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The Age of Innocence Lost

Mother-kim-hye-ja-won-bin
Magnolia Pictures

Full disclosure: Due to a professional detour, I saw fewer films in 2010 than in any of the previous 14 years. No self-respecting critic or dedicated movie buff would stand for that, and to change it is a top priority for the new year. But for this annual list-making exercise, it means there are a couple more sentimental favorites in place of critically defensible choices.

Musically, the oversaturating trifecta of Lady Gaga, Eminem and Justin Bieber effectively drove me to the thriving scenes in Japan and South Korea. Unadulterated pop music is making a comeback on a global scale, but folks in Asia craft it exceptionally enough to truly transcend any language barrier.

Martin Tsai’s Top Movies of 2010

MOTHER (Bong Joon-ho) Who says a character-driven film can’t be plot-driven as well? Mr. Bong proves here he’s a master at both, just as he did with “The Host.” Only this time it’s without the aid of C.G.I. The film culminates in a climax so devastating that it is simply unforgettable.

A PROPHET (Jacques Audiard) Realism has never looked more magical than in the way “A Prophet” depicts guilty conscience. The film also becomes all the more chilling with the loss of its protagonist’s figurative and literal innocence.

BLUEBEARD (Catherine Breillat) This timeless children’s classic — also about the loss of innocence — has never been so disarming, exquisite or heartbreaking than in Ms. Breillat’s retelling.

127 HOURS (Danny Boyle) Witnessing a man caught literally between a rock and a hard place for an hour and a half didn’t sound like anyone’s idea of a good time until Mr. Boyle and James Franco tried their, um, hands at it.

SECRET SUNSHINE (Lee Chang-dong) This story of a widow’s move to her late husband’s birthplace does not tell a single lie. What more can you ask for?

WINTER'S BONE (Debra Granik) This contemporary Gothic tale about a young woman’s coming of age is one of the very few American indies in decades that could break out of the Sundance-y limitations and reach for your heart and soul.

THE GHOST WRITER (Roman Polanski) Only a brilliant filmmaker, statutory rapist and wanted fugitive such as Mr. Polanski could make a political thriller this chillingly delicious, and I say that in all seriousness.

THE WAY BACK (Peter Weir) Through this story of escapees from the Siberian Gulag, Mr. Weir is finally able to articulate what he couldn’t quite nail with “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”

INSPECTOR BELLAMY (Claude Chabrol) Chabrol passed away in 2010, but nouvelle vague will live on.

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (Juan José Campanella) A bit messy such as life itself, this sentimental journey through a lifetime of regrets is overwhelmingly moving.

Martin Tsai’s Top Albums/Singles of 2010

TOHOSHINKI “Toki wo Tomete” (Rhythm Zone) The group is making a long-awaited comeback this January sans JYJ, but will it ever be like this again?

EXILE “Motto Tsuyoku” (Rhythm Zone) I’ve never taken Exile seriously before, but this makes me a believer ...

SANDAIME J SOUL BROTHERS “Best Friend’s Girl” (Rhythm Zone) ... And the amazing debut from Exile’s protégé only cements that belief.

AKB48 “Beginner” (King) Japan’s top-selling single of the year, and totally deservingly so.

KANA UEMURA “Toilet no Kamisama” (King) Ms. Uemura’s loving 10-minute eulogy for her grandmother has such an emotional narrative that it has inspired a TV drama based on the lyrics.

SHINEE “Lucifer”/“Hello” (S.M.) Even member Key’s hypnotic haircut can’t distract from the album’s infectiousness.

SUPER JUNIOR “Bonamana” (S.M.) Following up on the monstrous success of “Sorry, Sorry” is no small feat, especially when your group is down three members from its previous 13. But miraculously, “Bonamana” does it.

2PM “Still 02:00pm” (JYP) “I’ll Be Back” might sound like an American pop song, but producer extraodinaire Park Jun-young here beats the Americans at their own game.

AKB48 “Sakura no Shiori” (King) This song deserves to make the list on its own merits, but its Shunji Iwai-directed music video is, hands down, the year’s best.

HANNYA, FRUITS PUNCH “Onara Hazukashikunaiyo/Pirameki Taiso” (Yoshimoto R and C) This irreverent romp goes down in history as the best fart song ever made, bar none.

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