Ang Lee: An Appreciation Part Two

(continued from Ang Lee: An Appreciation Part One)

1999’s Ride With the Devil: Based on the novel ‘Woe To Live On” by Daniel Woodrell, the film centers on a Southern militiaman who joins a group of marauders called the Bushwhackers in Missouri at the onset of the Civil War, and chronicles their subsequent activities.  Featuring an excellent cast that includes Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jeffrey Wright, Jonathan Brandis, Jim Caviezel, and Jewel, the film had some critical acclaim (even more so when the director’s cut was released on DVD and Blu-ray more than 10 years later) but had an extremely limited theatrical run, which resulted in a very poor box office performance.

2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Loosely based on the novel by Wang Dulu, this wuxia film centers on a Wudang swordsman who, along with a female warrior, trace the theft of his stolen sword and come upon the warrior who killed his former master.  Featuring a terrific cast that includes Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and Chang Chen, this critically acclaimed film was a huge box office hit domestically as well as internationally.  It was honored with 10 Oscar nominations (including Lee’s second Best Director nod and first Best Picture nod), winning four (including Best Foreign Language Film).

2003’s Hulk: Based on the Marvel Comics character, this adaptation centers on a bionuclear researcher who, after being exposed to gamma radiation, transforms into a giant, muscular green monster whenever triggered by deep anger, and must deal with outside forces trying to control him as well as deal with his haunted past.  Bordering on Shakespearean tragedy, this film features a stellar cast that includes Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte, and Josh Lucas.  Reviews were decent, as was its reception at the box office.  Followed by a reboot in 2008 that also doubled as a stand-alone sequel (since it sort of picks up where this film left off, only five years later).

2005’s Brokeback Mountain: Based on the short story by Annie Proulx, the film centers on two male Wyoming sheep herders in the early ’60s who fall in love and chronicles their uneasy relationship over the next 20 years.  Featuring an excellent cast that includes Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid, and Linda Cardellini, this critically acclaimed film became a domestic and international box office hit, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Lee’s third Best Director nod).  It won three Oscars, including Best Director (making Lee the first Asian and non-white director to win the award).

2007’s Lust, Caution: Based on the novel by Eileen Chang, this World War II espionage thriller centers on a Chinese woman who tries to lure a high-ranking special agent of the puppet government installed by Japan into a trap where he is to be assassinated by Chinese university students.  Featuring a terrific cast that includes Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Tang Wei, Joan Chen, and Leehom Wang, this critically acclaimed film was Lee’s first (and so far only) NC-17-rated film and performed decently at the box office (considering the rating).

Lee’s newest film, Life of Pi, opens today to excellent reviews.  Suraj Sharma stars as Pi, a 16 year-old who is the only person to survive the sinking of a freighter.  He eventually finds himself on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, and a Bengal tiger.  I am looking forward to this film, and it looks like a sure Oscar contender.  Thank you, Ang Lee, for the films you’ve made.  Your presence in the film industry has only enriched it.

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