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: “Monstar”

Monstar-Poster2

 A little music… A little drama… A lotta fun!

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 6/10

Min Se-yi is a transfer student from New Zealand, of all places. There she herded sheep and recuperated from the trauma of losing her father. Back in Korea once again, she cheerfully attends school and quickly makes a name for herself as a soft-spoken but strong young gal who won’t put up with the intimidation and harassment meted out by the local bullies: members of a popular and elite musical group called “All For One”. One member, Jung Sun-woo, recognizes Se-yi instantly as his first love, whom he has not forgotten since childhood, and for whom he never had the opportunity to confess his feelings. And because no self-respecting Korean drama is complete without at least a triangle, where love is concerned, the outwardly self-assured Yoon Sul-chan, local KPop celebrity, recently disgraced (through no real fault of his own, if truth be told) is added to the cast. To complicate things, Sul-chan and Sun-woo were childhood friends that are no longer friendly. That antipathy is exacerbated by their mutual admiration for Se-yi.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

A musical drama akin to Dream High or What’s Up, Monstar sports both entertaining music and a real, if somewhat simplistic, plot line. The plot may have been a little thin, but the characters were round, proving that the depth and breath of the character is not necessarily proportional to the number of episodes. With only 12 episodes in which to full develop a dramatic storyline and the people to support it, Monstar came through with shining colors. And rich sound. At least at the beginning.

The drama, which aired but once a week, left viewers hungry for more after each episode. Interestingly, however, the writers did not feel compelled to leave every hour-long session with a dangling cliffhanger. Not that neat episodic conclusions detracted from the anticipation – indeed, viewers seemed equally thirsty for more whether they were left on the edge of their seats or not.

The serendipity that brings Sul-chan, Sun-Woo and the misfits of the classroom together to form a band, “Colorbars”, is the hook that grabs attention at the beginning of the drama. As the emotional hardships and handicaps of the members are explored, the intensity builds with each episode.

Monstar-3Yong Joon-hyung (Member of KPop group Beast) is a relative newcomer to acting. He had cameos in the High Kick series and Salamander Guru and the Gang, but his role as Yoon Sul-chan is by far his largest yet. The character was an interesting mixture of haughty self-confidence and a charming lack of self-awareness, especially with respect to his own romantic intentions. To appear outwardly street-wise, yet inwardly unsophisticated was an appealing combination that Yong Joon-hyung achieved with credibility. The first kiss scene with Min Se-yi was honest and delightful.

Monstar-1Ha Yeon-soo is a rank newcomer to the industry. Landing a leading role in the drama was a well-deserved coup. This fresh, new, young actress confidently and convincingly pulled off the role of Min Se-yi with her wide-eyed innocence. The doe-eyed look could have been annoying, but paired with the uber-calm, zen-like exterior, yet belligerent attitude against idiot bullies, she created a likeable character with whom the viewers would empathize.

Monstar-2Youngster Kang Ha-neul (To the Beautiful You, Hometown Over the Hill) appears to be a regular veteran amongst the newcomers with 4 dramas and 2 movies under his belt. The Ji-hoo* of this drama, Jung Sun-woo was a soft-spoken, talented, intelligent young man with honest intentions. These characters often tend to be somewhat one-dimensional, but despite that, Sun-woo was an engaging persona.

One of my personal favorite character actors, Ahn Nae-sang (Level 7 Civil Servant, May Queen) is a true veteran actor. Well-suited for the role of the melancholy Han Ji-woong, this is a man that knows how to deliver a line with dry wit.

Monstar_colorbarRounding out a cast of newbies to the drama world: Kim Min-young as Sim Eun-ha, the spunky, chubby fellow “Colobar” member and best friend to Se-yi; Park Kyu-sun as Cha Do-nam, “Colobar” member and gangster-enforcer of “All for One”; Kang Ui-sik as Park Kyu-dong, “Colobar” member and bully magnet, called “Radio” by those wanting to torment him by forcing him to perform at their bidding; Da-hee (from KPop group GLAM) as Kim Na-na,  “Colobar” member and sullen, outcast, mob-boss’s daughter; Moon Yong-suk as Ma Joon-hee, “All for One” member and Head Bully; Yoon Jong-hoon as Sin Jae-rok, “All for One” member and Bully Underling. With a few credits to her name, Kim Yoo-hyun (Jeon Woo-chi, The Return of Iljimae) was Ma Hyo-rin, member of “All for One” and bratty, snobbish kid sister to Ma Joon-hee.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 8/10

Fun cinematography affects throughout created visual interest: musical notes flowing from the piano and coloring the landscape, flashbacks with childhood characters intermixed with present-day characters, anime sketches. Eye-candy, to be sure, but the visual flourishes fit in well with this particular genre. The thematic continuity of the flower garden coming to life as the kids continued to invade the home of Han Ji-woong was appreciated.

There was a wonderful musical number that involves two musicians from a video stepping out into Se-yi’s reality and stalking her around campus as her thoughts dwelt on Sul-chan. The theme continued in an entertaining manner throughout the remainder of the episode.

 

Music: My Rating 10/10

The music included outstanding covers of wonderful songs, in a huge range of genres: classical, jazz, folk, KPOP, dub step. The following are those released in the OST:

“Past Days” Yong Joon-hyung of BEAST, BTOB, & Ha Yun Soo    http://youtu.be/aQumrJmSUeo

“After Time Passes” Yong Joon-hyung of BEAST & BTOB  http://youtu.be/FItsgPOTWCk

“Atlantis Princess” Ha Yun-soo, Kang Ha-neul, Kim Cho-eun http://youtu.be/BSmQsq-gSbs

“Snooze (I Will Be Your Love)” J Rabbit  http://youtu.be/yGZ1cCtullg

“Don’t Make Me Cry” Yong Joon-hyung, Ha Yun-soo, Kang Ha-neul, Kang Eui-shik, Da-hee, Kim Min-young, Park Kyu-sun  http://youtu.be/HUZ9K2kgmTM

“First Love” Yong Joon-hyung of BEAST & BTOB  http://youtu.be/99evMyK435Y

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 8/10

The major disappointment in this drama was the anticlimactic ending. There were no overt inconsistencies, but given the fabulous beginning, the way the dramatic tension foundered as the episodes progressed was sad to witness. Despite the weak ending, the drama is fun and the characters worth watching if, for no other reason, than to see a few rising stars in the Korean entertainment industry.

 

 Happy Drama Watching!

almost kiss

*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: Kim Won-seok

Writer: Jung Yoon-jung