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The search for ‘Oscar’ continues

12 Sep

One of China’s ways of winning international cultural respect is by having one of its movies win an Oscar but judging from this article it won’t happen anytime soon. It’s not that there are no good movies, but sometimes the good ones are not even allowed to be shown publicly in theaters. Then, official censorship means the movies that do get shown are tamed down and stripped of anything that suggests dissent or disharmony in the nation and with the government. In case you’re wondering, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won it in 2000 but for Taiwan, where director Ang Lee is from. Needless to say, Lee’s other Oscar wins have also caused some embarrassment and mixed feelings in China.

Xi’s reign at one year, China 105 years ago, and Taiwan’s Chinese music industry

12 Mar

Xi Jinping has been in power for one year and his reign is already noteworthy for the ongoing crackdown on corruption and official extravagance, as well as projecting a more people-friendly image. However not everything is all bright and sunshine since crackdown on public criticism has also continued and media and political freedoms have not been increased.

Take a look at China from over 100 years ago in 1909 in these photos of people, cities and scenery.

Taiwan is on top of the Chinese music scene, but can it maintain its success?

Nuclear winter, and dark side of US

3 Mar

Beijing has had some frightful air pollution in the last few weeks, including just yesterday (Monday) and this article has some frightful news, with scientists claiming that agriculture might become seriously threatened due to the smog hampering the amount of light that gets through to plants and impedes photosynthesis.

American director Oliver Stone came out with a book and TV series about the “dark side of US history” in 2012, but he did an interview with Global Times promoting the Chinese translation of the book. He has some very forceful and blunt views, I’d even say radical, about the US, which surprised me given that he is such a famous,  mainstream personality. Stone’s very critical of US foreign policy, as well as Japan, and is a clear supporter of China and Chinese people. All in all, it’s a very interesting interview.

Life of a HK TV actress

13 Feb

Sorry for the long lag. It’s about time something gets posted especially now that Spring Festival has passed.

Here’s a BBC profile of a Hong Kong TV actress. Nobody too famous, but she’s accomplished and it’s fairly interesting, especially the timing of the filming- doing day scenes at night and night scenes at day etc. I don’t know too much about HK shows since I don’t watch, but I do know that unlike North American shows, they’re usually just one season and run five days a week or so during the season. That’s quite grueling for the actors and actresses and crew, which the actress (Luvin!) stresses in the article.

China journeys, and the nation’s cinematic challenge

9 Nov

Take a journey across China in this video of timelapse photos of cities and landscapes, ranging from Shanghai and Beijing to Hong Kong to Tibet and Xinjiang.

Down in the southwest of China, there are great mountains and wilderness in Yunnan province and Tibet. This guy did a 15-day trek to the 22,107 foot high Kara Kapo, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s holiest mountains, with just two guides.

Moving on to movies, a major aim of China is to have its international cultural power match its geopolitical standing. Movies is a strong way to achieve this, but the big problem is actually making a hit blockbuster. Sure, there was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but other than Jet Li (and to a lesser extent Donnie Yen) kungfu pics and Jackie Chan comedies, international Chinese hits are sparse. That’s not to say there are no good movies from China – I’ve seen some interesting movies recently in China, such as So Young, Saving General Yang, and a comedy about a Xinjiang village’s kid’s football team. Chinese movies are slowly getting there in terms of special effects and topics, but they’re not there yet. China’s biggest local hit was Lost in Thailand which grossed US$194 million last year, but it didn’t fare well in the US. On the hardware and infrastructural front, China is set as well. A Chinese magnate made news last month with the launch of his giant US$8 billion-plus studio complex in Qingdao, which saw Hollywood stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman attend. Hopefully there’ll be a time when Chinese stars (other than Jackie Chan) can attract such attention and coverage overseas.

HTC exodus, Chinese DIY wonders, and a Cannes victory

29 May

HTC has been trying to make a big comeback with the One, but it’s gotten into more trouble with the exodus of several executives. Not one, not two, but at least five HTC execs have left in the last few months. It’s the latest in a series of setbacks for HTC which in 2011 used to be one of the hippest Android phonemakers. Now, it’s been long left in the dust by Samsung and perhaps even by Nokia in Windows phones.

This is just crazy. Here’s a long list of DIY inventions by ingenious Chinese, including a homemade submarine, plane, robots, and even a living pod that can presumably house a family when armageddon occurs. The best one, the homemade cannon made by a farmer to defend his fields against rapacious property developers.

Finally, it’s good to see a Chinese director win a top prize at the Cannes Film Fest, along with other Asian talents as well.

Beauty and silliness

3 May

First Lady Peng Liyuan has given a big boost to local Chinese luxury brandsthrough her elegant wardrobe choices for public appearances,and by presenting Chinese-made beauty products as gifts to the wives of other national leaders. This is definitely good for these brands who are mostly unknown outside of China and also lag Western brands in terms of prestige.

In a deliberate attempt to pander to Chinese audiences, Iron Man 3 was shown in China with several minutes of extra footage that included Chinese actors such as Fang Bingbing. These scenes weren’t shown anywhere else. Not surprisingly, these scenes were a massive disappointment, being trivial and adding nothing to the film plot. With such blatant and useless moves, Hollywood studios need to work harder to try and attract Chinese viewers.

Here’s something silly in Hong Kong- a massive yellow rubber ducky has arrived in Victoria Harbor. I admit it looks interesting, but it’s not something I find too great.

Here’s Victoria Harbor without the duck:

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Random links – cool spirit, critical spirit, and Vancouver

17 Apr

Two hip, young Chinese artists are trying to “unearth China’s cool spirit” with a series of videos, starting with this one about a “breathing bike” on which the rider generates purified air (while looking like a fighter pilot connected by a hose to his bicycle). The two Chinese, Xiao Li Tan and O Zhang, both from Guangdong, have a noble mission, to try to inspire young people by showcasing innovative people. I did think that maybe they could have started with a Chinese person. The whole setup looks a little absurd, and unsafe too as the rear-mounted air purifier generates 5000 volts and “If you ride this in the rain, you could potentially kill yourself (laugh). But in theory it works,” says the guy in the video. It’s an interesting concept no doubt, and useful if it works, but I’m still skeptical for the above reasons. I hope these ladies can do well and come up with local Chinese talent to highlight.

Another SCMP piece introduces Li Chengpeng, former football commentator-turned-social critic. Li used his fame to make critiques on society, and not content with just criticizing, tried to do more by moving into politics, before being foiled by authorities. Being attacked online, having been punched and had a knife thrown at him, he’s got some nerve (and I mean that in a good way) but it’s great to have people like him speaking up.

Well-off mainlanders are moving to Vancouver in great numbers, drawn by the very pleasant weather and lifestyle, just like Hong Kongers in the 1990s. The article mentions property price rises and population shifts, which will likely be just a large-scale repeat of the earlier Hong Kong influx. Vancouver was a very popular place for HKers to immigrate, resulting in hundreds of thousands of HK Chinese residents which actually form the majority in some places around Vancouver.