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: “Jung-yi: Goddess of Fire”

jung yi 1

A beautiful historical drama filled with the majesty and drama we have come to expect from this genre, Jung-yi was an epic tale worth the re-telling.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 8/10

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. Although she was kidnapped during the war and taken to Japan, the drama deals with events leading up to the kidnapping. The story begins before Jung-yi’s birth and chronicles her struggles through young adulthood. She was much loved by the prince, Gwanghae. Palace politics abound as three brothers vie for the position of crown prince.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

The pace was a little slower than other dramas, but that is often the case with sageuk (historical) dramas. A multigenerational story was being told, and many intriguing characters came into play.

jung yiIn the title role (Yoo Jung-yi) was Moon Geun-young (Cheongdam-dong Alice, Cinderella’s Sister). Born of parents who were gifted in the art of pottery and raised by a man who was treasured by the realm for his artistic porcelain creations, she grew into a young woman with exemplary talent. She had a birth secret, though: her real father was none other than the man she despised most – the man who had the father who raised her killed and who despised her temerity for aspiring to be a potter in a man’s world. Requiring a multitude of emotional changes, the part was well represented by Moon Geun-young who gave a very credible performance.

jung yi gwangLee Sang-yoon (Life Is Beautiful; I Love You, Don’t Cry) was prince Gwanghae, a scholarly and upright young man, but second son to the king. His suitability for the throne made him a constant target of conspiracies by his brothers. He spent his life in service to the king, which seemed to include the constant covering for mistakes made by his power-crazed and irresponsible brother, Prince Imhae. He met Jung-yi as a youth and kept a torch burning for her throughout his life. Lee Sang-yoon displayed the noble bearing necessary for the role and convincingly played “fall-guy” for his brother.

jing yi kim bumKim Bum (Boys Over Flowers, That Winter the Wind Blows) finally scored a role in a sageuk drama, and long, flowing hair seemed to suit him well. His role was that of Tae-do, a young man who grew up alongside Jung-yi in a brotherly fashion but who harbored a deep love for her. His was the Ji-hoo* role of he drama, following, protecting and loving Jung-yi, who saw him only as a brother. With a talent for martial arts, Tae-do assisted and was trusted by two Princes, Gwanhae and the youngest prince, Shinsung.

jung yi hwa ryungSeo Hyun-jin (The Peach Tree, Magic) was cast as the evil villainess of the story, Shim Hwa-ryung. Growing up as a friend and classmate to Jung-yi, the friendship dissolved into jealousy as she failed to win Tae-do’s heart. Aspiring to become a powerful merchant, she went to great (and disturbing) lengths to secure her own wealth and influence at the expense of everyone around her. Ms. Shim was quite convincing as a covetous and resentful woman.

jung yi fathrHer business dealings brought her to the unscrupulous Lee Gang-chun, Jung-yi’s biological father and head of Bunwon, the home of the Royal ceramists. His rivalry with Yoo Eul-dam, Jung-yi’s adoptive father, set in motion a chain of events that gave meat to the drama in the story. He acquired great wealth by illegally selling off Bunwon pottery and in doing so secured the sponsorship of Lady Kim, In Bin consort and mother to Prince Shinsung. The role was portrayed by Jun Kwang-ryul (I Miss You, Warrior Baek Dong Soo), a man with a gift for looking innocent while delivering bald-faced lies.

jung yi yook doLee Gang-chul’s main motivation is the success of his son, Yook-do, portrayed by Park Gun-hyung (I Do, I Do; Syndrome). This poor, hapless young man was unfortunate to have a  father, whom he idolized, who was an unprincipled crook. He also fell for the wiles of Shim Hwa-rung, who seduced him in order to win favor with Bunwon. This character ended up being one of the more complex of the series: initially a talented and principled young man, he entrapped himself by falling into his father’s deceitful ways. Yet he was an innocent, and in many respects, a pawn used by many others for their own purposes.

jung yi kingThe king was another interesting character. King Seonjo, as played by Jeong Bo-seok (Arang and the Magistrate, Can You Hear My Heart), was a weak ruler whose sole interest appeared to be looking good to the populace – and he had little tolerance for the truth, a trait that often put Prince Gwanghae at odds with his father.

jung yi moon

 

The kindly grandfather of the series was Byun Hee-bong (Glory Jane, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho) as Moon Sa-seung. A gifted potter and former head of Bunwon, he protected Jung-yi for the talent he saw in her. As a former friend to Yoo Eul-dam, he took on the role of Jung-yi’s caretaker after her adoptive father was killed.

jung yi imhaeLee Kwang-soo (Dating Agency: Cyrano; Innocent Man) played a role far from his usual. The unprincipled Prince Imhae was the source of many conspiracies in the drama. Although it seemed a stretch for him, the role suited him as there was a comical component to Prince Imhae’s often inept maneuverings.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 7/10

Gorgeous scenery and costuming was evident throughout the series. It was obvious that the actors had spent some time learning the basics of spinning a pottery wheel and the scenes were credible.

 

Music: My Rating 7/10

“Tears Are Also Love” Baek Ah Yeon  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m44ysL6460c

Great ballad: “Tears Flow” Noel  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_mXuV45reo

“Forever You” Bobby Kim  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWzfVvCnRt4

“I Love You” Park Ji Min of 15&  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA9d5DoW5-c

“Though I Close My Eyes” Lush  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_nmIhM0S8k

“Monologue”  Kim Hyung Joong  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATuQCNBzAyY

Overall Charisma: My Rating 8/10

The slower pace of Jung-yi in no way detracted from the appeal of the drama. Character and story development progressed naturally, allowing viewers to follow the complex plots and sub-plots. If there were a criticism, it would be that, as in many dramas these days, the wind-down and conclusion appeared a bit rushed. It was, however, a beautiful story, a beautiful drama, and definitely worth the viewing time.

  

 Happy Drama Watching!

jung yi young couple

*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.  :-p

 

Midweek Drama Review: Revisiting “Cheongdamdong Alice”

Did the White Rabbit Lead Us Down the Expected Path?

CheongdamdongAlice1The Mad Trip down the Rabbit Hole has ended and the questions must be asked: Was the drama what we expected? Did it progress in the direction we predicted? We’re the characters who we expected them to be? And finally, did we like it, Precious?

Storyline/Synopsis: Original rank: 10/10   New: 9/10

The plot line continued with its twists and turns throughout the drama. One extremely refreshing aspect was the main character’s willingness to disclose and be truthful. Although on the surface it appears that hiding truth is a main focus, in actual fact, the viewers know virtually all the secrets throughout the story, and those they do not know can be surmised without much effort Cheongdamdong-Alice1 (6)without ruining the effectiveness of the drama. This is truly unique amongst the dramas I have viewed to date. In actual fact, the “drama” in this drama is not generated by well—timed reveals, as is the usual scenario, but in finely crafted character development.

The difference in focus led to an aspect of Cheongdamdong Alice that I found fascinating, which was the notable absence of the usual drama cliches. No piggyback rides. No sweet, kind JiHoo waiting in the sidelines. No endless trips to the soju tent. Yes, there was a plucky, poor girl and a rich boy, but this was not your ordinary Cinderella story by any stretch. While the story did not progress along lines quite as novel as I originally imagined, the overall effect was, indeed, unique.

Script/Acting:  Original rank: 10/10   New: 8/10

alice bunny2The ending had just enough of a twist to keep things interesting! The quality of the acting remained pretty high throughout the drama. Romantic scenes improved as the drama progressed. If there were any disappointments they were the following areas: More could have been done with Tommy Hong’s character. He was a great character, and I believe he was underused. Moon Geun Young’s character might have been a smidge too serious. Although I understand the need for her to be the “adult” in the relationship, there were times when her affection for Cha Seung Jo was not necessarily convincing.

Cinematography: Original rank: 7/10   New: 8/10

The overall effect of the cinematography was a pleasing sense of understated artistry. The use of low lighting remains as a memory in my senses as I recall imagery from the drama. While the fantasy aspect could have easily been played up or overplayed, the director wisely refrained and rooted the cinematography in realism, which in and of itself, added a dramatic dimension to the script.

Music:  Original rank: 9/10   New: 9/10

The music remained an excellent feature of the drama. I’m waiting hopefully for an album to become available. 🙂

Overall Charisma: Original rank: 10/10   New: 9/10

I admit it. If they’d kept up with the bunnies more I would have been happier, but call that an odd quirk of mine. I have a fondness for continuity in the absurd. The characters were engaging and worked well together as a cohesive and believable unit. I could have easily kept watching for many more episodes — the sign of a well-crafted drama!

Overall, Cheongdamdong Alice lived up to expectations. I was hoping for a drama that was different from the rest and I was not disappointed. The characters were not overly predictable.

And yes, Precious, we liked it.

Happy Drama Watching!

alice bunnies

Cheongdamdong Alice – A Mad Trip Through The Rabbit Hole! Wheeeee!

Cheongdamdong-Alice1 (6)With Park Shi Hoo and Moon Geun Young cast as the main characters, this drama was already destined for my Watch List. The synopsis, however, led me to believe it might just be a recap of the “The Devil Wears Prada”. Broadcasting Saturdays and Sundays on SBS, the series is only 8 episodes along, but the drama is proving to be an exciting change of pace. Forget waiting until the drama has ended to review it – I can’t wait to share!

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating So Far 10/10

Avoiding too many spoilers, this drama is indeed about an aspiring fashion designer, but her aspirations reach beyond fashion: she’s tired of being poor and down-trodden. She has come to the conclusion that nice girls finish last and something needs to change. Her unintentional objective is a delightfully neurotic, psychologically damaged CEO of a major upscale fashion brand. Wonderful and original twists prevail in every episode so far.

alice in wonderlandOne thing I found interesting from a cultural perspective is the premise for the movie: the gut-wrenching despair Han Se Kyung feels brought on by the belief that escape from her station in life is impossible. Although she is educated and has a great work ethic, her lack of an overseas education severely hampers her job prospects. Her family, although hard working, barely makes ends meet and will never get ahead. Medical bills drown Han Se Kyung’s long-term boyfriend. There is prevailing sense of resignation to their hopeless fate.

Americans have been spoon-fed the concept no situation is hopeless. This is, after all, The Land of Opportunity, where nothing is impossible and no one is bound by his or her situation (theoretically). Hopelessness and despair certainly occur, but without the inherently hierarchical society that Koreans know, it is difficult for Americans to comprehend the ingrained cultural conviction that one’s fate is inescapable.

Script/Acting: My Rating So Far 10/10

Cheongdam-dong-Alice-Episode-6The script is witty and engaging. Park Shi Hoo (“Prosecutor Princess”, “The Princess’ Man”) is absolutely brilliant as a mad man. (Not truly psychopathic, but hilariously neurotic.) Moon Geun Young (“Mary Stayed Out All Night”, “Cinderella’s Sister”) is bringing an intriguing dramatic character to life.  So Yi Hyun (loved her in “Heartstrings”) is perfect for the role of nemesis/mentor. Kim Ji Suk (“Personal Taste”, “I Need Romance”) rounds out a great cast of interesting characters.

Cinematography: My rating So Far 7/10

So far, the cinematography is pretty good. While there are the standard “This is the building” scenes, there are also great examples of fabulous camera angles and shots that make the viewing a real pleasure.

Music: My rating So Far 9/10

The music is mix of trendy and retro. If you like the musical style of “A Gentleman’s Dignity”, the feel is similar. They went all out grabbing top-notch recording artists for this drama: the main song, ‘Daddy Long Legs’ sung by Baek Ah Yeon is a sweet treat. K. Will sings “Love Like This”, F(x)’s Luna sings “It’s OK”. Listen to Beast play “Hateful Person” in the following trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIbePO6Sbho

Overall Charisma: My rating So Far 10/10

All I have to say is: Just wait for the bunnies. Oh. My. Goodness. I’m sure there’s going to be a major marking blitz to come, but in the meantime I’ll be making a set for myself.  They are just one of the little tidbits that make this drama extra fun.  But then, I have an odd sense of humor at times. 😉

“Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”

“I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are. ”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 I’ll keep watching with my Cheshire Cat grin….