The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Saturday, December 26, 2015

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1985, it gave its Best Picture award to Out of Africa, which is basically a coffee-table book masquerading as a story. These are all far better:

1. Ran
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, and Masato Ide

The story of King Lear predates the Bard, so it shouldn't seem that odd that the best film the play inspired doesn't include a single line of Shakespeare.

2. Brazil
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown

Monty Python's 1984.

3. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Phil Hartman, Paul Reubens, and Michael Varhol

When I watched this in my teens, I thought it was pretty funny. Thirty years later I saw it again, and I realized it was a goddamn masterpiece.

4. Mix Up ou Meli-melo
Directed by Françoise Romand

A gloriously bizarre documentary—bizarre in content, bizarre in form—about what happened when two English families brought the wrong babies home from the hospital.

5. Vagabond
Written and directed by Agnès Varda

Not a simple celebration of a free spirit, and not a disdainful condemnation of a marginal life either.

6. After Hours
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Joseph Minion

Other critics can weigh this picture's place in Scorsese's filmography. I'll just point out that it's the best movie Cheech and Chong were ever involved with.

7. Louie Bluie
Directed by Terry Zwigoff

This is a charming documentary about the bluesman, artist, and porn aficionado Howard Armstrong. It is also utterly fake: The comfortable living room that it seems to have been filmed in is actually a movie set, some of the people reminiscing with Armstrong barely know him, and the director had to persuade his subjects to play the early string-band songs he loved rather than the more complex music they preferred. I go back and forth on whether all that artifice is a flaw or just another hidden dimension to the story.

8. Static
Directed by Mark Romanek
Written by Romanek and Keith Gordon

Before he was shooting videos for Bowie, Beck, and Johnny Cash, Romanek made this terrific indie flick about a man who believes he's built a machine that lets you peek into heaven.

9. Mishima
Directed by Paul Schrader
Written by Paul and Leonard Schrader

The literary lion as leader of a fascist death cult.

10. Return to Oz
Directed by Walter Murch
Written by Murch and Gill Dennis

This didn't find an audience at first, probably because most people's expectation when hearing the phrase "sequel to The Wizard of Oz" is not "freaky, scary movie that strongly implies that Dorothy is insane." Fortunately, the picture eventually attracted the underground following it deserves.

Honorable mentions:

11. Fool for Love (Robert Altman)
12. Come and See (Elem Klimov)
13. Prizzi's Honor (John Huston)
14. Fluke (Emily Breer)
15. Chain Letters (Mark Rappaport)
16. The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen)
17. The Epic of Gilgamesh (Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay)
18. DreamChild (Gavin Millar)
19. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis)
20. Grim (Takashi Ito)

Of the films of 1985 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Taipei Story and Crimewave.

posted by Jesse 9:14 AM
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