Tagged by the Hijack Queen with her metahuman abilities to hijack any sort of forum thread – quite an impressive feat if I might add – I will attempt to oblige her with my top favourite movies of all time as of today.
The “as of today” statement is a proviso, cause the movies can sort themselves differently as time goes by.
If this was 20 years ago, there would probably be two hundred science fiction and fantasy movies crammed into just the five spots. Since this is the here and now I will cut it down to one movie per spot, and diversify genres somewhat.
Hey, you know what? Let’s put in a mini-review for each just for the hell of it.
5. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle) – 1996
[[image:5movies03.jpg:The worst toilet in Scotland:left:0]]Trainspotting is the movie by Danny Boyle that shot himself into the mainstream and Ewan McGregor into stardom. He made a number of great movies before this such as Shallow Grave, which also starred Ewan McGregor and the ninth Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, another movie which I can watch every month for pure entertainment.
The movie follows the lives of a group of friends (I use the term loosely here), most of which are junkies, living in Edinburgh, Scotland – despite the movie being mostly filmed in Glasgow. It starts with McGregor’s character Mark Renton deciding to finally kick the habit, discovering that it’s not as easy as he thought surrounded by the people around him. He is presented with a lot of opportunities and choices, and it’s very interesting to see how Renton reacts to these opportunities and the choices he makes. All these elements are also spiced up by the strange antics of his friends.
Things also get interesting and surreal during Renton’s overdosing and cold turkey periods. You haven’t lived if you’ve never seen a dead infant crying on the ceiling and crawling towards someone to attack him.
4. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino) – 1995
This has got to be the most non-linear story told in a mainstream movie, filled with interesting characters with a ton of memorable quotes. It’s not really a story, but a group of stories that is loosely interconnected and not presented according to chronology, featuring a pair of hitmen, a mob boss, his wife, a boxer paid to throw a fight , two small time robbers, a corpse with brains blown out and a briefcase.
Its script is classic, some great lines interspersed with pop culture references. I can just end this mini review with quotes from the movie.
Jules: Do you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?
Jules: Tell him, Vincent.
Vincent: Royale with cheese.
Jules: Royale with cheese. Do you know why they call it a Royale with cheese?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett.
Jules: Nobody’s gonna hurt anybody. We’re gonna be like three little Fonzies here. And what’s Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda what’s Fonzie like?
Yolanda: He’s cool.
Jules: Correctamundo. And that’s what we’re gonna be. We’re gonna be cool. Now Ringo, I’m gonna count to three, and when I count three, you let go of your gun, and sit your ass down. But when you do it, you do it cool.
Esmeralda: What is your name?
Esmeralda: What does it mean?
Butch: I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.
…and of course the classic end to Christopher Walken’s monologue:
This watch was on your Daddy’s wrist when he was shot down over Hanoi. He was captured and put in a Vietnamese prison camp. He knew that if the gooks ever saw the watch they would confiscate it. Take it away. The way your Dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He’d be damned if any slope’s gonna put their greasy yella hands on his boy’s birthright. So he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years he wore this watch, up his ass. Then, he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you.
3. Tonari no Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki) – 1988
[[image:5movies01.jpg:Postman:right:0]]This is a recent find for me. An animated movie that conveys the wonder of being a kid in a kampung (complete with benevolent orang bunian in the woods) much better than any Disney animated flick can. 8 year old Satsuki and 5 year old Mei move to the kampung with their father to be closer to their sick mother who is hospitalised. Since dad has to travel to the university in the city on certain days, the kids are left at home with a neighbour they refer to as “grandmother”. Exploring the house and the woods behind it, first Mei, then Satsuki, discover that they are not alone there.
A notable feature about the movie is the fact that there is no villain, or antagonist. It’s a slice of life for sisters living in the country, exploring the world around them and reacting to things happening around them. It’s the small things that make this movie a joy to watch. Looking at small fishes in the longkang, trying to catch tadpoles in puddles, waiting for a planted seed to grow, or just looking at nature as the sun sets surrounded by chirping of insects.
On top of all that natural wonder, we are introduced to the spirit which Mei dubbed “Totoro” and the Catbus and the soot creatures (which also appear in another Miyazaki film Spirited Away) and treated to how the girls react to them as innocent children.
2. Aliens (James Cameron) – 1986
I remember being excited hearing that they were making a sequel for 1979’s Alien. I saw it alone at a movie theatre in Ipoh alone when it first came out, and it was my first Dolby Stereo experience.
Warrant Officer Ripley, the last survivor of the Nostromo finds herself waking up after being lost in space in hypersleep for 57 years after the events of the previous movie. Apart from having her commercial licence revoked by the company for destroying her ship, she’s also having nightmares of the alien creatures on a nightly basis, which can be quite a bother. So when all communication is lost with the colony on the planet (that was happily constructed while Ripley was asleep) which they discovered the aliens 57 years ago, she jumps at the chance to tag along with the rowdiest bunch of Marines you ever did see as an advisor. This would be a chance for her to get rid of those pesky things off her lawn for good.
But of course, things don’t go as planned, or there wouldn’t have been a movie.
Then there’s the real stars of the movie, the H.R. Giger-designed, Stan Winston-built aliens themselves, from the facehuggers and the chestburters to the fantastic animatronic feat that is the relentless alien queen. They are as much a nightmare as the lone alien was in the first movie. (Too bad subsequent movies of the series show too much of the creature for it to be xenophobic to viewers.)
And this movie is the only movie that I’ve seen that Michael Biehn doesn’t die – though he does get his fair share of getting knocked around.
1. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner) – 1980
[[image:5movies02.jpg:Check out the pilot in the ejection seat:left:0]]After almost 30 years, this movie still hasn’t gotten old for me. Like Aliens, this sequel doesn’t retread. It expands and tacks the plot into a new direction without going off on a tangent. The universe created by the filmmakers was cleverly designed to allow the story to swim effortlessly through it while implying a greater background to it than what it show. The script is sharp and humourous, and Yoda has never shown the wit he had in this movie since, thanks to a screenplay initiated (but sadly not completed) by the same person who penned words for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in 1946’s The Big Sleep. It culminates in the downbeat ending that left moviegoers wanting more and the classic line from Darth Vader that spawned hundreds of spoofs.
The original theatrical release was damn near perfect. The 1997 Special Edition cleaned it up and almost made the overall qualitiy of the movie totally perfect, if not for two details: the inexplicable inclusion of Luke screaming as he jumps off the platform from Vader which robbed Luke’s effort of its dignity, and the addition of scenes depicting Vader boarding his Lambda-class shuttle and heading for the Executor during a chase scene that totally threw off the pacing.