Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lowlife Jerk and Top 10 Films of 2008

Another year is coming to a close, and I'm feeling a little down.

I've gotten a total of 4 responses from posting notices here and on various Hong Kong public forums seeking people interested in collaborating on films. And that's counting the one loser who actually took time out of his miserable life to e-mail me, a complete stranger, just to say he could tell from my ad that I was "a lowlife jerk."

It seems I've come quite a long way since being a promising young filmmaker generating real buzz. Four guys from my circle at NYU, have since directed commercial films that won theatrical releases. One guy, whom I'd pegged as being the least talented among us, has directed half a dozen commercial films, including one of the highest-grossing films in Korean film history.

In contrast, I'm here in Hong Kong without a single contact, posting lame on-line classified ads practically begging people to work with me. (I think Peter Kubelka, who made some wacky experimental films, including UNSERE AFRIKAREISE, also had to beg and rope people in to make films for practically all of his career.)

My rational side tells me I'm still young enough not to panic and need not get down on myself about this general sad state-of-being. This side also tells me to keep plugging away, stay upbeat, and focus on my successes: two published novels that won some critical acclaim, some plays that were produced, a screenplay that was sold, and a string of short films...

But there's another part of me that can't help but get a bit negative. I've wasted so many opportunities in the past for whatever reason, and now, this stint in Hong Kong feels like I'm serving time in filmmaking purgatory. I've become a fish-out-of-water struggling to make a film under the least favorable conditions.

It doesn't help that our life here brings us into contact for the most part with people who have absolutely no interest in films and novels. It doesn't startle me at all now to hear people say with all seriousness that the best movie they've ever seen in their life is HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 or THE MUMMY--which wasn't a bad film at all, but how could that be any grown-up's best film ever?

Anyway, that's enough whining. Sorry!

Here is my list of the TOP 10 FILMS OF 2008 with country of origin and brief category description.

A few titles were actually originally released in 2007, but are being included in the list because they played in many theaters in 2008. For the most part, except for the two South Korean films and TROPIC THUNDER, which I believe doesn't get the credit it deserves because it's so easy to dismiss, these films were included in the major big movie lists.

The glaring omission from my list is the Romanian film FOUR MONTHS, THREE WEEKS & TWO DAYS by Cristian Mungju, which has been heralded by nearly every major film critic in the West, but which didn't impress me at all. I thought the film, a slice-of-life that follows two young women on the day one helps the other get a back alley abortion in a repressive Romania of the 1980s, works only conceptually but not at all as a film.

The film makes its point, in a very dull and clumsy manner, that life was bad in Romania and back-alley abortions are gruesome. But is that really a point that's hard to make? Even as a staunch supporter of a woman's right to choose, I still found the film tedious at best.

No Hong Kong or Chinese films made my list this year. It was definitely not a good year for Hong Kong films. Rather sad.


TOP 10 FILMS OF 2008

1. THE CHASER by Na Hong-jin (South Korea) *Commercial thriller/Subverted policier*

2. THE DARK KNIGHT by Christopher Nolan (USA) *Commercial thriller*

3. THE EDGE OF HEAVEN by Fatih Akin (Germany) *Serious Drama/Social Commentary*

4. ROUGH CUT by Jang Hoon & written by Kim Ki-duk (South Korea) *Commercial thriller/Subverted Gangster Film*

5. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD by Sydney Lumet (USA) *Subverted Heist Film/Morality Tale/Modern Greek Tragedy*

6. THERE WILL BE BLOOD by Paul Thomas Anderson (USA) *Serious Drama/Social Expose*

7. CHOP SHOP by Ramin Bahrani (USA) *Social Commentary/Gritty Human Drama*

8. THE VISITOR by Thomas McCarthy (USA) *Social Commentary/Message Film about 9.11 and Its Impact on Immigrants*

9. IRON MAN by Jon Favreau (USA) *Fluff Fun*

10. TROPIC THUNDER by Ben Stiller (USA) *Fluff Fun*

HONORABLE MENTION: KUNGFU PANDA and WALL-E

**THE CHASER is the best film of the year by far. See it if you haven't done so. You're in for a treat.**

To put things in context, here are the films that are currently playing in nearly all theaters in Hong Kong (granted it's Christmas season):

TWILIGHT

TALES OF DESPEREAUX

MADAGASCAR 2

POKEMON MOVIE 10

BEDTIME STORIES

ONG BAK 2

IP MAN

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

FOUR CHRISTMASES


Palace IFC, in the fanciest mall in Hong Kong is also playing

AUSTRALIA


And the one "arthouse theater" in HK is playing the following films in addition to the above titles:

FOREVER ENTHRALLED (China)

IF YOU ARE THE ONE (China)

TOKYO!

TRUE WOMEN FOR SALE (Hong Kong)

MIAO MIAO (Taiwan)

2 comments:

Joyce said...

Have you ever read Learning Cantonese at www.daisann.com? Daisann is really into film and lives between HK and NY. Maybe you can contact her. She might know some people.
Hey....so many you can give me a cameo someday? I've always wanted to be in a film. : )

mao365 said...

Thanks, Joyce.

Will look into it.

As for the cameo,

I'm gonna hold you to it.

Cheers,

YP