Author Topic: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 303003 times)

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2330 on: February 07, 2017, 05:59:12 AM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



Eagle Shooting Heroes  (Jeffrey Lau, 1993)
Won over Fong Sai Yuk II (verdict by sdedalus)
Won over Shall We Dance? (verdict by Bill Thompson)
Won over The King of Comedy (verdict by 1SO)
Lost to Hana-bi (verdict by BlueVoid)

This bracket has yielded a fantastic collection of reviews for Eagle Shooting Heroes (I always want to type Eagle Shooting Horses instead), covering the film from all angles. sdedalus' verdict provides a perfect overall description of the film, BlueVoid's rant captures the experience I expected to have, and 1SO's measured take reflects the experience I actually had (especially, "It's like a film based on a SNL sketch, a series of kind of funny but overlong SNL sketches."). I confess that the use of Asian titles in Bill Thompson's verdict created a barrier to my appreciation, especially when Ashes of Time was mentioned: "I donít know much about the correlation between Se Diu Ying Hung Ji Dung Sing Sai Jau and Dung Che Sai Duk." Anyway, Lau's commitment to sustained silliness is ultimately pretty endearing, and I admire the anything-goes comedic approaches that ranges from a laughably costumed dinosaur, gorilla, and eagle living together in a cave and adopting one of the Tony Leung's as a duck; to the anachronistic New Year's wish, "May the Sino-British Joint Declaration bring peace to all!" There's some great Sammo Hung fight choreography here, too, way better than you might expect in a film with this tone. The all-star cast is really fun to watch, despite presenting a great challenge to someone with my lack of facial recognition skills. Jacky Cheung has improved every film in this bracket that he's been a part of, and that's again the case here. All the "gay panic" humor walks a fine line between being progressive and being insulting, but it definitely made me cringe when one character (played my openly gay actor Leslie Cheung) throws up at the thought of kissing one of the Tony Leung's. (It's funnier in concept here on paper than it is in the movie.) All told, I enjoyed Eagle Shooting Heroes much more than I expected to (with Lau's Out of the Dark still a bracket lowlight for me), but you could have trimmed a full half of its running time without lessening my enjoyment at all.


Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: The Wedding Banquet.

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 #2331 on: February 08, 2017, 01:22:38 AM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



The Wedding Banquet  (Ang Lee, 1993)
Won over The Chinese Feast (verdict by Sam the Cinema Snob)
Won over The Strange Tale of Oyuki (verdict by Bondo)
Won over Green Fish (verdict by Jared)
Lost to Days of Being Wild (verdict by Sandy)

The basic premise of The Wedding Banquet ó gay man marries green-card-needing girl to maintain heterosexual illusion for visiting parents ó is the stuff of classic screwball comedy. Lee's film takes its story much more seriously than that, however, balancing a more mild-mannered style of comedy with genuine character drama. All the previous verdict seem to cite this balance as the film's main virtue. I don't think it really works at all, though. In striving equally for comedy and drama, the film too often gets caught between the two. Much of the first act is wasted taking the far-fetched premise too seriously, even though all effort to make it credible goes for naught. It's a relief to get to the second act, with the stage finally set for hilarity (or perhaps dramatic fireworks), but the screenplay never really twists the screws one way or another. The story just lays there, tepidly, too careful to go to either extreme. Only in the third act does the script finally make a choice ó opting for heartfelt drama over comedy ó but it's predicated on two more story twists that are too silly and predictable to sustain the emotional beats. They'd have worked well in a screwball comedy, but they undercut the attempt at drama. It's by no means an awful film, but I think it falls short of success. Richard Curtis should film a remake.


Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade.

pixote
« Last Edit: February 08, 2017, 01:24:46 AM by 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 #2332 on: February 08, 2017, 01:36:15 AM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade  (Okiura Hiroyuki, 1999)
Won over Dreams (verdict by THATguy)
Won over Minbo - or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (verdict by Bondo)
Won over Swordsman II (verdict by 1SO)
Lost to Sonatine (verdict by Beavermoose)

I've already expressed by disappointment with this film in my Animation Marathon (which was really a 1999 Retrospots review). I won't bother to rehash those thoughts here. Instead I'll just call out the best quotes from the verdicts for this film. THATguy: "Overall, it stradles the line between action and contemplation piece, much like the Ghost in the Shell types, but in my opinion, it might just pull it off better than both." Bondo: "That said, they donít do a lot to justify the cause of the protestors/terrorists, which of course suits me just fine because I get to cheer for the authoritarians." 1SO: "There's a dream sequence here that horrifying in a way only animation can effectively pull off with the right kind of emotional distance." Beavermoose: "There is too much voice-over dialogue that seems unnatural, the script unnecessarily pushes the Red Riding Hood allegory so far down our throats with every word the characters speak when it is already so obvious from the movie's title and the character designs." pixote: "I just have issues."

Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: Bonus review.

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

BlueVoid

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2333 on: February 08, 2017, 06:53:54 AM »
Great writeups Pix! Happy that you enjoyed ESH more than me. Also happy that it likely won't be resurrected. :)
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ProperCharlie

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2334 on: April 06, 2017, 05:09:14 AM »
Qiu yue (Clara Law, 1992) aka Autumn Moon



Round 1 review by Bill Thompson
Round 2 review by Beavermoose
Round 3 review by Jared
Round 3 resurrection review by pixote

A Japanese tourist in Hong Kong has itemised his purchases while on holiday seeking meaning (or something) through some sort of numerological arrangement of receipts all filmed on his new VHS camera.   He meets a schoolgirl who has been left behind while the vast majority of the rest of Hong Kong have emigrated prior to the handover in China in 1997.  Together they seek to resolve the mysteries that plague them.

The two leads in this film speak different languages, only able to communicate with each other through broken English.  They have different ideas about those words as well.  Just what is an authentically Hong Kong restaurant?  This language barrier persists through the film.  It makes the conversation pained and slow, but they persevere.  The viewer has to persevere as well.  It doesnít help that the lead characters both appear to somewhat stereotypical initially.  The Japanese tourist happy to say exactly what he bought and how much he paid, and to treat the women he meets similarly.  The Hong Kong school girl coming-of-age, and learning about boys and love.  Both characters do develop over the course of the film, but for the first twenty minutes or so, this is a tough watch.

Part of the reason for that is the cinematography.   In the absence of characters to get your teeth into, you might hope for something nice to look at.  Here though Hong Kong is presented as a bizarrely empty, washed-out, brutalist nightmare of a place.  It looks like an abandoned ant nest where all the residents have discovered the picnic of which all ants dream, and disappeared to party.  This fits with the ideas that are being developed.  Characters who are isolated or abandoned, and the idea of migration. Here it seems as if everyone from Hong Kong has already departed, leaving the two leads behind almost alone.  Itís a 1990s Hong Kong preserved in aspic. One of the most crowded places on earth rendered as a deserted maze of pavements, towers and rooms.  Itís odd to say then that Hong Kong itself serves as the third main character in this film.  In much the same way that Vienna interacts with the leads in ĎBefore Sunriseí in a romantic fug, and Tokyo inspires awe and befuddlement in ĎLost in Translationí, here Hong Kongís austere and impersonal  faÁade forces the leads to seek sanctuary inside, or in one case in some sort of sewer or underground water feature, to escape the sense overbearing alienation. 

Itís audacious cinematography in such a setting, yet this film is neither as chaste nor romantic as either ĎBefore Sunriseí or ĎLost in Translationí.  The audacity continues with the sex scenes and the bulk of the film feels cold and sterile.  Emotions are not welcome there and have to be hidden.  The sex is similar but given the repression all around, it comes as something as a release for those both on and off-screen.  Itís forceful nature, graphic physicality and life-affirming energy contrasts with just about everything else in the film.   They shine a light into the turmoil within.

Thereís something else going on here and that I think guides the directorís focus on the brutal architecture and drives the narrative towards its distinctly unsatisfying resolution.  Of the two-leads, one is constantly looking at the past, Tokio the tourist, while Wai, the student, is only looking forward to her life away from Hong Kong in the cold of Canada.  Neither is reflecting on the past or future with much pleasure or optimism.  When they first meet, thereís a connection, but it isnít exactly clear what that might be.  In both cases, they are busy repressing the desires and emotions that drive them, and are unable to fully express  or know their own fears or sorrows.   Both are out of kilter with the world and their lives.  All very Koyaanisqatsi.  The distinctly Chinese solution to all of this are the Taoist concepts of living in the moment, living harmoniously with the universe and Ďnaturalnessí, that is returning to a state of simplicity. 

Both characters reach their quiet epiphanies and the film is all looking set for some sort of resolution, but this doesnít seem to happen.  Or at least it didnít in my subtitles.  Instead, they share the suddenly revealed connection and their new-found enjoyment of living in the now, having reset their fears in the light of their new perspective, and do so with the traditional cinematic conceit of the silently shared moment of understanding while watching fireworks near a stretch of water.  Their concerns are dispelled completely.  Itís all a bit ĎAnd they all lived happily ever afterí only with added humility in the light of self-gained knowledge.  Maybe itís hard for my non-culturally collinear mind to appreciate.  Itís a deliberately quiet resolution, but perhaps too quiet; I found it all a bit too quick, clean and simple.  Like the concluding captainís log at the end of an original Star Trek, only with less exposition, but just as much moral certainty.

So, yes, I liked this for lots of reasons, but it left me feeling alienated and a little abandoned by the director.  Lots of words there.  Probably indicative of how long it took me to process the film.

Chun gwong cha sit (Wong Kar-Wai, 1997) aka Happy Together



Round 1 review by Clovis8
Round 2 review by Bondo
Round 2 resurrection review by pixote
Round 3 review by BlueVoid

 
A pair of lovers has embarked on a quest to find both a waterfall and the thing that keeps them together.  In a strange land, how will they both survive their joint journey of discovery?  Will there be dancing and sticky rice?

This shares much with Autumn Moon and yet is so different.  Again, it's a hard start, but for a different reason.  The two leads are both very, very hard to like.  They argue.  They're childish.  They're reckless.  Yes, they're in love, or at least they were, but now the embers of that love and a lampshade are all that is holding them together.   We are voyeurs of a particularly messy break-up that's pretty much broken up already.  There is sex, and there is love with that sex, but it's not enough.   The first reel is unpleasant.  You really don't want to know these angry, selfish men.  I wanted to leave the screen and go home.  Going home is exactly what at least one them wants to do as well, only they're in Argentina without enough money for a return ticket and a spontaneously hedonistic lifestyle to maintain.  They can't go home nor escape each other.  They are aliens in a land that doesn't understand them and in which they don't fit in.  They are unwilling immigrants on what might as well be another planet.

Then there are the major differences, starting with the cinematography.  Happy Together is occasionally black and white (for remembered events), but mostly a molten kaleidoscope of colour, filmed on DV (I think).  There is overexposure, saturation, shooting directly into the sun.  A bed-sitting room that is so colourful it may have been production designed to test the colour-resolution limits of the camera technology being used.   There is nothing at all austere about the visuals.  I get the sense of a director testing a new way of film-making to see if he likes it, although Wong Kar-Wai has always enjoyed a vivid palate.

The resolution is, in my eyes, more authentically human and satisfying than Autumn Moonís.  Perhaps itís a more regularly-trodden narrative path.  Perhaps itís more rooted in the tango than the Tao.  One major stand-out in Happy Together is the acting of both Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung.  They breathe life into the characters, their situation, their evolving emotions.  Tony Leung spends large chunks of the film staring into space with the look of a dog who's lost his master and has turned up at the same spot every day for the past eight years hoping his for return, before stoically getting on with his job as bouncer at a bar every evening, thinking about how he's going to bite his master's ankle as hard has he can when he gets back. 

These two films have a lot in common.  Both deal with isolation, the experience of migration, abandonment and dislocation.  The main characters are all in turmoil below the surface, unable at least initially, to communicate, identify or even be aware of their turbulent feelings.  Those feelings erupt only in elliptical tangents that given a window into the characters.  Both of these films are hard starters and have unsympathetic even dislikeable characters as protagonists.  I found the first quarter of an hour of both films to be tough-going, with both eventually worth that effort.  Both make use of very interesting choices of cinematography and production design that do connect with the action and characters. 


A difficult choice between two similar films and as both have already been resurrected, the loser is definitely out of the bracket, no third chances. I have to jump on the Wong-Kar Wai bandwagon;  Happy Together progresses with a comforting bowl of sticky rice.  Autumn Moon is good, but ultimately itís the acting, direction and writing of the relationship between the two leads in Happy Together and the authenticity of its resolution that wins it.  Clara Law is an interesting director who I had previously not been aware of.  I look forward to seeing more of her work.

« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 04:02:07 AM by ProperCharlie »

Teproc

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2335 on: April 06, 2017, 06:31:15 AM »
The reviews make the loser sound more interesting to me, but that's how it goes. Great write-ups, and hopefully this will pick up again.

BlueVoid

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2336 on: April 06, 2017, 09:52:25 PM »
And Happy Together limps onward. Nice writeups PC! Let's get this thing moving again!
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Beavermoose

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2337 on: April 25, 2017, 06:22:54 PM »

A Dedicated Life
I'd seen The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On about 6 years ago for a MDC and according to my review I found Kenzo Okuzaki's mission enthralling but didn't really like him. This movie has arguably a more interesting yet equally unlikable character at the center of it but Mitsuharu Inoue lacks the "mission" and drive that makes Emperor so interesting. A Dedicated Life is fine. I enjoyed it for a little while but at 2h30 it had lost most of my attention by the end.


Princess Mononoke
Miyazaki really refines his storytelling as his filmography progresses and Mononoke is the first time he has a story of such epic scale. It it more adult than his earlier movies and the fantasy elements at the center of it allows him to really push the animation style and his crazy imagination to the next level. It isn't entirely subtle in it's thematic elements but the ethical shades of grey give the movie much more depth than traditional children's animated films. It is often considered one of his best movies and for a director who is arguably the best animation director of all time it is easy to see where this verdict is going.

Mononoke moves on.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2017, 09:37:35 PM by Beavermoose »

smirnoff

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2338 on: April 25, 2017, 08:34:17 PM »
Oh good.

Teproc

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2339 on: April 26, 2017, 06:06:06 AM »
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