Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top Hong Kong Films

Over at, they've enjoyed a lot of community interaction recently with lists. Lists are awesome! It makes one have to dig into our memory, do a little research, and inevitability live in regret when we miss something that was so obvious to us the last time we gave our list verbally.

This time around, they've got the 200 top Hong Kong movies of all time. ALL TIME! Meaning, back into the stone ages. Not just the stuff from the golden, silver, and whatever they called the last 15 years of HK cinema.

To add on, they also have a supplimentary list for the main list this time around, the Best Hong Kong Film Performances Ever.

Here's my Top Ten list for best Hong Kong films ever. I will live in regret and modify the list at least 2 more times. But here goes:

10) C'est la vie, mon chéri - Sean Lau's subdued everyman with an secret talent act was quite amazing. A sign of things to come as he transitioned into HK movie leading man form from TVB solider. Anita Yuen was only 3+ years removed from Miss HK and had her breakout here. The story itself is gut wrenching and performances never get into the absurd. It's also a slice of a begone HK era that seems to be dying.

9) Once A Thief - I grew up in the 80s in love with Cherie Chung. It may have been the only reason I watched HK films in the late 80s. Pair them up with Chow and Cheung, WTH! Add a John Woo slow mo heist betrayal storyline? WTH indeed. I haven't seen this film recently, but it lives on in my memory of how awesome HK films were, how awesome Cherie Chung was, and just how awesome John Woo is. AWESOME!

8) Chinese Odyssey I/II - This really was two movies, but the main character was the same. The love story from part I was blown away from the love story in II. Yet, without one, two wouldn't have made sense. The desolation portrayed in Chow's movies is dissolved in light of the love story. Athena Chu was what really made the movie for me. Athena was in rare form, add a classic story, and you get an instant Chow classic.

7) Once Upon a Time in China I/II/III/IV - The second and fourth are my favorites. The second for the insane match vs. Donnie and the fourth for 14th aunt. The rest is what Tsui Hark was able to imprint on the Martial Arts genre via these films that would be felt for the rest of the 90s.

6) In The Mode For Love - I was in the first years of my career and still trying to reconcile working in the US or trying to find something in Asia. After this film, I wanted badly to move to Asia. The love torn relationship between the two spouses was sad and empty at the same time. The mode of the film made my melancholy life seem so plan and simple.

5) A Better Tomorrow (1986) - Shiao Ma made me love trench coats and shades. I was an impressionable teenager when I first saw this film and it left a mark. Mark Lee that is. Ti Lung was also a Shaw Bros favorite of mine that made the film so much better. Bromances are legit.

4) Infernal Affairs - This is the movie that can do a lot of crossover action. When this movie came out in 2002, I had lost almost all faith in HK cinema. I was watching too much crap and finding the gems did not seem worth the time. My attention at that time had shifted to Taiwanese idol dramas and the stuff from Korea. I paid very little attention to HK cinema. But Andy Lau and Tony Leung came out of nowhere to save the day and the industry. Andrew Lau must have been the luckiest guy to have this script fall into his lap that year. Undercover cops, both ways. What?! It was always one way before. The triad moles were never focused on before as well. This film changed it and it was a beauty to watch.

3) Dragon Inn - This remake should be on everyone's list of favorite wuxia films. The premise is pretty bullet proof. Just don't miss it up. Mystery, intrigue, and classic HK fighting made this movie a blast. You have all star performances from Tony Leung Ka-fai, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, and Donnie Yen.

2) Hard Boiled - This movie came out just as I was transitioning into a very important time in my life. During that time, I had only been a casual HK movie watcher. Really at the mercy of what my parents rented. However, I watched this during one of my many trips to my Grandparents in Cali's Monterey Park. My late grandfather's routine was to walk to the nearby Hong Kong Supermarket and buy the daily newspaper. I tagged along and got him to rent me the latest HK movie. Looking at the cover, I immediately recognized Chow and Leung, two of my favorit 80s actors. Got back and watched the glorifying terror that came of this John Woo masterpiece. The tea house gun battle, undercover cops, and the hospital was too much. My mind was blown. Seriously. I got back to my side of the tracks and immediately got an account at my local vide store. I was no longer going to be held at the mercy of my parents account. I wanted to own my destiny. From a casual watcher to a HK cinema freak I became.

1) Chungking Express - this is more of an emotional pick. When this movie came out, I was head over heels in love with HK movies. I was at the local video stores every week begging for them to save me a copy of the new releases. At that time, it wasn't uncommon to walk in and have all 50 VHS copies rented out. And if someone else started on the next TVB drama, you had to wait and try your luck. They only carried 2 or 3 sets at a time. When I had movies that went beyond my 3 days, I would gets calls from the store to return my copies. That's how crazy it was during that time. The LA video store scene was quite popular and had 1 or 2 at every major supermarket plaza area. Nowadays, you'll be hard pressed to still find one in business. This movie came out as I was starting to fall more and more in love with Faye Wong. Faye Wong however is why this movie meant so much to me. The topics this movie explored epitomized my life at that time. Isolated, trying to figure it out, what's life going to be like when I have to be responsible, etc., etc. Argh, just thinking back to this time almost 20 years ago makes me more than a little nostalgic.

Tony Leung has and continues to be my favorite TVB actor from the Five Tigers. Brigitte Lin and Takeshi Kaneshiro's story arc only added to the mysticism of HK for me. I would visit HK in 2000 for my only trip there, but my 4 days there came after the handover and when I was very disfranchised with Asian entertainment in general, especially HK movies.

For glory, for love, and mainly nostaligia, my number one HK movie of all time is Chungking Express.

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