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: “Good Doctor”

Good-Doctor-04“A long time ago, my brother said, ‘No matter how scared you are, you have to accomplish what you want to. That the one who endures and gets past everything is the coolest person in the world.’ To me, people and the world are scary. I remember my brother’s words and I gain strength.”
— Park Si On | Good Doctor

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

A brilliant, but socially awkward autistic man, Park Shi-on is allowed to be an intern at a university hospital with the help his lifelong friend and mentor, Doctor Choi Woo-suk. Despite Dr. Park Shi-on’s obviously superior medical skills, staff and patients alike have difficulty dealing with the social stigma attached to someone ‘different’.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

Following the new paradigm in Korean drama formatting, early episodes had a stand-alone feel to them, with short stories told and guest actors inserted for an episode or two. The format evolved into a more standard drama style as the characters were developed and the main plot took over as the main component.

good doc joo wonFrom the very start the story seemed fresh and intriguing. Joo Won’s (Bridal Mask, 7th Grade Civil Servant) character, Dr. Park Shi-on, autistic savant, was compelling from episode one and his character became more appealing with each new installment.

The difficulty in playing an autistic person was accomplished with amazing perception and compassion. The character was quite convincing both in mannerisms and in the empathetic portrayal of the needs and dilemmas faced by people with handicaps of one sort or another. good doctor moonKudos to the scriptwriters for the educational and socially proactive components of this script!

Moon Chae-won (The Innocent Man, The Princess’ Man) also played an intriguing role. As one of the few empathetic doctors at the hospital, her character, Cha Yoon-seo, initially takes on the role of caretaker, or ‘big sister’ to Park Shi-on. The turbulent transition she makes as she begins to see Shi-on as a functioning adult (who is in love with her) is convincible and sweet.

good doc do hanThe head pediatric surgeon, Kim do-han, played by Joo Sang-wook (Feast of the Gods, Giant), was a much harder sell. Playing a hard-nosed surgeon with little patience for problems within his department, he initially insists that the Shi-on can never be a “good doctor”. A difficult love life, his passion for his job and his respect for Director Choi did much to soften the edges on what could have been a lifeless, plutocratic character.

good doctor kimKim Min-seo (7th Grade Civil Servant, Moon Embracing the Sun) as Yoo Chae-kyung was one of the weaker characters in the drama. Her conniving, backhanded manner of undermining those around her (even those she loved?) made her the ‘bad guy’, and the poor excuses offered for her behavior only made her appear petty and childish. The chemistry between her and Joo Sang-wook was unpersuasive. One saving grace for her character was the respectful way in which she interacted with Dr. Park.

good doctor banner1The university hospital officials sported a team of K-drama favorites: Chun Ho-jin as Director Choi Woo-suk, the man who rescued Park Shi-on as a boy and raised him to be a doctor in his own footsteps; Jo Hee-bong as Go Choong-Man, hapless manager of the pediatrics department, blown by the winds of politics, and who, with a great sense of comic timing, eventually falls under the spell of honest friendship offered by Dr. Park; Na Young-hee as Chief Director Lee Yeo-won; Jung Man-shik as Kim Jae-joon, control-hungry Chief of another department in the hospital.

 

Music: My Rating 8/10

A nice collection of ballads, including two sung by Joo Won:

“Miracle” Lee Young-hyun  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BTavs7ufK4

“I Am in Love” 2BiC  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unftZ0HhG6Q

“I’m Crying” Baek Ji-young  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj6OzNpr9I8

“Looks Good” Ha Dong-kyun  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6Ox4LWLjxo

“How Come You Don’t Know?” Kim Jong-kook  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_8wiMEJZqs

“Love Medicine” Joo Won  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdbo0__GGBU

“If I Were” Joo Won  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBDdVkrwig0

“Can You See?” Eye to Eye  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPcXTZr6Zpc

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

The recent spate of exemplary dramas that have weak endings is becoming a serious issue. For many of the recent dramas, Good Doctor included, the general feel is that the story progresses smoothly and then, suddenly, a wrap-up episode concludes everything. The natural story-telling progression is disrupted and fails with a poorly thought out climax and resolution.

The frustration for me, as a drama aficionado, is that while the bulk of the drama was immensely engaging and enjoyable, the lack of a suitable conclusion was a huge letdown. The ending was not wrong, or bad, but abrupt and weak.

Overall, the drama is a worthwhile watch. The characters are compelling and the stories intriguing. Wonderful child actors fill the screen with aegyo and appeal. Episode after episode held my attention and left me anxiously awaiting the next installment.

   

 Happy Drama Watching!

 good couple

 

Director: Ki Min-soo, Kim Jin-woo
Screenwriter: Park Jae-bum

 

 

Fall Drama Watch: What’s New To View This Season

If the reviews have been coming on a less regular basis, it is not for lack of viewing. We are currently in the midst of a whole slew of great new dramas for the fall season. And with nothing ending, it seemed appropriate to report on what is going on in the Korean drama world.

 

Good-Doctor-04Good Doctor (굿 닥터)

The Good Doctor is the story of an autistic man pursuing his dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon. Socially awkward, but brilliant, Park Shi-on must overcome the social stigma of being different in a society that cherishes conformity. Filled with heartwarming episodes that focus on the medical challenges of children who come to the hospital for care, the drama also throws in a good measure of political maneuverings amongst the hospital higher-ups as well. The drama so far has been a brilliant mix of adorable youngsters, conniving business people and a cast of characters destined to be forever changed by the one man they resented from the day he stepped foot on the hospital campus.

Should you watch it? An enthusiastic yes! It’s one of your best bets for great entertainment at an enjoyable pace.

 

the-masters-sunThe Master’s Sun (주군의 태양)

Part melodrama, part romantic comedy and part fantasy, The Master’s Sun is one of the new Ghost Dramas presently airing. Tae Gong-sil suffers an accident and is left with the unwanted ability to see ghosts. Alone, and suffering from insomnia (those pesky specters just won’t leave her be!), she finds solice in an unlikely source: the loveless, money-grubbing Joo Joong-won, CEO of  a large company. For reasons unknown, his touch can dispel the ghosts that frighten the timid Tae Gong-sil. Once she discovers his unique gift, she doesn’t want to let him go. Joong-won, however, is not so happy about the company of a crazy-looking young woman, until he comes to believe in her gift, and finds that she might be useful.

Should you watch it? Yes – it’s fun. There are some great characters. So Ji-sub’s character has been a bit dimensionless so far, but things seem to be picking up…

 

Who-Are-You-01Who Are You? (후아유)

Who Are You? Is the other ghost-watcher drama. Yang Si-ohn awakes from a 6 year coma to find her memory gone and the ability to see ghosts as a replacement. As a police officer injured in the line of duty, but unable to recall the events surrounding her injury, she relegates herself to the Lost and Found Division, a welcome respite for Si-ohn. Besides, the objects in the Lost and Found  Division seem to have interesting stories that her unique capabilities are able to unravel. Her partner, Cha Gun-woo, sent to Lost and Found as punishment, becomes intrigued with her unusual crime-solving sense and he falls for her charms. Unfortunately, his rival in love is none other than her dead lover.

Should you watch it? Yes. It’s intriguing and fun, although at some points taking the love triangle seriously is difficult, although definitely amusing! If you enjoy Taecyeon and/or Kim Jae-wook, this is definitely for you. 😉

 

Ä®°ú ²É Åõ¼¦ ¾Æ¿ô¶óÀÎ ¿Ï¼ºSword and Flower (칼과 꽃)

This drama also goes by “Blade and Petal” which refers to the two major political dynamos at odds with each other at the end of the Goguryo Period in Korean history. The King, Yeong-nyu, is a pacifist who believes that war with the Tang will be the death of the “flower” (the people). The military general, Yeon Gae So-mun, believes that only by strengthening the military and meeting the Tang head-on, can the people survive. The stress of war is causing starvation in the kingdom. Each man firmly believes that what he desires is best for the people. Caught in the middle, in a Romeo and Juliette-like dilemma, are the children of the two great men: Princess So-hee and Choong, illegitimate son of the general. In a drama fraught with crossed-purposes and misunderstood objectives, the young people fight to protect the principles important to them, as well as the people important to them.

Should you watch this drama? Even if you are not a historical drama fan, I believe the characters are interesting and the fight scenes are a definite draw for the manly crowd. While the pace may slow down at times while political intrigues are fleshed out, they do serve a purpose.

Jung-Yi,_The_Goddess_of_Fire-p1Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire (불의 여신 정이)

Set in the Joseon Dynasty, Jung-yi is based on the story of a real historical figure: Baek Pah-sun, the first woman to become a potter by trade. She was kidnapped during the war. The drama begins before Jung-yi’s birth and chronicles her struggles through young adulthood. She was beloved by the prince, Gwang-hae. Palace politics abound. Filled with interesting characters, the pace can, nonetheless, be a bit slow at times.

Should you watch it? If you like historical dramas, yes. The cinematography is lovely and the story-line is good. The acting is also credible and enjoyable. The pace is slower than a standard rom-com, but this is meant to be an epic saga.

 

Two-Weeks-03Two Weeks (투윅스) 

Jang Tae-san has lived his life as an orphan thug. Forced by a gangster boss to do jail time in his place, Tae-san spends time in prison, rather than endangering the woman he loves. Years later he finds he has a daughter who is dying and needs his bone marrow. He’ll gladly donate, but the mob boss has just framed him once again, never imagining that Tae-san might fight back this time.

The most adorable small child on planet earth, Lee Chae-mi, plays the eminently endearing Seo Soo-jin, Tae-san’s brave little daughter, fighting cancer, cheering her father on. Twisted turns of events keep Tae-san running from the law in hopes of preserving his precious body long enough to save his precious daughter.

Should you watch it? Keep the Kleenex handy. In fact, have a back-up box ready as this one really tugs at the heartstrings. The only complaint I have is that the drama is literally one long chase scene, which, after a number of episodes, is getting a little old. I, however, need to see how this one ends…

Stay tuned for final reviews in the upcoming weeks.