Monday, May 21, 2018

Bye Bye!

First Michael grew-up. Years later, so did Ross, and then finally Neil. The time for the constant manicuring of websites devoted to a once niche demographic at the dawn of the Information Age decidedly took a backseat to the nominal priorities of adulthood.

I was never one of their peers, at least in terms of stature, but Michael, in particular, inspired me to create my own website as the newest convert of Hong Kong cinema, which I did through the meagrest of means.

I began in September of 1999, with 15 reviews of the only 15 new wave Hong Kong films I had seen (having been able to successfully beg and borrow most of these films off some very empathetic and generous individuals on the world wide web).

As it turned out, obtaining these films -- none of which would be available anywhere in central Illinois for decades -- was the easy part. I knew how I wanted my website to look, or at least I thought so at the time. What I did know, for sure, was how I didn't want my creation to appear -- like every other garish byproduct of free web hosting.

So, I set about developing my HTML skills by trial & error (read: Stealing the coding of others' creations and seeing if it would stick and then trying to understand why it did or did not).

Unfortunately, by the time I debuted on the now [thankfully] defunct GeoCities, I hadn't heeded Michael's advice of building small and the transition from the bright red background with yellow titling and white lettering on the front page that soon gave way to the black background and white lettering of the review pages would have been enough to cause a seizure...if anyone was actually reading.

My peers were kind in their appraisals and politely offered advice. And thankfully I listened: Make the background colors the same.

But the audience simply was never there even after my friends happily linked me to their otherwise heavily trafficked websites and for a good number of reasons. One, by the time I began reviewing Hong Kong films Hong Kong itself was already going through cosmetic changes having been handed back to mainland China in 1997, and the once distinct flavour of the [former] British colony's cinematic output, would soon evaporate into the ether seemingly forever.

More so it was access: In the late 90's, notwithstanding Jackie Chan finally achieving success in the North American market, Hong Kong cinema still remained largely obscure to Any Town USA. There weren't online rental services; streaming was still in its infancy; a Chinese diaspora to me was the local MSG joint (whose name I took for my website realizing that even the very limited selection of films local video stores had still stocked the random mainland and Taiwanese selection in their foreign language tier).

My latest reviews were old news to even neophytes with the growing popularity of online forums and websites dedicated to Hong Kong cinema and its personalities.

By 2009, GeoCities -- having long since been acquired by Yahoo! -- announced they would be shuttering their doors in North America, but strangely I never saw this as a sign to throw in the towel. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to hone my writing skills and I took the least of my embarrassingly bush league reviews and punched them up in a blog which decidedly had replaced the website in our ever rapidly changing medium of choice.

And so for this last decade or so I made my contributions largely for an audience of one: Myself. I re-visited a number of films and was often forced to completely re-evaluate them often to my chagrin. On a positive note, as the internet expanded, I eventually came into contact with a number of films I had always wanted to see and previously never had access to.

But times change and we change with them. First and foremost, I've always been a lover of cinema and admittedly the Hong Kong new wave, which roughly lasted from 1984 to around 1993 (when Hollywood for the first time in decades devoured the domestic box office with "Jurassic Park"), is but a kink of my overall fetish. The older I got the more I yearned to explore paths barely journeyed: Classic Japanese cinema, the French new wave, largely forgotten Hollywood gems, cult films, British World War II pictures, obscure oddities, et al.

Today, I have a career...I guess, but more importantly, most of my free time is spent on enjoying cinema as a whole without a particular leaning towards any particular mood. A place like Letterboxd -- a social media outlet for film lovers like myself -- allows me to engage and continue to write about my love for cinema more than this antiquated blog ever did.

Today I  proudly have a number of Hong Kong films in my collection I hold near and dear to my heart; some of them necessitated a region-free DVD player and I still like pulling them out on occasion though largely for guests who I hope to incite the same kind of fire that burned in me as did so many others when they discovered the Shaw Brothers, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, Stephen Chow to name only but a few for the very first time.

I also have stacks of Hong Kong films I've acquired over the years I simply have never made time for. My time is so limited these days between work, class, sleep, and aforementioned cinematic interests, and amazing content made exclusively for cable and streaming services that I have no timetable as to when I will make the time for a particular Hong Kong title let alone once again allowing myself to fall under the spell of one spray of the perfume port's way of making films during a very brief moment in time that has long since passed.

I can only hope that if and when that happens I will be overcome with nostalgia.