Friday, January 22nd, 2010
Finally, we wrap up my favorite 25 Panasian Films of the Decade..
Here are what happened in the last two parts, in case you’re just tuning in:
Today, it’ll be the pivotal Top 10, and the special awards.
But, for the last time, the disclaimer: I watch a lot of films, but like anyone who doesn’t get to travel to film festivals worldwide or have that much time to watch every Asian film existed, I missed out on a lot of stuff. I also have my own biases. I don’t care for Achitpatong, Kim Ki-Duk, or Hong Sang-Soo, which means those art films one might’ve seen on those best of the decade list by western organizations will be missing here. Mainly, they’re not because I really don’t like them - I just couldn’t find the time to watch them.
Hence, this list is totally interactive. This means you’re welcome to offer your own list or even talk about my picks. But I can say it’s unlikely to find a definitive top 10 list out there, since 1) Everyone has different tastes, and 2) there were so many films that I had to expand my list to 25.
So now, on to the top 10:
10. 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) - Japan - Directed by Makoto Shinkai
If anyone is looking for Wong Kar-Wai on animation, this is it. Split into three parts for a barely feature-length anthology of thinly connected segments, this is a story about isolation and loneliness that would’ve worked just as well in live-action, but the wintery landscape of Tokyo and summer seaside Kagoshima look even more beautiful through Shinkai’s eyes.
9. Secret Sunshine (2007) - Korea - Directed by Lee Chang-Dong
A lot of my love for this film is due to the lead performance. However, writer-director Lee Chang-Dong also deserves a lot of credit for the unflinching portrayal of such raw emotions and providing a thought-provoking look at the meaning of religion in people’s lives. Of course, Jeon Do-Yeon does do all the work in her award-winning performance as the film’s central character.
8. Love Exposure (2008) - Japan - Directed by Sion Sono - LoveHKFilm review
Anyone who makes a 4-hour film and pulls it off as well as Sion Sono did here deserves a place on this list. Filled with upskirt photos, religious satire, evil cults, and crossdressing, Love Exposure is definitely a cinematic achievement, despite its technical and storytelling flaws. It’s also a grand example of a film that needed to be put on a leash, but when it’s this fun to watch, it’s perfectly fine to let it loose a little longer.
7. Oldboy (2003) - Korea - Directed by Park Chan-Wook - LoveHKFilm review
Park Chan-Wook hit his filmmaking peak with the middle film of his Revenge trilogy, a poetically violent film that explores the motives and meaning of revenge. Propelled by Park’s unique visual style and an intense performance by Choi Min-Sik, Oldboy elevated the visual asethetics of the New Korean Cinema to a whole new level.
6. Blood and Bones (2004) - Japan - Directed by Yoichi Sai
The placement of Blood and Bones this high on the list is, like Secret Sunshine, mostly attributed to its monster of a main character played convincingly by Takeshi Kitano. Filmed without one bit of sentimentality by Yoichi Sai, this is family melodrama with a real nasty edge. As brutal as it is, Kitano’s performance is like a magnet on the audience, repelling them while forcing them to watch at the same time.
5. All Around Us (2008) - Japan - Directed by Ryusuke Hashiguchi 0 LoveHKFilm review
Ryusuke Hashiguchi’s portrait of a decade in the life of a married couple is unassumingly brilliant in its subtlety. Filled with quietly powerful moments, smart visual storytelling, and an award-winning performance by Tae Kimura, this is a film that has stuck with me ever since I first watched it without subtitles in a Japanese theater.
4. Memories of Murder (2003) - Korea - Directed by Bong Joon-Ho - LoveHKFilm review
Out of the Korean New Wave filmmakers, Bong Joon-Ho has proven himself to be one of the most versatitle and talented around. His police procedural/social commentary drama, based on a real series of murders in a Korean small town in the 80s, remains just as powerful and compelling now as it did when it first came out earlier in the decade.
3. Nobody Knows (2004) - Japan - Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
My friends living in Tokyo tell me that the city is like the New York of Japan, filled with uncaring unbanites that would ignore any tourist that seems to be in trouble, and Kore-eda’ unflinching portrait of that society is heartbreaking and powerful, but never exploitative. Working with his child actors during the three-year shoot, Kore-eda has crafted a masterpiece that is more than the minimalist arthouse style many of his contemporaries have tried to imitate.
2. Spirited Away (2001) - Japan - Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
I’m not a fan of anime, which makes picking this Hayao Miyazaki film so high up a rather strange choice for those who know my taste. Actually, that makes this all the more impressive, especially in Miyazaki’s ability to transport his character (and the audience) into a wonderfully-realized world of dragon spirits, masked phantoms, and hopping lamps. Truly a wonderful adventure for this generation and the generations to come
1. Yi Yi - A One and a Two (2000) - Taiwan - Directed by Edward Yang
This three-hour minimalist urban epic by Edward Yang is poignant, touching, sublime, sometimes funny, and flat-out brlliant. This is as close as possible to a perfect film, and I cannot think of a better candidate for the top Panasian film of the decade.
Aside from the films that have been mentioned, there are also special prizes for films outside the list or filmmakers that deserve special shout-outs:
Game-Changer of the Decade: Cape No. 7
It’s not a great film, but any film credited for resuscitating an entire film industry and beat the record for the highest-grossing local film by a mile is a pretty damn important one.
Best blockbuster: Bayside Shakedown 2
A sequel that is even more ambitious than its predecessor in terms of both budget and storytelling, the second screen version of the successful TV show is smart fun masterfully directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro. It doesn’t work on its own because of all the recurring characters and running jokes, but it’s much, much better than it deserves to be. Bring on Bayside Shakedown 3.
Style-Over-Substance Award: Kim Jee-Woon
Kim is a director that has transcended every genre he has dipped in. While his stories don’t have the impact of contemporaries like Park Chan-Wook or Bong Joon-Ho, Kim’s directorial skill is certainly at the same level.
Most Likely Heir to Studio Ghibli: Mamoru Hosada and Madhouse
The Girl That Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars were fun crowdpleasers that also had great storytelling and memorable characters. They may not have the same storytelling sensiability as Miyazaki and Ghibli, but they may very well be the next big thing, and deservedly so.
Best Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Bong made his first feature film - Barking Dogs Never Bite - in 2000, and with just three films after that, he has solidified his place as one of the best Panasian directors working today. With every work, he elevates himself to a new level, and it’s hard to imagine him getting any better in the next decade. Then again, he’s Bong Joon-Ho, so who knows?
Just to recap, Here’s the complete list:
1) Yi Yi
2) Spirited Away
3) Nobody Knows
4) Memories of Murder
5) All Around Us
6) Blood and Bones
8 ) Love Exposure
9) Secret Sunshine
10) 5 Centimeters Per Second
11) Blue Gate Crossing
13) Joint Security Area
14) Tony Takitani
15) Still Walking
17) One Fine Spring Day
19) Battle Royale
20) The Host
21) Fish Story
22) City of Life and Death
24) Island Etude
25) Love of Siam
And that’s it. That was fun, but exhausting, which is why I’m glad we won’t have to do this for another 10 years. Remember to let me know where you agree and disagreed in the comments section, and if you haven’t seen any of these films (including the special mentions), then go watch them.
And we here at LoveHKFilm would prefer you to gain access to these films from Yesasia.com , because every time someone buys legit, an angel gets his wings.