Ang Lee Movies

Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

When I think about Ang Lee movies, the first words that pop into my head are “films for women.” That’s not particularly fair, though, as Lee has directed a celebrated action film and even a comic book adaptation. He may not be the next John Woo, but he’s not the next Jane Campion, either.

Ang Lee Movies

When you think of Ang Lee movies, think of this face.

Characters in Ang Lee movies often struggle with issues of isolation and loneliness, even if they’re constantly surrounded by others. This disconnect creates all kinds of opportunities for the cast, so it’s little wonder that performers such as Eric Bana, Heath Ledger, Jennifer Connelly, and Tobey Maguire have signed on to work with Lee in the past.

When putting together this list, I was surprised by how few Ang Lee films I’d actually watched. I’ve listed those below, as well as categorizing other films into those I might see and those I’ll avoid like the plague. You’re welcome to make up your own list and submit it in our comments section.


Ang Lee Films I’ve Seen

I’ve seen the following two Ang Lee movies. Not surprisingly, both feature a heavy dose of action, although only one has Nick Nolte and a bunch of mutated dogs.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – Being a John Woo fan, I’ve always been partial to anything featuring Chow Yun-Fat. I’m also fond of Michelle Yeoh’s contributions to martial arts movies, and it doesn’t get any hotter than Zhang Ziyi. When I heard that all three had been cast as part of Lee’s wuxia film, I was sold.

The movie doesn’t disappoint, either, blending a mix of traditional martial arts with lush cinematography, innovative wire work, and a sweeping story of love and loss. The showdown between Yeoh and Zhang also happens to be the best cinematic catfight you’ll ever have the pleasure of drooling over.

It’s always a pleasure to see international films catch on in the U.S., and this one did so with a vengeance. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made $128 million in America, and it would be nominated for 10 Academy Awards. The film walked away with four faux golden trophies, including wins for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography. It also helped usher in an era of increased interest in martial arts movies, especially among mainstream viewers.

Ang Lee movies

Most Ang Lee movies feature women crying. This one has Nick Nolte instead.

Hulk (2003) – Eric Bana is David Banner, a scientist trying to unlock the secrets of human DNA. But his tests have unexpected results, and he soon finds himself transformed into a massive green-skinned beast. Jennifer Connelly is his ex-girlfriend, Sam Elliott is the military hardass, and Nick Nolte is Banner’s wacky scientist father.

While the decision to use a CGI Hulk might have been inevitable, the finished product wasn’t very cool. Then there was the lack of an interesting villain for the Hulk to square off with, instead forcing him to battle a bunch of mutated poodles and a lame creature composed of electricity. And while I normally like Bana, his performance here was low key to the point of seeming comatose.


Ang Lee Films I Might See

These are Ang Lee movies I would consider seeing in the future:

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) – An elderly Chinese chef whips up some dishes while his three hottie daughters look for love. I’ve heard it described as one of the greatest food movies ever made, so I might give it a try the next time I devour some House Fried Rice.

Ride with the Devil (1999) – I love the Western genre and movies set during wartime, but I’ve been a little leery to give this Ang Lee Civil War flick a try. It’s set in Missouri and features Tobey Maguire and Skeet Ulrich as a pair of guerilla fighters, but there also appears to be a lot of time dedicated to female characters. That means people will be talking about their feelings instead of gunning each other down, and somebody will probably cry their eyes out while taking a bath (since the shower wasn’t available yet).

Brokeback Mountain (2005) – While a movie about two gay cowboys (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) doesn’t offend me in the least, it’s also not the kind of story I’m drawn to. Still, I constantly hear positive things about the film, so I guess I’ll have to break down and see it at some point.

Hell, I thought I Love You Phillip Morris was a fun rental, so I don’t know why I’m concerned. The difference, of course, it that the Jim Carrey/Ewan McGregor movie was largely a comedy, while this one is filled with sexual confusion, lots of overwrought emotions, and a bummer of an ending. It does have Anne Hathaway showing some skin, though, which might be enough to land it in my queue.

Lust, Caution (2008) – Set in Hong Kong and Shanghai during the first half of the 20th century, this thriller tells the story of Chinese students who set out to kill a government agent (Tony Leung). Tang Wei stars as the young woman assigned to seduce the target, but her interactions have unexpected consequences.

The sex scenes are supposed to be extra steamy, and I always enjoy the chance to learn a little about world history by watching period films. Plus, I’ve had a man-crush on Tony Leung ever since I watched Red Cliff.

Ang Lee Films I Have No Intention of Seeing

I can’t imagine a time when I’ll get around to seeing these Ang Lee feature films:

Sense and Sensibility (1995) – Despite the presence of Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Winslet, I had quite enough of Jane Austen in high school. Unless a meteor coated in estrogen suddenly falls on my head, I doubt this one will ever find its way to my Netflix queue.

Ang Lee movies

One of the more depressing Ang Lee movies.

The Ice Storm (1997) – A couple of Connecticut families deal with repressed desires and consume plenty of alcohol during the early 1970s. While there’s wife-swapping and a fine ensemble cast (Kevin Kline, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver), the few minutes I saw were painfully slow. The rest of the film could be comprised of shootouts and car chases, but I’ll never know thanks to a profound sense of apathy.

Taking Woodstock (2009) – When I think of hippies, my mind conjures up images of weed, bad fashion choices, and women with unshaved armpits. This comedy-drama is centered around 1969’s Woodstock Festival, the largest gathering of hippies since the party Matthew McConaughey threw last week. I have to agree with Eric Cartman on this one.

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That completes our look at the diverse and thought-provoking works known as Ang Lee movies. No matter which genre he’s working in, you can count on Mr. Lee to introduce deep issues designed to challenge his audience, as well as a hefty dose of action and intrigue. And to think that his father wanted him to become a professor.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 24th, 2011 at 8:53 am and is filed under Good Movies, Thoughts on Film. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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