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Archive for April, 2017

Life with Kozo Goes On

The Skinny:
LoveHKFilm.com is going on hiatus for the foreseeable future. I’m guessing at least a year, not counting the three-plus months since our last update in December 2016. Sorry, we won’t be around to review the 12 movies starring Louis Koo and Lau Ching-Wan coming out in 2017. Have fun and we’ll see you when we see you.

The Long Version:
How much time have you got? Because you’ll need it if you intend to read this whole thing. If you’re only interested in Asian movies, and not LoveHKFilm.com or the site webmaster, then you should totally skip this.

Last warning.

Okay then. I haven’t written one of these self-indulgent Life with Kozo things in such a long time that I’m not sure that I know how to anymore. Since the last one (I’m not bothering to check when it was), the world has basically gone to Hell. Other things have happened, but the world going to Hell kind out of outweighs everything else.

The world going to Hell is not why I’m shuttering LoveHKFilm.com for a long time - though it certainly doesn’t help. To be fair, I already take super-long breaks between every update. 2016 saw only four updates, with gaps of 2-4 months between each one. Back when the site went online in 2002, I updated the site 3 times a week. I would calculate the percentage drop in update frequency, but high school was a long time ago and I no longer know how to math.

There are numerous reasons for this hiatus. First and foremost is lack of time. When I moved to Hong Kong in 2005, the site’s update frequency changed from (at the time) weekly to bi-weekly. When my responsibilities and commitments to my job and personal life increased, that dropped to “whenever I feel like it.” That plan actually got us 8-18 updates a year, but returns have been diminishing and now they’re ceasing.

I would have updated earlier in 2017 - the review of THE GREAT WALL has been done since January - but I got caught up in my usual first quarter freelance pile-on, which includes working for two film festivals: The Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Udine Far East Film Festival. The work wasn’t that intensive - a long essay, 8 reviews, and numerous film blurbs - but it was squeezed into what would normally be the time that I work on LoveHKfilm.com. Also, since there were real deadlines (i.e., not self-imposed ones) for that work, the pressure was greater.

Also, I now give a huge chunk of my time to this person:

The Prodigal Son
All your time belongs to me

The site’s decline in updates has largely coincided with his arrival, and I’m totally fine with that. Since his birth, I’ve experienced some frustration because my backlog of unwritten reviews keeps growing, but that’s just me looking at that pile of work and wondering how I’m ever going to finish it. I don’t, for one minute, regret any time I’ve spent with my son. My biggest regret over the past three years is actually the ten days in 2014 that I spent at the Udine Far East Film Festival. Of course I had fun, but my son was less than a year old at the time. He started crawling during that week, and I didn’t witness it because I was off watching Asian movies.

Since then I haven’t been back to the fest, though I continue to work for them every year. I personally can’t find a reason to leave my wife and son even for 7-10 days in a single calendar year. Time passes so quickly - he was born in 2013 and is now nearly four years old, and even though the days may be long for him, they pass for me in the blink of an eye. Right now he charges all over the flat, yelling “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” because he wants my attention, and in a few short years he won’t be doing that anymore. He’ll reach that awkward age where his pop is a total buzzkill and he wants to hang out with his buddies somewhere where his mother and I can’t reach him. I get why that has to happen, and I think it’s OK to be a little sad about it.

Also, he’s going to be joined by another little guy soon: His little brother is due any day now, which means that my children now outnumber my website 2 to 1. So the website loses, naturally.

I’m a bit old to be having two kids. I started the site 15 years ago when I was 29, single, and unemployed. I am now none of those things, and the married part is not something I totally expected to happen. I try to think the best of people (until they prove to me that they don’t deserve to be thought of that way), but when it comes to what I think of myself, I trend negative. I remember every negative thing - from critical to mean to cruel - that I’ve heard about myself because I learned at an early age that a person should listen to criticism to improve themselves.

Of course, you shouldn’t believe every lousy thing you hear about yourself but that was a lesson I learned waaaaay too late in life. Eventually, I got to the point where I thought that I probably wouldn’t get married or have kids because, well, those things happen to good people and not people with shitty EQ, poor social skills, and few talents to brag about. But I met someone who sees something good in me, and I now have everything in life that I thought I would never have.

And yet, having a family means new problems and worries. My first son will soon have a younger sibling, and I don’t know how that will affect him. Up until now, he’s been the prince of the family - the first child in his generation and accustomed to being the center of attention. He’s going to have competition now, and I don’t know how he’ll take it. He’s pretty naughty right now and I worry what will happen to him as he grows older.

I could default to the “He’ll grow out of it” cliché, but I have my doubts. If he inherited his father’s EQ (and some evidence points to “yes”), then he may be in for tough times. These issues are nothing compared to what other people in the world face - our problems are first world problems, absolutely. But that doesn’t mean I should ignore him so I can satisfy childish pursuits like watching movies. Anyways, in spending time with him and trying to see the world through his eyes, I experience childish things all the time. It’s just that I now do it for someone else instead of myself.

I don’t expect that much from my son. I just hope that he can take care of himself, and not let others sway him into thinking or doing things that could hurt him. At the same time, I don’t want him to be the kind of person who uses people to get ahead, or makes others suffer for his mistakes. Basically, I want him to be a good person - and not that type that feels the need to tell everyone on social media, “I’m a good person!” That’s not honesty - that’s PR. And the last thing I want my son to need is PR.

Actually, maybe I do expect a lot from him.

If you’ve read my old Life with Kozo articles or any of the few interviews I’ve given over the years, you’ll know that I credit this website with everything that I have in my life. Taking the time to put together this HTML monstrosity gave me enough cred to get writing gigs, and got me some recognition from people who work in or around Hong Kong film. It’s also led to lots of negative crap, e.g., the people who’ve tried to use the site for their own gain. You take the bad with the good, and while I’ve made some very good friends as a result of the site, I’ve also had plenty of negative experiences.

The site also led to my job at YesAsia.com, which got me moved out to Hong Kong. However, I never intended to move here - it was just something that happened to me. In general, I’m just not a person who pursues stuff. Besides the fact that I like stability and tend to avoid change, I always figure there’s someone out there who wants something more than I do, so I should just let them have it. This attitude isn’t a very helpful one - it’s better to have a goal than not to have one, and my lack of purpose with LoveHKFilm is one of its biggest problems.

There are some things I would like for the site. I’d like better technology, better design, and a more comprehensive database but all that takes time and money, and the site doesn’t support that kind of investment. Once upon a time, when the site had lots of traffic and was updated frequently, I got a serious overture for financing. I ended up letting the opportunity pass, which was probably smart for reasons I shouldn’t talk about, but my main reason for saying “no” was simply that the interested parties wanted the site to be something that it wasn’t.

Ultimately, I have no desire to see LoveHKFilm.com change beyond what it is. It can still get me a lot of stuff; I’ve received plenty of opportunities for closer relationships with filmmakers and distributors. I could probably get set visits if I wanted to, and tickets to premieres and other events if I pushed. But I really don’t need those things. For some movie bloggers and critics, that’s really the endgame: Being close to the magic of movies. While being close to the stars and the filmmakers can be intoxicating, I’ve never felt that comfortable with it. In the end, it just isn’t that appealing to me.

What appeals to me is keeping the site going in the way that I want, which means having a review of nearly every new Hong Kong movie on the site, and having those reviews be informative, insightful, and fun. But it’s become harder to do those things. Not only do I lack time to see every new Hong Kong movie and write about it in a timely manner, but “informative, insightful, and fun” can’t be measured. I’d like to think the writing is good, and when I read some of my reviews later, I do enjoy them. Other reviews, however, are shit-tier quality and I cringe when I realize that I wrote such rubbish.

When writing, it’s tough to be objective about if it’s working or not. Sometimes you think it is, but in reality you’re making excuses to finish one piece just so you can move onto the next. So I end up tearing up what I wrote and starting over, or tabling that review while I write another. The time spent per review ends up ballooning - what used to take me an hour has grown to 4-8 hours, depending on the complexity or importance of the film. That I’m not always pleased with the results makes that process more frustrating in hindsight. I want LoveHKFilm.com to be a website that I’m proud of, but when the writing is poor or incomplete, and the database riddled with missing films, the effort feels wasted.

So, it’s good to take a long break now, with a new child coming and the other needing more attention. I can spend more time with them and know that I’m not wasting an absolute second of my life. When I work on LoveHKFilm.com, I do ask myself if the time is being spent on something worthwhile or necessary. Not that any film criticism is necessary - let’s be honest, none of it is - but LoveHKFilm.com’s time has passed. The site’s technology is so awful, and so many parts of the site have been abandoned - the blogs being the largest example. Site formatting is inconsistent, and design and layout sorely needs updating. I could go on and on.

The more I write about this, the more it sounds like I should close the site permanently. It would free me from the work and the doubts. Also, I’m sure it would satisfy some detractors, just as closing permanently would probably make a few people unhappy. I’ve never actually been able to figure out who reads this thing, in large part because I haven’t actively cultivated a community. One has kind of sprung up around it on the forum and the Facebook page, but I can’t always tell who’s there because they like the site and who’s there because they have something to promote. I like to keep a low profile so social media is absolutely not for me.

So yeah, all things considered, I should probably dump the site AND delete my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m an old man now and the world has left me behind.

But I still like writing. Whether or not I’m any good at it, I do enjoy it. The site was initially a means of writing practice for me, so the fact that it’s led to all this 15 years later is a real surprise. I do owe the site a lot so I don’t want to simply abandon it because I’ve changed, or because my priorities have changed. My wife would also feel sad if the site just died, so I’ll probably think of some way to save it.

But I need to take a break because I have too much to take care of now, and no time to think about how to improve things. Maybe I’ll need to consider changing review format, or trying to write shorter, less detailed reviews, or even getting rid of the jokes. Site readers probably expect a certain style in my writing, but maybe I have to change it completely to move forward. The site also has to be compressed and streamlined. Maybe the actor filmographies have to go, or the site needs to be converted to a blog. I dunno, I’ll think about it.

I do intend to keep up on Hong Kong movies. I can’t see as many as I used to, but I’ll still catch what I can. The filmmakers and genres have changed, but Hong Kong Cinema is special to me, and I’d like to see what happens as it grows and evolves. I’ll probably keep writing notes about each and every Hong Kong movie I see. I’ve got notes stashed for more films than I care to count already, so if I feel like writing reviews about anything down the line I’ve already got the raw materials to start. Hopefully within a few months I’ll be tinkering with some writing. I might write some reviews for YesAsia.com, if they need it. We’ll see how it goes.

While I wrote this blog entry, my son ran into the room over fifteen times yelling “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

If you got this far into this blog, thanks for your patience and tolerance - not just for this single post but also for the site itself. In the age of instant news and hot takes, what we did here was increasingly backwards, and we just couldn’t keep up with the more dedicated, media-savvy critics that are popping up everywhere. If personal reasons weren’t the reason for this break, then our inability to keep up with the Joneses should have been. There are now seventy zillion ways to watch movies, and also to read, watch, or listen to criticism about them, so one less voice out there is no big deal. The world continues to turn, the sun continues to rise, and tomorrow is another day. We’ll be fine.

Even if the world recently went to Hell.

Family
The movie theater is behind us

 
 
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