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Archive for the ‘Best of the week’ Category

Best of Golden Rock - June 18th to June 24th, 2007

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from June 18th to June 24th, 2007:

- I’ve never been a fan of Jia Zhangke. In fact, I have a legit copy of Still Life sitting here, waiting to be watched. Recently, director Jia was asked to write an editorial about the word “perplexity,” and he chose to write about Xiao Wu’s banishment due to someone in the film industry denouncing it. Since then, it has stirred a controversy because the media found its suspect. I might not have liked Ziao Wu, but I am certainly sympathetic with the ridiculous treatment of the film.

- r@sardonicsmile warns that if you’re a celebrity in Hong Kong and you have a personal blog, you might want to watch what you even dare to hint at, because the Hong Kong media will jump on you like a shark looking for even the slightest hint of red. One thing: Is the Storm in a teacup reference to the old Commercial Radio Hong Kong talk show, or is it actually a pretty widely-used phrase?

- Doing my part to spread the word, a Hong Kong blogger realizes that one of his posts was recently plagiarized by a writer for Hong Kong pop culture magazine Milk. However, the editor was confronted, only to say that it was entirely coincidental that the feature happens to match the original entry 90% of the time (even the two glaring mistakes in the entry was carried over). I’m even ashamed now to admit that I do read Milk Magazine with some enjoyment, which makes the disappointment even greater.

- The teaser for P.T. Anderson’s There Will be Blood is up and running. It looks different than anything he’s done, but he’s one of my favorite filmmakers, so I’m looking forward to it big time.

- A sequel to the mega Korean blockbuster The Host is now in pre-production. I know monster flicks are prone to sequels, but there’s almost no way this is going to top the original.

- The website for Feng Xiaogeng’s latest film The Assembly, which seems to be next year’s big Chinese New Year film in China, just uploaded a trailer. It looks technically accomplished, but it still seems pretty derivative to me.

- With the latest chapter of the China-vs-Japan-history saga taking a turn for the worse, it’s good to see some people still acting pretty sane. Toho/UniJapan and China film are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for cinematic cooperation. What does that mean? It means China and Japan are now one step closer to collaboration on film, strengthening the role of Asian films around the world, politics be damned.

- In Taiwan, three Hong Kong/Macau university students decided to show how ineffective news reporting is by creating fake news items and forwarding them to television stations. And those stations actually ended up running the stories without any verification. Someone’s in the big trouble, and it’s not the students.

By the way, I watched part of the documentary the students made about their experiment, and it’s a pretty damning look at the Taiwan television media that includes a lot of interview with media experts and students. Definitely worth a look if you speak Chinese.

- Sales are down this year at the Shanghai Television Festival, especially historical dramas. Good news is that over 40% of the stall holders were from outside Mainland China, which means it’s no longer just a place for the Chinese market. However, only 1.2% of the buyers were from Europe and the U.S..

- Andy Lau pisses off a CCTV program by refusing to appear on their human interest show. But then they piss off the people by complaining about it. This comment is my favorite: “If Andy Lau won’t come, you criticize him. What if Andy Lau criticizes you directly? Are you going to give him a physical beating?”

- The American Film Institute, in their holier-than-thou glory, updated their 100 best films list after they made their first list 10 years ago. Since then, a few films were added (The General! Shawshank Redemption!), which means that a few films dropped out as well. In a further attempt to undo any credibility I have built, I admit now that I have only seen 35 of those 100 films.

- In addition to possible co-production opportunities with Japan, China Film has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Korea’s CJ Entertainment, which will lead to at least two co-productions. How huge is CJ Entertainment? I have CJ brand rice at home. No kidding.

- The Tokyo Project Gathering, a meeting that will hook up future productions with international co-production partners, is upping their goal for submissions (but they’re looking for more novel adaptations and remakes, ugh), so apply if you got a few million bucks to spare and a really good screenplay. I have neither, so I’ll just have to miss out on it.

- Business Week offers a possible way to fix the Chinese piracy situation: It’s the prices, stupid.

- Yoshimoto Kyogo, one of Japan’s premier managing agencies for comedians, has established a project to get 100 (!!!!) of its comedians to direct their own short films. This just goes to show that anyone can make a movie. However, their quality is highly doubtful at this point.

- I really really liked the Panasian omnibus film About Love, which put together somewhat intertwined stories with directors from Taiwan, China, and Japan. The director of the Chinese segment, Zhang Yibai, goes back to the Japanese-Chinese romance formula of his segment with his new film The Longest Night in Shanghai. Filmphilia has more information and link to a trailer.

- Eiga Consultant reports that Norbit just went straight-to-DVD in Japan! Eddie Murphy comedies have always done badly in Japan, with 4 of his last 6 films (the other 2 being The Haunted Mansion and Dreamgirls) making less than 300 million yen (that’s less than US$3 million). Its title in Japanese? Mad Fat Wife (Maddo Fatto Wifu). No kidding.

- Andrew Lau has hooked up with the Weinsteins to produce three films under his new production company. Lau and Weinstein - now that’s a formula for crappy commercial films. Honestly, I can’t ever get excited about neither Lau or Weinstein’s Asian stuff, so just go to the link to read more.

- Hate to say it, South Korea, but your Korean Wave in Japan has pretty much ended, no matter how much you might deny it.

- Then again, looks like Rain (the Korean superstar, not the Beatles Cover Band from Nevada) will just continue invading North America after the lawsuit against his use of the name was dropped by a judge. Dance on, Rain. Dance on.

- This is in no way confirmed, but Amazon seems to be listing a DVD called Kill Bill - The Whole Bloody Affair on their site for release on November 6th, If this holds up, this might be the singular uncut version of Kill Bill that Quentin Tarantino said he was putting together for DVD a long time ago. I still won’t be selling my Japanese DVD of Kill Bill 1 though, especially if Tarantino doesn’t restore the fight scene with color.

- The Chinese state-run broadcasting authority stopped two television stations from playing any commercials after they continued to run banned ads for some shady weight loss products despite being warned. I can’t argue whether it’s right for them to do it or not because I hate both the broadcasting authority and medical informercials, but the authorities certainly did their jobs by warning against bribing censors. Those censors could at least do what they were bribed to do, for crying out loud.

- A trailer has surfaced for Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou’s directorial debut Secrets. I don’t think Jay Chou is very qualified to be a director judging from the music videos he directed before, and the trailer isn’t exactly promising much more than flashy music video stuff. That overdramatic score doesn’t help, either.

- Jason Gray met up with Ryuganji’s Don Brown and pretty much shot the breeze for his first podcast. For those really into the current Japanese film industry like I am, it’s a fairly entertaining and educational hour to spend at the computer (or on your iPod, which I don’t own one of).

- During Cannes, the new Hong Kong film production company Big Media announced that they would make 100 movies. Turns out the Mei Ah website has a bunch of promotional posters for some of those projects, though at least half of them don’t even have directors attached. Biggest surprise? Wong Ching-Po taking on Young Men Suddenly in Black. Apparently Eric Tsang really likes to tell stories about men who screw around.

Best of Golden Rock - June 4th to June 10th, 2007

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from June 4th to June 10th, 2007:

- The recent blockbusters have been taking up so much screens in Korea (and pretty much everywhere else, come to think of it) that the Korean government is actually looking into whether studios are breaking monopoly laws. However, since these screen counts were reached by consensus between theaterowners and distributors (more demand=more screens=bigger cut), not much wrongdoing is likely to be found.

- After appearing in 6 films, starring in one TV drama (Taiyou no Uta, or the drama version of Midnight Sun, which was confirmed to be inspired by the Hong Kong film C’est la vie, Mon Cheri), and releasing a single under said drama character’s name, Erika Sawajiri may be headed for a singing career. Sony Music has introduced a new singer named Erika who happens to look like her, has the same birthday as her, and even has the same voice….except she was born in Paris, unlike Sawajiri. But, but, she’s not even much of a singer.

- Jim Carrey is getting to be more of an actor than just another funnyman - I loved his performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I guess taking on a thriller like The Number 23 sounded pretty good on paper. Now he’s taking on the dark comedy I Love You Philip Morris, as a real-life character who escaped prison four times after falling in love madly with his released-cell mate.

- The “HOCC vs Leo Ku” debacle has blown up just a little bit more when the two showed up for a concert put together by a radio station. And of course, the media is fanning the flame to sell more newspapers:

基仔甫坐下即說新歌《錢錢錢錢》的種類屬於Progressive Rock,與Queen的《Bohemian Rhapsody》屬同一種曲風,但兩首歌的旋律絕不一樣。

(in translation)Leo immediately said that his new song “Money Money Money Money” belongs in the category of Progressive Rock, the same style as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but the melodies are absolutely different.

OK, Mr. Ku, I’ll buy that your song doesn’t sound like Bohemian Rhapsody, but let’s make this clear - this song is Progressive Rock; your song is not.

Meanwhile, Paco Wong, the manager of all Gold Label artists, has this to say:

觀點角度不同,何韻詩發表的言論並無指名道姓,這是她的個人看法,如果她說的是雷頌德和古巨基的歌,那要多謝她幫手宣傳,不過請寫清楚名字。」基仔見狀不禁拍拍經理人膊頭,並打圓場說:「她沒說名字,不要對號入座。」

(in translation) “Perspectives are different. Denise Ho expressed her opinion without naming any names. That is her personal opinion; if she says that it’s Mark Lui and Leo Ku’s song, then thanks for helping with the promotion, but please clear up the names.” Then Leo pat his manager’s shoulder, trying to make peace saying, “she didn’t say any names, do not jump to conclusions.”

This is essentially a battle that the press started. HOCC didn’t even write that anyone copied any songs. Anyway, I won’t be translating the next line about Leo not smiling when they greeted each other since that’s just gossip. You can read the Chinese report to read about it.

- Twitch has the first trailer for the Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam/Johnnie To collaborative experiment Triangle. I don’t care what the critics say, I still think it looks like a hell of a ride. Be sure to use Internet Explorer to watch the link.

- The first English review for Takeshi Kitano’s Kantoku Banzai (Glory to the Filmmaker) is out, and with a 3.4 stars out of 5…..I guess it’s good, right?

- Twitch has a link to two more fragmented trailers to Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights. In line with the episodic structure of the film, the first trailer, released just before Cannes, showed the Jude Law subplot, while the second trailer is about Rachel Weisz’s subplot, and the third trailer is on Natalie Portman’s. It still looks pretty, but I’m not so sure about Portman’s country accent myself. By the way, you have to click on the French yellow button under that poster of Wild Hogs to get to the trailers.

- After a bit of rescheduling and whatnot, the New York Asian Film Festival finally announces its lineup, and it’s looking real good (so good that I wish I can fly to New York for it).

Looking even better is Japan Society’s own film festival Japan Cuts, which has quite a lineup this year as well, some of which is part of the New York Asian Film Festival.

- I first picked it up here, which somewhat wrongly translated the article. John Cameron Mitchell’s controversial film Shortbus is finally making its way to Japan, but not without a few modifications. According to the director, he personally supervised the placing of mosiac at 100 different places for the Japanese theatrical release due to the watchdog Eirin, who is basically the MPAA of Japan. Still, it’s not exactly the kiss of death, because unlike America, about 100 films are rated R-18 each year, including American Beauty. In fact, this news might even attract more people to see Shortbus in its limited run. Then again, Eirin is kind of weird, because even a violent war film like Letters of Iwo Jima got away with a general rating, while Flags of Our Fathers was a PG-12.

- Ryuganji has a really interesting commentary on a Japan Times commentary about the state of Japanese films. One is bleak about the state of Japanese films, the other says “hey, it ain’t so bad out here.” Guess which is which.

- Professor Bordwell writes about the recent wave of omnibus films, especially the Cannese 60th Anniversary anthology film To Each His Own Cinema.

- Naomi Kawase (director of the Cannes Grand Prix-winning The Mourning Forest) announced at Cannes that her next film will be a romantic comedy. Now more details have emerged that it’ll be shot in Thailand with Japanese drama star Kyoko Hasegawa. According to Ryuganji, just because Kawase is using a major actress for the first time doesn’t mean she’s going to be any easier on Hasegawa. She also wants to be among the ranks of Akira Kuroasawa and Nagisa Oshima as the “Japan’s Kawase” by the next generation and that she’ll win the Palme d’Or next time, though The Daily Yomiuri adds that she said it with a smile, suggesting that she might have just been half joking. Because, you know, I half-joke about winning the Palme d’Or all the time.

- The trouble is over, as Midway has now rejoined the New York Asian Film Festival as a sponsor. However, they are no longer the main sponsor, as Dragon Dynasty has taken that spot while they were gone.

- China is suspending the issuing of internet cafe licenses as they do a thorough investigation to make sure the customers are behaving properly, as in they’re not playing violent games, looking up porn, or speaking ill of the nation. In other words, what Americans do on the internet most of the time.

- In a piece of more serious news, the erotic pages of major Hong Kong newspapers were sent to the Obscene Articles Tribunal recently for classification after some accused the TELA of having a double standard in the classification process, especially in the handling of the Chinese University of Hong Kong student newspaper case. Well, it seems like these erotic pages were classified as category I: Neither obscene nor indecent, which is baffling to me, since they are saying that kids are allowed to read erotic pages of mainstream newspapers without any warning printed on its pages.

Oh, I got it, they must’ve figured out that since Apple Daily, The Sun Daily, Oriental Daily have some of the least credibility among Hong Kong newspapers, no one would take them seriously anyway, right?

- After a week, there are finally more English reviews of Hitoshi Matsumoto’s deadpan superhero comedy Dai Nipponjin. Variety’s Russell Edwards (who also wrote a too-short review for the film version of Tokyo Tower) calls it tears-down-the-face funny and a genuine jaw-dropping oddity.

Mark Schilling of Japan Times reviewed both Dai Nipponjin and Takeshi Kitano’s Kantoku Banzai, and he declares a clear winner.

It seems like the Western reviewers are really loving Dai Nipponjin, but why is the Japanese audience ripping it to pieces? The most popular film review blog in the Japanese blogosphere gives the film only 915 yen out of a full score of 1800, and 38% of votes at Walkerplus are one star out of five. Perhaps that goes to show that general audience’s disdain for cult films aren’t all that different across cultures.

- The Korean film Failan, the story about a low-life gangster investigating the life of the wife he never met, was a hell of a heartbreaker. Finally someone seems to have appreciated it enough to pick it up for a remake, and the plot seems pretty faithful to the original, too. However, the revenge thing seems to indicated that it might even be more violent.

- The trailer for the New York Asian Film Festival is up (thanks to Asian Cinema - While on the Road for the link), and I think in my humble opinion that it’s quite awesome.

- Two NHK mini-dramas were recently announced, but the reason we care here is because one of them is a milestone of sorts. The six-episode drama Shanghai Typhoon will be the first NHK drama to have a non-Japanese lead with Taiwanese star Peter Ho. Apparently, he will plays a Chinese exchange student in Japan that will be a romantic interest for the female lead, played by Tae Kimura. According to Ming Pao, it’ll play at the very time slot that the hit Korean drama Winter Sonata played in 3 years ago, and Ho said like Winter Sonata star Bae Yong-Joon brought on the Korean Wave, he hopes to bring in the Chinese Wave. I doubt it, but go for it, Peter.

- The winners of the 44th Grand Bell Awards have been announced (didn’t I just write about the nominees last week?). Family Ties picked up best picture, while The Host still managed to grab best director. My favorite win of the whole award, though, is Ryu Deok-Hwan’s best newcomer award for Like a Virgin. It’s most definitely well-deserved!

- Jason Gray reports that Japanese director Sabu’s (whose Dead Run I sort of liked) first foreign language film Arrested Memories, which Gray did the English translation for, has been green-lit.

Best of Golden Rock - May 28th to June 3rd, 2007

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from May 28th to June 3rd.

- Very sad news also coming from Japan. Izumi Sakai, the lead singer of the pop group Zard passed away yesterday after an accidental fall. She was 40 years old.

- After its win at the Cannes Film Festival, Variety finally has a review of Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest. Reviewer Russell Edwards says its ambitions are undercut by conveniently underarticulated affections, and won’t reach far beyond festivals and European arthouse audiences.

Meanwhile, Jason Gray updated his previous about with a few more words about the film and its upcoming limited release in Japan.

Eiga Consultant questions its commercial prospects. While The Mourning Forest is set for a 5-screen limited release nationwide, its success in Cannes may push it to become a small indie success like “The Seagull Diner.” However, it’s also going to be broadcast on the pay satellite channel for NHK in HD on May 29th, 3 weeks before its theatrical release.

- r@sardonicsmile has a look at the Hong Kong band scene, which include a clip of the documentary on my favorite HK rap group LMF. However, if you’re in a Cantonese-speaking work environment, the language is not work-safe.

- Stephen Fung’s Enter the Phoenix has been sold to be remade in Hollywood. I shuddered when the producer says “this movie should be remade for a bigger, broader audience.” Can you say bad gay jokes all around? Then again, the original has a kid smiling after a thermometer goes up his anus, it can’t really get any broader than that.

- Japanese drama Liar Game, which has been doing gradually better in the ratings, as well as the satisfaction scores in most age groups, has gotten Fuji TV so excited that they’re going to expand the finale to a three-hour special. Most drama finales are only expanded by 15 minutes.

- On the Hong Kong Broadway Cinema website has the trailer for “Mr. Cinema,” which I introduced before as “Call me Left.” Directed by Samson Chiu and starring Anthony Wong as the title character, “Mr. Cinema” tells the story of a theater projector (at an old-school cinema that’s still up and running in my home turf Kwun Tong) and his family over the course of 40 years. WARNING: trailer features Anthony Wong trying to sing.

- Doraemon, or known as “Ding Dong” when I was growing up, is my favorite comic ever. Even though I own every issue that was translated into Hong Kong’s Chinese version under the title “Ding Dong” (It was later reprinted under “Do la A Mong,” which follows the Japanese title Doraemon), the comic never reached an ending because the creator Fujio F. Fujiko passed away. Over the years, there have been speculations of how the story ended, including one that showed Doraemon was a figment of protagonist Nobita’s imagination (which would’ve really pissed me off). The one I liked was Doraemon’s battery runs out and is revived by the adult Nobita, who becomes a scientist to revive his robot cat friend. Turns out that ending was just drawn by a 37-year-old man who drew up this “final episode” and sold it at Akihabara bookstores and the internet. Now he has come out to apologize for the copyright violation and has paid royalties to the copyright holders. So it’s official: There IS no ending to Doraemon. That should put the rumors to rest.

- Screengrab has a hilarious deleted scene from Terminator 3 that would explain an awful lot.

- When my friend told me about the ridiculousness of this, I thought he was behind about 2 months, because I thought Norika Fujiwara’s wedding already happened. Turns out they held a Western wedding reception, and for some reason, Nippon TV thought it was important enough to broadcast it live. Then viewers thought it was important enough to tune in. In the Kansai area, where Fujiwara is from, the ratings for the wedding actually reached 40%. It didn’t do too shabby in Kanto, either; it reached 24%.

- In Europe, authorities report that they seized 23.2 million copies of entertainment goods such as DVDs, CDs, and software. And they’re blaming China, reporting that 93% of what they seized came from there.

- Japan Times has a feature on Japanese cinema’s newest hero Naomi Kawase, who won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival with her drama “The Mourning Forest.” They also have a feature about the making of the film as well, including her frustrations of working with foreign investors.

- Seems like the New York Asian Film Festival is running into some troubles after sponsor Midway Games decided to pull out of the festival. Now things are being rescheduled, but the festival is still on. I won’t be able to attend (due to the fact that i’m on the opposite end of the country), but I wish them mucho luck.

- After game developers Midway’s abrupt resignation as the official sponsor of the New York Asian Film Festival, Twitch has decided to call a boycott of Midway because of their unethical practices.

On the other hand, Suntory (yes, as in “For relaxing times, it’s Suntory time” Suntory) and the Weinstein Company’s Dragon Dynasty have stepped up to become sponsors, though the financial gap left by Midway’s departure still hasn’t been filled, which should say how big of a presence they would’ve been.

- For anyone that wants to know more about the Japanese pop music world, Japundit has a really long feature on the infamous Japanese talent management firm Johnny’s Entertainment. Sounds a bit like Hong Kong’s EEG too.

- Youtube/Google and record company EMI have struck a deal to place video contents on Youtube legally. Artists under the EMI label include Coldplay and David Bowie (wait, does David Bowie even make music anymore?). Universal music also has a similar deal in place with Youtube. Too bad only North American music labels have deals so far, everything else is just getting their copyrights violated.

- This weekend, two films by two major comedians in Japan opened. First, there’s Takeshi Kitano’s latest “Kantoku Banzai” (”Long Live the Director!”), which is supposed to be quite strange and alienating like Takeshis’. There’s also “Dai Nipponjin,” the directorial debut of famous comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto (he’s the bald guy that does those batsu games). There were rumors that the films are opening on the same day to allow some cross-promotion, since the two comedians seem to cross paths on TV quite often. I can’t seem to find any articles about it (though I remember I read something about that), but if you need any proof that there’s any of that happening, just look at the following clip of Hitoshi Matsumoto on the comedy show “Waratte Itomo,” where he not only talks about his Cannes experience, but also have a crew member hang posters of his own film AND Kantoku Banzai in the back. Damn it, I want both of those posters.

- I know Ryu Seung-Wan (City of Violence, Arahan, Crying Fist) is a favorite among Asian action film fans out there. After exploring contemporary films, now he’s kind of moving on to period films….except said period film will have zombies in it too.

- Joost is supposed to be the high-quality alternative to Youtube, plus legal content. I have it, but it doesn’t have much to keep me tuned in. This isn’t going to help me keep tuning in, but I think this might encourage some other people to try it. However, Joost is currently invitation-only. Still, just google “Joost invite” and you can find one easily.

- Korea Pop Wars has a link to a very good editorial about the way the Korean Wave is going.

- Nominees for the 44th Grand Bell Awards in Korea have been announced. They’re still busy giving awards to The Host? That felt like it was so long ago. The biggest surprise is to see films that I didn’t particularly care for (Seducing Mr. Perfect and Ice Bar) in the nominations.

- Anyone who follows this blog and Hong Kong music at the same time would know that I don’t have much love for Mark Lui, whose pop duplication skills is only second to Hanjin Chan (Edison Chen vs 2Pac, Jordan Chan vs. Justin Timberlake). But I have to admit that Hong Kong press tends to make far too much out of nothing, even when it’s about Mark Lui’s copycat skills.

Case in point, I point you to the blog of Hong Kong pop star Denise “HOCC” Ho (yes, that is actually her real blog). In a recent entry, she wrote:

今日唔覺意聽電台。
唔覺意比我聽到d甘geh野。
聽到我想死。
我最愛的東西比人攪成甘……..
求神拜佛唔好比我再聽到。

(in translation)
I was unconsciously listening to the radio today.
I unconsciously heard such a thing.
I wanted to die listening to it.
Someone turned the thing I love the most into something like that……
I pray that I won’t have to listen to it ever again.

Somehow the Hong Kong media (and by that, I mean the Oriental Daily, circulation over 2,000,000 in Hong Kong, plus however many internet visitors it attracts) has connected it with reports that Mark Lui’s latest work “Money Money Money Money” by Leo Ku has been accused of copying Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Then somehow, Oriental Daily connected it with HOCC’s post about listening to a song on the radio that has ruined the thing she loves, which is conveniently Queen. Thing is, she has nothing to deny because she never named the song, and the report states that HOCC admits to have heard the song, but doesn’t wish to criticize it. Then the reporter apparently continued to pursue the question, prompting her to say the following:

「 創 作 人 同 音 樂 人 心 中 有 把 尺 , 我 把 尺 set 得 好 高 , 自 己 盡 量 避 免 ( 抄 襲 ) , 其 實 歌 手 都 應 該 有 責 任 ! 」 阿 詩 最 後 暗 寸 Mark 說 : 「 有 抄 襲 成 分 話 係 冇 得 追 究 , 不 過 總 會 有 人 知 ! 」

(in translation from the report)”Musicians have a bar in their hearts; I set the bar very high, and I try my best to avoid (copying). Actually, all artists have that responsibility!” Ah C also finally subtly criticizes Mark, saying “If there’s copied elements then it can’t be pursued, but someone always knows eventually!”

I love how these reports love to assume what the people are trying to say just by the report’s agenda.

Anyway, here’s the song in question, and here’s Bohemian Rhapsody. There’s a saying in Chinese, “The eyes are tall, but the hand is low,” meaning that the vision is ambitious, but the way it’s done is lackluster, which is the best way to describe the Leo Ku song. Lui’s ambition is high, trying to create a pop song that attempts to emulate Bohemian Rhapsody’s structure (it’s not the only song to do so anyway) and avoiding the Karaoke-friendly cliches. But the song sounds like a bunch of random melodies that Lui’s written before held together by the chorus; the whole thing just sounds like one of those bad pop song medleys…..like this one by Leo Ku rather than an actual song. Furthermore, Ku’s whole “can you hear me trying to sound like I’m having fun?” tongue-in-cheek delivery is irritating, especially when he does it for five minutes. I’m sure Leo Ku is a talented singer (though his “I love to sing” shtick is a little tiresome), but he’s no Freddie Mercury. And yes, the beginning and the random a capella does sound a bit like Bohemian Rhapsody’s structure, but saying that “Money Money Money Money” is copying from Bohemian Rhapsody is an insult.

….an insult to Bohemian Rhapsody, that is.

Best of Golden Rock - May 21st to May 27th

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from May 21st to May 27th, excluding the Cannes Film Festival news:

- Jason Gray has seen Takeshi Kitano’s “Kantoku Banzai,” but has sworn to secrecy. So good luck trying to decipher his response, completely done in Japanese smiley faces.

- How can you get your movie into China without having to worry about blackout dates and import quota? Engage in an artistic battle royale with your fellow filmmakers at the Shanghai International Film Festival, and you shall get your wish.

- Following in the footsteps of Variety Asia, Hollywood Reporter has recently decided to expand their coverage into Asia with new offices in Hong Kong and Beijing. Good for them.

- EastSouthWestNorth has a link to an English TVB-produced special about The Society For Truth and Light, a conservative group in Hong Kong that is very much on the opposing side against the Chinese University of Hong Kong student newspaper controversy, and is a strong opponent against laws that outlaw discrimination of “sexual minorities” (that would mean the gays). The focus of the program is that they have recently been teaching a human rights course to schoolteachers. My favorite quote about the course: “If you think your time is valuable, don’t try to join this course.” Sounds like a quote ready for print.

- There have been clips of Sammi Cheng’s Hong Kong concert on Youtube, prompting the record company to ask Youtube to take it off the site. Problem is that these are just badly recorded clips from cell phones of digital cameras, so why start some petty copyrights fight to give up some promotion for the concert DVD?

- Apparently someone used a digital camera or something and bootlegged some footage from the reel for Feng Xiaogang’s The Assembly from the Cannes Film Festival. It looks technically accomplished, with huge explosions and whatnot, but Feng Xiaogang is first and foremost a commercial filmmaker. And honestly, the battle scenes look like they were taken straight out of Taeguki, which took its battle scenes out of Saving Private Ryan.

- Who says that playing video games ruins your mind? Well, maybe in America, but in Japan, the Nintendo DS is actually being used effectively to learn English.

- Mark Schilling has written an obituary for director Kei Kumai, who passed away on Wednesday morning Japan time.

- LoveHKFilm also has some new reviews, including last week’s openers in Hong Kong - Herman Yau’s Gong Tau and The Matrimony, starring Leon Lai and Rene Liu. On the Panasian side, there’s also the Japanese films Midnight Sun, Strawberry Shortcakes, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Ozu tribute Cafe Lumiere.

Out of those, I’ve only seen Cafe Lumiere, and if i have never been to Tokyo, I would’ve been bored to death by it. But for some reason(most likely in that I’m a bit of a transportation nerd), I really liked how Hou Hsiao-Hsien captured Tokyo in such a naturalistic fashion. It’s not really a crazy city. In fact, despite its sheer size, the city is rather serene when you leave its busiest districts, and that’s what Hou managed to capture. Also, I was in a Japanese cinema class at the time, and I was actually looking for recurring Ozu themes throughout the film, which made it even more interesting. Plus, it was fun playing “what’s that train” and “which train station is that” throughout the film. However, I expect everyone else to be pretty bored.

- Good to see the Japanese government embracing the technology, with a government panel now encouraging webcast of television content without requiring getting permission from all rights holders, as long as royalties are paid.

This leads me to a short rant. Recently, I signed up for a Japanese video service named Gyao, which is by the Usen Group and basically provides streaming video service for free. Unlike websites like Veoh and Crunchyroll (no link for you!) basically allow users to upload and watch films for free and illegally, this one is actually 100% legal and free, paying for itself through advertising. It has films, music videos, dramas, basically everything users wanted when they go to sites like Youtube. I was signed up and ready to watch (I knew something was fishy when they asked for my Japanese zip code, though. I used the zip code of someone I know), then the service won’t let me watch it, limiting it to Japanese computers only.

Obviously, I understand that it’s a matter of copyrights when foreign films or films sold to foreign distributors are involved, but this just shows how much the studio cares about exposure versus pure profit. Who cares who watches their movies when they got money from their foreign deals all lined up? This disdain for international audiences by Japanese distributors are why copyrights for their shows are infringed all the time. This is why sites like Crunchyroll and Veoh pop up, while the Japanese authorities moan and whine about how foreigners are stealing their copyright. Mind you, I’m not going to start downloading Japanese movies without paying my dues, but I think they brought it onto themselves.

- Here’s kind of an interesting idea for a new film. The Korean-Canadian co-production “Anti-Hero” introduces a world where everybody has some kind of unique power (where are they going to think of 6 billion different unique powers?) except for the protagonist. Doesn’t that make him unique in the first place?

- Looks like Harvey Weinstein and Luc Besson are going at each other over The Weinstein Company’s release of Besson’s last film Arthur and the Invisibles. Even though Weinstein does have a record of screwing with their foreign acquisitions, I actually haven’t really heard anything positive about Arthur and the Invisibles, so it was probably going to flop anyway. Maybe Besson is just look for a scapegoat for failing to gauge the audience for this film.

- Another conflict that might pop up is going on in Japan, where outspoken director Izutsu Kazuyuki (Pacchigi - Love and Peace) praised films in general…..except Kitano doesn’t exactly care whether directors like films or not. This is ironic, considering Kitano’s movie emulates just about all popular genres of film, which I figured only a director that likes film would do.

- After becoming a limited release hit in Hong Kong, Borat has finally landed in Japan. Playing in about 30 screens nationwide (including just one theater in central Tokyo), the limited release strategy is another step by Fox to try and understand the strange Japanese market, where there really hasn’t been much of a pattern as to what type of Hollywood films work there (A.I. was a huge hit there while Batman Begins was not). Check out some of the more interesting promotional tactics. Also, the Shibuya theater linked above is offering admission for 1000 yen (scroll about one entry down) if you show up at the the theater on Mondays with a mustache on (fake mustache ok, but no stubble, not sure if the theater offers the mustache) and mention “hige” (mustache in Japanese) at the box office. Oh, and Japan Times has a review for it too.

- Everybody is finishing up their trilogies in recent years, from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Death Trilogy” to Gus Van Sant’s…..other “Death Trilogy” (apparently death at the hands of strangers is what he calls it) to Park Chan-Wook’s “Revenge Trilogy.” Apparently, even Takeshi Kitano has been doing a trilogy from “Takeshis’” to “Kantoku Banzai!”. Now he’s planning to finish up this “self-exploratory trilogy” with a movie about the life of an artist from success to ruin that will feature his own paintings. Parallel to Kitano’s own directorial career is still unknown, depending on the reviews for “Kantoku Banzai!”.

- There’s a law in China that bans all materials that deal with the supernatural. Films and books that deal with the supernatural are often banned, though there are ways around it, as evident in the recent thriller The Matrimony. The latest victim of this ban is the popular Japanese comic/animated series/films Death Note. Authorities in China finally got off their asses and seized over 2400 copies of the comic and 360 copies of what is probably the animated series or the films on compact discs. Thanks to the popularity of the comic, kids are also buying up the mock version of the Death Notebook (In Japanese, the word for notebook is “no-to,” or just “note.” So Death Note actually means Death Notebook), freaking out other kids by writing their names in it. Now that’s just plain mean.

- Since we were on the subject of law, Japan has finally passed a legislation in its parliament that bans the video recording of film in movie theaters. The fines are pretty heavy too, so think twice before bringing in that camera for the Death Note spinoff movie; keeping up your otaku cred isn’t worth that much.

Best of Golden Rock - May 7th to May 13th.

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from May 7th to May 13th:

- Johnnie To is no longer under the control of Dennis Law. Milky Way Image, which is under Law, can no longer afford To’s movies, so To decided to just buy his way out, taking two subsidiaries, which includes his own Milkyway Image, and his production team with him. Once the split is approved, Law’s company will no longer be Milkyway, but Brilliant Arts (which is just plain ironic, considering Law’s quality of work).

- The controversial Summer Palace by Suzhou River’s Lou Ye, which was banned by the Chinese government, just picked up the Golden Durian award at the Barcelona Asian Film Festival. Er..I hope they know that a Durian may be the foulest-smelling fruit in existence (it’s also very delicious, but it stinks very much). Hey, next year, they’re focusing on Hong Kong films. Good for them.

- Under kind of exciting news, Kenta Fukusaku announced that his latest film will be more like the hardcore masculine action movie his father Kinji Fukusaku used to make and a “real fight movie.” If it’s going to be anything like Kinji’s Yakuza Papers series, I can already tell it’s going to be quite good. Just look at who he has for his star.

- Holy crap, it’s the trailer for Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen’s Flash Point. Dig it. (Thanks to Beat TG on the Lovehkfilm Forum for the link)

- Darcy Paquet over at Koreanfilm.org updated his site with his thoughts on 2007 Korean cinema so far. It just made me more excited about Sai Yaichi’s Soo.

- Looks like Hollywood is singing the tune “blame Canada” these days after Warner Bros. found that 70% of the camera-recorded pirated versions of their films come from Canada. Since then, Warner Bros. have canceled all advanced screenings of their films, and 20th Century Fox is contemplating delaying releases for major films in Canada. Believe it or not, since Canada has no laws banning recording films in cinemas, it’s now one of the major piracy nations in the world.

- The first trailer for Benny Chan’s Invisible Targets is up, and wow. It’s not a very long clip, but it has a lot of crap blowing up, people jumping off stuff, and even has Nicholas Tse getting hit by a bus. It’ll probably have a crappy story with overacting everywhere, but this looks like a pretty promising action flick.

- The “King of Foreign Otaku” contest was on TV in Japan two nights ago, and Japan Probe has a report on it with short clips (the link he provides to the contest on Youtube is already gone. Well-played, TV Tokyo). And the winner is from Hong Kong! Represent!

Wait. Upon closer inspection, the guy’s name is Cheng Ga Fai….isn’t that the former radio host who specializes in Japanese pop culture?! I actually have one of his Tokyo guidebooks. Crazy…

- Do they really need to do this? The head of the Motion Pictures Association John G. Malcolm is going all the way to Japan to encourage crackdowns on piracy and to congratulate Osaka police for taking down groups that produce and sell pirated films in the region. Of course, what Malcolm doesn’t know is that he’s thanking the worst police force in the country.

- Thanks to the Trailer Blog, we have our first look at Ang Lee’s Lust Caution, starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. It’s part of a reel from Focus Features, who also distributed Lee’s previous film Brokeback Mountain. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Lust Caution is expected to be released in the United States in September. No word on the Asia release date, though.

- While France is seeing decreased admissions in its cinema, every cloud has a silver lining. It’s not French cinema that’s failing in France, it’s the Americans! I suppose they might be quite happy about that.

- “For Those We Love,” the Japanese WWII film about kamikaze pilots written by Tokyo’s ultra-nationalistic governor Shintaro Ishihara, opened on Saturday in Japan. I was afraid the film would glorify people who were essentially government-sanctioned suicide bombers in a time of war. Turns out the film may not be the right-wing-lovefest people were afraid that it was going to be.

Best of Golden Rock - April 23rd to April 29th

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from April 23rd to April 29th.

- Everyone is picking on poor China. After the United States filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization over China’s rampant piracy of Hollywood films, Japan is now planning to file their own complaint against China as well. Oh, and sources say the EU is planning to do the same. Talk about the dirty Capitalists ganging up on the poor giant Communist.

- In true Japan fashion, while they blame the Chinese for not doing enough, the Japanese also have to praise themselves for cracking down piracy the right way. Oh, and they’re blaming foreigners for that too! I wonder if those Japanese street vendors at Osaka’s Electronic Street are still working the streets as if nothing is happening….

- British Airway wants to provide the latest hit movies for their passengers, but it doesn’t want to do it if a rival airline and its chairman show up in it. In a petty immature fashion, BA decided to cut out Virgin Atlantic chairman Richard Branson’s cameo in the latest James Bond film Casino Royale. They also blurred out the appearance of a Virgin Atlantic plane in the film. Oh, behave!

- Some sad news to report in the Asian cinema blogsphere. Hoga News, run by Michi Kaifu, will no longer be updated. Hoga News has been a great source for news even before this blog started, especially for someone who can only understand maybe about half the Japanese cinema news stories out there. Michi has been there to put things into perspective (and not to mention English), and Hoga News’ presence on the Japanese news front will be missed by all. Hopefully, my Japanese is still good enough to read Eiga Consultant’s entries, whose links I originally got from Hoga news. Best of luck to you, Michi!

- Hey, America, you ain’t so bad, with your formal complaints and shit. We Chinese already have pirated copies of your most anticipated movies a week and a half before anyone else is supposed to see it. Of course, it’s probably a scam set to cash in on the hype cheating the poor bastards who think they lucked out, but still, how about them apples?

Sony has confirmed that cheap suckers have been scammed by those amateur entrepreneurs. That’s right, the poor bastards who thought they got a chance to watch Spiderman 3 before everyone else in the comforts of their own home spent their hard-earned renminbi for just another copy of Spiderman 2 packaged as Spiderman 3. Ha-ha!

- In something that comes as absolutely no surprise, Hollywood has come out saying that they are backing the United States government’s complaint against China for intellectual copyright. In fact, they’re even threatening a ban, which means it might just rescue China from crappy Hollywood films, only to be replaced by more happy Chinese blockbusters promoting messages of peace and communism.

However, Silicon Hutong suggests that Hollywood might be bluffing because it probably needs China more than China needs them.

- The Asian media is not quite happy about how they are always in the shadow of Western media. They complain about how Western media only represents 1/7 of the world’s population, yet they control 2/3 of the world’s media, blah blah blah. Well, guess what, this report is right: Asian media does kind of suck. When they decide to stop sensationalist, inaccurate, and xenophobic reporting, then maybe someone will pay attention to you.

- Remember, Johnnie To’s Election and Election 2 is currently under a 2-week run at New York’s Film Forum. They even decided to add one more showing of Election starting tomorrow, Friday the 27th! Greencine has a round-up of reviews around the net, which seems to be generally positive, even though no one seems to be picking up the political implication in especially Election 2.

- After being on every Asian film buff’s shit list for buying up Asian films and either cutting them or leaving them on the shelf (in most cases, both), the Weinsteins now figure why do the buying and cutting when they can just make the damn things themselves? Honestly, I am almost sure no good films will come out of this deal, but I’m a pessimist by nature.

- A new Chinese film producer is making their big debut at Cannes this year, and they managed to find some big Hong Kong market players like Nansun Shi to help them out. Among the five films they’re bringing to Cannes is the latest by Tsui Hark, Ann Hui, Stanley Kwan, and Stephen Fung. Too bad all of them are “Chinese films,” not “Hong Kong films.”

Best of Golden Rock - April 16th to April 22nd

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from April 16th to April 22nd.

- As Variety Asia reported, the Thai censorship board asked for several cuts to the film that show doctors behaving (comparatively) badly. When the director refused, the board refused to give the film back and threatens to make the cuts anyway. Now, the whole issue is getting huge, as Jason Gray reports that there is now an internet petition against the Thai censorship board, calling for a free Thai film industry.

- Here’s something to get excited about for today - the first full length trailer for Takeshi Kitano’s comedy “Kantoku Banzai,” courtesy of Twitch. It looks crazy as hell, and a lot of fun too.

- So remember over the weekend, Shochiku announced that the opening day box office was so high for the film version of Tokyo Tower that they expect it to surpass Kimura Takuya X Yoji Yamada’s 4 billion yen hit “Love and Honor?” Well, the Japan box office numbers are out, and Eiga Consultant can’t see how that’s possible. On its opening day, Tokyo Tower made only 196 million yen, which is 90% of the 1.41 billion yen-grossing Shinobi. In fact, its opening day gross was only 65% of what Love and Honor made on its opening day. You can compare the results yourself for Love and Honor and Tokyo Tower with those links. My own calculation (following the exchange rate BOM used for the respective weeks) actually showed that Tokyo Tower only made 53% of Love and Honor’s opening weekend, but that only furthers the point that Shochiku is lying out of their asses. This isn’t the first time Japanese distributors overestimated final grosses anyway; remember the Genghis Kahn movie? Exactly.

- The big news out of Hong Kong is not only Lau Ching-Wan’s best actor win at the Hong Kong Film Awards, but also fellow nominee Chow Yun-Fat withdrawing from John Woo’s epic The Battle of Red Cliff. It’s another “he-said-he-said” (there’s no she in this story) type of situation - producer Terence Chang said that the financiers can’t acquiesce to Chow’s request to pay his salary of US$5 million at once (which is reportedly 3 times the salary he got for Curse of the Golden Flower), while Chow’s side says that he got the script too late, which meant he couldn’t prepare early enough for a role that requires him to speak in Mandarin (Chow’s native tongue is Cantonese). He also said he already took a pay cut for not demanding a raise after the decision was make to split the films in two (um….they’re shooting it at the same time anyway). This is the second major blow to Woo’s ambitious US$70-million project after star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai dropped out due to the 6-month shooting schedule. Of course, the bigger question is whether Chow’s withdrawal will affect Woo and Chow’s legendary friendship.

- Reading Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” (for a Comparative Literature class) and Kobo Abe’s “Woman in the Dunes” in the same quarter put me in a huge existential crisis. In other words, it was one of the greatest academic periods of my life. Anyway, I mention this because Criterion is releasing Teshigahara’s surprisingly faithful adaptation of Woman in the Dunes in July on DVD as part of a Teshigahara boxset. Anyone looking to get into an existential funk should check out this surreal classic.

- I’m sure many have heard about the Virginia Tech shooting allegedly committed by a disturbed South Korean immigrant student. At one point, the Chinese press got a hold of reports that a Chinese student actually did the deed and ran with it (the local Chinese papers I saw today all have it on their headlines). During that time, the Chinese press ran into chaos, trying to decide whether to run the story or not, while the netizens reacted very quickly on the message boards. This is their story.

- Hollywood Reporter reports that Japanese music sales have been declining since last year, and the majority of that loss actually is in declining sales of foreign music. Not that Japanese music weren’t selling less either; their decline just wasn’t as bad. One thing I don’t understand is why Japanese music as priced so much more expensive than its foreign counterpart - According to the figures, even foreign CD (album and singles included) cost an average of $9.30, while a Japanese music cost an average of $10.54. It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but Japanese albums can cost over 1000 yen more than American albums. Is it production costs? Is it simply a way to cash in on a market that can move almost 53 million units?

- A while ago, I complained that Japanese television broadcasters were not stepping up quick enough to get its dramas overseas. Once a giant market for exporting dramas, Japan has since been overshadowed by South Korea. Finally, the broadcasters are waking up, and are collaborating with the Communication Ministry to build an online database for potential buyers of TV shows. Japan does make decent television shows that should be just as popular as the ones in South Korea, but its lack of access for foreign audience has caused those potential audiences to find other ways to access these contents such as Bittorrent and triad-sanctioned pirated discs.

- CBS has chosen China as the next spot for its popular reality show Survivor. While this is a great development for western media trying to break into China, it should also speak volumes about how living in Mainland China can actually be equal to living on a jungle island in the middle of nowhere with no civilized necessity. Maybe finding a way to talk about Tiananmen Square in public without getting sent to a labor camp can be one of the challenges.

- In an exercise in redundancy, the Australian government has backed the establishment of a Pan-Asian film awards. The Asia Pacific Screen Awards will take place in November in Queensland for at least three years before being moved to another country. In an even wiser movie, the show will be recorded for CNN and would concentrate on recognizing films from countries we don’t necessarily associate with film rather than blinging it up on the red carpet.

The bad news? It’ll only offer 3 nominations per category and its winner will be determined by a 3-member jury? It may beat Hong Kong in presentation, but this award might just lose on credibility.

- Tony Leung Chiu-Wai has signed back onto John Woo’s troubled production of Battle on Red Cliff. Oriental Daily first broke the news without official confirmation, while Ming Pao waited. Excerpt as follows:

昨晚《赤壁》監製透過網上承認此消息,他說﹕「經與梁朝偉先生聯絡後,梁朝偉先生基於與吳宇森導演20多年的友誼,又見到周潤發離開了《赤壁》劇組,《赤壁》又是一部令人期待的作品,必須要拍下去,所以當吳宇森邀請他重返劇組時,他一口答應,替吳宇森解決燃眉之急。」

Last night, “Red Cliff” producer admitted to the news via the internet: “After communication with Mr. Leung Chiu-Wai, based on his 20-year friendship with John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat’s departure, and the need to continue shooting the much-anticipated film, he decided to rejoin the film after John Woo invited him, helping John Woo due to the pressing need.

張家振表示,因偉仔已經熟讀劇本(去年初第一稿出時,已經給了偉仔)不會有發哥最介意的劇本問題(究竟發哥最介意的劇本問題是什麼,張家振未有回答)

Terence Chang said, since Tony have already read the script thoroughly (The first draft was given to him early last year), Chow’s problem with the script will not occur (But Chang has not responded to the question of what specific script problem Chow had).

Original Chinese report.

Variety Asia also has an English report.

- The Cannes 2007 lineup has been announced. As predicted, Wong Kar-Wai’s English-language debut My Blueberry Nights will be opening the festival, assuming that Wong is actually done with post-production. Representing Asia in competition will be South Korea’s Kim Ki-Duk with “Breath,” South Korea’s Lee Chang-Dong’s “Secret Sunshine,” and Japan’s Naomi Kawase with “Mogari No Mor.” Except for Wong, no Hong Kong films will be screened in or out of competition, despite predictions that Tsui Hark-Ringo Lam-Johnnie To actioner Triangle might make it. Nevertheless, the lineup looks pretty solid.

- Look at what Hong Kong celebrities are doing with their Nintendo DS - some publicity photos have caught these celebrities playing their DS’s with an add-on that’s designed to enable the DS to play pirated games.

- Variety has an early review of Spiderman 3, and it’s not a very positive one. On the other hand, Hollywood Reporter seemed to have loved it. Sounds like it’s gonna be fun, but a bit of a mess as well.

- Hong Kong films are going through a bit of a slump in Japan. From the weak box office of Battle of Wits to the recently-released Rob-B-Hood, the latest casualty is the number 8 highest Hong Kong grosser last year Dragon Tiger Gate. On about 40 screens nationwide, the film grossed only 5.9 million yen. That’s 11% of Seven Swords and 23% of Rob-B-Hood’s openings. Even The Queen managed a 5.59 million yen opening on one screen. Ouch.

- I don’t like Tokyo’s nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara, and I don’t look forward to his new film “I Go to My Death For You” (he’s the producer and writer), about Kamikaze pilots during World War II. It looks like Kazuyuki Izutsu, the director of the acclaimed film “Pacchigi!!” and its upcoming sequel, doesn’t like it either. In his protest of the recent trend of nationalist Japanese film that seem to glorify war, he warned at a press conference that films like Ishihara’s might create “warlike people.” Of course, star Yosuke Kubozuka has some strong words for Izutsu too.

- Grady Hendrix explains why the controversy surrounding Oldboy and the Virginia Tech shooter is very misguided. It would be nice if the press that reports it have actually seen the film and realizes that Oldboy is a film that’s about the futility of revenge rather than a film that glorifies it.

Best of Golden Rock - April 9th to April 15th

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from April 9th to April 15th:

- 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.

(not sure where the link went here)

- 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.

- Plagiarism is a plague in the Asian music industry - everyone is copying off each other, and they’re only spread around like urban legend on the net while it continues. That’s why I’m happy to see one of these cases go to court, as a South Korean court ruled that a MTV for a song by Korean pop singer Ivy was illegally copied off a scene from the movie Final Fantasy: Advent Children. According to the comments there, representatives for Ivy’s side are just blaming it on some Chinese guy. Riiiigggght.

Look for the rip-off of the song by Mark Lui for the HK pop market in the coming months.

- Korean films seemed to have hit a slump for March, taking only 21.6% of the market. But the fact that the big picture shows that Korean films is still enjoying a 55.3% share for the year, the reports may be blowing it out of proportion a little bit. Hong Kong would kill for that kind of number, people.

- The Hong Kong International Film Festival is coming to an end, with the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday (I’ll be watching it on Sunday night on the tape-delay broadcast by the local TVB channel in San Francisco), which means Professor Bordwell is leaving. But before he leaves, he shares a ton of pictures, and even mentions this blog! Thanks, Professor, I enjoyed your coverage of the HKIFF!

- Remember the highly-anticipated Jackie Chan-Jet Li project that turned out to be a kids’ movie? Variety Asia offers us more details, including the director (guy who did Lion and Stuart Little), and the plot, about an American teenager transported into ancient China, where he would join a crew of warriors (with it reportedly based on Journey to the West, it would probably be the monk and his disciples, which include the Monkey King) to free an imprison king. Holy ethnographic gaze, Batman!

- . Today, I offer Korea Pop Wars’ Mark Russell’s look at the ongoing struggles of vendors that sell pirated discs, only to find out that it’s all about location, location, location.

Best of Golden Rock - April 2nd to April 8th

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from April 2nd to April 8th:

- When you have a soon-to-be-defunct TV tower and a huge Hollywood blockbuster to promote, what do you do? Nagoya has found the answer.

- You can quench your thirst with teasers today - one for Eye in the Sky, and the other for Feng Xiaogang’s latest The Assembly.

- Turning our attention over to South Korea, it seems like after the screen quota for Korean films was removed, the evil giant U.S. conglomerate has decided to also rape its TV industry as well by taking away the cap Korea has on foreign ownership in a broadcaster, among other things. Free trade, my ass.

- Ming Pao has an editorial about the status of screenwriters - one of the most overlooked jobs in Hong Kong cinema. Excerpt are as follows:

這幾年有過不少港片市場調查,觀眾多指票房不好因劇本不濟。本地編劇待遇欠佳,不被尊重是劇本不濟的主因之一。要提高劇本水準,不是不停訓練人才就行。

There have been many market research regarding Hong Kong films in recent years, and audiences points that box office gross are low because the scripts are no good. Local scriptwriters not being treated well is one of the reasons are scripts are bad. To improve the quality of scripts, cultivating new talents is not the only solution.

編劇在電影行業中是弱勢社群,雖說是主創崗位,但酬勞往往比攝影、美術、製片還低,不兼任其他工作,可能沒法生活。

Screenwriters are weaklings in the film industry, despite their important creative role. But their wages are often lower than the cinematographer, production designers, and even production crew. If they don’t take on other careers concurrently, they wouldn’t be able to survive.

單提高劇本費是沒用的,政府應做的,是完善劇本的版權保障機制,令編劇將來可得到合理的報酬。

Just raising screenwriters’ fees isn’t enough. The government should improve the protection of script copyrights, allowing screenwriters to get fair reward.

對編劇來說,最重要不是劇本費有幾多,是劇本創作出來如何受到基本保障,無人偷他們的橋段,兼且可保留電影以外的版權,又有健康的分紅制度,就算零劇本費,也會吸引很多人參與。

To a screenwriter, the screenwriters’ fees isn’t the most important thing, but rather how the script can get basic protection after its creation. Ensuring that ideas aren’t stolen can protect copyrights and allow for a healthy bonus system. Even if the fee is zero, it would attract many more people to participate (in screenwriting).

在不公平的制度下,怎可能叫人用心創作?

How can people create under an unfair system?

好劇本不必然是用錢買的,優良創作環境,才最重要。

A good script isn’t bought simply with money. A good creative environment is really the most important thing.

Original Chinese text is here.

- We have three posters/promo materials from Twitch. First, we have the poster for Feng Xiaogang’s The Assembly, which looks…..kinda cheap. Then we have the sales flyer for the Benny Chan-helmed Nicholas Tse-starrer Invisible Target, which looks extremely cool. Lastly, we have Joe Ma (Is this “Love Undercover” Joe Ma Wai-ho?) and his Japaense/Hong Kong co-production of Sasori.

- Speaking of pictures, we also have a picture of Taiwanese pop star Rainie Yang apologizing again for remarks she made about the Sino-Japanese war on a Taiwan TV show, which angered those pesky Chinese netizens. Of course, then she takes it too far and starts reading the history book that was given to her at the press conference. Er…..

- China is seeing its first series about homosexuals, good for them! But it might not make it past the censors, although it will broadcast online. I honestly don’t know who would expect them to get past the mainland censors when even Hong Kong people couldn’t accept public broadcaster RTHK’s 30-minute documentary on homosexuals. Good try, though.

- I also mentioned a few days ago the Andy Lau fan madness saga. Anyone that wants a fairly comprehensive wrap-up and a look at the next step for the mentally unstable Yang family shouldn’t hesitate to look at the always informative EastSouthWestNorth blog. Yikes.

- New on the list of “not very good producers” is RTHK, who refused to allow Yan Yan Mak’s film “August Story” to screen at the Hong Kong International Film Festival because Mak put together the 62-minute “long version” from a 22-minute short film that RTHK commissioned her to do. At first, RTHK refused the existence of the film because Mak never received official permission to make it, then they said she can show only the 22-minute version along with 2 other films in the series of short films, and now the film festival people just flat out decided to pull it because RTHK won’t budge. With RTHK in hot waters lately, I’m not so sure if they should be making any more enemies these days.

- Japanese television strikes again, and this time it’s in TBS’s hands. A variety show sent its crew out to Akihabara to interview passerbys, hoping to catch a couple of otakus to answer some questions about current events. Now it’s been exposed that one of those guys were actually contacted in advance to have him just happen to be there so he can get interviewed. Honestly, how quickly can Japanese television’s reputation fall before it’s in the shitter?

- Asia’s least-favorite demented fan family returns to Hong Kong under the guise of taking the father’s body back home, only to go as far as showing up at Andy Lau’s neighborhood and knocking on doors.

Best of Golden Rock - March 26th to April 1st

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from March 26th to April 1st:

- Filmart, how do they love thee? Let them count the ways.

- Speaking of which, Twitch’s Todd Brown has a report on what he saw at Filmart.

- Jason Gray also has some tidbits from the Japanese film industry, including the fate of that Genghis Khan movie (that effectively proved you can’t just shove anything down Japanese audiences’ throats), and what one Japanese actress thought of the latest Rocky movie.

- Remember that I reported that the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan suspended NTV’s membership after the natto scandal? Well, now they just decided to just kick them out of the damn organization altogether. Ouch.

- Los Angeles is a great down for movies (duh), and here are a few reasons why.

- So what’s the best way to beat a movie you want to protest against? In India, they seem to have found the answer to be: Just ignore it.

- Twitch has a clip to the press conference done for Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip’s latest Flashpoint. Don’t worry, the only reason I’m mentioning it is because it has footage. Good ones, too! It’s looking like this will be Wilson Yip’s attempt to emulate John Woo, so it might just be a lot of fun.

- A few weeks ago, Lovehkfilm mentioned that their “most underrated performance” award to Andrew Lin Hoi for The Heavenly Kings was actually noticed by the man himself. Turns out it didn’t stop there - they actually met up and Kozo presented him with a real award!

- I enjoyed Brian Helgeland’s revenge flick Payback, starring Mel Gibson. I didn’t think it was a masterpiece or anything, but it was enjoyable enough. Turns out it was meant to be a complete thing altogether, as apparent by the review of the soon-to-be-released director’s cut on DVD. It’s not just another one of those director’s cut that adds a couple of minutes. No, the entire palate was redone, the whole third act was redone, and it’s like another movie altogether. It might just be worth checking out.

- Jeffrey Wells believe that this year’s Cannes opener will be Wong Kar-Wai’s English debut My Blueberry Nights. Yeah, maybe he’ll finish shooting by May 2009, who knows?

- I was pleasantly surprised by Han Jae-Rim’s Rules of Dating, which was a surprisingly complex and dark romance that was just not meant for a mainstream audience. But apparently, enough people were impressed by it that Han managed to cast Korean’s most unlikely favorite leading man Song Kang-Ho (who has been in some of Korea’s biggest grossers such as The Host, JSA, Shiri, and Memories of Murder) for his second film “The Show Must Go On.” Twitch has the details (The trailer even feature Yentown Band’s cover of “My Way” from Shunji Iwai’s Swallowtail, whoa!), and it sounds like The Sopranos…maybe with less sass?

- The Hong Kong customs have been desperate in catching those Bittorrent pirates. They’ve been trying to save time and money by implementing a new automated system to catch who’s uploading and who’s downloading. This is the result.

- Professor Bordwell has checked in with two new reports - one is film-oriented, the other is not. Both are equally interesting.

 
 
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