Asian Cinema : Annual Top Tens from Critics

Annual Top Tens from Critics

It's that time of year again. I thought I'd make a thread and plop them in as they appear. Anyone here who considers themselves a critic can post their own as well.

Mark Schilling - A new wave of Japanese filmmakers matches the old

Nearly two decades after the Japanese New Wave of the 1990s, the directors who led it, including Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hirokazu Koreeda and Naomi Kawase, are still the local industry’s most prominent faces abroad. But this year a new generation of filmmakers has finally started to make itself heard, with 36-year-old Koji Fukada winning the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes for “Harmonium” (“Fuchi ni Tatsu”) and 43-year-old Makoto Shinkai obliterating the box-office competition with his animation “Kimi no Na wa.” (“Your Name.”). Both generations found themselves on my best 10 list for 2016.

10 In This Corner of the World (Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni): Sunao Katabuchi’s animation about a young woman’s life in prewar Hiroshima and wartime Kure has the “We will struggle though to victory” message of a Keisuke Kinoshita World War II propaganda film. But just as Kinoshita truly depicted the human realities of his characters, so do Katabuchi and his animators, from the heroine’s anguish and terror to her desperate longing for peace.

9 Your Name. (Kimi no Na wa.): True, the premise — two teens exchanging genders in their dreams and falling for each other in their waking lives — generates juvenile gags and trades on ships-passing-in-the-night cliches, but this megahit animation by Makoto Shinkai has an outsized ambition and sweep, realized in dazzling images that speak of apocalypse — and paradise.

8 After the Storm (Umi Yori mo Mada Fukaku): Hirokazu Koreeda’s follow-up to his 2008 masterpiece “Still Walking” (“Aruitemo Aruitemo”) again pairs Hiroshi Abe as a scapegrace failed novelist and Kirin Kiki as his salty elderly mom. Despite a baggy narrative and unsympathetic hero, the film is filled with keen insights into the difficulty of becoming an adult — and finding redemption, deserved or not.

7 Mohican Comes Home (Mohikan Kokyo ni Kaeru): Shuichi Okita’s gentle-spirited family comedy begins with a punk rocker (Ryuhei Matsuda) returning to his home island in the Seto Inland Sea, with pregnant girlfriend (Atsuko Maeda) in tow. As usual with Okita, the sense of humor is dry, the characters true originals and the story adroitly multilayered.

6 Scoop!: In Hitoshi One’s scabrous comedy, Masaharu Fukuyama stars as a dissolute photographer working for a bottom-of-the-barrel tabloid who partners with a permanently offended new hire (Fumi Nikaido) to laugh-out-loud effect. Together with the back-and-forth, which recalls classic screwball comedy, come sharp observations on the down-and-dirty realities of the media world.

5 A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Rip Van Winkle no Hanayome): In Shunji Iwai’s latest essay on Eros and love, a naive junior high school teacher (Haru Kuroki) stumbles from a bad marriage to a blissful friendship with a free-spirited, troubled woman (Cocco), as a sketchy Svengali (Go Ayano) pulls strings. Lyrical but unsparing, the film recalls the more poetic — and nightmarish — work of David Lynch.

4 The Long Excuse (Nagai Iiwake): Miwa Nishikawa’s portrait of a philandering celebrity novelist (Masahiro Motoki) whose wife dies in a bus accident has its moments of sitcom cuteness but devastatingly illuminates its jerk hero’s narcissism and delivers a well-earned catharsis.

3 Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow (Satoshi no Seishun): This biopic of a shōgi (Japanese chess) prodigy who died at age 29 after beating the era’s reigning champion, rejects the genre’s standard sentimentality while making the game itself gripping and its central character a complex, tragic figure. As the title hero, Kenichi Matsuyama gives the performance of a lifetime.

2 Creepy (Creepy: Itsuwari no Rinjin): A blend of drama, mystery and horror, this Kiyoshi Kurosawa film lives up to its title with understated atmospherics that stir feelings of dread. Its ultimate scare effect, however, is Teruyuki Kagawa’s next-door neighbor from hell, who terrifyingly veers from meek obsequiousness to cold psychotic rage.

1 Harmonium (Fuchi ni Tatsu): Koji Fukada’s dark drama about a quietly menacing ex-con (Tadanobu Asano) who enters the lives of a middle-class family delivers thriller-like shocks as it delves deep into the nature of guilt and evil. Mariko Tsutsui is a revelation as a woman in the throes of both passion and regret.

Re: Mark Schilling - A new wave of Japanese filmmakers matches the old

Schilling had Our Little Sister at #4 for 2015.

I'm looking forward to the Screwball comedy with Fumi Nikaido! 😱 And then pretty much what you wrote, and I think I might watch Creepy tonight.

Miwa Nishikawa can be hit and miss. Always seems like there's more to her work than reaches me.

I'm not sure what to make of Harmonium. Seems like Fukada made that film already with Hospitalite. I didn't like that one much, but, as you may recall, loved loved loved Au Revoir l'été with Fumi Nikaido!

Waiting on subs for a lot of things.

Re: After the Storm

Sa-weet! thanks for the tip.

Re: Mark Schilling - A new wave of Japanese filmmakers matches the old

I saw "After the Storm" on an airplane just last week. Quite enjoyed it; Hirokazu Koreeda has never disappointed me so far (not that I've seen all of his movies).

"Mohican Comes Home" sounds very familiar. I think I must have seen it, but I haven't rated it on IMDb and it doesn't appear on the spreadsheet I keep for the movies I've seen. Strange.

"A Bride for Rip van Winkle" was shown at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. I wanted to see it but I missed it.

I did see "Creepy" at Fantasia but didn't like it at all. It was on a Top 10 list for the year from one of the NY Times film critics.

Re: EasternKicks Top Ten

10) The Bacchus Lady … aka Jug-yeo-ju-neun Yeo-ja
09) The Tunnel … aka Teo-neol
08) Mermaid … aka Mei ren yu
07) After the Storm … aka Umi yorimo mada fukaku
06) Himeanole … aka Himeanôru
05) The Handmaiden … aka Ah-ga-ssi
04) Creepy … aka Kurîpî: Itsuwari no rinjin
03) Your Name. … aka Kimi no na wa.
02) Train to Busan
01) The Wailing

YESASIA: YumCha! - Best Asian Movies of 2016

Written by YumCha! Editorial
Our editors' picks for the best Asian movies released on video in 2016!


After the Storm
Being Good
The Boy and the Beast
Brother Bajrani
Mr. Six
Port of Call
Right Now Wrong Then
The Throne


Alice in Earnestland
Coin Locker Girl
Flying Colors
Lazy Hazy Crazy
Love, Lies
She Remembers, He Forgets
The Silenced
The Tag-Along
You Call It Passion

Published December 22, 2016

Re: YESASIA: YumCha! - Best Asian Movies of 2016

I got all kinds of sassy stuff to say about that one but it would be weird to reply to my own post

Re: Annual Top Tens from Critics

I still have a lot of films to watch, but so far my favourites are The Handmaiden and Train to Busan.

Tunnel and Terra Formers were the worst that I watched.

Favourite films:

Re: Annual Top Tens from Critics

A lot of my "2016" films were released in 2015 but we just got them this year, and some 2016 films we don't have yet. I haven't seen a couple of the major releases including I am Not Madame Bovary and After the Storm.

I thought A Bride for Rip Van Wrinkle was great and very satisfying. Right Now, Wrong Then was fantastic in a bigger-than-its-own-pants kind of way. Finding Mr Right 2 aka Book of Love was the beginning of a breakthrough in maturity for China, as was Zuo Er (Left Ear), which is probably my all-time favorite Chinese movie yet. Kaili Blues was different and pretty good. Godzilla was fun as hell and different.

Keiichi Kobayashi, director of Bon Lin and About the Pink Sky was certainly my favorite discovery of this year. Thithi (being an Indian film) was not Asian by our definition, but by far the best Indian film ever and an instant classic. Besides this, there was a lot of garbage and some stupid/fun ones.

Some of these critic picks are obviously silly/absurd. I need to reserve judgment on this year until I see a few more titles. Korean movies have gotten too big-budget and take themselves too seriously, which squeezes out more playful, risk-taking, and creative writing. The pipeline of releases has really tapered off.

Pierce Conran's Top 15 Korean Films of 2016

Pierce wears many hats. Also writes for ScreenAnarchy (née Twitch).

Some predictables and some I hadn't heard of. I've included a few of his blurbs on the unfamiliar ones.

1. The Wailing
2. The Age of Shadows
3. The Truth Beneath
4. The Handmaiden

5. The World of Us

Youn Ga-eun proves that she is a force to be reckoned with after following up a series of incredible short films (Guest, Sprout) with a deeply sensitive portrait of elementary school girls in her feature debut The World of Us. The simplicity of its dialogue and situations belie a complex exploration of the foundation of adult relationships. Her ability to draw out extraordinary performances from her young cast alone is impressive, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg for a talent that surely has great things in store.

6. Ash Flower

Park Suk-young closes out his flower trilogy with his best film yet. Following the scabrous Wild Flowers and the elegiac Steel Flower, Ash Flower is a big step up technically but loses none of the potency of Park’s raw narratives. The film also reunites him with young actress Jeong Ha-dam, here more clearly than ever a future leading light of the industry. Ash Flower debuted at the Seoul Independent Film Festival at the very end of the year but here’s hoping foreign festivals will take note and give this the notice it deserves.

7. Karaoke Crazies

The surprise of the year, and one which still hasn’t booked a local release date nine months after its SXSW bow, Karaoke Crazies combines the genre thrills of colorful Korean thrillers and a strong dramatic core for its odd and engaging protagonists. Kim Sang-chan’s chamber piece revels in Korea’s favorite after hours pass time and has numerous surprises up its sleeve.

8. Train to Busan
9. Worst Woman

In Worst Woman, which debuted at the Jeonju International Film Festival, Han Ye-ri shines as an actress caught between several men who may or may not be putting on a performance around them. Shot with a keen eye and a great deal of sensitivity by director Kim Jong-kwan, who also released The Table this year (once again featuring Han), the film tugs at the strings of old and new relationships, caught somewhere between real life and a reverie.

10. The Bacchus Lady
11. Dongju: The Portrait of an Artist

12. Jane

Much like Han Gong-ju did in 2013 for Lee Su-jin, Jane introduced Busan Film Festival audiences to the promising directorial talents of Cho Hyun-hoon this year. Cho’s command of tone and composition in each frame is remarkable for such a low-budget film and it doesn’t hurt to have Koo Gyo-hwan on top form as the eponymous transgender.

13. The Tunnel
14. Merry Christmas Mr. Mo

Lim Dae-hyung's lovely debut is a charming black and white affair tinged with nostalgia. A rare Korean Christmas film (sort of), Merry Christmas Mr. Mo benefits from the wonderfully droll Ki Joo-bong in the lead and while it meanders somewhat in the mid-section, it ends in a pitch-perfect and heart-rending Chaplin homage.

15. Yourself and Yours

Another year means another new work by Hong Sang-soo (though we should expect two in 2017) and while Yourself and Yours may not rank among his best, fans will find plenty to like in this wry tale of an artist chasing after someone who may or may not be his girlfriend. New to the Hong stable, Kim Joo-hyuk and Lee Joo-young acquits themselves well in this amusing if comparatively lightweight offering from the revered auteur.

Honorable Mentions:

Lost to Shame
Our Love Story
A Quiet Dream
Sori: Voice from the Heart

Re: Pierce Conran's Top 15 Korean Films of 2016

I'm afraid Korea is becoming like the U.S.: a lot of "indie" films, which just means "bad." Too bad to get financing from the big studios or interest from talented directors or producers. That sounds really cynical. There's no trailer for Jane anywhere, though there are some other interesting, but bad indie films on the web site of the distributor, m-line, including at least two others on this list.

I've had The World of Us on my watchlist all year, but it hasn't, ahem, come out yet. After Right Now, Wrong Then, I'd almost watch Yourself and Yours even though I know it's terrible, and with Hong, you know what you're gonna get. Sori: Voice from the Heart has been in my hard drive without subs for months, but the reviews are tepid so it's probably not the Korean E.T. I bailed on The Truth Beneath -- it was parody-of-itself bad.

Worst Woman and A Quiet Dream look like the kind of korean stuff we're accustomed to.

Re: Pierce Conran's Top 15 Korean Films of 2016

I wonder if Pierce has some connection to m-line 😏.

It's six of one, half dozen of the other for me, I think: sift through the blockbusters for the few that entertain, or sift through the indies for the few that succeed. You know me, a successful indie brings me more pleasure than an entertaining big-a$$ film.

Worst Woman and A Quiet Dream are two I've added to my watchlist. And Karaoke Crazies. I think I'll watch Missing (Woman) tonight because. Hyo-jin Kong. I'll also watch The Truth Beneath at some point despite your warnings.

Kinema Junpo magazine's Top Ten

1. In This Corner of the World (Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni) Director: Sunao Katabuchi
2. Shin Godzilla
3. Harmonium (Fuchi ni Tatsu) Director: Kôji Fukada
4. Destruction Babies Director: Tetsuya Mariko
5. Long Excuses (Nagai Iiwake) Director: Miwa Nishikawa
6. Rip Van Winkle Director: Shunji Iwai
7. Her Love Boils Bathwater (Yu wo Wakasu hodo no Atsui Ai)Director: Ryota Nakano
8. Creepy (Itsuwari no Rinjin) Director: KK
9. Over the Fence (Ôbâ fensu) Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
10. Rage (Ikari) Director: Sang-il Lee