an idiot abroad premiere
what i watched last week

top ten as of this moment

I created an ordered list of my favorite movies for a web site yesterday, and in the process, I realized I had created my Top Ten Films of All Time List. I might change my mind by the end of the day, but here it is/was:

    1. The Godfather: Part II
    2. The Sorrow and the Pity
    3. The Rules of the Game
    4. The Godfather
    5. Bonnie and Clyde
    6. The Third Man
    7. Grand Illusion
    8. Citizen Kane
    9. Vertigo
    10. Rio Bravo

Nothing later than the early-70s … I’ll need to do one of these for the post-Godfather era. Top Ten Films, 1975-present:

    1. Hard Boiled
    2. Run Lola Run
    3. City of God
    4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    5. The Killer
    6. Pan’s Labyrinth
    7. Red Cliff II
    8. The Lives of Others
    9. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
    10. Raiders of the Lost Ark

I’ve often questioned my general refusal to give current films the highest ratings, and this second list tells me something. Apparently, it’s easier for me to give 10/10 to a recent foreign film. There are only two English-language movies on that list, both directed by Spielberg, from 1977 and 1981 (i.e. there isn’t been a single American film on either of these lists that was made in the last 30 years). Meanwhile, John Woo shows up three times, which isn’t much of a surprise to me.

So, let me try again. Top Ten English-Language Films, 1982-present:

    1. American Splendor
    2. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
    3. The Rapture
    4. The Terminator
    5. Hoop Dreams
    6. Dangerous Liaisons
    7. Stop Making Sense
    8. Deliver Us from Evil
    9. Wit
    10. The Hours



Red Cliff (both parts, I just consider it one very long movie) and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days were two of my favorites of those I saw for the first time last year. I have a lot of gaps with Woo but I like about everything I've seen by him at least a little -- even the weakest American productions, such as Broken Arrow or Mission Impossible, tend to have more virtues than faults I think. Bullet in the Head is probably my favorite of his amazing late '80s/early '90s Hong Kong stuff. Nice to see him getting some love in your second list. I also love Run Lola Run, though it may qualify as a bit of a guilty pleasure. Given the mood, I can watch it, certainly the first 30 minutes of it, the way I listen to favorite pop songs, repeatedly and consecutively, which may or may not be as intended, though I think the reality-bending of the whole thing works too. I love the way it tears in and out of animation sequences. The whole thing is a blast of energy. A lot to like there. The Romanian 4 Months, on the other hand, is like a gut punch, like climbing down carefully to a very scary place. Once has been enough so far, though I'm sure I will revisit it again.

Steven Rubio

Thanks for the comments! Red Cliff is an example of the vagueness of my ratings ... I gave part one 9/10, part two 10/10, but I can't remember why. I also gave 9/10 to the two Woo Better Tomorrows and Bullet in the Head, and don't know why I have them just below the two mentioned above. Well, I can guess ... The Killer is the first one I saw, the one that started my obsession, and Hard-Boiled is so over-the-top, esp. in the hospital finale. But the first Better Tomorrow should get a bit extra for trend-setting, and Bullet in the Head ... well, what you said about 4 Months goes for that one, too, a gut punch that is hard to watch and hard to revisit, but intense in ways Woo's other movies don't quite match. As for his American stuff, I think Face/Off is the only one to come close to his HK classics. Some of the others are OK, but Windtalkers is a disappointment, and MI2 has one good scene that I can recall (I gave it 3/10).


Yes, it's probably an exaggeration to say MI2 has more virtues than faults -- I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, that's for sure -- but to me Woo has a "touch" (doves and all) that's every bit as distinctive and seductive as Lubitsch. Still need to see some of the titles you mentioned, though I liked quite a bit The Killer and Hard-Boiled (also for the audacious hospital setting) and agree that Face/Off is definitely the best of his American movies.

Steven Rubio

Judging from your blog, we have a lot of the same likes/dislikes. If by chance you haven't buried yourself in Hong Kong movies, there's a ton of great stuff out there ... Woo isn't the only one.


I'm still working my way in to a lot of it. I may have spent an inordinate amount of my time devoted to it on Woo, but I like all the Jackie Chan I've seen pretty well, the Jet Li not so much. You should post some lists of the best!

Steven Rubio

There are people who read this blog who know a lot more about HK cinema than I do. But here's a quickie.

Genres are a good way to get into the films. If you like Woo's brand of action, check out Full Contact or Sparrow. If you like Jackie Chan, then Stephen Chow might appeal to you ... I don't get his humor, which seems more culturally specific than Chan's slapstick, but Chow is extremely popular ... Shaolin Soccer is a fave of mine. Donnie Yen is good for "serious" martial arts (Iron Monkey). If you like the fantasy of a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, then check out Wuxia films. And HK fantasy movies are unlike anything we've got in America ... Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead movies, maybe Big Trouble in Little China (Chinese Ghost Story).

The star system is also well established. You can never go wrong with Chow Yun-Fat, who you know from the Woo films. For a non-Woo role, you might try God of Gamblers. Tony Leung (Hard Boiled, Red Cliff) is an amazing actor, Maggie Cheung is an amazing actress when properly cast, and Wong Kar-Wai is an amazing director, so In the Mood for Love is an amazing movie that probably belongs on one of those lists above. Who else? Michelle Yeoh never fails to deliver, Brigitte Lin is as beautiful as she is talented. I know I'm forgetting a hundred people here.

Farewell My Concubine, Once Upon a Time in China and a lot of other Tsui Hark films ... it's an endless list, and I'm just writing off the top of my head, forgetting lots. Like I say, others can do this better than I can.


Thank you!

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