Emperor of the Sea: Episode 2

Two episodes in and I know I don’t want to marathon this drama in a hurry. I want to savor it slowly, like one drinking in the view from a mountain peak.

The cinematography blows me away. From the arid plains in Episode 1 to the verdant hills in Episode 2, I lose count of the number of times I’ve paused in mid-watch to sigh, “Show, you are breathtakingly beautiful.” Yet at no time do I feel that the beauty is there merely for display and for me to gawk at. The camera never lingers longer than necessary; the backdrops never distract.

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Emperor of the Sea: Episode 1

Why an older drama like Emperor of the Sea? Isn’t that a 2004 production?

Guilt, first of all. That three-volume set sitting on the shelf and looking all forlorn whenever I walk past. How many years has it sat there?

And giddy anticipation. Because ever since I found this when I was looking for a suitable image for the Titans on our screen page, I’ve been antsy. Can’t wait to watch him!

So did he make an appearance in Episode 1?

He did. Even the lizards in my room squealed when he appeared. But you should see the lizards’ reaction and mine when Brad Pitt’s two lady loves, one current and one former, popped up on the screen.

C’mon, be serious.

I kid you not. At first I thought I was seeing things, but when they appeared one after another and then stood side by side (ready to scalp each other), every doubt dissolved and I about fell off my chair. Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. In a sageuk!

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Favorite Female Roles (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of our Favorite Female Roles poll. (Part 1 is here. Please check out the Favorite Male Roles poll as well: Parts 1 and 2.)

I really like this second part because it allows me to pay tribute to one of the brightest lights in the Korean film industry. She has left us (a fact that still brings me to tears), but in my heart she is always here, illuminating our days with her sweetness, her grace, her strength, and the immense power of her acting.

We love you, Jang Jin-young.

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Eyes of Dawn

One of my favorite courses in college was Literature of the Holocaust. Among the texts for the course was a thin paperback, Night (by Elie Wiesel). I devoured the book in one sitting and sat dazed for hours after that. All the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust in one little book written with such clarity and simplicity even a child could understand it.

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When the first scenes of Eyes of Dawn unfolded, I thought immediately of Wiesel’s book. The women herded like cattle into the cattle car, their eyes wide with fear. Where were they going? To a concentration camp? I had to remind myself: “Hey, this isn’t Europe. This is China.”

Be prepared for a harrowing ride as you watch the drama.  Be prepared for horrific scenes involving comfort women and human experiments.  This is not your trendy drama, it is World War II.  In the very first ten minutes of Episode 1 a woman is raped. Many more rapes will follow in just the first two episodes alone. A baby wailing on the ground is shot dead moments later. If you’re a Korean watching this, it is going to make you mad as hell. If you’re a Chinese or Japanese, you may experience all sorts of mixed emotions: rage, denial, guilt, indignation, shame… It’s very gripping stuff but highly disturbing.

[MAJOR SPOILERS FOR EPISODES 1-20 BEYOND THIS PAGE]

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