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Awake In The Dark
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Old December 27th, 2004, 06:43 PM   #16
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I'm a big fan of Ridley Scotts first feature film, "The Duellists". In a sense, he's been remaking that film ever since.

Appropos of the subject matter of KOH, and todays political climate, it wouldn't surprise me if he took a "non-hollywood" stance on the subject. The Duellists was a film about personal honor on one level, and about the notion of "Withdrawal with honor" on another. Having come from the vietnam era. So I would look to see a subtext of "Once you've caught a tiger, what do you do with it?" in the story line.

As someone who made a living in armor on horseback, I'm hard pressed to be impressed by most movie depictions of the crusades or medieval epics. I do expect great things from Ridley Scott on this however, especially if he uses William Hobbs for the fight choreography.

I'll spend my nickle to see it on the big screen... where all "epics" are best seen, even if their storylines are weak. At least you get the full effect of the art direction and action sequences.
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Old December 27th, 2004, 09:12 PM   #17
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The reason I brought up Commodus as a weak villain is because he makes the conflict weak. Imran is right about the lack of risk. From what we see in the film, it's obvious that Maximus would easily tear apart Commodus. So to me there is nothing really compelling about watching the inevitable battle. It's almost like an afterthought that the writer then makes Commodus weaken Maximus and drug him just so that they would be on the same level. Actually in history the real Commodus regularly engaged in the gladiatorial battles. That's why people thought he was crazy! That he would risk himself in a game where the price of losing is your life. It's like George W. Bush taking a weekend off to patrol Fallujah instead of watching football at Camp David. If they had only taken the real history then the final battle would have had an element of risk and you wouldn't have had to resort to the lame device that the Commodus is artificially weakened.

In "Rob Roy", the Tim Roth character Archie is no less evil than Commodus but they don't do anything to weaken his character. Therefore there is the real chance that Archie could kill Rob Roy and he nearly does. That final duel (choreographed by Hobbs) is among the finest villain-hero confrontations you'll catch on the screen.

The character of Jade Fox in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is also an example of a multilayered villain. We even feel some sympathy for her because she wouldn't have become a villain if they hadn't barred her from learning the secrets of the Wudan because she was a woman. We also see that she cares for her princess. It doesn't make her less strong a villain because she also manipulates the Zhang Zi Yi character to fight on her behalf.

Every great villain has had some hurt, something in their background that has made them what they are. Commodus had elements of this in that he wanted to please his father but his father Marcus Aurelius saw in him a character flaw. The problem with the rest of his character is that he is not credible as a villain, he is only someone to be despised. I get the sense that even if Maximus had failed in his revenge that Commodus would have gone down by some other means.

You don't get the same feeling from the average Bond villain. In every Bond film what is at stake? The world is at stake! If Bond doesn't take down the villain, then the world will be in the hands of some egomaniacal villain. If Bond fails, the villain is surely to take control. One of the most interesting Bond villains recently was Alex Trevaylen in "Goldeneye", who was set up as a fellow 00 agent. Trevaylen had a historical grudge against the British and also a personal conflict with Bond himself. And as a fellow 00 agent he was also the physical equal of Bond. So in one character he promises to provide the proper level of conflict with the hero and also he has some background that tells us about his humanity.

Compare him to the weak villain in "Tomorrow Never Dies" which had some kind of crap Rupert Murdoch type media mogul. You couldn't ever fathom that this character would ever outsmart much less outfight Bond. That's why in many weak Bond films the villain also has a henchman who is supposed to match Bond physically. If only they would have that all in one strong character as opposed to two weak characters.
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Old December 27th, 2004, 09:16 PM   #18
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<<<-- Originally posted by Yi Fong Yu : the problem is... if you have a "realistic" villain, would you still watch the film? a realistic one would be someone that would possibly never have been caught nor killed, thus having no resolution to the film.-->>>

Not a fan of "The Wire" eh?
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Old December 27th, 2004, 10:46 PM   #19
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regarding jade fox, it's interesting you should cite her as a "multi-layered" villain. i grew up in Taiwan watching on a healthy staple of these 'wuxia' film and TV series.

woman as a villain is a cliche and pretty bad stereotype in oriental cinema. ask anyone obsessed with wuxia films or asians watching those works regularly. look for it in hero (zhang ziyi, deceiving&conniving), house of flying daggers, etc. in fact, don't take my word for it, ask any asian friends you know. jade fox as a character is pretty 1 dimensional (@least to asians). i think it's a cultural issue too but that's another story altogether. i mean asians like the parts of hero and house of flying dagger that westerners think are too melodramatic.

as for commodus, if he had lived... wouldn't he be one of those "neros" just kill anyone that you suspected? i'm not too sure he would have been killed so easily if he killed maximus.

re: the wire, never caught it, wouldn't know.
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Old December 28th, 2004, 12:36 AM   #20
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Yi Yong Fu, I watched a lot of these things when I was growing up too and I know that a woman as a villain is common. But you don't address the parts of her character I cited. Is it just because she was a woman and a villain that you think that it is cliched? Please tell me because if Asian cinema is full of characters with deep motivations and inner conflicts for them to be considered cliches then Asian cinema is on a level several layers higher than all other cinema.

I don't see how Zhang Ziyi's character in "Hero" is at all similar to Jade Fox's in "Crouching Tiger". I don't know why you would lump her character in with Jade Fox.

//as for commodus, if he had lived... wouldn't he be one of those "neros" just kill anyone that you suspected? i'm not too sure he would have been killed so easily if he killed maximus.//

You're not reading clearly what I wrote. I was referring to the Commodus character if he had succeeded in killing Maximus after drugging him and stabbing him. If he was such a weak person then that he had to handicap Maximus so he could kill him in the arena, then he probably would still continue being weak in the future and hence is no villain to respect. If he had instead been the historical Commodus and killed Maximus in a fair fight, then he wouldn't be a weak character.
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Old December 28th, 2004, 12:47 AM   #21
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//re: the wire, never caught it, wouldn't know.//

This is the HBO series about a team of Baltimore cops who are trying to take down a pair of drug dealers. In each season the cops have gotten close but then something steps in the way to steal victory from them.

The story is how the protagonists deal with the system and the challenges that continue to thwart them from succeeding. It is the most interesting drama because of their struggle.

A good conflict pits all kinds of odds against the protagonist, even ones that seem insurmountable. One of the theses of "The Wire" is that the system the cops are a part of is fixed so that they can't succeed. You feel their frustrations and you cheer their small victories. Their characters are made even more interesting because they are flawed.

This is really taking televison and drama to a new level. Once you leave behind the fantasies of easy victories and obvious evils you appreciate these nuanced examinations of the issues more. Maybe it is just a part of being older and seeing what goes on in the world.
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Old December 28th, 2004, 09:07 AM   #22
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the chinese do consider their own brand of wuxia cinema (and thousands of years worth of wuxia novels) to have superior character development... but then again they consider everything of they touch to be "superior". that's another issue altogether.

jade fox not learning a secret and being pissed off about that is archetypical. there are scores of wuxia films/TV series with masters that don't teach their students ALL their tricks. it's a staple of drama. i think it's because the master wants to remain a master. the only problem with that is that if you're a true master you should always be learning new things to stay ahead of the student and not stopping @a certain point. that aspect combined with the fact that she is a stereotypical villain-women makes it doubly evil. somehow there is a propagated thinking that women symbolizes evil. the whole setup is pretty cliche.

when i was growing up i never warmed up to wuxia genre as a whole because i never bought the melodrama and the fantasy (escapism). i liked the western 'cliches' that you seem to dislike =). although western cliches are still escapism, there is less melodrama. i also like that while it is all fantastical there are lessons that you learn that you can apply to your own life in earnest. the wuxia lessons you learn (such as masters with-holding information and not learning new things) is kind of backwards. i suppose it's about the ideologies and cultural differences.

re: the wire, i've seen ads and pass by it but haven't really sat through it totally. i'm not a cop show guy. but hbo has been consistently scoring hit shows after hit shows. what you just wrote about the characters of the wire can be applied to nearly every hit show on hbo. sex&city, sopranos, 6' under, entourage, you name it.
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Old December 28th, 2004, 10:00 AM   #23
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From what I've heard in various interviews of filmmakers for HBO, the reason they're making such great programming is that they're allowing the filmmakers to make the films. This usually means giving them final cut, as they probably would in an independent cinema scenario. They promote rather than dictate.

Imagine a regular TV network giving final cut to the director!
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Old December 28th, 2004, 12:14 PM   #24
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<<<-- Originally posted by Yi Fong Yu : the chinese do consider
jade fox not learning a secret and being pissed off about that is archetypical. there are scores of wuxia films/TV series with masters that don't teach their students ALL their tricks. it's a staple of drama. i think it's because the master wants to remain a master. the only problem with that is that if you're a true master you should always be learning new things to stay ahead of the student and not stopping @a certain point. that aspect combined with the fact that she is a stereotypical villain-women makes it doubly evil. -->>

Yi Fong Yu, you are right that the master not teaching a student all of the tricks is a staple. But in the context of the theme of female empowerment in the film as a whole the aspect of Jade Fox being denied because of her sex strengthened the theme. The three women characters are all potentially powerful but in each of their cases they are constrained because of society's dictates. Each represent women at different stages in life and how their characters were formed by their conflict over power and position in life. Jade Tiger is embittered because she is an outlaw and couldn't rise up among the Wu Dan as a woman. Michelle Yeoh's middle-aged woman is a great fighter and respected but is considered by other women to be off ill-repute because she travels around and has adventures. She herself feels she has missed opportunities to settle down with her great love and has a rootless life. And then Zhang Zi Yi's character has great potential but faces a life as a kept princess in a household.

Seen in this context, Jade Fox as a cliche doesn't work out. She isn't a major character by any means but her character's conflicts fit wholly with the theme.

<<<-- Originally posted by Yi Fong Yu :when i was growing up i never warmed up to wuxia genre as a whole because i never bought the melodrama and the fantasy (escapism). i liked the western 'cliches' that you seem to dislike =). although western cliches are still escapism, there is less melodrama. -->>

You see melodrama, I see complexity. Melodrama is overwrought conflict that doesn't seem natural. It is probably someone we cannot agree on. I found the conflict was natural and supported the theme. You think it's been done to death.


<<<-- Originally posted by Yi Fong Yu :
i also like that while it is all fantastical there are lessons that you learn that you can apply to your own life in earnest. the wuxia lessons you learn (such as masters with-holding information and not learning new things) is kind of backwards. i suppose it's about the ideologies and cultural differences.
-->>

Yi Fong Yu, the fact that Li Mu Bai is defending a system that denied Jade Tiger which westerners would think backwards IS interesting. But by the end of the movie Li Mu Bai has turned around and actively seeks the girl (a woman) as a pupil. So his opinion is changed by the conflict.

Solid characters have a progression, an arc. Even though their endings might be predestined, each solid character has to go through a visible growth that the audience can see. A multilayered character may have two or three or many journeys they undergo.

Li Mu Bai:
Life -> Death
Friendship with Shu Lien -> Shared experience -> Consummation of relationship
Protecting Wudan -> Sharing Wudan's secrets -> Opening Wudan to Zhang Zi Yi's character
Seeking vengeance for dead master -> opening conflict -> complications with Jade Fox's student -> Vengeance consummated
Giving up sword -> Losing sword -> Regaining sword -> Sword given up again

I'm tired of these discussions just being labelled "cultural differences". How would you like that thrown back at you when you try to discuss western film? Oh, you can't talk about that because you are not American so you just wouldn't understand. Discussion is about trying to reach understanding. Don't you agree that the Chinese are some of the biggest people at trying to be closed and not trying to reach out? Chinese cinema and Asian cinema in general is burgeoning and reaching heights of popularity. There is a reason for that and that is the exploration of universal themes that moviegoers all over the world can embrace. At one time westerns were huge all over the world.
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Old December 28th, 2004, 01:34 PM   #25
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<<<-- Originally posted by Imran Zaidi : From what I've heard in various interviews of filmmakers for HBO, the reason they're making such great programming is that they're allowing the filmmakers to make the films. This usually means giving them final cut, as they probably would in an independent cinema scenario. They promote rather than dictate.

Imagine a regular TV network giving final cut to the director! -->>>

It's great to imagine that :-)
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Old December 28th, 2004, 03:42 PM   #26
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good God keith that's masterful! =^). you should write for a magazine or review site or SOMN! get paid for it! =). i haven't really thought about CTHD that deep!

i'm not the one espousing it. as i've noted before i don't much care for crouching tiger or wuxia in general. i am simply retorting what i myself have heard, thus as levar burton said, you don't have to take my word for it =). and what the others have told me is that CTHD is pretty stupid and simple. now this isn't my opinion (like i said i couldn't care about it). i'm just relaying that i haven't encountered one asian person (who obviously watches this daily even in the US) who liked it. in fact most of them have said that asian cinema as a whole doesn't compare to hollywood. i asked them why, they just said the technical aspects, dramatic structure, etc. i said, but what about ang lee, zhang yimou, etc. they said, it's OK but still not american cinema. i just shrug =).

as for cultural differences, there is somewhat of a rift. for example, many westerners seem to note in the recent debuts of house of flying daggers that the heroes are so indestructible that it becomes quite the joke to see them fight. that and the fantastic elements of flying around, one against impossible numbers and so forth. easterners simply ignore that and go for the "melodrama". the cultural taste is a bit different.

now, let's step back and look @british and american comedy. there's also a cultural difference there two amongst two western giants. british comedy relies very much on the intellect but american on the physical. yesh i realize there is amalgam of both now with mr. bean and jon stewart, etc.... but for the longest time there has been a division.
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Old December 28th, 2004, 04:53 PM   #27
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Yi Fong Yu, I think we should all see cinema as a universal artform. You can recognize that a story comes from a certain source and realize that you have to understand certain cultural aspects but really most stories share a human concern that everyone should recognize. The good stories, that is.
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Old December 28th, 2004, 10:06 PM   #28
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hear, hear (or is it here here?) i'll drink to that!

meanwhile, BACK to the topic@hand. how much do ya'll think this will make? better than alexander? troy?
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Old January 2nd, 2005, 10:09 PM   #29
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I don't mind movies that are predictable as long as the execution is well-done. I think that's one of the problems today...trying to make all movies unpredictable--which often gives them a contrived feeling.

Historical epics are pretty much guaranteed to be predictable. ;) So just make it an interesting retelling of the history we already know and I'll be there to watch it.

Ridley is one of my favorite directors. I can't imagine he wouldn't show the other side of things--especially now--but I worry that it might be toned down a bit. I just wonder though if they'll show the actual plunder of Jerusalem on the part of the Crusaders. Not the West's finest hour.
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Old April 3rd, 2005, 01:00 AM   #30
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i loved the first trailer. imho, it's the best trailer of all times.

now, some big idiot had to go cut a new trailer to spoil the story for everyone! if you don't wanna be spoiled don't see it:
http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&cf...y%20Fox&type=t
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