Hong Kong Part 5:
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
or Back for More
It's back. That is, this column
is. Not that Life with Kozo is such a big deal; it
isn't, but it's been a full 4 months since the last installment
of my personal column. A couple of people have even written
in asking me when the next column would be. One e-mail was
eloquent and to the point, asking, "Surely something
must be happening to you." Well, yeah, stuff has been
happening, but is it stuff I can share? More to the point,
is it even worth sharing?
I've been in Hong Kong a little
over a year now, and much has changed. The changes range from
the weather to real estate prices to the state of the NBA,
but those are more general changes that have little to do
with my life - though it could be argued that the state of
the NBA affects everything. What the hell is up with the New
York Knicks? And how about those Golden State Warriors? They
were in first place for a whole day. A few months later, and
they're out of the playoff picture. I actually thought this
could be the year when my hometown team made it back to the
playoffs, but now that notion seems as far-fetched as The
Promise actually having fans. Basically, it'll be a cold
day in Hell before it happens, and it's currently summertime.
Reusing your lotto numbers for the ten trillionth time is
probably a safer bet.
But back to my life (or the
version of it I choose to share in this column). I just turned
33, which is pretty damn old for a guy who runs a Hong Kong
Cinema site. When I started this mess I had just turned 29,
and if you manage some math in between reading these sentences,
you'll figure out that LoveHKFilm.com
just turned four years old. Times have changed since then.
Once upon a time, there were about 100 reviews on this website;
we just passed 1300 total, and I personally crossed the 1000
barrier with my review of McDull, the Alumni. Or, more
appropriately, you might consider My Kung Fu Sweetheart
to be my 1000th review, which means that an arguably important
personal milestone is now inexorably connected to Wong Jing.
I would call that irony, but it probably doesn't qualify.
In truth, I owe a lot to Wong Jing, because if he didn't make
so many lousy (though sometimes entertaining) movies, I would
have little to bitch about. And as anyone who reads these
columns knows, bitching is practically my second hobby. My
first hobby? Sleeping.
Sadly, I've not had much time
for my first hobby recently, as life in Hong Kong is busier
than ever. Aside from working at YesAsia.com (Confidential
company secret: we sell DVDs), I've been busy navigating the
treacherous waters of having a social life. I'm also in the
process of preparing LoveHKFilm.com
Version 2, which is progressing fine, though actual
completion of the new site is still a looooong ways off. It's
so far off that I should add a few more o's to that word.
It's like this: even after the database and front-end presentation
have been built (and they largely have), I will have to migrate
the entire contents of the current site to the new
site. At last count, this site had pages that numbered into
the thousands. That's a lot of cutting and pasting - and that's
in addition to the day job and the biweekly updates. If cloning
were legal, I would have already invested in a second me.
And if that disturbs you, then we apologize.
But one thing hasn't changed:
Hong Kong films are doing badly. Aside from the quality issue,
so few are being made that actually watching everything that
comes out is a doable task - at least physically. Trying to
watch all the films may prove emotionally hazardous because
there's way more bad films than good ones. 2005 was easily
the worst Hong Kong Cinema year in recent memory, but that
doesn't mean the movies are necessarily getting worse. Let's
look at it mathematically: back in the early nineties, they
routinely made 200 or more Hong Kong films per year. Assuming
that only 20% were good, that's a whopping 40 or more good
films in a single year. Taking that 20% and applying to Hong
Kong Cinema's current 60 films or less output, and you end
up with only 12 good films per year. And since "good"
doesn't really mean "great", the truly great films
may number only 2 or 3. This year that label may possibly
only apply to Election or Crazy N' The City.
Sorry, but in my estimation Initial D and SPL
were not great films. They were good (or in Initial D's
case, commercially viable), but not great. And if you're thinking
of writing in to tell me I've lost it, then congratulations:
I have a trash bin on my desktop, and I use it often.
So yeah, there have not been
many Hong Kong movies, which is bad because Hong Kong movies
are the very reason I ended up creating this site, buying
this computer, renting this apartment, and typing these words.
I owe most of what I currently have to Hong Kong movies, so
in return all I can do is keep supporting them until they
A) get better, or B) go away. The latter possibility is actually
in danger of happening, and the proliferation of illegal downloading
has everything to do with it. Yes, it's easy to do, you won't
get caught, and it seems like it's no big deal. But let's
face it: you're killing the movies. People not paying is one
major reason they now make so few films, and as we've already
established, fewer films means fewer good ones. If people
actually paid for their entertainment then maybe the number
of films per year would go up. If the number went up, then
maybe more good films would get made. If more good films get
made, then people wouldn't complain. And if people didn't
complain, then the world would be happier, healthier, and
free of massive forum threads decrying The Promise
as one of the worst films of the decade.
Basically, if you give a crap about
Hong Kong movies then support them. It's that simple. If I
ever did decide to close this site down, one of the major
reasons would be that I detest the fact that it's used as
a resource by illegal downloaders to decide what their next
BT request will be. Nothing frustrates me more about the current
state of Asian Entertainment than the illegal downloading
phenomenon. It makes triad-sponsored piracy seem downright
okay. Because nobody values Hong Kong films in Hong Kong,
many great films are no longer available, and some may never
even see the light of day on DVD. I could go on and on about
this subject, but it'd probably fall on deaf ears. If you
surf around, you'll find plenty of places where people exult
in their ability to steal intellectual property, and say things
like "Oh my god, I've waited so long to see this film!
It sounds awesome! Where can I download it?" Something
in there doesn't make sense.
But hey, I can't stop it, can
I? Other than not participating, my options are limited to
A) complaining publicly, B) shutting down my site to spite
the downloaders, or C) looking on the bright side. Using C
as my option, I can honestly say that there is one good side
effect of fewer Hong Kong movies. Because there are fewer
movies, I can sometimes take the time to do other things in
Hong Kong besides watch movies and attempt to review them.
Those other things involve spending time with friends, or
pursuing personal goals like discovering which 7-11 store
in Hong Kong makes the best Slurpees. After a year of research,
I have to say that currently nobody in Hong Kong makes good
Slurpees. The settings are wrong, and the machines are improperly
maintained, resulting in Slurpees that are too frothy. Either
that, or they're too concentrated, and weigh about six pounds
for one 16 oz. cup, and can turn you into an instant diabetic.
Adding insult to injury, every 7-11 only carries cola or cream
soda flavor, which means that even your standard Burger King's
selection of frozen drinks wins over Hong Kong's crappy 7-11
Slurpee lineup. By the way, the only Burger King in Hong Kong
is in the airport, and they probably don't even carry frozen
drinks. It's enough to make me want to leave the country.
Obviously, there's always something
to bitch about.
Normally, this is the point
where I end the column and attempt to be positive next time.
In a break from the norm, I'll try being positive this time.
Truthfully, being in Hong Kong is something I should not complain
about. Not to sound facetiously humble, but I've made good
friends, seen good sights, eaten good food, and generally
had a good time. Many things about my life have changed, and
while not all the changes have been easy to deal with, they've
at least involved challenges worth facing. Many involve my
job, my personal life, and maybe my inability to watch NBA
games regularly, but I will not attempt to bore anyone with
the uninteresting details. The only challenge that probably
matters on this page is whether or not I can keep this site
going in the face of Hong Kong Cinema's shrinking output and
dwindling local support. This isn't a case of whether or not
it's easy. Actually, keeping this site going is pretty damn
easy. If I want to write shorter reviews, I can. If I want
to review fewer movies, I can. I don't have to try to see
everything, or try to update the site every two weeks on a
fixed schedule. It's not necessary to treat this like another
job; I can just run it like a casual hobby and update whenever
I see fit. And if it's only once every month, or every six
weeks, does it really matter? In the grand scheme of things,
no. I can do whatever I want.
So this is what I plan to do:
I'm going to update this site nearly every two weeks on a
fixed schedule, and attempt to see nearly every Hong Kong
film that comes out in 2006.
I guess some things don't change.