58th Baeksang Arts Awards

I’m such an idiot. See, a major awards ceremony in Korean entertainment and an Asian movie blog unfairly preoccupied by Korean entertainment should go together like peanut butter and bread, but I see Yoona and Seohyun and just think, “My, isn’t that lovely? I love them.”

Well, I’m here now, a month later, so let’s do my part of a recap. It turns out, I had a few favorites in the race. Chiefly, Twenty-Five Twenty-One, but I figured that would be considered for next year’s awards season. Apparently, the 58th Baeksang Awards were for all works released between April 12, 2021 and March 31, 2022. Whose fiscal calendar is that? Only 14 episodes of Twenty-Five Twenty-One were even released by then!

So, I had my retrospective eyes on these nominees:

Twenty-Five Twenty-One, Best Drama
Im Yoon-ah, Best Actress (Film)
Seohyun, Best New Actress (Film)
Kim Tae-ri, Best Actress (Drama)
Han So-hee, Best Actress (Drama)

I went and checked because I was listening to my Twenty-Five Twenty-One playlist and remembered that that show had a lot of competition — on Netflix alone. Business Proposal, Forecasting Love and Weather, Thirty-Nine. How many were represented at Baeksang? For the full list of winners and nominees, here’s Wikipedia.

Did you notice anything strange? I certainly did: Jung Ho-yeon. She has a very good chance of winning an Emmy this year, but she wasn’t even nominated under Best Supporting Actress last month. That award went to Kim Shin-rok for Hellbound, over Kim Joo-ryoung in Squid Game, which is interesting. Two comparable roles, but I thought Kim Joo-ryoung’s wild energy was unique. Jung Ho-yeon is found nominated as Best New Actress, which makes sense. If anyone is gonna win that award, it’s Jung Ho-yeon. In the league of all-time debut performances, she’s got to be up there. But she didn’t win!

Here she is very excited to meet Yoona:

I’d take that over any award, but still.

As far as Yoona goes, she’s been stuck in nominee purgatory for a while now. Committing several projects to these ceremonies every year, she tends to win the Popularity Awards, but not Best Actress or Supporting Actress. This year, she was nominated for Miracle: Letters to the President — which I haven’t seen yet — and lost to industry veteran Lee Hye-young for In Front of Your Face, which I’ve never heard of.

Apparently, Yoona’s no longer a New Actress, so filling that spot is her fellow SNSD-mate Seohyun, nominated for Love and Leashes. This was not Seohyun’s debut acting role, but it was her first movie. She lost to Lee Yoo-mi for Young Adult Matters, who somehow wasn’t nominated for Squid Game. She was the one who made everyone on Earth sob in episode six.

Soshi maknae reunion

I found it strange that Squid Game didn’t win Best Drama, either, though it did win Best Director and the Grand Prize. Maybe it’s good they don’t double up like that. When Drive My Car is the only international film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, gee, I wonder who’s gonna win Best International Film?

All around, Squid Game was snubbed quite a bit. Best Actor? No. Best Supporting Actor? No. Best New Actress? Unbelievable. The winner of that award is Kim Hye-jun, who played the evil queen in Kingdom not long ago. How is that new?! But thank God I clicked on that link, because the show she won for, Inspector Koo, is headlined by Lee fucking Young-ae! So where’s her award?? Now my proverbial Netflix queue is really filling up. I mean, that’s the utility of awards shows, to pick up recommendations. I was just decrying how it’s dumb or whatever for awards shows to merely vindicate, but I’m feeling pretty unvindicated here.

With, at last, one crucial exception, and maybe the most important. If my new nemesis the Baeksang Arts Awards screwed this up, this brief blog post would’ve been a seven-part feature, a proper exposé ending in federal investigations or at least a blockbuster civil suit: Kim Tae-ri, who did indeed win Best Actress for her role as Na Hee-do in Twenty-Five Twenty-One. Here she is when her name is called:

She sat there for a while, and her delicate approach to stage was like when I’m trying to get close to the rabbit in our yard for a picture: very slow. She was shocked. It’s as if she’s never won an award before, but I can’t think of an actor with a better awards-getting percentage. For The Handmaiden, she won at the Blue Dragon, Buil, Busan, Cine 21, KOFRA, and Women in Film Korea Festival for Best New Actress. She was nominated everywhere for Mr. Sunshine, Little Forest, and 1987: When the Day Comes. She’s been nominated for four Baeksang Awards, and this is her first win, for Best Actress and Most Popular Actress.

If you’re a Korean actress, you need to hunt down Kwon Do-eun and headline her next show. Im Soo-jung was nominated for Bae Ta-mi at the 12th Korean Drama Awards, and it’s an incredible performance — one of my favorites. But Na Hee-do is the flashier, bigger one. It’s like Walter White versus Don Draper. First, it’s impressive that a 30 year old convincingly played a teenager, but what really gets me is the depth of that character, the constant physical reality and the tremendous emotional consequence. I’ve written a lot about this, so I suppose over time I’ve given Kim Tae-ri the much-vaunted WEE Award, which — I may need to come up with a better name.

Can’t imagine how she’ll react when she gets the WEE Award.

As far as “snubs” go, I’m really not familiar with this voting body or how it works, but I’m sad to note that Twenty-Five Twenty-One didn’t garner pickups for directing or writing, and maybe directing especially. As far as traditional Korean dramas go (barring something unique like Squid Game or a genre exercise like My Name), I’ve yet to see one more visually beautiful and featuring a more confident rhythm and vibe. Twenty-Five Twenty-One was directed incredibly well by Jung Ji-hyun, and I don’t need to know the Korean language to see that. And no love for Bona? Perhaps there’s a bias against idols-turned-actors in the awards bodies just as in netizen culture. I mean, if there’s an exception to be made there, it’s Girls’ Generation, but Bona turned in a great performance as Go Yu-rim.

Goddamn it, how the hell did I miss Inspector Koo? HOW DID I MISS THAT? World’s Biggest Lee Young-ae Fan my ass.

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