Author Topic: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 292442 times)

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2290 on: December 09, 2016, 09:24:38 AM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



To Live  (Zhang Yimou, 1994)
Won over Good Men, Good Women (verdict by Sam the Cinema Snob)
Won over Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War (verdict by smirnoff)
Won over Hakuchi (verdict by Bondo)
Lost to Rebels of the Neon God (verdict by Jared)

I had a passing thought — which would have been equal parts funny and cruel — to conceal my feelings about this round's resurrection candidates and secretly rank the films in reverse order of worthiness. Then, at the close of the round, I'd reveal in a big dramatic twist that it was actually the bottom three film that were my favorites and earning another shot in this bracket. In that alternate universe, fans of To Live would have been happy today to see it leap to the top of the standings. That would have been a very tricky review to write, however. I suppose I'd have focused on my honest enthusiasm for Ge You's movie star qualities and for the scenes of operatic puppetry contained in the film, but after that I'd have really struggled to disguise just how bored I was with this Chinese history lesson. I don't know if it's just Far East fatigue on my part, having seen too many similar stories earlier in this bracket, or the fact that I tend not to like these family-through-the-decades type period pieces. To Live kept reminding me subconsciously of some other film that disappointed me fairly recently, but I couldn't put a finger on which one until I read this line in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide's 3½-star review: "[The] only flaw is that episodic story eventually develops Edna Ferber-ish soap opera quality." That's when I realized I was thinking of George Stevens' Giant, which bores me in very similar fashion. The melodramatic qualities of Zhang's film also hurt my experience, particularly the huge coincidence involving a tragedy at the center of the film. With Ju Dou, I complained about Zhang's occasional tendency to let theme drive the narrative rather than derive from the narrative, and there's definitely some of that going on in To Live. The editing is a big weakness of the film, and the visuals, at times, are a bit more rote than I've come to expect from Zhang. I'm being overcritical now, though, for it's a very respectable production that presents an appealing human story against an epic backdrop, all anchored by some strong performances. It's just not for me.


Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: Fist of Legend

pixote
« Last Edit: December 09, 2016, 09:44:21 AM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2291 on: December 09, 2016, 09:28:42 AM »
Aww, that stinks. I really like this film and was hoping it would make it farther in the brackets.

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2292 on: December 09, 2016, 10:29:10 AM »
Aww, that stinks. I really like this film and was hoping it would make it farther in the brackets.

Yeah, I know. :-/

I'm surprised just how many people really like To Live. I feel like if it were a 1994 Hollywood film with Holly Hunter and Kevin Costner, it'd be quickly dismissed as Oscar-bait.

Granted, 1994 saw a different history-through-one-man's-eyes movie take home the Best Picture statuette.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2293 on: December 11, 2016, 12:36:31 AM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



Fist of Legend  (Gordon Chan, 1994)
Won over Justice, My Foot! (verdict by edgar00)
Won over Your Place or Mine (verdict by ProperCharlie)
Won over Tokyo Fist (verdict by smirnoff)
Lost to Fist of Legend (verdict by PeacefulAnarchy)

I didn't hand-pick the screenshot above, but it's perfect. It captures all I really want from these films: Jet Li just looking cool and being a pure badass. And yet apparently that's easier said then done. Too many of these films — Fist of Legend included — clutter themselves up with overly complex and disappointingly silly plots that often only serve to distract from Li's star presence. This particular movie opens solidly, with the bone-warping introduction of Li's character, but it wasn't until the 95-minute mark that anything really made me cheer — a bad sign in a movie that runs only ten more minutes past that point. The editing is a big culpit here. There are too many inserts of the points of contact within the fight — e.g., fists and feet hitting their targets — creating a distraction from the lovely fluidity of Li's leg work and the intricacies of Yuen Woo-Ping's fight choreography. Li's physicality is the film's greatest asset, and I would have preferred seeing him do one-handed push-ups for five minutes to watching any of the scenes without him (of which there are too many). There's also a deliberate corniness to Fist of Legend that I don't really understand — the embarrassing musical score is of no help — but then I start to wonder how different, in quality and tone, this is to a movie like Van Damme's Bloodsport. I tend to approach these Hong Kong action films expecting Fred Astaire-caliber kung fu beauty, whereas with Bloodsport I'm just hungering for B-movie popcorn fun. I suppose that's unfair, but I come away disappointed from Fist of Legend regardless. Still, it bothers me that the final bracket of 32 films might lack a representative Hong Kong action film. If a full three undeniable resurrection candidates fail to present themselves, I might throw Hard Boiled back in there on reputation alone, somewhat disregarding my own experience with it.


Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: Eagle Shooting Heroes. Hopefully BlueVoid has sufficiently lowered my expectation to the point where I can be pleasantly surprised by this one — because I confess that I've been rather dreading it.

pixote
« Last Edit: December 11, 2016, 12:38:54 AM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Teproc

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2294 on: December 11, 2016, 03:03:41 AM »
Up next: Eagle Shooting Heroes. Hopefully BlueVoid has sufficiently lowered my expectation to the point where I can be pleasantly surprised by this one — because I confess that I've been rather dreading it.

Keep up the good work ! This bracket has become my new favorite thing (I've been going back and reading some of the old reviews)... as for Hong Kong action, I guess it's a pretty naturally divisive genre so it's not surprising it's doing relatively poorly : people who love it like 1SO aren't taking these match-ups because they've already seen them so they get a bit shafted... but I don't think it's a problem if they're all gone before the final 32 : it's not like the results are supposed to be representative of anything other than "here are the films who made it through this crazy process. They're probably good."

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2295 on: December 11, 2016, 08:56:09 PM »
Aww, that stinks. I really like this film and was hoping it would make it farther in the brackets.

Yeah, I know. :-/

I'm surprised just how many people really like To Live. I feel like if it were a 1994 Hollywood film with Holly Hunter and Kevin Costner, it'd be quickly dismissed as Oscar-bait.

I don't know that I'd dismiss it, but I'd probably agree with the label. I like as much Oscar bait as I hate though... probably more.

It's funny that you don't generally like these "family-through-the-decades" period pieces. I'm completely the other way. I was gunna say that's one of the qualities in this bracket that generally makes me like a film more! It's the snapshot stories that don't really do anything for me. I like the ambition of spanning a long time. Epic potential. Even if it is schmaltzy. :)

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2296 on: December 11, 2016, 09:45:42 PM »
Fist of Legend  (Gordon Chan, 1994)

... it bothers me that the final bracket of 32 films might lack a representative Hong Kong action film.

I'm not sure the best the genre had to offer in the 90's was even coming out of the Far East.

Even so, I wish I had gotten more involved in the original selection process. Personally I think Jackie Chan was seriously underrepresented in this thing from the get go, and the films of his that were included aren't even in his top 5 of the 90's imo. Supercop is whatever... it has one memorable stunt (motorcycle over a train). Drunken master is one note slapstick.

Police Story 4: First Strike is funny, charming, has a wonderful variety of stunts and amazing choreography. And much of the film is spent off-continent in Australia, which I find is a nice change of scenary. There's snow settings, parade settings, underwater settings. The film has a fantastic variety and none of the action is repetitive. This is Jackie Chan's most well rounded film imo. A phenomenal example of him and what he does, and also a film that doesn't lose you between the action sequences. Far and away my favourite.

Who Am I is basically Jackie Bourne. The stunts are so good and so dangerous looking it makes me queezy. The climactic fight sequence/stunts are just awesome. Less well rounded film, but amazing highs.

Rumble in the Bronx Fairly well-rounded and with some awesome displays of Jackie interacting with his environment during fights. The acting and plot will leave you chuckling.

Mr. Nice Guy and Rush Hour would be the other two in the 90's top 5, for me.

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2297 on: December 22, 2016, 09:52:06 AM »
Nabbie's Love VS. Whisper of the Heart



This is a story about love. Love is really the only thing that the movie is concerned about exploring. You have Nanako who is returning to her home island after working in Tokyo to live with her grandparents. She has to decide between marrying the local boy who the seer has said she must marry or the guy from Tokyo who she seems to have more of a connection with. Then you have Nabbie, Nanako's grandmother, who is seemingly in a happy marriage for over 50 years. When her first love, Sun Ra, returns to the island it has her questioning what her heart really wants.

Did I mention this is about love? Even the island locals are paired off and either in love or teasing someone about being in love. There is also a lot of music in the film where there are many scenes of street musicians playing random songs. Really I think every scene boils down to someone talking about love, giving advice about love, making a grand gesture in the name of love, or dancing about to an odd sort of Celtic-Japanese fusion music.

In a way, it was a lovely film in it's simplicity. Nabbie's love interest makes for an interesting little scenario, but the rest of the movie didn't work as well for me. Nanako's husband alternates between being an inappropriate creepy old guy to being the pathetic old guy you should feel bad for. It doesn't really work. Unfortunately the music didn't work for me either, since it's such a large part of the movie.

It's a film that has nuggets of some really great material, but wasn't completely successful for me overall.





Whisper of the Heart(Mimi wo sumaseba)
Yoshifumi Kondτ
1995
Japan
FifthCityMuse's round 1 verdict
tinyholiday's round 2 verdict
smirnoff's round 3 verdict




A wonderful film that lives up to the Studio Ghibli pedigree despite being the first one not directed by Miyazaki or Takahata. The story follows Shizuku, a bookworm who develops a crush on a boy who has been taking out all the same books as her. The real magic hear is the character details and light-hearted feel to the movie. It may be nearing corny at times, but it is (nearly) always sincere.

The best moments in the film are just watching Shizuku explore, and experience life. The scene of her following a stray cat into an antique store embodies what is that the core of a lot of Studio Ghibli films. There is sense of curiosity and bridging of naive adventure with lore. The world which Shizuku occupies feels rich and is aided by some absolutely stunning background artistry, which is played against a simpler animation style for the characters. Where the world is built with mesmerizing detail and beauty the characters are fleshed out with dialog and actions.

In a lot of ways this movie feels like a fable that is beautifully padded out with a lot of character work and details. Central to the movie is the idea that if you are passionate about something and work hard at it, even if you are not the best at it, good things will happen. It's sentiment that works really well here, and one that I believe in. It's attitude on hard work and following your passions is perhaps what keeps the film feeling cohesive.

What works less well is the final moment of the film. It undoes a lot of the sincerity that the movie had thus far delivered and threw it out the window. It felt completely out of place and lands with an awkward thud. In general, the ending feels abrupt. The movie takes it time building up a lovely world with interesting side characters and plot points that never get delivered on. It almost felt as if they had reached their allotted running time and decided to throw an awkward ending on and call it a day. It was a bit disappointing, but forgivable given how good the rest of the movie is.




Verdict: This was a great matchup for a lot of reasons. The films paired very well, both centering around love and music. They both also featured old guys mentoring the younger kids on love.. one was creepy one wasn't. I also enjoyed both movies which is always a plus. Ultimately, I enjoyed Whisper of the Heart more, and it will move on.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2298 on: December 22, 2016, 09:59:14 AM »
Nice! One of Ghibli's best works.

Teproc

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2299 on: December 22, 2016, 12:32:56 PM »

Da hong deng long gao gao gua / Raise the Red Lantern
(Zhang Yimou, 1991)
Round 1 review by Bill Thompson
Round 2 review by Sam the Cinema Snob
Round 3 review by smirnoff
Roung 3 resurrection by pixote

               VS               

Ano natsu, ichiban shizukana umi / A Scene at the Sea
(Takeshi Kitano, 1991)
Round 1 review by 'Noke
Round 2 review by smirnoff
Round 3 review by Sam the Cinema Snob




Da hong deng long gao gao gua / Raise the Red Lantern


This is a gorgeous, gorgeous film. Just stunning. Not only is Zhang's shot composition exquisite, it always serves a purpose : mainly that of conveying a world with very strict rules (symmetry everywhere), in which these characters are trapped (recurring shots in which walls make the screen seem smaller, or characters framed in doors) and which they have to figure out how to best navigate. When they make choices that go against the "tradition", they often break the symmetry, leaving an empty seat at a dinner table for example. The titular lanterns ritual exemplifies Zhang's visual approach perfectly : it symoblizes power dynamics (quite literally) and the weight of tradition... and it also looks amazing.

The setting and framing are claustrophobic but grand, to the point that the house/manor/castle almost feels other-worldly. It plays somewhat like an allegory of life, and more specifically life in China : strict rules and arbitrary rulers, people turning on each other to get ahead, often resulting in tragedy. It's entirely possible I'm imposing this on the film, because I can only assume from the prestige this film exudes that it must have been approved by the authorities at least to some extent, but maybe they saw it as a contrast between aristocratic early-century China and what it is today. Zhang's choice to show as little as possible of the master might have been paying off ther : he's not cruel, he's simply insenstive and oblivious to the drama going on... and even if he were, one gets the sense he probably wouldn't care all that much.

Whatever the case may be, I do think the tone of the film lends itself to an allegorical reading, though it certainly works as character drama as well. Gong Li is great of course, though her character makes some truly infuriating choices... and I'm guessing so far this review reads like a rave, but this is a film I respect and admire more than I love. Part of it is that it feels nihilistic and deterministic : what happens in the third act is very clearly foreshadowed early on, and it sometimes feel like we're just watching these characters walk towards inevitable doom, like clockwork... which, if this is to be an allegory of life, makes it boldly pessimistic, and that's not really my thing. That's not a strike against the film per se and it still stands as a remarkable achievment, but not quite a favorite for me.



Ano natsu, ichiban shizukana umi / A Scene at the Sea


A Scene at the Sea is a very quiet movie. That might seem pretty obvious, since it's two main characters are deaf and mute, but even taking that into account, it's very quiet. Only being familiar with Kitano from his (awesome) role in Battle Royale and knowing his more famous films are centered on yakuzas, I was surprised by that. The film has a poetic quality to it, with its recurring shots of people walking along the sea carrying surfboard, watching other people surf, and surfing themselves.

I hate to call it boring then, but... it kind of is. I don't think the two main actors are good enough to completely carry the film without speaking, and the supporting characters are of varying effectiveness, though I like the comic relief subplot. I never really got a handle on their relationship, so when it came into a conflict that then seemed to resolve itself I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. And then there's the ending, which left me even more perplexed.

Overall it's a nice enough movie, served by a typical Joe Hisaishi score (typical in that it always seems very close to veer into insuferable cheesingess but somehow straddles the line and stays strong), with a strong sense of place and some nice shots... but with too little going on for my taste.



Verdict: Once again, no surprise. Raise the Red Lantern moves on. I'm glad it didn't have to face too strong competition actually, because it clearly deserves to be in the next round but it could have been in danger with me.