Wednesday, July 10, 2013

25 Years Ago This Month: July 1988

The two biggest movies of the month were total counter-programming to one another.

First there was John McTiernan's Die Hard, a fine action thriller that spawned a string of increasingly ludicrous sequels. It solidified Bruce Willis as an action hero, helping him break out of his "Moonlighting" and romantic comedy typecasting, and it introduced Alan Rickman to American audiences as the suave and cunning villain Hans Gruber.

For the ladies there was Tom Cruise in Cocktail later in the month. Believe it or not, I've never actually seen it. I had no interest in it during its cable run in 1989/1990.

The movies from this month that registered most strongly with me were, as most of my favorites from 1988, absolute garbage. My favorite must have been License to Drive predominantly because it was the film debut of the lovely and beautiful Heather Graham, who played the object of Corey Haim's affection. She was the embodiment of the unattainable woman, but Haim made us believe we could have her.

Because I used to enjoy Short Circuit so much, I also loved Short Circuit 2 even though Steve Guttenberg bowed out of the sequel, leaving room for the expansion of Fisher Stevens stereotypical Indian sidekick character.

Then, of course, there was Big Top Pee-wee, the second Pee-wee Herman movie. Not nearly as odd as his first outing, it at least paraded Valeria Golina as the beautiful trapeze artist whom Pee-wee falls for at the expense of his girlfriend played by Penelope Ann Miller. Hardly ever was there a clearer example of a male protagonist caught between attraction to the Virgin and to the Whore.

You know a movie is truly awful when you even thought it was awful when you were eleven years old. Caddyshack 2 is so bad it's simply depressing to consider that it was made and that I've seen it. Admittedly I've never seen the original (I figure if you didn't see it when you were a teenager, there's really no point), but I know that the only connection it has to the sequel is the presence of Chevy Chase, merely a shell of his former self from his heyday.

Most of the humor of Midnight Run starring Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro was lost on me at that age, so I only ever watched the movie on TV in bits and pieces.

I didn't come to A Fish Called Wanda until it was on video, but it split me in pieces I laughed so hard. Kevin Kline is just stellar, one of the most deserving Academy Award winners ever. Unfortunately the reunion of the four principal actors (Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, John Cleese) several years later for Fierce Creatures was not nearly as uproarious.

And then there was the financial disappointment of Arthur 2: On the Rocks, which could have described the careers of both Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli at that point. Did either of them do anything of note after that?

From the Department of Films that Time Forgot comes The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, which was the first film adventure of the popular Swedish children's book character.

Night of the Living Dead creator George Romero directed the adaptation of the novel Monkey Shines.

Finally there was the last in the series of Dirty Harry Callahan movies, again starring Clint Eastwood in The Dead Pool.

Film Debuts
Benicio del Toro as Duke the Dog-Faced Boy in Big Top Pee-wee.
Heather Graham in License to Drive

16th - Barcelona and Spanish National Team regular, world champion and European champion Sergio Busquets

16th - Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan

Non-movie News
Sometimes I come across things that I never knew happened. This month I've discovered something shameful that I never knew happened, or had only a passing awareness of. On 3 July 1988, the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian Air commercial passenger jet, mistaking it for an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter plane. All 290 people on board were killed. The US has never apologized for the incident.

6th - medical waste begins washing up on the beaches of the Greater New York area including Long Island and the Jersey Shore, forcing the closing of beaches.

20th - Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen receive the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominations at the Democratic National Convention.

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