Best of TV Party 2010
TV Party is movie review section I put together for each issue of Giant Robot magazine. To compile this list, I simply went through the year's columns and wrote something quickly about what stuck with me. By no means is it The Best of 2010, since I don't get to attend many film festivals or stay up all night watching movies online. In fact, I actually paid for most of them on imported DVDs! Perhaps this isn't as much of a guide to what happened in Asian or Asian-American (no way) cinema as it is what I've been digging. Maybe you'll like some of it, too. The movie titles are linked to the trailers for your convenience. As for full-on reviews, you'll have to track down the magazines.
Assault Girls (Japan, 2009) – Mamoru Oshii's live-action depiction of three flawless women in battle armor fighting mutant sand creatures is as simple or complex as you want it to be. But whether you see it as a glorified video game scenario or seamless study and critique on society, it is perfectly executed with amazing production value. Each frame is a visual masterpiece. (Image above.)
Barking Dogs Never Bite (Korea, 2000) – Bong Joon-ho's darkly comic debut has (and needs) no budget but carries out his heady concepts with ease. As usual, actress Bae Doona is impossible not to watch, playing the wage slave who is obsessed with tracking down missing dogs killed by a protagonist driven to madness by the system. Finally released in the U.S. by Magnolia.
The Darjeeling Limited (USA, 2007) – Yes, Wes Anderson's latest sausage party (but another witty, stylish, and sharp one) was released by Fox on the heels of its theatrical release, but true fans will settle for nothing less than a Criterion DVD for any of his works. One of the main extras is a cool conversation between Anderson and James Ivory about their respective, overlapping Indian soundtracks.
Dream Home (Hong Kong, 2010) – Producers Conroy Chan and Josie Ho (who also stars) hired Wong Kar-Wai's production team and charged it with making a slasher film. Over-the-top violence, mangled bodies, and mass quantities of blood have never looked so artistic. There's also a message about real estate and materialism mixed into the plot.
Fish Story (Japan, 2009) – Like Miracle Mile or Wall.E, this is an end-of-the-world movie that tightens its focus onto a smaller story rather than create a sprawling epic. What makes Yoshihiro Nakamura's film especially cool is that it revolves around geeks at a record store discussing a pre-Sex Pistols punk song from Japan as a meteor plummets toward earth–and the tune actually happens to be pretty good.
House (Japan, 1977) – Although I never found the the brand-new, official DVD that Criterion sent later on, even the hand-burned screener I received is light years better than the VHS copies or YouTube clips of the schoolgirl-eating piano that film nerds worshipped beforehand. Nobu Obayashi's experimental horror movie continues to shock, delight, and be ahead of its time. (Read an excerpt of my interview with the director here.)
The Limits of Control (US/Japan, 2009) – Okay, this movie was released on DVD in the U.S. in 2009, but I watched the Hong Kong version which came out this year and was cheaper. What can I say? The direction of Jim Jarmusch, cinematography of Christopher Doyle, and a soundtrack by Boris is a dreamy combination that brings together totally different worlds of cool. Hypnotic and beyond hip.