So I've finally finished up my "best" list for films from '08 (if only just for me) and like last year, I wasn't able to get on down and see every movie, so like everything else, this too is open for interpretation (as well as not in any order) and if you've learned anything at all - sometimes my tastes are just really questionable.
Out of the 150-200 films I saw, not all were from 2008, but I've tried to stay with those that were released in 2008, had a wide release in 2008, or were released from other countries on DVD in 2008.
Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows
I just liked this documentary on Anna May Wong, and even though I've heard some criticisms about it - that it didn't really show her as a person - I thought it was a good film that at least tried to show us her life in terms in of what she did on screen. At the same time I think it's important to have movies out there that talk about Asian Americans who helped lay the foundation for where we are today even if we don't always think they did.
Princess Of Nebraska
This was probably one of my favorite films I saw this past year and I can't really tell you why. Maybe I like films where the main character gets lost - at least to everyone else - or scenes like in the beginning at the dinner party, or the way it was filmed, or just the acting. Again, I can't really tell you why.
I just liked it.
Ping Pong Playa
So you already know my thoughts on this flick, but it really was a funny movie that if you haven't seen yet, definitely try and get on out to catch.
Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
Even though I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, I still have to put it on my list because of the simple fact that it was a mainstream film with Asian Americans playing the leads - and at least for now - that's enough (and it was still funny, just not as funny as I thought it would be).
It doesn't have a ton of Asian American faces in it, but it was directed by Asian American Benson Lee and has a lot of Asian faces in it, so in that way, I've popped it up here in this part of the list - and it was a hell of a good ride even if you may not be into the B-boy culture, and it really did have me on the edge of my seat all the way until the end (I especially liked seeing where all the groups ended up after the championships).
I'm probably going to post on this later on - because it really was a mixed bag for me - but it doesn't change the fact that both Ahney Her and Bee Vang have a lot of potential and I thought for the most part held their own along seasoned professional Clint Eastwood.
Forget the controversy over the casting for a second - if you did actually see the movie - you had to love Aaron Yoo because even though it wasn't the starring lead, he owned his character, and with a movie as large as 21 there's a lot to be said for that.
A short - for the 72 Hour Film Shootout - this was probably better than some of the films I saw this year that were ten times as long with a thousand times the budget, and one which I just absolutely loved. Like I've said before, it just had all of these perfect moments in it that just made you wish it was longer.
And those ones I didn't get to see...
And here's my quick list of Asian American films I just didn't get a chance to see this year but hopefully will soon enough because I know they're good: New York Lately, Roses Have Thorns, Kissing Cousins, Dirty Hands: The Life and Crimes of David Choe, and The Fall.
Asian And Other International
Before I get into the list I do have to say that I didn't really see a lot of films on the international front that weren't made outside of Asia this year. While I do try, for some odd reason I just didn't get there with exception to Slumdog Millionaire (which depending on how you look at it either came out in '08 or '09).
I have to admit that after I watched this I decided to put on the 2005 SK film All For Love, because I just needed to wash that serial killer taste out of my mind. I mean it has some great performances in it and I can see why it ran the theaters this year in South Korea and why it's also getting picked up for a remake - but seriously - that was kind of an effed up movie.
But one that I also really liked.
I do love my revenge films as well as my blood-soaked-over-the-top films - and this one definitely fits the bill. Girl's family gets killed. She loses an arm. It gets replaced with a machine gun and she goes off for revenge with a trusty sidekick. I don't really need much more to keep me interested.
Two reasons I liked this: One was that I was surprised that it actually made pickpockets seem dangerous, and the other was that it was a new role for Son Ye-jin, who surprised me playing a ruthless gangster because she's never really played that type of role before (and the box office seemed to like it too because it was one of the top films in SK).
You already know I loved this movie, so there's not really much new to say here except that I think I just might watch this again after I'm done posting up here.
Once Upon A Time (aka Once Upon A Time In Corea)
Set in the 1940's this was a good action/comedy/heist film that also didn't shy away from the realities of the Japanese occupation during that period, which gave it an interesting feel and was probably one of the reasons I put it on this list. While in a lot of ways it was fun and it was entertaining, it also (and for the most part effortlessly) wasn't afraid to cross over into more dramatic territory.
Forever The Moment
You've already heard me talk a little bit about this movie, but what was so good about it wasn't just the acting, but the fact that in so many ways while it was a feel good movie, you still never forgot about the reality of the handball players' situations and what happens after the game is done.
I didn't know if I really wanted to put this film on the list for the simple fact that just because a film takes you to the bottom (and this film does) it doesn't always mean that it's good. At the same time, it's still a movie - it's not real life - so the simple fact that it can be that visceral also says something about the filmmaking and the acting, and in the end that's why it's here.
Bravo, My Life
So this came out later in '07 and then got released on DVD in 2008 and it's just a fun film about a bunch of middle aged guys who've worked for the same company for 20-30 years, but who've also had dreams of being rock musicians. It's definite fluff - but it's good fluff and really rates on the "It's decent for a low key nothing too heavy" night.
What else can I really say about it that I haven't already? Oh yeah - Part 2.
Hands down one of the best crime thrillers I saw in '08 (released in SK late '07 and then on DVD in '08) and like I've said before, if the U.S. remake doesn't have Yunjin Kim in it - because there's absolutely no reason not too (or she at least doesn't get offered the role) - then it's all out war (and yes, I get the idea of a remake, but in this instance, it makes sense).
Even though I had to give Red Cliff the top spot for the Best Asian Epic of the year, The Warlords came in a close second and in the end I might watch this more than Red Cliff on a regular basis.
Released in late '07 and then out on DVD in '08 (and also hitting some film festivals) the movie was a lot like one big dream sequence. At times, and one scene in particular that stands out now, it did cross over into the realm of "Was that scene really necessary?" territory - but for a film that I thought was one of the most original of the year, maybe I should expect that.
Love Now (aka Changing Partners)
This just sucked me in with the good story, great cast, and some scenes that just made go "That was really interesting". Sure, I've kind of heard this love story before - but this had some good twists to it while still making me smile.
Lost In Beijing
While Yu's film premiered in early 2007 it didn't get its U.S. release until '08, and in the end was banned by Chinese authorities - which is one reason to watch it - but more than that, much more, was the way it made you feel about the people you were watching - like you were there with them along for the ride - even though sometimes you wish you weren't.
This is just one of those movies you have to like because it did everything a great film should - surprises you, keeps you interested, makes you comment that you couldn't believe how great those kids were, or that even though you didn't always like Salim, you understood him - it's that type of film that just keeps you talking about it long after you saw it. What else is there to say?
And Other Films From The U.S.
This year I probably saw more U.S. films (that weren't in the Asian American list) than I have in the past, and while all of them weren't winners - there were some that just weren't that bad.
The Dark Knight
Chalk it up to Heath Ledger's role because without him - it just wouldn't have been that good. And while I can't tell you if it was a mix of both real-life as well as what he brought on screen, I can definitely say it was unforgettable and one of the best roles I saw all year.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
This was so good I even bought the DVD. Just laugh out loud funny and with some great characters if you haven't seen this yet get on out and check it out, because it's both heart-warming and at the same time you kind of see each person's flaws and why the relationship ended - it shows the gray area - and for a romantic comedy, I thought that was great.
The Bucket List
All I can tell you is that I like Morgan Freeman and I thought it was a fun movie and when I'm that age I just might go out like that.
Maybe it's because I've always like Edward Norton as an actor, or the fact that some of it took place in another country, or just that it was better than I thought (because I wasn't really sure how it was going to go and I liked Ang Lee's version and wasn't sure why they needed to make another) - but overall - that was a good flick.
I couldn't help it. I just thought it was cute...and that's really all I'd like to say about it.
And other movies that I saw that didn't quite make the list
Here's a quick list of flicks I saw in '08 that I liked (or didn't mind) but just didn't make the cut (some because they were too old and others just because):
Bella, Hellcats, Shaadi Se Pehle, The Golden Compass, Iron Man, The Go-Getter, I Am Legend, Untraceable, Jumper, Hancock, The Forbidden Kingdon, Undoing, Do That Asian Thing, Protégé, Once, Black House, Femme Fatal, Miss Gold Digger, Mission Possible: Kidnapping Granny K, My Father, The Rebel, Lars And The Real Girl, American Fusion, Summer Palace, Seducing Mr. Perfect, 13 Beloved, Baby Mama, Asian Stories, Colma: The Musical, The Eye (Remake), Time.