Saturday, July 21, 2012

NYAFF 2012 Best Worst and Wrapped up

I’m still decompressing from the Asian Film Festival, and trying to deal with Japan Cuts, Latin Beat and a few other festivals. While I’d like to step away and just move on to the next thing I have to take Mondocurry’s advice and look back sooner than later.

I had been warned that this year’s festival was going to be a transitional one and that things were probably be different than the ten previous. I think that’s a fair call. To me the festival felt different, there was something that the new crew brought to the festival that gave it a different feel than in years past. Its not that it’s bad only that things felt different. (Grady your welcomes were missed)

Probably the biggest difference for me was the fact that all of the films were on the same level quality-wise. There were maybe only 3 films I would consider bad out of the 55 they screened. At the same time there weren’t that many super special “oh my god this is the best film of the year” films. This isn’t a knock only that they managed to program a very consistent festival. I've never seen so many solidly good films in one place. It made it certainty I would like anything they ran but it made reviewing them difficult.

That said-I had a blast.

Yea, I know I always do, but that’s why I think that NYAFF is the best film festival in New York. These guys know how to program a festival with winners and give their audience one hell of a good time.

Were there clunkers? Sure. There were. There were three films this year I really didn’t care for. What were they? I'm glad you asked...

Tormented is a twisted dream/hallucination/haunting about people in bunny suits from the director of the Ju-on films that was such a mess that I can’t believe that the programmers at the festival decided to screen it. Its a feeling I’ve only had maybe two other times at the festival over the previous 10 years. I have no idea why they ran it other than to placate fans of the director.

Zero Man vs the Half Virgin, was for me an unfunny shaggy dog story that took way to long to get to its weak pay off. (On the other hand one woman down the aisle from me was almost on the floor-literally-with laughter)

That I’m putting Golden Slumbers on the list of bad films which bothers me to no end, but I can’t shake the feeling that it does belong here. There is no doubt that the film is a vital and important look at the loss of virtually all of the film history of Cambodia thanks to the Khmer Rouge. It’s a call for film preservation that must be heeded… on the other hand the film is a dull as dirt and so boring that had I not been sitting next to Hubert from Flixist I would have walked out. Worse it doesn’t tell you any of the history of Cambodia so that unless you know it already most of the talk will mean nothing. I understand what it was trying to do but I think it fails almost completely.

On the other hand there were some high points…

First and foremost for me the highest point was meeting and talking to Donnie Yen. Wow, wow and wow.

Deanie Ip in A Simple Life gives one of the best performances you’ll ever see anywhere. Seriously she’s taken home a boat load of awards and she’s deserved everyone. The movie is good, she' incredible

Heavenly Creature, the middle section of Doomsday Book is, not to put too fine a point on it one of the best films of the year. Its also one of the best meditations on what it means to not only be alive but also what it means to be enlightened. It’s a what science fiction is all about.

Asura is also a meditation on what it means to be human, this time via the story of a small boy who has been reduced to a feral existence who is put on the path to humanity by a monk who meets him on the road.

Honey Pupu is mind bending film about things we lose and find. It’s a heady mix of ideas that is so uniquely put together that even if you don’t like it you can’t help but be impressed.

Scabbard Samurai is an amazing film who’s turn at the end makes the film so much more than the one joke film it seems to be.

(Bloody Fight in Iron-Rock Valley is kind of on the list and kind of Honorable Mention since I have been debating how much I like it since I saw it.)

There were other winners- pretty much everything else, but those were the best of the fest.

And now it’s time to finish chilling and get ready for next year…(something I know most of the organizers don’t even want to consider right now…but all of us in the seats are waiting for with baited breath.)

My Question Is it too early to line up now?


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  2. thanks! a great read and i share the same sentiments on most of the what we both saw. I loved Scabbard Samurai and Honey Pupu and i thought you summed up Asura's understated achievement perfectly.

    Where I disagree is with Zero Man... I thought it was hilarious. While i can't say i relate to anyone laughing hysterically the whole movie through. To me one of it's strong points was very much the weird transitions it would make from deadpan humor to awkward grimace-worthy moments that would suddenly halt any festivities. The actor playing a foreigner was fantastic doing a guy who cannot speak or pronounce Japanese very well. I'm sure the actual actor is very capable. To me, it was a cool bit of WTF.

    I'm surprised to not see you talk more about Tokyo Playboy Club. After reading that day's report, i felt i'd really missed out on something by not seeing it.