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Best Films of 1980
Best Films of 1981
Best Films of 1982
Best Films of 1983
Best Films of 1984

Best Films of 1985
Best Films of 1986
Best Films of 1987
Best Films of 1988
Best Films of 1989

The Big Red One
The Shining
'Breaker' Morant

After Hours
Full Metal Jacket
Dead Ringers
Monsieur Hire


BEST FILMS OF 1988 - List in Progress
by Mike Lorefice

The Days of Eclipse
Alexsandr Sokurov


Full Movie Review


The Last of England
Derek Jarman

Highly personal experimental film that may well be Derek Jarman's greatest achievement. An avant-garde montage of cinematic elements and over 50 years of home movies mixing tones, filters, images, and sounds to create a shattering portrait of the decline of his country, a country gone insane with decadence and corruption that's trapped in the perpetual rubble of its past (pre WWII) glory. Jarman processes the film to garner a look somewhat reminiscent of classic silent cinema with tinting, high frame rates, and all sorts of trickery. However, the film is very much ahead of its time except perhaps thematically, as Thatcher's present day England is depicted as an industrialized wasteland where unemployed solitary working class men pound away at bricks. The film can't be boxed in though, and is simply one of those indescribable love it or hate it experiences that won't soon be forgotten. Jarman may be the only true gay filmmaker in the sense that he is willing to load a film with imagery that turns him on but is apt to make straight guys uncomfortable. Jarman doesn't mind making his audience squirm, but his work is undeniably tinged with ravishing beauty and alternately balances the negative with the positive in it's longing for better times. This apocalyptic yet lyrical work asks us to remember "the countryside before mechanization intervened and destroyed everything." Still it's a draining work that gets under your skin as if stuck in your veins like a needle. A challenging film both in structure and politics, neither of which we get often enough. The poetic voice that alternates with the instrumentals often seems to exist apart from the images, while the densely layered compositions relate but each segment contains a different type of music. This unique combination creates a cinematic poetry that exceeds the verbal poetry or whatever statement could have been made with a traditional narrative. [9/18/06] ***1/2


La Lectrice
Michel Deville

In addition to capturing the joy of a good book, Deville has come closer than most in getting over the limitations of the film medium - imagination stifled by everything being defined - and allowing the audience to be transported to a different world. It's a film within a film of a book within a book, specifically Raymond Jean's titled novel. Miou-Miou is so inspired by reading her lover the story of a woman who gets a handful of clients by advertising her oratory skills in the paper she decides to mirror it, embarking on a complex journey between fantasy and reality. The film is quite clever because in addition to mirroring the stories of Marie in the book and Constance in the story, it merges the stories she reads to her clients, from luminaries like Maupassant, Duras, Tolstoy, Lewis Carroll, Baudelaire, and even de Sade, with their lives and personalities. The readings correspond to their fantasies, and their fantasies say more about who they are than what they otherwise reveal. One client is a clumsy divorced businessman (Patrick Chesnais) who hasn't had sex in 6 months and is far more interested in her than Duras' The Lover. The characters in La Lectrice all need something from Miou-Miou that usually really isn't reading, but isn't necessarily sex either. For instance, the widow of the communist general needs someone to listen and a young girl who can't sit still needs a mother (and some adventure). As Miou-Miou doesn't have a defined job, she gets to decide just how far she'll go in filling their needs. Again, things are played both ways, with Miou-Miou trying to maintain control by incorporated reading, but getting swept away by the material to the point she can see herself as those characters, and thus desires to or at least convinces herself she should fill their needs. Miou-Miou delivers her best performance here. The role playing requires her to transform into so many different characters, but it's not the usual cosplay where everything is announced and the portrayals are all over the top. It's more that the books spark the feelings and emotions inside of her, giving her an outlet to be all the things she's capable of. Puritans whine of the films "porny" aspect, but there's so much more to her adventures though it does have the charm, whimsy, and sensuality that some soft-core had in the 70's and part of the 80's before it became nothing but hypocritical thrillers where some of the mutants that actually have sex get killed while others are just menaced. There is a very strong sexual undercurrent because the books promote imagination, and actually realizes how stimulating imagination is (rather than the typical consumerist propaganda that programs our minds about what we need to buy and do to our bodies). Eric, a teenage boy confined to a wheel chair due to paralysis has Miou-Miou read to him and his blind teenage friend at his birthday party, and the conversation is very telling of the film as a whole. "Beautiful," says the blind boy. "More beautiful for me because he cannot see you," says Eric. "No, more beautiful for me, since I don't need to see to imagine." [10/6/06] ***


My Neighbor Totoro
Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki proves you don't need bad guys or bad deeds to make a good children's movie. There's essentially only one problem, but it's an unfortunate fact of life (read: cannot be solved) - the mother of the two young heroines, Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe, is suffering from a longterm illness (tuberculosis, which plagued Miyazaki's mom). The emotionally suffering children have moved to a farming community to be closer to the hospital she's convalescing in, and there they discover the magic of nature and the wonders of the nearby forest (in 1955 we'd yet to condemn children to playing almost solely on hard lifeless blacktop). Miyazaki's magical furry black animals (kind of a cross between a bear and a raccoon) that can only be seen by children are introduced gradually. The totoros are friendly, benign, and gentle (major characteristics of Miyazaki's work in general) creatures that live in the forest, adding to its enchantment. Though they can also be seen "haunting" the children's house, they fly around without scaring or harming anyone (this isn't another silly ghost story). They help teach the children not only to enjoy nature, but to preserve it and create more by giving them seeds to plant. The film is really a celebration of nature - loaded with evocative backgrounds - that focuses on its gentleness and ability to nurture the human mind and spirit (rather than some nonsense about deadly animals and silly illnesses). The concept of neighbor isn't evoked because the totoros live so close to the Kusakabe's, but rather to emphasize the importance of man and nature coexisting. No one is out to get the totoros or the children. The children's father and nanny are caring and attentive people who are excluded from the magic through no character defects, and even the human neighbors are ready and willing to pitch in when necessary. Therein lies the community aspect of this idyllic open minded film, as Miyazaki avoids all forms of conflict, refuses to pit anyone against the other. In any other film, some adult would have told the children there's no such thing as totoros, and thus the children wouldn't have been able to look to them or maybe any adult for help. This film may not provide an adult the greatest experience on the first viewing, but when you look back at it you realize it avoided formula and cliché at every turn, and is that much better for it. This is a children's film you will actually remember because it isn't constantly functioning on overdrive, the pace is far more lifelike and allows the situations and scenery to be absorbed and enjoyed, even meditated upon. [2/1/07] ***1/2


Story of Women
Claude Chabrol


Full Movie Review

Track 29
Nicholas Roeg

The audience gets to determine what's real and what's imagined in this ambiguous surrealist work from Nicolas Roeg. Roeg seems the perfect director to adapt Dennis Potter because his proclivity to disregard plot and timeline in favor of thrusting us into the confused if not disturbed mental process of his characters is a suitable match for Potter's mining of the inner self, particularly memory and states of consciousness. His major mistake is he takes everything to excess, which not only takes away from the credibility of the performances but is quite simply unnecessary because Potter is meant to be played straight. Theresa Russell was raped at 15, had the bastard child literally torn from her arms at birth, and wound up married to an inattentive surgeon (Christoper Lloyd) who has not given her a child. A child bride of fragile sanity doesn't please Lloyd, who spends all his free time playing with model trains while Russell mother's dolls. All the characters retreat from reality by returning to childhood in their past times, sexual fantasies, and general behavior. English stranger Gary Oldman emerges in the juvenile Southern town seeking his long lost mother, who may well be Russell. Oldman rocks her world becoming her little boy, lover, and tormentor. He's odd, annoying, dangerous, and even more infantile than she is, allowing her to play the role of mother. Like Potter's Brimstone and Treacle, dream and reality blur, but ultimately a disabled woman is fulfilled and freed through an encounter with a peculiar stranger who is at least something of a rapist. This studio work is not one of Roeg's more beautiful, but it's a kinky psychological send up of American infantilism that has a lot to say about how the human brain functions and how we deal with pain by trying to escape from it. [1/3/07] ***

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