Views, news, and reviews of films, from the latest releases to classic oldies.

Home-cooking healing: five movies to inspire your inner chef
It’s safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we once knew it.  Gone are weekend brunches, happy hour drinks with friends and delicious dining out experiences. Now, many people around the world have been forced to fend for themselves in the kitchen. And unless you’re lucky enough to know a cordon bleu chef or be one yourself, we’d hazard a guess that, by now, quarantine cooking is starting to sour. Here at Inkstone, we want to bring a bit of spice back into your culinary life with inspiration from these five films about the healing power of home cooking. Babette’s Feast (1987) The Danish drama sees a once-celebrated chef, Babette Hersant (Stéphane Audran), seeking refu
‘A Little Red Flower’ blossoms in China
One may think that a global pandemic would turn people off of films about illness, but in China, the recent box office darling explores the toll that severe illness takes on the human psyche.  The movie, titled A Little Red Flower, is a love story about a couple with cancer and the stress it puts on their families.  The movie stars Jackson Yee, whose performance in Better Days (2019) brought much critical acclaim, and Liu Haocun, who plays his girlfriend who also has cancer. Released on December 31, the movie has grossed more US$155 million in ticket sales in China as of January 11. By comparison, Hollywood blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984 has made around US$25 million despite being released o
Director’s plagiarism background may have gotten his movie pulled in China
The first rule any writer learns is that plagiarism often results in the death of a career, and popular Chinese novelist and screenwriter Guo Jingming may be learning this lesson first hand.  The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity, a recent blockbuster movie directed by Guo, was pulled from cinemas across China last week, with many in the industry suspecting it has to do with a belated plagiarism apology.  In 2003, Guo was accused of copying In and Out of the Circle, a book by Zhuang Yu, for his novel Never Flowers in Never Dreams, which became a major hit.  In 2006, he was ordered by a court to issue a public apology, but he did not do so until the final day of 2020 after 156 people from t
How five words forced a film to be pulled from Chinese cinemas
To the scriptwriters of Monster Hunter, it was a simple pun on words, some light-hearted dialogue between two American soldiers.  But to Chinese cinemagoers, these two short lines were a major insult, their translation causing such public outrage that within 24 hours of the film’s release, it was pulled from Chinese cinemas. “What knees are these?” jokes an Asian soldier to a white soldier.   “Chi-knees,” he responds. What the film company failed to realize was that the Chinese subtitles changed the hard-to-translate pun to “there is gold underneath my knees” – a reference to a proverb that means men do not kneel or submit easily.  The backlash to the fantasy action movie was swift as outra
Patriotic movies may have unlocked China’s blockbuster machine
In the climactic scene of a recent hit Chinese blockbuster, a handsome military leader gives his troops an inspirational speech, urging them to fight for the nation against Japanese imperialists.  As the music crescendos, the inspired soldiers chant, “The Chinese nation will not perish! The Chinese nation will not perish!” But as the camera zooms out, we see a surprising sight that viewers in China might have expected to be censored: the blue and red flag of the Republic of China, now known as Taiwan, waving from a rooftop.  Considered a symbol of Taiwan “separatism,” the flag was spotted a few times in the war epic The Eight Hundred, a movie set during the second Sino-Japanese war, when Chi
How John Woo reinvented action movies
Director John Woo, who turned 74 on May 1, should be considered the godfather of the modern action movie. Mixing spectacular set pieces with sentiment, he started tropes now synonymous with the genre. These include slow-motion fight scenes, Mexican stand-offs and characters firing multiple guns at the same time. The repeated use of doves, however, is a style all his own. Born in Guangzhou in 1946, the director of films such as A Better Tomorrow (1986), The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992) grew up in Hong Kong after his family fled persecution under Mao Zedong.  “As a kid, I always felt like I lived in hell – the slums of Hong Kong were horrible,” he told Venice Magazine. “I always had t
Will ‘Parasite’ make it past China’s film censors?
Chinese film fans still don’t know if, or when, they will get to see Parasite, the South Korean film that made history by winning the 92nd Academy Award for best picture, along with three other Oscars. Some expressed doubts the film would be shown in China given its unflinching criticism of social inequality and extreme poverty, and its amoral storyline. It wouldn’t be the first Korean film to fall foul of Chinese censors. Korean directors have not been shy about depicting their country under dictatorship, and are likened to French filmmakers in their stylistic portrayal of sex and gore. Chinese censorship rules ban the explicit portrayal of sex, violence, sensitive political issues, practic
The making of Oscar-nominated, Obamas-backed ‘American Factory’
Back in 2014, the Chinese entrepreneur Cao Dewang looked like a savior to the people of Dayton, Ohio. Cao is the founder and CEO of Fuyao, which makes glass such as windshields. The Chinese billionaire promised to bring an abandoned General Motors factory in the American state back to life, providing thousands of jobs to an area that desperately needed them. Filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert were there in 2008 to document the GM factory closing.  They returned in 2014 to make American Factory, which has been nominated for best documentary feature at this year’s Academy Awards and won accolades at film festivals around the world. Given full access to the plant and its workers, the
New documentary shows the vulnerable side of Bruce Lee
What can we expect in a new Bruce Lee documentary that we haven’t already seen in previous productions? By drawing on his own personal experience, Vietnamese-American director Bao Nguyen (Live from New York!), who lives between Los Angeles and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, has delivered something fresh with Be Water, a personal take on the challenges the martial arts superstar faced as he lived between Hong Kong and America. Having gained the family’s permission, Nguyen benefited from unprecedented access to archival material, which was essential, as it is primarily a film told in the past.  Several of Lee’s old friends appear in interviews; hearing from his widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, and daug
Chinese animation is having something of a renaissance
The world is in the throes of an animation boom. Audiences can’t seem to get enough of animated TV shows and films. In 2019, they raked in an astounding $250 billion. Today, three countries dominate animated film and television production and consumption: the US, Japan and – a distant third – South Korea. But a fourth player is making itself heard. China has developed an appetite for cartoons. According to the Global and China Animation Industry Report, the value of China’s animation industry grew from $12.8 billion in 2013 to $25.2 billion in 2018. It is expected to reach $50 billion by 2025. Until very recently, Chinese consumers and producers viewed cartoons as exclusively for children.