Zhang Yimou’s “Flowers” Out of Oscar Best Foreign Language Film Race

January 18, 2012

Christian Bale and Ni Ni star in Zhang Yimou's Nanjing massacre drama "The Flowers of War" (China, 145 min.)

Nine films will advance to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 84th Academy Awards®. Sixty-three films had originally qualified in the category. As the short list was announced in Beverly Hills on Jan. 18, Zhang Yimou’s Oscar dream is once again crushed.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:

Belgium, “Bullhead,” Michael R. Roskam, director;
Canada, “Monsieur Lazhar,” Philippe Falardeau, director;
Denmark, “Superclásico,” Ole Christian Madsen, director;
Germany, “Pina,” Wim Wenders, director;
Iran, “A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi, director;
Israel, “Footnote,” Joseph Cedar, director;
Morocco, “Omar Killed Me,” Roschdy Zem, director;
Poland, “In Darkness,” Agnieszka Holland, director;
Taiwan, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” Wei Te-sheng, director.

Foreign Language Film nominations for 2011 are determined in two phases.

The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 63 eligible films between mid-October and January 13. The group’s top six choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist.

The shortlist will be winnowed down to the five nominees by specially invited committees in New York and Los Angeles. They will spend Friday, January 20, through Sunday, January 22, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots.

The 84th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 24, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, February 26, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar® presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.

Source: http://www.deadline.com


Top 10 Box Office Films of 2011 in China

January 13, 2012

Small budget rom-com "Love is Not Blind" (d. Teng Huatao, 109 min.) was a box-office miracle in 2011.

China’s domestic box office hit all-time high once again in 2011. Chinese cinemas raked in more than 13 billion yuan (13.115 billion, more than 2 billion U.S. dollars) in box-office revenue in 2011, according to Tong Gang, director of the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), a jump of 28.93% compared to the 2010 figure. China may have surpassed India and the UK in 2011 to become the third-largest film market in the world after the United States and Japan.

China made a record number of 791 films in total in 2011, which include 558 feature films, 26 documentaries, 76 educational films, 5 special films, and 102 Made-for-TV films, according to Tong Gang’s SARFT report. Domestic films account for more than half of China’s 2011 box office (53.6%), a deep sigh of relief for SARFT bureaucrats.

As more urban Chinese are accustomed to going to the cinema, 803 new theaters or 3,030 screens were constructed/added in 2011. Mainland China now has 2,800 professional theaters, with 9,200 professional screens in total.

The following is the list of the Top 10 Box Office Films of 2011 in China (in Chinese yuan); notice that 6 Hollywood blockbusters made the top 10 list:

1.    Transformers: Dark of the Moon (d. Michael Bay); domestic box office (dbo): 1.1 billion yuan;
2.    Kung Fu Panda II (d. Jennifer Yuh Nelson); dbo: 610 million yuan;
3.    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (d. Rob Marshall); dbo: 470 million yuan;
4.    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (d. David Yates); dbo: 410 million yuan;
5.    The Beginning of a Great Revival (建党伟业;d. Han Sanping, Huang Jianxin); dbo: 410 million yuan;
6.    The Flowers of War (金陵十三钗;d. Zhang Yimou); dbo: 400 million yuan (still playing);
7.    The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (龙门飞甲;d. Tsui Hark); dbo: 400 million yuan (still playing);
8.    Love is Not Blind (失恋33天;d. Teng Huatao); dbo: 360 million yuan;
9.    Fast Five (d. Justin Lin); dbo: 260 million yuan;
10.    The Smurfs (d. Raja Gosnell); dbo: 260 million yuan.


Spectrum of History and Cultural Topography: The Transnational Relation between Hollywood and Chinese-Language Cinema

January 3, 2012

Spectrum of History and Cultural Topography: The Transnational Relation between Hollywood and Chinese-Language Cinema (Co-Editor; 历史光谱与文化地形:跨国语境中的好莱坞与华语电影). Guangxi: Guangxi Normal University Press, 2012.
ISBN: 978-7-5495-0853-2
Price: 49 yuan

Book Cover of "Spectrum of History and Cultural Topography: The Transnational Relation between Hollywood and Chinese-Language Cinema"

This is a collection of essays based on the “Retrospective and Prospective: The Cinematic Boulevard between Hollywood and China” conference held in Shanghai in June, 2006. Despite its nature of being a book featuring many authors and individual articles, it is carefully edited to reflect the tumultuous and sometimes volatile history of the relation between Hollywood and Chinese cinema: from the birth of Chinese cinema in the 1900s to the “golden ages” of Chinese cinema in the 1930s and the late 1940s, from the anti-Hollywood movement in the 1950s and subsequent elimination of Hollywood films during the Cultural Revolution to Hollywood’s re-entry into the Chinese film market in the mid-1990s, and from China’s entry into WTO to recent integration and discord between the two. The book, in other words, can be read as a history of the cinematic relationship between the United States and China, the two dominant film markets in the world today (recent box-office figure indicates that China may have surpassed India and the UK in 2011 to become the third-largest film market in the world).

Besides its value in delineating the history of the cinematic exchanges/breakup between the United States and China, the book also contains a section (its first chapter) that attempts to theorize or re-define the complex relationship in the changing context of globalization, arguing that we need to understand and approach this relationship with the introduction of such conceptual frameworks as “flow of images,” “global consumption of filmed materials,” and globalized/transnational nature of film production and distribution. It reflects the recent scholarship in China on this important relationship.


My New Year Eve’s Experience: The Drive-In Theater

January 1, 2012

Big ads outside the Mission Tiki, Montclair, California, one of the few surviving outdoor drive-in theaters still in operation today

The drive-in theater used to be part of the American dream in the 1950s and the 1960s, as its popularity resulted largely from the exodus of millions of Americans moving to the single house developed along the outskirts of big cities, and the baby boom generation grew up watching films in family cars in the open air. According to the NATO (National Association for Theater Owners) statistics, at its heyday, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters across the United States, making the drive-in theater a cinematic landmark. It is a little unimaginable, but in the late 1950s, America had more drive-in movie theaters than indoor screens.

But every indication right now points at the direction that the outdoor drive-in theater is fast disappearing. By the end of 2009, NATO statistics says, there were only 628 drive-in theaters left in America, and this number is shrinking everyday, particularly at a time when converting to digital projection seems to be inevitable and the conversion cost is usually too high for independent exhibitors to afford.

Mission Tiki Drive-in Theater in Montclair, California, playing fist-run films, 7 dollars per adult per double-feature.

Partly due to its endangered status, and partly due to my childhood experience of watching Communist propaganda films in the open air in China, I decided to spend my New Year’s Eve at a local drive-in theater called Mission Tiki. Opened in 1956 as a single screen drive-in, Mission Tiki now has four screens, and it is divided into four connected lots, each screen/lot playing two films at the same time. In winter, the double-feature screening starts at 7:00pm when it is completely dark, and ends around 11:00pm. The picture quality is decent, but certainly not as good, sharp, and bright as that in indoor theaters, and the sound is transmitted through FM radios, although not comparable to theater sound, at least perfectly synced.

Surprisingly, Mission Tiki  plays first-run films. I watched Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol and The Sitter (a silly comedy) on New Year’s Eve 2012. Although I’ve been living in America for more than two decades, this is my first visit to the drive-in theater. There were only about 10 cars in my lot, which perhaps is another sign indicating that this kind of cinema venue will soon become extinct.

No matter what holds true for the future of the drive-in theater, however, I must say that it was quite an unique and stimulating experience to visit Mission Tiki on New Year’s Eve 2012. It brought my childhood memory back and brightened my New Year’s day. Let’s all remain hopeful for year 2012.