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… On this day, I see clearly, everything has come to life.

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Archive for the ‘Hong Kong Film Awards’ Category

32nd Hong Kong Film Awards Preview

Eric Cartman - Respect My Authoritah!The Hong Kong Movie Gods are kind this year. Unlike last year when A SIMPLE LIFE wasn’t available to poor sods overseas until after the Hong Kong Film Awards were presented, I have been able to see all five of this year’s Best Film nominees. As a result, I can speak with unfounded yet irrationally-confident authority on who should win and who will win this year’s awards.

Without further ado, let’s start with the night’s top prize: Best Film. The nominees are: THE BULLET VANISHES, COLD WAR, MOTORWAY, THE VIRAL FACTOR and VULGARIA. If I had a vote, here is how I would rank the films:

5. THE VIRAL FACTOR

While it boasts some well-done action scenes, THE VIRAL FACTOR is saddled with an overwrought “separated brothers on opposite sides of the law” subplot loaded with both ham and cheese. This nomination speaks more to the lack of depth in this year’s field than the quality of the movie. THE VIRAL FACTOR was released in January 2012 for the Lunar New Year holiday season. It’s a bit sad that, in the ensuing 11 months of 2012, the HK film industry couldn’t come up with one film, just one film, to knock THE VIRAL FACTOR off this list.

Evaluated solely as an action movie, THE VIRAL FACTOR more than fits the bill. As a nominee for one of the best films of the year, not so much.

4. THE BULLET VANISHES

Terrific production design and dynamic performances from both the leads and the supporting cast make THE BULLET VANISHES a worthy nominee for Best Film. What will keep it from being a worthy winner, however, is a plot twist that comes across as unearned. Without spoiling things for those who have yet to see the movie, to pull off a twist successfully, a viewer should be able to re-watch the film and see the internal logic behind it. Take, for example, M. Night Shyamalan’s THE SIXTH SENSE. Re-watching THE BULLET VANISHES with the plot twist in mind, events don’t quite match the outcome and the logical consistency of the film suffers. Close, Lo Chi-Leung and company, but no cigar.

3. MOTORWAY

THE VIRAL FACTOR and THE BULLET VANISHES would be unlikely Best Film winners on Saturday night. MOTORWAY, on the other hand, has a legitimate shot to walk away with the top prize. A solid cops-and-robbers movie, the film talks the talk and drives the drive with noteworthy skill and efficiency. The problem with MOTORWAY is that it is coldly efficient and, ultimately, bland. There is no spark, no edge to film. It’s highly-watchable and highly-enjoyable, but once the credits roll, it’s also highly-forgettable.

Nevertheless, the remaining films in this category are very polarizing so there is an outside chance that MOTORWAY could emerge victorious as a compromise candidate.

2. COLD WAR

Telling a tale of how the upper echelons of the Hong Kong Police Force mobilize their resources to deal with a terrorist threat, COLD WAR has an intense premise and some interesting things to say about stability and security in a civil society. However, with wings made from pretentious Winston Churchill quotes and a few histrionic performances, COLD WAR, like Icarus, flies too close to the sun and comes crashing down in a disappointingly sloppy third act.

That said, there are many aspects of COLD WAR that commend it as a Best Film winner. With a box-office take of HK$42.68 million, COLD WAR was the highest-grossing Hong Kong film of 2012. Moreover, with the East Palace/West Palace checks and balances dynamic of the Operations branch/Administration branch and the exaltation of the role of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) in the government system, COLD WAR fires some not so subtle shots at the Mainland. This is epitomized when Secretary of Security Philip Luk (Andy Lau Tak-Wah) addresses a horde of free press about an hour into the film. Luk:

Andy Lau (left) and Charlie Yeung (right) in COLD WAR.

“Hong Kong is an advanced city under common-law jurisdiction. The ICAC doesn’t need to report to me before taking action. I understand that even though you are free to ask any questions, please familiarize yourself with Hong Kong law and the spirit of the rule of law before you ask because this is the core value that made Hong Kong an international finance centre and Asia’s safest city.”

Further, COLD WAR’s ad campaign touted it as a quality film full of “Hong Kong flavour” worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as INFERNAL AFFAIRS. In an age where “if you say something enough times, it effectively becomes true” is an actual media strategy, the branding may swing a few votes its way and be the difference between winning and losing.

Another factor tilting in COLD WAR’s favour, the controversial nature of my pick for Best Film …

1. VULGARIA

VULGARIA, much like MOTORWAY, is very good at what it does. It’s an exceptionally-crafted comedy filled with biting social commentary and ribald but not obscene jokes. Unlike MOTORWAY, VULGARIA is not bland and, with recurring bits involving popping candy and donkeys, definitely not forgettable. Unblemished by neither a questionable plot twist nor an ill-conceived third act, VULGARIA is the best Hong Kong film of 2012. Unfortunately, its mature subject matter means that it faces an uphill battle to get recognized as such in Hong Kong’s socially conservative society.

Chapman To and Simon Lui in VULGARIA

Shunned completely by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society in its awards, VULGARIA didn’t get any love either from the Hong Kong Directors’ Guild as COLD WAR, MOTORWAY and Pang Ho-Cheung’s other 2012 effort LOVE IN THE BUFF were selected for its Most Recommended Films of the year. The Hong Kong Arts Development Council gave its HK$50,000 Critics’ Prize to an essay titled “Gazing at the Anxiety of Hong Kong Film Through VULGARIA” by Mainland writer Jia Xuanning. In the piece, Jia argued that VULGARIA is an “irresponsible cultural product” that showed Hong Kong people still cannot accept the realities of the Mainland’s improved social and economic status. With the Hong Kong film industry increasingly reliant on the Mainland for funding, it may be reluctant to bite the hand that feeds it by lauding VULGARIA as its Best Film of 2012.

All this points to a COLD WAR victory on Saturday night. Just how much of a favourite is the Longman Leung-Sunny Luk film? Over at a sportsbook taking bets on the Hong Kong Film Awards, the odds of COLD WAR winning are pegged at 1-5. Its closest competitor, THE VIRAL FACTOR, is given 4-1 odds while VULGARIA has odds of 15-1. For those of you who aren’t degenerate gamblers, this means that if you bet $1 on COLD WAR to win, your return will be a mere 20 cents. If you bet $1 on THE VIRAL FACTOR to win, your return will be $4. A significant disparity that suggests the people who put the money where their mouths are believe COLD WAR is an overwhelming favourite.

32nd Hong Kong Film Awards Betting Form

 

QUICK HITS ON THE OTHER MAJOR AWARDS:

Best Director:

If I had a vote, I’d give it to Soi Cheang for MOTORWAY. Cheang also won the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Best Director award and tied for the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild directing prize so he’s a strong candidate to win. Longman Leung and Sunny Luk may hold the prize in their hands if there’s a COLD WAR sweep. Dante Lam (THE VIRAL FACTOR) is the dark horse candidate.

Best Actor:

My other cousin Tony, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, is the consensus “hot door” for his work in COLD WAR and the actor I would have voted for in this category. If there is to be an upset, look for Nick Cheung Ka-Fai to win for NIGHTFALL as he walked away with the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild award for Outstanding Film Performance in 2012.

Best Actress:

Despite some buzz for Sammi Cheng Sau-Man (ROMANCING IN THIN AIR) double nominee Zhou Xun (THE GREAT MAGICIAN, THE SILENT WAR) is expected to emerge as the winner on Saturday night. The dark horse and my sentimental favourite: Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah (LOVE IN THE BUFF).

Best Supporting Actor:

A total toss up between Ronald Cheng Chung-Gei (VULGARIA) and Chapman To Man-Chat (DIVA) as they are being touted as the “hot doors”. Powered by nostalgia, Alex Man Chi-Leung (THE BOUNTY) circles with an outside chance.

Best Supporting Actress:

The “hot door” designation in this category has been given to veteran Taiwanese actress Elaine Jin (THE VIRAL FACTOR) — seven-time HKFA Best Supporting Actress nominee, two-time winner. Mavis Fan (SILENT WAR) is the dark horse. Personally, I would have voted for Jiang Yiyan (THE BULLET VANISHES).

Jiang Yiyan in THE BULLET VANISHES

 

Photo credits: Eric Cartman (Comedy Central), Andy Lau/Charlie Yeung from COLD WAR (Edko Films), Chapman To/Simon Lui from VULGARIA (Making Film Productions), 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards Betting Form (188Bet), Jiang Yiyan from THE BULLET VANISHES (China Lion Entertainment).

Thoughts on A BETTER TOMORROW 2010

After some time away, I’ve decided to take the remaining shards of my talents back to the Kozo Entertainment Group.  Where have I been these past few months? Well, let’s just say I was, like Sung Chi-Ho in A BETTER TOMORROW, “in Taiwan … on business”.

abt2010_01.jpg

With hopes for a better tomorrow in mind, let’s start this iteration of the House Where Words Gather on a propitious note by talking about “a better tomorrow”.  Namely, A BETTER TOMORROW (2010) aka MUJEOGJA (trans. INVINCIBLE) -  the South Korean remake of John Woo’s Hong Kong classic.

Directed by Song Hae-Seong (who some may remember as the director of the 2001 film FAILAN starring Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi  and OLDBOY lead Choi Min-Sik), A BETTER TOMORROW 2010 is a serviceable action melodrama whose greatest service is to remind movie fans of the brilliance of John Woo.  For the remake, Song changes the setting from Hong Kong to Busan and the criminal enterprise of the main characters from counterfeiting to gun running.  In addition, the rift between brothers doesn’t stem from one being a cop and the other a thief.  Instead, it’s because one abandoned the other while escaping North Korea for the South.

While there are changes in setting and characters, the remake keeps the narrative structure of the original largely intact.  Like the original, the film begins with a nightmare sequence and ends with a shootout on a pier.  Because the storytelling adheres so closely to that of the original, sequence after sequence is the same and one can’t help but notice how flat and watered-down the remake is compared to the original.  All the counterparts to the iconic scenes in the 1986 film — from the Mark character losing his leg while getting revenge to him dying in a hail of bullets — pale in comparison as Song does not have the skill nor the flair of John Woo.

abt2010_02.jpg

There is, perhaps, no better demonstration of Woo’s mastery of craft than the Wong Tai Sin Childrens’ Choir scene in A BETTER TOMORROW. With the choir singing 明天會更好 (trans. Tomorrow Will Be Better) in the background, Sung Chi-Ho (Ti Lung) bids farewell to Jackie (Emily Chu Bo-Yee) while handing her some evidence. He then glances at the children singing before turning into a dark hallway to head for the decisive showdown with Shing (Waise Lee Chi-Hung).  The scene takes less than a minute but in that short period of time, Woo moves the plot along while showing, with great artistry, Sung wistfully abandoning his desire for a life of sweetness and light because he is being forced back into a dark life of bullets and blood. No scene in the remake comes anywhere close to matching that level of exquisite depth and complexity. As a result, A BETTER TOMORROW 2010 suffers by comparison.

Taken on its own, A BETTER TOMORROW 2010 remains a thoroughly average film that’s competent but uninspiring.  It’s mildly entertaining though some may be turned off near the end when events take a melodramatic turn and tough guys become crybabies.   The film is worth a watch if you are a fan of cross-cultural remakes.  Otherwise, don’t bother turning the jet boat around.

abt2010_03.jpg

MISCELLANEA:

 abt2010_04.jpg

- Song Seung-Heon is given the thankless task of playing the Mark 哥 role. Much like his director in relation to John Woo, Song suffers from the comparison to Chow Yun-Fat because he cannot match Chow in charisma and intensity. He puts forth a solid effort but, in the end, falls short.

- Song did, however, show some flashes of Stephen Chow Sing-Chi. Maybe it was the hair or maybe it was the sunglasses but some mannerisms felt familiar. Any South Korean re-make of SHAOLIN SOCCER or KUNG FU HUSTLE in the offing?|

- The music/soundtrack for A BETTER TOMORROW 2010 is also underwhelming when compared to the original. Many musical cues from the 1986 film - especially the ones for Kit at the shooting range, the shootout at the restaurant and Mark’s death - are embedded in memory. The music from the remake is entirely forgettable.

abt2010_05.jpg

- A BETTER TOMORROW 2010 is superior to the original in one aspect: A great performance by Jo Han-Seon as the turncoat villain helps flesh out a comparatively thin plot thread from the original. Unlike the 1986 movie, we actually get to see the how and why of the heel turn in the remake.

- Also better: The Emily Chu flower vase/comic relief girlfriend character is replaced by a gruff yet caring auntie. No goofy scenes involving cellos, flowers or headphones in the 2010 version.

- Egads! A BETTER TOMORROW was released in Hong Kong on February 8th, 1986. It’s now a little over 25 years old! Twenty-five years! Egads! Eeeeeegads!

BLOG POST EXTRA:

The 30th Hong Kong Film Awards are being presented tomorrow evening.  Putting my finger to the wind, I’m feeling a favourable breeze for IP MAN 2 walking away with the Best Film prize.  If I had a vote, I would have marked GALLANTS on my ballot as it was the most “Hong Kong” of this year’s nominees.  That said, if I was the General Secretary / Paramount Leader of HK films, I would appoint the title of Best Film to LOVE IN A PUFF.  There was no better film about Hong Kong than LOVE IN A PUFF in 2010.

Image credits: Cinema City (A BETTER TOMORROW); Formula Entertainment (A BETTER TOMORROW 2010)

Three Views On Chinese Movies In The 2000s: Part II

Before continuing with the look back at the movies of the 2000s, a few thoughts on some news tidbits that have emerged lately:

1. Hong Kong Film Awards Nominations

I said it the day after last year’s awards and I still believe it to be true in spite of the buzz for Wang Xueqi’s work in BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS:  Simon Yam will win a Best Acting award at the HKFAs this year.  It may be a “lifetime achievement” type deal but I think he’s due.  He got two nominations in the Best Actor category this year for NIGHT AND FOG and for ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW so here’s hoping …

More thoughts on the HKFA nominations:

- Nice to see Zhang Jingchu get nominated for her solid performance in the grim tale that was NIGHT AND FOG.

- As a fan of schlocky HK comedies of the 1980s and early-1980s, it’s great to see Stanley Fung Shui-Fan get a Supporting Actor nomination for ACCIDENT.

- Biggest snub: Why no Supporting Actor love for Michael “Stone” Wong’s work in OVERHEARD?  He made that movie 25% better with his channeling of Stallone’s Rocky Balboa Italian twang in his introductory scene and his cheese-tastic delivery of “I got my own car!” at the end. :lol:

Michael Wong Man-Tak in OVERHEARD

2. 2010: The Year of EDC

This is probably only amusing to me because I have the mind of a randy teenager but I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read the following on Edison Chen’s blog:

2010 promises to be a big year for ya boi EDC
i am going to be coming back HARDER than ever

Talk about unintentional comedy.  The capper is that he capitalized “harder”.  Does anyone NOT think of those infamous photos after reading that?

3. Edison Chen: “Why was I the bad guy?”

In an interview in the Chinese version of GQ, Edison Chen said that he still doesn’t understand why he was the bad guy in the Sexy Photos Gate scandal.  He said: “… was I really a bad person? I wasn’t. People just needed a scapegoat”.

He’s right.  He was a victim of a crime.  However, he presented himself as a hip-hop, bad-boy type which plays well to his target demographic but not so well to the broader, more conservative, mainstream Chinese audience.  So it’s not surprising at all that the general public turned against him.  Put it this way, it’s wrong to hit someone in the head with a steel chair but people cheer anyway when a heel character in pro-wrestling gets nailed with one because it happened to somebody who presented himself as a “bad guy”.

It’ll be interesting to see if 2010 will be remembered for a Chen resurgence or if it ends up being more like the Summer of George.

4. Gilllian Chung’s comeback continues

Gillian Chung continues on the comeback trail with an EP, a movie and a Mainland television series coming down the pipe.  Yet, it feels like she’s still fighting border skirmishes rather than making any serious assault on the capital.  Sorry, THE FOUNDING OF A REPUBLIC remains on the brain.  An EP isn’t exactly the same as a full album and a concert series.  The movie isn’t exactly a high-profile project slated for a big holiday release and the Mainland television series is a Mainland television series.

When you read her interviews, it’s clear that the comeback narrative her handlers at EEG have settled upon is “more mature, tough, resilient, plucky girl who is holding her head up high and refusing to let the scandal keep her down”.  It’s puzzling, then, that they are allowing her to hang on to that “naïve and innocent” schtick.  In articles that popped up last month about her new movie with William Chan Wai-Ting, she talks about being “embarrassed” because she had to do a kissing scene with Chan.  Is that the kind of talk you hear from tough, resilient girls?

Trying to do “tough and resilient” while hanging on to “cute and innocent” won’t work.  If Ah Gil wants substantial success on the comeback trail, she’s going to have to go full-bore on “tough and resilient” and drop the innocent act.  Besides, the “cute and innocent” road is still littered with the skeletons of Sexy Photos Gate like the Highway of Death was littered with the carnage of the First Gulf War.  All she’s doing when she plays “cute and innocent” is reminding people why she is on the comeback trail in the first place.

Now, fans of Ah Gil are probably thinking: “What are you talking about?  EEG is re-uniting her with Charlene Choi and Twins have a concert series and a new album coming out.  Isn’t that an indication that EEG thinks the comeback is going strong?”

EEG may, in fact, feel that way but I believe the re-unification of Twins is more about seeing if there’s any milk left in that cash cow and less about restored faith in Gillian Chung’s star power.  I think EEG is re-uniting Twins in spite of Gillian Chung’s situation rather than because of it.  It would, after all, be nutty to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Twins in their 11th year.  I’d wager EEG is looking at a boost in Ah Gil’s profile as a possible collateral benefit of the Twins reunion rather than as the main impetus for it.

5. Jackie Chan in THE SPY NEXT DOOR

I was all ready to beat my chest in mourning for Jackie Chan’s career after reviews came out uniformly crushing THE SPY NEXT DOOR (it currently sits at 8% on Rotten Tomatoes).  Then, a week later, The Rock came out with THE TOOTH FAIRY and it occurred to me that the villain in this story shouldn’t be Jackie Chan for cashing in and taking the paycheque.  Only a naïve and innocent fool would refuse to sell a tiny fraction of their dignity for a multi-million dollar payday.  The culprits are movie studios that have failed to realize that it’s been twenty years since KINDERGARTEN COP made US$91.4 million and that it did well because it was more a “cops and robbers” film than a kids’ movie.

Here’s hoping we don’t see Bruce Willis in MY GRANDFATHER IS A HERO or Jason Statham in a remake of MR. NANNY.

6. Skynet/Cylons one step closer to taking over humanity

With the unveiling of a life-sized sex robot named Roxxy at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas in January, can the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 or the Cylon Centurion be that far away?

Roxxxy The Sex Robot

RANDOM NONSENSE:

After seeing Simon Yam’s performances in ELECTION and NIGHT AND FOG, I think the HK Movie Gods should decree that if you want to show a character is a bad guy, just show him fishing.  After what Yam’s characters did in those two movies, “Fishing = Evil” is now the equivalent of Blofeld stroking a white cat in Bond movies, the Snidely Whiplash moustache and Spock with a goatee in “Mirror, Mirror”.  If perpetual movie good guy Jackie Chan ever has occasion to play a villain, all the director has to do is show a goateed Big Brother fishing while playing with a white cat.

Enough ado, let’s get on to the without further … my list of the “Best Films of the 2000s”.

Previously: Three Views On Chinese Movies In The 2000s: Part I

6. RIDING THE TIGER

Writer/director Herman Yau Lai-To brings his deft, low-key touch to the high octane Sexy Photos Gate scandal in this “ripped from the headlines” film.  By eschewing the sex part of the scandal and focusing on the fame part, Yau offers a contemplative look at the nature of celebrity and how it really is like “riding a tiger into battle”.  It’s great when the tiger is with you and you’re able to easily do what you want on the battlefield.  It’s not so good when the tiger turns against you and you have no control over what happens.

OK, OK that film never happened. I just wanted to throw some appreciation towards Herman Yau.  While he doesn’t blow you away with his films like Wong Kar-Wai or Johnnie To, he does offer up solid work and is, in many ways, the “quintessential” Hong Kong director.  He makes movies, like TRUE WOMAN FOR SALE, that tell Hong Kong stories.  He also works in genres that are entirely “of Hong Kong”.  Movies like GONG TAU and SPLIT SECOND MURDERS are unique to the HK movie industry, they can’t be made anywhere else.

Yau started off the 2000s strong with the Buddy Film Creative Workshop films KILLING END and NIGHTMARES IN PRECINCT 7.  He had a bit of a lull in the middle of the decade with ASTONISHING and DATING DEATH but he bounced back with a solid run that began with ON THE EDGE.  If you’re not familiar with the work of Herman Yau, get yourself to the local Chinese video store and pick up a few of his films.

5. KUNG FU HUSTLE

In the 2000s, Stephen Chow made three of the top-10 grossing HK movies of all-time: KUNG FU HUSTLE (HK$61.2 million currently number one), SHAOLIN SOCCER (HK$60.7 million, currently number two) and CJ7 (HK$51.4 million, currently number seven).  So, you have to figure that one of Chow’s films has to be on the list.  Sitting at number one and number two, it’s basically a coin flip between KUNG FU HUSTLE and SHAOLIN SOCCER.  Like any good comrade — just checking if you’re reading Mainland censors — I side with the people and KUNG FU HUSTLE.

While SHAOLIN SOCCER had the bigger laughs and more significance as a milestone of Stephen Chow’s career, KUNG FU HUSTLE is the more accomplished film because it had a higher degree of difficulty.  SHAOLIN SOCCER could hang its comedy bits on the backbone of a conventional “underdog sports team” plotline.  KUNG FU HUSTLE was built entirely on film craftsmanship intangibles like charisma, tone and rhythm.  It could have easily all gone wrong but, instead, it all went right.  Look at some of the elements of the film: a dance number introducing the villains, a protagonist who disappears for a large chunk of the movie and sequences that belong more in a Looney Tunes cartoon than a smash kung fu flick.  Usually, those elements congeal into a lame and cheesy mess but Stephen Chow somehow combined them into a mesmerizing classic that thoroughly engages the audience.

4. ELECTION

Continuing what he started with Milkway Image in the late-1990s, Johnnie To had a prolific 2000s with commercial successes like NEEDING YOU, personal projects like THROWDOWN and SPARROW and philosophical pieces like RUNNING ON KARMA.  Three to five of his films could legitimately be placed on any “Best of the Decade” list of HK films but I chose to put ELECTION on this one because - twenty, thirty, fifty years from now - ELECTION is going to be the one most HK film fans will recall.

 Cecilia Cheung and Lau Ching-Wan in LOST IN TIME

3. (tie) LOST IN TIME / THE WAY WE ARE

The two best “Hong Kong stories” films of the 2000s.  One conventional, the other unconventional, both provide a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day rhythms of Hong Kong life.  They show that Hong Kong isn’t just about gangsters that struggle for power or cops chasing bad guys, it’s also about normal people just trying to get through the day the best they can.  They show that Hong Kong isn’t teeming with playboys, golddiggers, gu wat jai (古或仔), psychopaths, super cops and mad detectives.  Instead, it’s filled with normal, decent people like the minibus driver who helps out a overburdened woman burning the candle at both ends, the fruit lady from the supermarket who recognizes that her neighbour is lonely and the father who seems hard-hearted but, in actually, just can’t admit how much his daughter means to him.

The movies also contain two brilliant “show, don’t tell” sequences that are enshrined in my pantheon of all-time great HK movie scenes.  In LOST IN TIME, there’s a sequence that shows Cecilia Cheung’s character going through her day balancing her job as a minibus driver and her role as the caregiver to her dead fiancée’s son.  In THE WAY WE ARE, the compelling scene showing Chan Lai-Wun’s character cooking dinner is the embodiment of Bruce Lee’s notion of “emotional content”.  Both are simple segments yet they express many complex ideas and sentiments.

2. INFERNAL AFFAIRS

If there was a “Hong Kong Division” for my “Most Valuable Film of the 2000s” blog post, the choice would clearly have been INFERNAL AFFAIRS.  With HK$55 million in box office earnings, the movie currently ranks fifth in the list of top 10 highest grossing HK films of all-time.  It spawned a prequel and a sequel and it acted as a defibrillator to the ailing heartbeat of Hong Kong cinema.  From Kozo’s review of the film:

Cries of “Box Office Miracle” were trumpeted by Hong Kong’s so-called fourth estate, which advanced the opinion that Hong Kong Cinema was revived.

It put Alan Mak and Felix Chong on the map which led to movies like INITIAL D, MOONLIGHT IN TOKYO, CONFESSION OF PAIN, LADY COP AND PAPA CROOK and OVERHEARD.

Like CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, my pick for “Most Valuable Film of the 2000s”, INFERNAL AFFAIRS also had influence internationally:  A Hollywood remake, THE DEPARTED, finally earned Martin Scorsese a long-deserved Best Director Oscar.

1. (tie) IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE / LUST, CAUTION

Through exquisite film craftsmanship and outstanding acting, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and LUST, CAUTION are two movies that offer insightful looks into the nature of love and human connection.  I made them co-number ones because a couple of things keep me from picking one over the other.  First, LUST, CAUTION isn’t a “pure” Hong Kong film.  Second, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE feels like a 1990s movie to me.  I actually did a double take when I looked up its release date and saw that it was September 29th, 2000.  I could have sworn it was released in 1999.  I probably feel this way because, back when I had my own site, I was translating articles about the production at least two years before it was released.

Moreover, as much as it pains my inner Vulcan to admit, 2046 sullied my affection for IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.  While they are two separate movies and I shouldn’t let one affect my view of the other, I just can’t like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE as much after seeing 2046.  What seemed exciting and stylistically cool in 2000 seemed tired and tedious just four short years later with the release of 2046.

Going off on a tangent, if you take anything from away from those films, it has to be to have a carpe diem attitude towards love and prospective mates.  If you like somebody and there seems to be a good chance that they like you, take a shot and do something about it.  Otherwise, you may end up whispering your regrets to a hole in the wall at Angkor Wat or, even worse, facing a firing squad.

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE

Going off on another tangent, there has been a decade long debate about what to name the 2000s.  Some have suggested the “Naughts”, others have said it should be the Oughts.  Then there are the “Zeroes”, the “Double Zeroes”, the “Os” and the “Twenty-Ohs”.  If you take a look at my list of the decade’s best HK films, you’ll see that my cousin Tony stars in the top three movies.  Call me biased but I think the decade should be called “The Leung Dynasty”.

Next time: The part I had the most fun writing: “Personal Favourites of the 2000s, uh, The Leung Dynasty.”

Image credits: Film Unlimited (Michael Wong), 69adget.com (Roxxy the Sex Robot), China Star Entertainment (Cecilia Cheung, Lau Ching-Wan), Jet Tone Productions (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai)

News Links: HKFA Housekeeping

Yeah, I know.  The HKFAs were presented 10 days ago but the Jackie Chan posts got in the way of posting HKFA links.  So, I present to you now — for the sake of posterity — news and photo links from the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards.  But first …

From the comments on Quick Thoughts: 28th Hong Hong Film Awards:

Darren writes: I’m ecstatic IP MAN won.  I never understand why critics hate on popcorn movies so much.  I’m not a film maker but I’d think popcorn movies aren’t as easy to make as most people probably believe.  Why else does America put out so much crap during the summers (really only IRON MAN was superb in my opinion)?  IP MAN was such a fun, kick butt time at the movies that I don’t think it’ll be replicated anytime soon.  And yeah, THE WAY WE ARE was good but the majority (who aren’t movie critics) will find it boring and they wouldn’t be wrong either …

I hear ya.  I hear ya.  I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was hating on IP MAN.  I enjoyed it immensely.  The majority of the time, I go with fartsy over artsy.  After all, I’m the one who would have voted Barbie Hsu over Bau Hei-Jing for Best Actress.  One time, I walked into the video store fully intending to rent Wong Kar-Wai’s MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS but ended up walking out with the DVD for THE HOUSE BUNNY.

haterade.jpgNope, I wasn’t trying to push the Haterade on IP MAN.  Instead, I was trying to get people to drink the Kool-Aid on THE WAY WE ARE because it perfectly captures the essence of Hong Kong.  The characters in the film are characters that I recognize from real life whenever I’m in the Fragrant Harbour.  The situations in the film are situations that I recognize from real life:  the lonely senior, the family gatherings, the dull rhythm of the everyday, the dopey teenager, estrangement, extending a helping hand to a neighbour and so forth.  For the most part, people in Hong Kong quietly move forward the best that they can.  They don’t get involved with triads, they don’t commit suicide by coal and they don’t murder their loved ones.

Yes, the film is boring to most but that’s part of the point of the movie.  When was the last time a goo wak jai attacked you with a machete?  When was the last time you saw a kung fu expert take out ten guys?

The win for IP MAN wasn’t a travesty.  I can get behind it winning Best Film more easily than I can the bloated mess that won the year before.  It’s just disappointing that the Hong Kong Film Awards didn’t reward a film that is quintessentially Hong Kong.  THE WAY WE ARE is like Hong Kong and Hong Kong culture — small, plucky and punches well above its weight.

One last thing:  Not to be a smart aleck but I have a feeling the fun, kick butt time at the movies that IP MAN was will be replicated sometime in 2010 when IP MAN 2 is released. :-)

ARTICLES:

Variety: ‘Ip Man’ nabs Hong Kong award

Movie on working-class dominates Hong Kong Awards

Screen Daily: The Way We Are, Ip Man top Hong Kong Film Awards

Veterans rule at HK awardsLegendary Josephine Siao Fong-Fong

AWARDS WINNERS PHOTOS AND VIDEOS:

China Daily photos of the winners

MORE PHOTOS:

Xinhua Photo Gallery

Sina.com Female Celebrities Photo Gallery

Male Celebrities: Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Louis Fan Siu-Wong, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Wong Jing, Donnie Yen, Zhang Fengyi, Julian Cheung Chi-Lam

Couples:

Fashion at the HKFAs:

  • Tang Wei wore Valentino
  • Barbie Hsu wore Oscar de la Renta
  • Anita Yuen wore Christian Dior
  • Betty Sun Li wore Christian Dior
  • Lin Chi-Ling wore Marchesa

Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau and Sandy Lam Yik-Lin performing at the ceremony

Back in a bit with the latest news links.

Quick Thoughts: 28th Hong Hong Film Awards

I should be doing a news links post but, in honour of Jackie Chan, I’m going to yap my flap and continue to expose to everybody just how much of a fool I am …

Thoughts on the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards:

- IP MAN winning the award for Best Film has to be the biggest upset in quite a while.  It’s doubly shocking considering that THE WAY WE ARE was on a run with wins in the Best Director, Best Screenplay,  Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.  I think you have to go back to the 17th HKFAs for an upset of this magnitude when Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk took home Best Actress for THE SOONG SISTERS.  If memory serves, Jacqueline Wu Chien-Lien (EIGHTEEN SPRINGS) and Carina Lau Ka-Ling (THE INTIMATES) were the heavy favourites so it was a shock to many when Maggie Cheung won for a performance many considered perfunctory for a woman of her talents.  I may be misremembering (™ Roger Clemens) the broadcast but I’m pretty sure that you could hear people in the crowd jeering immediately after Cheung’s name was announced.

I suppose I could go on a long rant now about how the IP MAN win was a travesty but I’m a tired, old man.  I’m feeling a lot like Walsh at the end of CHINATOWN when he tells J.J. Gittes: “Forget it, Jake.  It’s Chinatown.”

- Putting on my fortuneteller’s outfit, I’ve tossed the joss sticks and divined that, 52 weeks from today, we’ll be celebrating a Simon Yam Tat-Wah win for Best Actor.  Judging from what I’ve read in the papers and on Chinese discussion forums, I think his performance in NIGHT AND FOG is the leader in the clubhouse for next year’s awards.  As he has been nominated eight times for an acting HKFA and has yet to win, I believe he will also be a heavy sentimental favourite.  So, forget about investing in Anacot Steel and head over to Macau or your favourite offshore gambling website to put down a few shekels on Simon Yam on the HKFA Futures board.  You and your wallet will be thanking me next April. :-)

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- Speaking of Simon Yam, those pants on the red carpet … yeesh.

Simon Yam on the red carpet

- Carol Cheng … still gettin’ it done.

Carol Cheng at the 28th HKFAs

- Ooh, la and la: Tang Wei, Kitty Zhang and Monica Mok (OCEAN FLAME).  Hard to believe that even a schmoe like me has seen two of those three ladies in the buff.  The HK entertainment circle is where amazing happens … not the NBA.

Tang Wei on the red carpet.

Kitty Zhang on the red carpet.

Monica Mok on the red carpet.

Back soon with a news links post and some thoughts on Jackie Chan, once again, stuffing his nimble foot in his big mouth.

Image credits: Sina.com

 
 
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