Archive for the ‘2001’ Category

Best of the Decade, No. 95: Shaolin Soccer

January 8, 2010

Gagman and opportunist, multi-hyphenate Stephen Chow timed his football comedy to coincide with the arrival of the World Cup in Japan. Tapping into the global power of the sport, he also made the first successful HK crossover hit which actually had more comedy than martial arts in it. The original pre-Weinstein cut of Shaolin Soccer is happily scatological and senseless in its story of a drunken master (Chow) who learns that sport is the best way to spread his kung fu gospel. There are some poetic moments as well, such as adorable Vicki Zhao, who makes steamed buns using her own martial arts skills. Chow and Zhao assemble a team of misfits who, in the best Major League tradition, suit up for a final match that will avenge the honor of slighted soccer star. The China Super Cup final plays out like a Fox Sports interstitial on Barry Bonds’s medicine cabinet. The film established Chow not only as a superior clown but one who knew how to use his camera. And beneath the laughs is a serious point: while martial arts may be the glory of Chinese’s aesthetics, the world demands that its fundamentals be applied to more modern pursuits.
See also: Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

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Best of the Decade, No. 97: Pootie Tang

January 7, 2010

“Sa da tay,” you say? This inscrutable Chris Rock-endorsed satire of blaxploitation superheroes ain’t the most coherent movie in town, but it invites the audience into a world governed by unstable rules. Wielding his father’s belt, the titular Tang (Lance Crowther) radiates an African-American “It” imperceptible to everybody except those on screen. In a favored 2000s theme, he battles the nasty forces of corporate America as incarnated in Robert Vaughn’s toupee. The low-budget comedy could have been made in somebody’s backyard and the gags evaporate about ten minutes before the end. Up until that point, though, this film made Squally laugh like a Paris sewer. It also provided an early showcase for the talents of Wanda Sykes and Jennifer Coolidge, indicating that despite the onscreen misogyny, Tang‘s gospel was all-inclusive. Written and directed by Louis C.K., whose auteurist command extended to doing the music, too. R. Kelly missed his chance, but his own 2000s masterpiece “Trapped in the Closet” took the Tang and ran with it.

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