Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Soar like an eagle, strike like a scorpion.

The warriors at the heart of Ang Lee’s tale of honor and redemption are not held back by the laws of nature, instead flying through the air, bouncing between trees, trading hot steel with each other.

A supremely-beautiful film in every aspect, it weaves tragic love stories, bold action sequences, and deep philosophical moments together, creating a memorable tapestry.

Vital to Tiger’s success is the wire work choreographed by legendary Yuen Woo-ping, which creates a mesmerizing, otherworldly experience.

Many films have copied it, but few have any hope of matching it.

 

The Lobster

Shellfish is off the menu.

Continuing his work as one of modern cinema’s wild cards, writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) scores with a tale of people launching last-ditch efforts at obtaining love.

Fail to partner up within 45 days, and you get transformed into the animal of your choice.

Which for roguish loser Colin Farrell would be the aforementioned shellfish, as he decides he wouldn’t mind crawling around lobster-style the rest of his life.

Quietly bizarre, filled with a great melancholy from start to finish, yet often darkly funny, this is proof love is a battlefield.

The Scent of Green Papaya

Stunningly gorgeous.

A lusciously-beautiful film, this memory tale charts the life of a young Vietnamese girl as she works as a servant for two different families.

Her first job lands her with a rich, but deeply-fractured family, giving her a front row seat as their lives crumble.

Later she goes to work for a pianist who’s more interested in his servant than in his own fiancée, setting up a not-totally unexpected finale.

Winner of the Caméra d’Or at Cannes, and an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film, this remains, 27 years later, a thoroughly enchanting slice of world cinema.

American Hustle

If you can’t see the con, you’re the mark.

Everyone is selling something questionable in a fizzy tale of deception, every action and word in the service of potential scams.

A who’s-who cast of contemporary stars gets to marinate in late ’70s fashion, delivering dialogue which zips, curls, and ultimately stings.

You have FBI agents trying to run cons on corrupt politicians, and then you have true grifters, people like Christian Bale’s world-weary pro.

They’ve seen it all, done it all, and fully expect to stroll out the door at the end of the day, your wallet in their pocket.

 

Rejected

“I’m feeling fat, and sassy!”

If you’ve seen it, you definitely had a reaction to it.

People with impeccable taste are almost certain to love Don Hertzfeldt’s surreal collection of weird humor and gross-out jokes, which copped an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film back in 2001.

For those who tut-tut and lecture us, “That isn’t funny,” my response is, “Well, at least your face is funny.”

Now, back to big spoons, funny hats, and the immortal last words of an animated legend.

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY … MY AAAAAANUS IS BLEEEEEEDING!!!”