Few people would have argued that Taiwan's Ang Lee didn't deserve the best-director Oscar he won for Brokeback Mountain last year. As is often the case with the Oscars, however, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him the little golden statue for the wrong film. Poignant and challenging as Lee's story of forbidden cowboy love was, it didn't come close to matching the visual majesty of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (top left; ATV World, today at 9pm).
Made for a paltry US$15 million and featuring such Asian acting luminaries as Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen, the film was a worldwide hit and impressed as much for its affecting love story as its incredible wire-fighting action scenes.
Set in Qing-dynasty China, the film tells the tortuous story of a great warrior, Master Li Mu Bai (Chow), who vows to reclaim a legendary sword after it is stolen by a mysterious assassin. Also keen to recover the sword is Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh), an old friend of Li who is also his secret love. This sets the stage for two spell-binding hours of astounding swordplay, outstanding stunt-work and all manner of noble sacrifices.
The film that arguably did more than any other to turn the world on to Asian movies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a classic piece of cinema in every sense of the word. The perfect antidote to western action cinema, with its over-reliance on ludicrously expensive explosions and relentless computer-generated imagery, this is sheer poetry in motion.
Also worth watching - but unfortunately on at the same time as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - is Goal! (bottom left; Star Movies). The first part of a trilogy (part two will be released this summer), Goal! tells the tale of Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker), a young Mexican living illegally in Los Angeles who goes to England for a trial with Newcastle United after being spotted displaying his dazzling football skills in an amateur match. Things don't go as planned, however, and Munez soon finds that, despite his obvious talent, making it to the top is a tricky business.
Featuring cameos from a host of top players, including Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Raul, this film should appeal to most football fans. While not the most original story, this feel-good flick comes across as the footballing equivalent of Rocky and is the perfect accompaniment to a six-pack of cold beer and a pizza - especially now the European football season is over.