My Prediction of This Year’s Major Oscars

January 17, 2013

2012 was a good year for Hollywood, not only because theater admissions were up by 5.6 percent — the biggest single increase in a decade, resulting in a record box office year with $10.8 billion expected (up 6% over last year’s figure), but also because the year saw quite a few quality films top the charts, covering a variety of different genres. As a result, in the Best Picture category, 9 films were nominated, making the Oscar prediction a little hard. The following predictions are divided into two categories: the one that WILL win and the one that SHOULD win, meaning my voting (if I was qualified to vote) will differ from that of the majority of the nearly 6,000 voting members of the Academy:

1. BEST PICTURE: Well, I think it will be a battle between Lincoln and Argo, with the latter just picking up the momentum after the surprising win at Golden Globe. But Academy members, I predict, will go for the former. I instead prefer Les Misérables. To me, Lincoln is too America-centered and to a certain extend resembles the “main melody” films (Party-sanctioned propaganda films) produced in China (such as The Founding of a Republic).
Will Win: Lincoln;
Should Win: Les Misérables.

2. BEST DIRECTOR: I predict this will be Steven Spielberg’s year. Although it seems to me that Steven Spielberg has somehow lost his creative edge after Saving Private Ryan, Academy members may not think so, and Lincoln will be the biggest winner at this year’s Oscar ceremony.
Will Win: Steven Spielberg;
Should Win: Tom Hooper (the odd thing is that he was not even nominated; so this prediction doesn’t count).

3. BEST ACTOR: It is unanimous, and there will be no complication. The winner WILL and SHOULD be: Daniel Day-Lewis for his role in Lincoln. Too unfortunate for Denzel Washington and Hugh Jackman.

4. BEST ACTRESS: This will be a showdown between veteran performer Emmanuelle Riva and newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, the latter playing a slightly neurotic dance lover in Silver Linings Playbook. Emmanuelle Riva, on the other hand, delivers an Oscar-worthy performance in Amour as an ailing music teacher, bringing back our memory of her beauty in Hiroshima mon amour (1959).
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence;
Should Win: Emmanuelle Riva.

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: It will be a battle between Christoph Waltz and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master. It seems that Christoph Waltz is sailing along smoothly, pocketing the Golden Globe in this category. But I hope the Academy will acknowledge the great talent of Philip Seymour Hoffman this time.
Will Win: Christoph Waltz;
Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman.

6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: No ambiguity, and the winner WILL and SHOULD be Anne Hathaway. She is just mesmerizing in Les Misérables.

7. BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Like last year’s A Separation, Amour from Austria will win this category without any serious rival. It was even nominated in the Best Director and Best Film categories, making it a rare “foreign” film that enjoys the status of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1997).


Top 10 Box Office Films of 2012 in China

January 6, 2013
Low-budget road comedy "Lost in Thailand" (d. XU Zheng, 104 min.) has become the highest-grossing Chinese film ever with over 1 billion yuan in box-office earnings.

Low-budget road comedy “Lost in Thailand” (d. XU Zheng, 104 min.) has become the highest-grossing Chinese film ever with over 1 billion yuan in box-office earnings.

China’s domestic box office hit all-time high once again in 2012. Chinese cinemas raked in more than 16.8 billion yuan (close to 3 billion U.S. dollars) in box-office revenue in 2012, a jump of about 29% compared to the 2011 figure. China may have surpassed Japan in 2012 to become the second-largest film market in the world after the United States (about 11 billion U.S. dollars in 2012).

The flip side of this dramatic growth is that, for the first time in recent memory, foreign films (mainly Hollywood blockbusters) made more money at the box office, reaching 52.4%, while domestic films account for less than half of China’s 2012 box office (47.6%).

The following is the list of the Top 10 Box Office Films of 2012 in China (in Chinese yuan); notice that only 3 Chinese films made the top 10 list, and Feng Xiaogang’s big-budget historical drama Back to 1942 failed to make the list (ranked the 11th):

1.    Lost in Thailand (人在囧途之泰囧;d. XU Zheng); domestic box office (dbo): 989 million yuan (up to December 31, 2012);
2.    Titanic 3D (d. James Cameron); dbo: 939 million yuan;
3.    Painted Skin: The Resurrection (画皮 II;d. Wuershan); dbo: 702 million yuan;
4.    Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol (d. Brad Bird); dbo: 679 million yuan;
5.    Life of Pi (d. Ang Lee); dbo: 571 million yuan;
6.    The Avengers (d. Joss Whedon); dbo: 565 million yuan;
7.    Chinese Zodiac (十二生肖;d. Jackie Chan); dbo: 524 million yuan (up to December 31, 2012);
8.    Men in Black III (d. Barry Sonnenfeld); dbo: 500 million yuan;
9.    Ice Age: Continental Drift (d. Mike Thurmeier & Steve Martino); dbo: 447 million yuan;
10.   Journey 2: The Mysterious (d. Brad Peyton); dbo: 387 million yuan.

Happy New Year to My Readers

January 1, 2013

In honor of New Year’s Day, I guess I’d like to share with my readers, particularly with those wine enthusiasts among them, the best wines I had in the year just past. It’s not my intention to show off, but these wines were quite special and, after watching films like Sideways (2004), I suppose one could no longer deny there is an intimate link between wine and cinema. Both of them are ultimately about life and about fatally flawed species called humans, right? I hope someday I will find time writing an essay on wine and cinema, quite an engaging topic!

Quality wines from France and Australia.

Quality wines from France and Australia.

The quality wines I tasted last year were all served at my friend’s birthday party in October. He could be labelled as an obsessed wine drinker and collector, so at his birthday party, the flagship wine was a 1962 (my friend was born in 1962) Chateau Lafite Rothschild bottle (left), followed by 1970 Chateau La Fleur-Petrus (second from the left), 1978 Chambolle-Musigny (middle), 1987 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (fourth from the left), and Australia’s 1992 Henschke: Hill of Grace.

French and Italian wines.

French and Italian wines.

After the first round of wine tasting, we (10 of us) switched to another room and had formal dinner, with steaks as the main course. The dinner was accompanied with another five bottles of wine: 1994 Chateau Ausone (left), 1975 Chateau Haut Brion (second from the left), 2003 Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey (middle), 1993 Chateau Giscours: Margaux (fourth from the left), and Italy’s 2004 Brunello di Montalcino.

So, Happy New Year and May Fine Wine Ignite Everyone’s Passion and Inspiration!