Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Rolling In The Deep: Seoul's Sinkholes

The first time I saw the footage of this accident on Korean TV last weekend, I immediately recognized the sidewalk! It was the bus stop before the one where I used to alight when I rode the Blue Bus 400 on my way to the Yongsan Station (I no longer take this bus though). And it's right next to a construction site.

The footage showed a couple (a guy and his girlfriend according to the news) falling into a sinkhole after getting off a blue-colored bus, and there's only one blue bus that stops on there: the Blue Bus 400!

Here are the videos of the accident from YTN News:

Luckily, they survived the three-meter fall with a few scratches after getting medical attention at a nearby hospital. The ground below the sidewalk got eroded by the excavation being made by a construction company, which is building a 39-storey apartment complex in the area. According to the news, the Seoul City government may impose a penalty on the construction company due to this accident.

This actually happened last week during the lunar new year holidays. I guess that day the couple was supposed to be enjoying their holidays. Instead, they ended up at a hospital.
             (The sidewalk around this construction site 
                           is currently off-limits)

Last year, the news about sinkholes appearing in the Jamsil area near the construction site of the Lotte World Tower scared the residents living there. But this time, sinkholes now have now shown up here in my Yongsan District neighborhood. Although the construction company already covered the sinkhole, the sidewalk is still closed to pedestrians.

But if even if they become passable, I wouldn't venture walking through that side, lest I want to suddenly disappear into the ground. 
               (Another construction site on the other side)

Weren't the two just lucky it happened during daytime and there was someone who called for help? What if it was a lone pedestrian just passing through the area late at night? Or worse, what if the passer-by was a mother with a baby?

With all these fatal accidents happening lately, I guess nobody should take this piece of news lightly. It would be a very pricey lesson to learn if you happen to be a victim of one of these avoidable accidents.

From reckless drivers who don't obey the traffic lights or care about pedestrian lanes, to motorcycles competing with everyone else on the sidewalk, and now, sinkholes, too?!

I used to say that motorbikes, puke and cars compete with pedestrians for space on Seoul's sidewalks. I think I should now include sinkholes to the list.

So, the next time you're walking on the sidewalk next to a huge construction site with deep excavation, do watch out. You don't want to be rolling into deep.

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Pinoy At The Movies: WILD

A minute into the film and I alread knew what it was all about. Wild is another autobiographical film about trekking, losing one's self up in the mountains and finding one's self down at the low lands...with the occasional accidents. 

Reese Witherspoon's Wild reminded me of James Franco's 127 Hours. Franco earned an Oscar best actor nomination for that film, but he had to lose limb first. Witherspoon also earned a best actress Oscar nomination for this one and she had to lose a toe nail, too. Yes, it was eeeeww! on the first five minutes of this film. Be prepared to cringe; it didn't look pleasant. Ha-ha-ha!

Wild is based on Cheryl Strayed's book about her trek through the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in order to deal with her recent divorce and her personal issues. It's quite admirable; she hiked more than a thousand kilometers over three months in order to deal with her issues. For me, a pepperoni pizza and a pint of jamoca almond fudge ice cream would have been just fine.

Aside from having all the time to think and ponder about her life and her tragedies, she walked, climbed, waded, begged, got injured, got scared, hitched rides, made friends and anything else that could happen to a lone female hiker.

Aside from being two hours of trekking lessons, this film is also a panoramic delight of amazing scenery of mountains, plains and a few nudity. Ha-ha-ha!  Why is it that most of the time, when an actress goes topless, she gets nominated for an Oscar, or even win one? Holly Hunter bared her breasts in The Piano, and so did Kate Winslet in The Reader. Both actresses won.

I remember the cheery, gullible Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, but in Wild, she's all serious, mature and able to take off her clothes for any man she fancied. Although she already won an Oscar best actress for Walk The Line, she certainly deserves another best actress nomination for this one. Her co-star, Laura Dern, also earns a best supporting actress Oscar nomination, although I doubt she'd win. My money is on Patricia Arquette for Boyhood.

I climbed Seorak-san a few years ago; it's the third highest peak in South Korea. Climbing a high mountain is tough, especially for a lowlander like me. But it would even be tougher to walk a thousand miles with a heavy backpack with nothing to accompany you but your problems and sad stories. That's why I like this film. It was like a hiking the PCT and enjoying the incredible views with her, but not having to carry the backpack and not worrying about body odor or dehydration.

I'd recommend you watch the film and trek with her, too.  But why was it not nominated for best picture Oscar?

If you're in Seoul and want to watch Wild, you can still catch it at the Cinecube Cinema near Gwanghamun.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Fad In Seoul: Churros!

I thought it was just by chance when I saw a churros stall at the far end of the crowded Sinchon road last year. A guy was selling churros for KRW2,000 each. 

Then, as I ventured around the Itaewon and Gyeonggidan areas, I saw more churros stalls! In one corner, Street Churros was just a few steps away from 1Q84 Churros. But the former had the alley cornered, literally. There was a very long line of curious customers willing to wait for their turn. And at the far end of the main Itaewon road, there's an even bigger churros cafe with more seats, and of course, a more expensive fare.
                         (A churro in a cup of ice cream 
                             with sweetened red beans)

Myeongdong doesn't want to be left behind; there's a small churros staff right in the middle of the busy cosmetics shopping alley.

I can't remember when I had my first churros back home in the Philippines. The Spaniards must have introduced this snack to the country centuries ago. Churro is a deep-fried snack made of dough and usually dipped in hot chocolate, or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

In Manila, the best churros are enjoyed in Dulcinea, a restaurant serving some Spanish dishes. And last month, before I flew back to Seoul, I was treated by a friend to a breakfast of freshly-deep fried churros with a taza (Spanish for cup) of real hot, thick chocolate. Muchas gracias, Marlu!

As I sat there staring at the churros next to a small cup of pure chocolate, I reminded myself that the churros they sell here in Seoul are not as good as the ones I was about to enjoy. So, I savored and remembered each and every bite of the real churros con chocolate.

 (Dulcinea's 'churros con chocolate')

It would be months before I fly back home for some churros con chocolate. In the meantime, I have to tame my craving for churros. Or maybe this craving for churros is a good reason for a trip to Spain this year? 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A Pinoy At The Movies: The Imitation Game

These British actors are really good. First, there was Eddie Redmayne for Theory of Everything. Now, there's Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game (I haven't watched David Oyelowo in 'Selma' yet).

Luckily, before the Seollal holidays closed most of the cinemas in Seoul (I presume all cinema staff also need to be with their families), I was able to get one of the last seats available for the advanced screening of this movie at CGV Cinemas at Yongsan Station.

Just like Theory of Everything, which I saw late last year, The Imitation Game is about a real genius, Alan Turing. In the film, Turing reminded me of the fictional Sheldon Cooper of the The Big Bang Theory comedy TV series. Both geniuses seem to lack social skills and both look down on everyone else because they feel they're always intellectually superior. Of course, Sheldon Cooper is more famous than Alan Turing; Cooper has been a big hit on TV all these years, while Turing, well, I only knew about Alan Turing when this movie came out. Maybe because Alan Turing, who brilliantly cracked Nazi Germany's codes during World War II, actually worked on a project that remained a secret even after the war was over. 

Benedict Cumberbatch as the gay genius mathematician was as brilliant as his ideas, but too bad, this year at the Oscars, he is up against Eddie Redmayne, who I think will win the Oscar for best actor.

Keira Knightley played Turing's fiance. (Yes, he was gay but he had a fiance. To find out why, you have to watch the movie.) Although Knightley was good, I wondered why she is nominated for an Oscar best supporting actress. Isn't there any other actress who deserved that nomination? Perhaps, if Tilda Swinton's Madame D character in Grand Budapest Hotel had more scenes and screen time, she would have bagged that nomination. I think Knightley's part could have been played more credibly by another British actress, Kate Winslet. But even with this nomination, Knightley has no chance of winning the Oscar. She's up against Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Patricia Arquette, who plays a psychic who can see ghosts of dead victims who help her solve these crimes in the TV series Medium, will win the Oscar for best supporting actress on Sunday.

As it is set during World War II, the movie scenes of the bombing of London also reminded me The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when the children living in London had to evacuate to the countryside to save them from the constant bombing. I almost thought I would be able to see the four kids from that Narnia movie among the crowd at the train station scene.

Benedict Cumberbatch also plays Sherlock Holmes on a TV series Sherlock. And in this film, he plays a complicated character whose abilities and genius helped win WW II for the Allies. I recommend you watch this film and learn about Alan Turing and the other unknown heroes who helped shorten the atrocities of that war.

Friday, 20 February 2015

My Person of The Week: The Korean Lady With A Pojang-Macha In Insadong

It's a new lunar year, and I want to start a new blog series: My Person of the Week. These will be the people who make a difference in other people's lives whether they're aware of it or not. Or people who are just helpful and always around to make everyone's day complete, safer, cleaner, happier, or just better.

A few years ago, I wrote about a blog about my 100 most influential people, as inspired by TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people. So I ask myself why wait for a year to name the 100 most influential people when I can actually give recognition to a person during a week I found one.

But if there are people who make everyone's day better, I wonder if I can name those notorious characters also 'person of the week'. Can I?  One recent character comes to mind: that spoiled brat who treated her airline staff like slaves, and not as human beings. You know who I mean, right?

Don't you sometimes stop to think about how the other people walking on the street, or riding on the same bus or train are doing? I guess that's part of being a writer; I am always interested in another person's story, stranger or not. I love listening to interesting stories, and even love writing about them. Yes, some people's stories are actually worth my keystrokes. Ha-ha-ha!

And this week, I introduce to you the Korean ajumma, or Korean lady, who sells those fried Korean delicacies at the end of the long Insa-dong alley. When most people travel to their hometowns on Seollal, she was there working at her corner eager to make a living.  She has her own pojang-macha, right next to her long table. What attracted me to her corner was her caramelized sweet potatoes. These are actually popular in the Philippines. So, after I finished my Korean barbecue that I bought from another stall, I wandered around for dessert and found it on her table!

There were actually two foreigners who also wandered into her corner, and even if her two guests couldn't speak Korean, she was able to serve their orders and was able to welcome them into her pojang-macha.

But what impressed me was, even though she was busy serving and cooking, she helped look after the baby of another Korean woman who needed to go to a toilet. The mom left her baby on a stroller next to her long table, and she engaged the baby in a conversation to keep the baby entertained while the mom was away. It was a cute scene: the baby in a stroller dressed in a hanbok was engaging the ajumma in a conversation. 

That little gesture of kindness to look after a stranger's baby may seem a little trifle to some. But to a mom, who had to desperately find a loo after walking around the whole morning with a baby, it was a big help to have someone safely watch over your child while you take a break.

That's why this Korean ajumma running a pojang-macha at the southern end of Insa-dong is My Person of the Week.

          (The person of the week with the baby in a stroller)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Seollal Sunrise At Hyangiram Temple!

In the South Jeolla Province's Yeosu City, this morning of Seollal, or the lunar new year, hundreds crowd the Hyangiram Temple to gaze out into the sea and catch the first sunrise of the new lunar year.

Hyangiram means 'a hermitage that looks out into the sun', as named by a monk Inmuk Daesa in 1715. Inmuk Daesa actually rebuilt and renamed an old hermitage founded in the year 644 by Wonhyo Daesa; that old hermitage was destroyed during the Japanese invasion in 1592. 

This Hyangiram Temple, that sits on the eastern side of Geumo Mountain, is one of the four main praying temples in Korea. The other three are the Hongryeonam Temple (in Gangwon Province), the Boriam Temple (in Geumsan Mountain in South Gyeongsan Province), and the Bomunam Temple (in Ganghwa Island)

And today, Seollal, the first day of the new lunar year, the hundreds that crowd the temple's look-out that extends out to the sea watch the sun rise among the winter clouds and let out wishes of prosperity, happiness and health for their families, communities and the nation.

As the new year comes, I just wish that the horrible tragedies in Korea last year won't happen again. But although we had a few things to celebrate last year, I also wish that things will better for everyone this time around. 

And as I join in prayer the monks and the crowd at the Hyangiram Temple in celebrating the first sun rise (behind the morning clouds) of the new lunar year, I wish everyone a happy Seollal celebration!

Enjoy the rest of your holidays!

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There's a small commercial area at the foot of Geumo Mountain that is very popular for its variety of kimchi. As the place is next to the sea, it also has overnight inns for families and friends just wanting to relax in this quiet corner of Yeosu in the South Jeolla Province.

Here's their official Yeosu website:

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

My Last Soondae of the Year!

Yes, it's my last hot stone pot of boiling soondae-kukbap of the year. Lunar year, that is!

Before the start of the five-day holiday in Korea to celebrate the new lunar year, I have to satisfy my craving for this Korean dish one last time before this restaurant, that's next the Korea Post building by the Exit 1 of Sinyongsan Station, closes for the holidays.

Soon-dae is up there as one of my favorite Korean dishes, right next to buddae-jiggae, al-tang, mandu, and patpingsu. Yes, a list of my favorite things is not complete without dessert. Ha-ha-ha! 
But it's not just the ordinary soon-dae that's served at any pojang-macha, sliced, salted and served. It's the soon-dae slices that are in a hot stone pot and swimming in a unique tasting broth of spices, herbs, black pepper, and cut innards. This is soondae-kukbap, or soondae in a hot broth and served with rice.  As soon-dae is actually in a form of a sausage, it has many varieties. Fillings range from cut innards of cows or pigs mixed with pig's blood, and cooked by putting all these inside an intestine that would now look like a long sausage, and then steamed.

And a few slices of it are submerged at the bottom of this hot stone pot, drowning in the broth whose smell alone makes a hungry customer salivate just by looking at the menu. Ha-ha-ha!

But these slices don't remain submerged in the pot for long. I fish them out, put them on my rice sitting on this small tin bowl, brush them with some doenjang (fermented soy bean paste), scoop them up and ferry them into the entrance of my digestive system. Ha-ha-ha! After a few enjoyable munches, they will be submerged somewhere else.

So, there. Spoonful after spoonful, my last soon-dae kuk-bap for the lunar year. This customer leaves the restaurant happy, thankful, and just so full.


Monday, 16 February 2015

A Night At Incheon International Airport's Museum Of Korean Culture

I always get to the Incheon International Airport at least three hours before my scheduled departure. Although everything is efficient at this airport, I am not that type who runs and rushes to the finish line, just in time for boarding. 

Last year, as I made my way to my assigned boarding gate at the Concourse (for Gates 101-132) for my flight to Manila, I noticed a sign that I never noticed before. I thought that around the boarding gates were just coffee shops, food courts and more duty-free shops. But as I looked up, there it was...the Museum of Korea Culture (or should it be Museum of Korean Culture?).

And since I had an hour to spare, I went up the escalator with my handcarry luggage to have a look.

The hall was empty; it was just past 8PM and there was just a couple of passengers around this area, but the items exhibited seemed interesting. I realized this museum was set up for passengers who are in the Incheon International Airport for a short layover, or for those who did not have the time to visit any museum during their stay in South Korea. 

A huge bell greeted me at the Museum's entrance. The Naesosagoryeodongjong (whew! such a long word!) is a bronze Buddhist bell made in 1222 during the Goryeo Dynasty. This huge bell by the entrance is actually a replica of the real historical treasure from the Naesosa Temple at Bu-an County in the North Jeolla Province. I don't know how heavy this bell was, but I guess it must have took them more than just an airport limousine bus to ferry this huge artifact to the airport.

At the middle of the Museum was an imposing structure that reminded me of the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. This stone pagoda in the Museum is also a replica of the real Seokgatap, which was completed in the 8th century, and can be found at the Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, a city in the North Gyeongsang Province.

                           (Seokgatap stone pagoda)

These two are replicas of the Korean culture, officially designated by the Korean government. The Naesosa bell is official the National Treasure No. 277, while the stone pagoda is National Treasure No. 21. So, in this Museum, right above a duty-free shop, passengers passing through the Incheon Airport can get to see replicas of the national treasures of Korea. 

In the Museum, there are also copies of the Dosanseowondo (a painting designated as National Treasure (NT) No. 522), Donggwoldo (another painting; NT No. 249), and another treasure with a very long name, Mugujeonggwang-daeharanigyeong, (a very old wood-block print, NT No. 126).

And for passengers who want to get some quick lessons on Hangeul, the Korean language, there's a corner in the Museum where you can learn how to write your name on decorative cards in the Korean language. You can also pick up some free learning charts that you can bring with you and study on the plane later during your flight. But if you have time on your next visit to Seoul, I'd recommend you drop by the National Hangeul Museum of Korea near the Ichon Station (Line 4) if you are interested to learn more about the Korean language.

                               (For whom the bell tolls)

So, next time you're at the Incheon International Airport for a short stopover, do ask for directions to the 4th floor of the Concourse area where can catch a glimpse of the Korean culture and historical artifacts. You only need at least 20 minutes to discover what's inside the Museum, and it's open from 7AM to 10PM everyday. 

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PS. But if your stopover is about a day, I would suggest you take a short trip to Seoul. My friend Maria had a long layover and she was able to roam Seoul for five hours!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

K-Pop Fans: Girls In A Tether Flock Together

They gather on the steps in front of the I-Park Mall at the Yongsan District in Seoul like a flock of migratory birds coming home after winter. But it's still winter in Korea, and in these freezing temperatures, they still decide to endure the elements.

Upon seeing them, I immediately know who they are. As they say, birds of a feather, flock together. Well, these girls, who are being reined in behind a tether, are a K-pop group's loyal fans: they line up hours even before the start of any concert or event, eager to get the best seats, which are usually the ones closest to the stage. 

                                   (Ready, sit, show!)

Although most K-pop events usually start in the evening, it's still early in the afternoon and these girls are already properly seated in front of a stage. I am just passing through this scene, on my way to get something to eat. I have been invited to a few K-pop concerts before, and this scene is no different. I was even impressed with those Infinite fans queuing in front of Blue Square near Hangangjin Station last summer for the K-pop boy band's concert. The concert would start in the evening but they were already in line early in the morning, and would endure the summer sun all day! What devotion!

Also last summer, I was at Incheon International Airport to catch a flight. That day, I also witnessed such earnest desire to see their favorite K-pop celebrities in person. EXO fans were screaming, taking photographs and running around the airport just to see the members of that K-pop band.

And this afternoon, I guess, is no different. It's the same love, devotion, loyalty, and everything else in between. I later learned that this is an event for the K-pop boy band, BIA4.

          (Not sure if these are cut-outs of BIA4 members)

If this is how the female fans show their loyalty, my question is: how do the male fans show their devotion for the female K-pop celebrities?

Maybe I should be on the look out for any Sistar event to find out.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Ear Force One: Going Deaf When Flying!

When I left Seoul last December 2014 for my Christmas vacation in the Philippines, I knew I was in trouble. Days before I flew out, I caught a bad cold which I couldn't shake off even with my Korean doctor's medications. So, when the cold still persisted on the day of my flight, I rushed back to his clinic and told him I was flying out that night and I was worried, not because of my in-flight meal or a delay in my flight, but because of this nasal problem! 

       (Watching TV while waiting at my Korean doctor's clinic)

Years ago, I had to cancel my flight to Jeju Island when I hurt my eardrums after some confined water scuba diving lessons I took in Suwon City, just south of Seoul. The same Korean doctor advised me from flying. During that time, I could even feel my eardrums tighten up just riding the building elevator. I learned my lesson that time.

This time, about nine hours before my flight, my doctor gave me additional medication and told me to get some candies to chew minutes before take-off and minutes before landing. As expected, all throughout the three-and-a-half hour flight from Incheon International Airport to Manila, I had to attend to my nose, but I made sure I had a lot of tissue with me. Ha-ha-ha! 

And the worse happened.

      (Instead of a 'Mabuhay!', this sign at NAIA3 greeted me.                                      WTF, NAIA manager?)

My eardrums suddenly told me that the plane started its descent even before the pilot announced it. How? I could not equalize! I started to go deaf! During the flight, I had my earphones on to listen to some sleepy music. This time, the bass tones of the music were inaudible, and although I still could hear some passengers behind my seat talk, their voices sounded far and sounded like whispers. And the worst thing? I felt these invisible screws pressing into both ears. They were not that painful, but I was worried they'd rupture my eardrums! It was the same feeling when I scuba-dived, descending into the water and feeling the pressure against both ears, but this time, I wasn't wearing a wet suit; I was wearing a worried face for the whole 30 minutes until touchdown!

And when the plane landed at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I couldn't celebrate my coming home! How could I? I was deaf! 

        (Sad looking Christmas decors greeted me at NAIA3)

I couldn't wait to run out of the plane. I had to see a doctor. And since there was no line at the Immigration lane for "PWD/Senior Citizens", I went for it. I later realized this was my lane. 'PWD' means 'persons with disability': my eardrums were disabled!  Although it was Christmas time, the first words I spoke to the first three Filipinos at the airport (Cebu Pacific ground staff, the Immigration Officer and the Customs Officer) weren't yuletide greetings, they were "Meron po bang medical clinic dito sa airport?" (Is there a medical clinic in this airport?).

The Cebu Pacific staff didn't know; the Immigration Officer pointed me downstairs; but it was the Customs Officer (thanks to her!) who ushered me to the medical clinic just behind the Customs area. It was already 2AM (the Cebu Pacific flight from Seoul was delayed by 90 freakin' minutes!), and I was tired, sleepy and deaf!

Luckily, the medical staff, Nurse Perez and Doctor Gatmaitan (I hope I remember their family names correctly; they were on duty on December 21, early Sunday morning), were able to attend me. The doctor told me that I was lucky my eardrums didn't rupture, but they were inflamed. I told him I was going to take another flight (this time, a domestic flight to Bacolod) in three hours, and I was worried (again!). He gave me some decongestants.

And although the take-off my the last leg home was worry-free, the same thing happened to me during the last 20 minutes. My eardrums went crazy again and I had trouble listening to the murmurs and whispers on board, even though I was still chewing candies. So I just distracted myself with the glorious sight from my seat window: the dark skies gradually turning red and orange as Sunday morning started to peep in. And on the final minutes of the plane gliding over the low clouds and seeing those green plantations below, I was just happy I was home. Deaf or not, but I was finally home! 

(Morning has broken...)

*  *  *  *  *  *

Here are some tips I found on the Internet when flying with cold:

1. If it's a slight cold, do take decongestants before flying. And bring a lot of tissues!
2. Chew some candies or gum minutes before take-off and minutes before the plane starts its the descent.
3. For babies and kids with colds, it's better not to let them fly because they may not know how to equalize. Do you ever wonder why kids cry a lot before landing? Maybe it's because they don't know how to equalize and they're experiencing a lot of pain. It's advised to feed them so that they would naturally suck in liquid which would aid in equalizing the pressure.
4. If you had injuries in your eardrums, do consult your doctor as they may worsen.
5. Do visit your doctor before and seek advice and medication if you're worried, like I was!
6. Immediately visit an EENT (ears, eyes, nose, throat) specialist after experiencing deafness during a flight. (After I arrived home, I visited one in Bacolod and he gave me antibiotics for my inflamed eardrums.)

Travel safe, everyone!

PS. Thanks to Dr. Gatmaitan and Nurse Perez of NAIA3!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A Pinoy At The Movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is the real comedy film. The one that doesn't require slapstick to draw laughter from the audience; it only needs witty lines along with a funny story. 

Aside from Daniel Day-Lewis and Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes is one the best British actors around. He was a cold Nazi officer in Schindler's List, he was a sad English Patient, and a feared god in Clash of the Titans, where his first address to the mortals is one of my favorite quotes in cinema: "I am Hades. Kneel."

Now, try saying that to your potential voters during a campaign for election, or when you introduce yourself at a PTA meeting. Ha-ha-ha! He was also Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series.

That's how good Ralph Fiennes is. 

And here, in The Grand Budapest Hotel, he was seriously hilarious. With perfect timing, crisp delivery and the funniest lines I have heard in a decade, he brought his character Monsieur Gustave H., a hotel concierge, to a comic life that was even bigger than the hotel he was running.

Though Grand Budapest Hotel was released in the spring of 2014, it is being re-released in early 2015 because of its nine Oscar nominations. Most of its cast members are mostly familiar names: Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, and Harvey Keitel. It was fun watching these actors unexpectedly show up in some scenes.

But aside from Ralph Fiennes, his sidekick in the film, Zero Moustafa, was played by a new name, Tony Revolori, who held his own against Fiennes. Monsieur Gustave was sophisticated, smart and meticulous; Zero was young, clueless and stateless. They were the perfect funny duo. Without these two, the Grand Budapest Hotel would just have only been a B&B, or a backpackers' inn. Or worse, a motel! Ha-ha-ha!

Even Tilda Swinton, who was fierce as the Queen of Narnia, and a cunning lawyer in Michael Clayton, where she won an Oscar for her supporting role, was funny as an aging, eccentric millionaire hotel guest. Although her screen time was only a few minutes, she made sure the audience remembers her all throughout the 100 minutes of the film. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fictional period film, which reminds me of Robert Downey, Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes; it was fast and each scene is as important as the next. And the art direction is as cute as the Mendl's cakes. You'd know what I mean when you see the cakes in the movie.

And one of my favorite M. Gustave quotes?

"If I die first, and I almost certainly will, you will be my sole heir. There's not much in the kitty, except a set of ivory-backed hairbrushes and my library of romantic poetry, but when the time comes, these will be yours. Along with whatever we haven't already spent on whores and whiskey."

So, if you want a good laugh, I suggest you check in at The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson. It's one movie I'd watch over and over again. Good luck to them at the Oscars!

It gets my vote for Best Picture!

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Photos courtesy the Grand Budapest Hotel website.