Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Korean Cinema Fared on 2011's Year-end Lists

Top 10 or end-of-year lists are one of my great guilty pleasures.  I know that ultimately they don't really mean very much and are guaranteed to be subjective, arbitrary, and divisive.  Yet I am always eager to discover other people's lists come year's end.  To see how my favorites films fared, to discover some things I may have missed and to generally scrutinize the palaver of this enduring critic's ritual.

I thought it would be fun to see how Korean films did on 2011's lists, if only to see what and how many Korean films generated international attention.  So I went ahead and tracked down every list I could find which featured a Korean film.  I found 70, including 7 which only considered Korean cinema, a pretty solid number which is spread over an impressive array of worldwide broadsheets, film websites, and a panoply of blogs.  I was also surprised to see over 30 films make it onto these diverse lists, a reflection of the depth of Korean cinema, from thrillers, horrors, and action films, all the way to melodramas and a large selection of low-budget indies.

The results of this ranking are in no way supposed to reflect some sort of objective standpoint of the best Korean films of last year.  For one thing, only a handful of films got any decent kind of exposure in the west and they were by and large 2010 releases.  Some of 2011's best films were only featured on a smattering of lists as they have not really been seen outside of Korea.  As I've said this is just a little bit of fun!

The system used for the below ranking is very simple.  1 point for making it onto a top 10 list (or the odd top 11), 2 points for a top 5 finish, and 3 points for taking first place.  The lists are available below, divided into Korean-only and international lists.  If you are aware of anything I've missed by all means let me know either here, on twitter, or by e-mailing me at pierceconran [at] gmail [dot] com.

How Korean Cinema Fared on 2011's Year-end Lists

1. Poetry (53)
2. I Saw the Devil (34)
3. The Yellow Sea (17)
4. Sunny (12)
5. The Day He Arrives (10)
6. The Journals of Musan (9)
7. Bleak Night (8)
8. Silenced (5)
9. Night Fishing (5)
10. Arirang (4)
10. King of Pigs (4)
10. Re-encounter (4)

13. Poongsan (3)
13. Punch (3)
15. Bedevilled (2)
15. Come Rain, Come Shine (2)
15. Dangerously Excited (2)
15. Pong Ddol (2)
15. Quick (2)
15. The Front Line (2)
21. Animal Town (1)
21. Barbie (1)
21. Blind (1)
21. Dooman River (1)
21. Haunters (1)
21. Invasion of Alien Bikini (1)
21. Late Autumn (1)
21. Late Blossom (2)
21. Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild (1)
21. Moby Dick (1)
21. Mother Is a Whore (2)
21. Out of the Cave (1)
21. Romantic Heaven (1)
21. War of the Arrows (1)

Lists of Korean Films

Asia Pacific Arts - Rowena Santos Aquino
Complex - Jaeki Cho
koreanfilm.org - Darcy Paquet
Modern Korean Cinema - Pierce Conran
Seen in Jeonju - Tom Giammarco

Lists Featuring Korean Films

Boston Globe - Wesley Morris
Chicago Reader - Ben Sachs
Chicago Tribune - Michael Phillips
Cineawesome! - Jeff
Cinema Salem - Kereth
Cinema Salem - Peter
Cinetology - Luke
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Clint O'Connor
CNN - Tom Charity
College Times - Aaron Tavena
Culture Mob - Matthew Wayt
Dad's Big Plan - Mr. Sparkles
Film Freak Central - Angelo Muredda
Film Freak Central - Walter Chaw
Film School Rejects - Brian Salisbury
Film School Rejects - Luke Mullen
Film School Rejects - Rob Hunter
Film Threat - Don Lewis
Film Threat - John Wildman
Film Threat - Mark Bell
Film Threat - Noah Lee
firstshowing.net - Jeremy Kirk
Front Room Cinema - Tom Bielby
Hollywood Hubbub - Frantic Monkey
Hydra Mag - Jose-Luis Moctezuma
indieWire - Anne Thompson
insidepulse - Robert Sutton
Left Field Cinema - M. Dawson
Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan
Living in Cinema - Michael Phillips
Miami Herald - Rene Rodriguez
Mile High Cinema - Jason Cangialosi
MSN Movies - Sean Axmaker
NOW Magazine - Radheyan Simonpillai
Palo Alto Online - Susan Tavernetti
playbackstl.com - Pete Timmermann
playbackstl.com - Sean Lass
Rich on Film - Rich
Salon - Andrew O'Hehir
Shock Till You Drop - Jeff Alard
Slant - Diego Costa
Slant - Nick Schager
Sounds Like Cinema - Greg Bennett
southcoasttoday.com - Alexis Hauk
St. Louis Today - Joe Williams
The Austin Chronicle - Marc Savlov
The Daily Texan - Alex Williams
the-dispatch.com - Matthew Lucas
The Globe and Mail - Liam Lacey and Rick Groen
The Guardian - Peter Bradshaw
The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy
The Montreal Gazette - T'cha Dunlevy
The New York Times - Manohla Dargis
The Screening Room - Mark Humphreys
Time Out New York - Keith Uhlich
Total Film - Sam Ashurst
Twitch - James Marsh
Twitch - Kwenton Bellette
Wildgrounds - Ki Mun

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

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  1. I'm surprised that Quick made anyone's list, let alone twice.

  2. None more so than I! It was actually a top 5 on one list (Seoul Beats).