8.16.2006

The MediaLog Movies 100: The 80s

Welcome to the next installment of "The MediaLog Movies 100," my countdown of the hundred most influential movies in my life. These are not my favorite movies (necessarily) or what I think are the "greatest" movies of all time. They are movies that made an impact on me and my cinematic sensibilities, tempered by considerations of the traditional film "canon" and the conventional wisdom regarding what are the all-time "best" movies.

The "Movies 100" is not a film by film ranking in precise order, but rather groupings of ten films which have no additional discrimination within each group. Today's installment is the 80s, or films #81-90. The films are listed in alphabetical order, with the year of release, and in the case of foreign films, the country of origin (and English translation where applicable), in parentheses after the title, with the film's director listed after that. This is followed by a brief annotation on the film.

The remainder of the "Movies 100" will appear in the coming days, so stay tuned to the MediaLog, and feel free (please!) to make comments on the countdown and the films in it.

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The MediaLog Movies 100: The 80s


Beauty and the Beast (1991) Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise. Although the Disney animation renaissance of the 1990s arguably began with The Little Mermaid (1989), I would say that it really began with this film, one with (almost) enough charm and grace to make up for all of the much worse Disney animated films that followed it. I enjoyed "Be Our Guest" many times as this film played at the art-house movie theatre I worked for at the time.

The Cameraman (1928) Buster Keaton. This is one of Buster's lesser features (which is why it ranks this low on my countdown), but it's still Buster, so it's still great. Made at the MGM studio after years of true independence as his last silent feature and the last film over which he had any creative control, it is the story of a freelance newsreel cameraman who tries to break into the bigtime.

A Clockwork Orange (1971-British) Stanley Kubrick. If you know this film, you know that you can never hear the song "Singin' in the Rain" the same way again. Based on the Anthony Burgess novel, Clockwork portrays a dystopian society where gangs of "droogs" (simple hooligans) hang out at "milk bars" and run wild while fashionably dressed in dapper white shirts, suspenders, and bowler hats. In their spare time, they invade homes and terrorize the inhabitants, which for those that haven't seen it, is where "Singin' in the Rain" fits in.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) Tim Burton. By far Burton's best film, this fantasy is the story of the title character (Johnny Depp's first great performance) who inexplicably has large shears instead of hands, which comes in handy for sculpting topiary, not so much for such things as eating or embracing Winona Ryder. The exquisite production design includes pastel suburban subdivisions and the gothic black castle (presided over by Vincent Price) that served as Edward's first home, as well as the aforementioned topiary.

Freaks (1932) Tod Browning. A film about true horror from the director of Dracula (1931), Freaks is an amazing film that could never be made today--it is populated by dozens of genuine circus freaks, creatures with pinheads, flipper limbs, and other grotesque features. A "normal" trapeze artist conspires to marry a midget for the sole reason of swindling him out of his considerable fortune, but the other "freaks" end up making her (as they say so disturbingly at the end of the film), "One of us!"

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975-British) Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones. This is one of those movies that every time I see it has me laughing at the beginning of certain scenes simply in anticipation of how funny they will end up being. I'm talking about the castle siege, the demise of the Black Knight, and Eric Idle crying out "Bring out yer dead, bring out yer dead!" "I'm not dead yet!" Thwack!

Red Dawn (1984) John Milius. This film is far from great, and far from being the best late-Cold War cautionary tale, but I saw it at an impressionable age when I didn't know any better. As a result, it has always fallen into the "guilty pleasure" category for me, although I think it's genuine fun to watch Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, and the others traipse around the woods, drinking deer's blood and subverting the dirty Commies. When I first saw it, I also thought it would be fun to actually do these things myself, but I've gotten over that.

Taxi Driver (1976) Martin Scorsese. "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?" I guess you're talkin' to me. If you know this film, you recognize the quote; if not, why don't you know it? Scorsese's first masterpiece, Taxi Driver is an orchestration of violence with undertones of sleaze and obsession, and also one of the first great performances by Robert De Niro in the title role of Travis Bickle. A pre-adolescent Jodie Foster co-stars as a pre-adolescent hooker in the role that would-be assassin John Hinckley claimed to use as inspiration for his 1981 attempt on President Reagan.

The Usual Suspects (1995) Bryan Singer. Its hard to say much about this film without spoiling it for anyone who hasn't seen it. Suffice it to say that it is part of the fractured-narrative movement of the '90s that I've been discussing in this countdown, and that Kevin Spacey's career-making performance is at the center of that momentous fracture.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) Mike Nichols. This film, besides being important as one of the films that initiated the "New Hollywood" of the late-1960s, is a delightful character romp with Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor and George Segal & Sandy Dennis as two academic couples whose repressed emotional issues erupt in a night of drunken confession at a dinner party. The first film directed by Mike Nichols, it's based on the Edward Albee play.

1 comment:

Fred Holliday said...

No Spileberg thus far. I may have to reconsider our friendship blogger boy!