Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Top 10 Favourite Movies of All Time (as of 30/9/2014)

Seeing the current trend of listing 10 movies/books/video games that you can think of quickly on Facebook, I wanna do a more in-depth top 10 list of my favourite movies of all time with a short explanation why rather than just churning out titles randomly from my brain without careful thought.

So without further ado, allow me to take no more than 10 minutes of you time to give you my Top 10 movies of all time with a brief explanation (as of this writing, subject to change). Believe me, I had a hard time deciding what movies to really put on this list.

10. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
This is a movie series that I missed out in the cinemas when it came out, but looking back after having seen the Blu-rays, I wish I hadn't. Early filmmakers had always said that turning J.R.R. Tolkien's books into movies is an impossible task, but Peter Jackson finally did it with a blend of old school practical effects and puppetry, and CG to create environments that would not have been possible back then. The story, yeah, it still quite hard to follow so many characters' story arcs, and you could argue its a minor fault carried over from the source material. Even if the movies are not entirely what hardcore Tolkien fans are hoping for, the sheer epic feel of the movies still feels like a landmark achievement in cinematic storytelling.

9. Aliens
The sci-fi action movie that inspired so many other sci-fi action movies, AND some of my favourite sci-fi action video games. While it can be highly debatable whether Ridley Scott's original movie or its more action oriented sequel is better, I liked this one better simply because I like my movies having more visceral and exciting action. And this film does not disappoint in the least in its delivery. The characters are much more memorable than the first movie, the aliens feel much more menacing now that they are attacking in hordes, and you can imagine hoe much worst that must been like seeing how much damage a single alien can do in the first film. Also this film has so many iconic scenes and lines because the characters have such distinct and memorable personalities.

8. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Although I didn't appreciate this movie a lot the first time I saw it because the DVD I rented had terrible video and audio, I start to realty enjoy this movie with the 2009 remastered Blu-ray. Sure enough, the concept of robot fighting a robot seems like a duller concept compared to the original film, but seeing on a big screen and great sound really make a dramatic difference in my enjoyment of the movie, because this movie is so stellar in its production values at its time. James Cameron really knows how to stage an exciting and engaging action sequence. Most noteworthy of this movie is in its sound design, even though it sound a teensy bit dated by today's standards, it still holds up surprisingly well even in 2014. I know I said before that I liked Aliens more than T2, but after much thought, I decided to put T2 higher because I came to realise that T2 has much higher production values, and seeing it on high quality picture and sound make a whole lot of difference.

7. The Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy
This film trilogy has always been disliked by some Batman fans who criticized it for being too "grounded in reality", but honestly, I don't mind it at all, because it still maintains the core spirit of the darker Batman comics. And fans should be just happy that we had Batman Begins to begin with (pun intended), as the film franchise was already in turmoil in the aftermath of Batman and Robin. I liked the film trilogy with the mindset that its Chris Nolan's interpretation of Batman, rather than Chris Nolan trying to make a Batman that's canon to the comics. And on that basis, I enjoyed it a lot.

6. Die Hard
Ahh, the film that made Bruce Willis a mainstream action star. So many 80s action movies try to be big in their scale, but Die Hard does the exact opposite: constraining the tension in an office building. This give the movie a claustrophobic feel that's so unlike other 80s action movies at the time. Alan Rickman is also excellent as the bad guy, and is not actually the stereotypical evil bad guy like many other movies. And for the record, I'm only including the first movie on this list. As for the other movies, they're just OK action movies that have not much in common with the original. Especially Die Hard 4 and 5.

5. Wallace and Gromit in the Wrong Trousers
Yeah, I'm kinda cheating by putting a 30 min animated short film here, but this is the very film that inspired me to make movies in the first place. Wallace and Gromit are the first animated characters that don't make me feel like they are just cute cartoon characters, they feel like real human characters that you care about, this even applies to Gromit, who is a dog, for god's sake. British films are typically smaller in scale compared to Hollywood films, but its part of the charm for Wallace and Gromit. They're just doing their own thing, and that's makes it so unique. Its also the most well-paced short film of all the W&G shorts.

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark
This movie is the definition of matinee entertainment done right. This movie never fails to entertain every time I watch it, even today. I'm always of the view that Steven Spielberg is at his best when he does movies like Raiders, in which their sole purpose is to tell an adventure story, and not be pretentious artsy. And you can clearly see that influence when he made The Adventures of Tin Tin, another adventure series with the same spirit and soul as the Indiana Jones series.

3. Saving Private Ryan
One of the best and most intense visceral portrayal of World War II battles, period. Yes, the story and dialogue may not be the best aspects of the film, but as you watch the movie, you feel the sheer intensity of being in a World War II battlefield through its gritty cinematography and immersive and in-your-face sound design and sound mix. The movie is not afraid to show you the true visceral horrors of World War II. And that alone says a hell lot more than another so-called artsy World War II film at the time that, unfortunately, I didn't get it, and thus, didn't like. Its called The Thin Red Line.

2. Inception
A movie that works both as pure summer entertainment as well as leave you with thoughts after the movie was over. Again, this movie has also been criticized for the dream being too straightforward, but honestly, that didn't bother me that much. Its within the realm of the type of dream world that Chris Nolan wanted to bring to the big screen, so you're gonna either love it or hate it. But hey, its still a fascinating idea to have dream as levels for action set pieces, and the nature of it being a dream allows for some crazy action scenes you've never thought you will see, like people fighting in a hallway while floating because the dreamer in the higher dream level is in free-fall, and so on.

Some honourable mentions before I talk about number 1:
Gravity, Rango, Casino Royale, WALL-E, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Star Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, The Shawshank Redemption.

1. Toy Story
I must have seen this movie 20 times (or much more actually) since childhood, and still never get tired of it. This is an example of a movie that feels timeless (at least for people of my age anyway, since kids these days are playing with iPads rather than toys). I'm sure most kids who play actual toys can relate to getting a new toy and abandoning their old toys, and this movie bravely explores how would toys feel when they are forgotten by their kid because the kid has a new toy. Looking at the CG now, yeah, some aspects look a bit dated, like did you notice that the trees are totally static? But all this doesn't matter because the movie is still so damn entertaining and animated in such a lively way. The Pixar team made a right choice in scrapping their original idea entirely, which wasn't working, and find, in the late Joe Ranft's words, "What would be the funniest thing?". And, man it works, because the jokes still hold up to this day.

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