Sunday, March 17, 2013

Favorite Movies: The 1980's

The 1980's are what I would consider my prime decade of movie attendance, so get ready for a looooooong list!

"Ordinary People" (1980) is a bit of a downer, and I can't say that the plot is really all that exciting. Still, the riveting performances of Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton make this film worth watching as they play a mother and son who struggle to communicate to each other in the midst of a family tragedy.

"Nine to Five" (1980) has one of the best trios of women in Hollywood history: Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin. Over thirty years later, their performances are just as fresh and natural. Even if women don't suffer in the work place like they did when this movie was made, there are still bosses that can be just as despicable as the one Dabney Coleman plays.

"Caddyshack" (1980) is one of the best "gross-out" films to hit the screen, thanks to an all-star comic cast. You can't find a better antagonistic duo than Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. They truly epitomize the movie's tagline of "The snobs vs. the slobs." Every line out of Dangerfield's mouth is a comic gem ("He called me a baboon, he thinks I'm his wife").

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) is the best of the quartet of films in the Indiana Jones series. It goes at a quick clip and is one of those rare movies where I don't long for a pair of editing shearers. Karen Allen is the best match for Indy, hands down. Although the final movie in the series was sub-par, at least she got the wedding ring!

"Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" (1982) is my kind of movie: corny with an absolute straight face. Steve Martin and Rachel Ward seem as if they stepped straight out of a film noir world, blending seamlessly with vintage clips from classic movies of yesteryear. A fitting final film for celebrated costume designer Edith Head and composer Miklós Rózsa.

About the only thing that keeps "Tootsie" (1982) from being timeless is its dated theme song. Other than that, this is one of the best comedies of all-time. Hoffman should have won a Best Actor (or Actress) Oscar for this one.

"Terms of Endearment" (1983) makes no bones about being a movie that shamelessly tugs on your heartstrings. Fortunately, a more than competent cast consisting of Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels, Shirley MacLaine, and Jack Nicholson keeps it from ever getting too tawdry.

"Sixteen Candles" (1984) is a fond look back at the awkwardness of High School. The movie really starts to hum when the two sets of grandparents come for a visit. In my opinion, they are the main reason to see it.

"Broadway Danny Rose" (1984) is typical Woody Allen; it starts out slow but picks up speed along the way as a table of comedians at NYC's Carnegie Deli recall talent agent Danny Rose's troubled professional (and personal) life.

"The Purple Rose Of Cairo" (1985) was recently covered here, so I'll just repeat myself again: this movie is Woody Allen at his best.

"Pee-wee's Big Adventure" (1985) baffled me the first time I saw it, and then it grew on me each time I watched it. Paul Reubens is brilliant as the devilish man-child, Pee Wee Herman, who heads to the Alamo to find his stolen bicycle.

"St. Elmo's Fire" (1985) creaks a bit when I watch it now, but it will always hold a special place in my heart since this tale of what happens after college was released shortly before I was contemplating the same question. Such a great 1980's time capsule.

"Prizzi's Honor" (1985) puts Kathleen Turner and Jack Nicholson together as a pair of hired killers who fall for each other. Plenty of twists and turns along the way with a surprise ending that hits like a knife through the throat...literally.

"Witness" (1985) is an edge-of-the-seat thriller that helped put Kelly McGillis on the map.

"Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986) is one of my favorite Kathleen Turner films, but I will admit that it's a bit difficult to believe that the 32-year old Turner is a high school student. If you can suspend your disbelief, you will be rewarded by this charming time travel story. At first I agreed with all of the critics who blasted Nicolas Cage for his performance as Peggy Sue's boyfriend/husband. Now when I watch it, I find that overall his performance fits, with just a few glitches of wackiness that seem to come from nowhere. It also appears that this film must have gotten some heavy-duty last-minute editing as there are lines in the script that would lead you to believe that more was to come. Rosalie, the girl in the wheelchair in the present has no role in the past. There is whispered (and not whispered) talk about the financial difficulties that Peggy Sue's father is facing, but nothing comes of it. Peggy Sue intimates that in the future she has unresolved issues with her sister, but that also vaporizes into nothing. These are just minor points about a movie that effectively wraps the audience in the warm glow of nostalgia laced with a tinge of regret.

"Stand by Me" (1986) is a sweet movie about childhood friends with a perfect cast and a perfect script that doesn't pull any punches with cheap emotional tricks.

"About Last Night..." (1986) is the perfect 1980's dating movie, with too-beautiful Rob Lowe & Debbie Moore as sweethearts who move too fast at first but eventually realize that their initial instincts were right.

"Adventures in Babysitting" (1987) is a fresh comedy of errors, thanks to Elisabeth Shue, not to mention one of the first Disney movies to drop an f-bomb.'s still Disney.

"Radio Days" (1987) highlights the golden age of radio during World War II from both the listener's side and the performer's side. Mia Farrow is wonderful as a shrill-voiced actress.

Even if you're not Italian, you can appreciate the comedy of "Moonstruck" (1987). Even though the transformation of a plain-jane to a knockout can be a bit of a Hollywood cliché, Cher's makeover here is breathtaking. Nicolas Cage is a great match for her as the slightly kooky brother of the man Cher's character is (almost) engaged to.

Let me preface this one by stating that I am not a huge fan of Melanie Griffith. Still, "Working Girl" (1988) is a movie that is perfectly suited to her "talents."

As Tess, the mouthy office worker, Griffith provides believability for the character that attempts to move up the corporate ladder by filling in for her boss (played by Sigourney Weaver). The resulting love-triangle situation with Harrison Ford provides a fantastic conclusion that is perfectly scripted. For once, it's a happy ending that is well-written and doesn't seem forced.

"Tequila Sunrise" (1988) has a few slow moments, but thanks to Michelle Pfeiffer, it is difficult to get bored.

It is not difficult to believe that Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell would be fighting over her.

"Torch Song Trilogy" (1988) is based on a 1982 play by Harvey Fierstein, following three different parts of his life. It is insightful while being funny, and even though it has some very intense moments, thanks to Fierstein and Anne Bancroft, it doesn't descend into being preachy.

"The Accidental Tourist" (1988) is one of those low-key movies that doesn't have a big protagonist, but instead is a well-crafted film about life and relationships.

William Hurt plays a travel writer whose life and marriage (to Kathleen Turner's character) is marred by the death of his son. Thanks to a quirky dog trainer (played by Geena Davis), he is given an opportunity to live again. The final scene is a tearjerker. In a happy way.

"Big" (1988) is one heck of a fantasy. A boy's wish to be "big" is granted, and he must live life in New York City as an adult until he figures out a way to reverse the process. Tom Hanks does a wonderful job of conveying the youth and innocence of his character. The relationship he develops with coworker Elizabeth Perkins is both funny and sad, all at the same time, as we know that it is doomed. Yet another final scene that will cause the tears to flow.

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988) was filmed under the Touchstone banner, mainly because it was a bit racy to be considered a Disney film. Now that 25 years have passed, Disney has fully embraced it as its own, even though it borrows heavily from the cartoons of Tex Avery and Warner Brothers. Never have the movies seen a character with more va-va-voom than that of Jessica Rabbit (voiced by the sultry Kathleen Turner).

"Field of Dreams" (1989) is a fantasy film that sweeps the audience away on a journey of healing, and does so with such feeling that it is easy to forgive some of the hard-to-believe (and predictable moments). Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones give Oscar-worth supporting actor performances.

"The War of the Roses" (1989) is my favorite Kathleen Turner movie. By the time it was going into production, she had already worked with Danny DeVito and Michael Douglas on two blockbusters ("Romancing the Stone" and "Jewel of the Nile"). The trio had found their rhythm, and this extremely black comedy shows the fruits of that friendship.

If divorce is a painful topic for you, then you should not watch this movie. What I like most about it is that rather than throw in a third person as a temptation, it focuses entirely on how two people can drift apart due to a lack of communication. What results is a biting take on what happens when you don't listen to your spouse!

See more classic Movie & TV photos on my regular web page.


Major Pepperidge said...

"Adventures in Babysitting" but not "Back to the Future"?

Diane said...

My list is pretty long too! Lots of good choice on yours!

My additions:
The Long Riders
The Blues Brothers
The Man From Snowy River
Back To The Future (I)
Eight Men Out
A Christmas Story
Streets of Fire
Plains, Trains and Automobiles
This Is Spinal Tap
Mr. Mom

K. Martinez said...

“Blade Runner” is on my list of top ten films of all-time. It played on the midnight film circuit in my town for the whole summer of 1983. I watched it every Saturday at midnight for that whole summer. Needless to say, it blew me away.

On the Disney front, I absolutely loved “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”. I’ve also listed “The Little Mermaid” because it really hit me that Disney animation was back. I also enjoyed “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” which was reminiscent of “The Absent Minded Professor”. The late 1980s was when I became excited again about going to a Disney movie.

Here’s my 80s list:

Blade Runner (1982)
Tron (1982)
The Hunger (1983)
Platoon (1986)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Back to the Future (all 3 movies - 1980s)

Dave - I’m really enjoying your “Favorite Movies by Decade” series. I’m as much a fan of films as I am of Disneyland. It’s always interesting to hear what films interest other people as well. I look forward to the rest of the decades presented in this series.

Chrissy @ Adventures in DIY said...

Wow - what a trip down memory lane. Some of these movies I haven't seen in a loooong time. I think I'll have to add some of these to my list to watch soon. :)

Anonymous said...

Kelly McGillis is on the map?

Daveland said...

Witness (1985), Top Gun (1986), and The Accused (1988). I can't vouch for what happened after those movies, but Kelly McGillis was a pretty big name in the 1980's.