Category Archives: 2013 Hong Kong / China Movies

33rd Hong Kong Film Awards 2014 香港電影金像獎 – Winners and Nomination List and Detailed Analysis

Analysis and Coverage by: Andrew Chan AACTA FCCA FIPRESCI
Attended as guest of the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards 2014 in Hong Kong on April 13th.
Also published in various Australian and Chinese media.
Pictures are courtesy of Hong Kong Film Awards Committee.
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Its a year onwards, the annual film award event in Hong Kong is more about celebrating the achievements of the local film industry than its awards. Sure there is the glamour and excitement surrounding this event, but at its core, its about gathering the film family together like the 32 ceremonies before it.

The Grandmaster

The biggest winner of the night goes to Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster” winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Action and nearly all the technical awards. While a film of masterclass Wong Kar Wai’s quality deserved to sweep all the technicial and acting gons, the winning of Best Director and Best Picture is worthy of debate. Personally, The Grandmaster is easily the best “unfinished film” and despite its enormous effort, epic porportion and not to mention years of dedication from its cast and crew, it is far cry from his best work. Dante Lam’s “Unbeatable” and Benny Chan’s “The White Storm” may have felt short changed. Having said that Zhang Zi Yi deserved her award as she managed to overshadow the title role of Ip Man effortlessly. As much as I admire Wong Kar Wai as a director, “The Grandmaster” while an achievement in terms of style, it lacks the usual emotional core that his films usually engulf the audience. While many displayed unhappiness over Rigor Mortis numerous snub, most notably the acting gons, it may well be affected by the average direction from new director Juno Mak. “Rigor Mortis” is clearly the case where the acting and technical areas are top notched, but easily let down by a wholly average script and direction.

Nick Cheung

Nick Cheung winning Best Actor was the highlight of the show and while deserving of his award in a film where he has to battle his internal demons as well as building up into a muscle built fighter. It must not go without saying that it could well have been Nick Cheung vs Nick Cheung, if his terrific ground breaking performance in “White Storm” was actually recognised in the first place. In the Benny Chan’s film, Cheung’s scene stealing performance was precisely why the over the top twist even end up working.

The Way We Dance

A film I thoroughly enjoyed watching and perhaps the highlight of last year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival comes in the form of Best New Director Adam Wong (who made his début with the wonderful “Magic Boy” from a few years back) and Best Newcomer Babyjohn. Both deserving won their categories and in particular, Babyjohn was uprightly emotional and providing the local audience with hope and aspirations of the future of Hong Kong cinema. Quality male actors are a rare quality and leading male from the new generation is as rare as gold. I sincerely expect and hope that Babyjohn will go on and build a career from this experience. Likewise, director Adam Wong is spot-on as we eagerly awaits his next piece of cinematic showing. As for Cherry Ngan, Nick Cheung rightly claimed and encouraged her – “Wait for next time, you still need to sacrifice more years of youth for films.”

Overall improvements and thoughts

I thought the use of split screens of each Best Actor and Actress nominees as the award is announced provides some much need excitement. The use of one presenter in most important awards presentation rather than a duo to play off each other is much missed. Perhaps the Association should take a leaf out of the Oscar ceremonies in making the atmosphere more fun in the form of someone like Ellen to brighten the occasion with laughter. After all, the award show while formal, needs to be entertaining as well.

Overall, the show was less entertaining than last year’s edition and have fewer higher emotional points. Geroge Lam’s powerful singing of Wong Fei Hung is much welcomed and in the process waking up the audience and indeed the very presence of Anthony Wong opening his mouth is pure entertainment. Famed scholar Tao Kit’s presentation of an award could have been given more time, but after becoming a director himself in “Enthralled”, he somehow lost his usual extremely vocal and non-stop voice in the progress. Still, a lot of hard work and dedication is required for the annual award event to happen, especially those working behind the scenes whose efforts are often unrecognised. Maybe I am expecting too much from an award show, but expectations is a good thing and I have no doubt that next year’s Hong Kong Films Award will improve leaps and bounds. See you all next year!

Best Picture
• The Grandmaster
– Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
– Unbeatable
– The Way We Dance
– The White Storm

Best Director
• Wong Kar-Wai (The Grandmaster)
– Derek Kwok Chi-Kin (As the Light Goes Out)
– Johnnie To Kei-Fung (Drug War)
– Dante Lam Chiu-Yinn (Unbeatable)
– Benny Chan Muk-Sing (The White Storm)

Best Actor
• Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (Unbeatable)
– Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (The Grandmaster)
– Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (Ip Man – The Final Fight)
– Louis Koo Tin-Lok (The White Storm)
– Lau Ching-Wan (The White Storm)

Best Actress
• Zhang Ziyi (The Grandmaster)
– Sammi Cheng Sau-Man (Blind Detective)
– Tang Wei (Finding Mr. Right)
– Bau Hei-Jing (Rigor Mortis)
– Cherry Ngan Cheuk-Ling (The Way We Dance)

Best Supporting Actor
• Zhang Jin (The Grandmaster)
– Tong Dawei (American Dreams in China)
– Huang Bo (Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons)
– Anthony Chan (Rigor Mortis)
– Eddie Peng Yu-Yan (Unbeatable)

Best Supporting Actress
• Kara Hui Ying-Hung (Rigor Mortis)
– Du Juan (American Dreams in China)
– Kara Hui Ying-Hung (Rigor Mortis)
– Law Lan (The White Storm)
– Carina Lau Ka-Ling (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Screenplay
• Zou Jingzhi, Xu Haofeng, Wong Kar-Wai (The Grandmaster)
– Zhou Zhiyong, Zhang Ji, Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah (American Dreams in China)
– Wai Ka-Fai, Yau Nai-Hoi, Ryker Chan, Yu Xi (Blind Detective)
– Xue Xiaolu (Finding Mr. Right)
– Jack Ng Wai-Lun, Fung Chi Fung, Dante Lam Chiu-Yin (Unbeatable)

• Babyjohn Choi (The Way We Dance)
– Du Juan (American Dreams in China)
– Fish Liew (Doomsday Party)
– Angel Chiang Ka-Man (A Secret Between Us)
– Lin Gengxin (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Cinematography
• Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster)
– Jason Kwan Chi-Yiu (As the Light Goes Out)
– Ng Kai-Ming (Rigor Mortis)
– Kenny Tse Chung-To (Unbeatable)
– Anthony Pun Yiu-Ming (The White Storm)

Best Editing
• William Cheung Suk-Ping, Benjamin Courtines, Poon Hung-Yiu (The Grandmaster)
– Wong Hoi (As the Light Goes Out)
– Kwong Chi-Leung, Ron Chan (Firestorm)
– Azrael Chung Wai-Chiu (Unbeatable)
– Yau Chi-Wai (The White Storm)

Best Art Direction
• William Cheung Suk-Ping, Alfred Yau Wai-Ming (The Grandmaster)
– Eric Lam (As the Light Goes Out)
– Eric Lam (Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons)
– Irving Cheung (Rigor Mortis)
– Ken Mak (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Costume & Make-Up Design
• William Cheung Suk-Ping (The Grandmaster)
– Dora Ng Lei-Lo (American Dreams in China)
– Bruce Yu Ka-On, Lee Pik-Kwan (Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons)
– Miggy Cheng, Phoebe Wong, Kittichon Kunratchol (Rigor Mortis)
– Bruce Yu Ka-On, Lee Pik-Kwan (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Action Choreography
• Yuen Woo-Ping (The Grandmaster)
– Chin Kar-Lok (Firestorm)
– Ling Chi-Wah (Unbeatable)
– Yuen Bun (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Original Film Score
• Shigeru Umebayashi, Nathaniel Mechaly (The Grandmaster)
– Teddy Robin, Tommy Wai (As the Light Goes Out)
– Henry Lai (Unbeatable)
– Day Tai, Afuc Chan (The Way We Dance)
– Kenji Kawai (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Original Song
• 狂舞吧 (from The Way We Dance)
Composer: Day Tai
Lyrics: Saville Chan
Performer: DoughBoy, Shimica Wong
– 愛最大 (As the Light Goes Out)
Composer: Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung
Lyrics: Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, Qiao Xing,
Kit@24 Herbs, Phat@24 Herbs
Performer: Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, 24 Herbs
– Love is Blind (from Blind Detective)
Composer: Hal Foxton Beckett, Marc Baril
Lyrics: Lam Jik
Performer: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Sammi Cheng Sau-Man
– 心照一生 (from The White Storm)
Composer: RubberBand
Lyrics: RubberBand、Tim Lui
Performer: RubberBand
– 新秩序 (from Young And Dangerous: Reloaded)
Composer: Paul Wong Koon-Chung
Lyrics: Paul Wong Koon-Chung
Performer: Paul Wong Koon-Chung

Best Sound Design
• Robert Mackenzie, Traithep Wongpaiboon (The Grandmaster)
– Phyllis Cheng (As the Light Goes Out)
– Benny Chu, Steve Miller (Rigor Mortis)
– Phyllis Cheng (Unbeatable)
– Kinson Tsang King-Cheung Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Visual Effects
• Enoch Chan (Rigor Mortis)
– Henri Wong, Hugo Kwan, Walter Wong (As the Light Goes Out)
– Yee Kwok-Leung, Lai Man-Chun, Ho Kwan-Yeung, Garrett K. Lam (Firestorm)
– Pierre Buffin (The Grandmaster)
– Wook Kim (Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon)

Best Film from Mainland and Taiwan
• So Young (CHINA)
– The Last Supper (CHINA)
– Lost In Thailand (CHINA)
– Rock Me To The Moon (TAIWAN)
– Touch Of The Light (TAIWAN)

Best New Director
• Adam Wong Sau-Ping (The Way We Dance)
– Alan Yuen Kam-Lun (Firestorm)
– Juno Mak Chun-Lung (Rigor Mortis)

Lifetime Achievement Award
• Zhang Xin-Yan (director, producer)

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Firestorm 風暴 (2013) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 10th January 2013

Directed by: Alan Yuen
Starring: Andy Lau, Yao Chen, Gordon Lam, Hu Jun, Ray Lui

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Firstly, Alan Yuen’s crime action blockbuster “Firestorm” is no match to the far superior “The White Storm”. Secondly, Gordon Lam is by far a better actor than Andy Lau and justifiably steals the show in his first true leading role. Finally, this is a good film, but suffers with an obvious padded up ending to satisfy Mainland censorship. The good news is that at the very least Mainland Chinese actor Hu Jun plays the mastermind villain. Still, there are a lot of fine points that stops “Firestorm” from taking the winter blockbuster mantle.

The film clearly works to a certain degree and even evokes moments of a far better trilogy of films in “Infernal Affairs”, but as the audience walks out of the cinema, it all feels rather empty. “Firestorm” is an entertaining film, with some fine performances, steady direction and even an adequate script. However, the audience pretty much stops emoting after mourning the death of the father and daughter, despite reaching an emotional high. Still, there is a lot to like about this film, even if it is not entirely successful.

Andy Lau headlines another blockbuster role following his walk of shame in the atrocious “The Switch”. Lau redeems himself adequately in this role and there are moments that he even manages to pull off a difficult and complicated character that is on the verge of crossing both sides of the law. Not unlike his role in Infernal Affairs, Lau almost corrupted himself totally after a string of events that changed him, it is notable how in an earlier scene, Lau is a man of principle to the point of putting rubbish in the bin by getting out of the car in the middle of an operation. How he was not seen by the potential crooks is entirely another plot hole issue. However, the real star of the show is Gordon Lam who has been waiting on the wings with plenty of quality supporting roles throughout the past decade. “Firestorm” is simply a vehicle for Lam to shine through as he owns the screen with his dogged determination for love, robbery and money. In fact, it is no understatement to claim that Lam is the key for holding all the piece of “Firestorm” together. Hu Jun appears for a zillion Hong Kong movies of the year and refreshingly as the bad guy. Hu Jun have all the hallmarks of a classic villain, sly smile and seemingly deep outlook. His war of words with Lau is always fun to watch.

All in all, “Firestorm” is easily one of the better films of 2013 Hong Kong cinema, but it is unfortunate that it will not reach the heights achieved by Benny Chan’s career highlight in “The White Storm”. Long time script writer and first time director Alan Yuen does well in his debut and handled the action scenes in the most dramatic flair right in the heart of Hong Kong, Central. It is admirable that despite all the Chinese investment, Yuen still manages to shot the film mostly in Hong Kong, giving the local feeling a much needed boost. There is a lot to be pleased about “Firestorm” and even manages to inflict plenty of emotions at crucial moments. However, by the end of the film, the audiences are not really concerned about the characters’ fate and whereas in “The White Storm”, we are so emotionally engaged that we can’t stop caring even after the credit rolls. This is a good film, just not great and that’s a shame. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7.5/10

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Silent Witness 全民目擊 (2013) – China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 31st December 2013

Directed by: Fei Xing
Starring: Aaron Kwok, Sun Hong Lei, Yu Nan,Deng Jiajia

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This is a brilliant film that twists and turns so amazingly that results in a film where the audience is drowned with tears of unconditional love. What turned out to be a court drama thriller, turned into a simple moment of fatherly love, ultimate sacrifice and redemption. Director Fei Xing did an amazing job in rounding out the ending, despite obvious intentions to get around the usual censorship. The film is perfectly paced and seen through the eyes of all the main protagonists. This is a good piece of cinema and probably deserves more attention that its has garnered.

Aaron Kwok produced a steadfast and determined performance as the never give up lawyer, but the star of the show goes to Sun Honglei whose underlying love for his daughter provides the film with its best resonating moments. His outright reactions in the court room are almost priceless to watch. Yu Nan (recently since in Expendables 2) is also brilliant as the lawyer torn in the middle of all the troubles. While newcomer Deng Jiajia does an adequate job as the daughter accused of murder and finally understanding the meaning of loss, remorse and responsibility.

All in all, “Silent Witness” is an accomplished and matured court drama thriller, muddled within the essence of parental love, deeper emotions and twists and turns. Director Fei Xing has successfully created a film that touches the audience’s heart and expresses universal themes and messages at its core. This is a hugely underrated film and without doubt should not be missed. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 9/10

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Baby Blues 詭嬰 (2013) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 30th December 2013

Director: Po-Chih Leong
Starring: Sing Kwan Janelle, Raymond Lam, Hoi-Pang Lo, Karena Ng

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What I enjoy about watching bad movies is when there are indirect or unintentional redeeming factors. The latest Mainland horror/thriller co-production should come as no surprise that the story and ending will be as expected, but when spotting the obvious or deliberate product placement is the most interesting part of the film, it can only be bad news. I do not know whether I should be ashamed of myself as a film critic for focusing on irrelevant events. Still, there are a few chilling moments, but they are also equally cheesy that will easily make “Child’s Play” seems like cinematic magic. Don’t get me wrong, this is a terrible film and none of the above can truly save it.

Raymond Lam continues his trend of “one note” acting. He seems to have forgotten that this is a horror movie and not a TVB serial co-starring Linda Chung. It is a shame that popularity does not always equate good acting. Karena Ng, who plays Lam’s wife sister appears in a character that seems to be there due to their real life romance than anything. It is funny how she cares about Lam more than his wife (Sing Kwan Janelle) in the movie. Kate Tsui shines in comparison of the duo and even manages to put on a good show as well as providing the film with its most chilling moment in the form of singing. Lo Hoi Pang is creepy as the old man waiting outside while collecting his paycheck in appearing in yet another 2013 movie.

All in all, “Baby Blues” suffers from a lack of story, terrible casting and acting from its leads and a question of over-doing product placement. In a notable car crash scene, while the car is flying in the air, a cup of Starbucks “toliet water” appears, while in another Johnnie Walker simply walks into the film as a supporting actor. In essence films like these should never really be made and while Kate Tsui can act, “Baby Blues” cannot. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 3/10

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The Constable 冲锋战警 (2013) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 17th December 2013

Director: Dennis Law Sau-Yiu
Script: Dennis Law Sau-Yiu
Action Director: Nicky Li Chung-Chi
Producer: Dennis Law Sau-Yiu
Starring: Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Lam Suet, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Maggie Siu Mei-Ke, Niu Meng-Meng, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fa, Lo Hoi-Pang

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After almost a decade of directing, property developer turned filmmaker proved a wise old saying wrong. Practice does not always make perfect as Dennis Law continues to churn out crap in line with his extremely low standards.

Simon Yam tries extremely hard in putting in a leading character performance, but ultimately fails to enhance the film. Sam Lee returns to the big screen in a largely stereotypical role of the abusive boyfriend. While Johnnie To’s regulars Lam Suet, Maggie Sui, Eddie Cheung, Lo Hoi Pang makes cameo appearances that adds no value to the story.

All in all, “The Constable” is a perfect example of how not to direct a movie. The film is full of pointless scenes, useless characters and piss poor direction. The result is a final product that will likely deter audiences from returning to the cinemas for smaller local films. For that reason alone, Dennis Law should make better use of his money by being an investor and producer in films where better new directors are being used. In other words, please stop directing Mr. Law. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 2/10

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