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Staff & contributors

Gosford Park inspired screenwriter Julian Fellowes to create Downton Abbey — but don’t let that association fool you, because this is no quaint, sentimental period drama but a scalding satire of 1930s England class relations (even though Maggie Smith does play a withering dowager countess here, too). Robert Altman, master orchestrator of ensembles, assembled a banquet of performers here, including Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Charles Dance as the well-to-do attendees of a hunting party on a grand estate. Working furiously to meet their every whim is the house’s domestic staff, played by such talents as Emily Watson, Helen Mirren, Kelly Macdonald, and Clive Owen.

The murder comes over an hour into the film, which ought to tell you about its real focus (Altman actually called Gosford Park a “who cares whodunnit”). In place of Agatha Christie-style intrigue is brilliant characterization and storytelling. Even at 137 minutes, 30-plus characters mean time is of the essence, but Altman and his actors miraculously find a way to convey a deep sense of each person — especially those downstairs. This tangle of rich lives never gets overwhelming, though, because Gosford Park is expertly paced. It’s nothing less than a joy to sit back and experience the masterful unraveling of its many threads, each more revelatory than the last.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Bates, Bob Balaban, Camilla Rutherford, Charles Dance, Claudie Blakley, Clive Owen, Derek Jacobi, Eileen Atkins, Emily Watson, Emma Buckley, Finty Williams, Frances Low, Frank Thornton, Geraldine Somerville, Gregor Henderson-Begg, Helen Mirren, James Wilby, Jeremy Northam, Jeremy Swift, Joanna Maude, John Atterbury, Kelly Macdonald, Kristin Scott Thomas, Laura Harling, Laurence Fox, Leo Bill, Lucy Cohu, Maggie Smith, Meg Wynn Owen, Michael Gambon, Natalie Danks-Smith, Natasha Wightman, Richard E. Grant, Ron Webster, Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Flind, Sophie Thompson, Stephen Fry, Teresa Churcher, Tom Hollander, Trent Ford

Director: Robert Altman

Rating: R

Eat Drink Man Woman takes place in Taipei, Taiwan in the mid-1990s. It tells the story of an aging father and his three daughters, all of whom are navigating different phases of adulthood while embracing new relationships. The family uses cooking and eating together as a way to communicate their love.

Food as a love language wasn’t a new concept in 1994, when the film was released, however it is impeccably explored in Eat Drink Man Woman. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Chen Chao-jung, Chi-Der Hong, Chin-Cheng Lu, Gin-Ming Hsu, Gua Ah-leh, Huel-Yi Lin, Jui Wang, Kuei-Mei Yang, Lester Chan, Lester Chit-Man Chan, Lung Hsiung, Lung Sihung, Shih-Jay Lin, Sihung Lung, Sylvia Chang, Wang Yu-wen, Winston Chao, Wu Chien-Lien, Ya-lei Kuei, Yang Kuei-Mei, Yu Chen, Yu-Wen Wang, 张艾嘉

Director: Ang Lee

Rating: Not Rated

During wartime, war supersedes everything, including love. Wartime would have people ending relationships, forgoing potential dates, and seducing enemies to lead them to downfall, all in order to win, but sometimes, this rarely goes as planned. Lust, Caution is one such story, with the novella’s emotional repression making it a great match for director Ang Lee, main actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai as Japanese informant, and main actress Tang Wei, who made her breakthrough here. It’s not an easy watch. There are moments that falter and the film is a tad too long. But the smoldering stares shared by the two leads, with the lush production design and the beautiful direction, makes Lust, Caution a difficult contemplation of love and sexuality as Wang’s, and the nation’s, double-edged sword.

Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Akiko Takeshita, Anupam Kher, Cheng Yu-Lai, Chih-ying Chu, Chin Ka-lok, Chung Hua Tou, Hayato Fujiki, He Saifei, Jacqueline Zhu Zhi-Ying, Joan Chen, Johnson Yuen, Johnson Yuen Tak-Cheung, Kar Lok Chin, Ko Yu-Luen, Lawrence Ko, Lawrence Ko Yu-Luen, Lee Hom Wang, Leehom Wang, Lisa Lu, Liu Jie, Saifei He, Song Ruhui, Tang Wei, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Tou Chung-Hua, Tou Tsung-Hua, Ven Kao, Vince Kao, Wang Lin, Wei Tang, Yan Su, Ying-hsien Kao

Director: Ang Lee

Rating: NC-17

Even with a plot that wholeheartedly embraces the tropes of a fake marriage and of found families, The Wedding Banquet never falls into the trap of histrionic melodrama. There's a calmness to this film that's made all the more poignant by how none of these characters are truly right or wrong, good or bad. Everyone is just trying to stay in their lane while nurturing the little bits of happiness they can find. The Wedding Banquet is a relatively early example of a lighthearted gay romance and an American co-production that's incredibly sensitive about representing Taiwanese culture properly on screen.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ang Lee, Dion Birney, Gua Ah-leh, Jennifer Lin, John Nathan, Mason Lee, May Chin, Michael Gaston, Mitchell Lichtenstein, Neal Huff, Sihung Lung, Winston Chao

Director: Ang Lee

Set during the swingin' seventies, two small town Connecticut families are the subject of this visually stunning and somewhat disturbing drama. With an all-star cast that includes Sigourney Weaver as Janey Carver, an unsatisfied housewife and mother of two and Elijah Wood as her eldest son, there's plenty of star power and drama. In addition, director Ang Lee brings his signature sense of trial and unease while unleashing a quirky and pointed 70's aesthetic.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adam Hann-Byrd, Allison Janney, Barbara Garrick, Bettina Skye, Byron Jennings, Christina Ricci, Christine Farrell, Colette Kilroy, Colleen Camp, Courtney Peldon, Daniel McDonald, David Krumholtz, Dennis Gagomiros, Donna Mitchell, Elijah Wood, Glenn Fitzgerald, Henry Czerny, Ivan Kronenfeld, Jamey Sheridan, Jessica Stone, Joan Allen, Joe O'Connor, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Freeman, Kate Burton, Katie Holmes, Kevin Kline, Larry Pine, Maia Danziger, Marcell Rosenblatt, Michael Cumpsty, Miles Marek, Nancy Opel, Robert Westenberg, Sarah Thompson, Scott Wentworth, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, William Cain

Director: Ang Lee

Rating: R