With the end of the year fast approaching, Japan Cinema decided to give our Best and Worst Movies of 2013. There are still a ton of potentially great films that aren’t out yet but let’s not forget the fantastic and horrendous features from the last 11 months. We kick off the list with the no. 5 worst film released this year:
Why it’s awful: First, from the moment it starts, there’s the “cinematography” (if that isn’t too grand a word for the combination of camera, scenery and lighting work) on display here. It’s as if they took the concept of “shoot it like a reality show” to mean that they should simply point the camera and hope for the best. All of the backgrounds, for example, are well-lit and dull, and in the rare instances where they have some telling detail, they actually — no kidding — freeze frame and zoom in on it.
Why it’s awful: Ghost Child suffers primarily from a lack of tension due to its focus on unnecessary sub-plots. Despite its short 88-minute running time, the film feels less like a tightly written narrative than several episodes patched together Von Frankenstein style. The script ranges from the generic to the slightly corny. Ghost Child is a mundane exercise in horror.
Why it’s awful: South Korea is guaranteed to churn out flagpole disaster pictures on a yearly basis, yet the live action debut of its best known hero Robot Taekwon V remains DOA in development hell. South Korea is guaranteed to churn out flagpole disaster pictures on a yearly basis, yet the live action debut of its best known hero Robot Taekwon V remains DOA in development hell. The whole tone of the film is one big mess, but not as messy as the screenplay. If you’re not familiar with the original source material, then be prepared to ask a lot of questions.
Why it’s awful: Collin Chou and Donnie Yen have fought before, so as fans we expect there will be something that will at least try to top the Flashpoint fight. But sadly, that didn’t happen. It was then I realized my expectations for this film would be in the toilet. The dialogue is often on-the-nose that is stating things that the filmmakers are supposed to be showing. It is television-like and I don’t know why it is the trend. The dialogue scenes in Special ID are plodding and murder every sense of dramatic tension. It’s a narrative mess.
Why it’s awful: Director Raimund Huber is so desperate to create a ‘new’ metropolis that he holds back from ever using one of the world’s great sky-scapes to its best effect. Moreover, the acting here is awful. Everyone in this south east Asian realm speaks English (without explanation) and the entire cast really should have paused at the idea of tackling actual lines of dialogue on-camera. This is pure rubbish.
Why it’s great: Kore-eda handles this material in his typically gentle, methodically paced style. The end result is a film of unforced profundity, one that wisely implies that mere biology means little in the face of complicated human emotions. That Kore-eda’s able to offer even a faint glimmer of hope while staying true to the tenuous nature of such a relationship is further proof of his unique talent.
Why it’s great: Many reviews that I have read have briefly criticized Andy and Sammi for overacting their roles in many parts of the movie. I, on the other hand, have a different take on this. Obviously, this isn’t one of those typical cop movies that Hong Kong cinema produces hundreds of, every year. Unlike those movies, “Blind Detective” had no endless gun shots, long-winded crook chases, or all-of-a-sudden-everyone-knows-kung-fu stints.
Why it’s great: The plot is daring and engaging from start to finish. Props all around, to everyone involved, because this film is virtually flawless in its exposé. I walked out of the cinema a bit breathless because WOW; this film is pure audiovisual poetry.
Why it’s great: I have to give a big applause to Director Bong and his crews in delivering such thought provoking, breathtaking enjoyment. There’s no big surprise ending or anything—you can actually see the resolution coming fairly easily—but it’s just such a pleasure to watch, so ambitious and well executed, with some really memorable visuals, that the fun of the movie is just going along with it and not having a lot of preconceived notions about it.
Why it’s great: The violence continues, with gunshots and stabbings. Jia said the movie is an attempt to understand that instinct. Wow, I’m exhausted. Truly. A Touch of Sin is a sobering experience. If anything, it’s upsetting how much Jia’s dark tale of murder, retribution and suicide echoes similar issues within America’s contentious class system. Of all the movies to make with the backing of the Chinese government, he chose this one. The best film shown this year.
All in all, a great year in film and heres to an even better year in 2014! I hope everyone, old and new readers alike, will continue to follow Japan Cinema into the new year.