Paul Hsieh's favourite moviesThat's right, its just my opinion about movies. There was a time in my life where I had an absolutely voratious appetite for movies, so I figure I might as well put all that movie experience to some use. The movies are roughly listed in order of my personal preference. Every movie listed here is at least 4 and half stars (out of 5).
My Favorite Movies
My Suggestion BoxHere are a list of some suggestions I have received so far:
Of the above I have seen those that have been bolded. Most are good movies but do not quite rank a 5/5 for me. Sorry. I will try to catch the others when I get a chance.
My CommentsCasablanca just seems so dated to me. I was far less impressed with it than most people I know. Bogart just doesn't do it for me.
The Player and Short Cuts seemed like the same movie to me somehow. Both were extremely long, and had lots and lots of characters with an oddly intertwining story. I liked both ... but not that much.
Regarding Henry was interesting, but its hard not to compare it to the Doctor, or Mosquito Coast (for two seperate reasons) both of which I consider to be superior films, again for seperate reasons.
The God father series of films are very epic in nature and are very impressive. But I've never really had a taste for the mob style film. Its like The Firm, or Apocolypse Now in that it was very well done in its treatment of the subject matter but had a hard time reaching me personally.
Mission: Impossible is just a toned down remake of Top Gun with a different subject matter. So are a lot of Tom Cruise films. No seriously, think about it. In all honesty, its not a bad film, but not especially deep in any way.
I can't believe Siskel and Ebert liked Dumb and Dumber. That has to be the one of the stupidest movies of all time, and not just because of the two bumbling lead characters. This is just Jim Carey cashing in. The Cable Guy is even worse. (I don't much like Mathew Broderick, so that movie was kind of doomed from the start for me.)
By contrast, Liar, Liar, was at least original. But, in my opinion, does not measure up even to the Mask, which itself does not make my list of upper echelon movies.
From Dusk 'Til Dawn ... are you kidding me? This movie made no sense. While it had many of the Tarantinoisms that made Resevoir Dogs and Pulp fiction so good, the story, the acting and the characters were so lacking as to make the movie boring to me. Four Rooms was a much better film, but a little dull at moments (kudos to the always excellent Tim Roth.) (Jackie Brown really didn't do it for me either -- it looks like Tarantino has run out of good material.)
I was only half watching Evil Dead 2 while I was playing some board games. I am sure the fact that my brain wasn't saturated with this movie prevented me from going catatonic or something. I am sorry, but I put this in the "Big Trouble in Little China Category". Campy to the point of pointlessness.
A Clockwork Orange, is a good and deeply disturbing film. Right up there with the Shining. Both movies don't quite make it to my 5/5 list only because I am picky. :o)
Virtuosity does not deserve comment. Ok I'll give it one: that movie was a piece of crap.
2001: A Space Odyssey really almost just barely doesn't make it onto my list. Its a little slow, and hard to follow (but it helps if you've read the book.) Although it did not do very well, I liked the sequel 2010 almost as much. Aliens and Star Wars are both excellent films but like 2001 both don't quite make it to the top of my list.
The Hudsucker Proxy is really an excellent film, and I am almost reconsidering adding it to my honorable mention list. Let me think it over ... :o)
Jacob's Ladder is a good film. But it seemed to too closely follow the Brazil formula (without the dark humour.)
Cadillac Man. Robin Williams and Tim Robbins did a great job, but the story was weak.
Casino was really just a showcase of the three talented leads. The story was not bad, but it was diffinately missing essential substance to make the movie worth while.
Groundhog Day is a great film. But its a little too silly to be taken seriously. This movie has replay value. The Princess Bride is a funny movie, but was certainly not a really great movie.
Taxi Driver ... uh I didn't get it. DeNiro was excellent, but this movie just didn't do it for me.
The Fifth Element reminded me of the theatrical release of the Abyss. Its a movie in search of a better motivation and a better ending. Sorry but the big black evil ball is a less than compelling bad guy.
Sleepless in Seattle?? Don't make me sick. Two people sent me this movie. I know its a "date" movie that's supposed to appeal to women, but this is just such a bad movie that can't even pretend to be in the same class as "When Harry met Sally". In all cases I think the characters are the worst that the respective actors have ever played (including Rosie O'Donnel and Bill Pulman.)
I have seen Natural Born Killers in the theaters, and I thought it was aweful. The director's cut may be better (it certainly was for Blade Runner and the Abyss, so I won't be so quick to dismiss NBK just because I hated the theatrical release.) Trainspotting is an extreme movie, but I didn't find anything about it that made this movie really good. I'm not sure why it got such rave reviews.
I truly hate Kevin Costner. I mean I hate him worse than I hate Adam Sandler.
Costner is in the worst movie of all time: Tin Cup, and even in the good
movies that he has been in, I always wished that someone else was playing his
The story of "La Femme Nikita" is excellent. I thought "The Point of No Return" was about as good. The problem I had with both films was that the acting was poor. By contrast, "The Professional" which had an equally good story, had awesome actors.
Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a very clever movie. I enjoyed it the first time I saw it, but surprisingly it has very little replay value.
Contact covered a subject of deep personal interest to me; the conflict between science and religion. I am one of those fascist atheist scumbags; I've earned enough credits to get my "Evil Scientist's Card" if I ever need it. Nevertheless, the movie raises the question of the conflict that was probably first discovered by Godel. Namely what happens when science/math fails to provide the credibility that it is so heavily rooted in. What happens when the truth is out of reach of logic and analysis and we are left with nothing more than faith?
Anyhow, as a movie it had severe problems with being preachy when it needed to be deep, and clever when it needed to be profound. On the other hand, even Carl Sagan (who wrote the book upon which the movie is based) himself has fallen into this trap (in the past he has claimed that an exploding nuke roughly equivalent to the size of the Chernobyl disaster would almost certainly send the earth into a nuclear winter, and claimed to prove the existence of extra terrestrial life by showing that the probability of it within some reasonable fixed distance was greater than 0.)
Finally, Titanic. Of all of Cameron's movies, the academy decides to give him accolades for Titanic? If you like DeCaprio and/or Winslett then it was entertaining. I kept waiting for jaws to come and eat everyone in sight or something. Seriously, it wasn't too bad, just nothing special.
As to Cool Hand Luke, yes I got the message. But I think I learn more about prison life, and character from listening to the radio station WBAI in New York than I did from watching this movie.
City of Angels is a nice story that is also quite original (Update actually, apparently its a remake of the movie "Wings of Desire".). However, it does no go in any direction with enough thrust to merit this as a great movie. The whole mood for the movie was ridiculously subdued, which worked as an effect in of itself, but seemed to have an overall effect of dullening the story.
The Prophecy is a cool and original movie (compare to Dogma, which is too campy and random by comparison.) But Lucifer seemed unimpressive, and I was not really pleased with the very slow pacing of the movie. The native witch doctoring seemed artificially tied in.
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I should say a word or two about a few other actors. Firstly, Tom Hanks. He is a fine actor that fully deserves best actor for Forrest Gump (though the film itself is much worse than Pulp Fiction.) But, I think hollywood has over indulged him with Philadelphia (which had excellent music, but not much of anything else) and Apollo 13. In both movies, Hanks barely measures up. Even to the stories of both films. America, get a grip. He's not that good. Second, Arnold Schwartzenegger. He has only one character. He is Conan, and he will always be Conan. Twins is the only movie where he comes close to being someone else, and when tried to be completely something else in Junior he fell flat on his face. His best movie's are True Lies (due mostly to the story) and Terminator. He should stick to playing Conan.
Well, I've been unfair to female actors, so let me just say that Jodie Foster is probably the strongest female actor there is, though I (as well as half the world) like Sandra Bullock who showed ability in the Net (a good film.) Unfortunately, female actors are basically rated by Hollywood for their ability to draw box office dollars based on an anticipated sex scene which means that they have no longevity. Exceptions to this rule are few (Goldie Hawn, Linda Hunt, Linda Hamilton and to a lesser extent Meg Ryan.) I hope both of the above mentioned actors have what it takes to overcome this.
Computers, Mathematics and Chess
Hollywood seems to have an incredible inability to treat technical subject matter with intelligence. For example, in Virtuosity, Star Trek, the X-Files and Clear and Present Danger, the kinds of things you see going on with computers are completely laughable. Virtuosity makes leaps that make no sense, in the typical hollywood way. I wanted to walk out of that movie a number of times. In Star Trek Spock says "Compute the last decimal place of PI". Ridiculous; how about "10 goto 10" or better yet "run Netscape"? How about the X-Files: "We can't copy this file, its protected" Huh? If you can read it, you can copy its contents no matter what can't you? In Clear and Present Danger, you see a guy cracking numeric passwords using patterns and permutations that go beyond stupidity. Worse yet, Harrison Ford gets proof of wrong doing in the white house by just barely (uh huh) getting a hard copy of a file he had on his screen, but somehow couldn't simply copy the files from one place to another.
Although the Net had numerous minor technical foibles, at least the general ideas were believable (keystroke tracking, "gate keeper security systems" more commonly known as firewalls, ad hoc cell-phone tracing, etc.) Similary, Apollo 13, being so incredibly faithful to what actually happened, was also believable. Why can't more films bother to put in the same effort to make sure they don't turn off the technical segments of their audience?
I can't say enough about the technical accuracy of Good Will Hunting. Being a math major myself, who has read a biography of the great mathematician Ramanujan, I can personally attest to the technical accuracy of the movie.
You see the same problems with Mathematics and Chess. Knight Moves, a movie about chess, was completely unbelievable. They made no references to openings I (who knows a little about the game) have ever heard of (they did not exist), or following of the official world championship tournaments or anything of that matter. The hero had no preparation regiment which is completely ridiculous for anyone playing for the world championship. In Star Trek, the fact that the computer had been modified was determined by Spock playing chess against it and beating it. In Sneakers, the mathematician who builds the password cracking mathematics takes his secret with him in death; but this is ridiculous, as a perusal of his notes should be sufficient to reverse engineer his solution without trouble. In Babylon 5, brother Theo and the captain are playing chess and after several minutes brother Theo makes a single move to deliver checkmate (in the real world between players of even moderate skill such an occurance would take a fraction of a second, if it even came to that.)
The theatrical versions of the Abyss, and Dune were extrememly tainted movies that I had difficulty watching. With the Abyss, the whole reason for the aliens being there was so unmotivated, and uninspiring when they revealed themselves in the end. I walked out of the theater with a big thumbs down. It started fine, but went downhill and never recovered. I then got a chance to see James Cameron's original vision with his cut of the movie. I thought it was absolutely fantastic; among the very best of Cameron's movies and good enough to make it into my favorites list. I'm told that Alien II with Cameron's extra footage makes for a superior film as well, but I have not yet had a chance to see it.
Dune was extremely hard to make into a movie no matter how you slice it. One of the reasons for its failure was that it was too long (nearly 3 hours). But I saw a new cut of it recently which was even longer, which ended up being a lot better due to some extra explanations at the beginning of the movie.
The director's cuts of Blade Runner is also superior to the theatrical release.
I consider Sleepless in Seatle one of the worst movies of all time. Is it because I'm a guy, and because the subject matter just doesn't appeal to me? No! Its just a BAD film. I hated all of the characters from the get go, and by the end just wanted them to all die horribly. This movie relied entirely on the annoying Meg Ryan + popular leading man formula and to my horror, this worked on far too many people. By contrast the movies When Harry met Sally, The Bridges of Madisen County and Immortal Beloved are far superior romantic movies that don't follow any formula.
The reason movies like Sleepless in Seatle, Eraser, Independence Day, Virtuosity, Natrual Born Killers, Basic Instinct and so on are made is because they follow simple stupid hollywood formulas. These movies get funded because of hollywood's blind adherence to "it worked before, it will work again" formulas. The results is hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on movies that anyone with good sense would have cancelled upon reading the script.
Tom Cruise, just recently produced and starred in the film "Mission: Impossible" (written by Zaillian). The beginning of the movie is set in Prague, Czechoslovakia, one of the most beautiful cities on earth. And they showed almost nothing of it. I was so disappointed. I've been to Prague; they could have spent half the movie just panning, and doing some daytime scenes of the streets, some of the views, and the bridges. Anyone with the least bit of appreciation for that sort of thing would have absolutely loved it. But no. Mostly at night, one bridge, they never bother to look up at the wonderful spires, they skip over the famous square ... what was the point of going to Prague at all? Yes, I understand wanting to keep the movie fast paced, but this was at the beginning. They could easily have done it and made the movie that much more worth while. Oh, well. Its not a bad movie (if you overlook the absolute stupidity of the CIA Noc-list computer security system, and that fact that someone wanted a Cray laptop; excuse me? The entire point of Cray's computers is not to be constrained by size or power utilization limitations) but just a few simple changes could have made this a very good movie.