Friday, February 23, 2007

Top Ten 2006 Hong Kong movies



In recent years, I've gotten into the habit of writing up a Top 10 list of the year's Hong Kong movies for Hong Kong Cinema: View from the Brooklyn Bridge. (Go here for the 2001 list, here for that for 2002, here for the 2003 list, here for the 2004 equivalent and here for that for 2005.)

However, thus far this year, Brian, the site's webmaster, has been on the road for the most part. So he hasn't posted his or any other person's Top 10 list of 2006 Hong Kong films on the site (but has received and proceeded to post guest contributor Steve Barr's over on his "while on the road" blog.)

For all I know, he may yet do so. In the meantime though, in the wake of my having viewed my first 2007 Hong Kong film last week as well as having written a few weeks back already about my submissions for the Mobius Home Video Forum's "Best of..." 2006 movie poll , I figure that I might as well go ahead and post my Top 10 list of 2006 Hong Kong movies over here (and before the second month of 2007 comes to an end). So without any further ado...:-

1) Exiled
Johnnie To’s virtuoso quasi-sequel to the fan favorite that is The Mission (Hong Kong, 1999) is a filmic masterpiece that can stand alone full well on its own. Distinguished by bravura performances by actors at the top of their game (like Francis Ng and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) as well as the kind of masterfully choreographed, enacted and lensed set-pieces that make film critics -- not just fan boys and girls -- drool, this cinematic offering is one of those that's truly a delight to watch unfold on a big screen.

2) My Name is Fame
The more I reflect on this deceptively modest film's merits, the more it rises up in my estimation. Hence my decision to place it at number two on this list even though I'm on the record as having awarded it only an 8.5 -- rather than three other movies' 9.0 -- on brns.com's 2006 (Hong Kong) Films Ratings list! And this on top of sticking to my earlier contention that this Lawrence Lau (AKA Lawrence Ah Mon)-helmed offering is "one of 2006’s better along with more admirable and well-meaning cinematic efforts."

3) Fearless
As can be seen by comments previously made by a few of this blog's readers, this action-infused historical bio-pic from director Ronnie Yu is by no means universally liked or admired. However, here's taking this opportunity to point to a suggestion made by a Twitch reviewer that the Jet Li starrer might be worth taking a second look at, particularly by way of a lengthier Director's Cut DVD version of the film. (This from someone who's yet to check out that particular DVD but has viewed the theatrically-released version of the film twice already!)

4) Election 2
Looking back at my Top 10 (Hong Kong) Films of 2005 list, I got to remembering that I had placed the first Election at the number two spot on it. Although I hadn't thought that 2006 had been all that good a year for Hong Kong cinema, seeing that Election 2 only is number four on the equivalent list for that year makes me think that maybe it wasn't too bad a year after all; this because, in all honesty, I found this 2006 offering from Johnnie To to offer more intellectually plus emotionally than the preceding gripping 2005 work which I had described as -- and still will maintain to be -- "a cinematic as well as technical masterwork."

5) Mcdull: The Alumni
An anomaly of sorts in the Mcdull universe in that it contains more live action than animation, this Samson Chiu-helmed offering is an altogether uneven hodge-podge of moods and genres as well as visual styles and filmic techniques. And if truth be told, when taken as a whole, it's hard to make a solid case for it being a cinematic gem. However, like the other Mcdull movies, it possesses some moments and scenes which are truly inspired, if not downright sublime. Then there's the plain fact of the matter that not since the made-for-charity The Banquet (1991) has there been a Hong Kong movie that's so star-studded and fun cameo-filled! ;b

6) Dog Bite Dog
Grim and gritty doesn't even begin to describe this nihilistic Soi Cheang effort which most definitely is not for the easily squeamish and/or faint of heart. For my part though, I genuinely appreciated as well as admired that -- in a move that probably didn't help it as far as the commercial side of things go -- this intense, Category III-rated crime drama -- which, more than incidentally, features Sam Lee's best acting in years and Edison Chen's best ever -- didn’t shirk from showing the brutality and inhumanity that it does.

7) 2 Become 1
One of those movies which gets me thinking "Only in Hong Kong..." Not because it contains any spectacular stunts and incredible martial arts action, mind. Rather, it's because I just can't imagine the likes of Hollywood thinking that a story centering on a woman who has breast cancer would make for an entertaining as well as engaging romantic dramedy. But the strange thing is that, in the hands of the people who are responsible for this 2006 Hong Kong movie (who include Johnnie To -- who is its producer -- as well as director Law Wing Cheong and co-scripter Ivy Ho), this Miriam Yeung and Richie Ren starrer actually did!

8) The Heavenly Kings
A confession: I've long had a soft spot for Daniel Wu. But even this admirer of "dear Daniel" (as I jokingly like to refer to him in honor of Hello Kitty's boyfriend) didn't realize that the acting star could have the ability to come up with a directorial debut which puts such as those of fellow "pretty boys" Stephen Fung and Nicholas Tse's firmly in the shade. And, in the process, produce the sort of cheeky mockumentary that takes on-target pot shots at himself and his friends along with the Hong Kong gutter press, the boy band phenomenon and the Cantopop industry as a whole as well as has the viewer(s) yearning for more.

9) Mr. 3 Minutes
This movie gets my additional vote for being the least likely to be on other people's Top 10 lists. This not least since I can't even find a positive review of it to link to! So what can I do besides admit that its being on my list probably attests to: a) my love for Hong Kong movies possibly bordering on the irrational; b) my really having been surprised to find that Ronald Cheng is capable of moving me to tears as well as making me laugh; and c) Cherrie Ying's sweet presence in a movie alone often can make it all worthwhile for me?! ;D

10) Isabella
The winner of a Silver Bear at last year's Berlin Film Festival, this surprisingly art-house style work from director Edmond Pang is visually impressive but maybe actually overly so -- to the extent that everything comes across as just a little bit more calculated than was necessary, never mind ideal. At the same time though, there's no disputing that this father-daughter drama works well as an evocative mood piece, and that is graced by unexpectedly strong performances from EEG starlet Isabella Leong and comedian cum character actor Chapman To.

15 comments:

sbk said...

ytsl

I like top 10 lists as I end up watching and most times enjoying movies I've passed on for whatever reasons. My Name is Fame sits in my to watch pile and with your recommendation I'll watch it this weekend. thanks for your list.

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Glad that you didn't consider this Top Ten list too late to be of use. And I hope you'll enjoy your viewing of MY NAME IS FAME.

Also, thanks for posting your comments. Sadly, it's been a while (3 days?) since this blog's entries got commented upon... :S

Anonymous said...

ytsl:
3 days since a comment? shucks, how did I miss this blog entry? Busy watching my movies, maybe. haha.

Just finished The Host. That was gooood.

Back to HK films. Hm, can only recall enjoying Exiled, Election 2, Heavenly Kings, Curiosity Kills the Cat, and...that's pretty much it. Who knew Daniel had a brain? haha. Well, the guy's gotta find more bread and butter to live on cos his acting leaves something to be desired. That's coming from someone who's quite, ahem, fond of him for some strange reason. Could it be due to some home-town pride?

GurlonFilm

YTSL said...

Hi GurlonFilm --

Yay, another new comment! And yeah, I feared for a while that the comments were drying up -- maybe due to people not being able to deal with the anti-spam device I recently added to blog that requires a word verification.

"Hm, can only recall enjoying Exiled, Election 2, Heavenly Kings, Curiosity Kills the Cat, and...that's pretty much it."

Curiosity killed the cat, I know, but how many of my Top Ten have you seen? Also, re that curiously titled film: I know it stars Carina Lau but, actually, and as with CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER and THE BANQUET (2006), consider it more of a Mainland China than Hong Kong movie.

As for dear Daniel: Found his acting to be fine enough in such as BISHONEN, COP ON A MISSION and ONE NITE IN MONGKOK. And have heard that he rocks in PROTEGE (which I'm planning to finally check out this upcoming week). But yeah, I think that he's one of those who people assume can't be that talented or smart because he's such a looker... ;b

Anonymous said...

ytsl:

Oh, I did see My Name is Fame. Loved it. That film's the most "real" of them all. Saw 2 Becomes 1 but didn't like Miriam's characters' avoidance/denial thing but fully understand that's what makes up half the movie. That Richie Ren scene feeling up on her boob was kinda funny and made me squirm. You don't normally see that kind of foreplay. haha.

Daniel, dear Daniel. I think I prefer him in comedies more, or is it I like the comedies themselves more? Won't be able to see Protege until it's out on disc. He's coming to NYC for acting lessons. We'll be on the same continent, albeit over 2,000 miles (?) apart, on opposite coasts. haha. However, if he shall pop in on the parents, then we'll just be only 25 minutes apart. heehee. Ok, enough girly-talk for now.

GurlonFilm

YTSL said...

Hi again GurlonFilm --

Glad you like MY NAME IS FAME and know where you're coming from with regards to your feeling that it's "the most "real" of them all." And for the record: Have that "real" feeling about some others of director Lawrence Lau/Ah Mon's films which I've viewed -- notably QUEEN OF TEMPLE STREET, SPACKED OUT and GIMME GIMME.

"That Richie Ren scene feeling up on her boob was kinda funny and made me squirm. You don't normally see that kind of foreplay."

I think the first time I saw this kind of thing was decades back when Jack Nicholson did such with Shirley MacLaine in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. And BTW, I was a kid then and I'm not sure that I've ever recovered from viewing that (at least then) extremely disturbing sight! ;S

As for dear Daniel: More than BTW, have you noticed that whatever the movie, he always goes shirtless at some point in it? ;b

Anonymous said...

ytsl:

Good observation about Daniel and his shirtless-ness. haha. If only he still had his once-hot bod. But I'll take what I can get! The more the merrier, as they say.

Was he shirtless in "One Nite in Mongkok?" Can't recall. I loved his self-pleasuring scene in "Night Corridor" - the shadow effect from the lace thing over him. The heavy breathing. haha. And the shower scenes in "Cop on a Mission". Run it on slo-mo and you get half an eyeful. 8D

GurlonFilm

YTSL said...

Hi once more GurlonFilm --

Can't remember for a fact but wouldn't be surprised if Daniel Wu was shirtless in ONE NITE IN MONGKOK. This because I've read somewhere (sorry, can't remember where though!) that a while back, dear Daniel was asked in an interview why it is that he always has at least one shirtless scene per movie...whereupon he and his agent have gone on to make it a joke stipulation in his contracts that he be shirtless in at least one scene of every movie that he appears in... ;D

The Great Swifty said...

Yeap, these films would be on my top ten list too, except for McDull (which generated a "WTF" reaction from me) and Mr 3 Minutes (I didn't watch it).

So I'll put BB Project (or was it Project BB? That Jackie Chan film) and either one of the following:

I'll Call You = the most underrated HK film of the year!

Moonlight in Tokyo = Not sure whether it's a 2005 or 2006 film.

On The Edge = Herman Yau-directed, Nick Cheung/Anthony Wong-starrer. Surprisingly good. I felt. Interesting to see the life of an undercover who had finished his undercover assignment.

YTSL said...

Hi Swifty --

"BB Project (or was it Project BB?)..."

The Jackie Chan movie's English title's ROB-B-HOOD. :b

And MOONLIGHT IN TOKYO's actually a 2005 movie (though its Malaysian run did extend into early 2006).

Must say that I didn't care too much for I'LL CALL YOU. Found rosy-cheeked Alex Fong Lik Sun's character way too pathetic and thought the film's pacing often lagged, with the result being that it all felt a bit too listless.

OTOH, agree with you that ON THE EDGE was "surprisingly good". And I guess the 2007 HKIFF organizers must think so too since not only is it in the festival program but Herman Yau's has been given the honor of being this year's Director in Focus! :o

The Great Swifty said...

Oh right, I was trying to translate it literally from the Chinese title.

Pretty surprised to see that Herman Yau's been around for THAT long. But yeah, his recent stuff are starting to get pretty interesting, On The Edge and Cocktail.

munin said...

Including My Name Is Fame on the list automatically makes you a great person. Really, I thought it was an excellent film, perhaps a bit too dreamy and naive, but still so full of warmth and charme, something that HK cinema has been lacking lately.

And yeah, Exiled rocks. Dog Bite Dog, though, I don't know...visuals, atmosphere and music were excellent, but the script was - IMHO - a train wreck.

YTSL said...

Hi again Swifty --

"Oh right, I was trying to translate it literally from the Chinese title."

In the case of the 2006 Jackie Chan movie, the result wasn't too bad. However, would caution against your doing this as a general rule since sometimes, the Chinese and English titles differ greatly. E.g., would you believe that there's this late 1980s revenge tale which stars Brigitte Lin whose English title is LADY IN BLACK but Chinese title is...SEIZE LIFE BEAUTY! ;)

Hi Munin --

Aaah, a fellow fan of MY NAME IS FAME and EXILED. Welcome! :)

Re DOG BITE DOG: I know what you mean with the script being a train wreck. Have come to more or less expect this as far as Soi Cheang's films go. But, in all honesty, thought the storytelling component for this atmospheric movie was fine up until the over-the-top last few minutes!

munin said...

Well, besides the infamous last minutes, I thought the whole Sam Lee father subplot was pretty silly as well, and, to a certain extent, the girl plotline was unnecessary too; which leaves the movie with nothing but Edison Chen shooting people and rolling around the floor with Sam Lee. Love Battlefield was far superior, even despite the end (Really, is every ending of a Soi Cheang movie this horrible? I've only seen those two so far). So, because of the atmosphere and all, Dog Bite Dog was lots of wasted opportunity in my opinion...a shame that it bombed at the box office too, apparently. Guess we won't see another stab at this kind of stuff.

YTSL said...

Hi again Munin --

Hmmm, I guess I'm inclined to be more charitable than you in seeing the Sam Lee father subplot as an interesting attempt to flesh out his character and the girl plotline as a fairly successful attempt to flesh out Edison Chen's.

At the same time, would agree that LOVE BATTLEFIELD is the superior film and, in fact, would say that it's the best of Soi Cheang's directorial efforts as far as I'm concerned.

"Really, is every ending of a Soi Cheang movie this horrible?"

Well, thus far, I've seen DIAMOND HILL, HORROR HOTLINE...BIG HEAD MONSTER (the nadir IMHO), NEW BLOOD and HOME SWEET HOME in addition to DOG BITE DOG and LOVE BATTLEFIELD and yeah, would say that the endings have not been particularly satisfactory.

So why do I persist in watching Soi Cheang's movies? Because I do think that he's a master as far as mood evoking goes. Also, that often times, each of his films has a really good idea behind it...it's just that the execution, especially the final bits, can be...shall we say...less inspired than the guiding premise deserves. ;S