Monday, January 23, 2012

Top 100 movies of the 1980s: 90-81

90. A Room with a View, 1985
Director: James Ivory

The Merchant-Ivory duo really nailed it with this beautifully shot romantic-drama starring a young Daniel Day-Lewis and a young Helena Bonham Carter. About a young Englishwoman (named Lucy), engaged to be married, who makes a visit to Florence, Italy and meets a young man named George. After being taken with George, Lucy returns to England where she must decide whether or not to follow through with her marriage with Cecil (played by Day-Lewis). A Room with a View isn't groundbreaking, but it's a great mix of strong performances, great cinematography, and the successful execution of the story.

89. When Harry Met Sally..., 1989
Director: Rob Reiner

Another great romantic movie, this time on the comedy side. When Harry Met Sally is one of the few romantic comedies that is actually really very funny and it has the right romantic touch to it. Billy Crystal does an impeccable job alongside of Meg Ryan and they make quite a duo. They have the perfect chemistry together and Meg Ryan delivers one of the most memorable scenes ever that has been forever ingrained in pop culture.

88. Stranger Than Paradise, 1984
Director: Jim Jarmusch

The American film world was never quite the same when Jarmusch dropped this nihilistic, episodic little ditty called Stranger Than Paradise. If you were underwhelmed or bored by Stranger Than Paradise, don't fret. Stranger Than Paradise is not great because of it's story. It's more of a movie that warrants dissection. It's so minimalist and yet every little detail about it works. I say the American film world was never quite the same because Jim Jarmusch showed just how simple a film can be, be made for not much money, and still be great. It's the perfect starting point for independent cinema. With all that said, I actually get quite of a kick out of Stranger Than Paradise. I love the little episodes between Willie and Eva, their boredom, the onscreen presence of Richard Edson. It's one of those things where if you just cast the right amount of weird people, you can make a film work without saying much. Jarmusch followed up Stranger Than Paradise with two very good films Down By Law and Mystery Train, but Stranger Than Paradise is Jarmusch at his most unique. He was the fresh cinematic voice that American cinema desperately needed at the time.

87. Trading Places, 1983
Director: John Landis

Trading Places is a hilarious movie with a simple, yet ingenious plot that works so well because it's so incredibly well-casted. Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are perfect foils in this comedy about an upper class commodities broker and a homeless street hustler who have their lives switched all because of a bet. Eddie Murphy already showed he could be a great comedic actor in 48 Hrs, but Trading Places was what really took him to another level. But what makes Trading Places really great is that it works on every level. Simply put, it's a very well-made comedy.

86. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988
Director: Pedro Almodovar

One of the few Almodovar films from the '80s that's more easily accessible and more well-known in the US. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is vintage Almodovar. If you've read this blog in the past you know I'm an unabashed lover of Almodovar's films. This was the film that got me into him in the first place, I watched it in a film class and it was one of those few films they showed in film class that I truly enjoyed watching. This Spanish comedy is great because it's Almodovar doing what he does best: working with a mostly all-female cast and intertwining ridiculous plot points until it all comes to a hilarious climax that brings it all together. More than that, the colors.The best Almodovar films are bright, energetic, and colorful and this one is no exception.

85. Return of the Jedi, 1983
Director: Richard Marquand

The lesser of the three Star Wars films is still an excellent blockbuster film that wraps up the original trilogy so well that there is no need for any more Star Wars movies... George Lucas apparently didn't get that memo. Of course Empire Strikes Back is somewhere on this list too and I'll go more into my love and appreciation for this series in that entry.

84. Beetlejuice, 1988
Director: Tim Burton

What I love about Beetlejuice is just how inventive it is in its comedy. It's Tim Burton at his most fun, letting his actors be eccentric without being annoying. Letting the set pieces be stark and gothic without feeling forced. It's a movie that pulls out all the stops with tricks that would later become a Tim Burton benchmark. Tim Burton ultimately became a Hollywood player with his following film, Batman (which just missed the list too, surprisingly... I should probably do an honorable mentions list after I'm done with this). I guess that's why I prefer Beetlejuice over all of Burton's other work. I feel that this is Burton at his most imaginative. You also can't go wrong with the cast especially the powerhouse scene-stealing performance by Michael Keaton.

83. Mona Lisa, 1986
Director: Neil Jordan

Mona Lisa is a tremendous British film directed by Neil Jordan with the great Bob Hoskins. Hoskins plays a escort driver who inevitably becomes involved with the escort's life and tries to help her out, but it will come at a price with their boss. The film comes to a very violent and climactic conclusion and its style is very reminiscent of Taxi Driver. Some detractors may feel it's too reminiscent but I don't think it takes away from the movie itself at all. Mona Lisa is a great film in its own right.

82. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, 1988
Director: Robert Zemeckis

Another film featuring Bob Hoskins. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? continues a string of highly entertaining films from Robert Zemeckis. The wonderful blend of 2D cartoon and real-life characters is what really sets this film apart. The ambition of the project and the ultimate execution... it almost looks easy. But what ultimately makes Roger Rabbit work is just how damn funny it is and the real-life characters are just as cartoonish and hilarious as the cartoons. Also, Jessica Rabbit is a babe.

81. Thief, 1981
Director: Michael Mann

Thief was Michael Mann's first film and he immediately proved his worth with this film which is a brilliant character study starring James Caan. It has all the elements of a classic Michael Mann film who never attempts to follow the genre rules of a crime film. With Thief, he proves to be an original cinematic voice and James Caan shows just how well he can carry a film by himself.

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