Friday, March 1, 2013

A Salute to Ang Lee

I was cool on "Life of Pi." It was the first film I saw in 3D since 2011's "Hugo." I only see 3D films from filmmakers who know how to use it. I learned my lesson from watching Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" in 3D, which I thought I'd enjoy more watching in 2D (but I actually liked it less the second time). So now I insist on only seeing a film in 3D if I am convinced it'll enhance my viewing experience. With "Avatar" and "Hugo," it most certainly did. When Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" came out in 3D, it then became the third film in which I willingly subjected myself to the format. The reason? My respect for Ang Lee as a filmmaker.

Ang Lee is willing to take the types of chances that other filmmakers would never dare to try. He's the most eclectic and diverse filmmaker of our time. Look at his filmography. He started out with a couple of good films that he made in his home country of Taiwan (The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman), then came his first Hollywood film, a Jane Austen adaptation (Sense and Sensibility). Not many directors from other countries can seamlessly transition to English-language films, Ang Lee has done it repeatedly without ever losing his own voice.

He's continued on with family dramas (Ice Storm), a revisionist Western (Ride With the Devil) a mind-bending action epic (Crouching Tiger), a cowboy romance (Brokeback) , a sexually charged thriller (Lust, Caution), and a fun little '60s set comedy (Taking Woodstock). Not all of his films worked (though a majority of them did). His big superhero film, Hulk, wound up being one of the most divisive in the superhero genre. But you have to admire his willingness to go there, to take those chances. He's not even 60 yet, and he's done pretty much everything. So to see him collect his 2nd Oscar for a film that I was "cool" on, I couldn't help but feel good for the guy. You want a guy like that to succeed. Besides, Life of Pi does succeed on many levels and the heart is always there. If it had won Best Picture, I wouldn't have cared much. There's so much to admire about the film despite my distaste for the last 20-minutes of it and Ang Lee succeeded in making a 3D film worth watching..

We're in a pretty good age in filmmaking. It's far from a golden age, but we've got a lot of great filmmakers out there. Some of my favorites, like Tarantino, are wonderfully flamboyant and can make showstopping films, but they can also be a victim of their own ego. Tarantino injects himself into the genres he attempts. Ang Lee immerses himself into those genres. That's the difference. That's why it's so fun to watch an Ang Lee film, even if the end product isn't always fully satisfying.

So here's to Ang Lee. The more I think about his Oscar win, the more I can appreciate it. And he's won two now! His first Oscar came from a film that I doubt many other filmmakers would've had the balls to touch (no pun intended). The Academy barely wanted to touch it. They voted Crash over Brokeback Mountain that year, still one of the worst decisions in Oscar history. Just watch Brokeback Mountain again and you'll understand why. 

Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, as well as a few others, have pointed out this cool fact about the filmmaker: he's the only director in history to have "2 DGA awards, 2 Oscars for directing, 2 BAFTAs and 2 Golden Globes for directing, 2 Golden Lions and 2 Golden Bears." Wow. There's no doubt the man deserves every one. Good for him.

Besides isn't this not the greatest picture ever?


Whose first thought, after winning an Oscar, is to go to In N Out Burger? He should be doing commercials for them. But seriously, how can you not love this guy?

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