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: “Jang Ok Jung”

JangOkJungLiveInLove_SliderThe Famous Villainess is Given a New Personna

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

Jang Ok Jung is a famous concubine of King Suk Jong of the Joseon Dynasty. Infamous for her role in the deposition of Queen In Hyun, she has been villainized throughout history. An interesting take on a oft-told tale, this version of the history attempts to humanize Jang Hee Bin and tell her story in a new, much more empathetic way, beginning with her early (pre-palace) days and ending with her death by poison.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

jangWhile the story tended to bog down at times, for the most part it was entertaining and well-told. Jang Ok Jung (Kim Tae Hee) was an intriguingly thought-provoking character, ambitious but good-hearted at the beginning, becoming hurt and vindictive and finally building character to the point of self-sacrifice. Kim Tae Hee (My Princess, IRIS) brought all these characteristics to life in a convincing fashion giving us a new take to the old Jang Hee Bin character profile.

Jang-Ok-jeongkingYoo Ah In (Fashion King, Sungkyunkwan Scandal) was also provocative as Lee Soon, the skillful and powerful King Suk Jong whose only soft spots were for Ok Jung and his trusted uncle Dong Pyung. The King’s character was an interesting mix of intense, intelligent leadership and diplomatic skill and a heart-wrenching loneliness and vulnerability that comes with power and prominence. In a very early episode hs father warns the young Lee Soon that he can trust no one but himself, and the internal struggle that he feels as he resists this concept is evident throughout the drama.

Jang-Ok-jeong_46Another well-known historical character, Queen In Hyun, was played by Hong Soo Hyun (The Princess’ Man, Lie to Me). Her acting brought the needed dignity and empathy to the difficult role of the unwanted, un-loved Queen. Thankfully, the character was not a shrinking violet, hiding and weeping over the injustices done to her, but a strong, dignified woman bent on upholding the prestige of the palace. Hong Soo Hyun often plays rather unsavory characters, so it was nice to see her in a role that allowed her to stretch her abilities to include a woman of nobility and poise.

joj dong pyungTrusted friend to the king, Uncle Dong Pyung, also in love with Ok Jung (even before the king) was a great addition to the script. (Plus, a Korean drama just isn’t the same without a Ji Hoo-like character, right?) Not only was the character well played by Lee Sang Yeob (Innocent Man, Midas) but the character added a needed side-story to keep the story-line multidimensional.

JOJchoiOne of the few less-than-convincing characters in the drama was Han Seung Yeon of the K-Pop group Kara. She had the unhappy role of Choi Musuri, who became Choi Suk Bin. The role was one of a conniving, evil, self-serving vixen with no redeeming features whatsoever. A combination of unexecptional acting and a character whose scripting was not as well thought out as other characters is probably to blame for the mediocrity.

JOJjang hyunAnother less-than-likeable character, but one that was well scripted and well acted was that of Jang Ok Jung’s scheming uncle, Jang Hyun. Sung Dong Il (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Reply 1997) was credibly conniving, delightfully dasturdly and most definitely classified amongst the evil. Master manipulator and social climber, he provided one focus for audience hatred.

Even the actors and actresses in the smaller roles did execptional jobs bringing this story to life.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 6/10

The lush opulence of palace life was aptly portrayed in the beautiful costuming. Scenery was the same used in most historical dramas, as is to be expected. Nice touches were added such as the candle-lit welcome for Jang Hee Bin to her new home.

 

Music: My Rating 6/10

“Song of Sorrow” Im Jae Bum  http://youtu.be/TRVNxZLtuQ0

“Even In My Dreams” Zia http://youtu.be/I6WX0U1G94E

“Season of Love” Rumblefish http://youtu.be/TG6MwVenF6Q

“Living In Love” Page http://youtu.be/P3chx4E1JOk

“Voiceless” Lee Jung  http://youtu.be/zPoFcP8NXn0

“Will It Reach You?” Lee Soo Young http://youtu.be/okBFsbl-5ss

“Far Away” Sin Cho Ah http://youtu.be/jq5MSz9o0jc

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

If I had to choose just one drama to watch about King Suk Jong’s reign, I’d probably choose Dong Yi over Jang Ok Jung. That said, the story was quite compelling and I give it extra points for so creatively telling a story that’s been told so many times before. The acting is also definitely worthwhile. While the script may be a tad slow in places, the overall storyline flows well. I truly enjoyed watching a famous villain come to life as a real human being with good points and human frailties as well, which, I would hazard to guess, might be closer to truth than the myth built over ages. But who knows?

 

Happy Drama Watching!

 

jojlove

Director: Boo Sung Chul

Writer: Choi Jung Mi

 

Friday Drama Review: Lie to Me – Anytime

Lets return to 2011. There were several really great dramas that year including Tree with Deep Roots, 49 Days, Dream High, The Princess’ Man and Heartstrings – all of which are review-lieworthy, by the way. While listening to some exceptionally epic ballads issuing from my iPod, I was reminded of (and had to watch yet again) another 2011 favorite: “Lie to Me” with Kang Ji Hwan and Yoon Eun Hye.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

Who wants to be forever under the foot of the woman who stole (and married!) your first love? Intolerable taunts lead our heroine to tell a little white lie (“I’m married”); the gargantuan snowball that lands on her head as a result provides episodes loaded with comedy and romance galore.

Enter a demanding, handsome chaebol bachelor whose orderly life is suddenly disrupted by the hardworking but free—spirited, somewhat scattered Yoon Eun Hye. Following obediently along the proscribed path set before him, his life is suddenly turned upside down and inside out by rumors of a “secret” marriage to an unknown civil servant. Mix in an ex-fiancé and a runaway brother and the possibilities for confusion and trouble are endless.

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

Eun Hye

 

The role is perfect for Yoon Eun Hye who is delightful as a sweet, scattered, lovable Gong Ah Jung. The role fits her acting style perfectly.

ji HwanKang Ji Hwan as the cool, dispassionate, turned passionate, Hyun Ki Joon was also a perfect choice. Kudos to the couple for passionately convincing embraces and smooches. (Not your standard fare in K-dramas to be sure! LOL)

sung joon

 

Sung Joon (fabulous in Shut Up Flower Boy Band) was a credible, lovable and oh so pitiful Hyun Sang Hee. Excellent performances were put in by a number of veteran actors and actresses. The script held a few interesting surprises in what could have been a relatively predictable storyline. Especially gratifying was the evolving relationship between archrivals Gong Ah Jung and Yoo So Ran. Too often, ex-friendships remain one dimensional and static, but the storyline between these two women remained a compelling feature of the drama.

Drama Cliches: Taking care of him when he’s sick, carrying her piggyback, requisite hospital scene, a second male lead who won’t get the girl (sigh), running into each others arms on the beach. Let’s not forget really dumb mistakes that lead to obvious misunderstandings. (The jewelry box near the end.)

Cinematography: My rating 7/10

The drama has some great scenery, filming on Jeju Island as well as Seoul proper. As in many SBS dramas, the SBS building was used as the business office building, having failed to mask the sign in at least one scene where Ki Joon is racing into the building. There were places minor sound distractions were not masked well. Minor issues to be sure.

Music: My rating 9/10

Unbelievably sweet ballads prevail throughout drama. As I said previously, said ballads on my iPod provoked a second viewing of this drama! My personal favorite is “Walking on a Cloud” performed by Cho Kyo Chan. Sadly, nothing is available for purchase on iTunes, but the following tracks can be found online if you’d like to listen to them: “Shameless Lie” (4 Minute’s Heo Ga Yoon), “If This Night Passes” (SS501’s Kim Hyung Jun), “I Belong to You” (MBLAQ), “You are my Love” (Kim Yeon Woo), and “Are You Still Waiting” (Hee Young). Here’s a fan-made teaser set to my favorite music:

Overall Charisma: My rating 8/10

One of the best features of this drama is not so much the storyline, as the characters themselves. The evolution of each person was a drama in and of itself. Too often, characters evolve, if at all, in predictable ways, but in “Lie To Me”, personalities grew and changed in a somewhat realistic fashion.

I’m thinking twice is probably not going to be my lifetime viewing limit on this drama.  If you haven’t seen it at least once, it’s worth a try – at the very least for the music! (If not for the PDA… :-p)

Happy Drama Watching!

lean in