Zhang Yimou has been nominated twice before in the Best Foreign Language Oscar category, with Ju Dou in 1989 and Raise The Red Lantern in 1992 , so it isn’t all that surprising that China is nominating his new movie, The Flowers of War, for a slot in the 2012 ceremony. The fact that it is also China’s most expensive movie ever — at around $100 million it’s still less than most U.S. summer releases in a given year — just means the country really wants a return on their investment. It is faintly bizarre, however, that the film is also being described as about 40% in English, with the remaining 60% split between Cantonese and Japanese. That’s quite a bit for a “foreign language” film, which is probably why its U.S. distributor is doing their best to qualify for the main event, Best Picture. If successful in both categories, that would make it one of the few movies to score nominations in the two of the three Bests. Unless the heavily Scotch broguish of Brave counts for the 2013 campaign, it’s unlikely we’ll see a movie get the hat trick in our lifetimes.
But it’s very possible, even probable, perhaps likely that Flowers of War is as good as either Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Toy Story 3, considering Zhang also directed Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and the 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony. He’s a damn good storyteller, and a movie detailing an American drifter’s attempts to save schoolchildren and courtesans, while in the guise of a priest, from Japanese invaders during the Sino-Japanese War (and World War II), specifically the rape of Nanking, is right up the director’s alley. It also doesn’t hurt that Christian Bale plays the American drifter, completing a career circle with the underrated Spielberg epic The Empire of the Sun. That’s a nice bit of synchronicity of which Sting could be proud.
The film’s U.S. trailer definitely hits the familiar, treacly, life-affirming Academy Voter Chords. So, no matter what Zhang says about the producers’ Oscar motivations, they’re definitely playing by the traditional playbook. See for yourself:
It certainly doesn’t make me not want to see the movie when it emerges gradually into theaters starting December 21 in New York and December 23 in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most likely it’ll probably be a Netflix Instant watch before this time next year. Here’s the movie’s English language poster that you might be seeing sometime in 2012:
I’m not certain that would beat out any of Dustin’s picks for Most Bad Ass MoviePosters of 2011, but the original Chinese poster certainly is radass*:
Rob Payne also writes the comic book The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar, and his ware can be purchased here (if you’re into that sort of thing). He thinks Hero and House of Flying Daggers combined are as good as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but that’s pretty, pretty good.