Saturday, February 23, 2013

Foreign Film Oscars from the 1990s

This is the forth in a series of five blog posts dedicated to the 2013 '31 Days of Oscar Blogathon' hosted by the blogging divas Kellee (of Outspoken and Freckled), Paula (of Paula's Cinema Club) and Aurora (of Once Upon a Screen).

(For a complete summary of what I'm writing about, check out this post.)

Post 1: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1950s
Post 2: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1980s (Part 1)
Post 3: Foreign Film Oscars from the 1980s (Part 2)

Hope you like director Ang Lee, because he directed two of the three films in this post!  In this post, I'm going to examine the following Oscar nominated films from the 1990s:

A marriage of convenience

This was my introduction to Director Ang Lee.  And what an introduction it was!

Basic Plot:
Wai-Tung Gao and Simon are a gay couple living in New York City. Wai-Tung's parents don't know this and want him to marry a woman and have a baby boy to continue to the family name.  To appease them, he marries one of his tenants (a marriage of convenience, it appeases his parents and she [Wei-Wei] is a starving artist from mainland China who needs a green card.)  Wai-Tung's parents fly to the US from Taiwan to throw an elaborate wedding banquet...a series of events unfold and things start to get out of hand.

Great Scenes:
  • Simon giving Wei-Wei the run-down of all the tiny aspects of Wai-Tung's life so she'll come off looking like his long-time girlfriend. The "de-gaying" of the apartment is reminiscent of a scene from The Birdcage.
  • At their wedding luncheon...when Old Chen offers his banquet hall for a real wedding banquet.  He's so gracious and humble towards 'The Commander' and his family.
  • The wedding banquet scene itself is's cool to watch some Asian wedding customs alongside American ones.  (And Ang Lee himself makes a brief cameo!)
  • Shivaree!
  • When Mr. Gao admits to Simon that he knows about their relationship

Why it's a great film:
  • Sihung Lung plays Wai-Tung's father.  I just love him...he's in a lot of Ang Lee films. He was retired, but came out of retirement to do Ang Lee's first feature film: Pushing Hands. Ended up doing many other films after that with Lee.
  • I like films with ethnic weddings in them, it's so interesting to me to see how other cultures celebrate weddings...and this film does not disappoint.

If you liked this film, also consider:

Family Style

This, in my opinion is Ang Lee's second best film. (More in my next post on what I consider his best film.)

Basic Plot:
A widower lives with his three grown daughters.  As the daughters meet male suitors and leave the nest, there is tension between them and with their father.

Great Scenes:
  • The opening credit sequence is an amazing series of Chinese cooking styles.  An elaborate meal is being prepared for what appears to be dozens of people (we find out later that it's just the father and his three daughters.
  • Then scene where Chu trades his expert lunch with the girls plain lunch and everyone in her class in keenly aware that her lunch is the best 
  • The final scene when the father regains his sense of taste and rekindles his relationship with his 

Why it's a great film:
  • It's chock full of great relationship stories, daughters to father, sister to sister, girlfriend to boyfriend, friend to friend, etc.
  • The meal scenes are tremendous...everything looks so good!  You really need to watch this, then go out for good Chinese food.
  • Sihung Lung (Chu), yes he's in this one, too!

If you liked this film, also consider:

Father and son

Who can forget the exuberance and passion of Roberto Benigni's reaction when he won two Oscars for his film Life Is Beautiful? This is a wonderful film that eloquently mixes humor and tragedy together in war story.

Basic Plot:
Jewish-Italian Guido (Benigni) meets and falls in love with Dora (Benigni's real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi) before the beginning of WWII.  They have a son and during WWII are captured and sent to a Nazi concentration camp.  There, Guido employs a game to shield his son from the horrors of the war and the camp.

Great Scenes:
  • The one scene that stands out in my mind (it's been a while since I've seen this) is when Guido is led off by the Nazi guards (to his death)...he is still hamming it up for his son who is hiding but can see him.

Why it's a great film:
  • Benigni has a comedian's's elastic, expressive.  He looks a little funny. He uses this to great comedic affect. But it's also a dramatic film. This mixture of his comedic ways and the sobering drama of the story makes this film great.

If you liked this film, also consider:

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