Monday, June 23, 2008

Cantopop Movies

Unless you set up a Slingbox, or buy tons of bootlegged DVDs (I've done neither, unfortunately), living overseas means watching foreign TV.  

The English language channel selection that I get in Saigon is about twice what we had in Hanoi - here I'm getting Cinemax and HBO, as well as the usual culprits, Star, Discover, Nat Geo, ESPN and the African sports channel, Super Sport.

I've supplemented that English mix by watching korean shows on KBS, Chinese movies (mostly in Cantonese w/English subs), and once in a blue moon Vietnamese versions of British gameshows (1 v. 100, Who Wants To Be A Billionaire in VND, etc. etc.)

The fun KBS shows are all 'reality' type of shows. Not survivor style, but more like documentary/Oprah-style shows delving into common folks' daily lives.  There are a few recurring themes of the KBS shows: 

(1) daily economic struggle of the Korean working class - I saw a show about a family that had 6 y/o twins who made their money selling homemade kimbap (Korean style sushi rolls) to morning commuters.  Seemed like a tough life.  The kids had their birthday party on the show.. their parents got them each a pencil case for school.  The kids really liked it.  I remember when a pencil case was a nice gift, but I also remember my nephews getting things like a N64, Gamecube, PS2, Wii, PS3, etc. 

(2) how cross-cultural marriages, mostly between Korean men and foreign brides, function, from the wooing stage to years on.  One show was about how Korean men in various stages of their relationship with Vietnamese foreign brides - the guys were going to a language center to learn the language prior to going overseas, or a married guy was learning to speak better so he could speak to his father-in-law over the phone.  They filmed a phone conversation and typically, and hilariously, the entire limited discussion was about whether each side ate yet!  Another episode was about the foreign brides' families visiting their daughters in Korea.  Frankly, it was a bit amazing to see the diversity of the foreign brides - the Philippines, Mongolia, India, Nepal, Uzbekistan, etc.  Vietnam is a (relatively) large net exporter of brides to Korea - I met a caddy who's sister was happily married there, though her family hadn't physically seen her in about 5 years - but in the last 6 months the Government here temporarily stopped issuing visas for such travel because of shady bride purchasing promoters.  

(3) how young married Korean couples are doing - it would be interviews of newlyweds, to probe their emotions before and after marriage, with the overarching theme being "marriage is a good thing."  Are young kids in Korea putting off marriage that much that TV needs to encourage such couplings?          

But the best thing on the non-English channels has to be the cheese-a-rific Canto-pop movies.  Charlene Choi, Gaile Lok, oh my!  Some Cantonese speakers complain about these silly movies, with their simplistic plot lines and over the top acting, but when one is reading subtitles, simple story lines and exaggerated motions really help one along.  And the pre-Kung Fu Hustle work of Stephen Chow is laugh out loud enjoyable too.  But he's not cutesy enough to link to.  

So ditch the DVDs and check out the foreign language stuff on the tube.     

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