Zhang Yimou & John Woo Honorary Awards + Air Disaster Drama Tops Japanese Academy Award Nominations

Zhang Yimou A Woman a Gun and a Noodle Shop: Asian Film Awards' Lifetime AchievementZhang Yimou on the set of A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop a.k.a. A Simple Noodle Story. Best known for his lush collaborations with Gong Li (Raise the Red Lantern, Shanghai Triad, Curse of the Golden Flower), Zhang Yimou has been announced as the recipient of the Asian Film Awards' Lifetime Achievement honor, to be presented at the 2010 Hong Kong Film Festival in March.

Zhang Yimou to receive Asian Film Awards' Lifetime Achievement honor

Early warning: 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 Hard Target: Action director gets Venice Lifetime AchievementJohn 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 Venice Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Golden Lion

In other Asian cinema-related news, 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.

'Visual art'

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.

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

An aside: Misdistributed by Magnolia Pictures' Magnet Releasing, Red Cliff – as one single, edited-down film – bombed in the U.S. As mentioned elsewhere in this post, Part 2 is in the running for the Japanese Academy Awards.

John Woo & Venice shared history

John Woo and the Venice Film Festival have a little shared history.

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

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

And in 2007, he 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 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, Ken Watanabe, Tsurube Shofukutei, and double nominee Tadanobu Asano 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.

See also: “Metro Manila Film Festival 2009/2010: Action-Fantasy Starring Actor-Politician Tops Controversial Fest.”

 

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.

“Zhang Yimou & John Woo Honorary Awards + Air Disaster Drama Tops Japanese Academy Award Nominations” last updated in April 2018.

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