Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Newsbites: China Fails to Make the Oscars, Asian Film Award Nominees, and Mainland 2011 Box Office Results

Wei Te-sheng's Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale made the short-list of Oscar nominees, but failed to gain a final nomination.
It’s been a disappointing result for China in the Oscar sweepstakes this week, with no Chinese titles making the nominee list for best foreign film. The complete list of nominations was announced on Tuesday (24 January). The mainland’s hopes were pinned on Zhang Yimou’s new epic about the Nanjing massacre, The Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale. As reported in the last Newsbites post, the film was the highest grossing domestic title in China last year, but it failed to even make the short list of Oscar nominees.

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, directed by rising star of the Taiwan industry Wei Te-sheng, made the shortlist but failed to gain a final nomination. You can see the complete list of Oscar nominees here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Flashback – Zhang Yuan’s "Crazy English"

Li Yang, China's most infamous English teacher, works the crowd in Zhang Yuan's 1999 documentary Crazy English.

Flashback posts look back over older titles in Chinese cinema.

Like an airforce plane coming in on a bombing run, the scream of jets builds over the opening credits until Li Yang explodes onto screen. “Crazy English! Crazy Life! Crazy Work! Crazy study! Be crazy every minute! Everywhere! I love this crazy game!”

Welcome to the crazy world of Li Yang, China’s most famous English teacher, captured at the early peak of his fame in Zhang Yuan’s 1999 documentary Crazy English (Fengkuang yingyu).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frontline Policing in Guangzhou – Zhou Hao’s "Cop Shop" and "Cop Shop II"

Police on duty at Guangzhou Railway Station in early 2012. Image eChinacities.
Zhou Hao is one of the most prolific of China’s current crop of documentarians, having churned out six films since his debut Houjie Township in 2003. Among his recent works are Cop Shop (Chai guan, 2009) and Cop Shop II (Chai guan II, 2011), two documentaries about the daily operations of the police station at Guangzhou Railway Station, one of the busiest public transport hubs in China. Unlike Using (reviewed here), Zhou’s truth-bending 2008 film about his relationship with a Guangzhou junkie, the Cop Shop films take a straight-forward observational approach.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Putting China’s Sexual Sea Change on Screen – Interview with Sam Voutas

Sam Voutas (right) directing Red Light Revolution. Images courtesy Sam Voutas.
Last November I reviewed Sam Voutas’ Red Light Revolution, China’s first “sex shop comedy.” Shortly after I interviewed Sam for Australia’s Metro magazine and learnt that 2012 is shaping up to be a good year for the Australian writer-director-actor. Red Light is set for theatrical runs in the UK and Canada this month, and a UK DVD release in mid-February. Meanwhile, in China Toudou – the local equivalent of Youtube – is giving the film an “online release” today coincide with Chinese New Year. You can view the film – unfortunately without English subtitles – here.

On the eve of Red Light Revolution’s online release in China, and theatrical runs in Canada and the UK, I’ve selected a few choice quotes from my interview with Sam for Screening China. My full interview will be available in the February issue of Metro.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mainland Cinema Ticket Prices to be Capped?

The futuristic surrounds of Beijing's BC MOMA cinema.
Anyone who lives in mainland China will be familiar with the high cost of cinema tickets, which are particularly expensive relative to wages. Ticket prices of RMB 60-80 (that’s US$9.50-12.70, or AU$9.20-12.30) are not uncommon in Beijing. Given that the average wage is a fraction of what people earn in the West, that makes for an expensive night out. There may be some relief in sight for Chinese film fans, with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announcing plans to cap ticket prices, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Newsbites: Flowers of War Rakes in the Cash, Content Restrictions Tighten & Ai Weiwei Speaks

Happy new year! Too many end-of-the-year deadlines and too many festivities mean Screening China has been very quiet of late. So let’s kick off 2012 with a look at the China film news.

The big event of recent weeks has been the unveiling of Zhang Yimou’s latest epic, The Flowers of War. With a budget reportedly between US$90-100 million, Zhang's film is the most expensive ever made in China. Flowers hit Chinese screens on December 16 and stars Christian Bale as a priest sheltering in a church with a group of Chinese women during the Japanese seizure of Nanjing in 1937. Predictably, the film has been criticised for its heavy nationalistic tone. It’s perhaps a measure of Bale’s naivety that when he was asked about the film’s nationalism at the premiere in Beijing, he claimed, “I hadn’t ever considered that question.” He also rather laughably claimed he thought Zhang Yimou wouldn’t have wished for the film to be taken that way either.

Christian Bale stalks through the ruins of Nanjing in Zhang Yimou's new epic The Flowers of War.