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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Sunday Drama Review – Flower Boy Next Door

(이웃집 꽃미남) Flower Boy Next Door 

Flower Boy Edition #3

The Invasion of Flower Boys

Summary:

“Flower Boy Next Door” tells the story of Go Dok Mi, an introverted girl who lives like Rapunzel, locked away in her apartment, too afraid of the outside world. But her world starts opening up when she meets her all her new Flower Boy neighbors: Enrique, the hyperactive genius, Jin Rak, the quiet romantic, Dong Hoon the playboy, and Watanabe, the foreign cooking student. They, along with her other colorful neighbors, force Go Dok Mi to start interacting with others once more, so that she can start to enjoy life and learn to love and trust again.

Characters:

FBND (2)Go Dok Mi (played by Park Shin Hye) is a reserved young woman who lives solely in her apartment and tries to avoid the outside world as much as possible. She is naturally very shy, and because of a traumatic experience in high school she is terrified to interact with strangers and has very little trust in others. She works at home as a freelance copy editor and dreams of becoming a writer.

Enrique Geum (played by Yoon Si Yoon) is the opposite of Go Dok Mi. He is a genius animation designer and made his break in the gaming industry when he was only 17. Enrique is very affectionate and sociable with others, and easily makes friends with anyone he meets because of his overly positive attitude and innocent way of thinking. FBND (3)Enrique moved to Spain at a young age and has now come back to his native country to conduct lectures and make more business transactions with Korean gaming companies. Through unusual circumstances, he meets Go Dok Mi, who lives in the apartment building next door. He had never met someone so introverted before, so he makes it his mission to help her overcome her fears of the outside world.

FBND (4)Oh Jin Rak (played by Kim Ji Hoon) is a broke webtoon designer who lives next door to Go Dok Mi and has had a crush on her for three years, ever since the day he moved in to the apartment building. He has been silently watching over her and leaves little cute messages on her milk cartons every morning. He knows she has a “fragile” personality, therefore he feels he can’t confess his feelings to her because it might scare her away. He keeps his past life a secret from his roommate, but it starts to catch up to him when shady men start showing up to cause trouble.

FBND (7)Oh Dong Hoon (played by Go Kyung Pyo) is Oh Jin Rak’s younger roommate and also a webtoon designer. Together they start up the webtoon called “Flower Boy Next Door” that seems to have a lot of resemblance to the events happening around them. Oh Dong Hoon has a fun, flirting personality and often gets scolded by Oh Jin Rak for paying more attention to girls then to their drawings. FBND (5)Watanabe Ryu (played Mizuta Kouki) is the Japanese cooking student who moved in down the hall. He doesn’t have a strong gasp of the Korean language, but he has a sweet personality and is very passionate about cooking. He came to Korea to learn more about how to make Korean Traditional dishes.

Cha Do Hwi (played by Park Soo Jin) is the young owner of a shopping mall and was Go Dok Mi’s best friend when they were in high school until the “incident” occurred. She is very materialistic and tries to act innocent in front of the guys (even though most of her intentions seem to be the opposite). She develops a crush on Oh Jin Rak and gets very upset when she finds out her crush’s love interest is her old friend from high school, Go Dok Mi.FBND (9)

Themes:

Unrequited Love:

“How timid and frail is unrequited love? A place you entered of your own accord, but you’re trapped inside and unable to find an exit. He doesn’t know a thing, and could one day leave my line of sight, and love ends passively. A love that does not bloom flowers, and thus cannot dream of bearing fruit. A love like a seed that is forgotten. That is unrequited love” –Go Dok Mi.

-Most of the characters bear unrequited loves in the beginning of this drama, and in fact that is how Enrique and Go Dok Mi bond, when they attempt to let go of their feelings for their unrequited love. Enrique is in love with his childhood friend who is in love with his older cousin. Dok Mi develops an unusual attachment to her next door neighbor that she sees through her window. Jin Rak has been watching over Dok Mi for three years even though she is unaware of his existence. All of them start off with similar, unattainable emotions but the way the three decide to let go of their love’s differed.

Depression:

“To that woman, a scar was like falling into the deep water. All the onlookers who don’t know the depth of the scars keep asking the woman why she can’t just pull herself out of the water. There are too many people who are oblivious and belittle strangers’ scars” –Dok Mi.

“People are mean when they talk about someone they don’t know. Because they don’t know her. They don’t have to think about it. But after they’ve seen you with their eyes, because you’ve shared time together, “Oh! This person is another human being just like me; she can get hurt like me”. They can feel that. “ – Enrique Geum.

FBND (10)-A scenario which I had never seen before in a Korean drama is where the main character suffers through extreme depression. Go Dok Mi has lost her faith in others, so in order to not get hurt she shuts herself away from the world. Enrique tries to get her to see the “beauty” in people (and the outside world). But he realizes throughout the drama that it is not an easy task for Dok Mi to let go of her barriers, because he is unaware of how deeply she has been hurt. This is a great point that the drama made towards individuals with depression, because more often than not, people who do not suffer through depression cannot understand how deeply depression runs. It is not a simple task to suddenly “get happy” or “snap out of it”, it takes time and patience.

Outside Opinions:

“I don’t care about key words made up by people who don’t know me” –Enrique Geum.

-Enrique may act like an ordinary person with his very relaxed, and laid back kind of way but underneath it all he is still a celebrity. This means he is constantly scrutinized by the public eye and has to keep appearances to his fans. He tries to show his genuine side, and stay as honest as possible, but even if he acts like an angel, there will always be people that don’t like him or talk badly of him. As a human being, he gets naturally hurt when he reads hurtful comments or unjustified rumors, but he tries to control the situation by not letting such words get to him. Most of those people don’t know him; have never met him, so why does the opinion of mere strangers matter to him? It doesn’t.

Symbols:

-Soccer Analogies:

-“If something can’t be blocked, don’t try and block it. You can’t play soccer with the goalkeeper alone. It’s okay for you to ask for help from the other players” –Enrique Geum.

-“After a soccer game is over, they interview the star players. After a winning game, they say “Everyone did a good job!” “I’m so proud of my team.” That’s what they say. But after losing a game, “I feel that we lost because of me,” “I’ll do better in the next game”.  That’s what they say. Whether it is true or not, that’s how people overcome painful memories” – Enrique Geum.

-Enrique would often try to get his point across (with Go Dok Mi) using soccer analogies. Since he lived in Spain for half his life, he not only learned Spanish but adopted the Latino passion for soccer. His references with his favorite sport emphasized being on a team/working with others – something that Go Dok Mi lacked experience with since she was always doing things by herself in order to avoid others.

FBND (11)-Dark Colors vs. Bright Colors:

Go Dok Mi lived in a very small, comfy apartment that had everything she needed. It was dark a lot of the times because she kept her curtains drawn and was frugal towards saving electricity. She herself, often sported heavy black jackets and other dark colored sweaters. Enrique, on the other hand, always had on orange: orange jacket, orange sweater, orange scarf, orange suitcases, etc. He wore bright colors to match his bright personality like how Go Dok Mi wore dark clothing to match her somber mood.

*Spoilers* (Do not read if you don’t want this drama spoiled for you, you have been warned!)

FBND (1)

Things I Liked:

  • Enrique/Dok Mi Mind reading:  Sometimes Dok Mi didn’t need to say a word and Enrique could tell what she was thinking. This of course scared Dok Mi in the beginning, because she though Enrique could actually read her mind! But no, he is just good at observing her. I thought this “connection” of theirs was very cute and added a lot to the bond they shared. It gave hints to the viewers early on that their relationship was going to be quite unique.
  • Park Shin Hye Acting: I’ve heard it from countless people already that they think this was not Park Shin Hye’s best work. And while I don’t think she is the best actress out there, I personally love her acting ability and I see her grow in each of her new dramas. I thought her portrayal of a depressed protagonist was done remarkably and was very convincing.
  • Enrique: I loved this character so much! From his adorable way of talking, to his natural “aegyo” – there was no way this guy couldn’t make anyone happy. What surprised me the most was seeing interviews with the Yoon Si Yoon because you could clearly see his talents as an actor. He has a quiet personality, which is the complete opposite of the character he played. Therefore he did a good job of projecting the energetic side of Enrique, when such a behavior is foreign to him. *Bonus* I really loved that since they made Enrique live abroad in Spain they actually gave him a couple lines in Spanish.  This was a change from the usual tradition of sending characters to the United States when they study abroad.

FBND (6)

  • Kim Seul Gi: Jin Rak and Dong Hoon’s webtoon editor. Some of my favorite scenes were with her in them, especially her interaction with Dong Hoon. They acted so well together, and it makes sense because later I found out they both are comedian actors on SNL Korea. In my opinion, she added the best comedic aspect to the drama.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Seo Young and Tae Joon’s early exit: Half way through this drama these two just “disappear” (both left to other countries) and I was really surprised that they never came back and made reappearances in the drama. They were key characters in the first half but since that “problem” was solved, the writers just through of easy ways to get them out of the drama. I really liked Seo Young as a character, she was fun to watch and I would have loved for her and Dok Mi to have become friends. She, like Enrique, were very extroverted characters – so she could have also had an influence in Dok Mi integration back to the outside world.
  • Episode 11/12 Kiss Scene: The moment leading up to the confession kiss was very intense and the acting between these two was done so well. Both of them were crying with all of the pent up emotions that they hadn’t been able to reveal to one another, and when it came to the kiss it just vanished. The scene was building up like a fire and then as soon as they kissed it just went poof! Extinguished itself with such a tame kiss. If the scene had such passionate lines and emotions then there should have been a kiss scene to equally match it.

FBND (8) Author’s Final Remarks: 8.6/10

Flower Boy Next Door did an excellent job of balancing between comedy scenes and serious moments. I was glad to see a drama that finally touched on the underrated topic of depression, and that had a good, realistic portrayal of it. Most of the characters had exaggerated personalities; from Dok Mi’s very serious depressive nature to Enrique’s bouncing off the roof behavior, to even Cha Do Hwi ‘s ridiculous personality. And I think they did a good job of trying to get their themes across but also adding fun to the drama. It was a romantic comedy that was indeed unique and I’ll remember this drama with fond memories.

~Millie

Friday Drama Review – “Flower Boy Next Door”

Flower-Boy-Next-Door-Poster-1Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

 

Park Shin Hye fans rejoiced! Another drama at last! And one in the “Flower Boy” series, to boot! What fun! And with Yoon Shi Yoon?  Bonus! I was right there with the rest of the crowd, fan-girling at the thought of another Flower Boy drama and excited to see Park Shin Hye in action again. The results were definitely entertaining and well worth the time spent watching, but I will admit to a few disappointments as well.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

The story revolves around Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye) who, after a traumatic school experience, becomes agoraphobic (afraid to venture outside the home.) She has shut herself off from the world physically and emotionally. Her next door neighbor, Oh Jin Rok (Kim Ji Hoon), a webtoon artist is completely obsessed and in love with this mysterious woman next door. Go Dok Mi, however, has developed a voyeuristic attachment to the man in the building across from her – and ends up meeting his younger brother, Enrique Geum (Yoon Shi Yoon), who decides to draw her out of her shell – literally and figuratively.

 Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

First the bad news: While conceptually, the script idea is not bad, I found it problematic that Park Shin Hye’s character was able to overcome a long-standing, deeply-rooted mental illness with so little trouble. The transformation was so unrealistic that it became a distraction, and detracted from the dramatic confrontations in later episodes. It also seemed rather improbable that the two men, Oh Jin Rok and especially the vibrant Enrique Geum, would be so attracted to the dour, gloomy, agoraphobic Go Dok Mi. Yes, you argue, but Park Shin Hye is so pretty! I agree, but in the drama she dresses all frumpy, and her hair is unkempt, no makeup, no attempt to be attractive whatsoever. Far-fetched, I say!

flower-boysThe good news: If you can get past the implausibility of the mental-illness thing, and ignore resultant inconsistencies in the character of Go Dok Mi, the drama was well acted and entertaining. The character of Enrique Geum was especially appealing and was, in my humble opinion, the bright shiny spot that made the whole drama worth watching. His character was sweet, goofy, loveable, energetic, caring and completely charismatic. I mean, just check out the panda dance:

Kim Ji Hoon’s character was also well played – a webtoon artist with a mysterious past, sweet, awkward, shy. The rapport between the two men was an interesting study of contrasting styles and ideals. And every good drama needs a nemesis. Park Soo Jin played it up as the haughty, scheming Cha Do Hwi. This is an actress who plays so many different personas so well! She does hateful brat really well!

managerNewcomer Kim Seul Gi was hilarious as the webtoon company manager. Go Kyung Pyo also did a fine job as Oh Jin Rok’s roommate and fellow webtoon artist, Oh Dong Hoon.

 

Cinematography: My rating 8/10

The sound and visuals were well-done throughout. There were fun special effects scattered throughout the drama, especially related to the webtooning. It was also nice to see filming done in a location that hasn’t been used over and over again in other dramas! The main buildings (apartments) were unfamiliar to me. Wow!

Music: My rating 8/10

There are some really nice ballads here – definitely iPod worthy! (At least, they’re going on mine, to be sure.

“Wish It Was You” Lee Jung  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLlQS5zJZFU

Sweet!:  “I Want to Date You” Yoon Shi Yoon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yza-0dn1u8

Love this one, too: “Talkin’ Bout Love” J Rabbit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOJRAdJASiE

“Pitch Black” Park Shin Hye

“You Wake Me Up” Kim Seul Ki http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG7HM0BNUlQ

 Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

There were so many good character in this drama that it is definitely worth seeing. I am disappointed that writer decided to deal with the mental health issue in such an off-hand manner, and feel they would have been so much better off not trying to create those implications with the character at all. Ah well. I still enjoyed it. It was still fun. It’s worth it just to see the quirky people and the fun antics. I’ll probably watch it again.

Happy Drama Watching! two men