Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Best of the Year: 1985

My Picks of the Year
(in alphabetical order)
Back to the Future
Movies don't get any better than this. One of the greatest of all time, this is the classic fish-out-of-water comedy about a young man named Marty McFly who finds himself in a time machine that takes him back to when his parents were teenagers. Unfortunately for him, his own mother falls for him (!), and it's up to Marty to set things right or his existence will be erased. It's a perfect movie, not a single frame is wasted.

The Breakfast Club
The best teen comedy-drama of the decade. It makes me wonder why none of them became A-list movie stars, but they turned out all right. Teenagers crave to relate and connect to someone who understands them, and The Breakfast Club speaks to them in volumes. What’s amazing, also, is that any fan of the film can recite its dialogue verbatim. John Hughes's screenplay is in their bloodstream. "We are pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."

Some VHS tapes were just meant to be worn out and my copy of Clue never survived. I've probably seen this movie more times than I have seen any other. It is not a masterpiece and it doesn't claim to be something it is not. Clue is a great, campy farce that just happens to be based on a board game. It's littered with dozens of one-liners ("Men should be like Kleenex: soft, strong and disposable."), performed by a cast of comedy greats (Kahn, McKean, Mull, to name a few), and helmed by an underrated director of the 80's and 90's, Jonathan Lynn. "Yep, two corpses, everything's fine."

1985 was the year of the senior citizen. The Golden Girls began their long-running smash this year, and made old people sexy and funny. And Cocoon just made you want to go out there and hug every old-timer in sight. This is a clever, highly engaging sci-fi dramedy that features a who’s who cast of greats, like Jessica “Miss Daisy” Tandy, Hume “Mr. Tandy” Cronyn, Wilford “Oatmeal” Brimley, and the inimitable Don Ameche. A wonderful delight.

Fright Night
This classic vampire film ranks up there as one of the funniest, scariest and cheesiest horror movies of the 80’s. William Ragsdale plays a horror movie fan who believes his neighbor, a great Chris Sarandon, is a vampire. No one believes him so he enlists the aid of a ghost hunter and TV show host, Roddy McDowall, to hunt him down. It starts off spoofing the genre but it genuinely builds into an intense and scary little movie. McDowall, rest his soul, is a hoot.

The Goonies
The first of two Richard Donner masterpieces in 1985 (the other being Ladyhawke), The Goonies is an action comedy about a group of kids looking to embark on one last adventure before moving out of town. There is no teenage boy who does not like this movie. It has action, booby-traps, dead pirates, first kisses, rubies and diamonds, rocky road ice cream, truffle shuffles and bullet holes the size of matzoh balls. Who can resist the charm of this movie? Goonies never say die!

Soaring, visually stunning adventure about a knight named Navarre (Rutger Hauer) who enlists the aid of a young thief (Matthew Broderick) to avenge a corrupt bishop and reverse a devastating curse. Navarre is in love with beautiful Isabel (the luminous Michelle Pfieffer), but the bishop cursed him, making Navarre a wolf by night and Isabel a hawke by day. They are forbidden from ever being together as humans. Ladyhawke is a mystical love story directed by the legendary Richard Donner, and it’s as lovely as anything you’ve ever seen.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure
"I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel." If you stand back and actually read this script, you'd be shocked that this was a commercial and critical hit. The plot is spare and straightforward, but the film is littered with such bizarre and off-the-wall encounters, it never ceases to amaze me how Tim Burton and Paul Reubens managed to make it so damned charming. The sequel tanked, which is rather telling. Pee Wee's Big Adventure is a one-of-a-kind.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
The adventure began and sadly never continued. When this first came out, I watched it countless times, reciting dialogue and reenacting scenes. Remo Williams (played to perfection by Fred Ward) was an action hero like I had never seen before at my young age. And when no sequel came, I was heartbroken. Apparently this movie tanked with critics and the movie-going public, so a franchise was not in the cards. Too bad because I would have been first in line for the next adventure.

Spies Like Us
"This is my sister. You can all have her. I hear she's very good." Spies Like Us is another endlessly quotable 80's comedy that saw lots of replay action in my house. Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are government employees who are under the impression that they are actually spies. They attempt to avert a nuclear disaster and... well, does it really matter? The film is just an excuse to get Aykroyd and Chase together and tell jokes. Good thing that the jokes are very, very funny. "Where'd you learn your Russian? JC Penney?"

Harrison Ford earned his sole Oscar nomination for his poignant portrayal of John Book in Peter Weir's fantastic thriller. Lukas Haas plays an Amish boy who has witnessed a murder and Book is the police officer assigned to protect him until the trial ends. While hiding out in Amish country, Book falls for the boy's mother, Kelly McGillis. The film was a big break for Ford, his first foray as a leading man outside of the adventure/fantasy genre. Witness was a huge success and proved that Ford was not only a Movie Star but an Actor as well.

Honorary Mention
Cat's Eye; A Chorus Line; The Color Purple; D.A.R.Y.L., Death of a Salesman; The Emerald Forest; The Falcon and the Snowman; Jagged Edge; Just One of the Guys; The Man with One Red Shoe; Murphy’s Romance; Rocky IV; Runaway Train; St Elmo's Fire; A View to a Kill


PETE said...

Come on, man! Where's your love for Rocky IV?

Back To The Future, Goonies, Witness - all films for the ages. I was never a Breakfast Club guy and despite a wonderful Tim Curry, I don't think Clue holds up.

I don't have the guts to defend it as a snub, but there will always be a place in my heart for Arnold Schwarzenegger's macho revenge fantasy Commando.

Pale Rider was an efficient, effective Eastwood western.

Woody Allen charmed with his love letter to cinema fantasy The Purple Rose Of Cairo.

William Friedkin and William Peterson did L.A. proud with their tense crime drama To Live And Die In L.A. - highlighted by its superb wrong-way-on-the-freeway car chase.

And we musn't forget Dan O'Bannon's deleriously entertaining zombie romp Return of the Living Dead...

Nor Lawrence Kasdan's loving homage to the classic western, Siverado. You western hater, you!

And finally, of course, there's the year's best film: Stuart Gordon's Grand Guignol-inspired camp horror masterpiece, The Re-Animator (based on the tales of H.P. Lovecraft). This one's probably my favorite horror flick of all time - a must see every Halloween. Talk about your perfect tone, here's a film that knows just where to place the shovel and exactly what to do when intestines run amuck. The whole cast delights, but David Gale is especially delicious as the insidious Dr. Hill. Richard Band's score is a classic.

And least we not forget... Joel Grey will always walk on water :)

Dave said...

You did it! You convinced me to add Rocky IV to the honorable mentions. How could I leave that one? That's sloppy reporting on my behalf. Good thing I have you checking up on me! Yo Adrian!

As for everything else... meh! I just saw To Live and Die in LA this year for the first time -- it's terrible! I hated it! Pale Rider, Purple Rose, Commando - ehhh, did nothing for me.

Didn't you show me The Re-Animator once? I don't remember. Sorry man!

And Clue holds up, dammit. Long live Mr. Boddy!

Modest Movie said...

Fright Night. What a fantastic movie. What are your thoughts on the remake?

Dave said...

My thoughts on the Fright Night remake is the same as my thoughts on all remakes. I don't mind them as long as they are 1) good, 2) fresh and 3) relevant. That being said, I think the pedigree behind the Fright Night remake is most intriguing. Craig Gillespie is a director to watch (Lars and the Real Girl is outstanding), Marti Noxon is a fantastic writer (she penned some excellent Buffy episodes) and Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell and Toni Collete are always interesting to watch. Count me in.


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