Asia in Cinema will be holding its annual Hong Kong Film Awards Live Blog on Sunday, April 14, at 19:30 Hong Kong Time.
Last year, I wrote that a few Hong Kong Film Awards voters had trouble filling in the nomination form because 2017 didn’t yield enough films worthy of awards. Voters went with the familiar and gave awards to veterans like Ann Hui, Sylvia Chang and Teresa Mo. When Philip Keung and Louis Koo getting HKFAs are considered a breath of fresh air, you know how conservative HKFA voters really are.
The 38th Hong Kong Film Awards are upon us now, and anyone who was hoping to see something different this year….will probably have to wait until next year.
The film with the most nominations is, of course, Project Gutenberg (無雙), a big-budget Hong Kong-mainland China co-production led by two superstars and one of the co-creators of Infernal Affairs (disclaimer: This writer did the English subtitles). Dante Lam’s war epic Operation Red Sea (紅海行動) dominated the technical categories with Best Film and Best Director nominations as icing on the cake. Even Tsui Hark got a bunch of technical nominations for his latest big-budget blockbuster, which was not seen by many people in Hong Kong.
And once again, several new directors are sharing the spotlight with the veterans. Men on the Dragon (逆流大叔), the directorial debut of longtime scriptwriter Sunny Chan, earned 11 nominations, though it’s not likely to win any of them (Disclaimer again: This writer did the English subtitles). Jun Li’s Tracey (翠絲) earned nine nominations, including Golden Horse winner Ben Yuen in the Best Supporting Actor category and a baffling Best Original Music nomination.
After fumbling last year with Somewhere Beyond the Mist (藍天白雲) and In Your Dreams (以青春的名義), the Hong Kong Government’s First Film Initiative can celebrate again. Eight nominations went to Still Human (淪落人), the drama that is likely to earn Anthony Wong his third Best Actor win and a Best New Director win for Oliver Chan Siu-kuen following her wins at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards. Meanwhile, Lee Cheuk-pan’s G Affairs (G 殺) also managed to snag six nominations – that’s two more than Three Husbands (三夫), Fruit Chan’s divisive and controversial return to indie cinema and the winner of Best Film from the HK Film Critics Society.
All this sound great on paper, but the HKFA voters I’ve casually spoken to this year haven’t really rallied around a single film.
As it was the case with Cold War, which ended up with a whopping 11 awards in 2013, voters often nominate the big-budget blockbusters – Gutenberg was the top-grossing “serious film” (i.e. not a Dayo Wong Lunar New Year comedy) last year, while Red Sea was the second-highest grossing film of all-time in China (now dethroned). Directors who make money for investors are often rewarded with HKFA nominations, which is pretty much the HK film industry in a nutshell.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society backed Still Human and Three Husbands at this year’s award. However, in this public seminar featuring three of its critics discussing their reasoning for the awards, it appears that none of the three critics actually supported Three Husbands as the Best Film winner.
And which film does the Hong Kong general audience back? They have no idea because Still Human, G Affairs, Three Husbands and The Lady Improper didn’t even see general release in Hong Kong until this past several weeks, following long, elaborate award season campaigns put together by local film companies that included limited public screenings mostly aimed at award voters and overseas film festival screenings.
The theme for this year’s HKFA is “Keep Rolling”, and so the Hong Kong Film Awards will keep going, regardless how difficult things seem to be. In fact, their three-part short film promoting this year’s awards is probably the best advertisement they’ve done:
So everything seems to be left wide open this year, which means there’s plenty of room for surprises. So be sure to follow the live blog on Sunday to see who will win.
Come on, Patrick Tse is finally winning a Hong Kong Film Award this year. Who doesn’t want to see that?!