guys you’re instantly suspicious of. He’s an older man who’s known for being a secretive and manipulative politician. I did like that his complicated morals became the backbone for his character growth as his story continued, but his story also revolves around an aspect of De Sardet I don’t like that I listed as a spoiler above. So I won’t get into it, but I do wish his story didn’t involve it. While we’re talking about characters let’s talk about romance! Of your five companions, four are romanceable. Characters playing as feminine De Sardet can romance Kurt, Vasco, and Siora. Characters playing as masculine De Sardet can romance Aphra, Vasco, and Siora. The romance I sprung for was Kurt. Some people dislike this romance because of the fact that Kurt is older than De Sardet and has known them since they were a child, but the game makes clear that Kurt isn’t THAT much older than De Sardet and didn’t decide to get to know them outside of their professional relationship until the events of the game. That was enough to resolve my worries, especially because Kurt is too sweet to resist. But romance scenes are limited to two short sequences, so don’t expect much.

Side Quests:

I don’t see enough people warning new ‘Greedfall’ players about this so here you go: Side quests are MANDATORY in this game. There are a couple side quests you can skip (The ones involving finding a bunch of random letters or finding all the campsites on all of the maps), but all other side quests need to be completed if you want any sort of good ending by the end of your run through. This is because all of the side quests tie to the different factions I explained above, and if you don’t take time to make sure relations with all of these factions are going well, they won’t feel any obligation to help you when things start getting rough at the end of your journey. Some people might hate this aspect of the game, but I found it refreshing. The reason why these side quests are so important is because they actually tell full stories that are worth exploring, which is nice compared to the fetch quests you find in other games.

This was a bit of a longer post but I definitely wanted to talk about as much of this game as possible. There’s genuinely so much to explore and love in this game. It has its flaws, and I did encounter a few glitches, but nothing was game-breaking and all of it was impressive for such a small team. It might not be ground-breaking and the player might not have all the customization capabilities and gameplay elements we’ve all come to expect in RPGs, but I don’t think that diminishes the excellent storytelling here. So if you like games like ‘Dragon Age’, consider this your newest recommendation!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

BTS: The Scammys Have Never Been Important

Image of (from left) Park Jimin, Jung Hoseok, Kim Seokjin, Jeon Jungkook, Kim Namjoon, Min Yoongi, and Kim Taehyung. Copyright goes to Hybe, BTS, and CBS.

Hi! It’s Annie!

So yesterday was another massive disappointment to many many people. I know the boys were again disappointed by last night’s events, and that’s what matters most to me. But, considering the likes of ‘Queen’ (yes, that ‘Queen’, the classic rock band headed by Freddie Mercury), never received a Grammy, I think it stands to say that the Scammys have always been irrelevant. And I personally feel that they, and all award shows like it, only prove their irrelevance in every passing year. I mean, just look at viewership this year. Though it wasn’t lower than last year’s record low viewership rating, it was only barely better. And it was also still lower than even the Oscars, which also had insufferably bad ratings this year. BTS is the most popular group in the world, so why is anyone judging their success based off an obviously dying tradition? I’m going to go fully into last night’s performance and all the BTS shenanigans, but I’m also going to go into why BTS winning or losing definitely does not matter. Let’s get into it!

BTS:

Last night was an amazing night for BTS! And I’m sure everyone could tell before they even got there. For those of you who don’t already know, Las Vegas (where the Scammys were held) has been transformed into a BTS carnival. There are BTS pop ups everywhere, the Bellagio Fountains are going to BTS songs, and there are posters and billboards as far as the eye can see. This is because their concert stint there is soon to start. (I have an announcement about that at the end.) In fact, the place the Scammys took place in this year is none other than the theatre being used for live-streaming the concert to those who couldn’t get tickets. One didn’t even need to step outside to know who was the boss. BTS showed up looking amazing. Namjoon’s hair is grey and I may or may not have screamed because I think that’s my favorite of his hair colors. Jimin also cut his hair! They were shown a couple times throughout the awards, including being shown massive respect by the host, Trevor Noah. He did lose a bit of his good intentions by mentioning that Namjoon had learned English from ‘Friends’ for the bazillionth time, but Namjoon seemed to brush it off. C’mon guys, we all know that Namjoon can speak English. America is the stupid country for not attempting to be multilingual. Can we move on? They were also asked plenty of collaboration questions on the red carpet, again belittling their existence from another country by suggesting that they need to collaborate with someone American. But, I digress. Especially with their performance slot and the Trevor Noah appreciation, this is far and away the most respect they’ve received attending the Scammys. It still wasn’t great and it still doesn’t inspire me to give them any more views. Especially considering they saved their award for almost last, only to not give them anything. Very obviously attempting to get fan viewership. It was even more obvious than last year. It is very clear who needs who.

BTS Performance:

Namjoon said that we would be seeing something entirely new on the red carpet, and that is exactly what we got. Though the song wasn’t new, it was still ‘Butter’, everything else about the performance was completely new. The entire thing was done in a secret agent style that I could watch all day. Jin is still wearing a cast from having shattered his finger, so he took the hacker position. We then saw Jungkook descend onto the stage and Taehyung, who was now virally flirting with Olivia Rodrigo, throw a card to Jungkook. (No, he didn’t catch the exact card Tae threw.) They then went into a fully fledged secret agent version of ‘Butter’, with Jin joining in a few times. This included a full jazzy dance break where they used this really cool looking jacket choreography and another dance break while avoiding lasers. This has to be one of my favorite performances they’ve ever done and it undeniably stole the entire show. BTS has an amazing talent of making each of their performances both uniquely interesting and immersive feeling. It feels like you’re watching a fully fledged production, even when they only perform one song.

Award Shows:

People seem to forget that award shows have nothing to do with talent, and never will. They have to do mostly with politics within the industry. I’ve said this before, but winning an award at any of these award shows says nothing about the talent of an artist. It does, however, say everything about how much that artist’s company bribed the old white men who are a part of the academies. In fact, most of the time voting is based off of imaginary standards that these old white men enforce. In movies, there’s even an entire genre of movies dedicated to pleasing the rich members of the academy. If you’re wondering why BTS didn’t win, the answer is simple. They aren’t white or American. The academy prefers you to be both, but they would much rather have an American win than someone from another country. It’s just another example of how American industries still refuse to recognize media from other countries. And if you think it’s messed up, the best thing to do is stop watching. It’s clear to any experts that all of these award shows probably won’t last much longer. The best thing we can do is prove that we’re not going to watch these award shows anymore. And this goes for any awards show, whether it’s the Scammys, the Oscars, or even the Tonys. No artist should have their success measured by how many awards they get. And BTS is the biggest example of this that the music industry has probably ever gotten. The proof was all around Vegas. The fact that a group powerful enough to take over Las Vegas received no award, is proof enough how irrelevant the award is. So why do people from other countries specifically still revere these shows? Because media in America is revered and America has always been unwilling to identify anyone from any other country as successful, especially not white populated countries. The more we all start to consume media from other countries, the more we’ll prove that these awards are insignificant. I personally believe BTS will be an important step in the Scammys finally dying out.

Anyways, just listen to BTS on this. Don’t feel too sad about them not getting an award. That award becomes more and more meaningless every year. And hopefully our boys will help these awards die out. I wish for that more that I wish for them getting one. For me, the academy just feels like another obstacle between the industry now and achieving equality in the music industry. But that aside, the most important BTS event this week was never the Scammys. Of course, it’s their concert that begins this weekend! Which I am happy to say my sister and I will actually be attending! We got surprised with tickets this weekend! I’m so excited! I hope that we’ll see some of you there! I still have no idea how I’m going to survive seeing Namjoon’s grey hair in real life.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Sci-Fi/Superheroes: Looking Back at ‘Bumblebee’

Screenshot of Hailee Steinfeld in Bumblebee. Copyright goes to Allspark Pictures, Paramount Pictures Studios, Tencent Pictures, Bay Films, and Di Bonaventura Pictures.

Hey! Hallie here!

Hailee Steinfeld has seen a lot of recent success in Hollywood. Between her voice acting role as Gwen Stacy in ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ and its upcoming sequel, and the huge success of ‘Hawkeye’, she’s become a staple in the Marvel universe. And besides that she’s received major acclaim from the LGBTQ+ community for Vi in the series ‘Arcane’ and for Emily Dickinson in ‘Dickinson’. Of course, none of this recent success is sudden. She’s slowly been making herself a big name in Hollywood for years now. But I do find that these roles in particular are somewhat overshadowing other roles she’s played in the past. So, as someone who’s never seen ‘Bumblebee’, I wanted to expand my knowledge of her previous blockbuster roles. Especially because ‘Bumblebee’ was surprisingly well received despite the collective agreement from most audiences that the ‘Transformers’ films had become unbearable. Overall, I thought this movie was pretty good! But, like the ‘Transformers’ films before it, it definitely wasn’t perfect. Before I get into this more, here’s your SPOILER warning. Let’s get started!

What I Liked:

Charlie: The main reason I watched this movie was for Hailee Steinfeld, and she definitely didn’t disappoint. Steinfeld always manages to come off as extremely relatable and likable in whatever role she plays. Charlie’s no exception. For one, Charlie’s love of excellent 80s songs made me instantly like her. But she’s also a misunderstood, depressed teen without ever feeling too angsty. At the time of the movie, her father has recently died from a sudden heart attack and her mother has begun dating again. Charlie most definitely isn’t over her father’s death and she isn’t on great terms with her mother because of it. While all of this does play a major role in Charlie’s character, it’s used tastefully. Charlie’s relationship with Bumblebee, the main driving force of the movie, doesn’t serve as a constant reminder of her father. Instead, her own curiosity and concern for Bumblebee drives their moments together. The scenes she does dwell on the tragedy are sweet, with Bumblebee serving as a cute supporter and comforter during her lowest moments. And, of course, by the end of the movie she overcomes her grief through her own bravery and her friendship with Bumblebee. I also enjoyed her relationship with her love interest, Memo. Memo is a lot more interested in her than she is in him, but she both appreciates his general kindness and stands up for her boundaries around him, which feels a lot healthier than many romances that start out this way. And while she does decide to give him a shot at the end of the movie, I loved that she was clear about how slowly she wanted to move in said relationship. Charlie is a much needed step up from the horrible female representation seen in other ‘Transformers’ movies.

Bumblebee: Bumblebee feels very much like E.T. in this movie. While he’s introduced in a few major battle scenes that are pretty frightening and destructive, Bumblebee loses both his voice and his memories right after the film starts. Afterwards, he becomes less of the badass fighter we see in other films and more of an adorable puppy dog stumbling his way through Earth. His big blue eyes are easy to fawn over right off the bat, and the way that he unsuccessfully tries to hide himself behind a tiny rock genuinely had me tearing up over the adorableness. I mean, in his first introduction to Charlie he responds to her holding her hands out to calm him by nuzzling against her palm. He’s seriously just a giant puppy. But the movie does do an excellent job of reminding the audience that he’s still the badass we saw in the first few scenes. When Charlie decided to prank one of her bullies by TPing her lawn and egging her car, Bumblebee takes everything a step too far by violently stomping on the car until it folds in on itself. He also makes the questionable decision of leading a cop on a high speed chase. Still, his intentions are good all the way through. The best part for me though, was watching him relearn how to talk through recorded dialogue and music. It was such an excellent throwback to the first ‘Transformers’ movies and it remains to be a really fun and interesting way to have the character communicate. And I did almost cry when Bumblebee re-introduced himself to Optimus by playing a recording of Charlie saying his name.

What I Didn’t Like:

Charlie’s Family: I think this movie was trying to show the audience that, while Charlie’s family doesn’t understand her, they’re still supportive and overall well-meaning. I don’t think that came across at all. Her mother felt uncaring and manipulative throughout the entire movie. From her first scene she doesn’t seem to care much about Charlie, instead giving more of her attention to Charlie’s brother. When Charlie expresses excitedly how close she is to finishing her father’s car, a project that’s taken her a long time and means a lot to her, her mother doesn’t do much more than scoff at her. Then, on Charlie’s birthday, her mom gets her a flowery helmet and tells her that she will be forcing Charlie to wear it from now on. Which is both a terrible present and a clear sign that she hasn’t attempted to learn anything about her daughter. After that, when Charlie actually goes out to get the car she wants for her birthday, her mom admonishes her and then uses the car without her permission the next day. Meanwhile her mom’s boyfriend aims plenty of underhanded insults at Charlie, including getting her a book about how to smile more as a birthday gift. Once again, a terrible gift that’s gag-worthy to any woman who’s been told to “smile more”. Her brother’s the typical annoying younger brother and he doesn’t serve much purpose. At one point he seems to actually want to help Charlie, but he winds up giving her away on accident fairly quickly without being of any help at all. In other words, I hate her family and I don’t see the point of them.

All the ‘Transformers’ Stuff: This sounds weird for a ‘Transformers’ movie, but hear me out. This movie worked great as a ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, ‘E.T.’ sort of movie. Charlie and Bumblebee were an adorable pair to explore the whole “cute creature from a strange world has to learn about humans” plot line. But any time the film divulged from this for some human vaporization scenes with some pretty forgettable villains, or metal-screeching Autobots vs Decepticons fight scenes, it felt strange. The opening sequences immediately stood out to me as weird because the Bumblebee character we see there is so much different from the one we see in the entire rest of the movie. But even beyond that, it felt like any time Optimus Prime was mentioned it upset the flow of the movie. One minute I would be watching Bumblebee support Charlie while her bullies teased her about her father’s death, but in the next the military would be discussing the ramifications of a destructive war happening off-planet. It felt like two completely different movies. But I suppose that’s what happens when you try to tie a more personal, heartfelt film to the explosion fest you can expect from Michael Bay.

When looking back at reviews for this film, I saw a lot of reviewers debating whether they enjoyed the movie because it was genuinely good, or because it was much better than the other ‘Transformers’ films. As someone who hasn’t seen the other ‘Transformers’ films in a very long time, I think ‘Bumblebee’ was very enjoyable. Hailee Steinfeld proves that she can play awkward and down-to-earth well, and honestly who doesn’t want to hug Bumblebee after watching this movie? It does what it sets out to do. And even though I did feel like the basic ‘Transformers’ elements were too much of a tone shift, I can’t say I was expecting it all to go seamlessly together anyways given what I remember of the previous films. I’d definitely watch this one again. Am I excited for the sequel, though? Not really. I think making another one without Steinfeld kind of misses the point on what actually worked in this movie. Plus, dinosaur Transformers have always been a step too far for me.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

International Dramas: Inheritors (Heirs)

Promotional image of (from left) Krystal Jung, Lee Minho, Park Shinhye, Choi Jinhyuk, and Kim Woobin. Copyright goes to ‘Hwa&Dam Pictures’, ‘SBS TV’ and ‘Seoul Broadcasting System’.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I think this post has probably been a long time coming. Arguably, two of the most popular KDramas of all time are ‘Boys Over Flowers’ and ‘The Inheritors’. Both of them contributed to Lee Minho becoming possibly the most popular and famous actor in South Korea. And despite the fact that I have been a fan of ‘Boys Over Flowers’ for quite a while and have made several posts on it, I was a little hesitant to watch this one. I have no idea why. I think I had heard some mixed reviews on it and I wasn’t sure if I was up for a twenty episode show. But, after my friend realized that a portion of the drama was filmed just down the street from her house, it was natural that myself, my sister, and my friend got together and binge watched all of it over the course of two days. It’s always more fun to watch anything with company! And so I have finally watched this drama as well, and I definitely have a lot of thoughts. Especially as a California native, because the first portion of this drama takes place in, and was filmed in, California. And this also contains one of the most hardcore hate to love experiences I’ve ever had for a character. Here’s your MAJOR SPOILER warning. Let’s get into it!

Summary- Eunsang is a poor High School student who lives with her single mother who is mute. The family also consists of her sister, who has since moved to California to make something of herself. When Eunsang attempts to visit California, her still poor sister steals from her and abandons her with nowhere to go, leaving a nearby onlooker, Tan, to look after her. Tan is rich and belongs to an elite Korean family who have abandoned him in California in order to get him out of the way. After falling in love in California, they each return to find that Eunsang’s mother is actually working for Tan’s family and that pursuing a relationship might be more difficult than either of them think. Especially when they both end up enrolled in a High School full of other rich teens.

The Good:

Male Lead- As always, Minho has a very charming presence that’s difficult to ignore in any role he tackles. But this character is possibly one of my favorites I’ve ever seen from him! Though I like ‘Boys Over Flowers’, I have always found Jun Pyo to be a bit spoiled and I don’t think the end of the show completely redeemed him from some of his previous actions as a bully. So it was really nice to see Minho as such a warmhearted and sweet character from the beginning. Though Tan appears to be stand offish at first and often jokes around rather than taking things too seriously, he’s one of the most thoughtful characters in the show. The fact that he’s constantly fighting for his relationship and what he wants is admirable, and he often gives people second chances that don’t deserve it because he wants them to be kind. He wants to believe the best in people, and he doesn’t care if he’s treated badly for it because in the end he feels that if it benefits the other person, it was all worth it. Very selfless and charming. And absolutely clueless when it comes to romance, but he bumbles his way through quite adorably.

Second Lead- I hated Youngdo for the first half of this drama. Absolutely hated him. And one of my favorite things a drama can do, is make me absolutely fall in love with a character they made me hate early on. Not many dramas, or really any media in general, are actually successful at doing this, though many try. Youngdo was my favorite character at the end. I loved him so much, and I did end up suffering from SLS (second lead syndrome) by the end of it all. Youngdo is an incredibly awful bully at the beginning of the show. He’s violent, he’s manipulative, he’s got a massive ego. He is stuffed with every possible villain bully personality trait that there’s no way to possibly like him. I kept waiting for the redemption arc to begin and I thought it never would. And then he accepted his defeat in going after the main character, and this is actually when he started to change. He decided to start helping people for the benefit of them instead of himself. The show delved into his backstory and his abusive household. He even became so invested with the main couple that he would help them out if they needed it, but he was going to joke at their expense and that stuff was some of the funniest in the show. He even apologized to the guy he bullied and agreed to take the blame and guilt for the rest of his life. He accepted that this guy was never going to forgive him. I just wanted to give him the biggest hug by the end of the drama, and I almost wanted an entire spin-off just about him. Loved him. I don’t like him for the main character, but he’s definitely boyfriend material at the very end of the show.

Second Romance- The second romance is between Eunsang’s best guy friend, Chanyoung and Tan’s ex-girlfriend, Bona. They are introduced as a couple; so they are already together by the time the series starts. And they are such a good couple. I would argue that they are the only functional couple in the entire show. They are completely supportive of each other, and it’s clear that they are both very devoted to each other. But in a comfortable way. They have the feel of a couple that is already familiar with each other and completely knows the other person. They have one big fight in the series, but it doesn’t get to the point where they actually break up. They just accept that arguing is a part of most relationships. They are adorable and it’s hilarious to watch them poke fun at each other.

Platonic Relationships- That’s something that I loved about this show! They had the main female character’s best friend be a guy and he never became a love interest. We really need a lot more male/female platonic friendships in media in general and I was surprised to see one so good in a show that was almost ten years ago at this point. Especially considering that this is still an issue.

Side Characters- This show was great at side characters. I often miss the friendship and camaraderie of ‘Boys Over Flowers’, because most shows now mainly focus on the main characters and fall flat with the side characters. I was glad to see that this show also had that feeling of camaraderie. I already mentioned the secondary couple, but I also loved Myungsoo and Hyoshin. They are other High School students who are friends with the main characters, and both of them are hilarious and made me happy whenever they were on screen. Myungsoo isn’t a very deep character, but his constant lightheartedness and jokes were something I never got tired of. Hyoshin was a character who battled with both depression and unsupportive parents, and you couldn’t help but feel for him. I also loved the mental health representation there. He was also very dry and sarcastic. When Hyoshin and Myungsoo were together, I usually couldn’t stop laughing. Both of them had stolen my heart by the end.

Locations- This show very obviously had a pretty big budget. The locations in California and South Korea were all gorgeous. It’s such a pleasing show to just look at.

The Moms- The Moms in this drama were so good, and that doesn’t often happen. They also had an amazing friendship! It was the only real female friendship in the entire show!

The Bad:

California- This is where me being a California native comes in. And this is probably where the most commentary came from my watching group. The private rich High School that Tan goes to is actually a college. It is the University of Redlands, which is something that reads clearly throughout his time being there. They call the school something completely different and they apparently hold regular classes in lecture halls for some reason. The logistics of pretty much every single place they go is also completely wrong. The show says they are at Malibu when they are very clearly at Huntington Beach. And Tan lives on the beach, which is nowhere near Redlands which is very inland comparatively. Tan’s house also actually appears to be by Malibu Beach, though the beach he’s always surfing at is Huntington, which is over an hour away. They also hang out a lot at Balboa Park, which is actually in San Diego. A good two hours away from where they were portrayed to be. There’s even one ridiculous moment when the two main characters are running on Hollywood Blvd, then at the Grove, and then in Balboa Park. It was honestly more funny to me than anything else!

Female Lead- Once again, I couldn’t stand this female character. I started out really liking her. She seemed to have a lot of personality. It was the plot that ended up messing up her character in the end. She stopped having a personality and it felt like everything just happened to her. Her only reaction would be to do nothing, which frustrated both Tan and the audience. It felt like Tan was fighting so hard for the relationship, while she wouldn’t do anything for it at all. I started missing Jan Di’s yelling and standing up to other people for both herself and Jun Pyo. And me missing Jan Di isn’t something that usually happens. At the end I thought both the main male characters were too good for her. I wished they had both found someone more willing to fight for their relationship. Because she wouldn’t fight for either one of them. Friend or boyfriend.

Third Relationship- The brother character was one that I already felt needed more development. But the relationship with the tutor or teacher, really didn’t have anything to it. There was no depth and I didn’t understand its presence.

Rachel- There didn’t need to be two possibly jealous mean girls, Bona already had that covered some of the time, and every storyline with her felt forced. I loved this actress in everything else I’ve seen her in, so it was really weird for me to dislike her character here. But I would have been fine with Tan being forced to blind date rather than this addition. And pairing her off with Hyoshin just felt completely random. This either needed to be developed or cut entirely.

Too Many- There were just way too many characters that they tried to focus on. They needed to have less characters or really focus up on a couple storylines. There were times where I completely forgot certain characters existed. The show could have done with about six less characters. And I am absolutely certain that there are important characters I am completely forgetting about. But that is probably because I forgot them.

Female Friendships- There were almost none. In fact, all the teenage female characters all seemed to hate each other. I really wanted to see a lot more positive female relationships here.

Overall, I really enjoyed this drama even despite its problems. But it did have many problems, especially towards the end. I think that might have been because they were trying to meet the episode count. There was an episode about four from the end where it felt like it was ending. And I really do think that it should have ended there. Many of the last minute twists were unnecessary and I really do think that it could have done with some more focused storylines. But it was a fun watch and it was nice to see what all the hype was about! And seeing the California locations was something I enjoyed, and the mistakes were pretty funny too! I would definitely recommend it!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Studio Ghibli: Important Themes in ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’

Screenshot of Howl and Sophie from ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. Copyright goes to Studio Ghibli.

Hey! Hallie here!

If you’ve seen the last post on this blog, you already know that my sister and I recently visited the Hayao Miyazaki exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. As a huge Ghibli fan, I nearly cried at multiple points and I really can’t recommend it enough. Ever since, Ghibli has been taking up most of my brain space. Primarily ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ as it’s my favorite film and the museum trip resulted in my obsession with not one, but two books on its creation. So why not dive into the deeper themes that I love in this film? I’ve talked about some of the things I’ll discuss here before, but never at this detail so hopefully I’m not repeating myself too much. Let’s get into this!

War:

We’re starting out with the most obvious of the themes here. Miyazaki is known for two prevalent themes throughout most of his movies. One is the importance of nature and the other is the pointlessness of war. This movie does less of the first within the main plot, but it does a whole lot of the second. In fact, it’s one of the largest differences between the movie and the book. The original book includes almost nothing about the brewing war in the background. Prince Justin’s kingdom is expecting an imminent war and Howl is recruited to help, but Howl’s only recruited to help find the missing Prince Justin (technically Turnip-Head although that’s more complicated in the book). All the time Howl spends at war in the movie is instead spent hitting on women in the book, hence where his reputation for eating hearts comes from. And that mysterious doorway? In the book it leads to his home town in modern-day Wales. But in the movie, it leads to the location of an active war. All of it ties back to the root of Howl’s heartlessness. In the book, Howl is unable to truly love anyone because of his lack of heart. But the movie condemns war by making Howl’s participation in the war the main result of his lack of heart. What’s most interesting about this, though, is that Howl doesn’t even join the war in the movie. He actively hides whenever an attempt is made to recruit him. Instead, he fights back against anyone who fights in the war. But the fact that he participates at all, even when fighting against the war, still turns him into a heartless monster. The fact that not even the good guys get a pass on what they do within the war very clearly shows how morally wrong Miyazaki feels war is at a base level. Though that’s easy to tell even without Howl considering all of the horrific imagery of burning villages, destroyed battle ships, and troubling propaganda raining from the sky that we see at other parts of the film.

Self-Confidence:

Sophie is my favorite character in any Studio Ghibli film, and part of that is because of the way she learns to empower herself throughout ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. Sophie starts out the film constantly degrading herself. When she looks in the mirror she pulls her hat over her eyes because she isn’t pleased with how she looks. When Lettie warns her that Howl could have eaten her heart, she argues that he only eats the hearts of pretty girls. And she doesn’t just criticize her own appearance. She doesn’t allow herself to pursue the things she enjoys because she feels she’s only destined to lead a boring life. She works at the hat shop only because she’s the eldest daughter and feels obligated to, despite Lettie encouraging her to find something to pursue that she enjoys. This is even supported by the book, which adds the world-building mechanic that eldest sisters are never expected to go on any kind of adventure because of their obligations to their families. However, when Sophie becomes an old woman we see her begin to embrace her true feelings and desires because of her new old age. She scolds other people, including Howl, when they annoy her. She does what she wants regardless of the protests of others. She even talks back against the Witch of the Waste. As the movie progresses, her self confidence turns her into a younger and younger woman. At the beginning of the spell she appears hunched over and heavily wrinkled, but towards the end of the spell she stands straighter and her wrinkles become fewer. And in moments where she’s unafraid to be herself, including the moments where she stands up against Suliman while defending Howl or when she’s completely enamored by the flower garden, she turns completely young again. It’s only when she starts to doubt herself or talks poorly about herself that she reverts back to an old woman. And by the end of the film, her confidence is solidified. In essence, she saves herself from the spell put on her by learning to love herself. I adore her character development for taking this approach.

No Villains:

The only true villain in this movie is the war. Not even the character who represents the war, Madame Suliman, is truly a villain. Madame Suliman’s a complicated character. She isn’t in charge of the war occurring, but she does enforce the rule that all magic users must participate. She removes a lot of problems from the main characters’ shoulders by returning the Witch of the Waste to her original age and stripping her of her powers, but the way she does so is definitely morally ambiguous. Howl remembers her fondly as his teacher, but she also sends underlings to attack him and spy on him. And despite being the instigator of most of the violence in the movie, she opts to advocate for stopping the war immediately after Howl and Sophie overcome the obstacles she put in place. Similarly, the Witch of the Waste is clearly not completely evil. Despite being the initial party working to attack and spy on Howl, plus putting the spell on Sophie, we begin to see more from her once Sophie decides to pity her after her powers are stripped away. In refusing to leave her defenseless and opting to take care of her, Sophie befriends the Witch of the Waste. The Witch of the Waste doesn’t always reward Sophie’s efforts with good behavior. She still shows a worrying hunger for men’s hearts and she does steal Howl’s heart at the end of the film. But she also gets rid of the bug Sophie’s mom plants (though it weakens Calcifer), she frequently comforts Markl when he’s scared, she offers Sophie advice, and she gives Howl’s heart back to Sophie after seeing the trouble she’s caused. Miyazaki was adamant that the villains of this film be given redeemable qualities too, and the result is a beautifully hopeful view on how complicated humans can be.

These are only some of the main themes I’ve come to fully appreciate as I’ve dived deeper into the making of ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. There are so many gorgeous aspects of this film that make it incredible to watch over and over again. Ghibli hardly ever disappoints when it comes to deep stories and well developed characters. To be honest, I could go through my favorite themes of many Studio Ghibli films, so don’t be surprised if you see posts like this in the future!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Live Entertainment: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and Hayao Miyazaki

Photo from inside the Hayao Miyazaki exhibit. Copyright goes to Miyazaki and the ‘Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I just got back from the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and it was a long but very fun day. I think the idea of going to museums has become more and more popular over quarantine, with people fantasizing about places to go that were closed at the time. And this museum was actually set to open in 2020, which meant that the crowds got pushed back mostly until this year. It’s definitely getting crowds in now with the opening of the Hayao Miyazaki exhibit that puts his work from his Studio Ghibli films on display. Though this extremely worthy exhibit was the main reason for my stop here, there were also several other things that I wasn’t expecting that absolutely blew my mind and stole my attention. This museum definitely has more than meets the eye! So, I’m going to go over some of my favorite parts of the museum. Though whether or not you want to go is totally up to you, I’m honestly not going to tell you to give the Academy money. I personally don’t support any award shows.

Studio Ghibli:

The Hayao Miyazaki exhibit was the best. From walking through greenery with one of my favorite Totoro music pieces in the background, to viewing his early stage sketches, to seeing how it was eventually brought to life with large screens. One of my favorite areas of the entire exhibit was a large stylized tree that lit up a bright green, while the forest sprites from ‘Princess Mononoke’ appeared and disappeared on the walls. Another favorite space of mine in the exhibit was definitely the very end of the exhibit that payed homage to ‘Spirited Away’. This space had the statue that sits in the entryway to the spirit world. The one where Chihiro must not look back in order to return to the real world. Which makes this very fitting as it stands between you and the exit to the entire exhibit. These small details (or rather, very large props), make it so that there’s actually a level of immersion to the exhibit. But the real star is definitely the sketches that are presented everywhere. I also especially liked the wall of original Japanese posters and the patch of grass you can lay down on to watch the animated clouds go by in the animated blue sky. It’s difficult to capture the feeling of the exhibit because it changes based on what you’re looking at. Whether it’s the sketch of the multi-colored dirty bathroom from ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ or the breathtaking under the sea vibes in his ‘Ponyo’ artistry. Just a forewarning if you decide to attend this event which will leave in June; there are no photos or videos allowed while inside the exhibit. Which just means you’ll just have to stay longer inside so that you can drink it all in! Thankfully, it isn’t by any means a small exhibit.

Animation:

What I wasn’t expecting was an entire area of one of the exhibits to be dedicated to animation. This includes sketches from movies like ‘Frozen’, ‘Up’, and ‘Shrek’. Essentially, any animated movie that’s received an Oscar. This exhibit also has several pieces from Tim Burton’s artist collection for ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ which is directed by Henry Selick. Though here’s another reminder to be careful if you do go and decide to take photos in the exhibits that are left more ambiguous. Tim Burton has requested that his sketches are not photographed, so throughout the exhibit there are things that you potentially can or can’t photograph. Most of the time you won’t know until a worker kindly goes up to you and informs you of the difference. When you’re in doubt, just ask someone who works there.

Costuming and Models:

One of my favorite parts of the museum was a portion that had costuming, puppets, and models all on display from a variety of different movies. Here you could see actual prop C3PO and R2D2 from ‘Star Wars’ as well as a host of actual costumes. Such as Okoye’s costume from ‘Black Panther’ or the iconic black with scissors from ‘Edward Scissorhands’. They also had prosthetics of The Penguin from Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ movies and an entire giant model of the haunted Burton style Wayne Mansion. But I think my favorite was the props and puppeteer work from ‘The Dark Crystal’. I wasn’t expecting to see any of Jim Henson’s and Brian Froud’s work in the museum, and I was absolutely delighted when I found it. I think I’ve mentioned several times by now how big of a fan I am of both of their work. Especially in ‘The Labyrinth’. To see a sculpt of Kira, a full sized Skeksis, and a smaller Mystic was amazing. I literally just sat there and stared at them for a while. Thankfully there was a bench nearby otherwise that might have looked a little weird. I think even if you don’t think you’ll find anything you like at this museum, you’ll probably wind up finding something you didn’t realize would be there. Another example is that they had Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell’s show costumes from ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’. I really like this movie, but I’m one of the few that adores it for Jane Russell rather than Marilyn, and finally being able to see a Jane Russell costume made me so happy!

Other Filmmakers and Stars:

Though they had tributes to many, I think my favorites were the sections dedicated to Spike Lee and Bruce Lee respectively. I loved that they had Bruce Lee’s quotes about martial arts framed as well as one of his costumes. And Spike Lee had an entire room to himself! Including memorabilia such as posters and props from ‘Do the Right Thing’ and a wall of posters signed by other directors that were given to Spike Lee. There’s just so much to explore and seeing Steven Spielberg sign a ‘Jurassic Park’ poster with “ROARRR” was hilarious.

The Oscars and the Academy:

This is where the museum dropped off for me a bit, because I’m not a huge fan of the Academy. And I’m definitely not a huge fan of any award shows, which is a sentiment I’ve expressed in almost all of the posts I’ve made addressing BTS and the Grammys. Most award shows are pretty meaningless to me. The people who vote are mostly old white men who vote for whoever’s company or agency bribed them the best. It all feels political to me and I highly doubt any of these award shows ever even take talent or hard work into consideration. That aside, there was an Oscar portion of this museum. They had a few Oscars on display and there was a room where they showed historical moments from the Oscars. And this had to be my least favorite part of the entire museum because of how performative it felt. For the brief time I was in there, it was playing Halle Berry’s 2002 acceptance speech for Best Actress. Which feels even worse right now considering only a day ago Halle Berry recalled how disappointing that award ended up being. Considering her entire speech was about how it opened the way for the Black actresses, and she so far has been the first and last Black actress to win that award. In fact, no POC woman has won that award since. I felt kind of disgusting just being in there and speed walked out of the exhibit. I still stand by the fact that the Oscars are meaningless and pretty archaic. I still want all award shows to die. There’s an experience you can pay for that makes you feel like you’ve won an Oscar too. I have no idea who would do this.

Overall, I loved the Hayao Miyazaki exhibit! But I do think that it being there is pretty essential for me going back. Or at least them having an exhibit that I find just as interesting, which would be difficult to do. I can’t imagine myself visiting without the presence of the exhibit. Overall though, I had fun! And I had to watch ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ as soon as I came home because it gave me a higher respect for Miyazaki and his art than I even had before, which is saying something! I highly recommend giving this exhibit a visit if you can, but I’m not sure I would recommend the Academy museum as a whole without it.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

BTS: News and Updates

Screenshot of Jung Hoesok (J-Hope). Copyright goes to BTS and Hybe Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

We don’t always do BTS updates on this blog, but we definitely try to keep up with the boys and give our thoughts on the big things that come up. And we have quite a few big things to talk about this time around. Some news is, as usual, definitely better than others. But I’m going to try to keep it light for the majority of this post. And there’s definitely reason for ARMYs to be excited! So without any further rambling, let’s get to the news!

J-Hope Tested Positive for COVID:

I’m going to start out with the bad news just to get it over with. J-Hope is now confirmed to have COVID. Earlier this week he visited a hospital after experiencing some light symptoms (mostly just a sore throat), and tested positive for COVID. According to the company his symptoms have stayed mild, which they partly credit to the fact that he’s fully vaccinated and boosted. There isn’t much to worry about here, but it’s still never fun to hear that one of the boys has come down with COVID. Especially because J-Hope managed to avoid catching it for so long. Now the only member of BTS who hasn’t caught it is Jungkook, so let’s hope it stays that way.

Jin Underwent Surgery:

Continuing on with the bad news, Jin apparently injured his finger during some unspecified daily activities. The injury was bad enough that Jin needed surgery in order to treat the damaged tendons in his finger. He is currently in a cast. There’s no word on when he’ll be able to take the cast off, but given the severity of the injury, I would be surprised if he wasn’t still wearing it for the BTS appearances in Vegas. Hopefully he’s able to rest and he isn’t hindered too much by his cast in the near future. It’s not that I hope he’s able to perform for ARMYs enjoyment, his health is most important here after all, but I feel he might be disappointed if he can’t perform in his usual way once he gets to Vegas. Overall, I just want Jin and Hobi to get well soon!

BTS Pop Ups in Las Vegas:

Now onto the good news! For those who are lucky enough to go to the Las Vegas concerts, the concerts won’t be the only thing there for ARMY to enjoy! We now have confirmed BTS pop-ups, cafes, and attractions all around Vegas while the concerts are going on. Concerning the events that are less official, there will be Korean restaurants offering deals specifically for the concert, cup sleeve events, raves, and various lunch/photo-op events around the strip. As for more official events, we know that MGM locations will be where the official pop-up shops will be located and though it’s all sold out, MGM hotels were also offering BTS packages that came with merch (such as photo cards) along with rooms. An even larger announcement for some surrounds the BTS takeover of the Bellagio Fountains, which will apparently be the location of some photo opportunities as well as possible themed shows. Also AREA15, an entertainment center that seems like a mall but is actually full of interactive attractions and escape rooms, will have a temporary BTS attraction inside. All of this sounds like so much fun, but it also sounds like the window to get into some of these things is short. Make sure to stay updated on whichever events you want to attend to make sure you can secure yourself a spot!

BTS and Snoop Dogg:

Just today we got the amazing news that BTS will be partnering with Snoop Dogg for a new song! The interview where Snoop Dogg announced this collaboration already has me excited, and not just because of all the times the boys have gushed about Snoop Dogg in the past. In the interview Snoop Dogg expressed admiration for the K-Pop genre as a whole along with the “good music” BTS creates. Given how many people are willing to brush the K-Pop genre off as weird or praise BTS only for the amount of fans they have, it’s definitely refreshing to hear someone treat this subject with respect. It gives me hope that Snoop Dogg will be more like Megan Thee Stallion or Coldplay rather than what we saw with the Jason Derulo incident. I’m sincerely hoping that the days where BTS were used for attention are behind us. Additionally, thank you to all of the ARMYs who are trending BTS In the Snoop on Twitter. I love you guys so much.

That’s all of the news I have for now. This was definitely a shorter post but there’s been a lot happening recently with BTS. And starting next month, we’ll have even more news to talk about between the Las Vegas concerts and the Scammys. So far, I’m just happy that BTS is taking over all of Las Vegas during the Scammys, including selling out the venue they’ll be held in for their Live Play event. I’m so proud of the boys and I hope they have an amazing time in Vegas!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Comfort Entertainment: Which Members of ‘Ouran High School Host Club’ Are Actually Dateable?

Image of the characters from ‘Ouran Highschool Host Club’. Copyright goes to Funimation and Nippon Television.

Hi! It’s Annie!

We’ve talked very briefly about ‘Ouran High School Host Club’, and we’ve only talked about it previously for Hikaru and Kaoru. That was entirely because of our twins in media posts, so feel free to check out what we think about them as twin representation in those posts! But neither of us have really discussed the show itself or the characters, and recently this one popped up again in my Netflix recommendations. While I will always have some issues with how this show aged (such as Tamaki’s overprotectiveness of Haruhi and the entire beach episode from the discussion of how girls aren’t strong to the sexual assault), it’s difficult for me to not still have a space in my heart for it. I have to admit, part of that is the music. This is still one of the best soundtracks for any show ever. It also had a lighthearted and silly vibe most of the time that allows me to appreciate this show very much whilst still skipping the two parter beach episode. Recently, I was thinking about each of the members of the Host Club and which ones I would actually consider dating. Because there are members of this club that I love, but you could not pay me to date. Similarly, some of these members are more complicated as I don’t enjoy their persona in the club, but maybe I would actually consider them after having gotten to know them better. So, I’m going to go through all of the members and discuss all of that. Also, keep in mind that the entire plot of this show is pretty messed up. Host Clubs in general are pretty controversial and are definitely not appropriate for a High School. With that aside, this may contain MAJOR SPOILERS for the show. Though, who hasn’t seen this one already? Anyways, let’s just get into it!

Tamaki:

To start out, I’ll discuss his main persona for the club itself. Which is, the Prince. Tamaki is a French speaking and royal looking Prince, who mostly entertains his clients through extreme flattery and his noble attitude. Personally, I wouldn’t be attracted by this in the least bit. Most of what Tamaki does is either invade personal space, which I wouldn’t be too happy with, or recite really bad “poetry” that he comes up with on the fly. I know he gets the highest number of clients, but I wouldn’t be one of them. Especially since he definitely has an ego that goes along with it for everyone to see. Now if I really knew him….I still wouldn’t date him. I probably would appreciate who he was as a person, but is Tamaki really dateable to anyone? He doesn’t really know how to take care of himself. While at home he has servants for that and while at school, Kyoya and Haruhi are constantly the ones having to pick up after him. He also constantly throws tantrums like a five year old and gets very jealous very easily. And just like he has personal space issues with his clients, he seems to also have personal boundary issues with his friends. He never respects when Haruhi says they want privacy, and honestly doesn’t respect Kyoya when he says he wants privacy either. Also, I know he’s constantly jealous of Hikaru and Kaoru; but he doesn’t have to constantly insult them to their faces. Tamaki can be very nice and adorable when he wants to be. He is certainly charming. But I think we all have to admit that Tamaki is a large child for most of the series. Definitely, not dateable.

Haruhi:

There have been discussions about Haruhi as a character that I find to be incredibly important. Such as the fact that Haruhi doesn’t care about being seen as a boy or a girl and has no issues identifying as both or neither. This is an extremely progressive take, especially considering how old this anime is now. Most people now view Haruhi as being non-binary, and I agree with that. So I’m going to refer to Haruhi using they/them pronouns. If you don’t like that, then sorry but you’ll have to deal with it for the rest of this post. Haruhi is the ‘boy next door’ or the regular one when performing for the club. Haruhi’s form of conversation isn’t overwhelmingly flattering or flirtatious. Haruhi just has regular conversations about the lives of their clients and the lives of themself. Admittedly, they will sometimes resort to emotional manipulation. Such as the constant mention of their mother and her death. This is something I would appreciate a lot less. But I think having a regular conversation with someone within the dramatics of this club would be refreshing. I personally think I would find Haruhi dateable as a member of the club. Outside of it though….Haruhi is still completely dateable. Haruhi is responsible, they know how to take care of themself, and they are very hardworking. Haruhi is also an incredibly good listener and will drop anything if any of their friends need help. Haruhi has an incredible capacity for standing up for themselves and others, as wrongly portrayed in the beach episode. Haruhi is completely dateable.

Kyoya:

Kyoya is also a bit of a complicated person to talk about, somewhat because he keeps his emotions and intentions pretty close to his chest. It can be difficult to figure out if his intentions are to help his friends or completely out of greed and gain. There’s also the complicated matter of Kyoya being the one to commit the sexual assault in that beach episode (no, I will not stop talking about it). I will give a bit of a reprieve here because I feel this is more of a writers misstep than a character misstep. Especially because the writers viewed this as a moment to show that Kyoya was caring (what?). Meaning that I’m going to take the blame off of Kyoya for this and entirely put it on the age of the anime and the writers who thought it was a good idea. Now, having said that, Kyoya probably entertains his clients the least. I don’t know if this is because he just doesn’t get many or if it’s because he constantly has to keep the club running. But being his client would either involve constantly running around after him or waiting around for him. But he’s the smart type and he seems very amiable and very nice to talk to. He’s not overly flattering either and is also the type to have less of a penchant for the dramatics. I would say that he’s dateable here. Outside of the club…I personally think he’s also dateable. Whenever it feels like Kyoya is doing something for his own gain, it generally turns out to not be the case. And he probably carries the most responsibility of everyone. He can be scary sometimes, but I think he doesn’t necessarily try to be. Kyoya is dateable.

Honey:

Ok, this probably won’t be long because the answer to this one is pretty clear. Within the Host Club, I have absolutely no idea how Honey ever has any clients at all. Honey is essentially a child. He’s short enough to be a child, he talks like a child, he’s constantly babied by everyone and seems to enjoy it, he acts like a child, and he throws tantrums like a child. The fact that he’s actually a High School student, and a senior at that, is usually very surprising news to pretty much everyone. So no, not dateable. Very not dateable. But outside of the Host Club….he’s still a child. His persona within the Host Club and outside of it is pretty much the same. Who knows why this High School student decided to revert back to a childlike state? Or maybe he didn’t decide. But either way, Honey doesn’t make sense to me as a host because the entire point of the club is for women to associate with men they would find dateable. And if any of them find Honey dateable, I would kick them out of the school and never let them associate with children. Ever. Honey is very very not dateable.

Mori:

Mori is advertised as the strong and silent type. That’s what his persona is within the Host Club for the most part. If you decide to sit near Mori, you can expect little to no conversation. Which, let’s be honest, probably isn’t the most sellable image for a club where the entire point is to sit down and get to know these guys through talking to them. The other aspect of Mori’s appeal within the club is his duality with Honey. Essentially he is part of one of two duos that the Host Club advertises. Both of these duos do bank off of the possibility of their clients “shipping” these duos. And I have to say, both duos are incredibly disturbing for anyone to actually ship. Because Honey is, once again, pretty much a literal child. And Mori is Honey’s cousin. Eww! However, Honey and Mori participate in the blatant flirting much less than the other duo, and Mori tries to be attentive. He seems kind. I really think whether or not you think he’s dateable in the Host Club depends on the person. Personally for me; maybe? He’s better than a lot of the other options, but he’s not really what you would attend this club for. Outside of the club….Mori is absolutely dateable. One of the most dateable members of the club, I would argue. Though he doesn’t say much, he’s one of the most caring members. Which he shows more through actions than words. He’s protective, but he’ll let you do your own thing. And he’s incredibly kind. Mori is incredibly dateable.

Hikaru:

Now to the boys I have already talked about so much on this blog. Hikaru and Kaoru within the Host Club, would quite possibly be my least favorite hosts to be around. And that’s saying something considering how uncomfortable I would be around Tamaki. Hikaru and Kaoru are presented as a duo, much like Honey and Mori. Though I really don’t appreciate the stereotype of twins being introduced as a duo. They are both the mischievous type. Fine, but I don’t like that they are presented as being the same type. At least Honey and Mori have separate types. But none of this is even the worst of it, because their major draw is “twincest”. Please hold while I barf. They actually act like a couple too! I take back what I said before, this is definitely the most disturbing of the duos. I do not consider them dateable in this setting, would be extremely uncomfortable around them, and might even complain to Kyoya if I actually attended about the way they were making twins in general come across and for promoting incest. Anyways, Hikaru himself outside of the club…is still not dateable. Hikaru is definitely not all that mature, and is more prone to pushing people away. While I can really understand this and he may eventually learn to overcome this, he is also incredibly mean and aggressive about the way he pushes people away. Hikaru probably has some anger issues. While he may eventually be dateable, I think Hikaru has some serious growing up to do before he becomes so. Hikaru isn’t dateable, unfortunately.

Kaoru:

I already discussed his presentation within the Host Club, because unfortunately he and Hikaru have the same presentation within the club. A concept that I very much hate. So I’m just going to repeat that he is definitely not dateable within the Host Club and that I would also complain to Kyoya about him as well. But outside of the Host Club….I think Kaoru is definitely dateable. Kaoru is shown to be a very open, understanding, and an overall sweet person. The amount he cares for his brother is incredible and you can see that his love for his brother and friends is possibly the most unconditional of everyone. He’s even understanding towards Tamaki, despite all those times Tamaki insults him to his face. Kaoru is just as mischievous as his brother, sometimes to a pretty deceptive extent. But I think Kaoru is responsible and caring when it counts. Kaoru is also dateable.

I think four members of the Host Club being dateable isn’t all that bad, all things considered. But it is a fairly half and half situation. I thought it would be difficult to decide for some of them, but to me this was actually pretty clear in the end. This show is really cute, but thinking about how realistic it is, is something else entirely. Such as the fact that only two of these members would possibly seem dateable to me within the Host Club. Anyways, I know I didn’t do a full post on this- but I want to say a very Happy Birthday to Yunho from ATEEZ! I don’t want to get out of control on the blog making birthday posts for all of my favorite idols, but Yunho deserves all the well wishes!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Books: My Thoughts on Even More ‘Harry Potter’ Ships

Screenshot of Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen from the ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ trailer. Copyright goes to Warner Bros.

Hey! Hallie here!

For those who’ve never been on this blog before, this has been an ongoing series where I list off my opinions on some of the biggest couples in the ‘Harry Potter’ fandom. I keep saying that I’m going to end this series now that I’ve covered so many couples, but there are always couples I forget. So with this post, I make no such promises. There are plenty of really big couples on this list and probably even more I’m forgetting. A few of these couples have been major topics of discussion recently, so know in advance there are a few that I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately and, because of that, have a lot of opinions on. Let’s get started!

Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald:

I’m diving straight into the most recent couple that’s been drawing attention back to the ‘Harry Potter’ fandom. In the most recent teaser for the newest ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film, Dumbledore tells Grindelwald that he had been in love with him. He actually said it. It didn’t just happen in Rowlings’ imagination this time. While I’m happy that Dumbledore has finally revealed that he’s gay, I still don’t have the highest opinion of the ship. This relationship isn’t really relevant to the ‘Harry Potter’ series and is, therefore, not really brought up. The most we discover in the ‘Harry Potter’ books and movies is that Dumbledore was extremely close with a man named Grindelwald when he went to school. This is used to portray Dumbledore as a more morally complex person than Harry originally thought as a result of Grindelwald being the evil wizard who started the first wizarding war. But there really isn’t any indication that the two had romantic feelings for each other. Rowling decided to expand on their relationship by writing about the death of Ariana Dumbledore, which detailed how a feud between Dumbledore and Grindelwald resulted in the accidental death of Ariana as well as the end of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s partnership. But still, even in all that, there was no hint at a relationship. That wouldn’t be as big of an issue if Rowling hadn’t spent all her time loudly patting herself on the back for writing a major gay character in her books (Dumbledore). The new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ teaser marks the first time Dumbledore has actually served as representation for the LGBTQ+ community. But I’m still wary about how much will actually be explored in terms of this relationship. As things are, I still don’t love this ship and I’m not going to go to the movie and support Rowling to see if she can change my mind.

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger:

This is another ship that’s been brought up recently, this time by Rowling herself. Because Rowling feels the need to express regret over putting Hermione with Ron instead of Harry every chance she gets. I don’t like Hermione with Ron. I’ve written about all the problems I have with them in the first post in this series. That said, I also very much dislike Hermione with Harry and I think Rowling needs to stop talking about this ship. Harry and Hermione are great friends, but they never seem interested in being anything other than friends. In fact, I find that the screen chemistry between Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson made them feel like brother and sister in the films, especially with moments like the dance scene in ‘Deathly Hallows: Part 1’. And to be honest, that strong platonic bond is a lot more important than a romantic relationship between the two could ever be. For one, women and men aren’t shown in healthy platonic friendships nearly enough in media. For another, making Hermione, the only main female character, just another girl who becomes the main character’s love interest would have thrown her directly into a harmful trope. Hermione’s existence as it is now sends the message that women can be important without falling in love with the lead. Changing that just because her relationship with Ron isn’t great, is idiotic.

Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley:

Now we’re to the relationships I don’t feel the need to dissect so harshly. Hermione and Ginny are a cute couple. You actually see these two interact a lot more than you see either of them interact with Luna, and they seem to have a very trusting friendship. They stay in the same room often when Hermione stays with the Weasleys, and both always come away from these experiences with high opinions of each other and new secrets they learned about one another. I don’t necessarily see any major chemistry between them, but that doesn’t mean that fans can’t write it themselves!

Harry Potter and Tom Riddle:

I feel like this ship just exists because everyone thought young Tom Riddle was hot in ‘Chamber of Secrets’. Which, yes, he kind of was. But Tom Riddle, even at that age, is still much older than Harry. And putting that aside, Tom Riddle is Voldemort. Who is even older than Harry and definitely murdered his parents. So I don’t really get why fans like this one. This ship is a lot more popular than I thought and, with or without a smaller age gap, it’s still problematic. But heroes tend to get shipped with their villains a lot, so I can’t say I’m surprised.

Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort:

Bellatrix absolutely has a thing for Voldemort. It’s clear in every single line and every single scene in both the books and the movies. Bellatrix is married, but it’s heavily hinted at that she did so only to aid further in Voldemort’s plans rather than because she actually wanted to. All that said, Voldemort doesn’t have the capacity to care about anyone in the way Bellatrix cares about him. He clearly finds her very useful, but he’s just as likely to harshly threaten her as he is likely to praise her work. So no, not the ideal relationship. ‘Cursed Child’ attempted to canonize this relationship by making one of its main characters the daughter of these two, but given their relationship I found that to be highly disturbing. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of this one.

Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein:

How can I not like these two? Newt Scamander is the most adorable character in all of ‘Harry Potter’ and Tina fits him well as a badass who always speaks her mind despite how uncertain she can be. Their shared awkwardness is always a joy to watch, and the way that both get through to one another, mostly by admiring the kindness and capability each display, makes me feel very single. But unfortunately, Rowling has made it impossible for me to justify further supporting her. So my love of this couple will not continue through the rest of the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series.

Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall:

This couple was pretty popular when the ‘Harry Potter’ books and movies were initially releasing. A lot of people liked the fact that these two were somewhat similar in age and acted as Harry’s main parental figures while on Hogwarts grounds. But once Rowling started talking about how Dumbledore was a gay character, fans quickly backed off of this ship. I can’t really blame them. While I think Dumbledore has been a poor excuse for LGBTQ+ representation, I still think some representation is better than none. Also, Minerva McGonagall is much too intelligent to start a relationship with someone as shady as Dumbledore. McGonagall is just fine on her own, and if she was to date, she’d deserve better.

Pomona Sprout and Filius Flitwick:

While we’re talking about Hogwarts professors, it’s worth pointing out that many fans decided that it would be fun if even more of the teachers dated. So the Sprout and Flitwick ship began. This relationship then became much larger when a supposed tweet from Rowling confirmed that they had been a couple in the past but had apparently broken it off before their Hogwarts teaching days. This tweet was fake. But then Rowling saw the popularity of the subject and decided to tell everyone that she always thought they had been a couple at some point. Not that anything she says holds any importance. As for me, I can see this couple being cute, but we really don’t know enough about either character for me to have a strong opinion on this.

Dorcas Meadowes and Marlene McKinnon:

If you’re thinking “who?” I’m not going to blame you. These two are only mentioned in passing by Sirius Black. And yet, they’re one of the largest lesbian ships in all of ‘Harry Potter’. Both of these lovely ladies went to school at the same time as the Marauders. They’re mentioned by Sirius specifically because they joined the Order of the Phoenix during the first wizarding war. During the war Dorcas was killed personally by Voldemort whereas Marlene was killed alongside her entire family by Death Eaters. What they did to deserve this treatment, we don’t know. All we know is that the Marauders were close enough to them to mourn their deaths, and that they took a picture together right before their demise. Because of this picture, and as a result of the fandoms love of exploring what the Marauders era might have been like, Dorcas and Marlene became a popular ship. Fans have given each of them their own personalities as well as a sweet relationship that serves as excellent representation for the LGBTQ+ community. This is a great example of fans creativity proving to be more impressive than Rowlings’.

I covered so many couples today that I’m once again, struggling to think of others to cover. But I’m sure I’ll think of something. To be honest, I think the amount of ships in ‘Harry Potter’ could feed this series for a long while, but we’ll see what happens. Until then, remember to be careful about supporting Rowling, and remember to be supportive to all of the amazing ‘Harry Potter’ fans who make this fandom so much lovelier of a place than it could be. I’m so grateful for the kindness and creativity that have still managed to thrive in this fandom.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie