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Archive for February, 2007

Media Asia admits Infernal Affairs not original creation

Just in from Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily regarding the “Infernal Affairs is Japanese” saga. When reporters asked Media Asia (the film’s distributor, also a producer on The Departed) officials for response, they responded by admitting that Infernal Affairs was based on a Japanese comic. The Chinese report is here (I don’t have a link because they change online content daily, but you can go to the site and read the exact report yourself in the next 22 hours):

奧 斯 卡 頒 獎 禮 大 會 誤 把 《 無 間 道 》 指 為 日 本 電 影 , 惹 來 內 地 不 少 網 友 不 滿 , 亦 有 指 開 拍 《 無 間 道 》 之 寰 亞 電 影 亦 特 別 發 信 向 奧 斯 卡 大 會 問 罪 , 對 此 , 寰 亞 高 層 朱 任 之 表 示 : 「 其 實 只 係 講 人 無 知 講 錯 說 話 , 但 憑 良 心 講 番 句 , 因 為 《 無 》 片 係 參 照 日 本 漫 畫 改 編 , 所 以 佢 會 有 呢 個 錯 覺 , 我 亦 已 發 電 郵 畀 奧 斯 卡 , 叫 佢 要 好 好 正 視 呢 個 問 題 。 ( 有 無 特 別 要 求 ? ) 佢 都 仲 未 回 覆 , 但 佢 今 年 確 實 錯 漏 百 出 , 好 似 唔 係 墨 西 哥 人 , 又 話 人 係 墨 西 哥 人 , 但 呢 都 唔 係 好 大 件 事 , 最 多 個 主 持 出 年 無 得 做 。 」

“The Mainland Chinese online community is angry with the Academy Awards calling ‘Infernal Affairs’ a Japanese films, and has caused Media Asia to directly ask the Academy about their mistakes. High-ranking Media Asia official states: ‘It’s just the misguided people there saying the wrong things. But to look at it fairly, ‘Infernal’ is based on a Japanese comic, so they would make that kind of mistake. We have already sent a e-mail to the Academy to correct the problem.’ (Was there any special request?) ‘They haven’t replied, but the truth is that here are a lot of mistakes made this year. It seems like someone who isn’t Mexican got referred to as Mexican. But it’s no big deal, at the most it just means the host won’t return next year.’”

There ya go, folks. Who stole whose ideas now?

"’The Departed’’s Hong Kong Creation"

The following is a rough translation of an editorial that appeared in Hong Kong’s Ming Pao on February 28th. It’s written by Anthony Fung, an Assistant professor in the Communication and Broadcasting department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and I think it’s mostly bullshit (more on the why later). Remember, I didn’t write this article.

Here it is:

“The Departed” became the big winner at the Oscars. Some are happy and some are sad. Those that are happy believe that a remake of a Hong Kong film can succeed internationally is credit to Hong Kong film’s creativity. Those that are sad believe that no matter how fresh the script and the concept of “Infernal Affairs” is, it can only succeed in Hong Kong, and never succeed in the huge American market. On the other hand, it succeeds when the same script reaches Hollywood, angering the Hong Kong filmmakers who have worked so hard. The latter complains that the Hong Kong market is far too small. Even a flawless Hong Kong script and Hong Kong crew cannot achieve much.

I understand their sentiments. I feel that their opinions are the result of not having adapted the consequences of change. A question worth asking is: In this globalized market, should we continue making these “Hong Kong products?” Do these local productions of “Hong Kong films” made for Hong Kong people still exist?

Those who are still in love with the era of “Hong Kong films” should first ask themselves whether any pure local films still exists. The truth is these days, whether Hollywood films are made up of American films are not even a sure thing. First, talented actors in Hollywood now originate from everywhere. Many of them are from outside America, such as England’s Hugh Grant, even Jean Reno isn’t American. Chow Yun-Fat, Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li have all made it to Hollywood. Hong Kong’s John Woo directed “Mission: Impossible” II and III. Is this type of internationalized or melting pot of Hollywood films America?

From the region of production, we also get an answer. Now Hollywood films are rarely made in Hollywood, because production cost in England are far cheaper than production costs in America. Now many Hollywood films are no longer made at home. The most well-known example is the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which was made in New Zealand. Even if it’s an American film, many production crew are from overseas. Since Hollywood films are not even pure American films, why should a small city such as Hong Kong pursue these pure “Hong Kong films?”

The truth is, in a globalized world, film financing is no longer from their countries of origin. Film money are now from everywhere, and it no longer matters where they come from. Many recent Hong Kong successes are foreign-financed, but no one seem to suspect that these “Hong Kong films” have any foreign influence. “Kung Fu Hustle” is a good example, who says that Stephen Chiau’s films are not the pride of Hong Kong?

I think now it’s time to change our way of thinking. Hong Kong is only a special region of China, that is a truth solid as steel. If we give up our stubbornly-kept mentality of “Hong Kong products” and look far ahead, don’t local films already have a huge market in China? If we hear Beijing people saying they must make “Beijing films” or Shanghai people making “Shanghai films,” won’t we think it’s laughable? Some estimate there are only 100,000 frequent filmgoers in Hong Kong. Even during holidays when families go to the movies, Hong Kong films only make tens of millions (in Hong Kong dollars). If we put down our baggage and go into the Chinese market, won’t we be able to share the 300 million renmibi that “Curse of the Golden Flower” made?

To develop Hong Kong films, why not look towards the north? It’s better than reminiscing about old times. Perhaps some recent successes have started to mature. Recent successful Chinese films such as “Hero” and “A Battle of Wits” are made with Hong Kong financing and actors. Even the Andy Lau-financed “Crazy Stone” is made to penetrate the Chinese market.

Regarding The Departed, some people may hold a grudge due to the fact that Hollywood used Hong Kong “creativity” to reach international success. But doesn’t Hong Kong often borrow from others’ creativity as well? Alan Tam and Leslie Cheung often sang covers of Japanese pop songs in the 80s, and aren’t those songs now Hong Kong pop classics? Even today, aren’t many television programs such as “Who Want to be a Millionaire” made from Western creativity? Now that Hollywood has decided to buy remakes rights from Hong Kong scripts to make its own legends, it’s merely a strategy Hong Kong has always used, so what’s so special about that?

Lastly, I think that now Hong Kong still has creativity, they should seize the day and focus on internationalizing certain aspects of filmmaking. If Hong Kong continues to hold this “Hong Kong product” mentality, then Korean, Japanese, and Chinese filmmakers will quickly dominate the global film industry, adding to the impact on the Hong Kong film industry.

These last few years, the Hong Kong Film Festival seem to spotlight these “only in Hong Kong” triad films. Surely, these “Hong Kong products” have a local market. Certainly, if box office gross is a standard for success, then these local “Hong Kong films” can only satisfy a small local market. If they continue to create these “Hong Kong films,” I believe that in 30 or 50 years, these “only in Hong Kong” films can only be seen in the Hong Kong Film Festival.

And now, my response:

I agree with the last part, that those who are bitter about Hollywood “stealing” Infernal Affairs are hypocrites. Hong Kong, and the rest of Asia, for that matter, have been stealing Western creativity for decades (and the other way around). In fact, creativity in entertainment has been thrown out of the window for years.

However, I don’t think Professor Fung truly understands the film market. Homegrown American stars still by far have the biggest appeal within American markets and abroad as well. Of course, to nit-pick, John Woo only made “Mission: Impossible II,” and both his films after that became box office failures, so while John Woo did make it to Hollywood, he got kicked out just as quickly.

Plus, is Professor Fung suggesting that artistic integrity should play no part in the making of Hong Kong films? Hong Kong films have their own type of flavor because many directors such as Johnnie To have no desire to kowtow to Chinese censorship. Commercial filmmaking is important in Hong Kong, yes, but it doesn’t mean artists should have to castrate their artistic voices in order to appease unreasonable censorship (look at the recent Lost in Beijing example to see what I mean, or look at the ridiculous alternate ending for Infernal Affairs, or even the history of Zhang Yimou’s films before he became a commercial success).

These types of editorials are often dangerous because Professor Fung is obviously a very smart man. But without the proper research, the effects of his misguided words can be damaging. Hong Kong films is what I grew up with, and its audacity to cross the lines and its type of local flavor are what made them successes. If they start appeasing the mainland market now, it would just take away what made them successful in the first place - uniqueness.

It’s a world I don’t particularly understand

- How about we get to those news that not many people care? It’s box office numbers!

- A continuation from yesterday’s Japanese weekend box office. The numbers are out (thanks to Box Office Mojo’s diligent updating of these data). However, there seems to be some kind of discrepancy again between BOM’s numbers and the rankings - BOM shows Sakuran debuting at 6th with roughly US$370,000, although the exchange rate as of yesterday is currently 119 yen=$1, and Marie Antoinette at 7th. Meanwhile, Ryuganji, who gets their rankings from Eiga Daisuki!, has Marie Antoinette at 6th and Sakuran and 7th (with no number). So which is it?

Perhaps one reason for this is that the rankings counts admissions while BOM counts money, so does that mean Marie Antoinette is attracting an older audience, who pays lower ticket prices? Both films seem to be aiming towards the 20-40 female audience though, so there has to be some reason.

All the other numbers, however, remain consistent, with Dreamgirls losing only 6% of its audience, and Dororo losing 21%, which would explain why Dreamgirls managed to take the top spot. One thing to note, is the relative weak per-screen average in the top 10. Wide releases just aren’t opening fast enough, although this may change this weekend with beginning of Spring break in Japan within the next two weeks, plus the Genghis Khan movie and Ghost Rider opening (I would not trust imdb’s listing, since Babel is listed as opening this weekend, although it’s actually opening in April)

- Speaking of the Genghis Khan movie (official title: Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea, Then Back to the Middle for Some Tea and Bowing, and All the Way Back to the Beginning of the Earth and Sea), Twitch has an English-subtitled trailer, and even the original trailers, just in case you guys forgot.

- Also, the producer of this mega-blockbuster has broken studio taboos by putting the trailer for his next blockbuster, the remake of Tsubaki Sanjuro by Toho, before the Genghis Khan movie, produced by rival studio Shochiku when it plays at the Shochiku chain theaters (I would assume this does not affect multiplexes not owned by either studio). Yeah, Japanese studio system is complicated. Maybe Variety Asia can fill in the blanks here.

- Hong Kong Tuesday box office numbers came out last night, and the rankings are exactly the same - Night At the Museum on top, Protege, then Music and Lyrics. However, Twins Mission managed to overtake It’s a Wonderful Life for the 4th spot. Both films are doing pretty bad at the box office though, with HK$140,000 for the Twins and HK$120,000 for Gold Label on the same screen counts (26 and 33, respectively).

Numbers from mov3.com are here.

- Toho-Towa is one of Japan’s biggest distributors, and now they will replace UIP, a huge distributor of foreign films in Japan, as the distributor for Universal Pictures. I wonder if this is the result of Universal seeing Warner Bros.’ success in Japan with the Death Note movies and now wants to make a move into Japan, Hollywood’s second biggest market in the world.

- Thanks to Dark Horizon, we have a new trailer for Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller Sunshine. But like the trailer before it, this one also seem to have a lot of indirect spoilers, such as:

SPOILER ALERT:

Who wants to guess that all the Asian cast members will die, leaving the white people around at least to the end?

SPOILER OVER

Anyway, go see the trailer at your own risk here.

- According to some news sites in China, the State administration of Radio, Film, and Television has limited the run of “competition shows” (such as those American idol clones such as Super Girl) to two and a half months. However, these news have only appeared on news sites, but not as any official release from the SARFT. There’s no explanation why, and apparently the pro side (and I’m just assuming those people are playing the devil’s advocate) says this about the advantage of limiting these shows:

“This is good. Competition shows harm the healthy psychological development of youth. Now young people don’t think of working hard to achieve success, but want to become rich and famous overnight. This phenomenon is really scary.”

Shortening these shows don’t change anything, it just encourage producers to make more of them to fill those empty slots. Here’s a wild idea, though: to better develop the youth’s psychology, why not, say, stop brainwashing them at school with revised history. Or how about pay higher wages at criminally low-paying jobs to give reward for people to work. Or how about improving human rights? They sound like crazy ideas, but they’re so crazy it might just work!

- Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has announced a new set of financial aid for the ailing Hong Kong film industry. It will pour $38 million (not sure if this is Hong Kong or American dollars though) to help finance productions and find new talents. This is a good time to be applying to film school in Hong Kong. Why, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now!

In the next post, I will translate an article from Hong Kong’s Ming Pao in the light of The Departed’s Oscar win.

A thin line between praise and criticism

Not much of a news day, but still lots of different types of news going around.

- The Chinese media watchdog (better known as the government) has set up 20 rules to the press ahead of a major meeting of communist leaders. Some of them include a ban on talking about censorship in the media (I’m sure I’m not the only one who see the irony in this), a ban on discussing the cultural revolution, and just to be redundant, any discussion about the mistakes made during the cultural revolution should not deny the accomplishments by the party or Mao Zedong.

What the fuck?

Anyway, these are nothing new to those who have seen years of this type of censorship, and details from Variety Asia are here.

- The U.S. government isn’t quite helping when they just decided to cut broadcast aid to Tibet and reduce broadcasting hours by 50%. Many of the Tibetan exiles listen to these broadcast, and now many people inside Tibet can only listen to the official Chinese radio instead.

Variety Asia report here.

- Just to show that I don’t just criticize the Chinese government (because the wrath of the Chinese internet community is, honestly, kinda scary), the same agency that impose those new media rules also decided to bring cinemas to rural areas so poor farmers in those areas can watch the latest government-approved communists lovefest. Oh, there I go again. I ought to be happier that more people get to discover the magic of movies.

Again, Variety Asia has the report.

- And don’t think I’m just talking about China, the censors in Malaysia and Indonesia has also went and banned two documentaries, although for slightly better reasons than China, I suppose.

- After the Oscar win for The Departed (it’s from Hong Kong! Not Japan, Ms. Tuttle!), Warner Bros. have apparently been suckered into buying the rights for another Andrew Lau/Alan Mak movie - Confession of Pain (I mentioned the possibility of this 2 months ago here). Just as Hollywood Reporter reports, it’s about a former police detective investigating the death of his old superior’s father-in-law, and I’m puzzled why Hollywood even needs to spend 2.75 million dollars (a figure I heard Andrew Lau’s production company is charging) for a script any post-film school screenwriting grad can write. Maybe William Monahan is so pissed about people saying how much Infernal Affairs was better, so he decided to buy a crappy script to make himself look better (even though he has an Oscar to prove himself already…)

- Meanwhile, over in Japan, I don’t have those box office numbers yet, but Eiga Consultant does round up the results of Sakuran. On just 51 screens in the Kanto area (kind of like the opening weekend for The Departed in Japan, except 68 screens), it scored 44.83 million yen (that’s roughly US$374,000 on a $1=120 yen scale), meaning about 880,000 yen per-screen, which is about $7300. Not spectacular, but still a fairly good start, considering it’s been on fairly small screens in multiplex or single-screen theaters. It’s also 125% ahead of Honey and Clover, which had a similar rollout. It’ll open on 129 screens this weekend, so expect it to climb slightly up the top 10.

- NTV, who found a lot of yen last year with the Death Note movies, has bought stakes in a comic publisher. They’ve been kind of behind on those comic adaptations (TBS has Nana, and even Asmik Ace has Honey and Clover), so maybe now they can get more rolling, but to whose joy, I have no idea.

- For those in San Francisco, Bong Joon Ho, the director of The Host and Memories of Murder (both are now two of my Korean films) will be coming here for a showing of his three films at the Clay Theater on March 5th. I won’t be able to make it personally, but I encourage everyone to catch all three films, they’re all great in their own way. Of course, I will be catching The Host when it opens here on March 9th.

Anyway, details by Twitch here.

- I’ve got some new (and not as well-written as I’d like them to be) reviews on Yesasia, and they are as follows:

Love Me Not

Ad Lib Night

Hot For Teacher (aka Sexy Teacher, aka Who Slept with Her?)

Bye June

Jacky Cheung - By Your Side

- A new rapper has popped up in the hip-hop world, and guess what? He’s black, and he raps in Japanese! That’s right, it’s Kokujin Tenzai down from the dirrrrty South. Japan Probe has an entire post on this guy, and it reports that he’ll be holding a concert in Shibuya where a ticket cost 3000 yen. Would you pay 3000 yen to see this? I wouldn’t.

Although I do have to give him credit for learning the language AND getting his buddies to rap along with him. But I don’t think he quite has the finger on how conversational Japanese works, and in the words of Crocodile Dundee himself: That isn’t Japanese rap, THIS is Japanese rap.

Plus I don’t think Japanese people appreciate hearing a foreigner bragging going to Japan and “fucking yo’ bitches” and having “Gats in the Cadillac.”

On one last note: I’ve been checking who reads this blog, and what the heck are people at Circuit City, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo doing reading this blog? Get to work, guys!

Not much of an aftermath either

Just some leftover comments from the Oscars last night (and apparently my entry afterwards brought in double the page visit counts):

- Those over at Mobius (whom I believe to have some of the best insights on Asian films out there simply because, well, they know more than me) have a thread on the “Infernal Affairs is from Japan” flub by the announcer last night (although the responsibility probably goes to whoever wrote and didn’t fact-check that script). There’s even an interesting opinion on how the media reports that the Oscars have decided to award “homegrown films,” despite The Departed being a remake (and maybe the first Asian remake to win best picture).

- Speaking of the announcer flub, Daily Dumpling seemed to have made the mistake saying that it was Oscar winner Helen Mirren who made the mistake. No, it was announcer Gina Tuttle who did it. (The only reason that I made the comment here is because I didn’t want to sign up for Wordpress just to follow the usual HK-er comment about Infernal Affairs being better. In my humble opinion, it wasn’t. And don’t be bitter - Hong Kong did submit it to the Academy Awards for best foreign film, it just didn’t get considered, boo-ya!)

- A little off-topic, but a blog I read, Hongkie Town, has a pretty good round-up of the commercials by HK broadcaster TVB during its Oscar broadcast. I downloaded their broadcast of the Oscars when I was studying in Japan, and for some reason, it didn’t include any of the announcements for the presenters for some odd reason.

- Alright, I promised Hong Kong box office numbers. On Sunday, the rankings pretty much stayed the same, with Night At the Museum taking in HK$1.84 million on 45 screens for a HK$31.2 million total so far. It might hit that big 40 mil mark by the end of its run, since the Pang Brothers’ The Messengers being only its biggest competition this weekend. Derek Yee’s Protege, meanwhile, is showing signs of weakness with only a HK$1.06 million take from 40 screens on Sunday for a HK$21.85 million total so far. As I predicted before, it should hit the HK$25 million mark, becoming the highest-grossing Lunar New Year movie since 2004’s Fantasia.

As for the other Hong Kong films, Ronald Cheng’s It’s a Wonderful Life is near its death rattle with a HK$320,000 gross from 33 screens for a HK$7.04 total. It might just make it to the 8-million mark. Lastly, the Twins’ Twins Mission (website finally working!) manage to make HK$300,000 on 26 screens for a HK$5.27 million total, and it might just have a chance of hitting the 6-million mark. It may also mean that this is the end of the Twins franchise, considering at the heights of its popularity, Twins Effect managed to make HK$30 million.

As far as Oscar winners go, best foreign film The Lives of Others managed a healthy HK$30,000 on 2 screens and should be packed again next weekend in light of its Oscar win.

Source: mov3.com

- Japanese box office rankings are also out (numbers will hopefully come tomorrow), and Oscar loser Dreamgirls actually took the top spot after debuting at 2nd last week. Dororo drops down one to second, and the kind of-big debut this week Sakuran (which is getting good reviews. More later) opens at 7th. It may not seem very strong, but it’s also not a very wide opening (while Bubble He Go! gets 28 theaters in the Tokyo area, and Dororo gets 27, Sakuran is only on 13). More on the results tomorrow when I have solid numbers in my hands.

Source: Movie Walker (for those screen counts), and Eiga Daisuki!

- Hoga Central has a roundup of some of the positive reviews for the Japanese films that opened this past weekend - Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Retribution, Sakuran, and the new film by the director of Linda Linda Linda. Yes, she actually has the title of the film whose kanji I couldn’t read. Here it is.

- A set of solid numbers I do have are those Japanese drama ratings, and TBS’s anniversary drama Karei Naru Ichizoku tumbles to its lowest ratings of the season with a 21.1 rating, while the Flower Boys surpassed it with a 22.7 rating. That’s right, Japan is so into its metrosexual boys that a drama featuring 5 of them would beat an epic-scale drama about a rich family in 70s Japan. TBS isn’t aching, though, they can now brag that two of the highest-rating dramas are on their network.

Meanwhile, the two Monday dramas recover from getting their lowest ratings last week, and Haken no Hinkaku continues to get above-average ratings with a 20.2 rating, down very slightly from last week.

- Variety also has the numbers for Letters From Iwo Jima’s international performance (i.e. outside Japan and the US). It’s a really long article, so I’ll just quote the important stuff:

‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ launched best in France with $744,500 at 153, while the pic’s soph sesh in Spain declined only 15% to $316,000 at 69, the U.K. debut took in $129,000 at 38, and the Australian opening grossed $104,000 at 24. “Letters” has grossed $47 million overseas, including $42 million in Japan.”

In case you want to know how Ghost Rider did overseas (I honestly don’t care), here’s the article.

- South Korea also had a pretty strong weekend. I don’t know much about the films opening and playing there (of course I know the foreign films, I mean the Korean films, although I review a lot of it for my freelance work). So I’ll let Korea Pop Wars do the job for me.

- After Chen Kaige’s The Promise was given the ultimate sarcastic middle finger by the Chinese internet community, the government is now imposing new rules for film crew in order to protect the environment. Maybe next they can try and get rid of pollution so smog will stop traveling to Hong Kong.

Source: Variety Asia.

- Hong Kong’s Sundream Pictures (whose logo looks like a mainland Chinese film studio from the 70, or worse, Raymond Wong’s Mandarin Pictures) is planning on expanding its work to international distribution and video production. Details from Variety Asia is here.

Lastly, I apologize for not getting back to comments as quickly as I had hoped to. I didn’t enable the comment notification option, and by the time I found the comments, it’s already been a week or two. I’ve activated that feature now, and comments are open to everyone (subject to not very strict moderation by yours truly), so go for it.

Notes on an Oscar

Lots n’ lots of surprises tonight - some good, some bad.

- Pan’s Labyrinth lost to The Lives of Others for best foreign film. Now I’m definitely watching it this week.

- In turn, Pan’s Labyrinth is on the winning side of an upset by beating Children of Men, and it was flat out highway robbery.

- Babel wins only one award, shame

- On the other hand, The Departed wins 4, yay. Oscar count: Infernal Affairs - 0, The Departed - 4. And Hong Kong actually submitted Infernal Affairs for its best foreign film pick, so which one’s better now?

(Why Hong Kong chose to submit The Banquet for its best picture over After This, Our Exile, I have no idea.

- In Asian films, Letters From Iwo Jima wins best sound editing. whoo…….

Now notes on the show. (in reverse order of the show)

-Way too many montages, even though I liked the Michael Mann one. And the popularity contest known as “In memoriam” is ridiculous. Hold your applause til the end, people.

- Brad Grey gets screwed over for The Departed producing credit, yikes. Will Brad Grey be this year’s Bob Yari?

- The original three amigos excuse for bringing out Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg to give the Oscar to Martin Scorsese was cute, but it kinda ruined the surprise.

- Alan Mak must be pissed, having been snubbed by Scorsese at least twice in his acceptance speeches.

- Since when does screaming equate to singing? I’m talking to you, Dreamgirls.

- Good job on getting the trailers guy to do the announcing. But why the hell is Infernal Affairs touted as a Japanese film? At least Monahan and Scorsese get it right.

- Best Ellen quote: “People say that the children are our future. This year, they’re our competition.”

- Great job by Ellen overall, including bringing Snakes on a Plane to the Oscars and the digital camera gag with Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg.

Very enjoyable ceremony overall, and well-deserved winners….well, mostly, but you can’t please everyone.

Tomorrow we have more news, Hong Kong box office (maybe UK numbers for Letters from Iwo Jima), and Japanese drama ratings.

Hollywood’s biggest night, but who cares?

I could be watching E!’s 2-hour long coverage on the red carpet, but I honestly couldn’t care less about who’s showing up with who and who’s wearing what. Turner Movie Classics is showing Casablanca ’til 4:45 or so, and then maybe I’ll watch the rest of the pre-show. If I get tired of that, I just picked up 2 DVDs today, one of which can keep me entertained for a bit. Just no more red carpet, please.

And because it’s Hollywood’s biggest night (and also the fact that it was Sunday in Asia), there’s not really much news.

- The thing about Hong Kong entertainment news is that they only report celebrity matters. I knew Miki Mizuno is in Hong Kong shooting a movie with a Sam Lee and a bunch of B-list stars, but the news never mentions what type of movie or who’s directing (although the costumes looked real chessy). Now Ryuganji provides the details that it’s a new version of the “Female Convict Scorpion” series, and it’s a Japanese-Hong Kong co-production by Artport (who also did Dog Bite Dog, whose shooting process is described in a book by producer Sam Leung Tak-Sam that I bought in Hong Kong). Joe Ma is directing, which cannot be a good sign for the film.

Miki-san has a blog, and she writes about her shooting process in Hong Kong (which includes a Cantonese lesson on beer-drinking) here.

- Time Asia has an interview with Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi. Not much new information, but it’s a nice interview anyway.

- Jason Gray has some news on a few upcoming high-profile projects by directors Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Kore-eda today. He also announces that the release for the well-received Strawberry Shortcake will have Japanese subtitles (he knows that because he did the subtitles himself).

- I’m not a big fan of the cri English site because they stole one of the articles I wrote for Yesasia. But Lovehkfilm forum’s Dimsum99 provided a link about the beginning of shooting for the new Peter Chan film “The Assassination of Ma” starring Takeshi Kanshiro, Andy Lau, and Jet Li. So here, and I hope they didn’t steal that story from anyone else.

- Variety has a review for the first Finnish martial arts film Jade Warrior. Apparently it even did pretty well in China.

- As for the Oscars, instead of predicting who’ll win, I’ll just say who I want to win. a * means that I haven’t watched all the films in the category, so it’s a matter of personal preference. But it also means I’ll only comment on the categories where I’ve seen at least 3 of the films

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY*

Children of Men

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY*

Children of Men

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Pan’s Labyrinth

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS*

Adriana Barraza - Babel

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR*

Mark Whalberg - The Departed

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Babel (although I want Scorsese to win, but not because of his work on The Departed)

BEST PICTURE

Babel

I’ll be posting thoughts and results later tonight, but until then, I’m hoping Ellen is better than Chris Rock (not a hard task at all).

Not much of an independent spirit here

Was watching the Independent Spirit Awards, where Little Miss Sunshine bagged at least 4 awards, including best picture and best director(s) because it might just be one of the few films those people actually saw when they voted. Even though I liked it immensely, it may be the next most undeserved best picture winner if it wins the Oscar tomorrow night. Just a fair warning.

And can Sarah Silverman just start hosting every film award show from now on with no bleeping?

Anyway, slow news day, but just as important.

- Pop singer/actress/part-time musician Candy Lo has uploaded her latest song on her website. Actually, the link for the download is what the entire website is, and it’s not bad at all.

- This is why there needs to be a free flow of information on the internet: A Hong Kong blog has an expose on Hong Kong’s so-called hottest MTV director, nicknamed “Jacky” (who has done MTVs for mostly EEG artists). In an interview for Easyfinder, he talks about his MTV for Yumiko Cheng’s single “Up and Down,” which is outright copied from Goldfrapp’s Strict Machine MTV. This is a (translated) excerpt about his “creative process”

“A lot of dance songs are just pure Music Video (earlier in the article, he mentions three types of music videos - pure music videos, ones with story, and ones for advertisements), because inserting a story would just be hackneyed. I use a lot of graphics and abstract color tones to package it. The record company already decided that Yumiko would wear Chinese-style red and green clothes to dance. I felt that the clothes is like a kaleidoscope, so I found a lot of vintage toys to create that kaleidoscope effect.”

Yeah, I’m sure he’s that much of a genius.

the blog entry is here (The pictures on the left are from the Goldfrapp video while the ones on the right are of Yumiko Cheng’s)

- YTSL, a writer for the site Hong Kong Cinema: View From the Brooklyn Bridge, has posted a top 10 list for 2006 Hong Kong films on her blog here. She amazingly includes McDull the Alumni, which I’ve always contend is Hong Kong’s answer to the Monty Python films and comes even with a hell of a monologue by Jim Chim.

- Twitch has a link to the 6-and-a-half minute trailer for Takeshi Miike’s film adaptation of the game Ryu Ga Gotoku (or in American better known as Yakuza). I’m not a huge fan of Miike, but might this actually be good?

- So the panel investigating the natto TV scandal in Japan has now found even more “undesirable content” in the program from the past. Blah blah blah.

- And a final piece of news just for gossip’s sake, Daily Dumpling has a report on why the Chinese people don’t like their biggest star at the moment - Zhang Ziyi. *Gasp!* People don’t like Zhang Ziyi?! Lies, all lies!

Tomorrow, Oscar predictions, but only the major one because I’m too lazy to predict them all.

The calm before the storm

This weekend is Hollywood’s biggest weekend, with the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday and the Oscars on Sunday. What does that have to do with this blog? Absolutely nothing, but i’ll be busy this weekend anyway watching these, writing 4 reviews, and watching Karate Bullfighter tonight on IFC. Awesome weekend coming up? oh, you betcha.

- The troubled Bangkok Film Festival (which Grady Hendrix’s Kaiju Shakedown once chronicled) is officially back in July, but with a limited budget and no American dictators running things from LA. Apparently, the new focus will be Asian cinema and a festival more friendly to Thai audience. Hmm…Bangkok film festival, Bangkok is in Thailand, Bangkok film festival more friendly to Thai audience…that makes sense! Why didn’t they think of that in the first place?

- I don’t watch much Thai films, honestly, so you can’t blame me for not catching SARS Wars, although it does sound real wacky in that good way. Now the director Teewewat Wantha is back with a new work, and it sounds wackier than ever. Honestly, with a title like The Sperm, how can it not be wacky? Twitch has posted a teaser up, and it may be the funniest teaser I’ve seen in a while. Don’t worry, I don’t speak Thai either, and I thought it was funny, so there.

- I was once a huge fan of director Kwak Jae Young (note, imdb does NOT have his complete filmography) - I, like every other Asian American college student who had an internet connection, loved My Sassy Girl (don’t worry, I discovered it on a legit Hong Kong VCD). I even liked most of The Classic, which had great camerawork and directorial flair. But then he made Windstruck, one of the most uneven and intentionally emotionally manipulative Korean films I’ve ever had to sit through (and that’s say quite a bit). Now he’s back with another one those “My Girl is____” films (maybe he’s making a trilogy) with his Japanese debut “My Girlfriend is a Cyborg.”

More information from Ryuganji is here (I don’t want to steal his compiled links, so go check it out)

- Japan Times’ Mark Schilling really likes movies. He’s been giving quite a few 3.5-4-star reviews to films lately. But now he finally loves movies, particularly the personally-anticipated Sakuran directed by Mika Ninagawa (featuring the music of the amazing Shiina Ringo). It finally opens tomorrow local time in Japan, and Schilling has given it 5 stars.

Japan Times even posted two feature stories on the film, one an interview with director Mika Ninagawa, and another an interview with star Anna Tsuchiya. Both are well worth the read, and the official full-length trailer even has three Shiina songs in it.

As mentioned yesterday, it will also screen at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

- Japan Probe has more information about the new film written by infamously conservative Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara. That’s right, much like my own governor, Tokyo has a leader that also dips into the world of film. “Ore Wa, Kimi No Tame Ni Koso Shini Ni Iku” (For You, I Go to My Death) is a touching tale about young kamikaze pilots during World War II through the eyes of a restaurant owner who watched over them.

Yup, another nationalistic war movie that tries to paint the Japanese troops as kind souls who just want to protect their country that will also serve as a guilt trip device for current generation for not learning about the war “properly.” I’m not saying if this film will be any good or any bad, but didn’t Hollywood do these kind of movies some 20 years ago already?

Considering this is the man who makes statements such as this, I wonder what the movie is going to be like.

- Oricon Style offers a music video of personal favorite Utada Hikaru’s latest single Flavor of Life (theme song for that drama with the Flower boys). It’s only the “ballad version,” but even as a fan, I have to say it’s easily the worst Utada Hikaru single ever released. The only appealing part is the chorus, while everything else sounds like it’s written randomly. There’s no rhyme or reason to the melody nor to the arrangement. It’s plain flat J-pop, and it’s no good. And I even defended Exodus, for crying out loud.

And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s the theme song to a drama I refuse to watch.

- And now, some Oscar news:

Hollywood Elsewhere reports the voting habit of one voter. The movies this year aren’t THAT bad.

And Borat will not be making an appearance as a presenter. Not so niiiiiceeeee.

I should say I won’t be posting much this weekend, but considering I even spent an hour writing this entry on a slow news day, who knows what’ll happen?

A note of interest

For those in Tokyo, Cinema Square Tokyo in Shinjuku (according to this map, it’s in Tokyu Milano Building 3rd floor) is having an encore of recent Japanese Academy Awards winner Hula Girls with English subtitles from February 24th to March 16th at a reduced admission of 1000 yen.

Scroll all the way down on this page to シネマスクエアとうきゅう for フラガール and you’ll be able to find those showtimes.

 
 
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