best film: Kubrick’s full metal jacket is my #1 film but may be my weakest film to land at my annual #1 since 1935’s the 39 steps by Hitchcock. It’s the best film of the year but I have it as Kubrick’s 8th best film. That’s staggering and a testament to both the quality of Kubrick and the weakness of the top slot of the year. Just for some quick perspective I have dr strangelove as Kubrick’s 5th best film yet it is #3 of 1964. So Kubrick’s 8th best film is #1 of one year and his 5th best film is #3 of another, much stronger, year. Ok- enough of a preamble here—I love full metal jacket from the opening haircut montage to the tracking shot R. Lee Ermey verbally undressing his recruits to the clinical and formally sound two-part structure. The opaque ending, dark humor and kubrick’s trademark clinical approach may take repeat viewings to fully appreciate.
most underrated: De Palma’s the untouchables should be in the TSPDT top 1000 and isn’t but it’s no surprise since he’s a definite style over substance auteur and I’m a style over substance cinephile. The Odessa steps sequence is technically brilliant but I also think the film is very well acted (Costner does a really good job at an early jimmy stewart/Gregory peck or gary cooper genuine good guy while de niro does his showy pacino-in-scarface-villain and sean connery steals every scene he’s in). There are also some very admirable sequences of almost a bergman-like blocking and use of frame (often used in the bordwell books as examples) that are beautiful.
most overrated: Yeelen is at #613 on TSPDT and evil dead 2 is at #633 according to the consensus and I have both at least 1000 slots behind that. These lofty rankings but them ahead of great films like red sorghum or the gorgeous work of bertolucci in the last emperor.
gem I want to spotlight: 1987 is a weak year at the top but there are a handful of films I really enjoy that are borderline top 10 films that I couldn’t find a spot for in my top 10: radio days, barfly, house of games, and fatal attraction. But the one I’m going to focus on here is John McTiernan’s predator. Predator came out a year before die hard for mctiernan and is an unusual blending of action and sci-fi. It’s one of Swwartzenegger’s best films and amongst the most entertaining of any of the films from 1987. It’s very heavy on the testosterone but it is rich with the characterizations and the use of special effects and POV horror camerawork to create an enemy to rival alien or mike myers.
trends and notables: Above in the best film section I’ve already recapped what a weak year it is at the top. That said, 1987 is a strong year in terms of depth both with the films that are from about #10-17 and the fact that we have 49 total archiveable films. 1971 had 43 films and that was the single year record to date but 1987 obliterates that. You have weaker films with great performances like cry freedom in there adding to that number but all and all it’s a great depth of field all the films I’ve mentioned above and films like lethal weapon, hope and glory, moonstruck, near dark, Robocop and the princess bride to add to that. Like 1975 and 1980 this is a Kubrick year and the longest wait we’ve had for one to date (tipping my cap here to 1999 with eyes wide shut as his final work). It’s certainly a notable first archiveable film for Abbas Kiarostami. His take on neo realism with where is my friend’s home? would announce him as a major international auteur. I might actually think more of the filmography of Chinese auteur Yimou Zhang who comes onto the scene here with red sorghum. With him he’d bring the talented Gong Li who would be his muse for a total of 6 archiveable films including raise the red lantern, ju dou, and shaghai triad. 1987 is the first archiveable film for the great Morgan Freeman. Many forget that he was 50 years old when street smart (another borderline film pushed over the archiveable edge by a great performance) came out. On the total opposite side of the age spectrum here we’d have child actor and future all-time great Christian Bale would get his start at age 13 in steven speilberg’s empire of the sun. It’s a big year for firsts. Holly Hunter would explode on the scene with a total of three archiveable films (a gathering of old men, broadcast news and raising Arizona) and two of the best single performances of the year. Kevin Costner isn’t on the level of freeman, bale or hunter but for a 6 year stretch from 1987-1993 he would be the biggest star in Hollywood and certainly his work in 1987’s no way out and the untouchables are a big reason for that. He’d damn good in them. The great John Huston would give us the dead in 1987 which would be his 17th and last archiveable film. It would be an impressive last film and his 7th of top 10 of the year quality. It wouldn’t be first films for these actors but Nic Cage (raising Arizona, moonstruck, Michael Douglas (wall street, fatal attraction) and steve martin (Roxanne, planes, trains and automobiles) would have huge years. Last quick mention here but the endlessly prolific Woody Allen would give us another two archiveable films with radio days and September.
best performance male: There isn’t one standout dominant performance here in 1987 but there are a handful worthy of singling out. I do think I have to go with Richard e Grant in withnail as the overall best performance. He’s as dynamic as Douglas in wall street but he’s in a much better film and is on screen much more. Douglas obviously deserves a slot here for not only his work in stone’s wall street but in fatal attraction as well. Sean Connery gets his best role in a decade and is wonderful in the untouchables and joe Mantegna is absolutely charismatic in david mamet’s house of games. My last mention here is for Mickey Rourke in barfly. Rourke is great in diner and magnetic in his scene-stealing role in body heat back in 1981 but here he’s the driving force and is amongst the year’s best.
best performance female: There are 5 great performances to mention here and two of them, and I think the overall single best, is from Holly Hunter. I think her work in broadcast news is the best of the year barely holding Gong Li in red sorghum. Behind those two I’d definitely reserve a seat for Glen Close as the one night stand turned horror villain (or HIV symbol) in fatal attraction. She’s breathtaking to watch and keeps the film from turning into camp in the final act. My third runner up would be Hunter again in a louder and broader comedic performance in raising Arizona. Lastly, Cher is very good in norman jewison’s moonstruck.
- Full Metal Jacket
- Withnail and I
- Wings of Desire
- The Untouchables
- Red Sorghum
- Raising Arizona
- The Last Emperor
- Where Is My Friend’s Home
- The Dead
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|84 Charing Cross Road||R|
|A Gathering of Old Men||R|
|Angel Heart- A. Parker||R|
|Au Revoir les Enfants- Malle||R|
|Boyfriends and Girlfriends- Rohmer|
|Broadcast News- J. Brooks||R/HR|
|Cry Freedom- Attenbourogh||R|
|Empire of the Sun- Spielberg||R|
|Evil Dead II||R|
|Full Metal Jacket- Kubrick||MS|
|Hope and Glory- Boorman|
|House of Games- Mamet||HR|
|In a Glass Cage||R|
|Lethal Weapon- Donner||R|
|Near Dark- Bigelow||R|
|No Way Out||R|
|Planes, Trains and Automobiles- J. Hughes||R|
|Radio Days- Allen||HR|
|Raising Arizona- Coen||HR|
|Red Sorghum- Yimou Zhang||HR|
|The Dead- J. Huston||HR|
|The Last Emperor- Bertolucci|
|The Law of Desire- Almodovar||HR|
|The Lonely Passion of Judith Heame|
|The Princess Bride- Reiner||R|
|The Untouchables- De Palma||HR|
|Tin Men- Levinson||R|
|Wall Street- Stone||R|
|Where Is My Friend’s Home?- Kiarostami||HR|
|Wings of Desire- Wenders||HR|
|Withnail and I||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives