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February 28th, 2006
 

Lost in 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.

-- Kozo, 2/28/2006

 
 

Life with Kozo





   
  The Featured Photos
More photos from Hong Kong. At top, it's LoveHKFilm.com patron saint Ekin Cheng in one of his ubiquitous Canon ads. Photo #2 is of a monkey attacking Spider-Man. Photo #3 is a Japanese capsule toy, of a lovable and eternally anxious To-Fu, courtesy of those fine folks at Devil Robots. Photo #4 is the faux Ekin Cheng boxset presented to Kozo on his 33rd birthday by the thoughtful people at YesAsia.com. If you must know the films in the box set, they're mostly Category III, and only one of them (Love to Kill) has been reviewed on this website. Photo #5 gets to the point: the Webmaster is getting older. At least he's wearing a tie.
   

 
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