Author Topic: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films  (Read 2911 times)

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Offline George-2.0

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List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« on: December 11, 2019, 04:37:14 AM »

"How could someone so beautiful, be so deadly" - George Takei never said these words in the Star Trek episode "That Which Survives", but for some reason, my siblings and I thought he did, and would delight in repeating that line while trying out our best Sulu voices (he actually asked the Captain how people could be so evil, and mentioned that she was so beautiful). I only share this adolescent memory because that misquote can be appropriated and more aptly applied to the martial arts.

Seeing the fluid movements of a body trained in a deadly art was a thing of beauty... and awfulness... the damage to life and limb - stabbed, beaten, crushed, blood spilled by the buckets! And yet, there was a ballet there, with people floating, spinning, flipping, posing... beautiful but deadly.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Jdov4lEMjJs" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Jdov4lEMjJs</a>
An early, surviving film sword battle - From 1925s Orochi (Serpent)

Wuxia stories have been shared throughout the ages in China, and they were perfectly suited to the medium of film, which embraced the subject in a massive way with the production of Burning of the Red Lotus Monastery in 1928 - a 27-hour Chinese epic released in 18 feature-length parts over 3 years (sadly the film is lost). Before that, there was the martial arts, samurai movie Orochi (1925) from Japan. And shorts, like Jiraiya the Hero (1921) about a magical Ninja who could disappear or turn himself into a giant frog. (a version of this tale was filmed in 1966 as The Magic Serpent)

From powerhouse studios like the Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest. To powerhouse directors and actors - who gave us stories of oppressors and protectors. And acts of cruelty countered by acts of vengeance. They showed us the paths of inner harmony, spirituality, and self-control, as well as discord - born of jealousy, greed or political maneuvering. The martial arts was about honing -and inevitably- proving your skill, your art, in combat or tournament. It was about the legends and histories - All of these qualities you'll find in the 50 films you chose as the best of the best.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2019, 05:46:43 AM »
A note on tiebreakers - I do what others do - most votes, then highest points... but if they are still knotted I go to second, then third-highest points, etc. And if that fails, I break them up by alphabetical order.

So let's begin with a 51st entry, from the forums favorite psycho...


#51 – Tiger Cage II
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/REKK2r6_dQ4" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/REKK2r6_dQ4</a>
24 points on 1 of 11 lists - Highest Ranking: #2 (PsychoGoatee)

Year: 1990
Director:  Yuen-Woo Ping

An ex-cop and divorce lawyer team up with a gangster to clear their names after getting involved in a dirty money

From Kung Fu Kingdom... An action-comedy that is actually more serious than comedic, “Tiger Cage 2” presents an edgy, high-energy, dramatic mix of Hong Kong old school fight choreography and more practical combat. With lightning kicks, whipping fists and grappling and striking reflective of the art we now know as MMA, you can evidence the seeds that were sown with “Tiger Cage 2” setting down the basis of Donnie Yen’s trademark wushu/MMA hybrid style. Some 27 years on, this is still an entertaining blast.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2019, 05:50:44 AM by George-2.0 »


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2019, 05:50:09 AM »
#50 – Seven Samurai
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/wJ1TOratCTo" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/wJ1TOratCTo</a>
24 points on 1 of 11 lists - Highest Ranking: #2 (Edward J Grug III)

Year: 1954
Director: Akira Kurosawa

From Criterion... One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ride from Akira Kurosawa—featuring legendary actors Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura—seamlessly weaves philosophy and entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action, into a rich, evocative, and unforgettable tale of courage and hope.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2019, 06:02:46 AM by George-2.0 »


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2019, 05:53:57 AM »
#49 – Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/5SsKcDHO4D4" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/5SsKcDHO4D4</a>
24 points on 2 of 11 lists - Highest Ranking: #13 (Stethacantus)

Year: 1970
Director: Kenji Misumi

From Criterion - The colossally popular Zatoichi films make up the longest-running action series in Japanese history and created one of the screen’s great heroes: an itinerant blind masseur who also happens to be a lightning-fast swordsman.

Cowritten by star Shintaro Katsu, this adventure pits Zatoichi against one of his most diabolical foes: a blind yakuza boss whose reign of terror and exploitation has made him nearly mythic. Guest starring the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai as a ronin haunted by a traumatic past, and featuring an unforgettable nude swordfight in a bathhouse, this twenty-first entry in the series is a fan favorite.

My thoughts: I love Zatoichi, but at about the half-way point in the series, it was a pretty well-worn premise -- some films sunk under the formula, while other late episodes somehow managed to find inspiration and become standouts... Fire Festival was one of those.

All in the family? Shintaro Katsu is the younger brother of Tomisaburo Wakayama, who played the lead in the Lone Wolf and Cub series of film.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2019, 04:28:59 PM »
#48 – The One-Armed Swordsman
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/mOe4I3NSgQ8" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/mOe4I3NSgQ8</a>
24 points on 2 of 11 lists - Highest Ranking: #8 (George-2.0)

Year: 1967
Director: Chang Cheh

Paste ranked it 21 out of 100 and said... If this list was ranked purely in terms of which films were most influential to their genres, One-Armed Swordsman would be up near the tip-top, along with The Chinese Boxer, which also starred Swordsman’s Jimmy Wang. As for wuxia, though, this is like the urfilm, the one that defined so many of the stylistic conventions for decades to come, such as the dangerous, brooding anti-hero and the swordplay/limb-hacking action sequences. So, so many films were made in the following years about one-armed fighters, and Chang Cheh’s classic was behind it all. That can make it seem a little cliché laden today, but it’s still a charming film to watch, and a classic story never truly goes out of style. I especially like the villains’ “sword lock” devices that can catch a sword blade and lock it in position. — Jim Vorel

My thoughts: While he would be surpassed my faster, more skilled M.A. actors, for a spell Jimmy Wang Yu was king of the genre. What with influential pictures like this one and The Chinese Boxer, which jump-started the hand-to-hand combat style film that was a hit with Asian audiences and would soon become the rage in America. Jimmy was a superstar, the highest-paid martial arts actor until Bruce Lee punched in and took the spotlight... and the cash, with an even bigger contract.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2019, 04:30:21 PM »
#47 – Once Upon a Time in China
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/0wbOG09RDm8" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/0wbOG09RDm8</a>
24 points on 2 of 11 lists - Highest Ranking: #8 (Charles Castle)

Year: 1991
Director: Tsui Hark

Ranked 4th by Paste, who said... Undoubtedly Tsui Hark’s masterpiece, and a high-water mark for both historical Asian action movies and martial arts cinema in general, Once Upon A Time In China is a film of epic scope told through small moments and even smaller gestures. Although there are only so many words to use to describe how Tsui, in barely 10 years, had established himself as an incomparable master of the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema, there are probably no words worth using to properly convey the effortless beauty of some of Tsui’s images, scattered generously throughout this film. Even within its opening credits, which quietly observe folk hero Wong Fei-hung (Jet Li) as he trains a militia to defend his homeland from an impending Western menace, Tsui’s knack for finding near spiritual grace in the rigors of martial arts training is obvious: the golden sun, the reflective sand, the silhouettes of healthy bodies against the surf—this is only one tiny glimpse of Tsui’s visual prowess. That we then later get the privilege of watching Jet Li, in a short-brimmed straw sunhat, fight off a gang of thugs with an umbrella is a many-splendored thing. —Dom Sinacola

DYK: Jet was trained in old style wushu. In Jet’s day, they had to learn all of the Eighteen-Arms, internal styles, external styles, everything. The Eighteen-Arms consists of: sabre, spear, sword, halberd, axe, battle axe, hook, fork, whip, mace, hammer, talon, trident-halberd, cudgel, long-handled spear, short cudgel, stick, and meteor hammer. Everybody had to compete in broadsword, spear, straight sword, cudgel, and empty-hand forms.


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2019, 04:46:54 PM »
And that's it for tonight. A nice group of film I say - with one I need to put on my watchlist.

I worked all night on the final write-ups (organizing them on that Letterboxd list has been a helpful tool). I wound up with a massive headache, a back-ache, probably an ass-ache from sitting all that time. But now I can just relax and post at my leisure. All the hard work is done.

Oh, and please, if anyone wants to add trivia, pictures or any info, feel free. I'd welcome the additional notes. And sharing opinions on the movies is always welcome.

I hope we can have fun with this. As we have with other LoCs.


Poster art for the One-Armed Swordsman
« Last Edit: December 11, 2019, 04:53:19 PM by George-2.0 »


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2019, 05:06:27 PM »
Seven Samurai is a real grey area in terms of this list for me, and I probably wouldn't have included it except you expressly allowed it in one of your early posts, and I didn't want to be the only one not to vote for it, and yet somehow I was the only to include it. :P

Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival is one I haven't gotten to in the set yet. Not far off it though.

I haven't seen the others yet.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2019, 06:00:20 PM by Edward J Grug III »
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Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2019, 05:08:51 PM »
I've yet to see Seven Samurai.  The main reasons are that: A) it is a long movie and 2) its one of those "great" movies that I feel like I need to put aside for special viewing, which means I might not really find the time to get around to it (Ikiru is in a similar camp).  But I do love Rashomon, Yojimbo and Red Beard so it would stand to reason I'd probably love Kurosawa's most beloved film.


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2019, 05:12:01 PM »
I've yet to see Seven Samurai.  The main reasons are that: A) it is a long movie and 2) its one of those "great" movies that I feel like I need to put aside for special viewing, which means I might not really find the time to get around to it (Ikiru is in a similar camp).  But I do love Rashomon, Yojimbo and Red Beard so it would stand to reason I'd probably love Kurosawa's most beloved film.

I know we've said this before, but it's not a daunting watch like so many great epics. It's incredibly breezy and easy. It's no Lawrence of Arabia or anything. (Which I love)
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Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2019, 05:20:41 PM »
I'm not saying it isn't but at the same time, I got to put away the time for it.  And usually, at the end of the week, which is when I watch a movie, I am VERY wiped from work.  I don't want to ruin a good movie for myself by watching it while almost falling asleep (which happened with part one of the 47 Ronin, but that film is NOT a breezy watch).  But yeah, there are a few longer movies that I could put on almost any time (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, for example).


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2019, 05:26:05 PM »
When I first saw it (Seven Samurai) it was actually not as long as it is now -- they'd find a few minutes here and there and add it back to the film. But even then, when it ends, even though it's a fitting end, I don't want it to end. I want them to find more footage and make it longer.  ;)

I didn't add it to my list because I was going for a different type of film, more 'out there' if you will. Even when they were based on a true story and person, you'd still get certain HK films where people are doing impossible leaps, kicks and such. There are exceptions, but that's how I generally approached my list.

But yeah, Seven Samurai is a masterpiece.


Offline PsychoGoatee

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2019, 07:30:47 PM »
Well done on getting this countdown rolling! And no pressure. Lot of cool movies. 8)

And I feel you on the soreness thing, good luck there! Lately I've been using a stand-up desk, which sort of replaces the soreness of a desk chair with other types of soreness, but it's good for variety. Also sometimes use my TV as a second monitor.

Lot of cool movies, and a nice variety. Tiger Cage II rules so hard.



Online stethacantus

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2019, 12:13:44 AM »
I originally had The Seven Samurai on my list, but removed it because I thought the host used it as an example of films he didn't want on the LoC.   Back in 1985 Ric Meyers made a list for his book Martial Arts Movies: From Bruce Lee to the Ninjas for it's appendix.
Quote
THE TEN BEST MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES OF ALL TIME
In no particular order they are:
1) THE CHINESE CONNECTION
2) ENTER THE DRAGON
3)DRUNKEN MASTER
4) PROJECT A
5) THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE
6) EIGHTEEN LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA
7) BABYCART IN THE LAND OF DEMONS
8 ) THE HUMAN TARANTULA
9) ZATOICHI'S CANE SWORD
10) SEVEN SAMURAI

Note that The Chinese Connection is the American title for Fist of Fury, and the Shaolin Temple was the one starring Jet Li and produced in mainland China.

Back then I didn't agree with the list. Everything on it seemed like a compromise as if Meyer's decided there had to be a quota: Two Bruce Lee films, two Jackie Chan films, Four Chambara films with one each from the top three Chambara film series, and one from Kurosawa, at least one from Shaw Brothers and one from mainland China.  I had seen Seven Samurai on a PBS station just prior to buying the book, and thought it didn't count as a martial arts film, and was taking up a valuable slot on the top 10 list, because the fighting that is in it is not choreographed, but more like they just had mobs of extras run into each other. I gradually warmed up to the idea of it being considered a martial arts film, but the way you would consider some 1940s Country songs to be early Rock and Roll. The only reason why I would have considered adding it to my list is because I was ranking by favorite film and not by the quality of the fight scenes. So if it counted as martial arts, then I would have had to add it to my list, even if it knocked out more worthy films in the genre.  I have no regrets removing it from my list because I have hundreds of martial arts films I think belong on my list but only 25 slots, so opening up new slots actually helps.

It will be interesting to see, how many more of the Ric Meyers top 10 make it on this LoC.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2019, 12:17:50 AM by stethacantus »


Offline George-2.0

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Re: List of Crap #121: Top 50 Martial Arts/Wuxia Films
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2019, 02:18:44 AM »
Legendary Weapons of China, seriously? Out of the several superb movies Lau Kar-leung/Liu Chia-Liang directed, he selected that turd as one of the 10 best of all time? Sorry, but I thought it was an irritatingly stupid movie.