Men Can Be Flowers Too: Asian Masculinities in Popular Culture

NIcholas Tse as Hua Wuque, The Proud Twins
Nicholas Tse as Hua Wuque, The Proud Twins

Every time I see articles about young Asian actors leaving behind their “flower boy” roles for more “manly” characters, I feel some kind of way. Such articles act like attractiveness and masculinity cannot go hand it hand. They might if their authors were watching what I watch.

Continue reading “Men Can Be Flowers Too: Asian Masculinities in Popular Culture”

YesAsia Order #1

Ok, not really the first YesAsia order, but I thought it would make an interesting post to see what I’m getting and why. Also, this presents a nice change from me complaining about how Netflix has completely ruined our relationship by not having my Asian stuff!

First, let’s talk about what I’m NOT getting: the 94-episode Three Kingdoms released in 2010. Thanks, China, for not loving me. Why no subtitles in English? WHY?! Really, why make it region free (not like I care) but not have English subtitles? And I can’t do the various OTHER internet ways of accessing this (read: quasi-legal). Standards are too high when it comes to wuxia series. Can’t do parts.

So, let’s move on to what I am getting:

Reign of Assassins: You can’t be surprised by this. Michelle Yeoh and Jung Woo Sung. Co-directed by John Woo. I’ve been waiting for this, not just for the action but for the domestic story. It could be an interesting twist on the “I don’t wanna fight any more” plot, because it’s a woman saying it. Usually, we see swordsmen become beleaguered by the life of a hero. They retire to some cave, or become a monk on a mountain somewhere. Which is fine, but when it is a female lead, inevitably part of her domestic life is going to involve becoming romantically involved with a guy. Where else would the tension come from when her gang comes looking for her trying to drag her back into the life? The stakes are different for ladies, and I’m interested in how they handle this.

Shaolin: Once again, this is a given, ever since I saw the trailer for it. AND it’s not JUST because it has Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse and some guy named Jackie Chan in it. Corey Yuen does the martial arts choreography and it’s written by Benny Chan. Yeah, I know we’ve seen the destruction of the Shaolin temple many times, but I’m never opposed to revisiting it, especially if someone can bring something new. Plus, it looks like there may be some engagement with the modernization of China. At least that’s what I think of when I see cars and guns versus monks.

The Lost Bladesman: Me, absolutely giddy with delight at the prospect of seeing Donnie Yen play Guan Yu. You had me at Guan Yu. You know he’s your favorite of the Three Brothers. I want Liu Bei to be a better man than he is, and Chang Fei is just cray cray. Now, there is the potential for disappointment here, especially since it will invite comparisons to Red Cliff. You know my aim here is not to tell you what’s “good” and what’s not. I’m just telling you what I like. And I like Donnie Yen. A LOT. Plus, Guan Yu seems to have more potential for exploration as a character. I do want to see him do more than wield the blade and do that move with the beard. I’ve heard some less than stellar things about the actual plot, but hey, I’m getting it ANYWAY!

True Legend: Yes, not just because of Vincent Zhao but because of Zhao PLUS Yuen Wo Ping! Ok, I do have a thing for Zhao and it has everything to do with the emotional roller-coaster he took me on as Chu Zhaonan in the wuxia series Seven Swordsmen. STILL not over that ending! I think that he could be a viable go-to guy for action and wuxia films, but no one seems to go to him. Putting him with Yuen Wo Ping seems like it will be a treat. Yeah, I’ve heard some less than enthusiastic things about it, but hey. I’m getting it ANYWAY! I’m really looking for another treatment of the Beggar So legend than Steven Chow’s stuff.

Ok, so that seems to be a good deal of wuxia-related stuff. But that’s not all I’m getting!

Turning Point: This is has been in my saved cart for a while, and I wondered why I put it in there in the first place. Then I remembered: Michael Tse, of Young and Dangerous fame. You know how attached to Young and Dangerous I am, and I really like this guy. Plus I heard good things about the television show, EU, on which the film is based.. And it has Anthony Wong AND Francis Ng, each with crazy haircuts, which means the potential for their portrayal of off-the-chain characters is high.

Stool Pigeon: I’m always looking for a good crime drama, and given that this is directed by Dante Lam, who also directed Beast Stalker, I’m willing to give it a try.  I always love to see Nick Cheung do serious roles, because the first time I saw him was as the wise-cracking security official in Andrew Lau’s The Duel. Who knew he’d go from that to things like this? Plus it looks like Nicholas Tse isn’t as pretty as he usually is in films. I’ll deal with it.

And to round it out, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart:  Who doesn’t love Louis Koo? And I particularly like him when he’s being silly and romantic. Pair him up with Daniel Wu in a Johnnie To vehicle, and this could be great.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m getting. Once my shipment arrives, I will regale you with my opinions, because I know you are so looking forward to that.

Video Credits:

Reign of Assassins, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i4yVbYX98I

Shaolin, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYV9thH5RhE

The Lost Bladesman, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA2NETUFkc0

True Legend, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNzRP0ZSKzw

Turning Point, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5EMxEVFE2E

Stool Pigeon, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-6NX_ZnCLM

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yh0gGbDf6XM

Is Nicholas Tse This Generation’s Andy Lau?

Quite the intriguing question! I’ve been thinking about this lately, and my conclusion is…..no. At least not yet, but I think he may be on his way.

Let’s look: Andy Lau has a crazy successful music career, done his stint on the tv dramas, is a venerated actor and is just easy on the eyes overall.

Nicholas Tse has, from what I can tell, a good music career, done his stint on the tv dramas (and still is doing the tv dramas–good job!), is a good actor and, well, you’ve seen him. (Apparently so has all of Asia, having been voted as Asia’s Most Handsome Celebrity, according to a story on gokpop.com.

My point is that both are multitaskers who multitask well.  Now, Andy Lau’s been around a while (luv u!), so he’s had time to develop quite the film career.  And anyone who’s seen a good sprinkling of his films know that he’s equal opportunity, meaning that he’ll star in anything:  from Infernal Affairs to Resurrection of the Dragon (don’t get me started). Andy Lau works so much I’d half expect him to show up as a toy in my cereal, and not sure that hasn’t happened somewhere in the world. Nicholas Tse needs time, he needs his own Infernal Affairs. I don’t know if he’s had it yet. Some might point to Bodyguards and Assassins. But he has time. Ok, it’s no secret that Nic Tse is my boo. I’d watch him in lots of stuff, LOTS of stuff.   I’m  willing to wait to see what he has to offer in the future.

 

There Must Be Some Mistake….

This happened to me, and it may happen to you too.  I ordered this movie called The Storm Warriors, and there is clearly a mistake, because I don’t know what movie they put in my DVD case.  It vaguely looks like The Storm Warriors….it’s got the same characters from The Storm Riders, but what the heck is this?  Who let the Pang Brothers loose on this story?  Way to kill a franchise!

I suppose I should say something nice.  It is a visually interesting film, I will give it that.  Lots of the wind and flying hair we’ve come to love about Wind and Cloud. Interesting use of different techniques, especially in the battlefield scenes. But it’s dark…not dark in tone, but DARK, like you can’t see a whole lot dark.  What’s the use of action sequences when you can’t see the action?

I think my biggest complaint is with the LACK OF PLOT.  I mean, I know we are supposed to know Wind and Cloud, and I love Wind and Cloud (from Storm Riders), but I don’t care about Wind and Cloud in this film. C’mon, if you are going to jack the film (Pang Bros., I’m talkin to you), then at least give us something new.  Anyone with a modicum of film-watching experience  could have seen this coming a mile away.  Wow, Cloud is moody and Wind is sensitive.  Really?

And what is up with Heart?  You know Nicholas Tse is my boo (and you can tell him), but his character is completely wasted here. Don’t get me started on Simon Yam.

And can we please dispense with the naive female swordswoman who gets knocked down even though she’s hanging out with legendary swordsmen or is the daughter of a legend?  Please?  PLEASE!?!?!?!??!

Spirit of the Sword (2007)

My quest to see all of the wuxia dramas starring Nicholas Tse continues with Spirit of the Sword.  Ok, I don’t hate it, and I don’t not like it, I just think it could be better.  I do like the fact that Patrick Tam is in it, which reminded me that I really like Patrick and must watch more stuff that he’s in.  I like the story.  I’m particularly intrigued with the notion of race and how it impacts how the characters get treated (i.e. oh, you aren’t from the Central Plain, you need to get to steppin!)  I like the multiple swordswomen in this one too.  And every good wuxia drama needs a good villain.  I was almost convinced that the villain was not the villain.  How delicious!  Despite the subterfuge, I like how the drama committed to the fact that he’s the villain.  If you are going to be a villain, you got to be bad, like killing folks family bad, like whacking allies bad, like breaking the brotherhood bad.  Woohoo!

But I think it could be better.  I’m used to advertising for wuxia dramas misdirecting me..ok, so it’s not really about Nic’s character but his brother.  Fine.  Oh, its not really about these swords.  Fine.  But the pacing is slow, and we spend too much unnecessary time on the romance.  Now you have to understand that I started watching those 1980s wuxia dramas that are really slow, with lots of monologues about the ever-present romantic triangle and I didn’t mind that.  I like the romance, but really, the pacing in Spirit is unnecessarily slow.We know that nobody likes Nic’s character and aren’t thrilled about Gillian Chung’s character’s romance with him, let’s move on, shall we?  I also wished they would have spend more time on the reconciliation of the half-brothers.  I mean one minute you want to chop him up, and we are supposed to believe you will stand by his side in the final climatic fight?  I’m just not buying it, even if it is Nicholas Tse.  And then there were parts that were just funny.  I mean, how effective is a sword that is almost as big as me?

Would I watch it again?  Yeah, but I wouldn’t be thrilled about it.

The Kids Are Not Alright: Beast Stalker (2008)

Ok, time for a brief vacay, but before I go, here’s our film for this month:  Dante Lam’s Beast Stalker.

Now, if you watch Hong Kong film, you know that kids are not safe.  Anything is liable to happen to them, so you won’t be surprised by the first few sequences of the film.  However, I am glad to see, for once, a smart child in a film.  None of that whining, or worst of all, doing obviously bad things that just make your bad situation worse.

But, Nick Cheung steals the show. You have to understand, the first film I saw  Nick Cheung in was Andrew Lau’s The Duel, where he did a really good job of acting the fool, which is what his role called for.  So it’s not without a little bit of pride that I watched his performance in Beast Stalker. It represents his steady rise, with Election and Election 2 as well as Exiled to his credit (we won’t talk about My Wife is a Gambling Maestro–let’s pretend it doesn’t exist, shall we?) And it highlights one of the great things about Asian film in general, namely, the complexity of the villain.  Yeah, we know that Nick’s character has a certain moral bankruptcy, but has he really lost all of his humanity? Really? Are you sure? You know you’ve done a good job when I’m a little afraid of you by the end of the film.  I’m little afraid of Nick–he’s not the person I’d like to see lurking in the shadows under any circumstances.  The same thing happened when I watched Sha Po Lang:  I’m a little afraid of Sammo Hung now.  And while I could make some comments about Nicholas Tse’s performance  (later post on my luv affair with him, really, I’ve watched practically everything he’s been in, I really really like him!), I wasn’t mad at him in this film either.  Plus, this film has several good lessons, including watching out for the elderly if you are trying to commit a crime in your apartment.

Overall, I generally like that gritty, urban cop thing that Dante Lam does, so I’m pretty satisfied.  Interest piqued?  Watch the film and let’s discuss!