Thursday, March 20, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Thoughts Along The Way - Ep 1-4

It can be hard to choose something new to watch, because you are committing to so many hours. I have mostly spent the last year watching well-known dramas that were recommended by other people, but lately I have watched a few new ones that were airing. I was interested in My Love From Another Star right away because of the alien, and the very first episode hooked me. Nampyeon and I enjoyed talking about it as we waited for new episodes, and there is a kind of on-line liveliness with new shows. I haven't been part of that since the Harry Potter books were coming out, and it was fun.

Ever since Alien Show finished, I have been looking for another new one to be part of. Nothing really sucked me in. Until now. That's Robin Hood from Sungkyunkwan Scandal, I said. But meh on the having an affair part, I said. Then came the 21-minute preview. That's REAL PIANO PLAYING, I said.

21- minute preview

Peering longingly at a concert grand from behind a curtain. View of head when sitting at the piano. View from the back. View of hands. Head again. Body swaying and arms moving artistically. View of Yoo Ah-in actually playing. Face and arms and hands in the same frame! Hold it! Nampyeon and I both play the piano, and we are pretty disdainful of most musicians in tv and movies. The actors are so obviously faking it, with views of moody swaying from behind the piano, where you can't see their hands. Short views of fingers on violin strings or bowing a cello. Someone else doing the playing for them. So tacky. By the time the duet came along, I was sold. I only had to say "piano" to Nampyeon and he was sold. We're watching this show.

Googling around for information, I found that a professional pianist recorded the music for the sound track. Yoo Ah-in and Kim Hee-ae really play the piano, and were given special lessons on the pieces used in the drama. So the visuals are them, and the sound is someone else. That's good enough. If the rest of the show has such care taken with it, this should be a really good one. The duet was very moving and emotional, and both they and the audience were drained at the end of it.

Episode 1

This show is more film noir than anything else. It is a sepia-toned world of jaded, questionably-moral people wandering around in dimly lit, claustrophobic  spaces. It's moody and oppressive when it's not being hostile. It's very well shot, from peeking at our leading lady, Hye-won, from behind a lattice at the beauty salon, to watching her feet descend the stairs - remarkably dangerous-looking stairs, I might add. The sound is low-key and mostly apropos to the action. Walking into the music building, you hear little snatches of people tuning up and playing. It's classic and calm.

We are treated to the foreshadowing of fate when our leading man, Seon-jae, crosses a  bridge on his motorcycle with a girlfriend who asks him to stop because, "if you kiss on a bridge, love is supposed to last long."  He doesn't and she objects, "if you don't, someone else will appear." Well, we knew that already.

Sitting at her mirror at the end of the day, Hye-won sums up what we know so far: she is fake, her husband is useless, nothing really belongs to her, she wants her boss' position.

We see Seon-jae moving in the open white outdoor world at the clinic and before the facade of the music hall. When he enters he is swallowed by the rabbit-warren of stairs and progressively darker halls leading to the black curtain he stealthily pulls aside to get a glimpse of the grand piano and watch it being played. He sees her critiquing a student. He is caught.

The piano duet at 43:30 is Schubert Fantasie in F Minor for 4 hands D. 940
It is played by piano professor Jo In-seo and his top student, Min-woo. Prof. Jo is maybe the only honest person at the college, and Hye-won's husband is jealous of Jo having such a talented student. For the glory of having a student like that, not because he is a good teacher himself.

I love that there are a few humorous moments in this all too serious drama. The incident with the phone in the men's room. Fishing it back from under the door haha! Hye-won agreeing to audition Seon-jae and taking a bite of the apple.

They bring him in for his audition. He's a big awkward kid in his jeans and puffy coat, looking a little taken aback at the opulence. Here she comes stalking down her dangerous stairs. She looks straight at him and he looks away.

Episode 2

When she invites him into her lair and asks him to play, he is nervous and sits silently at the piano for a minute. He's trying to remember what he had played the day before, because he had done it out of his head. He plays, then explains how he condensed two parts into one. They spend the day together cocooned inside her piano room. He plays for her - beautiful piano music - that's what we're here for - she requests more. And then they play together, moving together, quiet together, intense together. They are both affected, and are exhausted by the end.

At 3:25    Sun Jae plays the Schubert condensed into 2 hands.
     6:33    is the Bach Prelude and Fugue No. 1 from Well-tempered Clavichord
     7:48    the Paganini Etude No. 4 Arpeggio
     8:07    Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310
     16:54  Tchaikowsky's The Seasons: April "Snow Drop"
At 28:34 they play the Schubert duet together. The dumb thing about it is that they make a video recording, but don't show the hands. All they get to watch later is the head. :-P

Back at the college, CEO Daughter is acting up, behaving worse than in Episode 1 if that is possible. Someone should drop her off the end of a pier. If this were real film noir, somebody would.

We cut back and forth between the college crowd playing politics, to the audition, to looking back on the audition. Seon-jae is ecstatic, running to release pent-up energy, on a bridge reliving the moments, playing the railing like a keyboard, grinning like an idiot to himself.

35:35  Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Appassionata         

The tense mood is emphasized by low light coming from lamps and candles and through blinds or grilles highlighting faces against a dark background. We see that the house has a sliding bookcase with a secret safe behind it. nice.

It transpires that Hye-won is called the Little Fox and the Chairwoman is the Big Fox. They record CEO Daughter's (the Chairwoman's step-daughter) conversations and dump a college admissions scandal in her lap right in front of Chairman Dad. Good job.

The Little Fox and her husband go to see Seon-jae at his house and hear him play his own piano. It's another multi-level complicated space with tiny, steep concrete stairs. Looks like a fire trap. Strewn with laundry and piles of junk. Sliding door grille, looks like a jail. And then we end on a high note, with her stepping on a mouse trap and him picking her up and carrying her out. Whee!

Episode 3

Plot twist. Third episode and we have a major plot twist already. Here we have been expecting a clean little campus affair between two piano players, one with a dimwitted whiner husband. It's all gone sideways. The tone of this show is pretty dark. Someone posted that they worried whether to watch a show about an affair, but decided murders are bad too, and we all watch murder mysteries. It all depends on how it is handled. This show has uprooted us and we are waiting to see where we get planted next.

Of piano playing we get one new short lesson at 31:08 and a flashback at 12:10. Kind of a weird lesson. Who treats their students that way, putting a stick down their clothes? Looks pretty provocative to me. Then the twist happens and somebody goes into the army. Little Fox catches CEO Daughter drunk and reads her a lecture on morals and deportment. This can serve as a touchstone later, when she starts misbehaving herself.

Then she sticks her nose back into Seon-jae's business and now he can't leave her alone. Looks like he's going AWOL. Meets up with her in her garage. He's not a bashful kid anymore, and we're not waiting for the series to be half over for the first kiss, either. He grabs her and gives her a long enough anguished look that she could turn him down if she wanted, and kisses her, hard. We don't see their faces, but she pushes at him a little bit, just to show he's using muscle. And then she invites him in.

Episode 4

Hye-won pulls the come here- get away- come here- get away bit on Seon-jae, who loses it and is arrested for attacking a bad piano player. He looks like he is going a bit crazy in jail. Little Fox arranges for her husband to hear of it and he brings Seon-jae home and gets him out of army duty.

We get a look at the graft at the music school and in the Chairman's family. None of these people are likeable. Netizens complain about the shiny make-up on everyone, but I think it is appropriate. They are fake plastic people, not real at all. Either that or the shininess is so the people stand out against the dark background.

The only music is a cello student's lesson with a really bad/corrupt teacher at 35:50 and a flashback of the audition at 42:00. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Love From Another Star As Science Fiction

As a long-time science fiction lover, I happily anticipated watching a drama with an alien in it. I really enjoyed the show, it's one of my favorites; but all the way through I was looking for information about his people, his planet, or his method of travel. There wasn't much, and what there was didn't make sense. It leaves us with a blank slate for a main character, which is kind of weird. Perhaps the writer never really thought about those things, but they seem pretty basic to a science fiction show.

Having grown up reading Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein and watching shows like Star Trek and Apollo 13, I expect certain things from science fiction. I expect the author to have put some thought into designing a world. I expect things that happen in the story to make internal sense. I expect answers to questions brought up in the plot.

MLFAS falls short in all of these areas. Not much is said about the alien society and why they behave the way they do. Why did they abandon Min-joon in the first place? They didn't even look for him. They can all teleport, but they didn't bother. We see them wandering through the forest collecting specimens, so they must have some kind of interest or curiosity about our world. It's pretty far to come. Min-joon is the only one who was interested in Earth people and explored the town. That shows he is different from all the others. None of them were interested in people. Maybe people are not important, even one of their own who strays and gets lost.

Min-joon tells us at one point that on his world they don't have families or friends. Is that why they left him? Do they not have emotional connections or concern for each other? If they don't have warm relationships, they probably don't have emotions. That makes sense because in the beginning he was very closed-in and emotionless, rather like Spock. Maybe his people are like Vulcans, but even Vulcans look out for one another. He kept pretty much to himself for 400 years because that is just what his people do? What kind of society would have resulted from that? You'd think they would have been too isolated to have developed a lasting civilization or technology. Knowing these things would have given depth to our alien's character.

One big plot point is that blood and saliva make Min-joon sick. It becomes an interesting problem when he tries to kiss his girlfriend. If this is true though, how come he can eat meat? We know he can eat chicken. I don't remember what else they show him eating. It's lucky for our side that his body chemistry isn't so different that he can't absorb nutrients from plants. He mentions several times that his body has changed to acclimate to Earth. Maybe it changed enough to allow him to eat but not kiss. It's noticeable that it takes a shorter and shorter time for him to recover from a kiss, and maybe he gets used to it. That would be like taking allergy shots. But it would have been nice to have an official note on that.

A big obstacle in the story is the fact that Min-joon has to wait 400 years for a comet to return. What's the logic in that? He says they terraformed the comet so the natives wouldn't notice them. To begin with, that's a crock because people see the flying saucers all over the place. They aren't hiding. What would be the purpose in terraforming the comet anyway? Do they fly their spaceships to our solar system and use the comet as a base camp for little expeditions to Earth? Isn't it kind of silly to have to wait to rescue their crewman until their hideout orbits close enough? You'd think they could sneak around better than that.

Do they dock their spaceships to the comet and use it as a mother ship? Comets don't make interstellar journeys. They belong to our solar system, swinging out to the farthest reaches, and then back in towards the sun. Or did the aliens install engines so they can fly it home? If so, then it hasn't got a 400-year orbit any more. It could be that the comet is a mother ship, and it just takes 400 years for it to get from Vulcan (or wherever) to Earth because they don't have light-speed. Suppose Min-joon's group had to leave and couldn't return. A rescue party has to be sent out from their home planet. If they are extremely long-lived and don't age, they may just put up with the long flight.

 Min-joon says he is waiting for the comet, not that he's waiting for a rescue party. If they aren't concerned with each other to the extent that they don't look for him when he goes missing, why would they send a rescue party later? If they were going to rescue him, they should have done it before they left and not strand him for so long. One explanation would be that they are doing a long-term scientific study of Earth and come back every 400 years to gather information. In that event, Min-joon isn't waiting for a rescue party, he's just waiting for the next regularly scheduled expedition. But that isn't said. At any rate, the comet thing doesn't make sense and ought to be explained.

And what about the flying saucers that were spotted zipping around before the comet got back? Did they get to Earth without needing the comet? Why didn't Min-joon get a ride on one of those? When the comet finally got here, a flying saucer appeared above a forest, some ways from Min-Joon's home. They evidently teleported Min-joon from his balcony to the ground under the saucer, and then turned him into sparkles to beam onto the ship.  Why the sparkles? Min-Joon never shows sparkles when he teleports. Why didn't the aliens just teleport him straight onto the ship without the middle step?

And finally, what's with the wormhole? Did the alien ship get sucked into it by accident, or did they purposely use it to speed up their trip? Is Min-joon using it to teleport from his home planet to Earth, without needing a space ship? If the aliens could do that, they could have rescued him sooner. If they fell into the wormhole accidentally they may be still figuring out how to use it.

Raising questions that never get answered leaves me unsatisfied. It's annoying that they pulled a wormhole out of a hat with no foreshadowing, and called it good. I am however glad that the main couple gets to be together. And that the kid brother got some E.T. time with the alien. That was probably my favorite scene of the show.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Year of Kdrama

We watched our first kdrama on March 15 last year, so that means that today is the big anniversary! We are one year out on kdramas! It has been an adventure. The first few we saw were recommended by our DIL and then we googled favorite kdrama lists and looked at places like DramaBeans. Most of these dramas have been widely recommended.

Here they are in the order that I watched them, rated with five stars possible:

1. Secret Garden - A wealthy man suddenly becomes infatuated with a movie stunt-woman who doesn't like him. Then their souls switch bodies, and the two actors get to pretend to be the opposite sex. The last time I saw this done as well was when Captain Kirk's body was inhabited by the soul of a crazy woman. Haha. There is some mystery about the man's traumatic past and memory loss. Cousin Oska grows from being an annoyance to being a best pal. The drama takes a while to get going and then it is really interesting. ****

2. Heartstrings - The story of two college music students; a girl who plays traditional Korean musical instruments to please her grandfather, and  a boy who studies western music and plays in a rock band.  They were both in You're Beautiful and didn't end up together, so I guess this was a second chance. It was pretty bland, though. The character I remember the most fondly was the sweet, quirky, messy-haired drummer. The two boys are in a band called CNBLUE in real life, so that would be why they are believable as musicians. ***

3. My Princess - An elderly head of a big business conglomerate decides to restart the Korean monarchy. He locates the heir of the last king, a college girl who has a hard time learning to be a princess, and installs her in a palace. There is a slightly lame love story and a slightly lame conflict with a sister. The guy is called Hand Towel by the DramaBeans people because when you say that in Korean it sounds like the actor's name, and his acting is about as limp. To be fair, they said he did better in this comedy than he had done in melodramas before. But it's a slightly lame show. ***

4. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho - an irresponsible college student releases a mystical nine-tailed fox from imprisonment in a painting. The fox becomes a girl who wants to be human, and keeps the man on his toes by wanting to eat meat all the time. He is afraid of her at first, afraid she'll eat his liver (which is what gumihos do) but then he falls in love with her. Another magical character shows up to try to put the gumiho back in the painting. Luminous, enchanting gumiho girl, captivating story.****

 5. Rooftop Prince - The wife of a Joseon crown prince is found drowned in a pond. He collects three assistants to help him solve who did it, and as they are chased on horseback, they jump a ravine and land (sans horses) on a rooftop of an apartment building in modern Seoul. The funniest part of the drama is the next few episodes, as the prince and his cohorts acclimate to the modern world. He finds  women who looks just like his princess and her sister, and gets involved in a corporate power struggle with people who think he looks like their company heir. Hot shot start and draggy in the middle.****

6. Faith - A queen from ancient Korea is wounded by assassins, and a warrior is sent through a time portal to find a doctor to cure her. There are some problems with this drama; over-the-top X-men type villains, and a rather repetitive plot (two poisonings), but the love stories are extremely good. The closed-in, humorless warrior gradually warms up to the lively but initially shrill and materialistic lady doctor, as she comes to appreciate his honesty and reliability.  Meanwhile, the young king and queen learn to love and support each other. *****

7. City Hunter - We actually watched the first episode a while back, but there was too much killing and we dropped it. Having seen Lee Min-ho in Faith however, we were willing to try another drama of his and came back to it. Fortunately, the rest of the show is different. The hero was kidnapped as a baby and raised for the express purpose of hunting down the corrupt government figures who ordered the deaths of a some South Korean soldiers who had been sent into the North on a covert mission.
Part of the conflict comes when he starts capturing the criminals and dropping them off at the police station, when his father wants them all killed. Fast-paced and intense. *****

8. Sungkyunkwan Scandal - In Joseon times, a girl dresses up as her brother in order to support her family as a scribe. She gets pressured into going to college, which is for men only, knowing she would get executed if found out. She becomes part of an inseparable foursome: a scholar who she falls in love with, a pretty boy who lords it over all the other students by pure force of charm, and a scruffy guy who is secretly a freedom fighter. This drama starts out with a punch but slows down in the latter part and has an unconvincing end, but it is mostly very good. ****

9. Arang and the Magistrate - Having enjoyed the gumiho girl so much, we found another drama with Shin Min-a. She is a ghost with no memory of her life or how she died, so she avoids the Reapers as she tries to find out. She appears to the town magistrate to ask for help, but he dies of the shock. So does the next magistrate. Enter a nobleman who is searching for his missing mother. It turns out he can see ghosts, and she convinces him to help her. Arang is spunky and fun at the start of the drama, but loses steam as the main story starts to peter out. The most interesting part is the mythology - the Reapers and the two gods who play a game of Go while playing with the lives of humans. There is a lot of spookiness, and this would be a good drama to watch for Halloween. ****

10. Prosecutor Princess - To tell you the truth, we watched this show because it appears in a list of Best Kdrama Kisses I found at KdramaFighting. Having been annoyed by wooden open-eyed kisses, I decided to watch all the shows on the list. Here, a lady prosecutor comes to work in the latest fluffy fashions, which scandalizes everyone else in the office, who all wear back suits. She fails at her job at first, until a friendly lawyer starts giving her advice. As she becomes better at working her cases, she finds that the lawyer has ulterior motives which have to do with the unjust imprisonment of his father. Love clashes with duty as this drama gets more tense and involving as it goes on. Oh, and the kissing was good. ****

11.  Boys Over Flowers - Ah Boys Over Flowers. My my my. This is the one I talked about in previous posts, having watched the first couple of episodes and then stopped because of the terrible bullying and lack of responsible adults. Went back to watch it because it is so famous, and slogged our way through it. I heard the female lead was the most well known of all the actors to start with, but was soon eclipsed by the guys. She was annoying. I also heard that Lee Min-ho started getting reams of offers to do commercials a couple of days after the first episode aired. His character was mostly a jerk, while his three friends were sympathetic. To people who enjoyed the show, watching cute boys must have outweighed the spotty and illogical plot. But it's true that you can understand half of the kdrama jokes on the internet if you've seen this show. ***

12. Lie To Me - This is another one from the best kiss list. In order to look important, a girl brags that she has a rich boyfriend. She goes to extreme lengths to "prove" this to her friends, and even ropes in the man in question to go along with her. I don't know why he did; she was embarrassing. In a strange plot twist, after she has chased the man for most of the show she suddenly changes her mind, driving the audience nuts. However, there were a couple of very famous kisses.***

13. Personal Taste - Having liked Faith and not liked BOF, I wanted to see something else Lee Min-ho was in. Plus it's on the KdramaFighting list. An architect pretends to be gay in order to rent a room from a single girl who has a famous Japanese-style house. The secondary characters are actually more fun than the main ones. The girl has a married girlfriend who has some pretty funny scenes with the architect's employee. The architect does a makeover on the girl and they fall in love, but I was insulted that after spending a long time making a point of being chaste, the girl caves at the end. That's not a spoiler, is it? It's a rom-com. You know they're going to get together. ***

14. City Hall - A conniving  politician moves to a small town to gain points with his superiors. He meets a city hall secretary, fires her up about injustices in government, helps her campaign for mayor, and uses her as a steppingstone for his own career. Her kindness and idealism start to rub off on him and make him rethink his own life and goals, as they start to fall for each other. Has a silly start and then becomes engrossing. *****

15. Coffee Prince - This is on the kiss list and also a lot of favorite's lists, but although it's a quite good show, it's not mine. Possibly because I don't like people living a lie. It's a story of a girl who pretends to be a guy so she can work at a coffee shop with a staff of all men. The boss falls in love with her even though he thinks she is a boy and tortures himself wondering if he is gay. And then she decides she wants to go away to school. What? Does that sound like true love? Kind of like Lie To Me. Same actress too, come to think of it. Similarly famous kisses. ****

16. Greatest Love - We decided to watch this because of Cha Seung-won, who was so good in City Hall, and Yoo In-na, who was in Secret Garden. (She overacted in SG, but the director must have told her to do that, and I liked her anyway.) GL is cute but not as good as CH. A famous actor thinks he is in love with a has-been singer because his heart beats faster when he hears her music. The real reason is because her music was playing when he was having heart surgery. He is arrogant and has a particularly aggravating laugh; she is milquetoast. Yoo In-na is an adversarial member of the heroine's old singing group. The cutest person in this drama is the heroine's little nephew, who has a charming relationship with the actor. ****

17. 49 Days - A perky young woman who gets injured and falls into a coma is given a second chance at life by a Reaper. He lets her inhabit the body of a depressed girl who really doesn't want to live, and gives her 49 days to collect genuine tears from three people who loved her. She learns about and combats a conspiracy against herself and her father, and the depressed girl learns to overcome her old grief and become more alive. Suspenseful mystery punctuated by fun and quirky Reaper played by Jung Il-woo. This is the first melodrama we watched, and we really got engrossed in it. *****

18. Playful Kiss - We watched this because so many people recommended it, and it stars the blonde kid from Boys Over Flowers. I believe I mentioned before that you have to be 13 to enjoy it. Stupid high school girl stalks smart boy with absolutely no shame. He doesn't seem to like her, and moreover he can't act. Painful to watch. *

19. The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry - Another one I watched because of a BOF actor. Kim Boem plays a 24-year old student who falls in love with a 34-year old reporter. (Think Lois Lane from 1978.) His 44-year old mother falls very neatly for the reporter's ex-fiance. The center of the show is the friendship between the reporter and her two best friends. One desperately wants to marry, the other is tired of men and is everyone's go-to person for advice. The sweetest romance is the one between the mother and the ex-fiance.****

20. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop - We watched this both because of Jung Il-woo and because it's on the best kisses list. He is a rich kid who falls for a student teacher. She tries to be proper, but when that little temper of hers rears it head, watch out! That's what he likes about her, actually. Her fire. The second lead comes to take over the titular ramyun shop, and ends up taking in several lonely souls as well.  He likes the girl but he is way too pushy, calling her "wifey" and acting like he owns everyone. I liked the little epilogues, especially the ones where they teach you how to make ramyun.****

21. You're Beautiful - This show is on a lot of people's favorites lists. I thought that rather than being cute, the characters were merely aggravating. I didn't really like the show until about 2/3 of the way through, when it suddenly struck me that Jang Geun-suk is a really good actor. Then I liked the rest. The story is about a girl who impersonates her brother and takes his place in a rock band. The fun, I guess, is watching people find out she's a girl. ***

22. I Miss You - We really liked this drama, although I look at other blogs and see that most people didn't. They may not have gotten past the first six or so episodes, which are pretty violent and awful. We had liked Park Yoo-chun in Rooftop Prince and Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and were up for another dose. The story starts with teenage sweethearts being kidnapped and the boy being rescued by his father. The girl was raped and then found by a woman who disappears with her as well as with an injured younger boy who had also been kidnapped. The rescued boy grows up to become a detective, still trying to find the girl, when he runs across some wealthy people who have recently come from France. He suspects them of being the missing kids, which they deny. The ending about the villain is not too believable, but the majority of the show was really good. The child actors at the beginning were especially good. ****

23. Queen In-hyun's Man - I'd read a lot about how good this drama was, and waited and waited for it to show up on Dramafever. Guess what? It never did. We watched it on Viki. A Joseon-era nobleman who protects Queen In-hyun  gets sent to the present by a magic talisman whenever his life is in imminent danger. He meets an actress (played by Yoo In-na) who is playing the part of Queen In-hyun in a drama, and they fall in love. His actions change history as recorded in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, and he keeps returning to the past to correct things. Very sweet and fulfilling romance, which flowed over into real life. *****

24. Take Care of the Young Lady - We chose this because we wanted to see something with Yoon Sang-hyun, who played Oska in Secret Garden. It also stars Yoon Eun-hye, who we have already seen in Lie to Me, Coffee Prince, and I Miss You. A poor man is hired to be the personal assistant of a spoiled rich girl. She throws frequent fits, and he's the only one who can get her to behave. Her family wants her to marry a rich guy, but even though it is Jung Il-woo, she starts having different ideas. It's entertaining but not great. ***

25. Full House - Man, a lot of people really like this one, but I just can't see it. How can you let your friends sell your house and abscond with the money, and not turn them over to the police? Really! I don't even think the couple is cute, because he yells at her so much. And his ex-girlfriend shows up and is waaaay too clingy. I read that people used to make pilgrimages to see the house until it was torn down. **

26. A Gentleman's Dignity - Another drama from the kiss list. Cute bromance of four men who have been pals since their school days. One is a playboy who romances a school teacher, one is trying to get his girlfriend to marry him, one is married but keeps flirting with other women, and one is a widower who falls in love with his friend's little sister. The playboy is pretty rude, the teacher overacts when she is embarrassed, and the little sister cries too much. There is so much crying in kdramas that we have sort of become connoisseurs by now. Believe me when I say this girl is not very good at it. (I have heard that you could save a third of your time watching this show if they would just cut out her crying.)  The most likeable of all these people is the wife of the flirty guy. Watch her step up and be awesome during the last half of the show. Eventually a teenager (another CNBLUE member) shows up claiming to be the son of one of the men. He makes friends with a rebellious student of the school teacher, and they have to be retrieved from the police station. In short, the two boys steal the show. You will not be surprised when I tell you that the student is Kim Woo-bin, who stole Heirs right out from under the nose of Lee Min-ho. ****

27. I Can Hear Your Voice - A young boy (played by Lee Jong-suk) gets the ability to read minds when a man, trying to kill the boy's father, rams a truck into their car and the boy has a head injury. A teenage girl who witnesses the crime interrupts the murderer and then testifies against him in court. The little boy vows to protect her. Fast forward ten years, and the murderer gets out of prison and comes looking for revenge. The girl is now a public defender and the boy, now 18, moves in with her to keep her safe. Loveable noona-puppy romance, chilling serial killer.*****

28. School 2013 - Guess why we watched this one? Lee Jong-suk and Kim Woo-bin are both in it! You have your smart students, you have your student being pushed unmercifully by his mother, you have your handicapped kid, and your bullies. And you have your ex-gang-member students who come to a new school looking to start over. The bromance in this thing is what the show is known for. The two leads dance warily around each other and the bully, licking past wounds. This show was just average for a long time, and then near the end I realized I was invested in these characters and wanted to see things turn out for them. ***

29. The Master's Sun - A woman can see ghosts, and they follow her around for help in settling leftover business from their lives. She is afraid of them but delivers messages for them. One day she meets a man who causes the ghosts to disappear when she touches him. He had been kidnapped once, and his girlfriend was killed, and he asks the woman to talk to the ghost of his girlfriend. Interesting. Overarching story with ghost-of-the-week stories. ****

30. Heirs - This was the most hyped drama of the year, on the strength of the popularity of the actors. It turned out to be lacking in plot and not a very good drama, but still rather interesting to watch because of cute scenes with the supporting characters. The main plot is: rich boy likes poor girl and fights his father over her. Meantime the father's wife and mistress duke it out. The main couple (Lee Min-ho from Faith and Park Shin-hye from You're Beautiful) had no chemistry. He ordered her around and she made faces when he kissed her. A secondary couple, Kang Min-hyuk (the drummer from Heartstrings) and Krystal (a singer), is much cuter. The only time Lee Min-ho showed a spark of life was near the end when he was showing Park Shin-hye a new apartment and locked the door and chased her around. The rest of the time was moody staring and crying, and not very good crying at that. Kim Woo-bin was really good as the bad boy who becomes nicer because of the gentling influence of the girl. He should have gotten her in the end - it would have been a more interesting show.***

31. King 2 Hearts - This was actually quite a good show, and the main leads were very good: Lee Seung-ki from Gumiho, and Ha Ji-won from Secret Garden. But the plot shot itself in the foot. Everyone knew early on who the villain was. They should have just arrested him right away and saved themselves a lot of grief. This is another show about Korea with a monarchy. An irresponsible crown prince takes part in international war games and meets a North Korean woman who is a general's daughter. Then the king is murdered and the crown prince becomes king. He has to contend with an evil arms dealer as well as the North Koreans when he decides to marry the general's daughter. ****

32. Nine: Nine Time Travels - A work-a-holic news anchor finds nine incense sticks that can send him exactly 20 years into the past. He uses them to try to save the lives of his father and his brother, but every time he returns to the present, the situation has become worse.  His best pal from his school days suffers through all the changes with him. The girl he loves doesn't remember the original time line at first, but figures things out. He finally enlists his younger self to help him. This is the best of the time-travel dramas. The ending is pretty ambiguous as to what exactly happened time-travel wise. There are a lot of blogs with conflicting theories. My opinion is that the younger self, when he grew up, didn't use the incense sticks. Excellent, addictive story. *****

 33. The Last Scandal of My Life - A middle-aged woman is pushed around by her in-laws and con-artist husband. While she is trying to raise bail for him, he leaves her for a wealthy woman. She meets up with her high school sweetheart who is now a famous actor, and becomes his housekeeper. He does a classic makeover on her - gets rid of frizzy ajumma hair and over-size glasses. Then he starts to love her again. His brother is played by the villain from I Can Hear Your Voice, and it is kind of hard to let go of the creepiness. Kind of a slow-starter but enjoyable. ***

34. The Prime Minister and I - This was the second drama we watched as it was airing. The first was Heirs. Usually in choosing a drama I read reviews and check to see if it has a satisfying ending. You can't do that when it's still coming out. The promotions made the show look cute and fun, so I watched it. It's about a reporter who has a contract marriage with a Prime Minister who is widowed and has three kids he is too busy to take care of.  I really liked the show until about halfway through, when they came to the -SPOILER- return of the not-dead wife. Then the show completely crashed and burned. Check out KDramaFighting for an awesome review. ***

35. Bad Family - A car goes off the road and everyone in it is killed except a little girl, who loses her memory. A copycat family is created for her, to try to jog her memory and find out if there was foul play. An ex-gangster gets various unsavory characters who owe him money to be part of the plan. The first half of the show is not too fun to watch, as these characters are crass and shrill. But the ending is very good. The fake family members bond and start helping each other out of tough spots, and all of them love and take care of the little girl. ****

36. Who Are You? - The 2008 version, not the new one from last year. Another story about a Reaper letting a ghost take over the body of another person for a limited time. The ghost of a clumsy, hapless delivery man takes over the body of a very closed-in businessman in order to try to take care of his daughter. As time goes on the men become more and more like each other. The father becomes less corny and more responsible, and the businessman becomes more open and friendly, as he begins to fall for the daughter. Gets off to a rocky start but nails it by the end. ****

37. Soulmates - This is a light romance story of several people who meet and date. There are three guys who get together to work out at the gym and talk about dating strategies and tricks.  There are three girls who work together for a large publishing company and gossip and compare notes.  One of them has a man-eating roommate who proceeds to steal everyone else's boyfriends. Slow-moving start, then becomes interesting. Doesn't have a real ending because it was supposed to have a second season, which was cancelled.***

38. My Love From Another Star - An alien was stranded on earth 400 years ago in Korea. Just as his people are due to come back (in present day) and rescue him, he falls in love with a famous actress who lives next door. He has superpowers that he is losing control of and he will probably die if he doesn't go home. Plus, he is allergic to human saliva, so when he kisses her he gets sick. Kim Soo-hyun, who plays the alien, is a fabulous actor. His crying is heart-wrenching. He was very stoic and reserved at first, then opened up slowly as the story progressed. We learn that on his planet there are no families and friends. So probably no emotions. He essentially existed unchanged all those 400 years until he met the actress and she turned his life upside down. This show is what is called crack drama. We watched it as it aired and talked about it during the week, anticipating each new installment. I read recaps as soon as they came out, and the often very thoughtful comments people left. There were a lot of plot holes, but they didn't prevent us from really enjoying the show. Major point: this show sparkled with fun moments all through its run. Most kdrama comedies start out funny and then lose their spunk and turn into melodramas. (Prime Minister and I, I'm looking at you.) This one kept the fun going. Some of the most hilarious scenes, with the alien and the actress' brother, were near the end. ***** 

39. The Moon Embracing the Sun - A fictional story set in the Joseon era about a crown prince (played as an adult by Kim Soo-hyun) meeting and falling for a really smart girl. The dowager queen, wanting to solidify power for her own clan, arranges for the girl to be poisoned before the wedding, and manipulates the prince into marrying a girl from her clan. A shaman rescues the poisoned girl, gives her a false identity, and raises her as an assistant. When the crown prince becomes king, he meets this girl again and has to fight the machinations of his grandmother and father-in-law. Very violent start, cute backstory, stressful second half. ****

40. Protect the Boss - A chaebol heir is unable to function in his father's company because of severe panic attacks. His cousin hires a new secretary to help him - a woman who was a rebel in high school and doesn't have good credentials, but is tenacious and clever. There is a little love rectangle with her, the boss, the cousin, and an ex-girlfriend. The moms of the cousin and ex-girlfriend cause most of the trouble; the boss' dad is hilarious, and his grandmother is the voice of reason. The story gets a little repetitious in the middle but recovers. Very enjoyable. ****

Monday, March 10, 2014

Index for Kdrama Laws

There is a hilarious blog called Kdrama Laws found here:

It codifies many well-know kdrama plot devices and cliches into laws and regulations complete with legalese terminology like "whereas" and "effectivity," using a multiple section format. It is great fun to read (and add to - they take suggestions) but it lacks a good index, and you can only find laws by reading down the list of older posts. Therefore I have undertaken to make up an index, so you can see which laws you have missed, and find them by entering the name into the site's search box.  Starting at the most recent:

Weirdness Protection Program   
Intercut Your Heart Out Law
Kdrama Education System
Good Parent Ban
AKA Bad*** Law
Marriage of Convenience
Kdrama Corporations Law
Instant Recognition Ban
Sister Standardization Law
Famous Last Words Law
No Rest For My Birthday Law
I'm Having Fun. Really. Act Act
Life-Threatening Law
Time Travel Act of 2012
Severus Snape Law
Cast My Bias Law
Partial Repeal of Single Ladies
Misunderstanding Protection Act
Foot Protection Law
Shareholders Law
First Love, Second Lead Act
Portrait of Wealth Law
Stay of Execution Law
Half-Nuptials Act
Reluctant Heir Law
Relocation Act
Just One More Episode Law
To the Bitter End Law
Merupisu Law
Jerk of All Trades Law
Anti-Competence Act
The. Kiss. Law.
Accidental Kiss Law
Kiss Classification Law
National Service Ammentment
Kdrama Genius Act
Bathroom Use Law
Beauty Standardization Law
Cohabitation Law
Sad Rich Family Act
Jang Geun Suk Jinx Act
Weaksauce Thug Act
Acceptable Violence Act
Poverty Alleviation Act
Break-Up Law
Second Lead Act
Road Behavior Act
Ajumma Act
Stalker Protection Act
Denial of Feelings Act
First Meeting Act
Communications Devices Act
Kdrama Audience Act

Saturday, March 8, 2014

10 Favorite Kdrama/ Korean Websites

It will soon be a year since we started watching kdramas. What a lot has changed! We've watched 37 dramas ( that's 37 mini-series, not 37 episodes), found out about famous dramas as well as famous actors, discovered flower boys and kdrama blogs, learned about Korean culture and food, and even cooked some ourselves. 
The 10 best blogs and websites I found: is the biggest of the kdrama websites. They do reviews and recaps of dramas, rate them to help you choose what to watch next, and have news of actors and upcoming dramas. They have several good articles about Korean terms in the glossary, found under Top Posts. Check out oppa, noona, and a discussion on formality levels in speech. One humerous feature is Thing vs. Thing, where they send up similar dramas, such as those about vampires or time-travel. are reviews, a list of dramas recommended for beginners, and even a cute series of Fashion Face-offs, where they compare clothing or hair-styles of actors from different dramas and invite readers to vote on the favorite. Their sense of humor shows itself again in their set of posters lampooning drama cliches, found here: general blog with reviews, recaps, and news. It usually recaps different dramas than Dramabeans does. blog is a fish of a different color. It features laws formalizing kdrama tropes such as: The Second Lead Act, The Reluctant Heir Law, and The Good Parent Ban. It needs a good index, but it is a kick to read. you can find reviews as well as rambles on dramaland. They have categorized their favorite dramas to help you choose your next one. The cutest part is the Field Guide section; a "scientific" study of Kdrama Kisses, Couples, and Makeovers, complete with Latin terminology. Common Room is not really a kdrama blog, but it has a lot of drama content. It is by a mother of teenagers who filters the shows that she wants her kids to watch. The page with all the drama reviews is here:
She has a lot to say about dramas and Korean culture. Read her article on Things to Know When Watching a Korean Drama: Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to More Things to Know, and You might Be Watching a Kdrama If.
http://belectricground.comThis is a very interesting drama-and-culture blog. It has an extensive K-language and Culture Series, with articles about Korean names, honorifics, loanwords, and titles - including family titles like uncle and aunt. Everything is illustrated with examples from dramas. If you watched the drama you can exclaim, "Ah, so that's it!" you watch very many dramas you begin to notice the food. Maangchi is the on-line name of a spunky Korean woman who lives in New York and blogs about Korean food. She has cooking videos, recipes, a beginner's guide, and information about ingredients and equipment. Her bulgogi recipe, complete with a vegetarian version, is here: Australian woman who married a Korean man looked online for help in dealing with cultural differences. Most of what she found was negative. Having a background in art, she decided to blog about her very positive experiences with Koreans and Korean culture, and illustrate her blog with cartoons. Gently humorous  cartoons. She eventually pulled her husband in to help her and they began making videos for the blog also. Two years later, they have moved from Australia to Korea and are continuing to blog and meet up with other bloggers. course you need a place to watch all your Korean dramas. Free of commercials is best, which you can get from Dramafever if you pay a small fee.  It's probably the biggest place in the US. We have watched kdramas also on Netflix, Viki, and Dramafire. You can google and find more places, some for free with commercials. 
So there you are. Ten great sites to explore. I didn't originally start with the idea of deciding on ten favorites.  I wrote the article, noticed I had nine sites, and decided to throw in one more to make ten. I thought of Dramafever, since that is where I usually go to watch. Go ahead and try them out. You might find yourself reading as much as watching.