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Hi and bye, plus another edition of Kozo’s Mailbox

Man, it’s been awhile. And it’ll probably be a lot longer before I write in this thing again because in a few short hours, I’m off to Italy. Again. My toys will miss me:

Carue plus Chopper
Carue and Chopper will guard my Blu-ray collection.

This year is the second year that I’m attending the Far East Film Festival. I get to go because I contributed to their catalog and book, plus I’m fortunate enough to have saved enough money for a plane ticket.  This is a special time of the year because it represents the end of a lot of stuff. The Hong Kong International Film Festival is over. The Hong Kong Film Awards and associated drama is over. The LoveHKFilm Awards and all the related busywork is over. All that’s left is the review writing, which I’ll get to when I get to. That’s what 2009 is about for me: not doing more than I have to.

I wish I could play sports on my desk like these toys:

Basketball on my desk
Little Green Man’s lockdown defense made the difference in the fourth quarter

To celebrate my departure for Italy, I’ll knock off one last edition of Damn You, Kozo, plus I’ll post even more pictures of my toys because they’re more interesting than my life, my job, or my website. To illustrate, here’s a photo of the One Piece kids:

One Piece
These toys are easily more interesting than the work documents behind them.

And aren’t these Dark Knight Kubricks and Bearbricks totally more interesting than the desk calendar they’re sitting on?

Dark Knight Toys
They’re standing on an appointment for my performance review.

Yep, this blog post is just an excuse to show off pictures of my toys. Sorry for wasting your time, but it’s what this website does best. Our 1500 word reviews of movies like SEX AND CHOPSTICKS totally demonstrate that.

Anyway, it’s off to Kozo’s Mailbox, where people send in random questions or comments and I respond in a hopefully sincere manner. This time it’s the special negative email issue, where I dissect emails from people who had bad things to say about me and/or the site. It could be the most fun I have all week.

Let’s get this over with. Email #1 wants to talk about this movie again:

“Our movie should never get bad reviews!”

This comment comes from “Moviegoer”, who wanted to let me know their opinion on my review of THE WARLORDS. That particular review was also the subject of an earlier edition of Kozo’s Mailbag, though that email actually contained questions. This one doesn’t. It’s worth sharing anyhow:

Subject: Kozo’s charlatanism vis a vis his [REST OF SUBJECT LINE MISSING]

I disagree with Kozo’s comment that the film’s treatment of the love triangle was perfunctory.

Instead the film managed to capture the angst and tension of forbidden love. The scenes of furtive glances, forlorn looks, faces showing the battles between passion and propriety and love painful yet urgently consumated (Jet Li and Xu) aptly convey what would have been the case at that time.

Bearing in mind that this is 19th century China where chastity in a woman is valued above all else and sex between real couples is modest and conservative, one should not expect depictions of love and sex to steam up the silver screen like in Hollywood.

Kozo does grave injustice to a film trying its best to convey the emotions and morals of that time and in keeping with the genre of this film, which is of the war action and brotherhood genre. Instead he naively demands that the treatment of love and sex in this film be more than ‘perfunctory’.

One shudders at the thought of steamy love scenes in this period movie. It would be as inappropriate as a computer keyboard in place of ink and brush in this film.

Director Chan’s treatment of forbidden love is deft and appropriate in keeping iwth the tempor and spirit of the film. It’s a blood and action movie, for heaven’s sakes. We know there’s a love triangle, but we want the film not to linger over it and get back to what we came for, i.e. lots of kung fu action and brotherhood themes.

A good movie that delivered what it promised —– war, action and brotherhood. That’s what made “The Warlords” sweep the awards in Taiwan.

Moviegoers are more intelligent than to come to a such a movie expecting love and sex ‘well done’ instead of ‘perfunctory’.

Hmm, that’s a lot to digest. Thanks for writing in! Huang Xiaoming and Louis Koo appreciate it, too.

Louis and Xiaoming
“We approve of your Microsoft Outlook skills”

The first thing I did when I got this email is to see if there was another definition of the word “perfunctory” that I didn’t know about. According to numerous online sources, the word perfunctory means “cursory, hasty, routine, superficial, performed hastily or without care”. It doesn’t mean “a non-sexual depiction of love”.

Some of those definitions are a bit stronger than I probably meant when referring to THE WARLORDS, but if I had to pick one, I’d choose “routine”. In many ways, I felt that the relationships in WARLORDS - if not the entire film - were routine. That’s pretty much why I didn’t go to the mat for the film’s greatness. I think it’s a good film, but not a great one because it stayed so within my expectations that I was never truly impressed. Sorry.

The monkey riding Carue apologizes on my behalf. Carue still looks pissed, though.

Monkey + Carue
The duck’s icy glare negates the apologetic stuffed monkey.

There’s no crime in not being impressed by THE WARLORDS, I think. There’s also no crime in Moviegoer thinking differently, and I appreciate this person’s earnest belief in the film’s quality, and its superlative handling of its characters and relationships.

 Chow Yun Fat
“Nice job, Moviegoer! You should review movies, too!”

I’m less in agreement over the idea that I did the film a grave injustice. A grave injustice would be if I accused someone of a crime they didn’t commit, or stole money from a Girl Scout to buy illegal A/V DVDs. I really don’t think either of those things occurred in my review of THE WARLORDS, so I’ll have to disagree there.

Also, I’m not sure where all this discussion of steamy love scenes comes from. I actually wanted more convincing character development from the film, and never indicated a preference for steamy love scenes at all. Perhaps this reader was mistaken and thought that my usage of the word “perfunctory” meant an absence of hot love scenes. I’ll split the blame and say we’re both at fault: me for not being clear, and Moviegoer for taking their interpretation and running for the end zone.

In summary, I choose to classify this email as a misunderstanding rather than a solid criticism of my work - though I would have preferred if Moviegoer had asked me to clarify my thoughts instead of jumping to their own conclusions. That said, I do like the use of the word “charlatanism”, which is defined by numerous sources as “an act of a charlatan” or “a state of being a charlatan”. A charlatan is “a person who makes elaborate, fraudulent, and often voluble claims to skill or knowledge; a quack or fraud”. In other words, I’ve been called a person who claims to some sort of expertise that he doesn’t really have. Basically, a faker.

“Ha ha, someone called you a faker!”

Here’s my response:

Dear Moviegoer,

If you’re writing into tell me that I know nothing and am faking my knowledge and/or qualification to review Hong Kong films, then congratulations! You join a long list of people who’ve written in since 2002, each expressing dissatisfaction, disapproval or ire at something I’ve written about a film. Usually, the words “idiot” or “jerk” are invoked,  if not actual profanity. I must say, you’ve employed the finest vocabulary yet of any person who’s ever sent in a negative email to Thanks, and full marks on your vocab if not your reading comprehension or syntax.



P.S. Any sarcasm you read into this email has been inferred.

That said, I’ve never been that fond of my review of THE WARLORDS. I went back and read it after receiving this email, and even though I do take time to discuss the negatives and the positives of the film, I would describe the overriding tone of the review as “deflated”. At the time the film was in release, I recall struggling to review the film - partly because the expectations for the film were so massive but also because I just didn’t feel that much for it. Soon after, I probably went through one of the 30 funks per year that I go through where I wonder if I should just hang up the reviewing gig because I’ve lost the passion. Then, a movie like AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS comes out and it all comes rushing back. It’s cyclical.

In the end, I thought THE WARLORDS was a good film, but only because it met my most basic expectations. I think Peter Chan has made much better films, and while I respect his work here, I ultimately was not that moved by it. The same experience was obviously not shared by Moviegoer or the people responsible for selecting the Golden Horse Awards and the Hong Kong Film Awards - both of which gave Best Picture to THE WARLORDS. I apologize if my opinions and perspective have become objectionable to the norm.

Jackie Chan has an opinion on this:

“Film reviewers need to be controlled!
Otherwise it would be chaos, I tell you! Chaos!”

Here’s another email from a person who apparently used an email proxy.

Your reviews are absurd. You insult amazing movies and actors with moronic, cliché comments that make you look pretentious. You seem to want to come off as a principled reviewer, but you merely leave everyone with a “holier than thou” attitude, an example of your idiotic sense of quality, and an understanding of your lackluster mentality. Your 20-40 viewer site blog can suck it. You couldn’t spot a good movie if it kicked you in your tiny genitals. Jacky Wu Jing and Donnie Yen > you. Eat it.

The above email came courtesy of someone named “Better Than You”, which I hope is also the name he signs on letters to his mother.

Wu Jing
“That email is from my fan! I’m so proud!”

Feedback email, both positive and negative, are standard when you run a website that’s been around this long. I do think there is something to be learned from negative comments, because it’s only through negative feedback and criticism that we can actually improve. If I sound like a guidance counselor, then I apologize.

That said, this email does absolutely nothing to help me improve, except perhaps tell me that I should jump from the 41st floor of an apartment building because I am an absolute waste of human life. At the very least I’m not as good as Better Than You because, well, he’s better than me. How can I argue with his expertly typed opinion?

My 1/6 Sideshow Snake Eyes action figure will help Better Than You out:

 Snake Eyes
Seconds after I took this photo, Snake Eyes shot me.

The Internet is a great place. It allows people who have few chances and great talent to show the world what they can do, and the vast number of informative, thoughtful or just plain fun movie websites is proof of that. Sadly, the Internet is also a place where people can let their Id go insane, using the Internet’s anonymity to create self-aggrandized identities more in line with their idealized self image. It’s an easy trap to fall into. If you feel like nobody in your real life, why not become someone online? It’s very easy. Hell, this website may be proof of that.

At this point, I would launch into one of my canned diatribes about how impersonal and idiotic the Internet has become, but in the interests of promoting a much more positive image - not to mention ending this blog post - I’ll stop right now. By shutting up, I’m sure I’ll make Better Than You a lot happier. Too bad I can’t make myself happy in the process.

“Don’t fight! Let’s use group exercise to wipe away our personal conflicts!
Everybody follow me and pose relentlessly!”

The world would be a better place if we all followed Donnie Yen’s example.

Anyway, if you’d like to contact me or to contribute your own angry, inquisitive or clueless question to Kozo’s Mailbox just click this link. If you ask a question or discussion topic worth bringing up, I’ll tackle it here. In a related note, I owe a sincere apology to Mei San of Dedicated to the Hong Kong Cinema because she sent in a whole slew of questions I have yet to address. I’ll try to handle them one day, though by the time I do, I’m sure they won’t even apply anymore. Time - it’s forever slipping away and I’m not getting any younger.

Stephen Chow agrees. He’s grown so fragile in his old age that he’ll wear a bike helmet in a taxi cab:

Stephen Chow
“These cab drivers are insane! They’ll actually watch DRAGONBALL!”

This concludes yet another edition of Kozo’s Mailbox, plus it knocks my monthly blog post off my “To Do” list. Yes, I’ve gotten so irresponsible that I even schedule my blog posts. Hopefully while I’m in Italy I’ll drop a blog post or two. However, you won’t know until it happens. The world will continue to spin if it doesn’t.

Yotsuba and Ena
“Bye bye, everyone!”

Yotsuba really makes everything better.

11 Responses to “Hi and bye, plus another edition of Kozo’s Mailbox”

  1. Marc Says:

    Another enjoyable blog entry :-)

    Since you mentioned AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS, I was wondering: do you prefer to review good, or bad movies? I write about movies myself - using only a fraction of the amount of words you do - and I find that reviews of bad movies write themselves and make for an entertaining read because it’s easy to inject some humor into them. What do you think?

  2. Mic Says:

    Nicely done mate. I must say, I find your attitude towards negative (perhaps insulting) emails impressive. I tend to take things a bit too personal now and again… some Kozo tips would be nice… lol.

    Love the blog man… keep it up :)

  3. meh Says:

    same here. kozo is my master of inspiration in dealing with the crap in life and movies - mostly movies.

  4. 1lau Says:

    Lovely Toys collection starring in this episode, would you have time to launch a website like (Manga/Toys)? j/k

    The reviews I’ve read are generally ok. Some opinions added aren’t always my cup of tea, but those are views right?

    The facts presented in the reviews are of a high quality.

    Keep up the good work and have a good/safe trip in Italy!

  5. achillesgirl Says:

    Kozo, I (almost) always agree with your reviews AND have so much fun reading them! We can’t ALL be as smart and funny as you, so haters like “Charlatan” & “Better Than You” will need to get together and console themselves over their lack of brain matter. Keep the fun stuff coming, please!

    I happen to agree with you on The Warlords. My take was that the acting (excluding Kaneshiro)was PERFUNCTORY, which was too bad because everything else was in place for a great film. The epic tragedy was simply not able to manifest in the hands of Li and Lau. All due respect to these two old entertainment demi-gods, but they’re not really actors. I’m pretty sure I just sealed my doom by saying this, but most people don’t know where I live.

  6. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    I’m a bit late in responding. Still in Italy.

    Hi Marc, it’s true that reviews of bad movies can be more fun to write because they lend themselves to snark, but reviews of movies you like are much more gratifying because you actually have good things to say.

    And yes, the site’s reviews are on the long side. It’s a common criticism.

    Hi Mike and Meh, actually I take negative comments and criticism seriously and sometimes personally. It’s probably only through lots of thought that I figure out what I should and shouldn’t listen to. You should never let it get you down regardless, but there’s always something to be learned.

    Hi 1lau, no plans on a toy blog. I don’t have the space or time, really. And yes, reviews are just opinions and should always be regarded as such - especially when it comes to movies.

    Hi achillesgirl, I hesitate to label the first letter in this email as one from a “hater”, though it’s pretty obvious that Better Than You qualifies for that title. The first email simply misread or misunderstood what I wrote - which could be partially my fault. Better Than You, though, is obviously someone with an axe to grind.

    I would differ from you on the acting in WARLORDS, in that I would rate Kaneshiro behind either Li or Lau. However, on the whole I was not really impressed. I’m glad Li won a Best Actor award, but to me it’s more of his SCENT OF A WOMAN moment. Lau Ching-Wan and even Aaron Kwok were stronger that year.

    Thanks for all the comments!

  7. achillesgirl Says:

    If you ever get bored, I’d be interested to hear why you rate Kaneshiro behind Li or Lau in WARLORDS. I am curious, that’s all.

  8. tinyskwa Says:

    Hello Kozo,

    Long time reader, first time comment-leaver. Just wanted to let you know that your site is my prime source for *good* HK/panAsia movie reviews–they’re well-written, entertaining, and always give me a clear idea of the content of the movie itself (rather than just your reaction to it). And feel free not to skimp on the length, as I’d rather read an extra couple of in-depth paragraphs than drop US$15 to import a HK movie that turns out to be mediocre. To sum up, please keep the site going and keep reviewing movies–you are doing a service, and it is good.


  9. vid Says:

    I can understand some of the criticism that your reviews can be pretentious (or have a holier than thou tone) but I find that is more the exception rather than the rule. Considering you have watched so many movies, I can imagine seeing yet another even average movie that’s already been done to death can unleash more negativity than is perhaps warranted.

    I also find your blog quite entertaining and if there was one suggestion I’d make, it would be to be less self deprecating. We know you’re busy, no need to constantly apologize for the lack of updates. We know it’s a lot of work and many of us (including me) appreciate the work. I usually come to this site first when I’m thinking of watching a movie and most of the positively reviewed ones that I’ve watched I either enjoy very much or at the very least don’t absolutely hate.

  10. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    Hi achillesgirl,

    My previous blog post on WARLORDS has my opinion on the actors. You can find it here:

    tinyskwa, thanks for the words of support. Truthfully, I will be looking to reduce the amount of words that I employ in my writing. I’ve apparently mastered the art of droning on, so conciseness and brevity are my next goals.

    vid, self-deprecation is this blog’s bread-and-butter. I like to think it balances the snark, but I guess too much of anything can be problematic. This is right next to “shorten reviews” as something I’m going to work on.

  11. V Says:

    Kozo, hats off to you for being so accommodating to negative emails. True, feedback helps to improve one’s work and to grow as a person, but it looks like Better Than You is just better than everybody at wasting time typing up words.

    Personally, I was slightly disappointed by Warlords, perhaps because of the expectation I built up based on the names associated with the movie. This has sort of become a trend lately :)

    That picture of Ekin is so funny! Where do you find pictures that match so perfectly? Poor Steven Chow.. Did someone steal his bike? ;)

    Yotsuba’s happy face always brings a smile on mine.

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