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Rob's Top Ten Movies of 1989


 

#10: My Left Foot

Though he hasn't done much since to equal this, Daniel Day-Lewis went way beyond the usual "play an afflicted person and get an Oscar" turn. Jim Sheridan's film doesn't shroud Christy Brown in nobility; it presents him as an Irish hellraiser with fierce lusts and passions.

#9: The Abyss

James Cameron's first excursion into the deep blue didn't go over with the mass audience, but it's an intense sweatbox classic anyway, even without the 27 minutes of footage restored to the home-video version.

 

#8: Roger & Me

Michael Moore first sauntered into American consciousness with this agreeable, if undeniably one-sided, look at what the corporate wolves of General Motors had done to his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Those who bitched about the "accuracy" of the film missed the point: This doesn't even pretend to be an objective documentary -- it's one guy's rage against the machine.

 

#7: Henry V

Kenneth Branagh burst onto the international scene with this clanging, working-class, exuberant take on Shakespeare. In this and other films, for a while he made the Bard safe again for the average moviegoer.

 

#6: Say Anything...

See it if you believe in romance; see it if you don't; either way it'll win you over. Still the John Cusack role to beat, with the famous "buy, sell or process" speech one of many highlights. "YOU MUST CHILL. I HAVE HIDDEN YOUR CAR KEYS." "The rain on my windshield is like a baptism." "I gave her my heart. She gave me a pen." And so on.

 

#5: sex, lies and videotape

Steven Soderbergh's debut announced the arrival of a smart, intuitive filmmaker who, at this point, seemed the heir apparent to Woody Allen by way of Bergman (little did we know he'd be interested in dabbling in other areas).

 

#4: Glory

If not for Full Metal Jacket this would've easily been the great war movie of the '80s (not an especially bright decade for them). Yeah, it focuses on a white guy, but our hearts are with the black soldiers who fight for their right to die for their freedom.

 

#3: Crimes and Misdemeanors

Woody Allen at peak form -- as funny as any of his early efforts, as serious as any of his dull Bergman pastiches, this was the film that taught him he could do both in one film.

 

#2: Do the Right Thing

Looks more and more relevant as time passes. Yet what people forget about Spike Lee's masterpiece is how funny it is before things get tragic -- how antic the characterizations, how vivid the portrait of a particular community on a particular sizzling day.

 

#1: Casualties of War

Brian De Palma stops goofing around with Hitchcock and puts his technique to work on a harrowing ethical drama, with top-drawer performances by Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Steven Spielberg's affectionate (if uneven) send-off Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ... Tim Burton's gloomy take on Batman ... Peter Jackson's wingnut classic Meet the Feebles ... Denzel Washington relaxing in The Mighty Quinn ... the amiable Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure ... Phil Alden Robinson's affecting Field of Dreams ... Richard E. Grant spewing venom in Bruce Robinson's How to Get Ahead in Advertising ... Peter Weir's not-bad, if a bit too angsty, Dead Poets Society ... Christopher Guest's sharp Hollywood satire The Big Picture ... Gus Van Sant's ambling Drugstore Cowboy ... Todd Solondz' promising debut Fear, Anxiety and Depression ... Tom Cruise in Oliver Stone's overblown but powerful Born on the Fourth of July ... and the Scorsese and Woody segments of New York Stories.


SPECIAL HONORABLE MENTION

 
Vampire's Kiss is sort of a thin movie, but what makes it essential viewing is Nicolas Cage's flabbergasting, no-holds-barred performance as a literary agent who thinks he's turning into a vampire. Cage is like punk rock on film. In this one he's "Anarchy in the U.K." and "Blitzkrieg Bop" rolled into one.


Rob's Top Ten WORST Movies of 1989

 

#10: Erik the Viking

Terry Jones tries to emulate the other Terry from Monty Python, but it doesn't work; the fantasy doesn't enthrall, and the comedy elicits blank stares. Jones and John Cleese are on hand for amusing bits, but Tim Robbins is the star, and he looks lost.

 

#9: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

William Shatner probably pissed and moaned about not getting to direct a Trek film since Leonard Nimoy had helmed two, so Paramount handed him the keys to this one, an incomprehensible forced march through cliches and ill-advised comedy bits (did we really need to see Uhura as an exotic dancer or Scotty bonking his head?).

 

#8: Relentless

The sort of thing that usually goes direct to video, do not pass go, do not collect credibility; for some reason it slithered into theaters. Director William Lustig's career is long on cheese like this (Maniac, Hit List, Maniac Cop, etc.).

 

#7: She-Devil

Clamorous, unfunny comedy masquerading as feminist (it's actually fairly sexist, if you care enough to look at it closely). Roseanne, who at the time still had her married name, eventually disowned the movie. Give her points for that, at least.

 

#6: Pet Sematary

Exhibit A: Books That Don't Translate Well to Film. Stephen King's traumatic, horrific novel about parental grief and temptations best left alone has been turned into a crappy horror movie for teenagers, though any movie with a theme song by the Ramones can't be all bad. Other than that, though...

 

#5: Always

Terribly pretty and pretty terrible. Steven Spielberg's hollow supernatural romance feels like something he did for lack of anything better to do at the time.

 

#4: Dad

Spielberg was also an executive producer on this blubbery tripe, in which Jack Lemmon, coated with turtle-like old-guy makeup, is reduced to quivering under his bed. One of many "touch base with your dad before it's too late" dramas made around the same period, and probably the worst.

 

#3: Wired

Good idea: take John Belushi's life and do it as the sort of farcical sick joke he might've enjoyed. Bad result: a stiff and unconvincing biopic with stand-ins who can't hope to reproduce the energy of their very memorable forebears -- Michael Chiklis tries hard as Belushi but goes down in flames anyway, and whoever hired the untalented Gary Groomes to impersonate Dan Aykroyd must've had whatever drugs didn't kill Belushi.

 

#2: Uncle Buck

John Hughes at his most mean-spirited; John Candy's natural charisma only goes so far to redeem it, but Hughes' contempt for just about everyone but lovable, irascible Uncle Buck pollutes every frame.

 

#1: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Good God, this was terrible. It didn't deserve the Halloween title; it didn't deserve Donald Pleasence; it didn't deserve to be made, and we didn't deserve to sit through it.


DISHONORABLE MENTIONS:
Walter Hill's deadening Johnny Handsome ... Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell embarrassing themselves in Tango & Cash ... the unwanted return of an old fiend in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan ... Christian Slater skating around aimlessly in Gleaming the Cube ... the needless sequels The Fly II and Ghostbusters II ... the low-impact med-school drama Gross Anatomy ... and the Coppola segment of New York Stories.


SPECIAL DISHONORABLE MENTION

 

For his first movie in seventeen years, Alejandro Jodorowsky served up a steaming stew of Freudian mother-hatred, surrealism, and basic misogyny disguised as mysticism. A lot of critics welcomed Santa Sangre as the sort of daring work of art our culture sorely needs. I'm guessing not many of those critics were women.


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