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South Korean thriller “Parasite” sweeps the Oscars

Greeley Pulitzer

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South Korean thriller “Parasite” sweeps the Oscars | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The cast and crew of South Korean thriller celebrate their historic Oscar wins - Getty Images
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“Parasite,” a South Korean thriller and dark comedy about modern poverty and wealth, swept the Academy awards on Sunday, taking home four Oscars including Best Picture, and making history. It is the first non-English-language film to take home the most coveted prize in Hollywood.

Its Best Original Screenplay award was the first Asian Oscar in that category, and the first for a Korean in any category. It comes on the heels of the 100th anniversary of the birth Korean cinema in 2019. The film also snapped up the prize for Best International Feature Film, as was widely expected.

Filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, who also won for best director, could barely contain his enthusiasm:

“I feel like I’ll wake up to find it’s all a dream. It all feels very surreal.”

The vicious satire about social inequality snagged the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival last year, and Best Foreign Language Film at last month’s Golden Globes, two more firsts for a Korean movie.

The movie follows a family of scammers from South Korea’s underbelly, who plot to secure work in an affluent Seoul household, as tutors, a driver and a housekeeper.

Critical reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Bong told his Hollywood audience in his Golden Globes acceptance speech: “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Bao Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American filmmaker, says Bong’s Oscar win is an “example to aspiring Asian and American filmmakers to follow”.

“Parasite” is deeply rooted in its depiction of Korean society without having to pander in any way to foreign audiences.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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BTS switches ON its domination of the pop world with their new album ‘Map of the Soul:7’

Tim Newton

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BTS switches ON its domination of the pop world with their new album ‘Map of the Soul:7’ | The Thaiger
BTS in the launch music clip for Map of the Soul:7

From the first determined drum stroke in the new BTS music video you get the sense that these guys mean business for their new album. The music video will likely kick over more than 50 million views in its first 24 hours since launch.

The world’s biggest band BTS – in terms of album sales, stadium tickets sold, and sheer internet presence – has launched their latest studio album, their seventh, Map of the Soul:7. And they’re spending their time launching it in the US, seen as the holy grail of pop for bands around the world.

The seven-member South Korean band has boldly gone where few ‘foreign’ language bands have gone before. Last year they notched up a major milestone becoming only the second band to have three consecutive No. 1 albums in the Billboard Chart in a 12 month period. The last band to do that was a British quartet called The Beatles… you may have heard of them.

But the white-washed world of American pop has been slow to come around to the invasion of the South Korean band that cut its teeth in the ultra-competitive world of K-pop before making headway in the international market. Indeed they’ve done just about everything differently than bands before and, somehow, etched out a brave new world of pop success, on their own terms.

Launching in June 2013, BTS (aka. Bangtan Boys, Bangtan Seoyondan, which translates as Bulletproof Boy Scouts), the seven members have played with hip hop, R&B, power ballads, pure pop and edgy rap styles. Seven years later their music is much more difficult to define as it crosses multiple genres and emerges as something new and distinct. 

But BTS is a lot more than its three letter acronym. BTS is RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook.

Much of their success is rooted in a few points-of-difference, all of them taken to new levels of professionalism and art.

• Every BTS music video is almost a piece of art, sometimes filmic and always beautifully crafted.

• BTS write, produce and perform. They act, sing, dance and rap. They are the total pop-package.

• BTS lean heavily on their authentic messages of loving yourself, acknowledging your shadows, accepting your frailties and, well, a lot of other ‘young people’ issues. Apart from the occasionally dark and ‘real’ messages in their music, all seven members appear humble and intelligent, and willing to share their ups and downs with fans (Band leader ‘RM’ has an IQ of 148).

• BTS have weaponised social media in a way never before attempted or achieved. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok… they have accumulated a vast online fandom, called ARMY. It’s easy to say that there has NEVER been such a motivated, dedicated fandom in music history, across borders, across languages.

• They have a well-catalogued rags-to-riches backstory, complete with hundreds of videos following their early days, failures and apprehension. From living together in a tiny dorm and cooking their own meals together, all the way to their world-wide popularity and chartered jets, it’s a fascinating journey that adds to their appeal.

• They are genuinely likeable and have always, ALWAYS, thanked their legion of fans, first and foremost, for their success.

BTS switches ON its domination of the pop world with their new album 'Map of the Soul:7' | News by The Thaiger

‘7’ has held its position at No. 1 on Amazon’s bestsellers chart for nearly a month, and the upcoming US stadium tour (then to Europe and Asia) has already sold out. Even before its release, Map of the Soul: 7 was the fastest-selling album this year (4 million sales), selling four times the numbers of pre-release sales for Taylor Swift’s Lover.

There’s little doubt BTS will earn their fourth consecutive No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200.

Why ‘7’? The band says it’s a salute to their seven years together as a band and, well, there’s seven of them.

Their launch single (which follows two YouTube teaser music videos of the songs Shadow and Ego, plus a hugely popular performance of Black Swan on James Corden’s Late Late Show – 39 million views), is ON.

The music video released yesterday is an alternative version of the collaboration featuring Sia on the album. ON is a catchy anthem starting out with a stripped back church-like organ breaking into a precision drum-band punching out the rhythms for the track.

As with most of their work, all BTS members get their chance to shine. Just when you think you’re getting into the track (it’s in Korean and English), it changes direction and surprises. Wait until you get to the dance break in the middle!

The new album has 20 tracks including some from the previous Map of the Soul: Persona. But this is certainly taking a darker and edgier turn for the band which, seven years on, has a rich tapestry of styles in their extensive repertoire.

Full Track List for Map of the Soul: 7

Intro: Persona

작은 것들을 위한 시 Boy With Luv (Feat. Halsey)

Make It Right

Jamais Vu

Dionysus

Interlude : Shadow

Black Swan

Filter 시차

Louder than bombs

ON

욱 UGH!

00:00 (Zero O’Clock)

Inner Child

친구 Moon Respect

We are Bulletproof : the Eternal

Outro : Ego

ON (Feat. Sia)

But there’s stormy weather ahead for the band and ARMY with South Korea’s compulsory military conscripton looming over the seven 20-something members. The oldest member, Jin, reaches 28 years of age in December this year which will force him to enter the mandatory 2 year military service. And that will be followed over the following four years by the other band members – Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook. Although there’s been a strong media and online push to get an exemption for the group, (in 2019 BTS contributed $4.65 billion to the South Korean GDP), the members have all said they look forward to serving their country.

For now BTS are switched ON with their new album and their reshaping of the world pop industry will continue, for at least the rest of 2020.

BTS switches ON its domination of the pop world with their new album 'Map of the Soul:7' | News by The ThaigerYou know you’ve made it in the pop music world when you end up on Carpool Karaoke

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‘Leaving Thailand’ – From Phuket with love and heartaches

The Thaiger

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‘Leaving Thailand’ – From Phuket with love and heartaches | The Thaiger

“In his new memoir “Leaving Thailand,” a former journalist, film tech and Phuket resident looks back on his life and loves in the kingdom that continue to haunt and inspire him.”

By Jim Algie 

I’m wary of memoirs set in Thailand in which a sex-starved Western man descends on the country to get caught up in the carnal circus of bars, bargirls, sex tourists, wastrels, pleasure-seekers and those eccentric expats I call “Bangkooks”.

But Steve Rosse quickly differentiates himself from the herd in the first story, “A Woman of Bangkok,” by noting how he stumbled upon the famous novel “about a young Englishman who falls in love with a Thai ‘dancing girl’ in Bangkok circa 1950. She takes all his money, breaks his heart, costs him his job, and finally leaves him to a future of failure and bitterness. But despite its turgid plot, the book is brilliantly written. It is a story full of wit, pathos and plain old human drama, and it’s one of my favorite books in the world.” 

I quote this passage at length not only because it sums up the story arc of so many Thailand books, but also because Rosse brings many of the same qualities, like “wit, pathos and plain old human drama,” which are the lynchpins of Jack Reynolds’ book, to these stories. The effect is a fresh take on a hoary genre that quickly morphs into something much more substantial and distinctive.

In the early parts, however, the blow-by-blow descriptions of the harlots-for-hire scene on Phuket around 1990 are tastefully done and largely sympathetic to the women. As a student of both Thai language and culture, Rosse casts himself as both participant and observer. By straddling that divide, he brings plenty of universal observations about life and hedonism to this specific milieu: “Everybody bears some burden of self-loathing, and for some that burden is so heavy they will only allow themselves joy if it’s connected to an act of penance.” 

From the nether regions of Phuket the memoir scales the heights of high-society after the narrator, despondent about breaking up with a bargirl, marries a respectable Thai lady he doesn’t love and starts a family. 

Now working in a five-star hotel, Rosse’s depiction of his life as a PR shill is both candid and comedic: “Normally I would greet a VIP in the lobby and walk him to the dining room, doing the warm up jokes on the way. Find out if the VIP has enough English for the intellectual jokes or if I would need to stick to jokes about farts. Settle in over appetizers and aperitifs, laud the hotel, hand out business cards, and then when the food hit the table ask for my photo opportunity.” 

In one of the most memorable tales in “Leaving Thailand” (available from Amazon as an ebook or paperback), the author develops an unlikely friendship with their young nanny from Myanmar, both of whom have been tyrannized by Steve’s wife. (“A 38 year old man and a 13 year old girl. We were Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot in an empty, sterile, existentialist landscape.”) 

But the story’s strong suit is that it plays out against a far bigger backdrop than the Phuket setting across a much wider swathe of personal history. In 2003, now in Iowa with his wife and children, the author took out a classified ad in The Phuket Gazette to try and track Pui down. The search results were zero.

Along the lines of JD Salinger’s classic short story, from which the title “For Pui with Love and Squalor” is taken, the friendship between Steve and Pui breaks free from the constraints of time and geography to float in a timeless realm. Sure, the particulars may have changed a little, but since maids and nannies from Myanmar remain fixtures throughout Southeast Asia, the story’s huge heart still pulsates with vitality.

In both Thailand and the US, the author covers plenty of ground. He takes a long trip up north to go trekking and smoke opium with a hill-tribe, which used to be a rite of passage for many backpackers. Once again, the story is not without its blackly comic interludes. When the author arrives back at JFK in New York an opium pipe he’d bought as a souvenir and forgotten about falls out on the table when the Customs agent searches his bags. After whisking him off to the back room for a personal search, he writes, “I told God, ‘Dear God, if you keep this cop’s finger out of my ass, I promise I’ll go back to Thailand and study Buddhism.”  

There’s also a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Oliver Stone movie, “Heaven and Earth.” Steve was the Head Set Dresser, and the only foreigner working on a team of nine Thai men. It’s another autobiographical piece in the collection with much grander ambitions than mere diarizing. In one passage he skewers the foreign stereotype of lazy and unreliable Thai male workers; these guys are both diligent and resourceful. In another, he conveys the main drawback of being an expat stranger living in very strange lands.

“And after two years of being the farang in Thailand, always being just outside the conversation, always trying to learn the rules and not accidentally insult anybody, always paying more for everything, it felt good to finally be on the team.” 

For me, the most captivating story is “Cellies.” It starts in Iowa at a high-school graduation party in a bean field, illuminated by the lights of pickup trucks and energized by kegs of beer. Coming home from such a party, similar to one that Rosse attended, a blonde cheerleader is paralyzed for life when her boyfriend rolled his pickup on the way home. 

Dorothy ends up in a nursing home across the street from the house where Steve grew up. After returning from Thailand in 1997 with his wife and two kids he winds up living in the family home again.

The contrast between all the developments in his own life, going to university then working in the film biz in New York, travelling all over Thailand before his bittersweet homecoming, and the details of Dorothy imprisoned in that nursing room, unable to move but still possessing the gifts of speech, sight and hearing, is both a devastating juxtaposition of parallel lives and a considerable feat of empathy for this hapless woman.

Hemingway famously said that the best stories are like icebergs; the biggest parts of them float beneath their surfaces: “The Old Man and the Sea” isn’t just about a fishing trip, right? 

“Cellies” put me in mind of that quote, but also my hometown in Canada and all the old friends who never left. Maybe they were paralyzed by a lack of curiosity about the bigger world or all tied up in the straightjacket of a 30-year mortgage. I don’t know. It’s an open-ended kind of story. Do your own reading and choose your own interpretation.

For the most part, the stories unfold in chronological order. Towards the end, however, the author’s reflections span the vast gulf of nowadays and yesteryears after a return trip he made to Thailand in 2019. 

Full of articulate and realistic stories written with candour and humour, the collection is a worthy non-fiction successor to “A Woman of Bangkok” told by “A Guy on Phuket,” who, despite the book’s title, never really left the kingdom.  

Jim Algie is the author of the nonfiction collection “Bizarre Thailand” and the more recent book of music journalism and literature, “On the Night Joey Ramone Died: Tales of Rock and Punk from Bangkok, New York, Cambodia and Norway.” Both are available from Amazon.

'Leaving Thailand' - From Phuket with love and heartaches | News by The Thaiger

The author, Steve Rosse

'Leaving Thailand' - From Phuket with love and heartaches | News by The Thaiger

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Cast of popular TV show claim they were stiffed

Greeley Pulitzer

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Cast of popular TV show claim they were stiffed | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Actress Duganghathai Satthathip speaks to reporters on Thursday - Wassayos Ngamkham, Bangkok Post

The cast of a popular Thai costume drama allege they haven’t been paid. Actors in the semi-historical TV drama Lued Suphan or “Blood of Suphan” have accused the producer of withholding about 2 million baht in wages.

The cast went to the Crime Suppression Division head office in Bangkok Thursday to file a complaint, saying the production company refused to pay wages owed to actors, actresses and scriptwriters.

While they did not publicly name the company, their Facebook page indicated it was produced by the Pre-Pro-Post-Live Entertainment company.

Actress and star Duanghathai Satthathip says the cast were hired after the producer got the work from the Ministry of Culture. Production began in August last year and continued into September, and it was broadcast on TV Channel 5 in October.

Duanghathai says some of the cast received wages, but she and other members in her group are still owed about 2 million baht that should have been paid by September 1 last year. The producer kept postponing the payments, which totalled about 2 million baht, while in the meantime, the drama has been rerun, she said.

Duanghathai says the cast contacted the Ministry of Culture and learned that the producer was paid in full, so they want to know why they haven’t been paid. Over the years, she says, they’ve worked on other productions with state agencies and had never encountered such a problem.

After examining the evidence, CSD investigators said it’s a civil, not a criminal matter and advised them to consult a lawyer about filing a civil lawsuit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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