Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hollywood Invasion - The End of Korean Cinema?

20th Century Raid

We all know by now, that the US policy (the government's, not the innocent citizens') is "Shut them down or use them". I'm sorry. I meant "save them". Shut them down or "save" them. They do it to countries, barging in to "save" them, they do it to businesses.

The latest attempt at "saving" comes in a form very dire for Korean movie fans. Apparently, 20th Century Fox will "directly invest" in the Korean movie industry, making 5 movies and distributing them to the world through its own network. That is, 5 movies for now. If this goes well in monetary terms, you can bet there will be more.

If the slower of you need a translation for that, it means that 20th Century Pimp will be making profit from the film industry and talents of Korea. Profit which will largely go to the US. So, the same model they seem to be using in politics and business in general. Riding on the backs of other people to feed their incompetent selves.

I will use the term "Hollywood" a lot, and I am talking about it as a business and as a whole. The art of it is very different from the business part. It's the business part I name "Hollywood" here.

Now, if one wants to find a Korean equivalent for Hollywood, a lot of us know what it is. Dramas. Especially romantic ones. All that matters is ratings. Quality goes out the window when it messes with that. We get the same plots, same characters, same "safe" cliches that keep certain pockets filled by catering to mindless audiences. The masses.

That is exactly what Hollywood is. It uses the same works, over and over again, doing its best to make more and more, to feed fat greedy hands at the expense of art. So, imagine if Korean movies became like Korean dramas. Have you watched "You're My Pet"? The entire movie had more time invested in showing iPads, designer shoes and dresses than it did on character building and plot.

You're My Pet
You ruined my wonderful, perfect, every-woman-must-have-it designer shoe!

Now, imagine if all that got made was movies like this one. Or like "The Man from Nowhere". Good movie, but not great. It was "Leon" without the pedophile elements and it wasn't as amazing and unique as the hype about it would suggest.

Is this the worst case scenario? It is. But seeing what has been happening with SOPA, ACTA and all these desperate attempts at control, I'd say the MAFIAA know they're fighting a losing battle. People have woken up. They are no longer willing to pay for bad music and shallow cinema. Hollywood and the music industry in the West are dying. They've been selling hot air for so long, that people have given up on them. They have attempted to claw back to life by trying to shut down competition (in the case of Korea, remember the screen quota issues?). But that's hard to do. So, what is the alternative? Invade and use their works for one's own profit.

Seeing as how Korea is welcoming this invasion, I fear for the future of its cinema. I fear for it a lot. The world does not need another Hollywood. There's a reason why we got sick of it. If worldwide distribution has to come at the cost of releasing bad "commercial" movies, I'd rather see the industry not achieve it yet. If Korea wants to succeed, it should use its own strength and stop sucking up to a dying breed.

Before you start thinking I am a Hollywood hater, know that I have always been a huge movie buff, watching Hollywood works for the last 20 years. I love certain films and have been entertained by many. But as time goes by, I see less and less good works being made and frankly, less and less entertaining ones. Even silly action films like "Die Hard" have given way to brainless action that seems to miss all that made such films at least fun.

All the manly sweating poor John went through, and they made him a bitter old man

And I won't go to certain genres and types that I am sick of seeing clones of all the time. Are good movies made in Hollywood? Yes. But the bad ones are way more than the few good and a lot of those promoted as "good", are not quite so anymore. Does Korea not make bad films? Sure it does. But so far, way less compared to the good ones.

I am not saying the US doesn't have talent. It most certainly does. But it's not American directors or screenwriters that will be entering the Korean market. It's not the ones who hold art in their hands. It's those who hold money. The businessmen. And that is what worries me.

20th Century Loanshark wants to contribute to the development of the Korean film industry? The way I see it, Korean movies have been doing quite well there, without paying protection money.

I do hope this is some smart plot of Korea to use the panicked Hollywood for reaching the world and then dumping it when it gains recognition. I really do. But Korea is greedy too. Very much so. I fear that the people who agreed to this will use it to push the industry to standards which are all about gain, even if that will mean reducing the quality of it.

The Korean film industry is prone to doing that already. As I mentioned, it has its share of quite ok movies it promotes more than they deserve. And it tends to ignore movies that can be very good, but will not be the "safe" choices to invest in. If good filmmakers and actors had it tough now, trying to get some quality work out there, this deal with Hollywood will make it even harder.

Some of you will argue that this is a good thing. To a degree, I also feel that way. Korean movies do sometimes have budget issues and worldwide distribution and promotion are almost non-existent, save for festivals and such events, or the occasional rare DVD from foreign companies.

I agree that Korean films could be much more with bigger budgets and I know some genres would have a chance too. Like sci-fi. As I already talked about in my recent post on sci-fi in Korea and "Doomsday Book", maybe the budget is what will get this genre going.

But the longer Korean films remain under the desperate, self-serving Hollywood thumb, the more this advantage will turn into oppression and control. The first 5 movies will be good. They need to wow people. The next 5? Still ok. But you can be sure that catering to the masses and money will be the main motive. And if this pesky "quality" gets in the way, it will be sacrificed by then.


Those who have been reading the news, articles and have been keeping an eye on how these US industries work know that we are talking about dim, money-hungry and ruthless people. Businessmen who know nothing of art. Having seen what they're trying to do to this world, I have no delusions about what they will do to the Korean film industry. It's hungry businessmen making a deal with businessmen, about how they can profit from the artists of their country as well.

So, I sincerely hope people will oppose this. And if it does happen, I hope Korea will be smart about it, use them for a nice big boost and then throw them away, giving them a taste of their own medicine. I would love to see more Koreans in good American works, I'd love to see directors working between these two countries and I'd love to see foreign good actors in Korean works, but that would be an exchange and sharing of art. Not business.

But as things stand now, I hope to see more and more people talking about this issue and promoting Korean films and an independent Korean industry for all the wonderful things that make them good and different from this sickly dying animal called Hollywood.

I hope that the business force called "Hollywood" will plummet to its death, allowing it to be reborn, to an industry that does less and better, that puts quality over quantity and kicks this overly business-oriented model out. Hollywood as we know it has to die and give good US filmmakers and actors a place to do the really good work some of them are capable of. And Korea should not let this desperate dying business latch on to it and controlling it in hopes of gaining some power. It will just delay its death at the expense of the Korean film industry and economy.

Wishful thinking on my part? Probably, but nothing has ever been achieved from people not having dreams, not striving for freedom of expression and quality of life and also art and entertainment.

Images found by Google search and the credit belongs to the original posters.

The lovely "Raiding The 20th Century" picture was found here.

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