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Golden Horse Faces Few Choices

As the rooster crows, the horse neighs, both in fading glory.

If the Golden Rooster is a mainland award that is only now opening up to talents and products from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Golden Horse Awards are based in Taiwan, participated principally by Hong Kong and Taiwan filmmakers but sometimes also incorporating mainlanders.

Not surprisingly, with the Taiwan film industry in a prolonged depression, the Golden Horse is a pale imitation of its former self.

True, stars still descend en masse, but the organizers are always on a tight budget. And the selection of nominees can be downright eccentric, to say the least.

This year's go-round, the 42nd, is quite eclectic. Compared with its earlier artistic slant, it is definitely giving in to commercial pressure.

Of the five nominees for best feature, three are blockbusters: A World Without Thieves, Election and Kung Fu Hustle.

But since it is not a popularity contest, some predict the winner will emerge from either The Wayward Cloud by Tsai Ming-liang or Three Times by Hou Hsiao-hsien.

But others, particularly one who was on the jury several times, said either Election or Kung Fu Hustler is going to win.

Tsai and Hou are the island's top auteurs and perennial favourites with the international festival circuit.

But Johnnie To, Hong Kong's reigning action king, is not someone to be brushed aside. He has been making crime thrillers with a distinctly noir penchant that wins both critical acclaim and box office.

Election, his latest opus of stylish visuals and brooding drama, has nabbed 11 nominations, the highest for this year's Golden Horse. But filmgoers complain that the truncated version shown in the mainland is hardly the film that has been wowing juries around the world.

Something else which is noteworthy is the exclusion of Andy Lau, who is known for his diligence and near misses at awards. After finally winning a Golden Horse last year, he submitted four films this time round. But none made the final cut.

Thankfully, come Sunday night, Lau will be spared the agony of sitting through the award show as lesser stars pick up their trophies.

(China Daily November 12, 2005)

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