The 37th Hong Kong Film Awards

The Hong Kong Film Awards are being presented tomorrow, and since this year I’ve somehow managed to see most of the nominated films, I thought I’d run through them and make some predictions.

Best Film:

The nominees are Herman Yau’s bomb disposal actioner Shock Wave, which is a fun old school Hong Kong film but not really a serious contender, Wilson Yip’s Paradox, which is also quite a good action film (it may be part of the SPL series) and has a better chance but probably not, and Chasing the Dragon, which I haven’t seen yet but also chases that early 90s Hong Kong vibe (it’s kind of a remake of 1992 Best Film winner To Be Number One). Most likely this comes down to Ann Hui’s Our Time Will Come, my favorite Hong Kong film of the year, and Sylvia Chang’s Love Education, which I guess qualifies even though its really a Taiwanese/Chinese film. I’m rooting for Our Time Will Come, a nearly perfect WWII spy film that is very much in keeping with the HKFA’s tradition of honoring extremely well-done genre fare (past winners include Police Story, A Better Tomorrow, Beast Cops, Shaolin Soccer, Infernal Affairs, Running on Karma, Election, Gallants, The Grandmaster and Trivisa). This would be Ann Hui’s fifth Best Film win, joining Boat People, Summer Snow, Ordinary Heroes and The Golden Era.

Best Director:

The same movies as the Best Film category, with Kearen Pang and 29+1 replacing Chasing the Dragon. Pang has a legitimate chance to win here, as the film, her directorial debut, is very well done and she seems to be extremely popular. They may also simply be sick of giving Ann Hui the award, this would be her fourth in the past ten years (The Golden Era, A Simple Life, The Way We Are) and sixth overall. Sylvia Chang has never won the award before, I’d say she and Wilson Yip have an outside shot at it. An Our Time Will Come sweep is probably the safest bet.

Best Actor:

I haven’t seen two of the nominees (Ronald Cheng in Concerto of the Bully and Ling Man-lung in Tomorrow is Another Day), and of the ones I have seen, I think Andy Lau in Shock Wave can safely be ruled out. Tian Zhuangzhuang in Love Education is pretty good, but that seemed like more of a supporting role to me, though Tian is the only actor to have also been nominated by the Golden Horse Awards. But my money is on Louis Koo in Paradox. It’s one of his very best performances, and he seemed so genuinely touched to finally win something for his acting when he picked up this award at the Asian Film Awards last month.

Best Actress:

Again, I haven’t seen Tomorrow is Another Day, and so Teresa Mo is the only nominee I don’t have an opinion on. Chrissie Chau and Stephy Tang seem to have surprised everyone with their acting ability in 29+1 and The Empty Hands, respectively, not being considered serious actresses before now. They square off against veterans Zhou Xun (Our Time Will Come) and Sylvia Chang (Love Education). Chang was the only one to be nominated at the Golden Horse or Asian Film Awards, and she won at the latter. I think if Our Time wins an acting award, it will be in supporting instead of lead, and I’d be inclined to think they’d go with one of the younger actresses (Stephy would be my pick, though both are quite good). But it’s possible they split the youth vote and Sylvia Chang picks up her third Best Actress win (after Passion and Forever and Ever). That wouldn’t be a record: Maggie Cheung won five times between 1989 and 2000.

Best Supporting Actor:

Philip Keung is a double nominee in this category, for Concerto of the Bully and Shock Wave, and so is Yasuaki Kurata, for God of War and The Empty Hands. Rounding out the group are Paul Chun in Love off the Cuff and Gordon Lam Ka-ting in Paradox. Lam is very good, but he won in this category last year for Trivisa. One of the Kurata performances would be my pick, probably God of War (he was also very good last year in John Woo’s Manhunt).

Best Supporting Actress:

I haven’t seen Somewhere Beyond the Mist, so I don’t know if Baby Bo is any good in it, and while Susan Shaw is fine in Vampire Cleanup Department, I think this comes down to veteran Deannie Ip in Our Time Will Come, relative newcomer Joyce Cheng in 29+1 and Wu Yanshu, who steals the movie as the old lady in Love Education. Wu recieved nominations at both the Golden Horse and Asian Film Awards, while Ip was snubbed by the latter. Elaine Jin won this award each of the last two years (and she could have been nominated again for 29+1), so I’m guessing they switch it up this year and go with the younger actress, Joyce Cheng.

Best New Performer:

I’ve only seen two of the nominees in this category, Stephanie Au in Love Off the Cuff and Hanna Chan in Paradox, so this really is a stab in the dark. I’m going with Rachel Leung in Somewhere Beyond the Mist, the Stephy Tang drama that Edmund Lee calls a “slow-burning masterpiece”.

Best Cinematography:

Mark Lee Pin-bing is the biggest name in this category, for Love Education, though Jason Kwan, nominated for Chasing the Dragon also shot 29+1, which was weirdly not nominated. Kenny Tse for Paradox and Tam Wai-kai for The Empty Hands also did impressive work, but if Our Time Will Come is going to sweep, this should go to Yu Lik-wai, Jia Zhangke’s longtime DP.

Best Film Editing:

In Your Dreams joins Chasing the Dragon as the films I haven’t seen yet. While a win for action films Shock Wave and Paradox wouldn’t be a shocker, this award has tended to go to artier fare in recent years, so I think this is another win for Our Time Will Come.

Best Art Direction:

The Empty Hands is a terrific nominee here, the kind of production design that would get overlooked at the Oscars. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for Our Time Will Come. Wu Kong is mostly just a CGI monstrosity, so I’m going with Journey to the West: Demons Strike Back. The art direction was probably the best thing about it.

Best Costume & Make-Up Design:

This is Not What I Expected is a surprise nominee here, and not an unpleasant one. But this is probably another win for Demons Strike Back, over Wu Kong. Chasing the Dragon too has a shot.

Best Action Choreography:

If I’m giving out this award it goes to Sammo Hung for Paradox without a doubt, it maybe his best work of the decade.

Best Original Film Score:

I’m going with Joe Hisaishi for Our Time Will Come, both because he’s great and it’s a very good score, and because I didn’t care for the sappy music in 29+1 or the Classical Music’s Greatest Hits non-original parts of the score for The Empty Hands. I don’t remember the music from Love Education at all.

Best Original Film Song:

I’ll go with “Fake a Smile (For Hector)” from 29+1. It’s the only one I remember, though that’s probably just because I watched the movie last night.

Best Sound Design:

Here’s a category where 29+1 could have been nominated, but instead it’s the two big action movies (Shock Wave and Paradox) versus the two big FX movies (Demons Strike Back and Wu Kong) and Our Time Will Come. This would be a good spot for Shock Wave, with its explosions and all.

Best Visual Effects:

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia isn’t the most surprising nominee, though I thought its effects were pretty poor, that would be the PRC propaganda film The Founding of an Army. This probably comes down to Demons Strike Back and Wu Kong, and its no contest for me: Demons Strike Back. If Wu Kong wins here, expect it to pick up wins in Costumes and maybe Art Direction as well.

Best New Director:

Kearen Pang is the only nominee also nominated for Best Director, so she’s a pretty safe bet here. Derek Hui would be a terrific choice for This Is Not What I Expected, and Chapman To did pretty well with The Empty Hands as well. I haven’t seen Jonathan Li’s The Brink, but I have heard good things. It’s a nominee in Action Choreography as well.

Best Film from the Mainland and Taiwan:

Since Love Education doesn’t count (for some reason), the nominees include box office champ Wolf Warrior II (which didn’t play that well in Hong Kong, if I remember correctly), Taiwan’s The Great Buddha+ (a fine, grungy film which is currently making the rounds of US arthouses and minifestivals), Feng Xiaogang’s Youth, which is quite good and won the Asian Film Award Best Picture, Han Han’s Duckweed, a variation on the Hong Kong classic He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father (which weirdly didn’t get any nominations in 1993) and Golden Horse Winner The Bold, The Corrupt and The Beautiful, from Taiwan. I’m going with Duckweed, thinking that Youth and Bold split the artier side of the vote.