Wednesday, December 11, 2013

25 Years Ago This Month: December 1988

Typical of December, the final month of 1988 was full of releases vying desperately for awards consideration, especially Oscars. Eight films released in this month received Academy Award nominations, including all five of the Best Picture nominees.

As always, we start with what I've seen...

Barry Levinson's Rain Man was the box office behemoth of the year and winner of the Best Picture Oscar the following year. It embodies everything a typical "best picture" is, but mostly it's a rather simplistic portrait of autism produced at a time when virtually no one knew anything about the disorder. A quarter century later, many people can probably tell you something about it, most mistakenly that it's caused by childhood vaccinations. Dustin Hoffman's autistic savant is the very rare exception among people on the spectrum, but in 1988 it led most people to believe that being autistic meant being able to count cards and take the house in a Las Vegas casino.

Stephen Frears' adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play Dangerous Liaisons is witty, textured, and full of wonderful detail. It showcases some excellent performances by Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer, though I could certainly do without Keanu Reeves' presence, or lack thereof.

Mike Nichols' Working Girl was a great showcase for the female acting talent of Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver, and Joan Cusack, all of whom were Oscar-nominated for the film.

William Hurt received his third consecutive Best Actor nominations for The Accidental Tourist, about a travel guide writer who falls for another woman after his wife leaves following the death of their young son.

Ah, the lowbrow comedy genre Twins, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito as the title characters: science experiments gone awry.

I always loved Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a classic comedy starring Michael Caine as a suave and sophisticated con man living and working in the French Riviera who takes on Steve Martin as his protege in a gentleman's bet, the winner of which gets to lay claim to the territory. Some really fantastic Steve Martin bits in this movie.

I don't have much recall of Kennan Ivory Wayans' I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, which I saw with friends in 8th grade. I probably wasn't familiar enough at the time with blaxploitation films for it to make much sense to me.

Another great classic comedy is The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! This was required viewing in middle school and high school days. There was no better deadpan comedic actor appearing in spoof comedies than Leslie Nielsen.

The Oscar-baiting Mississippi Burning starred Gene Hackman and Willem Defoe as investigators in the deep south looking into the disappearance of three civil rights volunteers. This is one of those movies ostensibly about the black experience that is seen entirely through the lens of white people.

I reviewed Hellbound: Hellraiser II last October in my month long Halloween series.

Then on to what I've heard of, but haven't seen...

Talk Radio was directed by Oliver Stone and based on Eric Bogosian's play which was loosely based on radio talk show host Alan Berg, who was murdered in 1984. Bogosian stars in the film and co-wrote the screenplay.

Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne wrote and directed Tequila Sunrise, a crime thriller starring Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Kurt Russell.

A young Alyson Hannigan appears in the Dan Aykroyd and Kim Basinger comedy My Stepmother Is an Alien.

Torch Song Trilogy was based on Harvey Fierstein's play of the same name and starred himself, Matthew Broderick, and Anne Bancroft.

Garry Marshall directed (surprise) the middle-aged women's weepy Beaches, starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. This film is responsible for the song "Wind Beneath My Wings." Ugh!

The Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner Pelle the Conqueror was directed by Bille August and starred Max von Sydow.

And close with what I know nothing about...

In Watchers Corey Haim is a teenager who comes across a super-intelligent dog from a government research facility. It's a sort of horror/thriller based on a Dean Koontz novel and also starring Michael Ironside as the government heavy trying to track down the animal.


14th - singer and actress Vanessa Hudgens


6th - singer Roy Orbison (heart attack - 52)

10th - actor Richard Castellano, who played Clemenza in The Godfather (heart attack - 55)
27th - director Hal Ashby (pancreatic cancer - 59)

Non-movie News

2nd - Benazir Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was the first woman to become head of state of an Islamic nation.

21st - Pan Am flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, the result of a Libyan terrorist act. 270 people were killed including 11 people on the ground.

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