Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some belated Hong Kong Film Awards thoughts


One of the attractions to be found at Hong Kong's
Avenue of the Stars is a large size replica of
the trophies given out
at the Hong Kong Film Awards

Two evenings ago, this year's Hong Kong Film Awards were presented at a ceremony held at the impressive multipurpose performance facility that is the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

In all honesty, I hadn't thought to write about this awards presentation on this blog as there's been extensive coverage of it by the likes of internet luminary Sanney Leung over at his The House Where Words Gather along with professional news media representatives like Hong Kong's The Standard and The Hollywood Reporter.

But since at least one reader expressed an interest in reading my thoughts over on a recent post's Comments section, here's deciding that maybe -- and even some two days on -- they're worth posting on my blog after all! So here goes, and by doing such as taking a stylistic cue from the reader cum blogger in question to boot (albeit differentiating myself somewhat by not talking about the presentation ceremony itself, just the winners and a few other nominees)... ;b

Best Picture: After This Our Exile

As those of you who have been reading my reports of my 2007 HKIFF viewing experiences (including that which specifically discussed After This Our Exile) should know, the 2006 Patrick Tam Ka-Ming film was one of the highlights of the film festival for me. For all this though, the truth of the matter is that it wouldn't get my vote for best Hong Kong movie of last year; and, indeed, would only make it about halfway up the top ten 2006 Hong Kong movies list I made prior to viewing it.

Rather, my Best Picture vote would have gone to Johnnie To's Exiled. And I suspect that that was the case with a few of those eligible to cast Hong Kong Film Awards votes. However, what went against this film was that it probably split the votes in favor of Johnnie To with the other work by that auteur that was running (i.e., Election 2). Also, I could see how some individuals -- even in a place like Hong Kong -- would have gone for respectability and opted for an arthouse drama over an action-packed genre offering... :S

Best Director: Patrick Tam Ka-Ming (After This Our Exile)

I'm not surprised that Patrick Tam won in this category. However, my sense is that this was a sentimental win more than an entirely deserved one; one which honored a respected film veteran, a pioneer member of the much vaunted Hong Kong New Wave and one who, to boot, was effectively returning from our exile in Malaysia to direct his first film since 1989 more for his body of work rather than on the merits of just his latest offering per se.

And yes, my vote in this category would have gone for Johnnie To -- who, on top of everything else, happened to have helmed not one but two truly superb films over the course of a single calendar year.

Best Actor: Lau Ching Wan (My Name is Fame)

I thought Aaron Kwok was going to win this. But boy, am I glad he didn't. Not because I dislike Aaron Kwok. And, in fact, on the basis of quality performances like that which he's given in Throwdown as well as After This Our Exile, I'm actually re-considering my general policy to avoid any movie in which Aaron Kwok appears.

But, well, I've been waiting for years for Lau Ching Wan to win a Hong Kong Film Award! As more than one person has observed, it really was seventh time lucky for this seven time HKFA Best Actor nominee. Funnily enough, just when it looked like his time had come and gone (courtesy of his having appeared in recent years in a bunch of so-so to terrible comedies), up he popped -- just like the character he played in My Name is Fame! -- into the limelight and awards equation once more! :)

Best Actress: Gong Li (Curse of the Golden Flower)

Looking at the Best Actress nominees, I'd have voted for Gong Li too. However, this is not to praise her sky high but, rather, to indict the Hong Kong film industry for not having offered up five truly worthy Best Actress nominees nor all that many meaty roles for females in 2006.

Put another way: It seems that we're once again in a Hong Kong cinema cycle which favors males over females. And no, it most certainly doesn't help that many of the leading actress roles in Hong Kong movies appear to be going to not only actresses who are decades younger than their male equivalents but actresses who are from Mainland China -- the most recent crop of whom often make one or two films, than go away and/or back to whence they came (cf. Ai Jing) -- rather than Hong Kong itself. :(

Best Supporting Actor: Gouw Ian Iskandar (After This Our Exile)

Considering that this young fellow was on the screen far more than the credited lead actress of the cinematic offering he appeared in, his role seemed more that of co-star than supporting actor. Add to this fact that After This Our Exile was his first film, I'd say that he performed more than creditably. And so much so that he did deserve to beat even polished veterans like Simon Yam to this year's Best Supporting Actor prize.

Best Supporting Actress: Zhou Xun (The Banquet)

I'm not going to comment on Zhou Xun's performance since I didn't see The Banquet. Instead, I'd just like to take the opportunity to suggest here that it speaks volumes that a work that was Hong Kong's official foreign language film Oscar nominee -- but which many people look upon as far more of a Mainland Chinese movie -- only garnered a solitary Hong Kong Film Award, and just in this category too!

Best Screenplay: Patrick Tam Ka-Ming & Tian Koi-Leong (After This Our Exile)

If nothing else, I'd have expected individuals associated with After This Our Exile to triumph in this category. At the same time though, I'd also like to spare a thought for Happy Birthday's scriptwriting trio of Sylvia Chang, Matthias Woo and Theresa Tang since in another year, they could have been winners at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Best New Performer: Gouw Ian Iskandar (After This Our Exile)

The only person I could have seen seriously challenging Gouw Ian Iskandar for this award was My Name is Fame's Huo Siyan. I get the feeling though that it was too much to ask for this Lawrence Ah Mon directorial effort which apparently didn't get too much critical respect in Hong Kong itself to get honored with more than one award.

Still, at least the Hong Kong Film Awards' voters didn't stoop so low as to award this prize to Rob-b-Hood's Matthew Medvedev! And lest anyone try to accuse me of racism, it's not that he's white -- for goodness sake -- but, rather, because he was just a baby when he "gave" his HKFA-nominated performance!!!!!! ;(

Best Cinematography: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung & Lai Yiu-Fai (Confession of Pain)

The nominees list for this award was very impressive indeed and everyone of them put in sterling work which really helped to make the films they worked on look good. Still, the winners in this category did stand out; and not least because visuals were about the only thing that Confession of Pain had going for it!

On a lighter note: I can't ever see the name of Lai Yiu-Fai without laughing and remembering that he and another cinematographer, Ho Po-Wing, ended up giving their names to the main characters of Wong Kar Wai's Happy Together. How did this happen? Well, according to the story I heard, some days into the filming of that offering, it belatedly dawned on its director cum scriptwriter that he hadn't given any names to its two main characters. So, he looked around, saw the two men who were Christopher Doyle's assistant cameramen on that film and the rest, as they say, is film history! ;b

Best Film Editing: Eric Kong Chi-Leung (A Battle of Wits)

I can't believe that Patrick Tam -- who may actually be better known and valued by his contemporaries for his editing rather than directing skills -- didn't win this award! And especially when this category's awardee worked on a film which I thought would have benefited from better as well as greater editing!! :S

Best Art Direction: Huo Tingxiao (Curse of the Golden Flower)

Absolutely no contest here. And if anyone disagrees, I'd wager that it's because they've not seen the eye-popping visual extravaganza that is Curse of the Golden Flower.

Best Costume & Make-Up Design: Yee Chung Man (Curse of the Golden Flower)

See the comments that I wrote for the Best Art Direction category and apply them here.

Best Action Choreography: Yuen Woo-Ping (Fearless)

My sentimental favorite is Ching Siu Tung -- whose more graceful wire-work style I prefer to the winner's more masculine way-- but, really, it was a well-deserved win this year for Master Yuen Woo-Ping as he served up the kind of action choreography in Fearless that helped Jet Li look the best he has in years.

Best Original Film Score: Peter Kam Pui-Tat (Isabella)

I didn't have any strong opinion here. Frankly, there weren't any film scores that struck me as particularly great last year.

Best Original Film Song: The Chrysanthemum Terrace (Curse of the Golden Flower; sung by Jay Chou)

...In contrast, I so loved this Jay Chou song that immediately after coming out of a screening of Curse of the Golden Flower, I walked into a music store to ask them whether I could purchase the film's Original Soundtrack CD on the basis of this one piece of music alone!

Best Sound Design: Nakom Kositpaisa (Re-cycle)

Like with Best Original Film Score, nothing and no one particularly stood out here for me to have a strong opinion, be it negative or positive.

Best Visual Effects: Ng Yuen-Fai, Chas Chau Chi-Sing, Emil Yee Kwok-Leung & Alex Lim Hung-Fung (Re-cycle)

This award, I feel, was well deserved for its visual effects were the best thing about Re-cycle by a very long chalk indeed. Still it saddens me somewhat that at the end of the day, a generally mediocre work like Re-cycle has one more Hong Kong Film Award to its name than My Name is Fame. :S

Best Asian Film: Riding Along for Thousands of Miles (Mainland China)

Just a few weeks ago, Hong Kong played host -- and with much fanfare too -- to the first Asian Film Awards. So it seems rather strange that the Asian film that was the most honored at that awards ceremony -- i.e., The Host (which emerged with four prizes, including for Best Film) -- lost out at the Hong Kong Film Awards to another work!

But maybe the HKFA voters felt sorry or guilty for pretty much shutting out Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower in the main HKFA categories; and consequently decided to give him a consolation prize of sorts by naming another of his directorial efforts -- one which didn't make the Best Film nominees shortlist for the Asian Film Awards! -- as the Best Asian Film at this event!!

Best New Director: Daniel Wu (The Heavenly Kings)

Well-deserved and it'd be a shame if this awards recipient decides to forego directing any more films in order to concentrate on his acting career.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Sir Run Run Shaw

This 100-year-old man is responsible for having produced hundreds of movies, many of which are very watchable a number of decades after they were first released. Well done and congratulations, sir! :)

Professional Spirit Award: Man Yuen-Ling

I have to confess to knowing next to nothing about Man Yuen-Ling but ain't it cool that the Hong Kong Film Awards actually doles out something called a Professional Spirit Award?! :b

Last but not least: To all those who've read this far, I thank you and hope that you enjoyed at least some parts of this -- I'm belatedly realizing -- super lengthy blog post! :)

13 comments:

The Great Swifty said...

Yeah, I was rooting for Johnnie To most of the time too, but guess the guy had been winning too many times in the past few years. (his streak had been pretty insane)

If Election 2 won (though I preferred Exiled), it would have been pretty nuts.

Some China sites I went to are starting to question where it's Johnnie To's massive ego, outspokenness and the likes that damaged his chances. And that maybe he had reached an artistic height and he might not be able to repeat his previous success anymore. Hm. I would say that Johnnie To has crapload of great films left in him. Guy's an institution!

Stefan S said...

I'm elated Lau Ching Wan won.

I've watched My Name is Fame at the recommendation of a friend, who passed me the VCD, and I thought the movie was a whole lot of fun, with Lau putting in a stellar performance as a jaded, faded movie star.

And when we heard the news of his nomination, we were secretly hoping that he'll go all the way to win it, which he did!

Happiness :)
Do watch the movie!

Willow said...

Hurrah to Sean Lau.

Best new performer: I don't know how in the hell Baby M would be nominated. The other nominees sure must've felt insulted.

Best Original Song: Absolutely loved Jay Chou's song. Prefer a better singer though. Like the mezzo-soprano (whatchamacallit) who sang the closing track for "House of Flying Daggers."

Best Editing: "Battle of Wits" action reminded me of HK stuntmen jumping off trampolines and landing on cushions in the small battle scenes.

Best New Director: Read somewhere that Daniel Wu wants to focus on acting more than directing.

just me said...

Finally, Lau Ching Wan wins it. He is my favourite HK actor and I had already given up hope that he would win anything at the awards since they always overlook him. I've not even seen the film but I'm sure he utterly deserved it. :)

Have seen Curse of the Golden Flower. The film was okay but I didn't much care for the sets or the costumes. I found the sets and costumes garish and over the top and would not have voted for the film to win in the art department.

As for the Best Original Song... it's a nice song but would also have prefered a better singer. I have a tendency to dislike most of Jay Chou's ballad and non-rap / hip-hop singing.

YTSL said...

Hi Swifty --

"I would say that Johnnie To has crapload of great films left in him."

I agree. And, unlike with Patrick Tam (who also is an institution as far as Hong Kong cinema is concerned), I am certain that the next one won't come along only in seventeen years time... ;b

Hi Stefan S --

Lau Ching Wan's victory was indeed the one that made me happiest. For truly, it was long overdue. E.g., I really thought he would win back in 2004 for LOST IN TIME. And before that, it's not like his performances in such as FULL ALERT (1997) weren't great either!

"I've watched My Name is Fame at the recommendation of a friend, who passed me the VCD"

VCD? VCD?? Are you telling me that MY NAME IS FAME didn't have a theatrical run in Singapore?! :(

Hi Willow --

Teeheehee. You are one of the few people I know who actually refers to Lau Ching Wan as Sean Lau!

"Best new performer: I don't know how in the hell Baby M would be nominated. The other nominees sure must've felt insulted."

In truth, it wasn't a strong group of nominees. E.g, in another year, such as the actress from DOG BITE DOG surely wouldn't have been included in it either.

"Best Original Song: Absolutely loved Jay Chou's song. Prefer a better singer though."

Hmmm...since I like that the singer also was an actor who had appeared in the movie. And no, I really wouldn't have wanted Chow Yun Fat, etc. to try singing in Jay Chou's place! ;)

"Best New Director: Read somewhere that Daniel Wu wants to focus on acting more than directing."

I did too. Hence my writing the comments that I did for him in my post.

YTSL said...

Hi "just me" --

Wow, we must have been writing comments at the same time for a while there! ;D

"I've not even seen the film but I'm sure he utterly deserved it."

What? You've not seen this film which got my vote for number 2 Hong Kong movie of 2006??? :(

Re CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER: I wouldn't want to live or dress like those royal denizens. (Like with Mad King Ludwig, I can't help think that their environment helped make them mentally unstable!) Still, I've got to appreciate that a lot of thought and work went into the film's set and costume design, etc.

eliza bennet said...

I think the costumes and sets were meant to be overly rich in the within the context of the film.

Of course we congratulate Lau but I also feel a bit sad for him since even though his performance was very very good, it felt like it was "finally" his time - rather than the strength of the performance itself. Anyway no matter what it is good that he is finally awarded and that absolutely everybody is happy with this win :)

munin said...

Yay for Lau Ching Wan. He really deserved it. The film was excellent as well and as you mentioned it's kinda funny how these events and circumstances mirror the ones in the film.

The biggest surprise for me was obviously Johnnie To leaving with empty hands. The Great Swifty already mentioned it and I already read it on another forum - Chinese audiences seem to have some kind of problem with To right now. He's getting his deserved acclaim outside of HK though and he also (Correct me if I remember wrong) won a few of the HKCS awards. So it's not too bad.

It's a shame that none of the soundtracks this year stood out to you. Maybe it's because I listened to the Isabella score before I saw the film, but I think it really deserved the award here. Unique, fitting, beautiful, elegic stuff that Peter Kam did there - and unlike most of the soundtracks of HK movies - it's really able to stand on it's own. Exiled's soundtrack was fantastic as well but that did not even get a nomination, probably not only because of the aforementioned To situation but also because it was composed by a foreigner.

YTSL said...

Hi "eliza bennet" --

"I think the costumes and sets were meant to be overly rich in the within the context of the film."

I agree with this statement (and assume that the film in question is CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER :b).

"Of course we congratulate Lau but I also feel a bit sad for him since even though his performance was very very good, it felt like it was "finally" his time..."

Hmmm, don't see any disgrace in this, really; not least because a recognition of one's excellence over the years sure is as good, if not better, in the long run than a recognition of one's excellent work in just one particular movie.

As for feeling sad: The ones I really feel sad for are the likes of Brigitte Lin and Carina Lau -- many times nominated yet unable to get their hands of a HKFA award that they could call their own.

Hi munin --

"Chinese audiences seem to have some kind of problem with To right now"

Too bad if so since I think the quality of his work speaks for itself (and him).

"It's a shame that none of the soundtracks this year stood out to you."

Yeah, well...and should you wonder, the most recent Hong Kong movie that got me interested in buying its OST was INITIAL D. ;S

Stefan S said...

I think the very first time I saw Lau Ching Wan act, was in the well known (and I forgot the English title!) TVB series about the Stock Market, opposite Vivian Chow, Adam Cheng, and his wife-to-be :)

and yeah, My Name is Fame didn't have a theatrical run in Singapore, and the DVD wasn't released here, just the VCD, and released without much fanfare. Saw the DVD (with extras) though in HK!

YTSL said...

Hi again Stefan S. --

So sad to hear about MY NAME IS FAME's non-theatrical and -DVD release in Singapore. Hope the VCD was at least released there with a Cantonese dialogue track! If not, I highly recommend that you get the Hong Kong DVD of the movie.

eliza bennet said...

>>>Hmmm, don't see any disgrace in this, really; not least because a recognition of one's excellence over the years sure is as good, if not better, in the long run than a recognition of one's excellent work in just one particular movie.>>>>

Disgrace is too strong a word in my opinion that is why I used 'sad'. I think if the award is being given for a performance in a film (and I assume so since one is specifically mentioned) then I think it should be for that performance (not that there is anything wrong with Lau's). If one is being awarded for his long string of excellent performances in his career then I think the award should be named so. Everyone knows that Lau deserved this award many times. What made me sad that the one time he got it, it feels (to me) there were better performances.
Like in Scorsese's Departed, this seems to me a bitter sweet win.

I also agree with "munin" re:Isabella. That soundtrack is like a member of the cast and I have been listening to it for almost one year and it still has similar impact.

YTSL said...

Hi again "eliza bennet" --

"Everyone knows that Lau deserved this award many times. What made me sad that the one time he got it, it feels (to me) there were better performances."

I disagree, actually, for in my view, even if his performance in MY NAME IS FAME is not Lau Ching Wan's best, it was the best by an actor in a 2006 Hong Kong film.

At the same time, consider it a bonus of sorts that he finally won after all these years and previous nominations.