best film: Blue Velvet from David Lynch
It would take an artist like David Lynch and film like Blue Velvet to knock of Tarkovsky’s swan song and Woody’s best film of the 1980s as the cinematic event of the year.
most underrated: The TSPDT consensus is about 400 slots off on Hannah and Her Sisters (they have it as #527), but also both Manhunter (Michael Mann) and Platoon (Oliver Stone) are omitted completely from the consensus TSPDT top 1000 list. In particular, I do not understand get how Platoon continues to be so overlooked. Stone could become a far superior montagist and stylist in the 1990s with JFK and Natural Born Killers, but Platoon is a brilliant narrative with some memorable sequences including the killing of Willem Dafoe’s Elias character and the “Tracks of My Tears” needle drop scene.
most overrated: There is not much to choose from here- the consensus, by and large, does a great job in 1986, but Ferris Bueller’s Day Off lands at #8 of the year and that seems at least a tad overrated given the ten superior films listed on my top 10 below. Still, nothing crazy here for this category in 1986.
gems I want to spotlight: See Hoosiers get some of the slow-motion with a great score treatment Chariots of Fire got in 1981 but here with basketball instead of track. Also, a film every cinema has to see is Tarkovsky’s last film The Sacrifice. If you’re an admirer of beautiful compositions and muscular tracking shots (shot by long time Bergman director of photography Sven Nykvist) you’ll swoon over this film. Lastly, check out At Close Range from James Foley. It is a gripping crime drama, Foley is no slouch behind the camera, and Christopher Walken and Sean Penn are both just awesome duking it out.
trends and notables:
- 1986 is another rock solid year. There is the big masterpiece (Blue Velvet) and a top ten that is pretty impossible to find a weakness in.
- Top Gun is the biggest hit of 1986- Tom Cruise is now a massive star, and Tony Scott (actually a marvelous stylist) has the “MTV aesthetic” used often to describe it.
- There is just a new crop of this eras leading filmmakers: Mann, Lynch, Cronenberg, Jarmusch and Cameron all have their second (at least) top 10 film – solidifying their greatness.
- With Blue Velvet and Something Wild we have auteurs attacking some of the 1950s American dream and suburban Reagan 1980s nostalgia.
- As I mentioned above in the gem section 1986 would bring us both the last film from Tarkovsky and his death (at the young age of 54).
- 1986 is another fantastic year for first time archiveable filmmakers. John Woo makes A Better Tomorrow, Spike Lee lands with She’s Gotta Have it, sought after screenwriter Oliver Stone directs (and writes) both Platoon (Best Picture Oscar winner) and Salvador. Aki Kaurismaki from Finland would arrive on the scene with Shadows in Paradise… wait… there’s more… future king of the melodrama genre Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar has his first archiveable film with Matador and French iconoclast Leos Carax assembles Mauvais Sang. That is six superb auteurs making their first archiveable films in 1986.
- 1986 would be the debut archiveable year for the young River Phoenix who would make a very loud name for himself with both Stand By Me and The Mosquito Coast. John Goodman gets his first in the archives with The Big Easy.
best performance male: He is not the main character or given the most screen time in the film, but Dennis Hopper owns 1986 with his performance in Blue Velvet. He is absolutely shocking and impossible to turn away from. He is the easy choice here and though neither other performance would warrant a mention here alone he is also great in Hoosiers and has a third archiveable film from 1986- River’s Edge. Ray Liotta plays a similar version of Hopper’s Frank Booth (a suburban nightmare) in Demme’s Something Wild. Liotta is so dangerous. He shows up halfway through the film and just takes over from that point on. It must be the year of the supporting actor here because Michael Caine won the Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters and he’ is wonderful. My fourth mention for 1986 is yet another supporting role- Tom Berenger in Platoon. Berenger plays the devil sitting on Charlie Sheen’s right shoulder in opposition to Dafoe’s angel on his left. I hate dipping outside of the top 10 for a mention here but every few years a performance warrants an exception and Gary Oldman’s singular work in Sid and Nancy fits the criteria for the breaking of that rule. Jeff Goldblum gives the best performance of his career as Seth Brundle in David Cronenberg’s The Fly to round out this category in 1986.
best performance female: There are five extraordinarily strong choices here in 1986. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in James Cameron’s Aliens stands tall above the rest. Hers is an action role for the ages and Weaver is given much more to do here than in the 1979 Ridley Scott masterpiece that is closer to a horror film than an action movie (both obviously sci-fi). Behind Weaver, Isabella Rossellini’s brave, fragile performance in Blue Velvet finishes in second place. Melanie Griffith (future co-star of Weaver’s in Working Girl in 1988) is mesmerizing in the first 25 minutes of Something Wild and though she yields much of the floor to Liotta halfway through, she continues to flesh out her character and give her depth. My last three slots are for Barbara Hershey (also great in 1986’s Hoosiers), Dianne Wiest, and Mia Farrow in Hannah and Her Sisters. Wiest won the Oscar, but it could have gone to Hershey. Both share exceptional scenes with Farrow and Hershey’s work with Michael Caine are amongst the film’s most tender, while Wiest’s with Woody are amongst the films funniest. Farrow’s work is a little less worthy than Wiest and Hershey but she is absolutely rifling off great films with Woody during this era and that deserves to be praised– it seems unfair to omit her.
- Blue Velvet
- The Sacrifice
- Hannah and Her Sisters
- Down by Law
- The Fly
- Something Wild
- Mauvais Sang
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Better Tomorrow- Woo||HR|
|Aliens – Cameron||MS|
|At Close Range- Foley||HR|
|Big Trouble in Little China- Carpenter||R|
|Blue Velvet- Lynch||MP|
|Castle in the Sky- Miyazaki||R|
|Children of a Lesser God- Haines||R|
|Down By Law – Jarmusch||MS|
|Dust in the Wind – Hsiao-Hsien Hou||R/HR|
|Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- Hughes||R|
|Hannah and Her Sisters – Allen||MP|
|Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – McNaughton||R|
|Jean de Florette- Berri||HR|
|Manhunter- M. Mann||MS|
|Mauvais Sang- Carax||HR|
|Mona Lisa- Jordan||R|
|Mosquito Coast- Weir||R|
|Peking Opera Blues – Tsui|
|River’s Edge- Hunter||R|
|Round Midnight – Tavernier||R|
|Shadows in Paradise – Kaursmaki||R/HR|
|She’s Gotta Have It- S. Lee||R|
|Sid and Nancy- Cox||HR|
|Something Wild – Demme||HR/MS|
|Stand By Me- R. Reiner||R/HR|
|That’s Life- Edwards|
|The Big Easy- McBride||R|
|The Color of Money – Scorsese||R/HR|
|The Fly- Cronenberg||MS|
|The Green Ray- Rohmer|
|The Horse Thief- Zhuangzhuang Tian||R|
|The Mission – Joffé||R/HR|
|The Morning After- Lumet||R|
|The Sacrifice- Tarkovsky||MP|
|The Terrorizers- Yang||R|
|Top Gun – T. Scott||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
“Oliver Stone’s platoon nowhere to be found on the TSPDT top 1000 and I have it as a must-see or top 500-600 film. I don’t get how platoon can be so overlooked.”
Again, I agree with you. This is exactly what I thought when I saw (and rewatched) Platoon. I had to check several times to make sure but the movie wasnt in the top 1000. (It did make the top 2000 though).
@Azman— Oliver Stone is totally underappreciated by TSPDT. I have some theories here if you’re interested http://thecinemaarchives.com/2019/07/30/the-89th-best-director-of-all-time-oliver-stone/
tomorrow night i want to rewatch blue velvet. the first time i saw it almost a year ago was at night so it was eerie and i found it to be a masterpiece, better than alost any other film i saw up to that point (during the begginng of my love for cinema) but i was watching it on my cellphone so i am looking forward to watching on a television screen to see if it lives up. ive been prepping myself with trailers and music, and cant wait.
@m — very exciting. Keep me posted on your thoughts. I love how you’re getting prepped for it.
what do you think of kyle maclachlan in blue velvet. i think it is a tremendous performance. not as showy as rossellini or hopper but i think he plays flawlessly the naive boy consumed by curiosity and think his delivery of lines is near perfect. lines like’why are there people like frank.’ or ‘there are oppurtunities in life for gaining knowledge and experience.’ even ‘i love you aunt barbara but you’re gonna get it.’ very underrated in my opinion
@m I think it’s a tough performance. I think when I first saw it I thought it may have been just outwardly bad but I’ve come around a little over the years. I still think he’s blasted off the screen by Hopper but I do think maclachlan serves the exact purpose of what Lynch is going for.
I just found out that Roger Ebert called Platoon the best movie of 1986.
Anyways, what did you think of Reiner’s Stand be me? Do you think it could be a borderline HR?
@Azman– go read Ebert’s review of Blue Velvet. Not a good look for Rog.
I love Stand By Me. Excellent film. Absolutely could be a borderline HR
Yes you are right. I was not aware of his review for Blue Velvet until now. I only read his review for platoon.
This was the first paragraph:
It was Francois Truffaut who said that it’s not possible to make an anti-war movie, because all war movies, with their energy and sense of adventure, end up making combat look like fun. If Truffaut had lived to see “Platoon,” the best film of 1986, he might have wanted to modify his opinion. Here is a movie that regards combat from ground level, from the infantryman’s point of view, and it does not make war look like fun.
Scorsese would be furious if he saw this page-haha
The horse thief as a simple R? I wonder what Marty thinks about that decision haha. Even Ebert (on his show) seemed surprised when Scorsese named the Horse Thief as the best of the 90s-haha.
@Azman– yeah, I’ve seen it once, on a terrible dvd transfer. I’d like to get a better copy and another go at at— but after one viewing I didn’t see greatness there. Picking a film from 1986 for your #1 film of the the 1990’s (let alone this one)– feels like a joke. Do better, Marty
Haha yeah. I was referring to the horse thief in my previous comment (about Marty being furious). I think Martin Scorsese chose this as a 1990s films because that’s when audiences saw it in the US. I still think he should have left it out.
What do you think of the rest of Martin Scorsese’s list(And ebert’s list) from the show?
@Azman- absolutely superb lists. I’ve seen this episode. I could watch these two talk movies all day long.
Anybody placing their bets on the fourth film raised to a MP in a row in 1987? The options include:
Wings of Desire
Full Metal Jacket
The Last Emperor
None, Greenaway takes the top spot of the year
@Zane- Arizona & the dead seem huge impossibility. Very slight possibility 4 last emperor and full metal jacket. Not seen wings of desire. Gonna stick with Belly of an architect.
Another viewing of Platoon (1986) really impressed me.
– Maybe the best war film in depicting war from the point of view of the soldier.
– Absolutely insane cast, loved Sheen, Dafoe and especially Berenger who gives an
– Similar to Wall Street (1987) there is a battle for Sheen’s characters soul between
Berenger and Dafoe’s characters.
– The blue silhouette images reminded me of Kill Bill, stunning.
– Loved the scene where Sheen’s character smokes pot for the 1st time in the “underworld”
bunker, amazing use of atmosphere and music (White Rabbit from Jefferson Airplane)
– Demonstrates horrors of war without becoming preachy.
– Good call on the slow motion death of Dafoe having religious imagery
– The last 20 min reminded me of Seven Samurai with the all-out battle in the rain.
– I think it’s a near masterpiece
Hi, Drake! Woah, so The Sacrifice jumped from MS to MP? Exciting! What does that mean for Tarkovsky? That’s an insanely strong filmography.
@Pedro- Yeah, I had to admit that it is stronger than Hannah and I do feel confident Hannah is a masterpiece so it makes it easy. As for Tarkovsky? I mean the filmography is flawless.
Apparently when filming the final scene of The Sacrifice (1986) when the house is burned down in one long take the camera jammed and the house burned down without being filmed!
2 Weeks later they filmed the scene again after quickly rebuilding the house, however, during this 2nd attempt the scene ends abruptly because Tarkovsky used up the entire reel on this one shot.
@James Trapp- Amazing, right? I remember reading that.
Another viewing of The Sacrifice completely blew me away. It is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. I watched Von Trier’s Melancholia (2011) last week and could not help but noticed similarities both narratively and visually (this of course predates Melancholia by 25 years)
Tarkovsky brilliantly uses contrasting color saturations in the film similar to Stalker. Consider the opening scene where Erland Josephson’s character is planting a tree. This opening long shot uses saturated green and blue colors which will stand out especially compared to the muted colors inside the country house where much of the film takes place.
48:18 amazing shot of child alone in crib that could have been from Stalker or Nostalghia.
53:15 there is a shot of all the characters centered in the frame watching the news cast that is art musuem quality, there too many amazing shots to count but that one is amongst the best
Of course nothing beats the famous house burning scene.
This might even be a top 3 Tarkovsky, currently I rank as follows:
2. Andrei Rublev
3. Mirror/The Sacrifice
7. Ivan’s Childhood
Question for anyone
1. Has anyone seen Kaizo Hayashi’s 1986 film “To Sleep So As To Dream”?
Apparently it is a cult film that was difficult to locate, looks intriguing,
Sorry I meant to include this question as well
Has anyone ordered anything from Arrow Video? And if so what do you think quality wise? It is similar to Criterion supposedly. I have read some Internet reviews but those are not always the most helpful due to their polarizing nature. The film I posted on above Kaizo Hayashi’s “To Sleep So As To Dream” was released by Arrow recently.
@James Trapp – neither the film or Arrow on my radar- sorry I can’t help
@Drake – no worries, my Blue Ray order just arrived so I’ll post my thoughts after watching
To Sleep So As To Dream (1986)
Directed by Kaizo Hayashi
Starts in black and white and with an older woman watching film in a screening room, this film within the film involves ninjas and a kidnapped girl
Transitions at 3:14 to a detective office with Uotsuka and his sidekick Kobayashi, they are making hard boiled eggs
Title cards used for dialogue so basically this is a silent film
6:08 frame within frame
7:54 sound from radio, 9:12 sound from recording which indicates a kidnapping has taken place
9:48 cutaway shot to money in mise en scene
11:45 cutaway shot of beautiful woman, great use of door as frame
17 min low angle shots
20:24 close up on face as Uotsuka decodes a riddle
21:34 the best shot of the film so far, an Antonioni low angle shot as they climb the General Jintan Tower
23:16 Iris shot overlooking the amusement park
At 27 min more noir tropes including bottles of hard booze and use of shadows
30:48 frame within frame
34 music reflects increased tension, close up shots and more low angles during scenes of detectives following the presumed villains
43:08 ghostlike image of woman appears, this was kidnapped girl
45:04 one of best images of film with actual spider webs in the mises en scene, also great use of lighting
51:24 great frame within frame
53:39 bright light as they enter the theater, similar to dissolve edit
58:20 back to film within the film that we saw in opening scene, this is a ninja or samurai silent film which features the girl/woman the detectives have been trying to track down, she is referred to as “The Princess”
1:05:50 camera glides across room from older woman in chair to projector
1:06:40 frame within frame within frame, very impressive
Detectives in old woman’s house, sunset Blvd. vibe
1:10:53 1st act of violence as detective fires gun
71 min the line between film and film within film starts to blur
This feels like a creation from a true cinephile with the combination of a silent film crossed with a black and white film noir and a little surrealism for good measure; very trippy and a great deal of fun. One review I read called it a Japanese David Lynch movie and honestly that seems like a fairly appropriate label given the strange yet intriguing atmosphere and surrealism.
There are some spectacular images, and great use of cutaway shots
Both characters hilariously eat hard boiled eggs throughout the film, I can only assume this is some kind of joke relating to the hard-boiled genre
There are some spectacular frames within frames throughout the film, particularly using doors
Hypnotic film that is unlike any other film I have seen
@James Trapp- sounds very interesting- thanks for sharing.
@Drake – thanks, I just sort of stumbled upon it about a week ago; I already forget exactly where I heard about it.
I am curious, what are some other great modern Japanese films? I have not seen too many as the majority of Japanese films I’ve watched are from Kurosawa, Ozu, Shōhei Imamura, and Seijun Suzuki. And even this film is a throw back to older style Japanese films.
I’m not sure how recent you’re looking for but I think the most notable triumph of recent Japanese cinema is widely agreed to be in animation, specifically with Studio Ghibli.
@Graham – thanks for the response, yeah I have seen Grave of the Fireflies (1988) which was one of the most gut-wrenching films I’ve ever watched. But overall I have not seen much in the way of Anime.
@James Trapp- Most of these are not contemporary but a good place to start- I still have a few to cross off my list here too http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2016/40-best-japanese-movies-of-all-time/ . But Graham is quite right about the fantastic work in animation in contemporary Japanese cinema.
@Drake – thanks for the article, yeah I was just curious about finding some great Japanese films outside of those from the 4 directors I referenced above. Speaking of which and I apologize in advance as I’ve asked more than once but have you had the chance to watch any of the Seijun Suzuki films?
@James Trapp- No problem- I have not made the Seijun Suzuki plunge yet. I’m up thru Face to Face and have started a Satyajit Ray study along with getting to some random stuff and more contemporary films like I always try to- but Suziki is on the short list after Bergman and Ray. I hope to get to a bunch this summer.
Have you seen Betty Blue? I just watched and it is marvelous, at least a HR in my book.
@Ce – Not on my radar- thanks for sharing. I see it is on MUBI, too.
@Ce – I noticed it on Criterion Channel, did you watch the original or director’s cut? Director’s cut is 3 hours, a full hour longer than orignal
I watched the full director’s cut, as it was the one I had saved on criterion. It is quite long but really gorgeous. Phenomenal cinematography, score and performances. I absolutely recommend watching it.
@Ce – thanks for the suggestion I added it to my Criterion watch list.
1986 has turned into quite a movie year for me:
I finally watched Blue Velvet for the 1st time recently
Manhunter, Down by Law, and The Sacrifice are 3 films I was very impressed by that I watched within the past year
To Sleep So As To Dream, which I posted about on this page above, is a hidden gem
Hopper’s performance in Blue Velvet is one of my personal favorites ever. What other performances of his should I check out? I’ve only seen this and Apocalypse Now (which is obviously much more of a great movie than a great Hopper performance).
@Matthew – Funny, I watched Blue Velvet last night, I’ve seen it several times after finally catching it for the first time about a year or so ago.
I haven’t seen all of these but here is a 10 best list. I would recommend The American Friend (1977)
Hopper plays a version of Tom Ripley that is quite interesting. I like how each of the Ripley adaptations is a little different. I’ve seen 3 versions, Purple Noons (1960), The American Friend (1977), and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
@drake Thanks to both of y’all for the help here
@Matthew- 18 archiveable films for Hopper by my count below- though he is in a supporting role in most of them. He’s superb in his scenes in True Romance. I like James’ suggestion of The American Friend. Hopper is quite good in Hoosiers as well (his only Oscar nom for acting). I probably need to archive Speed (1994) as well- Hopper plays a bigger role there than in many of these.
1954- Johnny Guitar
1955- Rebel Without A Cause
1957- The Gunfight at the O.K. Coral
1965- The Sons of Katie Elders
1967- Cool Hand Luke
1968- Hang’em High
1969- Easy Rider
1969- True Grit
1977- The American Friend
1979- Apocalypse Now
1980- Out of the Blue
1983- Rumble Fish
1986- Blue Velvet
1986- River’s Edge
1991- The Indian Runner
1993- True Romance
Have you seen this site? He uses the same ranking system as you
@Dylan – Yes I have- big fan of Declan’s site and work.
Credit where it’s due, I picked this system off here of course haha. It’s far less arbitrary than stars or letter grades. And very much appreciate the kind words Drake, the Cinema Archives has been a huge inspiration on multiple levels.
Are Jean de Florence and Manon des Sources considered to be one film or is Manon not archival?
@Jagman- I have not been able to catch Manon as of yet
Ah ok thanks for that. It’s available on a public streaming service in Australia at the moment called sbs on demand. I’ll give it a watch then.