1. The Color Purple
2. After Hours
3. The Falcon and the Snowman
4. Prizzi's Honor
7. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
8. Lost in America
9. Street Wise
10. Blood Simple
I haven't seen The Color Purple, but I've read the book. When you travel in certain circles ("liiiiiii-brul!"), that book is referred to with the sort of frequency (and insistent reverence) that other circles reserve for the Bible. I'm not quite so fond of the book, but I think Alice Walker did exactly what she set out to do: write a fairy-tale version of her grandmother's life. It still stretches the boundaries a little too far for me to keep with it: I can't quite make the journey from the book's grim beginnings to the final pages where everyone's sitting around the table, taking a toot and waxing blissful philosophic. But maybe The Color Purple is America's Les Misérables. If that's the case, a more current translation of Hugo's classic is long overdue.
But let's talk about movies. After Hours is a funny movie, but not in a "ha ha" way. I originally saw it with the crowd it was made for: college kids. Snickers and cynical guffaws were abundant in the early minutes (I delivered a few of them myself), but gradually slacked off as the movie continued. The group I was with repaired to a cafe afterwards. Everyone agreed we'd just seen a comedy, but no-one was entirely certain what to make of it. I probably saw it once a year for the next five years, and I have only one fixed opinion of it: there will never be another Peggy Lee song used more effectively than Scorsese's framing of "Is That All There Is?"
Fast first impressions: The Falcon & The Snowman -- one of Sean Penn's more memorable turns as a weasle. I took a date to see Prizzi's Honor. That's not the worst choice I've made for a date movie, but it's pretty close. And I didn't agree with the critics, either. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome -- oog. I can't believe this movie came from the same guy who brought us the first two Max movies. He removed the teeth and claws before he released the tiger the third time out. Lost in America -- I laughed when the biker flipped David (Brooks) the bird, but that's where it ended (also kinda cute to see Linda (Haggard) stupidly losing the nest-egg on "22" -- the magic number for the young refugee couple in Casablanca). As for Blood Simple, I grant the Coen Brothers the sort of prestige that some people give Robert Altman, so I will save my thoughts on this and other movies in their ouevre for later.
We're left with Ran and Witness, my two favourite movies that year. Witness has drifted somewhat from my favour since then (I giggled the first time I heard John Waters' response to people censoring his early work: "Well, who do I have in my corner, whenever I encounter something that's just too much for my sensibilities? Who's going to save me from the barn-raising scene in Witness?"). And I saw Ran after visiting an eye-specialist following a hockey injury. I had those eye-drops that stretched my pupil to the max, and saw this whole movie in horrid, hazy glow. It's a gruelling, bloody, epic retelling of King Lear, and it's every bit as horrific and moving as a viewer could expect from Kurosawa.