Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gong Li vs. Ziyi Zhang

Given that official news is coming in fast and furious regarding this year's Foreign Film Oscar Race, this news may be outdated as soon as you read it. Israel and Spain have picked finalists but not their representative films. China hasn't announced finalists but there's a potential battle of screen icons brewing.

A few years back China's greatest movie goddess Gong Li seemed to be abdicating her crown to upstart Ziyi Zhang. She had all but disappeared from the screen as Ziyi performed the deja vu trick of playing muse to Zhang Yimou (The Road Home, Hero, House of Flying Daggers) and launching herself into international fame (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). If perception is reality than Gong definitely wants the crown back. Since Ziyi's rapid ascendance, Gong Li is acting frequently again and branching out into American films. Most recently she danced and romanced Colin Farrell in Miami Vice and, perhaps to underline her point, blew Ziyi off the screen in Memoirs of a Geisha .

Now they're battling for Oscar consideration again --or, rather, their films are. Zhang Yimou reunites with his original muse Gong Li in the upcoming Curse of the Golden Flower , another martial arts epic and Xiaogang Feng directs Zhang Ziyi in the upcoming The Banquet which is loosely based on Hamlet. And both of these directors want to represent their country at the Oscars.

[editors note: I'm aware I'm supposed to call Gong Li "Li Gong" now but I refuse. I've been saying it this way for 15 years. I'll compromise on Ziyi since she's new.]

In other 'Foreign Movie Star' news...

German thespian Sebastian Koch (pictured to your right) is having a great decade. He's already proved himself an awards magnet in Germany over the past few years. Now, he's starring in not one but two official submissions for Oscar's international screen outreach program... better known as the Best Foreign Language Film category. He is the top billed male in Paul Verhoeven's Dutch submission Black Book (which is said to be as outre as Verhoeven usually is despite the deceptively Oscar-friendly setting of WW II) and the lead of the ecstatically received German film The Lives of Others, which some folks are saying could even win the prize this year (...well, if Almodovar's Volver isn't submitted by Spain. And it might not be.)

For more on the first 15 official submissions...
Australia, Bosnia, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland
France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Netherlands
Phillipines, Romania, Slovenia, Venezuela

The European Films site also keeps a frequently updated list here.

Related Posts
UPDATED OSCAR PREDICTIONS --for September in All Categories
Mexico and Korea which amazing films will they choose? * Verhoeven for the Gold re: Black Book * The Race Begins re: Ten Canoes * Yimou and Gong Li an epic reunion.

foreign films, , , , Oscars, Academy Awards, cinema, Film...


Emma said...

When I saw this post, I nearly had a heart attack! See, I've been toying with the idea of doing a post Gong Li Vs ZIyi Zhang for a while! But then I saw that it was about their movies... so my heartbeat's slightly better. :P

Javier Aldabalde said...

This is really terribly exciting! And here's hoping that by the end of this decade Gong Li will have fully reclaimed her throne and maybe get an Oscar nomination or two.

Though to be brutally honest I think Maggie Cheung is better than both of them put together.

Javier Aldabalde said...

Oh, and I think Zhang Yimou is not being very clever trying to submit "Curse" this year. Wouldn't that prevent it from being a contender in other categories next year?

He didn't even manage to get a nom for "House of Flying Daggers" back in 2004...

Anonymous said...

Li Gong is how her name is pronounced in chinese, the family name trumping the given name in importance.

I'm tired of seeing Ziyi Zhang in costumed dramas, would somebody please give her a modern film? I'm rooting for Gong Li myself, something about her is just so classy.

Reel Fanatic said...

Gong Li gets the edge from me as an actress, but Ziyi Zhang is way in the lead in provoking impure thoughts .. Both of these movies will be great, but sight unseen I'd put my money on Curse of the Broken Flower because of just three little words, Chow Yun Fat

Marcelo said...

Dear Mr. Rogers,

according to Reuters, Brazil has chosen "Cinema, Aspirinas e Urubus", by director Marcelo Gomes, to represent the country.

The film tells the story of a German man who travelled through the roads of Brazilian Northeast in the 40s selling the newest medicine, the aspirin.

"Cinema, Aspirinas e Urubus" had its first exhibition in Cannes, in the Un Certain Regard.
In Rio Festival, it won the Special Prize of the Jury and it won, in São Paulo, the award of best picture according to the public and the critic and best actor (João Miguel).


"Cinema, Aspirina e Urubus", the brazilian official choice to the Oscar race, is great little film. You can count on it as a strong contender.


mystic --do it. always follow the muse.

javier -i believe CURSE OF... is opening this year in the US (sony pictures classics) which would mean its eligibility would be for this period so they should submit it if they feel it's the best one.

Anonymous said...

etslee, you are right except for one important fact: Gong is her last/family name, not Li. So in Chinese, her name is actually Gong Li.

I think China can also consider The Golden Lion winner Still Life.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if China will go left field and pick "Crazy Stone", a dark comedy in the vein of Snatch that has been causing such a phenomenon in China the past several months.

The Banquet is off to a poor start on the review front, and "Curse" looks to have a better chance of getting nominated if chosen.