Here we are at the end of another lackluster year at the movies. Out of all the releases in 2006, I was passionate about seeing only three: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Lake House, and Rocky Balboa. I watched Pirates twice, bought a t-shirt, a key chain, and two boxes of Pirate cereal (yummy!), and I’d still be hard-pressed to describe the plot. It just goes to show that Johnny Depp can turn a flimsy sequel into a beloved international blockbuster simply by showing up. The Lake House truly defies logic, but it’s the best romance I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the few movies of ’06 I can see myself revisiting in the future. I’m still trying to make a day of Rocky Balboa, but for some reason, everyone I invite says, “Hmmm, not today.” Whatever. Just seeing Sylvester Stallone tear up as he talked about saying goodbye to Rocky lands him on my best of ’06 list.
Though Little Miss Sunshine and The Devil Wears Prada lived up to their hype, the big summer comedies You, Me, and Dupree, Click, and The Break-Up couldn’t have been stinkier. It was the year’s smaller films that resonated most with me: the heartwarming Nanny McPhee, the tear-jerking Akeelah and the Bee, the uplifting On A Clear Day, and the riveting 12 and Holding. Even so, I have yet to find my Napoleon Dynamite of 2006—you know, the sort of movie that comes out of left field, knocks your socks off, and becomes part of your life. Gee, I sure didn’t have that problem twenty years ago….
And now, back by popular demand (or more accurately, back because no one physically stopped me), I give you my best of 1986—one of my very favorite years in pop culture. Not only was it a great year at the multiplex, it gave us some of the best soundtracks of the ’80s.
- Stand By Me – Rob Reiner adapts Stephen King’s novella, “The Body” into one of the wittiest, most poignant coming-of-age movies of our time.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Compulsively watchable, infinitely quotable: SAVE FERRIS!
- Pretty In Pink – OMD. The Psychedelic Furs. Suzanne Vega. The Smiths. INXS. Echo and the Bunnymen. With a soundtrack this good, who needs a story? Still, John Hughes delivers the ultimate 80’s time capsule as the haves and have nots prepare for the prom.
- Karate Kid Part II – Daniel LaRusso wins our hearts again, but Peter Cetera’s “The Glory of Love” makes the movie.
- Top Gun – Before Tom Cruise turned our stomachs, he took our breath away as Maverick in this 80’s classic… I just wish Goose would have stayed out of “The Danger Zone”.
- Crocodile Dundee – Weather-beaten Aussie Paul Hogan takes America by storm with his Outback charm and mad croc-fighting skills. The final scene at the airport still makes me cry.
- Platoon – Oliver Stone depicts the gritty reality of the Vietnam War…Doesn’t Charlie Sheen look cute? And OMG did I just see Johnny Depp?!
- Ruthless People – Bette Midler cranks up Billy Joel’s “Modern Woman” and launches one of the most unorthodox self-improvement plans in history. By befriending her kidnappers, she turns the tables on her sleazyhusband (Danny DeVito) in this wonky dark comedy.
- The Mosquito Coast – Genius inventor Harrison Ford packs up the fam (including Helen Mirren and River Phoenix) and heads to South America with his amazing ice machine…Too bad he’s also insane.
- Heartburn – Before Harry met Sally, Nora Ephron made Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep fall in love…and give each other indigestion.
Charlie Sheen rounds out his big year with Lucas and The Wraith, while brother Emilio battles out-of-control semi-trucks in Maximum Overdrive. Ally Sheedy flirts with Number 5 in Short Circuit, and leaves us all with El DeBarge’s “Who’s Johnny?” running through our heads. Tom Hanks and Shelley Long find out their dream house is actually The Money Pit. Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler are Down and Out In Beverly Hills. Fievel wonders if his family is “Somewhere Out There” in An American Tale. Eddie Murphy goes looking for The Golden Child while Chevy Chase, Martin Short, and Steve Martin save the day in The Three Amigos. Sylvester Stallone pays homage to Dirty Harry in Cobra. Farrah Fawcett goes to Extremities to make her rapist pay. Kurt Russell finds Big Trouble in Little China, and Sean Penn and Madonna get a Shanghai Surprise when no one wants to watch their movie.
There were certainly plenty of reasons to head to the theater (and the record store) back then, but when the movies were bad, they were REALLY bad. 1986 also gave us Howard the Duck, Soul Man, and found Jackie Gleason pulling off his sock in a restaurant to show Tom Hanks his black toe in Nothing In Common. Weirdly, even that soundtrack made it into my collection. I’m still scarred by the horribly creepy kid flick, The Peanut Butter Solution, but it just goes to show that even the worst movies of 1986 are firmly lodged in my memory. I wish I could say the same about the films of 2006