MORIARTY'S CHRISTMAS RAMPAGE Continues With FORRESTER, CAST AWAY, STATE & MAIN, and CROUCHING TIGER!!
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
You’re desperately behind on movies. Time is of the essence in seeing many of these limited releases. Certain films have already left theaters, meaning you’ll have to scramble to find Academy screeners of them. What’s the logical way to kick off Christmas Day?
Go see something you’ve already seen before, of course.
In my own defense, let me say that CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is one of those films that doesn’t just invite a second viewing, it demands it. As much as I was blown away by the beauty and the elegance of Ang Lee’s new masterpiece when I originally reviewed it, I knew that I wanted to get another look at the performance work, that I wanted to get lost in the film now that I could watch it without the weight of anticipation and expectation crushing me. Myself and a few of the other Misfit Toys who were adrift without local family on Christmas morning made our way to the 1:30 show of CTHD at the Regent Showcase on La Brea. We got there over a half-hour early and were astonished at the line already waiting to get inside. By the time we were seated and the lights were going down, there wasn’t a seat in the place. More remarkable than the size of the crowd was the diversity of it. There were families, old couples, 20-something geek clusters, young marrieds. There were kids running up and down the aisles before the film started. This certainly isn’t the typical crowd I see at arthouse theaters here in LA. If this is any indication of the job Sony has done positioning this film as a cross-over hit, then I’m proud of them, and I’m excited to see what happens as the film continues its national rollout.
Since I’ve already reviewed the film once, let me just add a few thoughts here. I don’t normally have a problem with dubbed versus subtitled releases in America. I’ll take the subtitled version if it’s offered, but anything that gets a film a wider release and possible exposure to an audience is okay with me. In this case, the dub simply wouldn’t be necessary. Ang Lee’s film is transporting, and the subtitles simply seem to vanish as you watch the film. In my memory, it’s the subtle flashes of Chow Yun Fat’s eyes, full of regret, or the simple sweet smile of Michelle Yeoh, somehow balancing years of sorrow and tender hope that loom large, and I remember their dialogue as if spoken. These are tremendous performances, and I’d be heartbroken if I didn’t actually hear the voices of these characters, the nuance in what they’re playing. Zhang Ziyi is startlingly good here, and knowing the film’s secrets as I watched a second time led me to even greater admiration of the way she balances the different sides of her character. She doesn’t just have one secret life, she has two, and each of them is radically different. The flashback in the middle of the film, nearly a half hour of digression, has led some people to criticize the film, but I think it’s a genius touch. Just as the film has asserted its true nature as a kung fu epic, it takes this right turn into something that plays like a combination of THE ENGLISH PATIENT and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
And just why is that people are reacting to this film so enthusiastically? Why did I give my heart to it so completely? I think it has something to do with the shock of seeing a film filled with such dazzling martial arts and wire work that is also brimming over with feeling and filled with acting on par with any drama released in any language this year. Fans of kung fu films have gotten used to panning for gold, and suddenly we’ve been offered something that is an embarrassment of riches, something that’s winning over even the most jaded audiences. It’s a great feeling, and I think that’s what makes my love for the film burn particularly bright. It feels like undeniable respectability at last.
I’m sure that’s part of what led Sean Connery to take the title role in Sony’s FINDING FORRESTER, that same quest to be taken seriously. I grew up in a Connery household, taught to respect him as one of cinema’s great icons the same way I was with John Wayne. To my father, he was the one true Bond. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found my own reasons to love his body of work. There’s that sense of humor that pops up from time to time, taking the piss out of his own image. Any close friend of the Moriarty Labs can attest to my near-obssession with Connery’s voice, that odd mix of Scottish brogue and speech impediment that makes him so distinct. Nothing amuses me more than making answering machine messages of Connery puzzling his way through the song lyrics of Tori Amos or adopting the patois of Eminem as his own. When he won the Oscar in 1987 for THE UNTOUCHABLES, I was of decidedly mixed emotion. On the one hand, the sentiment was undeniable, but there was no question in my mind that Albert Brooks deserved the award for his searing, bitter, brilliant work in BROADCAST NEWS. That was a Supporting Actor award, and it looks like Connery didn’t quite work the itch out. He’s going for the gold again with this new picture, and part of my problem with it is that the path he’s chosen is a familiar one.
Mike Rich is a young writer, and one of the reasons this melange of past mentor-student films doesn’t bother me is because he shows admirable taste in how he blends these familiar elements into something restrained and intimate. It’s no wonder Gus Van Sant was attracted to the material as a director. It’s perfect for him, a logical step after GOOD WILL HUNTING. It resembles that movie in some ways, and the cameo by Matt Damon as lawyer Steve Sanderson may prove too distracting a reminder of that fact for some people. More than GWH, though, this film reminds me of Martin Brest’s SCENT OF A WOMAN. Whereas Brest’s film was unapologetic Hollywood corn, big and loud and determined to entertain at any cost, Van Sant brings his particular sensibilities to bear on this film, keeping it grounded, refusing to give in to cheap sentiment or easy crowd-pleasing ploys. Right at the start, there’s an odd flourish, a clapper that fills the frame, reminding us that this is a movie. Despite that, Van Sant comes closer to truth with his film than Brest ever did. He etches in the world of Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) with great feeling, working to fill each frame with honest detail. Jamal’s a smart kid, smarter than he’s let on to his friends or even his family. He’s grown up in the shadow of divorce, his older brother (Busta Rhymes in a nice, small supporting role) and his mother (April Grace) both pinning their hopes on this quiet boy with a gift for basketball. When test scores reveal that Jamal’s gifts might be just as prodigious off the courts as on, he is offered a place at a private school where he is challenged by new professors like Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham) and where he makes friends like Claire Spence (Anna Pacquin).
As these seismic changes rock Jamal, he’s also nursing a secret, something he can’t talk about with his friends or even his family. Jamal’s met an unlikely mentor, a man who turns out to be a famous author living in seclusion, hidden away from the prying eyes of the public and the idle speculation of the media. This man, William Forrester, is obviously inspired at least in part by JD Salinger, whose CATCHER IN THE RYE must stand as one of the most widely read and deeply misunderstood books of all time. Time and time again, this loony or that lists Salinger’s book as part of the reason they’ve done this terrible thing or another. When people like John Hinkley and Mark David Chapman start listing you as an inspiration, the world can seem like an ugly and depressing place, and it’s little wonder Salinger has spent most of his life avoiding the spotlight. The way Connery plays Forrester, he’s a man uncomfortable with being asked to be responsible for others, tired of being asked to explain his art. In many ways, Connery doesn’t appear to be acting here. He doesn’t suffer foolishness well, and his gruff manner is intimidating, even after seeing glimpses of the human frailty behind the mask. Those glimpses are the real innovation of Connery’s work here. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him actually show us weakness. I’m fairly sure we’ve never seen this kind of fear from him.
Special mention must be made of the soundtrack assembled by Bill Frisell and longtime collaborator Hal Wilner. They’ve done tribute albums like STAY AWAKE over the years together, and that comes in handy here, with the two of them choosing a very special assortment of Miles Davis songs to lend support to the picture. There’s a version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in the middle of the film that’s so quiet, so subtle as to be almost unrecognizable, and it seems an odd choice, but one that works very well. At the end of the film, the song returns as performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, and as strange a theme as it seems for this film, it pays off. You’ve actually heard this version lately, whether you realized it or not, as the score for the Toys.com campaign on TV. It’s all ukelele, haunting but somehow upbeat. There’s original work by Frisell, but it’s mixed in among tracks like "Black Satin," "Little One," and "Lonely Fire" by Miles, as well as some Ornette Coleman. This is a case where songs were chosen for the way they work, not because they’re by some hot new artist and there’s a chance for an MTV video. It’s the way I’ve always believed underscoring should work if using songs, and it pays off tremendously here.
Overall, the film seems unwilling to wallow in sentiment, and it’s admirable in the way it walks that tightrope all the way to the end. I hate the trailers for the film. They all feature Connery barking out, "You the man now, dawg!" It looks like they’re reaching for their big catch-phrase line with the way they emphasize it in the trailers, but in the film itself, it’s a throwaway bit of sarcasm at the tail end of a line, and it makes sense there. The trailer sells the worst version of the movie, but Van Sant is the very model of good taste in how he brings it all together. There’s much to like here, particularly in the way Rob Brown and Connery play off each other. Brown is a sharp, intuitive young actor, and he manages to open up gradually over the course of the film, letting us in by degrees. He’s worth the wait. By film’s end, he makes a real impression. Abraham does perfectly respectable work as the bullying Professor Crawford, but it’s a role we’ve seen him play, with more than a touch of Salieri to it. Anna Pacquin isn’t given much to do, but she’s growing into an actress you can’t stop watching. You find yourself hoping she’s going to come to life, be given something worthy of her. There’s something electric about her, and when a filmmaker finally figures out exactly how to tap that, she’ll be dynamite. Now, the more cynical among you are never going to be able to give yourselves over to the movie’s pleasures. For some of you, Van Sant has become a punching bag for some reason. Inevitably, someone’s going to bring up PSYCHO in the TalkBacks below and grouse and piss and moan about how Van Sant ruined Hitchcock’s movie. This is, of course, nonsense. Van Sant’s bizarre experimental remake may have been an artistic dead end, but it’s nice to see that Van Sant still has those urges, and that he’s in a position where he can buy himself room to play like that. I’ve liked his work quite a bit since the days of MALA NOCHES and DRUGSTORE COWBOY, and if making a film like FINDING FORRESTER is what sets him free to explore his own voice further, then I’m all for it.
Next up was David Mamet’s ensemble comedy STATE & MAIN, the story of a Hollywood film crew that descends on a small Vermont town, determined to shoot there for their new picture THE OLD MILL. The film crew has already had to leave New Hampshire, abandoning finished sets ("They’re holding the Old Mill ransom") and barely escaping some sort of never-defined legal wrath. As soon as they hit town, they start causing chaos and havoc, and soon they find themselves facing potential ruin again. All of this is played as a sort of affable goofball comedy with a wicked sense of verbal wit. The cast features such stalwarts as Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Charles Durning, David Paymer, and Alec Baldwin. It's handsomely made. So what is it that nags me about the film? Why don’t I love it?
I’ve been studying Mamet’s work as a writer for both stage and film for decades now, it seems. I remember the first time I saw a film he wrote that really knocked me out. It was THE VERDICT, the Paul Newman film about the lawyer searching for redemption in a seemingly unwinnable case. It’s a wonderful character drama, one of Newman’s best roles, and there’s a sadness to the film that placed the film among the great ‘70s films in my mind, a last gasp for that period where mainstream films dared to try for something more than mere entertainment. It was Mamet who wrote the role that won Connery his first actor, part of the sprawling Prohibition adventure THE UNTOUCHABLES. More than Brian De Palma’s operatic camera work, it’s the script by Mamet that propelled the film to success, I believe. It’s riddled with great moments, and why wouldn’t it be? Mamet’s from Chicago. In that town, this is mythology, the greatest story ever told. I fell in love with plays like AMERICAN BUFFALO and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO while in college. By that time, Mamet was making films as a director, and I think his career has been very inconsistent so far. HOUSE OF GAMES is a fun little puzzle of a film, but his later THE SPANISH PRISONER struck me as fake from start to finish. THINGS CHANGE is aimless, too coy for my taste, while his adaptation of OLEANNA is damn near unwatchable, precious and painful and awash in politically correct doublespeak. THE WINSLOW BOY was very good, and it was nice to see Mamet work in unfamiliar territory. Of all the movies he’s directed, HOMICIDE was my favorite by far, smart and mature in the same way THE VERDICT was. He’s done nice work as a screenwriter for other directors, too, writing James Foley a kick-ass adaptation of his own GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. I think WAG THE DOG was more hype and timing than anything else. Because I’ve had such varied reactions to his work over the years, I never know what to expect when I step into a theater to see something he’s made. I try to remain open minded.
And make no mistake... STATE AND MAIN has charm to offer. It’s got a consistent energy from the first frame to the last. Like Van Sant, Mamet starts his movie with an image that reminds you this is all a movie. In this case, it’s opening credits played over leader that’s been colored and re-edited to an almost Warhol-esque effect. As soon as Macy makes an entrance, he owns the movie. He’s one of the few actors alive who I believe when watching him work at a job. He’s not some pampered movie star, moving through some fantasy version of a job. He gets the details of work, the exhaustion and the weariness, and he never overplays it. He uses his cell phone like a weapon in this movie, a magic wand that solves all problems. His movie stars are played with a good deal of self-deprecation by Sarah Jessica Parker and Alec Baldwin. They’re both very good, very funny, seeming to enjoy every scene they’re in. Neither one of them is at the center of the film, though, and it’s not really challenging material for them. The storyline that seems to be the spine of the film involves the writer of the movie, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman as a slightly terrified, vaguely out-of-his-depth playwright who’s trying to rewrite the film on location amidst all the madness. He meets a local bookstore owner, Ann Black, who’s played by Rebecca Pidgeon. This is the first time I’ve ever liked Pidgeon in a film. In both OLEANNA and THE SPANISH PRISONER, she came across as mannered and fake and without the slightest hint of warmth. She’s got a sly smile she wears through much of STATE AND MAIN that makes it look like she’s in on a joke that no one around her knows yet. It’s no wonder Hoffman ends up drawn to her, and her fascination with what he does makes sense, too. It’s not a surprise when she announces to her fiance Doug McKenzie (Clark Gregg) that they’re finished. It wasn’t until I got home that it clicked for me why I knew Clark Gregg’s name. He’s the one who wrote WHAT LIES BENEATH this summer. He’s the one I spent weeks grousing about. He wrote the worst Robert Zemeckis film ever, the only one that I don’t like on any level. Even GUMP is something I can admire technically. His performance here is that of the raging asshole, the one person in town who’s going to fight the Hollywood establishment, no matter what. He’s the most artificial character in the movie, and he exists solely to make the plot happen. There’s nothing else to him. I think the addition of this stock sort of bad-guy character is what keeps me from really embracing the film. As it stands, it’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and I’d suggest you stay through the very end of the closing credits. Some of Mamet’s very best jabs are hidden there, and if you stay to catch them, you’ll definitely leave with a smile on your face.
As much as I hated this summer’s WHAT LIES BENEATH, it didn’t change my desire to see CAST AWAY one little bit. I thought the Bill Broyles script was poetic and simple and direct, and I thought there was some powerful material in there about the use of art as a means of survival. As I watched the film unfold yesterday, I had a wide range of reactions to it, and I’m left with decidedly mixed feelings. I think there’s some very good work here, and Zemeckis has an eye that still surprises me, even after two decades of watching his work. It’s surprisingly slight, though, and it dissolves into air at the end of its considerable running time. It’s last moments remind me of HENRY FOOL and LIMBO, but without the same impact. I’m not exactly sure why that is.
I think the film starts off very strong. I like the opening, the way Zemeckis traces the Fed Ex system from a home in Texas to a sorting office in Moscow. I like that Hanks isn’t immediately loveable here. Chuck Noland is obsessed with time, way too wrapped up in his job. This is a man for whom work is life. He is defined by how good he is at what he does, and it’s the one weak link in his relationship with Kelly, his girlfriend, played by Helen Hunt in a role that simply didn’t need an actress of her fame. She overpowers the role, unbalances the film. It would have worked better, I think, if we didn’t already know whoever it was who played Kelly, if we simply saw her through Chuck’s eyes. Tom Hanks is the reason for this film to exist. It rises or falls based on the strength of his work, and casting Helen Hunt suggests that this is their story, that the two of them are on something like equal footing. It’s a perfect example of why you shouldn’t always use movie stars for everything.
When Chuck’s plane crashes en route to Malaysia, it’s as brutal a plane crash as I’ve ever seen in film. It’s harrowing, and if you see it in a great theater, you’ll be physically rocked by it. All of Zemeckis’ technical departments are working at the top of their game, as usual. The scene goes on and on, too, with imagery that puts THE PERFECT STORM to shame. It’s relentless and terrifying, and we feel it just as much as Chuck does. Time and time again, Zemeckis makes us feel for Hanks, puts us there on that sandy shore, there in that first frightened night. When Hanks lacerates his feet or impales himself on a reef, the entire audience winces. These are the physical things, though, the simple accumulation of the abuse of the elements. Zemeckis and Hanks aren’t quite as successful at letting us into the inner pain that Chuck is feeling. They suggest it with his ranting to Wilson, the volleyball he adopts as his only companion, and in the attachment he has to Kelly’s photo. But it still feels like it’s playing on the surface, even after Chuck makes it back to civilization. It should destroy us to see him lose Kelly again after showing up alive, but it doesn’t. We’re told to feel sad more than we’re made to feel it. By the time Zemeckis stages his 30th scene in the rain for dramatic effect, we’ve become a bit numb to it. As much as I admire the good parts of the film, I find the whole piece to be less than successful, and it seems to have glanced off me in many ways, leaving no impression. It’s a shame. I had high hopes for the film, and wish I could recommend it as something more than a decent rental, a mild entertainment.
Today’s going to be Cuban Day. I’m kicking it off with a morning show of BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, set during the Cuban Revolution, then following it with THIRTEEN DAYS, dinner at a Cuban restaurant, and finally wrapping it all up with an evening excursion to a secret location where I’ll be writing that set of reviews while smoking Cuban cigars.
Have I mentioned yet that I love this time of year?
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Dec. 27, 2000, 4:53 a.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2000, 8:37 a.m. CST
God, I'd give my right arm to see that!
Dec. 27, 2000, 8:39 a.m. CST
Geeze get over it and go see Battlefield Earth again!
Dec. 27, 2000, 8:48 a.m. CST
by Ted Terrific
That CTHD is terrific is beyond dispute - and I know terrific. I haven't seen Traffic yet but I can't imagine any serious filmgoer not selecting this as the best movie of the year - or for several years. In fact, although it's a little silly to start talking about it as one of the greatest films ever, given that it has only been out (in US) a few weeks, I think that kind of praise is not overboard. Having seen it twice now, I really believe that a case can be made to put this film in the pantheon - one of the 100 best fims EVER made.
Dec. 27, 2000, 9:01 a.m. CST
by Bluberry Johnson
If anything provided the eclectic movie audience I also witnessed it was the word of mouth Ang Lee fans (small but loyal group that we are), kung fu flick aficionados, generous praise from critics (yourself included Moriarity), and just everyone who loves movies. I saw jack diddly as far as press from Sony...barely a glimpse of any TV ads...no billboards, bus posters or just anything that even said,"We at Sony Classic Pictures support this movie." And the biggest slap in the face? Moving from a paltry 31 movie theatres to a better then nothing 150 theatres. So once again a magnificent movie like Crouching Tiger was swept under in favor of supposedly better holiday fare like Castaway, What Women Want, The Grinch and god help us...Dude! Where's my Car? But I got to se this film and thats all that matters. I took some of my friends who have never seen an Ang Lee movie let alone Martial Arts epic, to see this film and I have made converts or should I say Ang Lee, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Zi Yi, W. Ping and even Yo Yo Ma did the converting. All of us who knew this was a great movie were just messengers...which is something I can't say for Sony.
Dec. 27, 2000, 9:09 a.m. CST
CTHD is just an overhyped and overlong excuse for Woo-Ping`s marvelous wirework. I just hope Hong Kong exploiatation masters will steal these scenes and insert them into a better local pic. Ang Lee finally shows that he doesn`t have a clue about directing...
Dec. 27, 2000, 9:20 a.m. CST
by 14 Swingers
I thought the movie was something of a transcendental piece. Most movies affect me on a linear basis usually by appealing to my taste for action, emotion or thought. However this movie profoundly touched and profoundly moved all 3 aspects. I'm Taiwanese, and I guess I consider myself extremely lucky that I have a decent understanding of the Mandarin language. The dialogues are just THAT much better if you understood Chinese. I feel sort of bad for those that have to rely on the subtitles. Because i felt the subtitles doesn't translate and pass on the dialogues very elegantly. It tends to be a little bit "dumbed down" Whether this was done for the sake of simplicity and readability I don't know. But I do feel some of the poetics was lost thru the translation. [However, the subtitles also had an unintended comedic effects as when they introduce characters in the Restaurant, the names sound REALLY silly in English.] I say this because in that one scene where LO was talking to Jen, What sounded REALLY romantic and sweet came out like a really cheesy pickup line in English text. However despite of this short coming, the actors and actresses do an excellent job expressing emotions and thoughts thru their faces and this helps to show the audience what the subtitles don't. I really do wish more people would go see it and enjoy it the same level as I did. I've already seen it twice. I guess the film really resonates a lot within me becaues I just took a Chinese History and a Chinese Civilization course last quarter. So I pick up subtle things that most people will miss such as a certain mannerism, certain architectural style and aesthetics that tells me this is uniquely Chinese or Manchuraian or Western nomadics. I'm planning to go see it many times and also buy the DVD [so I can study the action scenes frame by frame]. I really hope people will go out and see the movie. They will be doing themselves a big disservice for missing out on it.
Dec. 27, 2000, 9:31 a.m. CST
However Glenngary was awesome. As for CTHD being a unabashed showcase for Yuen Woo-Ping - so be it. He's a genius and its about time a movie showcased his talents that is wide released in N. America. I know that the Matrix was also - but the Waschowskis and Keanu got all the credit. If it wasn't for Woo Ping, Keanu and company wouldn't have had the believability at all in being martial arts capable. Its too bad that there are rumours flying that the producers are not offering Woo Ping anymore $$ for the Matrix sequels and he is considering leaving the production of both sequels. He made that movie - but I believe that Ang Lee is greatly responsible for CTHD, since I respect him SO much as a film maker!
Dec. 27, 2000, 9:34 a.m. CST
... but i do believe that THE VERDICT came out in 1982, therefore it can't be one of the great films of the 70s, can it? i also wonder if your reasons for not liking STATE & MAIN as much as you might have may be to do with CLARK GREGG's performance (which i actually found not bad, just uninspired) and not some contrived plot device. think about it. maybe MIGUEL FERRER as "MCKENZIE" would have lent more viability to that character. On most of your other comments, i'm with ya', man. with the exception of WAG THE DOG. i have his version of the script (which levinson filmed) and it's a great one. regardless of its timing, it's an incredibly insightful piece. the characters are layered and the performances are so well interpreted of the script, that each character seems to work independent of each other (like they all have their own thing going on), while staying in sync (god, i hate that band) with the storyline. kind of like jazz. anyway... that's that for that. oh yeah. when you referred to mike (FINDING FORRESTER) rich as being a "young writer." he's actually 40, which is still young by layman standards, but in hollywood? but again, i enjoy most of your comments. l8r
Dec. 27, 2000, 9:44 a.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
Hey... just to clarify. When people refer to certain decades, they're not referring to calendar dates so much as they are social movements. The 60s, for example, didn't really get underway until after Kennedy died. Until then, all of the style and repression and post-war optimism of the '50s were still firmly in place. I'd argue that the '60s didn't really end until Watergate, at which point the dream died. The '70s were the decadent response to that era as far as social attitudes, and that's what freed filmmakers up to create the challenging art we still think of as '70s film. The groundwork for all things '80s was laid by the run of blockbusters that Spielberg and Lucas had at the start of the decade, but even as those films exploded, a few filmmakers kept working to push the envelope or to make resolutely adult work, and THE VERDICT from '82 is a great example of that. As far as Mike Rich being a young writer, I meant in terms of career. This is, I believe, his first produced work, and it's a nice debut. He's got room to grow from here, and he's certainly someone who I'd be interested in seeing something else from.
Dec. 27, 2000, 9:56 a.m. CST
by Smilin'Jack Ruby
I loved this flick. Goddamn it was good.
Dec. 27, 2000, 10:09 a.m. CST
... in a word INCREDIBLE! about time there was a film made about martial artists as people, rather than people simply doing martial arts for martial arts sake. CTHD struck me as a love story in the classic order, about an emotionally repressed society where decorum takes precedence over true love and obssession for perfection and revenge are the status quo. the fighting in CTHD was more incidental. what they were fighting for is what made it interesting. it's a shame, as BLUEBERRY said, that sony did such a poor job marketing it. what little they did was to push the film as some kind of epic fight fest. so when i saw it, the people whooping and hollering in anticpation, all got up and left within the first 10 minutes of non-action subtitles, which was fine by me. but then i thought if the marketing attracted these yahoos, maybe it turned away others who would appreciate it. so, to anyone who found it boring or whatever the hell else... if you want kickass, unabashed action, rent a steven seagall movie. that or WWF SMACKDOWN. that'll free up seats for those who really want to see the film.
Dec. 27, 2000, 10:14 a.m. CST
CTHD is such a fantastic film. When I first saw it I was blown away. This is one of the rare films that I know deserves an Oscar for Best Picture. The movie is so intense. One problem I have is the subtitles don't show you the whole movie. I'm so lucky I can speak Manderin. The subtitles in CTHD just gave the gist of it. When you actually understand the movie you get and huge sense of the dialog and the things they left out in hte subtitles. The transilation was very well done, but not good enough. Some of the dialog can not be transilated and if you understand Manderin you will get the whole picture. It is a real shame that people can't learn the language to appreciate this peice of work. I know people love the movie right now, but they don't get the full emotions and message given out when a person can understand the language. CTHD has so much emotion and character depth in it that is simply a beauty to everyone. For those of you that haven't seen the film please go see it. Even though I said people don't get as much out of the movie than listening to it, you still get the picture and what is going on. The story is spectacular and the Kung Fu could kick the Matrix's ass anyday.
Dec. 27, 2000, 10:17 a.m. CST
... you did it again! you are correct on both counts. i stand corrected... this time. but one day, moriarity... oh, one day. you scoundrel!
Dec. 27, 2000, 10:24 a.m. CST
well first of all we need to acknowledge mr mamet's little aside to the great white north. His name got a laugh every time it was mentioned both times I saw the film. I interpreted clark gregg's performance as a heartbroken ambitious small-town politician seething to get ahead and get revenge. He knows he's lost Ann to the film, and he's not got the presence or personality to be more attractive than John, but he thinks he can get her back if he gets rid of the film. Many of the reviews I've read have taken Mamet to task for not making David Paymer and Bill Macy's characters more sympathetic by putting their outrageous treatment of coworkers in the proper context of the raging tempest that is shooting on-location. they have to contend with a host of eccentric personalities (including their own) and production problems many and seemingly insurmountable, so it's natural for them to be... straightforward. And where i'm going with this is that in it's own context, doug mackenzie would like to think of himself in the same situation, trying to motivate his constituents into doing what is best for them, and more importantly, himself. I can certainly sympathize with begrudging the man for writing What Lies Beneath, but the character of Doug Mackenzie is the only local in the film that has absolutely no say in the chaos that he's inflicted with. He doesn't invite them to his home, he doesn't try to sell them a typewriter, he doesn't try to make new friends. and yet his hometown is going to be given the shaft by these LA assholes who've brought along this kike who took his girl. He's an angry bald-headed man, too, and he's fairly menacing in the Mamet style of utterly unmennacing villians. Go You Huskies.
Dec. 27, 2000, 10:39 a.m. CST
by Third Policeman
I actually think the sound of their voices (in Crouching Tiger) adds a lot to the tone and feel of the movie, and it would've been a shame if CTHD were dubbed. And I disagree with the sentiment that "it's just a kung-fu movie, who cares about the story?" Obviously, "just kung-fu" movies don't get Oscar consideration. But hey, I guess I'm one of the literate few. . . next time I see it, though, I'll make sure to sit back far enough in the theatre to take it all in, subtitles, grand scenery, spectacular stunts and all.
Dec. 27, 2000, 10:56 a.m. CST
by 14 Swingers
Actually, 3rdPoliceman, if you REALLY knew mandarin well. Then you should know that Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh's mandarin was sort of awkward. But that's not their fault though. Chow in an interview said that he had a harder time trying to get the right mandarin dialect than speaking English. As for Yeoh it was hard for her cuz her family speaks English. Of all the main characters, only Zhang Ziyi [boy is she hot! who here doesn't think she's hot??] speaks the ancient traditional beijing mandarin dialect. But I guess you could say that Chow and Yeoh's character come from other place in China and therefore have a different dialectic tone.
Dec. 27, 2000, 11:05 a.m. CST
by Devils Halo
Can someone give me a reason why it's been getting all of this high praise? Someone point this out to me in a somewhat intelligent manner, ie. citing instances, giving quality reasons, anything on why this film deserves Best Picture. Don't get me wrong, I loved the film, but by no means do I feel it deserves this BEST PICTURE push. Best Director, yes. Best Foriegn Film, yes. Best Picture, uh.. no. It's a kung fu film. A very well made kung fu film, but it's far from being the 'Star Wars of Kung Fu films' as some critic proclaimed. It's taken 30 years of kung fu movies to have something like CTHD made. Give credit to the Shaw Bros. Studios for pioneering kung fu films. And if CTHD happens to win BEST PICTURE, give the Shaw Bros a special lifetime achievement award. (Tho I'm sure Scorsese will have something to say for their film preservation efforts, which is absolutely nil.) Give credit for the acting of people like Fu Sheng and Ti Lung whose facial expressions have been around since before Chow Yun Fat. Here's hoping CTHD doesn't make the mistake of believing it's own hype to miss out on the Best Foriegn film catagory like Il Postino did is 1995.
Dec. 27, 2000, 11:14 a.m. CST
For crying out loud - this was hands down the best blockbuster of the year and the most effective suspense machine in many, many seasons. Months after it's release it was STILL in the box office top 5. At the screening i attended, everyone came out grinning from ear to ear - evidently no AICN writers amongst that lot. No, just people with lives away from the movies, decent folks who emerge from their parent's basements once in a while. Peace! P.S. - Movietyme.com are taking orders for the Region 3 DVD release of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for release 8th Jan. P.P.S. - I just checked and yesterday no less than the London Times named What Lies Beneath one of the year's ten best. So nyah!
Dec. 27, 2000, 11:35 a.m. CST
1) Both movies gave away pivotal plot points in their trailers, which in both cases detracted from the enjoyment of the movie. 2) Both movies show the director's habit of using sharp sudden sounds to make the audience jump, sort of the "popping the inflated paper bag by your ear" effect -- it makes you jump, but nothing really happened, did it? 3) Both went on far longer than they should have, and could have comfortably ended at an earlier point. In the case of Castaway, I think they could have done without the frame story completely. That was the concession to Hollywood, it seemed to me. How much more powerful it could have been, if we had simply watched a nameless man wash up on shore, and gotten to know him as he learned to survive! That could have gone a long way towards the inner-life deficiency that Moriarity is talking about. More time on the island, more time in Noland's head. That would have been a braver film. 4) There's a difference between being cryptic and being just plain non-sensical, and both films cross that line. That package with the wings on it was more annoying than clever. It should have been used more effectively, or not used at all. Of course, you can play the 'I Know what was in the box' game -- a well-wrapped cell phone with batteries, a cb radio, a signal flare..
Dec. 27, 2000, 12:15 p.m. CST
by Studio Lackey
Van Sant stinks! Remember "Psycho"? He shit all over Hitchcock's classic!!! Just kidding, I didn't want to disappoint Moriarty. Now that everything's basically been done, I think they should just start over and make every film ever made again, exactly the same way except with different casts. Even if it means having to sit through "Leprechaun" again. As for "Cast Away," I think the film actually needed to be longer by about an hour. The most interesting part of the film, for me, isn't the "stranded on the desert island" story, since we've all seen that story a thousand times. Rather, it's the section after Hanks (SPOILER WARNING? IN CASE ANYONE ACTUALLY DOESN'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SEEING THE TRAILER FIFTY TIMES) gets off the island and has to readjust to life back in civilization that is, or should have been, the true core of the film. How does a man deal with being as alone as any human being can be, then coming back to his old life and finding himself just as alone, but in different ways? Unfortunately "Cast Away" gives short shrift to that issue, which to me was its only significant flaw. Otherwise, it's an enjoyable and deeply affecting movie, as long as you're not expecting a Robinson Crusoe-style adventure.
Dec. 27, 2000, 12:53 p.m. CST
Shut your trap about WLB Moriarty! I saw it in a packed theater and people LOVED it! And it was in the top 5 for many weeks showing that word of mouth was tremendous! I have no idea why people here hate it so much but you're all in the minority that's for sure! Must really piss you off that it made 160 million eh?
Dec. 27, 2000, 12:58 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2000, 12:59 p.m. CST
by capt jack aubrey
it's been gnawing at the rim of my brain for weeks: what's the music used in the second "Cast Away" trailer (the TV version, opens with her giving him the watch, has the funeral line, ends with him on the road)? during the later scenes on the island, on the raft, etc. they use a recent film score and i can't place it to save my tattered soul...anyone know?
Dec. 27, 2000, 1:02 p.m. CST
How can anyone call CTHD a kung fu movie? Just because kung fu is in it? Gimmie a break. How many kung fu movies does anyone know that start with the first 20 minutes JUST TALKING? There might have been maybe six fight scenes in the entire two hour film, and yeah, they used kung fu (which actually is Wu shu. kung fu is about refinement of a given act, and doesn't have to be about fighting, i.e. telling a painter "you have good kung fu" is a compliment in the highest order), but it wasn't about that. It was about PEOPLE AND CHARACTERS. I truly enjoyed it for that reason. It's amazing how easily people dismiss a film into a particular genre because of its backdrop. "If it looks something I've seen before, I'll call it that, rather than find out what it truly is. That's much easier." That's why so many people call most martial arts "KARATE" and chinese martial arts "KUNG FU." Why don't we just call BRAVEHEART a war movie.
Dec. 27, 2000, 1:07 p.m. CST
Calling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon one of the best films of the year is definitely an understatement. The first time i watched this it was dubbed in Cantonese and I left the theatre 75% into the movie. I just felt that the dubbing was not good at all. I saw the film again yesterday and I was blown away. Watching it again, now in its entirety, is explosive! One of Chow Yun-Fat's best performances comes in this film. His character in John Woo's "The Killer" is still his best. His stiff face mixed with the poetry and beauty of fantasy swordplay. Michelle Yeoh gives her all to her performance as Yu Shu Lien. Her performance should be worthy of an Academy Award nomination. But the brightest star of all the characters has got to be Zhang Ziyi (Jen Yu). Her brilliant performance not only makes this film great but she also makes it even better. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a beautiful mix of martial arts, romance, and an ending that will certainly make your eyes weep. Definitely the best film of 2000 and the best martial arts film ever to be put on celluloid. I just wished that the Golden Globe rule about Best Picture nominations have to be with films spoken in English. That's just a load of bullshit because all of the nominees on the Best Picture ballot stink (with the exception of Gladiator and Traffic). Grade: A+
Dec. 27, 2000, 1:21 p.m. CST
Um, just because a movie makes lots of money does not make it good. Example Wild Wild West. Made a boatload of money and was horrid. There is no way CTHD can make a lot of money because Sony says the general public will get confused by subtitles, so it only gets played in big cities.
Dec. 27, 2000, 1:23 p.m. CST
I liked CTHD an awful lot, and the out-of-nowehere surprise factor (and the fact that it's actually good) may well give it a best picture nod. With the possibility of deep splits between other potential candidates (Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, Traffic, Almost Famous, Wonder Boys?), maybe it would even win. I think it's one of the five best movies of the year (which doesn't include Erin or Gladiator), but my personal favorite so far is Almost Famous. But I imagine that the best made film this year is actually Traffic. It'll be interesting to get some perspective on it years down the road, when academics can tell us why we/audiences misunderstood or didn't embrace it. The first two-thirds is flat-out fantastic. It doesn't offer catharsis in the end -- an aesthetic decision -- and that's probably what hurts. Maybe after seeing it again... For what it's worth, my favorites this year were Almost Famous, You Can Count on Me, Traffic, Crouching Tiger, High Fidelity.
Dec. 27, 2000, 1:24 p.m. CST
...but I haven't seen O Brother, Wjere Art Thou? yet. Tht seems to be the last possible contender for top five status.
Dec. 27, 2000, 1:56 p.m. CST
by The Founder
I haven't seen CTHD, but I heard from a friend that it was pretty good. I hate all of you bastards who've seen the movie just because you live someplace where it's playing. I can't believe its not showing hear in Miami. If anyone lives hear in South Florida and know a theater its playing at please post hear for me. Back to points you were talking about Blueberry on how poorly a job Sony is doing advertising the film.It's sad that Hollywwod still has little faith in movies featuring an all minority cast.What they do is spend little on promoting these films , because they fear they may not do well at the box office....will they ever learn.
Dec. 27, 2000, 2 p.m. CST
by The Founder
you won't be disappointed. It's one of the best movies of the year,and I know it's not going to get nominated for any awards although it should. A damn fine movie.
Dec. 27, 2000, 2:06 p.m. CST
McWeeney, when you go on and on like you are some great film historian, it makes me want to kick you right off the fucking planet. Anyway, you got it backwards about THE UNTOUCHABLES. Mamet's script was cliched and by the numbers, it was DePalmas operatic camerawork that made the flick so cool.
Dec. 27, 2000, 2:25 p.m. CST
The trailer for Cast Away shows us just about everything that happens to Noland, but NOT the one detail which was just blown all to hell for me by Moriarty, which is that he does not get the girl. The trailer takes us back to civilization with Noland and puts him on Helen Hunt's doorstep, but now thanks to Moriarty we all know that Noland loses her again. I'm an old fashioned movie buff who likes for the love story to have a happy ending, most of the time. (That's why I'll never watch Erin Brokovich for a second time.) I know Cast Away has been out for awhile now, but I haven't seen it yet, and I can't be the only one reading who was disappointed with this unmarked spoiler. You might as well run a banner headline that says HEY EVERYBODY, MR. GLASS BLEW UP ALL THOSE BUILDINGS AND SHIT.
Dec. 27, 2000, 2:31 p.m. CST
One of the 2 or 3 best movies of the year without any doubt, perhaps the best. * Why nominate it for best picture: well it was a bad year, you see. Even in a normal year it'd deserved a nomination :p Now we speka of Erin Borckovich and julia Roberts for oscars. gosh. * And Zhang Ziyi (sp?) really deserves an oscar nomination, for sure. She's absolutely wonderful in the movie. * King Fu movie: yes perhaps. then you'll say Lord of the Rings is just a sword-and-sorcery stuff, in your total ignorance. Or that Fight Club is about boxing :O * Dubbing CTHD, well I prefer not to think of what it would sound like...
Dec. 27, 2000, 2:55 p.m. CST
To everyone who argues in favor of "What Lies Beneath" - Shut up! It was horrible...It made no sense, it had absolutely no suspense whatsoever, and it wastes an entire HOUR of running time on a plot line that doesn't go ANYWHERE at all! My favorite line - "so, this formula would work on ANY MAMMAL?" This is said in the first half hour of the movie. Hmmm...I wonder what type of mammal we're eventually going to see get poisoned. An orangutan perhaps? Zemeckis obviously wanted to make a Hitchcock-style suspense film, but if Al had made the film, he would have figured out how to make the plot work without the lame ghost story - just a chiller about infidelity and paranoia. That was the genius of Hitch - he didn't need the special effects and the "jump out at you" noises...he just needed a cool Hermann score, a few good actors and a script. As for the people arguing that it must be good, because it's so damn popular, that's retarded. There are tons of hugely popular movies that suck - just because John Q. Filmgoer thought WLB was a real humdigger, doesn't mean that it has any intrinsic worth... I liked "State and Main," but knowing who Gregg was going in, he annoyed me every time he was on screen...Decent actor, but HORRIBLE writer. And, like that, I'm gone...
Dec. 27, 2000, 3:04 p.m. CST
CTHD is without a doubt the best movie of the year. I saw it at the Metreon in San Francisco on a HUGE screen with a top notch sound system. There were people of all ages ad races in the audience and we all cheered three different times in the movie. This will probably end up as an all time favorite of mine. Reminded me of the first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theaters... Also I would like to apologize to all the LOTR fans...I've said some bad things in the past about it, but i decided to pick up a copy of the book and so far it is simply amazing..Wow!! I can hardly put the thing down. Anyway I'm still sticking to my $150 million domestic gross! So I'm not a total convert!
Dec. 27, 2000, 3:50 p.m. CST
Firstly, CTHD is not just a 'chop sockey' film. It is a transcendant film that has elements of comedy, drama, and action. Anyone considering nominating "Gladiator" for a Best Picture Oscar *must* consider CTHD for one to be fair. Now ask yourselves. What other genre films have been considered for Best Picture Oscars in the past? Let's see: "Braveheart" - a costume battle epic. "Saving Private Ryan" - war movie. "Unforgiven" - western. "Silence of the Lambs" - horror / suspense. "Rocky" - sports movie. "French Connection" - cop movie. "Patton" - war movie. "The Sound of Music" - musical. Are these not ALL genre movies in a way? Or are these genre movies that contained transcendant qualities that made them more than their pigeonholed Blockbuster sections?
Dec. 27, 2000, 4:50 p.m. CST
The Verdict is not a 70's film. It's 1982.
Dec. 27, 2000, 4:59 p.m. CST
Whereas Limbo left an entire plot wide open without a shred of assumption for the viewer just to be clever in literally defining its title...Cast Away came full circle, its characters came to closure although ending up back at the same place but you can pretty much guess what Chuck Noland is going to do after the screen fades to white...he's going to stand there for awhile and breath in the fresh air. That is the difference between an intelligent movie and one that tried to be clever and failed miserably.
Dec. 27, 2000, 8:52 p.m. CST
We're not trying to change his mind but it sure seems like he is trying to change ours on the film. Moriarty should have in his initial review said why HE hates the film but he proceded to mention how stupid David Poland was for liking the film, a very bad habit Moriarty has is always talking about other reviewers opinions of films. Almost like he is saying they are wrong with their review and his is right. Someone mentioned how boxoffice doesn't mean anything but i disagree, if a film stays strong and after a few weeks it is still making almost as much it does show it is getting tremendous word of mouth. Moriarty should just let it go, he's continuosly bringing it up not us.
Dec. 27, 2000, 10:43 p.m. CST
by Ricky Fitts
Almost Famous and Crouching Tiger are the two best movies so far this year, but I have yet to see Traffic. Did Zemeckis think he was being clever or shameless when he spliced about 40 minutes of Hitchcock negatives into his mediocre "star" vehicle?
Dec. 27, 2000, 11:08 p.m. CST
One of the year's best IMO. Looking forward to CTHD, but it won't be here til Jan. 12.
Dec. 28, 2000, 1:50 a.m. CST
"This is the first time I
Dec. 28, 2000, 7:27 a.m. CST
I think the word we're searching for here is "mature". What was the last mature action film you can remember? One where character arcs and subtlety were as important as the fight scene? It's probably one of the only films ever made that can stand up to both the "Chick-Flick" and "Testosterone Flick" tests and come out a winner. An absolute masterpiece, and one of my favorite films of all time.
Dec. 28, 2000, 8:10 a.m. CST
cut to "three years later". Tom Hanks and that girl with the wings are playing on the beach with their kids. Suddenly, in a dramatic moment, Hanks looks out into the ocean and sees...Wilson bobbing up and down in the water. Hanks gets tears in his eyes and runs off to catch him. They run away together and live happily ever after. The end. Seriously though, was anyone else just really sad when Hanks lost Wilson? He was one of the greatest sidekicks of all time!
Dec. 28, 2000, 8:17 a.m. CST
From my fiancee as we exited the theatre: "That movie had everything except singing and dancing monkees, and I'm pretty sure those scenes were left on the editing floor."
Dec. 28, 2000, 8:19 a.m. CST
Rebecca Pidgeon isn't in OLEANNA. That's Debra Eisenstadt playing Carol. Just thought you'd want to know Moriarty.
Dec. 28, 2000, 9:15 a.m. CST
CTHD continues to lead in per theatre averages according to the Hollywood Reporter: $25,843 per screen. "Castaway" earned $14,357 per screen.
Dec. 28, 2000, 12:46 p.m. CST
Well, first CTHD is so great. Well, you mean, 26000 $ per screen?! It's HUGE. They should release it in 1000 screens next week:) MOSDEF, sorry for bashing you too heavily last time;) You see now LOTr is good indeed. I think the weakest part is the beginning (first 100 pages), so the rest is even greater;) About your 150 mio. well for each movie I'd agree, 150 mio or more, in fact. That is, 1 billion for the 3 is a decent estimation. or more... Well enough with this, whatever. What really matters is how well CTHD will do in USA now :) (it did rather well for a chinese movie in Europe)
Dec. 28, 2000, 5:07 p.m. CST
by MOVIE WRITER
What a load of crap. Did the director of Back To The Future really make this garbage? I guess when you get older you lose your mind. First off I can't believe Tom Hanks believes he's a serious actor, he's horrible and acts like he's fucking Lawrence Olivier. He gets stuck on an island and talks to a damn volleyball that he named wilson. There is talk that hanks should get an Oscar nom for this work, but I can't decide who was a better actor the volleyball or him. Then you see Hanks fixing his tooth with an iceskate and a coconut. The whole movie is garbage. If i was stuck on the isalnd i would cut a hole in the volleyball and fantasize about Colleen from survivor.
Dec. 28, 2000, 9:47 p.m. CST
I believe people who embraced CTHD discovered that there is a deeper level, while the naysayers completely missed it. One simple question prompts us to look for the deeper level -- sometimes during the second viewing ; ) (Spoiler warning) "What did Jen wish for?" I also believe it would behoove Sony Pictures to mention this in general terms (e.g., what would you wish for) for the campaigns. Unlike the endings in the "Sixth Sense" and "Usual Suspects", which make audiences realize the twist and forces them to reflect on them, the ending for CTHD is ambiguous. Accordingly, without this question as a prompt, audiences will most likely overlook it... as evidenced by the naysayers. P.S. I also want to say that I appreciate Moriarity's reviews... always insightful.
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