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27th Hong Kong Film Awards Preview: Best Director and Best Screenplay

Previously:

Coming down the home stretch of the HKFA blog post series, it’s time to preview the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories. The nominees for Best Director are:

Peter Chan Ho-Sun (THE WARLORDS)
Derek Yee Tung-Sing (PROTEGE)
Ann Hui On-Wah (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)
Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai (MAD DETECTIVE)
Yau Nai-Hoi (EYE IN THE SKY)

My understanding of the technical aspects of movie direction is very limited so I will defer to my contact “Martin” in this preview of the Best Director category. Martin, a pseudonym, actually makes a living in the Hong Kong film industry so he is keeping his identity a secret because he wants to express his honest opinions without having to worry that he is offending any past or potential colleagues.

Martin thinks that the front runners for the award are: Ann Hui, Derek Yee and Peter Chan. He believes Yau Nai-Hoi is a lock for the Best New Director award so Yau will not be a contender for Best Director. As for Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai, Martin contends that if you watch THE MAD DETECTIVE closely, you’ll notice that the film does not flow smoothly. He argues that To and Wai have done better work.

Handicapping the race between Derek Yee, Ann Hui and Peter Chan, Martin thinks that any one of the three directors could win because each demonstrate adept craftsmanship in their respective films. Derek Yee uses a variety of directorial techniques to shore up a mediocre screenplay while Peter Chan deftly manages a film that has an epic scope. If he had to pick a winner, however, it would be Ann Hui. Martin thinks that THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT is the most intricate film amongst the three front runners in that it shifts smartly and seamlessly through many layers and tones.

* * * * *

The nominees for Best Screenplay are:

Xu Lan, Chun Tin-Nam, Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah, Huang Jianxin, Ho Kei-Ping, Kwok Jun-Lap, Jojo Hui Yuet-Chun, James Yuen Sai-Sun (THE WARLORDS)
Derek Yee Tung-Sing, Chun Tin-Nam, Lung Man-Hung, Go Sun (PROTEGE)
Li Qiang (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)
Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee (MAD DETECTIVE)
Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin-Yee (EYE IN THE SKY)

5. Xu Lan, Chun Tin-Nam, Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah, Huang Jianxin, Ho Kei-Ping, Kwok Jun-Lap, Jojo Hui Yuet-Chun, James Yuen Sai-Sun (THE WARLORDS)

As I stated in the preview of the Best Film category, THE WARLORDS suffers from significant storytelling problems. The fact that the film had an eight-person writing team practically screams “too many cooks spoil the broth”. This manifests itself in the way historical details were tossed into the screenplay but not explained or explored. The details were probably included to add extra gravitas to the film but they just ended up confusing viewers.

4. Yau Nai-Hoi, Au Kin-Yee (EYE IN THE SKY)

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the first two-thirds of EYE IN THE SKY is absolutely riveting. The last third, however, relies too much on coincidence and keeps the screenplay for the film from serious consideration in this category. Moreover, the scope of the story is not as broad or as ambitious as the following three screenplays.

3. Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee (MAD DETECTIVE)

The plot for MAD DETECTIVE offers a fascinating character (the titular mad detective) and an intriguing premise (the mad detective’s ability to see “inner personalities”). However, it doesn’t seem to fully capitalize on these ideas and fails to deliver a sensational conclusion to match the sensational opening. As a result, viewers are left, in the end, not with a feeling of sublime satisfaction but a feeling that an opportunity has been missed.

2. Derek Yee Tung-Sing, Chun Tin-Nam, Lung Man-Hung, Go Sun (PROTEGE)

For the most part, PROTEGE does an effective job of showing the Hong Kong drug trade from multiple perspectives. However, the resolution to the plot thread for Louis Koo’s character is a glaring miscue. It’s like that small stain on a white shirt. The shirt is still wearable and it may still look good but, once you’re aware of the stain, you can’t help but focus on it.

1. Li Qiang (THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT)

Though the movie doesn’t quite work, I think the screenplay for THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT is the most ambitious and wide-ranging of the nominees in this category. It touches on multiple themes and explores human nature from multiple angles. It didn’t translate effectively from page to screen but the high degree of difficulty is a mitigating consideration. The fact that the scope of the story was broader than any of the other nominees gives this screenplay a slight edge over the screenplay for PROTEGE.

I will end this preview of the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards as I began it by saying that, if it had qualified, LUST, CAUTION would probably have swept both the Best Director and Best Screenplay awards.

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