My 2012 in Review: Dear Leader

As is usually the case, the highlight of 2012 for me and probably most other Asian film fans in the NY area was the combination of the NY Asian Film Festival and Japan Society’s “Japan Cuts: The NY Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema.” Beginning with NYAFF at the end of June, these two festivals together offered something in the vicinity of ninety films in a roughly one month time period, several of which were co-presentations. The twin festivals also afford numerous wonderful opportunities to see directors, actors, and actresses in person.

Among the numerous films I saw, my favorites were: Vulgaria (2012), Hong Kong director Pang Ho-cheung’s hysterical and raunchy Category III film about a bottom-breeder producer; the Korean sci-fi anthology Doomsday Book (2012), featuring two short films by Yim Pil-sung and one by Kim Ji-woon; the joint Hong Kong/China production Dragon (2011), a combination kung fu-actioner and Sherlock Holmes-like investigative procedural starring Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro; and Asura (2012), a dark and gripping animation from Japan.

For me the past year also brought a wealth of Korean film screeners to review, most coming from CJ Entertainment. You can listen to me talk about several of these films on the October and November 2012 VCinema podcasts. My personal favorite was No Mercy (2010), one of the finest police procedurals I’ve ever seen.

Another highlight of the year was Asia Society’s film series “Goddess: Chinese Women on Screen.” The nine films shown over a one-month period from early November through early December included: two silent films from the mid-30s that starred actress Ruan Lingyu; Center Stage, the 1992 bio-pic about her that starred Maggie Cheung; the immortal propaganda ballet The Red Detachment of Women (1970); Red Sorghum (1987), the directorial debut of Zhang Yimou and acting debut of Gong Li; and Wong Kar Wai’s Ashes of Time Redux, his 2008 reworking of his 1994 original.

There were also, as always, great offerings from Korean Cultural Service and The Korea Society, as well as some fine movies available on Netflix Streaming, such as Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) and Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Movie (also 2011).

All in all, quite a year. I still wish I’d been able to clone myself so I could’ve seen even more of what was available.