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: “Sword and Flower” 칼과 꽃

 

Beautifully scripted and delightfully enacted, Sword and Flower was a moving melodrama placed in a historical setting.

 

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

sf-genkingAlso known as “Blade and Petal”, this drama recounts a story of two major political dynamos at odds with each other at the end of the Goguryo* period in Korean history. The pacifistic King, Yeongnyu, believes that war with the Tang (Chinese Dynasty concurrent with Goguryo) will be the death of the “flower” (the people). The top military general, Yeon Gaesomun, believes that military strength is the only way to save the people, and that meeting the Tang head-on is key to the survival of the Goguryo Kingdom. He sees the King as weak and fears for the safety of the people. 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, the 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 they love.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 8/10

While filled with action and drama, the pace moves a little slower in Sword and Flower, allowing time for plot development, character development and historical background. The tempo befits the drama, however, and as the episodes progress, the drama becomes engrossing. An intriguing aspect of this story is that it does not attempt to create “good guys” and “bad guys” in the typical fashion of many dramas, but instead focuses on the difficult questions decisions intrinsic to leadership.

s&w1Kim Ok-bin (Over My Dead Body, The Front Line) was Princess So-hee, also known as Moo-young when she infiltrates the enemy camp as a young male warrior. She’s the kind of heroine every young woman admires: faithful, filial, loyal, and can sword-fight with the best of them, as well. As the eldest daughter, she was more than strong enough to be a good ‘king’. After witnessing the assassinations and degradation of her father and brother, she became the leader of a cause. Kim Ok-bin combined intelligence, strength and femininity to create a character s&w2that was more than appealing enough to garner the attention of the men around her. Her charisma was necessary and credible.

Yeon Gaesomun’s illegitimate son, Yeon Choong craves recognition by his father. Unfortunately, his father’s agenda is at odds with the plans of the woman he loves and has pledged to protect: the Princess So-hee.  Uhm Tae-woong (7th Grade Civil Servant, Man From Equator), while quiet and subtle in his acting, was powerful as the talented warrior, fighting an inner battle with himself at every crossroads. The chemistry between the two central characters was palpable in its authenticity.

Sword-and-Flower-8

Choi Min-soo (Faith, Warrior Baek Dong-soo) was the dark, somber, powerful Yeon Gaesomun. For a character that was, by all intents and purposes, a stoic who showed no emotion for others to witness, Choi was remarkably talented at broodingg looks that conveyed more than words.

 

s$ w kingKim Yeong-cheol (Innocent Man, IRIS) brought King Yeongnyu to life. Believing that war would be the death of the Goguryo Kingdom he advocated for a peaceful, diplomatic relationship with the Tang. He had great affection and respect for his eldest daughter, and feared the powerful military hero, Yeon Gaesomun. The character was portrayed with great dignity and empathy.

joo wonOn Joo-wan (Natural Burials, Twelve Men in a Year) had the difficult task of playing Jang, nephew to King Yeongnyu, and a man without his own power base. Used and disparaged by the King, despite his intelligence and loyalty, he eventually betrays the King when he is passed over as the obvious choice of successor when the Crown Prince becomes injured and disabled. As in the historical records, Jang is placed on the throne (to become King Bojang) by Yeon Gaesomun, only to become a puppet king. The frustration at his position, the greed for power, and the lack of real support are all fleshed out well in the intriguing character created by On-Joo-wan.

nmwIf there was a truly evil character in the drama, it was Yeon Namseng, legitimate son to Yeon Gaesomun. The nefarious young man was brought to life in all his malevolent, bloodthirsty, maniacally power-hungry glory by No Min-woo (Full House Take 2, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho). Filled with jealousy over the attention his illegitimate brother receives and with a natural passion for physical violence, Yeon Namseng personifies the ‘bad gone badder’. No Min-woo’s soft, sweet face wreaks havoc with the viewer’s mind as he transforms from well-spoken young nobleman to rogue and scoundrel with the flash of a sword or the swing of a fist- or whip!

shinLee Jung-Shin (CN Blue band member) was the KPop cameo boy, playing Shi-woo, master swordsman and bodyguard/supporter of the princess. His acting abilities are as credible as his musical abilities. As Shi-woo, he played an engaging character, loyal and passionate for the cause. The role was not as well-developed as it might have been, and I look forward to seeing this young man in more challenging roles.

 

 

 

sf impossibleCinematography: My Rating 7/10

Creative camera angles did much to enhance and contribute to the storytelling. A few stunts, while silly (and impossible) – i.e. the flipped upside down gaze – were charming, nonetheless. The lighting and sound were also managed and directed in a manner that enriched the story, rather than detracted.

 

Music: My Rating 6/10

Some of the instrumental background music was very interesting: 60’s-ish James Bond-style electric guitar background. Finger’s crossed that a full OST release with instrumental music included is coming soon. In the meantime, two vocal pieces are available:

A nice love song: Wax  “Dear Love”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgfV9Xm20jM

Another nice ballad: F.I.X. “Even When I Die” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M34sDARkiHs

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

A wonderful story combined with an illustrious cast created a drama that was a pleasure to watch. While the pace was slower than many viewers might find ideal, the tale is absorbing and the characters are thought provoking. Add to that beautiful sets and scenery and nice musical scoring and you have all the makings of a good evening in front of the television.

 Happy Drama Watching!

swordflower3

Goguryo*: An interesting note: “Goguryo” is the name from which the modern name “Korea” is derived.

 

Written by Kwon Min-soo

Directed by Kim Yong-soo & Park Jin-seok

 

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.