Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: Can Taiwan create a Dark Knight?

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

Hah, forget dodgy prosecutors, trial by talkshow, judicial skulduggery, lawyer-client non-confidentiality and everything else besetting my beloved country and its populace of pathos. It’s time for a breath of fresh air. Something different to cleanse the palate, clear the sinuses, dewax the ears and free the mind of tedious burdens. Dear reader, let’s go to the movies.

Befitting this season of festivals and awards for film excellence, I’ve got a question to test your movie knowledge. Which token Taiwanese was nominated for Best Leading Actor at the Golden Horses this year? (The answer is at the end of the column; bear with me, and don’t peek.)

For those of you out of the film loop, the Golden Horse awards are an anachronistic Nationalist Chinese love-in for films from the Chinese-speaking world. In the old days Taiwan was one of the world’s most prolific movie factories, and the awards allowed the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to act not only as arbiters for the best that the most modern form of Chinese culture had to offer, but also to claim stewardship over the rest of the diaspora.

The name “Golden Horse” also served a political purpose: It’s derived from the first characters of Kinmen and Matsu, two Fujian island groups that the Communists didn’t want all that much after the Americans bailed out the marooned KMT in the 1950s.

Sadly, time has not wearied these propagandists. Every year a few superstars from Hong Kong are invited over to show off their Mandarin and allow Big China people to pretend that we’re all one big happy family. The net effect is a whole bunch of awards being presented to Hongkies and Chinese and a whole slew of Taiwanese artists and movies being completely ignored — largely on the Taiwanese taxpayer’s coin, by the way, courtesy of the Government Information Office (GIO).

The awards themselves are impeccably organized. I think it’s a credit to GIO know-how and professional rigor that two Taiwanese films got nominated for Best Feature Film (Cape No. 7 and Orzboyz) this year, but only one of them got a nomination for Outstanding Taiwanese Film of the Year (Cape No. 7). Outstanding work, gentlemen. Two thumbs up your fundament from Johnny.

You know how it is at the real Oscars? Every few years some actor or filmmaker with a conscience and/or a bandwagon uses a live audience of hundreds of millions of people to push this or that cause: Marlon Brando and native Americans, Richard Gere and China/Tibet, Vanessa Redgrave and Palestine, Michael Moore and everything — just to name a few. Many more might do so if they thought they wouldn’t alienate their fans.

Back in Taiwan, you know it’s Golden Horses time for the opposite reason: There isn’t even the risk of some gallant fool standing up and deriding Greater China bullshit.

Not only is there a paucity of political content in the awards ceremony (and what exists is strictly Sinofellatio), most of these celebrities — especially the young, stupid ones — haven’t got the gumption or social awareness to even attempt to make a statement. Even if they did, their minders in the recording industry would threaten them with mafia-style retaliation for placing their Chinese tour and recording contracts in jeopardy.

Anyway, the night isn’t about exploiting a TV audience to further a risky political agenda. No, it’s about showing off before a crowd of comatose VIPs and tone-deaf, developmentally disabled tweenies in their late 20s in the back rows. And don’t forget the crackling stage direction, where minutes go by as presenters try to decipher what they’re supposed to be doing. Best of all, the red carpet entrance, where we admire the nominees’ and presenters’ spangly, glittery, baubly, sequined, godawful “clothes” that do for Greater China fashion what the Great Wall did for labor relations.

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