The Abyss - For my money, this is James Cameron's unsung masterpiece. In this broad anti-war story, we find an estranged couple forced to reunite in the depths of the sea because a submarine is destroyed and these deep sea divers are the best available option at discovering why. Well, the why of things becomes a bit supernatural when Lindsey Brigman discovers what she believes to be the existence of extraterrestrial life at the bottom of the ocean. She fiercely tries to convince her ex husband Bud that there are aliens in the deep, meanwhile a Navy Seal named Lt. Coffey believes it all to be a ploy and that Russians are responsible so he hijacks a nuke for his own means. Overly complicated to the extreme, but tremendously executed and containing what might be Cameron's best 3rd Act of any film he has made, this film is a gripping, emotional and awe-inspiring epic that needs to be seen. History will remember this film as one of the pioneers for computer generated imagery and clearly paved the way for 1991's Terminator 2. Given the option, seek out the dramatically longer directors's cut. Some incredibly important plot is left on the cutting room floor and the director's cut is a 100% better viewing experience.
Do the Right Thing - A summer heatwave hits the New York streets like a ton of bricks and what comes from it is an increase in racial tensions. This film is a stunning achievement and still stands as Spike Lee's tour de force. The film is stuffed with creative camera work, vibrant usages of color and pumped with a great soundtrack. Where some of the performances are a bit stilted, the dialogue is so good that you are able to set aside some stiff acting. It is a film that asks moral questions and has no problem allowing the viewer to dissect message and meaning in the work. It ends with two fantastic quotes from Martin Luthor King Jr and Malcolm X and this is really where analysis sets in. If you are a fan of being challenged by a movie, than this is the perfect film for you. It still stuns me that this film was snubbed for a Best Picture and Best Director nomination as it was easily the most memorable film to come out in 1989.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - A far cry in quality from the original film still yields as one of the defining films of the careers of Sean Connery and Steven Spielberg who had something more personal to say with this film than either of its predecessors. Sure, the McGuffan is still in play, but it takes a backseat to a story that is really about a man's relationship to his father. This film feels far less pulpy than Raiders or Temple, but it manages to hit emotional beats that those films never were able to attain.
The Little Mermaid - Disney Animation returns to form with this groundbreaking musical that still stands as one of the strongest pillars in the House of Mouse. Breathtaking animation brings to life Hans Christian Anderson's underwater fairy tale to life with rich color, strongly defined characters and a score that will forever remain in your head. This film has had influences in and out of the animation genre, going so far as to being the basis for a visual quote in Wonder Woman, when Diana first meets Steve Trevor. This film revived the fledgling animation department of Disney. They threw all their cards into this film. If it had flopped, Disney would not likely be here as we see it today. Thankfully, this film is a masterpiece of children's storytelling and I guarantee that some of you reading this are hearing the music in your head right now. And, can I just say that Kiss the Girl is one of the best animated sequences of any Disney film?
Say Anything... - Cameron Crowe writes and directs this wonderfully romantic dramedy that has endured as pop culture iconography of the 1980's, mostly due to the image to the right (or below for you phone users out there). John Cusack is fantastic as Lloyd Dobler and Ione Skye is instantly charming as his flame Diane. Drama runs high when her father disapproves of her boyfriend. The film follows a definite formula, but is impressive in how it both leans into and shies away from said formula. This film really comes down to character and these are two wonderfully engaging ones to place your time into.
Best Picture : Driving Miss Daisy - Yet another time where the Academy opts for a safe movie about race rather than a compelling one (Do the Right Thing). This would happen to Spike Lee again in 2018. Daisy is not a bad film, just mundane in comparison.
Biggest Box Office : Batman - Tim Burton reinvented the comicbook movie with his dark interpretation of the Dark Knight. Brimming with, now, iconic imagery and good scenes; Batman, however, leaves me cold. This is a far cry from his comicbook counterpart, has a relatively lame final act and is so concerned with defining the Joker than Batman himself gets lost in the shuffle. Nicholson turned in an Oscar nominated performance and nicely evokes the character that would not seem out of place in the 1960's TV show. There are some truly memorable scenes. Enough to warrant viewing this film. Fun fact: This was the first film I ever saw in the theatre.