Stu Presents: His Favorite Movies!

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(the above image isn't my actual list, it's just to provide some visual flair here)

Yes, since favorite films lists seem to be all the rage here at the moment, I figured I'd get in on the action and start one of my own. I've actually been thinking of making one of these for a while now, but I wanted it to be either be a list of a hundred of my "five star" movies with full reviews (a number I may never reach, at the rate I'm finishing reviews these days), or just a smaller top ten to give a little sample of my taste, but I figured the latter wouldn't be enough, so I'm just going to post all of my five star reviews in here, as a way to collect them all in one place, and hopefully inspire some discussion about the movies in question.


Anyway, these are going to be all old reviews that I've already finished, so there's no chance of me losing interest and abandoning this halfway through (or earlier) like with my earlier threads here. I'm going to try posting one review per week, and get my more "normie" picks out of the way first (though my general taste right now is pretty normie anyway, just to warn ya'll), and then go from there until I've exahusted all of these reviews (which is 17 at the moment, unless I end up writing any more by the time I get to the end of those, which isn't super-likely), and then just leave this thread in position until I write another one, so I can perodically update this with any new reviews of my all-time faves. Anyway, I think you guys get the gist of this by now, so I'll stop blathering so you can get ready for the greatness to come, yo! And of course, a SPOILER warning is in effect for every movie I write about here, so you've been warned.



The Dark Knight (Nolan, '08)



He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector... a Dark Knight.

Okay, okay, I get it... the last thing the world needed was even more discussion of The Dark Knight; after all, if you take into account both its critical acclaim and massive commercial success, with it being the first superhero movie to break the $1 billion mark worldwide, and the (former) best reviewed superhero movie of all time on Rotten Tomatoes, it's probably the most important, influential blockbuster of at least the past fifteen years, if not even longer. Very few films have so throughly dominated the cultural zeitgeist for so long, not just in 2008, but ever since as well, but even given all of this acknowledged, overblown hooplah, I still wanted, needed to revisit this movie regardless; like so many other people, it made a huge impact on me upon its release, basically hypnotizing me in the theater and instantly becoming one of my favorite films. But, despite that, I was still reluctant for a long time to watch it again it, since I was afraid it wouldn't hold up as well, and I wanted to preserve that great memory of the one (and only) time I saw it for as long as possible. Fortunately, I'm extremely happy to say that, despite a couple of minor flaws making themself more apparent this time around, The Dark Knight has held up absolutely superbly, remaining an incredibly ambitious, audacious effort from Christopher Nolan, and cementing its status as not only my #1 superhero movie, but also one of my favorite films of all time, period.

First off, though, I'll discuss the newfound problems that I discovered with the film upon my most recent viewing, chief among which is the film's habit of relying on clunky, blatant exposition, delivered through incredibly unnatural-sounding dialogue, where the characters spoonfeed us the Nolan brothers' rather naive, black-and-white moral outlooks (at one point, a character literally says "This city just showed you that it's full of people ready to believe in good"... ugh). The characters too often talk like they're aware of the presence of the audience that they're currently lecturing to, and sound like no real person ever would, a problem that could've easily been fixed with just a little more polish on the writing side of things. In addition to that, the film doesn't always pace itself the best when it comes to its editing and overall structure, sometimes rushing through certain moments and scenes by cutting away too quickly, instead of giving things room to properly breathe, along with having an overly compressed overall timeline, with too many events happening one on top of the other on top of the other at times. And finally, the film's inclusion of a certain legally-dubious surveillance system feels like an unnecessary, half-baked nod to a post-9/11 "surveillance state" (as if this movie needed any more echoes of that event), which mostly skirts the issue of the spotty righteousness of Batman's particular breed of vigilantism, and continues the bad habit of the The Dark Knight trilogy for trying to cram poorly-integrated technological McGuffins into their plots.

Still, even with those moderate flaws, there's still more than enough greatness contained within The Dark Knight to render it a great film on the whole, and first and foremost among its many strengths has to be the tremendous overall scope and relentless intensity of the entire affair, right from the beginning of its Michael Mann-inspired opening bank heist, until the final, iconic note that concludes its 2 & 1/2 hour long saga. This is not your father's Batman movie by any stretch of the imagination, but more like an epic, multi-layered crime drama that just so happens to have Batman in it, which does at times cause something of a disconnect between the film's grounded nature and the inherently silly imagery of a grown man fighting crime while dressed as a bat. But for the most part, The Dark Knight finds a good balance, creating a unique reality that simultaneously feels plausible and heightened at the same time, with the two qualities serving to strengthen the other, as the film presents to us a more realistic version of Gotham City, albeit one that's still populated by the legendary heroes and villains of the storied Batman canon, including Heath Ledger's iconic, Oscar-winning portrayal of the ultimate Bat-baddy, The Joker.

Ledger's gleefully sadistic Joker is a complete force of nature here, always stealing the show regardless of whatever else is going on in the scene, as his hideously scarred visage, creepy facial tics, and mocking, off-kilter line deliveries dovetale with his random acts of terror and anarchy to create not only the perfect foil to Batman, but the first Batvillian to feel like he could actually defeat Batman (in an ideological sense as well as a physical one). It's a true tour-de-force performance, one that gives Batman's greatest foe a far darker, more malevolent spin, unlike any of his previous live-action characterizations, and Ledger's Joker is rendered even more disturbing by Hans Zimmer's dissonant score, which prominently features razor blades run across stringed instruments in order to intill an appropriately sinister, unsettling musical motif for the character. Tragically, Ledger passed away before the film's release, but his Joker has still gone down in history as one of cinema's greatest villians, a fact further canonized by the richly deserved, post-humous Academy Award he won for Best Supporting Actor for his performance here. And, despite the occasionally clunky writing, the film's central conflict between, and discussions of, the struggle between order and chaos in society, the two forces that Batman and The Joker so vividly represent, give the film a real world relevance that no live-action Batfilm (and very few superhero films) have ever had before, in my humle opinion.

But of course, none of the characters, including The Joker, would count for as much without Nolan's incredibly ambitious hands guiding the film, as he truly swings for the fences here and constantly hits homers while doing so, creating an epic, multi-faceted, larger than life tale, driven by a dark, tragic tone, busy (in a good way) plotting, and an absolutely propulsive overall pace, almost never slowing down, but continually ramping things up to an almost unbearable degree, with a dread-laden, almost apocalyptic tone underpinning the whole affair. This is truly an uncommonly, undeniably powerful piece of pop entertainment, and all in all, my rewatch has convinced me that the (dark) knight in shining armor of modern-day cinema is officially here to stay, for a long, long time.

Favorite Moment:



The Dark Knight (Nolan, '08)



He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector... a Dark Knight.

Okay, okay, I get it... the last thing the world needed was even more discussion of The Dark Knight; after all, if you take into account both its critical acclaim and massive commercial success, with it being the first superhero movie to break the $1 billion mark worldwide, and the (former) best reviewed superhero movie of all time on Rotten Tomatoes, it's probably the most important, influential blockbuster of at least the past fifteen years, if not even longer. Very few films have so throughly dominated the cultural zeitgeist for so long, not just in 2008, but ever since as well, but even given all of this acknowledged, overblown hooplah, I still wanted, needed to revisit this movie regardless; like so many other people, it made a huge impact on me upon its release, basically hypnotizing me in the theater and instantly becoming one of my favorite films. But, despite that, I was still reluctant for a long time to watch it again it, since I was afraid it wouldn't hold up as well, and I wanted to preserve that great memory of the one (and only) time I saw it for as long as possible. Fortunately, I'm extremely happy to say that, despite a couple of minor flaws making themself more apparent this time around, The Dark Knight has held up absolutely superbly, remaining an incredibly ambitious, audacious effort from Christopher Nolan, and cementing its status as not only my #1 superhero movie, but also one of my favorite films of all time, period.

First off, though, I'll discuss the newfound problems that I discovered with the film upon my most recent viewing, chief among which is the film's habit of relying on clunky, blatant exposition, delivered through incredibly unnatural-sounding dialogue, where the characters spoonfeed us the Nolan brothers' rather naive, black-and-white moral outlooks (at one point, a character literally says "This city just showed you that it's full of people ready to believe in good"... ugh). The characters too often talk like they're aware of the presence of the audience that they're currently lecturing to, and sound like no real person ever would, a problem that could've easily been fixed with just a little more polish on the writing side of things. In addition to that, the film doesn't always pace itself the best when it comes to its editing and overall structure, sometimes rushing through certain moments and scenes by cutting away too quickly, instead of giving things room to properly breathe, along with having an overly compressed overall timeline, with too many events happening one on top of the other on top of the other at times. And finally, the film's inclusion of a certain legally-dubious surveillance system feels like an unnecessary, half-baked nod to a post-9/11 "surveillance state" (as if this movie needed any more echoes of that event), which mostly skirts the issue of the spotty righteousness of Batman's particular breed of vigilantism, and continues the bad habit of the The Dark Knight trilogy for trying to cram poorly-integrated technological McGuffins into their plots.

Still, even with those moderate flaws, there's still more than enough greatness contained within The Dark Knight to render it a great film on the whole, and first and foremost among its many strengths has to be the tremendous overall scope and relentless intensity of the entire affair, right from the beginning of its Michael Mann-inspired opening bank heist, until the final, iconic note that concludes its 2 & 1/2 hour long saga. This is not your father's Batman movie by any stretch of the imagination, but more like an epic, multi-layered crime drama that just so happens to have Batman in it, which does at times cause something of a disconnect between the film's grounded nature and the inherently silly imagery of a grown man fighting crime while dressed as a bat. But for the most part, The Dark Knight finds a good balance, creating a unique reality that simultaneously feels plausible and heightened at the same time, with the two qualities serving to strengthen the other, as the film presents to us a more realistic version of Gotham City, albeit one that's still populated by the legendary heroes and villains of the storied Batman canon, including Heath Ledger's iconic, Oscar-winning portrayal of the ultimate Bat-baddy, The Joker.

Ledger's gleefully sadistic Joker is a complete force of nature here, always stealing the show regardless of whatever else is going on in the scene, as his hideously scarred visage, creepy facial tics, and mocking, off-kilter line deliveries dovetale with his random acts of terror and anarchy to create not only the perfect foil to Batman, but the first Batvillian to feel like he could actually defeat Batman (in an ideological sense as well as a physical one). It's a true tour-de-force performance, one that gives Batman's greatest foe a far darker, more malevolent spin, unlike any of his previous live-action characterizations, and Ledger's Joker is rendered even more disturbing by Hans Zimmer's dissonant score, which prominently features razor blades run across stringed instruments in order to intill an appropriately sinister, unsettling musical motif for the character. Tragically, Ledger passed away before the film's release, but his Joker has still gone down in history as one of cinema's greatest villians, a fact further canonized by the richly deserved, post-humous Academy Award he won for Best Supporting Actor for his performance here. And, despite the occasionally clunky writing, the film's central conflict between, and discussions of, the struggle between order and chaos in society, the two forces that Batman and The Joker so vividly represent, give the film a real world relevance that no live-action Batfilm (and very few superhero films) have ever had before, in my humle opinion.

But of course, none of the characters, including The Joker, would count for as much without Nolan's incredibly ambitious hands guiding the film, as he truly swings for the fences here and constantly hits homers while doing so, creating an epic, multi-faceted, larger than life tale, driven by a dark, tragic tone, busy (in a good way) plotting, and an absolutely propulsive overall pace, almost never slowing down, but continually ramping things up to an almost unbearable degree, with a dread-laden, almost apocalyptic tone underpinning the whole affair. This is truly an uncommonly, undeniably powerful piece of pop entertainment, and all in all, my rewatch has convinced me that the (dark) knight in shining armor of modern-day cinema is officially here to stay, for a long, long time.

Favorite Moment:

I'm not a fan of The Dark Knight movie, so take this comment with a grain of salt, but I've always felt that the movie has received such high praise because of Heath Ledger's phenomenal performance as The Joker, rather than the movie itself.

Having said that, it's interesting to read how highly you rate the movie without even mentioning Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne.
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I'm not a fan of The Dark Knight movie, so take this comment with a grain of salt, but I've always felt that the movie has received such high praise because of Heath Ledger's phenomenal performance as The Joker, rather than the movie itself.

Having said that, it's interesting to read how highly you rate the movie without even mentioning Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne.
Ledger's performance is a big part of why I still feel it's a great movie, but it's far from the only one, since there are plenty of great aspects of that movie that don't strictly have to do with his performance, even in the scenes he's present in, like that great score from Zimmer & Howard, or Nolan's intense overall direction:





Anyway, as for the point about me not mentioning Bale's Batman, I feel that that's just often a natural result of the characterizations, since, even though he's the protagonist, Batman is still the brooding, serious, orderly counterpoint to his far more anarchic rogue's gallery, so he tends to be less entertaining to watch as a result, sort of like the way Killmonger overshadowed Black Panther in his movie, you know?



The Dark Knight is middle-of-the-pack Nolan for me, but I still think it's still pretty good. Never been a favorite for me though. Regardless, looking forward to this list



The Dark Knight is middle-of-the-pack Nolan for me, but I still think it's still pretty good. Never been a favorite for me though. Regardless, looking forward to this list
It's one of his best movies for me, but I would still put Memento slightly above it, due to the latter movie being less flawed, so I kind of agree with you in that respect.



...plenty of great aspects of that movie...like that great score from Zimmer & Howard...
True story: I once listened to the entire movie score for Dark Night but didn't watch the movie...I was in the kitchen cleaning while my wife watched the movie so I just heard it. The score did sound powerfully.



I'm not a fan of The Dark Knight movie, so take this comment with a grain of salt, but I've always felt that the movie has received such high praise because of Heath Ledger's phenomenal performance as The Joker, rather than the movie itself.

A bit off topic but that's EXACTLY how I feel about Joker. Joaquin Phoenix is so good in that movie but the movie stinks. As far as the Dark Knight, I think it's really, very good for about two hours.
stuff but that last half hour drops it a popcorn box. The Harvey Dent/Two Face stuff seems tacked on. That angle should have been its own movie. However, Bale is good as Wayne but his Batman is no match for Ledgers Joker. Not Bales fault though. Joker is way more interesting, is a lot more fun and Ledger gives a performances for the ages.



A bit off topic but that's EXACTLY how I feel about Joker. Joaquin Phoenix is so good in that movie but the movie stinks. As far as the Dark Knight, I think it's really, very good for about two hours.
stuff but that last half hour drops it a popcorn box. The Harvey Dent/Two Face stuff seems tacked on. That angle should have been its own movie. However, Bale is good as Wayne but his Batman is no match for Ledgers Joker. Not Bales fault though. Joker is way more interesting, is a lot more fun and Ledger gives a performances for the ages.
Well, I thought Joker was pretty good too despite its flaws, so we'll have to agree to disagree on that one, as well as on the third act of TDK. I do get the criticism of it, but even after noticing the flaws of the movie more the second time, that section never felt truly tacked-on or rushed to me (or at least, any more rushed than the first two acts did); I mean, that final shot of Bats driving away on the cycle? So iconic. However, if you feel that way, you may be interested in this part of this video here, since this guy did a fan edit of how TDK would've ended had it finished up after the second act:

h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1ohTeNqmAQ&t=1285s



Heather Ledger in Brokerback Mountain > Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Just an opinion.



Anyway, as for the point about me not mentioning Bale's Batman, I feel that that's just often a natural result of the characterizations, since, even though he's the protagonist, Batman is still the brooding, serious, orderly counterpoint to his far more anarchic rogue's gallery, so he tends to be less entertaining to watch as a result, sort of like the way Killmonger overshadowed Black Panther in his movie, you know?

I haven't seen Black Panther yet, but I think I understand what you mean.



True story: I once listened to the entire movie score for Dark Night but didn't watch the movie...I was in the kitchen cleaning while my wife watched the movie so I just heard it. The score did sound powerfully.

I did that with the movie Shrek once. I'm sure it was much more entertaining than just listening to The Dark Night.



Heather Ledger in Brokerback Mountain > Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Just an opinion.
Still need to watch that one, though I do use the "I wish I knew how to quit you" GIF all the time, heh.



Heather Ledger in Brokerback Mountain > Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Just an opinion.
They are two really different, but really powerful performances. It's almost hard to compare them. I think that some of his choices in Brokeback Mountain are excellent and I certainly feel his performance in that film as opposed to enjoying his performance as the Joker.



Heather Ledger in Brokerback Mountain > Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Just an opinion.
Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain = Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight



They are two really different, but really powerful performances. It's almost hard to compare them. I think that some of his choices in Brokeback Mountain are excellent and I certainly feel his performance in that film as opposed to enjoying his performance as the Joker.
To keep this Batman-related, I feel similarly when I compare Ledger's Joker to Catwoman in Batman Returns; I mean, they're certainly on the same level performance-wise, but I still find the latter character more compelling because the former is less of a person, and more of a presence in his film, as a manifestation of an abstract concept (that being the various forces of chaos). I mean, he works wonderfully for his movie, but he's still not as interesting as that version of Catwoman, since, for all of Michelle's campy/vampy affectations as a bumbling, socially-awkward nerd or a sexually-charged femme fatale (which she was generally convincing at anyway), she still came off as a very "human" sort of character overall, one who struggled with a lot of relatable personal tragedies in her movie, and demanded our sympathies more as a result:




I mean, he works wonderfully for his movie, but he's still not as interesting as that version of Catwoman, since, for all of Michelle's campy/vampy affectations as a bumbling, socially-awkward nerd or a sexually-charged femme fatale (which she was generally convincing at anyway), she still came off as a very "human" sort of character overall, one who struggled with a lot of relatable personal tragedies in her movie, and begged for her sympathies as a result:
I think that it comes down to what the film itself demands. I think that the degree of abstraction to the Joker works in that film, just as Pfieffer's more "human" villain works for her film.

Now, all that said, there's something about Batman movies that makes me powerfully uncomfortable and I have ZERO idea what it is. Thus I've never rewatched one of them, with the exception of (BRACE YOURSELVES) Batman Forever because it came out just when I was at the age where you watched movies way more times than they deserved and also when your younger sibling was really into Jim Carrey.