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

 

 

Friday Drama Review – “Baker King Kim Tak Goo”

Baker-King-Kim-Tak-Goo-Poster-1Bread is served! (But with a box of tissues, please…)

Somehow I had expected this 2009-2010 drama to be much more lighthearted than it was, partly because of the misleading posters, showing an impish grin on Yoon Shi Yoon’s face, but also because of the casting of Yoon Shi Yoon himself. The young man is delighfully ‘elven’ in his mischievious appearance and demeanor. How could he possibly carry off a melodrama?

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

The incredibly dysfunctional Goo family has a few problems. Wealth apparently can’t buy everything, especially the long desired son and heir to the family fortune. The marriage of convenience between Goo In Jong and Seo In Sook becomes even more strained when they both have affairs, and both affairs produce sons a mere 4 months apart. In Jong is unaware that his long-time friend and right-hand-man, Han Seung Jae, is the the father of his illigitimate son, his wife’s lover and the man plotting to make sure everything goes the way the self-absorbed, vindictive, conniving Seo In Sook desires.

And what Seo In Sook desires is the removal and ruin of her husband’s mistress, Kim Mi Sun, and her son, Kim Tak Goo, and the smooth ascenscion of her own darlng son, Goo Ma Joon, to the Go Seung dynasty throne. Despite a fate that continually tries to bring the illigitimate heir back into the family portrait, Manager Han and Seo In Sook incessantly and mercilesslessly throw up roadblock after roadblock.

 

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

There was a certain amount of predictability. The relentless string of tragedies that befall our heros was almost tiring. And grandma’s should learn to never, ever confront the bad guys, no matter how bad-ass their attitude is. It just always seems to end poorly for them. Sigh. And bad blood between step-brothers is almost a given. Intriguingly, in a land that prizes filial piety I believe I saw the first example of a man blackhearted enough to blackmail his own mother in a Korean drama. Although I’m not saying that the – ah – witch – didn’t deserve it. And this melodrama just got darker and darker as the scenarios twisted and the episodes marched on. The acting was, overall, quite excellent, but felt, in places, rather over the top: from about episode 20 on there was sobbing. Much, much sobbing. By everyone.

bakertakgu11Yoon Shi Yoon (“Flower Boy Next Door”, “Me, Too, Flower”) was entertaining and engaging as Kim Tak Goo. His ability to pull off credibly a character that defied credibility was somewhat amazing. The plot twists thrown at this poor luckless character challenged the viewer’s sensibilities with their relentlessness. The character, however, was able to maintain a certain innocence and sweetness, despite living the life of a thug on the streets. (A difficult contradiction to resolve, I know, but somehow it worked.) The hopelessly agreeable nature of Tak Goo almost became an irritant, although just when you felt like giving up on what appeared to be a human doormat, his subtle methods began to transform some incorrigible into a better person.

bakerking28_1The two women in Tak Goo’s life (aside from his beloved mother) are Shin Yoo Kyung (played by Eugene [“Creating Destiny”, “Ohlala Cuple”]) and Yang Mi Sun (played by Lee Young Ah [“Iljimae”, “Vampire Prosecutor 1 & 2”]). Yoo Kyung, his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life, becomes the ‘toy’ that little brother intends to jealously steal from the big brother he despises bakerand yet competes with. Yoo Kyung, psychologically damaged from an abusive childhood, doesn’t play well in the competitive arena. Eugene chose this role as an opportunity to play  a ‘bad girl’ for once! Mi Sun, on the other hand, is the sweet, innocent, wide-eyed and adoring Tak Goo Fan Girl. Patiently waiting, always supportive, she’s the ‘good girl’ who wants to share more than just Tak Goo’s love of baking. She is also the queen of priceless, darling facial expressions. Her mannerisms often added a much needed brightness to many a gloomy scene.

baker king joo wonJoo Won (“Bridal Mask”, “7the Grade Civil Servant”) was a delighfully malevolent and yet bizarrely pathetic Goo Ma Joon. Psychologically stunted by an over-bearing, overindulgent mother, Ma Joon epitomized the spoiled rich kid, over-competitive and overcompensating for a weak self-esteem, unable to love or believe himself to be loveable. His goal in life is to beat Kim Tak Goo at everything no matter what it takes, despite the fact that he espouses a complete disdain for the “beggar”. The character was great fun to despise, although Joo Won’s brooding glare was more than a wee bit attractive for an antagonist. His transformations from cowardly, self-centered reprobate to a man pitiable and pathetic, to a cruel, sadistic jerk and finally to something resembling a human being required pretty mad acting skills.

baker king queenJun In Hwa was the beautiful Villainess Supreme, Seo In Sook. The unstoppable, irredeemable social goddess was the focal anti-hero in the drama, the character everyone loved to despise. She was chillingly convincing. Her male counterpart and partner-in-crime, baker-king hanHan Seung Jae was played by Jung Sung Mo. His was another character that viewers hated, despite his absurd, dogged belief that In Sook would one day come to him if he continued on his malevolent path.

 

Cinematography: My rating 7/10

baker23Fights, slaps and wrist-grabs, oh my! There were many well-choreographed action scenes, car chases and a few drunken commotions. Poor Oh Jae Moo, the child actor starring in his very first role as the young Kim Tak Goo, failed to understand how to receive a stage slap and apparently received the full force of Jung In Hwa’s wrath in one scene. Interesting lighting and filters were used to create a dream-like sense of reverence during certain bread-baking scenes.

 

Music: My rating 7/10

The soundtrack is nicely varied with some great ballads, but with a few fun, upbeat tunes, as well.

End of The Day – VOS  http://youtu.be/5Jww5N7BIqw

Love You To Death – KCM feat Soul Dive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st2j8ocw5kU

Best Ballad: Ku Saram – Lee Seung Chul http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tc5xbAR06o

Also a good ballad: Only One – Bada http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBnV3_Ews14

Kyuhyun can really belt out those ballads nicely: Hope is a Dream That Doesn’t Sleep – Kyuhyun (Super Junior) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOFLFfzlKT8

Now Going to See – Code V http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMs2SuDtY0M

For Me – Yu Jin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt5UUdksQ4g

From the drama special:

Only You – Yoon Shi Yoon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xANXeCEN_A

Sweet!: Love Is – Lee Young Ah http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EniqjE9bsmo

Fabulous voice!: My Love – Joo Won http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OXkkpzv_b0

 

Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

So, Yoon Shi Yoon in a melodrama. The result was indeed an interesting contrast in stereotypes. The irrespressibly happy nature of Yoon Shi Yoon’s character (as well as the sweet, bubbly Lee Young Ah) buoyed the melodramatic storyline creating a contrast that, while in some places appeared almost absurdly implausible, was in fact what made the drama appealing.

While the excess of sobbing scenes in the final episodes was rather over-the-top, the thematic content was necessary to plot continuty. The ending was completely predictable, yet satifactory. There were no surprises, but it followed the natural course set by the themes as they progressed throughout the drama.

 

Happy Drama Watching!

baker couple