Tuesday, January 9, 2018

TVB Anniversary Awards 2017: My Predictions and Picks

Hello everyone, it's time for my yearly emergence from hibernation! Unfortunately I have had a crazy and busy year, leading me to realize today that my last blog post was from over a year ago (but in my defense, TVB also decided to push back the anniversary awards until the end of January). Since I did not write any reviews this year, this year's awards predictions post is particularly long as it is doubling as a post with my thoughts on the series I've watched this year and the performances I saw.

Best Actor

Top 5: Vincent Wong, Ruco Chan, Michael Miu, Kenneth Ma, Moses Chan
Predicted Winner: Vincent
Most Deserving: Vincent Wong
Personal Choice: Vincent Wong
Snub: Louis Cheung for "My Ages Apart"

I could see this going either way and would be pleased with either, but am giving Vincent an edge over Kenneth. With "Heart of Greed 3" being a complete failure, "My Ages Apart" barely registering a blimp on the radar, and other series starring veterans like Dicky Cheung being pushed to later this year, Vincent’s competition has ended up being much weaker than previously predicted. Kenneth is the only one giving him a run for his money, and it is interesting to see that the major contenders in the Best Actor category for the first time is between two “younger” siu sangs instead of mixed with older veterans.

Timing-wise, it certainly feels like Vincent winning is a little premature, especially given Kenneth has yet to win it. If we were to judge solely on performance though, Vincent deserves it more, as the character was multi-dimensional and called on him to be a range of things from aloof, narcissistic, manipulative, to vulnerable, and even sometimes a little goofy and fun all without being able to communicate without his eyes. I’m sure Vincent will have more interesting roles in the future, but it’s difficult to see a better role for him to win TV King for than “Man Hap,” at least in the near future. Kenneth definitely gives a strong performance as Ma Kwai that makes you feel for his unlikely hero character. He nails his scrappy, laidback, potty mouth character while injecting sentimental ness and emotion so that you can’t help but root for him. Kenneth does so well with what he is given, but he doesn’t get to show as much range or do anything new. This is certainly an appropriate time for him to win, and it would be for a strong character, not to mention for a totally unexpected but nevertheless satisfying underdog series. I’m honestly cheering for both, but still think Vincent deserves it more based on performance alone and has a slight edge.

A notable snub is Louis, who is currently being "frozen" by TVB despite being one of their most valuable actors right now. He gives an enjoyable and solid performance as usual as "Walking," and it's ridiculous that TVB is punishing him for something that was not even in his control, while Tony can get a nomination for "Recipes to Live By."

Best Actress

Top 5: Jessica Hsuan, Nina Paw, Nancy Wu, Ali Lee, Louise Lee
Predicted Winner: Jessica
Most Deserving: *shrugs*
Personal Choice: *shrugs*

It really is sad how weak of categories Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress have become in recent years. My best guess is that Jessica will win because there really isn't anyone else, and "My Unfair Lady" was a success that gave Jessica a resurgence in popularity. I like Jessica and she performed fine, but I couldn't get through the series and did not like her character "Mall Jie." Nina Paw for "The Unholy Alliance" would be a cool choice, but she is certainly a black horse candidate having come from a film career. Then again, Josie Ho unexpectedly won Best Supporting Actress for "Tomorrow is Another Day" in 2014, so it's not impossible. My only hope is that Ali does not win. I genuinely do think she has improved this year, and I have thoroughly enjoyed her performance in "My Ages Apart." She is natural, fun, and cute without being annoying and shows the changes and maturity in her character "Paris."  For her to win Best Actress just a year after winning Most Improved will undoubtedly garner her criticism and hate that she does not deserve.

Favorite Male Character

Top 5: Vincent Wong, Ruco Chan, Benjamin Yuen, Kenneth Ma, Moses Chan
Predicted Winner: Kenneth Ma
Most Deserving: Kenneth Ma
Personal Choice: Kenneth Ma, Hubert Wu
Snub: Louis Cheung for "My Ages Apart"

As stated above, Kenneth plays an unlikely hero, but one that is easy to like and root for nevertheless.  Ma Kwai may be funny, but is also an underdog character who goes from questioning to how he became embroiled in the messy world of the supernatural to accepting his destiny. Should Kenneth win Best Actor over Favorite Male Character, I doubt Vincent will go home empty-handed and instead will receive this. "Man Hap" is definitely an interesting and memorable character, but with his many layers buried under an often arrogant and detached exterior, Ma Kwai was the more easily likable character. Hubert's "Shek Kam Dong" was also endearing and entertaining to watch. I enjoyed seeing him become increasingly aware of the human nature of those around him and going from involuntary alliances with Kenneth to being true friends and "brothers." Louis' "Walking" was also a fun and quirky character and as usual Louis makes him even more likable and dynamic.

Favorite Female Character

Top 5: Natalie Tong, Jessica Hsuan, Nancy Wu, Ali Lee, Tracy Chu
Predicted Winner:
Most Deserving: Ali
Personal Choice: Ali, Moon Lau
Snub: Grace Wong 

I'm surprised Ali was nominated for "My Ages Apart" over "Legal Mavericks" since her "Never Wong" character was quite popular. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I actually personally liked "Paris" more than "Never" since Paris was a more dynamic character where you were able to witness her growth while Never remained static. Paris went from a snobby and immature girl to someone who is much more compassionate, hardworking, and sweet, and I wish Ali had received more attention for the role. With the actress' popularity this year for "Legal Mavericks," it won't be surprising if she goes home with this award, but should a black horse candidate like Nina or someone completely random emerge victorious as TV Queen, I can see Jessica winning this too.

*spoiler alert ahead* 
Moon's character "Bei Bei" in "The Exorcist's Meter" seemed like she would just be a cutesy and idealistic character, but she was also sweet, caring, and pleasantly optimistic, and proved to be such a loyal and genuine friend. She genuinely loved and cared about Kenneth, but it didn’t feel like a blind, foolish one - she just wanted him to be happy and safe. Her somewhat unexpected death was probably the one character death this year that left me sad and wanting to crawl in a corner. I also, completely unexpectedly, quite liked Sisley's "Dang Jie" in "Legal Maverick." While she could be a bit too self-sacrificial at times, I liked the character's strength, loyalty, and how she accepted and embraced who she was (born with buckteeth and the daughter of a triad boss).

One snub I noticed though is Grace Wong, who played a pretty bad ass and fun character in "A General, A Soldier, and An Eunuch." I realize she won this award last year, but surely she still deserved a nomination in what's a ridiculously long list anyway?

Best Supporting Actor

Top 3: Owen Cheung, Jimmy Au, and Joel Chan
Predicted Winner: Jimmy Au
Most Deserving: Jimmy Au
Personal Choice: Jimmy Au

TVB does this ridiculous thing where they do something different for the supporting category almost every year. They've named every single nominee, the top 5, top 2, and last year, the top 3, so that's what I will go with here.

Jimmy Au became a reliable veteran supporting actor that gained a lot of attention after playing a villain in last year's "A Fist Within Four Walls" and then the loyal bodyguard this year in "The Unholy Alliance." Yet, when it came to winning awards, it was his co-star Joel who won in Malaysia. Joel has definitely dedicated himself after being given a second chance from TVB and is a solid actor. However, this category for many years now has been an older (aged 50+) veteran actors club it seems, making Jimmy seem like the more likely winner, though it could easily go either way. I was not particularly impressed by Joel's performance though since he didn't have that much to work with, and I have come to really like Jimmy, from his villainous roles, to his comedic ones like in "Come Home Love," and his dramatic but good and loyal roles like the one he is nominated for. It's always so rewarding to see hardworking actors who have gone unrecognized for decades upon decades finally win an award and receive a standing ovation from their colleagues, and a win for Jimmy would be no different. With that said, Joel is also going into his 20th year into the industry and grown as an actor in his own right, so I wouldn't be mad if he won either.

Best Supporting Actress

Top 3: Tracy Chu, Grace Wong, and Elaine Yiu
Predicted Winner: Grace
Most Deserving: Grace
Personal Choice: Grace

The good news is there is one decently strong nominee for this category in Grace Wong, but the bad news is that it ends there. I'm not sure if I would go as far to say as Grace's performance in "A General, A Soldier, and An Eunuch" is award-worthy, but it was definitely an enjoyable and solid one. Grace has quietly improved as an actress by heaps and bounds over the last few years, and I loved seeing her hold her own as the would-be princess turned modern-day independent woman in this male-dominated series. Plus, she earned praise for her villainous turn in "My Dangerous Mind Hunter," which she probably should have been nominated for instead (though I did not personally watch it). I'm assuming Elaine will find herself onto the short-list as well, even though she and Joel really did not have much to work with in "The Unholy Alliance." Joyce is always a strong actress and I'm still disappointed she lost this award last year despite being a hot choice, but she is nominated for a sitcom this year.

Most Improved Actor

Predicted Winner: Matthew Ho
Most Deserving: Mat or Hugo
Personal Choice: Mat
Snub: Fred Cheng

After the weakest competition I’ve ever seen last year in a usually exciting or at least interesting category, all the nominees in this category actually feel deserved (except maybe host Luk Ho Ming, who I'm not familiar with). None of the actors feel prematurely nominated or too overqualified, with the exception of maybe Mat. Hubert is the weakest actor/nominee of the bunch, but he still played the role of Shek Kam Dong very well, nailing the ancient language the character used as well as the character’s sense of responsibility yet occasional awe at today’s objects. 

This is now Mat’s fourth nomination in this category, having previously been nominated in 2011, 2014, and 2015. Poor guy is always a solid contender every time, but always overshadowed by someone who attracts more buzz, and this year is no different. He just never seems to be in the right series or in one at the right time, and hopefully one of these days he is.

Hugo has caught my eye since his small role and emotional scenes in “Triumph in the Skies II” as Nancy’s early boyfriend. Since then, I’ve found him to be full of potential and easy on the eyes, yet he’s always been stuck in minor roles. With the exodus of actors his luck has changed, and it has been nice to see him in increasingly major roles like the villain in The Exorcist’s Meter. This nomination was well-deserved, and one I was very happy to see.

I did not think much of Owen when I first saw him in "Come Home Love" and went into "Legal Maverick" with no expectations for him as a second lead. Yet I was surprised and impressed by his comic timing. He may have previously been known as a Chilam and Bosco lookalike, but he finally distinguished himself as Owen this year. I would like to see how he fares in a more dramatic and/or soft-spoken role than his usual more loud, upbeat, and comedic ones though before I pin him as an actor who has vastly improved.

One notable snub is Fred. With his baby face, I mostly picture him happy and more cheerful characters, so he really surprised me in "Provocateur" as the vengeful and manipulative protagonist. I never would have thought he could creep me out or scare me, but at many points in this series he did. He was the first person I pegged this year as a contender for Most Improved, and it’s a shame he was barely noticed for his performance.

The winner is obviously going to be Matthew after all the buzz he received for playing an eunuch in “A General, A Scholar, and An Eunuch.” Its a choice I agree with and think makes sense, but I must admit I am more excited by some of the other guys, because I am still not yet convinced Matthew can impressively play more than “Siu Tung," but looking forward to how he fares in his action drama opposite Joe Ma. The only one I could see having a tiny, tiny chance of pulling an upset is Owen, who nabbed Best Supporting Actor in Singapore.

Most Improved Actress

Predicted Winner: Samantha Ko
Most Deserving: Roxanne Tong
Personal Choice: Roxanne Tong
Snub: Sisley Choi

And then we have the female category, and while it's not a total mess, still leaves much to be desired compared to the male category. My best guess is Samantha will win, since she has the buzzed-about "My Unfair Lady" under her name, and she won this award in Singapore. I'd be indifferent to this result. I remember really liking her performance in "Friendly Fire" several years ago, but she has not left an impression on me since then.

Zoie Tam won in Malaysia though, and I wouldn't be overly surprised if she won, since she has been appearing in more and more series recently. At least to me though, her look suits very well for cool and detached characters, and not much else, making her feel dull to me.

I have been very pleasantly surprised by Roxanne Tong, who gave an okay but rather bland performance in "Come Home Love," but was incredibly endearing and natural in last year's "Between Love and Desire." I'm happy to see she was able to receive a nomination this year, since she gave another strong performance in "Provocateur" and sparked great chemistry with co-star Jonathan Cheung, and she's definitely my pick. Unfortunately, TVB can't seem to make up their mind about whether to promote her, because she seems to switch back and forth from playing more major roles to small supporting ones. 

Surprisingly, Sisley once again walked away without a nomination for Most Improved. It seems strange that despite being so heavily promoted since her debut, Sisley has never been nominated for this award while Grace Chan was nominated twice (before winning the second time). It's even a little disappointing she wasn't nominated this year specifically, given that she did show improvement in "Legal Mavericks" after finally receiving an interesting character to work with.

Best Drama

Predicted Winner: Line Walker 2
Most Deserving: The Exorcist’s Meter
Personal Choice: The Exorcist’s Meter

With its high (by today's standards) ratings across all platforms and its collaboration with Mainland China, it's hard seeing any other series besides "Line Walker 2" win. However, it's "The Exorcist's Meter" that ended up being the year's most pleasant surprise. This supernatural series looked hopelessly tacky and strange in promos and had a seemingly very weak cast other than leading man Kenneth. Yet, it ended up being the most refreshing one with its supernatural elements and mixing of comedy with some slight horror. What surprised me most though was that this low-budget supernatural series also ended up being the one with the most heart and thoughtful writing for a TVB series in years. Sure there were some inconsistencies and it felt like it sometimes got carried away, but the supernatural genre was a smart and creative platform to deal with very real things like life and death and cherishing the people around you in a way that left an impact on you. It's a black horse contender with a lot of fan support behind it, but probably not enough to trump TVB's tendency to play favorites.

Global Netizen’s Favorite Series

Predicted Winner: The Exorcist’s Meter
Most Deserving: The Exorcist’s Meter
Personal Choice: The Exorcist’s Meter

The inclusion of this new category is puzzling, but makes me think that TVB wants to recognize it's surprise supernatural hit or maybe "Legal Mavericks" in some way without shafting "Line Walker 2" (or maybe even vice versa?). Line Walker 2 was noted for being a hit on online platforms, so it would make sense for it to win this award, but having it win both categories seems redundant, so I'm holding out for this consolation win for The Exorcist's Meter.

Favorite TV Partnership

Predicted Winner: Vincent Wong and Natalie Tong for "My Unfair Lady"
Most Deserving: Kenneth Ma and Hubert Wu for "The Exorcist's Meter"
Personal Choice: Vincent Wong and Owen Cheung for "Legal Mavericks," Kenneth Ma and Hubert Wu for "The Exorcist's Meter"

I'm really not sure about this category, but do know Vincent and Natalie were a very popular onscreen pairing this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Edwin Siu, Raymond Cho, and Matthew Ho won for their partnership in "A General, A Soldier, and An Eunuch," which was a fun and entertaining ensemble to watch though the comedy dragged on for a little longer than it should have. I'm a little torn between which partnership I enjoyed more of the two I listed as my personal choice, but the love and compassion felt more obvious between Kenneth and Hubert and the nature of their relationship was just so unique. It was touching to see that while Hubert was only pretending to be Kenneth's long lost "brother" for Kenneth's mother, he and Kenneth came to saw each other as brothers, even if they never verbalized it. Vincent and Owen, along with Sisley, were all still absolutely hilarious and fun together though.

Best Theme Song

Predicted Winner: Hana Kuk’s theme song for “Line Walker 2”
Most Deserving: Hubert Wu's theme song for The Exorcist’s Meter
Personal Choice: Hubert Wu's theme song for The Exorcist’s Meter

I know, I've mentioned The Exorcist's Meter a million times now, but I only managed to watch and finish five series this year, and it really was a standout this year, right down to its soundtrack. Both Hubert's theme and sub theme song were memorable and played up the emotion of every scene it was played in. I especially liked the theme song which has a nice blend with the piano and dance beats. The female dance cover of the song with Jacqueline Wong and Sisley Choi though was...so unnecessary. I also have a soft spot for his sub theme though, and listening to it just makes me think back to some of the sad scenes the song was played in and become a little misty-eyed. Of course, Hana's theme song for "Line Walker 2" will win because she's the new Jinny that we're getting shoved down our throats even though her songs are only, like Jinny's, just okay.

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