Like it’s 1987

Well, my latest movie marathon, for the year 1987, definitely took the longest (starting in October of last year) — not because of the quality of the films, but probably more because I burned out a bit on watching so many 80s movies last year, and needed to take a break. When I kicked off 1987 and made up my list of potential movies to watch, it was actually looking like I could end up watching 40 or 50 movies. I decided to cap it at 30 because I wanted to move on, leaving a lot unwatched, like A Better Tomorrow II, Angel Heart, Dirty Dancing, Fatal Attraction, Hamburger Hill, La Bamba, hell, even Princess Bride! But as with the other years I’ve revisited (1967, 1977, 1985, 1986), I had a good time doing a deep dive into a year’s movie output. What’s next? Since it’s 2018, I now plan on revisiting movies that go back decades, and so I’ll kick it off with a marathon of films from 1968.

Below are all 30 films from 1987 that I watched (in alphabetical order), with links to my thoughts on each — or you can just click on the “1987” tag.

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
  2. Beverly Hills Cop II
  3. City on Fire
  4. Creepshow 2
  5. Empire of the Sun
  6. Evil Dead II
  7. Full Metal Jacket
  8. Good Morning, Vietnam
  9. Hellraiser
  10. Innerspace
  11. Jaws: The Revenge
  12. Less Than Zero
  13. Lethal Weapon
  14. Mannequin
  15. No Way Out
  16. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  17. Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrole
  18. Predator
  19. Prince of Darkness
  20. Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise
  21. Robocop
  22. Some Kind of Wonderful
  23. The Hidden
  24. The Last Emperor
  25. The Lost Boys
  26. The Monster Squad
  27. The Pick-up Artist
  28. The Running Man
  29. The Untouchables
  30. Wall Street

The Last Emperor

I capped my 1987 movie marathon (of 30 movies) with a film that holds a special place in my heart. I didn’t watch this film when it originally came out, but rather during the summer of 1993.

At the time, I had finished my first two years of university, specializing in Mathematics, and I was feeling lost. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, but just knew that it didn’t involve Mathematics (or at least, not to have a career based on that). I took the decision that summer that I would leave my program, and instead enroll in a Liberal Arts program. I didn’t know what I wanted to focus on, and so for that first year decided that I would take a big variety of classes, and see what stuck. Around that time, I watched this movie, and was intrigued and fell in love with the world that was presented (even if part of that world was rather harsh). So when it came time to pick classes, they included some language classes (German and Spanish), philosophy classes, and one class on the history of communist China. I never liked history classes in high school — for me, it was just about memorizing dates and names, and I hate anything that involves rote memorization — so I had never had an interest in taking any at a university level, but the topic interested me. That class — given by professor Chungchi Wen — not only led me to discover that a history program was right up my alley (you’d get to sit and hear all these great stories, and the exams where composed of 1 question, to which you would answer in the form of an essay, which is where I developed my love of writing), but it would also mark the first step of my Asian journey. The following year I declared a major in History (and a minor in Mathematics, due to all of the credits I had accumulated), and after that program was finished I moved to Montreal and enrolled in an East-Asian Studies program, which led to an opportunity the following year to go study Chinese at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, which is where I met my wife (who was studying at the same university), who happened to be Japanese, which led me to move to Tokyo, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Sure, all of this is not just because of this movie, but I still can’t help but point to it and see it as a sort of trigger for everything that came after. As for the movie itself, how is it now? I still quite enjoyed watching it, and it’s still a beautiful film to watch, but having everyone speak in English comes off as incredibly unnatural to me (back then, it didn’t take long before I discovered the cinema of Zhang Yimou, with a body of films that further inspired me), and there’s some iffy acting as well. But yes, it’s still a very special movie for me, and I’m thankful for the life choices that came out of it.

Empire of the Sun

I was a big, big fan of this movie back when it originally came out, and re-watching it now, I still think it’s a great movie, especially the amazing performance by a very young Christian Bale. Sure, this being one of Spielberg’s first forays (if not the first) at making a serious drama, he does slip a bit at times (like the scene where Bale finds the old fighter plane and pretends he’s flying it, with his paper model flying around), and I feel like the John Williams score doesn’t work a lot of times (too “movie”), but for the most part it’s a mesmerizing film, and shows a side of WW2 that we didn’t really see elsewhere (the experience of British expats in Shanghai under the Japanese occupation). Still well worth a watch.

Plane, Trains and Automobiles

This is one of those comedy classics that still gets mentioned a lot, and you know what, it’s still a great movie. I tend not to like a movie in which the protagonist is constantly experiencing a barrage of difficulties — which is pretty much what this entire movie is about — but I think the remarkable performance by John Candy makes it all bearable. So many memorable moments, and that happy ending is well deserved. In a way you can see how this is going to lead Hughes into making Home Alone — which is a bit sad, because I would have liked him to do more brat pack movies — but it’s hard to think about comedy movies in the 80s and not include this.

The Pick-up Artist

After a bit of a break, I got back to my 1987 movie watching this week to bring it to an end. The first of the last batch I watched was this, which I wouldn’t exactly consider a classic, but it’s a pretty enjoyable film to watch, even now. I think the most memorable part is the opening sequence with Downey practicing his pick-up lines (“Did anyone ever tell you that you have the face of a Botticelli and the body of a Degas?”), and it’s got a pretty great cast, with Harvey Keitel and Dennis Hopper also in there. I mostly like it because of the presence of Ringwald and Downey, part of that brat pack chemistry I still love so much.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

I didn’t remember much about this one before I watched it — including the fact that it features Patricia Arquette and Lawrence Fishburne — but then as I was watching it the various Freddie moments felt incredibly familiar, almost iconic (the puppet strings, the TV set, etc.) This was definitely more fun to watch than the second one (that I watched during my 1986 marathon). The only thing is that watching it now, there’s nothing really scary about these movies, they’re more just a thrill ride through nightmarish imagery.

The Monster Squad

I don’t think I’d ever watched this back in the day, but I’ve always heard that it was pretty fun, so I was curious to check it out. You’d think I’d like this — set in the 80s, kids on bikes, etc. — but it just came off as too much of a Goonies-wannabe. I didn’t really have fun watching it, and actually found it a bit of a chore to watch till the end. Oh well.

Jaws: The Revenge

I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular here, just some good cheesy fun with a mechanical shark, and the saddest thing here is that the scenes with the shark are so far and few, and you have to deal with so much boring family scenes. Oh, and now there’s some sort of telepathic link with Jaws? OK. And when we do get attack scenes they’re not that great, except for the banana boat attack (nice big lunge for one of the riders). I don’t think I even watched this back in the day — don’t even remember watching any of the Jaws sequels (this was the fourth and last film in the franchise). Can’t say I really enjoyed watching this.

Robocop

I waited a while to watch Robocop in my 1987 movie run, but that’s only because I had re-watched it a few years ago, so wasn’t in a big hurry to watch it again. This is indeed one of my favorite movies of that year, and also one of the best sci-fi action flicks, period. It’s still incredibly entertaining, and I don’t think there’s any sci-fi film that has gotten the comedy so well (and incredibly dark comedy at that), without losing the intensity of the rest of the film. It’s a shame that all the sequels where such a letdown, and although I didn’t really mind the recent remake, it definitely wasn’t as memorable as the original. I’ve read that a true sequel to this film is now in the works (ignoring every movie that came after), and I’m really curious to see what that could look like. “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrole

I’ve now done movie marathons for 1985, 1986, and 1987, and it’s funny that for each year I’ve watched a Police Academy sequel, without watching the original (which I guess came out in 1984). As expected, these do get worse and worse, but hey, as cultural artifacts of the era, I’m having fun re-watching them. The strangest thing to see here is a very young Sharon Stone playing a journalist, and David Spade playing a skater punk.