I’ll tell you, I love baseball and I love movies, but I don’t love every baseball movie. Most of them are either corny or schmaltzy or both. What I love about Bull Durham, though, is how it is witty, charming, sexy, and wholly un-pretentious while proudly displaying a reverence for the sport that is never overly sentimental. Baseball is a game, but it’s also a religion for some, a metaphor for life for others, and a career for a lucky few. Writer/director Ron Shelton knows all three and creates a movie with likeable characters and great dialogue that not only feels honest, but has real soul. Kevin Costner’s best performance ever.
Sometimes I’m such a girl. Yes, I do have a soft spot for this movie. Bette Midler saves this movie from being a movie-of-the-week melodrama with her big, brassy and insanely lovable performance, but it’s the sappy story of two lifelong friends that turns me, even on my most cynical day, into a giant ball of goo.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure may have been director Tim Burton’s debut, but Beetlejuice was our first glimpse of what Burton’s creative mind could really produce and would give us our first taste of what was to come from Hollywood’s dark genius. I love the twisted humor and the macabre art direction that would come to be Burton’s calling card (as well as longtime collaborator Danny Elfman’s brilliant score), but it is Michael Keaton’s energetic and outrageously hilarious performance as Beetlejuice that puts this movie among Burton’s best. And the fact that Burton is able to get semi-decent performances from Winona Ryder and Geena Davis only goes to prove his otherworldly skill.
She’s Having a Baby
John Hughes 2.0. Yes, this is a John Hughes movie, but it is far from the world of teenage angst and melodrama of his earlier movies. Instead, this is a movie about adult angst and melodrama. Instead of proms, there are weddings, and instead of first kisses, there are first houses. Rule #1 is write about what you know and that’s probably why She’s Having a Baby feels so genuine. It is by far his most personal movie and that’s probably why it resonates so much with me. And Kevin Bacon? Perfect.
Seriously, who doesn’t love this movie? Or, rather, who doesn’t love Tom Hanks in this movie?
It took me way too long to discover this movie, but once I did, I understood why its fans are so passionate. This is the kind of movie that inspires people to make movies. Tender, nostalgic, cinematic, romantic and heartfelt, it hits every right note. I think a reason I loved Hugo so much was that it reminded me a little bit of Cinema Paradiso. And a little bit of that goes a long way.
Running on Empty
No gimmicks, no special effects, no fancy footwork. Just give me a great script and actors who can deliver it with compassion, heart, stakes and realism. Unfortunately, Running On Empty also reminds us of what a massive talent we lost in River Phoenix.
Everybody’s All-American & Far North
Jessica Lange didn’t make a movie in 1987, but she made up for it with 2 movies in 1988. Granted, Everybody’s All-American and Far North are not among her best, but she was the best thing in the former and the latter was the most personal film of her career, which almost makes up for how bad it is.
Yes, Tom Cruise annoys the hell out of me, but this movie is just one of those entertainingly bad movies that continue to amuse me many years after the fact. Why? I think I love how seriously it takes itself, I love Cruise’s earnestness (long before his earnestness wore out its welcome) and Bryan Brown’s darkly comic performance is sadly poignant.
A Fish Called Wanda
I’ll be the first to admit that it took me a while to come to appreciate this movie. When I first saw it, it struck me as mean-spirited and unfunny, but as time went on, subsequent viewings allowed me to appreciate its brilliance. And, of course, to appreciate the exceptional performances across the board, especially Kevin Kline, who more than deserved his Oscar. Don’t call me stupid.
I think this is the movie most of Liam Neeson’s recent movies have been trying to be (Taken, Unknown, etc), but director Roman Polanski’s taut European thriller is in a class of its own. Harrison Ford again proves to everyone that he can act, but his real skill is his ability to play the everyman-in-dire-circumstances that you not only root for, but really care about. Plus, I love the mood of this film.
Gorillas in the Mist
This was Sigourney Weaver’s year, wasn’t it? An Oscar nominee for both Working Girl and Gorillas in the Mist, she showed the breadth and depth of her acting chops. She may end up being best-remembered for her roles in Alien and its sequels, but it is her performance in Gorillas in the Mist that is surely her finest hour as an actress. She is sublime here playing Dian Fossey, the gorilla researcher who put her life on the line protecting the mountain gorillas of Africa. It would have taken National Geographic a hundred issues to affect the kind of influence on our national consciousness that this movie did and so much of that is owed to Weaver’s indelible performance.
Ah, the simple pleasures. Julia Roberts’ film debut is just a delightful little movie that is cheesy (pun intended) and predictable, but so worth it for the great performances of Lili Taylor, Vincent D’Onofrio and a totally unpolished Roberts, who shows glimpses of the star she would become.
Like Boys Don’t Cry, I’ll only be able to see this movie once, but I’ll never forget Jodie Foster’s performance or its effect on me. An Oscar well earned.
I’ve always been curious about the lives and personalities of comics, I’ll admit it. So to have a movie devoted to stand-up comedy intrigued me. The choice of Sally Field as a stand-up comic still strikes me as odd, but it’s Tom Hanks’ performance as a depressed, angry and desperate guy who mines humor from pathos was the first time we saw Hanks as more than a funny face—the guy can act.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Technology moves so fast now that we have long ago forgotten what a technical and creative marvel this movie was when it came out, but it was every bit as good as the hype: Avatar with heart.
Maybe it’s the fact that Mike Nichols directed it, but Working Girl feels like a throwback to the way movies used to be. I saw it in the theatre when I was having a bad day and I emerged two hours later grinning and hopeful. Yeah, it’s sad to think I could love a Melanie Griffith movie that much, but there’s something about the innocence and purity of this movie that got to me.
The Movies That Should Have Mattered More:
The Accidental Tourist
I was a huge fan of author Anne Tyler when I was younger, and I devoured all of her books, especially The Accidental Tourist. So how excited was I that they had made a movie out of my favorite of her books? Too bad the movie stunk, no thanks to their casting of Geena Davis, a stick with teeth. Ugh.
Yes, Dustin Hoffman is great, he always is, but that’s news? No matter how great Hoffman is or how well Barry Levinson directed it, this movie was ruined for me by Tom Cruise’s pompous, personality-free and humor-less performance. Seriously, I prefer you playing a clueless himbo (see: Cocktail).
I just don’t know why I didn’t love this movie—Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, I mean, come on. Maybe I need to give it another try.
Eight Men Out
I only put this movie here because it wasn’t memorable enough for me. I’m really tough on baseball movies.
I understand John Waters’ quirky and twisted appeal, but I guess it’s just not as appealing to me as it should be.
The Movies that Might Have Mattered, But I Missed:
Coming to America
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Naked Gun
Rattle and Hum
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Oscar Winners of 1988:
Best Picture: Rain Man
Best Director: Barry Levinson – Rain Man
Best Actor: Dustin Hoffman – Rain Man
Best Actress: Jodie Foster – The Accused
Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Kline – A Fish Called Wanda
Best Supporting Actress: Geena Davis – The Accidental Tourist