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June 26th, 2002

 

The Big Picture:
Plans for a
Hong Kong Cinema Web Site
(or Watch this Space)

     When I first created this web site, my goal was simple. I figured that it would be cool to have all my reviews stored in a browser-friendly way such that I could surf through them just like one of those fancy web sites on the World Wide Web. Having some minor web experience made the decision easier. Losing my job made the decision a complete no brainer.
     So I threw all of my info together and cobbled together LoveHKFilm.com. As an added bonus, I actually went ahead and put the entire thing on the World Wide Web such that complete strangers from around the globe could now sample/praise/denounce my decidedly wacky musings on the state of Hong Kong Cinema. That was four months ago, and so far I've received no death threats.
     However, times have changed. Savings have depleted. And the site no longer belongs to just me. LoveHKFilm.com also belongs to the other writers on the site (Hi to Lee and Jennifer...and hopefully Erika), as well as various parties who may have thrown a nickel or two our way. And, if the site does receive some sort of commercial support (which is becoming more inevitable as each day passes), it'll kind of belong to them too.
     More importantly, LoveHKFilm.com belongs to everyone who actually reads it. When I use the word "belong", I don't mean it in some silly materialistic sense, i.e. "That grilled cheese sandwich belongs to me." No, I mean it in an amorphous, pretentious sort of way. The site is basically information and opinions, and everyone has the right to access it with little or no strings attached. And beyond that, they actually have a say in what happens to it.
     Which brings us to the whole topic of this diatribe: what will happen to LoveHKFilm.com? It can continue to exist in its present state, but I have doubts that'll last. The reasons are numerous, among them the fact that I must somehow earn a living and running this site doesn't really do it. Nor would I expect it to.
     There are larger concerns, though. For one, what's going to happen to Hong Kong Cinema? Thankfully, it still exists and probably always will, but it's definitely not what it used to be. What was once a cinema defined by its sheer audacity has given way to something that's so commercially calculated that calling it Hollywood East would be an accurate moniker. Back in the old days (which was about ten years ago), films flooded the market, and returns were practically guaranteed.
     Nowadays, the risks are greater, the returns fewer, and the audience simply not there anymore. This is true all over Asia, though the occasional Hong Kong film (Shaolin Soccer anyone?) can still turn a profit in multiple Asian territories. Theater attendance is way down, and the Western hemisphere has probably two theaters left which still show first-run HK films.
     One such theater is the Four Star in San Francisco, which occasionally risks it all with double features of Inner Senses and Dry Wood Fierce Fire, as well as the longer running hits like The Mission, Needing You and Love on a Diet (yes, Johnnie To is a one-man industry at the Four Star). However, the Four Star can't get Shaolin Soccer (thank you Miramax), The Accidental Spy (again, thank you Miramax), or anything else which even remotely looks like box-office. The most recent flick that looked like a winner was The Wesley's Mysterious File...which was so awful that it was even bad by Wong Jing standards. When that's the "best" you can get, it's a wonder that people even show up at all.
     Which is where the big worry arrives: will anyone actually care about Hong Kong Cinema in a few years? Does it even make a difference to keep up this (newer) Hong Kong site when production is still dropping, and Stephen Chow, Jackie Chan and Jet Li films are being replaced by (shudder) Eason Chan, Daniel Wu and Stephen Fung movies?
     And what about Hong Kong Cinema's "unique" qualities? Hong Kong-style action is currently better in American movies than it is in Hong Kong ones. Korean films have a better handle on the previously inescapable existentialism that permeated most HK flicks leading up to 1997. Strong female characters? Uh...outside of Sammi Cheng and Miriam Yeung there are hardly any non flower-vase roles left in Hong Kong films. And even HK's once-dominant penchant for overdone emotions has given way to glossy platitudes uttered by impossibly pretty popstars. It's enough to make a person watch television for a change.
     So that leaves us with LoveHKFilm.com, which is a website that I would like to see do more than just exist with lots of text and pictures. I'd actually like to see it expand and grow into something that will actually sustain itself. How can that happen? I really have no idea, though it's not money I'm speaking about. It's actually still pretty cheap to run this site, that is if you don't count the DVD/VCD review costs which sometimes make me ask what the hell I'm doing. One day I'm going to look at my DVD library and see titles like Color of Pain, Extreme Crisis, China Strike Force, The Replacement Suspects, U-Man and The Stewardess. Then I'll probably curse the Heavens and Wong Jing for forsaking me.
     But like I said it's not money I'm talking about. It's something else: interest. What LoveHKFilm.com needs is interest from whatever and whoever cares about Hong Kong Cinema. That means writers, retailers, studios and most important of all: readers. Has anyone been to AnimeOnDVD.com? That's what interest can do (though comparing anime fandom to HK Cinema fandom is like comparing the United States to Guam. My apologies to Guam.).
     Can LoveHKFilm.com do that? Can it take on its own life? Can the cinema rebound, and attract old and new audiences? Can Daniel Wu limit himself to three or fewer movies a year? Can the Webmaster stop asking silly questions and just review more movies? Hopefully, the answer to these questions is yes.
     So in the coming weeks and months, LoveHKFilm.com will add a couple of things. There'll be a PanAsia section which covers films from across Asia. While adding other Asian films to a Hong Kong site may seem like a concessionary move, it may be the way to go. The Asian film industy is splintered up into many, many smaller film markets, and crossover may be necessary to sustain them all (Note to Takashi Sorimachi: do another Johnnie To movie).
     And a forum will definitely occur before we're done, which will hopefully be later rather than sooner. Or maybe we'll never be done, which is the best possible solution for all involved. All involved means people who - like the site name - love HK film. Even if it's directed, produced or written by Wong Jing.
     Beyond that we'll see. In the last ten years, my personal interest has never truly waned despite stiff competition from a variety of other hobbies. In some ways this site has helped revitalize my love for HK Cinema, and I sincerely hope that continues well into the future.
     Right now I'm pretty tired, though. - Kozo 6/26/2002

 
  Life With Kozo
 
  Disclaimer*
The opinions expressed within are merely the musings of the Webmaster, and as such should be taken with the requisite grain of salt. If you disagree with an expressed opinion please feel free to contact him here. If you feel he has insulted your favorite popstar, you can still contact him. However, your chances of receiving a reply will be reduced by half.
 
 
 
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‡The Webmaster erred on this statement. Look to the July 10th edition of Life with Kozo for more on this.
 
 
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