Book Review // In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

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“I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.”

As a Christmas gift, I received a copy of the book In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom. It’s the story of how young Yeonmi Park escaped North Korea, and the struggles that she endured to reach freedom. While her journey begins in a small village in North Korea, her story extends to the brutality of sex trafficking in China to the difficult transition to South Korea.

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Gone Crazy for Gone Girl || Movie Review

I’ve been eagerly waiting for Gone Girl to hit theaters and was able to get to see it yesterday and now that I’ve had a night to sleep on all of the thoughts whirling around in my head, I’m finally able to sit down and begin to write my review of the film. I will do my absolute best to remain spoiler free because I’m adamant that if there’s ever a movie to NOT be spoiled, it’s this roller coaster of a story.

It’s been about two to three years since I first read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. My mom had originally read it for her book club and told me that it was a must read for me as well. And wow, was she right. I was blown away by the book and I also nearly threw it across the room when I was done (book readers and movie goers will know why). So when I heard about it being made into a movie, I was both excited and nervous. The only thing that eased my trepidation was finding out that Flynn wrote the screenplay and I allowed myself to get caught up in the excitement.

I was not disappointed in the slightest.

Right from the opening clip, David Fincher’s Gone Girl pulls you right into the story. While you do feel aware the length of the movie (clocking in at 149 minutes), you never once feel like you’re losing interest or that it’s dragging. The twists and turns keep you riveted on the action on screen. If you’ve read the book, it’s amazing the great transitions that Flynn was able to make in transposing the story for the film. It’s told in an extremely similar fashion to the story-telling of the book, which I wasn’t sure at first they would be able to pull off.

I was also blown away by the performances of lead actors Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. It might be one of the most perfect castings I have ever seen for a film, and it’s impossible to imagine any other choice. They truly were able to embody their characters in a chilling, yet perfect way. Affleck nails his role as Nick Dunne, the husband who has to deal with the disappearance with his wife while dealing with figuring out what happened and dealing with a police force and town that is questioning his innocence. Affleck is able to transition through the different faces of his character, giving a depth to Nick that is both subtle and explosive at the same time. In a fantastic combination of the writing and his acting, Affleck creates a character that you’re both drawn to and repulsed by. And having only seen Pike in the 2005 remake of Pride and Prejudice, I was beyond floored by her portrayal of the beautiful, yet cold, Amy Dunne. To avoid spoilers I won’t talk much about her role or character, but if she doesn’t received an Oscar nomination I will be severely disappointed. These two roles are both extremes in every aspect and these two actors were able to capture them in such a raw form that it’s almost as if it was originally written for them.

As a cinema student and a sucker for anything aesthetically pleasing, it’s impossible for me to avoid talking about how beautifully the film was made. Fincher, as usual, nailed it. This isn’t just a dark story, this is a dark film. There is no warmth in color or in feeling, and instead we get a glimpse into their characters’ lives just when things are at their worst. Much like Se7en, there’s a detached and sort of cold feeling to the way it is shot. While I haven’t seen as much of his work as I want to, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to listen to and analyze his work in different cinema classes. There are intimate shots of usual objects, and he often just lets the action unfold in front of a stationary camera, not letting us get distracted and instead focusing purely on what’s going on. We are however given a complete vision of what it is that we need to see.

The score for the film adds a lot to it as well. Even though it isn’t a “scary movie” or a movie that has any type of jump scares, the music helps keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s a tension that seems to consistently build, never letting us forget that something bigger is going on.

Overall I couldn’t get over how well made the movie was. It was hands down one of the best adaptations I have ever seen, while also being one of the best new movies that I have seen in a while. Now that I’ve seen it, I find myself itching to reread the book and I can almost guarantee that I will see the movie in theaters again. And if that’s not the mark of success then I don’t know what is.

Personal Update : I am my own phoenix

It feels like a lifetime since I actually posted something other than just photographs or essays on here (most likely because it has been), and I figured it was time for an update.

I’m on the final countdown to the end of my sophomore year, which is crazy to think about. Wasn’t I just posting about my freshman year finishing? It’s absolutely terrifying how quickly college is going by and I find myself scrambling to figure out if I’m truly a responsible adult or just a child pretending to know what’s going on.

My classes have been amazing this semester. I’m only taking three: Cinema Aesthetics, Digital Art, and Corporate Publishing (a graphic design class). The best part about this semester hasn’t just been that I’m only taking three classes, but that these classes represent everything I want to do when I’m out of college. They’ve all connected with each other in different ways and I’ve been able to take skills from each one to the next. Thanks to these classes, I’m finally building up confidence that I’m not actually crazy and that I really could make a career out of my passions.

I recently had a conversation with one of my best friends about how scary the future is. What if I’m actually bad at what I choose to do? What if it actually doesn’t make me happy? What do I do then?

We live in a world where we are expected to have our life figured out when we graduate, and that’s a very scary realization, especially when you’re looking outside the norm of a typical nine to five type of job. What if what I love isn’t enough?

Amongst the anxiety of the future looming overhead, I’ve managed to have a great 2014 so far. I’ve made a lot of new friends and had many new experiences, all helping me grow and celebrate the life I’ve been blessed enough to have. I’ve been able to push myself in my interests and see what I’m able to create, proving myself to my peers, professors, and even myself.

But the biggest news of 2014 falls under the golf part of my life. The other week we were competing down in Jacksonville, FL. Surrounded by friends and family, we found ourselves in 3rd place after the first and second day. We were in a similar spot last year, and I’m sure close friends and families remember the tear-jerk/disaster of an ending. And of course, our final day brought winds up to 35mph. All morning we would catch ourselves changing “if we win” to “when we win.” It was all I could do to keep my nerves in check as I went up to the first tee, the memory of my quadruple-bogey all too clear from the previous year. Yet somehow I found myself on the course that day, calmer than I have ever been. Wind gusts brought me back to high school tournaments in Twin Falls and Pocatello, where you hit and pray and let the wind do its thing. There wasn’t a green I felt I couldn’t read and I found myself dropping putt after putt, burning edge after edge. Walking from the tee box on one whole, bag swung over my shoulder and the wind pushing into my face with the hot sun burning down, I felt the realization. We could do this. I only saw my coach twice that day (both times I drained a 12+ foot birdie putt), and I chose to not ask how my team was doing. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t add up my own score as much as I normally do. Four birdies later, I was even going into the last hole. And in true Kathryn fashion, I bogeyed it with a three putt. Heaven forbid I make this sport easy on myself.

I received nervous thumbs up and smiles from my teammates as I walked to the scorer’s tent. Somehow after everything, it looked like we might have pushed our way to the top. But it wasn’t until I heard the screams that we knew we had done it. I ran up the hill from the scoring table to my teammates and our families. My teammate Emily had been in the group behind me, and after watching me three-putt, my coach had turned to her and said, “Just put it in.” Like a good athlete, she listened to her coach and put it in from the fairway for an eagle.

From then on it was like the smiles couldn’t be erased. All of the wins in high school, the heartbreak from Florida last year, none of it could have prepared me for what it felt like to win a college tournament. Once we were all in and the deal was sealed, we couldn’t stop screaming, laughing, almost crying with joy. Even now I get goosebumps just thinking about it. To top it off they had an amazing burrito buffet in the clubhouse so it’s hard to get any better than that. We spent at least an hour taking photos afterwards, even running onto the 18th green to take a team photo.

It had been four years since the Elon women’s golf team had won a tournament.

With that now behind us, the trophy brought home, and the team championship flag hanging in my room, we move onto the rest of the season. The next three weekends are going to be filled with tournaments as we make that final stretch. Just two more tournaments and then we’ll be on our way to conference. And sadly, once these next three weekends are done, we’ll only have four weeks left of school and I’ll be an upperclassman.

2014 has taken on a life of its own, far surpassing 2013, a year I will gladly leave behind. So here’s to pushing through the struggles and finishing strong. If last year was a personal death, then this year is the rise from the ashes. I am my own phoenix.

G R A V I T Y : FILM CRITIQUE

It’s hard to believe that a movie with only two characters and virtually no location change could be one of the top movies to come out of 2013. Yet Alfonso Cuarón’s newest film Gravity has managed to do just that.

I initially went into Gravity skeptically. Yes the trailer did look cool and all but what on Earth (no pun intended) was the plot? What was going to happen? My friends convinced me to see it, but I insisted to them that I wanted to see it in 3D if we went. I was positive this was the type of movie to see in 3D. While it didn’t do anything too dramatic with the extra dimension (most movies don’t anymore), it was still absolutely worth it.

I am a huge Sandra Bullock fan and as per usual, I was extremely impressed with her performance. She’s incredibly believable as Dr. Ryan Stone and it’s hard to imagine any other actress in that role. I read somewhere that Robert Downey Jr. was considered for Bullock’s male counterpart, but I’m really glad that they decided to go with George Clooney. I would have never pictured the two acting together but they blended extremely well and balanced each other out.

What sells the movie is the cinematography. Emmanuel Lubezki helped create a realistic atmosphere that catapulted the audience into the movie. Rather than an idea of space, the audience is introduced to the real atmosphere of space. One of the most breathtaking scenes was the rising of the sun over Earth, causing the characters and the audience to stare in awe. It’s hard to believe that almost everything in the film was CG (computer generated) as it looked so realistic.

A beauty of the film also lay in the music and sound of it. I was lucky enough to be seated with a great audience; no one made a peep throughout the whole film. At times, there was only silence, no sound at all. It was almost unnerving to experience. Here on Earth, we are used to the constant sound of people and life going on around us. Even when no one is talking in a classroom, there is the buzz of the lights and the rustle of paper. In space though, there is no sound. Watching the explosions and scenes happen with no sound was mind-blowing and strange. I think this accuracy of space is one of the winning decisions that were made. While there are some inaccuracies, they don’t detract or really even add to the story line. But this concept of silence, accompanied only by the radio and Bullock’s character’s own narration, is something entirely different than what people expect.

I absolutely recommend this movie to anyone who wants to see it. If you’re afraid of space or any of that, then maybe the movie isn’t for you. But if you want to see a dramatic, sci-fi thriller, then I give this movie two thumbs up. It’s a beautifully crafted adventure that takes you out of this world and into the one of the most unknown frontiers that we’re still exploring today.

SOLIPSIST: An Experimental Film || Review

Director Andrew Thomas Huang’s experimental film, “SOLIPSIST” is a short film that is filled with awe-inspiring special effects, high contrast between bright colors and darkness, and makes you think hard about the creation that you just watched.

It’s no surprise that this film was a winner at Slamdance 2012 (a festival for independent filmmakers) and received the Special Jury Prize for Experimental Short. The film is a strange combination of inanimate objects interacting visually with silent people, a colorful depiction of what appears to be the idea of separation and coming together. While there isn’t a story arc, I still found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, jaw dropped, waiting to see where this visual piece would take me next.

There are three main sections, each showing a different concept. The first features to women, back to back. In synchrony, the move forwards and back, all the while slowly getting encased in strangely animated objects. I felt anxiety as the scene carried on, struggling to comprehend what was going on. While there was no dialogue at all in the scene, I was still immersed in trying to understand it.

In the second arc, there are strange creations that appear to be floating and interacting. They continue the theme of what seems like separation and joining again, and thanks to later added nondiagetic sound effects to create the idea that these creature things are in fact like small animals. This type of personifying helps create an invisible story line that draws your interest in. The scene appears to something resembling an aquatic setting in an interpretive and confusing way.

The final story arc concludes the previous two in a literal explosion of special effects and color. This part takes the idea of separation and the collapse of… well the collapse of what I’m not totally sure. But the special effects are mind boggling in this scene as everything that has been created so far is suddenly destroyed. The sound effects used in this final scene are almost space galactic like, giving an otherworldly feeling to the scene. Along with that, the two men in the scene are accompanied by animalistic growling sounds as well, taking away their identity of being human as well.

While at first it seems like there is no story, by the end there is some sort of thread connecting the scenes. However there is still no answer to what it all means. Is it really about separation? Is there a story to the idea of what it means to be human?

Each scene creates a sense of confusion and disjointedness, evolving into chaos at times as well. It’s a puzzle in itself, figuring out what it means or what it could mean. I would recommend this short film, but with caution. While I loved it and was mesmerize by the creative style of the film, it’s not quite the film for everyone. But if you’re interested in an explosive, artistic film, I absolutely recommend clicking the link and buckling your seatbelt for watching this mind-bending story.

Film Critique: Descendants (Animated Short Film)

“The most beautiful things are often the most dangerous.”

Descendants is a short animated film written by Heiko van der Scherm, a vibrant visualization that took a total of three years to make. The world created is hauntingly beautiful and accompanied by dramatic, goose-bump inducing music. It is the story of two plants, a wish, and the inherent evil and goodness that can exist in nature.

There was something unusual about the design used when creating these plants with human faces, an even further step than most movies and short films make involving the world beneath our feet. Even though we are not seeing an actor’s face, the close-up shots used still convey deep emotions, something that is important when your main characters are plants. The character design is unique; I don’t feel like I have seen these characters before and that they are their own entity. They are also fully developed, something I wouldn’t have expected from a 15-minute film. Their emotions and actions are extremely realistic and it’s easy to forget that they are simply animated characters.

The short film has similar camera movements of that of a feature length movie, helping give an authenticity to the film. The viewer enters the world with a long, sweeping fluid master shot before beginning the journey. There are close-ups to the characters and a smooth tilt shot helps transition a scene from day to night. These different angles help immerse the viewer into a ground-level world. Due to the nature of the film, where the majority of the plot is driven by the two characters talking, the animation and editing was extremely important to keep it interesting. The music of the film helped generate the mood as well, helping pull the story along and accompany the scenes, adding a

The color palette of the film reminds me of movies such as Lord of the Rings and Snow White and the Huntsman – strong, vivid colors that are like an enhanced version of the world we live in now. Similarly, it reminds me of the animated movie, How to Train Your Dragon. On that movie, the film crew hired a director of photography, even though it was animated, in order to ensure that there was a realistic feel to the film’s styling and coloring and avoiding the cartoon-like bright colors of most animated movies. While I don’t know the process of making the film Descendants, I feel like there might have been a similar process to help create such an authentic and real world.

I would absolutely recommend this film to anyone who was interested. The story line is original and intriguing, unexpectedly drawing the viewer in. It’s a beautiful piece of animation. But most of all this, it’s a powerful film that has more to it than just animation and short film. There are deeper meanings within the story and complex relationships. I at one point had to stop the film to catch my breath and take everything in. I’ve never been so mesmerized by an animated film, or even movie, as much as I was with this one. It is truly art.