Saturday, November 11, 2017

Matt and Jay's Ultimate List - The 50 Best Films of the 1980s - Part 5

This is it! We've finally reached the final Top 10 in our Top 50 countdown to the best films of the 1990s! You can view what we've had to say about our past choices (#50-11) at the following links: numbers 50 - 41, numbers 40 - 31, numbers 30 - 21, and numbers 20 - 11. But, for those who would rather just see the picks, here's a recap:

50. The Razor's Edge (1984)
49. St. Elmo's Fire (1985)
48. Time Bandits (1981)
47. They Live (1988)
46. Coming to America (1988)
45. Romancing the Stone (1984)
44. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
43. This is Spinal Tap (1984)
42. The NeverEnding Story (1984)
41. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
40. Field of Dreams (1989)
39. Parenthood (1989)
38. The Right Stuff (1983)
37. The Untouchables (1987)
36. The Road Warrior (1981)
35. Batman (1989)
34. The Thing (1982)
33. The Natural (1984)
32. Raging Bull (1980)
31. Brazil (1985)
30. Glory (1989)
29. Raising Arizona (1987)
28. Footloose (1984)
27. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
26. Caddyshack (1980)
25. Dead Poets Society (1989)
24. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
23. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
22. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
21. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
20. Say Anything ... (1989)
19. Airplane! (1980)
18. Amadeus (1984)
17. Ghostbusters (1984)
16. The Terminator (1984)
15. The Princess Bride (1987)
14. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
13. Poltergeist (1982)
12. Die Hard (1988)
11. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Without further ado, here are the final TOP 10 picks for the Top Films of the 1980s!

10. The Goonies (1985)
Directed by Richard Donner
Starring Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff CohenCorey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Ke Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, and Anne Ramsey

Stef: "This is ridiculous. It's crazy. I feel like I'm babysitting, except I'm not getting paid."

Jay:  The best kids adventure movie of all time, The Goonies feels like a Spielberg movie (it was produced by him), but it was actually directed by Richard Donner. This has to the best ensemble of child actors and actresses ever assembled for a film. Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, etc., etc. My favorite, though, is definitely "Chunk" (Jeff Cohen), who gave us one of the most hilarious and heartfelt performances as the fat kid befriends the scary but loveable "Sloth" (John Matuszak). The Goonies' quest to save their homes from being sold out from underneath them leads them on an epic search for the forgotten treasure of legendary pirate, "One-Eyed Willie". The chemistry and banter between the group of friends is what really works here. Each of them is unique and they all gel like no other cast has ever before. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great performances of the movie's villains, the Fratelli's (Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano and Robert Davi). They are nearly equally as funny and just menacing enough. The Goonies is a movie that I look forward to watching with my kids one day. It is a classic that continues to entertain generations of children and adults. "Kids suck." Indeed.

Matt: The definitive kid movie! Forget The Little Rascals! The Goonies was the beginning of the likeable kid adventure movie. Any film nowadays that centers around a group of likeable kids comes from this film. As this ragtag group of friends reluctantly band together to try and find the buried treasure of local tall tale, pirate One-Eyed Willie, all so they can save their parents' homes from being foreclosed on. This was the first time I remember seeing kids written as realistic; they were just like the kinds of kids I hung out with. But what makes The Goonies so great to watch over and over is ultimately that it's fun. There's peril, adventure, friendly insults, and childish glee that saturates the script. Even the film's protagonists -- the criminal Fratelli's -- are fun to watch! Pretty much all of my favorite scenes revolve around the character of Chunk; whether it's quote-worthy scenes like the spill-your-guts scene, the ice cream rant, or when he's being forced into the back of the Fratelli's truck. The kid is a comedic ace, his timing in impeccable! I was so excited when I first introduced this film to my kids and still get a kick out of the film every time I watch it!


9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Peter CoyoteRobert MacNaughton, and Drew Barrymore

Elliot
: [tearfully, while looking down at E.T.]"I'll believe in you all my life, everyday. E.T. ..... I love you."

Jay:  It is difficult to imagine my childhood without E.T. It's the very first movie I can remember seeing in the theater. This is Steven Spielberg at the height of his powers as a filmmaker. His run from Jaws in 1975 through this film in 1982, which would include Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977 and Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980 would be impossible for any director to top. What makes E.T. so great is hard to quantify to one thing. I think it all starts with a fantastic performance by Henry Thomas as Elliott, the boy who befriends an alien, trapped on our world and helps him find a way to get back home. It is known that when Thomas auditioned for the role, he tried to remember the sadness he felt when his dog died. Apparently this caused Spielberg to also cry and he gave Henry the part of Elliott on the spot. There is a blanket of sadness that hangs over this film as we are confronted with a child struggling in the wake of his parent's divorce. The camera was intentionally placed low as to allow the audience to see every image from a child's point-of-view. Elliott's mother, played by Dee Wallace, is the only adult we really see in the movie until the final 30 minutes. If Poltergeist is a movie about a suburban nightmare, then E.T. is a suburban dream, brought fully to life by Rick Baker's excellent work on the creation of the alien. At its core, this is a film about a boy and his family finding their joy again with the help of a little guy from another planet who just wants to "phone home".

Matt: Jaws may have put director Steven Spielberg on the map, but E.T. is the movie that made him a household name! Like most Spielberg films, there is an artistic look to this film and every time I watch it, I'm engrossed in the story. I especially love Spielberg's decision to shoot Peter Coyote's government agent, who is never named, only at his waist, with a light always shining on his set of keys attached to his belt loop; this is why his character is only referred to as "Keys." Like most Spielberg films, there's the absent father, the suburban setting, the wonderful John Williams score, the extraordinary plot device. But what shines the most in E.T. is the humanity -- which is ironic since the film centers around an alien. The coming-of-age story set against a sci-fi film remains a beloved classic. It was one of the first films I introduced to my youngest daughter, who, at first, would get completely spooked, but soon absolutely loved it! What also makes this film stand out so much is the symbiotic bond that forms between protagonist Elliott (Henry Thomas) and E.T. It can easily be argued that even though the two beings are completely different, what happens to one affects the other. This concept helps to teach kids empathy and caring. And, no matter how many times I watch it, I can't help but get the slightest bit choked up when E.T. leaves and says, "I'll be ... right ... here." A truly wonderful film that never loses its luster!


8. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Directed by John Hughes
Starring Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio EstevezAlly Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, and Paul Gleason

Andrew: "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all."

Jay:  I love The Breakfast Club, but this is a little high on the list for this film to be. That being said, this is, like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a quintessential move to watch about being a teenager in the 1980's. Taking place over the course of one day of detention in a school library, five high schoolers from different walks of life and very different personalities manage to bond over the struggles each of them faces as they hurtle toward adulthood. The dialogue is great and the performances are iconic, especially Judd Nelson as the rebellious bad boy, John Bender and Ali Sheedy as the introverted and quirky Allison Reynolds. It would be a mistake to overlook the late, great Paul Gleason as the oppressive and almost abusive vice principal, Richard Vernon. Gleason holds the award for best actor to cast as a dickhead in the 80's, along with William Atherton (Ghostbusters, Die Hard). Another unique quality I love about The Breakfast Club is that it watches like a stage play with 95% of the action taking place in one setting, the library. Throughout the film, the five teenagers go from antagonizing each other to ultimately relating to each other in many ways. The social intricacies and stereotyping of these kids existed before this movie and it still exists today. The Breakfast Club does a great job of defining that and breaking through it as each character matures in many ways as the day presses on. 

Matt: Watching The Breakfast Club, I cannot help but think how wonderful of a stage play this would be! In fact, I often wonder if writer/director John Hughes meant to originally release this as a play or eventually stage it as a play. Hughes was known as saying he didn't understand why when he saw teens or kids in most films, most times they were written so poorly and as being quite superficial and/or trivial. Hughes believed that teens especially were the same as adults and should be written as such. The reason this movie resonates with so many who watch it is because every character-type is represented. Hughes strips down to the popular rich, the poor rebel, the outcast, the nerd/dork, and the jock, but makes them all relate to one another. All of the performances here are spot on, finding just the right balance between laughing one moment and tense drama the next. Breakfast Club is a constant reminder that as different as we try to identify or label ourselves (or others), we are the same in our emotions. What I appreciate so much about this film is, although it's relatively deep and existential, it's not pretentious. It unflinchingly points out many truths of which teens of any generation can relate because, at its core, The Breakfast Club is about what it means to face the awkwardness and harshness of growing up.


7. Stand by Me (1986)
Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey FeldmanJerry O' Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack and Richard Dreyfuss

The Writer: "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"

Jay:  With movies like The Goonies, E.T., and the cult classic, Monster Squad, no other decade assembled a better assortment of talented child actors. This 1986 film, based on the short story "The Body" by Stephen King is the really the pinnacle of the "coming-of-age" genre. Four friends, played by Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell, decide to go on a backpacking trip down the railroad tracks to find the rumored dead body of a kid that apparently had been hit by a train. Along the way we learn about their backgrounds and upbringings. They get into some misadventures and end up clashing with the local gang of hoodlums led a very young Kiefer Sutherland. There are a lot of funny moments, to be sure, but overall Stand By Me is a much more serious and, at times, somber look at adolescence and growing up. All four of these boys have had trauma of some sort in their lives. The main boy and narrator of the story, Gordie (Wheaton) is still dealing with the death of his older brother (John Cusack) from a car crash. The unavoidable lessons of mortality hang over this film from start to finish, but it is not significantly depressing at all. In many ways it is an uplifting treatise on the everlasting bonds of friendship that live on in our memory. It remains one of the very best movies of the 1980's and grows more and more in appreciation as time has gone on. 

Matt: Yet another classic with kids as the main characters, Stand by Me is a wonderfully bittersweet tale about the loss of innocence. At its forefront, the story is about discovering mortality and death, but, underneath the surface lies a story of breaking that cusp between the carefree days of childhood and the gray landscape of adolescence. Wheaton, Phoenix, Feldman, and O'Donnell all give outstanding performances but it is especially Phoenix who shines here, making it even more of a shame that he died so young in his career. There are so many memorable vignettes in this story, which is no surprise seeing how it follows quite closely to the story written by Stephen King, a writer who deserves so much more credit for his mastery of wonderfully developed real-life-type characters. Shows like Netflix's Stranger Things owe a lot to films such as The Goonies and especially Stand by Me. As with most King stories, there is no complete happy ending here, but there is a brutal truth to life and how harsh it can be. However, this film presents several happy, fun moments, and its those moments, mixed with the brutal truths, that make Stand by Me so wonderful!


6. Blade Runner (1982)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean YoungEdward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, and Brion James

Batty
: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time .... like tears in the rain .... time to die."

Jay:  Ridley Scott's Blade Runner represents everything that can be done perfectly with a science fiction story in the film medium. It is seriously without flaw. It's even more impressive that Scott had just come off of directing another landmark film of the sci-fi genre in 1979's Alien, only to one-up himself and create the best film of his career. Style, script, score, performance and visual effects all combine to make the most successful movie to ever combine art house sensibilities with mainstream audience appeal. Blade Runner is the dark futuristic story of Rick Dekkard (Harrison Ford), a cop whose job it is to hunt and "retire" Replicants who have gone astray. Replicants are the artificial people created by the Tyrell Corporation to perform all the work that real humans no longer want to do. When one Replicant murders another Blade Runner, Dekkard is called on to find the killer(s) before more harm is done. More film noir than out right action, Scott's film becomes very concerned with what it means to be human and has a lot to say about the right to live. Rutger Hauer is also brilliant as the villain, Roy Batty, who by the end of the film has convinced us that he may actually not be the villain at all, but simply fighting for the lives of himself and his friends in a society that sees them as expendable and nothing more than escaped slaves. Blade Runner is the very best science fiction can offer, but besides that it is a masterpiece of filmmaking that had been copied and copied again for years since it was released.  

Matt: I cannot fully express the cinematic and technological breakthroughs this film achieved upon its first release. Like the first Star Wars in the 1970s, Blade Runner was so technologically advanced, it made my mouth hang open when I first saw it. In my opinion, this film would be the blueprint for what was to come and is now present in sci-fi cinema. Based on the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner explores questions of humanity and how humans and A.I. relate to one another (James Cameron would go on to also address this relationship with his Terminator franchise; but I prefer this film). Harrison Ford plays the hard-boiled ex-cop, ex-Blade Runner Rick Dekkard, a play on the classic film noir detective, with all of the damn cool swagger you'd see out of Humphrey Bogart. Due to his experience as a Blade Runner (hunting down replicants -- robots that look completely human), Dekkard is hired to track down a small group of replicants to "retire" them but finds they're willing to fight to the death for their life. Blade Runner is a visual masterpiece, with a story of existentialism, a love story, and an exploration of what it truly means to be human. It's one of the top sci-fi films I always make a point to revisit often.


5. The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers

Jack Torrance
: "Mr. Grady, you were the caretaker here."
Delbert Grady: "I'm sorry to differ with you, sir. but you are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I've always been here."

Jay:  When it first came out in 1980, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining was a flop at the box office. A point that disappointed the legendary filmmaker very much and, at the time, vindicated the author of the original novel on which it is based, Stephen King, who publically made no secret about his distaste for the movie. With time, though, Kubrick's gothic horror masterpiece has taken its place among the very best in its genre. Everything is about setting a mood in The Shining. Kubrick once again proved he was one of the very best innovators in cinema history by basically inventing, along with cinematographer John Alcott, what would come to be called the Steadicam -- where the camera's basically mounted on a rig that is attached to the torso of the operator. This would allow him to have fluid motion and steady tracking shots throughout the hallways of the Overlook Hotel as the young boy, Danny Torrance (Danny Boyd) rides his big wheel through the empty corridors. Well, almost empty ..... The Shining manages to tap into a primal fearby allowing us to witness the collapse of the Torrance family as the patriarch, Jack (Jack Nicholson at his bombastic best), succumbs to the ghostly influence of the hotel and turns on the family it seems obvious he never wanted in the first place. In this way, the ghosts of the Overlook (if they exist or not is somewhat debatable) are really just the catalyst of Jack's psychotic break. Unlike King's version of the character in his fantastic book, Kubrick is showing us something much more terrifying. That deep down inside some men there already is the opportunity to turn against those we are supposed to love more than ourselves. I guess all that is needed is a little push.

Matt: To me, The Shining is one of those rare cases which pretty much never happen with film adaptations of books -- specifically, I equally love the original novel by Stephen King and the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation. Nicholson here is a man possessed. He becomes Jack Torrance. This film was one of the first true mental mindf#*%s of a film in that you don't quite know what's real and what isn't. The isolationist feel of the film and its setting add to the terror of the story, as well as -- near the end -- the cold. But what is most creepy here is the concept of a dear loved one as suddenly becoming a rampaging, murderous maniac. Kubrick's photography -- assisted heavily by cinematographer John Alcott -- help to surround the viewer in Torrance's world as well as his son, Danny's, and his wife, Wendy's (Shelley Duvall). By the end of the film, even though each character's fate is shown quite distinctly, you're still left feeling not quite sure what the hell is going on ... in a good way! This is another notch in Kubrick's successful film career, well worth watching over and over.


4. Back to the Future (1985)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea ThompsonCrispin Glover, and Thomas F. Wilson

Dr. Emmett Brown: "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."

Jay:  One day I will realize my childhood dream and own a time traveling DeLorean like the one Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has in Robert Zemeckis's blockbuster smash, Back to the Future. In a way, the premise of this film should never have been greenlit. Teenage boy mistakenly travels back in time and inadvertently prevents his mother and father from meeting and falling in love. Instead, his mother falls for him and he must find a way to help his teenage father win his mother's heart again, or Marty and his brother and sister will be erased from existence. It probably shouldn't have worked but boy does it ever under Zemeckis's fantastic direction. Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson, in particular, give iconic performances, but my favorite was always Crispin Glover as George McFly, Marty's nerdy dad. It's a real shame he never reprised this role in the sequels but, from what I've heard, he has always been a "unique" individual to work with. Everything about Back to the Future makes it the perfect representation of the summer blockbuster. It is fun, heartfelt, and makes me cheer every time George finally kisses Lorraine (Lea Thompson) at the "Fish Under the Sea Dance" and saves his kids without even knowing it. 

Matt: This is, hands down, one of my favorite all-time movies! There is so much going on in the story and philosophical meaning that I could write pages about it. The writers took a goofy comedy about a teenage boy going back in time to when his father was his age and really dug into the mechanics and existential morals of time travel. There are so many wonderful subtleties of the differences between Marty's pre-time travel and post-time travel life. For instance, in his pre-time travel life, Marty's mom, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), tells her kids how she met and fell in love with their dorky dad, George (an excellent, underrated Crispin Glover); she speaks of how her father hit George with the car and pretty much felt sorry for him. But, when Marty comes back from his "trip," after George sticks up for Lorraine at the dance by standing up to bully Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), their life together is better, some of it resulting from the fact that Lorraine respects George rather than feeling sorry for him. One of the best aspects of the film is Michael J. Fox as Marty. Fox was a megastar in the 80's and this film was my favorite role of his; he has a likable everyman quality; he is one of my favorite actors and one of my favorite people! There are simply too many things to list about this movie that I love. So, all I'll say is that this is one of those movies that, despite what point I find it on TV, I always watch when it. It's not just fun and heartfelt, but also smart in its writing and direction. Back to the Future is truly one of the BEST films ever made!


3. Aliens (1986)
Directed by James Cameron
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul ReiserLance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Carrie Henn

Private Hudson
: "Seventeen *days*? Hey man, I don't wanna rain on your parade, but we're not gonna last seventeen hours! Those things are gonna come in here just like they did before. And they're gonna come in here ... "
Ripley: "Hudson!"
Private Hudson: " .... and they're gonna come in here AND THEY'RE GONNA GET US!"
Ripley: "Hudson! This little girl survived longer than that with no weapons and no training."

Jay:  You may not realize this but James Cameron made a Vietnam War movie in the 1980's. It's called Aliens. It happens to be a sequel to Ridley Scott's masterpiece of space horror, Alien. Now, movie buffs have debated for years over which film is the better one. I find it a pointless argument as both pictures, though narratively connected, are so different in tone and pace. One is a suspenseful, scary, thriller that happens to be one of the most frightening movies ever made. The other is an action-packed thrill ride that is much smarter than it lets on. There is no argument, though, that Aliens is in the conversation of best sequels of all time. Cameron smartly realized that there was no way an audience could be convinced that Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) would ever return to the planet of her nightmares unless she was chaperoned by a platoon of the most advanced, battle-hardened marines that could be found. Also, the mission always had to be about wiping out any remaining aliens and their eggs. As usual with these things it is the corporation's greed that is the real villain here and they have other motive for sponsoring this return trip. The smartest choice Cameron made, though, was to raise the stakes for Ripley by giving her a surrogate daughter to protect, in Newt (Carrie Henn). Her new role as warrior mother elevates the character to an iconic level making her one of the very first female action heroes and still one of the best. The final battle between the two "mothers" of the film, Ripley and the Alien Queen, still is one of the very best final confrontations in an action or science fiction movie, ever. Aliens is, like I said earlier, meant to be an allegory for the Vietnam War. A highly modern military force faces off against an enemy they do not comprehend or know how to fight against.   

Matt: One of the very first kick-ass heroines I remember seeing as a kid was Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley in Aliens. Now, I will admit that I watched Aliens before I watched Alien. But I'm damn glad I did. If for no other reason than Ripley's characterization. In Alien, Ripley is a "final girl" in a horror film set in outer space. But, in Aliens, Ripley is the experienced, tough, smart protagonist, who overcomes her fear to fight for the life of another, a young girl (Carrie Henn), who is representative of Ripley's own young daughter who has since grown up and died since the 57 years of the events of the first film. This film not only has the intense suspense of the first film, but also plenty of high octane action. One of my favorite scenes in this film is when the aliens, represented as dots, are shown on the Marines' scanner and the dots surround them. A lot of people ask why Ripley, knowing how bad the alien is, would agree to go this colony where the eggs have supposedly landed. But the simple answer has always been that she does it as an act of revenge; she's going to kill them as was promised her by representatives of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, and she figures she'll be well-protected by the Marines accompanying her. This may feature an ensemble of memorable characters, but Weaver owns the film! 


2. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison FordBilly Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, David Prowse, and Frank Oz

Yoda: "Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try."

Jay:  I don't think there is any single movie I have seen more times than The Empire Strikes Back. I remember the paper slipcase of my old VHS tape of the film being worn and bent from the repeated action of the cassette out and placing in so many times. There are many reasons why it is widely considered to be the best of the Star Wars films. It's the most personal and develops the characters in ways the first movie did not. It's darker and deals with the harsh realities of fighting a war - sometimes the good guys lose. It has a central love story between Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) that's believable and feels organic, unlike any other romance that is portrayed in these films. The pacing is superb with breakneck chase scenes (Millennium Falcon), giving way to introspective Jedi training scenes (Luke and Yoda). Darth Vader is at his most evil and most compelling, revealing to Luke the truth about his father, Anakin, after chopping off his hand in the best lightsaber duel in the entire series. Everything about Empire is expertly done and exemplifies all that makes Star Wars great. It will remain a movie that parents will share with their kids for generations, anxious to see their reactions when Vader drops the mic in the final act. 

Matt: Whereas Star Wars (A New Hope) was a pretty straight-forward sci-fi adventure tale, Empire really steeped the characters into a more developed universe, a mythology expanding with, and steeped in, spiritual and philosophical motifs. While creator George Lucas decided to step down from director duties (a wise move as Kershner brought his filmmaking expertise in all of the most important aspects), he still had a lot of input during the filming. With the introduction of Jedi Master Yoda as well as new characters Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Willliams) and Boba Fett, there are many standout scenes in many new worlds. But the most memorable scene of the entire film -- and the story -- is when Darth Vader reveals to Luke who truly is Luke's father. I clearly remember watching this scene and my jaw practically dropping to the floor. The revelation was the biggest cinematic shock I had seen and it also marked the first concept that not all villains are as completely evil as we may think; in many ways, this film was a child's introduction to the concept that the world is not all just black and white, and, in life, there are gray areas. Empire continues to be my favorite Star Wars film of the entire saga. From its concepts of spirituality (Buddhism as the Force) to its twists in story, its romance, rescue aspect, and somewhat inconclusive ending, Empire would set the tone for the greatness of the Star Wars saga!


1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul FreemanJohn Rhys-Davies, and Denholm Elliott

Belloq
: "What a fitting end to your life's pursuits. You're about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something."
Indiana: "Ha, ha, ha, ha. [under his breath] Son of a bitch ......." 

Jay:  Here it is ...... the very best movie of the 1980's. I didn't really have to think about it too hard. Raiders of the Lost Ark is entertainment at its very finest and it is Steven Spielberg and George Lucas having the most fun of their careers while delivering a film that is so brilliant I don't know where to begin. Well, I guess it all has to start with Harrison Ford who delivers the role he seems born to play. His Indiana Jones has become a permanent fixture in popular culture and now is seen as an archetype that has been copied in countless other action and/or adventure heroes. Dr. Jones's quest to find the long lost Ark of the Covenant is full of thrills, laughs and even some scares. Placing the story in the 1930's and pitting the archaeologist against one of history's most notorious villains, the Nazi's gives the movie a pulpy feel of golden age comic book lore while also brilliantly keeping it grounded in reality by making Jones an "Everyman", someone we all identify with. The action set pieces in this film are still legendary today. The famous all-too-brief battle with the swordsman in the streets of Cairo. The chase scene where Indy takes down a tuck full of Nazi's while they try and shepard the Ark out of Egypt. But my favorite is still the fantastic Map Room scene. No other scene in movie history has done a better job of perfectly melding effects, costume, performance and score in order to create an emotional excitement in the viewer. It is a prime example on how to illicit a cathartic response from an audience, with nearly no dialogue, just a simple moment where our hero uses the Staff of Ra and the light of the sun to point his way to the Arks final resting place. All with John Williams' gorgeous music rising in crescendo to a climax that is jaw-dropping awesome and simplistic all at once. I submit for viewing pleasure, Exhibit A:


AAAAAHHHHHHH!! So fucking awesome!! It never gets old. Raiders of the Lost Ark is not only one of the best movies of the 80's, it really is one of the best of all time! But that is a list for another time. I can't even begin to imagine how I would write that one. This is Spielberg and Lucas drawing on Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Lawrence of Arabia, James Bond and old adventure serials to give us the best adventure movie I have ever seen.

Matt: This was one of the most difficult choices to make -- especially since I have a such a strong affinity for numbers 2 and 4 on this list! But Jay and I have to agree, and Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best! Creator George Lucas took one of his favorite literary adventurers, James Bond, and adapted him into an American adventurer/archaeologist. Henry "Indiana" Jones (Harrison Ford) would come to be one of the best cinematic characters ever created; he's liked by men, women and children alike, and is the closest thing to a superhero come to life. Everyone loves a great story and Lucas' creation -- coupled with direction by master director Steven Spielberg and John Williams' iconic musical score -- is the epitome of a great story! There's not much more to say that Jay hasn't already! The action is great and what Raiders is known for, but I really took to the suspense and emotion in the film. The love story between Indy and Marion (Karen Allen) -- especially how the audience is dropped in the middle of their story; and the thought of her death and how it affects Indy -- it's all wonderfully played! There is not a moment in this story where something unimportant or uninteresting occurs! Every ounce of dialogue even captures your attention and is quote-worthy. One of my favorites is when a battered Indy lies down on a bed, finally relaxing after an action-packed day, and Marion says, "You're not the man I knew ten years ago," to which Indy replies, "It's not the years, honey; it's the mileage." Anyone looking for a great 1980's film need look no further than Raiders!

So, that's it! What did you think? Did we hit or miss the mark? Let us know if you agree or mention some we maybe missed in the comments!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Matt and Jay's Ultimate List - The 50 Best Films of the 1980s - Part 4


Matt and Jay here.

Now we continue our list of the best 50 movies of the 1980's with 10 more great films to debate. This is where Jay and Matt start to agree on the movies which should be on the list! But it's also where things get tough because there are SO many great films that came out during this decade and to narrow them down to the best is extremely difficult! Again, we developed the list creating our own personal lists and then combining through a process that included eliminating some pictures on each others' lists we disagreed with and also using vetoes to save some the other tried to knocked off. It's complicated, we know, but it provides a great opportunity to compare our tastes and debate and disagree about certain movies that made it on. Also, please note that some of these picks are not your usual '80s movies picked for these kinds of lists! For those who may have missed the first three installments, here are numbers 50-41numbers 40-31, and numbers 30-21.

Here are numbers 20-11 . . . .

20. Say Anything ... (1989)
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Starring John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Joan Cusack, and Lili Taylor

Lloyd Dobler: "She's gone. She gave me a pen. I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen."

Jay: One of my favorite romantic comedies of the 1980's, Say Anything ... is much more than your typical teenage love story. It arguably has much more to say about a young woman's coming-of-age, deciding to make choices about her love life and future on her own, and the difficult realities she is confronted with about her father. This was Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, and along with Almost Famous (2000) is probably my favorite of his films. It boasts the quintessential John Cusack performance as Lloyd Dobbler, a lovable idealist who decides to act on his crush and ask out the school valedictorian, Diane Court (Ione Skye). They fall in love but her father (John Mahoney) feels that Lloyd's lack of ambition and direction will hold his daughter back from the success she seems destined to achieve. Mahoney is fantastic in a role that one the surface is pretty unlikeable. I think what Crowe was going for was a kind of juxtaposition between two types of unconditional love. Lloyd wants nothing more from life than to be with Diane and spend the rest of his days making her happy. Diane's father is willing to commit crimes against the very people he is charged with caring for at the retirement facility he runs, in order to ensure his daughter gets everything and more out of her life. In the end, he only loses his daughter when he is found out, but it doesn't make it any less sad. Say Anything ... rises above the typical 80's teen fare by exploring deeper themes that these kind of movies usually explored.

Matt: Say Anything ... was Cameron Crowe's directorial debut and it remains one of his best films to date (right behind Almost Famous)! There's not much to say that Jay didn't already say above. What I loved about this film was Crowe's voice of the characters, launching John Cusack into fame and establishing one of his classic acting motifs that I call "Cusacking" -- when he paces back and forth, and rambles in his charming-yet-awkward way (see the scene in this film where he's talking to Diane over the phone, asking her on their first date; that's Cusacking)! I think most young men fell in love with Ione Skye after watching this film (I know I certainly did!), and having the story tackle the reality of loving someone who has issues is something explored in rom-coms but not in the manner in which Crowe does here. One of my favorite rom-coms of all time!


19. Airplane! (1980)
Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Robert Stack

Rumack: "Can you fly this plane, and land it?"
Ted Striker: "Surely, you can't be serious."
Rumack: "I am serious ... and don't call me Shirley."

Jay: Now pretty much recognized as the King of all silly comedies, Airplane! broke ground in it's genre in many ways, but in the end it still remains quite simply one of the funniest movies ever made. The sheer genius in casting serious actors like Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and Robert Stack only served to heighten the hilarity of the absurd situations and dialogue that this movie is crammed with. It is one of the most quotable films ever with so many iconic lines. "Joey, have you ever been in a .... in a Turkish prison?" "No thank you, I take it black . . . .like my men." "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue." I could go on and on. It really hasn't aged much or lost any of its hilarity.

Matt: My favorite comedy of all time (next to Young Frankenstein)! I remember watching this film so much as a kid, I practically wore out the video cassette tape! The humor is my favorite kind: a mix of sick humor and quick-thinking wit, mixed with physical comedy! Airplane! is a spoof of the 1974 disaster drama Airplane 1975, particularly about a passenger jet who loses its crew and must be flown by a former pilot, Ted Striker (Robert Hays). As Jay said, there are SO many quotable, funny lines, it would take too long to list them all! To me, Leslie Nielsen as straight-laced-but-hilarious passenger Dr. Rumack, as well as Robert Stack's Captain Rex Kramer and Lloyd Bridges' Steve McCloskey are the most notable and hilarious! This film helped form a lot of my humor and I always joyfully watch it whenever I see it on TV!

18. Amadeus (1984)
Directed by Milos Foreman
Starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Roy Dotrice, Jeffrey Jones, and Simon Callow

Antonio Salieri: [addressing a crucifix] "From now, we are enemies ... You and I. Because you choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me for reward only to recognize the incarnation. Because you are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature as far as I am able. I will ruin your incarnation."

Jay:  So much more than simply a period biopic on the life of infamous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Milos Foreman's masterpiece of a film has much more to say about the nature of envy and how perceived greatness can consume one man with jealousy and hate. Actually, Amadeus isn't really a biopic at all. For all it's technical perfection (the sets, costumes, and score are all without peer for the movie's era), Foreman's adaptation of Peter Shaffer's stage play takes many liberties with historical accuracy in order to present it's central themes of "murder, madness and music". Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) was one of the world's most popular and successful composers. His decent into his own personal Hell begins when he first meets the young prodigy, Mozart (Tom Hulce). Salieri is seemingly the only one who can recognize Mozart's vastly superior talent and it drives him nearly insane with envy. It doesn't matter to him that this immature and offensive lout struggles to find any success and simply pay his bills. For Salieri, it is a betrayal by God himself that he can see the brilliance in Mozart's compositions and finds his own work lacking. He decides to murder his "enemy", but not before commissioning and then stealing a Requiem Mass that he can pass off as is own. The scene where Wolfgang reinterprets Salieri's "Welcome March" in front of the Emperor and a room full of peers is a masterclass in how to convey internal emotions without any dialogue. The look on Salieri's face as Mozart turns a piece he worked on for hours, and in mere moments creates a version that is vastly superior is one of my favorite moments in the movie. Abraham is so fucking brilliant in this film. For me, he gives the very best performance of the decade as the tortured Salieri. Hulce deserves lots of credit too as his over-the-top performance serves as a fitting counterpoint to Abraham's brooding and simmering manipulator. There is no world where Amadeus should be as far down on this list as 18. It is, at the very minimum, a top 10 film of the 1980's and I had it as high as #5 on my personal list and, on any given day, it could be vying for #1. There is no better movie that explores the darker jealousies of the creative.

Matt: This is Jay's pick so he's more excited about its entry than me, but I do admit it is one of the best of the 80's. Top 10? Don't think so. But it is a wonderful film. The acting, direction, sets, costumes, story are all well done and Amadeus is a must-see for any Mozart fan! Unfortunately, it's easily forgettable and, to me, doesn't have much of a re-watchability factor. While this doesn't completely set the standard for what makes a great film, it still is a part of it. Hulce does a wonderful job as Mozart and, I agree with Jay, deserves a lot of credit. But it is Abraham who steals the show here as, though this film is named after the great composer, it is mostly about Abraham's Salieri. Amadeus may be a heavy film for some to ingest, but it's a satisfying one and definitely worth watching.

17. Ghostbusters (1984)
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts

Dr. Raymond Stanz: "Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here."
Walter Peck: "They caused an explosion!"
Mayor: "Is this true?"
Dr. Peter Venkman: "Yes, it's true . . . . . . . This man has no dick."

Jay: Certainly one of the most popular and commercially successful blockbusters of the 1980's, today Ghostbusters is revered as an important part of any kid's childhood who grew up in that era. I remember first seeing it and actually being scared most of the time instead of laughing, but hey, I was only 7 years old. Bill Murray simply owns this movie in so many ways. His Peter Venkman is a cocky and arrogant, but so, so funny. I also think this is Rick Moranis at his nerdy best as annoying neighbor Louis Tully. Ghostbusters is essential viewing for anyone who is serious about watching 80's movies. I don't know what more to write about it other than it may the most pure fun out of any movie on this list.

Matt: I don't anyone at the time of Ghostbusters' release could have foreseen the massive impact this film would have on the pop culture scene and many future generations. Sure, the marketing for material items slapped with the Ghostbusters logo was well put in place (this was the 80's, after all!); but what I speak of is more of how the movie inspired legions of fans to band together and form regional chapters of members who serve their communities by raising money for charities. There's even a 2016 documentary, Ghostheads, about the cultural and personal impact of the film on many people's lives. This is another great comedy which warrants many, many quotable lines as a group consisting of three scientists (and failed college professors) and a cynical working-class man decide to investigate the paranormal and capture free-roaming spirits causing havoc across New York City. A fun film all around and wildly entertaining for all ages!

16. The Terminator (1984)
Directed by James Cameron
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, and Paul Winfield

Kyle Reese: "Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop ... ever, until you are dead!"

Jay: This was the very first R-rated film I ever saw. I thought, at that time, it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the most badass and terrifying of all movie monsters. His relentless pursuit of a young woman named, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), provided moment after moment of great action set pieces, combined with Stan Winston's fantastic, cheap effects. More importantly, though, this was the movie that announced James Cameron to the world. He would go on to dominate the box office for decades with other great hits like Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). The Terminator was another in a long line of darker, more dystopian sci-fi films. But it was much more gritty and violent and took the action down to the street-level. It also delt with time travel in a much more clever way then had ever been seen before. Kyle Reese's (Michael Biehn) mission to save Sarah Connor from an unstoppable killing machine so that her son, John, can be born and save the human race from extinction doesn't seem like such a complicated plot nowadays. But back then audiences hadn't seen anything as violent and smart at the same time.

Matt: James Cameron's sci-fi action film set a standard in Hollywood when it came to visual effects and story. And while its sequel was really good, the rest have fallen by the wayside of mundanity. Arnold Schwarzenegger was appropriately cast as the unstoppable T-800 Model 101, or Terminator, who is on a mission from the apocalyptic future (2029) to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) so that she may not give birth to a son who will be the leader of the resistance, which plans to stop the uprising of the machines. On its face, the movie seemed as if it would be some B-movie of the time, but it went on to become one of the most popular and sophisticatedly-written sci-films since its release. Sadly, I think Cameron has been on a downslope since 1997's Titanic, specifically with Avatar, a film that may be technologically impressive and visually stunning but its story and acting falls completely flat! But, to go back to a better time in his career, this was the start of it all! 

15. The Princess Bride (1987)
Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace ShawnAndre the Giant, Peter Falk, and Fred Savage

Inigo Montoya: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Jay: Probably one of the most universally beloved movies of the decade, The Princess Bride can put a smile on anyone's face. Rob Reiner is often forgotten as a director but he makes several appearances on this list. Between This is Spinal Tap!, The Princess Bride, and Misery he was one of the most consistently great filmmakers of the 80's. This timeless, simple fantasy tale is told by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his grandson (Fred Savage) and it is the boy's reactions as the story unfolds (from boredom to enthusiastically invested) that lend another layer to the narrative. Everyone in this movie does some of their best work. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright are the estranged lovers, fighting to be together and live happily ever after. But, it's the supporting cast that particularly shines here. Especially Mandy Patinkin as the vengeful swordsman, Inigo, Andre the Giant as Fesick and Wallace Shawn as Vicini. Their banter and individual stories fill an already great movie with some of the most iconic moments of my movie-watching childhood.

Matt: Based on the 1973 novel by William Goldman, The Princess Bride remains one of the most beloved fairy tales of all time. A tale promising "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles," along with a wonderful score by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, this story has it all! Not only is it a fairy tale but it sort of satires fairy tales. Overall, an enjoyable film from start to finish -- no matter who you are, you're bound to like this film!

14. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Directed by John Hughes
Starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, and Jennifer Grey

Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Jay: I think every kid who watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off wanted to be Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick). He really has everything. The hottest girlfriend (Mia Sara), the coolest stuff in his bedroom, and "no sweat" attitude that seems to get him whatever he wants in life. Now when I watch this movie, I realize I may have missed the underlying message of the movie. The effortless coolness with which Ferris goes through life is there to serve as counter to the problems that his best friend, Cameron (an underappreciated Alan Ruck), has in his life. The favoritism that Ferris enjoys from both of his parents is intentionally overblown in order to highlight the absence and literal abuse that Cameron gets from his, particularly his father. Ferris's sister, Jeannie (Jennifer Grey), also has to learn to not live her life hating her brother, and when the moment she has been waiting for comes and she can finally get one over on him, she chooses instead to cover for him. Also, the musical parade scene near the end, played to Ferris lip-synching to The Beatles' "Twist and Shout" is a personal favorite.

Matt: I would be lying if I said I never used some of Ferris Bueller's tactics to fake sick and get out of school! I'd also be lying if I said I never wished I had the personality or popularity of Ferris. After all, everybody loves him -- "the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him." But, he's there to remind us to not take life too seriously. While everyone loves filmmaker John Hughes' teen ensemble films, Ferris is my second favorite of his! And that's because it is fun, funny, and the characters are the most likable. Who wouldn't want to hang out with Ferris, Sloane, or even Cameron and Jeannie? Hell, even being around Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) would be a riot! The film also teaches the different perspectives of life of either being a Ferris, a carefree, take-life-as-it-comes personality; being a Cameron, who doesn't take charge of his life (at least, not til the end of the film); or being a Jeannie, always thinking life is unfair and wanting to consistently suck the happiness from others because you are unhappy. Broderick will forever be one of my favorite all-time actors after this film and any time I see the film now, a smile always crosses my face.

13. Poltergeist (1982)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O'RourkeBeatrice Straight, and Zelda Rubinstein

Tangina: "Now clear your minds. It knows what scares you. It has from the very beginning. Don't give it any help, it knows too much already."

Jay: Out of respect for the late Tobe Hooper, I will refrain from getting into, yet another back-and-forth with my good friend, Matt, about the well-documented facts around who really directed this landmark film of my childhood. If you would like to read a bit about this longstanding argument we've had since high school read about it here. Poltergeist was the first horror film I can remember seeing. When the Freelings start experiencing strange phenomena in their new suburban home, their initial reaction is of both curiosity and amusement. But when ghosts punch a hole into our world and steal their young daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), their family must reach out for help from a paranormal researcher (Beatrice Straight) and an eccentric psychic (Zelda Rubinstein) to help get her back. As I have grown older, I have come more and more to appreciate this film, especially the performances of Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as the terrified parents trying to keep their family together in the most dire of circumstances. Williams portrayal as Diane is particularly great as she remains one of my favorite moms in movie history, daring many horrifying obstacles (including a unfinished swimming pool full of decaying bodies) to save her children from an unimaginable force trying to tear her family apart. 

Matt: Poltergeist has to be one of my all-time favorite scary movies! That says a lot since most horror movies don't scare me let alone usually make any "great movie" lists of mine; and most of them are nearly as predictable as rom-coms (they have a formula). On its face, it's a simple haunted house type of story, but there is a lot more going on! As most people know, the story centers around middle class family, the Freelings, and their ordinary life in a newly developed suburb. Soon, strange things begin happening, first starting with their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, and taking over the entire house. However, when you look into the metaphors running throughout, you come to appreciate this film even more. Like most horror, writers use the antagonistic threat as a metaphor for an aspect of life or person who they feel is a threat. At the time of the writing of Poltergeist, television was taking off and most old-timers felt people watched too much damn TV! Perhaps it's no coincidence that the device in which the threatening spirits choose to contact little Carol Anne is through a television. Next, the idea of the evil spirit threatening a middle class family in a suburb which is built over the dead can be viewed as a metaphor for the greedy capitalism of the time (as represented by the developer Steven (Craig T. Nelson) works for) and how it corrodes the middle class family unit. Or, the evil may be also viewed as representation of the fact that no one really knows what goes on in the house, with the family next door. Or, you may simply view it as a spooky haunted house-type film. Either way, the writing, acting and directing are all spot on, even when the scary is not taking place. That scene where matriach JoBeth Williams masterfully builds her terrifying shout to a screaming crescendo, repeating, "The swimming pool! The swimming pool! The swimming pool!" That is such a powerful scene that works on so many levels of terror -- not just the horror aspect of the daughter being abducted (by a vengeful spirit) -- but mostly the mundane, routine stomach-dropping concerning nightmare of a young child drowning.One of my favorite scenes in the film is the "sleepover scene," when the Freelings, paranormal researcher Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight), and her crew are staying the night in the Freelings' living room, and the discussion soon turns to death and the afterlife. The speaking cast in that scene -- consisting of Williams, Straight, and Oliver Robins -- all talk in hushed tones because of the late sleeping hour, but their hushed tones and what they're talking about add to the creepiness of the film. Of course, this comes full circle once psychic Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) comes in and tells the Carol Anne's parent point blank about the good spirits who seek Carol Anne's help and the evil one who wants to take her. Rubinstein's performance here was extremely under-appreciated and underrated, and she deserves a lot of credit for setting the drama and tension in the film. And, for anyone who thought 80's films didn't have enough kick-ass female protagonists, I would steer them toward this film's Diane Freeling (Williams), the mother who, alone, confronts the threat in act 3 of the story and saves her children. Poltergeist is not just a great horror/spooky film, it's a great film ... period! Now, my good friend Jay can complain all he wants and reference as many online articles about who directed this film as he wants, but the name of the director on the title card is Tobe Hooper, and that was what the movie trivia game we played at the time (where this all started) was focused on! Nevertheless, as Jay said, you can read his article above for more of his reasoning; if you want to hear my side, just ask!

12. Die Hard (1988)
Directed by John McTiernan
Starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, and Reginald VelJohnson

Hans Gruber [reading what McClane wrote on the dead terrorist's shirt]: "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ... ho ... ho."

Jay: The very pinnacle of action films, Die Hard was the beginning of something new - a transition from the superhuman hero (think Sylvester Stallone in Rambo or Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando) and introduced to John McClaine (Bruce Willis), the "Everyman" hero who can be certainly be hurt and services only on his wits and sometimes dumb luck.  What set Die Hard above the crowd and changed everything was not how good the action was, but how smart it was. It was also buoyed by one of the best villains in cinema history, Hans Gruber (played brilliantly by a then unknown, Alan Rickman). Everything about Die Hard is perfect. Bruce Willis would make the transition from mostly comic actor to total badass. Rickman would make a career out of sneering and brooding evilly. Due to its success there would be sequel after sequel, each one more terrible than the one that preceded it. But no matter how bad they were, they never diminished the greatness of this, the original guy-takes-on-a-bunch-of-terrorists-with-a-hidden-agenda movie.

Matt: I clearly remember going to see this in the theater with my dad when it was first released. And I remember thinking, even then, that this was the start of a new type of action genre. Sure enough, Die Hard was the beginning of a style of action film that a lot of filmmakers have duplicated or taken a page from ever since its release. I remember seeing this film in the theater when it was originally released and the crowd's reactions made the viewing fun, scary and breath-taking all in one; you just knew you were watching a new classic! And the film has gone on to be just that! Now, people (me included) consider Die Hard a Christmas film -- mostly due to the fact that it takes place at Christmas time and, at its core, is about the family unit of Willis' John and Bonnie Bedelia's Holly (for more on this, read Jay's article, "Jay Makes the Case for Christmas and Die Hard"). Die Hard is one of the BEST action movies ever made and while some have desperately tried to copy it since, none have come close!


11. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Directed by Sergio Leone
Starring Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, William Forsythe, Tuesday Weld, and Treat Williams

Noodles: "There were two things I couldn't get out of my mind. One was Dominic, the way he said, 'I slipped,' just before he died. The other was you. How you used to read me your Song of Songs, remember? ... Nobody's gonna love you the way I loved you. At times I couldn't stand it. I used to think of you. I'd think, 'Deborah lives. She's out there. She exists.' And that would get me through it all. You know how important that was to me?"

Jay: This would be the great Sergio Leone's final film before he passed away. While it is not my favorite of his movies (I place The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and A Fistful of Dollars all a bit higher) it still deserves to be considered one of the best of the 80's and should be recognized as one of the very best crime dramas of all time. Not nearly revered as much as The Godfather Part I & II or Scorsese's Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America should be considered just as good as those iconic mafia films in many ways. Both a nostalgic snapshot of America in the early 20th century and also in a touching personal story of regret and redemption, Leone's final work deals with the fracturing of friendships and lost love. After Leone turned in a final cut that was nearly 5 hours long, the studio came in behind him without his knowledge or consent and both cut it to just over 2 hours and put all the scenes in chronological order. The result was a critical and commercial flop. Now, after being restored to nearly its original length, the "European Cut" is considered one of the very best gangster epics of all time.

Matt: A masterpiece of a film! My favorite Sergio Leone film! You definitely have to watch the "European Cut"/director's cut of the film! It clocks in at a very lengthy run time of 4 hours, but it is completely worth a watch! To me, this is the second best gangster/mafia film of all time -- coming in just behind The Godfather Part I & II. Based on the Harry Grey partially-autobiographic novel, The Hoods, the story follows five juvenile delinquents who become successful mobsters. When the co-leader of the group, Noodles (Robert De Niro), goes away to juvie for murder, and is released as an adult, he takes back up with this pals to become a part of the booming criminal empire. However, there is betrayal and the film flashes back-and-forth between 1933 and 1968, where the elder Noodles returns to New York to follow up on a mysterious letter he received regarding his former friends. I don't want to say anymore as it would give away the story, but, whenever anyone asks me what gangster/mob film I like best, besides The GodfatherOnce Upon a Time in America is the answer I give! Regret, hope, violence, love, hate, betrayal, politics, gangsters, sex, revenge, and repentance -- it's all here!

Monday, September 11, 2017

9 Essential 9/11 Documentaries You Must Watch

Matt here!

There are so many documentaries about the tragic events of 9/11/2001. I've seen A LOT of them. These are the ones that I found most impressive and important to view.

1.) 9/11 (2002)
Directed by Jules Naudet, Gedeon Naudet, and James Hanlon

This is the quintessential documentary about 9/11/2001. And what is ironic is that it did not start out as being a documentary about 9/11. The event incidentally happened on the very day that two French filmmakers were following a probationary firefighter Tony Benetatos as he was assigned to Engine 7/Ladder 1/Battalion 1 Firehouse in lower Manhattan -- the actual subject for their original documentary. On September 11, 2001, one of the brothers -- the younger Jules Naudet -- rode along with the firefighters on shift to a possible gas leak just blocks from the World Trade Center. The roar of a passenger jet's engines can be heard as Naudet quickly pans up to the Trade Center and captures only 1 of 2 video recordings of Flight 11 flying into the North Tower/Tower 1. From there on, the documentary takes on a new focus as we see Jules' near-death experience with the firefighters as they are in Tower 1 when Flight 175 hits the South Tower/Tower 2 and when Tower 2 collapses with them in the Tower 1 lobby. Also seen is his big brother Gedeon's nerve-racking search for his brother, becoming a spectator, like the rest of the public, until he flees from the collapsing towers. A powerful, haunting film where death is ever present and love, sacrifice and duty take the forefront.


2.) 9/11: Press for Truth (2006)
Directed by Ray Nowosielski

This film follows the four New Jersey widows known as the "Jersey Girls," who lead the families of the victims of 9/11 to push for an investigation into the attacks. The best companion piece to this documentary is freelance writer Paul Thompson's The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11 -- and America's Response, an accurate report that agonizingly lists every detail about the history and events which lead to 9/11/01 (if you want to know all the facts and truths regarding 9/11, this is the book to read). This video documents the women's and family members' path from demanding an investigation to all of the obstacles thrown in their way by the U.S. government. This also tells the story of the 9/11 Commission in all of its failures and small successes. By the end of this film, you will find yourself sounding like 9/11 family member Bob McIlvaine: "I'm so pissed off at the American people, I'm so pissed off at this government ... because of this cover-up."


3.) Inside 9/11 (2005)
Directed by Michael Bronner & Grace Chapman

Inside 9/11 is a 2-part bare-bones, hour-by-hour reenactment of what happened on that fateful, tragic day as well as exploring the origins of 9/11. For straight-up, on-its-face facts (culled from the 9/11 Commission Report), this is the documentary to watch!


4.) Inside the Twin Towers (2006)
Directed by Richard Dale

Discovery Channel's originally titled documentary 9/11: The Twin Towers -- or simply Inside the Twin Towers -- was renamed to this current title and released as a docudrama, telling true events with major actors reenacting what occurred within the Twin Towers from the time the first plane hit to the collapse of both buildings. Similar to the History Channel's Countdown to Ground Zero, both films are good, but Discovery's film has better acting and pacing, while also doing a better job at relating the true terror and inspiring hope of that day to the audience. Also well done is the injection of the actual survivors and family members as they recall the events seen on screen, and the injection of actual video footage in with the reenactment footage. This documentary is the closest adaptation to Jim Dwyer's 2005 masterpiece 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (as seen in the fan-made trailer below) -- an essential book that should be mandatory reading for every public school student and American, for that matter.


5.) On Native Soil (2006)
Directed by Linda Ellman

According to Amazon.com's Jeff Shannon, this 2006 documentary is "essential viewing for anyone seeking to understand how systemic failures in U.S. national security led to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. By focusing on 9/11 survivors, the surviving family members of 9/11 victims, and their passionate demand for an official investigation into the World Trade Center attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden, this riveting documentary serves as a remarkable audio-visual companion to the 9/11 Commission Report (which is included in its entirety on this DVD). Featuring alternating narration by Kevin Costner and Hilary Swank, the film contains much of the same material included in other 9/11 documentaries, but it's informed by an inspiring sense of moral outrage as we learn, step by step, how much the U.S. government and the Bush administration knew about possible terrorist attacks prior to 9/11, and failed to take any significant action against those threats. Beginning with former CNN reporter Peter Arnett's revealing interview with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1997, and ending with the sobering observation that we're still inadequately prepared for another 9/11-like attack, On Native Soil unfolds with a deeply personal perspective that's dramatically contrasted by the galling audacity of administrative spin control. As recalled by surviving family members of 9/11 victims, ample evidence existed to prove that the government was aware of terrorist plots on native soil. In light of their research, then-National Security Advisor (NSA) Condoleeza Rice looks particularly culpable: As one grieving widower observes, Rice either lied in her post 9/11 press conferences (when she claimed "nobody could have known of these attacks") or--worse yet--she was unaware of the voluminous evidence of active terrorist plots available in the public record. It goes on from there: interagency communication breakdowns, disorganized response strategies when the attacks occurred, incredibly lax security at airports, and damning evidence of governmental neglect--all leading to the inescapable conclusion that 9/11 might have been avoided had the Bush administration been more attentive to obvious and immediate threats to national security. In driving these points home, director Linda Ellman doesn't flinch from the harshest realities: This is one of the few 9/11 documentaries to show attack victims leaping to their deaths from the burning twin towers of the WTC, and emotional testimony from survivors adds yet another layer of tragedy to these earth-shaking events. As a tribute to the families who confronted a shockingly reluctant administration and demanded the 9/11 Commission Report, On Native Soil serves a noble and timeless purpose: It honors those who died on 9/11, provides a cautionary warning against complacency among government officials and U.S. citizens alike, and reminds us that terrorism on native soil is a constant threat that must not be ignored." Especially riveting and heartbreaking is the moment when father of a 9/11 victim (Peter Hanson) aboard Flight 175 retells his last conversation with his son moments before the plane impacts the South Tower/Tower 2. This is the first time in U.S. history that an investigation had found an internal "failure of management, capability ..." (quote from 9/11 lead commissioner Thomas H. Kean found at the 4:35 mark here) and no one in the administration was demoted, fired or impeached. In fact, officials were only given promotions! (Even two top military officials were relieved of their command after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941/1942!) Ultimately, this documentary uncovers a disturbing truth which set a disgusting, alarming precedent for the politicians and military leaders of our country: lie and/or be incompetent at your job so much so that nearly 3,000 innocent civilians are killed, and you will thrive in your career.


6.) Rebirth (2011)
Directed by Jim Whitaker

This 2011 documentary is a 10-year record in the making, following five people affected by the 9/11 attacks, whether they were in the WTC, in New York, or were family/friends of victims who perished that day: Ling Young, a Chinese office worker who was badly burned at ground zero and undergoes surgery after surgery; Nick, was a teenager in high school at the time and lost his mother and afterward became estranged from his father; Tanya, who lost her fiancé Sergio; Brian, a construction worker mourning the loss of his brother; and Tim, a New York City fireman who lost almost everyone he worked with. The film documents each year just after 9/11 to 2011, showing the emotional and physical toll taken on each person. The best thing about this film is the overwhelming sense of hope that rises from each person's journey. A beautiful, touching film that has a lot of re-watching potential. Plus, a beautiful musical score provided by Philip Glass.


7.) Voices from Inside the Towers (2011)
Directed by The History Channel

Within minutes, a deluge of telephone calls flooded into the outside world. Voices from Inside the Towers brings an inside perspective to what happened through phone calls made by some who later died and some who survived. While there is a significant visual record of what happened outside the Towers that day, this film, for the first time, provides a moving and emotional record of what was going on inside the Towers. Heartbreaking but an essential viewing!
9/11 Voices From Inside The Tower from Joanna Bartholomew on Vimeo.


8.) Flight 93: The Flight that Fought Back (2005)
Directed by Bruce Goodison

Premiering on the Discovery Channel, this docudrama shows the brave, heroic actions of the passengers of United Flight 93, which was hijacked on 9/11, headed toward Washington, D.C., to crash into either the White House or the U.S. Capitol. If it weren't for the actions of these passengers, countless others would have been killed. Like the 2006 major motion picture United 93, this documentary captures all of the nailbiting suspense and terror these passengers and their families faced.


9.) September 11: The New Pearl Harbor (2013)
Directed by Massimo Mazzucco

Clocking in at about just under 5 hours, this is the be-all, end-all 9/11 documentary, featuring the most up-to-date information on 9/11 and its build-up. September 11 takes the debunkers' ridiculous explanations and proves them wrong. It asks the questions the public should be demanding to have answered ... now! I don't agree with some of the theories expressed here, but most of them leave great questions no one has ever answered! Forget the 9/11 Commission Report! THIS is the essential video that should be watched!