Lists browsing by category


The Best Films of 2008

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

First the films, then the yattering.

1. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, France)

2. Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)

3. Fine, Totally Fine (Yosuke Fujita, Japan)

4. JCVD (Mabrouk El Mechri, France)

5. Be Kind, Rewind (Michel Gondry, United States)

6. Sparrow (Johnnie To, Hong Kong)

7. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, United States)

8. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, United States)

9. Help Me Eros (Lee Kang-sheng, Taiwan)

10. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, United States)

* * *

I’ll admit that I was wrong.

All year long, I bemoaned the lack of good films; I prattled on endlessly about how 2008 was a terrible year at the cinema. The writer’s strike seemed to have created a talentless vacuum in American cinema, and much-anticipated European and Asian offerings seemed to yield only failure after failure. I’ll admit it, though: I was watching the wrong films. As 2008 drew to a close and I felt the weight of so many distasteful movies pressing down on me, I finally got my shit together and started piling on the screenings, catching up on the pictures I had missed, some purposefully avoided, some that never made it to theaters in The Great White North.

Certainly there are still films to be seen. And there is no denying that even my top film picks seem a little more… eccentric than usual. I’m surprised by a few choices, especially the inclusion of The Dark Knight, not only because it seems in some ways hard to admit that a film that has already become such a part of the zeitgeist can actually be critically relevant, but particularly because I had considered Batman Begins to be such a failure. To boot, my inclusion of JCVD represents a vote of confidence for Jean-Claude Van Damme who, improbably enough, delivers the performance of the year, Mickey Rourke be damned.

But the most obvious surprise lurks at the very terminus of my list, if you had any trouble spotting it. Rambo is significantly more than the punchline I had envisioned it to be; more a horror film than an action film, Sly channeling Eastwood behind the camera while his granite-faced alter-ego sends a similarly terse nod to the audience. That John Rambo’s facial expressions seem at times to be a direct homage to UHF further confirms my suspicion that Stallone has not only accepted his detractors, he has begun to purposefully channel them in an attempt bring the writer of Rocky back from the dead without pretending to erase the star of Over The Top.

Should I only explain what I perceive to be my Achilles’ heels and ignore the top of the list? How transparent! Upwards!: A Christmas Tale handily took the lead. What at first appeared to be a hasty retread of both The Royal Tenenbaums and Fanny & Alexender ultimately ended up being one of the most powerful meditations on family dynamics since Tokyo Story. Print that! A swirling miasma of emotion with the potent, sexual stillness of Catherine Deneuve at its center, it struck chords in me I was not entirely aware were capable of being played.

Let The Right One In was my top choice for months, and not lightly. I am willing to prematurely declare it the greatest horror film of the oughts, an innocent-seeming twist on the vampire myth that disguises an exploration into a child’s complicity in murder and pedophilia. If that doesn’t pique your interest in this astonishing film, then all is lost. I pray that the architects of the impending American remake are suffocated alive in a vat of wolf semen. Amen.

I should note that, as always, I refuse (don’t I sound self-important?) to consider films originally released in their country of origin in a different year. There’s no shame in retroactively adding an old film to an old year’s list! This almost certainly showcases my OCD to an excessive degree, but hey – the consistency of my ridiculousness is part of my allure! This seems like an opportune time to mention that I definitely consider Help Me Eros to be a 2008 film, IMDb intel notwithstanding; a wide release in the director’s homeland is The Release, not a festival date. The essence of what I’m trying to say here today is, y’know, fuck you, IMDb.

I should mention that a wide variety of my friends, all significantly better-informed than me, have also presented their lists to the world (and in a more timely fashion, to boot). I urge you to visit them and read all about the films I can only hope to view in the months to follow!:

Andrea Janes
Michael J. Anderson
Lisa K. Broad
Pamela Kerpius
R. Emmet Sweeney
Karen Wang
Matt Singer
Alberto Zambenedetti

Peace be with you, but fuck that kid over there.

Mike’s Ten Favorite Living, Working Asian Actors – A Dubious Midyear List

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

The siren song of my film-blogging peeps has sucked me once again into listville, and this time the subject is being left to the discretion of the individual. Some folks are doing their favorite movie theaters (I don’t have 10 of those), some are doing their favorite movies of the year thus far (I don’t even have 2 of those), and the other topic du jour is favorite actors and actresses.

That’s a topic I can get behind, but the scope is so monumental! An all-time favorite top ten actors or actresses list would take me forever, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin… I kept on making lists of actors and actresses of various nationalities, eventually deciding this was too OCD to pass muster as I had to make different versions depending on whether I was allowing living or dead people to factor in. Then I tried to go super-narrow with Living Japanese Actresses, but that was also specious, since people like Meiko Kaji ranked high, even though she hasn’t made a film of any sort since 1988, and the last time she made a good film was 1974.

Thus, the intense specificity of my list. Actors only, first of all. Yes, there are ten excellent living performers from any given Asian nation, but I wanted to cast my net a little wider and highlight my favorites… Onward!


1. Tony Leung
Recommended Viewing: Happy Together (1997) and In The Mood For Love (2000)





2. Takeshi Kitano
Recommended Viewing: Sonatine (1993) and Kikujiro (1999)





3. Tadanobu Asano
Recommended Viewing: Ichi the Killer (2001) and Eli Eli Lema Sabachitani? (2005)





4. Song Kang-ho
Recommended Viewing: Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002) and Memories of Murder (2003)





5. Koji Yakusho
Recommended Viewing: Charisma (1999) and Eureka (2000)






6. Jackie Chan
Recommended Viewing: Police Story (1985) and Armour of God (1986)






7. Anthony Wong
Recommended Viewing: Ebola Syndrome (1996) and Beast Cops (1998)






8. Susumu Terajima
Recommended Viewing: Blessing Bell (2002) and Funky Forest (2005)





9. Lee Kang-sheng
Recommended Viewing: Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) and Help Me Eros (2008)




10. Jordan Chan
Recommended Viewing: Downtown Torpedoes (1997) and Men Suddenly In Black (2003)



Interesting!  Even I am interested by these results.  I would like to go back in time and accost my former self, drawing up this list last night, and see if two more drinks would’ve put Sam Lee on the list.  We will never know.