Monday, April 23, 2012

Best of the Year: 1988

And then there were 10.

At this point in the "Best of the Year" series on Flickers, I'm down to 10 remaining years to be covered. Since I'm trying to limit these lists to once or twice a month, I hope to be done by this summer. One year left in the 80's, 4 in the 90's, and 4 in the 'aughts. Then to top it all off, I'll finally be ready to send out 2011.  It's been a fun ride, and I appreciate everyone's comments. It's a great way to gauge the taste of my readers, in addition for them to get a read on what I'm all about. If you want to look back, check the new tabs at the top of the blog. These "Best of the Year" posts list all of my yearly round-ups.

You'll notice I don't do Top 10s. I hate limiting myself to 10 films. If I see 11 great films in a year, why should I have to leave one of them out? There's no point to it, really. And I like to list them alphabetically because I can't bear to say that title #4 is somehow better than title #5. Yes, some films are better than others, but if they are on these lists, then they are all great in my eyes and all worthy of my attention and yours.

And now, 1988. What a trip down memory lane. I was so young, so impressionable. Granted, some of this stuff wasn't seen by me until I was a little bit older (I was 11 when this year rolled around), but this is what I grew up with. Most of the titles on this list partially molded me into the film connoisseur that I am today.

So let's get to it, shall we?

My Picks of the Year
(listed alphabetically)
Beetlejuice
A highly rewatchable, imminently quotable Tim Burton masterpiece, this comedy/horror flick features great sets, a fantastic Michael Keaton, and awesome creatures. It's the quintessential Burton film because it masterfully combines all his great comedic and horrific imaginations into one wacky ride. Honestly, Burton hasn't since done anything remotely as memorable as this one.

Big
"I just wanna be big." How universal is this request? Just about every child wished he/she could be big, and Penny Marshall made one kid's dream come true with hilarious and touching results. Tom Hanks, in one of his best performances, is exactly what he's supposed to be -- a big, lonely kid. Robert Loggia, Elizabeth Perkins and Jared Rushton (as Billy) lend strong, sensitive support. How could one not love this movie?

Coming to America
Eddie Murphy continued his hot 80's streak with this romantic farce that boasts some hilarious riffs on cross-cultural mating habits. Arsenio Hall garnered a lot of laughs as Murphy's best friend, and together, they are a comic duo sorely missed this day and age. Whenever this is on television - and it's frequently - I never change the channel.

Die Hard
Not only was this movie a trendsetter in Hollywood (i.e. "Die Hard on a Bus"), but it also gave us Bruce Willis, the unshowiest, most unpretentious movie star in the business. He is one of the most chameleonic film legends of our generation, and every few years, he amazingly reinvents himself. It all started with Die Hard, a rock 'em, sock 'em, violent, bloody thriller. Alan Rickman memorably plays Hans Gruber, one of the best villains in the history of cinema. "Welcome to the party," indeed.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Steve Martin, in his funniest-ever performance, plays Freddy, a con man who falls for the lovely Glenne Headley. Unfortunately, he has to fight for her with fellow con man Lawrence, played with equal menace and humor by Michael Caine. The scenes with Martin in the wheelchair evoke tears of laughter during each uproarious viewing.

Everybody's All-American
Dennis Quaid is in top form in this sports/soap opera drama from the usually reliable director Taylor Hackford. Quaid is the young star quarterback who falls hard for Jessica Lange. Over the years, we watch their marriage grow, and then dissipate as he nears retirement. The story is epic in feel and scope, yet it's the intimacy of its characters that makes it so winning.

A Fish Called Wanda
“Sing it, Ken! Sing it!” How can you forget the image of Kevin Kline shouting impatiently at a stuttering Michael Palin, trying, just trying, to reveal the name of the airport? This is a dark, dark comedy; so ruthless, so sexy, and so cunning. Kline deserved his Oscar as Otto, an insufferable louse, and I particularly enjoyed a memorably bosomed Jamie Lee Curtis as the title role. In a year filled with many great comedies, this one produces the hardest, deepest laughs.

Frantic
Harrison Ford in a serious French thriller? Yes. And it works! Roman Polanski directed Ford in his riskiest project since Blade Runner, and they create a very moody, low-key mystery in which Ford, an American doctor visiting France with his wife, watches his life turn upside down as the Mrs. suddenly vanishes. The good doctor discovers his dark side as he so desperately looks for answers. A few months later, Ford smartly counters this performance with a much lighter role in what turns out to be my favorite film of this year.

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka
“He started getting into drugs and stuff....and then he....he started wearing gold chains, Jack!” “Oh, God, No!” A hilarious blaxploitation satire from Keenan Ivory Wayans, this is a smart, dumb film. Not everything works here, but when things click, big laughs are produced. Wayans and his great cast of veterans of the genre do great work here, delivering tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek dialogue from Wayans’ own script.

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
Lt. Frank Drebin could very easily be one of the funniest movie characters ever created. Embodied by Leslie Neilsen, his facial expressions, mannerisms, slow-burn reactions, and never-quit attitude encapsulate the tone for the Zucker brand of comedy. The pacing is a little off, as are all of the Zucker comedies, but the laughs and smiles here are still non-stop.

Running on Empty
The year's most riveting drama, by Sidney Lumet, features a career-topping performance by the late, great River Phoenix. Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch are especially good too, as Phoenix's parents who have been on the run from the FBI since they bombed a lab during the war. When is it time to stop running? When is it time to let go? Powerful, engrossing stuff.

Scrooged
One of the more underappreciated films of the 80's. Bill Murray is perfectly cast as a modern day scrooge in Richard Donner's fairly faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol. With Murray attached, it was expected to be riotously funny, but it's not. It's a pretty dark film, but it can also lift you right up; you'll be singing along with the cast and crew by the time the credits roll and long afterward. Come on. Put a little love in your heart, baby!

Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Robert Zemeckis is a genius, and I don't care what anyone else says. His endless talent as a true filmmaker shines through as this "gimmick" turns into a cartoon/live-action dramedy with a big, big heart. Roger Rabbit is just as real and three-dimensional as Christopher Lloyd's live-action (or is he?) Judge Doom, Kathleen Turner’s sultry Jessica Rabbit (“I’m not bad. I was just drawn that way.”) and Bob Hoskins' gruff, lovable dick. Clever, seamless, ahead of its time and downright brilliant.

Working Girl
Mike Nichols has fashioned a robust, quirky, feel-good rags-to-riches story that has Melanie Griffith delivering her career’s most memorable performance as a working girl climbing, not sleeping, her way to the top. Smart casting in Sigourney Weaver, sublime as her ruthless boss, Joan Cusack as her amusing best friend, Alec Baldwin as her scoundrel of a boyfriend and Harrison Ford, in a humorous, light-as-a-feather supporting role (although top-billed) as Griffith's love interest. Carly Simon's Oscar-winning song gives the film an extra kick, and upon each viewing, your mood just soars when Tess McGill finally gets her due. No movie in 1988 makes me feel as good as this one.

Honorable Mentions
Dominick and Eugene; Funny Farm; Gorillas in the Mist; License to Drive; Midnight Run; Mississippi Burning; Poltergeist 3; Pulse; Rain Man

4 comments:

aswedetalksmovies.com said...

Another cool read from you in this series. Some stuff I've seen, and plenty that I haven't but have been meaning to. Also some new stuff for me to add to the rental queue; Frantic, Running on Empty, Scrooged and Working Girl all sound like interesting films.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, A Fish Called Wanda, The Naked Gun, and Die Hard would most likely make my list too. Most glaring omission here in my eyes would be Grave of the Fireflies. That film completely wrecked me, and is so far the only film that has made me shed a tear as an adult. Powerful stuff.

Keep up the great work, Dave!

Fernando Quintero said...

Nice list! I especially love Big and Working Girl!

Pete said...

Die Hard. Still probably one of the best action films ever made surely? This is a great list with plenty of excellent films. Might have to check out a couple I haven't seen though. I'm Gonna Git You Sucka sounds fun.

Dave said...

Emil - I haven't seen Grave of the Fireflies. In fact, I'm pretty much a virgin when it comes to anime. Guess I'll have to tackle that genre some day!

Fernando - If you especially love Big and Working Girl, you're a winner in my book. :-)

Pete - Die Hard is still one of the greatest. There's no doubt. Do check out Sucka! It's silly, goofy fun.

Thanks everyone!

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