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Taijiquan108's Blog
Thursday, 8 December 2005

Sometimes...

I revel. In the supreme joy that comes from being with you, holding hands, hugging, kissing, even in peaceful and prolonged silence. In the knowledge that I have found the love of my life, my soul mate, my heart's desire. In the vision of my future, once murky, now as clear as starlight piercing the vast darkness of space.

Sometimes...

I cry. In gut-wrenching anguish from missing you, at the frantic craving of my arms wanting to be around you, my lips to yours, your heartbeat inside my chest. In the days that slowly drag by in between seeing you, feeling a lifetime's worth of pain in every week. In desperate panic at finding you so late in life (ohGodhelpmeIhavesolittletimelefttoloveyoubeforeIdie). In the slow suspension of hours without you, excruciating minutes where I am incomplete; vapor; a ghost; merely an idea of a man that is waiting to materialize.

Sometimes. Just sometimes.


-- for Susan Macdonald

Posted by taijiquan108 at 11:12 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005 3:31 PM EST
Monday, 2 February 2004
MY PATRIOTS HAIKU CUP RUNNETH OVER

The art of the football haiku (or senryu, to be more precise), born in the fertile mind of Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook.

The senryu muse visited me following the New England Patriots' victory in Super Bowl XXXVIII, arguably the most thrilling Super Bowl game ever.

The first two senryu attempt to describe Tom Brady. He's not just "poised," or any of the other mundane adjectives used to describe him; what Brady has pulled off time and time again is just eerie, man, practically venturing beyond the laws of the physical realm into, well, voodoo:

"Cool, calm, collected"
not enough to describe Tom
"Twilight Zone" Brady

If Montana was
magic, then Pats QB is
"Black Magic" Brady


In honor of Bill Belichick:

Coach Bill Belichick--
"Master"? "Mad Genius"? Nay,
I say "Sorcerer"


The next eight senryu are in honor of the unsung heroes of the Patriots -- practically the entire team, the most unified no-name squad to ever win an NFL championship:

Pats offensive line:
Motley crew forsakes glory
for the greater good

Russ Hochstein, loudly
panned by bigmouth Warren Sapp,
now has the last laugh

Big Mount Washington
huge yet often overlooked
key to Super Bowl

Tedy Bruschi, "too
little for linebacker," owns
two Super Bowl rings

Warrior Rodney
Harrison literally
gave right arm for ring

Linebacker Vrabel
threat on both sides of the ball--
Superman disguised

Mike Vrabel, LB:
Superman's well-kept secret
is finally out

Patriots jersey
hides insignia beneath:
Vrabel's "S" on chest


A tip of the hat to the Carolina Panthers and Jake Delhomme, who scared the living bejeezus out of me:

Cats sniper Delhomme--
not Manning, not McNair-- picks
apart Pats backfield

Plummer "era" over--
Delhomme more deserving of
"Jake the Snake" mantle


And finally, in honor of the Patriots' improbable
2003-2004 season:

I think that I shall
never see, a poem as...
Pats win S.B. twice?!?

Posted by taijiquan108 at 10:33 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005 12:19 PM EST
Friday, 25 July 2003
THE WORST ACTOR IN THE WORLD

And the winner is...

Before I announce the recipient of the award, let me just say that this proclamation was immediately bestowed upon said individual based on a single performance. No need to review a whole body of work here. And naturally, we're not talking about the legion of bad actors who appear in "B" movies, or any others that (thankfully) still have not seen the light of day. No, we're talking about the big leagues: a high-profile actor or someone who was involved in a high-profile vehicle.

And the winner isn't Keanu Reeves or Kevin Costner, either, surprise, surprise. I suppose I've gotten a little used to Keanu. He's done a better job lately of landing roles that really don't require him to stretch his limited capabilities. He just needs to make sure he stays away from repeating mistakes like The Devil's Advocate, where he was supposed to be a Florida lawyer with a Southern accent, and failed miserably. Or 1992's Dracula, where his Englishman Jonathan Harker was laughable. (That's one of my favorite movies, believe it or not, despite the double handicap of Keanu plus the "female Keanu Reeves," Winona Ryder.) Such highlights, by the way, come in the absence of seeing Little Buddha, or 1993's Much Ado About Nothing. I shudder at the thought of Keanu Reeves playing Siddhartha or Shakespeare.

Kevin Costner never was a good actor, either, but he's been in some great movies like Dances With Wolves, his baseball trilogy, and the sumptuous Open Range. My nod for his worst performance goes to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where the hapless thespian had to abandon any attempt at an English accent. (I passed on seeing JFK -- one brief clip of Costner attempting a Southern accent was enough for me.)

No, the winner of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award For Worst Acting goes to the young man who played Anakin Skywalker in Stars Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. You know the one. Hayden Christensen.

I get worked up into such a foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy thinking about that hair-pulling, flay-all-my-skin-off, gouge-my-eyes-out performance that I can't even put complete sentences together; all I can do is utter a list of adjectives to describe Mr. Christensen's acting:

Wooden
Leaden
Dull
Robotic
Mechanical
Boring
Tedious
Monotonous
Dreary
Lackluster
Mind-numbing
Soul-sucking
Lifeless
Thick
Dense
Dim-witted
Obtuse
Inert
Unconscious

May I die a thousand South Park Kenny deaths before I ever have to see that movie again. My girlfriend informs me I started grinding my teeth in my sleep after viewing that atrocity.

I also have it on good authority that George Lucas was whacked out on drugs when he went casting for the part of Anakin Skywalker. You want proof? Here are the final three actors he was considering for the role: Ryan Phillippe (a.k.a. Mr. Reese Witherspoon, which he might want to legally change his name to, considering where his career is going); Paul Walker (of The Fast and the Furious fame, need I say more?); and Colin Hanks (son of Tom, who I haven't seen in any movies, so I'll refrain from commenting -- as if I'm interested in fairness at this point).

I mean, really, is there any doubt that Mr. Lucas has lost his mind? First there was the colossal Jar-Jar Binks blunder, and now the one and only Hayden Christensen. One can only wonder what surprises Lucas has in store next for Star Wars Episode III: The Final Embarrassment. (Alternate tagline for foreign distribution: May The Farce Be With You.)

Any of you amateur movie critics out there think there's someone who's worse than Christensen? Bring it!

Posted by taijiquan108 at 9:12 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 11 March 2005 1:42 PM EST
Sunday, 29 June 2003
HERO

It's been over two months since I saw Hero, and the question that's been racing through my mind for weeks -- inevitably planted months before I saw the movie -- is, "Do I like it better than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?" After careful consideration, and realizing I still haven't been able to stop thinking about Hero, I'd have to say the answer is yes.

To be fair, it's difficult to compare the two, they're so different. Crouching Tiger is a very personal, intimate film about love, betrayal, and words spoken too late. Hero, by contrast, is a grand, sweeping epic that examines the pawns swept up in the tide of history. Whether you're moved by the little picture or the big picture will have much influence over which movie you prefer.

Merging and diverging

The directors are a subtle contrast in styles. While both movies have great storytelling and fantastic cinematography, Ang Lee leans a little more towards the former, while Zhang Yimou invests excruciating effort into the latter. If you've seen both films, you'll know what I mean; Ang Lee selects naturally stunning scenes and landscapes from within the heart of China, while Zhang Yimou not so much chooses, but sometimes creates beautiful scenes by sheer force of will.

I liken it to the difference between an Ansel Adams photograph and one totally concocted in Photoshop -- you know the Photoshop image doesn't exist anywhere in nature and owes all its impact to digital manipulation, but sometimes it doesn't make it any less striking.

The two movies also share some ties. Bill Kong and Philip Lee were producers on both films. Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun wrote the score for both projects. And Zhang Ziyi was cast in a supporting role in Hero, no doubt counted upon to contribute some Dragon luck.

Jet vs. Fat

But the roots go even deeper: Jet Li was originally offered the part of Crouching Tiger's Li Mu Bai, but turned it down. Sometimes life unfolds as it should -- Jet Li could not have pulled off the role as well as Chow Yun-Fat, who is the superior actor. (Chow's best American movie? Hands down, the exquisite Anna and the King.) Chow's portrayal of Li Mu Bai was masterful: a martial arts master torn between love and honor, the burden weighing heavily upon him even as a spark of hope gives him motivation to chase a potential disciple of boundless talent, one to carry on his martial art and offer him redemption.

Having said that, let's make no mistake about the flip side of that coin: the role of Nameless was a perfect fit for Jet Li. Only he could have played a martial artist of unparalleled ability, able to smite down all challengers across the land and perform stupendous demonstrations of sword-fighting skill. Li's reputation, after all, precedes him; Chow, in contrast, is not a martial artist by training. And Li's Zen poker face and understated delivery only heightened the anticipation and apprehension of what was to come. (When he was but ten paces away from his assassination target, you could have cut the tension with a knife.)

Note that I'm not saying Li is a good actor; it's just that he does Nameless' resolute, dead-fish stare better than Chow could. Chow's face contains too much deep expression. (I know he often has that stern "hit man" look, but when Chow breaks out into a smile, the joy and mischievousness he radiates is downright infectious.)

What's going to complicate things -- and perhaps reinforce my argument -- is that Li is slated to play Li Mu Bai in the upcoming Crouching Tiger prequel, possibly titled, Precious Sword, Gold Hairpin. I'd bet real money that every movie critic and fan around the globe will be in unanimous agreement afterwards: "Jet Li wasn't as good as Chow Yun Fat, and he wasn't as good as his own role in Hero."

Favorites

Many people I've talked to say their favorite scene is the sword fight between Flying Snow and Moon, fallen leaves becoming one with the wind, swirling and ebbing around the two women in their dance of death. Even though I already knew about Zhang Yimou's relentless quest for autumnal perfection (this TIMEAsia.com feature is a must-read), I was still wide-eyed with wonder the first time I saw it, it was that powerful.

But what really had me gasping in sheer awe was the sword fight in the palace between Broken Sword and the Emperor. Having the two antagonists pirouette and play hide-and-seek among the pale green gossamer curtains was breathtaking enough. But when the Emperor decides to put an end the game and starts cutting the drapery down, the resulting waterfall of shimmering, undulating cloth is filmmaking at its highest level. There is not another scene in the history of celluloid that I would place alongside that pinnacle of perfection.

As for my favorite character, it was an agonizing choice between Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. I went back and forth several times, even during the course of putting my thoughts to (virtual) paper. But in the end, I settled on Maggie Cheung over Mr. Cool, Tony Leung.

Let's sweep aside the others first. Jet Li, as we've already agreed, only had to bring his stellar martial arts abilities to the table. Donnie Yen, who I have always found more striking and charismatic than Jet Li, garnered woefully little screen time. Zhang Ziyi's character was marginal, and quite possibly could have been left out of the screenplay altogether without much ill effect. (Except then we wouldn't have had that signature battle amongst the sea of leaves.)

Chen Daoming, who plays the King of Qin, was also very compelling, and singled out as the favorite by some people I've talked to. The problem is, as magnetic as the character was, I don't think Chen had to call upon deep reserves of acting until the very end of the movie, when the King realizes the person that might understand him best is his most bitter enemy. No, the only two viable contenders are definitely Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung.

Leung vs. Cheung

With the possible exception of Chow Yun-Fat, is there anyone cooler in the history of Hong Kong film than Tony Leung? His boyish good lucks and charisma, combined with a wide range of expressive roles, have garnered a legion of Asian movie fans. It's probably no surprise, then, that my favorite Hong Kong movie utilizes the talents of both actors mentioned above: Hard Boiled. For those of you looking for a Tony Leung exhibition with a little less bloodshed, try the gentle and touching In The Mood For Love.

In Hero, Leung starts off not particularly endearing himself to the viewer, playing an aloof, snobbish artist type who explodes into a rage, engaging in an angry tryst with assistant/disciple Zhang Ziyi just to spite his lover. But later on, it's Leung's turn as the insurgent rebel with a change of heart that arguably makes his character the true Hero of the movie. Slowly, gradually, Broken Sword grasps the King of Qin's ambitions, realizing that the brutal dictator is the kingdom's only hope for peace and a unified China. Broken Sword's transformation from warrior-assassin to an enlightened martyr is truly remarkable, and one cannot help but be moved by his willingness to set his life's purpose aside, sacrificing himself to shock Flying Snow into understanding the bigger picture of history.

Originally the runner-up in my mind, Maggie Cheung stole the number one spot after I watched the movie for a third time. Boy, has she come a long way from playing Jackie Chan's countless sidekicks/girlfriends! Despite the initial ice-queen veneer, which was accentuated by severe-looking makeup, she was the only one that truly changed like a chameleon, shifting moods and portrayals to match the different-colored garb she wore in each telling of the story.

In red, she was the vengeful, heartless lover who mows down her friends like wheat and finally falls apart in one last outburst of self-destruction. In blue, she was the stoic co-conspirator who goes along with Nameless' master plan, meeting her end willingly -- but not before wounding Broken Sword so that he may stay behind and live. The wistful smile she throws across the dunes to her pale and shaken lover is one of the two most heart-wrenching scenes in the movie. In white and green -- the "factual" versions -- she was the righteous, unyielding rebel whose ferocious idealism is suddenly shattered in one shocking, heartbreaking instant when Broken Sword allows himself to be cut down by her hand to prove his point. Although Flying Snow lacks Broken Sword's vision, her character is the movie's personal touch, a reminder of how lives can be destroyed and forgotten by the relentless crush of nations.

What next?

So will there ever be another martial arts movie as good as Crouching Tiger or Hero? One can only hope. I had doubts Crouching Tiger could ever be topped, but Zhang Yimou was equal to the task. Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou themselves might be the only ones capable of surpassing their previous work, especially with the aforementioned Precious Sword, Gold Hairpin.

Or perhaps Chen Kaige or Wong Kar Wai will be next in line for their shot at epic glory -- they're the only other Chinese filmmakers that come to mind who have the cachet and talent to attract studio backing, a huge budget, and A-list Asian stars. Interestingly enough, Chen Kaige already took a stab at this story -- and set the bar quite high -- with The Emperor and the Assassin, starring Gong Li. If you haven't seen it, it's well worth checking out, especially since the comparison to Hero will be all the more fascinating. Hmm, sounds like a good premise for another review...

Posted by taijiquan108 at 1:17 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005 12:16 PM EST

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