A successful night, by my counting. And I got to hang out with a friend who - for the purposes of keeping this blog more or less anonymous - I call Pilgrim.
But I'm not posting about that. Instead, I'm posting about something that occurred to me not long after my hungover subsided, as I was watching the (more or less) recently released An Empress and the Warriors the newest film from Director Tony Ching Siu-Tung. The initial hype (for myself, at least) came from the literal English translation of the title "The Kingdom and the Beauty" which lead me to believe it would be a remake of the 1959 Huangmei Opera film from Li Han Hsiang of the same name. It was something that sounded perfectly bizarre, pairing a couple of pop stars (Kelly Chen and Leon Lai) with Donnie Yen for what I assumed would be a kung fu musical with the sort of action that could be seen in the director's own films from times past: The Sword, Duel to the Death, and A Chinese Ghost Story.
Granted, it turned out to not only be a non-musical period film, but a non-musical that felt as by the numbers and lack luster as much of Hong Kong's recent genre cinema. It was, however, mostly inoffensive, and occasionally, earnest and fun. That isn't to say anything in favor of the film as genuine cinematic craft or art; the narrative drags, the acting is amateurish (especially from the female lead) and Ching Siu-Tung's direction seems to have been cobbled from scenes out of other films. The sword being thrown and sticking from the ground scene - as seen in Braveheart is there, as is a set that looks suspiciously similar to either the planet Endor or the Forests of Sherwood if you've witnessed the turd known as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Not coincidentally, there's a poorly inserted romantic sub-plot that was more than slightly reminiscent of the recent Harlequin romance-esque treatment of Tristan + Isolde, another movie by director Kevin Reynolds (aka Ridley Scott's bitch). And how could they forget the ever cliche "woman needs a wound dressed but is too shy/fussy to undress in front of a male doctor" scene? Well they didn't; there's more than one.
However, it's this sort of sillyness that made many historically set "wuxia" films of Hong Kong's past so enjoyable. Films that I fully enjoy - Dragon Inn, Kung Fu Cult Master etc. - have just as little concern for historicity, for coherent plotting or the integrity to put decent acting ahead of physical appeal. Compared to some of the movies I admit I enjoy, An Empress and the Warriors really should come out looking rather favorably. It's got a nice, expensive, color-corrected look with some killer production design (the detail on the armor, each individually crafted, is incredible) and there's a nice homage to Chang Cheh towards the end, wherein Donnie Yen leaves a thorougly unlikely number of people dead before he finally gets stabbed, at which point he bares his chest and ties his shirt around his gaping belly to hold his guts in, and continues fighting.
It has all the things I like, and yet I don't really like it that much. What's wrong with it? What's wrong with me? Have I fallen into the internet nerd-critic trap - liking things for incomprehensible reasons relating to seventies exploitation movie practices and comic book references and disliking them for arbitrary notions of commercialism and genre? Would I like the some of my favorite movies if they had been released in theaters this week, instead of having seen them for the first time after hunting for obscure, out-of-print DVD's?
I don't know how much of that is true about me. All I know is that I like Dirty Hairy, but I don't like Gran Torino. I'd rather watch a movie starring Steve Reeves than one starring Vin Deisel, and when it comes to tasteless cinema, CAT III smut, 70's Pinku-eiga and 80's slasher flicks will always beat out Japanese horror remakes, Misty Mundae's direct to dvd skin flicks, and Eli Roth in my book.
Godzilla > Cloverfield.
Truth be told, much of this stuff is subjective. I fully envision my current indulgence in bad taste coming back to haunt me in the future, with my children bringing Van Helsing or BloodRayne into my home, and giving perfectly defensible reasons for how much they enjoy the crap that even I found too heinous to sit through when it first came about. However, I'm still absolutely correct about everything I say. That's the power you can pretend to weild after admitting that you're horribly biased. In my case, I'm biased against everything. I'll find a way to hate anything, even the things that I like. Surely we can all admit that that's pretty awesome.
Godzilla > Cloverfield. I like that. That might become the new title for my blog, although I'm considering revising it to Cloverfield