Just in time with the 88th Academy Awards on Feb 28, here are the 15 things we loved and hated about Thai film from the past year.
We hadn't seen a Thai romantic comedy with such a deep, thought-provoking edge since... well, ever. When GTH announced it would bring in cult indie director Nawapol Thamrongratanarit to make his first “mass” movie, we were a little dubious. Thankfully, the film’s mass appeal (a cool B11.6 million on its opening day alone) was not at the expense of the director’s signature style, which remained intact from the dialog down to the cinematography. The storyline, about an overworked freelance designer who falls for his doctor, also struck a raw nerve. Not a bad way for GTH to call it quits.
Best Leading Actress
Waruntorn Paonil, Snap
Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, the man behind some of our favorite films of the past two decades like Tang Wong, P-047 and Sayew, made his long-awaited return with the dramatic love story of two childhood friends, Pueng and Boy, who unexpectedly reunite at a mutual friend’s wedding. The plot’s believability owes to much the performance of debutant Waruntorn Paonil, whose wearied expressions and body language capture perfectly the torture of repressed memories.
Best Leading Actor
Sunny Suwanmethanont, Freelance
Nawapol’s casting of Sunny as his main man in Freelance was a masterstroke. And it’s testament to the actor himself that such a familiar face can remain so relatable in the role of Yoon, where 80-percent of all dialogue actually takes place inside his own head.
T Best Supporting Actress
Duangjai Hirunsri, The Blue Hour
The Blue Hour tells the story of quiet, bullied gay guy Tum (Atthaphan Poonsawas) and his relationship with the badass Phum (Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang) that leads to a life-changing situation. Djuangjai stars as Tum’s anti-gay mother in a role that reminds us of famous manipulative mothers like Frances McDormand in Almost Famous (2000) and Sinjai Plengpanich in Love of Siam (2007). Hers is only a brief role, but Djuangjai brings an incredible amount of tension to the screen.
Best Supporting Actor
Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang, The Blue Hour
Another main force behind The Blue Hour’s success is the complex character of Phum, played by Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang. Phum is a bad boy whose rebellious ways offer a chance of liberation for Tum. And youngster Oabnithi nails the tough-guy act with swagger to spare.
Sway, directed by Rooth Tang
The debut feature film from this Thai-American director is definitely a love story of the modern age, following three couples across three cities during the time of important political events around the world. Dealing with issues of long-distance relationships, cultural differences and being caught between two worlds, this movie delivers not only a relatable plot but this past year's most sophisticated cinematography.
Nawapol Thamrongratanarit, Freelance
The obvious choice. Despite Nawapol’s past success as part of the screenwriter team for the smash hit Bangkok Traffic Love Story (2009), we were afraid that going with GTH would stifle his bold, creative streak. We were glad to be proven wrong.
Best Adaptation How To Win at Checkers
The American-Korean director’s controversial gay film received rave reviews from Bangkok to Berlin and was chosen as Thailand's representative for the foreign-language category at the upcoming Oscars, though it missed out on being nominated. Adapted from two short stories written by Rattawut Lapcharoensap—“At the Cafe Lovely” and “Draft Day”—the film explores the politics, drugs and prostitution that lie behind the relationship between two brothers.
Directed by Wongthanong Chainarongsingha, The Down wins our pick for most inspiring Thai film of the year. The documentary follows the lives of five Thai teenagers living with Down's Syndrome and reminded us of the value of living in the moment. Safe to say, it had us smiling along the way, while also secretly shedding a tear or two.
2538 Alter Ma Jib (Alternative)
This romantic comedy follows a guy named Kong (Aaron "Dan" Ramnarong) who travels back in time to the year 1995 when Thailand’s alternative music scene was at its peak. OK, the subject matter is a little far-fetched, but it does make for one hell of a soundtrack: from Proud’s “Ter Kue Kwam Fun” and See Tao Ter’s “Yung Jum” through to Modern Dog’s “Chewit.”
Best Thai Film you can't see
Rak Ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendor)
Very much in the style of his Palme d'Or-winning film Uncle Boonmee Who May Recall Past Lives, this story has everything you'd expect from an Apichatpong film: unconventional narratives, merging of past and present lives, de ja vu and unanswered questions that linger with you long after viewing. The movie captures the lives of soldiers in a countryside hospital suffering from an illness that leaves them in a state between nightmare and delirium. Sadly, this will be the director's last film set in Thailand—and he doesn’t want it to even screen it here, fearing government reprisals.
The So Bad It’s Good Award
They say, don’t judge a book by its cover. But we can’t help it—we judged this GTH comedy as soon as we heard the name. May Who? tells the story of a high-school student who shoots electricity when she gets excited. Pretty dumb, right? Turns out the whole thing is kind of fun, with a cast that takes it to the next level. This is kind of what we hoped for from Suckseed (2011).
“Pai Ka P’Suchat,” Freelance
P’Suchat, the motorcycle taxi guy in Nawapol’s Freelance who never talks and never, ever takes off his helmet, is a symbol of our fast-paced modern world. His only role is to zip off at the command of boss-lady Jae (Violette Wautier), and yet his legacy lives on nowadays in hashtag form—used by pushy hotel PRs and indie event organizers alike as a definitive closing statement.
The Eyecandy Award
Thanapob “Tor” Leeratanakajorn, May Who?
The Hormones troublemaker tends to make good choices with his acting. Except in May Who?, where he plays a high-school senior with all the complexity of a cartoon character. Anyway, he still looks good, just like that senior we used to have a crush on in high school.
The So Bad It’s Bad Award
Maebia/The Black Death
To be honest, we’re usually big fans of Mom Noi (ML Pandevanop Devakul) and his uncanny knack for remaking everything in an over-the-top Michael Bay style. But since U Mong Pa Mueng in 2011, things just haven’t been quite the same. Of his two films this year, Maebia is one endless sex scene, while The Black Death is basically the Ayutthaya version of Resident Evil.
Red Wine in the Dark Night
Most Homoerotic Film
Red Wine in the Dark Night and Water Boyy (tied)
2015 will probably go down as the year of Thai gay films (some excellent, some just blah). We no longer need to rely on Poj Arnon for topless guys and aggressive sex scenes. Fans of Twilight had better watch Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s Red Wine in the Dark Night, the story of a guy who has a real “relationship” with a vampire. Meanwhile, Water Boyy follows the story of two swimmers—and, funnily enough, pretty much everyone one else stays topless all film too.