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Archive for the ‘Hong Kong Film Critics Society 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).

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of A Grievance

Though I am a man of science and reason, I do carry Chinese DNA so I can be guilty, on occasion, of being “Chinese superstitious”.  I don’t believe in ghosts and spirits but I still do things like cleaning before Lunar New Year (and, for that matter, the Gregorian New Year) because I can understand the reasoning behind the notion of sweeping out the “bad things” of the passing year and starting the new year with a clean slate.  I know it’s silly and has no bearing whatsoever on the future but the Chinese DNA in my cells started developing 8,000 plus years ago on the banks of the Yellow River so the superstitious urges that the DNA dictates is a mighty hard thing to resist.

Poster for THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGONAs this is my first post in the Year of the Ox, I’m loathe to make it a negative one.  My “Chinese superstitious” side is screaming for me to start off the new year on a positive note but the Hong Kong Film Critics Society’s jaw-dropping decision to name THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON as one of its recommended films of 2008 has my head shaking in bewilderment and my mind screaming: “Are you KIDDING me?  Did you guys actually SEE the movie?”.  I was able to overcome the urge to denounce the move when the Society announced their award winners last month.  However, when I read in the paper that they are presenting their awards today at 3 pm with a ceremony at the Hong Kong Film Archive, it stirred up the old grievance so I’m setting my Chinese superstitions aside to rail, once again, about the Hong Kong Films Society Awards.

In recommending THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON, the Society praised director Daniel Lee Yan-Kong for using ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS as a backdrop for insights into the notions of destiny and karma.  When I read that, I went to check my DVD of the film to make sure that I didn’t get sold an illegal, pirated copy because the version of the movie that I saw didn’t have much thematic depth.  The movie that I saw looked good and had solid production values but it handled the philosophical aspects of war, life, destiny and karma in a very cursory and superficial way.  To argue that THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON was Poster for PLAYBOY COPSinsightful about destiny and karma is like arguing that PLAYBOY COPS was penetrating social commentary on the nature of the rich and poor in Hong Kong and gave insight on the father-son relationship.  Both were slick productions but neither film offered profound wisdom about anything.

Besides taking issue with the Society’s opinion of the narrative depth of THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON, I think the film has many other problems that would make me hesitate to recommend it as one of the best films of 2008.  The way it changes history is at the top of the list.  It’s fine in a piece of historical fiction to tweak historical details but to change history wholesale by suggesting that Zhao Yun died heroically during a seige rather than, as happened in real life, dying of illness in old age not only annoys historical purists, it kills the film’s credibility with its core audience — ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS fans.

Having Sammo Hung’s character narrate the film was also an odd choice.  The Three Kingdoms saga is filled with larger than life personalities like Zhao Yun, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei so why tell the story from the perspective of a low-level soldier like Hung’s Pingan? Not only is he a virtual no-name, he’s presented as a bit of a stumbling, bumbling buffoon.  So why would anyone expect the audience to give two cents about this character much less anything this character has to say?  An odd narrative decision.

Like I said earlier, the film has solid, slick production values, but it’s marred by clumsy storytelling, inconsistent pacing and action sequences edited with the herky-jerky, murky style that filmmakers continue to use despite the fact that 95% of moviegoers are annoyed by it.  Add that all together and THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON is closer to being one of the worst movies of 2008 than one of the best.  As I said earlier, you have to wonder if the Hong Kong Film Critics Society saw a different version of the movie.

FOR THE RECORD: The Hong Kong Film Critics Society gathered on January 4th to determine the winners for their 15th annual awards (click here for the winners list). They spent eight hours and used three rounds of voting to sift through fifty-five eligible films. While the number of films under consideration was up four from 2007, most of the films from 2008 were deemed “poor quality” and only eight to twelve films were seriously considered for awards.

By a wide margin, Ann Hui On-Wah’s THE WAY WE ARE was named Best Film of 2008.  HIGH NOON, SPARROW, THE BEAST STALKER, RUN PAPA RUN, CITY OF BASEBALL, IP MAN, FATAL MOVE and CLAUSTROPHOBIA were also considered but the overwhelming support for THE WAY WE ARE made a final vote moot.

The following is a list of candidates nominated for voting, the finalists and the winners for the remaining categories: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor.

  Best Director Best Screenplay Best Actress Best Actor
Nominated For Voting Ann Hui On-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON) 

Johnnie To Kei-Fung (SPARROW) 

Dante Lam Chiu-Yin (THE BEAST STALKER) 

Wilson Yip Wai-Shun (IP MAN)

Ivy Ho (CLAUSTROPHOBIA) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON) 

Lui Yau-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Sylvia Chang Ai-Ka, Mathias Woo Yan-Wai, Susan Chan Suk-Yin (RUN PAPA RUN) 

Derek Kwok Chi-Kin, Lung Man-Hong, Clement Cheng Si-Kit (THE MOSS)

Bau Hei-Jing (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Tien Niu (FATAL MOVE) 

Zhou Xun (PAINTED SKIN) 

Xu Jiao (CJ7) 

Prudence Lau Mei-Kwan (TRUE WOMAN FOR

SALE)
 

Nora Miao (RUN PAPA RUN)

Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (THE BEAST STALKER) 

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (TRUE WOMAN FOR

SALE)
 

Simon Yam Tat-Wah (SPARROW) 

Gordon Lam Ka-Tung (IP MAN) 

Sammo Hung Kam-Bo (THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON) 

Terry Fan Siu-Wong (THE MOSS)

Final Vote Ann Hui On-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON)

Ivy Ho (CLAUSTROPHOBIA) 

Heiward Mak Hei-Yan (HIGH NOON)

Bau Hei-Jing (THE WAY WE ARE) 

Tien Niu (FATAL MOVE)

Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (THE BEAST STALKER) 

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (TRUE WOMAN FOR

SALE)
 

Simon Yam Tat-Wah (SPARROW)

Winner Ann Hui On-Wah (THE WAY WE ARE) Ivy Ho (CLAUSTROPHOBIA) Bau Hei-Jing (THE WAY WE ARE) Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (THE BEAST STALKER)

Image credits: Beijing Poly-bona Film Publishing Company (THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON poster), BIG Pictures (PLAYBOY COPS poster)

A Closer Look At The 14th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards

Revised at 12:04 pm

Last week, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society released the winners list for its 14th annual awards. I was incredulous when I saw that it named THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT as the Best Film of 2007. I had an Allen Iverson-practice moment when I read the news. I mean, we’re sitting here and the award is supposed to go to the best film of the year and aunt_dvd_2.jpgwe’re talking about THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT? THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT? THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT? Not MAD DETECTIVE, not THE WARLORDS but THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT. We’re supposed to be talking about the best movie of the year produced by an industry that I follow passionately and approach every movie it makes like it’s going to be the best movie I’m ever going to see and we’re talking about THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT.

I reviewed the film last May and thought that there was no poignancy in its unyielding sadness. As a result, I was stunned when I found out it was named Best Film. In order to get an understanding of why the Hong Kong Film Critics Society (HKFCS) awarded the movie with the top prize, I decided to read the society’s official awards statement. At the very least, I hope to learn what the society members were on when they made their decision because I want to get me some of that. ;-)

On January 20th, the HKFCS gathered to determine its annual awards. After nine spirited hours of debate and three rounds of voting, the society named the winners of its 14th annual awards. In all, fifty-one films were considered but only nine or ten were serious candidates for awards. THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT emerged as the Best Film of 2007. It was nominated for voting consideration along with the following films:

THE WARLORDS
EYE IN THE SKY
MAD DETECTIVE
WHISPERS AND MOANS
TRIANGLE
HOOKED ON YOU

After the preliminary round of voting, only three films: THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT, THE WARLORDS and MAD DETECTIVE were considered for the final vote. THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT won.

Why? According to the HKFCS:

The POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT is unrestrained filmmaking from Ann Hui On-Wah that shows she is back at the top of her game. Bringing forth a fresh perspective from the haze of her older work, Hui uses Shanghai to reflect the current state of Hong Kong and the helplessness of life. She has made a richly-layered and touching film that reveals sorrow through humour and allows passion to seep through restraint. It moves from being wildly imaginative to being simple and unadorned. A masterful display of exquisite brushwork that deftly paints a portrait of the human spirit.

Obviously, the HKFCS saw the poignancy in Ye Rutang’s tragic fate that I failed to see. I still maintain that the film’s thematic nuances are too faint to be meaningful. If somebody out there “gets” the film, I’d appreciate it if you would let me know what I’m missing because all I see is a heavy-handed, blunt delivery of the “life sucks sometimes” theme and not a “masterful display of exquisite brushwork that deftly paints a portrait of the human spirit.”

FOR THE RECORD: The following is the list of candidates nominated for voting, the finalists and the winners in the Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Actor categories:

 

Best Director

Best Screenplay

Best Actress

Best Actor

Nominated

For

Voting

Ann Hui On-Wah
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Peter Chan Ho-Sun
THE WARLORDS

Yau Nai-Hoi
EYE IN THE SKY

Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai
MAD DETECTIVE

Law Wing-Cheong
HOOKED ON YOU

Li Qiang
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee
MAD DETECTIVE

Fung Chi-Keung
HOOKED ON YOU

Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin-Yee
EYE IN THE SKY

Herman Yau Lai-To, Yang Yee-Shan
WHISPERS AND MOANS

Chun Tin-Nam, Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah,
Xu Lan
THE WARLORDS

Siqin Gaowa
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Candace Yu On-On
WHISPERS AND MOANS

Kate Tsui Tsz-Shan
EYE IN THE SKY

Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah
HOOKED ON YOU

Teresa Mo Shun-Kwun
MR. CINEMA

Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin
SIMPLY ACTORS

Jet Li
THE WARLORDS

Lau Ching-Wan
MAD DETECTIVE

Chow Yun-Fat
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
MR. CINEMA

Simon Yam Tat-Wah
EYE IN THE SKY

Tony Leung Ka-Fai
EYE IN THE SKY

Final

Vote

Ann Hui On-Wah
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Peter Chan Ho-Sun
THE WARLORDS

Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai
MAD DETECTIVE

Chun Tin-Nam, Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah, Xu Lan
THE WARLORDS

Li Qiang
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee
MAD DETECTIVE

Siqin Gaowa
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Jet Li
THE WARLORDS

Lau Ching-Wan
MAD DETECTIVE

Tony Leung Ka-Fai
EYE IN THE SKY

Winner

Ann Hui On-Wah
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee
MAD DETECTIVE

Siqin Gaowa
THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT

Tony Leung Ka-Fai
EYE IN THE SKY

From left to right: Teresa Mo, Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Yam

MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS:

- It was good to see that Kate Tsui Tsz-Shan was considered for Best Actress. For a while there, I was afraid I was impressed with her work only because my expectations were lowered by the negative chatter about her acting on the discussion forums.

- Also good to see Teresa Mo get consideration for her role in MR. CINEMA. Here’s hoping she gets a Hong Kong Film Award nomination as well.

- Speaking of MR. CINEMA, I’m surprised it wasn’t in consideration for Best Film. Granted, it’s not a weighty piece of work but I thought it was more insightful and a better piece of art than THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF AUNT.

- Wow, the HKFCS must have really, really liked THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT. Not only did it win Best Film but Siqin Gaowa won Best Actress uncontested in the final round of voting. Wow. I’m sorely tempted to reach out to the HKFCS to see if someone there can enlighten me on their love for the film.

- I have much respect and admiration for Chow Yun-Fat’s body of work over the years but I can’t believe the HKFCS thought his performance in THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT was one of the top five performances in 2007. As I said back in May, if it wasn’t the mighty Fat-Gor giving that performance on the screen, my eyes would be rolling at the exaggerated gestures and hammy expressions. Even if you accept the premise that the demeanour was a deliberate ploy by a conman out to scam a lonely woman, I don’t know if 5% of HK entertainment fans would categorize it as one of the year’s top five performances.

- I actually thought Simon Yam Tat-Wah did better work in EXODUS than he did in EYE IN THE SKY. Still, it’s nice to see that he’s getting some recognition. Since Lau Ching-Wan won a Hong Kong Film Award last year, I think Simon Yam Tat-Wah is the next unrecognized veteran who needs to get recognized with a HKFA. Let us all burn incense and offer fish and roasted suckling pigs to the Hong Kong Movie Gods in support of Simon Yam.

IMAGE CREDITS: Beijing Poly-bona Film Publishing Company (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF AUNT poster, Chow Yun-Fat), Sil-Metropol Organization (Teresa Mo), Filmko Pictures (Simon Yam)

 
 
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