1) Exiled (
Director Johnnie To’s stylish quasi-sequel to his artful The Mission (Hong Kong, 1999) is a filmic masterpiece which is laden with virtuosic set-pieces and rich references to Milkyway Image movies past that’s guaranteed to awe, please and even exhilarate those of us who are already his fans (even while being unapologetically obtuse for those folks who still are not).
2) Still Life (Mainland
The deserved winner of the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, this bravura Jia Zhangke offering’s strengths lie in its: willingness to show more than tell; and ability to pretty much seamlessly incorporate fanciful visuals – like a UFO and flying building! – into what generally feels like a revealing along with contemplative documentary-style look at a rapidly changing
3) My Name is Fame (
In a perfect world, this compelling portrait of the down-but-still- alive-and-kicking Hong Kong film industry would be director Lawrence Lau (AKA Lawrence Ah Mon), actor Lau Ching Wan and the local film industry’s “come-back” movie. Since it’s far from being that, I’ll settle for this earnest offering being recognized as one of 2006’s better along with more admirable and well-meaning cinematic efforts.
4) V for Vendetta (U.S.A.-U.K., 2005)
Viva V! A major English-language blockbuster with a dramatic plus subversive political message, this big budget offering comes across as a courageously combustible as well as seriously resonant work in more ways than one. All in all (and I trust that Hong Kong film fans will appreciate this piece of high praise), this James McTeigue-helmed work both reminds me, and rivals that, of those from Tsui Hark at his very best.
5) Princess Raccoon (
If you thought that Seijun Suzuki’s Pistol Opera (
6) Joyeux Noel (France-Germany-U.K.-Romania, 2005)
This tri-lingual World War I drama from director cum scriptwriter Christian Carion which re-creates a seemingly improbable real-life event provides a timely and lump-in-the-throat reminder of what people who are on opposing sides at particular moments in time – but at peace at others – can have in common, for good as well as bad.
7) Fearless (Hong Kong-Mainland
Serious in tone, instructive in intention and uplifting in spirit, this historical bio-pic from director Ronnie Yu also happens to be a hard-kicking martial arts extravaganza that’s a superb showcase for the action talents of Jet Li, the wushu master who, for all of his attempts to become a Hollywood star, is so much better utilized and more charismatic in Chinese language works.
8) Election 2 (
A thought-provoking sequel that not only makes sense but also actually trump s the first Election (Hong Kong, 2005), this forceful political offering with triad drama trappings from director Johnnie To, an auteur who currently is at his absolute peak, is a brave and substantive work which successfully chills and horrifies on more than one level.
9) Forgiveness (
The winner of the Human Rights and Youth Jury prizes at the 2004 Locarno International Film Festival (as well as a nominee for the Golden Leopard award), this understated movie with the intensely powerful story about truth, reconciliation and forgiveness is all the more effective because it smacks of absolute reality.
10) The Host (
Who would have thought it (possible)? Here’s a monster movie from director Bong Joon-Ho that, unexpectedly and much to its credit, possesses gobs of humor and some spot-on sarcastic political criticism along with proficient acting from the leads (and some of the support players), great swathes of pathos, thrills and spills, an environmentalist message, plenty of action and wicked special effects. Oh, and a rather interesting acting plus looking monster too! :D