On the day that the Audience Award for the NYAFF were announced I find myself trying to write up some kind of summation for this years festival but I find I can’t come up with anything more than what I said when I sent a thank you to everyone who worked on the festival, namely the festival kicked ass. It’s direct to the point and sums up my feelings.
I had a great time and I’m so happy that the festival has not only gotten better but also managed to control any growing pains. It remains steadfastly about the films and the fans and not about anything else. I say this because earlier this year one of my other favorite festivals of the same age seemed about to morph into something else and possibly even jump the shark. Happily none of that is apparent with Asian Film Festival, it's the same festival we've all loved for years just a little more mature and taller in stature.
Since there is little to say beyond the festival kicked ass, I thought I’d give you a list of my favorite films of the festival, plus my very short list of disappointments (because everyone else is doing the best of lists).
My favorite films of the festival, in no particular order are:
Troubleshooter- a wonderful popcorn movie that does what it does so well that you don’t care you’ve seen variations on the plot before.
Abraxas-Finding your way and finding bliss even if it means playing punk rock when you’re a Buddhist monk. Electric doesn’t begin to describe it.
A Boy and His Samurai-talk about feeling good and being happy. This won the Audience Award for this year (See Below)
Machete Maidens Unleashed- The perfect exploitation film except it’s a damn fine documentary…how’d that happen?
Mr Taps’s Holiday- There were maybe only 25 of us in the shorts screening so almost none of you can understand the feeling of having a bizarre premise of a man with a water tap in his head go from one of the biggest WTF films to one of the most romantic films ever made over the course of 30 minutes. Amazing doesn't describe it.
Ninja Kids- pure Miike silliness at it’s best
Milocroze: A Love Story- uneven but when it’s on, which is most of the time, it’s as wild and wanton and amazing a film as you’ll ever find.
Ringing in Their Ears-by the time the climatic concert ends you’d be smiling from ear to ear. Joy in easy to take movie form.
Unjust-Sydney Lumet hasn’t died, he’s just gone to Korea. Bleak corruption tale will curl your toes.
Almost on the list, and still fighting for position:
Gantz- both films together tell one hell of a story- but it’s so clunky and seems to be missing some explanation that they just miss being on a favorites list. (This was second on the list of Audience Favorites)
Heaven’s Story-The story haunts me, but it’s a bit too long at almost 5 hours, but the film has been the source of endless debate.(And were this a best of festival list instead of a favorite list it would be on it---It was the fifth favorite film of the festival for audiences)
Sell Out was one of the most cynical movies ever made and one of the funniest. It also has a couple of amazing musical numbers that Broadway would be jealous of.
Punished blew me away when I saw it but it kind of got lost with the weight of everything else. I reserve the right to change this films position based upon a second viewing.(and if you don’t let me I’ll have Anthony Wong beat you up)
13 Assassins was not included above because it’s already a favorite and has only gotten better in the directors cut, but how many times can I gush about a film.(Similarly Reign of Assassins or Detective Dee)
There were a few things that disappointed me this year, chief among them is completely missing every introduction and interview done by Grady. How did I manage that? Sure I talked to Grady in passing a couple of times but there is something about his boundless energy that makes it fun to go to see a movie. There is always next year…and the Korean Cultural Service screenings.
As for movies---
The second half off Karate-Robo Zaborgar was a complete collapse of a great film that made me not want to see it again.
Last Days of the World worked less and less the more I saw it. I’ve seen it multiple times now in an effort to decide what I thought of it and I’ve finally decided it’s a miss, a nice idea poorly done, and losing it’s way after a clever start.
Yellow Sea is a good film that just wasn’t worth the effort I put into see it (There is a long story here and if you knew it you'd understand). It’s too much of the same thing over too long a period of time and it doesn’t hold a candle to the directors earlier film The Chaser. While I do give the film points for the creative use of sharp objects, I can't find the love many people have for the film only the like.
Osamu Tezuka's Buddha didn’t work for me. I wanted to love it but the compression of a story near and dear to me is too great so that it seems like it's all highlights and no emotion.
The two least films of the festival were the shorts Debris and Tunnel which, together made up a half an hour of my life I’ll never get back, and would really love to, I mean there is an episode of Gilligan's Island I haven't seen enough times.
And that ends my thoughts on this years NYAFF. It's been a hell of a year and if I get to bed now I just may have rested enough by the time it all starts up next year...
For those who didn't click on the link above the top five films as voted by audiences are as follows:
1 A Boy and His Samurai
2 The Gantz Films
3 Ocean Heaven
4 Reign of Assassins
5 Heaven's Story
The full list with commentary can be found here.