Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top 100 movies of the 1980s: 80-71

80. After Hours, 1985
Director: Martin Scorsese

After Hours is pure Martin Scorsese, it's Scorsese at his leanest and perhaps at his most fun. After Hours is a great '80s yuppie-in-peril type comedy with Griffin Dune playing the lead and a wide variety of supporting actors ranging from Linda Fiorentino and Cheech and Chong. What you get here is a tightly wound comedy that's well-made and really fun to watch unfold.

79. Fatal Attraction, 1987
Director: Adrian Lyne

I've always considered Fatal Attraction to be a guilty pleasure type film but watching it recently, I don't think it has to be called a guilty pleasure, there's a lot to love about this film. There's a real raw sexual energy to it and by that I mean raw, sexual, psychotic energy with people having sex in elevators and stuff like that. Glenn Close plays the psycho bitch trying to ruin Michael Douglas's life. The only movie where I'd consider Glenn Close to be sexy. Sexy in a restraining order kinda way, anyway.

78. The Killer, 1989
Director: John Woo

I tend to prefer Hard Boiled over The Killer because it's John Woo at his ultimate peak. But from the "A Better Tomorrow" films and "The Killer," you can go back and see John Woo on the rise. The Killer, to me, is just badass. It has some really well shot action sequences and the film moves so smoothly and gracefully in the midst of all this chaos and violence. Action fans seriously need to look to John Woo's Hong Kong films because he shows you how it's done.

77. Drugstore Cowboy, 1989
Director: Gus Van Sant

After Gus Van Sant's noteworthy albeit slight debut, he followed it up with Drugstore Cowboy which forever cemented his status as a filmmaker worth paying attention to. Earlier in the list I mentioned some key filmmakers of the American independent scene and well Gus Van Sant is definitely one of those filmmakers as well. Some still claim Drugstore Cowboy to be his best film and there is a reason for that. It's Gus Van Sant at his most focused and it features an amazing performance by Matt Dillon. Matt Dillon is brilliant as the junkie that tries to go legit. His performance in the film is so believable and honest that it gives the movie an added sense of pathos despite the pathetic-ness of his character.

76. Diner, 1982
Director: Barry Levinson

Barry Levinson's film debut, Diner in a lot of ways is kind of like Fellini's I Vitelloni. It's a very reminiscent-type film, set in 1959, about a group of high school friends who frequently hung out at the same diner together and have reunited for a friend's wedding. It's really just a slice-of-life type film that's filled with many memorable moments. What's most notable about Diner is perhaps the incredible cast: Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, and Paul Reiser. Obviously Kevin Bacon is the most notable but it's just fun to see all these guys hanging out together in the same movie.

75. They All Laughed, 1981
Director: Peter Bogdanovich

One of the things that I love about trying to make lists like these is that it sometimes introduces me to a filmmaker that I'd otherwise might overlook. Peter Bogdanovich is one of those filmmakers. He had a remarkable run in the late 60s/early 70s and then made some egregious flops that had him fall out of favor with Hollywood. 1979's Saint Jack saw him kinda getting back to what made him so great, but They All Laughed really demonstrates how talented the man was. What's so heartbreaking about this film is how overlooked it was at the time. It's a really fun comedy about private detectives, but what it's really about are these detectives' love lifes. What made Bogdanovich so great is the way he focuses on character, it's what made Paper Moon and The Last Picture Show so memorable. You care about the characters he puts on screen and They All Laughed is a testament to that. It's a movie that's all about character and its raw, authentic cinematography (shot on location in early 1980's New York) gives it a lively, unpredictable feel.

74. Empire of the Sun, 1987
Director: Steven Spielberg

Speaking of films that are grossly underlooked, Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" just might be the best drama Spielberg had made up to that point. Obviously at the time Spielberg was already the big hotshot Hollywood filmmaker that he is now. But Empire of the Sun is a touching, emotional tale of a young boy who winds up becoming a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II. Spielberg's obsession with WWII is in full force here and it's that care and attention to detail that makes this film so brilliant.

73. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, 1987
Director: John Hughes

Another year, another John Hughes classic. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is perhaps his funniest and most touching film and it's a film that really makes you miss John Candy. What a great comic actor he was in the '80s and early '90s. He was like this big ball of treasure sent to earth to make us all laugh and then just like that he was gone. He's the reason why Joe Montana lead the San Francisco 49ers to their third Super Bowl victory. Steve Martin was the perfect comic foil to John Candy's genuine good natured stupidity. There are so many memorable, laugh out loud moments to Planes that you can't just name one. The scene at the rent-a-car, "those aren't pillows," "how does he know where we're going," etc. But what truly makes this movie special is its big heart when it all comes to an emotional climax at the end. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is like the buddy comedy that all subsequent buddy comedies were modeled after.

72. This is Spinal Tap, 1984
Director: Rob Reiner

You watch This is Spinal Tap once, you quote it for the rest of your life. Scratch that, that's impossible. It's impossible to only watch This is Spinal Tap once. And if you didn't care for This is Spinal Tap after the first viewing, you might need to re-check your funny bone because this is the quintessential comedy, the perfect parody of rock and roll that both pokes fun at its subject, but it works so well because these guys clearly love what they're spoofing. How could you not? Plus, it's not really a spoof. Most rock musicians from that era consider This is Spinal Tap to be more-or-less an accurate reflection of what it was like for a rock musician at the time. It's absurd, it's endlessly quotable, it goes to 11.

71. Running on Empty, 1988
Director: Sidney Lumet

Running on Empty is an excellent coming-of-age film starring River Phoenix who was nominated for an Oscar for his role as the teenager who no longer wants to live a life in secret and on the run with his parents. It's a coming-of-age film that's even more poignant because of the unique situation the teen finds himself in. But really, River Phoenix is the one to watch here, this is the film to watch (along with My Own Private Idaho) which showcases just what an extraordinary talent the young actor was. To think that his life ended at such a young age and he was so talented just makes you wonder. Even now, he'd only be 41, he'd still be in the prime of his career. Nevertheless, Running on Empty is a great film by the always solid Sidney Lumet and again is a must-watch if you want to see just what American cinema has been missing the last 20 years since River's passing.

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