For me the movies of 2008 can be summed up in one word: disappointment. It seemed like I was forever waiting for something to come out (i.e. Rambo, 88 Minutes, and Righteous Kill) only to be grossly disappointed once it finally did. My best trip to the movies centered around Iron Man, the most satisfying superhero movie to come along since Spider-man. (That upside-down kiss was something, but Iron Man could totally take Spider-man down.) The most memorable video I watched all year was Felon a compelling and engrossing film about prison life that features one of the best performances Val Kilmer has ever given. Apart from that, nothing really stuck in 2008. Perhaps I’ll feel differently in twenty years.
As for my look back to 1988, I was surprised to see how much fluff came out that year as well. Though many of the movies were enjoyable at the time, it’s interesting how few of them stand up to repeat viewing. The Accused, A Cry in the Dark, and Gorillas in the Mist surely made a mark, but who settles in to rewatch those films for fun? Even Rain Man isn’t that easy to go back to. Beaches made us cry our eyes out, but isn’t once enough? And while Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger may have made us laugh as Twins, who’s pulling that out of the video vault these days? The same can be said for Coming to America and Cocktail – cute the first time, but not exactly classic. The following list consists of films that were memorable, iconic, and/or stand up to repeated viewing. It is not scientific.
- Beetlejuice: An early glimpse at Tim Burton’s genius, and one of the best performances of Alec Baldwin career.
- Die Hard: ‘Member that time in Die Hard when Bruce Willis had to walk over broken glass in his bare feet? Chris Farley sure did.
- She’s Having a Baby: One of the great John Hughes classics. Nothing beats Paul Gleason’s suggestion to name the baby Blind Boy Grunt.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Michael Caine and Steve Martin put their heads together to relieve wealthy women of their money in a comedy that is as clever as it is slapstick
- Lady in White: A strangely moving ghost story that gets me every time. The special effects might be a bit dated, but little Lucas Haas still tugs on my heart strings.
- The Accidental Tourist: Anne Tyler’s bittersweet novel brought brilliantly to life, always walking the line between quirky comedy and personal tragedy.
- Tequila Sunrise: An overly complicated but steamy romance between Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfeiffer at their most beautiful.
- Masquerade: One of the hottest thrillers you’ll ever see. Rob Lowe, Meg Tilly, and Kim Cattrall are all at the peak of their powers.
- Rattle and Hum: Twenty years before U2 went 3-D, they explored the American heartland in this classic concert film. Once dubbed self-indulgent, the film captures the band in that odd moment between youthful sincerity and global domination.
- The Land Before Time: I’m not kidding, this is easily the sweetest, most touching children’s film I’ve ever seen. Don Bluth is my hero.
Tom Hanks looked cute playing that huge keyboard in Big River Phoenix had a big year with the release of A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, Little Nikita, and the excellent Running on Empty. Emilio Estevez and the Young Guns made all the teenagers drool. Chevy Chase went to the Funny Farm. Melanie Griffith outsmarted Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl. Rambo III may have disappointed audiences, but has grown more relevant over time, and still beats the pants of the latest installment. All in all, there’s not that much to write home about. Here’s hoping for a better list next year…Both for 2009 and 1989.