Monday, February 26, 2007

Eh-hum # 136

Unfortunately, I don't have cable TV in my room, hence, I missed the Oscars. But I must confess, I only watch it to see who (or what film) will in major categories, such as Best Actor/Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. Anyways, congratulations to all the winners, especially to Martin Scorsese, who has been nominated a zillion times and now has finally won for his directorial effort in the film The Departed, which by the way also won Best Picture. He deserved the award, thanks to his other works such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (both films featured another great, Robert De Niro), and I am sure the Departed is a great film. But let me point out that this movie is based on the critically acclaimed Chinese/Hong Kong crime thriller, Internal Affairs, which brings me to another point.

At present, Hollywood should be really thanking the Asian movie industry for its talented directors (i.e. Ang Lee) and material. I read an online article entitled "The Asia Factor in Global Hollywood" by Christina Klein. Though the article in general speaks of how Asian movies and actors are infiltrating what used to be a known as a purely an American concept: Hollywood (she said it is through globalization and market liberalization). Actually, what I am more interested in, as what I have said earlier, is the trend where Hollywood turns to the East for "inspiration".

In using the South Korea's booming movie industry as an example, Klein stated that (and I quote) "...Impressed by these [South Korean] films, US-based studio executives have been snapping up the rights to remake them. In effect, they are buying the labor of South Korean screenwriters, which is much cheaper than that of American writers." Of course, this is not to say that the US-based studios are weaking South Korea's local industry as they are provided with an alternative source of revenue (agreeing with her). However, this gives us the idea that Hollywood, in recent years, has been adopting an Asian cinematic style for the production of some of its well-received films, like The Departed. Other remakes include popular Japanese horror flicks, such as The Ring and The Grudge.

Aside from doing remakes, Hollywood, or the US movie industry in general, have earned by distributing foreign titles in local cinemas within the country. An example of this was when Disney acquired the rights to distribute Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki films in the US. In the past half decade, Disney created classic animated features as Snow White, Fantasia, Little Mermaid and The Lion King. However, recently the studio has been plagued by critical flops and financial failures, such as Treasure Planet and Brother Bear. Since anime is gradually finding its way onto more and more American television stations as well as the success of Mononoke Hime in US theaters, Disney pursued a deal to distribute eleven full length animated films by Studio Ghibli, directed either by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. Again, this is not to say they are hurting Studio Ghibli's productivity; anime is an important aspect of Japan’s “gross national cool” (term I got from Newsweek...or, will check...).

This trend is not entirely new, since US filmakers have been adopting some excellent storylines in Asian films way back in the 50's and 60's (i.e. Western classic The Magnificent Seven and Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai). The difference now is that moviegoers are also interested with the original version (or at least are familiar with it). While this is a good way for Asian works to gain some exposure, but the fact remains that American remakes with a recognizable cast will earn more (Leonardo Di Caprio VS Tony Leung...your choice). Also, remakes are rarely up to the standards of the originals. A good example was Shall We Dance? starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and JLo (ugh!). I could guess that the American version didn't have the same striking cultural component as seen in the original version (Japanese salary man doing the that's conflict).

I could go on and on with this one, but I doubt it will change. Let us just hope that with the "hollywoodization" of Asian films, there will be only winners and no losers. Just give credit where credit is due. Eh-hum.

Posters of Internal Affairs and The Departed (both from Wikipedia)

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