Plenty of good flicks without buying cableI just cannot lead a normal daily life without my cell phone. But there are times when I miss the days without the ever-so-convenient cell phone. Come to think of it, life without cell phones wasn’t so bad. And I’m not talking about the Middle Ages ― just five years ago.
Along with the cell phone, a number of so-called modern necessities are not quite essential, at least for me. Take cable TV. I guess I’m too lazy to be cable TV channel savvy. It took me months in the first place to get cable, finally lured in by the diversity of movies being aired. But after a few months I gave up looking for the right movie from the overwhelming cable channel listings. Instead, I tune in to the familiar “Jumalui Myeonghwa,” or “Weekend Movie Special,” airing around 11 p.m. Saturdays on MBC-TV networks.
It’s a ritual for local TV networks to air movies late on weekend nights. “Weekend Movie Special” is one of the longest-running TV programs in Korea, dating back to 1970. KBS-1TV network first started showing movies in 1969, under the title “Myeonghwa Geukjang” or “Selected Movie Theater,” and it still airs Sundays around 11 p.m. SBS-TV competes with its midnight “Movie Special,” or “Yeonghwa Teukgeup” on Sundays. MBC-TV also runs “Sunday Late-night Movies” and KBS-2TV has “Saturday Movie Special.”
Until the 1990s, nine out of 10 movies were foreign, mostly American flicks. I first watched “Ben-Hur” and “Romeo and Juliet” through such late-night shows. It was my family’s weekend ritual to gather up for “Weekend Movie Special.” Whenever the program’s theme song ― the legendary score from Paul Newman’s “Exodus” ― played, my heart pounded. The TV networks used to follow the government’s strict censorship policy, so the most provocative scene would be a kiss. And whenever actors were about to smooch, my parents sent me and my sister to the kitchen for sweets. When I returned, pouting with an I’m-not-a-kid look on my face, the hot stuff had long passed. My parents don’t censor me anymore, but the TV networks do, according to Shin Seok-kyun, a director for MBC’s “Weekend Movie Special.”
“Since ‘Weekend Movie Special’ is for all kinds of viewers, we give a little touch to almost every film to make it presentable to everyone,” Mr. Shin says.
The movies are mostly dubbed into Korean and as a child, I used to wonder how the blond-haired, blue-eyed actors could be fluent in Korean. Local TV networks keep dubbing, for the sake of the elderly and children, though with a little remote control manipulation, you can recode a movie to its original language. There are exceptions when the original language is crucial, Mr. Shin says. The 1993 film “Remains of the Day” with Anthony Hopkins was one such film. “The fancy British accent, I thought, was the core part of the movie, so we went by the subtitles,” Mr. Shin says.
At least two years pass before a film runs on TV. Movie distributors sell films in packages, including a few quality films. That’s why two-thumbs-down films sometimes get aired, Mr. Shin explains.
Another fabulous movie selection is on EBS’s “Sunday Cinema” at around 2 p.m.; their recent lineup included “The Philadelphia Story” (1940) starring Katharine Hepburn. Unlike its competitors, EBS uses subtitles instead of dubbing.
So what’s on the plate this weekend? “Snake Eyes” starring Nicolas Cage on KBS-2TV at 10:50 p.m. Saturday with a bunch of other non-English films like “The Son’s Room” and “Who Are You” waiting in line. Forget about the perplexing cable TV channels and just tune in to good old weekend movie specials.
by Chun Su-jin