Monday, January 08, 2007

Top 10 HK and Indian Films from Steve Barr

Sorry for the lack of posts as of late. First I came down with a totally rotten 3 week case of the flu and then I went to visit family and realized I had forgotten the power cord to watch any films on my portable dvd player. So no Asian movies for a few weeks though I did manage to catch a bunch of American films that were pretty forgettable except for "Little Miss Sunshine" which I thought was quite wonderful and reminded me of some of the recent quirky Japanese family films such as "Taste of Tea" and "Hanging Gardens". I also caught the Hollywood remake of "Pulse" which I thought was rather mediocre but reminded me that I still need to see Kurosawa's version. His films are so mystically obscure that I tend to both love and be frustrated by them and so approach them with a degree of hesitancy.

A new year of course brings out top 10 lists and though I am much too far behind in my viewing to do one now - and am not sure I even will this year - but am very grateful to Steve Barr for sending me his Top 10 films for Hong Kong and India. Here they are:

Hong Kong:

10. Dragon Tiger Gate - Some nice fight scenes in this film, which is set in the Land of Forgotten Hairstyles.

9. Exiled - Fun film about Triad loyalty let down by plot requiring characters to repeatedly act against their own interests. After this and Election, I suspect I don't share Johnny To's sense of humor.

8. Rob-B-Hood - Good recent Jackie Chan film, with his now standard melodrama at the end.

7. My Kung Fu Sweetheart - Nice comedy for Cecilia Cheung fans.

6. The Shoe Fairy - Vivian Hsu shows why the Japanese love her in this nice little fantasy film.

5. Feel It...Say It - off-kilter romance works well if you like the stars.

4. Heavenly Kings - Good mockumentary about the HK music business.

3. My Name is Fame - I enjoy HK films about HK the film industry; this was an especially enjoyable look at it. There's also a darker subtext for those who like such things.

2. Fearless - Despite some questionable CGI, this was a good throwback to the glory years of HK action films.

1. Election 2 - Of the year's HK films I've seen, this was by far the best (and much better than Election). The cinematography reminded me of the great Yakuza films from Japan, and the rest of the film (barring a dodgy prop or two) was also first rate.


2006 was a great year for Bollywood (popular Hindi films). Not only were the revenues record-breaking, the good films were very good and surprisingly plentiful. The production quality of some films (such as Don) matched those of Hollywood, and a number of films had world-class scripts. This year there were two top contenders to be sent to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and each seemed like they could win.

10. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna - Karan Johar's take on marital infidelity hurt by the unlovable lead and some questionable comedy. Much of the film can still be enjoyed, but ultimately it's a very flawed work.

9. Krrish - Successfully melds the superhero genre with the standard Indian film memes.

8. Mixed Doubles - A more successful look at infidelity than KANK. A lot of dark humor and good performances.

7. Fanaa - Love & Terrorism. Kajol's return to film had great emotional moments but too many WTF moments to rate higher.

6. Pyaar Ke Side Effects - A runaway bride and an aging DJ are the main characters in the funniest Indian film I've seen. Stars Mallika Sherawat (The Myth) and Rahul Bose (Mr and Mrs Iyer) as an odd couple.

5. Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota - An amazingly accomplished film for a first time director (but long-time actor) about several intersecting lives. The uniting event (guess what it is) may be uncomfortable for Americans.

4. Pournami (Telugu) - While not quite as magical as Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, the director/choreographer's first film, Pournami still manages to entertain with a fairly standard Indian storyline about romance and revenge.

3. Lage Raho Munna Bhai - A gangster gives non-violence a chance, and a good film results.

2. Omkara - Retelling of Othello was a viable contender to be sent to the Oscars. Excellent script and performances by most of the cast. Watch for Konkona Sen Sharma (Mr and Mrs Iyer, Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota, Mixed Doubles) giving the top supporting performance of the year.

1. Rang De Basanti - 2006 really got started with this, India's future Oscar candidate. An excellent script about awakening and taking back the country paired with top acting made for a powerful film overshadowing the entire year.

Also, a couple Telugu films on DVD which turned out to be a lot of fun:Mass (2004) - Excellent entertainment for the masses. Sri Anjaneyam (2004) - Excellent entertainment...with gods and monkeys. If you enjoy HK screwball comedies you may enjoy these too. Worth a rental to find out.