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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

17 Responses to “Life with Kozo Goes On”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Kozo. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about your life, family, and this site. Life goes by very quickly as you are finding out, and reading about how spending time with your family, is a priority for you, is pretty damn cool! This site is one of my very favorites and have been visiting it for around 10 years plus now. Even with limited updates, I am fine with that, as there is such a wealth of information in all of the older reviews, that have led me to some fantastic Hong Kong films over the years. You have done a tremendous job with the site, and whatever you decided to do, know that you have touched many people with it for the positive!

  2. Jean-Baptiste Says:

    I totally agree with Jeff!
    I love reading older reviews, I discovered many smaller movies that way and I am deeply grateful for it.
    Kozo, I don’t think your loyal readers care if you update the site every two or six months as long as it does not die. If it has to be once a year then be it.
    As for the appearance of the website, I am not in IT so I don’t know how much work it represents. One thing for sure, I couldn’t care less about it. What matters in the end are the words, the insights, the content of the reviews.
    I have been an avid reader for a while, although I caught the train in the middle of it’s long journey. I will keep stoping by from time to time to see how it goes.
    Take good care of your children.
    À bientôt sur le site ;-)

  3. Yinique Says:

    Hi Kozo.

    Wow, it feels like the end of era.

    I am glad the site has brought good things to your life. Thank you for all the heart and effort you put into the site over the years. I want to you know that, intentionally or not, you created something that was meaningful to some of us beyond being a review site (though a damn fine one it was all the same). Your humor got us through some tough times: SARS. The loss of Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung. Edison Chen’s entire existence in the entertainment world.

    You mentioned some used the site for their own gains. Frankly, this applies to me as well. Back when the forums were still active (and Twitter wasn’t a thing), I used the LoveHKFilm community as my social outlet. As a shy, socially awkward, and immature person, LoveHKFilm provided a safe and relatively judgement-free environment for me to let my freak flag fly. I am grateful and proud to have been part of the LoveHKFilm community even if my contributions amounted to less than 0.01%.

    Hopefully, you’ll be back someday (if not, that’s fine too. As per your title, life goes on). Until then, happy trails to you dear webmaster.

    p.s. If you do come back, maybe it’s time to get a LoveHKFilm Snapchat account? Apparently that’s all the rage with the kiddies these days.

  4. Veronica Says:

    再見!!

  5. Travis E. Says:

    Needless to say, this site is something you can and should feel proud of. You’ve created something very important to a lot of people. I come here often to read/re-read reviews. Usually after I see a movie for the first time (I’m not always quick at watching the latest stuff), this is the first place I go. After I read a review, I’ll often look at the director and/or actors’ other works and read some of your past reviews. What an amazing resource.

    Blessings to you and to your future endeavors.

  6. Big B Says:

    Just wanted to chime in as well, the work you’ve put in here is tremendous and has meant alot. Been visiting your site since, well i don’t even know,a long time! I used to vote on best movie votes and have always found your insight a good compass when checking up on movies. And it still is a great archive when to look up older movies and read a bit about them. I’m not as exclusively into HK movies these days as I once were, but this site has always meant alot. I hope it will continue in some capacity further down the road, but until then we can look up movies we’ve missed out on still and check out what your thoughts were on them, man I have long to-watch-lists of movies still that are based on writing on this site, so there is still catching up to do!
    Take care of your family, thank you for everything and see you later!

  7. Alfred G. Says:

    Let me say thank you for all the good (and sometimes out of curiosity bad) movies your reviews made me watch and which I wouldn’t have seen without this website. With 1600+ movies in my collection HK and China cinema is present with over 250 movies. And most of these have been checked here before I bought them.

    I would be very sad to see the site go away completely, but as a father of two myself I fully understand that you are missing time and motive for extensive reviews and website work. Maybe it would be an idea for you to write shorter reviews as you mentioned and also you could just publish single reviews when you have them ready instead of doing big updates? This way you could keep the site alive without the need of planning in too much time for it, just a little bit whenever you feel like it.

    Whatever you will do, thank you again for all the work you put into this website and your reviews!

  8. Andrew D Says:

    This is the most adorable thing i’ve read all week, and tbh your mention about FEFF in 2014 is non-surprising as listening back to our recorded conversation at the time, you were always more excited about your life developments than what was happening on the ground around us. I’ve been an avid reader for over 7 years now, that’s pretty crazy, and I’m glad you’re continuing on with whats important to you Ross. I’ll always be a fan of yours and Kevins’ writing, and hope everything works out well for you in the future, and indeed if you take the time now and then to write whenever the fancy takes you then your fan audience will always be appreciative. I love seeing the photos you post up of fatherhood and think it’s an amazing thing to aspire to for myself in the future, it’s great to see friends now experiencing these joys and knowing what i’ve got to look forward to.

  9. Scott Says:

    I just want to say, that even though I found this site only recently, I have been hugely appreciative of your work here. While I’ve always known about some Hong Kong films, I’ve never really delved deeper into them. Finding your site, reading reviews, finding your recommendations lists, the best of the 80s/90s/00s lists, etc, etc has helped me grow a deep love for Hong Kong Cinema.

    Your reviews are also incredibly well written. The mix of love for the films, humor, and insight is really refreshing.

    Thank you so much. It’s because of you, your site, and the others that have helped along the way, that I truly love Hong Kong cinema now.

  10. Vicki Says:

    I’ve been a frequent visitor to your site from the beginning and have always been impressed with the style, depth and fairness of your movie reviews. Your passion for Hong Kong film has been the inspiration for watching movies that I would otherwise have overlooked, and I am grateful that you took the time and effort to point them out to me. Being a working mother, I understand your need to scale back the site in order to spend more time with your family, but I must say that I would miss LoveHKFilm.com if it disappeared entirely. Whatever happens, it’s been a great ride in cyberspace, Kozo, and for that I thank you. Be well and happy.

  11. Tony Says:

    I have been following LoveHKFilm, if not from the beginning, then very close to it. It expanded a whole new world of cinema to me. Of all the movie review sites that I have visited over the years, this is one of the very few that I regularly return it.

    Wish you all the best and when you ever feel the urge to write, please do, as there is an appreciative audience waiting for you.

    One more thing, how about a 2016 22st Love HK Film Awards before your break!

  12. Dominic Says:

    I’ve been visiting this site for the past 10 years and although it makes me sad to see it go on an indefinite hiatus I am still thankful for the countless hours of entertainment and knowledge that you have gifted us. Good luck with the second child and I wish you nothing but happiness and good fortune moving forward! The Raptors will crush the Warriors in the finals.

    All the best,
    Dominic from Canada

  13. Adam Says:

    I’ll never accept your good-bye…it feels too finite, but if this is a “see you later” I would like to say that I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability of this post. I saw a lot of myself in your reflections of your life. I also appreciate your willingness to not only advertise my skinny blog that mostly covers well-worn films that even in America aren’t really all that obscure anymore due to the aforementioned technological mediums that have bathed the globe. You were always more than willing to accept the reviews I submitted without pulling a Thomas Weisser on me. When my last review appeared and I shared my uneasiness with how the Chinese appeared in decidedly everyone’s favorite cult action film — you didn’t run to my defense but instead answered pollsters’ frustrations with me and my review diplomatically. It was an effort that not even I rose to: I got a few angry replies on my blog and ignored them all which is not always my nature. I have zero desire to have children of my own but I admire your assessment of personal life and realizing what’s really important in it. I truly wish you and your family the best. All’s I ask in return is that if you never touch the site again in any way, shape, form or fashion you: Leave it up for interested parties and you never delete your Twitter account so we can somewhat keep-up with the goings-on in your life which I truly wish you and your blossoming family the best in.

  14. Nancy Leung Says:

    Kozo,My siblings and I have been reading your reviews since high school (10+ years ago, when you still made fun of Ekin). There’s been endless times my brother would say ” I wonder what Kozo would say about this movie”. Or I will say “Another Wong Jing movie, poor Kozo has to sit through to review”. I just had twins (first time mom) and the amount of work is indescribable. Like you said, they are babies once, treasure your time with them. And honestly Hong Kong movies are so few the past years and they are not even good. I don’t think I’ve watched a Hong Kong movie past year 2005. They are not like how they were in the 90’s. Anyways, good luck.

  15. FCY Says:

    Selfishly I would like this to go on and on and on. Why not? I loved every review you’ve written since I accidentally discovered this site 7 years ago. It’s been my de facto go to site whenever I catch a HK movie being played in my presence! What am I gonna do now when I have the urgings to read a review whilst the movie being played? Haha..
    Alas… Maybe there’s truth to the saying all good things must come to an end. Take charge in your next phase and thanks for the moments.

    FCY, Singapore

  16. Ben Says:

    Thank you for everything! Enjoy your time with your family and sons!! Looking forward to your return… see you soon.

  17. Gary Says:

    This site opened my eyes to a completely new world of cinema back when I first visited it in 2003. Ever since then, much like your input into this site, my visits have become sparse and far in-between. But somehow, I always find myself coming back. Whether it’s to see what’s new in HK cinema or to peruse a plethora of rich and in-depth reviews on movies I just haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

    One of the things that drew me to this site wasn’t just the excellence of your reviews, but your quirky humor and self-deprecating style of writing. While that hasn’t changed, it’s evolved from echoing a lack of confidence back then to a witty and even sardonic tone today, rooted in the surety of who you have become. Like you point out, this website has had a lot to do with your evolution over the years.

    You should be enormously proud of what it is that you’ve accomplished here. I, as well as many others, will be eternally grateful for the work you did over the years. You opened up a new horizon for me with the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of enjoyment that I have received from HK films (and consequently even pan-Asian films) over the years. If it weren’t for this website, the tiny spark of interest in a wider cinematographic world would have in all likelihood been inundated and overwhelmed by your typical Hollywood tripe. My sincerest Thank You for that!

    I want to conclude by wishing you and your burgeoning family nothing but the best! I’ll still be visiting this website on a haphazard basis, waiting (selfishly) for your return. Until then, Cheers!

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