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    Reel China series in the L.A. Times

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    Brian T

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    Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:52 am

    I thought this was just a one-time article, but it appears to be a series. Unfortunately, it doesn't really belong in the "Hong Kong films" section, but since I never thought to request Cal create a "Chinese Films" forum, this will have to do. The article on the American remake of RED DAWN, posted and discussed eleswhere here, was also part of the series. Here are two more recent articles:

    Reel China: Targets an elusive film fan — the Chinese American
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-china-lion-20110320,0,6393871.story

    Reel China: DVD pirates play it fast and loose
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-china-piracy-20110322,0,450762.story


    The discussion of THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF & THE SWORDSMAN in the first article gives me mixed feelings. The movie is one of those, referential, self-consciously "gonzo" pastiche films that Hollywood has been cranking out for decades in various genres. Such films have undoubtedly been pirated across China as well, so I have to wonder how original THE BUTCHER will seem to both Chinese audiences in China, and Chinese Americans they're trying to market it to over here. I suppose the fact that it simply IS a first-of-its-kind picture within mainland Chinese cinema will count for something with the home audience, but surely a great portion of the away team has seen it all before, only with different costumes. Then again, that might be assuming that everybody's more hip to movies than they really are, so perhaps the film's box office chances are better than I'm imagining.

    In the second article, substitute the word "Toronto" for "China" and you'd pretty much have the bootleg DVD scene here circa most of the last decade.

    Chinese consumers are so used to bootlegs that particular pirate "brands" with names like Red Dragon, Monkey King and Pegasus have loyal followings. Some of the more established pirate brands are experimenting with watermarks of their own, in an effort to distinguish their products from those made by smaller bootleg outfits. The high-end pirates don't deal in copies of movies recorded in theaters with shaky hand-held cameras; rather, they make bootleg copies of authentic DVDs, known as D9s, that often offer more features than an authorized DVD of the same movie sold in an American Wal-Mart. Some brands put together exquisitely packaged box sets or collectors' editions.

    These sophisticated pirate operations draw on multiple sources. They'll take video features from North American discs and combine those with the most accurate Chinese subtitles from Taiwan and Hong Kong discs. For instance, a pirated DVD version of "The Shawshank Redemption" includes an MP3 file of the entire soundtrack.
    Bootleggers still operate here, but on a much smaller scale and in reduced numbers since about 2009. Their business is a shadow of what it once was, no doubt thanks to repeated crackdowns (though only on copies of American cinema; Asian stuff gets a free pass, sadly) and the popularity and ease of illegal downloading, itself encouraged by the utterly pathetic options given to us by our two telecom monopolies up here).

    These bits are telling:
    Given that the government has demonstrated it can stamp out the online and street sales of material it objects to, such as religious texts or democracy literature, many outsiders believe Beijing has good reason for looking the other way on commercial piracy. The business interests of the country's military, the People's Liberation Army, may be a factor.

    "It was pretty clear to us that the PLA was involved in the replicating business. If not involved, at least condoning," said Frazier of the MPAA.

    "China's leaders are very concerned about keeping the country together," said Frazier ... Piracy "may help keep the masses happy."




    Brian T

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:55 am

    A couple more entries in the series, for those who might be interested:

    Reel China: It's rough out West for Chinese films
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-china-blockbuster-20110703,0,6297335.story
    This explores reasons why (mainland) Chinese cinema has difficulty cracking western markets (excepting the diaspora, of course), not the least of which might be the lack of variety in stories being told, stars with little crossover appeal, and of course censorship restraints a viewer can sense twenty thousand miles away. Zhang Yimou, in particular, seems positively obsessed with U.S. recognition, but at least he acknowledges the issues facing his industry:

    "The most important thing is there are not many good films … good stories that people all over the world can understand and be touched by," he said. "Our new film is trying to achieve this with our team, international cooperation and structure.... [But] people won't like the film if the story isn't told in a way to move people, no matter how big the investment and structure."

    Not sure I buy that "estimate" that China is cranking out 500 pictures a year. That seems analogous to claims that Hong Kong was producing similar numbers in its heyday, which wasn't really the case.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Reel China: Will it play in Peoria and Shanghai?
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-word-20110714,0,6127056.story
    This article suggests one antidote to the endless spate of "dusty, inscrutable and inaccessible"-to-westerners Chinese period pictures might lie in a period-picture-with-a-modern-day-framing-device directed by THE JOY LUCK CLUB'S Wayne Wang and produced by the seemingly self-aggrandizing wife of the increasingly embattled Rupert Murdoch (canny timing, this piece).

    Wang's pretty blunt in his assessment of contemporary mainland Chinese cinema:

    He said any number of recent Chinese movie imports — including John Woo's "Red Cliff" and Feng Xiaogang's "Aftershock" — failed to connect with American audiences because the storytelling isn't ambitious.

    "They keep making the same kind of thing — these big, epic sword-fighting period dramas," Wang said. "I don't think a lot of these filmmakers are great storytellers."





    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:15 pm

    Brian, what do you think of the increasing rules that the filmmakers must go by when filming for the mainland? This, of course, hurts the HK films that want to be distributed in the Mainland as well. You can't have bad cops, can't really have much horror, can't pretty do much of a lot which made HK films interesing and unique. You are allowed to overuse the Three Kingdoms period.

    Brian T

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:27 pm

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:Brian, what do you think of the increasing rules that the filmmakers must go by when filming for the mainland? This, of course, hurts the HK films that want to be distributed in the Mainland as well. You can't have bad cops, can't really have much horror, can't pretty do much of a lot which made HK films interesing and unique. You are allowed to overuse the Three Kingdoms period.

    I think the rules are asinine (no matter where they're enforced to such a deadening degree). I understand the long history that informs them, and I realize that I didn't grow up under a communist thumb and have no right to comment but do anyway, and I'm even aware that the rules have loosened a painfully teensy-weensy bit in the past couple of decades, but regardless they're the primary reason why powerful craftsmen like Zhang Yimou will continue to be frustrated with their inability to gain a foothold in the west in anyplace besides the arthouse. He can put all the Christian Bales in his movies that he wants to, but if several previous epics in the last few years about the Japanese occupation in general and Nanking in particular haven't broken beyond the Euro and North American film fest and rep house circuits -- or DVDs with those "special" olive-branch festival award logos all over them -- I don't know what makes them think another, even more expensive version will be any more successful, no matter how fascinating it might be to those of us more predisposed to watching and understanding it. Until mainland filmmakers have free reign to explore more than three or four genres they do now, with far less scrutiny than they do now, they may have to content themselves with the fact that their films are at least being seen in the west, if in nowhere near the numbers they desperately crave, and certainly more often on DVD than in actual theaters. Perhaps in the mind of the average moviegoer, the novelty of "Chinese" cinema wore off once Hong Kong talent and tropes had been successfully assimilated by Hollywood. Now there was some successful crossover. The Chinese (of the mainland variety) are simply late to the party, and they brought a lot more heavy thematic baggage with them than their comparatively new hosts (us!) have precious room to store . . .




    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:54 am

    It seems many filmmakers from the 5th Generation were taking more chances years back (had much more at stake too) with films like The Blue Kite, To Live and Farewell My Concubine (co-production too). Everything I've seen lately really seems like the same design either old dynasty epic or dealing with Japanese invasion. I really don't understand all the rules though. I do understand (don't agree with) not wanting to portray cops/military as bad/quasi-good/in-the-middle, but seriously the ghost rules are idiotic. All the new rules have made it tighter and not giving the directors/writers more freedom. Makes very little sense as you say if you want to establish a world wide cinema like Hollywood.

    I actually do think we have the right to complain Very Happy. It has been hurting HK films by taking resources from them, putting HK stars/directors in tiresome films and well even the older generation's arthouse films don't seem to be the same anymore (though there are several newer ones I do need to see so I may be wrong on this aspect).

    Brian T

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:30 pm

    Ever-so-slightly off topic (to which I'll return soon enough), but thought this was rather amusing.

    Wendi Murdoch (aka Wendi Deng), quoted at length in the article previously-linked about her pet project SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN, reminded the rabble of their position when one of them dared to attack hubby Rupert Murdoch with a shaving cream pie (!) during the parliamentary committee hearing today in London. That's one golddigger classy dame you just don't cross:



    Maybe the lackluster B.O. of SNOW FLOWER had her a little on edge?

    Shocked Laughing

    ewaffle

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  ewaffle on Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:01 pm

    It has been asked elsewhere but I haven't seen an answer: How does someone walk into a Parliamentary hearing with a shaving cream pie and not get stopped at the door?

    Brian T

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:17 pm

    I'd guess that the components of the pie would have to be hidden on one's person, then assembled just prior to the attack. Perhaps a paper plate would have to substitute for a foil plate, which might set off metal detectors. Then again, so would a whipped cream aerosol can, so maybe he smuggled that into the proceedings in some kind of makeshift bag? His biggest mistake, however, was not packing a blow dart to neutralize Mrs. Murdoch before her slappy-hands got all fired up. Razz

    Brian T

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    Join date : 2011-02-16

    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Wed Aug 24, 2011 6:56 pm

    New installment:
    Reel China: U.S. film producers are engaging the Chinese
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-china-film-quota-20110824,0,3209136,full.story


    And in related news:
    Expendables sequel to be China co-production:
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2011/08/expendables-sequel-to-be-china-co-production.html

    Brian T

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    Join date : 2011-02-16

    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:23 pm

    Reel China: Land of cinematic opportunity
    Chinese students flock to U.S. film schools to develop their creative voices.
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-china-film-students-20111002,0,6820434,full.story

    Yet it isn't just ease of admission that's luring Liu and an increasing number of Chinese writers, directors and producers to study filmmaking at some of America's most elite campuses. It's also the practical curricula, creative environment and the freedom of speech.


    Brian T

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    Join date : 2011-02-16

    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:13 am

    This article isn't really part of the L.A. Times "Reel China" series (which I think may be finished), but it ties in nicely. In case anyone's actually interested, of course . . .

    Hollywood stars in China have to learn the political lines
    Hollywood filmmakers risk having their movies shut out of the lucrative market if they criticize China's government. But if they are too friendly, human rights groups may complain.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-china-culture-20120217,0,5914531,full.story


    Brian T

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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:53 pm

    More interesting reading, and sure to be controversial:

    China agrees to allow U.S. film studios more access, profit
    Addressing a long-standing concern among major studios, China is giving the United States the right to increase the number of films exported there and to nearly double U.S. studios' cut of box-office revenue.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0218-chinese-jinping-20120218,0,1844204.story




    Brian T

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    Join date : 2011-02-16

    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

    Post  Brian T on Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:43 pm

    He's Beijing's answer to Roger Ebert
    Raymond Zhou gained fame by writing Western-style film critiques for Chinese moviegoers, but avoiding the wrath of the state-run film industry is tricky.
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-ca-china-film-critics-20120311,0,1824667,full.story
    "The one compromise I have not made, and I have made a point not to make, is that everything I do write represents my honest opinion. But there are a lot of things I don't write. I don't have the freedom. [It's] like my hands are bound invisibly. If you meet a film director, it's very hard to write a bad review. Chinese society functions on connections."
    Rolling Eyes


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    Re: Reel China series in the L.A. Times

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