With the end of God’s Quiz, Children of Nobody and Ever Night I found myself sort of dramaless. I tried this and that but nothing really struck a chord. Until I decided to pick up The Story of Minglan on a whim. I first watched all of the subbed episodes available at that point and then continued on as the epis got released. It’s now kind of a daily ritual to watch at least couple of the epis. 😀 Then just yeasterday I started Sandglass. I initially thought I’d watch a fiew episodes at a time but as it sometimes goes, I got throughly hooked. I also gave The Crowned Clown a go… but ended up dropping it. A well made drama with some great acting and the story isn’t too bad but it just didn’t stick. It took me longer and longer to get on with an episode and I finally had to admit defeat. A pity but can’t be helped. Them dramas keep on coming, so I guess… better luck next time? Besides, now that I’ve sampled one item on my List, I could always pick another one on it. There’s plenty of content where Sandglass came from.
This is a kdrama classic, one of the highest rated Korean dramas ever and depicting the lives of our three protagonists during the politically turbulent times of 70’s and 80’s. It is also a piece of history as it was the first time anyone dared to touch the subject of the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement with it’s violent and tragic end, resulting in hundreds of civilian lives lost. A taboo subject still at the time the drama aired in 1995. They even cut in what looked like real live footage, which made it more than evident how horrifying the situation in Gwangju had been then. A good historical narrative always makes me happy. I’ve had the boxset of Sandglass for ages but it never felt like the right time for it, until now. I didn’t feel like watching any of the currently airing dramas so I started looking at my List of Doom to find something more wighty to watch and decided it was finally the time to give Sandglass a go. Boy, was I glad I did! I now understand why it’s been so highly regarded and also a sort of a template to many other thematically similar dramas, even many Korean crime shows. This is truly the pinnacle of what the writer/director duo Song Ji Na and Kim Jong Hak ever produced. An epic if there ever was one. I got SO immersed in the story that I couldn’t stop and ended up dramathoning 18 episodes stright before I just had to take a break. 🙂 I’ve still got the last 6 to watch, probably some time next week as I’m on vacation then.
Sandglass is not only a great piece of storytelling but it has an equally great cast and it’s been fun watching all these actors/actresses when they were younger and some of ’em still relative noobs. Especially as I’ve become accustomed in seeing many of them play grandparents, parents, older family members and/or elder statesmen in the more current dramas. The male leads are nearing their 60’s now and even the younger counterparts are in their 40’s. The funny thing is that I didn’t even realise it was Choi Min Soo playing Tae Soo at first, I just thought he look oddly familiar, LOL! He hasn’t actually changed all that much but he seems to sport a beard in many of his newer dramas. The film quality is of course vintage 1990’s and not to be compared to how things are now. It still looked ok even on my HD TV screen. Subs were decent, though I noticed that not all of the dialogue got translated. Thankfully my Korean is now adequate enough so I did not miss much. My only, minor gripe is the OST and I got kinda tired of the main theme, as haunting as it is, but I feel it was rather over utilised. It is kinda neat though, that one of the songs is “Zhuravli” (Cranes), by a Russian singer Joseph Kobzon. The lyrics fit really well within the context of the drama, especially the Gwangju part.
They don’t make dramas like this anymore, which is maybe one of the reasons I’m finding it hard to truly commit to many of the current offerings. I just don’t find most of them particularly gripping. They are mostly well produced, well acted and may look grand but something essential is missing. It almost feels like dramas these days are mass produced, whereas the older ones are like novelty pieces. At least the truly good ones.
The Story of Minglan
I never guessed how much I was going to enjoy watching Minglan’s journey, but Drama has been a very good choice despite of it’s length. There is some dragginess around the 40-50’s, but not so much that it matters and I’ve heard things do pick up again starting around ep 60. Quite a fiew people have noted that Minglan is like a very long British period piece, predominantly a Austen story, and I do have to agree. That’s exactly what it reminds of me too. It is also a rather fascinating peek into the lives of the womenfolk in Chinese families of the higher end of the societal “totempole”. In many ways it’s very similar to how the life among the British upper crust was back in the day. The pace is very sedate but I rather like it as we get to know all of these chracters a bit better this way. Because, so many interlinking characters of various families and factions. Unlike some other viewers I didn’t get any SLS as never warmed up to Qi Heng. Especially in the later episodes I’m finding him annoying and that unwarranted grundge on Gu Tingye is not very pretty. Dude, you had you chance and you blew it, so stop being an ass. I always thought he was a bit too naive, a-poley and coddled to suit Minglan. He had no idea how the life of a minor concubine’s daughter was and how careful she had to be not to make any waves. With him Minglan would never have been able to be herself. Yup, Minglan and Tingye are a match made in haven. Together they are a rather formidable force and not to be meddled with. Not that they don’t have any misunderstandings or rocky patches in their marriage, but none of that lasts too long. I also find it amusing that Minglan is the more calm and practical of the pair and Tingye is the more volatile and emotional one. Drama looks great and the actings pretty good. I haven’t found Feng Shao Feng particuarly memorable in any of his other roles that I’ve seen but he’s doing surprisingly well in Minglan. Maybe he’s finally seen the light, ha.
Cold Case Japan S2
I finally managed to watch all of 2nd season of Cold Case and even if it isn’t quite as engaging as S1, I did like it a lot. There’s no season long story arc and less time is spent with the private lives of the characters, but I did find many of the cases interesting. I especially liked the ones that were set further back in the past, like the one about the 50’s lady reporter. The OST is spot on and the music pieces selected totally fit in with each of the episodes. This is a “case of the week” kind of drama, so not for anyone who doesn’t enjoy those. I grew up with this set up, so I tend to like shows that are structured this way. In fact, I used to find series long arcs a drag. Well, I got used to those too, eventually.^^