Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Top 5 Movie Guide: Christian Bale

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we take a look at the star of the latest Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises", Christian Bale. Unlike many of the actors we focus on in these posts, Bale has actually spent most of his life as an actor. Incredibly fascinated by the medium even at a young age, Bale always knew acting was what he wanted to focus his life on. At various stages in his life he was accepted to prestigious acting schools, only to ultimately turn them down to focus on his work. To this day he regrets never being formally trained.


Bale started his career in British commercials and made-for-TV movies, but got his Hollywood break when he beat out over 4,000 child actors for his role in Steven Spielberg's film, "Empire of the Sun". Since then, Bale has impressed critics and fans alike at almost every stop. Most fans today will look at the Batman films as the highlight of the actors career, and interestingly, not only is Bale the first-non American to play the role, but he's also the youngest ever as well. He had to drop his thick British accent for the film, but since Bale is known in the industry for having an uncanny knack for picking up and adapting different accents, it wasn't too much trouble. In fact, knowing how passionate Batman fans are about the character, every time he does an interview about the films, he stays in his American accent as to not off-put fans who know the character is American.

We'll finish with one interesting little tidbit, then it's on to the lists! Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio have been linked in a couple of different films, splitting the victories. In 1996, it was down to both Bale and DiCaprio for the role of Jack Dawson in James Cameron's film, "Titanic". The studio ultimately ended up going with DiCaprio, as he was actually an American (and the part called for that of an American). But Bale got him back a few years later when DiCaprio was originally chosen to play Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho". But Bale auditioned for the role and met with the producers, and ultimately they replaced DiCaprio for Bale. You can argue that DiCaprio came out ahead as "Titanic" proved to be a worldwide phenomenon, but both films helped to shape both actors' careers and get them to where they are today. Maybe Bale never ends up as Bruce Wayne/Batman if the story would have flipped.

Anyway, hit the jump for this week's lists!

Alex Schopp -
I realize I'll probably take some flack for not having either of his Batman films on this list, but everyone knows those movies; that's why we're here in the first place. Plus, I'm just gonna say it - I respect those movies much more than I actually like them. "Batman Begins" would have been the film to make this list if I were including one.

     1. The Fighter (2010)

This was my favorite movie of 2010 until I realized just how perfect "The Social Network" was/is. I still liked this movie a lot though, and Bale's character probably the strongest part. You just felt so bad for this guy. You wanted to dislike him, but you felt too bad to do so.
     2. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
I'm constantly loving modern westerns these days, and this is one of the better examples. Though Crowe's character is of more interest to me in this film, the relationship he has with Bale's character is still pretty great.
     3. The Prestige (2006)
A really interesting film that makes for a very enjoyable watch. While the performances don't stand-out quite as much with this film, but both Bale and Hugh Jackman are solid. Plus, I just love the idea that someone pitched an idea about rivaling magicians and it worked.
     4. American Psycho (2000)
One of the craziest performances The craziest performance I've ever seen from Christian Bale. This movie is an awkward blend of comedy and violence. 5-8 years ago I wouldn't have worried about promoting this film because I feel like watching this movie was the thing to do. Now I'm not how many newer movie-goers know of its existence.
     5. The Machinist (2004)
And likewise with this film. This one almost reached "Donnie Darko" status some time back with the hipster crowd (though, we didn't call them hipsters back then). Still an amazing character performance though, even if the watchability levels are quite low. But if you haven't heard of it or seen it, it's worth a watch just so you can know you did.

Ben Foutch -
This list is more of testament to his acting abilities mixed with a some watchability near the end.

     1. The Fighter (2010)

This is a knockout performance that sets itself apart from more of his already powerhouse roles.
     2. American Psycho (2000)
I love the satirical tones that drive the film. The violence just takes it over the top. Plus, he played the perfect sleazeball.
     3. The Machinist (2004)
I feel that while the film would be ranked low on Watchability, the Technical Proficiency is impossible to ignore. This is pure dedication.
     4. Batman Begins (2005)
Definitely makes the list for its watchability and overall enjoyment levels, but Bale still gave us a Bruce Wayne we haven't seen before. Plus, his Batman voice made for some great comedy.
     5. The Prestige (2006)
This is a unique, ambitious thriller that doesn't showcase any standout performances, but are still solid nonetheless. Expertly crafted.

Derek Clem -
While still keeping in mind the greatness of the films, I mostly wanted that aspect to take a backseat while making my choices. I gave the front seat to the greatness of Christian Bale's performance. If I were to rank my favorite Bale films not considering his performances, this list would look completely different.

     1. American Psycho (2000)

It's almost like he was channeling Jim Carrey.
     2. The Fighter (2010)
A very entertaining character piece.
     3. Rescue Dawn (2006)
You really get into his character's mind in this role. His mind is a very complex place in the quirkiest of ways. It's one of those situations where you feel like you know what's in his mind but you always have to second-guess yourself.
     4. Batman Begins (2005)
When you compare Bale's work alone in this movie to The Dark Knight, you don't feel the powerhouse effort on his part in the second installment. Here's hoping Bale goes full-force again in The Dark Knight Rises.
     5. Empire of the Sun (1987)
This is one of the all-time greatest child performances. So naturalistic. It feels like perfect acting.

Nathan Hinds -
One of the best dramatic actors of the 21st century.

     1. The Dark Knight (2008)

It's my favorite movie that's a stand alone film.
     2. Batman Begins (2005)
Look, I could throw another film in here for variety-sake instead of having both Batman films listed, but if I would have put a different movie in its place, I still would've had to put a note about how "Batman Begins" really should be on the list. So instead of throwing another film on here that doesn't really deserve it (not that he doesn't have more than five great films), I'm going back to my origins of making my lists my pure favorites.
     3. 3:10 To Yuma (2007)
In my opinion, the best western that has come out since my all-time favorite western, "Tombstone". Plus, the newer version of 3:10 is far superior to the original.
     4. Rescue Dawn (2006)
Such a great performance on his part. I think we can go ahead and say that nobody plays a malnourished character better than Christian Bale, although has anyone ever really tried to compile that list (challenge?).
     5. The Fighter (2010)
There were a lot of films I wanted to put in that spot, although that happens with a lot of these lists. Today, "The Fighter" made the cut.

Andy Schopp -

     1. American Psycho (2000)

One of the best/craziest performances I have ever seen. Plus the movie is really good too!
     2. The Fighter (2010)
It feels like he actually became a crack addict for this movie. I'm sure that he didn't, but he pulls it off well.
     3. Rescue Dawn (2006)
Once again, just an all-around good movie with a great performance from Bale. I'm beginning to think that this guys just CANNOT mess up when it comes to acting.
     4. Batman Begins (2005)
I have always liked the buildup in this story more than in "The Dark Knight". I think TDK is great, but I think the characters are more believable in Begins.
     5. The Machinist (2004)
Bale at an attempt and success at playing a different kind of "crazy". Low and behold, he makes it happen. He actually lost so much weight for this role that the doctors told him if he didn't get his weight back up he was going to die; he collapsed from malnourishment multiple times while filming. And what might be even more impressive, he did "Batman Begins" the next year, where he was the biggest I have ever seen him! What a turn-around!

So that's what we're looking at this week. Not a ton of variety, but that's the case a lot of times with actors' lists - how many really have filmographies that have 10+ selections that people would put in a Top 5 List? Still though, nine different films made the cut today, and should all provide plenty of great content for your viewing pleasures.

The most selected film was "The Fighter", which showed up on all five of the above lists. It also had two number-one selections as well, tying "American Psycho" for the most top picks. Believe it or not, "The Fighter" is the only film to-date in which Bale has been nominated for an Academy Award (which he also won). His performance is gritty and real, and it's not much of a surprise that this 2010 Best Picture nominee was the most-selected film.

As we mentioned, "American Psycho" tied with two number-one selections, but just missed overall, only appearing on four of the five lists. Still a powerful and complex performance from Bale, and one that most movie fans should be able to appreciate. "Batman Begins" also matched the four overall votes, but didn't pick up any top selections. As a reinvention of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character, Bale definitely delivered in 2005, providing a great new take on the character.

Two films had three different selections, "Rescue Dawn" and "The Machinist", while two others rounded out this section as the only other films with multiple selections, "The Prestige" and "3:10 to Yuma", both with two. All four of these are fantastic watches, just as is everything mentioned on the above lists.

So as always, we hope that each of these film selections helps you to expand your knowledge of Christian Bale's filmography, and leads to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!