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King Kong

King Kong (photo)

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Not since the arrival of Bruce Lee during the ’70s has a generation of Americans been so widely exposed to Chinese culture through film, and Billy Kong has been behind much of it. The CEO of Hong Kong’s Edko Films, Kong is the producer responsible for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” as well as “House of Flying Daggers” and “Hero.” For all his influence, Kong’s a modest man, and exceptionally nostalgic, even while on the cutting edge of Hong Kong cinema. Right now, he has a film in post-production called “True Legend” by director Yuen Wo-ping (the legendary martial arts choreographer behind everything from “The Matrix” to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) that stars Michelle Yeoh and the late David Carradine, and another in theaters — French helmer Chris Nahon’s “Blood: The Last Vampire,” a genre-melding action/vampire flick based on an anime feature of the same name. I spoke to Kong by phone from Hong Kong about the film, the future of HK cinema and risking his house to make movies.

Let me start with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” It wasn’t just a huge success, but an influential one, and something that you risked your own money to make. What made you take that risk, and was there ever a point where you thought it wouldn’t pay off?

No. I’ve been in the business as a distributor and an exhibitor for a while. We were looking for a financier, for an investor to co-invest with us, but we couldn’t find any. Making the film was so difficult, but at the same time so enjoyable — we had such a great team of people there. So we never thought, “Oh, what if we lost a lot of money?” The level of success was a real surprise, but I never thought, what would happen if I lose my house? We are always under this risk management. We understand the downfall, you know? I never thought of what would happen if I lost, but I never expected it would go to be that level of success.

I remember thinking how “Crouching Tiger” would introduce a generation of Americans to Chinese culture, one they probably knew little about, and perhaps help to positively shape their perceptions of China, in a time when many were negative. What do you think about film playing the role of ambassador between peoples?

I think that it certainly played that role very successfully. That film opened the eyes and minds of people around the world. Even today, it’s still a favorite [on] TV — it still gets good ratings around the world. We still see overages from the TV rights of the film, so people are still watching. I’ve gone back to shoot movies at the same locations of “Crouching Tiger” and they’ve become tourist sites, so, I think certain movies do act as great ambassadors for cultures.

What do you think Hong Kong filmmakers can teach Hollywood filmmakers?

Nothing anymore. [laughs] I’m afraid we can’t. We used to have great filmmakers like John Woo, who we’ve already exported to Hollywood, so at this moment, Hong Kong movies don’t have much to offer. [laughs] But in the old days, during the ’80s and ’90s, we had a whole bunch of great filmmakers.

07202009_CrouchingTiger.jpgAmerican audiences have already fully embraced the Hong Kong action style of fighting, and the wired choreography you guys have been doing for decades, it’s permeated our culture.

Yes, yes. We also exported Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee. I think it was all started by Bruce Lee. Of course, we still have great masters like Yuen Wo-ping, and they are still trying very hard to come up with something to surprise the audience, but I’m afraid a lot of them, like John Woo, have gone on to Hollywood.

Audiences tend to be fickle; do you think Americans are more fickle than Chinese audiences?

I think audiences around the world are like that. Every few years we have a new generation of filmmakers coming out, and [a new] audience. And every generation behaves differently. 20 years ago, we sold a lot of foreign language films to America — “Raise the Red Lantern,” all these great Chinese movies were shown in theaters in America… Kurosawa from Japan. But today, the new generation of moviegoers are much less patient with foreign language film. They don’t like watching subtitles. It’s not just America. [Everywhere] in the world, audiences are like that. Information and the Internet have changed the world, so as a filmmaker, I think we have to learn to cope with that. We can’t blame [the audience]: “How come we have all the right elements and the audience doesn’t buy it?” We have to ride the wave, too.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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