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Thesp Cheng, helmer Hui lead film noms

'Shaolin' nabs 13 nods at Hong Kong Film Awards

HONG KONG — Sammi Cheng, the queen of local romantic comedies, has picked up three nominations for best actress at April’s Hong Kong Film Awards, for “Wu Yen,” “Love on a Diet” and “Fighting for Love.”

Cheng, dubbed the local Julia Roberts, isn’t the only one with the odds in her favor when it comes to the award noms, announced Thursday. Helmer Ann Hui picked up director nominations for both “July Rhapsody” and “Visible Secret.”

Blockbuster comedy “Shaolin Soccer,” which topped local B.O. charts last year and will be released in the U.S. as “Kung Fu Soccer,” collected 13 nominations, including two for actor-director Stephen Chow and another for best film.

Gay love drama “Lan Yu” has 11 noms, including film, actor nods for both its leads and a director nom for Stanley Kwan.

There was plenty to celebrate, but the mood at the nominations announcement wasn’t entirely upbeat. Hong Kong Film Awards Assn. president Joe Cheung blamed Hong Kong’s economic slowdown for the 30% cut in the awards show’s budget, from $384,000 to $256,000.

Organizers claim the April 21 show won’t be affected, and even added a new category for best Asian film. Contenders there are Taiwanese films “Yi Yi” and “Brothers and Sisters,” China’s “Shower,” Japanese animated blockbuster “Spirited Away” and Korea’s “Happy End.”