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  • The Blade

    The Blade

    ★★★★

    78

    "In a pivotal scene from Chang Cheh’s The One-Armed Swordsman (1967), hero Fang Kang, having lost his right arm and seemingly all hope of improving his swordsmanship, is thrown a lifeline in the form of a kung-fu training manual, given to him by the kindly country girl who nursed him back to health. Although more than half the booklet was destroyed in a fire, the remains turn out to be conveniently accommodating to his injury: it was solely the…

  • Face/Off

    Face/Off

    ★★★★

    78

    A maximalist absurdist comedy in which Cage plays Travolta trying to play Cage and Travolta plays Cage trying to play Travolta. The sweet spot occurs in the movement from steps 2 to 3, during which each star stages the process of becoming themselves.

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  • Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41

    Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41

    ★★★★½

    89

    A ferocious expression of woman's rage and a waking nightmare marked by vivid, apocalyptic imagery (Lynch and Argento came to mind). Though still an avenging angel figure, Matsu also becomes more of a witness, receding into near-total silence as the mad misogynist world around her spins into oblivion (she has two lines of dialogue in the entire film). This is stunning stuff.

  • 25th Hour

    25th Hour

    ★★★★★

    The monologue scene: still one of the defining moments in my history of movie-watching. It exposes the film's allegorical intents while simultaneously keeping us grounded in Monty's haunted psyche. On the one hand, we have an operatic elegy to post-9/11 rage and xenophobia. On the other, a self-directed tirade by a man burdened with sorrow and regret. The duality is palpable, moving, sublime.