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Posterized: Ang Lee

By Nathaniel R

Ang Lee with one of his Billy Lynn stars, Vin DieselOne of our favorite directors has a new film going wide today. Unfortunately number 13 proves unlucky for the great Ang Lee as Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, a military drama about the way we use soldiers as propaganda pawns or blank slates to project upon, is hard to watch. Let us pray for a swift death to Hollywood's current unfathomable interest in the high frame rate technique. (The technique is ugly, expensive but looks cheap, and doesn't look like cinema -- that's lose lose lose or three strikes you're out. So what's the appeal Hollywood?)

Nevertheless Ang Lee has given us so many riches over his 24 year feature film career that we ought to appreciate his filmography this weekend.

How many of his pictures have you seen?
All the posters are after the jump... 

The Beginning (1992-1994)
Pushing Hands is his least successful picture (in terms of box office gross) but both The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman (consecutive Oscar nominations for Taiwan in Best Foreign Language Film) were major arthouse hits in their day... to give you a sense of their size they were twice as successful as major foreign hits in our current scene like say Amour or The Grandmaster.

Hollywood Experiment (1995-1999)
Another Oscar hit with Sense & Sensibility as he segueways into English language cinema. Ice Storm has devout fans but wasn't popular. And Ride With the Devil was as stumble, his least successful English language picture. But if we take it as a warm up for his future western classic it was all worth it...

World Giant (2000-2012)
The first dozen years of the new century were very kind to Ang Lee bringing him his all time biggest hit (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), another masterpiece (Brokeback Mountain), a gorgeous potent return to Taiwan (Lust Caution)... and two Oscars for Best Director (Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi)!

Now (2016-?)
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk sees Ang Lee chasing the technological breakthrough mode of filmmaking that brought him so much success with Life of Pi. But really, Ang Lee is one of our great humanist directors. We have plenty of technology chasers (James Cameron et. all) but we only have one Ang Lee. We hope he gives up trying to push visual fx envelopes and returns to human drama where he excels and can send hearts soaring, and bodies too, whether they're balancing on leafy branches or riding horses up mountain ranges.

How many have you seen and how would you rank them?

Ang Lee's films first 12 pictures have been nominated for a total of 38 Oscars (including an incredible 4 Best Picture nominations!) winning 12 statues, 2 for Ang himself. If we average that out that's 3 nominations and 1 statue per film ;) 

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Reader Comments (41)

Thanks for this post.

I've seen six. I'd rank them like this - 1 being the best:

1. Life of Pi (The most enjoyable - enchanting and brilliantly done - I've seen it four times and I loved it each time. When I first saw it, it felt like the film that Ang Lee had been gearing up for all his career - kinda like David Lynch with Mulholland Drive, though there the similarities end!)
2. Lust, Caution (I've only seen it once but I remember it getting better and better as it went on, building to a terrific finale. A second viewing could put this on a par with Life of Pi - I'll have to see.)
3. Sense and Sensibility
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
5. Brokeback Mountain (I know this isn't the prevailing view, but I think it's a bit flat. I wanted to feel more of the passion, so that we could feel and understand the later heartbreak. Sorry...)
6. The Wedding Banquet (Not a bad film at all - it'd be interesting to rewatch it one day.)

I've seen pretty much all of The Ice Storm but I shan't count that. I'd like to see Ride with the Devil - I like Westerns and I hear it's underrated.

The only Higher Frame Rate film I've seen so far is the first Hobbit. All I can say is, don't dismiss HFR just yet. It's a new technology, and if it doesn't look like cinema, well, nor did digital when it first came along. (And remember, some people were against the coming of sound - they thought it was the end of cinema.) In the right hands, and given the right project, HFR could soar. I thought it was rather beautiful in The Hobbit and I think it has potential.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I've seen eight. From favorite to least:

Sense and Sensibility
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Eat Drink Man Woman
The Ice Storm
The Wedding Banquet (like Edward, I feel like I ought to see this again; it might move up a notch or two)
Life of Pi (never believed in the CGI animals, mostly because the lead actor was so inept)
Brokeback Mountain (gets far too much credit for being a progressive breakthrough, when it's just another Hollywood movie where the fags have to be punished/die at the end)

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Wow, what a hard list! In what world does Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon rank 3rd, but that's how great he is. While some are less inspired than others, I wouldn't call any of these movies bad.

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Sense and Sensibility
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
4. The Ice Storm
5. Eat Drink Man Woman
6. Lust, Caution
7. Life of Pi
8. Taking Woodstock
9. Hulk
10. Ride with the Devil

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

I've seen all 10 of his latest films and not a single one of his 3 early ones (should get on that at some point.) My completely scientific, unbiased ranking of them would be:

1. Sense & Sensibility
2. Brokeback Mountain
3. Lust/Caution
4. The Ice Storm
5. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
6. Life of Pi
7. Ride With the Devil
8. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
9. Taking Woodstock
10. Hulk

Those first 6 are perfect films, but that bottom 4 though...when he's great, he's great and when he's bad, we get HULK...

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

I've seen eight of these. The Wedding Banquet, Crouching Tiger Hiddent Dragon, and Lust Caution are great.

Some are solid works (Sense & Sensibility, The Ice Storm), interesting failures (Hulk) then others are beloved by many but disliked by me (Brokeback Mountain, Life of PI).

He's talented and I respect his range and ambition but I'm more of an admirer than a fan.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

7. I'd rank them like so:

1. Brokeback Mountain (A) (Do I need to say anything?)
2. Sense and Sensibility (A-) (YES.)
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (B+) (Very good action, but I don't think it comes together to an Aliens/Die Hard/T2 level.)
4. The Ice Storm (B+) (Yep.)
5. Hulk (B)
6. Life of Pi (B) (Ah, the Ang Lee VFX duo. Each has a 100% great element (the VFX here, Nick Nolte in Hulk), but neither completely work.)
7. The Wedding Banquet (C-. Sorry to anyone saying it's not bad, but it allows a rapist to get away scott free. Ang Lee and James Schamus refuse to pass negative judgment, even in spite of how completely amoral that lack of passing negative judgment comes across. Usually, that lack of disgust is a feature, not a bug, but not here.)

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I've seen only six. Crouching Tiger and Sensibility are wonderful. Brokeback, Eat Drink, and Life of Pi are very, very good. And Hulk is so, so terrible, which proves that no one's perfect!

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercash

abstew: Eh, I actually think the Hulk hate is very overstated. No, it's not a great one, but there are great elements (Nick Nolte really embracing "the mugshot", for example), but it's leagues better and definitely more interesting than the MCU version, which, especially with how it ends, shows how much The Hulk does not really work as a solo hero in the MCU house style.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I've seen 10 movies. I've never seen Taking Woodstock and I've never even heard of Pushing Hands.

What's amazing to me is how often his movies are THE best in any particular genre. He has made my favorite gay comedy, my favorite gay drama, my favorite "chop socky" movie, my favorite Jane Austen adaptation, my favorite X-ish rated Chinese period movie, etc.

The mid-range movies to me are The Ice Storm, Ride With The Devil, Eat Drink Man Woman. I wouldn't want to see Hulk again, but I didn't think it was that bad when I saw it, I'm just underwhelmed by any superhero movie. And I thought Life of Pi was about as good as a movie could be based on the book which I didn't really like.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

7 - and I really should make a point to watch Ride With the Devil sometime.

1. The Ice Storm
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
3. Sense and Sensibility
4. Brokeback Mountain
5. Lust, Caution
6. Taking Woodstock

And I'm not ranking Life of Pi since I saw it on an airliner (though it'd probably be between Brokeback and Lust, Caution). I think my top 3 are all great, and that he's one of the most consistently impressive directors out there, so it's a shame so many people seem to dislike Billy Lynn's.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

I've seen 9 of 12.

My rank:

the great
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2. Ice Storm
3. Brokeback Mountain

the good
4. Sense and Sensibility
5. The Wedding Banquet
6. Lust, Caution

the hit or miss
7. Taking Woodstock
8. Hulk

the embarrassing bad
9. life of pi

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterremy

I've seen 8. I think that almost all of them are very good, mostly impeccable, and I have no issues with his Oscar history. That said, I don't really have the urge to rewatch any of them, and none of them rank among my favorites.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I've seen eight which I would rank in this order some of which will fall outside the normal feelings about the particular films:

Sense and Sensibility
The Wedding Banquet
Brokeback Mountain
Eat Drink Man Woman
Taking Woodstock
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ride with the Devil
The Ice Storm-God I HATED this movie which really disappointed me since I love everyone in the cast so much.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Interesting to see how everyone react differently.

My list:

1. The Ice Storm (A)

2. Sense and Sensibility (A-)
3. Brokeback Mountain (A-)

4. Taking Woodstock (B)

5. The Wedding Banquet (B-)
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (B-)

7. Hulk (C+)

8. Life of pi (D)

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDomgo

I've seen 7 - and 5 of those I consider pretty much perfect, so they're tough to rank, but here goes.
1. Brokeback Mt.
2. Crouching Tiger et al.
3. Sense & Sensibility
4. Lust, Caution
5. The Ice Storm
6. Taking Woodstock
7. Life of Pi

I like those last two, but only one has Jonathan Groff sleeveless on a horse.

And one day, I'll get around to watching his first 3.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I've seen them all, except for Hulk and Ride with the Devil. I think I'll skip Billy Lynn unless you tell me otherwise.

Brokeback Mountain is way too important to compare it with others. I learned so much with that movie.

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue


1. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
2. Sense and Sensibility / Brokeback Mountain / The Ice Storm
5. The Wedding Banquet
6. Eat Drink Man Woman
7. Hulk
8. Life of Pi

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I've seen all of his films except Billy's Long Halftime Walk which I don't have interest as I've just become disenchanted with this idea of patriotism. Plus, the idea of the high frame rate thing is just stupid. Here is my list of all of the films he's done that I've seen so far...

November 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

I've seen 8 and will see BILLY LYNN tomorrow. Ranking them roughly...

Brokeback Mountain
The Wedding Banquet
Sense and Sensibility
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Life of Pi
Lust Caution
Taking Woodstock

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I've seen 8. One of my favourite directors. If you've not seen THE WEDDING BANQUET, do seek it out.

I will still see BILLY LYNN because I love the book and I'm curious to see how it turned out.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Sense And Sensibility
3. The Ice Storm
4. List Caution
5. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
6. Life of Pi
7. The Wedding Planet
8. Taking Woodstock
9. Hull
10. Ride With The Devil

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

I've seen all.

The best:

1. Eat Drink Man Woman
2. The Wedding Banquet
3. Brokeback Mountain
4. Pushing Hands

The good:

5. Sense and Sensibility
6. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
7. Life of Pi
8. The Ice Storm

The okay:

9. Lust Caution
10. Hulk
11. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
12. Taking Woodstock
13. Ride With The Devil

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Eat Drink Man Woman is VITAL Ang Lee. This film is the pinnacle of his humanism, and is rooted too in his culture. One has to see it to be a true Ang Lee fan.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIan

I've only seen 5.
I never tire of Sense and Sensibility.
Watching the cast of Crouching Tiger is always a welcome pleasure.
I loathed Life of Pi so much that I didn't want to see another Ang Lee movie for a long time.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I've seen 9.

I miss him in The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman mode.
Less flashy, more heart.

Loved Sense & Sensibilty, Brokeback Mountain. What a range.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJija


1.the ice storm
2. brokeback mountain
3. sense & sensibility
4. taking woodstock
5. the wedding banquet
6. ride with the devil

i will get around the the rest eventually [maybe not hulk]

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Ang Lee is one of my favorite directors. He usually never does the same type of film twice. Also, even when he falters, like with Hulk and Billy Lynn, it wasn't for a lack of trying because at least with Hulk, he tried to make something unique out of it.

Out of the films I've seen:

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
3. Life of Pi
4. Hulk

Have a lot of work to do. I know.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMatt St.Clair

9, and hoping to add BLLHW in the next few days.

The Ice Storm is probably my #1 90's film.
Brokeback Mountain is probably my #1 00's film.

Don't make me choose between them though.

Followed by:
Sense & Sensibility
Crouching Tiger...
Lust, Caution
Ride with the Devil
Life of Pi
Taking Woodstock

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDrG

Seen all but the first and latest. All of them worthwhile, at the very least. My rank:

1. Sense and Sensibility
2. Brokeback Mountain
3. The Ice Storm
4. Lust Caution
5. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
6. Ride With The Devil
7. Eat Drink Man Woman
8. The Wedding Banquet
9. Life of Pi
10. Hulk
11. Taking Woodstock

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobUK

I've seen 7.
I'd rank them between (near) masterpiece (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)), really good (The Ice Storm), surprisingly good (Life of Pi), enjoyable (Sense and Sensebility), quite good (Taking Woodstock) and the less to say about this film the better (Hulk).

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

As an old gay man, I will never be able to accept the casual use of the word fag as anything other than a call to hatred.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMary Clancy

I agree with you, Mary, and I used the word very deliberately because I think that's how BBM portrays us, as Hollywood long did until quite recently (and still occasionally does) -- as despicable people who deserve hatred, who deserve to be punished for their love, who deserve to either die or live miserable lives of loneliness.

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKeith

I've seen 10. My ranking:

1. Sense & Sensibility
2. Lust, Caution - this one is so underrated.
3. The Wedding Banquet - not so much underrated as underseen; everyone should see it!
4. Eat Drink Man Woman - possibly not as good as some I ranked below, but bumped up for sheer delightfulness
5. The Ice Storm
6. Brokeback Mountain
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
8. Hulk - Count me among the minority that liked it
9. Life of Pi
10. Taking Woodstock

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

I've seen 10. I'm a bit embarrassed I haven't seen Hulk or Taking Woodstock yet.

Good films that left me kind of at a loss
10. Ride with the Devil
9. The Ice Storm
8. Eat Drink Man Woman (I really need to watch this again. I made the mistake of watching it when I was only 13 and a lot of the emotional punch went over my head)

Masterpieces that I liked but didn't love
7. Brokeback Mountain
6. Sense and Sensibility
5. Life of Pi

Varying in quality but among my favorites
4. Pushing Hands
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2. Lust, Caution
1. The Wedding Banquet

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

1. The Ice Storm
2. Brokeback Mountain
3. Lust Caution
4. Sense and Sensibility
5. Eat Drink Man Woman
6. Life of Pi
7. The Wedding Banquet
8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
9. Taking Woodstock
10. Hulk

November 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdavid m

Ice Storm is the one to beat. Brokeback is overrated. Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink and Pushing Hands were excellent for a novice breaking into the scene. Sense and Sensibility was highly enjoyable. But yes, Ice Storm would be his best so far.

November 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Forgot to mention...Crouching Tiger wasn't exactly a wonder to behold if you have watched many wuxia movies all your life...there were MANY others which exceed Crouching in terms of style, art-form and storyline as well as the fight scenes.

November 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Jans -- i have seen quite a few wuxia films and disagree. I've never seen one that was that involving on all levels from action to performance to style.

November 20, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R


November 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Nathaniel - try watching 14 Amazons, Clans of Intrigue and the Swordsman (not the two remakes but the original). Even though these movies were made in the 60s and 70s, the dialogue, fight scenes (swoon-worthy) and even the way the actors and actresses recited their lines with gravitas and historically right accent (Qin, Tang dynasty). Compared that with Chow Yun Fatt and Michelle Yeoh reading their lines which by the way falls between appalling and amusing, the performers in those movies spoke with matching intonations according to the dynasty where the movie was set. The fighting in one of the sequences (old temple) was nothing short of breathtaking - yes, without even technology manipulating the tweaks. If I'm not wrong, Ang Lee himself said he was very inspired by all these movies whilst promoting Crouching in Taiwan and Hong Kong. And trust me, there are MANY more...I'm a big wuxia fan!

November 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

I forgot to mention my all-time favourite - A Touch of Zen. I always think Ang Lee got his inspiration for the bamboo fight scene from this King Hu's epic. It's wuxia at its most aesthetic, engaging and I dare say philosophical in terms of approach and storyline. The fight scenes were simply gorgeous. Other worth mentioning would be Last Hurrah and the original Dragon Inn. Of course, many wuxia fans would consider One-armed swordsman as a classic (which it is) but I think it's the actor - wang yu - that made the role legendary.

November 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

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