Category Archives: China

Hollywood does China: varying degrees of success

Today’s RSS feeds bring in 2 interesting pieces about China:

A Variety Asia piece on how Hollywood studios are seriously reconsidering their plans in China.

A quick summary:

– co-productions not working as well as initially assumed
– import quotas for foreign movies
– unpredictable censorship & no standard classification system.
– “chronically weak filmgoing culture”.
– online, DVD piracy provide better alternatives

Still, China is an extremely lucrative market:
– Box office this year is expected to hit $590 million, up 21% from last year’s $489 million.
– Growing local film industry: 400 local film productions expected this year, a big jump from 350 last year.
– China Film Group now joined by state-backed companies such as Bona or private firms Huayi Bros.. Others like Chengtian have foreign capital and are pulling together production and distribution slates that make them credible partners.

But recently China authorities have become stricter on content regulation.

Market changes possible, but elements are beyond the control of Hollywood studios:
1. If more multiplexes increase demand for new, fresh content
2. If more private sector companies in production and distribution sectors emerge, which studios can partner with

While Hollywood studios are scratching their heads, other Hollywood players have made further inroads, like CAA. Variety Asia analyses the reasons for their (relative) success in this article. Even if you think CAA’s strategy is coherent in hindsight, the article’s still worth scanning for the differences between US and Chinese/Taiwan/HK styles of doing business in the media sector.

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The Literary vs the Martial

Using examples from recent movies, this post in The China Beat makes an interesting observation about the kungfu genre, and why Kung Fu Panda really relies more on American cultural tropes than Chinese ones:

The assumption is that writing encodes greater cosmic-martial truth than image. Those who can read attain higher occult power than those who can only view. While this may sound hopelessly snooty in the age of YouTube, the basic idea still resonates in Chinese cultural spheres.

Variations of this idea can be found in most Chinese-language kungfu movies. The literary and martial arts are taken to be two sides of the same cosmic coin, or the Way. Both are said to be inspired by the tracks and movements of birds and beasts. Hence the same metaphors and protocols inform both the civil and martial domains, invariably urging the harmony of heaven, earth, and man.

But I wonder if the author’s mixed up his genres. The observations about the cosmological importance of the written word apply more to wuxia movies rather than gongfu. (For a quick description of wuxia, Wikipedia suffices although I don’t totally agree with the list of movies in the entry.)

Kung Fu Panda has more in common with the gongfu works of Jackie Chan, Gordon Liu etc. Those latter movies can be interpreted as perpetuating a middle-class self-improvement morality tale as the blog entry implies, but it’s difficult to deny that they’re any less Chinese than wuxia.

Randomness #785D

  • R.I.P. Gary Gygax. Found out from, of all places, How The World Works:

    In the deep structure of ancient Internet culture, where the same computer programmers who helped build the Net often spent their leisure time pretending to be online wizards and warlocks, there’s no underestimating the genetic influence of Dungeons & Dragons. Gygax’s legacy is built into the infrastructure. I hope he took pleasure in that as the years went by, and I hope Gygax always knew how much millions of gamers and fantasy-dwellers, whiling away their hours on online quests, owe to him and his co-author Dave Arneson.

    Order of the Stick has a charming tribute too.

  • Zhou Enlai was born today, 5th March 1898. My impression of him was that of the model civil servant (not necessarily a compliment), managing to survive while Mao offed all his contemporaries. But what was he thinking on the inside? What kind of conscience did he have? I bought Gao Wenqian’s The Last Perfect Revolutionary with those questions and others in mind. Only managed to read a bit before being distracted by other books — should go back to it soon.
  • Jottings From The Granite Studio also informs us that 5th March was the start of the “Learn from Lei Feng” campaign too. Ah, a man for all (propaganda) seasons
  • When in London, why not visit the Stanley Kubrick Archive?
  • Turns out that the rumours of a new lime-green Lamy Safari are true. Here’s one for sale on eBay.
  • Randomness #54x

    Still alive! Too much working and reading, not enough writing.

    – All the cool stuff happens after I leave. Chicago now has a Festival of Maps. That’s a small version of a 17th century Map of the Nile on the site. Big version here.

    – Detailed satellite surveys show that Angkor was probably as big as modern-day LA, adding credence to theories that people eventually deserted the city because its surrounding environment couldn’t sustain it.

    – If you’re too lazy to search for clips of the Helvetica documentary on YouTube (like me), World of Kane kindly provides a selection.

    – Radar finds out how desperate some folks in Second Life are for virtual sex (Funny, but NSFW photos):

    Radarette: Very good! Ready for something a little … HARDER?

    Student: Yep.

    Radarette: Haretown and Tortoiseville are 50 miles apart. A hare travels at nine miles per hour from Haretown to Tortoiseville, while a tortoise travels at one mile per hour from Tortoiseville to Haretown. If both set out at the same time, how many miles will the hare have to travel before meeting the tortoise en route?

    – Speaking of sex, The 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema

    – The 12 Sins of Chopstick Use (in Mandarin script)

    Tibetan-inspired Chinese typography