Tuesday, February 23, 2010

72 Tenants of Prosperity Crowned Lunar New Year Box Office King

In terms of box office returns, the Lunar New Year holiday is the biggest period of the year for the Hong Kong film industry. It has become a tradition to head to the movies, preferably to see a loud, over-the-top, sometimes stupid comedy, and cinema attendance numbers can be triple, even quadruple a normal week's takings.

This year pitted two Lunar New Year comedies up against each other - the latest instalment in the All's Well, Ends Well franchise, and 72 Tenants of Prosperity (72家租客). It was the latter, helped by an all-star cast and blanket advertising on TVB (one of the film's producers), which emerged as the box office champion. In the four-day period from February 13 (Lunar New Year's Eve) to February 16 it grossed HK$9.85 million (US$1.27 million), well ahead of All's Well, Ends Well Too 2010 (HK$6.57 million). It's four-day weekend figures are in fact the highest for a local film since Stephen Chow's C7 two years ago (also on a Lunar New Year weekend). 72 Tenants also had the honour of finally ending Avatar's 8 week reign as the top grossing film. (Box office figures are taken from the excellent Box Office Mojo website).

72 Tenants of Prosperity is loosely based on a fondly-remembered box office hit from almost 40 years ago, The House of 72 Tenants. It's co-directed by the versatile Eric Tsang (曾志伟, pinyin: Zēng Zhìwěi) - TV host, stand-up comedian, producer, ex-football player and stuntman, and star of numerous movies where he is equally as comfortable in violent gangster films as he is in comedies. Tsang also takes one of the central roles in 72 Tenants of Prosperity alongside singing/acting superstar Jacky Cheung (张学友, pinyin: Zhāng Xúeyǒu), Anita Yuen (袁咏仪, pinyin: Yuán Yǒngyí) as their love interest. The supporting cast is almost a who's who of Hong Kong entertainment - 174 stars according to the publicity - with TVB's stable of contracted talent especially prominent.

All's Well, Ends Well Too 2010 (花田囍事2010), to give it its full and unwieldly title, is the fifth in a series of All's Well, Ends Well movies, the first released almost 20 years ago in 1992. All five of them have been released to cash in on the Lunar New Year season. Despite not always finding favour with critics all have been profitable money-spinners for their makers. The latest stars Louis Koo and Sandra Ng and several other well-known faces from the Hong Kong entertainment scene.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Homegrown Monga Challenges Avatar at the Taiwanese Box Office

Taiwan's not known for its gangster films, but a new movie released earlier this month may change that. Monga (艋舺, pinyin: Měngjiá) - the title is the name of the notorious Taipei district where the film is set - is a crime film that has become a big box office hit in Taiwan. On its opening day on February 5 it raked in an impressive NT$8.3 million (about US$260,000), significantly more than the worldwide box office juggernaut Avatar collected on its first day (just under NT$7 million).

In Monga's first two weeks box office takings climbed to over NT$200 million, making it one of Taiwan's most successful films ever. It still has a long way to go however to catch Avatar. The US blockbuster, which is still running in Taiwanese cinemas, recently overtook Titanic to become the highest grossing film in Taiwan. Box office ticket sales have now passed NT$800 million since it first opened back in December. Strangely, Avatar's incredible success has probably benefitted Monga. As in many other countries, the phenomenal impact of Avatar has raised alarm in Taiwan over Hollywood's growing cultural dominance. So homegrown films like Monga have attracted publicity and a band of proud audiences keen to support the local product as a kind of counterweight to the American blockbusters.

Monga, which is as much a coming of age film as a gangster flic, takes place in the 1980s, an era lovingly recreated by the filmmakers. It stars up-and-coming actors Ethan Ruan (阮经天, pinyin: Ruǎn Jīngtiān) and Mark Zhao (赵又廷, pinyin: Zhào Yòutíng), both making their film debuts. 27 year-old Ruan has appeared in several TV shows, most notably the popular series Fated To Love You and My Queen. The 25 year-old Zhao appears to have the Midas touch when it comes to choosing roles. His career is just beginning but his TV debut last year - the police drama Black and White - was one of the most popular series of 2009 and won him a Golden Bell Award. Now he has struck gold again with his film debut. Monga is directed by Doze Niu (钮承泽), his second feature film and one in which he also casts himself as a memorable villain.

Monza is currently showing at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival. A review of the film by Variety can be found here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bodyguards and Assassins Sets Nominations Record

The martial arts action film, Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城), dominates nominations for the prestigious Hong Kong Film Awards (HFKAs) announced last week. The HFKA, Hong Kong's most important film awards, give out trophies in 19 categories, and Bodyguards and Assassins was nominated in 16 of those categories. The only categories in which it failed to score a nomination were Best Actress (the film doesn't have a female lead), Best New Director (Teddy Chan isn't eligible) and Best Asian Film (ie non-Hong Kong films only). The film, a critical and box office success, is a good chance to win the most awards in the HFKA's 29 year history, a record currently held by the 1996 romantic epic Comrades: Almost a Love Story which won 9 awards.

Bodyguards and Assassins main rivals for Best Film are Red Cliff II (赤壁 决战天下), the second part of the 3rd century historical epic, and Overheard (窃听风云), a thriller that has already been named best movie at the Ming Pao Awards in November. Other contenders are Jackie Chan's mob movie set in Japan, Shinjuku Incident (新宿事件), and the documentary KJ Music and Life which provides an insight into a musical prodigy.

Veteran director Ann Hui (许鞍华, pinyin: Xǔ Ānhuá) will attempt to become the most awarded directed in HFKA history. She was nominated for Night and Fog, the second of two films she has directed which looks at the denizens of the border town Tin Shui Wai. Hui, an HFKA favourite, has won three times previously. She first won in1983 for her film focusing on the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Boat People. In 1996 she won for the family drama Summer Snow, and took out her third award last year for The Way We Are, part one in the Tin Shui Wai series. She will be up against Bodyguards and Assassins director Teddy Chen (陈德森, pinyin: Chén Désēn), Hollywood success story John Woo (吴宇森, pinyin: Wú Yǔsēn - Red Cliff II), Derek Lee (尔冬升, pinyin: Ěr Dōngshēng - Shinjuku Incident) and co-directors of Overheard, Alan Mak (麦兆辉, pinyin: Mài Zhàohuī) and Felix Chong (庄文强, pinyin: Zhuāng Wénqiáng).

Simon Yam (任达华, pinyin: Rén Dáhuá) doubled his chances of taking out the Best Actor Award with two nominations. The prolific actor (in just the period 2007-09 alone he appeared in 18 movies) was nominated for Night and Fog for his role as domestic violence bully and also for sixties period piece Echoes of the Rainbow. Yam has been nominated eight times previously for either Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor but has never won before. Also nominated is Bodyguards and Assassins' star Wang Xueqi (王学圻) - already a Best Actor winner for the role at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards. If Wang wins he will be the first ever non-Hong Kong actor to win the HFKA Best Actor Award. Sean Lau (刘青云, pinyin: Liú Qīngyún) for Overheard, and Aaron Kwok (郭富城, pinyin: Guō Fùchéng) for his performance as a police detective in Murderer are the other two contenders. Jackie Chan, ten-times nominated but never awarded the prize, was again shunned by the HFKA - this time he wasn't even nominated for his performance in Shinjuku Incident.

Kara Hui (惠英红, Wai Ying-hung) was the inaugural winner of the HFKA Best Actress award back in 1982 for Young Aunty. Now the Hong Kong actress, who just turned 50, is one of the favourites to win her second for her performance as an over-protective mother in At the End of Daybreak. Mainland stars Vicki Zhao (赵薇, pinyin: Zhào Wéi) and Zhang Jingchu (张静初) are up for their roles in Mulan and The Way We Are respectively. Taiwan's Shu Qi (舒淇 - Look for a Star) and local actress Sandra Ng (吴君如, pinyin: Wú Jūnrú - Echoes of the Rainbow) who was a Best Actress winner in 1998.

The full nomination list can be found at the Far East Films website. The winners will be announced on April 18.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Leehom Wang Wins Big at Beijing Pop Music Awards

The Most Popular Singer winners together (left to right): Zhang Jie, Han Hong, Fish Leong, Leehom Wang

Chinese-American singer Leehom Wang (王力宏, pinyin: Wáng Lìhóng) up until now has been overshadowed by artists like Show Luo and Jam Hsiao when 2009 awards have been given out. However last Friday 5 February at the 2009 Beijing Pop Music Awards organised by Beijing Music Radio, Wang took home four awards, more than any other performer. The versatile R&B/rock/pop singer's trophies were in the Hong Kong and Taiwan categories of Most Popular Male Singer, Artist of the Year, Best Composer and Best Producer. One of his songs, Sun in the Rain, was also among the (dozens of) Golden Melody songs of the year.

Mainland rock musician Wang Feng (汪峰) was another multiple-awards winner, taking home the Album of the Year award for Belief Flies in the Wind, Best Mainland Composer and Best Mainland Producer. Wang Feng, who as well as being one of China's best-known rockers is also an accomplished violinist, has written some classic rock anthems in his sixteen-year career, including Good Night Beijing, Flying Higher and Blooming Life.

Other major winners on the night were former talent show winner Zhang Jie (张杰) for Most Popular Mainland Male Singer, and Malaysian-born Fish Leong (梁静茹, pinyin: Liáng Jìngrú) for Most Popular Hong Kong and Taiwan Female Singer. For Leong February has already been a month to remember - she also just got married at the start of the month. In the Mainland category of Most Popular Female Singer the award went to the singer with the soaring voice and the build of an opera diva, Han Hong (韩红). Hong, returning to the limelight after a short break and dressed for the occasion in her People's Liberation Army uniform, upset the more favoured Li Yuchun (李宇春) and Jane Zhang (张靓颖, pinyin: Zhāng Liàngyǐng) for the award.

Jane Zhang instead won the award for Best Mainland Female Singer, with the Male award going to Shao Baoliang (沙宝亮). In the non-Mainland categories, Hong Kong veteran Coco Lee (李玟, pinyin: Lǐ​ Wén) was named Best Female Singer and perennial awards-winner Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yixùn) won Best Male Singer. Li Yuchun also received some compensation with the award for Mainland Female Artist of the Year. In the non-Mainland category, Hong Kong's singer-actress Karen Mok (莫文蔚, pinyin: Mò Wénwèi) was the winner. As mentioned above, Leeham Wong was named non-Mainland Artist of the Year, and in the Mainland category, it went to actor Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) who in 2009 released his first album.

Taiwan's Mayday (五月天, pinyin: Wǔ Yuè Tiān) were named Best Band, while there were two awards for Best Group: the mainland category was won by Yu Quan (羽泉), while Singapore's 17 year-old twin sisters Miko and Yumi Peh, better known as BY2 won the Hong Kong/Taiwan category.

The Cfensi website has a list of the main award winners, while the full list in Chinese can be found at this 21CN article.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

CCTV's Top Five TV Stars of 2009

CCTV is China's national government-owned TV network. It's English-language channel, CCTV 9 has a program called Culture Express that aims to introduce various aspects of Chinese culture to foreigners. The Culture Express website has just published an interesting article presenting those actors it regards as the "top five TV stars of last year".

At Number 5 is Wang Baoqiang (王宝强), who has been one of the most familiar faces on both the big and small screens in recent years. He first came to public attention with his supporting role in A World Without Thieves, in which he played a naive and too-trusting boy who becomes the target for thieves on a cross-country train ride. He became a household name in China when he starred as a naive and too-trusting soldier in the 2007 hit series Soldiers Sortie. Last year he was in another popular series - according to the article it set a CCTV viewing record - My Brother is Shanliu. Wang played a naive (starting to see a pattern here?) but very skilled sniper in this World War II drama.

Another star of Soldiers Sortie, Duan Lihong (段奕宏), was at number 4 for his performance in My Chief and My Regiment, dubbed by Culture Express as "China's Band of Brothers". Duan started his career with a series of roles in arthouse movies before hitting the big time with Soldiers Sortie. In My Chief and My Regiment Duan played the regimental commander, and won Most Popular Actor at the Shanghai TV Festival for his performance.

Yao Chen (姚晨) was just announced as Baidu's Most Popular Mainland Actress, and was rated number 3 by Culture Express for her performance in the espionage drama Undercover. Coming to prominence in the 2005 comedy costume series My Own Swordsman, the 30 year-old made her name as a comic actress. So Undercover marks a turning point in her career, playing a hot-tempered peasant girl who becomes a guerilla fighter during China's civil war. Her performance earned her a Flying Aspiras nomination for Best Actress. Last year she also appeared in Sophie's Revenge, the Zhang Ziyi produced comedy, and will next appear alongside her husband, fellow actor Ling Xiaosu, in the series Days Spent with a Flight Attendant.

Number 2 on the list is another actress, Yan Ni (闫妮) who also rose to fame with My Own Swordsman. She has starred in a string of popular TV series on the mainland, such as Going Home, Around My House and National Action. In 2009 her career took another leap forward when she won the Flying Aspiras award for North Wind, a TV series in which she played a party cadre in rural China during the Mao years. She received further aclaim for her comic performance in the hit film Cow, and was cast by China's premier director Zhang Yimou in A Simple Noodle Story. Next will be a starring role in The Founders, a drama series looking at the pioneers of China's oil industry.

And number 1 on Culture Express' list is another Undercover star, Sun Honglei (孙红雷). He took out Best Actor at the Flying Aspiras Awards for his performance as a Communist mole in the Kuomintang during the civil war. Sun started his career mainly in supporting roles, with his performances as the villain in the martial arts epic Seven Swords, and as a gangster boss in Blood Brothers probably the best-known. The 39 year-old showed his versatility with a prominent role in the 2008 Mei Lanfang biopic Forever Enthralled, playing the opera star's most ardent fan. Last year he too also starred in A Simple Noodle Story.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Show Luo Named Most Popular Entertainer at Baidu Hot Point Awards

Baidu, one of China's largest search engines, announced its annual Hot Point Awards in conjunction with Hunan Satellite TV on 31 January. At a ceremony held in Beijing awards were given out to honour both singers and actors from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and covering the full spectrum of music, TV and films. An award was given to the Most Popular All-round Entertainer, going to Taiwanese pop singer, dancer, TV host and actor, Show Luo (罗志祥, pinyin: Luó Zhīxián, pictured left after the awards). Baidu also awarded a "Boiling Point Artist" (ie his/her popularity is running at very hot levels), which went to the comedian Xiao Shenyang (小沈阳).

In the movie awards, the actor-comedian Huang Bo, most recently seen in the hit film Cow, was named Most Popular Mainland Male Actor, while in a bit of a surprise the Actress award went to rising star Yao Chen who this year appeared in the Zhang Ziyi film Sophie's Revenge and the TV spy series Undercover. In the non-Mainland category, Hong Kong actor Louis Koo, who starred in Undercover, was named Best Actor, and Best Actress went to another comic actor, Hong Kong's Sandra Ng. Most popular film went to a mainland production, the war-time spy thriller The Message, while Hunan TV's idol drama, Meteor Shower, was most popular TV series.

In the music awards, former Super Girl winner Li Yuchun was named Most Popular Mainland Female Singer. She was the Super Girl winner in 2005, while the runner-up in the same year Zhou Bichang (sometimes known as Bibi Chou) won awards for Best Idol and Most Popular Idol. Another TV singing competition winner, Zhang Jie - who won My Show in 2004, was a co-winner of the Best Idol award. Two Taiwanese singers, R&B superstar David Tao, and Elva Hsiao took the titles of Most Popular non-Mainland Male and Female Singer respectively.

Film and TV Awards
Most popular mainland male actor: Huang Bo (黄渤)
Most popular mainland female actor: Yao Chen (姚晨)
Most popular Hong Kong and Taiwan male actor: Louis Koo (古天乐, pinyin: Gǔ Tiānlè)
Most popular Hong Kong and Taiwan actress: Sandra Ng (吴君如, pinyin: Wú Jūnrú)
Most popular cutting edge actor: Wang Luodan (王珞丹)
Most popular director: Lu Chuan (陆川)
Most popular film: The Message (风声)
Most popular drama series: Meteor Shower (一起来看流星雨)

Music Awards
Most popular mainland group: Yu Quan (羽泉)
Most popular mainland male singer: Wang Feng (汪峰)
Most popular mainland female singer: Li Yuchun (李宇春)
Most popular Hong Kong and Taiwan group: S.H.E
Most popular Hong Kong and Taiwan male singer: David Tao (陶喆, pinyin: Táo Zhé)
Most popular Hong Kong and Taiwan female singer: Elva Hsiao (萧亚轩, pinyin: Xiāo Yǎxuān)
Most popular idol: Zhou Bichang (周笔畅)
Best Idols: Zhou Bichang (周笔畅) and Zhang Jie (张杰)

Baidu also has a popular MP3 search feature, and compiles a list of most popular songs based on the number of searches and downloads. For 2009 the top ten songs were:

1. Sichuan Embroidery (蜀绣) - Li Yuchun
2. Diamond Sugar (钻石糖) - Elva Hsiao
3. Compromise (妥协) - Jolin Tsai
4. Perfect (非常完美) - Harlem Yu and Angela
5. Do Not Shed Tears for Him (别再为他流泪) - Fish Leong
6. Preferance (偏爱) - Zhang Yunjing
7. Long Live The Lovely (可爱万岁) - S.H.E
8. Ridiculous (搞笑) - Show Luo
9. Give Love (爱得起) - Gigi Leung
10. Leo (狮子座) - Zeng Yike

The list of individual winners can be found at this website, but in Chinese only. The top ten songs are listed here, but again in Chinese.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Twins Bounce Back After Two Year Break

One of the most successful Cantopop groups ever, the girl duo Twins, will finally get back together again after a two year enforced break. They have announced two Hong Kong concerts for April 16 and April 17, and will also record at least two new songs. As well as being their first public appearance together in two years, the concerts will mark the group's tenth anniversary since they formed back in 2001.

Twins is made up of Canadian-born 27 year-old Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍, pinyin: Cài Zhuóyán) and 29 year-old Gillian Chung (钟欣桐, pinyin: Zhōng Xīntóng). Both girls started their careers as models before being signed up by one of Hong Kong's largest record companies, the Emperor Entertainment Group (EEG). They achieved immediate success with their first single 明爱暗暗恋补习社 (Míng ài àn liàn bǔ xí shè - a title that is almost impossible to translate into English), and went on to become one of EEG's most successful and lucrative acts.

Seven years, 28 records and numerous awards later, the duo appeared to have come to a dramatic demise when Gillian Chung was caught up in Hong Kong's most notorious celebrity sex scandal. In February 2008, fellow pop singer Edison Chen's private and explicit photos found their way on to the internet, and Chung was one of the unfortunate partners exposed. Her wholesome, squeaky-clean image seemed irreparably tarnished and, humiliated, she withdrew from the public eye for over twelve months. Last year she made some tentative steps at restoring her career, starting with a television chat show appearance on which she made a tearful apology. In the second half of the year, she returned to the stage as an actress, appearing in a Neil Simon play, as well as making some advertising endorsements.

Meanwhile Charlene Choi had made a seamless transition from Twins member to solo artist. Her album Two Without One (二缺一) was one of Hong Kong's biggest selling records of 2009, and she picked up awards at all the major end-of-year awards shows. It was at one of those ceremonies, the RTHK Awards, that Choi revealed Twins would be reunited again, and the concerts were officially announced a few days later.

The concert theme will be "Bounce Up", presumably referring to Chung's capacity to pick herself up from the lows she recently endured. The posters for the concert show a distinct change of image for the duo - their innocent bubblegum look has been replaced by a harder, darker style. Dressed in black with sharp metallic accessories and confronting haircuts, the bright smiles and laughing poses that were standard in their publicity shots of old are also gone, with Chung looking particularly grim. The concert PR is calling it a "rock style" and refers to the "rock and roll never die spirit" (see this Sina news article, in Chinese). It remains to be seen, however, if the rock and roll look will also translate into their music.

Throughout their career Twins have managed to defy critics' predictions that their success, like that of many other manufactured bands, would be fleeting. Instead they have had a remarkably long shelf-life, partly because they have managed to change with their audience. They started off as a teen-oriented bubblegum pop group, but their music matured as their listeners grew up. After overcoming this most recent and biggest hurdle in their career, it looks like Twins may have to re-invent themselves again - the bouncy carefree music and their image of youthful innocence no longer seem appropriate. At least they can count on a fan base that has shown commendable loyalty over the past two years. With all the massive anticipation and interest in Twins' comeback it would be a surprise if the concerts were not sell-outs.

Friday, February 5, 2010

RTHK Top 10 Golden Songs Awards

The last of the big four Hong Kong radio networks announced their music awards on January 30. RTHK's Top 10 Golden Songs Awards are the oldest of the four awards, dating back to 1978. (The other three awards are the Jade Solid Gold Awards, covered in this post, Commercial Radio FM 90.3's Ultimate Song Awards, summarised here, and the Metro Radio Hit Awards which handed out a ridiculous 149 awards - a translated winners' list is here).

At the RTHK ceremony Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yìxùn) and Joey Lung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér - both pictured right) continued their domination of the Cantopop awards scene, both artists winning six awards each. Yung's achievement was especially noteworthy as she took home the Outstanding Female Singer award for the six consecutive year. In a remarkable display of consistency she has also had a song in the Top 10 Golden Song list every year since 2000. 1999, the year she commenced her career, was the only year she missed a place on the list, but even then her debut single, Unknown, was awarded Best Cover song that year.

Eason Chan won Outstanding Male Singer for the third year in a row, and he also took out the Global Chinese Best Song Award for 700 Years Later. The National Best Song Award was given to Hins Cheung (张敬轩, pinyin: Zhāng Jìngxuān) for Yes & No, while the Best Mandarin Song was won by Khalil Fong (方大同, pinyin: Fāng Dàtóng) with A Trip for Three People (三人游).

The Top Ten Songs list was as follows:
  • My Own Book of Legends (搜神記) - Joey Yung
  • 700 Years Later (七百年後) - Eason Chan
  • You Hide I Hide (你瞒我瞒) - Jason Chan
  • My Memory Isn't Mine (我的回憶不是我的) - Vincy Chan & Hai Ming Wei
  • Turns Out I'm Really Happy (原來过得很快乐) - Miriam Yeung
  • The Moon Says (月亮说) - Ivana Wong
  • Even If the World Has No Fairytales (就算世界無童话) - Janice Vidal
  • Song Of The Year (年度之歌) - Kay Tse
  • Earth is Dangerous (地球很危險) - Leo Ku
  • If I Was Eason Chan (如果我是陳奕迅) - Mr

The Golden Needle Award, a lifetime achievement award, was given posthumously to 80s Cantopop star, Danny Chan (陈百强, pinyin: Chén Bǎiqiáng - pictured left). Possibly his best-known song was Ripples, but he had a string of classic melancholy ballads like Hoping for Destiny, Tung, Pien Pien Hee Foon Ni (Slowly I Love You) and his last hit song Yut Sung Hor Kau (What's To Be Expected of This Life?). Chan retired from the music business in 1992 when he was just 34 years old, and a little more than 18 months later he was dead.

The cause of death has remained a mystery to this day - officially it was a heart problem that left him in a 17 month coma before he passed away. However rumours quickly surfaced that he died as a result of his long battle with the bottle, that he had overdosed on a mixture of drugs and alcohol. Another theory had it that,
believing his career was in decline, he became depressed and took his own life. The Golden Needle Award was accepted by Chan's father.

The full list of RTHK Golden Song Award winners can be found at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

January Flavour of the Month: Xiao Xiao Bin

Xiao Xiao Bin (小小彬) is the child actor who has had an immediate impact in the hit drama series Autumn Concerto, even managing to upstage his idol co-stars. He first appeared in the series in November, and almost immediately the ratings began to shoot up. In the new year, as the ratings continue to climb, Xiao Xiao's celebrity status likewise continues to reach new levels.

He began the year with a prominent role in Taiwan's Flag Raising Ceremony, the first of several public appearances in January. His father, who also acts as his manager, then announced a schedule that includes four movies and six commercials in the near future. Xiao Xiao's weekly earnings were also revealed (Chinese article here): 700,000 Taiwan dollars, or US$21,000 - much more pocket money than I ever received.

Xiao Xiao also got his first taste of the dark side of being a celebrity, when he had to answer some tough questions during a variety show interview. The five year old, whose parents are divorced, was asked "Do you want a new Mommy?". His response, that his old mommy didn't want him anymore, hinted that behind his bright and cute persona his parents' break-up may have left some scars. Some people felt the interview had gone too far, but the show's host defended himself, a little insensitively, by claiming it's all part of a child star's job. (Original Chinese article here, and a translation from Asian Fanatics here).

Questions have also been raised about Xiao Xiao Bin's heavy workload, and whether it's appropriate for someone who, let's face it, is just a little boy. His Autumn's Concerto co-star, Ady An, has publicly expressed her wish that his father doesn't put too much pressure on him. Even the Bureau of Social Affairs were called in to investigate his workload. At least Xiao Xiao, his waking hours taken up with acting and promotional appearances, doesn't have to go to school. Instead he will receive private tutoring, a decision that has also received criticism.

Although Autumn's Concerto nears the end of its run on TV - the show has two more episodes to go - Xiao Xiao Bin will continue to remain large in the public eye. A rival idol drama series, Down With Love, in which he has a prominent role, has just started its run on Sunday evenings. He will also act in TTV/SETTV's follow-up to Autumn's Concerto, with the working title P.S Man.

His father has also revealed plans for a CD, possibly for release at the end of the year. First however Xiao Xiao has to learn how to sing and dance. While no one doubts his acting ability, an appearance on another variety show exposed his shortcomings in the fields of song and dance. Dance lessons, not to mention English tutoring, have been added to his already busy schedule.
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