[03] Top 30 Personal Favorite Films [2001 - 2008]

11:52 AM Joseph Aberl 0 Comments

We have finally arrived in the cinematic age of my youth and teenage years. While I did enjoy seeing films at the time, I will not lie that it still took until 2008 before I truly dived into the world of cinemaand actually started thinking about what makes a film great for me. I know that my Top 15 already go pretty far in to the new millenium maybe because certain films just stick with me longer and it shows this is the time period were I got more conscious of films and that I still lack a lot of classics, because I didn't grow up with them or I have yet not seen them. Before I drift off into explaining myself, I think it is time to continue the list.

Most of the great films have some kind of interesting twist that is teased throughout the film, but you never catch up on it until the end when it already surprised you. While I absolutely adore Fight Club, I personally believe that Oldboy not only has an incredible twist, but one with absolutely scary implications. There is something rather scarily fascinating about how far someone will go to get revenge on someone. The film sets you in a similar position as the protagonist, as if you think about it closely you too are stuck in your room unable to do anything for around two hours watching all these events unfold in front of you.

The story slowly unfolds in front of your eyes as you follow a man, who has simply lost his mind being trapped in a room for so many years only to suddenly be cast outside into a world so familiar yet so new. One could easily state the film as one of the best due to the amazing camera work and performances, but I wonder if it is for me personally simply due to the travel. Oh Dae-su is not a perfect man, but you still believe that he has some good in him. Yet being trapped in a single room for 15 years would drive anyone insane.

My personal favorite scene ironically is not the most famous one, him fighting his way through a horde of people with a hammer, which is quite a beautiful scene, but actually a rather subtle one. The reason I prefer this twist more than the one from Fight Club is due to the way it is presented. In one way, Fight Club is forced to spell it out to you, but gives you small hints and glimpses in the past, while Oldboy forces you to slowly put the puzzles together on your own as Dae-su slowly uncovers the truth while you tremble of the realization what happened. You know what the worst part of it all is? Dae-su’s only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Scary thought, isn’t it? 

Kung Fu Hustle
I have always come to love kung fu films, but none have ever given me so much to laugh for like Kung Fu Hustle. I sadly haven’t seen any Jackie Chan films in a while, but by pure coincidence came upon this film and couldn’t stop laughing.  Chinese humor is quite unique and may be even funnier due to the strange way they are translated into another language. I have watched this film in Chinese with English subtitles, the German and English dub and somehow no matter which version I watch I cannot stop laughing. The humor translates extremely well and there are many fascinating characters to follow. Strangely enough though our main character is actually kind of an idiot, who has a good heart but simply does wrong and even go as far as to mock the “messiah” storylines in my eyes. The chosen one won’t always be a good-hearted man, but a man with flaws, who by pure coincidence have the potential to become a master even if he just purchased the book to the ultimate technique from a street peddler.

If you have seen Stephen Chow’s other films it is hard to deny that this is simply his style of humor. Kung Fu Hustle seems like the expansion of his previous film Shaolin Soccer, even with many of the actors returning for this film. Yet it feels as if this tiem around a lot of elements feel a bit more grounded with the humor and ups the ways kung fu can be used. While the effects in some points are a bit cheesy, this film actually reminds me of a Chinese interpretation of the Looney Tunes. The way people are hurt or damaged from fighting has that kind of effect to it that reminds me of that type of humor. Not much to say but that I just enjoy the film for what it is, a great time from start to finish.   

The Dark Knight
As much as I have fond memories of the original Batman from 1989, I cannot deny the beauty that is The Dark Knight. In part I confess this is due to Heath Ledger’s performance, which is just absolutely amazing, but also the way Christopher Nolan films Batman. Out of all the heroes that have existed, he truly is the one I could always imagine existing in the real world and within this hyper-reality context it works almost too well. Batman Begins gives us enough of a look into the psyche behind Bruce Wayne and why he would dawn the cap and cowl, but The Dark Knight defines him as Batman.

This is a political film featuring a vigilante in a bat costume. While it is named The Dark Knight, it is in fact more about the ensemble that surrounds Batman more than anything else. The evolution of Harvey Dent into the character he was meant to become and Gordon having to make sacrifices to ensure the safety of his loved ones. While the film is dialogue heavy, it does use its dialogue effectively to cement these characters, their beliefs and even their futures.

What fascinates me the most about this film that no matter how dark the story went, how political the entire subject matter became, there was still some light humor here and there. No matter how bleak the future seemed, and this film certainly proves that it can, there will always be some light in the darkness. No matter how dark the film got and whatever chaos the Joker had left behind him, there was always a slight glimmer of hope for whatever could happen. No one can deny that Heath Ledger was able to balance the humor and the darkness behind the character of the Joker. His performance defined what people expect to see from a villain in these films, a complexity not many can compare to. Even more, his performance strongly reflects the film in general, why it is on this list. Either you die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Gran Torino
I wonder if I love this film not only due to the incredible performances all around, but also due to the way it handles the subject matter. The topic surrounding illegal immigration is one that probably will always be an issue, which makes this film timeless to me. Yet the irony of having a Korean War veteran end up living next to a Korean family is a bit cruel, but in that cruelty lays the brilliance of this film. Setting these two opposites allows us a look into these two distinctive cultures. A man who wants to live his life alone simply because he has come to even hate his own family, who mainly are waiting for him to pass away so that they can inherit the last of what he has. This person then slowly comes to grip with his fate and learns to love a new family, maybe make up for the mistakes he has done in the past. One cannot deny that Clint Eastwood is the perfect grumpy old man.

Another aspect of this film you have to come to love is the general theme of humanity and acceptance. We all have to learn to accept that things change and it’s a journey once again that we must go through with Eastwood’s character Walt. Left all alone with his love passed away and a family he cannot stand, he ends up looking for kinship. This film proves to us that no matter what differences we have, people can still bond over the simplest of things and new friendships can evolve out of those. All of it builds up to a fantastic and almost depressing ending, as sometimes we are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice even for those friends we have just come to know. Things change and we are forced to adapt to them, but maybe in the end that change will change us as well, bringing out a side we ourselves never knew about.

Iron Man & Marvel Cinematic Universe
This might seem strange, but I have to make an exception in my list. I absolutely adore the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to two reasons. First of all, it is an ever-expanding universe so in a way it is more than just one film, but a series of events that tell the story of an entire universe. In a sense, each film replaces the one that came before it as a continuous growth of the franchise. I enjoy Iron Man 2 even with its faults, Guardians of the Galaxy has some incredible performances and a lot of laughs, Avengers: Age of Ultron has an amazing villain in the form of Ultron and I am pretty sure the same will happen with Ant-Man. So it is difficult for me to really pin down one film out of the entire franchise that I truly prefer to put on this list in comparison to all the others.

The reason I did write Iron Man though is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe actually only exist on this list due to the pure coincidence of me stumbling upon this film. I never truly read comics before this film. This film in a way actually inspired me to purchase some and slowly find out more about the franchise. I knew about superheroes such as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and some of the characters I loved from the cartoon series, but never truly explored the lore behind it all. This film though brought me into the world of comics. My fascination to follow the Box Office was due to this film, wanting to see what happens with these films.

Iron Man and all films that followed have set me on the path that I am following at this moment. They have inspired me to write my own stories, to take a deeper look at films and TV series, explore everything behind them, may it range from their financials to marketing. It cemented a dream in my head I am still actively following for around six years now that I ant to finish my studies and work for Marvel Studios. As soon as I finally am able to force myself to write the “About Me” section I will explore this in more detail, but due to this love I am kind of cheating with this list and state that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is on my list ever since I have seen the first Iron Man back in 2008 putting me on quite a long path.