Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top 100 movies the '80s: 70-61

70. The King of Comedy, 1983
Director: Martin Scorsese

There were a lot of quality filmmakers from the 1970s who sort of fell off once studios stop giving them 100% control of their projects. Filmmakers like Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, and Alan J. Pakula had excellent runs in the '70s and then made a bunch flops in the '80s (although Pakula did make Sophie's Choice, another '80s film that just missed the cut). Martin Scorsese's filmography in the '80s is striking in just its consistency in quality. He seemed to know that he wasn't always going to be allowed to make pet projects after Raging Bull so he kept building his craft. The aforementioned After Hours is an example of that as is The Color of Money. But The King of Comedy stands apart from his eccentric '80s films because it's actually a much better film than perhaps it should be. It takes a rather thin premise (a man obsessed with his comic idol) and runs with it beautifully and successfully. King of Comedy was actually a film Scorsese had dismissed at least initially, partly because audiences at the time didn't particularly care for it. It's not hard to see why, it's a dark comedy and when it gets dark, it could be quite unsettling. Too unsettling at times to want to make you laugh. The reason it works however is just how committed Robert Deniro is to his character Rupert Pupkin, a character you would never want to be friends with. And yet, Deniro is actually really very funny in this movie, some may even say it's his best performance. Plus, the way he goes toe-to-toe with Jerry Lewis is fascinating to watch. Jerry Lewis is also a surprise as he takes on a more serious role than usual and yet the straight face he makes in the midst Rupert Pupkin's actions is brilliant stuff.

69. The Breakfast Club, 1985
Director: John Hughes

The Breakfast Club is just another John Hughes film that's endlessly watchable and so much better than people may have realized at the time. Hughes was so prolific back then that I'm sure his output was almost taken for granted, but watching them now you wonder how a high school film with such a simple premise could be this good. And yes, it's cheesy. Of course it's very much an '80s film and it stars members of the brat pack and it's so ingrained in our pop culture, but if it wasn't a great film nobody would be talking about it today. It wouldn't still pop up on TBS every now and then. There are some really funny scenes in this movie and there are some pretty heartbreaking scenes in this movie. I re-watched this just two months ago and it was like revisiting some old friends. The way Hughes is able to write teenagers is remarkable because you get to know them so well after just the course of one day. Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald---- they weren't the greatest actors with illustrious careers after the '80s, but man they owned these roles.

68. Terms of Endearment, 1983
Director: James L. Brooks

The movie that introduced James L. Brooks to the film world and he definitely staked his claim as soon as he arrived. He was already a successful television producer at the time, but nobody could've predicted he could make a movie this good. Terms of Endearment is heartfelt, emotionally draining, and features great performances all around. Jack Nicholson puts in probably one of the most important supporting performances in his career. With a story and a cast of characters that almost brought things to the verge of melodrama, he was the one who successfully brought it all down to earth. Terms of Endearment's third act is tough to watch from an emotional standpoint when one of the characters becomes stricken with cancer. It was a move that some felt was emotionally manipulative. Don't get me wrong, I do think the movie falters slightly because of that, but to me this is still an excellent film on every other level. Brooks is such a great writer that such a turn can be forgivable, at least in my view. Winner of the 5 major Oscars (Picture, Acting, Actress, Director, Screenplay), Terms of Endearment is a powerful film that still holds up well today.

67. Videodrome, 1983
Director: David Cronenberg

Ok I'm starting to feel like I'm writing a novel with the last few entries, let's bring it down a notch. "Long live the new flesh" is what Max (James Woods) says at the end of the movie thus defeating the "old flesh." Videodrome is quite the bizarre film, but it's a Cronenberg film, what do you expect? Well, you expect a man whose films in the '80s continually found new and interesting ways to approach the science-fiction body horror film. The road that Videodrome travels is often the unexpected and always a thrill to watch.

66. Radio Days, 1987
Director: Woody Allen

If there was one word I'd use to describe Radio Days it would be "delightful." It really is. On this occasion, Woody Allen decides to stay behind the camera and recall a time in his youth when radio was the primary source of home entertainment and influenced the way people lived their lives at the time. One thing to get a kick out of is little Seth Green as the child and, really, the main character of the film. I approached watching Radio Days with the assumption that it was a lesser Woody Allen film. It was in between Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors, both of which are often cited as among his greatest. But while watching this, I was surprised at just how truly enjoyable it is. If anything I think this film is quite underrated and deserves a lot more love. It's a wonderful tribute to radio's glory days and a great insight into Woody's childhood.

65. The Last Metro, 1980
Director: Francois Truffaut

The Last Metro is noteworthy in that it really kinda marks the end of an era. Truffaut made two more films after this, but this is really the best of his late period. Then again, this is coming from someone who actually thinks most of Truffaut's films in the '70s are actually very good, not as great as his first few films, but Truffaut really does have a solid filmography. The Last Metro tells a great story of a Jewish theatre director in Paris of whom, with the help of his non-Jewish wife/actress, tries to hide from the Nazis during WWII. Great performances from Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve, this ultimately should rank among one of Truffaut's finest works.

64. The Evil Dead, 1981
Director: Sam Raimi

When looking to a film that marked the beginning of American independent cinema, perhaps we should also give credit to Evil Dead for being a fantastically made horror film despite having such a low budget. The story is your typical "stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere" type story, but really Evil Dead is kind of the pioneer of that subgenre. You got Bruce Campbell, you got your over-the-top cheap visual effects, you got Sam Raimi's camera tricks. It shouldn't be a surprise that The Evil Dead is still beloved by many horror fans and, while this is a term that is way overused, this film really is a cult classic.

63. Cinema Paradiso, 1988
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

The ultimate nostalgic, sentimental, longing for childhood, pragmatic cinema loving type film. Forget that, Cinema Paradiso is really a magical film unlike any other. It tells a wonderful story of a film director harkening back to his childhood, fondly remembering the friendship he had with an old projectionist at a movie theater and how he and the movies he watched impacted his life. The montage at the end of the film is just a sight to behold. Cinema Paradiso is a must-see for anybody who loves the movies.

62. Something Wild, 1986
Director: Johnathan Demme

Another great yuppie-in-peril comedy, I don't know why I get such a kick out of these. I think it's just that there's something about the blend of '80s-ness and yuppie-ness that just feels right to me. Jeff Daniels plays the helpless banker who inadvertently finds himself trapped with the sexy, unpredictable Audrey (played by Melanie Griffith). What follows is a free-wheeling fun little comedy and just when you think you know where this is going, in comes motherfucking Ray Liotta. Hold the phone. Ray Liotta is about to step into this film and steal the whole damn show. Something I've rarely seen in a movie where the tone takes such a dramatic turn, but Ray Liotta is so damn good in his role that it works. It ultimately makes for a really entertaining rollercoaster ride of a film.

61. Scarface, 1983
Director: Brian De Palma

My relationship with the movie Scarface was, for a time, a bit of a mixed bag. My first viewing was a pleasurable one but I ultimately thought it was empty and not worth the cult following it had. But I've seen Scarface many times since then, partly because I always find pleasure out of watching it because it is entertaining on a basic level and Al Pacino is so good in it, no matter how maniacal he is. Another reason is because it's always on, seemingly. It seems to be on Bravo or AMC every other weekend. Even on cable, the movie is still watchable despite all the F bombs that have to be deleted. Really though, it was from seeing other Brian De Palma films that really changed my stance from on the fence to an ardent supporter. Scarface is Brian De Palma at his slickest and very best. He's made a few better films (including one that's on this list that I haven't covered yet), but from a technical standpoint, he's never been better. Working with a great script from Oliver Stone who also deserves credit for taking Scarface: The Shame of a Nation and making it completely his own from a story standpoint. Scarface is a wonderful collaboration with screenwriter, director, and star who all gave their everything to make this film. It may not be the greatest gangster film, but it's an exceptional work in its own right. It takes the standard rise-and-fall plot and blows it up to epic proportions and at 170 minutes, Scarface is an epic film in its own right. It flows at a very brisk pace as Tony Montana's fall feels much longer than his rise, and yet it's not. His obsessions with his sister, his cocaine addiction, his regret of not being able to father a child (the more you watch the film, the more his feelings toward that matter are loud and clear). It's an incredible dissent into insanity and it leads to a climax that is just an all-out bloodbath. Scarface is awesome, there's just no other way around it. The score is very much of its time, but it's still very good. And who can forget the "Push it to the Limit" montage? This is a damn good film and I'm sure I'll find myself watching it again the next time it's on tv.

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