Pachinko, Winning Time, and stacked casts
Fictional and dramatized adaptations of real events, plus Barbie and Oppenheimer casting announcements
On this week’s episode of Criticism Is Dead, we discuss Pachinko and Winning Time, two different approaches to retelling history.
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02:32 Pachinko, streaming on Apple TV+, is an eminently watchable drama, but much of its spirit has been lost in the translation from book to screen.
Adaptation is not an easy task: inevitably, things must be altered — some removed, others added — to suit another medium. But we shouldn’t accept it as a given that we will lost so much in an adaptation, either; a few, like Station Eleven (previously discussed here), not only capture the soul of the original, but also manage to stand on their own as rich, original, creative works. The TV version of Pachinko has not quite succeeded on that front, so far — its biggest issue, as New York Times critic Mike Hale writes, is in its “Hollywoodization.” When the series exercises restraint in its emotional peaks, as in the final moments between Sunja and her mother, it achieves real heartfelt beauty. But other scenes feel too engineered, doubling down on wrenching scores and cliché dialogue seemingly in pursuit of making a statement or drawing out tears. It’s a shame, because Pachinko has a lot going for it otherwise: cinematography, acting, costumes, sets, etc.
P.S. Other smart reviews to read: Inkoo Kang in the Washington Post, Shirley Li in The Atlantic.
26:00 HBO’s Winning Time is a self-assured, stylish delight of a show, if you can make it through the scene-setting first few episodes.
The faux archival footage, the film stock, the graphics, the cartoon flourishes, the fourth wall-breaking wink-winks — it’s admittedly a lot, but that’s also part of the fun. There’s a real joie de vivre to this series, a confident swagger that looks and feels different than anything else airing right now. Like Atlanta (previously discussed here), Winning Time is firmly in control of everything it chooses to spend time on, the things it speeds past, and all the (probably plentiful) creative liberties that it takes. This is not a wholly accurate retelling of history, per se, but the kernel of truth — the broader outline of events — remains. What else can we say, it’s fun!
43:05 Plus, culture notes about the Barbie and Oppenheimer casts, which are real who’s whos of notable names.
Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.
Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.
Hitting you with another recommendation this week:
True statement: “Adam Driver’s best performance has always been Girls”
Talk to Pelin about Tokyo Vice…
That’s it for now. We will be OFF next week, but we’ll have a special episode the week after that!
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Artwork and design: Sara Macias and Andrew Liu