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Archive for the ‘Random Crap’ Category

Broken Promises and Broken Bats

Hey, a blog entry! This doesn’t happen very often, so I intend to enjoy it, which means more pointless self-deprecation and references to the site being irrelevant. No offense, but pretty much all movie websites are irrelevant because they’re about movies. Sorry to burst that bubble.


“He’s talking about this crap again?
I’m a second away from a facepalm.”

We’re nearing the end of LoveHKFilm.com’s 10th year online, a milestone that has come with many broken promises and few actual events. The good stuff first: we completed both our Top 100 Hong Kong Movies of the Eighties reader vote and also the 2012 LoveHKFilm Awards. Good on us for actually doing what we said we would.


A random person claps for this website’s accomplishments.

(more…)

Yotsuba meets Batman, plus more Random Crap

Damn You, Kozo briefly returns from the dead. In celebration, Yotsuba says “Hi.”

Yotusba waves
“You’re still reading this blog? Poor saps.”

It’s a new month, but I doubt I’ll be able to spend much time on Damn You, Kozo. That’s because the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival is occurring in just one week’s time, and before then I still have to write a review for PAINTED SKIN and maybe BUTTERFLY LOVERS. We’ll see how it goes. If I can I’ll squeeze in one or two entries between screenings.

(more…)

Kozo’s Mailbag: What I really thought of The Dark Knight

Like The Dark Knight, this edition of Kozo’s Mailbag is a sequel.

A reader named David sent me the following:

You should review The Dark Knight

Here are the reasons why:
1) I want to hear your opinion
2) Edison Chen is in it
3) Some of the action is set in Hong Kong
4) The low amount of Hong Kong movies

David is right about points #2-4, though I question why he cares about point #1. Still, his question was echoed by comments at the LoveHKFilm Facebook group, the LoveHKFilm Community, and on Damn You, Kozo itself. My original response was some jokey review of the 10 minutes that took place in Hong Kong, but that likely was not the answer that people were asking for.

So, here’s the rest of the story. Excuse my long-windedness, but this is what happens when you ask me my opinion of a movie, Hong Kong or otherwise. To make matters worse, I refuse to be that thoughtful and insist on posting my comments without editing for coherence, clarity, or spoilers. You reap what you sow.

Batman in Hong Kong
Batman invades Hong Kong right in time for the Olympics

My short answer: The Dark Knight is a great movie, and worthy of most of the praise it’s getting. I believe its success lies more in content than in form, but the form is still pretty damn good and either way you slice it, this is a triumph for the comic book film genre. Comic books have not been your granddad’s funny books for up to forty years, and it’s great that film adaptations of comic book heroes are finally maturing. This is an exceptional case because The Dark Knight isn’t Sin City or 300, i.e. it’s not based on a completely dark media property. Batman has seen interpretations that range all over the spectrum, and some of them were more than a little cartoony. This is easily the character’s darkest depiction outside the four-color printed form, and as an audience member, I’m grateful for it.

Joker
A round of applause for everyone

Now for the long answer.

The Dark Knight is the best live-action Batman film, if not the best comic book film ever made. Christopher Nolan and company actually delve into the character beyond just his origin, and don’t reduce him to a masked foil facing an over-the-top cartoonish villain. The Dark Knight explores what it takes to be Batman; the billions of dollars and kickass technology help, but it’s Bruce Wayne’s sacrifice and will that make it possible to put up with all the crap that Batman has to. The filmmakers doesn’t trivialize the character, and actually attempt logic and reason in their exploration of the Batman character and his world. Batman is put in tough moral positions in the film, and his methods and choices aren’t always as successful as they are telling and appropriate. He discovers the consequences of putting on a mask to fight crime, and chooses to push forward because that’s what his crusade requires. The film is as faithful a live-action representation of Batman as we’re ever likely to see. For a lifelong Batman fan, The Dark Knight is a gratifying motion picture.

For everyone else? Maybe not. I’m actually a little surprised at how much positive press The Dark Knight has been getting, because this is not a film for families or audiences looking for anything remotely warm-and-fuzzy. I maintain that good times are still the primary attraction for the mass audience, and as such, it’s strange that this dark, violent, and pessimistic film would be getting so highly rated over, say, Wall-E, which manages to have its cake and eat it too. Wall-E is a thoughtful, intelligent, and also funny, heart-warming, and happy little movie. Frankly, I liked Wall-E more than The Dark Knight - but maybe that’s because deep down, I’m a sap.

Also, Wall-E’s depiction of a junk-filled Earth reminds me of my apartment.

Wall-E!
This movie is pretty good, too

The Zeitgeist should get some of the credit for The Dark Knight’s popularity. Aside from the Heath Ledger factor, much has been written about The Dark Knight’s brilliance in encapsulating the War on Terror and the fallout from 9/11 into its complex, borderline confusing narrative. An article in the Wall Street Journal even interprets Chris Nolan’s Batman as a metaphor for George W. Bush. I would puke if I weren’t laughing so hard. Dark Knight does possess many themes and ideas that make intriguing metaphor for the War on Terror, and willing cinema readers and columnists should have a field day looking for a hidden agenda. There’s even a column out there talking about the significance of dogs in the film. I predict that many film theory teachers will soon receive a deluge of Dark Knight papers.

I think some of the discussion is overblown; sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The film’s themes completely make sense for Batman, and have appeared in one form or another in the comics. Christopher Nolan and the writers (Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer) swipe from nearly 70 years of comics history, and while current events undeniably influenced Nolan’s cinema interpretation, reducing the film to a simple “Batman is George W. Bush” message ignores the character’s published legacy. George W. Bush is not as self-punishing a hero as Batman, and Batman’s problems aren’t as complex as George W. Bush’s. Also Batman takes fewer vacations.

Batman wants you|
Fight the War on Terror and wear a kickass mask

However, Dark Knight has rightly been called out by parents groups warning of its inappropriateness for younger teens and kids. This film has disturbing images and themes, and possesses an intensity that goes beyond the stereotypical comic book film. The film is more than a little frightening, and I do feel for the disturbed tykes. However, as a film and comic book fan, The Dark Knight is a fantastic step forward for the super hero film genre. Comic books are our modern day myths, and deserve greater respect than as fodder for box office receipts, ancillary merchandising sales, and thinly-supported op-ed pieces. The Dark Knight succeeds in large part because its director wanted to make a Batman film on both his AND the character’s terms. The property is twisted slightly to fit Nolan’s realistic take on Gotham City, but the spirit and themes are faithful to the character and his source material.

If you’re a parent, though, I suggest you see the film first before piling your kids into the minivan for a family viewing.

Waaah!
He wants to watch The Dark Knight too.

Ultimately, I don’t think the film has a truly exceptional point of view, meaning it’s not really trying to give us a singular, overriding message. It gives time to various stories, themes and ideas - some could argue too many to efficiently process - but this, I think, is ultimately a strength of the film. The Joker, Batman, Harvey Dent, Commissioner Gordon, even Alfred - all of these characters offer different points of view in The Dark Knight’s exploration of justice, heroism and morality, and something worthwhile can be gleamed from each and every one of them. This is a great movie in large part because it possesses so much to think and talk about, even though it may not be saying anything that definitive. Postmodern superhero comics have arguably found their greatest impact when dissecting the role of the hero in our cynical times. Graphic novels like Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns are so fascinating because they take the superhero archetype and apply it to politics and the current cultural climate, and address the difficulties that come with seeking justice in a complex, compromised society.

Typically, revisionist Batman comics end up with a scene like this:

Batman versus Superman
Batman has little patience for a tool of the Man

Not that The Dark Knight is perfect, because few films are. At two hours and thirty-two minutes, the film is a long haul, and could tax more than a few audience members with its enduring grimness. Christopher Nolan still needs some help in the action department; much of the action is difficult to follow, and is punctuated in a way that sometimes deflates the action (the flipped semi-truck is one large exception). Still, this falls into Nolan’s realistic take on the character, and Dark Knight one-ups Batman Begins by giving most of the action an emotional reason for occurring. Characters are put in peril, revenge is sought, and the stakes are considerably more felt. The film successfully creates the impression that anything - good or bad - can happen to its characters, and gives their choices and situations emotional weight beyond the expected good vs. evil stakes.

The actors are uniformly very good. I’d just be echoing every other person in the universe if I praised Heath Ledger’s frightening take on the Joker more, and Christian Bale is perhaps too good as Batman, in that much of the time, his character is also acting, if not as Batman (complete with that overdone, growly voice), then as his superficial playboy alter ego Bruce Wayne. The supporting roles are frequently well-written and the actors not wasted. The story is also very complete, though not without numerous plot holes that could easily be challeneged. Then again, plot holes are something that are unavoidable in a film of this size and scale, and The Dark Knight never resorts to convenience to move the plot along. The film isn’t boring either, and Nolan makes judicious and very effective use of cross-cutting, raising the stakes and upping the tension of his film smartly. There’s a lot to follow in Dark Knight, and while it’s not always easy, the tension and emotion are very well conveyed.

For a commercial film, The Dark Knight has guts, and the perfect storm of media coverage and marketing have apparently prepared people for it. It’s a smart, dramatic, and compelling piece of blockbuster entertainment, and sells pessimism and tragedy because that’s what the story and situations require. At the same time, it delivers some great action film moments (I found the debut of the Batpod to be exceptionally cool). Audiences have responded incredibly well, though I do question the overwhelming public acceptance (I’m waiting for the film to fall out of the #1 slot on IMDB’s Top 250). If the film does receive some of that discussed Oscar consideration, it would be healthy. Popular entertainment should not be excluded from serious awards consideration simply because it’s for the masses. It may not win Best Picture, but I’d be okay with seeing it in the Top 5.

Batman on car
Best Picture Oscar, here we come!

Then again, I’m a massive Batman fan, so my opinion on this movie could be totally, completely out-of-bounds. Hell, I’ve seen it three times and will be checking it out on IMAX in two weeks. You’re welcome to completely disregard my comments on this film. I’ve been a fan of the character for way over 20 years, so if someone wants to tell me that I’m clouded by obvious bias, then they’re welcome to. That’s what blog comments are for.

As proof of my fandom, I own this:

Batman Takara
Complete with alternate Christian Bale head

And this:

Batman and Monkey
Monkeys love Batman

I also preordered this:

Batman and Batpod from Bandai
I have no idea where I’ll put this

Yotsuba and the Thing approve:

Yotsuba and the Thing
Soon, they’ll have more friends to play with


About the other Dark Knight issue

Four Heroes
Edison Chen: pwned

The above graphic came from a bulletin board here in Hong Kong, and is easily the best thing about Edison Chen’s involvement in The Dark Knight. Honestly, it’s bizarre that Edison Chen took this part because it’s a total nothing role, and one wonders what he hoped to accomplish with this minor appearance. The part is so inconsequential that it’s beneath mention, and the only reason that anyone would bring it up is to wonder why Edison even bothered to appear in the film. Surely it couldn’t have been because he matched the skills of the rest of the cast.

Christian and Morgan
“Edison Chen is in this movie, too?
We’d better bring our ‘A’ game!”

I’m operating from memory here, but I seem to recall that when Edison’s appearance was first bandied about way before Sexy Photos Gate, he was reported as saying that he wasn’t going to take the role because it was so small, but changed his mind because the director asked for him personally. Really? Did Christopher Nolan really say, “Edison Chen, please play Security Guard #1?” Honestly, I find that very, very, very hard to believe.

Edison and Amanda
This photo convinced Christopher Nolan
to cast Edison Chen in The Dark Knight

It’s easier to believe that Edison took the role because he’s a Batman geek like untold millions of guys are, but if that’s the case he should have simply owned up to it. He would have earned much more cred with people had that been true. As it is, he was recently dissed on the radio by Sandra Ng and Lee Lik-Chee, who asked the question, “Why did Edison choose to appear in the film?” Basically, the part makes Edison look like a bit player, and not the A-list Hong Kong star he’s been reported as.

Besides, he was out of focus. True, maybe he was going to be in focus before Sexy Photos Gate, but how much could the role of “Security Guard #1″ have been expanded? Maybe he also directed Lucius Fox to the bathroom, or opened a door for him. Someone recently suggested to me that maybe they cut a fight scene between Edison and Batman. While it would have been great to see Batman whale the tar out of Edison, I seriously doubt it’s on the cutting room floor. If deleted scenes reveal something different, I will gladly apologize and shut down LoveHKFilm.com as penance.

Wrapping Up

To finish this Batman-themed megapost, here’s a random memory:

Worst movie ever
Damn You, Kozo! You could have prevented this.

Back in 1994, I was working as an intern on the Warner Bros. lot and I delivered a package to the office of some director who had recently arrived on the lot. That director: Joel Schumacher. His new project: Batman Forever. I handed the package to his assistant, but I recall seeing Mr. Schumacher sitting in his office, feet propped up on his desk, and talking on the phone. At the time, I thought, “Wow, this guy is going to make the new Batman movie!” I was actually quite excited at the thought.

Had I knew then what I know now, I could have sprinted past his assistant and given him a severe Korean gangster film-inspired beating, thereby preventing him from ever destroying the franchise. Hindsight is a bitch.

Had I done the smart thing in 1994 and kneecapped Joel Schumacher, it would have landed me in jail. I would have been branded a criminal - a guy who attacks big-time Hollywood directors without provocation. But, if I had succeeded I would have spared the still-fledgling Internet generation from the horror of two Schumacher-directed Batman films. More importantly, the Batsuit-with-nipples and its omnipresent Internet meme might never have existed.

I could have been an unknown, unappreciated, and unheralded hero. Hey, just like Batman in The Dark Knight!

Kozo at his desk
Sadly, I’m just a guy with a bunch of stuffed monkeys on his desk.

That’s it for Batman, who is hereby being served with a LoveHKFilm Embargo™, meaning we’ll be banning him from this website for a good long while. Batman is not Asian film-related, so he shouldn’t be wasting our time. This is the last time I’ll talk about Batman on this blog.

Unless I buy more toys. Or it’s related to Edison Chen.

Edison is Batman
He lived to become the villain

Review of The Dark Knight: Hong Kong Segment (2008)

In an amazing cosmic coincidence, three people asked me this question, one on the LoveHKFilm forums, one on the LoveHKFilm Facebook group, and one via e-mail. The idea was also mentioned in a previous blog comment, so what the hell - I’ll bite. Also, it now qualifies as an installment of Kozo’s Mailbag.

The question: What did I think of The Dark Knight?

There happen to be Hong Kong elements in Christopher Nolan’s insane blockbuster, so this blog entry actually qualifies as Asian film-related. In an effort to stay even more on topic, I’ll just review the Hong Kong portion of the film.

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

The Dark Knight
A scene cut from The Dark Knight: Hong Kong Segment.

The Skinny
Batman kicks ass in Hong Kong, and not much else. Christian Bale makes a fine Caped Crusader, but I wish the movie was longer than 10 minutes. Featuring a blurry Edison Chen.

The Review
The Dark Knight opens with businessman Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman a.k.a. God) landing on top of the Peninsula, after which he checks into security at IFC Two and unwittingly hands his mobile phone to - holy crap, it’s Edison Chen! Hopefully, Lucius deleted any incriminating photos off his phone, because Good Ol’ Ed has the worst luck handling digital technology.

Apparently, Ed has been hiding in IFC Two following Sexy Photos Gate, where he stays under the radar by pretending to be a security guard. He does such a good job of staying unnoticed that cinematographer Wally Pfister doesn’t even put him in focus. Ed: you’re a master of disguise.

Anyway, Batman (the ever-personable Christian Bale) shows up and takes a header off of IFC One to glide into IFC Two. I originally thought the Caped Crusader was taking a Hong Kong trip to extradite Edison, who’s wanted in at least twelve territories for ruining the Hong Kong Entertainment industry, but Batman drops the ball and instead apprehends some guy named Lau (Chin Han), who’s hanging out in IFC Two like all white-collar criminals in Hong Kong do.

Batman’s exact reasons for grabbing Lau are unknown, but Hong Kong looks mighty fine on the big screen, thanks to the huge electric bill they rang up by keeping all the lights on at night. Batman takes out a bunch of useless Asian gangsters and makes off with Lau, though the actual action is a little too murky to get excited about. Unfortunately, neither Danny Lee nor Michael Wong makes a cameo as a Hong Kong Cop Who Breaks All The RulesTM. Instead, the producers just hired some guy to play the main HK cop. At least he’s in focus.

My main gripe with The Dark Knight is that Batman did not complete his Hong Kong trip by dangling Edison Chen from the Bank of China building. Frankly, if anyone in Hong Kong needs to be brought to justice, it’s the people behind Gen-Y Cops. Hopefully in the third film, Batman hangs out in Hong Kong for an extended run to beat up Benny Chan, Stephen Fung, and the rest of the guys at Media Asia - especially the person who wrote the immortal line, “See you at the Jumbo.”

Some suggestions: Maggie Q shows up as Catwoman and Sam Lee replaces Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow. The film should also feature a 10 minute IMAX sequence in Los Angeles, where Batman will zip in on the Bat Jet Ski and kidnap Paul Rudd from The Coffee Bean in Santa Monica. Nic Tse must play Robin, and should be given a chance to fight Edison Chen on top of IFC One. I say no safety cables or stunt doubles. Winner takes all, i.e., the complete set of photos and Cecilia Cheung. If they recast the Joker, it can be Juno Mak, who should get some personal time with Edison to settle some scores. The gross will be less than The Dark Knight, but should pass CJ7’s HK gross handily. I’d see it. (Kozo 2008)

Mortal enemies
“Dude, we’re in the sequel!”

Notes
- In retrospect, maybe this wasn’t so funny. Frankly, not much on this site is. As evidence, you can randomly select any page.

- Perhaps I’ll return in a day or two to write about what I think of the rest of the film. I will hopefully have seen the film in IMAX - and if it happens it’ll be the third time I’ve gone. I’ll even talk more about Edison.

A concert, a wedding, and more Random Crap

I should not call what I’m doing blogging, because I don’t actually blog. I just post every month or so.

I would apologize for this long absence from Damn You, Kozo!, but that would assume that people actually read this thing. In many ways, LoveHKFilm.com is what it is because I assume nobody ever reads it. Our lack of attentiveness to our visitors is also why we’re totally behind, and why many other sites have leapfrogged us in traffic, popularity, and online self-congratulation. It’s also why I named this blog Damn You, Kozo!, because aside from completely usurping another person’s real name and identity, Kozo simply can’t keep up with the Joneses.

Bruce Lee said it best:

“I told you not to leave the lights on in the kitchen!”
“DAMN YOU, KOZO!”

Ah, that feels better.

Anyway, in recent Hong Kong news, this person is getting married:

Kelly in white
NOTE: Not an actual wedding photo

Everybody loves Kelly Chen - provided that you talk to the correct six out of ten people. Chances are that the four out of ten people who actually liked An Empress and the Warriors can be found in those six, and why not? The film features Kelly in heavy armor, plus the wonderful sight of Leon Lai spitting on Kelly’s bare back:

I heal you
The magic of the movies!

This picture cracks me up:

Kelly looks unhappy
You could interpret this photo at least three different ways

About Empress, someone should really talk about the genius casting one day. Thanks to the triumvirate of Donnie Yen, Kelly Chen, and Leon Lai, every audience member is guaranteed to dislike at least one person in the starring cast. Could it have killed them to cast a single actor who doesn’t have active detractors?

Viva, Sina.com!
If you hate Hui Siu-Hung, you will go to hell

Empress and the Warriors also marks the first Mei Ah Blu-ray Disc. Ownership of a PlayStation 3 has put me on the Blu-ray bandwagon, and despite not being entirely enthused about Empress, I will be buying it. Other titles on my Blu-ray to buy list include the Infernal Affairs Trilogy, Chungking Express, and nearly anything with Tsui Hark’s name on it - short of Black Mask 2 and Missing, that is. I’d still pick up The Legend of Zu.

“I’m sorry for Black Mask 2!”
“Wow, I’m really sorry about Missing!”

He better be.

I doubt that the victory of Blu-ray over HD DVD will inspire a flood of Hong Kong catalog titles onto Blu-ray Disc. Such a flood did occur during the late nineties when DVD first hit the market, but even now, Hong Kong home video is beset by a terrible, terrible scourge that has destroyed home entertainment:

VCD
This logo is evil

Illegal downloading is the evil stepchild of the above, and is responsible for far more lost revenue, but I sincerely believe that crappy VCD quality - and its willing acceptance by Hong Kong consumers - is indicative of how the populace as a whole thinks of entertainment. Basically, everyone here is okay with watching movies with poor resolution, bad color, and zero features. Given that, is it a surprise that everyone’s okay with watching the latest and greatest in Asian Entertainment on You Tube?

We all download
Everyone in this photo illegally downloads

Back to Kelly’s concert:

Kelly the warrior
Probably one of Kelly’s more conservative outfits

Kelly announced her upcoming marriage at the final show in her recent Hung Hom Coliseum concert series - a nice touch, since hers was the final appearance from a big star before the venue undergoes at least a year of renovation. I actually attended an earlier show (a.k.a. not the one where she said she was getting married), and here was my vantage point:

My Vantage Point

Kelly has always been a decent, if not spectacular singer - and really, she’s much better at singing than acting. The main draw here was her eye-popping assortment of wacky costumes and themes, which ranged from the cute bear-headed thing:

Kelly Bear
Love the boots

To the mermaid thing:

Kelly the mermaid
Hopefully Disney won’t sue

To the midriff-baring thing:

Kelly and her navel
I think this was my favorite

To the white futuristic outfit with mega-huge goggles thing:

X marks the spot
In the future we’ll all dress like this

Here’s one with Leon Lai as an accessory:

Kelly and Leon
Too bad Donnie wasn’t there

Special mention must go to Kelly for her various yoga poses and exceptional good humor, which was evident because she didn’t act bothered by the people leaving their seats during her concert. For some reason, it seemed like every number was a new excuse for a bathroom break for the audience. Some people even got up to leave early. I felt like I was at a Laker game.

Anger Management
“Is this concert EVER going to get any better?”

In general, the concert was a fine diversion, but it was also curiously low-energy. Having attended a few other concerts in my time in Hong Kong, I must rate Kelly’s as the most non-crucial of the bunch - at least, from an audience standpoint.

About her marriage, it managed to occupy all the newspapers for a good 2-3 days here in Hong Kong - a nice change, since the news was entirely positive, and had nothing to do with scandal, judgmental mud-slinging, or accidental exposure. Sadly, it’s the exception to the norm over here.

Anyway, seeing Kelly allows me to check off yet another on my “Stars I Want To See Live, But Not Necessarily Meet” List. Now that Kelly is out of the way, my number one is sadly Leon because I’d like to see him, but yeah, meeting him is not a priority at all. If a meeting ever occurred, this could be my reaction:

So Sleepy
An actual photo from the Kelly Chen concert

If someone asked which celebrity is the one I would most like to meet, that’s obvious: Ekin Cheng is still the number one. I hope it occurs one day, simply so we can take a picture and I can send a general “nyah-nyah” in the direction of those who think I don’t like Ekin Cheng.

Ekin and Charlene Choi on the set of Storm Warriors:

Storm Warriors
I think they’re made of wax

By the way, I still have not written about my Aaron Kwok concert experience. It may never happen now. I’m sure he’s all broken up.

Here’s a pic of him anyway:

Aaron Rides Again
“Tetsuooooo!!!!!”

Aaaand one last photo of Kelly:

Kelly cries
She has something in her eye

Photo credits: As usual, thanks to Apple Daily - with an assist from Ming Pao, Sina.com, plus the World Wide Web.

Kozo & Yotsuba in Italy: Part 1

I figured I had to get this thing started sooner or later. I’ve neglected to write about so many things that this blog will soon turn into some sort of 20/20 hindsight memoir. I still haven’t blogged about the Aaron Kwok concert experience - and that was like 4 months ago.

Aaron again
“What, you still haven’t blogged about me?
But I’m just so bloggable!”

You sure are.

Anyway, since I’m now 10 reviews into the 24 movie backlog I’ve amassed - with absolutely no guarantee that I will actually be able to review all 24 films - I figured I should get started with the blogging too. It’s not like I have to get my whole trip out in just one post. Worst case scenario is I only get one part done and I forget the rest. It wouldn’t be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done online. The dumbest thing? Probably admit that I enjoy Seven Swords.

Tsui Hark lives
“Thanks! You may be the only person in
Hong Kong who still thinks I can direct!”

Anyway, on to the trip.

I think Hong Kong people primarily take pictures of two things: toys and food. Not to be outdone, I did exactly the same during my trip to Italy. I also took pictures of people and buildings, but I consider that a moot point because we all take pictures of people and buildings. I just didn’t take any photos of myself.

Regardless, this is a rare photo without food or Yotsuba in it.

First night in Udine
In Italy, the cars are small

Not too long ago, I managed to journey to Italy for the Udine Far East Film Festival. This photo-essay is pretty much all I brought back, besides a copy of the 10th Anniversary Book and the Festival Catalogue, which features more information about Asian films than I could ever pretend that I know. And I can pretend that I know a lot.

Before I left for Italy, Yotsuba sat on my office desk with a couple of her friends:

Yotsuba in Office
Having a plush CJ7 may somehow be more
satisfying than owning the DVD

After we got to Italy, this is what she looked like:

Yotsuba in Venice 2
“This canal behind me smells great!”

Yotsuba is a fine toy to bring on trips. Not only is she small and poseable, but she’s got an interchangeable head so you can pretend that she’s experiencing mood swings. It’s like bringing another person along, except this one doesn’t speak or hit you up for money.

Oh, yeah, I went to a film festival. From the outside it looked like this:

Far East Film
Nobody in this photo enjoyed Empress and the Warriors

The fest is located in Udine, a small city about a two-hour train ride from Venice. My photos of Udine are like the one four photos up: empty and quiet. Udine is a peaceful place, and much nicer to walk around in than, say Venice. Just compare these photos:

Udine
Udine

Venice
Venice

Big difference, eh? I’m not a crowd person, so yes, I much prefer Udine to Venice. So does Yotsuba. When faced with crowds, she gets murderously angry. This is Yotsuba with her unhappy face:

I will shoot someone
Someone must pay

I went to Venice on the film festival’s Horror Day, so I ended up skipping a whole day of blood and screaming and exchanged them for wall-to-wall tourists and overpriced gelato. One could argue it was exactly the same experience, only with more walking.

Anyway, since I was on vacation, I had gelato at 12:16 pm.

Gelato at noon
My crappy Swatch is proof of my poor eating habits

I had some nice food in Italy, too - like this insanely huge calzone that ended up counting as 2.5 meals.

Mmmm, calzone
I ate this in three bites

Of course when you’re on vacation you have to eat well. I was lucky and got to attend many nice dinners with insane spreads that tripled my calorie count. Like this one:

Wow…that’s a lot of food
The reason for my current two-month period of fasting

If I were to rate my trip on the food experience alone, I’d probably give it an A-minus. I won’t give it a solid A because I never give anything a solid A. The film reviews I write are proof of that.

No trip to Italy would be complete without a shot of a gondola in a canal:

Required photo of Venice canal
Rush hour!

A picture of a dog chained to a wall is required, too:

Dog in Italy
The black terror of Venice

In the interests of equal time, here’s a cat:

Cat!
He’s relaxed because the dog is chained up

I also took a picture of one of these:

Vespa!
Vespa!

Plus another one of food:

Green Risotto
To clarify possible confusion, I should note
that this picture was taken BEFORE eating.

By the way, the above picture is of wild herb risotto, and it was excellent - though a quick glance may make someone think ”partial digestion”. I shan’t elaborate. 

That pretty much wraps up Part One of my Italy trip. Part two will probably talk more about movies and my general impression of the Udine Far East Film Fest. Here’s a spoiler: I enjoyed myself. Unfortunately, none of the enjoyment mentioned in this post has anything to do with Asian film, meaning I’ve broken the #1 rule of LoveHKFilm.com Blogs: stay on topic. The #2 rule is try to blog at least once a week. Looks like I’ve broken that rule, too.

Let’s leave with this photo:

Lam Suet and some other guy
Me and some guy I met at the airport

I hear he had a good time in Italy too.

Bye-Bye, HKIFF. Hello, Far East Film.

Again, it’s been a while. Chow Pak-Ho wears the message that I wish to share:

Sorry I’m Late
I know one person who owns this shirt,
and about seventy-five people who should wear it.

Welcome to your regularly scheduled bi-weekly Damn You, Kozo! blog post. As usual, I’d like to thank Apple Daily for supplying all our photos. Frankly, they’re the greatest newspaper in the history of time EVER.

Kelly Chen’s facial expression shows her appreciation of my sarcasm:

Kelly in armor again
“Do you have to be such a prick?”

On to the actual subject here: Man, I’m beat.

The Hong Kong International Film Festival has finally ended the majority of its program, and I have zero screenings left to attend. I saw some good films and some bad films at the fest. Most will be showing up on LoveHKFilm.com as reviews, but there will likely be a few that I don’t touch. One film in particular I don’t wish to review because I was so unimpressed with it that even writing about it makes me sad. Also, despite the general perception that I’m picky and mean, I find negative opinion tiring and sometimes more damaging than saying nothing at all. So…at least one film won’t get reviewed.

Shawn Yue is down with that:

Shawn Yue
“Man, that’s awesome! I’ve so got the munchies.”

I also won’t be reviewing another film, Coffee or Tea, until its official theatrical release because the fest screening had a temp music track that I found egregiously overblown. As a result of its completely overwrought music score, my perception of the entire film was probably affected. I would prefer to wait a few months until its finalized before I pass judgment on whether or not I liked it.

Also, I got ill during the fest and missed three films, including a couple I was really looking forward to. Those films were the award-winning Home Song Stories, and quite sadly, the Lawrence Lau duo City Without Baseball and Besieged City. I’ll have to check them out later, but my attempt to be timely has failed miserably.

I did drag myself out of bed those days to check out a few films that I really wanted to see, including Sylvia Chang’s Run Papa Run, but thanks to my lack of complete recovery, I ended up with a five-to-seven day period of sluggishness and discomfort I fondly refer to as “Hell in March”. As a result of the sick days my work fell way behind, my LoveHKFilm.com review writing fell way behind, and this blog - which occupies a lower rung on the importance ladder than everything else in my life - fell totally behind.

So yeah, I’m tired. This is what I look like now:

Cute Baby
Permanent ink is a real killjoy

Film Festivals are tiring - and potentially dangerous to my health - but I have to say that I really enjoy them. Prior to coming to Hong Kong, I was never really partial to film fests, but after attending a few here, I’ve changed my mind. I now like film festivals so much, that I simply can’t go a whole month without a new one.

As a result, I’ll be off to another film festival at the end of the week, the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, where I’ll get to see one of Johnnie To’s new PTU television movies, plus The Sparrow, and a bunch of other Asian films that I look forward to checking out. I’m not sure why I’ve decided to go film-fest-o-rama with my life, but hey, that’s where the wind is taking me right now: to Italy, and far away from Hong Kong’s increasingly muggy weather.

As far as LoveHKFilm.com is concerned, all this rampant movie-watching means that I should probably institute a 600-words-or-less limit when writing future reviews because my potential review backlog will likely number twenty or more films. The other option is to turn off that portion of my brain, not review anything, and just act like your average paying audience member. It could make me happier. Like this man:

Andy Lau laughs
Andy Lau is thinking of the poor people
who paid to see All About Love.

Also, during my time in Italy, I will be completely unwired. I don’t have a working wi-fi laptop, and I don’t intend to queue for public workstations so it’s entirely possible that I won’t be checking out this site, this blog, or the entire damn Internet for close to a week. Once I return from Italy, I’ll have a whole slew of Hong Kong movies to catch up on reviewing, including the sequel to Barbara Wong’s Truth or Dare, plus the new Wong Jing spectacular My Wife is a Gambling Maestro. There’s also that Jet Li/Jackie Chan debacle movie, The Forbidden Kingdom, to check out.

Considering the above, this may be the only time I update Damn You, Kozo! in April. I would say that’s sad, but anyway, most of the stuff that appears on blogs is extraneous and unnecessary, so we can think of this month as simply “cutting the fat” from this website and the World Wide Web at large. I’m happy to do my part to slim down the Internet. We should get an award for Bandwidth Conservation.

These guys are also enthused:

Ekin and Leon
“We support your decision to conserve bandwidth!
Please stop this website and blog immediately!”

No problem. I’ll get right on it.

Buried Alive

It’s been a while.

Running LoveHKFilm.com and its associated businesses, subsidiaries, and licensed properties can sometimes be quite a chore. Even when I ignore its main product - film reviews - I’m usually dealing with a related commitment, be it a favor or freelance job acquired through the site, emails in relation to the site, or personal meetings having something to do with the site. Since I now live and work in Hong Kong because of the site, I can now count almost everything I do every day as something having to do with the site. When you put it in those terms, the whole thing can feel slightly alarming.

Back to the main point: I owe LoveHKFilm.com some new reviews soon, which is no big deal because that’s the way the site works. Without new reviews, LoveHKFilm.com would become a shadow of its former self, a 35 year-old statue guarding the lane while speedy guards blow past me for an easy layup. That’s right, just like Shaquille O’Neal.

I’m big and slow
“I am the greatest! Well…I was about six years ago.”

However, since the inception of Damn You, Kozo! I have gained a new responsibility: I now owe this blog some posts, which is more difficult to handle than I first thought. There are two reasons for this. 1) I have lots of ideas, but lack the time and energy for proper execution, and 2) I have yet to master the art of the short blog post. If I could somehow satisfy myself with a 200-word blog post I’m sure I could become ultra-prolific.

I also seem to enjoy putting lots of pictures on my posts. If I simply broke that habit I’m sure I could double or triple my output.

Then again, how can I resist posting photos like these:

Daniel loves Edison
“Edison is so dreamy…except his skin is dull
and fatigued. He should use L’OREAL Hydra
Energetic moisturizing gel cream to hydrate
and reduce his skin’s natural pastiness.
Because he’s worth it.”

Speaking of Daniel Wu’s pitchman abilities, they’ve apparently claimed another victim. Just a week or so ago, I celebrated my latest birthday, and someone - after getting a load of this blog post - saw fit to present me with my own can of L’OREAL Hydra Energetic moisturizing gel cream, so I too can tighten, hydrate, and, uh, anti-dull my skin.

My skin is saved
The first step towards meterosexuality

I think the above qualifies as a Sign of the Apocalypse.

My birthday is only the most recent thing that’s eaten up time. There was also an ill-timed bout of sickness, and your usual things such as work, weather, and Sexy Photos Gate, which has been covered respectably by our sister blog, The House Where Words Gather. I commend Sanney’s ability to dissect the issue intelligently and without active bias. I have the ability to do neither, because when I see the Sexy Photos Gate-related photos that Apple Daily has seen fit to unearth, I can’t help but make jokes about them.

By the way, did you know that Edison recently survived an assassination attempt?


The assassin (right) almost got the drop on Edison Chen (center),
but the grey-suited bodyguard (left) intervened quickly,
using his Index Finger of Death (TM) to strike the assassin
in the throat, instantly rendering him mute, unconscious,
and unable to participate in any future karaoke activity.

Apple Daily is a treasure trove of fab celebrity photos. They’ve outdone themselves with their coverage of Sexy Photos Gate, but there are plenty of non-Edison pictures available in their fine daily postings, too. Frankly, I have so many fun photos saved up by now that I have no idea when or how to use them.

Here are a few examples:

She’s so very pink
Zhang Ziyi’s pink dress also doubles as a personal space protector

They’re really brothers
Upon meeting, the two Wongs
discovered that their individual
filmographies share many similarities.

This looks bad
Media Asia boss Peter Lam, Johnnie To, Shu Qi, and Miriam Yeung.
There’s a real story behind this photo but it’s more fun
to look at it and make up your own. It can be a contest.

Apple Daily rules.

Anyway, time for some navel gazing.

Everybody loves navels
Lee Hyo-Lee.
Or is it Lee Hyolee or Lee Hyori?
Inconsistent romanization only
makes Google Image Search more difficult.

Fourteen months ago, I started LoveHKFilm.com’s current update schedule, which is known as “Whenever I feel like it.” Originally, that was done to prevent the grind of the two-week update, but it actually caused me to update the site far more than I originally used to. What I discovered was that site updates were not dependent on a fixed time interval or even my mood, but only upon the movies that I see.

Recently, LoveHKFilm.com has gone three weeks without new reviews, which is pretty unusual. That’s all because the movies I’ve seen all fall into one of two categories: A) movies that already have reviews on LoveHKFilm.com and B) movies that shouldn’t be reviewed by LoveHKFilm.com. Here’s what I saw recently:

Movies that already have reviews on LoveHKFilm.com:
Blood Brothers (dir. Chang Cheh, 1973)
Bullet and Brain (dir. Keung Kwok-Man, 2007)

Movies that shouldn’t be reviewed by LoveHKFilm.com:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (dir. Julian Schnabel, 2007)
Sweeney Todd (dir. Tim Burton, 2007)
Enchanted (dir. Kevin Lima, 2007)
Vantage Point (dir. Pete Travis, 2008)

So to assuage the three people who are wondering why the site has been so quiet, that’s the reason why: because I’m not seeing anything that I need to review. Not to worry; soon Empress and the Warriors, Playboy Cops, Shamo, and Fatal Move will get released, which means I’ll have some new movies to eviscerate review. March also sees the release of L for Love, L for Lies, the new travesty effort from Patrick Kong, auteur of twin terrors delights Marriage with a Fool and Love is Not All Around. It’s going to be a busy month.

However, it’ll also be a busy month for another reason: the Hong Kong International Film Festival. This year marks my fourth year in Hong Kong, but this will be the first year I go insane and check out 21 films at the HKIFF, a number that guarantees to send me straight to hell.

If you’re curious, here’s the lineup:

3/18 Candy Rain (7:15pm)
3/18 Drifting Flowers (9:30pm)
3/20 I Just Didn’t Do It (6:45pm)
3/21 Winds of September - Taiwan (7:15pm)
3/21 Winds of September - China (9:45pm)
3/22 City Without Baseball (6pm)
3/22 Besieged City (9pm)
3/23 Home Song Stories (12:30pm)
3/23 Run Papa Run (6pm)
3/23 A Decade of Love (8:45pm)
3/24 Kabei (3pm)
3/26 In Love We Trust (7:15pm)
3/27 The Way We Are (7:15pm)
3/29 First Born Unicorn (9pm)
3/30 Soul of a Demon (12:30pm)
3/30 Sex is No Laughing Matter (6pm)
4/2 Winds of September - Hong Kong (7:15pm)
4/4 Love is Elsewhere (6pm)
4/6 Coffee or Tea (6pm)
4/12 A Brighter Summer Day (7pm)
4/13 Mahjong (5pm)

You can read all about the movies here.

All of the above are Asian films without reviews on LoveHKFilm.com. Quite obviously, this means two things:

1) If you want to kick my ass, now you know where I’ll be and when. I couldn’t make this any easier for you.

2) I may have to resort to the “800 words or less per review” rule I instituted during last fall’s Hong Kong Asian Film Festival. Hell, I may do that one better and go for a “600 words or less per review” rule, because there will be regular Hong Kong movies coming out alongside the above 21 movies. Who knows if I’ll survive the experience. If I do, that means more reviews for everyone. If not, that means I’ll have given up and the Internet will have one less self-proclaimed, questionably-qualified film reviewer. I see winners in either eventuality.

Regardless, I look forward to the fest, because seeing movies without expectations is much more enjoyable than seeing a film after being inundated with print and television advertising. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot of advertising yet for Playboy Cops, but the poster doesn’t inspire me with much confidence:

Yeah! We fight crime AND have fun!
They kick ass AND have fun. What could be better?

Managing expectations is the key to enjoying modern cinema. That didn’t help me much at Kung Fu Dunk, but everyone who I’ve talked to about the film enjoyed it a lot more than I did, with some of them actually saying, “After listening to you, I expected the worst, but it wasn’t that bad!” I’ve also had similar responses after lending people my copy of D-War. It could be our new tagline:

LoveHKFilm Banner
Lowering Expectations Since 2002

Anyway, we’ll see if we can handle our March-April workload. If we can, I’d consider it an achievement. In the meantime, I’ll attempt to perfect the art of shorter blog posts, in order to keep this thing going on a semi-weekly to bi-weekly basis. And if worst comes to worst, I’ll just post funny pictures. I have tons of those.

Damn you, Edison!
“Dammit, Edison! I told you to exfoliate and hydrate
every other day! Now your skin is oily and improperly
balanced! You’ll never get rid of that shine now!”

Two down, two to go…plus a couple of holidays and other random crap

Happy Lunar New Year!

You should see their other photos
Former softcore pin-up girl with current hardcore pin-up guy

Oh wait, the above photo has THAT GUY in it! You know, the one who’s at the center of Hong Kong’s bizarre media circus that needs its own Wong Jing parody film. Frankly, the “thing involving the pictures that resemble people who’ve worked with Charlene Choi” is all anyone can talk about over here. I would add to the constant buzzing in your ears, but it’s still not over and it seems that I change my mind about it every single day. Maybe I’ll say something afterwards.

A week or so ago, I said I wouldn’t make fun of it because it involved criminal activity and frankly, I was tired of the media coverage. I’m still tired of it, but now the whole thing has escalated to the point where I have to make fun of it simply because it’s the only way I can deal with the constant barrage of news and gossip related to He Who Shall Not Be Named.

No, not Voldemort. I’m talking about this guy again.

He’s livin’ large.
“I’m a good person!”

Um…no, you’re not.

At this point, everyone will come out of this debacle looking bad, including the participants, the victims, the media, the police, and the overexcited and frankly overjudgmental public. I’d give everyone a giant raspberry, but it’s so cold that I feel drained of the required energy to complete such an action. Instead, I’m providing this picture to illustrate how I see the entire mess:

FIGHT!!!
I’m betting on the kangaroo.

Sudden subject change: some weeks ago, I blogged briefly about my Andy Lau concert experience. Basically, it consisted of me marveling at the man’s endless energy, willingness to put himself in danger, and his unparalleled pitchman abilities. The concert was fun, because Andy Lau was Andy Lau. Accept no substitutes.

You won’t find any pictures of me!
“Thanks, Kozo!”

However, Andy Lau’s concert was only the second I’ve attended in my three years since moving to Hong Kong. The first one was Sammi Cheng’s back in May. Actually, I’ve seen her in concert twice before in the states, so basically this latest Sammi concert I attended was just like old home week. The fact that Sammi and I have both aged adds to the metaphor.

I actually wrote a Life with Kozo column about my Sammi Cheng Hong Kong concert experience back in May 2007, but it never saw print because I never got around to posting it. It’s buried somewhere on my hard drive along with some, uh, pictures I don’t want anyone to see.

Ed the Player
These pants no longer contain any mysteries

Thankfully, I attended my third concert just recently. I lucked into a ticket to one of Jacky Cheung’s remaining concerts here in Hong Kong. Here are some shots from Yahoo HK:

Jacky Cheung sings
“This one’s for you people in the crappy seats!”

Jacky and two others
Only Jacky is allowed to wear a jacket.

 

Jacky said during the concert that the dancers were all masked in order to make him look better. Personally speaking, I don’t think Jacky is all that bad looking, though someone I once knew had him classified in the “ugly guy, good singer” category, the implication being that there’s a category called “pretty guy, bad singer.” You can figure out who goes into that category yourself.

But I enjoyed Jacky’s concert a bit more than Andy Lau’s, to be honest. Andy is pure entertainment, but as a singer, Jacky clearly wins. Also, I sat in the cheap seats so I had no choice but to appreciate Jacky for his vocal range and ability to act effeminate without ever threatening his manhood. The man is multi-talented.

A sample of my perspective that evening:

Where I sat
The lightsabers were free

Sadly, Jacky did not have a guest performer - which really sucked because I was expecting something like this:

Jacky and Jacky 2
The number of people in this photo also attended Nick Cheung’s last concert

Now that I’ve seen Jacky Cheung, I’ve officially attended concerts for two of the Sky Kings. That’s two down, and two to go. Who are the remaining two? Well, there’s this guy:

Leon drinking
He’s been at this all morning

And this guy:

Aaron and pal
Aaron Kwok and a, uh, Golden Horse

I’m actually betting that Mr. Golden Horse will be the next one I see. After all, Aaron Kwok does have a concert going on right now in Hong Kong. Maybe I’ll luck into some tickets, and hopefully he won’t wear something like this:

Greatest Photo Ever
Insert your own caption here

By the way, we just had Valentine’s Day here in Hong Kong. Two years ago on Valentine’s Day, I went and hung out with a friend - who we’ll call Mr. G - in Lan Kwai Fong. We went to a party attended by other single people who had no Valentine’s Day dates. I actually didn’t want to go, but I went as his wingman. I still paid for my own drinks.

The highlight of the evening came when he introduced me to a pretty girl who worked in Central. Mr. G said to her, “This guy runs a famous website! It’s all about Hong Kong movies!”

“Really,” she said. “About Hong Kong movies?”

“Yep,” was my reply. My beer was warm.

She arched an eyebrow. “But Hong Kong movies are shit.”

Kenichi Matsuyama will tell you how I felt:

You suck!
“You suck, Kozo.”

Being single is tough.

A final dating tip for all the guys. If you want to do well with the ladies, you need one of these:

Edison’s Tool of choice

Just learn how to repair it yourself.

Photo credits: Yahoo HK, Apple Daily, a borrowed digital camera, and my hard drive.

Damn You, Everyone! The Webmaster weeps for Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is so boring and cold. Nothing is happening at all right now.

Edison and Stephen
Stephen, you’d better wash your right hand.

Actually, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you do know that something’s up, namely the ire of the populace and the local media thanks to the appropriately named Edison-Gillian-Bobo-Cecilia Scandal. I have been asked my opinion on this subject by about three people…so I’m going to post it on my blog!

To be honest, my response is a rather pedestrian one that really means nothing. Indeed, this whole fiasco really doesn’t bother me that much. I’m more bothered by the fact that it has delivered tons of useless traffic to my website, in the form of people desperately searching out photos of Edison and his conquests. I live in a small world.

But in the meantime, I’d like to say that this is an invasion of privacy and probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever been witness to.

No, I’m not talking about the pictures themselves, which are someone’s private business and were taken by a bunch of consenting, but rather foolhardy individuals. Really, nothing is that shocking here, unless you’re so prudish that sex is a complete turnoff. So, young women have sex? Yes, they do. So, a dope kid like Edison takes pictures of his conquests and saves them on his hard drive? Hardly a surprise, considering the “I’m from the streetz” stereotype Ed seems determined to embody with every phrase or action that he’s party to. At least he never claimed to be a role model.

Basically, we’ve learned three things from this:

1. Edison Chen is someone who you would like to stay away from your sister.

2. Famous women can have bad taste in men, and can sometimes do stupid things just like regular women.

3. Hong Kong is full of people who should know better.

I say this last thing because some people seem to act like they have a right to own these photos. Currently, webmasters of forums that hosted the photos are being arrested, leading to outrage from the local citizenry. Results of a current Apple Daily poll are frightening. According to the poll, 76% of all respondents think the blame for this fiasco actually lies with the photographer, and not with the people who chose to illegally distribute the offending photos without said photographer’s permission. There’s even talk of some sort of protest or march in support of people who posted Edison’s private photos on their websites. Say what?

Sometimes I wish people would just learn to leave these things alone. Did we really have to see and share these photos? Artists are people, too. They don’t belong to us. We can make fun of them if they trip up publicly, but this is a case of criminals taking private property that belonged to someone and using it to damage them. The artists are the victims here. Even Edison.

I still wouldn’t want him to date my sister, though.

Let’s close this with a photo:

Jay Chou will beat up fans for money
“I’ll beat up anyone who says anything bad about Ryosuke.”

 
 
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