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The Golden Rock - 2012 Golden Horse Awards Predictions Edition

 

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“I’m ready to get that Golden Rock guy when he gets in the car”

Before every awards live blog, I post my predictions for most, if not all, categories. This year’s Golden Horse Awards is no exception. So the below are my predictions for the awards.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Check out my post from several days ago and get ready to join us for the Golden Horse Awards live blog!

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“If we had known that we’d be a frontrunner at the Golden Horse Awards, we would’ve made out a little longer! You know, for more votes!”

Best Picture

Nominees:
- Beijing Blues
- The Bullet Vanishes
- GF*BF
- Life Without Principle
- Mystery

Will Win: GF*BF
Should win: LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE

Taiwanese films tend to have a slight advantage at the Golden Horse (for obvious reasons). Since the other four films aren’t significantly stronger than the Taiwanese entry, GF*BF actually does have a chance to take the top prize. However, in my own opinion, LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE is the strongest of the five films - but just barely.

Best Director

Nominees:
- Gao Qunshu (Beijing Blues)
- Yang Ya-Che (GF*BF)
- Johnnie To Kei-Fung (Life Without Principle)
- Doze Niu (Love)
- Lou Ye (Mystery)

Will win: Doze Niu (LOVE)
Should win: Gao Qunshu (BEIJING BLUES)

In the past two years, the winner of the Best Director prize didn’t win Best Picture, and it would be no surprise if that trend continues this year. Note that Law Chi-Leung was not nominated, replaced by Doze Niu, which means that the committee must’ve saw something in Niu’s skill to juggle multiple plot strands and 10 major characters in a single film - even if that film wasn’t the top 5 films of the year. The GHA has made strange choices before, and Niu winning would not be their strangest decision (Aaron Kwok, I’m looking at you). Gao Qunshu picked up the Best Director prize at the Shanghai Film Festival for BEIJING BLUES, and it’s easy to see why from the film. I wouldn’t mind if Johnnie To wins, either.

Best Actor

Nominees:
- Joseph Chang (GF*BF)
- Lau Ching-Wan (Life Without Principle)
- Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (Nightfall)
- Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung (The Viral Factor)
- Chapman To Man-Chat (Vulgaria)

Will win: Joseph Chang (GF*BF)
Should win: Lau Ching-Wan (LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE) or Nick Cheung (NIGHTFALL)

I’m going to insist that the Taiwanese entry in any major category with just one Taiwanese nominee has a better chance of winning. Since Joseph Chang actually does give the best performance in the film, and his category is in dead heat, I will predict that he will win. However, Lau has never won a Golden Horse award, and Nick’s dialogue-less performance is flashy award bait, so they might be the more deserving ones here. I think Chapman is just happy to be there.

Best Actress

Nominees:
- Bai Baihe (Love Is Not Blind)
- Hao Lei (Mystery)
- Denise Ho Wan-Si (Life Without Principle)
- Guey Lun-Mei (GF*BF)
- Sandrine Pinna (Touch of the Light)

Will Win: Sandrine Pinna (TOUCH OF THE LIGHT)
Should win: Pass

Not having seen TOUCH OF THE LIGHT, I don’t want to make a call about who should win. However, wouldn’t be surprised if Sandrine Pinna takes the award in Taiwan’s representative at the Academy Awards Best Foreign Film race. If you force me to choose one between the four that I’ve seen, I would take Hao Lei or Bai Baihe. Yes, I chose two.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:
- Chapman To Man-Chat (Diva)
- Bryan Chang Shu-Hao(GF*BF)
- Zhuang Kai-Xun (Stilt)
- Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei (Vulgaria)
- Wu Gang (White Deer Plain)

Will win: Ronald Cheng (VULGARIA)
Should win: Ronald Cheng (VULGARIA)

Ronald Cheng is the best thing in Pang Ho-Cheung’s comedy, and he also has the flashiest performance out of the four nominees I’ve seen in this category (Chapman was good in DIVA, though). Even with two Taiwanese nominees, they will have to be pretty damn good to beat Ronald Cheng here, and Bryan Chang was not good enough. STILT, however, seemed to have been well-liked at home, which could work in Zhuang Kai-Xun’s favor. I haven’t seen the film.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

- Liang Jing (Design of Death)
- Amber Kuo (Love)
- Ivy Chen Yi-Han (Love)
- Mavis Fan Hsiao-Shuan (The Silent War)
- Dada Chen (Vulgaria)

Will Win: Ivy Chen or Amber Kuo (LOVE)
Should win: Liang Jing (DESIGN OF DEATH)

Forget Mavis and Dada, which leaves us the two LOVE actresses and DESIGN OF DEATH’s Liang Jing. Amber and Ivy are both fine, and should be likeable enough to get the votes. However, Liang Jing gave a flashier performance (without dialogue, too, if I remember correctly) and a better performance overall as well.

 

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Despite not being nominated, Liu Kai-Chi will show up uninvited like this

Best New Director

Nominees:
- Tsai Yueh-Hsun (Black & White Episode 1: The Dawn of Assault)
- Yang Yi-Chien, Jim Wang (Cha Cha for Twins)
- Fung Kai (Din Tao: Leader of the Parade)
- Hero Lin (Silent Code)
- Chang Jung-Chi (Touch of the Light)

Will Win: Chang Jung-Chi (TOUCH OF THE LIGHT) or Fung Kai (DIN TAO)
Should win: Pass

Chang Jung-Chi has the country’s Oscar representative, while Fung Kai has the breakout hit of the year. BLACK AND WHITE was a total flop, I personally felt nothing for CHA CHA FOR TWINS, and I haven’t seen SILENT CODE or LIGHT. So I won’t be speculating on who should win.

Best New Performer

Nominees:
- Peijia Huang (Cha Cha for Twins)
- Chun-Mei Guo (Flying Dragon, Dancing Phoenix)
- Zhang Zixuan (Love Is Not Blind)
- Qi Xi (Mystery)
- Eric Lin Hui-Min (Starry Starry Night)

Will win: Peijia Huang (CHA CHA FOR TWINS)
Should win: Peijia Huang (CHA CHA FOR TWINS)

The only thing I liked about CHA CHA FOR TWINS was Peijia Huang’s dual-role performance. It seems to be the flashiest out of the five (I haven’t seen FLYING DRAGON), and it’s a well-liked film, so Huang is currently the frontrunner.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:
- Dai Yan, Gao Qunshu (Beijing Blues)
- Yang Yi-Chien (Cha Cha for Twins)
- Yang Ya-Che (GF*BF)
- Milkyway Creative Team, Au Kin-Yee, Wong King-Fai (Life Without Principle)
- Mei Feng, Yu Fan, Lou Ye (Mystery)

Will win: GF*BF or CHA CHA FOR TWINS
Should win: LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE

The two Taiwanese films are likely favorites in a field where the quality is pretty even across the board (except for CHA CHA, in my opinion, but it has awards to tell me otherwise). PRINCIPLE is just a personal favorite. Also, MYSTERY should be in adapted screenplay.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:
- Xu Haofeng (Judge Archer)
- Guan Hu (Design of Death)
- Bao Jingjing (Love Is Not Blind)
- Tom Lin Shu-Yu (Starry Starry Night)
- Wang Quan-An (White Deer Plain)

Will win: LOVE IS NOT BLIND
Should win: LOVE IS NOT BLIND

Have not seen JUDGE ARCHER, so it has a chance of winning. However, if I have to choose one out of the four, WHITE DEER PLAIN is close for ambition, but LOVE IS NOT BLIND is the most successful out of the four.

Best Cinematography

Nominees:
- Wu Di (Beijing Blues)
- Song Xiao-Fei (Design of Death)
- Jake Pollock (GF*BF)
- Cao Dun (Love Is Not Blind)
- Reitemeier Lutz (White Deer Plain)

Will win: Jake Pollock (GF*BF)
Should win: Reitemeier Lutz (WHITE DEER PLAIN)

Lutz ought to win just because of scale and how attractive the whole package of WHITE DEER PLAIN looks. Otherwise, Jake Pollock has won before, and he should be in a good position to win again partly because of that. Plus, GF*BF is a very pretty film.

Best Editing

Nominees:
- Yang Hongyu (Beijing Blues)
- David Richardson (Life Without Principle)
- Chen Po-Wen (Money and Honey)
- Simon Jacquet (Mystery)
- Cheung Ka-Fai (Nightfall)

Will win: pass
Should win: Simon Jacquet (MYSTERY)

Not having seen MONEY AND HONEY, I can’t make a call on who should win. However, Simon Jacquet did a great job sorting out Lou Ye’s active camerawork, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is recognized for his work here.

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MYSTERY star Qin Hao waiting to hear the news outside the Golden Horse Awards venue, shovel in hand.

Best Art Direction

Nominees:
- Lin Mu (Design of Death)
- Yee Chung-Man, Ben Lau Man-Hung (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate)
- Mam Lim-Chung (The Silent War)
- Penny Tsai (Starry Starry Night)
- Huo Tingxiao (White Deer Plain)

Will win: FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE
Should win: FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE

Money buys you the best set, and that goes for FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE. Also, Yee and Lau picked up the same award earlier in the year at the Hong Kong Film Award, so it would be no surprise if they pull a repeat here. However, the
category is pretty even this year, with strong work in DESIGN OF DEATH and WHITE DEER PLAIN as well.

Best Make-up and Costume Design

Nominees:
- Stanley Cheung (The Bullet Vanishes)
- Lin Mu (Design of Death)
- Fang Chi Luen, Li-Wen Hsu (Love)
- Man Lim-Chung (The Silent War)
- Tim Yip Kam-Tin (Tai Chi 0)

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

Both films are heavier on the make-up end than the Costume Design part, but the teams on both films churned out strong work that’s apparent on screen. I’ll be happy if either of those two films win.

Best Action Choreography

Nominees:
- Xu Haofeng (Judge Archer)
- Cyril Raffaelli, Li Chung-Chi (Black & White Episode 1: The Dawn of Assault)
- Yuen Bun, Sun Jian-Kui, Allen Lan Hai-Han (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate)
- Chin Kar-Lok (Motorway)
- Sammo Hung Kam-Bo (Tai Chi 0)

Will win: JUDGE ARCHER or TAI CHI 0
Should win: MOTORWAY or FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON TIGER GATE

Sammo Hung’s work is more clearly seen in part two of the TAI CHI trilogy, but he may get an award based on seniority here. I haven’t seen JUDGE ARCHER, but Xu Haofeng is a well-known martial artist who devotes his life to martial arts (he writes novels and is a co-writer on THE GRANDMASTERS). Nevertheless, Chin Kar Lok and his team deserves to be recognize for their car stunts in MOTORWAY, and FLYING SWORDS is a previous winner at the HK Film Awards.

Best Original Film Score

Nominees:
- An Wei, Wang Fan (Judge Archer)
- Teddy Robin, Tommy Wai (The Bullet Vanishes)
- Chen Chien-Chi (Love)
- Ding Wei, Lin Zhaoyang (Love Is Not Blind)
- Peyman Yazdanian, Johann Johannsson (Mystery)

Will Win: LOVE
Should win: Pass

The four scores here weren’t particularly memorable, so I will fall back to the Taiwan advantage and choose the Taiwanese film. I have not heard the JUDGE ARCHER score, so that win may happen as well.

Best Original Song

Nominees:

- “She & Me” (from Cha Cha for Twins)
Music: ciacia
Lyrics: ciacia
Performer: ciacia
- “Din Tao” (from Din Tao: Leader of the Parade)
Music: Lui Wei-Ren
Lyrics: Lui Wei-Ren
Performer: Alan Kuo
- “DoReMi” (from Romancing in Thin Air)
Music: Lo Tayu
Lyrics: Lin Xi
Performer: Sammi Cheng Sau-Man

Will win: DoReMi (ROMANCING IN THIN AIR)
Should win: DoReMi (ROMANCING IN THIN AIR)

Seen all three films, heard all three songs, and only remember one of them. DIN TAO has a better chance of winning than CHA CHA’s song, but I have a feeling Sammi will come out on top.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:
- Frankie Chung (Black & White Episode 1: The Dawn of Assault)
- Kent Chen, Horn Hsu (Cha Cha for Twins)
- Wook Kim, Josh Cole, Frankie Chung (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate)
- Koan Hui, Chang Hongsong (Painted Skin: The Resurrection)
- Xiao Yang, Chang Song, A Law, Li Ming-Hsung, Li Jin-Hui (Starry Starry Night)

Will win: PAINTED SKIN
Should win: STARRY STARRY NIGHT or CHA CHA FOR TWINS

CHA CHA FOR TWINS did pull off the twins concept very well because of its special effects team, though their work are virtually invisible compared for PAINTED SKIN and FLYING SWORDS. STARRY STARRY NIGHT also used effects to good measure - a restrained, but fairly strong effort.

Best Sound Effects

Nominees:
- Frank Cheng (Black & White Episode 1: The Dawn of Assault)
- Phyllis Cheng (The Bullet Vanishes)
- Dong Xu (Design of Death)
- Kinson Tsang King-Cheung, Lai Chi-Hung (Nightfall)
- Traithep Wongpaiboon, Nopawat Likitwong (The Silent War)

Will win: BLACK AND WHITE
Should win: THE SILENT WAR or THE BULLET VANISHES

BLACK AND WHITE is an easy choice because of the action portions, but THE SILENT WAR has a very intricately designed sound mix (though it was far too soft when I saw it in the cinemas), and BULLET uses the sound to drive the tension, especially towards the end of the film.

I will be referring to these predictions throughout the night of the awards. I predict that I’ll get a lot of these wrong, but I did try to put in as much informed opinion in this as I can. If i come out over 50% right, I would’ve had a good night.

Hope to see you on on November 24th on Twitter!

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Detective Hunter Zhang being told why LOVE IS…PYJAMAS should’ve been nominated for Best Picture

 

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?

upercapitalist-9.jpg

“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 - April 23, 2012 Edition

Note: Edited on April 25th with additional information and new English titles. 

The Beijing International Film Festival kicks off this week, which may be why the big Chinese film studios are rushing to announce their slate this week. Just a day after Huayi Brother announced their 2012-2013 lineup, Enlight Pictures (MURAL, LEGEND OF THE FIST, AN INACCURATE MEMOIR) announced their own 2012-2013 slate - and they’re looking to impress.

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Photo from Sina Entertainment

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The Golden Rock - April 22, 2012 Edition

Note: Entry edited on April 23 to add additional information, as well as clear up information about Doze Niu’s film. 

In March 2011, major Chinese independent studio Huayi Brothers (DETECTIVE DEE, SHAOLIN, ASSEMBLY) announced a large slate of films dubbed “Plan H”. Surprisingly, Huayi managed to complete most of the projects on that slate, having released Doze Niu’s LOVE, Tom Lin’s STARRY STARRY NIGHT, and Tony Chan/Wing Shya’s HOT SUMMER DAYS. Wuershan’s PAINTED SKIN II, Stephen Fung’s TAI CHI 0, Ronny Yu’s SAVING GENERAL YANG, Feng Xiaogang’s 1942, and Jackie Chan’s CHINESE ZODIACS have all finished shooting and getting prepped for release.

Which means it’s time for round 2. On April 22, Huayi Brothers announced their latest Plan H line-up, as well as the release dates for their 2012 slate:

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The Golden Rock - April 20, 2012 Edition

 

 

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According to Entgroup figures, TITANIC 3D made RMB 467 million in its first six days in Mainland Chinese cinemas (another chart puts it at 468, but let’s not nitpick, alright?).  If the other box office chart I’ve read is accurate, that means it’ll overtake MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL’s RMB 678.9 million take to become the highest-grossing film of 2012. Considering that it also beat the 438 million record set by TRANSFORMERS 3 (which ended up making RMB 1.11 billion), we’d looking at it breaking AVATAR’s RMB 1.39 billion record if Fox didn’t already announce that they’re pulling the film by May 20th.

And Hollywood’s not done yet. BATTLESHIP and the second GHOST RIDER movie are opening this weekend, and THE AVENGERS will replace those screens on May 5th. With the May Golden Week holiday, it’s guaranteed that these three films (plus TITANIC) will be rolling in the dough.

Considering that last year’s Golden Week brought THE LOST BLADESMAN and CHINESE GHOST STORY - both of which made over RMB 100 million - The Chinese film industry must have something powerful to counter the Hollywood invasion, right?

Not really.

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The Golden Rock 2012 Hong Kong Film Awards Live-blog Edition

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In case you needed a reminder

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The Golden Rock - The 31st Hong Kong Film Awards Preview Edition

Note: Edited April 14th to include award predictions

We haven’t blogged for over a month due to work and film festival commitments, but when we come back, we come back harder than ever!

That’s also a quote from Scud’s next film.

Anyway, it’s that time of the year again. No, not Lunar New Year, it’s the Hong Kong Film Awards! And that means it’s time again for The Golden Rock Hong Kong Film Awards Live Blog!

We don’t know how many times we’ve done this already (3rd? 4th?), but at least we can tell you it’ll be the most star-studded one:

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None of these people will join us on this year’s live-blog

The picture alone makes it star-studded, right?

So join us again as we (and by we, we mean one dude in his living room) battle technology, bad red carpet commentary, crappy cuts to commercials, useless musical performances, and, of course, Hong Kong film industry congratulating themselves for another successful year of making movies in Mainland China!

As we had done previous years, the live-blog will be housed in one single entry that will be updated every minute or so, which means readers only have to go to the dedicated entry and press refresh for the latest updates. The show starts at 20:00 Hong Kong time on Sunday, April 15th, and we will start at 19:30 Hong Kong Time (GMT +8). We may even open the comments section by then, so get ready to join us in the fun-making.

As someone who has seen almost all the nominated films (and unfortunately, a few more) and regularly follows the awards, I think I can make an educated guess about what will win.

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The Golden Rock - March 4, 2012 Edition

This entry covers two major messes going on in the Chinese film industry, and a Golden Broom to sweep it all up.

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Photo from Sina Entertainment Weibo account

- The attention for action film SPECIAL IDENTITY meant to go to Donnie Yen, who is starring and producing under the direction of Clarence Fok. However, the attention has now shifted elsewhere before shooting has even wrapped.

This started when Apple Daily reported on February 24th that co-star Vincent Zhao essentially left the set due to complaints about the new script by Hong Kong writer James Yuen, which undermines his role and favors Donnie’s. The new script had been changed without Zhao’s approval, though Zhao’s contract said that he had the right to do so. There were also complaints about Zhao’s prima donna attitude on set (which includes an entourage of seven).

On February 27th, the SECRET IDENTITY production opened its own official Weibo account (verified as the real deal by Sina), followed by an official statement from the production on the night of February 29th announcing that Vincent Zhao has officially left the production, and that it was an amicable split. James Yuen (he’ll show up again later, by the way) also wrote his Weibo that he did not write one word of the film.

Two hours later, Vincent Zhao posted a e-mail from the IDENTITY production on his own Weibo:

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As of noon on March 1, 2012, the SECRET IDENTITY production will no longer provide accommodation for Mr. Vincent Zhao. I hope you can understand; the production is seriously over-budget!”

At 6 am, Zhao also posted a statement on his Weibo discrediting the points in the Apple Daily report one by one, and that the statement from the production was released without his knowledge, which means Zhao has essentially been fired.

Zhao’s wife also joined in on the fun, defending her husband and accusing the production of using him as a scapegoat for the mismanagement of the film’s finances. Zhao calls himself the victim and left Shenzhen (where the film was being shot) for Beijing on the same day. Meanwhile, public support from Zhao’s past co-stars like Laung Ka Yan, Timmy Hung, Xu Jiao, and Wudang director Patrick Leung came Weibo-ing in.

Thing were quiet until today, March 4th, when Zhao held a press conference in Beijing essentially repeating his Weibo statement. He accused the production of changing the script that he’d signed up for without his approval, and that he was unilaterally dismissed by the production.

Several hours later, the production put out its own statements to counter Zhao’s points. They are as follows:

1) Zhao caused the start of production to be delayed by a day because he not only demanded to be upgraded to an executive suite, he also demanded that the production pay for the expenses for his wife, his two kids, the nanny, an English teacher, his agent, and his assistant, as well as a driver and bodyguards (a martial arts actor needing a bodyguard. Imagine that).

2) The script changes were done for the benefit of the film. As producer and action director, Donnie had approached Zhao to discuss the changes, only to be turned away. In fact, the production only agreed to take on Zhao based on Donnie’s recommendation.

3) Andy On is to replace Zhao on the production.

Zhao says he retains his right to take legal action, but with On joining the production and Zhao simply crying shenanigans, it looks like this will remain only a battle of words. Zhao has little more to say (unless he wishes to counter the production’s counter-argument), but it’s likely that SPECIAL IDENTITY will be remembered more for this scandal than anything else for the time being.

- Another person calling foul is writer James Yuen. The respected Hong Kong scriptwriter of films like LOST IN TIME, several Peter Chan films, and oh, HERE COMES FORTUNE, is crying foul because he claims that his script for SHADOWS OF LOVE, the latest Cecilia Cheung film, was stolen by the film’s investor.

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This all began on February 19th when Oriental Daily reported Yuen’s claims that he has written the original script for SHADOWS OF LOVE, and that its investor Allen Tan (a former talent agent) took it without giving proper credit or proper compensation. After a strong denial Tan himself, who says director Calvin Poon and his writer essentially rewrote the script, which means there’s not much traces of Yuen’s work. Tan also accused Yuen of demanding too much money. Angered, Yuen took it further by writing a complete account of his side on Weibo.

Here are the basic explanation of Yuen’s claims:

  • Yuen was asked by Tan in March 2010 if he had any scripts that Tan could produce.  Yuen then turned in a 6000-word outline that he wrote with two assistants back in 2009. However, he never heard from Tan again.
  • In June 2011, Yuen heard that a film with the same story and characters starring Cecilia Cheung had just wrapped shooting.  The film’s producer: Allan Tan
  • Yuen then called producer Stanley Kwan, who said that he knew they were Yuen’s material and even asked Tan to settle any copyright and payment issues. That was never done
  • The following month, Yuen and Tan had a meeting, and Tan asks Yuen to sell off the rights to him and his company. Yuen agreed and even signed a contract.
  • However, Yuen claims he never got his payment, and when he inquired Tan about it, Tan said that financiers China Film Group and DMG were unwillingly to pay.

On February 22nd, Yuen writes that this mess has entered legal proceedings, which means there won’t be any more public comments from either side. However, this may also block the film’s release until the case is settled and turn this into another case of bad luck/bad career choice for Cecilia Cheung.

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- On Saturday, March 3rd, the 3rd Annual Golden Broom Awards was held in China. Much like the Razzies in America, the award (dis)honors the worst in Chinese cinema. After nominations from the public, the awards are decided by a jury of 27, which includes scholars, film critics, authors, editors, and members of the media. The award ceremony also included a respectable guest list that included director Wang Shaoshuai, Li Yu (BUDDHA MOUNTAIN), Manfred Wong, Lou Ye (SUMMER PALACE), Gu Changwei (LOVE FOR LIFE), Zhang Meng (PIANO IN A FACTORY), Yu Dong (head of Bona Group), and actress Qin Hailin. By the way, none of them won any of the dishonors.

Here is a list of (lose-)winners:

Most Disappointing Films: WARRING STATES, LEGENDARY AMAZONS, THE LOST BLADESMAN

Most Disappointing Mid-Low-Budget Films: NO. 32, B DISTRICT and LOVE NEVER DIES

Special Jury Prize for Most Disappointing Film: FLOWERS OF WAR (for using the Nanjing Massacre to sell sex)

Most Disappointing Directors: Frankie Chan (LEGENDARY AMAZONS), Gao Xiaosong (MY KINGDOM)

Most Disappointing Actor: Sun Honglei (WARRING STATES)

Most Disappointing Actress: Cecilia Cheung (LEGENDARY AMAZONS and TREASURE HUNT)

Most Disappointing Ensemble: EAST MEETS WEST

Most Disappointing Animated Film: XI BAI PO

Most Disappointing Imported Film: THE GREEN HORNET

Since the award was being held by the mook (magazine-book) YOUTH FILM HANDBOOK, there were also positive awards handed out to good films, but we won’t mention them here.

As expected, no one that won any of the disappointing award actually showed up. Instead, you got the Cecilia imposter above and the Sun Honglei imposter here:

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Of course, we can’t expect anyone to have Halle Berry or Sandra Bullock’s sense of humor, right?

 

SOURCES

Sina Weibo
Mtime

 
 
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