Author Topic: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 284731 times)

pixote

  • Global Moderator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 31918
  • Up with generosity!
    • yet more inanities!
1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« on: September 13, 2008, 04:18:34 PM »
We'll need this thread soon enough.

pixote
« Last Edit: December 06, 2008, 07:22:13 PM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

worm@work

  • Godfather
  • ******
  • Posts: 7506
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2008, 10:40:24 PM »
A Confucian Confusion
vs.
Mahjong

A Confucian Confusion

As with most Yang films, A Confucian Confusion, although described as Comedy, defies standard genre conventions. There are some really funny laugh-out-loud moments (which I suspect were even more effective on the big screen) but the film also has a lot of sharp social commentary about the clash between tradition and a modern materialist society, the nature of art versus business and the vagaries of human relationships. What is even more amazing is how Yang manages to do all of this while still making them all part of a coherent whole that is amazingly well-constructed and detailed. In contrast to The Terrorizer, which starts off mostly silently as a bunch of what seem like somewhat disjointed images, A Confucian Confusion puts us right in the middle of the action at the very start. We are introduced to a ensemble of characters and we are very quickly pulled into the world they live in and their various entanglements, both personal and professional. One of my favorite parts about this film is how the various facets of the central theme (the relevance of traditional Chinese values in a modern society) are illuminated by various cast members throughout the film while being completely relevant to the situation they are in. While all this sounds like it could be heavy-handed and pedantic, the film never comes across as either of those. The film has several layers of humor and comedy and also manages to be really personal. The characters all seem to be grappling with the problem of feeling misunderstood by everyone else and seem to be really lonely despite the hectic nature of their lives and in the end, everyone seems to find some sort of resolution and a renewed sense of hope. I also love how the careful choreography of events in the film leads in the end to a brilliant realignment of points of view and romantic pairings.

Mahjong

Hmm, so this matchup pretty much ended up being the two Yang comedies pitted against one another. It's a pity I only get to choose one because I genuinely wish these films would get seen by more people as they deserve to be. All I can say is that I hope pix has some ideas on how to have resurrections for this bracket.

While Confucian Confusion focuses mostly on upperclass Taipei yuppies, Mahjong switches around and looks at the darker underbelly of taipei by choosing gangsters and other shady types to focus upon. When I said that A Confucian Confusion defies genre conventions, Mahong switches genres, characters, languages and moods at various points during the film. I don't want to belabor the point but once again Yang demonstrates his mastery at being able to maneuvere a dense plot and a slew of characters. I absolutely loved the start of this film where we are very quickly introduced to all of the characters and see a bunch of plot threads being set in motion within the first 10 minutes or so. At this point we have no idea as to how these characters and threads are going to come together and part of my enjoyment of this film came from seeing this master director set up little clues throughout the film on how this will come to be. One common idea that I felt I saw in almost all of the Yang films is this idea of alternate outcomes. So Yang frequently sets up a series of events and brings us to a point where characters make a choice and the choice determines the resolution of the film. However, rather than choose what one would consider the most likely outcome, Yang seems to want to investigate a relatively less likely but potentially darker outcome. Initially, while watching this film (and maybe others as well), I was a little uncomfortable with this. I felt like certain choices weren't consistent with the character development. After seeing this pattern in multiple films, however, I think this is a deliberate choice on the part of Yang. He seems to want to investigate just what a character is capable of when pushed to the limit and it's almost like the movie is presenting us with one possible chain of events while still suggesting that a slightly different choice could've set off a completely different chain. Similarly, at a more micro level, he sets up a rather risque (and disturbing) scene sometime in the beginning of the film where a character is made to go through a rather demeaning experience. He then sets up another scene much later in the film where a completely different character is made to go through almost the exact same experience but somehow on this occassion it is funny and at least relatively less disturbing. So once again, one minor change in who is at the center of these events changes the very nature of the entire experience.

My one quibble with this film is the performance by one of the actors who plays a Westerner in Taipei. The actor is terrible and hams his way through the film. The rest of the cast is mostly all good or at least decent. However, this one bad performance really sticks out in the movie and makes it seem not as good as I think it actually is.

I found it extremely hard to choose between these two films. Both of them are similar in that they have both a lighthearted vein and a dark side and put you in hermetic, sealed worlds that you get completely pulled into. However, although I loved Confucian Confusion, I think Mahjong is a riskier, more ambitious and ultimately more satisfying film. So with a heavy heart, I have to leave A Confucian Confusion behind for the time being and move Mahjong on to the next round.

ses

  • Administrator
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 14927
    • Sarah's Kitchen Adventures
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2008, 10:45:01 PM »
Great write up worm!  I can't say on whether you made the right choice, but you made me want to see both of them. 
"It's a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart"

http://sarahskitchenadventures.blogspot.com/

roujin

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 15400
  • it's all research
    • ssmvc
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2008, 10:48:14 PM »
So it begins...

I don't know if I agree or not cuz I haven't seen Mahjong but it's gonna have to be pretty great to top good ole Confucius Say :(
« Last Edit: September 25, 2008, 10:59:32 PM by roujin »

smirnoff

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 23547
    • smirnoff's Top 100
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2008, 11:03:35 PM »
Bullet To The Head (John Woo, 1990)


The story is simple, three friends get themselves in trouble in Hong Kong and flee to Vietnam to avoid police. They get embroiled in the war and boredom ensues...

Seriously this movie is a yawn-fest. Not at all what I expected from such a highly touted film by a "master" of the action genre. The problems are many. I've never seen such a clunkily edited movie. You're here, you're there and all the while I'm willing myself to keep up in hopes I'll become engaged. Unfortunately I never felt any connection with the characters. The acting ranges from uninteresting to laughable to sappy.

The action is alright I guess. Some enjoyable gunfights and whatnot but nothing amazing or groundbreaking. If you're not interested in the story what's the point, right? The story would be compelling if it was handled differently, I'm sure. And plot sets up what should be a heartbreaking climax, it's a shame it fails to make an impact.

If you can imagine John Woo meets the Three Stooges meets Deer Hunter you'll have a pretty good idea of what Bullet In The Head is like. Bad!


Country Teachers (Qun He, 1994)


The story centers on a young woman who becomes a teacher in rural China. It's a tough gig. The school is underfunded, the kids are poor, the teachers are paid little if at all, and it's located in a remote area.

It's a wonderfully told story, and I was with it every step of the way. It feels too real for me to start picking it apart as if it were just a movie. What's important is that I enjoyed it a great deal!

Verdict: Country Teachers moves on.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2016, 10:45:26 PM by smirnoff »

roujin

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 15400
  • it's all research
    • ssmvc
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2008, 11:08:08 PM »
Let's keep it going! w00t!

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 28394
  • Marathon Man
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2008, 12:02:43 AM »
I will step forward and defend Bullet in The Head as the real treasure in John Woo's cannon.  It's unapologetically a HK action film (just like how Bollywood films will always have musical numbers no matter what the subject matter.)  But Woo's (at the time) amazing talent for action fits in nicely with his most emotionally complex story.  The editing keeps everything hopping and his approach of Vietnam from soldiers on the inside (not the usual American "what are we doing here" outsiders) makes for an insightful story.

Woo starts out with his characters (including Tony Leung and Jacky Cheung), builds into a full blown epic and in the final Act, pares it back down to his characters while keeping the emotional pitch on an epic scope.

I'm not posting to say smirnoff is wrong, but to hopefully prevent people who read the verdict from crossing the film off their list.

facedad

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 10983
  • World Phucking Champions.
    • Be my netflix friend
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2008, 12:32:41 AM »
It may be a really really long time before the stamp of approval comes out again. Damn unavailability of Asian cinema in the west.
You're just jealous! Nobody loves you because you're tiny and made of meat!

https://twitter.com/thefaceboy

http://www.thereelists.com

worm@work

  • Godfather
  • ******
  • Posts: 7506
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2008, 06:30:33 AM »
I can't wait to watch Country Teachers but I'm definitely not scratching Bullet to the Head off my list. That screenshot that smirnoff posted from the film alone makes me want to watch that movie!

smirnoff

  • Objectively Awesome
  • *****
  • Posts: 23547
    • smirnoff's Top 100
Re: 1990s Far East Bracket - Verdicts
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2008, 07:24:02 AM »
I will step forward and defend Bullet in The Head as the real treasure in John Woo's cannon.  It's unapologetically a HK action film (just like how Bollywood films will always have musical numbers no matter what the subject matter.)  But Woo's (at the time) amazing talent for action fits in nicely with his most emotionally complex story.  The editing keeps everything hopping and his approach of Vietnam from soldiers on the inside (not the usual American "what are we doing here" outsiders) makes for an insightful story.

Woo starts out with his characters (including Tony Leung and Jacky Cheung), builds into a full blown epic and in the final Act, pares it back down to his characters while keeping the emotional pitch on an epic scope.

I'm not posting to say smirnoff is wrong, but to hopefully prevent people who read the verdict from crossing the film off their list.
There's certainly no shortage of people who agree with you 1SO.

MI:2, Face Off, Broken Arrow and Windtalkers are the Woo films I'd seen before this one. I quite like MI:2 as an action movie. Broken Arrow or Faceoff... meh, I might watch em if they were on tv. Windtalkers was forgettable. At this point I feel Woo is a capable though hit & miss action director whose films don't transcend the genre. I'm not at all excited to see the legendary Hard-Boiled or The Killer. Despite all the praise they receive I'm betting they simply can't compare to todays best.

 

love