ANOTHER HOLLYWOOD YEAR wraps up, the apparent signal for lists of critics' Top Ten movies. But, as is often the case, those "best" movies had their shortcomings -- and the "worst" had their strengths. And in movie theaters, there are no fast-forward buttons.
An enormous number of good, diverse films were released in 1987 -- big, small, independent, studio-made, foreign, domestic. The standouts were John Boorman's "Hope and Glory," "Street of Crocodiles" by the Brothers Quay, Juzo Itami's "Tampopo" and Lasse Halstrom's "My Life As a Dog," Stephen Frears' "Prick Up Your Ears," James L. Brooks' "Broadcast News" and the Coen brothers' "Raising Arizona," to name a few. Yet the biggest hits of the year were lowest-common-denominator pleaser "Beverly Hills Cop II" and lowest-atavistic-denominator "Fatal Attraction." And adding to 1987's banner box-office year (more than $4 billion in gross receipts) were such Xeroxed trash as "Jaws III," "Revenge of the Nerds II," "Superman IV" and "Howling III."
This was also the Year of "Ernest Goes to Camp."
It all boiled down to great moments -- when one great scene happened in an otherwise silly film ("Best Seller") or you thought, "I like this part. Shame about Daryl Hannah." So, in this fast-forward, just-the-highlights age, we present our Best Moments of the Year: MOVIE MOMENTS OF 1987
Barfly: Based on bohemian Charles Bukowski's bleary-eyed days in L.A., Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway play a soggy, battered couple who live for booze and each other, in that order. Rourke meets Dunaway one alcoholic day at the Golden Horn bar. She's sultry, bedraggled and queenly (he describes her as "a stressed goddess"), and he's bloodied, benevolent and swaggery. He sits next to her, and they hit it off immediately. She says, "I hate people, don't you hate people?" He says, "No, but I seem to feel better when they're not around."
Best Seller: In this aforementioned silliness, James Woods is his usual intense personality, playing an ex-hired gun who wants cop/author Brian Dennehy to expose a world where corporate heads put out murder contracts. Sitting in a bar, Woods wants to show Dennehy -- essentially -- just how weird he is. He bums an already-lit cigarette right out of someone's hand; provokes a redneck into a fight (but with Dennehy); then, when an angry Dennehy punches Woods to the floor, he smiles, wipes the blood from his mouth and tells the stunned onlookers not to worry because this is just a family thing.
Broadcast News. A Washington television station is scrambling to get a videotape ready in time for national broadcast on the evening news. They have minutes left before their tape is due -- On Air. Finally it's ready, with only seconds to spare. But a producer still has to run the tape downstairs to the control room. Everything and everyone seem to be in the way as she rushes to make the deadline. In an indoor version of "The French Connection" car chase, she runs around people, leaps over a mother and child, and dives under an extended cabinet drawer before finally getting the tape on to the evening news.
The Fourth Protocol. In this classy adaptation of Frederick Forsythe's novel, communist agents Pierce Brosnan and Joanna Cassidy are building an atomic bomb at the edge of an American airbase in England. In Spy-Versus-Spy fashion, she's trying to rig the timer so it kills Brosnan. Meanwhile he has murderous designs on her. The bomb-building itself is a risky operation, requiring perfect timing. And they're also sexually attracted to each other. As they build the bomb, clocks ticking away, they eye each other up and down. They're sweating.
Full Metal Jacket. Stanley Kubrick creates a dreamlike, fatalistic quality to his version of the Vietnam War. In a climactic scene, a group of GIs are being picked off, one by one, by an unseen enemy sniper. Finally they enter the burning building where the assailant is lurking -- and then confront this deadly killer. It's a young, delicately built girl -- who lays wounded, bleeding but alive. Pvt. Joker (Matthew Modine) stands poised above her, his rifle cocked and pointed at her head -- his mind racing with opposing impulses.
Gardens of Stone. Pvt. Jackie Willow (D.B. Sweeney) has just been promoted. As part of his initiation, the big, boomy-voiced Sgt. Maj. "Goody" Nelson (James Earl Jones) must punch Willow's arm, right where the stripe is. Nelson beefs himself up, moves furniture out of his swing area and draws back a meaty fist. Willow's eyes are wide with terror. Another soldier turns his head away. Nelson then taps Willow lightly on the arm, and the soldiers erupt with laughter.
Hope and Glory. In Boorman's childhood reminiscent fantasy, the Luftwaffe's blitz on London is something between bombing raid and fireworks show -- as seen through the eyes of young wisp Billy (Sebastian Rice-Edwards). In one of many vignettes, a balloon that holds up enemy plane-trapping cables comes adrift and careens from rooftop to rooftop, knocking down chimneys and walls. The children follow it gleefully, as the benign but destructive blob blunders along. Finally the adults ruin everything by shooting it into smithereens.
My Life as a Dog. Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) is a precocious 12-year-old whose ailing mother is forced to send him away to an uncle in a rural village. He's befriended by buxom blonde Berit, who takes him to a nude modeling session -- but won't let him come inside. Too curious for caution, he climbs on the roof to peep through the skylight. As he lies on the glass, it shatters and he joins the modeling session rather abruptly.
Prick Up Your Ears. Perky Gary Oldman plays Joe Orton, Britain's brilliant satirist who was bludgeoned to death by his lover Kenneth Halliwell. In a film full of memorable scenes, one stands out. Orton, curious about Halliwell -- a caustically talented, homosexual actor -- allows Halliwell to seduce him. Orton, a fearless child, has no trepidation about it and chuckles away. It's late afternoon, the curtains drawn in this cramped hotel room. On the television, Elizabeth is being crowned Queen of England.
Tampopo. Juzo Itami stir-fries the erotic and the culinary with cowboy themes in this hysterical film about one woman's quest for the perfect noodle restaurant. A white-suited gangster (Koji Yakusho) likes to douse his girlfriend with lemon and salt, as if she were a margarita. But the best scene is when he and his moll give "kiss" a new meaning when they transfer the yolk of an egg from one mouth to the other, without breaking it. Finally it does break. This is not the kind of thing you see at Perry's.
The Witches of Eastwick. Cher plays Alexandra Medford, a sexually unfulfilled sculptress from New England, who can't help feeling attracted to overweight, lascivious playboy Jack Nicholson. Appalled at Nicholson's blatant advances, she tells him in no uncertain terms that he is repellent and disgusting. As she outlines her purported distaste for him, Nicholson (in a kitschy smoking jacket) is sliding up and down his bed like a boa constrictor in silk. When she has finished insulting him, he smiles and says, "Do you like to be on the top or the bottom?"