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

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with 聚言莊﹕The House Where Words Gather.

Archive for the ‘The Life and Opinion of the Webmaster Sanney’ Category

News Links: Cinco de Mayo 2009

A happy Cinco de Mayo to all — Mexican or non-Mexican because this blog recognizes the Confucian principle of “all within the four seas are one family”. :-)

Four Seas One Family

Speaking of Mexico, this swine flu coverage from the media is getting out of hand.  Last night, the news had a breathless story on “swine flu survivors”.  Really?  Are you sure you want to drop the word “survivor” here?  Apart from thinking of contestants on a cheesy but fun CBS reality/game show, when I hear the word “survivor”, I usually think Holocaust survivor or airplane crash survivor.  “Swine flu survivor” is a bit much — no?  Heck, I was involved in a bitter struggle with the Big C for more than a year and I don’t go around referring to myself as a “survivor”.

Whatever happened to a little something called perspective?  I’m writing this paragraph on Tuesday evening and, according to the World Health Organization website, there are currently 1,419 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu world wide — that’s 1,419 out of 6.7 billion people or 0.000000211% of the population.  Yes, this flu is something people need to take seriously and watch carefully but is this degree of media coverage necessary?  I’m starting to think that, ultimately, there may be more harm to society from the media crying wolf than there will be from this flu outbreak.

Enough nonsense about the nonsense, let’s celebrate the outmanned and outgunned Mexican army’s victory over Napoleon III’s French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 with some links:

LINK OF INTEREST:

While we’re on the topic of underdog victories, here’s a link to an off-topic but interesting piece from The New Yorker:

Annals of Innovation: How David Beats Goliath

MOVIE REVIEWS:

HK Magazine reviews:

IN PRODUCTION:

Nicholas Tse Went all out for New Role

Vivian Hsu on Freezing Filming Set

CRI ENGLISH movie capusle: SHANGHAI (Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, John Cusack)

EAST WIND, RAIN: Wang Baoqiang Is a ‘Xiao Kai’ in Shanghai

Mainland TV: Four Generations under One Roof

Japan: Warner brings ‘Death’ to bigscreen

FEATURES:

Challenges keep Xu Jinglei Alive

Another Shot At Success: Electric New Paper feature on Mrs. Kozo aka Karena Lam Ka-Yan

Mainland Mission: Screen Daily feature on Peter Chan Ho-Sun

Bau Hei-Jing: The “eldest” best actress

A Heinous History: bc Magazine feature on I CORRUPT ALL COPS

It’s Because We’re Very Vain: Electric New Paper feature on Grasshopper

Cultural Revolution: Screen Daily feature on Polybona boss Yu Dong

Up Close: PUSSYCAT THEATRE

HK Magazine interview with actress/director Crystal Kwok Kam-Yan.  Ten years ago, she directed an intriguing movie called THE MISTRESS.  Definitely worth a look if you can find it on DVD.  There’s an unique shot of a pig in the film that you won’t forget.  It was a remarkable directorial debut for Kwok and it’s a bit of a shame that she hasn’t directed another movie.

High on Action: Feature on young Thai actors from the Thai film POWER KIDS

GENERAL NEWS:

New Bride: 61-Year-Old Liza Wang

Andy Lau’s wedding is off, says HK media

Chow Yun Fat and other Hong Kong stars on the swine flu and Mexico

Nicholas Tse’s Last Album takes off

PHOTOS: Nic Tse promotes his album with a little help from his old man

SARFT reminds you to avoid celebrity scandals

Wouter Barendrecht remembered in Hong Kong

OBITUARIES: Variety; The Guardian

PHOTOS: Xinhua News

Singapore: Jaime Teo plans showbiz comeback

Strong Showing: Article on the Singapore film industry

SEXY PHOTOS GATE:

Cecilia Cheung ‘hopes to act again’ after a year break

PHOTOS: Cecilia Cheung meets with Derek Yee

Gillian Chung performs on TVB charity show

JACKIE CHAN:

On Sunday, Jackie Chan made his first public appearance in Hong Kong since his infamous ramblings at a Mainland business forums last month.  Chan performed at an event celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.  He left immediately after his performance and did not speak to reporters.

RELATED: Xinhua news photos

Jackie Chan wears a political jester’s hat, too

Jackie Chan stages show at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest

PHOTOS: Jackie Chan performs

Jackie Chan Stars Concert in Bird’s Nest

Jackie Chan: There’s no place like home!

Rain joins in Jackie Chan concert

Jackie Chan now the mail lead

Jackie Chan, Yao Ming appointed ambassadors for 2010 Shanghai World Expo

Jackie Chan and The World’s Largest Sushi Roll

CONCERT REVIEW:

Hail the Music Man: Lee Hom-Wang in Malaysia

Lee Hom dazzles fans

OPINION:

City of sorrow: Competing film portrayals of the Nanjing Massacre

PHOTO GALLERYS:

Stalkin’ The Stars: Faye Wong in Hong Kong 1, 2

Faye Wong landed in Hong Kong earlier this week for some shopping and to meet with her friends Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Carina Lau Ka-Ling and Rosamund Kwan Chi-Lam

More Stalkin’ The Stars: Zhang Ziyi shops for shoes in Hong Kong

Vivian Chow Wai-Man shoots a cosmetics ad

Joey Yung, Lisa S. (Daniel Wu’s squeeze) at an event for Tiffany & Co.

Jessica Hsuan, Sunny Chan, Natalie Tong promote their TVB series JUST LOVE II

Zhou Xun: Expo Green Queen

Zhao Ziqi’s Punk Style

Olympic diving star: Guo Jingjing

CHINESE PEOPLE BEING CONTROLLED:

Hubei orders public servants to smoke local cigarettes

FOLLOW-UP: China cigarette order up in smoke

28th Hong Kong Film Awards Preview: Best Film

Previously:

A little reader interaction before we dive into the topic of the day …

From the comments on the last post:

laicheukpan writes: Sanney you didn’t actually contact Kozo right?

I actually did contact Kozo.  Those are his actual thoughts on Karena Lam and the Best Actress category.  Living here in the Great White North, I won’t be able to see CLAUSTROPHOBIA for another two, three weeks so I needed to get in touch with him to round out the post.

While I’m answering questions from laicheukpan, here’s another from the comments on Happy Year of The Ox!

laicheukpan writes: Hey Sanney! Happy New Year! I got a question for you. Are you fluent in Cantonese?

Yes, I speak a civilized tongue and not just this barbaric language.  I kid, I kid.  Back in elementary school, I had a Chinese friend who had a grandfather who was old-school, hardcore Chinese.  When I was over at his house, I’d hear his grandfather ranting in the other Li Bingbingroom about Chinese people being “civilized” and non-Chinese people being “barbarians”.  Good times!  The guy was a bit scary to a little kid like me:  hunched over, wispy moustache, Emperor Hirohito-type glasses and a creepy, loud and raspy smoker’s voice.

Anyway, yes I’m fluent in Cantonese.  I don’t have a Stephen Chow mo lei tau (無厘頭) command of the language but I can hold my own in a conversation.  A little Cantonese voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I should learn how to speak Mandarin — just in case I run into Fan Bingbing or Li Bingbing someday — but I’m a lazy, lazy man.

By the way, Kozo really is actually marrying his secret girlfriend of 20 years later this month.  He’s going to be telling everyone that’s he’s going to “Italy” for a “film festival” but he’s really going to Malaysia for his wedding.

On to today’s business …

* * * * *

The nominees for Best Film are:

MY VOTE GOES TO: THE WAY WE ARE

To me, THE WAY WE ARE is the clear winner in this category.  CJ7 is enjoyably pleasant but it’s a clear step down for Stephen Chow.  It’s not as uproariously funny as SHAOLIN SOCCER nor is it as captivating as KUNG FU HUSTLE.  Honestly, I think CJ7 got nominated because back room folks at the Hong Kong Film Awards Association had the following conversation:

HKFAA Executive #1: You know, ratings for our awards show would really get a boost if we could get Stephen Chow to show up.

HKFAA Executive #2: Well, Tiffany says the guy is “inhumane” and that he once threatened to sue Cecilia Cheung if she didn’t shave her head for a movie.  He’s not going to come if we just ask him.  The only way he’ll show up is if we nominate him for something.

HKFAA Executive #1: What if we play the loyalty card and ask him to come for the good of the industry that’s provided him his millions?

HKFAA Executive #2: Danny says that Chow is the type of guy who drinks water but doesn’t think about where it comes from.  He should know because he helped Chow start up his movie career.  The loyalty card won’t work.  We have to nominate him.

HKFAA Executive #1: OK, let’s throw some nominations to CJ7 and hope he shows up.

I think that’s a big part of why CJ7 is nominated in this category and not THE BEAST STALKER which is just as technically proficient as CJ7 or TRUE WOMAN FOR SALE which has just as much, if not more, grit and heart as CJ7.

IP MAN and PAINTED SKIN are both well-made and thoroughly enjoyable.  They are, however, popcorn movies.  They’re like most of the summer blockbusters that Hollywood churns out annually, a whole lot of fun, but when it comes time for Oscar season, you don’t consider them serious contenders.

With John Woo at the helm, a stellar cast, grand production values and a ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS pedigree, RED CLIFF has an epic feel that makes it more than your usual summer blockbuster.  If it weren’t for THE WAY WE ARE, RED CLIFF would win running away.  However, three things — two minor and one very significant — make THE WAY WE ARE more worthy of the title.  First, RED CLIFF is plagued at times by languid pacing.  It feels like it could have been paced with tighter efficiency.  Second, there’s more cheese in some of the scenes than a 12″ Big Philly Cheesesteak from Subway.  Stuff like the Sun Shangxiang nerve tweak or Takeshi Kaneshiro’s Zhuge Liang comic relief face are fine as entertaining bits in a summer blockbuster but they don’t belong if your aspiration is to make an all-time epic.

Takeshi Kaneshiro's comic reflief face in RED CLIFF

Third, and most important, RED CLIFF does not carry as much cultural significance as THE WAY WE ARE.  Now some of you are probably thinking: “Did Sanney get into Jill Vidal’s stash or something?  Along with JOURNEY TO THE WEST (西遊記), WATER MARGIN (水滸傳) and DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER (紅樓夢), ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS is one of the four great Chinese classics.  How can RED CLIFF not have as much cultural significance as THE WAY WE ARE?”

Well, my counterargument is that we are talking about the HONG KONG film awards and THE WAY WE ARE is more culturally significant to HONG KONG than RED CLIFF.  Like it or not, movies tend to reinforce stereotypes and common misconceptions.  For example, I’m sure all those Richard Curtis romantic comedies have left many people thinking that most British guys are charming, self-effacing Hugh Grant/Colin Firth types.  Similarly, I’m sure Hong Kong movies have left many people thinking that HK is filled with kung fu masters, invincible cops and goo wak jai (古惑仔).  Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.  The people that populate THE WAY WE ARE — the produce lady at Wellcome, the lonely senior citizen, the dopey ambition-less kid and the successful businessman who received an education overseas — are the same people who populate Hong Kong.  They outnumber, by a vast margin, kung fu practitioners, supercops and evil gangsters.  THE WAY WE ARE is an almost perfect reflection of normal life in Hong Kong and it deserves to be rewarded with this year HKFA for Best Film.

Still from THE WAY WE ARE

The big knock against THE WAY WE ARE is that it’s boring and that nothing really happens.  People who feel that way are, I believe, missing the point of the movie.  THE WAY WE ARE is saying that Hong Kong is defined not by those whose lives end with tragic murder-suicides but by people whose lives continue everyday in mundane ways like the hard-working Mrs. Cheung and her lonely neighbour.  It’s saying that most people in Hong Kong react to adversity by quietly sucking it up and moving on with their lives the best that they can.  Only in exceptional cases do they resort to violence.  To reinforce that message, the low-key rhythm is necessary.  Moments of high drama or neat resolutions would defeat the purpose of the film.

Reading the tea leaves, I think THE WAY WE ARE, RED CLIFF and IP MAN are the three serious contenders for the awards.  Though RED CLIFF and IP MAN are bigger and flashier, it would be a shame if the exceptional, note-perfect, little local film that’s about local people and local issues fails to win the prize.

Image credits: Universal Pictures (Li Bingbing), Lion Rock Productions (Takeshi Kaneshiro), Class Limited (Still from THE WAY WE ARE)

News Links: April 8th, 2009

Before we begin, a little reader interaction.  I’m going to try to respond to past comments and questions in a future post but I want to get at this one today while it’s fresh in my mind …

From the comments on News Links: Ching Ming Festival 2009

Glenn writes: I saw those Rainie shots the other day and thought they were pretty offensive; who dresses up like an American Indian anymore like that? I’m old enough to remember how dumb it was when Cher did it for her “Half Breed” song.

Again, it’s probably because I’ve watched way too much LAW & ORDER over the years but I find it hard to get worked up about the photos because there is no mens rea (guilty mind) behind it.  They are more stupid than they are offensive.  It’s more a reflection of ignorance than it is a reflection of racism.  The people behind those photos just aren’t aware enough of the cultural significance of an Rainie Yangimage of that sort.  It’s probably just someone’s misguided idea of something that looks “cool”.  It’s happened before — Vicki Zhao modeling that Rising Sun dress and Shawn Yue posing in Nazi-themed clothing — and it’ll happen again.

Plain and simple, some people are just ignorant.  It’s a worldwide phenomenon that isn’t just limited to the East.  People in the West have had their boneheaded moments too.  Take, for instance, the recent “Asian eyes” controversies involving the Spanish Olympic basketball team and Miley Cyrus.  Ignorance and stupidity are just as much a part of the human condition as racism.  So, in all of the above cases, I pity the stupidity rather than abhor the prejudice.

Here’s hoping that with increasing globalization, more and more people become enlightened about racial and cultural issues.  It might take a while to get there because it seems to me that, running opposite of increasing globalization, there is an increase in niche communities where people who have similar interests form insular communities.  More and more, it’s possible to live your life in a bubble and not be aware of anything outside of your little niche.  I am not talking just of nerds on the Internet, I’m also talking about CEOs who take private jets to Washington to ask for bailout money.

OK, I’ll shut up now, you’ve come here for HK entertainment circle news not a discussion of modern society from a Tocquevillean perspective.

Just one more thing, back to the Rainie Yang photos, I honestly believe there’s no malice behind it because parts of the Chinese community (the parts that have limited contact outside of the Chinese community) have yet to evolve to the point where they are aware that these issues even exist.   The notion that they may be offending some people probably hasn’t even crossed their minds.  Walk into the health care section of a Chinese grocery store and you’ll probably find bottles of Hak Gwai Yau (Black Man Oil) for sale on the shelf.  The pain relief/massage oil has been around for decades and the reason behind the name is likely due to the fact that some Chinese people associate black men with physical prowess.  They simply aren’t aware of issues like slavery or the civil rights struggle.  To them, it’s “if black guys use this to relieve muscle aches and pains, then it must be good”.  Again, here’s hoping time and increasing global awareness will rid society of these ills.

Hak Kwai Oil

Speaking of stupidity …

EDISON CHEN LINKS:

SNIPER reviews: Hollywood Reporter, bc Magazine

Electric New Paper report of Edison Chen’s SNIPER press conference

Edison Chen: “If I made a mistake …”

Edison Chen: Stayin’ alive

Yahoo! Singapore reports: Edison Chen raises voice at reporter, Edison’s PR: Hand over that tape!, Asia’s “most secured” entertainment event?, Richie Ren prepared to be neglected

Straits Times: Drill and grill for Edison

Sina.com photo gallery of press event

Edison Chen braves death threat to promote movie in Singapore

SEXY PHOTOS GATE:

Edison driver tells of 3-hour laptop lapse

Court hears of Edison Chen sex photos

HK Techie Denies He Stole Edison Chen’s Pics

Call me “Naïve Gil”!

Charlene Choi releases solo album

On Monday, EEG held a press event celebrating the release of Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin’s solo album 二缺一 (Two Missing One). Fellow EEG labelmates Kenny Kwan Chi-Ban and William Chan Wai-Ting were at the event to support Ah Sa.   Gillian Chung Yan-Tung was not present because she did not want to draw attention away from her Twins bandmate.  She did, however, make a phone call to show her support.

Talking about her new album, Choi said that the title “Two Missing One” represents her feelings as it felt strange to perform and shoot music videos without Ah Gil.   Asked if the solo release means Twins has now disbanded, Choi answered: “Twins hasn’t disbanded. Twins is the brand I share with Ah Sa.  There will come a day when we perform together again.” 

IN PRODUCTION:

Jackie Chan Goes Big on ‘Soldier’ 

GENERAL NEWS:

Happy Birthday, Jackie Chan!

Andy Lau wedding rumours: No signs of wedding at Carol Chu’s 

Gigi Leung: Charity Is like a Present 

Karen Mok: Mok run for soul singer in Shanghai

Coco Lee: What an April Fools’ joke!

TVB revives dead cop

Jill Vidal: Pop idol had heroin in her belongings

Taiwan Singer A Sun Dies of Breast Cancer

MOVIE REVIEWS:

bc Magazine reviews SHINJUKU INCIDENT

FEATURES:

SNIPER director Dante Lam: Sniping at The Snipers

SHINJUKU INCIDENT cast: Survival Tactics

Daniel Wu, the outsider

bc Magazine reveals its annual Golden Durian awards

PHOTO GALLERYS:

Jet Li, Zhou Xun, Li Bingbing: Acting Stars Honored 

To the delight of shoe fetishists everywhere, Lin Chi-Ling shoots ads for a shoe company

“Shinjuku Incident” Fan Bingbing Covers HK Magazine

Happy Vivian Chow on ‘Cosmopolitan’

Leehom Wang, Jolin Tsai Play Snooker in TV Ad

Fan Bingbing attends ForeverMark event

OTHER NEWS:

Film critic fired for reviewing illegally downloaded movie

Image credits: China Post (Rainie Yang), Koong Yick Medical Factory (Hak Kwai oil) 

Happy Year of the Ox

恭喜發財﹗ 恭喜發財﹗Kung Hei Fat Choi!  Kung Hei Fat Choi!  Welcome to Year 4707 and the Year of the Ox!

With the tough economic times in mind, here’s my Lunar New Year wish for all of you:

Lunar New Year Wish For 4707

That’s all for today.  I do have some thoughts about the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards and its decision to list THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON as one of its recommended films but today is Lunar New Year not Festivus so I’ll leave the “airing of grievances” for another time.

Something new for the new year … I added a “What’s Sanney Watching?” widget to the sidebar.  Just trying to add a little more nonsense to the blog.

新年快樂﹗ Happy New Year!

Out With The Old, Part II

It’s time.

It’s definitely time.

It’s time for me to come in from nude sunbathing out on the beach and get to work on my first post for 2009 — a post about my “mosts” of 2008.

Before I begin, a caveat:  If my picks for the “mosts” of 2008 seem a bit vanilla, a bit uninspired and a bit dated, it’s because torrents and illegal downloads have killed my local Chinese video store so I now have to order in HK films.  As a result, I’ve been limited to the major releases (like RED CLIFF) or films that I have an interest in seeing (like Tissot Presents CONNECTED: A Motorola Film Presentation).  I’ve had to pass on films with negative reviews (like AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS) and the marginal titles (like those Wong Jing productions: MY WIFE IS A GAMBLING MAESTRO and THE FORBIDDEN LEGEND: SEX & CHOPSTICKS).  Ah, who’s kidding who?  I’m going to be seeing SEX & CHOPSTICKS at some point in my life …

In the past, I would have seen everything but having to pay fifteen to twenty bucks to see a film is a much different steaming tray of cha siu bao than having to pay four bucks to see a film.  I need to save some money for hookers and blow … OK, OK, the truth … Doritos and porn.  ;-)

Brendan Gleeson (left) and Colin Farrell in IN BRUGESI saw 24 Hong Kong films in 2008 (yeah, I keep movie-viewing stats … a side effect of being a sports geek) but a number of those were catch-up titles from 2007. Consequently, some older titles will be in my “mosts” selections.  I’m also not going to be able to offer any “diamond in the rough” suggestions like CLEAN MY NAME, MR. CORONER.  The closest I can come to making a recommendation of that ilk is the Martin McDonagh film IN BRUGES.  It tells the tale of two hitmen who are forced to cool their heels in the Belgian city of Bruges and has some definite Hong Kong movie DNA in it.  In fact, it reminded me a lot of EXILED.  So, if you like Johnnie To films and the “honour among thieves” genre, I think you’ll enjoy giving IN BRUGES a look.

On to my “mosts” of 2008:

Most Enjoyable Film Experience: RED CLIFF

Since the phenomenal success of CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, movie fans have been left looking in dismay over an immense wasteland filled with the carcasses of ambitious but fatally flawed “costume epics made for the international market”.  Look over there!  It’s the empty shell that used to be known as THE BANQUET.  And here, we have the corpse of THE PROMISE.  What’s that smell?  It’s the rotting flesh of SEVEN SWORDS.

Finally, after eight long years, a big-budget, star-studded production has come along and delivered on its promise.  Unlike some of its predecessors, it doesn’t leave viewers feeling disappointed (I’m looking at you THE BANQUET), puzzled (SEVEN SWORDS) or laughing derisively at the unintentional comedy (THE PROMISE). While RED CLIFF VOL. 1 (volume 2 comes out later this month) isn’t a pantheon-worthy masterpiece, it is solid entertainment and thoroughly enjoyable.  It’s well-made with the familiar Woo style, doesn’t indulge in over-production, tells a coherent story that satisfies and, while the comedy can be a bit corny, viewers are likely to laugh with it instead of laugh at it.Some of you may be thinking that RED CLIFF was OK but it wasn’t the most enjoyable film experience of 2008.  Well, it was the most fun I had watching a movie from the three Chinas (Mainland, HK, Taiwan).  For the record, the most fun I had at the movies in 2008 was IRON MAN.

Two factors enhanced my enjoyment of the film:

One, I’m a ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS geek.  I own the book.  I own the original KOEI PC game when everything fit on one 5 1/4″ inch diskette and used less memory than a Lin Chi-Ling JPEG.  Even though they are all essentially the same game, I own the PS2 versions of DYNASTY WARRIORS 3, DYNASTY WARRIORS 4 and DYNASTY WARRIORS 5.  By the way, my high score at the Battle of Chi Bi is 1383 KOs with Zhao Yun.  Yes, I am a true hero of the Three Kingdoms. :-)

Hulk HoganTwo, I’m a John Woo fan.  A BETTER TOMORROW and HARD-BOILED are enshrined in the Republic of Sanneyistan movie pantheon.  Coupled with the fact that John Woo had not directed a Chinese film since 1992, I was all geeked up for RED CLIFF and the familiar John Woo flourishes: the bromance, the notion of honour between men, the slow motion shots and, of course, the pigeons.  It’s sort of like how WWE fans go insane whenever Hulk Hogan appears.  It doesn’t matter that he’s well into his 50s and that he has the agility of a hippopotamus.  People still go nuts whenever “Real American” starts blasting on the loudspeaker and he does the familiar posedown, the waving at the fans to cheer and the leg drop. Whatcha gonna do when John Woo unleashes a bromantic action drama on you?  Sit back and enjoy it, that’s what.

One more thought about RED CLIFF:  Before I saw her performance in the film, the prevailing image I had in my mind of Taiwanese Lin Chi-Ling dancing with Terry Guosupermodel Lin Chi-Ling was of her dancing with business magnate Terry Guo.  Apparently, back in February 2007, she was paid to make an appearance at a business dinner thrown by Guo and somehow ended up dancing with him.  It caused a minor brouhaha when director Tsai Ming-Liang spoke out against her by saying that making such appearances was “cheap” and “disgusting”.  The incident sticks out in my mind not because I worship at the Temple of Righteous Propriety with director Tsai but because I saw the pictures and thought to myself: “whoa, Lin Chi-Ling is kinda hot.”

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking:  “Lin Chi-Ling is hot.  What a revelation.  What’s Sanney going to discover next?  The sky is blue and snow is cold.  Is he going to kiss a girl and like it?”  In response, let me just say that I see gorgeous beauty every day when I look in the mirror so it takes a lot for me to recognize beauty in others.  :-)

Basically, I wasn’t expecting much from Lin Chi-Ling beyond the usual “flower vase” routine.  To my surprise, Lin turned in a decent performance and held her own opposite my cousin Tony, Takeshi Kaneshiro and that scene-stealing but peculiarly-clean newborn foal.  I wouldn’t put it in the same league as some outstanding debut model-actress performances — like Qi Qi (aka Mrs. Simon Yam Tat-Wah) in the criminally underappreciated THE KID and Yoyo Mung Ka-Wai in EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED –  but it isn’t bad for a rookie.

Most Disappointing Moment: Sexy Photos Gate

No, no, no.  I’m not going to be like the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild and descend from Sanctimony Peak to deliver a lecture on how Sexy Photos Gate was a tragedy for society and a tragedy for members of the entertainment industry.  Yes, having very personal photos exposed for all the world to see is beyond the pale and very traumatic and very mortifying for those involved.  However, if you create an interest in yourself so that you can profit from that interest, you can’t really complain when that interest turns on you in ways you can’t control.  If you live by the sword, you can’t complain if you end up dying by the sword.

Nope, my “disappointment” with Sexy Photos Gate is actually more of a lament.  For the past few years, news about the health of the Hong Kong movie industry has been grim (read Tim Youngs’ article in Time Magazine about the issue for a good overview).  However, I’ve always believed that the industry would survive because I’ve seen what the ingenuity and grit of Hong Kong people can do.  I was confident that the industry would find some way to keep going.  It’s like what the Jeff Goldblum character said in JURASSIC PARK: “Because the history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers.  Life breaks free.  Life expands to new territories.  Painfully, perhaps even dangerously.  But life finds a way.”  I was sure the industry would find a way.

Athena Chu Yan and Monica Chan Fat-Yung in THE LOVE AND SEX OF THE EASTERN HOLLYWOODNow, I’m not so sure.  Why?  Because no quickie “ripped from the headlines” movie about Sexy Photos Gate has popped up.  During the Asian Economic Crisis of the late-1990s, the industry still managed to produce THE LOVE AND SEX OF THE EASTERN HOLLYWOOD — a movie based on rumours that swirled around Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu and Veronica Yip Yuk-Hing among others.  After the tech bubble burst, not one but two movies about an infamous murder case turned up: THERE IS A SECRET IN MY SOUP and HUMAN PORK CHOP.  Mere weeks after the Melody Chu Mei-Fang sex scandal broke, the HK movie industry offered THE PEEPING.  Yet, almost a year after the first photos surfaced, no “ripped from the headlines” exploitation flick based on Sexy Photos Gate has been released.

Perhaps there is some reluctance to produce a movie because of the rumoured triad connections involved but you would think that the money a Sexy Photos Gate film could generate would be too enticing to pass up.  Maybe the physical and fiscal risk outweighed any potential reward.  Maybe the industry is too weak for a movie on the biggest scandal of this decade to generate any significant profit.  Whatever the case may be, it is another sign that the health of the Hong Kong movie industry isn’t as robust as it used to be.

Most Shameful Moment: Watching CJ7

If I lived on Sanctimony Peak with the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild, I’d go on a self-serving pious rant about how my most shameful moment as a HK entertainment fan came when I was looking at those Sexy Photos Gate pictures.  Alas, I’m a ham sup lo so I had no compunction about looking at the photos.  I’m not condoning the actions of those who were rabidly waiting for the latest pictures or those who were obsessed with collecting every last image.  I’m just saying that the natural reaction of any normal fan would be to look at the pictures so — despite the whines and moans about the destruction of society — no one should feel shame for looking at the photos.

Kitty Zhang in CJ7

No, my most shameful moment came while I was watching Stephen Chow’s CJ7.  Here I was watching a warm-hearted family movie about the relationship between father and son yet I was constantly distracted by salacious thoughts about Kitty Zhang.  I kept thinking how different my life would have been if I stayed in Hong Kong and was schooled by hot women wearing tight-fitting cheongsam instead of the likes of the stern Father Ernie and dour Sister Olga here in Canada.  One thing’s for sure, if I never underwent the tutelage of Father Ernie and Sister Olga, I’d be feeling no shame over, uh, admiring Kitty Zhang. ;-)

On a side note, anyone out there see Kitty Zhang in SHAOLIN GIRL?  Kozo killed the film in his review so I’ve stayed away but is it enjoyable on a “turn off your brain and look at the pretty pictures” level or is it, as Kozo contends, so bad that I’d get more enjoyment lighting the $16 the DVD costs on fire and watching the money burn?

Most Egregious Use Of CGI: KIDNAP

SPOILER WARNING!  SKIP THIS SECTION IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED ABOUT THE ENDING OF KIDNAP.

Bugs BunnyIf you’ve seen KIDNAP then you probably know precisely what I’m going to write about: the scene where Karena Lam Ka-Yan’s character gets nailed by a car.  The effect was so cartoonish and so out-of-place for the taut thriller that director Law Chi-Leung had going, I half-expected Bugs Bunny to poke his head through the pavement and say: “… I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque … {sees the body of Karena Lam’s character} … oooh, that’s gotta hoit.”

Instead of using that ridiculous CGI, it might have been more effective (and cheaper) to do it old school — the way they did it in Shaw Brothers movies and TVB dramas before the advent of computers — stick a bad wig on a stuntman and do the stunt for real.

Most Memorable Scene: The Stephanie Cheng Yung - Edison Chen Kwoon-Hei scene from TRIVIAL MATTERS

Stephanie Cheng Yung and Edison Chen Kwoon-Hei in TRIVIAL MATTERS

I wish I could say that the scene sticks in my mind because of the cute as a button Stephanie Cheng Yung.  Sadly, no.  The scene sticks in my mind because of the warped notion of “good citizenship” espoused by Edison Chen.  The stupid scene stuck in my mind like an ear worm every time I visited a public toilet in 2008.  It didn’t matter where I was: a pay toilet near the famous Piazza San Marco in Venice, a washroom in a pub just off of Leicester Square or the downstairs facilities in the Columbia Icefields Visitors’ Centre, I couldn’t help but think of Edison Chen’s idea of “public service”.   Thank you Edison Chen.  Thank you Pang Ho-Cheung.

I suppose that I must now make the obligatory comment about how it’s ironic (or at least prescient) that the scene involved a certain part of the male anatomy that Chen would, months later, go down in history and become synonymous with due to Sexy Photos Gate.

Most Memorable Moment Of Bad Acting: Gigi Leung Wing-Kei in WONDER WOMEN

I don’t mean to single out Gigi Leung as a “bad actress” with this selection.  On an absolute scale, her acting skills are fairly decent and I saw many, many poorer performances in 2008.  However, her work in WONDER WOMEN is the bad performance I remember most out of all the ones I saw last year.  Overall, Leung’s effort in WONDER WOMEN is pretty good, it’s just that in key moments she’ll use an exaggerated expression or an exaggerated gesture that belongs more in a TVB drama than a sweeping epic about Hong Kong since the Handover.

Kevin Cheng Ka-Wing (left) and Gigi Leung Wing-Kei (right) in WONDER WOMEN

The moment that sticks in my mind is early in the film shortly after she discovers that her trusted “uncle” (played by Hui Siu-Hung) is conning her with a real estate scam.  Instead of attempting to portray genuine emotion, she uses one of those melodramatic TVB “hrrmph” expressions that’s so jarring it kills the narrative momentum of the film.  Sure, an argument can be made that the entire production is plauged by such inconsistency but a really good actress should have the ability to rise above bad directing and bad production (Karena Lam, for instance, has delivered the goods in many questionable movies).   It’s this lack of acting chops that kept Leung from progressing beyond the “It Girl” level earlier in her career.

Most Memorable Moment of Good Acting: Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai in KIDNAP

Eddie Cheung Siu-FaiThere wasn’t any particular instance of great acting that prompted me to pick Eddie Cheung for this section.  It’s just that while I was watching him in KIDNAP, it dawned on me that Cheung is an outstanding actor.  I never really noticed it before because he started his career playing thankless roles in TVB series.  From the late-1980s to early this decade, Cheung spent his time at TVB playing villains, dorks or the third wheel in romantic triangles.  Consequently, you never really paid attention to him because the focus was always on the leading man and the leading lady.

Since leaving TVB, Cheung has put together a nice string of supporting roles in some notable movies (from RUNNING ON KARMA to THROWDOWN to MAD DETECTIVE).  In the past couple of years alone, he’s played a supremely competent badass cop in KIDNAP, a sympathetic hardass cop in DOG BITE DOG, a jerkass police superintendent in CONNECTED and an explosively violent personality in MAD DETECTIVE.  Here’s hoping that his talent, his skill and his range are recognized someday with a Hong Kong Film Award.  Hong Kong Movie Gods, I beseech you, please make it so.

Looking Ahead To 2009: Growing a Lamstache

George Lam Chi-CheungNow that I’ve finally put 2008 to rest, here’s what I plan to do in 2009: grow a George Lam Chi-Cheung style moustache.  Why?  In real life, the guy is married to Sally Yeh.  In his last two movies, his characters were married to ones played by Gigi Leung Wing-Kei and Loletta Lee Lai-Chun.  In addition to having such good luck with the ladies, he played a badass gangster in THE PYE-DOG.  Surely, the secret to his success is the ’stache. :-)

OK, OK, maybe I’ll take a pass on the idea of the Lamstache.  What I will do in 2009 is wait for the Hong Kong Film Awards nominations to come out and see all the nominated movies and performances.  I have a feeling that means I’ll be seeing films like RUN PAPA RUN and THE WAY WE ARE.  Of course, I’ll be seeing RED CLIFF 2.  In fact, if I was a crazy rich guy, I would hop a flight to Hong Kong just so I could see the movie instead of waiting for it to come out on DVD.  Alas, I’m not rich, just crazy.

Do any of you have suggestions on movies from 2008 that I should see?  Does the accumulated babeage in LA LINGERIE make it worth a look?  How about NOBODY’S PERFECT?  Is there enough Jo Koo in THE VAMPIRE WHO ADMIRES ME to justify a purchase?  If there’s a film that you saw in 2008 that tickled your fancy, let me know.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I enjoy the fartsy just as much as the artsy.

* * * * *

Be seeing you, Patrick McGoohan.

Image credits: Blueprint Pictures (IN BRUGES still), WWE (Hulk Hogan), Wenhui Xinmin United Press Group (Lin Chi-Ling/Terry Guo), Mei Ah Entertainment (THE LOVE AND SEX OF THE EASTERN HOLLYWOOD still), Star Overseas (Kitty Zhang), Bugs Bunny (Warner Bros.), Not Brothers (TRIVIAL MATTERS still), Mandarin Films (WONDER WOMEN still), George Lam’s Official Website (George Lam)

 
 
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