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Zhang Yimou & John Woo Honorary Awards + Japanese Academy Award Nominations & Manila Winners

Zhang Yimou A Woman a Gun and a Noodle Shop: Asian Film Awards' Lifetime Achievement honoreeZhang Yimou on the set of A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop a.k.a. A Simple Noodle Story. Zhang, best known for his lush collaborations with Gong Li (Raise the Red Lantern, Shanghai Triad, Curse of the Golden Flower), has been announced as the recipient of the Asian Film Awards' Lifetime Achievement honor, to be handed to the filmmaker at the Hong Kong Film Festival in March.

Zhang Yimou to receive Asian Film Awards' Lifetime Achievement honor

In other Asian cinema-related news, Zhang Yimou – whose Ju Dou (1990), Raise the Red Lantern (1991), and Hero (2002) were shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award – will be the recipient of the 2010 Asian Film Awards' Lifetime Achievement honor. The presentation will take place at the Hong Kong Film Festival next March.

Zhang, 58, has been making movies since the late 1980s. His remarkable first film, the 1987 period drama Red Sorghum, starred Gong Li, with whom the director was associated off-screen as well.

Among Zhang's best-known features are The Story of Qiu Ju (1992), To Live (1994), Shanghai Triad (1995), and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), all starring Gong; in addition to the epic House of Flying Daggers (2004), starring Andy Lau and Ziyi Zhang.

Zhang Yimou's latest, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (a.k.a. The Simple Noodle Story), is a remake of Joel and Ethan Coen's violent crime thriller Blood Simple. The film has become a major box office hit in China. (Update: $38 million after six weeks.)

John Woo Lance Henriksen in Hard Target: Action director is Venice festival Lifetime Achievement honoreeJohn Woo and Lance Henriksen on the set of the 1993 action thriller Hard Target, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. In a career spanning more than four decades, John Woo – the recently announced recipient of the 2010 Venice Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion – has directed more than 30 features, chiefly in the action genre. Notable examples include A Better Tomorrow, Bullet in the Head, and the Tom Cruise international blockbuster Mission: Impossible II.

Movie violence master John Woo getting Lifetime Achievement Award at Venice Film Festival

Early warning: John Woo will be the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, which runs Sept. 1–11.

As per the Venice festival's press release, Woo was chosen by the Board of Directors of the Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, “at the recommendation of the Director of the Festival, Marco Müller.”

The release adds that “the acknowledgment recognizes a filmmaker who in recent decades, with his revolutionary conception of staging and editing, has renewed action movies to the core, introducing an extreme stylization (close to visual art)” both in Asia and in Hollywood.

That extremely stylized “visual art” – slow motion, close-ups, quick cuts, revolting violence – can be appreciated in varying degrees of sadism in thrillers such as A Better Tomorrow (1987), The Killer (1989), Bullet in the Head (1990), Hard Boiled (1991), Broken Arrow (1996), Face/Off (1997), and the two-part epic war drama Red Cliff (2008/2009) – a huge blockbuster in East Asia, outgrossing James Cameron's Titanic in mainland China. (Misdistributed by Magnolia Pictures' Magnet Releasing, Red Cliff – as one single, edited-down film – bombed in the U.S. As mentioned earlier in this post, Part 2 is in the running for the Japanese Academy Awards.)

All that, plus the less gleefully violent, Motion Picture Association of America-rating-conscious Tom Cruise star vehicle Mission Impossible 2 (2000).

John Woo at Venice

In 2004, John Woo acted as the “godfather” of the Venice Film Festival's Secret History of Asian Film sidebar.

Two years later, Woo directed one of the episodes of the omnibus international release All the Invisible Children, which was screened out of competition.

And in 2007, Woo was the producer of Alexi Tan's debut feature Blood Brothers, the 64th festival's closing-night film. Daniel Wu, Liu Ye, and Shu Qi starred in this 1930s Shanghai-set gangster drama inspired by Bullet in the Head.

Woo is currently in the Dongyang area's Hengdian World Studios, working with Su Chao-pin on Reign of Assassins, a Ming Dynasty-set, martial-arts actioner starring Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon actress Michelle Yeoh.

The Unbroken with Ken Watanabe: Japanese Academy Awards likely Best Film winnerThe Unbroken with Ken Watanabe. Setsurô Wakamatsu's drama The Unbroken a.k.a. The Sun That Doesn't Set, dealing with the aftermath of the deadliest airline disaster in Japanese history, has received 12 nominations for the Japanese Academy Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Ken Watanabe (Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for The Last Samurai, 2003) is one of the five Best Actor contenders.

Ken Watanabe, plane crash film 'The Unbroken' top Japanese Academy Award nominations

Setsurô Wakamatsu's The Unbroken a.k.a. The Sun That Doesn't Set, revolving around the 1985 airplane crash that killed 520 people in what remains Japan's worst airline disaster, is one of five films in the running for the 2010 Japanese Academy's Best Picture award. The film's star, Ken Watanabe, received a Best Actor nomination.

The other four Best Picture Japanese Academy Award nominees are:

  • Isshin Inudô's Zero Focus, a mystery drama set in 1950s Japan. In this remake of Yoshitaro Nomura's 1961 film, itself based on Seicho Matsumoto's novel, a newly married woman (Best Actress nominee Ryôko Hirosue) goes on a search for her missing husband.
  • Daisaku Kimura's reportedly CGI-free The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones, about a group of men who set out to climb the fearsome Mt. Tsurugi in the early 1900s. Best Actor nominee Tadanobu Asano stars as the leader of the group.
  • Miwa Nishikawa's Dear Doctor, in which a village doctor (Best Actor nominee Tsurube Shofukutei) is exposed as a con artist – but the locals don't seem to care
  • Kichitaro Negishi's Villon's Wife, a postwar Tokyo-set tale about the difficult relationship between a woman (Best Actress nominee Takako Matsu) and her self-destructive writer husband (double Best Actor nominee – see The Summit – Tadanobu Asano).

Double nominee Clint Eastwood

In the Best Actor category, double nominee Tadanobu Asano, Tsurube Shofukutei, and Ken Watanabe were joined by Nao Omori for The Vulture.

In the Best Actress category, Ryôko Hirosue and Takako Matsu were joined by Haruka Ayase (Oppai Volleyball), Du-na Bae (Airdoll), and Aoi Miyazaki (The Shonen Merikensack).

Like Tadanobu Asano, Clint Eastwood is also – more or less – competing against himself in the Best Foreign Film category: both The Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, and Gran Torino, starring Eastwood himself, are in the running.

The other three nominees are John Woo's Red Cliff II, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, and Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler.

The 2010 Japanese Academy Award winners will be announced in early March.

Ang Panday with Ramon Bong Revilla Jr: Metro Manila Film Festival top hit and Best Film winnerAng Panday with Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr. A special-effects-laden mix of fantasy, adventure, and European-inspired legends, Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”), from Carlo J. Caparas' comics, stars Filipino actor-politician Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr. as the titular blacksmith who unexpectedly becomes a powerful force against the evil wizard Lizardo, played by veteran Phillip Salvador – who himself had played the blacksmith in a television series based on the Ang Panday tales. The no. 1 hit at this year's Metro Manila Film Festival, Ang Panday was chosen as the festival's Best Picture, in addition to earning Revilla and Salvador awards in the, respectively, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories. Directed by Fernando Poe Jr., a previous version of the story was released in late 1980.

'Ang Panday' continues to dominate 35th Metro Manila Film Festival

Jan. 4 update: A remake of Fernando Poe Jr.'s 1980 Philippine cinema classic, Mac Alejandre's special effects-laden fantasy-adventure Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”), based on Carlos J. Caparas' decades-old comics and starring actor-politician Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr. in the title role, remains the biggest box-office hit at the 2009/2010 Metro Manila Film Festival up to Jan. 2, according to a Manila Bulletin report. Ang Panday has earned P80.8 million ($1.75 million) since Dec. 25.

The runners-up are the vampire comedy Ang Darling Kong Aswang, starring Vic Sotto and Cristine Reyes as a sort of female Robert Pattinson, with P76 million ($1.65 million), and Laurice Guillen's romantic melodrama I Love You, Goodbye, starring Derek Ramsay, Gabby Concepcion, and Angelica Panganiban, with P69.8 million ($1.51 million).

Of the festival's seven films, the one box office disaster has been boxer Manny Pacquiao's fantasy flick Wapakman, which has grossed a paltry P2 million ($43,000).

During the two-week Metro Manila Film Festival, movie theaters in the Philippines' capital screen only festival entries. International box office hits such as Avatar and Sherlock Holmes will have to wait (at least) until the festival comes to a close on Jan. 8.

Metro Manila Film Festival vampire hit 'Ang Darling'

Dec. 30 update: Tony Y. Reyes' Ang Darling Kong Aswang, starring comedian Vic Sotto, is the 2009/2010 Metro Manila Film Festival's no. 2 hit.

Like movie audiences elsewhere, Filipinos seem to have been craving for stories about vampires. But unlike the worldwide megahits Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, in which the vampire is a good-looking male (Robert Pattinson), in Ang Darling Kong Aswang the undead is a good-looking woman, Cristine Reyes (as far as we can tell, no relation to the filmmaker).

Even so, a movie not about vampires, the fantasy adventure Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”), has been this year's top Metro Manila Film Festival entry. At the other extreme, boxer-turned-actor Manny Pacquiao's vehicle Wapakman has thus far come in last at the festival's box office.

Also of interest, the Philippine Daily Inquirer offers the Metro Manila festival's criteria for the Best Picture award:

“Artistry, creativity and technical excellence, innovation and global appeal, 40 percent; box office earnings in the first three days (Dec. 25–27), 50 percent; and Filipino, cultural and/or historical value, 10 percent.”

The Metro Manila Film Festival runs until Jan. 6. Until then, only the festival's seven competing films will be screened at movie houses in Manila's metropolitan area.

Fantasy adventure with flying monsters tops Metro Manila Film Festival

Dec. 28: Starring a Filipino politician, Senator Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr., the fantasy action-adventure tale Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”) was the big winner at the 2009 edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival. (See full list of winners further below.)

A film's earnings represent about 50 percent of its award-worthiness, so it should be no surprise that Ang Panday was named Best Film: with revenues estimated at more than P20 million (approx. $430,000), Revilla's star vehicle has led the Metro Manila festival's box office in its first three days. The politician/actor himself was named Best Actor, while Phillip Salvador was chosen Best Supporting Actor.

Directed by Mac Alejandre, Ang Panday features plenty of visual effects à la most Hollywood movies (albeit more modestly conceived, under the supervision of Rico Gutierrez), flying monsters à la the Harry Potter movies, medieval fortresses à la The Lord of the Rings movies, and a magic sword à la Excalibur.

Latest 'Mano Po' entry is another Metro Manila favorite

Other Metro Manila Film Festival winners include Best Director Joel Lamangan, Best Actress Sharon Cuneta, Best Supporting Actress Heart Evangelista, and Best Screenwriter Roy Iglesias – all for the drama Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love, the sixth installment in the Mano Po franchise.

In this entry, Cuneta plays a rags-to-billions, half-Chinese, half-Filipino widow who is intent on retrieving the affection of estranged daughter Evangelista.

Curiously, Best Director and Best Screenplay winner Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love not only failed to be named Best Picture, but also 2nd Best Picture or even 3rd Best Picture. See below.

Metro Manila Film Festival winners

Best Picture: Ang Panday.

2nd Best Picture: I Love You, Goodbye.

3rd Best Picture: Ang Darling Kong Aswang.

Best Director: Joel Lamangan, Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love.

Best Actress: Sharon Cuneta, Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love.

Best Actor: Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr., Ang Panday.

Best Supporting Actress: Heart Evangelista, Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love.

Best Supporting Actor: Phillip Salvador, Ang Panday.

Best Screenwriter: Roy Iglesias, Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love.

Best Original Story: Vanessa Valdez, Kriz Gazmen, Anna Karenina Ramos, I Love You, Goodbye.

Best Cinematography: Lee Briones-Meily, I Love You, Goodbye.

Best Film Editor: Manet Dayrit, I Love You, Goodbye.

Best Musical Score: Von De Guzman, Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love.

Best Original Theme Song: “Ang Panday” by Ogie Alcasid, Ang Panday.

Best Production Design: Ang Panday.

Best Special Effects: Jay Santiago, Ang Panday.

Best Sound Recording: Mike Idioma, Ang Panday.

Best Make-Up: Noel Flores, Shake, Rattle and Roll XI.

Antonio Villegas Cultural Award: Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love.

Best Child Performer: Buboy Villar, Ang Panday.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dolphy.

Sources: Just Another Pixel and TV Marathon.

35th Metro Manila Film Festival places focus on Philippine cinema

Dec. 25: Avatar, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and 2012 may be the movies currently at the top of most box office charts the world over. But one place where James Cameron, Sam Worthington, Chris Weitz, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Roland Emmerich, and John Cusack don't stand a chance is Manila. At least not in the next couple of weeks or so.

The capital of the Philippines is currently hosting the 35th Metro Manila Film Festival, which runs until early Jan. 2010. During that period, only the seven movies in competition at the festival – all local Philippine productions with (relatively speaking) sizable budgets and popular appeal – will be screened at Manila's movie houses.

Among these are:

  • Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”), a remake of Fernando Poe Jr.'s 1980 action fantasy, this time starring politician-action star Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr. as the titular hero (Poe Jr. in the original).
  • The vampire comedy Ang Darling Kong Aswang, with popular Filipino comedian Vic Sotto and Cristine Reyes.
  • I Love You, Goodbye, a romantic drama with Gabby Concepcion, Angelica Panganiban, Derek Ramsey, and Kim Chiu.

Some left unimpressed

Although the actors and the titles may be familiar to Filipino audiences, not everyone is impressed.

“Creatively bankrupt film franchises, aging box office kings without heir apparent and an awards giving body made superfluous by box office receipts – this is what awaits moviegoers at the 35th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF),” writes the Manila Times' Rome Jorge.

Jorge adds that the popular Shake, Rattle & Roll film series is on its 11th installment since its launch in 1984, Mano Po: A Mother's Tale is on its sixth since 2002, while the current remake of Ang Panday “is no less than the ninth since its first showing in 1981 [Dec. 1980, as per the IMDb].”

Jorge adds that the Metro Manila festival “is organized and adjudged by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – a government agency tasked with engineering infrastructure with no artistic credentials.”

Box office receipts represent 50 percent of the competition's criteria.

The Metro Manila Film Festival winners will be announced on Dec. 28.

Lola Brillante Mendoza with Anita Linda: Grandsons connected by death - murderer and his victimLola with Anita Linda. Brillante Mendoza's drama Lola (“Grandmother”), winner of the Dubai Film Festival's Best Picture Award in the Asia-Africa section, stars veterans Anita Linda and Rustica Carpio as two elderly women whose grandsons have one thing in common: Death – i.e., one is a murderer; the other one is his victim. In a career spanning more than six decades, Anita Linda has been featured in more than 300 films, some of which directed by top Filipino talent such as Gerardo de Leon (Sisa, 1951), Eddie Romero (Buhay alamang, 1952), and Lino Brocka (Mother Dear, 1982).

Dubai Film Festival winners: Palestinian psycho-political drama & 'Lola'

Dec. 24: The winners at the 2009 edition of the Dubai Film Festival, which ran Dec. 9–16, were announced about ten days ago. They were divided into two sections: Arab and Asia-Africa Award winners. The top narrative feature in each section was, respectively, Michel Khleifi's Zindeeq and Brillante Mendoza's Lola.

A Palestinian / British / United Arab Emirates co-production, Zindeeq (an approximate translation would be “Muslim hypocrite”) tells the story of a Palestinian filmmaker and European resident, “M” (Mohammad Bakri), who returns to Ramallah to film witness accounts of the 1948 expulsion of ethnic Arabs from what eventually became Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Going back and forth in time and inside/outside M's head, Zindeeq also traces the one-letter-named filmmaker's involvement in today's issues, as his nephew has killed a man in Nazareth.

(There doesn't seem to be any connection between M and either Peter Lorre/David Wayne or Bernard Lee/Judi Dench.)

A French-Philippine co-production, Lola depicts the relationship between two elderly women (“lola” means “grandmother” in Tagalog) and their respective grandsons: one a murderer, the other his victim. Anita Linda, a veteran with more than 300 film credits since the 1940s, and Rustica Carpio, another veteran whose film career dates back to the mid-1970s, play the two lolas.

(Needless to say, no connection to either Jacques Demy or Anouk Aimée.)

'12 Angry Lebanese' & 'Garbage Dreams'

The Best Arab Documentary was Zeina Daccache's 12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary, in which theater director-turned-filmmaker Daccache documents her staging of Lebanon's first prison-set drama project, Reginald Rose's 12 Angry Men – here featuring a cast of inmates and renamed 12 Angry Lebanese.

The Special Jury Prize went to Mai Iskander's Garbage Dreams, about two teenagers earning a living in the trash trade in the largest garbage “village” in the world, located in the outskirts of Cairo.

In the Arab section, the Best Actor was Said Bey for The Man Who Sold the World, while Nisreen Faour was chosen Best Actress for her performance as a Palestinian immigrant in the United States in Cherien Dabis' Amreeka.

In the Asia-Africa section, the Best Actor was Iran's Hasan Pourshirazi for Mohammad Rasoulof's dramatic fantasy The White Meadows, while South Africa's Denise Newman was Best Actress for Shirley Adams, in which she plays an unemployed mother whose son (Keenan Arrison) has become paralyzed after being shot.


Metro Manila Film Festival website.

Dubai Film Festival website.

Zhang Yimou A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop / A Simple Noodle Story image: Beijing New Picture Film Co.

John Woo and Lance Henriksen Hard Target image: Universal Pictures.

Ken Watanabe The Unbroken / The Sun That Doesn't Set image: Kadokawa Pictures / Toho Company.

Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr. Ang Panday image: GMA Films / Imus Productions.

Anita Linda Grandmother / Lola image: Swift Productions.

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5 Comments to Zhang Yimou & John Woo Honorary Awards + Japanese Academy Award Nominations & Manila Winners

  1. Moviegoer

    No, it's not just that. Due to less availability of Avatar on theaters, aLOT of filipinos instead are just gonna buy CAM COPIES of the movie from stands and unless you know what was Avatar and how it was made, you will very much less appreciate it to watch on TV in a very bad quality material. In short, it's just like throwing Mr. James Cameron's epic work on a garbage.

  2. A Filipino

    I'm disappointed myself. With my line of work, we don't get a lot of long days off except during the Holiday Season. We have planned to watch Avatar with my wife but this film fest has ruined it. I also like to support the Filipino movies but I always find foreign movies to be better. Unlike my childhood, I no longer laugh at Filipino jokes in movies, they no longer make sense or appeal to me. I just hope they get these “forced films to watch” out of the cinemas before we resume work on January 4.

  3. Jay

    Dudes dont worry, the MMFF is just for one week! After that they're going to return Avatar and those other movies you're desperate souls are looking for.

  4. Moviegoer

    This is so disappointing because they took away Avatar, New Moon, 2012, Sherlock Holmes and all those amazing Hollywood blockbusters with these crappy movies.

    Avatar is so goddamn amazing and is a must-watch film from James Cameron, after 14 years of developing it. But was only screened for just a week and alot of people are gonna miss it, they are just going to watch it on TV with a pirated DVD obviously, and it's going to ruin the hard work of the film. As a result, the movie cant be appreciated with a cam copy of the movie.

  5. TheRickyShow

    I was kind of disappointed that they took Avatar out for this. We went all around the Metro and most of the theaters were dead, as in maybe 20-30 people in line. I hope they get back to the regular blockbusters soon!