BOP 50 of the '80s: Selections 50-46
50) Blue Velvet
David Lynch's 1986 film is a very dark look at small town America. What is so interesting to me about this film is the dichotomy between Lynch's portryal of this quaint suburban town, all picket fences, smiling firemen and the like and the downright iniquity of a number of the characters and their deeds. It is the stereotypical Hollywood vision of innocence meeting the stereotypical Hollywood vision of evil. For Lynch fans, you can see seeds of Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive in Blue Velvet. Plus, you get memorable, if somewhat (deliberately) overstated performances from Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern. Love it or hate it, it's a movie that will stick with you. (Stephanie DeGateo/BOP)
I vividly remember seeing this film in the theater. It was the first real "art house" movie I'd ever given a chance, and the assault on the senses was impacting to say the least. From the very moment Kyle McLachlan happened upon that severed ear in the field, I was captivated, disturbed and intrigued. Perhaps much of the reason that the film affected me so profoundly was the fact that I lived in a tranquil bit of suburbia myself - it was so easy to imagine the darkness that might similarly lurk in my own little world. I'm quite certain that David Lynch and this twisted environment he created are wholly responsible for my love of cinema in the first place. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
49) sex, lies and videotape
Steven Soderbergh's feature debut is important historically in that it was essentially Sundance's Jaws - the first film from the festival to break out to be a resounding box office success. It changed the landscape of independent film and established Sundance as a place where distributors shopped for movies. It's easy to get caught up in the lore and overlook the fact that it's a damn good film. With a plot that could have veered to the ridiculous, Soderbergh, aided by four note-perfect performances, was able to make a film that was sexy, provocative, suspenseful, and insightful, a movie where the talking scenes were as sexy as the sex scenes. (Dan Krovich/BOP)
This film is now more interesting for what it represents than for its actual content. Considered to be one of the first big indie successes, it launched the career of its writer-director Steven Soderbergh. As a film, it has some amazing acting turns, most especially by Laura San Giacomo, who smolders throughout most of the film, and James Spader, who gives a surprisingly quiet and effective performance as Graham, who videotapes women talking about sex. Despite its title, there really is very little actual sex, but it’s the pursuit of sex (or lack of it) and the effect of sex on each of the four main characters that is the center of the piece (i.e., don't go into this expecting Jenna Jameson or Porky's). Instead, rent it as it is one of the best character studies ever crafted by an American director. (Stephanie DeGateo/BOP)
48) Dead Calm
No movie has ever done a better job of capitalizing upon the unspoken fears attached to assisting a stranger. A happy sailor couple is spending the day adrift on a voyage to nowhere. When a bedraggled mystery man washes up next to them, the humane thing to do would be to offer assistance. In this instance, practicality should have precluded compassion.
The newcomer they bring onboard proves to be the embodiment of evil. There, in the middle of nowhere, a man and woman must find a way to overcome the plight caused by their innate decency. Otherwise, each faces a watery grave.
Dead Calm is a perfect example of a talented group of movie creators finding one another before any of them had become successful. Director Phillip Noyce would later go on to attain acclaim for efforts such as Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American and the Jack Ryan sequels, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. It was this project that put his name on the shortlist of people who can manipulate emotions through claustrophobic direction.
Sam Neill leveraged his work in Dead Calm into a meatier role in The Hunt for Red October. From there, a simple amusement park visit finally made Neill a household name, thereby solidifying his status as one of the finest character actors in the world. Villainous Billy Zane wound up with a key role in the mother of all boat movies, Titanic. The coup, though, was an unknown actress (outside of Australia) named Nicole Kidman. Her performance as a bikini-clad rape victim was so inspiring as to win the heart of a yank named Tom Cruise. He made certain she was cast as his romantic cohort in a forgettable car racing movie called Days of Thunder and, well, you know the rest.
Dead Calm's combination of tremendous acting talent, tightly controlled direction and intense, frequent thrills makes it one of the best films of the 1980s. And just when you are sure it's over, someone goes and washes their hair. (David Mumpower/BOP)
47) Top Gun
Cue the Kenny Loggins music!
One of the Jerry Bruckheimer's early big-budget extravaganzas, Top Gun exemplifies everything we loved about the '80s. The film is noisy and huge, with a dopey but memorable soundtrack and goofy quotes that stick with you forever. The cast was almost ridiculous in its precociousness, including Tom Cruise (he was big at this point but not quite huge), Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan. All would go on to ever larger things, but something about their combined chemistry here is really hard to resist. BOP also loves Tony Scott for some inexplicable reason, and Top Gun was really his first loud, effects-laden effort.
And of course, we'll always have a special place in our hearts for the line, "Gooooooooose! Ya big stud!" (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Brian DePalma's epic tale of violence and ambition has been imitated so many times that its continuing relevance and impact upon pop culture gets more and more impressive every year. Al Pacino's infamous portrayal of Tony Montana, the morally ambiguous Cuban-defector turned drug czar, has won over many fans over the past two decades and earned the character a place on the list of Hollywood's all-time greatest characters. Scarface owes much of its popularity to the grit and wit of Oliver Stone's powerful screenplay. Repeat viewings of Scarface reveal that the film is much funnier than it has any right to be, and that for all the crudeness for which it is known, it has a lot of heart. Yet the true reflection of Scarface's brilliance can be seen in how it has been adopted by pop culture over 20 years after its original release. This audacious and endlessly quotable representation of the American dream finds its longevity within minorities who see Montana as the ultimate anti-hero. The film is so popular that, in addition to being one of the most parodied films of all time, it has spawned one of the best running jokes in today's pop culture; that of the presence of the film's poster in every home of every rapper and basketball player under the age of 40. Because of its longevity, resonance across time and its impact on pop culture, Scarface earns a place on our list of Top '80s movies. (Walid Habboub/BOP)
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