Friday, September 13, 2013

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo hu cang long) (2000)

4 Wins, 10 Nominations

Win: Best Foreign Language Film - Taiwan
Win: Best Cinematography - Peter Pau
Win: Best Art Direction, Set Decoration - Timmy Yip
Win: Best Music, Original Score - Tan Dun
Nomination: Best Picture - William Kong, Li-Kong Hsu, and Ang Lee
Nomination: Best Director - Ang Lee
Nomination: Best Costume Design - Timmy Yip
Nomination: Best Film Editing - Tim Squyres
Nomination: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay - Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus, and Kuo Jung Tsai
Nomination: Best Music, Original Song - Jorge Calandrelli, Tan Dun, and James Schamus for "A Love Before Time."

Oftentimes when a filmmaker that the Academy deems to be "Oscar worthy" makes a genre film, the Academy will heap praise - and nominations - on the film, even if there have been superior films in the genre ignored by the Academy due to the absence of an "Oscar worthy" filmmaker.  The wuxia film has existed for nearly a century, but until "serious filmmaker" Ang Lee introduced the genre to the west with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the genre remained largely unknown and entirely unrecognized by the Academy.  Blown away by the theatrics and technical achievement of the film, the Academy responded with ten nominations and four Oscars.  This is not to say that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an unremarkable film; in fact, it is a worthy film with quite remarkable below-the-line achievements in categories including cinematography, art direction, and costume design.  Still, it's hard not to think that if the Academy was familiar with previous efforts of the wuxia genre, the members of the Academy might have been less enamored with the creativity of the film.

According to Box Office Mojo, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had a mere $17 million budget, and its absolutely remarkable what Ang Lee and his team was able to put on screen for this amount of money.  Though I didn't love the film nearly as much as audiences did in 2000 (to the tune of $128 million in domestic gross), the film has a haunting melancholy to it that is prevalent in many of Lee's films.  Part of this comes from the direction, but it is also the result of strong performances by Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, each never better than they were in this film.

Anyone who saw last year's Life of Pi knows that Lee is a masterful visual director, and in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon he has created a visual world just as stunning as the one in Life of Pi.  Lee's visual team of Peter Pau and Timmy Yip were both deservedly rewarded for the film's visuals, and the film likely would have picked up the award for editing if not for Stephen Mirrione's work on Traffic.

Perhaps if I had seen the film upon its original release, I would have been swept up in the same euphoria that audiences at the time experienced, but 12 years later and with a working knowledge of wuxia films, I just couldn't lose myself in the film the way audiences did when it was first released.  Still, it is without a doubt an impressive technical achievement and a sincere, well made film.

Remaining: 3129 films, 857 Oscars, 5353 nominations

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