Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – 2000 – dir. Ang Lee
“When in comes to the affairs of the heart, even the greatest warriors can be consummate idiots.”
Ang Lee’s homage to Du Lu Wang’s kung-fu novel, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, I must confess, did not make an instant impression upon me the first time that I saw it. The film soars with Lee’s breathtaking direction and cinematography by Academy award-winner Peter Pau, but I found the story meandering and simple.
Of course, I missed the point, discovered only after a re-watch. The story is indeed simple. It is the characters who are complex. This is an ironic movie about opposites: finding through loss. Gaining through sacrifice. Joy through despair. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a simple story about masculinity, femininity, and life. Continue reading →
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 2008 – dir. Steven Spielberg
It was only a matter of time, I suppose, until aliens would show up in an Indiana Jones film. After countless screenwriters and even more countless drafts, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finally saw the light of cinemas nearly twenty years after the release of Last Crusade. The actual legend of the crystal skull concerns a series of artifacts discovered in Central and South America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Explorers purportedly unearthed several carved quartz skulls, and it was claimed that these skulls possessed not only unimaginable powers but that they could not have been crafted by modern means. A 1996 BBC documentary investigation revealed that several crystal skulls that had been displayed in museums and held by collectors throughout the world were forgeries. However, there did indeed exist a few specimens whose construction defied conventional explanation.
Speaking of defying convention, Indiana’s fourth outing has been tossed about as one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) of the series. As an action film, it delivers, and Harrison Ford himself presents a terrific performance. So what’s the problem with Crystal Skull?
John Boorman’s lush treatment of the Matter of Britain, Excalibur (1981), is awash in color, magic and eroticism. Viewers who were of a certain age when this film was first released may recall its popularity among a certain college-age element, namely, the weirdos and geeks (not me, of course, but I, um, knew some of these people) who played Dungeons and Dragons, attended Renaissance fairs, and belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronism. This film may in fact have single-handily ignited a Celtophilic obsession in America, with medievalism becoming a romanticized, nostalgic window to Ye Good Olde Days. The Dark Ages, stinking and pox-ridden though they might have been, were suddenly revered and became a cultural phenomenon. The lead actors playing Arthur and Guinevere in this film (Nigel Terry and Cheri Lunghi) even starred briefly in a short-lived medieval-era television series…broadcast on an American network. Boorman’s film inspired a love of this period not merely because of the exciting scenes of swordplay and sex: rather, his expression of this period captivated audiences because his film imbued this far-away era with sensuality and mystery.