Filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai's martial arts epic The Grandmaster dominated the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday (13Apr14) after winning 12 honours. The movie was named Best Film and earned Zhang Ziyi the Best Actress title, while Best Supporting Actor went to her co-star Zhang Jin.
Wong walked away as Best Director, 20 years after his last win in the same category for 1994's Chungking Express.
During his acceptance speech, Wong, who also claimed the same prize for 1990's Days of Being Wild, said, "I remember it was 1994 when I was last here. It was a short walk from the podium to the stage, but it took me 20 years to come back to this spot."
The Grandmaster also landed accolades for Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Film Score and Best Action Choreography, among others.
Meanwhile, Nick Cheung won the Best Actor award for his role in mixed martial arts drama Unbeatable, Kara Wai scored Best Supporting Actress for Rigor Mortis and Best New Director went to Adam Wong for The Way We Dance.
Director Cheung Yam-Yim was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Grandmaster's big wins at the Hong Kong Film Awards follows similar success at the Asia Film Awards and the Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild Awards last month (Mar14).
Revered Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai dedicated his Best Director honour at the Asia Film Awards to stuntman Ju Kun, who is among the passengers feared dead following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The moviemaker fought back tears as he accepted his latest trophy in Macau on Thursday (27Mar14), revealing that the families of the missing people were constantly on his mind.
Wong Kar Wai received his award for The Grandmaster, which features Ju Kun in stunt scenes.
The film's star, Zhang Ziyi, who was awarded the Best Actress prize at the AFAs, burst into tears during her director's emotional speech.
Kun boarded the doomed flight to return to his family in Beijing, China.
The aircraft disappeared from civilian radar screens on 8 March (14), less than an hour after take off from Kuala Lumpur.
No confirmed sighting of the plane has been made since, although satellite images suggest the plane crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean. All 227 passengers are presumed dead.
Wong Kar Wai's new film swept the board at the AFAs, picking up seven awards in total, including Best Film and Best Score.
India's The Lunchbox landed writer/director Ritesh Batra the Best Screenplay award and leading man Irfan Khan the Best Actor honour.
Oscar-nominated martial arts film The Grandmaster swept the board at the Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild Awards on Wednesday (05Mar14), earning four prizes including Best Film. Wong Kar-wai was also named Best Director, while the movie's stars, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Zhang Ziyi claimed Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively.
Babyjohn Choi earned the Best Newcomer honour for his role as a tai chi master in The Way We Dance, which also landed Adam Wong the title of Best New Director.
The Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild also had a special award for As the Light Goes Out moviemaker Derek Kwok.
The annual event celebrates the best in Chinese film.
Chinese actor Tony Leung broke both his arms filming fight scenes for Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster after the director refused to use stunt doubles for the martial arts movie. The Lust, Caution star portrays Bruce Lee's kung-fu tutor Ip Man in the film, and Wong admits Leung was not deterred by the injuries because the director had fully warned him about the lengths he would have to go through for the biopic, which took a gruelling three years to complete.
During a special post-screening question and answer session with Martin Scorsese in New York on Wednesday (08Jan14), Wong explained, "I spoke with Tony and said, 'I am going to make a movie about Ip Man and you're going to play this master. You have to do hand-to-hand combat sequences by yourself. There won't be a double. You have to do some serious training.' He thought about it and said 'OK.'"
Wong also revealed that he had turned to Scorsese's 1980 boxing epic Raging Bull to pick up tips on how to best shoot the fight scenes.
He told a flattered Scorsese: "It was a very hard process to do the action in this film. In fact, when we were doing our choreography sequences, I looked at your secrets in Raging Bull, because it's one of the best action sequences made in the history of cinema."
And Wong continued to praise the revered filmmaker throughout the discussion at the Lighthouse International Theater, telling the crowd, "It's a great honour to be here with my hero, and he's very gracious to join us in light of his terrible (busy) schedule."
Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster and Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty are among the nine semi-finalists for the 2014 Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film category. Representatives from a record 76 countries submitted their top picks for the Academy Award in October (13), and the longlist has been gradually cut down in the run-up to the 2014 prizegiving.
The contenders were reduced to nine on Friday (20Dec13) and the new list also features: The Broken Circle Breakdown by Felix van Groeningen (Belgium); An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker from Danis Tanovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina); The Missing Picture by Rithy Panh (Cambodia); The Hunt by Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark); Two Lives from Georg Maas (Germany), The Notebook by Janos Szasz (Hungary), and Hany Abu-Assad's Omar (Palestine).
The final shortlist will feature five movies in contention for the big prize and will be announced on 16 January (14), when the Oscar nominations will be unveiled.
The 86th Academy Awards will take place in Hollywood on 2 March (14).
Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen has won the top prize at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards for his directorial debut. Ilo Ilo was named Best Feature Film at Saturday's ceremony in Taipei, beating competition from Johnnie To's Drug War, Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin, The Grandmaster from Wong Kar Wai, and Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs.
The drama, about a maid's awkward relationship with her employers, also earned Chen Best Original Screenplay and Best New Director honours, while its star, Yeo Yann Yann, was named Best Supporting Actress.
The accolades will give Chen a big boost ahead of the 2014 Oscars, where Ilo Ilo, which was a winner at the Cannes Film Festival in France in May (13), has been put forward as Singapore's official entry for the Foreign Language Film award.
It was also a big night for Wong Kar Wai - martial arts film The Grandmaster claimed Best Leading Actress for Zhang Ziyi, in addition to four other wins in craft categories, while Stray Dogs landed Best Director for Tsai Ming-liang and Best Leading Actor for Lee Kang Sheng.
Best Supporting Actor went to Xuejian Li for Back to 1942.
The winners for the Golden Horse Awards, which celebrate the best in Chinese-language cinema, were decided by a jury led by Oscar winner Ang Lee.
Zhang Ziyi has been a leading martial arts star for over a decade, and in her latest, Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster, Zhang gives her stongest performance yet. After breaking onto the scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang has steadily starred in a string of epic kung fu tales, including Zhang Yimou's Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Even when she's not flying through the air with a sword or kicking multiple men at the same time, she rules the screen with just about everything she does. Here is the proof, in GIF form.
In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang proves that she can hold her own with a much more experienced kung fu master.
She can even fight without looking while drinking tea.
Just throw that sword sheath casually to the side, NBD.
This girl likes her swords sharp.
In Hero, she takes on Jet Li. When this much fierce comes at you, you best get out the way.
Multiple attackers are no match for Zhang.
In Rush Hour 2, Zhang knows martial arts and how to shoot a gun. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Even when she gets stabbed, she makes it look kind of cute.
Zhang's beauty is mesmerizing, especially in black and white.
She's even beautiful when she's somber and saying some really depressing stuff.
House of Flying Daggers showcases Zhang's dance skills in a gorgeous brothel.
But that doesn't mean she doesn't also have amazing kung fu skills.
Even though she plays a blind woman, Zhang can still fend off bad guys while balancing between two bamboo trees.
Sometimes she can be pretty tricky with her assassinations.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, she has one fierce head-turn.
Here she is fighting in The Grandmaster, in which she is a total, utter badass.
Did we mention that she's awesome?
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Acclaimed director Wong Kar-Wai was saluted with France's highest cultural honour on Sunday (05May13) in celebration of his lengthy career. The In The Mood For Love moviemaker was named a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) and presented with the medal by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the consul-general's official residence in Hong Kong.
The filmmaker said the award is "in a way, a tribute to Hong Kong cinema," and that France is cinema's "spirit home."
His induction into the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres means he follows in the footsteps of screen stars including Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery and Michael Caine, and singer David Bowie.
The Man with the Iron Fists the directorial debut of music artist RZA is clearly a love letter to all of the Wu Tang frontman's passions. An old school kung fu movie infused with hip hop beats and a comic book aesthetic Iron Fists rarely makes a lick of sense but it's a collage of imagination — and that earns it a few points. Like a cinematic version of the backyard games we all used to play RZA casts himself as a Chinese town's resident badass who teams up with a cowboy to take down an army of ninjas assassins. The freeform style allows him to run wild rarely providing actual thrills but resulting in an action movie overflowing with heart. Bloody bloody heart.
The manic script for Iron Fists written by RZA and Eli Roth (Cabin Fever Hostel) interlocks a handful of colorful characters with varying degrees of success: The Blacksmith (RZA) a freed slave who hopes to earn enough bucks to whisk his love prostitute Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) away from the Pink Blossom brothel; Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) the brothel's owner (and local mobster); Silver Lion (Byron Mann) a murderous gangster out to overtake the city with the help of his magical metallic underling Brass Body (Dave Bautista); Zen Yi a.k.a. The X-Blade (Rick Yune) whose father was killed at the hands of Silver Lion and now seeks revenge; and Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) a mysterious British gunslinger taking residence at the Pink Blossom who may have ulterior motives. Iron Fists bounces between the plot threads without much worry — you never really know who is doing what or why. But if characters say what they're thinking with conviction then beat the daylights out of their opponent it's supposed to suffice. More often than not it does.
What Iron Fists lacks in coherency it makes up for in absurdity. RZA pumps up the volume on every element of the film from costumes that shoot daggers to flamboyant overacting evildoers to Jack Knife taking the goriest route to defeat an enemy (in this case using a knife gun to rip up a heavyset man's insides). Taking a page from mentor Quentin Tarantino's book anything can happen in this Eastern martial soap opera and everything does happen. It's money shot after money shot the rapid pace reminiscent of channel surfing — likely the way most kung fu fans stumbled upon the type of films that inspire Iron Fists back in the '70s and '80s.
Not every moment pops — unlike Liu and Crowe RZA doesn't exactly light up the screen when given the freedom to go crazy. Blacksmith is a muted mumbling character who doesn't throw himself into a fight the way a kung fu movie demands from its lead. Behind the camera the fight scenes are choreographed similarly to how the movie is structured: randomly with the occasional inspired moment. But the inventiveness of the mechanics keeps Iron Fists working. A scene with two twins using contortion to throw and kick and punch their way through hoards of bad guys is a joy. Seeing Crowe (obviously not an expert in martial arts) lay down a few moves is pure fun too.
The Man with the Iron Fists isn't as expertly crafted as Tarantino's Kill Bill but it has more mind-boggling oddities. RZA unleashes his passion into the film so even when the story or action isn't working something else on screen is.
It's rare that a sequel trumps the original but The Expendables 2 manages to do just that with a steady stream of one-liners and welcome weathered faces as well as a few new ingredients. E2 seems even more self-aware of its own silliness especially with Jean-Claude Van Damme as the villain (named Vilain of course) and Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger popping up in smaller roles alongside previous Expendables Sylvester Stallone Jason Statham Jet Li Dolph Lundgren Bruce Willis Terry Crews and Randy Couture.
Then again The Expendables wasn't any sort of action classic; it was like writer/director/star Stallone threw a whole bunch of ideas at the wall to see which would stick then added massive amounts of weapons and the occasional hand-to-hand combat. It was popular but it definitely not the kind of awesome actioner that the stars were able to make 10 or 20 years ago. There's the rub actually; like women actors who have written or directed their own projects because nothing else was available or satisfactory Stallone created The Expendables because Hollywood didn't seem to know what to do with him and his fellow action stars as they got older. It's easy to criticize Stallone et al for not doing the same amount of stunt work or hand-to-hand fighting that for example Statham is capable of but the whole thrust of the movie is that they're expendable -- to themselves to the world and until Stallone kickstarted these movies to Hollywood.
E2 is still clumsy but it's a little more adventurous and a little more introspective. Two new additions to the crew seem to throw everyone for a loop in one way or another. Liam Hemsworth shows up as Bill the Kid a sniper who left the military after a raid in Afghanistan went horribly wrong; his age and hopefulness not to mention physical prowess is a foil the Sylvester Stallone's Barney Ross and one that Barney is well aware of. Nan Yu joins the team as Maggie who is apparently the only person who can disarm the safe that holds whatever secret thing Church (Willis) has sent them to retrieve. And if the Expendables don't get her back alive Church will make them pay because even though Maggie is some sort of multilingual computer genius with a vicious roundhouse she's a lady. On one hand perhaps we're supposed to gather that this group of old dogs is learning new tricks by having to deal with a smart capable woman in their midst; the attempts Gunner (Lundgren) makes to flirt with her are clunky and goofy and she's obviously way too smart for fall for that claptrap. On the other when she whips out some instruments of torture Barney cracks "What are you going to do give them a pedicure?" And of course her role also devolves into an incredibly stilted and unbelievable romantic interest for Barney. One point for trying but two points deducted for falling into the romantic interest trap.
At times it's hard to tell whether or not we're laughing with the crew or at them. Plus because of how jam-packed the cast is some actors get the short end of the stick. Statham is the most charismatic of the bunch and he also has the most impressive hand-to-hand fight scenes but the emphasis in E2 is sheer firepower so he doesn't get nearly enough screen time. Couture is fairly forgettable while Lundgren plays the lunkiest of lunkheads; the running joke is that he has a chemical engineering degree from MIT and was a Fulbright Scholar which is supposed to be funny... except it's also true. (We're to assume he's mended his evil ways between the first Expendables and the second.) Is Lundgren agreeably poking fun at himself the same way Schwarzenegger hams it up at every turn? Or does E2 have shades of JCVD which stars Van Damme was a washed-up action star? Are the emotional moments supposed to fall so hilariously flat on purpose? For some reason it seems important to tease out which parts of these movies are earnest and which are tongue-in-cheek.
There's a weird melancholy about watching this group of aging action stars that has the same tang as watching someone you love grow older especially as they try so very hard to fight the ravages of time. If you dig a little deeper maybe deeper than E2 warrants you could find a well of sadness below the back-slapping antics. The world has changed and even though Stallone and his crew have muscles so hard and juicy they could pop out of their skin like grapes they can't compete with Bill the Kid and Maggie and others like them. They know it and we know it and while it's good fun to see old friends or onscreen enemies kill scores of bad guys (led by JCVD sporting a truly horrible fake Baphomet-style neck tattoo) there are better smarter more exciting and more interesting action films on the horizon.
And there's also The Expendables 3.