Liu Haoran and His Hundred Flowers Awards Nomination

Was asked to repost this so thought I’d combine with what I wrote last year with some thoughts since then, plus edited some things.

For anyone who’s new to the Haoran fandom or to this blog – welcome! This post will be about Liu Haoran and his nomination at the Hundred Flowers Awards last year, making him the youngest Best Actor nominee in the history of the awards show.

Q: What are the Hundred Flowers Awards? Are they prestigious?

The Hundred Flower Awards is a mainstream industry film award show that was started in 1962 (but was stopped for a couple of decades due to the Cultural Revolution) and is held every two years. However, it’s not considered to be one of the “Three Golds” – referring to Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, the Hong Kong Film Awards, and mainland China’s Golden Rooster Awards, which are seen as the most prominent acting awards for Chinese-speaking films. As you could probably guess by the name, each are slanted towards their respective regions.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a significant award by any means though – it’s actually organized by the same team who puts together the Golden Rooster Awards (which is why the two award shows alternate, years-wise), and is considered to be one of the three main film awards in mainland China (alongside the Golden Rooster and Huabiao Awards).

It’s also national-level, meaning it’s backed by the government and certified as such.

Q: Was the nomination a big deal? He didn’t win!

One thing that other C-ent English accounts have mentioned before and bears reiterating – China is the home to 1.4 billion people, and as a result, its film and drama industry is much larger than most, in terms of the number of productions churned out on an annual basis, and the sheer number of actors trying to make it.

This is why they’re so much later to the game when it comes to English subs and international marketing. Their domestic market is already more than large enough to sustain itself (and it should be noted this includes Hong Kong and Taiwan as well – whatever the political waters may be, the entertainment worlds are mixed to a point where it’ll be hard for them to ever separate).

This means that the industry is simultaneously easy to get into (because of how many opportunities there are: webdramas/dramas/films/web films/survival shows, etc.), and incredibly competitive, especially as you get higher on the ladder.

It’s especially competitive for male actors awards-wise, because Chinese male actors have such longevity in their careers that more often than not, you’re going against veteran actors who have decades of experience on you. And the industry rewards male veterans.

To put it another way: no mainland Chinese male actor born after 1980 has won a Best Actor award at any of the five major film awards (the Three Golds + Hundred Flowers + Huabiao), with the sole exception of Wen Zhang (1984), who has a Hundred Flowers Award, but then proceeded to ruin himself.

Even in terms of nominees for male actors under 35 (not counting Wen Zhang), the list is quite short: Dong Zijian (1993) and Peng Yuchang (1994) have Golden Horse Best Actor nominations, Jing Boran (1989) and Liu Haoran (1997) have Hundred Flowers Awards nominations, and most recently, Yi Yang Qian Xi (2000) for the Hong Kong Film Award. That’s it.

This isn’t because China doesn’t have good young film actors. It’s purely because the industry is crazy competitive and you aren’t being compared against your same-age peers – it’s against actors of all ages.

Q: What makes the Hundred Flowers Awards different from the other awards?

The Hundred Flowers Awards are decidedly more slanted towards commercial films and quality box office hits. (When the Wiki entry on this compares it to the Golden Globe Awards, I’m assuming that’s what it means)

All the five major film awards in the Chinese industry have a particular bias (just like in any other industry) and tend to be slanted towards certain films and regional works. The Golden Horse Awards favors art and drama films, with a preference towards domestic (Taiwan) productions and actors.

The Hong Kong Film Awards decidedly leans towards local productions/stars as well, and The Golden Rooster Awards focuses on mainland’s mainstream drama films. The Huabiao…well, I’m actually not sure what they favor (maybe more govt-approved films), but their nomination shortlist is two actors per category.

Cnetz call winning the Best Actor/Actress Awards at the Hundred Flowers Awards an entrance award, as in “entrance to becoming an A-lister actor”. More so than any of the other awards, the Hundred Flowers gauges your commercial value/appeal as an actor, and your ability to bring people into the theaters.

That doesn’t mean acting is not a criteria (because of course it is – if you’re a terrible actor would people want to see your movie?), but it encompasses more than just that.

Q: How are the acting nominations decided? How do the different rounds work?

There are two rounds to the nominations – the first is a pre-candidates list, which is usually announced about a month before the award (in 2018, the pre-candidates list came out in August and had thirteen names). The pre-candidates list is selected by a combination of cinema managers and members of the China Film Association (who organizes the awards show).

Second round is voting – both online and offline (via paper ballots).

Q: Who were the other nominees?

Not going to lie – even if I’m ridiculously biased towards Haoran, the fact that he was nominated for Detective Chinatown 2, the only non-war movie of the Best Picture nominees last year, is a bit funny. Not because DC2 lacks in quality, but because it stands out like a sore thumb since the other ones all have a common theme.

Here were the other best actor nominees:

  • Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior 2, China box office history #1 at the time); he ended up winning both the Hundred Flowers Award for Best Actor, as well as the Huabiao Award for Best Actor a month later
  • Zhang Yi (Operation Red Sea, China box office history #2 at the time)
  • Zhang Hanyu (Operation Mekong)
  • Zhu Yawen (Founding of An Army)

Detective Chinatown 2 was #3 in China’s box office history then.

Most of these names may not mean anything to the international audience, but this is a pretty impressive list of nominees to be part of. Wu Jing is a megastar at this point, and everything he touches is gold (in terms of box office); Zhang Hanyu is a regular at major film awards and was the first Chinese actor to win Best Actor awards from Golden Horse/Golden Rooster/Huabiao/Hundred Flowers (he’s also a whopping 30+ years older than Haoran).

Zhang Yi got into the film industry rather late (he spent decades in dramas) but is the male lead of Zhang Yimou’s upcoming film One Second; and Zhu Yawen, who’s the second youngest of the group at 34, has a great reputation in the industry.

Emphasizing this here: Haoran wasn’t going up against his “peers”, as in post-95ers or post-90ers. He was nominated alongside some of the best actors in China who have at least a decade of experience on him and are much more well known to the general audience. That’s why just the nomination alone – the acknowledgement – is already awesome.

2018 was also a very unique year in that all five Best Actor candidates attended the awards show and multiple A-listers were invited to the event as presenters in order to re-emphasize its significance.

Fun fact: to show how small the film circle is, all five of the Best Actor nominees for the 2018 Hundred Flowers Awards will be appearing in the three main films premiering on the day before National Day (Sept 30), four as leads.

Wu Jing, Zhang Yi, and Haoran are each headlining (or co-headlining) one of the parts in anthology film My Motherland and I/My People, My Country. Wu Jing and Zhang Yi also have The Climbers. Zhang Hanyu is the star of The Captain, which Zhu Yawen is making a special appearance in (the film is being directed by Andrew Lau, the director of The Founding of An Army).

Q: How did netizens react to the nomination? Was it controversial?

It wasn’t controversial in the least. He was not only on screen for pretty much the entirety of Detective Chinatown 2, he also gave a great performance as Qin Feng and was praised by many critics and audience members when the movie first came out.

At the time, Detective Chinatown 2 was the 3rd highest grossing film in Chinese box office history at the time AND it only had a little over two to complete filming because they had a Chinese New Year’s 2018 deadline and were limited by US labor laws. It also has a 9.0 out of 10 on Mao Yan, which is like the Chinese equivalent of Cinemascore.

Haoran also benefits from a good acting reputation that goes beyond Detective Chinatown 2.

The comment that was seen the most is 前途无量, meaning (his) future is boundless. Unlimited potential. Not just in terms of acting, but career-wise.

Are there those who thought nomination is unwarranted? Of course, but there will always be differing opinions on the Internet. What is most important is the industry’s stance on this, and clearly they’re on board.

Q: Will/did this change anything for him career-wise?

(Original response posted in Nov 2018)

To be honest? Probably not much. There’s been some discussion by Cnetz on this the past few days, and the overall consensus is that: though Haoran has made history and won the approval of those within the industry by getting this nomination, it doesn’t actually change that much for him directly because this was already the trajectory that he’s on. He is already considered one of the future faces of the Chinese film industry, and doesn’t lack resources. So it’s not like this puts him on the map (because he’s already on the map).

This is a roundabout way of saying Liu Hao Ran’s future was already super bright, and this just made it a little more brighter. His career thus far has pretty much been picture perfect – as cnetz say, you couldn’t replicate his path if you tried, it’s just been a perfect storm.

(Updated response – Sept 2019)

So we are almost a year out since the nominations and can take a better look at if it helped his career go up another notch. At this time, at least, the answer still seems to be…not really. But it’s precisely because of what was mentioned last year.

His followup projects have been amazing and it’s apparently he is solidly in the film circle now – Chen Kaige’s part of a big anthology film for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the PRC, lead in a Chen Kaige standalone film, and Detective Chinatown 3. But these are projects that he would have had regardless of the nomination.

There is speculation he may already have been in talks for Flowers Bloom in the Ashes – or whatever it is called now – then as November was when Chen Kaige’s company applied for license to film the movie – plus obviously the CKG connection comes from Legend of the Demon Cat.

Haoran’s career growth has never been because of one specific project or accomplishment – it’s been a buildup of great resources, good “conversion” of those resources so they add to his reputation (meaning he’s performed well), and support from the industry, who want to inject some young, new blood into the film industry.

That isn’t to say the award wasn’t a big deal – because of course it is, for the reasons outlined above.

Additional Thoughts

Bless the HFA because they put him, Zhou Dongyu, and Ma Sichun in the front row, right next to Wu Jing, so every time the cameras panned to the audience below, you’d get a good dose of youth because you’d see the three of them clapping enthusiastically or bobbing their heads along to the music (hilariously, the organizers also sat Haoran right between the two best friends). It was a nice strategic move by the HFA to have the three younger nominees as one of the focuses of the night despite the fact that they didn’t win.

I can’t find it now but the rehearsal fancam with the three of them, plus Du Jiang, for their joint stage was also incredibly cute. Haoran and Dongyu were so invested in telling Du Jiang and Ma Sichun how they should sing their parts (in terms of eye contact, body language, etc.) that the two of them completely missed their own cues and went completely out of tune.

There were a couple of fancams of Haoran right before the announcement of the winner for Best Actor – he was so nervous he covered his eyes (and Zhu Yawen, who was sitting behind him and was nominated himself, reached forward to comfort him).

I think we’re usually used to seeing a very confident, steady side of him, but in that moment you realize just how young he is. He couldn’t pretend he’s been there before, because he hasn’t. It wasn’t necessarily that he wanted to win; it was more that the moment was overpowering. You could sense the relief radiating off of him afterwards, especially in his stage performance with Zhou Dongyu, Ma Sichun, and Du Jiang.

The Founding of An Army won co-Best Picture, and there was another cute Zhu Yawen/Haoran moment as the former didn’t forget to include Haoran in the celebration (~3:44).

At the nomination ceremony, he said, “Let me bow first. Hi everyone, I’m Detective Chinatown 1&2’s young actor Liu Haoran. Thank you to the audience and panel for liking me, my performance, and for encouraging young actors. I especially want to thank the film’s director Chen Sicheng, and brother Wang Baoqiang who take care of me on set. This nomination is a huge acknowledgement for me. I will continue to steadily and seriously act, and bring even better performances to everyone.”

He shared his nomination trophy and certificate on Weibo later and showed his gratitude, adding, “To be nominated is an encouragement!” He also said in an interview before the awards began that now that he’s gotten a taste, he wanted to be there again one day.

The official Hundred Flowers Awards/Golden Rooster Weibo commented on his post afterwards, saying, “To be able to be nominated for Best Actor at the Hundred Flowers Awards at only 21 years old! Your future is boundless! Looking forward to not just seeing you on the Hundred Flowers stage in the future, but also the Golden Rooster stage!”

Haoran’s far from being established by any means – he still has a long road to walk, but it’s really amazing to see how far he’s come in such a short span of time! Can’t wait to see what lies ahead for him!

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