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The Monday Grind

- Of course, the big news post-weekend is the fallout from the disappointing opening of Grindhouse. And it’s pretty bad. People blame that there are not enough shows a day, so not enough money, but even with the 3-hour running time, people were projecting 20-25 million. Why? Simple math.

This weekend, Grindhouse grossed $11.5 million, at a $4,419 per-screen average. Divide that number by 3 for the weekend, that’s $1,473 dollars a day. Divide that by 3 again for the 3 shows a day, that’s $491 per show. Divide that again by the the national average ticket price, which is $6.55, that means only there were only an average of 75 people for each showing. That would look pretty empty for the multiplex that put it on their bigger 250-people auditorium, wouldn’t it?

Of course, Harvey comes out and says that the length pushed audiences away, which is true, and bloggers are saying that Weinstein should’ve pushed for Tarantino and Rodridguez to not be so self-indulgent and grind down the running time for each film, which is probably also true. But honestly, who expected it to do this bad when advertising and buzz was literally everywhere on the web? Now the Weinsteins are hoping for word-of-mouth, even though the daily gross actually dropped over the weekend (most films experience a rise for Saturday, then a drop on Sunday). I’ll be watching it this week myself, and LoveHKfilm’s Sanjuro has reviews of the separate films (even one for the trailers). Will the people show up eventually? Probably, but I doubt this will make back its reported $52-million budget (although reports say it’s closer to 70 or even 100 million).

- In other Grindhouse news, Korea Pop Wars confirms that Sponge, who grabbed the film at Hong Kong’s Filmart, will release the films separately in their extended versions.

- No Hong Kong Easter weekend numbers (maybe by tonight, who knows), but we have Japanese audience rankings for the weekend. Night at the Museum and Doraemon hang on again for the first and second spot, respectively. Meanwhile, Blood Diamond opens at third (maybe not at a very good gross, seeing how Night and Doraemon have been around for about a month now), the Japan Times-reviewed Taitei no Ken opens at 8th, and more when the numbers come out.

- Those censors strike again. No, not China (more of those guys later), this time it’s Thailand, who has banned internet video service Youtube after anti-monarchist films appeared on the site. Youtube offers to help the Thai authorities delete the films in question without really going to the point of censorship.

- OK, China, your turn. Remember the Chinese idol show Super Girl that got renamed to Happy Boy? Well, not only does the Chinese government hate girls that are happy, they are forcing the show to follow a strict set of guidelines that include no “weirdness” or “low taste,” allowing only “healthy and ethnically inspiring songs,” and no screaming fans or crying contestants, because god help them if the winner might be popular enough to be the next Premier of the Communist party.


This is the winner of Super Girl. Yes, that’s a girl. Is this the SARFT’s idea of “weirdness” and “low taste?”

- With Super Girl gone, its male counterpart “My Hero!” has taken over the Chinese airwaves. Here, the men not only sing, but also dance and do push-ups to impress the judges. The more amusing part of this write-up by Variety Asia is actually seeing the writer trying to explain what “add oil” in Chinese means in English (It really means “work hard!”).

- Japanese pop queen/suspect outer space alien Ayumi Hamasaki had her sold-out concert in Hong Kong, and with Eason Chan’s tendency to speak his mind, he decided to say that she was probably lip-syncing. Ming Pao has the report, and excerpt is as follows:

Eason形容濱崎步的演唱會是高成本製作,燈光、爆破效果,以至整個演唱會的製作都很好,水準之高是本地演唱會難以做到;不過,他說:「看見濱崎步的勁歌熱舞,懷疑她有三分之一時間是『咪嘴』,而且『咪嘴』功夫很到家。我看麥當娜的演唱會就覺得沒有『咪嘴』,雖然歌聲可能沒有唱片中的水準,但也很好看。」

Eason describes Ayumi Hamasaki’s concert as a high-budget production thanks to the lights and pyrotechnics. That type of quality is one that Hong Kong concerts have difficulty achieving. But he said “Seeing Ayumi Hamasaki’s singing and dancing, I suspect that she’s lip-syncing for 1/3 of the time, and her lip-syncing skills are quite good. I saw Madonna’s concert and didn’t feel she was lip-syncing. Though she didn’t sing as well as she does on her albums, it was still very good.”
對此,主辦單位強調濱崎步並無「咪嘴」,「濱崎步唱得太好,加上所有音響設備都來自日本,才會惹起誤會」。

In response, the organizers insist that Ayumi Hamasaki was not lip-syncing, “Ayumi Hamasaki sings too well, and plus all the audio equipments came from Japan, so that’s why there’s such a misunderstanding.”

Original Chinese text is here.

I’ve seen Ayumi Hamasaki’s live performance videos, and she can’t even hit those high notes when she’s NOT dancing. Plus, from Eason Chan, who still lip-sync some of his TV performances, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true.

- Then again, it’s hard to tell whether one can trust Ming Pao’s reporting. Yesterday, they reported Professor David Bordwell’s visit to Johnnie To’s set for “Triangle” (which they got from his blog), but they seemed to have gotten some facts wrong, particular in its last section. Chinese excerpts (followed by translation) are as follows:

發覺杜琪㗖喜用手提拍攝,與荷李活所用的路軌拍攝不同,不過用手提拍攝確較靈活。David Bordwell亦認為香港製作有時不夠精細,如電影《放逐》中有一幕講述澳門酒店的場景,原來是在杜琪㗖公司的天台搭景,就嫌太過草率了。

[David] discovers that Johnnie To likes using handheld camera, unlike Hollywood, which favor tracking, but using handheld camera is more flexible. David Bordwell also thinks that Hong Kong productions are not meticulous enough, such as the hotel scene in “Exiled.” Turns out that the “hotel” was a set on the roof of Johnnie To’s production company, and he thinks that it’s too sloppy.

Original Chinese text is here.

The entry that report is referring to is here, and here are the mistakes the reporter at Ming Pao made:

The report writes that Johnnie To prefers handheld, but this is what Professor Bordwell wrote:

“To’s art is furthered by his craftsmanship in shot composition. Composing in anamorphic (2.35:1), nearly always putting the camera on a tripod or dolly, he gets precise results with few lighting units. When I complained that all the new films I saw at Filmart were shot shakycam, Shan Ding reported a neat saying that HK DPs have. The handheld camera covers 3 mistakes: Bad acting, bad set design, and bad directing.”

The report also wrote that Professor Bordwell complained that the hotel set in Exiled shows the sloppiness of Hong Kong filmmaking, but there is no such complaining in his entry. This is what Professor Bordwell wrote in regard to the rooftop set:

“In another echo of old production methods, To’s films sometimes use rooftop sets. Last year the set for the hotel in Exiled was erected on the top of the Milkyway building. Its Demy-like pastels looked very artificial in daylight.”

Any complaining in there? I don’t see it. That’s why Hong Kong Chinese reporting should always be taken with a grain of salt.

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