It may be the pariah for self-respecting filmmakers (and film buffs) everywhere, but if it’s true that there’s no business like show business, then, the Oscars are anything but irrelevant. Case in point: The recent announcement that China will have not one, but two of its own submitted for consideration in the crapshoot otherwise known as the Best Foreign Film category. Of course, it never hurts when you’re able to find a loophole in the system. For all intents and purposes, the would-be blockbuster The Banquet should be represented by the mainland — it features one of China’s most beloved (and commercially successful) auteurs in Feng Xiaogang, while starring Chinese megastars Zhang Ziyi and Zhou Xun. So how come it ended up as Hong Kong’s submission? Well, the catch is that The Banquet is a Hong Kong-China co-production, which means those of you who were pulling hard for Johnnie To backed the wrong horse.
As for China? They (predictably) went with Mr. Reliable, Zhang Yimou and his wuxia costume flick The Curse of the Golden Flower, which is pretty much a veritable who’s who of pretty faces, both old and young alike. There were, of course, other possible nominees —Carina Lau’s sci-fi enigma Curiosity Killed The Cat and some movie called The Road, but that’s like saying the Green Party or the Independents show up expecting to win.
Now that the dust has settled, and the fight for the right to be gawked at (by a bunch of spinsters and geezers who’ll then inevitably ask, “But isn’t there like a new Roberto Benigni film or something?”) rages on, we need to crown a victor. Or who we think will be the victor, since we’re not actually on the Academy (and don’t particularly want to be either). Let’s break this down, Vegas style:
Curse of the Golden Flower
- It’s got Gong Li, who despite being China’s most visible actress for over a decade, is only now being drooled over by American critics. (Miami Vice, anyone?)
- It’s got Chow Yun-fat, who despite being Hong Kong’s most visible actor for over a decade, is only now, um, allowed to star alongside Sean William Scott?
- It’s directed by Zhang Yimou, who interestingly enough, used to be China’s perennial whipping boy, until he got his act together, and started making movies like Hero which, ahem, was a bit more to China’s liking. (We’re afraid to say any more.) Oh, and he’s been here before—Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero—so he’ll probably act like it.
- Another costumes-sewn-on-too-tight, dialects-too-put-on wuxia pian? Won’t the Academy be seeing déjà vu, and not in a good way? (Our guess: no.)
- It’s got Zhang Ziyi, who’s China’s most visible actress now, and knows what it feels like to be drooled over by American critics for longer.
- It’s (loosely) based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. How can you mess that up? (Easy: you change the story almost completely. And—no pun intended—ham things up considerably.)
- Another costumes-sewn-on-too-tight, dialects-too-put-on wuxia pian? Won’t the Academy be seeing déjà vu, and not in a good way? (Our guess: in this case, yes.)
- Feng Xiao-who?
Photo from of Wikipedia.