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Mike’s Top Ten of 1985

Peak 80s. That’s what this is. This feels like everything I remember the 80s being. Not that I particularly remember the 80s, since I wasn’t alive for just about 90% of it. But in my mind, this year epitomizes the decade for me.

This is one of those lists that was forged mainly by my childhood. A bunch of these are movies I grew up watching. Some of them I saw in college for the first time, and the rest I saw as part of the Oscar Quest. Which, for me, makes it feel like I’ve been with them for a while, given the amount of stuff I’ve seen since then.

Though I will say, as far as the decade goes… not the deepest. All the strength tends to be up top. But, so far we haven’t had a year that was horrendously bad, so we should be grateful for that.

Mike’s Top Ten of 1985

Back to the Future

The Breakfast Club

Clue

The Color Purple

The Last Dragon

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

Prizzi’s Honor

The Purple Rose of Cairo

Rocky IV

Witness

11-20: Brazil, Brewster’s Millions, Cocoon, Come and See, Mask, Pale Rider, Ran, Runaway Train, Silverado, A View to a Kill

Tier two: After Hours, Agnes of God, Better Off Dead, The Black Cauldron, A Chorus Line, Commando, The Goonies, Jagged Edge, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Legend, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, My Beautiful Laundrette, My Life as a Dog, Out of Africa, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Spies Like Us, The Trip to Bountiful, Twice in a Lifetime, Weird Science, White Nights

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1. Back to the Future

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.”

Let’s get serious for a minute — I didn’t see this movie for the first time until college. Like, junior year of college. Took me 20 years to see this movie for the first time. Don’t know how that happened, but it did.

That said… it’s Back to the Future. This is a perfect movie. It’s 80s as hell, but it still works. Somehow, it’s kinda timeless at the same time. While I would watch a couple of films below this (namely #2 and #3) before this, I still think this is the best movie of 1985. It’s so amazing on every level.

You know this movie is great because it makes a joke as hokey as, “Hey Chuck, it’s your cousin Marvin… Marvin BERRY!” not only work but become one of the most beloved moments of the film.

This movie is almost a rite of passage for people. This is one of those universal (and Universal!) movies that everyone’s seen and everyone knows and everyone loves. And when you find out there’s someone who doesn’t like this movie… don’t they become just a little bit suspect in your mind? Because you know who doesn’t like this movie? Narcs.

2. Clue

“Just checking.”
“Everything all right?”
“Yep. Two corpses. Everything’s fine.”

I don’t even care that the entire plot was basically stolen from Murder by Death, this is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I must have watched this movie a hundred times while growing up. It’s absolutely perfect on every comedic level.

Basic premise — six strangers (corresponding with the six board game characters) are invited to a mansion. When there, their mysterious host introduces himself and basically admits that he has been blackmailing every one of them. One thing leads to another, and pretty soon, he’s dead. Now they gotta figure out whodunit. And hilarity ensues.

Tim Curry stars as Wadsworth, the butler, Madeline Kahn is Mrs. White, Lesley Ann Warren is Miss Scarlett, Eileen Brennan is Mrs. Peacock, Michael McKean is Mr. Green, Christopher Lloyd is Professor Plum and Martin Mull is Colonel Mustard. It’s so fucking funny, this movie. All the actors are absolutely tremendous in their roles. Madeline Kahn’s “flames on the side of my face” monologue is a thing of genius. And Tim Curry running around the house explaining everything is incredible.

My favorite thing about this movie, which no one would attempt nowadays, is that upon original release, they put the film out in theaters with three different endings. And depending on what theater you saw it at, you got a different ending. Now, all the prints of the film you see include all three. It is kinda fun to get all three, but the notion that they put out different endings in different theaters is amazing to me.

All of us grew up with this game, and I suspect a lot of people around my age grew up with this movie. I don’t know the general consensus on this outside of that. This could be one of those movies that I hold dear that most other people are ambivalent about. I truly don’t know. But I love it, and that’s all that really matters.

3. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

“There’s a lotta things about me you don’t know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn’t understand. Things you couldn’t understand. Things you shouldn’t understand.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott.”

Talk about a movie of my childhood. My sister’s generation grew up with Blue’s Clues and Barney. I grew up with Pee-wee and Mr. Rogers. Those were my kids shows. And honestly, it’s more Pee-wee than Fred. I fucking loved that show. We still have back home a full on Chairry chair that I used to sit in.

So it makes sense that I grew up with this movie. I didn’t get half the jokes and I was scared shitless of that clown nightmare, but that’s the beauty of this movie. You can enjoy it at 6 and then grow up with it and appreciate all the adult stuff when you get to an age where you can understand all of it. It’s weird that this is both a Pee-wee movie and also a Tim Burton movie. Watching this, it’s undeniably a Burton movie. (His first movie, by the way!)

I still quote this movie on a weekly, if not almost daily basis (which I will refrain from doing now, because if I start, I’ll just keep going). It’s a thing of beauty. No idea how the younger generations would respond to this, but I don’t really care. I think this is a perfect movie.

4. The Color Purple

“I loves Harpo, God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead ‘fo I let him beat me.”

This is one of those situations… I’ll watch most of the rest of the list before I watch this, but this movie is so good it deserves a higher spot on this list.

This movie was Steven Spielberg adapting Alice Walker’s novel as an attempt to do something different. All he was known for were blockbuster and I think he wanted to prove that he was a serious filmmaker with real dramatic chops. Granted, I feel as though he’d already done that and was unfairly pigeonholed to this point because his movies had done as well as they did (there’s no denying that Close Encounters and E.T. are dramas before they’re “blockbusters”), but this was definitely a way for him to do the “Oscar” thing. Of course, it backfired, seemingly, as the film was well-received and nominated across the board, but was completely snubbed in the end (with him even being one of the few instances where a DGA Award winner wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars). And anyone who has read this site knows how I feel about this movie and how it should have won Best Picture and the fact that it lost to a generic “white people” romance (as solid as that movie is) is one of the major blights on the Academy.

Anyway, the film is about Celie, played by Whoopi Goldberg, who is sent to marry Danny Glover, and older, abusive man. He prevents her from seeing her sister (who she loves) and dominates her life in every way. And the film is about her over 40 years discovering her own identity and growing as a person. There are great subplots with Whoopi Goldberg as a strong-willed woman who is slowly broken down by the oppressive southern society and Margaret Avery as a jazz singer with whom Glover is obsessed.

It’s… so good. This is one of those movies that people often overlook in Spielberg’s oeuvre because it almost doesn’t feel like he made it. Plus, it’s not as easy to put this on over something like Raiders. But man, does he get great performances out of all the actors in this. Whoopi was good enough to have won Best Actress, and most people think it’s a sin that Oprah didn’t win Best Supporting Actress this year. But hey, we’re left with a great and enduring movie, and that’s all that matters.

5. Rocky IV

“If he dies, he dies.”

Rocky ended the Cold War, guys.

This is, kinda like the fourth Star Trek movie, with the whales, the one Rocky that most people go back to. Because it’s so much fun! They all kinda dip in quality little by little from the first one, but they’re also all great in their own way.

This one just goes full 80s and doesn’t give a fuck! Paulie has a robot butler! And it’s blatantly about the Cold War in such an obvious way that you almost have to applaud it.

The best is that Rocky was an over-the-hill fighter in the first movie. And the idea that he’d be able to not get his brains bashed in by Drago is hilarious in its own right. But you know what? Don’t care. Don’t care about any of it. This movie is great, and it’s not even a guilty pleasure as far as the Rocky franchise goes. If everyone likes this movie, it’s good. There’s nothing guilty about that.

6. The Breakfast Club

John Hughes, man.

This is one of those movies… I feel like all the younger generations are not gonna like this as much as my generation and more specifically the generation before mine likes this movie. Because if there’s one thing John Hughes was good at, it was taking high school archetypes and putting them in interesting films.

Here… if you really wanted to analyze the movie, the characters are a little one-dimensional. Even if the idea of the movie (which is explicitly stated within it) is that these people are more than just the stereotypes we label them as, they’re still a little generic. So I’m not gonna push this the way I’ll push Back to the Future as a truly great movie, but it’s also really entertaining.

The general premise of the story is: five people are given detention on a Saturday. They are: the jock, the delinquent, the princess, the outcast and the nerd. All run in different social circles and have nothing to do with one another most of the time. But they all bond over the course of the day and learn to see each other as more than what they assumed.

It’s good. It’s getting dated as time goes on, but it’s very good. All the actors are great — Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Emilio Estevez. And of course, Paul Gleason as the principal. He’s fantastic. And it’s another one of those 80s movies with a great theme song.

7. Prizzi’s Honor

“Do I ice her? Do I marry her?”

The last great John Huston film. It’s his penultimate film (and I know some people adore The Dead, but I’m ambivalent about that), and ranks up there with some of his best.

It’s a mob comedy starring Jack Nicholson as a dim-witted mob hitman who has an on-again, off-again thing with the boss’s daughter (Anjelica Huston). The film begins at a wedding, not long after Nicholson and Huston have broken up. Nicholson meets Kathleen Turner there and is immediately smitten with her. He then goes out of his way to seek her out after the wedding, which starts to complicate matters. Especially when he finds out she’s in the same line of work he is.

It’s fantastic. Nicholson is hilarious. Huston won an Oscar for her performance and is terrific. Turner is great. William Hickey as Huston’s grandfather… oh my god is he good. It’s also got Robert Loggia, Lawrence Tierney, CCH Pounder, John Randolph and a young Stanley Tucci!

It’s nice to see Huston, almost 80, still cranking out good movies. It’s rare for directors nearing 80 to make movies as good as this. So it’s really cool to see one of the great filmmakers put a strong finish to his career like this.

8. Witness

“It’s not our way.”
“It’s my way.”

Classic 80s thriller. So good it was endlessly repeated in different ways over the past thirty years. Not as much as Die Hard, but in its own way. You’ve seen this copied and parodied…. even if you haven’t seen it, you almost feel like you have.

It takes place in Amish country. A young boy and his mother travel to the big city (I think to see her sister), and while at a train station, the boy witnesses a murder in the bathroom. Later, while questioned by police, he reveals that the man who committed the murder (Danny Glover) is a cop. So the officer, Harrison Ford, realizes there’s corruption within the department and that he has to protect the boy’s safety, so he accompanies the boy and his mother back to Amish country and embeds himself within the community, waiting to make sure the killers don’t come for the boy and ready to take care of them when and if they do.

It’s so good. Ford got his only Oscar nomination for this. Not his greatest performance, but it’s more of a movie star nomination. Which I get. Peter Weir directs (part of his great filmography. This is one of those movies that’s hard not to like. It just works all around.

9. The Last Dragon

“Am I the meanest?”
“Sho’nuff!”
“Am I the prettiest?”
“Sho’nuff!”
“Am I the baddest mofo low down around this town?”
“Sho’nuff!”
“Well who am I?”
“Sho’nuff!
“Who am I?”
“Sho’nuff!
“I can’t hear you…”
“Sho’nuff!”

I truly don’t know how this ended up being one of the films I watched from a young age, but here we are. I missed Back to the Future completely, but this movie… staple of my youth.

For those who don’t know (and I suspect that’s more than I care to hear about), it’s about a Harlem kid who is obsessed with Bruce Lee (to the point where he’s called Bruce Leroy) who is trying to attain the highest level of martial arts mastery, and in the process builds toward an eventual showdown with the self-proclaimed “Shogun of Harlem,” Sho’nuff.

It’s so 80s, and so great. Not a movie I force a lot of people to watch, but man, when I get someone who sees this and loves this, there’s a certain level of bond I have with that person because of it. It’s got martial arts, 80s music and culture, and somehow a mob subplot. It’s absolutely insane. But you know what? It works. And it’s one of those movies that certain people just have as a reference point. There’s a group of people who just understand that this movie is great.

From the great tunes — “Rhythm of the Night” and “The Glow” — to Sho’nuff being one of the greatest movie characters of all time (I was so excited ten years ago when they were trying to remake this with Samuel L. Jackson as Sho’nuff. That would have been perfect casting). I love this movie.

10. The Purple Rose of Cairo

“I just met a wonderful new man. He’s fictional but you can’t have everything.”

One of the few Woody Allen movies I will out and out say that I love. It’s only one of two in my top ten lists. And the other is Annie Hall. I don’t say that lightly. I truly love this movie.

This is Allen at his most inventive (to the point where he kinda repeated the plot for Midnight in Paris, in a way). Mia Farrow stars as a bored housewife who finds escape by going to the movies. One day, while watching her favorite new picture, something incredible happens — the star of the movie suddenly notices her in the audience and steps out from the screen and into the real world. So now she’s running off with him, both amazed at what happened and seeing this as an opportunity for all the things she sees as missing in her life, and (as another part of Allen’s genius) all the characters in the movie are standing there, wondering what the hell to do because they can’t finish the movie without the lead being there to be in the scenes.

It’s so good. This is almost a fantasy version of Brief Encounter. It’s wonderful. If I had to sit down and recommend the best five Woody Allen movies to watch, this would be in that top five. In fact, I remember a few years ago, he listed what he thought his best movies were (or his favorite movies of the ones he’s made, or something like that), and this was on that list. I think universally this is regarded as one of his best works. And you know it when you watch it. Few of his movies aren’t at least marginally divisive, and this is one of the most consensus ones he has.

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11-20:

Brazil — Perhaps Terry Gilliam’s most iconic film. He wanted to do a version of 1984, and it shows when you watch the film. It’s about an average guy who, by administrative error, becomes a fugitive of the dystopian state. It stars Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Bob Hoskins and Ian Holm. It’s one of Gilliam’s best, and the Gilliam film to watch if you want to get a sense of his style. Though, honestly, he’s never made a bad movie, so you should watch them all if you can.

Brewster’s Millions — A remake of the 1945 film, but this is the definitive version. Richard Pryor plays a minor league baseball player who finds out his great-uncle died and left him his entire fortune. However, there’s a catch: he wants him to learn the value of money. So, the deal is, he can either take $1 million straight up and be done, or spend $30 million within 30 days and then inherit $300 million. There are rules in place to prevent him from taking the obvious loopholes, but ultimately the deal is, if he doesn’t spend the $30 million he loses it all. And it’s great. It’s a really great film. One of the classic comedies of all time. Directed by Walter Hill, coming off 48 Hours. It’s a must see.

Cocoon — Classic 80s movie. It feels like something Amblin would make, but it’s not Amblin at all. it’s Ron Howard. It’s about a group of aliens who were stranded in cocoons deep within the ocean. Now, some of their kind have come to retrieve the others and bring them home. In order to do that, they have to keep the pods in water and “charge” them for the trip home. However, the pool they keep them in is right next to a retirement community. And some the residents sneak over to use the pool when no one’s looking. However, when they get out, they suddenly start acting 50 years younger. So now all the residents start using the pool. And hilarity ensues. It’s a great movie. It’s got a lot of older actors from the 30s and 40s: Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn, Jack Gilford, Jessica Tandy, Gwen Verdon. And of course Wilford Brimley, who passed as 80 even though he was 50 at the time. It’s really good. Don Ameche won an Oscar for his performance.

Come and See — Great Russian war film. It has an interesting look, seemingly shot on video, and is about a young boy who joins the resistance during World War II. It’s a film about a young boy witnessing the atrocities of war. That’s all you need. It’s really fantastic.

Mask — Directed by Peter Bogdanovich (which has a bit of a ‘director-for-hire’ feel to it), it’s a biopic of Rocky Dennis, a boy born with a birth defect that makes his face extra enlarged. And the film is about him living with his mother as he grows up. What I like about the film is that it doesn’t give you all the usual stuff a movie like this would give you. The obvious ‘bully’ scenes and him being a maladjusted kid. Right from the start, he’s a regular kid, and all the people around him know about his condition and are totally cool with him. It’s not the kind of movie you think it is, is what I’m getting at. Which is its biggest strength. If it were by the numbers, I don’t think I’d be able to rank it this high. Also, Cher as the mother is really good. She’s a great actress, and the 80s is really when she got to show it. Some people might argue she won her Moonstruck Oscar for this performance.

Pale Rider — Clint Eastwood only directed four westerns: High Plains Drifter, Outlaw Josey Wales, this and Unforgiven. Meaning he had the utmost respect for the genre and only made one when he knew he could make a good one. This one is more in line with High Plains Drifter, where he plays a mysterious man who rides into town, bringing justice. Here, it’s much more overt that he’s the Angel of Death. He comes in to help a town against a mining company trying to take their land. It’s great. All the Eastwood westerns are great. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that.

Ran — Akira Kurosawa. This is samurai King Lear. That’s all you need to know. It’s gorgeous. He directs the shit out of it, and earned a Best Director nomination for the effort. This is probably not the first Kurosawa you want to watch, but if you’ve seen a lot of his early stuff like Seven Samurai, you owe it to yourself to see this too.

Runaway Train — The title just about says it all. It’s a runaway train movie. Jon Voight is a maximum security prisoner in Alaska who breaks out with the help of Eric Roberts. And the two of them start traveling away, when the train they’re on loses its breaks and they end up speeding through the Alaskan wilderness. It’s really good. You’ve seen this kind of movie before, but this is the first one, and it works because of the strong characterization of the leads. They don’t phone in the backstory the way some of the other ones do.

Silverado — Lawrence Kasdan western. It’s a bold choice for him, coming off The Big Chill, which got him a Best Picture nomination. This is a throwback western, not intended to be part of the western genre (the way Pale Rider is) so much as an appreciation of the western genre. The genre had a bit of a revival in the late 80s, with stuff like Back to the Future III and Young Guns. I’m guessing this had something (or a lot) to do with it. It stars Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner and Danny Glover as a bunch of guys who team up against an evil rancher. It also has Brian Dennehy, Rosanna Arquette, John Cleese, Jeff Goldblum and Linda Hunt. It’s a lot of fun. If you’re a fan of the western genre and these actors, you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

A View to a Kill — The last of the Roger Moore Bond movies. By the end, he was far too old for the role (it’s pretty evident here). You’d think the films would just completely bottom out, but after For Your Eyes Only (which is meh) and Octopussy (which is the worst Bond movie of them all), this one’s actually quite fun. Now, that’s probably because Christopher Walken is the villain and Grace Jones is there to liven up the proceedings, but hey, fun is fun. I honestly don’t know what the plot here is — Christopher Walken has a nefarious blimp and he’s doing some shit in San Francisco. Doesn’t really matter. It’s fun. One of the overall weaker Bonds, but in terms of Moore’s output, I’d say The Spy Who Loved Me is best, then Live and Let Die is my second favorite, Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker are solidly in the middle there, then there’s this one and then the other two. Still, as I always say, I’ll take a decent Bond movie over most other movies.

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Tier two:

  • After Hours
  • Agnes of God
  • Better Off Dead
  • The Black Cauldron
  • A Chorus Line
  • Commando
  • The Goonies
  • Jagged Edge
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Legend
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
  • My Beautiful Laundrette
  • My Life as a Dog
  • Out of Africa
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Spies Like Us
  • The Trip to Bountiful
  • Twice in a Lifetime
  • Weird Science
  • White Nights

After Hours is Martin Scorsese reinventing himself. He had a couple of major turning points in his career, but there are two notable points where he went back and reinvented himself into a different filmmaker. The second notable one is when he took on DiCaprio. This is the one after The King of Comedy, where he decided to strip everything away, make a film with almost no money and shoot it as if it were an underground student film. This is exactly what Spielberg did after 1941, and we got Raiders. Here… the result is much less memorable, but it’s still really interesting. It’s a comedy… well, as much of a comedy as Scorsese is capable of making. It’s a very dark comedy. And it all takes place over one night. It’s one insane night in the life of Griffin Dunne. Interestingly, Tim Burton was gonna direct it before Scorsese came on board (and he made Pee-Wee instead, which turned out for the best). Scorsese made it because financing fell through for Last Temptation of Christ, which, interestingly enough, he made not long after this. It’s definitely a weird little movie, and not one that most people would consider a favorite among Scorsese’s other works. But it is definitely a gem amongst his filmography, and worth seeing.

Agnes of God is a movie that I don’t particularly love, but I love one of the performances in it, and that’s what spurred me to recommend it. It’s about a simple-minded nun who is found with a dead newborn baby in her room. So Jane Fonda, a psychiatrist, is sent in to find out what happened. Anne Bancroft plays the Mother Superior of the convent, who is protective of the nun in question, and part of the film is her getting into philosophical and theological discussions with Fonda. But the part I’m interested in is Meg Tilly as the nun who was found with the baby. She’s a very naive girl who knows nothing about babies or how they’re conceived. It’s clear the baby was hers and that she killed it, but no one can figure out how she got pregnant, by whom, and why she did what she did. And Tilly is just spectacular here. She’s the highlight of the film.

The Black Cauldron is the “forgotten” Disney movie. It’s the least Disney, Disney movie. It counts as one of their official films. The animated canon of Disney is a very noted list. And aside from the package films of the 40s, this is the only other movie that they don’t actively promote. Because it’s dark. This is almost the bottoming-out of them before the renaissance of the late 80s and early 90s. The story is… it’s basically Lord of the Rings. When you watch it, it’s kinda crazy how blatantly Rings it is, from the straight up Gollum character they have. The plot involves a Sauron figure who is looking for our hero’s pig, which is psychic, so he can find a mystical cauldron, that can unleash all sorts of evil unto the world. So adventure ensues. It’s a good film. I like it. It’s dark though. You could better see this having been made by Jim Henson, a la Dark Crystal, instead of Disney. But it’s a Disney movie, and for that, it will forever be notable. The Goonies must have a really hard time saying things in German. (Get it, because they never say Die! … I will not apologize for that, go get yourself a better sense of humor.) I’m always amazed at how Amblin made so many iconic movies of peoples’ childhoods and how, in retrospect, how fucking weird they all are. I was born after this movie came out and I didn’t watch it until after college. So I don’t have the attachment to this that others do. But it is fun. Kids trying to save their homes from foreclosure stumble upon a treasure map and go to find the treasure before some criminals do. It’s fun.

A Chorus Line is based on the Broadway show, and always had a great concept. The entire show takes place on a stage, as a bunch of dancers are auditioning for parts in a show. The director of the show, in the show, is only heard as a voice and is never seen. Naturally, that couldn’t happen here, so Michael Douglas plays the director. But it’s mostly about all the people auditioning. It starts as a giant group, and then gets whittled down to like, a dozen, and you sort of get to know the dozen, who they are, what their backstories are, what they have riding on this audition, and you follow it through until the cast is decided. I really like the concept. The movie’s solid, but it’s the concept I like most. Richard Attenborough directs this too, which was his follow-up to Gandhi. I loved his ability to completely switch gears and try new genres all the time. Legend is another 80s fantasy film in the vein of NeverEnding Story and Dark Crystal. Tom Cruise stars as a dude who has to save the unicorns from being murdered by the Lord of Darkness (his actual name). Tim Curry plays him, under a fuck ton of prosthetics. Mia Sara also stars and the film is directed by Ridley Scott. It’s weird, but it looks good, and Scott usually makes his movies worthwhile. I’m mostly amused by how fucking weird these 80s fantasy films are.

Out of Africa is your Best Picture winner for 1985. I’m… not the biggest fan of this movie. It’s Sydney Pollack directing Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. It’s a big, sweeping romance on a foreign continent. Meryl’s doing an accent, Redford’s… looking like Redford. It’s fine. It’s like The English Patient. Big, romantic, epic, looks good, and you’re not really sure what the point of it is, but man, are those good looking white people sure in love with each other. The film is basically… Meryl is a woman of ambition, who has money but needs a husband with a name to get anything done. So she marries Klaus Maria Brandauer, a man with a title but no funds. They move to Africa, where he decides to start a coffee farm, which is not something that grows easily in Africa. Pretty soon, he’s off fucking other women, and she’s left to run the farm. And eventually she meets Redford, a big game hunter, and they start their own romance. Though naturally he’s the type that doesn’t like to be tied down. But that doesn’t stop them from all sorts of sexy time in Africa. (More like IN and OUT in Africa, am I right, guys?!!!) It’s fine. It’s a perfectly good movie that some people will love. I’m moderate thumbs up on it because I like the stars and it looks great and it’s well-made enough to give me something out of it. My Life as a Dog is a Lasse Hallstrom-directed coming of age movie. A boy and his brother are separated to make things easier on their dying mother, so they are sent to live with a different set of relatives. The main boy goes to live with his aunt and uncle in a small town. And he gets to know all the different characters that inhabit the place, and it’s just about him growing up. It’s a nice movie. Hallstrom was nominated for Best Director for this movie.

Twice in a Lifetime is a solid drama. Gene Hackman is a regular dude. Married for thirty years, stable family. One day, he comes home and tells his wife that he wants a divorce. Which blindsides the entire family. And pretty soon he’s got a new girlfriend and is happy with her, but now the rest of the family has to deal with that. Ellen Burstyn plays the wife, Ann-Margret is the new girlfriend, Amy Madigan and Ally Sheedy play two of the kids. Madigan was nominated for an Oscar for the film. It’s a nice little gem about a dude going through a mid-life crisis. Kiss of the Spider Woman won William Hurt his Oscar. He plays a gay window dresser in a South American prison for sodomizing a young boy. He is placed in a cell with Raul Julia, a revolutionary, in the hopes that he will get Julia to give up some of his friends. And the film is mostly about the relationship between the two men, as it goes from dislike to friendship to…. something more. Hurt is incredible in the film, Julia is really good, and the film was nominated for Best Picture this year. It’s really solid. Weird Science is a classic 80s teen comedy directed by John Hughes. Which is something you’ll hear a lot this decade. Two nerdy kids decide to create the virtual girlfriend of their dreams… only she becomes real. And hijinks ensue. It’s fun. To me, not as great as Hughes’ other films that he made around it, but Hughes is also a guy who never made a bad movie. This one’s so enjoyable. An okay John Hughes movie is better than most other great 80s teen comedies.

White Nights is a fucking weird movie. But I enjoy it because it’s so weird. Directed by Taylor Hackford, it stars Mikhail Baryshnikv and Gregory Hines, both dancers. Baryshnikov plays a dancer who has defected from the Soviet Union and Hines plays an American who has defected to the Soviet Union. Baryshnikov’s plane crashes in Russia and is held sort of captive by the KGB. They put Hines there as a sort of babysitter, to try to convince Baryshnikov to dance for the Soviet ballet. Pretty soon, the two become friends. So there’s a lot of dancing going on. I like it. I don’t know why, but I do. I love these blatantly 80s movies. Jagged Edge is an 80s thriller. Written by Joe Eszterhas, who made his name on Flashdance but is now best known for Basic Instinct and Showgirls. A socialite is murdered in her home and her husband, Jeff Bridges, is accused of committing it. He hires Glenn Close to defend him. Naturally, sparks fly, and she tries to find the evidence to exonerate him. It’s fine. Good cast. Robert Loggia was nominated for his performance in the film. Fairly standard thriller fare. Spies Like Us is a fun spy comedy directed by John Landis, starring Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd. It’s meant to be like the “Road To…” movies, and sort of plays like that (complete with great Bob Hope cameo midway through the film). I’ve always loved this movie because of the great “doctor, doctor” skit. It’s about two guys who think they’re spies but are actually being led in as decoys. So they bumble their way around, getting into shit. It’s fun as hell.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the third Mad Max film. The most 80s of the bunch. Max ends up in a town ruled by Tina Turner, and ends up teaming with a bunch of children to take her down. It’s fun. Not the best of the Mad Max films, but it’s kinda like Rocky IV. You know it’s not the best movie, but you enjoy it anyway. The Trip to Bountiful is the film that won Geraldine Page her Oscar. She stars as an old woman living with her son and his wife who is determined to see childhood home one last time before she dies. So she sneaks out of the house and basically escapes to the bus depot, and begins traveling across the state to her former home. And her son, his wife, and the police all go out looking for her, and of course she eludes them the whole time, and goes around making friends and getting around in superficially charming ways. You know exactly the kind of movie you’re getting with this. And it’s perfectly delightful in its own way. I don’t want to make undo comparisons to Driving Miss Daisy, which a lot of people see as a similar type of film, because I think Driving Miss Daisy is a far superior film, but it’s kind of like that in the sense that — it’s perfectly fine, doesn’t get that deep on the subject matter, and it’s not gonna change cinema as much as it’s gonna give you a perfectly enjoyable 100 minutes of film.

My Beautiful Laundrette is a beautiful little romance movie about a gay couple opening up a laundromat. Stephen Frears directs and Daniel Day-Lewis plays one of the men in the couple. It’s very well done. Better Off Dead is an 80s teen comedy with John Cusack. He’s a skier who gets dumped by his girlfriend and decides death is the only way out. Naturally, all his suicide attempts fail in comic ways. It’s like a teen version of The End, with Burt Reynolds. It’s fun. Rambo: First Blood Part II is Rambo in Vietnam. I don’t know the plot, but he kills a lot of Vietnamese people. If you like those 80s action movies where the hero murders a lot of people, this is for you. Commando is, like Rambo, an 80s action movie where the hero kills a lot of people. I really enjoy this one, much more so than Rambo. Because it doesn’t bother setting up a plot. Schwarzenegger is a former Special Forces guy who gets a visit from a C.O. to say all the men in his unit are dead. Within three minutes of that, a hit squad comes to take him out too. They kidnap his daughter, and he sets out to get her back. And he just kills a lot of people along the way. It’s real fun.

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