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Archive for April, 2009

The Golden Rock Hong Kong Film Awards Live Blog

8:50pm - Sorry for being late. Derek Kwok has already picked up the first award of the night. This is for Best New Director. A surprise, but he was the one I was rooting for anyway.

8:55pm - Cj7’s Xu Jiao picks up the Best New Actor Award with a very fake speech, followed by the first modern remake of the first Hong Kong film Stealing a Roast Duck (made in 1909), with Chapman To, Chin Kar Lok, and Lawrence Chou, done as a parody of Infernal Affairs.  Mildly amusing.

8:58pm - I just realized this ceremony is at the Cultural Center Grand Theater, where I just spent the last 3 weeks watching movies at during the Hong Kong Film Festival.

Meanwhile, Fiona Sit and Jaycee Chan are on the stage, slightly embarrassed a day after Jackie Chan’s statement.

9:00 pm - It’s Best Cinematography time, and it goes to Arthur Wong for Painted Skin. I have a feeling that half the reason is that he wins pretty much every time he’s nominated. Even Eric Tsang cracks a joke, asking Wong whether he’s bored of going on stage every year.

9:02pm - The show is obviously edited and shown on tape delay. Probably for TVB to fit in commercials and put subtitles on the Mandarin speeches.

9:04pm - It’s pretty obvious that the show is on delay when Fiona and Jaycee are still on stage after 3 minutes of commercial. They’re passing out Best Editing now. I’m pulling for Ip Man or Sparrow

9:06 pm - And the winner is Connected. I guess that car chase scene is pretty hard to edit.

9:08 pm - Time for the Professional Achievement Award. Sammo Hung goes onstage as presenter, and the audience goes wild. The winner is voice actor/dubbing man Ting Yu.

9:13pm - Ting Yu goes onstage and is about to break into tears.

9:15pm - Stage hand awkward rushes on to the stage and drags Ting and Sammo Hung onto the stage so we can get to another Steal a Roast Duck “remake”. This time it’s in the style of a horror movie, a la The Eye. No idea who directs these things though.

9:17pm - Better that we don’t know who directs them. That was just flat-out stupid.

9:21pm -The second part of the 7-people hosting team is out, featuring Lam Chi-Chung, Tin Kai Man, Wong Cho Nam, and Michelle Loo. They make some jokes before welcoming Julian Cheung and Michael Tse (who will be starring in his own film, a spinoff of a TVB drama where his supporting character became the most popular one, in August. ) to present the Best Supporting Actress Award.

9:25pm - And the winner is Chan Lai-Wun from The Way We Are. Most certainly a pleasant surprise.

9:27pm - Tin Kai Man forgets his rehearsed joke, which leads to a lame acting exercise. This proves that 3 hosts is more than enough for an award show. The chaotic conversation is turning into a bad Hong Kong radio show.

9:29pm - Curious editing there, cutting to a crying woman while the 5 hosts go on about their jokes on ridiculous acting directions.

9:31 pm - Time for the Best Screenplay Award. I’m supporting The Way We Are for every possible award it’s nominated for, but I know it won’t win. Even a Beast Stalker or Claustrophobia win would be satisfying

9:32 pm - And the winner is The Way We Are’s Lai Yau-Wah! Another pleasant surprise! Will it sweep the major awards tonight? And TVB abruptly cuts her speech off to an In Memoriam sequence featuring Justin Lo, Janice Vidal, and Ivana Wong. And all three have to sing outside in the rain, under an umbrella and on a crane.

9:34pm - And TVB shows the little respect they have for a show by cutting off the In Memoriam sequence for more commercials. This is low, even for TVB. Please just give the rights to a network that actually gives crap next year.

9:38pm - And here comes another Steal a Roast Duck remake. This time it’s in the style of The Days of Being Wild, except it’s with DJ Sammy, Stephy Tang, and Alex Fong. They just replace the coke bottles with roast ducks and a title sequence with rubber ducks on it. Mildly amusing, but quickly turns stupid.

9:41 pm - And it cuts to Tony Leung and Carina Lau pretending to be mildly amused.

9:43 pm - After some more crappy 5-people banter, Richie Ren and Miriam Yeung present the Best Supporting Actor Award. Liu Kai-Chi from Beast Stalker is where my hope lies, but who knows?

9:46pm - And the winner is Liu Kai-Chi for Beast Stalker, for what looks like his first win ever. They’re actually making all the right calls tonight! And another abrupt cut by TVB.

9:47 pm - And time for the Best Asian Film Award, presented by two Mainland actors.

9:48 pm - And the winner is The Assembly. I have no real complaints against this, though they should just separate all the China films into its own category.

9:52 pm - Correction about Liu Kai-Chi. This is his second win as Best Supporting Actor.

9:54 pm - Time for the Life Achievement Award, presented by Wong Kar-Wai. The recipient is Josephine Siao, with Stephen Chow doing narration for the introduction clip.

9:57 pm - And TVB only shows a chopped-up fragment of her entrance. Always charming, she asks WKW to hold her award because of her bad back.

9:59 pm - TVB sucks for cutting off Siao’s classy Lifetime Achievement Award speech before it’s even over.

10:00 pm - And time for the Best Sound Design Award, presented by Wu Jun and Vanness Wu. Wu Jun shows off surprising Cantonese skillz.

10:03pm - and the award goes to Red Cliff, for its first award of the night. It’s OK, you’ll be back next year, and more deservedly so anyway.

10:05pm - Switching over the TVB Entertainment News channel (part of their pay TV network), they’ve already revealed the winner for Best Actress. Thanks, TVB, you can’t even keep your information flow together.

10:08 pm - And now they’re continuing with the Best Visual Effect Awards. It’ll either go to CJ7 or Red Cliff, I think. Why the hell is Ip Man even nominated?

10:09 pm - And the winner is Red Cliff. Again, they’ll be back next year.

10:11 pm - And the so called Seven Little Fortunes (Sammo Hung, Yuen Wah, Yuen Biao, etc) reunite to give out the Best Action Design Award. Hung is nominated for two of the awards.

10:14 pm - And the winner is Sammo Hung and Leung Siu-Hung for Ip Man.

10:15pm - Wilson Yip doesn’t look very amused during the speech. I wonder why. Interestingly enough, neither man thanks Wilson Yip or Donnie Yen.

10:18 pm - Chin Kar-Lok and Eric Tsang asks Louis Fan why he didn’t win Best Supporting Actor. Ouch.

10:22pm - And time for another waste of time remake of Stealing a Roast Duck, this time with Ronald Cheng, Edmond Leung, and a bunch of annoying Gold Label pop people. This time a parody of A Better Tomorrow. This may be the stupidest use of a roast duck ever committed to video.

10:24pm - Surprisingly, John Woo laughs uproariously. What the hell?

10:27 pm - Raymond Wong and Xiong Dai-Lin go on stage to present Best Costume Design. Of course, Xiong Dai-Lin first kisses Raymond Wong’s ass, then mentions liking Wilson Yip’s Dragon Tiger Gate, also produced by Wong’s company. She’ll get very far with Mandarin Films.

10:29 pm - And Red Cliff ’s Tim Yip takes the award. His brother is surprisingly short next to Xiong Dai-Lin.

10:30 pm - The two stick around for Best Art Direction. Empress and the Warrior should win most Overblown Art Direction.

10:31 pm - And the winner is Tim Yip for Red Cliff again. Can we see that height difference again?

10:35 pm - Kay Tse and Denise Ho make their first appearance as hosts, introducing Jackie Cheung and Sandy Lam’s performances of classic Cantopop songs. I expect a majority of them to be covers.

10:44 pm - 10 minutes in, this performance is officially getting overlong, even though Sandy Lam is as good a singer as ever. But why the hell is she singing the theme song to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Did anyone in Hong Kong even know there was a theme song to the movie?

10:45 pm - And TVB mercifully cuts it off for more commercial. TVB still sucks for cutting the show up to pieces though.

10:50 pm - Simon Yam somehow wins an HKFA for Best Wardrobe. Even he’s wondering what the hell is going on.

10:53 pm - Tse Kwan-Ho and some other woman, and I apologize for not knowing who she is, come out to present Best Original Song.

10:56 pm - And the award goes to Painted Skin. Sung by someone who wasn’t even in the movie.

10:58 pm - And time for Best Original Score, which feature three Japanese composers, including one for Ip Man. What does that do for Chinese pride?

10:59 pm - And the award goes to Taro Iwashiro for Red Cliff.  And Alan, the Chinese pop singer who has a career based in Japan, actually came to Hong Kong for the ceremony. A night of pleasant surprises.

11:06pm - Andrew Lau and President of the Hong Kong Director’s Guild Gordon Chan goes onstage to present the award for Best Actress. Chan recounts the 2003 HKFA, which happened during SARS.

11:08 pm - I wonder if there’s running joke with the clip people to only show the crying scenes of the nominees.

Anyway, the award goes to Bau Hei-Jing, for The Way We Are! And now we see that Ann Hui is actually sitting next to Wong Jing, the uncredited producer of the film.

11:15 pm - Dodo Cheng and Alfred Cheung present the award for Best Director in a Her Fatal Ways reunion.

11:18 pm - And the award goes to Ann Hui for The Way We Are. I look forward to her returning next year for Night and Fog.

11:23pm - Tons of commercials later, time for hosts Sandra Ng and Eric Tsang to present the Best Actor Award.

11:27 pm - Moment of the truth. The award goes to Nick Cheung for Beast Stalker! No complaints, a well-deserved award.

11:29 pm - Cheung gives a classy speech. “I saw Obama become president, and I thought ‘oh, I have a chance!’”

11:31pm - Time for Best Film. Will it be The Way We Are? Beast Stalker? A movie that doesn’t deserve winning? My money is on The Way We Are, which has won every major award it’s been nominated for tonight.

11:33pm - But before that, there’s some onstage banter. Why doesn’t TVB cut these?

11:35 pm - And the winner is IP MAN?!!! What the hell were they thinking?!

11:36 pm - And Raymond Wong makes it about himself, and Wilson Yip doesn’t even crack a smile on stage. He reveals that screenwriter Edmond Wong is his son.

11:38 pm - A great list of winners, except the award committee leaves their most confounding award to the most important one. Too bad about TVB’s horrible tape delay broadcast too. 

Anyway, another year over. Congratulations to The Way We Are for winning the most awards. We’ll see John Woo and Ann Hui back next year anyway. Thanks for reading, even if you didn’t participate during it. See you again next year. 

The Golden Rock - Temporarily Out of Hibernation - HKIFF Edition, Part 2

Another short time out of hibernation means more reviews from the Hong Kong International Film Festival:

Love Exposure (Japan, 2008, Dir.: Sion Sono) - It’s  almost impossible to try and describe this 237-minute film in a 1000-word review. Taken in one go is like an array of extremes thrown into your eyeball that grip you from the first hour and rarely lets go. Even though its video format, its not-so-professional production quality, and its length makes home viewing a more comfortable way to watch it, there’s nothing like sitting in a room with 400 other people and watching it all unfold together. Simply said, it’s an insane masterpiece of epic proportions.

Buy a Suit (Japan, 2008, Dir: Jun Ichikawa) - Jun Ichikawa’s first self-produced film is sadly his last, as the Tony Takitani director died just after its completion. More of a story about Tokyo than a story about a woman and her homeless brother, the film is really more about the ideas it’s suggesting than what you really see onscreen. Not-so-professionally shot on HD-video, there’s a crudeness in the filmmaking that can alienate certain audiences, but those who buy into it will see a director’s sublime observation of the city he lives in. It will certain connect to Tokyo-ites better than others, but it’s still interesting to see where Ichikawa was heading and could’ve gone, had he remained with us.

Cry Me a River (China, 2008, Dir. Jia Zhangke)  - Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke proves that his brand of filmmaking is better served in small doses with this 19-minute short film about two pairs of reunited ex-lovers traveling down the Suzhou. Along the way, they talk about how dissatisfied they are with their lives, and that’s about it. It’s supposed to serve as an allegory for something, but I’m not entirely sure what it is. Nevertheless, what’s there is actually not bad, with Jia’s naturalistic style actually delivering effective emotions by its conclusion.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (South Korea, 2008, Dir: Kim Jee-Woon)(International Cut) - This is easily the most fun I’ve had at the big screen all year. Kim Jee-Woon’s so-called “Oriental Western” isn’t quite a modern copy of Leone, as it relies heavily of over-the-top, Hollywood-style action, but it does feature three charismatic characters, a hell of a cinematographer, and the always versatile Kim Jee-Woon in charge. It’s comforting to know that Kim is such a versatile director that he won’t even have to try and top himself after this.

Fish Story (Japan-Korea, 2009, Dir: Yoshihiro Nakamura) -  I bought a ticket to this, not knowing what to expect from this Japan-Korean co-production (I merely skimmed through Mark Schilling’s review, skipping plot descriptions.). It ended up being the most pleasant surprise of the festival for me. Blending four stories in four time periods and four genres, Fish Story is a thoroughly entertaining and has the ability to surprise in ways that most films just don’t anymore. What a joy to hear the gleefully surprised reaction of 500 fellow audiences after every twist. Highly recommended.

That’s it so far. Next entry will cover the final week of Asian films at the HKIFF, including a Japanese indie, a Hong Kong indie, and a documentary from the screenwriter of Night and Fog.

The Golden Rock - Temporarily Out of Hibernation Edition


Oh, sorry, I fell asleep one night and ended up staying asleep for a good three weeks.

Or I could just be in the middle of HKIFF. I can’t tell.

Anyway, I’ve seen 10 movies so far at the HKIFF already, and I’m sure the filmmakers are very grateful that I managed to sleep for a period of time at only 7 of them. So without the qualification to write an actual review, here are some of my thoughts on the more notable films (ie. the Asian stuff) I’ve seen so far at the festival.

Echo of Silence (Japan, 2004. Dir. Watabe Atsuro) - Actor Watabe Atsuro makes his directing debut with this Lars Von-Trier-like realist film about the impact of silence. The documentary feeling of the film gets just the right naturalistic peformances from the actors, the snowy Hokkaido landscape is quite nice, and there’s a pretty heartbreaking twist at the end that really brings everything together. But I’ve seen too many minimalist Japanese films that are more intriuging and memorable than this.

Mental (Japan, 2008, Dir. Kazuhiro Soda) - It runs a little long, but Campaign director Kazuhiro Soda’s latest documentary is an eye-opening look at the taboo subject of mental illness in Japan. It’s sad that this group of mentally ill people have so little care that they essentially have only one place where society gives them a chance to be themselves - their psychiatrist’s clinic.

By the way, if Soda-san is reading this, I apologize for missing the Q&A after the film. I really did like your film and would’ve loved to learn more about it, but I had to run somewhere else.

Daytime Drinking (South Korea, 2009, Dir. Noh Young-Seok) - Even though it’s shot in that extremely dry indie, shot-on-DV style, Noh Young-Seok’s low-budget film is a hilarious road trip film that shows why social drinking can kill you and bring new opportunities at the same time. You’ll need a drink after the movie, and that’s a good thing. By the way, there’s a cameo at the end of the film that I thought was only someone that looks like a certain celebrity. The fact that it was actually her makes the film even more brilliant.

A Place of One’s Own (Taiwan, 2009, Dir: Ian Lou) - Lou last co-wrote and co-produced Singing Chen’s God Man Dog, which ended up being one of my favorite films from last year’s HKIFF. This time, it’s Lou’s turn at the director’s chair, with Chen taking co-writing and producing duties. Like God Man Dog, it’s again an ensemble piece, this time about how obsession with property changes the lives of the characters. Too bad some of the central characters are so unlikable that even though it’s easy to identify with their needs, but it’s hard to care about them. The film drags in the last reel, which makes it a bit of a tough sit, considering Lou’s dry directorial style. Still, a Taiwanese worth watching for its issues.

Naked of Defenses (Japan, 2008, Dir. Masahide Ichii) - This year’s big winner at the PIA Film Festival is a quiet and unassuming drama about a woman’s growing jealousy of her new pregnant co-worker. It’s a little more dry in style than I expected, and it’s certainly not as explosive a work as last year’s Bare-Assed Japan and This World of Ours, but it’s certainly a film that emotionally pays off in the end.

Shinjuku Incident (Hong Kong, 2009, Dir. Derek Yee) - The latest Jackie Chan production was potentially interesting - not only is it Jackie’s first non-action role (at the hands of Derek Yee, no less), it’s Jackie playing an illegal migrant worker in Japan who climbs through the ranks of the Shinjuku crime world. The first hour is excellent, as the characters and the Shinjuku crime world is slowly set up. However, it takes a freefall beause Jackie Chan being Jackie Chan, he never goes through the arc his character is supposed to. Instead, his character is just full of contradictions that makes his “gangster with a heart of gold” character an incomplete archetype instead of a fully-fleshed character. Word is that Yee is definitely not happy with the movie, and it’ll be pretty important to go in knowing that, because the blame definitely goes to someone else this time around. A major disappointment for me.

Night and Fog (Hong Kong, 2009, Dir. Ann Hui) - I’ve done way too much research on this movie to be objective about it. Not many people agree with me so far, but I think this is Hui’s most intense and powerful film in a long time. The script by King Cheung (with contribution from Alex Law) can be a little heavy-handed in its commentary at times, but great performances from Zhang Jingchu and Simon Yam (you’re in fear every time his character is onscreen), as well as great cinematography by Charlie Lam make this easily a top contender for the top ten list next year. Then again, perhaps not many people will agree.

That’s it so far. See you 15 films later. Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen