Crouching Tiger is Bad

So I wanted to share with you all a story that didn’t make it into the podcast.

Back in the year 2000 I was 13 years old.  These were prime, formative years in my movie watching career.  I’m trying to remember why exactly everyone was so incredibly excited to see Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but it was the first martial arts epic movie that I can remember getting a wide release.  I was at that age where I NEEDED to start picking out media that would signal to my peers that I was a subtitle-reading, foreign-film-digging renaissance teen. However, I hadn’t aged past the point that I mainly just wanted to see swords being whipped around.

 I was at that age where I NEEDED to start picking out media that would signal to my peers that I was a subtitle-reading, foreign-film-digging renaissance teen.

Cut to the theatre, Sitting with my cool 17 year old brother, waiting eagerly through whatever previews stood between us and awesome ninja dudes punching other ninja dudes.  I remember the green, faux-velvet seats of Showcase Cinemas. They were made of the kind of fabric that heats up to 150 degrees when you sit on it. They’d leave red marks on the backs of your legs where your shorts didn’t reach the edge.  Showcase was the kind of place where I remember seeing Star Wars Episode I, clutching a cup that for some reason had a big half pound rubber statue of Darth Maul on top.  The kind of place that had the arcade machine from terminator 2 with the huge black plastic guns.  The kind of place with that crummy bus seat carpet with violent neon coloring that tries to shine from behind a thin black layer of whatever sticks to the stains from spilled sodas.  But they had bulk candy, which was pretty cool.  It was… fine.

The movie starts and we’re transported to martial arts movie heaven.  The kind of place where all of the palatial homes and over serious exposition threatens at any moment to give way to a ninja grabbing something and people punching the bejeezus out of each other.  As soon as the first action scene starts, Jen Yu, in full ninja getup leaps about 25 feet in the air on a wire rig, and I hear it.  From behind me comes an unforgettable voice who intones in that sort of low,, Elvis impersonator drawl, with utter sincerity mumbles, “oh man, that was bad!”

Every single time some feat of martial arts mastery appeared on screen you’d hear it like a sound effect “oh man, that was bad.”

I’m not sure if it was the same where you were from, but in Ohio in year 2000 we were still calling things bad.  Badass was a little crude, boss was kind of passé, sick was a twinkle in some skater kid’s eye in some coastal half pipe, but us Ohio boys were still saying Bad, Michael Jackson style.  And it was true.  This movie was Bad.  Ever since the Matrix a year before everyone was bananas for crazy high flying wire rig moves and martial arts magic.  That scene where the wushu masters start their elegant martial ballet of leaping and punching was BAD! Everyone in the theatre knew it, and this good old boy behind us in the theatre put it into words. Every single time some feat of martial arts mastery appeared on screen you’d hear it like a sound effect “oh man, that was bad.”  A character returns to the screen “aw dude, this chick is bad, check this out.”   And I wasn’t even upset, because he was right. He was experiencing the movie correctly.

I had a similar experience when I saw Pacific Rim over a dozen years later in a theatre that contained a kid who couldn’t have been more than 8 years old.  Every time one of those huge robots would smash a monster’s face or slice em up with a sword you’d hear a primal yawp from this kid.  Sometimes not even over the sound of the crunching effects of the movie.  A somewhat muffled but unrestrained “AWWW WHOA!” with every impact.  I love watching movies in the theatre and sharing in that experience.  I think it’s a real shame that people get upset whenever someone reacts to a movie in an awesome way.  We’re all in this together, let it out every now and then.  And don’t stop making those unforgettable cinema moments, because Crouching Tiger is Bad. Oh man, it’s so bad. check it out.

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