Monday, December 10, 2007

Best Movies of the '80s: Runners-up [LE]

Yoggoth and I will now be presenting our own runners-up for each of our ten best movies of the '80s lists. In most cases, for me, what ultimately kept these runners-up from being included among my ten official selections is not exactly easy to pinpoint. Some of these movies I haven't seen in a really long time, and thus I'm not sure if they are as good as I remember them being. Others are extremely entertaining movies that just happen to be missing that extra "depth," however you choose to interpret that. In addition, many of the films that made Yoggoth's list could also very well appear here, despite my having left them out.

In alphabetical order:

The Blues Brothers (Landis, 1980)

Here is a film that fits perfectly into the category of "entertaining movies that don't have anything particularly profound to say." Maybe there's a message in here somewhere: how about "Any amount of criminal activity is worth it as long as you're trying to save an orphanage"? No, it's probably a waste of mental energy to find anything more redeeming about this film other than the endless pile of car crashes, delightful celebrity cameos (Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg), killer lineup of classic soul legends, and jokes about Illinois Nazis. Hell, just seeing James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles in the same movie alone is like the ultimate R&B hat trick. And then there's Cab Calloway's gritty, definitive version of "Minnie the Moocher" (although I'm never been sure what it ever had to do with the "blues" exactly). Oh, and did I mention the endless pile of car crashes?

Born on the Fourth of July (Stone, 1989)

Stone's biopic of anti-war activist Ron Kovic made a big impression on me as a kid; I actually saw it twice and loved it both times. However, having since revisited a lot of Oliver Stone films and having found most of them less impressive on repeated viewing, I feel like I would need to watch this again before I could feel confident calling it a truly great movie. Let me just say that it's probably one of Stone's least sensationalistic, most character-driven political films. And if you're curious whether or not Tom Cruise can actually act, this, as far as I'm concerned, is Exhibit A for the defense.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Hughes, 1986)

Just about the perfect archetype of an '80s film, with endlessly quotable references I'll refrain from reiterating for the hundredth time. There really aren't too many ways this movie could have been any better. So why didn't it make my top ten, you ask? Well, it's just that, when I imagine this movie being released in the '70s, alongside M*A*S*H, The Last Picture Show, and Taxi Driver, I just...I's just not quite...there.

Field of Dreams (Robinson, 1989)

A movie so corny it literally takes place in the middle of a corn field - and yet, and yet, it's like the fluffiest, warmest cornbread your sweet Aunt Sally ever baked, or the crunchiest, most perfectly roasted corn dog you ever bought for 20 cents at the Topeka county fair. Truth is, the movie works because it knows it's corny, and the characters are just as skeptical as we are. "If you build it, he will come"? Yeah, sure, buddy, and I've got an iceberg I wanna sell you. Honestly, sometimes crazy, impractical dreams really aren't worth following, but with dialogue and acting this good (especially James Earl Jones as the misanthropic, Salinger-esque writer), who cares?

Fitzcarraldo (Herzog, 1982)

A mad dash of German insanity by way of the Amazon, this is the only "foreign" film from the '80s to be mentioned by me in this project, which means that either a) I need to see more foreign films from the '80s, or b) foreign films really stank during the '80s. You decide. At any rate, the story concerns a rubber baron whose dream it is to build a gigantic opera house in the middle of the jungle. In order to do this, he decides to lift an entire ship over a gigantic hillside. Ah, but here's the catch: Werner Herzog actually took a real ship and lifted it up a real mountain in the real jungle in order to film the movie. As you might guess, the filming was plagued with endless difficulties, much like its jungle cousin Apocalypse Now. However, having known Fitzcarraldo only for its gimmick and its tales of a troubled genesis, I was surprised to discover that it delivered a genuinely interesting story with a very subtle, dark humor.

Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984)

Everybody loves an underdog, and what bigger underdog is there than the unemployed scientist? Well, Peter is really only a quasi-scientist, but Egon is the real deal: when their secretary asks him if he has any hobbies, he answers "I collect spores, molds, and fungus." Who could have forseen, then, that when the entire city of New York comes under attack from some kind of paranormal Egyptian Annie Lennox, the ones to come to the rescue would be...these guys? Frankly, every time that theme song comes on, it makes me feel like I can go out and do anything.

Victor/Victoria (Edwards, 1982)

In 1930s Paris, a female singer can't find any work, so her gay friend suggests she try to find a man pretending to be a woman! Matters only become more complicated when a macho Chicago gangster begins to think he's falling for "Victor," even though he very well knows that she's really a man, right? One of the last truly good Hollywood musicals, and one of the most intelligent treatments of homosexuality in a mainstream film, the movie features delightful performances by Julie Andrews, Robert Preston (of Music Man fame), and James Garner (of Maverick fame), among others. Just be sure to keep your glass at a distance when Andrews starts into "The Shady Dame From Seville."


Herr Zrbo said...

Just added Fitzcarraldo to my netflix queue. I've heard about the boat-on-the-hill thing before, plus it's got Klaus Kinski! Jesus ist da!

yoggoth said...

Yeah it sounds pretty interesting. I should throw a Fitzcarraldo theme party.