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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Movies: Flashback - The Best Movies of 1988 Part 3

Here is the third and final installment of the Best Movies of 1988. You can see Part One here and Part Two here.

11) The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Underrated auteur Philip Kaufman had the bad luck of being a great 70s style American director in the 1980s. After his magnificent adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff stiffed at the box office he turned to Milan Kundera's novel of the 1968 Prague Spring The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It's a film that entwines sex with living and passion with politics - deeply erotic and deeply felt at the same time. 20 years after the events portrayed the Soviet regime depicted stood on teh verge of collapse and the Czech's stood on the precipice of freedom. Also, young and intense Daniel Day Lewis, alluring Lena Olin and  sexy Juliette Binoche all give terrific performances.

12. Hairspray
The original non-Travolta-ed non-musical is still the best version of this. At the time it was further proof that rebels like John Waters who once celebrated poop eating and glue sniffing were entering the mainstream. Maybe so but this was pretty offbeat and saturated in the kitschy goodness that is Waters' trademark. There's also his best leading lady, Divine, an underrated actor who along with pre "club kid" obsessed Ricki Lake make a touchingly creditable mother daughter pair. There is also a lot of heart in the autobiographical material based on the Baltimore of Waters' youth.

13. Dangerous Liaisons
Sharp-eyed director Stephen Frears finds the perfect tone for the classic French story that has spawned numerous versions including the teenybopper Cruel Intentions but none as finely judged as this. Getting stellar performances from Michelle Pfeiffer (having a breakthrough year) an icily cold Glenn Close and an even colder John Malkovich this story of nobles behaving badly is wonderful high class trash.

14. Bull Durham
Perhaps the best sports movie ever, this is fun watching even for those who could give a squat about baseball. The triumvirate of Kevin Costner (in a role that he found hard to escape from), Tim Robbins (playing dumb brilliantly) and Susan Sarandon (on the comeback trail) create sparks in the story of one ballplayer on the way down, another on the way up and the woman who has passion and brains to burn.

15. Big
The body switching film was all the rage in the 80s. Was this a longing for Yuppie America to find the empathy for others less fortunate amidst Reaganomics? A simple need to broaden the demographic of a given film by casting, say, Charlie Schlatter for the kids and George Burns for the octogenerians? Either way Laverne's film  Big was best of the bunch - both funny and surprisgly touching with a great turn by Tom Hanks. Hanks was getting stuck in the kind of films Jim Belushi would put his stink on but his winning portrayal as a child trapped in a man's body struck a chord. Also, don't miss the awesomely jaded Elizabeth Perkins.

16. The Last Temptation of Christ
From a boy trapped in a man's body to a three-person diety embodied in the form of a man. Martin Scorsese's film brings the grit to the bible. Unlike the over-top siliness of Mel Gibson's vision of Christ Scorsese raises uncomfortable questions about sacrifice, humanity, and what it means to be die for other's sins.Also, Willem Dafoe rocks as Jesus.


17. The Naked Gun 
The Zucker-Abrams-Zucker team turned to their failed TV series Police Squad to finallt cement Leslie Neilsen as a comic star after his breakout turn in their awesome '80 comedy spoof Airplane. There have been so many crappy approximations of their style that its a thrill to watch the real thing and laugh out loud once again at their Mad Magazine approach to nonsensical gags. Plus, Ricardo Montalban!

18.  Akira 
 If Stanley Kubrick was Japanese and directed a version of The Wild Bunch with set design by the guys who did Blade Runner it still wouldn't approximate the crazy rush of Akira.

19. Let's Get Lost
Fascinatingly depressing, fashion photog Bruce Weber's documentary on jazz great Chet Baker is shot in black and white so lovingly deep you could swim in it. Yet the story it tells is of one man's dessication, despite talent and fame.

20. My Neighbor Totoro
The first out-and-out masterpiece from Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, who is viewed at home as a combination of Walt Disney and George Lucas. His lush animation brings an abiding reverence for nature to life in amongst a superbly detailed suburban existence. Death and sadness exist here as in all great stories for children, mixed with wonder and humor. His later films were more epically scaled but this one is a real gem. Avoid the English-dubbed version.

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