What's your favourite movie?
A British newspaper has been running a series of columns lately, with their journalists all getting a chance to write about their favourite movies. While reading a recent entry two things came to mind. One is that "what's your favourite movie?" must be the greatest, most succinct, most conversation-enabling question of all time, while the other was that I discovered I had never really given "my favourite movie" much thought.
I'm a fan of all things film, equally happy watching Norwegian fisherman ponderously discussing the meaning of sturgeon in subtitles and Bruce Willis blowing up asteroids with his unique combination of sass and drilling skills. But if you'd asked me a few days ago to name my favourite movie I would have been stumped - momentarily, of course.
Eventually I would have offered something like Die Hard or Terminator 2. Perhaps I would have said True Romance, or maybe that perennial pleaser The Shawshank Redemption. I like Dirty Dancing, too (admit it, so do you. Everyone does). And even the Muppets' Christmas Carol. Or how about Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters and Scrooged (the ultimate Bill Murray trilogy)?
Matt Damon's Bourne movies also get plenty of airtime in my house, for who doesn’t love an angelic-looking amnesiac spy kicking ass with books and rolled up magazines every now and again? For sheer freak-me-out-in-the-dead-of-night value Event Horizon is right up there too, while the musical numbers of Disney's Aladdin, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast add a happy (and less unsettling) counterweight.
While writing this I decided that Back to the Future was my favourite movie – it's fun, funny and, surprisingly for a movie filmed in 1985, not radically outdated if you watch it now. Coming a close second would be Die Hard (it's an undeniable fact of the movies that once you add Alan Rickman to a scene - not even a whole movie, just a scene - said scene is instantly catapulted to classic status).
However, as soon as I decided that Back to the Future was my favourite movie, I quickly realised it wasn't my favourite movie-watching experience. For the absolute formative viewing of my youth, and I can't believe I almost forgot this, the awesomely atrocious kung fu movies of the 1980s get my thumbs up. In the words of Barry Ronge, they’re all an Exhilarating Eight.
Everybody was kung fu fighting
My parents often left my brother and me to our own devices on the weekends or during school holidays. To pass the time we’d raid the nearest video store for every questionable action movie ever made. We’d spend hours in front of the TV watching classics like American Ninja (white kung fu master, Samurai swords!) and Jackie Chan's early Chinese classics: Drunken Master, Wheels on Meals and Police Story. Movies with titles like Pray for Death (Sho Kosugi - who? Exactly!) and China O’Brien (featuring female martial artist Cynthia Rothrock kicking redneck butt) were staples for the Moseley boys. Not to mention late 80s gems like Black Eagle, Bloodsport and Jean Claude van Damme's attempt at dystopian depression in Cyborg (and I think Angelina Jolie was even in that - let me just double check - nope, but she was in the sequel).
Often, my mom would come home to find Steven bleeding profusely from the head. "Why is your brother bleeding!" she would screech (not unreasonably, I guess). Uh, well, it's actually quite obvious, mom. He was the evil ninja, and the evil ninja always gets round-housed in the head by the good ninja (me. Always. I am the older brother after all...)
Of course, as the 80s drew to a close my tastes became more refined, and I moved away from the slapstick buffoonery of Jackie Chan towards the more sophisticated, not to mention po-faced, stylings of Steven Seagal. He’s given us Above the Law and Hard to Kill (baddies blew him up, shot him and burnt his house down - and he lived! No way!) and, in fact, in a roundabout manner, he's also given us the best movie ever. In the world. Forget what I said about Back to the Future.
Under Siege. That's it. The ultimate kick-ass kung fu movie, the culmination of 80s machismo and cinematic silliness. Gary Busy! Tommy Lee Jones! Nuclear weapons. Erika Eleniak jumping out of a cake! A chef! But that ain't no ordinary chef, that’s Casey Fucking Ryback. And Under Siege ain't no ordinary movie. It’s fan-fucking-tastic.
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