The Best Most Watched Favorite Movie

The Last Emperor

There is a difference between the best and the favorite, as you may as well know. And those two may even be different from a third category, the most watched. These are non-exclusive but oftentimes mutual.

Case in point: The Last Emperor may be one of the best, favorite, and most watched movies known to me. So Pauline Kael disliked it, but her reasoning makes the film interesting to me. As I recall, she didn’t like the lack of agency Pu Yi had over his fate. But it just strengthens the contradiction that he had to bear…the coddling of the man who would be emperor for a position he would never be able to exercise. Of course, the thematic mastery is coupled with amazing cinematography by Vittorio Storaro, amazing acting by John Lone and Joan Chen and Peter O’Toole, and brought together by amazing director Bernardo Bertolucci. The team was awarded with 9 Oscars…one for every category it was nominated in including Best Picture. Still a shame though that none of the actors were allowed to join in the nominations…

Other contenders for best: The Godfather, Rules of the Game, All That Jazz

Favorite movie because it is one that seemed to tie things together for me. It was accessible as it was still in English, but provided a sense of otherworldliness…the music vacillates between the European tonalities written by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and the Asian pentatonicism written by Talking Heads member David Byrne. Just that Oscar-winning combination alone (also with Cong Su who did some more avant-garde scoring) was enough to ensure that I’d pay attention.

But it goes further. Sakamoto himself appears in the film as a Japanese colonialist. Of course, it was not unprecedented…he had appeared opposite David Bowie in the movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, which Sakamoto also scored. And to add further enjoyment, notable Chinese director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) appears as one of the Emperor’s guards. One last bit of trivia: Hans Zimmer gets a credit as a “score producer,” which was right before he hit the big time with his score for the Tom Cruise film Rainman. Artistic worlds collide seemingly effortlessly in Last Emperor.

Other contenders for favorite: Amadeus, Groundhog Day, Field of Dreams

Okay, but most of all, it is probably one of the most watched films of my life. This is saying something since it is nearly a 3 hour movie. Also it saying something that it gained the title of most watched before I hit high school. First I saw it in the movie theater. Then I watched it rather compulsively on tape. And then next came the couple of times I’ve seen it on DVD. I find myself being able to quote lots of it as I watch. Anytime you want to watch it with me, I’m down.

Other contenders for most watched: The Guns of Navarone, Star Trek III, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

So it was with some pleasure that I heard this track where turntablist Kid Koala decided to remix the Last Emperor’s main title theme (the David Byrne contribution). While it basically seems unchanged, he adds a nice beat as well as some scratched up Cantonese speaking.

Emperors Crash Course in Cantonese – Kid Koala

What’s your best/favorite/most watched movie(s)?

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