In four days, I will turn fifty. Or maybe you could say, I will achieve fifty years old, finishing my 50th year. To celebrate (at least, on this blog), we’re taking a look back and picking a film from each year of my life that I think is notable. My birthday is June 7, so each film came out in the year that began on that date, according to Wikipedia.
I’m not warranting that these are the best movie from each year, or even my favorite. I’m actually purposely avoiding mentioning any films that are on my recently created and revised list of 101 Movies That I Love the Most (to be revealed soon). The ones listed here are just movies I find interesting and worth noting–and that maybe are worth seeing if you have the opportunity.
As I was preparing for this, I decided to pick another from each year that I haven’t seen, and make a viewing-list for myself for the 51st year. You can see that list on the bottom of the post.
11th Year (June 1980 – June 1981)
Nine to Five
Directed by Colin Higgins
Release Date: December 19, 1980
Nine to Five (or 9 to 5) is a funny film that I didn’t see in the theatre, but rather whilst visiting a friend who had HBO. I recently revisited it on the plane. It’s a bit outlandish but gets in some good laughs as well as some interesting comments about the trials that three women have working for an egotistical, sexist boss. The stars are Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton (who also provided the movie’s memorable theme song). As I said the movie goes off in some weird directions, including a mostly inconsequential bit where they mistakenly steal a strangers dead body from the hospital morgue. But mostly it holds together as tightly told comedy set on a backdrop of the real sorts of challenges that many modern women were facing.
12th Year (June 1981 – June 1982)
Directed by Peter Weir
Release Date: August 13, 1981 (Australia)
I was well into my life in Australia before I watched Gallipoli, an Australian war film about one of the most identify-defying events in the nation’s history. Gallipoli is a peninsula in Turkey where a major campaign took place during World War I, which resulted ultimately in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, including many Australians and New Zealanders. The movie fictionalizes some of these defining events by telling the story of two young Australians and their efforts to join the war effort, and the brutal tragedy which follows. The movie is not entirely historically accurate, but is gut-wrenching and brutal, and a quintessential example of Australian cinema. It also features an early and powerful performance by Mel Gibson.
13th Year (June 1982 – June 1983)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Release Date: June 12, 1982
E.T. is not my favorite Steven Spielberg film, which is why it’s on this list and not my list of 101 Movies That I Love the Most. But it’s still a great movie which played a big role in my childhood. It’s one of the most successful films I’ve seen at legitimately entering into a child’s world, and it does an amazing job with the titular animatronic effect, making our minds believe that it was a living breathing creature and convincing our hearts that it’s capable of love. Everyone brings their A-game to this project, including Spielberg, composer John Williams, sound designer Ben Burtt, special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, and the film’s talented young cast. E.T. really deserves all that money it made.
14th Year (June 1983 – June 1984)
The Right Stuff
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Release Date: February 17, 1984
The Right Stuff is an historical epic about the beginning of the American space program, specifically the seven astronauts who took part in the Mercury program–America’s first manned spaceflight missions. Based on a novel by Tom Wolfe, the film starts with test pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier for the first time. Building on that foundation (just like the space program) it goes on to depict the recruitment, training and ultimately deployment of the military pilots who became America’s original astronauts. The film achieves a winning blend of tones–it’s adventuresome, funny, nostalgic, grandiose, whimsical and dramatic all at once. The large and successful cast is headlined by Sam Shepard, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Scott Glenn and Ed Harris, who are all good.
15th Year (June 1984 – June 1985)
The Karate Kid
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Release Date: June 22, 1984
In spite of The Karate Kid being such an iconic hit for my generation, I never saw this film until I was in my mid 30’s (and randomly, in Turkey). Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue are cute and affecting as the main character and his potential girlfriend, but the real standout of the film is Pat Morita in the memorable role of Mr. Miyagi. The actual karate competition at the end of the film is all right but not legitimately surprising, and the movie suffers from a strangely abrupt ending. But the middle of the movie, with Daniel’s unconventional training with by Mr. Miyagi, is worth the price of admission. The sequence where Daniel realizes just what he has been learning as he has been waxing his sensei’s car and painting his fence is a genuine highlight.
16th Year (June 1985 – June 1986)
The Journey of Natty Gann
Directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan
Release Date: September 27, 1985
Full disclosure, I don’t remember this movie incredibly well, even though I saw it at the theatre and then again on video sometime in my mid-20’s. But I remember that I liked it, as a Disney film that didn’t talk down to me. It featured an appealing lead in Meredith Salenger and I think was my personal introduction to John Cusack. The story is about young Natty Gann having to overcome a series of obstacles to reunite with her father from whom she’s been separated due to a trials caused by the economic challenges of the Great Depression. It’s a sweet take of courage set against an interesting societal backdrop.
17th Year (June 1986 – June 1987)
The Three Amigos
Directed by John Landis
Release Date: December 12, 1986
This movie stands out to me because, as I wrote elsewhere, I found that my opinion of the movie changed radically between my first and second viewing. Originally perceiving it to be quite a stupid and laugh-less comedy, in my older years I found it really funny and enjoyable. The eponymous Amigos are played by Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short, and they all get some good laughs in this story about so-called heroes brought into by poor villagers to defend them from marauding bandits. This core plot is lifted from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and has been replicated many times (eg. The Magnificent Seven) but this is the first one that I’m aware of that adds the twist of the champtions simply being actors with a heroic facade (you see the same thing later in A Bug’s Life and Galaxy Quest). It’s by no means a masterpiece but it after a slow start proceeds with a steady stream of laughs and chuckles to keep one occupied for it’s whole runtime.
18th Year (June 1987 – June 1988)
The Milagro-Beanfield War
Directed by Robert Redford
Release Date: March 18, 1988
This film doesn’t have an outstanding reputation but I really like it. It tells the story of a conflict that develops between ambitious land developers and neighboring struggling farmers when one of the latter accidentally breaks a water pipe belonging to the corporation and takes advantage of the accident to grow his crops. It features a broad array of characters in a tale that dabbles in the pools of whimsical mysticism. Rubén Blades plays a sheriff who basically spends the whole time running around trying to put out fires amongst everyone.
19th Year (June 1988 – June 1989)
The Accidental Tourist
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Release Date: December 23, 1988
At one point this movie would have been an easy shoe-in for a list of favorite films, but now it’s just slipped out of that range. Still, though I haven’t seen it for many years, it still impresses me as a affecting drama about an emotionally withdrawn man played by William Hurt, who writes travel books for people who don’t want to travel. With marriage falling apart in the wake of a terrible tragedy, he begins to find their may be more to life than he has known when he meets an odd dog-trainer played by Geena Davis, in an Oscar-winning performance. It’s a nicely understated film which lets us scrutinize the characters in an attempt to understand them, and I think might have been one of the first “serious dramas” that I connected with as a growing film viewer.
20th Year (June 1989 – June 1990)
When Harry Met Sally…
Directed by Rob Reiner
Release Date: July 21, 1989
One of the best romantic comedies we’ve ever had, When Harry Met Sally… starred Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as two people who meet repeatedly over the years, becoming first antagonists, then friends, and then lovers. It poses the question as to whether men and women can be friends at all when the possibility of sex between them exists at all. Of course, it’s a romantic comedy so we know how it’s going to turn out, but the journey there is an enjoyable and satisfying one, mainly because it’s quite funny (really, a key component for a successful romantic comedy!). Both stars are at their prime and are a lot of fun to watch.
Fifty Films for my Fifty-First Year – Part Two
Now here, we continue with my choices of fifty more films, one from each year, which I plan to watch in this upcoming year. I’ve never seen any of them before. Some I’ve always wanted to see, while others I never really thought about (or even heard of in some cases) before working on this post.
Year Eleven – Kagemusha directed by Akira Kurosawa–sadly, I have almost seen none of Kurosawa’s work (Seven Samurai is the only one, and I don’t remember it well) so I thought I should include at least something of his on this list.
Year Twelve – On Golden Pond directed by Mark Rydell–by this point I was watching the Oscars, and I remember hearing about On Golden Pond, though I never really knew anything about it.
Year Thirteen – The Verdict directed by Sidney Lumet–I was very tempted to choose Megaforce for how ridiculous it sounds, but I’ve been thinking of this legal drama with Paul Newman for a while now and now it’s my chance to make sure I see it.
Year Fourteen – Streets of Fire directed by Walter Hill–it’s good to mix up the genres a bit. Wikipedia refers to this film as. “neo-noir rock musical.”
Year Fifteen – Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo directed by Sam Firstenberg–I feel like when you consider my own recent cinematic efforts that I could scarcely miss out on the chance to watch this thing.
Year Sixteen – Real Genius directed by Martha Coolidge–actually, I was going to pick something more dramatic and more critically renown, but this movie also had a bit of influence upon my own film which is linked to above, so I thought I should include it.
Year Seventeen – Children of a Lesser God directed by Randa Haines– a romantic drama covering the topic of deafness. A kid I used to play Little League baseball with was in this movie, apparently, but I’ve never seen it.
Year Eighteen – Biloxi Blues directed by Mike Nichols–I wanted to watch something written by Neil Simon and this one has pretty good reviews.
Year Nineteen – Tap directed by Nick Castle–a dance / crime drama…again, it’s good to mix it up with the genres, although this is the second dance movie I’ve picked from this decade.
Year Twenty – Joe vs. the Volcano directed by John Patrick Shanley–the other other Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film, so that I can finally complete the set.
Read Part Three