Friday, February 15, 2008

Quality 80s? Part III

In a search to find timeless, non-quirky 80s films (inspired by my viewing of The Accidental Tourist) I have begun my movie viewing. Here are some 1980s films I've just watched for the first time and my thoughts on whether they're any good 20-or-so years post-release.

Also enjoy: Part I and Part II.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Directed by Charles Crichton
Recommended by Oscar (winner best supporting actor + 2 noms, writing & directing), Will & Kat

I know I got some slack for some of my criticisms of Say Anything, particularly in how it aged. But with A Fish Called Wanda, despite it's definite 80s-ness, I found it to be one of the most laught-out-loud movies I have ever seen. The perfect combination of the multiple styles of comedy that come out of the 4 supporting-leads (Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, John Cleese, and Michael Palin) is perfect. While I found the situational comedy between Cleese and Curtis, I found Kline's role to be the early model of comedy that Will Ferrell has overdone.

This is a great comedy, and won that deserves recognition, not just in the cannon of great 80s films, but in the realm of great comedies, and great film...period. A very pleasant surprise.

Empire of the Sun (1987)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Recommended by Oscar (6 nominations), Fox, Darrell, & Will

Forget Shia LaBeouf - you want to talk about a young up-and-comer... Christian Bale was amazing as a child actor with the opportunity to carry this film. Spielberg's amazing talent to work with children certainly comes through her. Something about this film is highly respectable, in it's unique historical nature, excellent art direction, music, effects, and over all style. YET there is something in this film that was also tedious and uninteresting. I think many times films of this nature are more biographical in nature then literary, and that leads us to become more emotionally attached. I felt like this was Spielburg cutting his teeth and practicing some ideas that would help him create the masterpiece that is Shindler's List.

I love Christian Bale's character. John Malkovich is always wonderful. Ben Stiller suddenly seems mis-cast as a now famous actor. It's a beautiful respectable film, that is probably simply too long.

Do the Right Thing (1989)
Directed by Spike Lee
Recommend by Oscar (2 noms), Jandy, jeremy, joe valdez and Will

In 2006 MTV awarded Do The Right Thing the "Silver Bucket of Excellence" for a film from the past that has present-day resonance. While films about racial tension have been over played, it's clear that Do The Right Thing has film merit. Yet Spike Lee's stype, the over-acted characters and the bizarre mix of comedy and drama make this film unique as well as an easy film to love or hate.

I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a general viewer, but even as I've avoided this film, I've frequently seen and heard others reference it, so it's film value is unquestionable. My favorite actors in this ensemble where John Turturro (Pino), Ruby Dee (Mother Sister) and suprirsingly Samuel L. Jackson (Mister SeƱor Love Daddy).


Jeremy said...

For the record, "Do the Right Thing" is one of my absolute favorite films, I've seen it at least four times now and each time I see something new and interesting.

Will said...

RC, it's good to see your comments here.
I left such a long comment with recommendations, that it was impossible for me also to give comments on each one.
For the record, I feel EXACTLY the same as you about each of these three films.
A FISH CALLED WANDA - love it, love it. Doesn't seem to be dated at all.
EMPIRE OF THE SUN - great performances, some wonderful moments, but overall, you're left thinking 'huh?'
DO THE RIGHT THING - also mostly enjoyable, with a lot of memorable characters and some good scenes, but mostly it adds up to just pretty good. Sorry, jeremy.

Thanks again for doing this.

kat said...

Glad that you liked A Fish Called Wanda. I bought the collector's edition DVD set a few months ago which had some pretty great featurettes and interviews with John Cleese on them. (John Cleese....lovely and brilliant in every way. Even his training films are great.) Alas, there is much to love about Wanda: Director Charles Crichton was brought out of retirement (he was an Ealing comedy director) and this was his final feature film; John Cleese's character "Archie Leach" was homage to Cary Grant; Stephen Fry gets a brief moment towards the end as man in airport distracted by "look, there's the queen!" and, of course, "K-k-k-ken's p-p-p-pets!" It is probably not possible for me to love this movie more.

I do suggest, though, that you give it's so-called follow-up movie, "Fierce Creatures" a miss.

Marshall said...

Excellent, all underrated in their own way, though Do The Right Thing is a hard film to love. A Fish Called Wanda is a personal favorite I try to share with as many people as I can.

general125 said...

[i][b]A Fish Called Wanda[/b][/i] definitely underrated in the grand scheme. It's one of those movies that people love if they've seen it, but it rarely makes a top list.

Movies about racial tension....overplayed....nooooooooooooo. That's as silly as saying movies about the holocaust are overplayed.

general125 said...

BTW-This Oscar guy is getting too much credit for picking good movies. He doesn't always know what's good (except Amadeus is a very good film, he was right about that one.

RC said...

@ adam, i think seeing how Oscar picks the film nods of the 80s has been one of the most interesting things...i guess that's part of how this project started. I couldn't believe Accidental Tourist received the nods that it did, and that was about the point I was giving up hope on 80s films.

You really don't think racial tension films are overplayed?

Fox said...

I would love to revisit "Do The Right Thing". When I saw it as a young adult I was into the anger of it. I wonder how I would respond now, and I wonder if I would focus more on the less-angry aspects... like the old men sitting together outside.

Keep up these 80's posts! Their great!

Anonymous said...

I love Empire of the Sun. One of my favourite war films.

Anonymous said...

A fish Called Wanda is by far the best movie ever! Great roll, funnt plot, and of course one of the best diamond heist films ever.