As the 49th Golden Horse Awards lowered its curtain Saturday night, the final results of this year surprised most Chinese movie fans as some of the biggest awards went to films and stars that were not considered major contenders.
Mainland director Lou Ye's Mystery, together with Taiwan film Girlfriend Boyfriend, directed by Yang Ya Che, were the most promising films with seven nominations each. However, each only took home two awards, and most of those weren't the big ones producers had hoped for.
There was no single film to dominate the awards, nor was there any implication of preference for works from a certain region. As many people noted, the various works from the three areas - the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong - seemed to have divided up the awards.
If one had to choose a big winner, it would be Beijing Blues, a mainland film that got little attention at cinemas but collected three awards in Taiwan: Best Feature Film, Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography.
Why or why not
"I thought either Mystery or Life without Principle would win for Best Feature Film," Yu Xin, a movie critic in Beijing told the Global Times in a phone interview yesterday.
He explained that compared with the other two, the story of Beijing Blues is more constrained to a small region, while the themes of the other films can relate to a much wider audience.
However, Wang Siwei, a movie critic from Chongqing, does not believe this year's Best Feature Film winner should be such a surprise.
"It's not saying that the other works are not as good, but Beijing Blues is the one that was able to make a breakthrough," Wang said, adding that both Mystery and Life without Principle maintained the respected reputations of their directors, and their quality met with audience expectation. "If several works are of similar quality, the one that is able to break the old boundary stands out," he said.
He also noted that although Mystery and Beijing Blues are both about the dark side of people and society, Beijing Blues provides an escape for the audience, giving a glimmer of hope in the end. Mystery, by contrast, leaves the audience feeling depressed.
The winner of Best Leading Actress was also an unexpected result to many.
"At first, I had high expectations for Hao Lei (leading actress in Mystery)," Yu said. "She obviously performed better than the other four nominees."
Yu further explained that the characteristic of Girlfriend Boyfriend is like You Are the Apple of My Eye - clear and easy. In such films, however, the actress, Gwei Lun-Mei, is not afforded a real chance to deeply develop her role.
Therefore, Yu supposed, giving the Best Actress Award to a Taiwan actress was possibly a way for judges to strike a balance, because the rest of the big awards all went to mainland or Hong Kong works and stars.
Established in 1962 in Taiwan, the Golden Horse Awards is one of the three most influential movie awards in China, together with the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Chinese mainland's Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Awards.
In its inception, like the other two, the Golden Horse Awards only focused on locally produced works. Later on, even when Hong Kong films began to be nominated, mainland productions were still rare. It was not until the 1990s that certain mainland works and stars caught attention in Taiwan.
In 1990, actress Siqin Gaowa became the first mainlander to accept a Golden Horse Award, winning Best Supporting Actress that year. The first mainland film to win was In the Heat of the Sun, a 1994 work directed by Jiang Wen. In the 33rd Golden Horse Awards in 1996, Jiang won for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
From the 21st century on, mainland films and stars have appeared at the awards almost every year, and in recent years they have taken a much more prominent spot.
However, many moviegoers and insiders seem to be unhappy about the Golden Horse Awards spreading its attention to a wider range.
In an interview with ent.ifeng.com, Cheng Qingsong, chief editor of Youth Film Handbook magazine, calls last Saturday's result a "losing of attitude."
Cheng said the Golden Horse Awards should spring forth from out of a "representative work," one that wins big, rather than separating all the awards equally to a number of entrants from around the three regions. Otherwise, people will have no idea what key point the judges wanted to make.
Best Feature Film:
Beijing Blues (M)
Life without Principle (HK)
Best Leading Actor:
Lau Ching Wan,
Life without Principle
Best Leading Actress:
Girlfriend Boyfriend (T)
Best Supporting Actor:
Ronald Cheng, Vulgaria (HK)
Best Supporting Actress:
Liang Jing, Design of Death (M)
Best New Performer:
Qi Xi, Mystery (M)
Best Original Screenplay:
Bao Jingjing, Love Is Not Blind (M)
Mainland (M); Taiwan (T);
Hong Kong (HK)