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The Quest Continues: The Films Of 1988

So here's where things start getting tricky. I only believe I saw two of the films below in the movie theater. But the other three were such monumental staples in my cable TV watching habits as young 'un that they deserve the extended nomination as well. On the outset of the chosen five of the top box office champs of 1988 are two films that I did indeed watch without much concentration one or twice some rainy afternoon: Twins and Rain Man. I believe they deserve mention here, because some of you out there might want to make an argument for them. I do not. Judge Wapner and hilarious mix-ups at birth never tickled my fancy. But if they did for you, let it be heard. For now, let's look at my personal suggestions for the first round of standouts from 1988, after a particular stinging defeat of Honey I Shrunk The Kids by Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. What will join the ranks of the classic Harrison Ford and Sean Connery team-up vehicle? Let's take a look-see...

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: As usual, let's start with what gets my vote. Let's face it. Not only was this revolutionary (though can it really be called revolutionary when the only movie that tried to follow in its wake were Cool World?) piece of cinema the original Avatar, where people oohed and ahhhed at something newfangled that the technology of the movies brought to our eyeballs, but gosh darnit, this movie has a great story behind it too, unlike the other. Bob Hoskins proved he could carry a film (though it would be his last time) as a rather dark alcoholic anti-hero (to think I was watching glimpses of film noir when I was only five!) and Christopher Lloyd proved he could be one of the scariest villains ever (my stomach still reels at the thought of that shoe being lowered into that vat of cartoon-killing acid!) and in between them both were layers and layers of intrigue and mystery. Man I wanna watch this right now! Which is exactly the kind of feeling that should be considered most when voting for The Quest.

Coming To America: Then again, we shouldn't just ignore the power of TBS. The network had a profound effect on me as a child, introducing me to the gargantuan subgenre that is the 1980s adult comedy. And yes, the film was largely neutered to the point of inanity, but that's where the video store came in handy. You'd see a film like Eddie Murphy's Coming To America, the first of his movies (by the way) to feature the man playing multiple characters, a motif that America would love for years to come (often, if not always, with little to no reason), and you'd giggle at the way the main characters smiled and didn't understand the ways of the modern world (because he was from Africa, you see, where people talk funny and marvel at consumerist conveniences), but it seemed so harmless. Then you got your mom or your friend's mom to rent the unedited version from Blockbuster for you so you could see the boobs. Double-score!

I think this was more often seen on TNT, often alongside Turner & Hooch (which I hope will be covered at some point during The Quest). Now I've always appreciated the whimsical fancy of Big just as much as the next guy, but I was never really bowled over by it. Even to pre-teen me, I just always found the story and its execution so...vanilla. There's was nothing outstanding to it, nor was there anything particularly unappealing about it either, but it was just there. The FAO Schwartz scene is memorable, yes, as is the jumping-on-the-bed-as-an-adult revelation (I continue to do this at every hotel I frequent to this day), but other than that, Tom Hanks and Penny Marshall seemingly teamed up for a simple, serviceable parable that would attract parents and their kids simultaneously, and for that, it's an admirable business achievement. It's just that it's almost so universal of a tale that it gets bogged down in its lack of definable personal connection. That said, I would love to revisit this in a non-casual non-cable-on-a-laundry-day setting someday to properly evaluate it.

Crocodile Dundee II: Yup, this was one of the highest grossing movies of 1988. And yes, I saw it. In the theaters. Twice. Both with my mom. I was five! Once when it first came out (the original Dundee was a favorite of my dad's, apparently, right next to his favorite film, Das Boot - what a weird spectrum of movie-loving, huh? - so I think we kind of went just out of solidarity for my dad's taste in movies) and another when it was at the second-run Budget Cinemas. I remember busting a gut ten times over...both times. I remember my mom busting a gut ten times over...both times. I don't remember a single thing except for Paul Hogan's leathery tan. Do I ever want to see this movie again? I don't think so, but I wouldn't change the channel if I came across it.

Die Hard: I remember getting little to no echoed sentiments re: Die Hard With A Vengeance after the ill-fated 1995 entry of The Quest, so it is with much trepidation that I even bring up the original here. But by Jove, this little flick (so much more so than any of its successors that it's almost ridiculous) should be viewed at least five times by anyone wishing to call themselves a fan of the bloated American action film. It's such a simple premise (skyscraper held hostage, down-on-his-luck detective has to save the day) that has been done over hundreds of times by now, but none has equaled its brutality, its balance of humor and terror, or its layers upon layers of potential film geek analysis of how Hollywood peaked at its representation of American/foreign economic relations in the 1980s with this movie (sorry, CSCL 1920 is still the best class I ever took!). John McClane is the action genre's most lovable eff-up and Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber still tops the list of best action villains. Yippe-kay-ay, motherlovers!

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  1. Blogger qualler | 9:50 AM |  

    I've gotta go with WFRR, just barely edging Big in my vote. I vote WFRR because I didn't quite get it when it came out but I thought that Roger Rabbit was one silly card (AND when we went to MGM Studios in 1990 we saw some props from the movie, like the steamrolling thing, where the Qualler brothers were all supposed to be making scared faces but LQ still smiled, and a Roger Rabbit-shaped hole in a wall as well).

    My only real memory of Big was when little Tom Hanks went to that scary wishing machine guy that had power but wasn't plugged in. My first truly terrifying movie moment. His face was horrifying.

  2. Blogger qualler | 9:55 AM |  

    ZOLTAR was his name!


  3. Blogger DoktorPeace | 9:15 PM |  

    Roger Rabbit.

    I've not seen any of the others, but that bad guy's high-pitched scream scared little me to bits.

    I just watched it again last year, too, and it holds up awesomely.

    If you want to compare it to Avatar, Roger Rabbit has a story. The end.

  4. Blogger Old Man Duggan | 2:24 PM |  

    I know I'm commenting way to late on this matter, but Die Hard is the fucking shit. It's not only the greatest action movie ever made, but it's also the greatest Christmas movie ever made.

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