best film: I have David Cronenberg as the 31st best director of all-time and dead ringers is his best film. This ranking for cronenberg puts him above Spielberg, Rossellini, Wilder and Bresson. That should give this film some perspective. Cronenberg’s modern day jekyll and hyde comes complete with ego, drug use and twin synergy driving the Mantle twins (both played by Jeremy Irons) towards the body horror themes running throughout cronenberg’s oeuvre. It’s more polished and beautiful than videodrome and when you combine those two films with scanners and the fly you have perhaps the greatest filmmaker on the planet in 1988 and the best single film to be released since David Lynch’s blue velvet in October of 1986.
most underrated: Robert Zemeckis’ who framed roger rabbit is a wildly entertainingly technical marvel. It’s also a superbly crafted narrative as well. It works as a murder mystery and comedy and has a strong lead performance from Bob Hoskins. Somehow the film can’t land a spot on the TSPDT top 1000 and that’s a shame. Of course it’s not the first film to utilize live actors with animation (I’m not sure of others but I know gene Kelly was dancing with jerry in anchors aweigh in 1944) but not to this level. After coming on the scene taking nearly directly from Spielberg (his romancing the stone in 1984 borrow so heavily from raiders of the lost ark) his work here in 1988 and back to the future in 1985 put him on the map as one of the better directors of the era and certainly, along with Cameron and a few others, proof that the post-Spielberg and post-Lucas world of hollywood was not all in for naught.
most overrated I’ve only seen Cinema Paradiso once so it’s not shocking that I’m much lower than the consensus TSPDT #292. I found it to be irresistible for lovers of film and certainly sentimental- but not sure it has the artistic brilliance to warrant a ranking in the top 300.
gem I want to spotlight: Terrence Davies’ debut feature after three short films is a stunner. Distant voices, still lives is both authentic and beautiful. Davies has such a skill for décor. Nostalgia and hard-hitting realism come hand in hand in a film nearly wall to wall with characters singing pub songs. It’s poetic and poignant and a stunning first film from a new voice in British and world cinema.
trends and notables: 1988 has a Masterpiece (1987 doesn’t have one) but I only feel really strongly about 6 films that make up my top 10. I love dangerous liaisons, pelle, and big but if they make your top 10 it probably isn’t a dominant year. It’s a strong year for director’s firsts, particularly in the UK, with both Terrence Davies (distant voices, still lives) and Mike Leigh (high hopes) getting their first films into the archives. Tarkvosky’s lineage is picked up by Bela Tarr here in 1988 who made damnation- his first archiveable film. Tim Burton also made his maiden voyage into the archives with beetlejurice—certainly a great blend of expressionism and Hollywood filmmaking. For actors we’d have Tom Hanks’ arrival in Penny Marshall’s big. It’s a star-making role. Bruce Willis would probably become an even bigger star in 1988 with die hard– his first archivable film. It would be another 8 years before he’d be in breaking the waves but Stellan Skarsgård gets his first archhivable film in
philip kaufman’s the unbearable lightness of being. Wynona Ryder gets her start in beetlejuirce and uma Thurman has two films that break her into the archives (dangerous liaisons and the adventures of baron munchausen). They are both extremely young but would go on to become some of the bigger actresses in the early 90’s. It’ll go into it a little more below but it’s worth again mentioning the run Glen Close is on—she continues it in ’88 with dangerous liaisons. One of her co-stars, Michelle Pfieffer has a big 1988 with both liasons and demme’s married to the mob. He’s close but not quite worthy of a mention below- but willem dafoe is great in two solid films in 1988 both alan parker’s Mississippi burning and scorsese’s last temptation of Christ. They had their archiveable debuts earlier in the decade but 1988 is a more resounding announcement of their talent and staying power as auteurs for both Pedro Almodovar (women on the verge of a nervous breakdown) and Miyazaki with my neighbor totoro.
best performance male: It’s a very strong year here in this category. As magnetic as bruce willis is in die hard he’s my runner up to Jeremy Iron’s tour-de-force as the intricate mantle twins in dead ringers. Tom Hanks is a joy to watch in big and few performances can pull at your heart strings like max von sydow in pelle the conquerer so both are getting mentions here. I also think John Malkovich’s performance in dangerous liasons is worthy of high praise as is Tom Cruise in rain main. Hoffman won the oscar for rain main but cruise’s performance is more difficult and I think it’s the greater achievement.
best performance female: It’s a very strong year here as well. I have five strong performances worthy of a mention. This time I’m going for the impeachable Glen Close in dangerous liaisons as my female performance of the year. This is Close’s 3rd time as a best female performance mention since 1984. What a run and talk about back to back years playing all-time great villains. Carmen Maura is wonderful in women on the verge—she won the best actress at the euro film awards and is just the first of many almodovar muses to get mentioned or praised in this category. Susan Sarandon is mesmerizing in bull durham. Jodie Foster in the accused gives an unforgettable performance. Lastly, Melanie Griffith’s soft spoken Tess McGill is a brilliant character well brought to life by Griffith in Mike Nichols’ working girl.
- Dead Ringers
- Distant Voices, Still Lives
- Die Hard
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Dangerous Liaisons
- Pelle the Conqueror
- The Vanishing
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Cry in the Dark- Schepisi||R|
|A Fish Called Wanda||R|
|A Handful of Dust||HR|
|A Short Film About Killing- Kieslowski|
|A Short Film Above Love- Kieslowski|
|Accidental Tourist- Kasdan||R|
|Another Woman- Allen||R|
|Dangerous Liaisons- Frears||HR|
|Dead Ringers- Cronenberg||MP|
|Die Hard- McTiernan||MS|
|Dirty Rotten Scoundrels||R|
|Distinct Voices, Still Lives- Davies||MS|
|Drowning By Numbers- Greenaway|
|Eight Men Out- Sayles||R|
|High Hopes- M. Leigh||R|
|Landscape in the Mist- Angelopoulos||R|
|Married To the Mob- Demme||R|
|Mississippi Burning- A. Parker||R|
|My Neighbor Totoro- Miyazuki||HR|
|Pelle the Conqueror||HR|
|Rain Man- Levinson||R|
|Running on Empty- Lumet||R|
|The Adventures of Baron Munchausen- Gilliam||R|
|The Last Temptation of Christ- Scorsese||R|
|The Story of Women- Charbol||R|
|The Unbearable Lightness of Being- Kaufman|
|They Live- Carpenter||R|
|Tucker: A Man and His Dream- F. Coppola||R|
|Who Framed Roger Rabbit?- Zemekis||MS|
|Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown- Almodovar|
|Working Girl- M. Nichols||R|
*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