May Staff Picks: Charmed, K-dramas, Nilüfer Yanya, and Cursed Films!
Words By F(r)iction Staff
Lately I’ve been rewatching an old childhood favorite of mine, Charmed. Between the medley of magical creatures (good and bad) and the bond between the Halliwell sisters, there’s something incredibly nostalgic about rewatching a show that was in its prime over fifteen years ago. It’s been a great option for me to toss on while I’m doing household chores or in need of a show that doesn’t require my full attention to follow along. Though it might seem strange to praise something in that nature, it’s nice to have something tried and true to turn to when there’s so much saturating the realm of television and film.
Our Beloved Summer is one of those shows you cannot rush your way through, it must be enjoyed leisurely like your cup of steaming tea (or any warm drink you prefer). What I love so much about the story is its beautiful storytelling, cinematography, and how much it reflects ordinary life. There isn’t a lot going on in terms of everyday activities but there is so much emotional turmoil that all our characters are making their way through. Kim Dami, Choi Woo Shik, and Kim Sung Cheol shine in their roles and it’s so hard not to find a bit of yourself in the lives they have led. The overall concept is also quite interesting, it’s about two characters who fell in love while being the subjects of a documentary back when they were in high school. Ten years later, they’re asked to be a part of another documentary about their adult lives but the twist is that they’re no longer together.
There is so much nostalgia, innocence, with the warmth and unadulterated hope of youth that’s contrasted with the drudgery and exhaustion of adult life. The show is also about second chances—with love and with yourself, coming to terms with your decisions and your pain. Taking steps towards something more looks different for each of our main characters. Our Beloved Summer is a testament to the trials of growing up but it’s also so much about the wonders of youth and the endless possibilities of starting over and of doing better for ourselves and for the people we love. (An added bonus is its OST, which is full of so much warmth and heart, my top recommendations are “Christmas Tree” by V, “The Giving Tree” by Lee Seung-yoon, and “Summer Rain” by Sam Kim).
The second season of the Cursed Films documentary series on Shudder takes a look past the rumors of haunted movies and examines what actually happened during these legendary productions. I find it a reassuring show to watch as I am currently working on “notion vs. reality” in my own daily life. Cursed Films is a helpful companion to the practices I am putting in place from therapy to not get wrapped up in unproven theories and focus on simple facts of what actually happened, even if those facts may not make a romantic or scary story.
In most episodes of Cursed Films, the facts of these haunted film productions come down to money. For example, we learned last season that the tragedy of Brandon Lee and The Crow was not the Lee Family Curse. Instead, we are shown what happens with a prop gun when it is not properly checked for blockage. In a lot of these episodes, many of the tragedies come from auteur directors operating unchecked to get the shot at any cost or a production saving costs by avoiding the checks and balances put in place by circumventing union professionals and labor laws. Ghost stories may be more fun to share than spreadsheets but they don’t get to the truth of what happened at the end of the day.
I’ve been listening to the new Nilüfer Yanya album Painless while anticipating seeing her live later this month. I was late to discovering Nilüfer, I didn’t hear Miss Universe, her 2019 debut, until summer of 2020. It quickly became one of my favorite albums that summer. It was easily the best “rock” record of the last five years. I’ve been eagerly awaiting a proper follow up ever since. While Miss Universe was a fun and heartfelt pop-rock record, Painless is a much softer listen that caught me off guard. The singles, “Stabilise” and “Midnight Sun” remind me of Bloc Party and Radiohead. Yet the rest of the album is much more subdued. I had to adjust my expectations after a few listens. But I’m adoring this new sound from Nilüfer. I much prefer to see her grow than tread the same ground over and over. Check out “Shameless” and “Trouble” for a taste of that softer side that only two years of a pandemic could create.
Apple TV+ released the last episode of Pachinko Season 1 on April 29th. If you were hemming and hawing about committing to an Apple TV+ subscription, now is the moment to use your free trial to binge watch all eight episodes. Set in Korea and Japan, the historical drama follows multiple generations of a family of Korean immigrants, specifically the family matriarch Sunja and her grandson Solomon. Sunja is a child in 1920s Japanese-occupied Korea, and we follow her to her new life—and new challenges—immigrating to Osaka, Japan as a young adult in the pre-WWII era. We meet Solomon in 1980s Japan when he returns home to broker a deal for an American bank. Through his work and reconnecting with people from his past, he’s forced to reconsider who he is and who he wants to be.
The TV series is an adaptation of the novel Pachinko by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee. As a huge fan of the book, I was thrilled to see it adapted to the small screen. I found the shift from the strict chronology of the novel to the alternating Sunja and Solomon timelines of the TV show kept me completely engaged (plus reading subtitles of the Korean and Japanese dialogue meant I couldn’t let myself get distracted on my phone). The cast, including Oscar-winning Youn Yuh-jung, (older Sunja), K-drama heart throb Lee Min-Ho (Koh Hansu), Minha Kim (young adult Sunja), and Jin Ha (Solomon), gave standout performances scene-after-scene. All this combined with the beautiful music and cinematography made this one of my favorite book-to-show adaptations to date.
If you’re looking to feel some feels, learn history you may be unfamiliar with, or get swept up in a family drama that examines the nuance of the personal and the political, add Pachinko to your watchlist.