2003 Milk Plus Droogies

Best Picture
Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Actor (tie)
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Actor (tie)
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Best Actress
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Supporting Actor
David Hyde Pierce, Down With Love

Best Supporting Actress
Miranda Richardson, Spider

Best Screenplay
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Best Foreign Film

Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

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The Blog:
Sunday, August 24, 2003
The Medallion

Just a short review of Jackie Chan’s latest disappointment, er, movie, which I managed to squeeze in yesterday afternoon. It’s not like I high expectations going in (the only reason I even saw it, was because it was playing at the cheapie, downtown theater), as I knew we were far, far from Project A 2 territory, but even so, I left the theater disappointed. Where to begin? Well, how about the screenplay, credited to five different writers, which borrows liberally from Eddie Murphy’s The Golden Child? Not a good start, especially when the movie has been clearly reedited, creating either gaping plot holes (my “favorite” is how the wife of one character suddenly becomes a character from a “heroic bloodshed” movie, and nobody else makes mention of it afterwards; plus the whole medallion thing is never used very consistently) or condensed scenes in the form of montages set to American oldies standards. Now, personally, I think it’s pointless to argue which is worse (the montages, IMO), but both are symptomatic of what a mess the story actually is, especially when you factor in the lazy exposition, inconsistent characterizations (especially Lee Evans character, who alternates between a priggish buffoon and a shotgun toting, killing machine out of a John Woo movie), and lame comedy bits repeated ad nauseum (again, mostly involving Lee Evans character).

Now, mind you, I wouldn’t care about a little narrative incoherence, if there was a lot of other stuff to enjoy, but sadly there is little. Jackie Chan and the fetching Claire Forlani (I hadn’t actually realized that Forlani was British, and for some reason, her accent through me for a loop while watching the film) have zero romantic chemistry, Julian Sands villain is boring and decidedly unmenacing (HK actor Anthony Wong is just wasted in his role, tsk, tsk), the digital SFX are murky, and Gordon Chan’s direction is pedestrian at best (uh, who thought that playing the noises of screeching cats on the soundtrack, while Forlani and one of Sands’s female minions square off, was a good idea?). Is the film devoid of any redeeming qualities? Well, no, I mean any collaboration between Jackie Chan and action director Sammo Hung is going to be of some interest; the martial arts and action sequences of The Medallion are certainly no classics, but they are generally exciting and well-orchestrated (at least when Chan is concerned). There’s also a rather macabre streak of comedy running through The Medallion, best exemplified by the scene where Lee Evan’s character Watson repeatedly stabs the now immortal Jackie Chan (who can still feel pain) way beyond the point of necessity. That was fairly funny, in a sick, twisted sort of way.

Now, I’m a big fan of martial arts movies, so I was kind of bummed when I left the theater, but any depression was alleviated when I finally saw the Fall 2003 UW-Madison Cinematheque schedule. For the entire month of September, the Cinematheque will be playing two classic Shaw Brothers films from the 1960s and 1970s each Saturday. First up, King Hu’s debut film Come Drink With Me and Chang Cheh’s One-Armed Swordsman. Also, this semesters director retrospective if Dorothy Arzner, though it lacks the film many consider her best: Dance, Girl, Dance. Arzner is a director whose work I’ve wanted to see for quite a while, so I’m kind of stoked for that series too.