The First Annual 2013 Soju DramaQueen Awards

sojuaward

The First Annual

2013 Soju DramaQueen Awards

 

I did not realize what a busy, amazing year 2013 has been until I consulted the all-knowing Excel Spreadsheet and compiled the Contender’s List. Of the 35 dramas that I viewed, am viewing, or in very few cases, abandoned mid-series, just this year, the list was finally narrowed down to the following Top Ten Must-See Dramas for 2013. (A difficult choice, but my editor insisted…)

 

 

Cheongdam-dong Alice

Dating Agency Cyrano

Good Doctor

Gu Family Book (Kang Chi: The Beginning)

I Hear Your Voice

Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love

Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire

Monstar

Sword and Flower

The Master’s Sun

 

The choices were difficult, but listed are the nominees in each category, with the winners highlighted:

 

park shi hooBest Actor (tie)

It was tough narrowing down this category to just 5 nominees, but the winners were pretty clear. Scandals aside, Park Shi-hoo was positively brilliant in Cheongdam-dong Alice. I sincerely hope he make a comeback soon! Park Shi-hoo화이팅!  Joo Won also put in an amazing performance as the autistic Doctor Park Shi-on (Good Doctor). It was a difficult role played with empathy and credibility.

 

 

Nominees:

good doc joo wonPark Shi-hoo “Cheongdam-dong Alice”

Joo Won “Good Doctor”

Lee Jong-Suk “I Hear Your Voice”

Park Yoochun “I Miss You”

Jo In-sung “That Winter, the Wind Blows”

 

 

jae hee

Best Supporting Actor

This is another category with more nominees in the original list than I could include. The choice was more difficult here, but I settled on Lee Jae-hee. His character in When a Man Loves was very well-developed and complex.

 

Nominees:

Choi Jin-hyuk “Gu Family Book”

Seo In-guk “Master’s Sun”

Jo Jae-Hyun “Scandal: A Shocking and Wrongful Incident”

Kim Bum “That Winter, the Wind Blows”

Lee Jae-hee “When A Man Loves”

 

Masters_Sun_taeBest Actress

There were many fine performances this year by Korea’s leading actresses, but Gong Hyo-jin stood out with her quirky performance in The Master’s Sun.

 

Nominees:

Lee Bo-young “I Hear Your Voice”

Kim Tae-Hee “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Moon Geun-young “Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire”

Gong Hyo-jin “Master’s Sun”

Jo Yoon-hee “Scandal: A Shocking and Wrongful Incident”

 

master funny face

Best Supporting Actress

Secondary actresses typically have pretty one-dimensional characters, but Kim Yu-ri was blessed with an extraordinary role that she made her own. The character was engaging in all it’s iterations and aspects. Bravo!

 

Nominees:

So Yi-hyun “Cheongdam-dong Alice”

Hong Soo-hyun “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Kim Yu-ri “Master’s Sun”

Park Ha-Sun “Two Weeks”

 

kang eui shikBest New Actor

It’s no surprise that Monstar garnered most of the new actor nominations as the drama sported a cast composed almost entirely of newcomers. The stand-out male was Kang Eui-shik who played “Radio”, an intriguing character. The performance was outstanding, especially the tear-filled solo sung in defiance of his bullies.

 

Nominees:

Kang Eui-shik “Monstar”

Park Kyu-sun “Monstar”

Yong Joon-hyun “Monstar”

Park Hyun-shik “Nine: Nine Time Travels”

 

Monstar-1

Best New Actress

There were fewer notables among the new actresses, but those on the list were stellar. Kim Min-young gave a stand-out performance in Monstar. With her incredible voice and acting talent, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this fine young woman.

 

Nominees:

Choi Soo-young “Dating Agency: Cyrano”

Ha Yun-soo “Monstar”

Kim Min-young “Monstar”

 

Monstar-Poster2Best Music

There were really nice OSTs this year and a few songs on my iPod that I admit to listening to repeatedly. While I had a difficult time not choosing I Hear Your Voice, in the end, Monstar had to win out with it’s outstanding mix of creative covers, fun mash-ups and and all-around great music.

 

Nominees:

“Cheongdam-dong Alice”

“Good Doctor”

“Gu Family Book”

“I Hear Your Voice”

“Monstar”

 

 

gu moon

Best Cinematography

Creativity seemed to be the order of the day this year. With a plethora of fantasy-type dramas, special effects were necessary and were, in general, very well done. Gu Family Book stood out, however, for its sheer beauty.

 

Nominees:

“Cheongdam-dong Alice”

“Flower Boy Next Door”

“Gu Family Book”

“I Hear Your Voice”

“Sword and Flower”

 

Cheongdamdong_Alice-p1Best Drama

Looking at the overall charisma of a drama, the acting, the script, the cinematography, the music and the ending (too many were really weak!), the list was slowly whittled down. The one drama that intrigued me from the start and held me to the end, keeping me entertained and captivated by brilliant performances and a great story was Cheongdam-dong Alice. I gave I Hear Your Voice a close second as it, too, was intriguing throughout and was a marvelous feel-good drama.

IHearYourVoice_Slider

 

Nominees:

“Cheongdam-dong Alice”

“Dating Agency Cyrano”

Close Second: “I Hear Your Voice”

“Gu Family Book”

“Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire”

 

2013 has been a good year for Korean dramas, and it’s not over yet. At the time awards were selected, the much-anticipated Heirs, with its all-star cast was still in progress, and Marry Him, If You Dare was shaping up well. Still others have just begun and will bleed into 2014.

Congratulations to this year’s Soju DramaQueen winners. I’m looking forward to another great year with these amazing actors and actresses!

 Happy Drama Watching!

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Friday Drama Review: “Gu Family Book” a.k.a. “Kang Chi – The Beginning”

gu poster“If I had to choose between living 100 years alone or 100 days with someone I loved, I’d choose the 100 days.”

 

The strikingly beautiful cinematography first thing you sense: a dark, dreamy mountain-scape colored in violet and cobalt blue juxtaposed with scenes of delicately, but brightly lit traditional drummers against backdrop of amber and marmalade.

Despite personal misgivings about viewing this drama, the scene was well set for a fantasy – action – melodrama.

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 8/10

Dubbed the Korean “Twilight”, Gu Family Book was not actually on my watch list for a few reasons. I’m not a huge fan of Lee Seung-gi, although I did enjoy his acting in King 2 Hearts, and I never developed an interested in the Twilight saga mania that has swept the country. My concern was that it would be an over-blown, somewhat cheesy girl-loves-monster story and I was finding it hard to imagine how that could be successfully pulled off.

I gracefully admit that I was glad I broke down and watched. The drama was more than worth my time.

 

 

gu parentsThe story begins not with Kang Chi, but with his parents, Wol-ryung, an eternal, mythical being who protects the forest and Seo-hwa, the human woman with whom he falls in love. The evil, ambitious Jung Gwan-woong wrongly accuses Seo-hwa’s father of being a traitor. When she is sent to a gisaeng house, Wol-ryung witnesses her misfortunes, and despite warning from his monk friend, So-jung, he decides to act on her behalf. Ultimately, they fall in love and Wol-ryung wishes to seek the Gu Family Book in order to become human so that he may become mortal and so, live and die with his beloved.

Unfortunately, Seo-hwa discovers his true nature before the change can be made and betrays his love, causing his destruction. Seo-hwa, however, discovers she is pregnant and after giving birth to her child, entrusts him to the monk, So-jung, and is slain seeking revenge against Jung Gwan-woong.

gu dadsThe monk, sets the infant afloat on a river near well known and well-respected nobleman, Park Mu-sol. He takes the infant in, giving him the surname Choi, after his most trusted head servant, and “Kang-chi”, meaning, “abandoned in the river”. He raises Kang-chi like a son.

The real story begins when Kang-chi is a young man. Jung Gwan-woong is retired, but malevolent and politically powerful. His ambition leads him to target the wealthy Park Mu-sol, who, like so many before him, is destroyed by wrongful accusations of being a traitor. Those working to curb his power include the righteous and respected Lee Soon-shin, naval commander and Dam Pyung-joon, martial arts master and father of Dam Yeo-wool. Kang-chi’s fateful meeting with Yeo-wool not only places him at the center of a national political battle, but also sparks a tragic destiny between the two star-crossed lovers.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 8/10

While I admit that the script was well-written, I couldn’t help but notice certain similarities to the original Star Wars trilogy: just as Luke was needed to conquer Darth Vader, so Kang-chi is said to be the only one capable of subduing the demon his father has morphed in to. Similar political scenarios. The ‘masters’ were like the Jedi, wielding swords and bamboo brooms like light-sabers. I had to laugh as even the intimate form of “Yeo-wool” sounds like “Yoda”. 😉

Gu kang chiI am also confused by the use of the term ‘gumiho’ and am surmising that it can be applied to much larger genre of creatures than female 9-tailed foxes. Lee Seung-gi  as Choi Kang-chi is no stranger to fantasy dramas. In his role in My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, he played the human opposite the gumiho. In Gu Family Book, he is a half-human, half-gumiho who longs to become human. His acting skills in this drama are far superior to Gumiho, although I do like that drama as well, despite his somewhat less than charismatic performance. Kang-chi was a character with more depth than most of his previous roles.

Gu-suzyBae Suzy (member of KPop group Miss A, Dream High, Big) also received a part that was a bit more challenging and dimensional than her previous roles. As Dam Yeo-wool, she was an intelligent self-reliant young woman, often mistaken for a young man due to penchant for swordplay and masculine apparel. But she also had a nostalgic side, a protective and nurturing nature and natural sense of integrity. The character was credible and the pair, Kang-chi and Yeo-wool, authentic and charming. She was also allowed to insert some of her own quirky nature into the role.

gu jungThe main antihero was evil but not very inventive. Lee Sung-jae (Rascal Sons, Poseidon) played the character of Jung Gwan-woong convincingly, but while anticipating the next villainous deed may have been entertaining, the character did not change in tenor throughout the series.

gu ryongA much more interesting antihero was Kang-chi’s father, the struggling demon, the Darth Vader character, the pure spirit lost in evil. Choi Jin-hyuk (I Need Romance, Pasta) put in a brilliant performance as Gu Wol-ryung. Equally convincing as an uncorrupted guardian of the mountain, sweet lover of Yoon Seo-hwa and also as the malevolent, bloody thirst 1000-year demon, Choi Jin-hyuk gave a remarkable sense of emotional plausibility to a fantasy creature.

gufamilysung joonIn the ever-present “Ji-hoo”* role was Sung Joon (Lie to Me, Shut Up Flower Boy Band) as Gon. As Yeo-wool’s bodyguard and one of the best swordsmen in the country his role was to be a ‘friendly antagonist’ to Kang-chi. His role also provided some secondary comic relief in the quarrels and struggles between the two young men.

gu bongThe main source of comic relief came from a relatively minor, but really rather fun character, Bong-chul, played by Jo Jae-yoon (Full House Take 2, Hero). As a local thug, he had his share of run-ins with Kang-chi early in the series, but becomes fiercely loyal after Kang-chi saves him. His speech mannerisms and slap-stick style comedy brought much needed lightheartedness to many a dark scene.

guga16-00396There were many other compelling character in the drama: Yoo Yeon-seok as Park Tae-seo, Lee Yu-bi as Park Chung-jo, Uhm Hyo-sup as Park Mu-sol made up the Park family of the 100 Year Inn, the main setting of the drama. Jo Sung-ha as Dam Pyong-joon and Yoo Dong-geun as Naval Commander Yi Soon-shin headed up the gu admiral‘good guy squad’. Both women who played Yoon Seo-hwa were excellent: Lee Yeon-hee as the younger Seo-hwa and Yoon Se-ah as the older Seo-hwa. Kim Hee-won as So-jung, the monk and Lee Do-kyung as Gong-dal, one of the masters, were both well-played wise men that could be counted on for good advice.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 9/10

As mentioned before, the cinematography was simply beautiful. The method of creating fantasy setting without a tacky feel was delightful. Gorgeous Disney-esque landscapes brought to life with such breath-taking realism that tickets could be sold if it were a park. Choreography was also nicely done. Kudos to the make-up artists!

Music: My Rating 8/10

An extensive OST list!

“My Eden” Yisabel  http://youtu.be/kYwWM_9MQgU

“Love Hurts” Lee Sang-gon http://youtu.be/bsWw7XTVo3k

“Love Is Blowing” Lee Ji-young http://youtu.be/B0WQxiTkjuI

“Spring Rain” Baek Ji-young http://youtu.be/gMVtqqSwRj8

“Don’t Forget Me” Bae Suzy http://youtu.be/KcjGxAbeoc0

“The Last Word” Lee Seung-gi http://youtu.be/TC7rASpEJJo

“Only You” 4Men http://youtu.be/va6zcYS39wo

“Will You Be My Love Rain?” Shin Jae http://youtu.be/hCE_B2ncuUI

“Best Wishes to You” Choi Jin Hyuk http://youtu.be/wM82cRltXmE

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 8/10

“If I had to choose between living 100 years alone or 100 days with someone I loved, I’d choose the 100 days.”

A slightly cheesy line, but it sums up the sentiment of the drama. Overall, despite my misgivings, I have to give this drama a ‘thumbs up’. The story was well written and well played out. The follow-through on the characters and the storylines was nicely accomplished. No dangling threads, but no hastily or awkwardly tied bows, either. There were very few completely nonsensical, sensationalized plot twists. Overall, a fun watch and worth the time. Definitely.

 

 Happy Drama Watching!

gu moon

 

*Yoon Ji-hoo: A character from the drama series, Boys Before Flowers, that has come to represent a wonderfully sweet, attentive man who has an unrequited love for a girl and who becomes her friend and/or protector. He never gets the girl.  😦

Director: Shin Woo Chul

Writer: Kang Eun Kyung