Saturday, October 01, 2005

Movies Of The Year: 1987

I've seen 54 movies from 1987. That's more than one per week for an entire year. Yikes. I saw numbers 48 and 50 in the theatre. As a double feature. I miss double features.

54. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
53. Teen Wolf Too
52. Masters Of The Universe
50. Back To The Beach
49. Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol
48. Summer School
47. Ernest Goes To Camp
46. Allan Quartermain And The Lost City Of Gold
45. Baby Boom
44. Harry And The Hendersons
43. Mannequin
42. Project X
41. Batteries Not Included
40. The Running Man
39. Stakeout
38. The Lost Boys
37. Fatal Attraction
36. A Better Tomorrow II
35. Suspect
34. Three Men And A Baby
33. Beverly Hills Cop II
32. Innerspace
31. No Way Out
30. Babette's Feast
29. Less Than Zero
28. Spaceballs
27. La Bamba
26. Adventures In Babysitting
25. Good Morning, Vietnam
24. The Secret Of My Success
23. Dragnet
22. The Living Daylights
21. Roxanne
20. Lethal Weapon
19. Dirty Dancing
18. Predator
17. RoboCop
16. Planes, Trains And Automobiles

15. Some Kind Of Wonderful - The least well-known John Hughes high school movie of the 80s is one of my favorites. Much better than his similarly-themed Pretty In Pink. Eric Stoltz stars as the Molly Ringwold character. Lea Thompson as Andrew McCarthy and Mary Stuart Masterson plays the Ducky.

14. Ishtar - I know that there are people in the world, who aren't related to me, who like this movie. It was just ahead of it's time. Now, when a serious actor like Robert DeNiro is one of the most reliable dumb-comedy draws in Hollywood, Beatty and Hoffman wouldn't be pilloried for starring in a silly musical about two hilariously bad singer-songwriters.

13. Radio Days - A little Woody Allen movie, but a good one. In the 80s he seems to had a string of perfect little comedy dramas (Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, Zelig, Radio Days) sandwiched around the epic Hannah And Her Sisters. Not ambitious at all, but well done and entertaining.

12. Throw Mama From The Train - A very odd dark comedy about a couple of bad writers, Hitchcock movies, and the villainous mom from The Goonies. Gets a little too sappy towards the middle, but that's balanced by the greatness of the immortal line "The night was moist."

11. Moonstruck - Surprisingly good. Both the movie and Cher. I didn't like it as much the second time I watched it, but it's still pretty good. Nicolas Cage is great though as the one-armed, opera-loving baker who steals his brother's fiancée.

10. Wall Street - Very overrated film notable really for only three things: Michael Douglas's speech about greed, while overplayed, is still really good; the end of Charlie Sheen's career as a serious actor (he's really bad here, after being pretty good in Platoon; a remarkable scene between Charlie and Martin Sheen towards the end of the film, when Martin realizes that his son has become everything he's always hated. Martin: good. Charlie: bad.

9. The Untouchables - Another overrated movie that nonetheless has some very good elements. Disliking Brian DePalma, I like to ascribe all the elements of this movie that I like to David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay before DePalma took over and butchered it. I believe Mamet's even disowned it. The good parts: Sean Connery, of course. Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia and Robert DeNiro are also all good. The bad parts: this is a movie about how the government are heros for ignoring the Bill Of Rights to kill and capture people who violate a law that no one, not even the agents of that government, think is just. Eliot Ness is a hero to people who think orders must always be followed, regardless of their morality. To put it bluntly: this movie is fascist. The worst part is DePalma's cooptation of the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin. In Eisenstein's film, the baby rolling perilously down the steps was about the inhumanity of the murderous government agents attempting to put down public protest. DePalma takes this great humanist image and uses it to make a hero of said murderous government agents. Despicable.

8. Wings Of Desire - I've an odd reaction to this film since I actually saw its sequel (Far Away, So Close) first. I can't say I liked either of the first two Wim Wenders movies I saw (Until The End Of The World was the other), frankly, they confused the hell out of me. So, when I finally saw this one, I was delighted to see that it actually made sense and was enjoyable. It's a sweet little movie about an angel who wants to be human. It's fun, it's romantic and it won;t make you hate Germans.

7. Evil Dead II - A great improvement on the original, as should be expected since Sam Raimi actually had a budget for this one. It's more of a remake of the first than a sequel, really. There's really nothing like the Evil Dead movies in cinema. Even something like Shaun Of The Dead isn't nearly as crazy or funny. A classic that should be seen by every film fan.

6. The Last Emperor - Bernardo Bertolucci's great epic about the life of Pu Yi, an through him, China throughout the 20th Century. It's a great looking, big-looking movie, but it's the scenes of Pu Yi's reeducation by the Communists that are my favorite. John Lone is really terrific playing a man who was raised to think he was a god who is forced to realize that he really is weak, incompetent and useless. See the longer version (every version is long) it's much better.

5. Raising Arizona - Neither the Coen brothers weirdest nor funniest movie, yet still of the the funniest weird movies ever. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter are great as the baby-napping husband and wife. The immortal Randall "Tex" Cobb is iconic as the bounty hunter hired to get the baby back. Coen regulars John Goodman and Frances McDormand also star.

4. Full Metal Jacket - I have to admit that while I've seen the first half of this movie many times, I've only made it through to the end once. And that was in class (my professor claimed that this was the best movie about teaching ever. When asked to pick a film for a teacher's retreat group to watch, he showed them this. I don't think they got it). The first half is so amazing, so powerful and ends so abruptly, that the cut to part two was always way too jarring for me to deal with. It's important to realize, though, that that's the effect Kubrick was going for. Making the audience uncomfortable is what war movies are supposed to do. Not just horrify you, but confuse, disorient and anger you. the first half of the movie is about dehumanizing people, the second is about dropping dehumans into chaos. Great acting from mathew Modine, Vincent D'Onofrio and R. Lee Ermy. Adam Baldwin from Firefly also stars. Apparently, he's not one of those Baldwins.

3. Empire Of The Sun - My favorite 'serious' Spielberg movie. I don't know if I like it quite as much as Jaws or Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but it's a heck of a lot better than Saving Private Ryan or The Color Purple (Schindler's List is problematic. More on that in 1993). Christian Bale plays a bratty little rich kid who gets separated from his parents when the Japanese take over Shanghai in World War II. He hooks up with John Malkovich and Joe Pantoliano and grows up during the war living in various prison camps. It's a basic coming of age story, from a director who's made a lot of coming of age stories, but Spielberg's at the top of his game here. It's got that same visual style that's so unfairly pretty, great acting from the two leads (Bale's great at being annoying, and Malkovich is, well, Malkovich), and just the right amount of cheesy emotion.

2. Broadcast News - The second Holly Hunter movie in my top five, this is also her best movie, and one of the best romantic comedies of all-time. Hunter's amazing in the lead role as a network news producer who cares about everything more than anybody else. William Hurt is good as the proto-mimbo anchorman. And Albert Brooks is hilarious as the brainy reporter with perspiration problems. Manages to be not especially insightful while also being prescient about the future of news as "infotainment", it works a lot better as a tragic romantic comedy that as a political statement. By far the best James L. Brooks movie, and the only one that doesn't feel like an overlong episode of Family Ties or something.

1. The Princess Bride - If this wasn't number one, I might find myself without a place to live anymore. But it is certainly deserving regardless of any matrimonial obligations. William Goldman's masterpiece has got it all: great acting, romance, comedy, sports, pirates, a giant, you name it. I don't think there's anyone in my generation who does not love this movie. Consider it our Gone With The Wind, our It's A Wonderful Life, our Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. The book is very good too. Not better, or worse, but also good. Can't say I ever liked the title though. I didn't see it until it was on video because of the title. i just thought it sounded lame. Of course, when I finally did see it on video, I ended up watching it over and over again all that night and many many times after that. You see, titles are important.

Nothing too awful in the Unseen for this year. Matewan is the most embarrassing, and it's in the queue:

The Witches Of Eastwick
House Of Games
Over The Top
Straight To Hell
Chinese Ghost Story
Hope And Glory
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Pelle The Conqueror
Hamburger Hill
Someone To Watch Over Me
Cry Freedom
Bad Taste
Who's That Girl
Baghdad Cafe
Tin Men
Eddie Murphy Raw

Geek Love

Time magazine's website's got a joint interview with Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman that's moderately interesting. Whedon's hyping Serenity, which hopefully we'll get to see on Tuesday. Gaiman's got a new book coming out and a movie, Mirrormask, that he did with the Jim Hensen Company. I don't think that's opened in Seattle yet.

A History Of Violence did pretty decent business tonight. I'm going to try to watch it Monday night.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Time Is On My Side

Ah, so much TV to watch, so little time to devote to quality blogging. I've got 1987 ranked, just need to write it up. I hope to get to that this weekend. Til then, here's some quick reviews from recent tivo-watching:

To Catch A Thief: One of the few classic Hitchcock films I hadn't seen, I finally got around to watching last night. It was alright, if the plot had twisted like I thought it should have, it would have been better. Still, there's a lot of weird stuff going on with Grace Kelly's character. Anyway, it's pretty, but no North By Northwest.

TV Shows: It's season premiere time, with Arrested Development, Lost, Alias, The OC, and Curb Your Enthusiasm all back on the cable this week. Some new shows that seem interesting so far: My Name Is Earl, Kitchen Confidential, Extras, Rome and Invasion (though I haven't watched any of it yet). Battlestar Galactica finished it's season in excellent fashion after what I thought had been a disappointing second season. Hopefully it'll be better when it comes back in January.

The Hitch-Hiker: Had to watch it to follow along the film noir podcast and it was well-worth it. Very strange, remarkably economical story about a guy who holds two men hostage and makes them drive him through Mexico. A lot like the Sidney Poitier/Kirstie Alley movie Shoot To Kill, only really good. It's not a noir generically speaking, but it's got the style down to a science. Only 70 minutes long, too. My fist Ida Lupino movie, she sounds like a fascinating person.

Also, there's a couple cool documentaries out there. The first is about the history baseball in Latin America called Viva Baseball that has some really interesting interviews and some great footage I'd never seen before. Very well done, especially considering it's on Spike TV of all networks. The other is Spaghetti West, and IFC documentary about, well, Spaghetti Westerns. They did a similar one a few months ago on Hong Kong martial arts movies, and this is just as good. Gave me some films to add to the old queue, since the only one's I've seen are Sergio Leone's four movies.

And in real news: Tom DeLay got indicted. WOO HOO! HOO RAY! YEE HAW!!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Movies Of The Year: 1986

A not-quite-as-but-still impressive 39 Movies I've Seen in 1986. Though the quality at the top is significantly better than '85, this year has some of my least favorite movies of all-time.

39. Gothic
38. F/X
37. Highlander
36. Iron Eagle
35. Police Academy 3: Back In Training
34. Wildcats
33. SpaceCamp
32. Labyrinth
31. Jumpin' Jack Flash
30. Flight Of The Navigator
29. The Great Mouse Detective
28. Blue Velvet
27. She's Gotta Have It
26. The Transformers: The Movie
25. Crocodile Dundee
24. Short Circuit
23. Sid And Nancy
22. The River's Edge
21. Gung Ho
20. Down And Out In Beverly Hills
19. The Golden Child
18. Manhunter
17. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
16. A Better Tomorrow

15. The Karate Kid Part II - Not as good as the original, obviously, but still pretty good as 1980s sequels go. The female lead is Tamlyn Tomita, who's had a pretty spotty career since. She was in The Joy Luck Club, Touch, The Day After Tomorrow and Four Rooms.

14. The Fly - One of the few David Cronenberg films I've seen, and one that I like, though I think it's better in theory than in actuality. It just isn't a lot of fun watching Jeff Goldblum puke on his food before eating it. At least, not my idea of fun. These things are subjectictve. I really don't like Geena Davis.

13. Pretty In Pink - I can't believe she chose Blaine over Ducky. It's all about the money with Molly. Great soundtrack though. Maybe the best of the 80s, in fact.

12. Three Amigos - Chevy Chase's last great movie, and he needed Steve Martin and Martin Short to carry him through it. In small parts you will find Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, Joe Mantegna, Randy Newman (who also co-wrote with John Landis and Lorne Michaels). This might be the last really good SNL movie until Wayne's World. "Mail plane" Heh heh.

11.Stand By Me - I think it's overrated, but then, I never saw it as a kid. It does have a great cast, and it's better than most Stephen King movies, but I can't say it's as meaningful to me as it apparently is to so many others. It's good though.

10. Down By Law - Much like Stranger Than Paradise, Jarmusch's next movie adds a very little more plot, and Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni to John Lurie this time. Slow moving, but very funny and featuring some very pretty swamps. If you like Jarmusch, this is a must see. If you haven't seen any Jarmusch, this is as good a place to start as any, but patience is important and will be rewarded.

9. The Color Of Money - Tom Cruise doesn't bother me, but I'm still not a big fan of this movie. It pales in comparison to The Hustler, for one thing. And the end drives me nuts. I don't know what should happen instead, but I know that the film should not be over when it is. It's like the whole movie is build-up, but never delivers. It was about time for Newman to win an Oscar, though, and I won't begrudge him it.

8. Hoosiers - One of the great sports movies of all-time, and probably the best movie about basketball. I'll agree with The Sports Guy that the pseudo-romance between Hackman and Barbara Hershey is totally out of place and doesn't work at all. Nice performance by Dennis Hopper, much better than the scenery chewing in the ghastly Blue Velvet, also from this year. Director David Anspaugh went on to make Rudy and not much else.

7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off - My pick for the Best John Hughes movie, and there isn't a greedy redhead in sight. Give me Mia Sara's inexplicable accent over Molly Ringwald's money-grubbing social climbers any day. Iconic performance by Matthew Broderick, classic supporting performances from Ben Stein, Edie McClurg, Jeffery Jones, Charlie Sheen, Alan Ruck and Jennifer Grey. The only problem with it is the totally unrealistic absence total Ferris has accumulated. 9 times? Please. That's less than nothing.

6. The Name Of The Rose - Not surprisingly, the book is much better. Sean Connery is great as the sleuthing monk fighting the hordes of ignorance and superstition as he tries to solve a series of murders at a Dark Age abbey. Christian Slater, though, is not very good at all. F. Murray Abraham and Ron Perlman are decent in supporting roles, but neither gets much time to develop a character or anything. Director Jean Jacques Annaud went on to make The Bear, Enemy At The Gates and Seven Years In Tibet. Not an especially interesting career. The book's great though. It's Eco's first novel, and his books tend to get worse as he goes along, so this one is highly recommended. The next one, Foucault's Pendulum, is also great.

5. Top Gun - One of the better high-concept action movies of all-time. Chock full of great air combat scenes and blatant homoeroticism. Quentin Tarantino's speech about this movie in the film Sleep With Me is one of the classic bits of film criticism. I have to say I'm more a fan of Tony Scott than his brother Ridley. I appreciate the fact that Tony seems to know what he's good at and sticks to making the best action movies he can. Whereas Ridley tends to annoy me with his pretensions at profundity (Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator). Anyway, Top Gun's got a great cast (Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Val Kilmer), a great soundtrack, is great looking, full of memorable lines and wall-to-wall inanity for a plot. You've gotta love it.

4. Aliens - It's an odd year indeed when Top Gun isn't even the best action film of the year, but that's the case this year when the competition is perhaps the single greatest action movie of all-time. I definitely recommend sticking with the theatrical release, because much like with Apocalypse Now, while the extra footage is definitely interesting, it slows the pacing down way too much. Pace what Aliens is all about as the action never stops. It's like the last 45 minutes of Hard-Boiled, only less balletic, but stretched over 2 hours. There's supposedly a theme about Ripley and trying to be both a mother and an action hero (working mom) at the same time, but don't believe it. Bill Paxton delivers another classic performance as Hudson (Game over, man! Game over!) and Michael Biehn is solid as he always is in James Cameron movies. Lance Henrikson and Paul Reiser also star. James Cameron's best movie.

3. Platoon - Oliver Stone's best movie. And the best movie about Vietnam, depending on whether or not you think Apocalypse Now is really about that war or something else entirely. Tom Berenger and Willem Defoe are outstanding as the veteran soldiers who fight out out over Charlie Sheen's soul amidst the chaos of war and a My Lei-style incident. The outstanding cast includes Kevin Dillon, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Depp, John C. McGinley, and Dale Dye. A great looking movie, and perhaps the last time Stone made a film with any kind of subtlety. The soundtrack is great too.

2. Hannah And Her Sisters - Woody Allen narrowly loses his third Movie Of The Year award, and instead comes in second for the second straight year. The closest Allen ever came to making an epic, this follows the lives of three sisters, or rather, it follows the obsessions Allen and Michael Caine have with said sisters. All of the actors are terrific (except maybe Barbara Hershey), as you'd expect in a Woody Allen movie. My favorite part is Allen describing how his year-long existential crisis got solved. After Manhattan, this is his best serious comedy. Features Carrie Fischer, Max Von Sydow, Daniel Stern, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Joanna Gleason, Julie Kavner, Sam Waterston, Lewis Black, J.T. Walsh, John Turturro, and, uh, Soon-Yi Previn.

1. The Mission - A brilliant film about all the good and bad things that religion can do to people. First it saves Robert DeNiro, a murderer and slave-trader and turns him into a terrific guy. Then it helps the Amazon natives learn to sing Ave Maria and build houses and farms and civilization. Then it becomes greedy, tries to enslave all the natives and kill all the priests who disagree with it. Sounds about right. DeNiro and Jeremy Irons are the best parts of an outstanding cast featuring Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn and Ray McAnally as the representative of the Pope who has to decide between saving the Indians and saving the Jesuits. The outstanding score is by Ennio Morricone, the screenplay by Robert Bolt and the absolutely beautiful cinematography by Chris Menges, who did The Killing Fields, Michael Collins, Dirty Pretty Things and the upcoming North Country. Director Roland Joffé never came close to anything this good again.

Not a lot of essentials in The Unseen this year, though there are a couple big ones:

Big Trouble In Little China
Little Shop Of Horrors
Howard The Duck
The Money Pit
Jean de Florette
The Hitcher
The Mosquito Coast
Ruthless People
9 1/2 Weeks
Peggy Sue Got Married
An American Tail
Back To School
Manon Of The Spring
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer
Children Of A Lesser God
One Crazy Summer
Mona Lisa
Delta Force
True Stories