Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Best of the Year: 1984

My Picks of the Year
(in alphabetical order)
Beverly Hills Cop
The heat is on during this rousing action comedy, featuring a star-making performance by Eddie Murphy and a memorably loopy supporting cast (Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox). Beverly Hills Cop was a highly influential film when it was released. Never before has there been a successful motion picture as action-oriented as this one, loaded with great belly laughs.

Blood Simple
Talk about first impressions! Joel and Ethan Coen entered the limelight with this smart, beautifully filmed crime drama about two lovers, a jilted husband, and a sleazy private investigator. Frances McDormand, in her screen debut, is a sight to behold as an unhappy wife confused by her lover’s motives. She stuns, especially in the film’s awesome, shattering climax. M. Emmet Walsh has a great role here as the P.I., and the Coens give him the film’s best lines (his final words are a real humdinger). Blood Simple is a timeless movie, one of the best works by a group of maverick filmmakers.

Lose your blues and kick off your Sunday shoes... Footloose is a terrific dance movie with a blazin' soundtrack and a sexy cast. Kevin Bacon struts his stuff to make way for stardom, and he does it with style. Chris Penn, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, and the inimitable John Lithgow turn in fine supporting performances.

A catchy, quotable 80's classic, Ghostbusters features incredibly cheesy effects and an awesome, immensely likeable cast. The great Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray stand out, but everyone has room to shine with memorably funny moments. A stirring fantasy and feel-good comedy, this one's a crowd-pleaser. "This Mr. Stay Puft is ok! He's a sailor, he's in New York, we'll get this guy laid, we won't have have trouble!"

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
What do you get when you combine these elements: Short Round and his foot on the pedal; a shaky footbridge; "Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory"; an antidote, a diamond and a bucket of ice; eyeball soup; sumptuous fruit; "He no nuts! He crazy!"; bugs, and lots of them; a roller coaster in the mines; black sleep; hungry crocs; and giant vampire bats? Answer: Steven Spielberg's rousing, heart-stopping, most exciting motion picture of his career, Harrison Ford's most delicious on-screen creation, and hands down, without a doubt, case closed, the best adventure film ever made.

An exciting family film about vengeance, humility, and getting the girl in the end. Ralph Macchio (bafflingly much older than he looked) plays the title role quite memorably, Elisabeth Shue is his tough cookie, and the grade-Z movie staple Pat Morita shines as his master. The little, intimate moments with Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are what made this one, yes, a winner.

The Last Starfighter
Brilliant! A young adult, living a low-key life in a trailer park, finally beats the video game he had been playing for years. Based on his great skill, young Alex is immediately recruited by an alien to join a team of starfighters to help save the galaxy from devastating ruin. Great effects, memorable supporting characters, and a winsome stand-up-and-cheer attitude make The Last Starfighter a sci-fi adventure that easily rivals Star Wars.

The NeverEnding Story
Who can forget the story of Bastian and his big book, one that is loaded with rich imagery and delicate fables? This film first taught me the true pleasure of books, how one can be deliriously lost in its words and how the imagination can so rapturously take over. Wolfgang Peterson co-wrote and directed this classic children's film, and like a great novel, its passages and images are forever etched in my mind.

Paris, Texas
A gorgeous thoughtful drama from Wim Wenders. It's the story of a man who, after wandering the desert, pieces together his past and begins the process of letting go. The camera loves Harry Dean Stanton's face; he delivers the performance of a lifetime using so little dialogue. Dean Stockwell is excellent as his brother who reaches out to him more than once. The last act is far more moving than I had ever anticipated.

Romancing the Stone
The opening of the film perfectly sets the tone of what we're about to see. A damsel is assaulted by a disgusting outlaw, and in defense as well as revenge, she kills him with a dagger to the heart. The woman runs out the door, only to be greeted by a tobacco-chewing hunkster...and they ride the sunset together. Robert Zemeckis fancied himself a trashy, female-minded Indiana Jones, and the result is nothing short of fantastic entertainment. Douglas and Turner are a classic comedy team, sorely missed this day and age.

The Terminator
The Terminator is a science-fiction thriller that was made well before its time. Amid all of the relentless action and compelling effects, the anchor of the film is its simple, thrilling storyline (an Austrian cyborg from the future is out to kill Sarah Conner and will stop at nothing to get her). The amazing, groundbreaking sequel takes it all even further.

Honorable Mention
Dreamscape; A Passage to India; Places in the Heart; Something About Amelia; Tightrope

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