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).
Best film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It is a two-horse race with Brokeback Mountain here but Lee’s 2000 triumph has the edge
total archiveable films: 6
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain)
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.
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
- 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
- Final shot—postcard from Gyllenhaal, the window a a frame for the mountain
- 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
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- Brokeback Mountain
- The Ice Storm
- Sense and Sensibility
- Life of Pi
- 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
Where is « Lust, Caution » ? Deserves the Archives.
@KidCharlemagne– haven’t seen it. I’ll add it to the list to see. I can’t remember what scared me away at the time (or since). Thanks.
I love directors who don’t point at them self, Ang Lee is a genius.
@Blaž – thanks for the comment and for visiting the site. Directors who don’t point at themselves are usually worth skipping altogether. It hurts Lee if you compare him with his peers who are superior artists. I like his films but he’ll fall off the top 200 directors of all-time as I start taking into account more and more recent films. It’s also probably why he’s made so many just bad movies. Every film is a bit of a crapshoot without the baseline style and authorship.
What does this mean, directors who point at themselves?
@Dylan- I mean those that basically (usually through reoccurring stylistic and/or narrative elements) let it be known who the director is— so un-anonymous if you will.
Oh like a martin scorsese picture or quentin tarantino’s 9th movie?
Between Joan Allen & Sigourney Weaver in The Ice Storm, Weaver leapt off the screen in an arresting performance, truly a scene stealer but Allen got a more nuanced character allowing her to give a more textured performance. What are your thoughts?
@Graham- thank you for the assistance on the page
Eat Drink Man Woman HR
Sense and Sensibility R
The Ice Storm R
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon MS
Brokeback Mountain MP
Lust, Caution HR
Life of Pi R
Hi Drake, did you see Lust, Caution yet?
@oliver- I have not as of yet
I think Lust, Caution is Ang Lees third best movie after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, would probably also fall into HR/MS (imo), also features one of Tony Leungs best performances.
I think it’s available in Netflix as of now.
@oliver- great, thank you for the recommendation