Monday, April 23, 2007

Best of Golden Rock - April 16th to April 22nd

The following is a compilation of the most notable news covered by The Golden Rock from April 16th to April 22nd.

- As Variety Asia reported, the Thai censorship board asked for several cuts to the film that show doctors behaving (comparatively) badly. When the director refused, the board refused to give the film back and threatens to make the cuts anyway. Now, the whole issue is getting huge, as Jason Gray reports that there is now an internet petition against the Thai censorship board, calling for a free Thai film industry.

- Here's something to get excited about for today - the first full length trailer for Takeshi Kitano's comedy "Kantoku Banzai," courtesy of Twitch. It looks crazy as hell, and a lot of fun too.

- So remember over the weekend, Shochiku announced that the opening day box office was so high for the film version of Tokyo Tower that they expect it to surpass Kimura Takuya X Yoji Yamada's 4 billion yen hit "Love and Honor?" Well, the Japan box office numbers are out, and Eiga Consultant can't see how that's possible. On its opening day, Tokyo Tower made only 196 million yen, which is 90% of the 1.41 billion yen-grossing Shinobi. In fact, its opening day gross was only 65% of what Love and Honor made on its opening day. You can compare the results yourself for Love and Honor and Tokyo Tower with those links. My own calculation (following the exchange rate BOM used for the respective weeks) actually showed that Tokyo Tower only made 53% of Love and Honor's opening weekend, but that only furthers the point that Shochiku is lying out of their asses. This isn't the first time Japanese distributors overestimated final grosses anyway; remember the Genghis Kahn movie? Exactly.

- The big news out of Hong Kong is not only Lau Ching-Wan's best actor win at the Hong Kong Film Awards, but also fellow nominee Chow Yun-Fat withdrawing from John Woo's epic The Battle of Red Cliff. It's another "he-said-he-said" (there's no she in this story) type of situation - producer Terence Chang said that the financiers can't acquiesce to Chow's request to pay his salary of US$5 million at once (which is reportedly 3 times the salary he got for Curse of the Golden Flower), while Chow's side says that he got the script too late, which meant he couldn't prepare early enough for a role that requires him to speak in Mandarin (Chow's native tongue is Cantonese). He also said he already took a pay cut for not demanding a raise after the decision was make to split the films in two (um....they're shooting it at the same time anyway). This is the second major blow to Woo's ambitious US$70-million project after star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai dropped out due to the 6-month shooting schedule. Of course, the bigger question is whether Chow's withdrawal will affect Woo and Chow's legendary friendship.

- Reading Kafka's "Metamorphosis" (for a Comparative Literature class) and Kobo Abe's "Woman in the Dunes" in the same quarter put me in a huge existential crisis. In other words, it was one of the greatest academic periods of my life. Anyway, I mention this because Criterion is releasing Teshigahara's surprisingly faithful adaptation of Woman in the Dunes in July on DVD as part of a Teshigahara boxset. Anyone looking to get into an existential funk should check out this surreal classic.

- I'm sure many have heard about the Virginia Tech shooting allegedly committed by a disturbed South Korean immigrant student. At one point, the Chinese press got a hold of reports that a Chinese student actually did the deed and ran with it (the local Chinese papers I saw today all have it on their headlines). During that time, the Chinese press ran into chaos, trying to decide whether to run the story or not, while the netizens reacted very quickly on the message boards. This is their story.

- Hollywood Reporter reports that Japanese music sales have been declining since last year, and the majority of that loss actually is in declining sales of foreign music. Not that Japanese music weren't selling less either; their decline just wasn't as bad. One thing I don't understand is why Japanese music as priced so much more expensive than its foreign counterpart - According to the figures, even foreign CD (album and singles included) cost an average of $9.30, while a Japanese music cost an average of $10.54. It doesn't seem like a big difference, but Japanese albums can cost over 1000 yen more than American albums. Is it production costs? Is it simply a way to cash in on a market that can move almost 53 million units?

- A while ago, I complained that Japanese television broadcasters were not stepping up quick enough to get its dramas overseas. Once a giant market for exporting dramas, Japan has since been overshadowed by South Korea. Finally, the broadcasters are waking up, and are collaborating with the Communication Ministry to build an online database for potential buyers of TV shows. Japan does make decent television shows that should be just as popular as the ones in South Korea, but its lack of access for foreign audience has caused those potential audiences to find other ways to access these contents such as Bittorrent and triad-sanctioned pirated discs.

- CBS has chosen China as the next spot for its popular reality show Survivor. While this is a great development for western media trying to break into China, it should also speak volumes about how living in Mainland China can actually be equal to living on a jungle island in the middle of nowhere with no civilized necessity. Maybe finding a way to talk about Tiananmen Square in public without getting sent to a labor camp can be one of the challenges.

- In an exercise in redundancy, the Australian government has backed the establishment of a Pan-Asian film awards. The Asia Pacific Screen Awards will take place in November in Queensland for at least three years before being moved to another country. In an even wiser movie, the show will be recorded for CNN and would concentrate on recognizing films from countries we don't necessarily associate with film rather than blinging it up on the red carpet.

The bad news? It'll only offer 3 nominations per category and its winner will be determined by a 3-member jury? It may beat Hong Kong in presentation, but this award might just lose on credibility.

- Tony Leung Chiu-Wai has signed back onto John Woo's troubled production of Battle on Red Cliff. Oriental Daily first broke the news without official confirmation, while Ming Pao waited. Excerpt as follows:


Last night, "Red Cliff" producer admitted to the news via the internet: "After communication with Mr. Leung Chiu-Wai, based on his 20-year friendship with John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat's departure, and the need to continue shooting the much-anticipated film, he decided to rejoin the film after John Woo invited him, helping John Woo due to the pressing need.


Terence Chang said, since Tony have already read the script thoroughly (The first draft was given to him early last year), Chow's problem with the script will not occur (But Chang has not responded to the question of what specific script problem Chow had).

Original Chinese report.

Variety Asia also has an English report.

- The Cannes 2007 lineup has been announced. As predicted, Wong Kar-Wai's English-language debut My Blueberry Nights will be opening the festival, assuming that Wong is actually done with post-production. Representing Asia in competition will be South Korea's Kim Ki-Duk with "Breath," South Korea's Lee Chang-Dong's "Secret Sunshine," and Japan's Naomi Kawase with "Mogari No Mor." Except for Wong, no Hong Kong films will be screened in or out of competition, despite predictions that Tsui Hark-Ringo Lam-Johnnie To actioner Triangle might make it. Nevertheless, the lineup looks pretty solid.

- Look at what Hong Kong celebrities are doing with their Nintendo DS - some publicity photos have caught these celebrities playing their DS's with an add-on that's designed to enable the DS to play pirated games.

- Variety has an early review of Spiderman 3, and it's not a very positive one. On the other hand, Hollywood Reporter seemed to have loved it. Sounds like it's gonna be fun, but a bit of a mess as well.

- Hong Kong films are going through a bit of a slump in Japan. From the weak box office of Battle of Wits to the recently-released Rob-B-Hood, the latest casualty is the number 8 highest Hong Kong grosser last year Dragon Tiger Gate. On about 40 screens nationwide, the film grossed only 5.9 million yen. That's 11% of Seven Swords and 23% of Rob-B-Hood's openings. Even The Queen managed a 5.59 million yen opening on one screen. Ouch.

- I don't like Tokyo's nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara, and I don't look forward to his new film "I Go to My Death For You" (he's the producer and writer), about Kamikaze pilots during World War II. It looks like Kazuyuki Izutsu, the director of the acclaimed film "Pacchigi!!" and its upcoming sequel, doesn't like it either. In his protest of the recent trend of nationalist Japanese film that seem to glorify war, he warned at a press conference that films like Ishihara's might create "warlike people." Of course, star Yosuke Kubozuka has some strong words for Izutsu too.

- Grady Hendrix explains why the controversy surrounding Oldboy and the Virginia Tech shooter is very misguided. It would be nice if the press that reports it have actually seen the film and realizes that Oldboy is a film that's about the futility of revenge rather than a film that glorifies it.

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