Monday, April 19, 2010

Hong Kong Film Awards: Bodyguards, Assassins, Bishonen

The Hong Kong Film Awards which honor film productions from, you guessed it, Hong Kong were held this week. I preface this post that way because there are other major Asian awards, most notably the Golden Horse which includes all Chinese language cinema rather than just Hong Kong productions. The Golden Horse nominations are announced in the fall I believe and we may see some of the same films honored. The big winner for HK was the action extravaganza Bodyguards and Assassins (Shi Yue Wei Chang) which took home eight prizes including Best Picture. It was nominated for 19 awards. Can you imagine?! I am a sucker for movie advertisements that introduce the cast of characters and both the posters and the trailer here label their characters. Is the movie worthy of this major a statue grab? Readers who've seen it, speak up! The film apparently has a Canadian/UK distributor but nothing here in the US.

Four of many character posters for the film. The trailer (at about the 1:30 mark) gives you the full rundown of characters

The other major prize winner was the 1960s era family film Echoes of the Rainbow (Sui Yuet San Tau) Both films were large box office successes at home.
  • Picture: Bodyguards and Assassins
  • Director: Teddy Chen, Bodyguards and Assassins
  • Actor: Simon Yam, Echoes of the Rainbow
  • <--- Actress: Kara Hui, At the End of the Rainbow
    This actress is also referred to in some reports as Wai Ying-Hung which makes things confusing. Hui plays the struggling mother of a young man accused of rape. This performance was a major comeback for the 50 year old actress, who first won the HK Film Award almost 30 years go. The performance has been a sweeper on the Asian awards circuit (this is her third major prize) so it's a pity that we don't get to see it here in the US.
  • Supporting Actor: Nicholas Tse, Bodyguards and Assassins
    He plays "The Rickshaw Man"
  • Supporting Actress. Michelle Ye, Accident

  • New Director: Cheung King-wai, KJ
  • New Performer: Aarif Lee, Echoes of the Rainbow
    (Pictured right, the new "it" boy I'm told. He also sings the film's winning theme song)
  • Asian Film: Departures
    (This award honors Asian cinema produced outside of Hong Kong. Last year's Japanese Foreign Film Oscar winner took the prize)
  • Screenplay: Alex Law, Echoes of the Rainbow
  • Cinematography: Bodyguards and Assassins
  • Editing: Overheard
  • Costume Design: Bodyguards and Assassins
  • Art Direction: Bodyguards and Assassins
  • Action Choreography: Bodyguards and Assassins
  • Visual Effects: The Storm Warriors
  • Sound Effects: Red Cliff 2
  • Original Song: Echoes of the Rainbow
  • Original Score: Bodyguards and Assassins
Awards shows, whether they take place in the Kodak Theater or all the way around the world, are often just as much about the red carpet and the celebrities walking them as whatever is being celebrating inside. I watched a bit of news coverage that I didn't understand and they were very excited about these two (pictured below). I approve.

Shu Qi and Chang Chen... sometimes referred to as Qi Shu and Zhang Chen

We don't get enough Asian films in the States but we have seen Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Happy Together, Red Cliff) and Qi Shu (So Close, The Transporter, New York I Love You) several times and I've even written about their onscreen partnership before. Their combined presence definitely sucks up the most coverage time from the entertainment news report I watched. I didn't realize they were a couple offscreen but if you've ever seen Hsiao-Hsien Hou's Three Times, you will most heartily approve.

It wasn't up for awards but as I was watching that same news bit online I couldn't help noticing that the young stars of Monga, Ethan Ruan and Mark Chao (who are very popular at the moment) were quite affectionate on the red carpet. Monga is another in a long long line of movies from all over the world in which young men form deep brotherly and eventually bloody bonds as they enter the gangster life. I'm not sure if there's a gay subplot but there's something going on between Ruan and Chao's characters. A bit of web searching led me to this unfortunate headline.

clockwise from top: Ruan and Chao at the HK Film Awards, on a talk
show promoting the film and onscreen in the drama Monga (2010)

Talk shows where male stars are asked to make out with each other? Nobody asked Heath and Jake to do this back in the day!

Here's the trailer to Monga which TFE reader Tony tells me I should look out for at the Golden Horse Awards this fall...

Have you seen any of these pictures? If not, what's the last Asian film you saw?


Lev Lewis said...

Major crush on Qui Shi. If anyone here's seen "Three Times" or "Millennium Mambo" they'll no doubt sympathize.

Anonymous said...

my last asian film was indian blockuster WANTED, starring bollywood machoman Salman Khan. not a masterpiece and not a subtle thriller, but still a nice and quite entertaining film

mirko s.

ps: I love Shu Qi too...I wonder why she has never worked with Wong Kar-wai, so far!!!

Stella said...

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. First Wong Kar Wai movie and I think about it at least once a week.

Robert Hamer said...

So...whatever happened to that Best Actress Psychic contest?

joy said...

I liked "Bodyguards and Assassins" a lot, especially for its terrific ensemble cast. But the best Hong Kong film last year is far and away the documentary "KJ: Music and Life", follow by "Echoes of the Rainbow", which failed to get best pic and director noms only because it was a last mins entry before qualification deadline.

You will love "Monga" for the same reason you love "Red Cliff"... But it's not a strong film by any means.

For actressexuals: Wai Ying-Hung is amazing in "At the End of Daybreak", so is Zhang Jingchu in "Night and Fog". They both rise above and beyond from their films.

Rebecka said...

I though Bodyguards and Assassins was entertaining enough, but far from best picture worthy. Echoes of the Rainbow was much stronger in my mind, as was KJ.

Chang Chen and Shu Qi looked amazing! I love him (can't wait to see him in The Grand Master), and I've always had a soft spot for her.

My last asian movie was Confucius. I found it boring and uninspired, except for Zhou Xun in a supporting role (talk about scene stealing!) And oh, I watched Happy Together last night for about the millionth time...

Peter Chan said...

While 'Bodyguards & Assassins' nailed most of it technical merits (Especially art direction), its clunky script suffers the same problem most historical action epics do from HK in that it's very spotty and filled with empty manipulative emotions- especially from its feeble attempt at political commentary.

As for performance, I much prefer Wang Po-Chieh's portrayal of a revolutionary than Nicholas Tse's hallow one-note performance. Either way, the dynamic between those two characters was the most interesting thing about the flick. Then again, I've always been a sucker for the entire "brothers from another mother" friendship thing in films.

After watching this last winter, it just made me ache for that sequel (prequel?) of 'Ip Man' even more.

OtherRobert said...

I'm a fan of the Hong Kong Film Awards as an entity. They routinely nominate genre films and really bold performances for awards. I'm specifically thinking of how much they love the nightmarish films by the Pang Brothers, but there are other examples, obviously. I will say if I saw those posters in my local movie theater, I would be interested in seeing Bodyguards and Assassins.

Unknown said...

I saw Monga with my family few months back. Artistically it's just your usual teen angst/gangster pic, but it was entertaining no less. Great performances from the leading boys. Pretty sure it'll dominate the Golden Horse come awards time.

Unknown said...

Bodyguards and Assassins is the weakest "Best Picture" from the HK Film Award in the past ten years.

"KJ" and "Echoes of the Rainbow" are much better, what a pity the award show only honors big-budget action blockbusters with support from China.

My recommendation is, avoid the bodyguards and assassins. KJ is revolutionary and redefines what a decent documentary should be. Echoes of the Rainbow is true to emotions and help understand the old Hong Kong society and culture.

I also feel dying to see Wai Ying-Hung's performance in At the End of Daybreak. Seems really powerful. She is an adoring actress that deserves her honor.

Unknown said...

In addition, I think the trailer below captures the mood of Bodyguards and Assassins better, since surprisingly the character developments and dialogue are much stronger elements in the film than those gun battles and actions.

It would become a new classic if the later half of the film stays the quality of the first half.

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