Editorial : Michelle Yeoh's Oscar Win and Hong Kong Cinema

【明報專訊】Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh won the best actress award at the US Academy Awards for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. With Hong Kong being where Michelle Yeoh found fame, the SAR government has also congratulated her, describing her success as "a testimony to the strong potential of Hong Kong's film industry".

Michelle Yeoh has been in the film industry for nearly 40 years. Starting as a beauty contest champion in Malaysia and going on to become a martial arts heroine in Hong Kong, she evolved into a well-known female star in Hollywood and finally makes history by winning an Oscar for best actress in the US. Her acting career is itself a very inspiring story.

Michelle Yeoh has starred in many films but had never been honoured as the best leading or supporting actress before this. Recollecting her film career in Hong Kong, she mentioned being criticised by one of her peers for having made no improvements in acting. The Oscar win is undoubtedly a nod to her acting and years of hard work. In the entertainment business, the two genders are not equal. While studios still favour award-winning leading male actors after the age of 60, female actors have fewer and fewer opportunities to be the lead as they age. Michelle Yeoh also said that in recent years, many people in the industry had believed that she should retire. Receiving the best actress award at 60 years of age, she must have brought about a sense of vindication to many senior female film stars.

In the late 1990s, Michelle Yeoh entered Hollywood. Among others, she and Chow Yun-fat starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which also won an Oscar for best foreign language film. Back then Hollywood was the centre of the world's film industry, and everyone wanted to make it to Hollywood. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was hailed as "a Chinese glory" for winning an Oscar. Over the past 20 years, the world has changed drastically, and so has the film industry. Although Hollywood films still command a leading position in the world, the situation is no longer that one-sided.

The success of Everything Everywhere All at Once is a breakthrough for Asian Americans. Having said that, although the Oscars have occasionally produced some gimmicky and "politically correct" award winners, everything stays the same after discussions were over. In 2002, black actress Halle Berry was declared the best actress at the Oscars. 20 years on, Berry said that her win has brought little difference. It remains to be seen how much change the spectacular achievements of Everything Everywhere All at Once and Michelle Yeoh will generate.

Michelle Yeoh started her entertainment career in Hong Kong. In her acceptance speech, she also mentioned Hong Kong for "letting me stand on your shoulders" so that she can be where she is now. The Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism of the SAR government congratulated Michelle Yeoh, describing her award as well-deserved and "a testimony to the strong potential of Hong Kong's talents and film industry".

Michelle Yeoh's mention of Hong Kong in her speech shows that she cherishes her old friends and memories. However, it is undeniable that the golden age of Hong Kong films, which coincided with her arrival in the city to start her career, has long gone. More likely, people's impression is that the "testimony to the strong potential" is "in the past tense".

Hong Kong has undergone tremendous changes in recent years. Over the past two years, the popular culture industry has picked up, which to a certain extent has been propped up by an attachment to local culture. To grow further and regain its past glory as an Asian dream factory, the industry must enhance its overall strength. The SAR government needs a long-term and proactive policy for the popular culture industry. If the measures to support the film industry are still about sustaining job opportunities for more people in the business and funding film productions, a major breakthrough will be unlikely.

明報社評2023.03.14:楊紫瓊封后未忘香港 本地影業重生要圖強









■ Glossary 生字 /

vindication : proof that sth is true or that you were right, especially when other people had a different opinion

crouch : to lower the body with the limbs close to the chest, esp. for concealment or before pouncing; be in this position

command (sth) : to have control of sth; to have sth available for use

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