Sunday, November 29, 2009


No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti won the top Golden Horse Award in Taiwan yesterday. It won best picture, best director for Leon Dai, and best original screenplay in the 46th edition of the awards.

Presenters of the best director statue were Hou Hsiao-hsien, Stanley Kwan, Ang Lee and Johnnie To.

The best actor award went to Nick Cheung (Hong Kong, for "The Beast Stalker") and Huang Bo (China, for "Cow")- the first tie in Golden Horse Awards history. Cheung also received the best actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards earlier this year.

Best actress is Li Bingbing (China) for The Message, winning over co-star Zhou Xun.

The award for best supporting actor went to Wang Xueqi (China) for Forever Enthralled. Best supporting actress is Wai Ying-hung for At the End of Daybreak.

The documentary KJ: Music and Life surprisingly won three awards: best editing, best sound effects, and best documentary.

Jurors and entries come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

The lifetime achievement award was given to Ming Ji, the retired general manager of Central Motion Pictures. A special contribution award was given to George Wang, 92, who has had a career of 55 years.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Something to Give Thanks For?

The Swedish director Lukas Moodysson has a new movie. Reminiscent of Babel, the film Mammoth stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams as a New York couple who leave their eight-year old under the care of a Filipino nanny. She is played by Marife Necesito.

It remains to be seen how Filipinos will be depicted in this movie, and the reception it will get around here and over there.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dreaming of a Golden Horse

Finalists in Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards have been announced.

The nominees for best
feature film are:
No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti, Cow, Crazy Racer, Face, Like a Dream

The nominees for best director are: Clara Law for "Like a Dream;" Leon Dai for "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Guan Hu for "Cow;"
Tsai Ming-liang for "Face"

"Like a Dream" has nine nods; No "Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti" has eight; and "Cow" has seven.

The nominees for best actor are:
Daniel Wu in "Like a Dream;" Chen Wen-pin in "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Huang Bo in "Cow;" Nick Cheung in "The Beast Stalker"

For best actress: Sandrine Pinna in "Yang Yang;" Yolanda Yuan in "Like a Dream;" Zhou Xun in "The Message;" Li Bingbing in "The Message"

for best supporting actor: Cai Zhennan in "Ending Cut;" Huang Chien-wei in "Yang Yang;" Zhang Hanyu in "The Equation of
Love and Death;" Wang Xueqi in "Forever Enthralled"

for best supporting actress: Liou Yiin Shang in "Sleeping with Her;" Lu Yi-ching in "A Place of One's Own;" Wai Ying-hung in "At the End of Daybreak;"
Zhang Ziyi in "Forever Enthralled"

for best original screenplay: Leon Dai, Chen Wen-pin for "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Cui Siwei, Xing Aina, Wang Hongwei, Wang Yao, Zhou Zhiyong, Yue Xiaojun,
Zhang Cheng for "Crazy Racer;" Cheng Wen-tang, Cheng Jin-fen, Chang I-Feng for "Tears;" Eddie Fong, Clara Law for "Like a Dream"

for best cinematography
: Song Xiaofei for "Cow;" Sion Michel for "Like a Dream;" Zhao Xiaoshi for "Wheat;" Cao Yu for "City of Life and Death"

for best editing: Cheung King-wai for "KJ: Music and Life;" Leon Dai for "No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti;" Kong Jinlei for "Cow;" Zhang Yifan, Du Yuan, Tang Hua for "Crazy Racer"

Blockbusters such as Ip Man, Red Cliff II, and Shinjuku Incident were passed over. Chen Kaige's "Mei Lanfang" was also snubbed.

Winners will be announced on Saturday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Battlefield Coals

The subtitle of the book "In the Can" (Emmis Books, 2005) announces what it is about: "The greatest career missteps, sophomore slumps, what-were-they-thinking decisions, and fire-your-agent moves in the history of the movies." Whew! what a subtitle!

The authors Lou Harry and Eric Furman choose the biggest critical and commercial duds for many of contemporary Hollywood stars. There are box-office champions (Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson) and master thespians (De Niro, Streep, Hoffman, Lange); there are old favorites (Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand) and there are new players (Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore).

In their introduction, Harry and Furman first note that James Dean and John Cazale (above) are the only actors to have a perfect record in the movies. Consider:

James Dean-
Rebel Without a Cause; East of Eden; Giant

John Cazale-
The Godfather Parts I and II; The Conversation; Dog Day Afternoon; The Deer Hunter

Not a clunker for each of them. May I add that Cazale's filmography consists of three best picture Oscar winners, and the other two were nominated in the category (
The Conversation and Dog Day Afternoon).

Harry and Furman clarify that they are not out to make a list of the worst films of all time, but one that declares the worst movie for each actor. For example, there is
Town & Country for Warren Beatty; Beyond Borders for Angelina Jolie; The Adventures of Pluto Nash for Eddie Murphy; and Waking Up in Reno for Charlize Theron.

Of course, there are the usual suspects: Kevin Costner in
The Postman; Jennifer Lopez in Gigli; Demi Moore in The Scarlet Letter; Adam Sandler in Little Nicky; and, naturally, Madonna in Swept Away.

Some of their select entries:

On Michael Keaton in Jack Frost- "Actors: Don't take a role that has you die in the early stages of a film and then brought back as something that doesn't look at all like you. Rarely- and, by rarely, we mean occasional parts of
Robocop- will the results be anything but embarrassing."

On Keanu Reeves- "Here's a strategy: If you have a reputation as one of the stiffest actors in movies, perhaps appearing in a movie with even worse actors might help. Problem with that strategy: It doesn't work. Case in point:
Johnny Mnemonic...."

On Vin Diesel in
The Chronicles of Riddick: "In the case of most actors in this book, there's an expectation of quality- otherwise, how could one be disappointed? Vin Diesel is a different matter."

On the one hand, you might be disappointed that some stars are not included when many A-listers are. Like, where's Leonardo DiCaprio or Susan Sarandon? On the other hand, it is comforting that they do not make this particular list.

"In the Can" also deflates the notion that Brad Pitt and Drew Barrymore have been some of the biggest movie stars in the last two, three decades. On Pitt: "It's hard to give him credit for bringing viewers in to
Interview with a Vampire or Seven. Other factors (Tom Cruise; graphic, gimmicky serial killing) held more sway. And when he was paired with other big, big stars [The Mexican, The Devil's Own, Twelve Monkeys, Sleepers], the films actually underperformed." And, of Barrymore: "(She) was more of a cultural icon than an actress for most of her first 20 years."

If you cannot take their word for it, they turn to reviews by critics like John Simon, J. Hoberman, Manohla Dargis, and Kenneth Turan. For example, in their entry for Kevin Spacey, they quote John Anderson from Newsday: "The real problem seems to be that Spacey has caught might be called Kevin Costner-itis - a sense that he thinks he's doing the audience a favor every time he appears on screen. He isn't doing anyone a favor with
Beyond the Sea and that, sadly, includes Bobby Darin."

For a book that thrives on actors doing bad movies, it is somewhat surprising that some are mentioned only in passing. No main entries for Dan Aykroyd, Garry Shandling, or Michael Caine, for instance. The book throws in some praise, though, for such players as David Paymer.

Harry and Furman also take note of some guiding principles that Hollywood- and you- should already know about. In the entry for Gwyneth Paltrow, they write of Huey Lewis: "Watching
Duets, you start to get an idea as to why smart directors, like Moulin Rouge's Baz Luhrman (sic), use real actors who can kind of sing (e.g., Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor), as opposed to real singers who can kind of act (Neil Young, Tom Petty and Ric Ocasek in Made in Heaven anybody?....)

"In the Can" also notes that TV stars probably ought to stay TV stars, that actors who make bombs will most likely bounce back, and that even the best directors like Martin Scorsese and Billy Wilder can stumble. As for Robert Altman, it is possible to make a flop out of a John Grisham (
The Gingerbread Man).

The book, though, could have used some more proofreading. The factual errors are most noticeable, as in spelling (Jon Voigt?) and history (Bruce Davison did not get an Oscar for
Longtime Companion- or any other movie).

Harry and Furman claim to have learned a few lessons while doing the book, the biggest one being, "...we can't help but appreciate how hard it must be to make a decent film. Hell, look at all the terrific actors and directors involved in these turkeys. If they can't figure out a formula that always works, then who could?" But when they spend the next 158 pages taking glee at these failures, it is hard to take their word on that one.

Other than that, this is an enjoyable collection of reviews of bad movies, even when you can't agree with a few of the choices.