January 1, 1987
Don’t let anyone kid you; 1986 was a good year for movies. Although there were no blockbusters â€” except possibly for “Top Gun,” ” ‘Crocodile Dundee” and “Karate Kid II” – hardly a week passed in which a movie fan couldn’t find something to see.
Sometimes, small is better.
I look back with considerable pleasure on such nearly forgotten movies as Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” and David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” neither of which is likely to show up on many 10 Best lists.
This has been a fine year for British movies: from the energetic “My Beautiful Laundrette” to the toughminded “Mona Lisa.”
I have enjoyed many commercially successful movies (“Aliens,” for example) and some very obscureÂ films (director Michael Apted’s documentary, “28 Up”), and I can’t think of a movie â€” in seven years of reviewing â€” that was more important than “Shoah.” The 9-hour and 23-minute documentary about the Holocaust is a masterpiece.
As always, there’s need for some special recognition: Bette Midler for her volatile and funny kidnapped wife in “Ruthless People;” Bob Hoskins for his chauffeur with a heart in “Mona Lisa;” Sissy Spacek for her wacked-out Southern belle in “Crimes of the Heart;” Meryl Streep for her journalist-turned-mother in the much-maligned “Heartburn;” Kathleen Turner for her adult in aÂ teen-ager’s world in “Peggy Sue Got Married;” and River Phoenix for his tough but sensitive kid in “Stand By Me.”
Like everything else, movies tend to look differently in retrospect. The lists that follow are the movies which trigger the fondest or foulest memories.
The 10 Best:
“At Close Range” â€” Christopher Walken gave a chilling, magnificent performance as an evil father in director James Foley’s widely overlooked film. Sean Penn co-starred in this uncompromising look at the shocking violation of fundamental bonds between a father and his sons.
“Children of a Lesser God“ â€” Wonder of wonders, a real romance. This enjoyable love story featured fine performances by William Hurt and Marlee Matlin. Intelligent mainstream entertainment without a bit of hand-wringing.
“The Color of Money“ â€” Let’s face it, watching movie stars really is fun. Paul Newman was great. So was Tom Cruise. And for the longest time director Martin Scorcese kept the
screen crackling with excitement, the kind we used to routinely expect from movies.
“Down and Out in Beverly Hills“ â€” Paul Mazursky’s warm, glossy comedies get better and better. Who else but Mazursky could make a movie about disorder, estrangement and corroded values and keep it warm, happy and human. Year’s best performance by a dog, the poochÂ (actually two of them) that played Matisse.
“Hannah and Her Sisters” â€” Arguably the best movie of the year. Woody Allen guided a superb cast in a perfect blend of comedy and drama. A movie to love.
“Little Shop of Horrors” – Frank Oz did an excellent job of bringing the upbeat energies of the stage to this delightfully demented musical. An energetic, cracked and very inventive movie about a man-eating plant.
“My Beautiful Laundrette” â€” Of all this year’s British imports, this one stands as the freshest. Hanif Kureishi’s script had heart and eloquence and Daniel Day Lewis gave a stunning performance as a young punk.
“A Room With a View” â€” James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel had polish and a cast of characters who were great fun to be with.
“Sid and Nancy” â€” Repellent and funny, a look at the outrageous lives of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I admired the risks director Alex Cox
took in bringing this rude couple to the screen.
“True Stories” â€” David Byrne’s wacky, visually inventive look at a small Texas town; Byrne turned his movie into a gleaming art object, bringing a sensibility to the screen that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. Possibly the most adventurous American movie of theÂ year.