BOP 50 of the '80s: Selections 35-31
35) Bull Durham
A love letter to the sport of baseball written by a former minor league hanger-on named Ron Shelton, Bull Durham is to my mind the most intelligent script in the history of film. Littered with truths about human failings, base desires and the ultimate optimism of the species, the movie never fails to offer intellectual explanations for the most idiotic of behavior. What creates the potent intangible of the team chemistry? What does a woman truly need from a man? Who should the wisest of men turn to for advice when he reaches a crossroads in life? What place of happiness is shaped like the letter V? And what makes a good wedding gift? All of these mysteries of life and many more are casually discussed and dismissed in rapid fire succession by Ron Shelton. The film also offers my favorite movie quote ever: "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness." That sentence is every bit as profound as Bull Durham itself. (David Mumpower/BOP)
34) The Little Mermaid
After establishing itself as the gold standard for animated films, Disney hit a bit of a rough patch in the '70s and '80s as their cartoon flicks suffered both financially and critically for the most part. The Little Mermaid was the film that broke that mold and ushered in a new era of greatness for the studio in the animation field. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the story was stripped of the tragedy that marks the written story and instead infused with vibrant, upbeat characters and a sing-along soundtrack.
The adorable Ariel still carries on today as a particular favorite character for girls young and old, and Ursula stands right alongside her as one of Disney's most memorable villains. Throw in calypso crab Sebastian as sidekick extraordinaire and you've got the perfect recipe for a family film that shines with effervescence. Listening to wonderful songs like "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" makes me remember the late lyricist Howard Ashman with a big smile. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
33) The Evil Dead
Our #2 finisher on the BOP 50 of Horror, The Evil Dead is my favorite horror film of all-time and easily one of the most memorable films of my youth. Like most people, I didn't see this film in the theater, but rather a year or so after its release once it hit video. From that time on, the movie was a frequent rental. The novelty of a male hero/victim was one of the things that always set it apart for me. It provided my introduction to Bruce Campbell and the beginning of a very long-term crush. Director Sam Raimi was bold in his willingness to try new techniques and ideas, all of which contributed to the slanted freakiness of the events that unfolded onscreen.
The movie's lasting appeal goes even further, though. There's something just completely chilling about the possibility of going into the forest and never returning. Additionally, the mystery about what exactly was causing the evil - the characters can see it in front of them but the audience cannot - is a device that is used convincingly. The movie's exceedingly creepy cast of characters is impressive, particularly given the amount of money spent on the film. With copious amounts of blood and gore, the film is easily one of the high water marks in the genre. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
32) The Untouchables
There was a brief period in the 1980s when Kevin Costner reached cinematic heights later reserved for only Tom Hanks. With No Way Out, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves and the two selections listed today, he participated in five consecutive near-perfect projects. The majesty of this particular outing is that he managed to hide in plain sight, offering a vanilla decency that drove the storyline without stealing the limelight. That glory was reserved for a significant Hollywood trio: Andy Garcia, Sean Connery and Robert De Niro. Garcia's youthful exuberance as a naive but dedicated cop was superbly counterbalanced against the grizzled veteran played by Connery. In many ways, it has proven to be Connery's last great acting performance. Many of his later roles are something of a spoof upon his work as Jim Malone.
What makes The Untouchables a classic for the ages, though, is the respect it gives to its villain. Al Capone is a very real historical figure, but his reputation borders on comic book super-villainy. Playing upon the horror of dramatic, baseball bat-induced evil liberates the story from Hollywood conventions. The "good guys" are punished and die in the world of The Untouchables. Letting bad things happen to would-be heroes is what allows the incarceration of Al Capone to be dramatically satisfying. (David Mumpower/BOP)
While many pour scorn on Kevin Costner for his overambitious pet projects or his infamous dullness it is easy to forget that for a brief period during the late '80s and early '90s he was one of the hottest properties in Hollywood. The film that launched him on the path to superstardom was The Untouchables, a retelling of the legendary battle between Treasury agent Eliot Ness and his small band of “Untouchables” who take on Al Capone in the corruption-rife prohibition era Chicago. You couldn’t ask for better support in your breakout role; Costner leads a cast that includes heavyweights De Niro and Connery - the latter winning an Oscar for his part - in a film written by David Mamet, directed by Brian De Palma and scored by Ennio Morricone.
The Untouchables is an impeccable film. The sets, the costume, the dialogue, the action, the music, and the set pieces are all tuned to perfection by De Palma. With all it has going for it, The Untouchables should have been a defining piece of American cinema, if not in general than at least within the gangster genre. However, despite being popular and held in high regard it never receives the same level of recognition as Coppola’s Godfather or Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Perhaps this is because these two films choose to focus on the gangsters and bringing the audience the illicit thrill of witnessing the world through the eyes of disarmingly charismatic and unpredictably violent anti-heroes.
At the centre of The Untouchables is the noble, self-sacrificing Eliot Ness. Legendary figure though he may be, you can’t help but find him, like the man who plays him, a little dull. As such, The Untouchables will have to settle for being the defining gangster film of the '80s, shadowed by two superior films a decade either side of it. It is, however, a well-deserved title and the film, a fantastic piece of cinema, is definitely worthy of inclusion on this list. (Ash Wakeman/BOP)
31) The Terminator
What has always impressed me about this film is the simple elegance of the concept. Action films are predicated upon heroes overcoming near-impossible life-threatening obstacles. The genius of The Terminator is that the creation of a single minded, mistake-free killing machine is the ultimate obstacle. A soldier from the future and a soon-to-be-impregnated waitress should have zero chance of survival against the perfect cyborg. It's this knowledge that so quickly sways the audience to empathize with Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor. (David Mumpower/BOP)
While most people prefer the more slickly-crafted sequel, I've always admired the stark, minimalist approach of the original film more. The ingenious concept leads to a sustained sense of suspense and even terror, though I would certainly hesitate to classify The Terminator as horror. Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn are very appropriately paired up as they both fight for their lives against a lethal, nearly unstoppable force. And despite the progression made in special effects with the Terminators from the first film to the two sequels, there's something just indefinably scary in the shining red eyes and metal skull of the T-800.
My personal memories of seeing this film for the first time are incredibly vivid. I was a junior in high school at the time and somehow, the local theater paired it with A Nightmare on Elm Street as a double feature. At this point, practically no one had even heard of The Terminator, but my date and I talked about it for weeks afterward. Though it's hard to imagine today that anyone might have looked at me strangely for quoting, "I'll be back" in my best impersonation of an Austrian accent, that's exactly what happened. I still thank my lucky stars my name isn't Sarah Connor. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Read selections 50-46
Read selections 45-41
Read selections 40-36
Read selections 30-26
Read selections 25-21
Read selections 20-16
Read selections 15-11
Read selections 10-6
Read selections 5-1