Ang Lee. Lee can deftly jump from genre to genre and can make art from any scale or budget. He began with films in Taiwan and quickly turned into one of the major studio directors of the late 1990’s and early part of the 21st century. His strengths for the purposes of this list is his resume- two very solid top 100 of the decade list films (Crouching Tiger and Brokeback) and if an adaption as successful as Sense and Sensibility is your fourth best film—you are far from being a one-hit wonder (and at #175 on this list we’re close to that area where some one-hit wonders will start showing up). Lee’s weakness is the identification marks of authorship in his work—they even pale in comparison with other technology-driven auteurs like Cameron and Zemeckis. It keeps Lee from being mentioned as one of the greatest of auteurs (even of this era).

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if an adaption as successful as Sense and Sensibility is your fourth best film—you are far from being a one-hit wonder

Best film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I think it’s a two-horse race with Brokeback Mountain here but I think Lee’s 2000 triumph has the edge

frame within the frame- splendid work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

total archiveable films: 6

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:   1 (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

Genre malleability— not blending them like Bong Joon-Ho or anything- but from jumping to an action epic like Crouching Tiger, to a 1970’s US drama (in different language) in The Ice Storm and a Jane Austen adaptation- wow

top 100 films of the decade:   2 (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain)

a stunner of a photograph here- worthy of any art exhibit- and proof that Lee can do far more than just landscapes

most overrated: Lee winning the best director Oscar in 2012 for Life of Pi made my boil a little- but I don’t use the Academy for this overrated/underrated category—I use TSPDT and their consensus 21st century list has Life of Pi as #36 from 2012 which is the correct spot. So, sadly, I’d have to say Brokeback Mountain even though it is a film that is think highly of. I just couldn’t find a spot for it in my top 500 and they have it at #359. So we’re maybe 300 slots apart- not crazy overrated.

most underrated Nothing here. Ice Storm is #1087 on TSPDT and that’s fine. Crouching Tiger is in a good spot as well. So I don’t think I have an underrated film for Ang Lee.

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great use of a doorway as a frame within a frame and soft focus in The Ice Storm

gem I want to spotlight : Brokeback Mountain

  • Classically told love story, picturesque photography by Ang Lee, a with a deserving winner for best screenplay, musical score, and a trio of really good performance (led by Ledger)
  • The short story of Annie Proulx written by Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove)—wow- holy hell- what a powerhouse writing—and another example of adapting a short story maybe the right way to go for a feature film and a director who wants to do more than just film a screenplay
  • Gustavo Santaolalla’s minimal score – so beautiful- he’d actually win the Oscar again the following year for Babel
  • The film opens in a stunning of a long shot on the open prairie
  • You need subtitles for Heath- he doesn’t open his mouth to talk—Michelle Williams is magnificent and the wide-eyed Gyllenhaal— but in 2005 it’s Ledger who is the revelation (all three nominated)—he disappears here into characters
  • The quiet scenic splendor which fits the old Hollywood version of cinematography—establishing shots here like Legends of the Fall – Alberta here, some Wyoming location shooting—gorgeous mountain
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The quiet scenic splendor which fits the old Hollywood version of cinematography—establishing shots here like Legends of the Fall – Alberta here, some Wyoming location shooting—gorgeous mountain
  • I think there’s a bit of a nod here to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with both actors jumping off the ledge into the river together- here- both naked
  • A stunner of a wall art shot achievement with Ledger and the fireworks in the background
Yes, Visconti did it in The Leopard, De Palma in Blow Out and Scorsese in both Cape Fear and Gangs of New York– but Lee’s use of fireworks for a background here is still a magnificent achievement- striking
  • Final shot—postcard from Gyllenhaal, the window a a frame for the mountain

stylistic innovations/traits:  

  • Technological proficiency – always pushing boundaries in the 21st century
  • Genre malleability— not blending them like Bong Joon-Ho or anything- but from jumping to an action epic like Crouching Tiger, to a 1970’s US drama (in different language) in The Ice Storm and a Jane Austen adaptation- wow
  • Breathtaking landscapes and photography—often of the outdoors and nature in the tradition of Lean or Minghella, Edward Zwick

top 10

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  2. Brokeback Mountain
  3. The Ice Storm
  4. Sense and Sensibility
  5. Life of Pi
  6. Eat Drink Man Woman

By year and grades

1994- Eat Drink Man Woman R
1995- Sense and Sensibility R
1997- The Ice Storm HR
2000- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon MS
2005- Brokeback Mountain HR/MS
2012- Life of Pi R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives