- Babette’s Feast
- Full Metal Jacket
- The Dead
- Who Killed Vincent Chin?
- Radio Days
- Wings Of Desire
Michael Douglas has had a spotty acting career, sometimes brilliant (Wonder Boys) and sometimes embarrassing (Disclosure), but goodness knows that when he’s on, he’s spot on. The scion of eighties maleness, that of the white, upper-middle-class financier, revealed its ugly side to brilliant effect in Oliver Stone’s otherwise worthless Wall Street: the film’s ins-and-outs-of-finance plot is hardly memorable, but when Douglas gets uppity about greed and capitalism, the whole thing goes ablaze with a brightness that can be seen for miles. He returned to the role nearly twenty years later, and it appears that he still had energy to spare for it.
“SNAP OUT OF IT!” Well, we can’t. Norman Jewison has made so many terrible films, and most of them are forgivable given how wonderful Moonstruck, one of the best romantic comedies ever filmed, truly is. What makes it so perfect is the dialogue by John Patrick Shanley, unabashedly filling a script with the kind of constant talking you more often see on stage but fits beautifully onto the big screen, and the performances that sparkle from every single actor (including Nicolas Cage). Towering over the production is a smart, sassy and chic performance from the always wonderful Cher. She already had one nomination (for Silkwood) under her belt by the time she won her Academy Award for this film, but it seems she finally solidified her reputation as a terrific actress with this one (and sadly has done little to follow it since).
Stanley Kubrick returned to the screen for the first time in seven years with one of the best movies ever made about Vietnam, Full Metal Jacket. Other films captured the madness of battle better, but the psychological torture and dehumanization of training have rarely been presented more effectively. Part of the reason for that is the presence of R. Lee Ermey, himself a former army guy, whose sadism in getting the men ready to fall down the rabbit hole of Southeast Asia knows no bounds. One of the few times that shooting your head off with a giant rifle really seems like a terrific idea.
Olympia Dukakis as Cher’s mother in Moonstruck gives the film much of its credibility; she’s hilarious when she mouths off to her husband, but then there’s a scene near the end when she asks him if she’s been a good enough wife to merit his no longer carrying on with a mistress. With her stony face and tortured eyes, Dukakis embodies the compromises that all of our mothers and grandmothers made who came from a time and place when women could only expect so much from life. It’s one of the richest performances ever given on film, and no surprise the great character actress was hardly able to get another one in the years since.
Following a career that was highlighted by an uncountable selection of classics, the most famous of them tough-guy movies, John Huston capped his remarkable life off with one of his best films, a fluid and romantic adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead. It’s a small film from a big director, but he shows a remarkable skill for all of its details (he was in a wheelchair on a respirator at the time) and he elicits passionate work from all the actors, among them his own daughter Anjelica giving one of her most beautiful performances. It’s also one of the best film adaptations of a famous literary work ever made, and among the most delicate I’ve ever seen; it captures all the joy, the melancholy and the heartbreak of Joyce’s story without compromising its intimacy one bit.