DIE HARD (John McTiernan)
DIE HARD has settled nicely into its title as one of the best action movies ever made. And why not? Sure, Bruce Willis gets a lot of credit for sliding so perfectly into the role that he’s been doing variations on ever since. But a great concept and Alan Rickman’s delicious villain didn’t hurt. And director John McTiernan was so much the right guy for the job. After this and THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, it looked like McTiernan was going to be the guy who could give us big action thrills without dummying down in the mental department. He almost did.
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (Martin Scorsese)
Originally slated as a big-budget project at Paramount, the studio eventually backed out. Universal stepped in, but the budget took a big hit. That kept things tight and, in retrospect probably made the film even better. The focus is on Paul Schrader’s screenplay and the essential conflict of Jesus’ reluctant martyrdom. Scorsese takes on big questions here, and I don’t think there’s another film that better approaches the dilemmas in faith. For me, this is a rare example of a difficult subject with a thoughtful screenplay masterfully directed by an artist that is forever exploring. My guess is that LAST TEMPTATION will always be underappreciated and underrated. Willem Dafoe is terrific.
BEETLEJUICE (Tim Burton)
With BEETLEJUICE, Tim Burton and his fantasic imagination and visual sense were off and running. You just knew something special was going on here. There would be no looking back.
BIG (Penny Marshall)
The feel-good movie that could only have come off with the perfect guy at the perfect time of his career. Tom Hanks is perfection itself as the kid who gets his wish to be big without quite knowing the ramifications.
DEAD RINGERS (David Cronenberg)
Cronenberg’s body obsession/repulsion finds its ultimate expression in this tale of twin gynecologists(!) both played by Jeremy Irons in a dramatic tour de force that could only be described as an acting master class. These kinds of films are few and far between. In this case, that’s actually a good thing.
FRANTIC (Roman Polanski)
Nobody does paranoia better than Roman Polanski. And here he gets an appropriately upset Harrison Ford running around Paris looking for his vanished wife. Suspicion and angst run high. What could have been just another typical action/suspenser becomes an exercise in expertise. The difference is in the details. And in the uncanny ability to see every situation as potentially sinister.