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Thread: I Am What I Am

  1. #1
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    I Am What I Am

    Dec 13, 2021 3:50am PT
    China Box Office: ‘Schemes in Antiques’ Conspires to Hold Top Spot

    By Rebecca Davis

    "Schemes in Antiques"
    Chinese action-adventure title “Schemes in Antiques” conspired to hold its own at the top of the China box office with a $14.7 million second weekend, having opened first last week with a solid $25.6 million three-day debut.

    Originally set to premiere in April, the tale of intrigue around real and counterfeit artifacts from Hong Kong director Derek Kwok Chi-kin (“Wukong”) has now grossed $52 million (RMB331 million) of a projected $66.6 million, according to data from Maoyan. Produced by Hong Kong-based Emperor Motion Pictures, it stars fan favorite Ge You alongside Lei Jiayin, Li Xian, and Xin Zhilei.

    “Schemes” maneuvered ahead of second place comedic thriller “Be Somebody,” which grossed a further $9.85 million in its fifth weekend to bring its current cume up to $133 million.

    Once again this week, a new rom-com took third: a film whose Chinese name translates to “We Who Have Loved Before.” The tear-jerking first feature from newcomer Zhang Xiaolei grossed $3.55 million, far less than first and second place.

    That the top three films of the weekend look so very much like they did last week — the fresher “Schemes,” followed by “Be Somebody” and a $3 million debut of an innocuous, flash-in-the-pan rom-com trailing far behind — is an indication of how stagnant China’s release schedule is at the moment without new major blockbuster releases.

    Viewers were thirsty enough for new content that the upcoming animation “I Am What I Am” came in third off pre-sales, ahead of largely-exhausted war epic “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” which has been in theaters for 72 days since September. The former is set to release Dec. 17, but already grossed $2.33 million this weekend.

    Directed by Wuhan native Sun Haipeng (“Kung Food”), the boldly colored tale tells the story of a young boy and his rag-tag band of companions who dream of winning the country’s biggest lion dance competition with the help of a former star dancer.

    This week, “Battle” earned a further $1.44 million, bringing its cume up to $903 million.

    Meanwhile, “Oh! My Gran” — the first Korean film to be released in China in six years — continues to fare poorly, with hardly any allotted screenings (an average of 0.4% of total nationwide screenings each day). It has grossed just $394,000 (RMB2.5 million) so far since its Dec. 3. debut, and currently ranks outside the top 20 films at the box office.
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    Gene Ching
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  2. #2
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    From “Kung Food” creator Haipeng Sun

    Kung Food is in my queue...

    May 6, 2022 3:58pm PT
    ‘I Am What I Am’ Review: Ready-for-Export Chinese Toon Elevates a Low-Class Reject Into a Lion Dance Champ
    This delightful indie export opens the door to a whole new realm of Chinese animation, showing that the country can compete with Pixar and company.

    By Peter Debruge

    Courtesy of

    A ridiculously satisfying underdog sports story set in the highly specialized arena of Chinese lion dancing, “I Am What I Am” features a plot familiar enough that it could have been generated by computer, peppered with specifics unique enough that the experience consistently manages to surprise. The result is an inspired mix of engineering and ingenuity, distinguished by some of the most human character animation this side of the uncanny valley — not realistic, mind you, but relatable, and a welcome departure from the cutesy cartoony-ness of Pixar and its American ilk, produced at a mere fraction of the budget.

    World premiering as a work in progress at Los Angeles’ Animation Is Film Festival, this “Karate Kid”-like crowd-pleaser from “Kung Food” creator Haipeng Sun represents another breakthrough for China’s fast-growing animation scene. Packed with culturally specific humor, the toon is clearly intended to serve local audiences (on the Douban and Maoyan platforms, it proved to be 2021’s highest-rated domestic release after opening in China on Dec. 8), though foreigners should also appreciate such a relatable glimpse behind the mask of the colorful custom, in which teams of trained dancers steer the two-person costume across tall pedestals and other challenging obstacles.

    A sheepish, scrawny boy with a girl’s name, teased by others for looking like a “sick cat,” Juan lives alone in a rural town in Guangdong province while his parents work in the big city. His self-esteem is nearly nonexistent until one day he witnesses a mystery contestant outmaneuver the local bullies in a lion dance competition — a thrilling “capture the flag”-style game set on an elaborate bamboo scaffolding, which the virtual camera observes with all the dynamism of a wuxia movie. The winner turns out to be a girl his age, also named Juan, who gifts the kid her lion mask and gives him the motivation he needs to give the sport a try.

    The next half-hour will seem fairly familiar, as Juan (the boy) enlists fellow-reject friends Cat and Dog to form a team, then seeks out former champion Huang Feihong, now a salted-fish seller, to coach them to victory. The movie stacks one montage after another, alternating between obvious and unexpected jokes along the way, to compress the kind of physical training that would normally take a decade or more. After Juan wins an early local competition, the plot takes an unexpected turn, as Juan does the honorable thing in order to help his parents, bowing out of the next level and instead moving to Shanghai to earn money for the family.

    In moments like this, the film walks the line of feel-good propaganda, reinforcing how honorable and obedient citizens are expected to behave, instead of celebrating the kind of personal glory to which American audiences are more accustomed (although rest assured that U.S. toons feel like a kind of behavioral brainwashing to foreign auds). Screenwriter Zelin Li gives these gangly kids memorable personalities, which prove all the more lively through the endearingly exaggerated way they’ve been rendered — to say nothing of the elegant, accelerated lion dance moves.

    In China, the film drew criticism for its character designs, which include small, squinted eyes (reportedly done to differentiate the style from Japanese animation) and unflattering proportions (one of Juan’s pals is a Fat Albert-style stereotype). But the truth is, the faces here are so expressive, they raise the experience above its relatively formulaic plot, reminding that animation is a bit like lion dancing, as artists hide behind elaborate avatars and try to convey behavior and emotions the general public can recognize. The backgrounds are especially impressive, including a golden-hued forest with its crepe-paper canopy of saffron red leaves, demonstrating just how far computer animation has come.

    While “I Am What I Am” clearly speaks to various national-identity issues, the feelings represented are universal. There’s something to be said for how it celebrates characters from the bottom of society, like working-class Juan. It’s still quite uncommon to encounter a Chinese film that centers ordinary people, as opposed to mythical and magical heroes (like “Ne Zha”), but easy to understand why that would resonate with audiences.

    Of course, the movie wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if Juan didn’t have a last-minute change of heart, showing up to compete in the big Shanghai competition. Kudos to the team for conceiving a surprising way for that to play out, where winning isn’t nearly as important as Juan proving his own value to himself.


    ‘I Am What I Am’ Review: Ready-for-Export Chinese Toon Elevates a Low-Class Reject Into a Lion Dance Champ

    Reviewed at Animation Is Film Festival, Los Angeles, Oct. 24, 2021. Running time: 104 MIN. (Original title: “Xiong shi shao nian”)

    Production: (Animated – China) A Beijing Cheering Times Culture & Entertainment,YI Animation Inc. presentation of a YI Animation Inc., Beijing Cheering Times Culture & Entertainment production. Producer: Miao Zhang.
    Crew: Director: Haipeng Sun. Screenplay: Zelin Li.
    With: (Mandarin dialogue)
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    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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