|Most of my A-list of directors and actors are represented in a list of personal favorites, which emphasize strong cinematography and performances over plot, setting, or genre.
|ASHES OF TIME
1994, Wong Kar-wai
Wong, with frequent collaborators cinematographer Christopher Doyle and art director William Cheung, created one of the most cinematically stunning movies ever made, and my absolute favorite film.
|THE BIG EASY
1987, Jim McBride
Ah, New Orleans. The food, the music, the heat, the ooze of corruption, Ellen Barkin's hesitant sexuality, and Dennis Quaid's deliciously wicked grin.
1982, Ridley Scott
Still my top choice for dystopian futuristic film noir cinema.
|THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR
1992, Ronnie Yu
A close to perfect film: inspired casting, original visuals, and Shakespearean romantic tragedy spiced with the fantastic. Also quintessentially Hong Kong -- ie, tremendously entertaining.
|A CHINESE GHOST STORY
1987, Ching Siu-tung
The combination of humor, action, horror and romance blends perfectly to make this an ideal introduction to the world of Asian period martial arts fantasy.
|FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE
1993, Chen Kaige
Socially and politically groundbreaking, Chen's masterpiece is also a compelling personal story of the long and complex relationship between two Peking opera singers. Considered by many to be the best (and certainly the most famous) performance of Leslie Cheung's stellar career.
1997, Curtis Hanson
Ensemble acting doesn't get any better than this brilliant adaptation of James Ellroy's complex noir crime novel distilled into star-revealing performances by Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, with a solid supporting cast.
|THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
1992, Michael Mann
The Miami Vice creator has made one of the most romantic historical epics of recent decades, featuring gorgeous cinematography, brutal and exhilarating action, and the smoldering pairing of Daniel Day Lewis and Madeleine Stowe.
|MY BRILLIANT CAREER
1979, Gillian Armstrong
Armstrong's first and still very watchable feature, with Judy Davis finding her true path as a young writer in early 20th century Australia (and jilting Sam Neill in the process!).
|MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO
1991, Gus Van Sant
Free-form odyssey of two young street hustlers, into which Van Sant audaciously drops plot elements, language, and dialogue structures from the Henry IV plays, is supported by surreal photography, peculiar music, and killer performances by River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves.
|THE NAVIGATOR A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY
1988, Vincent Ward
Led by a boy's visions, fourteenth century Cumbrian miners dig a tunnel to combat the Black Death approaching their village, and emerge in modern New Zealand. A time travel story without any of the usual cliches; great music, too.
|THE ROAD WARRIOR
1981, George Miller
The Australian contribution to post-apocalyptic myth, and the first violent action film I ever really enjoyed.
|ROMEO + JULIET
1996, Baz Luhrmann
Hard to choose among Luhrmann's uniformly excellent ouevre, but I just love the audacity of this Shakespeare adaptation.
1987, Stanley Kwan
Art film, time travel, ghost story, nostalgic look at 1930s Hong Kong society: my favorite of Kwan's movies, with a lovely nuanced performance by Anita Mui.
THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH
1994, John Sayles
As with all of Sayles' films, this quiet story of a Selkie living as a fisherman's wife, until she discovers her hidden seal skin and returns to the sea, is made all the more compelling because it explores human relationships without relying on spectacle.
1988, Mike Figgis
Underrated British noir gem; the four leads (Tommy Lee Jones, Melanie Griffith, Sean Bean and Sting) all give the best performances of their careers.
|THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD
1991, Nancy Kelly
Rosalind Chao and Chris Cooper costar in this story of a Chinese girl sold into marriage by her impoverished father who eventually finds her own way in a strange country filled with white demons.
|THRONE OF BLOOD
1957, Akira Kurasawa
Still the best cinematic adaptation of a Shakespeare play; Kurasawa and star Toshiro Mifune in top form.
|THE WIZARD OF OZ
1939, Victor Fleming
An American classic that has lost none of its charm after 60+ years.
|THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
1983, Peter Weir
Linda Hunt earned a supporting Oscar as photographer Billy Kwan, the moral center of a story set in turbulent Jakarta during Sukarno's last days in power. Mel Gibson headed into superstardom, and his chemistry with Sigourney Weaver is as steamy as the tropical climate.