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The Golden Rock 2014 Golden Horse Live Blog - The Preview

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Due to my professional and personal obligations (more former than latter, if you’ve seen my work), I haven’t had much time to update this blog. But there are two occasions each year that bring me back with no exception: The Hong Kong Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards. The difference: One speaks (mostly) Cantonese, the other one speaks Mandarin.

 

(just kidding - there are more Mandarin speakers at the Hong Kong Film Awards now)

 

November means that it’s time for the Golden Horse Awards! Celebrating the best and brightest in Greater China cinema, this year’s Golden Horse Awards is once again dominated by Mainland China films. Nevertheless, there is strong support in Taiwan for local darling KANO and Gwei “Gooey” Lun Mei, even though her nominated film is a Mainland China film.

 

As I have done in the past several years, I will once again live-blog the entire Golden Horse Award ceremony from beginning to end. Like last year, there will be less snark, but I guarantee that there will be just as much pointless narration of events happening at the ceremony.  And I once again guarantee that I will not understand 30% of what is said at the awards because of the Mandarin.

 

Once again, the Live Blog will be done in a single entry that is continuously updated throughout the night. You will have to manually reload the page to see the updates because I don’t have technology like those people who live blog Apple release events.

 

The awards starts promptly at 19:00 (that’s 7 PM for you lazy 12-hour clock people) Hong Kong/Taiwan time on Saturday, November 22nd. That’s GMT +8 (or just use World Time Server to figure that out).  Expect the awards to run over four hours, which is only one hour longer than THE GOLDEN ERA and about the same length as a Lav Diaz film. I promise it’ll be a breeze.

 

Depending on my typing speed, I will also be on Twitter throughout the night. Just tweet @TheGoldenRock using hashtag #GHA2014 and your comments may end up on this blog or retweeted by me. Yeah, I’m all up in this social media thingy.

 

The nomination list here, courtesy of our friendly neighbourhood Webmaster Kozo.

 

See you on Saturday night/morning/afternoon!

 

 

 

 

The 2013 Golden Rock Golden Horse Live Blog Preview

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“I can do this with one leg up and still walk in a straight line!”

 

Even though this blog hasn’t been very active, I commit myself to update it at least twice a year: During the Hong Kong Film Awards and during the Golden Horse Awards. If you see an update here now, that can only mean that it’s time for another Golden Rock Award Live Blog!

The 50th Golden Horse Awards is happening this Saturday, and I assure you that unlike my Hong Kong Film Awards blog this year, I will be watching the show live on a reasonably comfortable couch here in Hong Kong in front of a reasonably sized television. As I have always done, I will provide the latest updates, from presenters to award winners. I will also not understand at least 30% of what people say in Mandarin.

However, one thing will be different with this year’s live blog: There will be less snark. Sorry, a joke about people on stage and the people who produce these award shows will end up hurting my career (and people’s feelings), so the award live blogs from here on will be more facts and less jokes.

Unless someone else made the joke. Quote marks make everything OK.

The blog will be in the same format as the past. I will continuously update a singular blog entry throughout the night (because none of you should have to be bombarded on Twitter by updates via tweet). Just keep updating the same entry to stay updated throughout the night.

The live blog entry will be promptly up on this very blog at 7pm (19:00) Hong Kong Time. That’s 0900 GMT, and if you don’t know what that is on your local time, then World Time Server is your friend. You should also be ashamed of yourself for not being able to tell time in a globalized world, but who am I to judge?

Check out the nominees on the Golden Horse Award page. Due to time constraints and other issues, I will not be doing an award prediction page this year.

To get into the conversation during the ceremony, holla at me @TheGoldenRock on Twitter. I’ll retweet the best comments throughout the night, but that totally isn’t an endorsement. At least that’s what I’ve been told to tell people.

See you all on Saturday night!


The Golden Rock 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards Not-so-live Blog

I promised I would do this, so here’s the not-live edition of the Golden Rock 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards, er, blog! 

The time code this year would be the running time of the show based on the video copy of the TVB broadcast I have (really, don’t ask where I got it) instead of the time of the broadcast. Sorry if it confuses a few people. The total running time of the show is just over 3 hours (no commercial breaks, obviously).

Here we go!

00:01:01: A highlight of the red carpet footage kick off the show. I wonder how furious TVB is for having to show all these non-TVB artists.

00:02:10: Show kicks off now with introduction of Best Picture nominees. MOTORWAY gets a car on the stage

00:02:45: Is that….a video background???? Also, that is clearly on a rig they stole from an old Universal Studios ride.

00:03:30: Chin Ka Lok gets of the car and says a few lines representing the film, then makes fun of cops not caring about film shoots.

00:04:15: Camera accidentally gets a few late comers on camera.

00:04:35: Best New Artist nominee (heh heh) Tsui Ka Kit says a few lines about COLD WAR and looks super stiff doing it. Can someone take back his nomination?

00:05:35: Some lame jump stunt representing THE BULLET VANISHES, then Liu Kai Chi shows how much better he is at delivering scripted lines than Tsui Ka Kit.

00:06:30: Lots of pyrotechnics for VIRAL FACTOR, then represented by Elaine Kam - who doesn’t fire a single shot in the film. “This is a film about a family - about two parents and two sons”. Then she goes on to describe the entire plot and that the film is about the importance of family. I TOLD YOU IT WASN’T JUST AN ACTION MOVIE.

00:07:55: Time for VULGARIA. I don’t even want to guess what they come up with here.

00:08:10: And Susan Shaw brings out a fake mule. “Tyrannosaur is a host tonight, so he’s not going to swear tonight” 

00:08:50: Camera captures a few more empty seats with GIFT BAGS. They should take those away from those people.

09:10:00: Tonight’s hosts: Gordon Lam, Eric Tsang, Ronald Tsang, and a bald Jerry Lamb.

00:09:50: The hosts tell us that Hong Kong made five additional films in 2012 thanks to the lowered cost of digital filmmaking.

00:10:45: Each guest gets several strips of film from the five nominated films. Wait, was any of them even SHOT on film?

00:12:00: Pang Ho Cheung and Ronald Cheng up first to present Best New Director and Best New Artist.

00:13:00: Chapman To reminds Pang that June Lam was not eligible for the Best New Artist. Pang: “No, I was feeling sorry for the mule in VULGARIA”.

00:13:40: Chapman To reveals that the VULGARIA mule was actually already in ASHES OF TIME and DETECTIVE DEE, and hence, not eligible for the Best New Artist award.

Pang: “That’s a deer”
To: “Any great actor can transform from a mule to a deer”

00:15:00: Best New Actor up first. I passed on all the nominees because I didn’t feel any of them was particularly deserving. Did they pretty much just show all of Tsui Ka Kit’s lines in that nomination clip?

And the winner of Best New Artist is….Tsui Ka Kit for COLD WAR. I think even Pang gave a “WTF” face there.

00:16:35: And with that, the HKFA committee just avoided an ICAC audit.

Tsui Ka Kit: “My acting wasn’t good enough, not as good as our past Chief Executive.” BURN.

I think Tsui is either a great public speaker or rehearsed this speech for a long time.

00:18:00: Tsui was the Deputy Director of Operations at the ICAC before a controversial dismissal in the 1990s

00:18:40: Best New Director now. Pang reveal now that co-directors are not eligible for the Best New Director award

00:19:10: To: “There are great directing teams out there. Pang Brothers, Coen Brothers, Wong Jing”

Pang: “Wong Jing is a solo director”

To: “That’s what he tells you”

00:19:45: Time for Best New Director. I predicted Roy Chow, but wanted Brian Tse for MCDULL.

And the winner of BEST NEW DIRECTOR is: Roy Chow for NIGHTFALL. Toldja.

00:20:50: Roy Chow thanks Edko’s Bill Kong. The first of a long line of wins for Edko tonight.

00:21;25: Roy Chow thanks Christine To and ends with an “I love you”. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

I think that’s the first public acknowledgement of their relationship.

00:23:30: Giddens and a little 6-year old girl out now to present Best Screenplay.

Poor little girl looks so nervous. Giddens keeps reminding her of that. too. Apparently, the little girl will be the star of his next film KUNG FU

00:24:40: I predicted COLD WAR to win, though I wanted VULGARIA.

Will this be a case of split votes for Pang?

00:26:30: And the winner is COLD WAR for Longman Leung and Sunny Luk. This is their first screenplay.

This sets in motion COLD WAR’s big night.

00:27:00: Sunny Luk is a longtime Assistant Director, but industry gossip says that he was never very good at it.

00:28:09: I’m really liking this no commercial break thing.

00:28:30: One award is voted for live at the show: The best-dressed award. Tonight’s winners are Lau Ching Wan-Amy Kwok and Sammi Cheng. Gordon Lam apparently missed that photo.

00:29:30: Ronald Cheng forgets his lines and Gordon Lam saves the day.

00:30:50: Alex Man (Best Supporting Actor nominee) and Janice Man on stage now to present Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

Wait, Alex Man sells clothes now?

00:31:50: That video background is insanely distracting.

00:32:30: Alex Man demonstrating multiple styles of acting, from stage to film. Save us now.

Look up Alex Man’s little extended display last year at the Udine Far East Film Festival on Youtube and see why I dread this.

00:33:45: Alex Man forgot he’s on stage to present an award!

00:34:00: Best Art Direction. I predicted THE BULLET VANISHES, but wanted TAI CHI 0.

I just noticed that these are all period films.

And the winner is….THE LAST TYCOON. Oh, I’d forgotten about those sets.

00:35:55: Lau Ching Wan accept the award on behalf of Yee Chung Man. The other winner is here, though.

00:36:30: Alex Man and Lau Ching Wan chatting in the background is kind of distracting, too.

00:37:10: The two stay on stage to present…..oh, they both don’t know what they’re presenting. Professional.

00:37:30: This is Best Costume Design. I predicted THE SILENT WAR due to its Asian Film Awards win, but wanted THE GREAT MAGICIAN to win.

Again, all period films.

And the winner is………THE GREAT MAGICIAN. Alex Man tells Lau Ching Wan to come back to the stage. Yee Chung Man wins second award in a row.

00:39:25: Lau Ching Wan: “Don’t worry, you won’t see me on stage again tonight”

00:40:05: I still see a few gift bags.

00:40:20: Leo Ku on stage now to sing Best Original Song nominee from Lan Kwai Fong 2. A ballad…representing a film about clubbing. Such is Cantopop.

00:42:00: I’m sure this is bringing back many fond memories of the fine motion picture that is LAN KWAI FONG 2. Oh, wait none of these old geezers saw the film.

00:44:30: There’s an old guy in the extended leg room row who just flat out REFUSED to applaud.

00:45:10: Gigi Leung and someone that Ronald Cheng forgot now on stage to present Best Supporting Actress.

Oh, wait, that’s Andrew Lau. Ouch.

00:45:45: Leung: “I hear that Assistant Directors pick the supporting actress now. What do you think about that?”

Lau: “I don’t know how to answer that.”

Leung: “I was just reading from the script.”

Lau: “So I hear you recently got married.”

Leung: “I did, yes”

Lau: “So did Ekin Cheng.”

HAHAHAHAHAHA

00:47:20: OK, I predicted Elaine Jin for the Best Supporting Actress award, but wanted Mavis Fan or Jiang Yiyan

The winner is…….Dada Chan for VULGARIA. This is for the Golden Forum brothers.

Dada seriously owes Pang Ho Cheung. The win was definitely for the character, not the performance.

00:48:35: Dada first thanks Pang Ho Cheung. She looks seriously caught off-guard.

00:50:30: No commercial break means we keep on trucking. Jerry Lamb and Eric Tsang share the stage now for some banter.

Lamb asks Tsang about film. Is this the beginning of the tribute to film? I mean literally film, not movies film.

00:51:40: Pioneer award now being presented to Kodak Eastman. Arthur Wong - finally not nominated for Best Cinematography this year - presents the award.

00:52:50: Wong: “Film is like human nature, some warm and some cold”

00:53:30: Wong: “Film gave us cinematographers a sense of authority and a sense of unease while the film gets developed.”

00:54:40: They better not pick any digitally shot movies in this montage tribute to FILM.

00:55:20: The Asia-Pacific Chairman of Kodak Eastman Lois Lebegue (is it supposed to be Louis?) accepts the award and gives a speech in English.

00:56:40: Lebegue: “Film remains the gold standard.” I will never learn to shoot on it, but indeed it is.

00:57:55: Lo Hoi Pang on stage now to present Best Visual Effects and Best Sound

Lo is known for his rhyming skills (the full story takes too long to translate), and delivers two for the audiences.

Lo’s story has to do with testing microphones, and uses that to emphasize the importance of sound in films. Heh heh.

Lo just says something about mothers on stage. Chapman To looks shocked.

1:00:45: Best Visual Effects up first. I predicted CHINESE ZODIAC to win, but want TAI CHI 0.

They just showed the fake-ass billiard scene and a crane shot from MOTORWAY because they had no idea what visual effects are.

And the winner is…..COLD WAR. Seriously? For that crappy explosion?

1:02:50: Lo forgets to give a speech and goes straight to Best Sound Design. I wanted THE BULLET VANISHES, but predict COLD WAR or VIRAL FACTOR to win.

Jesus, THE VIRAL FACTOR is such a loud movie.

And the winner is……COLD WAR. Kinson Tsang’s 29th nomination?!

1:04:50: Jerry Lamb: “The star of DIVA has apparently won many awards, but never won one.” Well, that’s not a big secret. Come on, Joey Yung.

Oh, she’s not here tonight.

That leaves Mag Lam to sing the DIVA theme song on her own (it’s supposed to be a duet)

1:07:00: I remember when UA Cinemas played this song on loop to promote DIVA. It’s not bad, actually.

1:10:20: Wong Kar Wai on stage by himself, first wishes Eric Tsang a happy birthday.

He’ll be back next year.

He’s here to give a speech about….shooting on film?

WKW: “Anyone on the set can mess up, but film developers can’t mess up”

1:12:00: WKW: “Film developers will never win awards or applause. We pay tribute to those film developers tonight”

1:13:00: Two Production Achievement Awards go to two professional film developers tonight.

1:14:30: These two hold especially important jobs. If a reel of master print is ruined, that entire reel has to be reshot.

1:18:00: All four hosts on stage now. It’s time for the Best Supporting Actor award - two of the four hosts are nominated this year.

Eric Tsang: “All four of us have been nominated before, but I’m the only one that has won before”.

1:20:20: Nick Cheung and Miriam Yeung on stage now to present Best Supporting Actor.

Tsang: “Miriam, I thought your dress is reversed”

The four hosts remain on stage. The banter now clearly off-script.

1:21:50: What is that digital waterfall doing in the back?!

1:22:05: Nick Cheung: “I’ve never won Supporting Actor before. I went straight to Best Actor”

Oh, everyone just remembered that Ronald Cheng and Miriam Yeung were a couple.

Miriam to Ronald: “Hey, haven’t seen you for a while!”

1:23:30: There was a lot of jump cuts in that nomination clip for VULGARIA.

OK, I guessed Ronald Cheng would win, and wants Ronald or Chapman To to win.

And the winner is……….Ronald Cheng for VULGARIA!!

Ronald and Miriam politely shake hands.

Nick Cheung asks if Ronald and Miriam have anything else to say before giving Ronald the stage.

1:26:00: Ronald Cheng: “Tonight’s script came too late, so I forgot about my own speech.”

Ronald starts to cry. “I know I didn’t give people a good impression when I first entered the industry because my father is a record company executive”

1:28:00: Ronald now talks about giving up music to put his heart into acting. Now, it finally pays off.

1:28:50: Eric Tsang: “I’m so touched [to Gordon Lam] It’s right that you didn’t win”

1:29:40: Jacky Cheung on stage now to perform the theme song from THE LAST TYCOON. Hey, buy the DVD and you can see my translation of the song lyrics!

1:32:50: Jacky Cheung is a really good singer.

1:33:40: Stephen Fung on stage now to present Best Cinematography and Best Editing.

Stephen Fung almost switches to Mandarin by accident.

1:34:45: First up is Best Cinematography. I guessed VIRAL FACTOR or COLD WAR. but think LAST TYCOON should win.

And the award goes to: Poon Yiu Ming for THE SILENT WAR.

Not a bad choice, just wasn’t one that I had expected.

1:37:00: Straight into Best Editing now. I expected COLD WAR to win, and want MOTORWAY or COLD WAR to win.

And the winner is……COLD WAR

Editing played a huge part in keeping COLD WAR’s intense pacing, which is why audiences loved it so much. So, there ya go.

1:39:30: Co-winner Wong Hoi’s first job was INITIAL D, which I absolutely HATED, especially for its editing. Oh, well.

1:40:50: Eric Tsang introduces this year’s In Memoriam segment.

“You Raise Me Up”? Seriously?

Screen on stage messes up and cuts off part of the screen. We see the names on TV, but it’s clearly too small for people in the venue to see.

1:44:30: Oliver Wong, Szeto Kam Yuen, Joe Cheng, Kong Ngai, Jacqueline Law, Austin Wai are just a few of the names recognized.

1:46:20: Jackie Chan on stage to present Best Film from Mainland and Taiwan. He’s mixing Mandarin and Cantonese on purpose for our Mainland Chinese guests. This is annoying.

1:48:40: OK, I predicted BACK TO 1942 to win Best Film from Mainland and Taiwan, and would be happy to see it win.

The winner is…………..BACK TO 1942. No surprise here. Zhang Guoli, Xu Fan and Huayi’s Wang Zhonglei accept the award.

1:52:00: I don’t think half the audience even knows that Xu Fan is speaking as Feng Xiaogang’s wife.

1:54:40: Mavis Fan and Choi Si Won (yeah,he’s Korean) on stage to present Best Original Score.

Wait, Choi Si Won speaks Mandarin? Why is he spending his banter saying hi to people in the audience.

1:56:40: I predicted that COLD WAR would win Best Original Score, but want DIVA to win.

And the winner is…………COLD WAR, for its unnecessary in-your-face film score. I forgot to keep score. How many has COLD WAR won now?

1:58:30: Now, the Best Original Song award. I expected the LAST TYCOON song to win, but want the ROMANCING IN THIN AIR song to win. This is a pretty competitive year in this category, IMHO.

And the winner is………..THE LAST TYCOON. Clearly, we all miss Jacky Cheung.

2:02:40: Jacky Cheung hasn’t accepted an award for a long time because he no longer accepts music award and hasn’t been nominated for a film award for a while. Eric Tsang: “It’s good to be nervous at your age. Come back once in a while!”

2:03:50: And now, Raymond Chow on stage to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Ng See Yuen.

Personal story about Ng See Yuen: He shows up at all the big functions at my film school, and that’s pretty much all we see of him in Hong Kong these days. He now operates a chain of cinemas in Mainland China.

2:05:00: Ng established several Hong Kong Filmmakers groups, including the Directors’ Association.

2:06:15: And Raymond Chow takes a 5-second break in his speech to reset his hard drive.

2:07:15: Raymond Chow finishes his speech and thanks the audience. Whew.

2:08:25: Ng gave Yuen Woo Ping, Tsui Hark, Jackie Chan their first chance at filmmaking. He’s also an important representative of the film industry and led protests against the triads in the film industry and film piracy. He also apparently came up with the idea for the Walk of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui.

2:15:00: Ng See Yuen’s speech is giving me a lot of facebook surfing time.

2:15:39: Ng See Yuen to young people: “stop complaining about your parents and your government”. Well, we know where he stands politically.

2:16:45: And now, Anthony Wong Yiu Ming pays tribute to, er, Leslie Cheung movie theme songs, I guess.

Anthony Wong admits that he often forgets lyrics, and he just did it.

2:23:44: A series of movie theme songs to remind us what a great star we lost - and the great films that no one makes anymore.

2:24:40: Gordon Lam: “Hong Kong action cinema has been great in the last few years because Eric Tsang hasn’t participated in it.”

02:25:30: Are they so devoid of presenters now that Eric Tsang has to be one of the presenters? He and Chrissie Chow now present Best Action.

02:27:00: Time for Best Action Design. I guessed that CHINESE ZODIAC would win, but wanted MOTORWAY to win.

Eric Tsang: “Is Chin Kar Lok that good, or is he just really cheap?”

And the winner is…..CHINESE ZODIAC. Regardless of the film’s quality, the action design’s actually not bad.

Jackie Chan lets the new kid give the acceptance speech. That’s a good call after that.

Jackie then translates for the Mandarin speaker. “He thanks me, he says” 

Thanks to Eric Tsang for getting a couple of jabs in.

Eric Tsang: “He just won for doing what he’s always done”

02:32:11: Gordon Lam reminds Eric Tsang that he’s never won Best Director before.

02:32:40: Aaron Kwok now here to present Best Director. Try not to overact this one.

02:34:25: OK, I realized that I didn’t make a prediction for Best Director. Since I already know who wins, I won’t make any prediction.

And the winner is………Longman Leung and Sunny Luk for COLD WAR, setting up for their Best Picture win.

I wonder the fact that many of the voters have worked with them before has anything to do with their win.

02:37:35: Sunny Luk thanks Wong Jing and another director as the people who taught him how to be a PA/Assistant Director.

02:38:20: And time for Best Actress. Going into the home stretch now.

Jacky Cheung’s back on stage to present. The Best Actor winner from last year should be here to present this. Where’s Andy Lau?

02:39:15: Jacky Cheung: “Actually, you know I’ve been acting since 1989, I just haven’t had much luck.

Cheung: “I was actually quite uncomfortable with presenting an acting award. Then I realized, hey, all the nominees are singers! Then I felt a lot more comfortable”

02:40:50: OK, I guessed Sammi Cheng or Miriam Yeung would win, but prefers Sammi.

And that was HUGE spoiler for THE SILENT WAR

Cheung: “Usually, the nominated singer who doesn’t show up doesn’t win”. He’s talking about Zhou Xun.

And the winner is……Miriam Yeung, for her first Best Actress win ever. Sammi looks like a load just came off her shoulders.

02:42:39: Miriam is crying on stage now. She seems to have no speech.

02:43:40: Yeung thanks Joe Ma and James Yuen. Gordon Lam breaks her speech and asks Ronald Cheng to say something. Ouch. 

Yeung also thanks Pang Ho Cheung for picking her, even though she heard that she wasn’t the first choice for the role.

Hmm, she’s forgetting to thank Shawn Yue.

02:46:45: Anthony Wong and Deanie Ip now on stage to present Best Actor. What a strange pairing.

And Wong is going to run his mouth off. I know it.

02:47:30: Anthony Wong says that Deanie Ip isn’t feeling well and isn’t going ahead with the banter. Wong asks if that means he has to do two people’s lines by himself.

Wong: “The awards people thought I’ll run my mouth off again, so they asked Deanie to watch me, but since she can’t speak, this is great for me.”

And Wong proceeds to read out two people’s lines.

Wong: “Why are you winning so many awards, Nick Cheung? You just let your daughter play with them!”

Wong: “Lau Ching Wan is a good choice, he looks a bit exotic. But the awards people rarely vote for foreigners.”

Everyone wants to hear what he has to say about Chapman To due to their reported feud. Wong takes out a long stack of paper for it, and To stands up pretending to leave.

Wong shuffles the paper and simply says “let’s just encourage each other”

02:52:00: Finally time for the award. I guessed Tony Leung will win, but wanted Chapman To or Nick Cheung.

And the winner is…….Tony Leung for COLD WAR. He’s been nominated 15 times at the HKFA, and this is his 4th win as Best Actor. A solid performance, and not a terrible choice.

Leung: “My daughters said I’ll have to thank them, and I ask them why. They said it’s because they saw the film four times. Then I asked them why don’t they ask the boss to thank them. Then they said it’s because they paid for their friends’ tickets. With my money.”

Classy speech by Tony Leung, in which he thanked the film’s major members and saluted them.

02:57:50: Eric Tsang: “Hong Kong cinema isn’t dead because we’re united. Look at how we talk to each other like family!”

02:58:30: And now, Andy Lau and Carina Lau on stage to present Best Picture. Oh, so there he is.

Andy Lau asks Carina Lau what she thinks about the nominees.

And Andy Lau goes to calls VULGARIA by the wrong name. But congratulates Dada Chan on stage. Classy.

Carina goes to call all the Best Film nominees just OK.

Andy Lau: “But I’m in COLD WAR”
Carina: “So what? It doesn’t have Tony Leung!”

And there’s that expected punch line.

03:02:00: OK, I predicted COLD WAR will win, but wanted VULGARIA or MOTORWAY to win the award. Sigh.

And the winner is……….COLD WAR. OK, then.

And this is now the year of COLD WAR and Edko.

Bill Kong is the first to speak as the producer/boss. Followed by the co-producers.

Eric Tsang: “Since it won the most prizes, therefore its Best Picture win is deserving”

And that wraps up this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards blog. Hope that we’ll return live this year. It’s just not as fun without you guys.

See you in the fall for the Golden Horse Awards!

The Golden Rock - 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards Prediction Edition

 

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Some of these people will be going home happy tonight

Despite my own spotty blog writing schedule, the Hong Kong Film Awards live blog has always been something that I’ve consistently done over the last few years. Unfortunately, due to scheduling problems (the problem being me being stupid in forward planning), I will not be able to do a live blog this year. I will likely do a play-by-play after the broadcast as a translation for people, but they will not be up during the broadcast of the show.

However, I will follow tradition by offering my own predictions for the awards this year. For an alternate (and very well thought-out) set of predictions, I first suggest you all go take a look at Sanney Leung’s predictions and the list of nominees before coming back to read mine.

Done? OK, let’s do this:

Best New Director

Will win: Roy Chow (NIGHTFALL)
Should win: Brian Tse (MCDULL THE PORK OF MUSIC)

I’m not sure which is funnier: That only one nominee in this category is actually nominated for a directorial debut, or that the director who’s only made one film is the least deserving nominee in the category. With 16 million HK dollars at the box office and a lot of positive reviews, NIGHTFALL will likely give Roy Chow that Best New Director award that he thought he’d deserved for MURDERER. However, when the possibility of MCDULL winning a Hong Kong Film Award comes up, I will always choose MCDULL for my preferred choice. 

Best Film of Mainland and Taiwan

Will Win: BACK TO 1942 (China)
Should Win: BACK TO !942 (China)

The other four nominees are all good in their own way, but none of them are playing at Feng Xiaogang’s level, who delivered a famine film that actually managed to balance spectacle, tragedy, and black comedy. It was never meant to be a blockbuster tearjerker like AFTERSHOCK, and kudos to Feng Xiaogang for not trying to repeat past achievements.

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: CHINESE ZODIAC
Should Win: TAI CHI 0

All the visual effects nominees are actually pretty weak this year, but I predict that the committee will give it to the most expensive film. However, I prefer to give it to the film in which the special effects made the most sense. The video game effects of TAI CHI 0 really served the film’s style, whether you like it or not. Many people didn’t like it, so it probably won’t win.

Best Sound Design

Will Win: THE VIRAL FACTOR or COLD WAR
Should Win: THE BULLET VANISHES 

Remember how loud THE VIRAL FACTOR and COLD WAR were? The voters probably remember that, too. THE VIRAL FACTOR will get the big-budget movie win, or COLD WAR will get the prestige film win, but I personally thought THE BULLET VANISHES had a nice, understated sound mix that delivered when it needed to. Check out the finale to (or hear) what I’m talking about.

Best Original Song 

Will win: THE LAST TYCOON
Should win: ROMANCING IN THIN AIR

One of the most competitive years in recent memory in this category, there are at least three very solid songs running for the award. While the song from THE LAST TYCOON is a great song (Jacky Cheung’s presence will probably elevate its chances for a win as well), Sammi Cheng’s ROMANCING IN THIN AIR theme song works well with the film and serves the film than the LAST TYCOON song does.

Best Original Film Score

Will win: Peter Kam (COLD WAR)
Should win: Eman Lam, Veronica Lee (DIVA)

The only reason I prefer DIVA is because the other nominees are pretty typical film scores without anything special to distinguish it. Peter Kam’s score for COLD WAR actually even hurt the film. However, if a COLD WAR sweep is coming, then Kam will probably go home with another HK Film Award tonight.

Best Action Design

Will win: CHINESE ZODIAC
Should win: MOTORWAY

Jackie Chan is always a frontrunner in this category, but the complex chase choreography of MOTORWAY (especially in the hillside chase sequence in the middle) deserves recognition in my book. I would not be upset at a VIRAL FACTOR win, either, since it’s easily the most accomplished thing in the film. That helicopter sequence was really not easy to pull off (as dumb as the execution is).

Best Costume Design and Make-Up

Will win: THE SILENT WAR
Should win: THE GREAT MAGICIAN

Man Lim Chung likely have his supporters, judging from his win at the Asian Film Awards, but THE GREAT MAGICIAN was the most accomplished film in this department for its colorful variation of fashion styles.

Best Art Direction

Will win: THE BULLET VANISHES
Should win: TAI CHI 0

In my opinion, THE BULLET VANISHES and SILENT WAR already cancel out each other for so obviously recycling the same set, but THE BULLET VANISHES’ factory and town sets are likely to be memorable enough to catch voters’ attention. At the same time, Tim Yip’s prestige and his effort in building the enormous sets in TAI CHI 0 (including the metal monster) may earn him another HK Film Award after all.

Best Editing

Will win: COLD WAR
Should win: MOTORWAY or COLD WAR

Getting a film like MOTORWAY down to a lean 89 minutes with just the right pacing is an award-worthy achievement, but editing did play a huge part in giving COLD WAR the breathless storytelling that audiences loved. Again, if a sweep is in store tonight for COLD WAR, this will be one of the awards it picks up.

Best Cinematography

Will win: THE VIRAL FACTOR or COLD WAR
Should win: THE LAST TYCOON

THE VIRAL FACTOR may pick up the big budget film technical award for the action sequences, and COLD WAR may win this as part of the sweep, but voters may remember the grandeur of Andrew Lau and Kenny Kwan’s work on THE LAST TYCOON. It’s such a good-looking film that no one will believe that it was directed by Wong Jing (though let’s face it, it was probably partly directed by Andrew Lau anyway. 

Best New Artist

Will win: Pass
Should win: Pass

The field is so weak this year that no one deserve this award this year. Luckily, I’m not in the committee, and I’m sure the HKFA won’t be pulling a HK Film Critics Society this year. Congratulations to whoever wins, but that person probably doesn’t deserve it. 

Best Screenplay

Will win: Longman Leung and Sunny Luk (COLD WAR)
Should win: Pang Ho Cheung, Luk Yee Sum, Lam Chiu Wing (VULGARIA)

Filled with technical talk and award bait moments for its stars, COLD WAR will probably win with little resistance from the general public. Despite its flaws, the best thing about VULGARIA really is its profanity-filled script. Pang deserves his second screenplay award at the HKFA (ironic since his first win was for LOVE IN A PUFF), but the wind really is blowing towards COLD WAR winning it all.

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Elaine Kam (THE VIRAL FACTOR)
Should win: Mavis Fan (THE SILENT WAR) or Jiang Yiyan (THE BULLET VANISHES)

Elaine gets to cash in her veteran cred here and pick up the award for her award bait monologue in THE VIRAL FACTOR (came too early in the film for impact, if you ask me), but if voters know what they’re doing, they should recognize Mavis Fan (for having a character more interesting than the lead actress) or Jiang Yiyan (for giving a better performance than the lead actress) for their work.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Ronald Cheng (VULGARIA)
Should win: Ronald Cheng (VULGARIA) or Chapman To (DIVA)

Both of these actors stole the show in their respective films, so I would be very happy if either Chapman or Ronald wins tonight. If Chapman loses for DIVA (which may happen since Ronald has Golden Horse momentum behind him), he may still win Best Actor, so that’s OK. However, I am leaning toward Chapman for being the only great thing in DIVA. Ronald was just the icing on the VULGARIA cake. 

Best Actress

Will win: Sammi Cheng (ROMANCING IN THIN AIR) or Miriam Yeung (LOVE IN THE BUFF)
Should win: Sammi Cheng (ROMANCING IN THIN AIR)
Dark Horse: Elanne Kong (LOVE LIFTING)
To ensure a riot in the Cultural Center: Zhou Xun 

It’s finally Sammi’s year, and she could do a lot worse than winning for Johnnie To/Wai Ka Fai’s romance drama. The film had a LOT of problems, but Sammi wasn’t one of them. Elanne winning will be a pleasant surprise, and a huge “eff you” to the Hong Kong Film Critics Society. Actually, any actress winning would be a huge “eff you” to the critics group, since they didn’t like any of them for their awards.

Best Actor

Will win: Tony Leung Ka Fai (COLD WAR)
Should win: Chapman To (VULGARIA) or Nick Cheung (Nightfall)

I didn’t like NIGHTFALL, but I thought Nick Cheung’s performance was very strong. On the other hand, I didn’t think Chapman To was particularly good in VULGARIA, but I like the film and would rather see him win over a COLD WAR win for Tony Leung. Again, if a COLD WAR Best Picture win is coming, then expect Tony Leung to pick up Best Actor for his solid turn tonight.

Best Picture

Will win: COLD WAR
Should win: VULGARIA or MOTORWAY

Sanney felt that VULGARIA should take the top award as a statement to the co-production system, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s not the best film of the bunch, but neither was GALLANTS when it picked up its Best Picture award. However, I personally prefer MOTORWAY for being well-crafted and hitting the mark so well. On the other hand, there is a lot of industry support for COLD WAR, and it certainly seems like it’s set to take the top prize of the night.

If you get to watch the ceremony live tonight, then have fun. Otherwise, we’ll be back in the next few days with the play-by-play Hong Kong Film Awards not-so-live blog!

 

 

The Golden Rock - 2012 Golden Horse Awards Live-blog Preview

Yet another empty promise to blog gone unfulfilled, just like the most unreliable boyfriend you’ve had in your life.

BUT, there are some things that can bring this blogger back, and one of the them is awards season! I try to do a live blog for the two major Chinese cinema awards (Sorry, Mainland China, you don’t have one of them), so this return means it’s time for the Golden Horse Awards!

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What this blogger does when he isn’t blogging

As always, the awards will be broadcast live on Star Chinese Movies channel here in Hong Kong, and yours truly will be following all the action with snarky snark snark…with a few second delay because my Mandarin isn’t as good as my Cantonese.

Here are the deets:

Time: Saturday, November 24th, 2012. 19:00 (7pm) Hong Kong Time (Use World Time Server or a world clock of your choice to figure out your local time)

Place: Right here! 

How it works: A new blog entry will be created on the day of the show. Just keep reloading that entry during the course of the show to see the latest updates.

How to interact:  In the past, I’ve opened up comments and set up live chats. This year, I’m taking it all on Twitter. Just tweet @TheGoldenRock with #2012GHA, and I will retweet and respond accordingly.  

Made plans this weekend? Just come back and reread the whole thing later on. It won’t be so fun, but it’ll be here as long as the blog is here.

Simple enough? Good! Some time later this week, I will post my predictions, and we’ll be back here to waste a Saturday night watching the Chinese-speaking film community congratulate themselves!

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She’ll probably be there, just not wearing this.

Concept ad for this year’s Golden Horse Festival, by JUMP! ASHIN director Lin Yu-Hsien and starring Eddie Peng:

The Golden Rock - August 17, 2012 Edition

 

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In just 8 days, Pang Ho-Cheung’s VULGARIA has already grossed HK$11.9 million at the Hong Kong box office, which means both of Pang’s films in 2012 - LOVE IN THE BUFF and VULGARIA - will surely be two of the top ten highest-grossing Hong Kong films of 2012. BUFF has already made HK$27 million and currently holds the top spot at this year’s Hong Kong box office, and if VULGARIA makes more than HK$23 million, it would officially make Pang the first director since Stephen Chow whose film(s) managed to gross over HK$50 million in a single year. However, the difference will be that Chow did it with one film (CJ7), while Pang will be doing it with two.

How did a foul-mouthed category III film about making movies manage to become one of the highest-grossing local films of the year? My own opinion of the film aside (my audio review on East Screen West Screen), let’s first acknowledge that VULGARIA being a good film is not enough. Anyone who thinks that good movies make money and bad movies don’t make money is just being naive.

If the movie being good is not the reason, then why else would VULGARIA be such a hit?

Warning: The following includes many Cantonese profanities and possible spoilers for VULGARIA

1) Thank EXODUS

 

There are several specific Cantonese curse words that are considered no-no for Hong Kong censors. Traditionally, use of those words would automatically warrant a category III (no one under 18 admitted) for the film, which is why commercial Hong Kong films typically stay away from them. However, in 2007, Pang Ho-Cheung’s EXODUS became one of the first Hong Kong films to use these Cantonese cuss words liberally (you can see on the clip above) and still managed to avoid a category III rating. Reportedly, Pang pointed out to the censors that films with English profanity are often passed with IIB (not an age-restricted rating) and that the use of profanity actually reflects everyday reality. The censors agreed and allowed EXODUS to pass with a IIB.

This actually became a game changer of sorts, as other filmmakers began to follow suit. Wong Jing’s MR. AND MRS GAMBLER features several jokes involving Cantonese cuss words, Heiward Mak had his idol stars mouth them in EX, and Pang Ho-Cheung continued to include them in his films until LOVE IN THE PUFF got the category III because TELA had a problem with the characters using profanity too casually (according to Pang). However, PUFF then became immensely popular among young audience, and Pang knew that it was partly because young people find Cantonese profanity amusing.

After making LOVE IN THE BUFF, his first China co-production, Pang returned to Hong Kong and managed to get HK$7 million from Paco Wong’s Sun Entertainment to make what was called at the time WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT HONG KONG MOVIE. It was going to be packed with Cantonese profanity, raunchy humor, a load of star cameos (many of whom worked for free), and most importantly, it would have the label “Hong Kong movie” taped tightly to it.

2) Using China’s Weibo

Pang Ho-Cheung currently has 1.9 million followers of Weibo. He knows he’s a popular man on Sina Weibo and other Chinese social media, which is why he has been using it as a tool for the last year and a half. He used it to get extras for LOVE IN THE BUFF, and he had been counting on those same fans to mobilize and enter the cinema for BUFF. Before that turned out to be a disappointing venture, he used Weibo to report the progress of WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT HONG KONG MOVIE. Pang and producer/star Chapman To had been uploading photos from their meetings and the set of the film for a month before the local press even got to visit the set. On the surface, they seemed like a celebrity’s everyday post, but every single post included the film’s Chinese name (which translates to “A Vulgar Comedy”) and teased the various star cameos. That’s where hype starts.

3) Picking the right handlers

In 2010, local independent distributor Golden Scene premiered LA COMEDIE HUMAINE at the Hong Kong International Film Festival - a full four months before its theatrical release. The film was a tough sell - a buddy comedy about a professional killer and a scriptwriter that was about the magic of movies - but the distributor has proven to be able to sell summer comedies with surprise hit SIMPLY ACTORS. Not only would the HKIFF launch give the film a quality label, but by having only one screening to 1,000 enthusiastic audience members in the Hong Kong cultural center, the amplified response became a good word-of-mouth starter.

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When opening weekend arrived in August, Golden Scene also sent the film’s stars on a series of meet-and-greets in Hong Kong cinemas, meeting enthusiastic audiences with what is essentially a stand-up routine. It brought the film festival experience to general movie-going, and it kept the film in the media spotlight.

The result? A film that usually would not have made more than HK$4 million ended up with more than double that. With HUMAINE and the HK$10 million-plus gross for BREAK-UP CLUB, Golden Scene became THE distributor for hip and alternative Hong Kong commercial films.

Golden Scene knew that WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT HONG KONG MOVIE - now re-titled VULGARIA - would once again be a tough sell to local audiences. It’s category III, it doesn’t have a star that guarantees a huge gross, and it was from a filmmaker who’s only made one commercial hit in his career. As they had done with HUMAINE, they started with one exclusive screening at the HKIFF:

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Knowing that Pang is a darling in film festivals, Golden Scene also used Filmart (happening at the same time as HKIFF) to aggressively push to the film to overseas visitors - buyers, programmers, and critics - at the film’s market screening. Ironic for a film selling itself as a pure Hong Kong film, yes, but that’s when one can see Pang and his company had picked the right people.

4) Your audience - and Youtube - are your friends

After a run around the world at film festivals like the Udine Far East Film Festival and the New York Asian Film Festival, Golden Scene kicked off the local advertising campaign for the film. Thanks to LOVE IN THE BUFF becoming the highest-grossing Hong Kong film of the year (eat your heart out, Deanie Ip!), Pang suddenly became a marketable name. This is the guy who once made dark, alternative films (at least considered so in Hong Kong) like YOU SHOOT I SHOOT and DREAM HOME, and now he’s made a super vulgar movie that’s category III? Let’s push him out there:

 

The above is one of the five making of videos that Golden Scene uploaded, and it contains many of the Cantonese curse words featured in the film. Thanks to the censor-free world that is free internet, this video now has over 200,000 hits on Youtube. In comparison, the cleaner making of videos have only attracted 20,000-70,000 views.

And then there were the audience meet-and-greets. Three weeks before the movie’s official release date, Golden Scene held midnight previews around town and had Pang Ho-Cheung and Chapman To do post-movie talks. Since this was a category III film anyway, Pang, To, and Dada Chan let it all loose with curse words left and right to full-house audiences around town. In the age of smartphones, everyone promptly pulled out their cameras and started filming.

At the first of these talks, To and Pang talk about the importance of making films for Hong Kong audiences, the absurdity of Mainland censorship, the beauty of Cantonese profanity, and sometimes Bosco Wong. Of course, with Ms. Popping Candy herself, there were also a bit of sexual harassment:

 

Multiple videos of these talks hit Youtube and received thousands of views, which then helped boost sales for the next week of preview screenings. In the second weekend, Pang and To took it further. Not only did they bring a fake mule on their press tour (You’ll get it after you’ve seen the film), they also started revealing the real people behind some of the film’s biggest gags. Here, Pang Ho-Cheung reveals that Chapman To was the real star behind the mule story.

Here, they then reveal that the real Ms. Popping Candy is the girlfriend of Pang’s stills photographer and that Billy Chung is the director who ran gambling dens:

By now, you probably realize you may not want to reveal your most intimate secrets to Pang Ho-Cheung

By the way, it’s clear that Pang and To didn’t count on these videos going online, which is why they repeated many of the same jokes.

5) Pop culture domination

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The above is a newspaper column from last week. The subject is a certain Cantonese word in the film that was the subject of several jokes in the film (According to the subtitles, it’s supposed to be “nose diving”, but sounds like something very vulgar). This is only one way that VULGARIA references have dominated local pop culture. While the film’s response ranges from mixed-to-good, several jokes have become talking points among Hong Kongers. And unlike SEX AND ZEN 3D, the references are even about how much the movie sucks.

Over the past year, Hong Kong people has also grown increasingly dissatisfied with Mainland China - from the rudeness of tourists to their rumored influence over the Chief Executive election to the new National Education program. Suddenly, Hong Kongers feel like their superior Hong Konger identities are being threatened, and they will take anything they can get to enforce that identity.

Thanks to that, the idea of watching VULGARIA not only became the hip thing to do as a Hong Konger; it also became a way to show Hong Kongers’ love for Hong Kong.

Yes, a little comedy about people swearing a lot is now patriotic duty.

Will the success of VULGARIA bring on a new slew of real, China-less local movies? There will surely be copycats, but the success of VULGARIA was dependent on so many wild card factors (current events, box office success) that could not be foreseen that lightning is not likely to strike again. As a result, it’s like that everything else that follow will surely be dismissed as copycats. Besides, Pang and To are probably not very well-liked right now in certain circles of the Hong Kong film industry, especially those Hong Kong directors living up north that have been dubbed as traitors of Hong Kong for making movies for China (Hi, Gordon Chan, Peter Chan, Derek Yee, Andrew Lau, and Johnnie To!). Hell, even Pang’s next film is a Huayi Brothers production that will be shot in Beijing! Believe it or not, the Hong Kong film industry isn’t always a united place.

If anything, VULGARIA goes to show that to make money in the movies, it’s not always about making a good movie - it’s about making the right movie.

Well, that and swearing a lot.

The Golden Rock - Supercaptitalist Edition (Featuring Guest Blogger Marco Sparmberg)

Apologies for the long break, as various obligations have tied this writer down the past two months.

However, as Edison Chen once said, we are coming back harder than ever with some new content. And one of those is the first-ever guest blogger entry on The Golden Rock. Recently, we were kindly offered an opportunity to watch a new film called SUPERCAPITALIST, written by actor Derek Ting and directed by Simon Yin. Due to scheduling conflicts, we sent Marco Sparmberg, founder of Haexagon Concepts and Hong Kong-based director of HAEXAGON and web series SQUATTERTOWN. As he will mention in the review, Mr. Sparmberg also worked in development at Salon Films for a year, so he definitely knows a thing or two about developing a film here in Hong Kong. 

And now, without further ado, Mr. Sparmberg’s unfiltered, uncensored, but edited for grammar review of SUPERCAPITALIST:

Just to further throw Marco under that bus, Marco’s views about the film are his own, and they do not represent LoveHKFilm.com nor this blogger.

$uper-capitalization of clichés

The Skinny:

A rare English-language indie film from Hong Kong that tries to remake WALL STREET the Central way. Featuring common expat clichés, SUPERCAPITALIST offers a TV thriller without the thrills.

Review:

Before I start selling my shares, I need to put this disclaimer up front: In the summer of 2010, SUPERCAPITALIST was one of the projects that passed my desk seeking financial investment. I had actually recommended this project to my boss for further consideration at the time.

Now that the production is completed and has been screened in a theater, would I still recommend it? Unfortunately, I would not. A financial thriller set in Hong Kong, Macau and New York set up as a sophisticated international co-production by a group of young expat talents that might bring Hong Kong film back to the world map of cinema, the film’s premise is indeed intriguing and promising. So, what happened?

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“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Conner Lee (Derek Ting) works at a New York-based hedge fund firm. When he starts to become a troublemaker for his boss, he is sent to Hong Kong as an expendable asset to “shake things up” in the local market. Arriving in the fragrant harbor, he takes the tourist bus and LKF bar tour. The message “we are in Hong Kong and spend money at random” is repeated, as we see Connor gets sucked into the generic urban life of decadence, which includes junk boat trips with two bikini models for each of his fingers.

Then, a plot suddenly emerges when Conner gets the order to rip off a local tycoon (Richard Ng). In the process of taking over his company, Connor falls for the tycoon’s attractive assistant (Katy Uyen). When he also finds out that he is being double crossed by his own boss (Linus Roache) and the tycoon’s brother (Kenneth Tsang), Conner joins forces with the locals to save the company.

The way local Hong Kong people are portrayed here should be a cause of concern.  The filmmakers navigate into dangerous waters by implying everyone can be bribed with red pockets in this city. At the same time, Richard Ng’s multi-billion dollar tycoon stubbornly holds on to his family traditions and old-school business models, effectively weakening him as his brother gets established as the greedy villain. Meanwhile, every other local character, including Katy Uyen’s, is mere accessory to the Asian-American hero who saves the day.

 

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“Trust me, you gotta bribe that 7-eleven clerk if you don’t want her to spit on your fish balls!” 

 

SUPERCAPITALIST is an extremely rare independent Hong Kong feature film effort by expat filmmakers, fueled by the online artist community Alive Not Dead. It is Simon Yin’s first feature film as well as the first lead role for writer-producer Derek Ting. The film and its team clearly aimed for too much, all the while ignoring critical issues like the financial crisis or Hong Kong’s increasing rich-poor gap for the convenience of repeating an old story pattern. Even when Oliver Stone is struggling to pull off a decent financial thriller these days, why should Yin be able to bring anything new to this conference call? The team could have instead achieved much more by taking a cue from MARGIN CALL, which took a minimalistic approach and could’ve been produced easily in Hong Kong for instance.

Notable, however, was the short Q&A session with Richard Ng after the Hong Kong press screening (at IFC, of all places). Ng spoke about how he first rejected the young team and dismissed them as not serious but eventually agreed to take the role. However, he later changed his mind and says that he truly believes in the talent and the potential in his team of up-and-coming filmmakers - a statement that comes off more sincere than the usual promotion talk (”We are really pioneering!”) by some of the other speakers on stage.

Yin and Ting may have wanted to play like big brokers on the surface, but they end up coming off like they’re collecting leftovers from some company party. Production value is below average even for a Hong Kong film, with everything looking like TV. The film has technical issues that are so apparent on the big screen that I was constantly kicked out of the story, finding myself wondering what and who was responsible for such sloppy camera work.

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“Look, we found the only street restaurant that puts blankets on their tables.”

Following what has become the current go-to distribution strategy for independent films in the States, the producers has struck a deal with All Rights Entertainment and will release SUPERCAPITALIST simultaneously in theaters, Cable VoD and on iTunes. In my opinion, the theatrical run is more or less a face-saving act by the traditionalists in the team, as the VoD downloads will bring the real numbers. Solid, but not profitable enough, returns from the Asian American community can be expected, especially since the film is acting as the Centerpiece Presentation at the 2012 Asian American International Film Festival in New York City. However, the film will probably only attract expats during its August release In Hong Kong.

Ultimately, SUPERCAPITALIST could have been so much more. As an expat filmmaker in Hong Kong, I would have liked to see it setting a precedence as a case of people wanting to do something outside of the usual RomCom and Martial Arts genres. However, it’s sad that I can see every single attempt and compromise that was made along the way while watching the film. From personal and professional experiences, I understand a production has its limits and constraint, as well as the effort and hard work that go into making such a product. However, there were simply too much sacrificed or approached with the wrong attitude. I would be delighted to see this underdog succeed as it had so much potential, but this is not the film we had hoped for, and it will probably vanish in the sea of insignificant investments soon.

So, let me close with a note to all the expat filmmakers out there: Hong Kong is not just that glittery thingy between Causeway Bay and Central. That place you call The Dark Side, most of us call the city. There are so much more relevant topics and amazing locations to explore. It really is worth a try!

Regardless of the film’s quality, we thank Marco Sparmberg for his review and the organizers of the special screening for this special opportunity. 

Photos courtesy of All Rights Entertainment. 

The Golden Rock - November 28, 2011 Edition

 

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The Chinese title for Wen Hua-Tao’s LOVE IS NOT BLIND is 失戀33天, which literally means “Love-loss 33 Days”. Essentially, it refers to the period of heartbreak experienced by those who has just gotten out of a relationship. The so-called  失戀 period mostly ends when the person finds a new relationship. However, in the case of LOVE IS NOT BLIND, heroine Xiaoxian - who experiences “love-loss” when she catches her longtime boyfriend with her best friend - is simply trying to stop the pain and even find a shoulder to cry on with her effeminate metrosexual co-worker-turned-gay best friend, played by Wen Zhang.

Made for RMB 8.9 million, LOVE IS NOT BLIND has become a colossal hit in Mainland China, even outgrossing big-budget action blockbusters like SHAOLIN and THE LOST BLADESMAN. While the film itself has been well-received by the “post-80s” (those born in the 1980s) demographic in China, its success is also an example of what great marketing can do for a film.

Reputation: LOVE IS NOT BLIND is the 4th film by writer-director Teng Hua-Tao, whose film career has not exactly been remarkable (his last film was THE MATRIMONY, starring Leon Lai). Instead, he is better known for his television dramas DWELLING NARROWNESS and NAKED WEDDING, both hot topics in Chinese popular culture (especially among young women) when they were aired.

DWELLING, co-starring LOVE star Wen Zhang (OCEAN HEAVEN) deals with “housing slaves”, young people (usually urbanites) who end up being slave to their mortgages in a society dealing with high inflation (including in the real estate market), but it was mainly its plot line about an affair between one of the heroines and a corrupted government official that attracted so much controversy that SARFT stopped the airing of the drama and forced producers to re-edit the drama before putting it back on the air.

Meanwhile, NAKED WEDDING, starring AND co-written by Wen Zhang, deals with a post-80s who choose to get married out of love without the financial resource for material needs like a home or a car. The drama depicts a “naked wedding” couple whose marriage is broken up by family conflicts and their lack of material wealth. As the Wen Zhang character says in a pivotal scene, “our love was defeated by the small things”.

LOVE IS NOT BLIND deals with a far less serious subject - a girl getting over her heartbreak - but its popular original novel (written by a post-1985 female author in the form of a diary) and the reputation of the Teng-Wen team (some netizens are already dubbing them the next Feng Xiaogang-Ge You) all created a fair amount of anticipation before its release.

Issues: The idea of “love-loss”  may be a bigger deal among youths in more traditional societies (like Asian ones) than America, where the film that last truly dealt with the idea of heart-break was likely 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. The idea of a break-up being a major source of sorrow and sadness in one’s life is something that obviously connects with youths better than say, conservative middle-age people. In the film, Teng embraces how seriously his target audience takes “love-loss” by making the idea of getting over it his heroine’s ultimate goal.

Of course, just the idea of blowing up something as seemingly trivial as a break-up reflects the values of the film’s demographic. While there are politically and socially active “post-80s” in China, the majority of Chinese people in their 20s care about more personal issues like money, careers, their iPhones, and of course, their love lives. LOVE IS NOT BLIND embraces such values so well that not even one family member of the main characters ever appears on screen, and by zoning in so specifically on what this generation cares about, the film immediately connected to the biggest group of consumers of Chinese cinema right now - the youths.

Marketing: Some has already mentioned the release date being a key element, but the success of LOVE IS NOT BLIND’s marketing efforts extends further than that. According to an essay written by the film’s publicist on Weibo (which has NOT been refuted by any major players), in addition to picking “11-11″ singles day as its release date, the marketing team also recorded a series of interviews with young people around China. These interviews are all about these people’s “love-loss” experiences - the pain, the suffering, the crying, and even messages to their ex’s. Then, footage of mock-interviews featuring the film’s two main characters - Wang Xiaoxian (Bai Bai-He) and Wang Yi-Yang (Wen Zhang) - are also inserted. Before selling the film itself or the stars, the marketing team first sold the universality of its topic.

I don’t know when this particular video was released, but this is one of the “break-up interview” videos

Then, of course, came singles day. The film was made with the intention of being released around 11-11. In China, since the 11-11 resemble lone sticks standing on their own, it’s become a symbol for single people, and hence the beginning of “singles day”. Of course, no one is stupid enough to sell a movie about heartbreak on Valentine’s Day, so singles day is of course the best time.

By the way, why did the film open on November 8th instead of November 11th, you ask? In addition to the 8th being a Tuesday (so the film can gather positive word-of-mouth during the week to carry into the weekend), the 8th was also the birthday of Teng Hua-Tao’s father. Teng is one of the producers of the film, so he can do whatever he damn well pleases.

I’ll go more into the actual content of the film in my later review for the site, but all these factors have helped make LOVE IS NOT BLIND a super chick-flick hit in its home. At my screening, the film attracted mostly couples and groups of young girls who responded enthusiastically to the sharp verbal comedy, its tender observations about heartbroken young women, and even the brief digression into tearjerking melodrama. I might have been the only single man sitting by himself in that 300-seat auditorium, which tells you that LOVE IS NOT BLIND is not the cinematic experience equivalent of going to Yoshinoya alone in Japan - i.e. just for singles.

With the success of ETERNAL MOMENT, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, LOVE IS NOT BLIND, and even BUDDHA MOUNTAIN, the direction of the Chinese commercial film industry is starting to reflect Hollywood a little bit, where films that appeal to a younger audience tend to do better at the box office. Perhaps China becoming a global film industry player is not so far away after all.

Read an excerpt from the original novel here.

There’s no particular source for this entry, as a lot of it came from what I’ve learned over the years, as well as the article I read on Weibo. This article from entgroup pretty much sums things up, as well as attribute part of the film’s success to the use of micro-blogs. I cannot confirm whether that’s true or not, so I will not comment further.

The Golden Rock 2011 Golden Horse Awards Live blog

  

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We like to cover two major film awards here at The Golden Rock - The Hong Kong Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards. Now, it’s that other time of the year, so we’re doing what we love to do: Live blog!

Since we got that pesky iPhone thing this year, in addition to the continuous snarky, sarcastic comments running throughout the night, we will be uploading pictures on Twitter @TheGoldenRock and the LoveHKFilm Facebook group.  Beware, they will just be pictures taken of my TV.

I’ve tried to run some sort of interactions in the past year via live chat and the comment section. This year, we’ll do the interaction stuff via Facebook and the twitter.  Or you can just follow by reloading this entry page every couple of minutes

11:11pm: And that’s 4 awards for SEEDIQ BALE: Best Sound Effects, Best New Performer, Best Original Score, and Best Picture. A SIMPLE LIFE picks up three. Wuershan still gets the most baffling win of the night. And no award for me. At least I get sleep now.

11:09pm: Of course, the speech is all about making more and more money for this movie. This is the film award equivalent of a gold star for effort

11:06pm: And the winner of Best Picture is…………SEEDIQ BALE, the “sorry you didn’t win anything else major” award of the night!

11:04pm: True story: I peed next to Hou Hsiao-Hsien once. Not many people can say THAT

11:03pm: Carina Lau, Chen Kuofu, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien present Best Picture. Carina first congratulate the SIMPLE LIFE trifecta. “It’s been so long since a Hong Kong film is this successful!”

11:01pm: I wonder what’s been going through Wei Te-Sheng’s head as SEEDIQ BALE loses one award after another. It’s time to accept that it’s a fine, but still flawed, film

10:56pm: “Right now, Hong Kong cinema is at an all-tme low, so I hope we can find out way out [like Taiwanese films have]”

10:53pm: And the winner for Best Actor is……………oh, someone did get this man an award. ANDY LAU FOR SIMPLE LIFE

10:51pm: Of course, the two just put in a plug for Doze Niu’s LOVE, too. Classssssyyyyy

10:50pm: “Hi, I’m Shu Qi, the one who just lost an award”

10:49pm: Last year’s Ethan Ruan and Shu Qi now coming to present Best Actor.

10:43pm: “I got a stroke in the film, and now i got an award, too!”—Deanie Ip

10:41pm: And the Best Actress Award goes to………..DEANIE IP FOR A SIMPLE LIFE.

10:39pm: Eric Tsang asks Andy Lau whether he knows how to have a child. Lau growled back angrily. I laughed

10:38pm: of course, the fact that Andy Lau is presenting the Best Actress award kind of tells you who will be winning…..

10:36pm: Andy Lau gets the biggest applause of the night. Someone give the man an award!

10:35pm: Award prediction: I hope Shu Qi doesn’t win for BEAUTIFUL LIFE. Sorry, this type of hysterical award-bait performance gives award-bait performance a bad name

10:30pm: Andy Lau to present the Best Actress award. If you’re reading this and don’t know who Andy Lau is, what the hell are you doing here?

10:26pm: Considering we jsut heard Sandy Lam belt out movie songs, do we really need another of Jam Hsiao doing it? He’s not as good anyway.

10:24pm: Thanks go Jam Hsiao, I had a chance to check. This is Ann Hui’s second Best Director award at the Golden Horse. Her first was for ORDINARY HEROES. Can Distribution Workshop move up the release date for SIMPLE LIFE already? This is getting annoying

10:21pm: And now, Jam Hsiao performs. Er, what for? Get on with it so we can all go home!

10:18pm: SEEDIQ BALE won the Audience Award of the Golden Horse Film Festival. Does it count as a disappointment for the film if it doesn’t walk away with Best Picture tonight?

10:17pm: Ann Hui credits Andy Lau with getting the money needed for A SIMPLE LIFE. 

10:16pm: “I feel like I’m about to get a stroke!”—-Ann Hui. Wang Yu doesn’t think it’s funny.

10:15pm: And the Best Director winner is……………..ANN HUI for A SIMPLE LIFE!!!!!

10:14pm: Time for Best Director. Will it be Wei Te-Sheng? Jiang Wen? Ann Hui? Oh, there’s that young guy, too.

10:11pm: And starting off the fourth freaking hour of this show: 20-30-40 stars Rene Liu, Sylvia Chang, and Angelica Lee present Best Director 

10:06pm: Getting into the big major awards after this commercial break 

10:03pm: Now time for Best Original Song. And the winner is…………JUMP! ASHIN. I guess the jury got sick of the YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE song, too.

10:00pm: The winner for Best Original Film Score: Ricky Ho for SEEDIQ BALE. Third award of the night

9:59pm: Sandy Lam sticks around to present the music awards. First, Best Original Film Score.

9:57pm: I don’t care who sings the original versions of these songs. I think Sandy Lam just blew them all out of the water.

9:53pm: Taiwan Yahoo gives Michelle Chen’s dress the worst-dressed Award.  Can’t say I disagree from that picture.

9:49pm: Now, Sandy Lam performs a medley of movie songs.

9:43pm: Wong essentially won for his work on SEEDIQ BALE, which looks like a truly grueling shoot

9:40pm: The winner for Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year is…….legendary production manager Wong Wei-Liu. Apparently, all the jury members cried when they decided on the award

9:38pm: Presenters devote a minute or two to each nominee

9:34pm: Yang Gui-Mei and someone I don’t know present Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year award

9:32pm: Qin Hailu: “Please keep asking me to act! I still act!”

9:30pm: Qin is also in two of the other two nominees. The winner is……..RETURN TICKET! Qin Hailu jumps for joy onstage

9:29pm: And now, Best Original Screenplay. Qin Hailu is actually one of the nominees for RETURN TICKET

9:27pm: By the way, Jiang Wen isn’t here tonight.

9:26pm: As Fruit Chan reads all the names out, he had to add in, “Wow! Six writers!”

9:24pm: First up, it’s Best Adapted Screenplay. The winner is……….LET THE BULLETS FLY, by Jiang Wen and co.

9:23pm: Fruit Chan and Qin Hailu present Best Screenplay. She exposes the Fruit Chan won Best Screenplay at the Golden Horse for a film without a script

9:22pm: If there’s a long gap between updates, it’s because of commercial breaks, not because I’m lazy. Well, I am lazy, but that’s not the reason.

9:15pm: Tang and Peng are presenting the Best New Actor category. The winner is…Ko Chen-Tung for YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE. Finally, an award win that everyone expected.

9:13pm: Gidden writes on Weibo that Andy Lau gave him a pat on the shoulder for encouragement in the toilet after he lost the Best New Director award. He was excited.

9:11pm: Tang Wei and Eddie Peng on stage to present. “Next year, I’ll work hard to compete with you in the Best Actor category!”

9:06pm: JUMP ASHIN director Lin Yu-Xian introduces performance of song from JUMP! ASHIN. Wait, the movie had a song?

9:05pm: Two hours down, two hours to go!

9:00pm: Oh, they’re doing a third award: Best Cinematography. Winner is…….LET THE BULLETS FLY

8:59pm: Now time for Best Visual Effects. The winner is……..WU XIA. Now WU XIA also has as many awards as SEEDIQ BALE.

8:58pm: Kara Hui accepts the award on Donnie’s behalf. Even better, I say.

8:57pm: Best Actio Design goes to DONNNNNIEEEEEE Yen for WU XIA

8:52pm: Have I been here for two hours already? That was fast. Anyway, time for Huang Bo for Best Action design now.

8:48pm: HUANG BO will be one of the two presenters for Best Action Design. Hahahaha

8:43pm: Wait, she’s singing the Leslie Cheung song in CANTONESE.

8:42pm: A-lin sings the In Memoriam sequence song

8:38pm: Ting has made 70+ films and written countless episodes of television.  A true legend. No pun intended. His wife says the industry can remake his films for modern audiences. Yo, fo real? Oh, she also says Hollywood made 300, but he made 800 WARRIORS 30 years before that.

8:37pm: Ting’s wife accepts the award on behalf since he’s, um, passed away already.

8:35pm: To recap, THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF, AND THE SWORDSMAN now has as many awards as SEEDIQ BALE

8:33pm: Wang Yu doing a stand-up routine on stage. He’s presenting the Lifetime Achievement award for Ting Shan-Si

8:30pm: Jimmy Wang Yu, looking like a priest, on stage now. “I couldn’t get an award, but I got a stroke instead.”

8:29pm: Eric Tsang and Bowie Tsang immediately tease Giddens, then console him a bit. Ouch!

8:27pm: The winner is………..Wuershan for BUTCHER, CHEF, SWORDSMAN. What, FO REALS!

8:26pm: They’re presenting Best New Director. Giddens, come get your award

8:24pm: Li Lie(?) and Doze Niu now the presenters. Of course, Doze puts in a plug for his new film. “I’ve been making LOVE”.

8:17pm: Time for Best Supporting Actress. The winner is…….Tang Qun for RETURN TICKET 

8:15pm: Simon Yam keeps holding Michelle Chen’s hand. HEY, HANDS OFF!

8:12pm: The two first present Best Documentary. The winner is…….HOMETOWN BOY

8:09pm: Michelle Chen says she would like to work with Andy Lau. Simon Yam tells Andy Lau to stick to investing in the movies…for Yam and her together.

8:07pm: Simon Yam and THE GODDESS herself Michelle Chen now on stage

8:05pm: Even the original performer of the theme song can’t sing it in its original key. That makes sense.

8:03pm: Real-life version of characters from YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE introduce the performance of the theme song.  

7:59pm: SEEDIQ BALE award is actually for three people. Thank god, now we know Tu Du-Chih isn’t the only sound person in Taiwan.

7:57pm: And the winner of Best Sound Effects is……..SEEDIQ BALE. First technical award of the night for the most expensive Taiwanese film ever. Also second award for the film tonight

7:56pm: Now for Best Sound Effects. If SEEDIQ doesn’t win this one, that’s saying, er, something

7:54pm: I hate to be mean, but the editor of THE MAN BEHIND THE BOOK can learn a lesson from the Art director of BUTCHER, CHEF, SWORDSMAN, as in cut it short

7:52pm: They’re presenting Best Editing. And the winner is…..THE MAN BEHIND THE BOOK. HK films lost!

7:50pm: Chen has to translate his own remarks to Japanese. Then he has to translates Miyazaki’s back to Mandarin

7:48pm: Japanese actress Aoi Miyazaki present the next award. Wait, what the hell is Chen Bo-lin doing on stage next to her?

7:47pm: Jay Chou, one of the two performers of the song, isn’t here tnight. Hence, the picture isn’t worth taking. Sorry.

7:45pm: Time for second song performance after second commercial: A BA, from, er, ABBA

7:42pm: That’s two technical awards SEEDIQ BALE lost

7:41pm: Best Art Direction goes to….WU XIA. Wow, surprised. So surprised that even the co-winner is surprised

7:40pm: The two remain to present Best Art Direction. Will BUTCHER pick up this one too?

7:39pm: Sorry, it’s best Make-up and Costume Design. Anyway, the winner is…..THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF, and THE SWORDSMAN 

7:37pm: OK, looks like they’re presenting Best Costume Design. Who wants to guess SEEDIQ BALE is picking this one up?

7:36pm: Vic Zhou and S.H.E’s Ella present….er, I’ll let you know after the witty bantering

7::35pm: I wonder if people in Taiwan can understand what the hell Eric Tsang is saying in Mandarin

7:32pm: Remember to check out my Twitter for pictures from the awards throughout the night.

7:29pm: Back from commercial. First performance of nominated song, introduced by SEEDIQ BALE historical consultant in Seediq

7:27pm: Haha, Star Movies ad for HEAR ME says it stars Michelle Chen (of YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE). Sorry, she’s just a supporting character

7:26pm: Time for first commercial. Vic Zhou coming up next.

7:24pm: And the winner is: THIEF from Taiwan. Of course, starts off with “We’re so happy Taiwanese cinema is having such a big year!”

7:22pm: Presenters remain for Best Short Film. There’s a Hong Kong nominee, by the way.

 7:19pm: And Best Supporting Actor goes to: Bokeh Kosang for first award for SEEDIQ BALE. He is also nominated for Best New Actor

7:18pm: By the way, look at the LoveHKFilm home page for a link to the nominees

7:16pm: WUXIA Best Supporting Actor nominee Wang Yu gets his bit of time in the spotllight during introduction. This is the ass-kissing section, I see 

7:15pm: I’m not sure who everybody is, so I apologize in advance. Anyway, first award being presented now: Best Supporting Actor

7:13pm: “We have the most numbers of Best Actor/Best Actress winners this year!” - yes, Eric Tsang is one of them

7:11pm: Bowie Tsang takes off her Seediq getup to reveal YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE school unifrom. Eric Tsang takes off his to become Ashin of JUMP ASHIN. I’m sure they’re happy there are so many successful Taiwanese films to make fun of this year.

7:09: Hosts Eric Tsang and Bowie Tsang (his daughter) show up singing a song in Seediq.  

7:07pm: And we’re officially underway!  

7:05pm: OK, Star Movies just decided to go to commercial. Keep standing by.  

7:03pm: Sitting in front of my TV, ready to go. The live feed hasn’t begun yet, though. By the way, the entries will go from bottom to up for easier reading for those following live.

The Golden Rock at the 2011 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - Day 14+15+16

This will be the last of the intense daily postings as the festival is beginning to come to a close. I will cover the films I have left (At least two Nikkatsu movies, and when I finish RED EAGLE on DVD and LET’S GO theatrically), but they will not come as often. Hopefully, I will go back to covering news, because well, someone should do it right.

Green Days (2011, Korea, Dir: Ahn Jae-hoon, Han Hye-jin)

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One thing that Japanese animation has always done superior American animation is how accurate they portray reality in animated form. After LIFE IS COOL (the rotoscope animated film) and GREEN DAYS, we can group South Korea into that list. While watching this simple coming-of-age animated drama, Studio Ghibli’s WHISPER OF THE HEART and ONLY YESTERDAY immediately came to mind, and that’s a good thing. The story of a teenage girl growing up in a small town during the 1970s, GREEN DAYS has the unassuming charm of those two Ghibli films, and it even finds a good chance to make use of the animation platform.

While it’s a love story on the surface, GREEN DAYS has a deeper message about the importance of having a dream as opposed to just striving to become a winner in life. While this message may appeal to a teen-and-older audience, everything else is family-friendly. Even though those who grew in the 70s will connect with the period in the film better (Ryan O’Neal and LOVE STORY has a surprisingly important presence here), it should connect better with teenagers. After all, that’s whom the film is speaking to.

Love and Bruises (2011, France/China, Dir: Lou Ye)

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As I had tweeted, LOVE AND BRUISES is about the best worst relationship you’ve ever had. The love between Chinese exchange student Hua and blue-collar worker Mathieu is almost entirely physical (they never seem to share more than a few words with each other, at least on screen) , and Mathieu’s hot temper lead to one abuse after another on Hua. And yet, she can’t seem to get herself to leave, as she jumps from one doomed relationship to another.

Anyone experienced in love has had this type of relationship before, even if it isn’t as intense as the one depicted in Lou Ye’s film. This intense romance drama is raw and at times unpleasant, but it also features great performances by Tahar Rahim and Corinne Yam (whom I can tell doesn’t speak fluent Chinese, by the way), top-notch editing, and shaky, but natural cinematography by Yu Lik-Wai. While the story is nothing new (meet, sex, sex, conflict, sex, separation, sex!), it’s a stronger film than I had expected it to be, and that’s a really good compliment when it comes to this year’s festival.

Big Blue Lake (2011, Hong Kong, Dir: Jessey Tsang)

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Full disclosure: I met writer-director Jessey Tsang in 2009 to write a magazine story on her, and I went to the village the film is shot in for the story. However, I was not involved in this film in any way, shape, or form, except for hearing about the title during my interviews.

That said, I always look forward ot Jessey’s work, because her gentle, observational style is a quiet voice the Hong Kong indie world needs. While her fellow indie filmmaker confuse the hell out of the people with their self-indulgent, experimental works, Jessey’s feature films are subtle without alienating her audience.

Her latest film, BIG BLUE LAKE, is once again a work partly based on her own life - shot in her own village and even her own home, as well as featuring non-professional village residents as actors. While the observations on her own home are not as sharp as her Beijing-set feature film debut LOVERS ON THE ROAD, it’s a very intimate indie film with issues audiences can actually relate to. On the other hand, Tsang’s direction does get a little awkward at times, as her handling of the dramatic material sometimes feel at odds with the brief detour into documentary territory. This isn’t helped by Leila Kong overdoing her dramatic scenes at times, but Lawrence Chou is excellent as the old classmate that comes into the heroine’s life.

BIG BLUE LAKE is far from a successful film, but as far as Hong Kong indies go, it’s not a bad piece of work. At least I understand it. Most of it, anyway.

Next time: Who knows?

 
 
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