Film Review #2 Skate Kitchen

Film Review by Nayoung Jin Date: Oct 7, 2019

Skate Kitchen  (2018 ‧ Drama ‧ 1h 47m)

A nice little drama that feels so real and raw! And so true to life.  Lots of visuals too.  The essence, attitude, and lives of people around that age are really well and honestly portrayed.  Emotionally honest as well. 

Reading intention and getting the personalities through visuals given (and choices each makes) were fun, and getting to understand better/deeper each of main characters (layer by layer) was an engaging experience. 

In terms of storytelling, I am learning a lot about causality (In this film, action and consequence is super clear and feels almost like what you did is irrecoverable, you can’t go back, and life goes on) and making choices (sometimes right ones and sometimes clearly wrong ones. . .we are always making choices. . .) and not making one(avoiding).  It’s an excellent film to study them, as such things are super clear here. 

While this film has a lot of light (and sometimes funny) moments, at the same time, teenagers’ anxiety, uncertainty, and family issue are also well-captured.  The moment when Camille’s complicated family issue was told was emotionally resonant and felt honest.  I could just feel/imagine, too, how lonely a person can get with such thing.

Moreover, the use of setting/surroundings/the landscapes was really good (It’s inspiring and even made me want to go to a big city I know and make a movie using the outdoor places and streets there, I mean with the environments they already have).

Also good were the subtext and subtlety in the dialogues. It made me think about how much we are aware/not aware of the mistakes we are making and just go on with them, and that film is a good medium to  show this – making the audience get that in a subtle way, until the point of consequence/confrontation.

I realize a film is also a cool medium to show what someone near you is going through in parallel, while you are doing A (whatever it is that you do) and enjoying  your life/moments, just as I see it in this film between Camille’s life and her friend Janay’s life in the same summer. The contrast visually shown was dramatic and moving. 

This film made me think more carefully about what the options in life are for a protagonist. Options this person has/have in each period of life (and perhaps the cause that might make this person think about the options).  That would perhaps help me when I work on turning points in my film. 

It also made me think about misleading visual hints and how other character would read/interpret them. That would be fun to play with in my own film. 

Although this film’s main language is English, the protagonist speaks Spanish sometimes when she talk with her mom, and we audience get English subtitle for that.  I would like to try that some time, in a film of my own, with English as a main language and a little bit of Korean spoken at times.  It would be fun to try that.

Film Review #1 Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

Film Review by Nayoung Jin Date: Sep 30, 2019

I just watched Happy-Go-Lucky (2008).  It’s a realistic film about a female teacher living in London. 

First of all, I find it a hundred times better than Cindefella (1960), which I recently watched. Happy-Go-Lucky is well put together and the sense of realness/realism wowed me.  Compared to this film, Cindefella (1960) feels contrived and roughly put together (relatively speaking). 

Happy-go-Lucky has great visual energy, and it uses very carefully chosen visuals (It seems). It is concise, and is close to what I would like to make. It’s well concentrated and got flavor.  It uses pictures nicely to give sense of place and people and also what kind of the world the protagonist lives in.  And it feels more organic, too, and is much more consistent throughout, compared to Cindefella (1960).  So, I completely believe this world the writer has built. And I’d say it’s cinematic. 

I also saw some good examples of visual communication: telling something through facial expressions or gestures, as opposed to using words. 

It’s got a clear overall arc, and its moment of reveal/moment of answer/crisis/climax is well done, and is so convincing. . .and in a way it is almost like the Zoo Story by Edward Albee. So real and emotionally resonant–it hurts a bit. 

In this protagonist’s world, there seems to be Yin and Yang  (specifically, glum; dark; angry versus bright; cheery; positive) coexisting.  The protagonist acknowledges the hardship in people’s lives but doesn’t give in to the negative attitude. She keeps her cheery, bright, positive self.  She’s got this spirit. 

The dialogue is brief, snappy, lively, and raw. 

The back and forth between the driver and the protagonist is something to watch. It’s got a real spark. Their dynamic, and conflict is worth watching. A real drama in there. And there is a very clear structure, and then by the end, it feels resolved, and there is the final note (that feels like, ‘it’s a sad what happened with the driver and I can’t help him, but I’ll still be my cheery, happy self!’ Some kind of sad+ happy feel to it.) 

Great and realistic character differentiation (They are two very different people in terms of personality, attitude, gender, job …) Well, it’s not just that they are different people. It’s more like they are on the “two completely different wavelengths”. 

There’s a slowly built-up arc here. It’s clear, it’s great. It’s like a whole life is contained/condensed in these driving lessons, like in The Straight Story(1999), which by the way is another good film, a whole life seemed to be contained/condensed in the moments of the protagonist’s journey to brother’s home. The protagonist here was mostly riding his tractor.

When the driver couldn’t admit till the end that he was the one who ran when she called, it felt like he was a real human. And we get his pain and his humanity during the driving lessons the protagonist takes from him. 

And all the protagonist’s relationships and mystery are dealt in a way that is smooth and feels right. 

External pressures/forces challenge her. This brings emotional changes in her for the moment, which felt quite real (genuine I mean). But she is a resilient person and at the end, she stays true to herself. 

‘Oh, well, human conditions’/ ‘here are the human conditions’ – this film seems to say. Real people and real city are captured well, as if this film is created by a photographer who walked around in the city a whole lot. 

This film wasn’t profound or anything (I mean not too complex), but it rang true. Also, important/main relationships (from which the central dramatic conflict was generated) were fully explored, so!

On starving birds

Biodiversity: what happened next?

Mass die-off of birds in south-western US ’caused by starvation’

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/26/mass-die-off-of-birds-in-south-western-us-caused-by-starvation-aoe

After reading this guardian article, I feel so sorry to hear about birds starving.

My maternal grandpa said (when he was alive), we have to leave fruits for the birds. We were in his tangerine farm (he had other kinds of fruits there, too), helping to pick fruits on that day. So, we left some.

Now I don’t go to that farm any more. But a lot of birds visited our garden this year to feed on our figs (from fig tree) and drink water and take a bath. We had lots and lots of figs this year. Figs were up there for two seasons almost (summer and fall). Most of them were eaten by visiting birds, and we only picked two or three figs for the taste. My mom was very happy by the visit of all these birds (and some cats).

Only take what you need and leave the rest for others — could it be a way?

Baby Bear, the Cook

Written by Nayoung Jin

A story that was initially published in a downloadable format by a U.K. company/site Alfie Dog Fiction, before it got pulled out due to lack of reader based revenue. That said, it was fun to write this piece. 🙂

Baby Bear, the Cook

There lived a grizzly bear family at the top of Grouse Mountain. Baby Bear lived with his grandparents and parents.

Often Grandpa Bear, the head of the family, would take Baby Bear to the bee hive; there he would politely ask the queen bee to share some honey. Then the bees would listen. The bees and bears in this wild reserve helped each other with their needs.

Grandpa Bear was always wary of humans, remembering the wolves killed by human hunters. “It was all nonsense. Killing for excitement! For fun! For prize!”

Normally because of the electronic fence which was set very high, the bear family couldn’t go any further than the wild reserve.

However, one day, after thunder and lightning, some parts of the fence were burnt in fire. Sitting on Mom’s lap, Baby Bear stared. Mother Bear stopped the curious Baby Bear from running towards the smoke. Baby Bear had to wait.

The next morning, when the air was frosty, Baby Bear went to the burnt spot and saw a small hole there. It was about the size of Baby Bear.

Baby Bear, who felt like an adventurer, crawled through the hole. Then he stepped forward and forward until a bush blocked his way.

When he peered out from the bush, he could see a store—its front sign said, “Canada’s Original and Oldest Hamburger shop. All organic. Vegetarian dishes are also available.” Baby Bear wondered what that meant.  

Then he smelled something so good: sweet like honey, spicy like a mint leaf, salty like a trout, fruity like blueberries.

Baby Bear couldn’t help but rush forward. He sprang out of the bush and rolled and rolled and rolled on the grass until he bumped into the wall of the hamburger shop. He stood up slowly and looked around.

Right above his head was an open window. Behind him were buttercups. There, the bees stopped buzzing to look closely at Baby Bear.  

“Oh-oh,” said the bees, “A stranger in the back garden!” 

Baby Bear didn’t mind, though. He tiptoed and looked through the window. Inside the shop, a man wearing a long white hat and white coat was cooking, humming a happy song. Everyone called him Chef. Chef was breaking eggs and chopping potatoes at the same time. Watching him cook made Baby Bear’s mouth water. He stood still, leaning his hands on the window sill.

After that, Baby Bear came to this place every day and watched Chef. He was so silent that Chef didn’t notice anything. The same humans—a toddler and a woman—were always around Chef. They must be Chef’s family, Baby Bear thought.

Chef’s place smelled of all sorts of foods that were new to Baby Bear. He learned the recipes by heart. He learned how to make jam. He learned how to make a wild berry salmon hamburger (when Chef served this dish, he always cried, “ORGANIC, ORGANIC!”). He learned how to make vegetarian soup. Soon Baby Bear came to know most of the ingredients. He was so glad and wanted to know more.

Now the bees in the back garden were no longer suspicious of Baby Bear. Baby Bear’s nose could distinguish a wider range of foods. Sometimes, when he got lucky, he ate some of the bread crumbs—Chef’s woman tossed them out for the birds in the back garden.

In his free time, Baby Bear explored the wild reserve to find cooking ingredients. He had to ask all his friends: baby squirrels, baby wolves, baby owls, baby coyotes, and baby foxes.

Baby Bear could have been the future apprentice of Chef if he hadn’t been frightened, oh so frightened by somebody: a toddler.  

One day, Baby Bear was looking through the window, as usual. While he was absorbed in watching Chef making a fruit salad, Chef’s baby sneaked out from the shop and crawled toward Baby Bear. Then she hugged Baby Bear fiercely from behind.

Baby Bear was too surprised to speak a word. The toddler laughed, screamed, laughed, screamed, and murmured. This confused Baby Bear.

The toddler pulled Baby Bear’s face and ears. She then sat down, and, with great enthusiasm and with equally great strength of hands, held up Baby Bear’s front leg and put it into her mouth and sucked. She licked Baby Bear’s paw until all the maple syrup left on the paw was gone. But she still didn’t let it go. 

Just then an owl came down to sit on a branch of a nearby tree. The toddler was distracted but still held the paw tight. Baby Bear was about to cry.

“Sarah, Sarah! Where are you, sweetie?” Chef’s woman’s voice was coming out from the shop. The toddler turned around, held out her hands, and called, “Ma!” She crawled back toward the hamburger shop.

Baby Bear sighed deeply in relief.  He was set free. He ran back home. Baby Bear decided that he would never come back to this frightening place. His adventure was over. He had had enough.

That evening, at home, Baby Bear cooked a new dish which he had learned from observing Chef; he served his family a salmon and shrimps seasoned with maple syrup and peppermint (a present from his friends). He also served mixed berry salad with nuts, acorns, honey, and baby greens. 

The supper was nothing fancy, but Mother Bear beamed. She said, “Oh, I’m so proud of you, darling.”

Father Bear emptied his dish, wiped his mouth, closed his eyes, and murmured, “ummmmmm, yummmmm.” He then patted Baby Bear.

Grandma Bear held Baby Bear gently and kissed him on the cheek.

However, Grandpa Bear was silent throughout.

“How do you find the meal, Grandpa?” asked Baby Bear.

Grandpa Bear said, “… Delightful!  Refreshing! Oh, I should have tried mixing things long ago.” He wasn’t angry anymore toward Baby Bear for sneaking out every day to watch Chef.

When Baby Bear mentioned more recipes for delicious dishes the bear family could try, Grandpa Bear said, “See, my baby is special. He always finds something good from everyone, including a human.”

Baby Bear was so happy. That night, he slept soundly, dreaming of being a cook as a grown-up.

Just a note I wrote

I came to really love a little bird that often visits my place and plays–whenever I pull down the shades a bit. Wonder how it knows when I do. And it’s always the same bird that visits, and my porch just turns into its playground, with the short trees to jump about. Today, it even got into my flower pot, to have a look. Haha. And I’m beginning to suspect that this bird ate the stately orange spider that had been living here for quite a while this summer. All the empty webs…. Well, this bird appears so merry and lively that it brings me such joy!

August 17, 2018 – Vancouver, Canada

On writing

question 2! For the playwrights. What comes first for you? The title? Characters? Where do you begin your playwrighting journey? (This week’s question created by Matthew Namik — from Theatre in my Pajamas group on Facebook)

My answer:

A need to communicate a particular experience (that I think matters/needs to be heard/might mean something) of a particular person. Or sometimes, an image of a person that inspires me and brings me a sense of wonder. This is the beginning of my playwriting journey, but it is also what helps me stick with the story till the end.

Rose’s Tree Mama

Rose’s Tree Mama
By Nayoung Jin


Ever since Rose was a little girl, she had a tree mama. Her tree mama was quite a noisy, chatty mama, with a lot of laughter and dance moves—shake-shake.


On the days when her mom was a bit late in getting home, Rose stood by the window and waited for her. As she did so, the clock ticking sounded especially loud. The tree mama’s presence, however, made it more bearable for Rose.


Sometimes, Rose saw how the sun changed, first turning into the reddish orange, then getting smaller and smaller and smaller until it completely disappeared. Even then, Rose did not feel too anxious because the tree mama was waiting with her.


In summer, as the tree mama watched over her, Rose rolled down the hill or played with dogs from the neighborhood. Rose sometimes slept on the thickest branch of her tree mama. It felt safe and cool.


But when the wild dogs barked or the heavy rain started, the tree mama would always put Rose safely back inside Rose’s bedroom, through the window.


And whenever Rose awoke in the middle of the night, she would look through the window at her tree mama, who is strong and sound, and feel all right. The tree mama would then rustle her leaves to comfort Rose, and Rose would soon fall back asleep, this time in a deep, dreamless sleep.


“What’s up there?” Rose asked one day, looking out the window and pointing to a forest nearby.
“Everything,” said Tree Mama.
“Have you ever been to the mountain?” Rose pointed right, at the mountain.
“No,” said Tree Mama.
“Have you ever been to the sea?” Rose pointed left, at the sea.
“No,” said Tree Mama. “But I’m content, for here is my home. It always has been.”
Rose smiled, imagining the little tree, as small as she.


Several years later, Rose had to move to another city with her mom. It meant she had to leave her tree mama. Rose’s heart broke in half.
“Why don’t you take some of my leaves?” Tree Mama said.
Rose nodded. She took some leaves and put them between pages of her favorite book, then said goodbye.


Rose left, looking back again and again at her old, familiar home.


When Rose grew up and became part of a big, crowded city, her tree mama was always present in her dreams—day or night. Along with her child self. The merry self.


The leaves she had collected from her tree mama were dry and crumbling by now, so she made them into the bookmarks, each laminated nicely. She used them whenever she read good books at the library.


As an old woman, Rose often walked by the forest near her place. Doing so would bring forth the liveliness of her young spirit. ‘I had loved two mamas,’ she said to herself, remembering fondly her childhood villa and the tree that reached toward her through the bedroom window, on the second floor.


She did not tell this to anyone, not even her beloved man. The memory was only hers to cherish, in the pleasant quietness of morning.