1988 was a dark time. The wall still separated East and West Berlin (but not for long!), we were knee deep in the AIDS epidemic, and The Cosby Show was fooling us all. In the middle of a dark and extremely cold winter, (and that evening’s episode of Cosby), the first and smallest of the Schiller kids was born.
My birth, however, was not the only great thing to come out of ’88. Phantom of the Opera premiered at the Majestic Theatre in New York, and Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer for Beloved. There were some pretty great movies that came out that year, as well. In the spirit of a series started by E.J., and continued by Kris, here are five of my favorite movies from my year as an infant.
I do not remember life before Beetlejuice. All I remember of my first showing is watching it in a dusty basement on a gigantic television.
Beetlejuice has been one of my favorite films ever since. I’ve always loved the silly way life and death are presented. Michael Keaton’s performance is unsettling and leaves him almost unrecognizable. Keaton still cites the role as a favorite, only sometimes bested by Birdman.
The rest of the cast is outstanding as well, with a young Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as the suburban couple settling into the afterlife, and a positively baby-faced Winona Ryder as the surprisingly complex Lydia.
For a bonus round, check out the animated series based on the film. While it takes TONS of liberties with both story and character, it’s certainyly just as delightful.
Unlike the first item on this list, I didn’t see BIG until a few years ago. Once I did see it, however, it easily slid onto my list of favorite films. Tom Hanks at any stage in his career is just plain delightful, but given liberty to act like a literal kid in a candy shop, he’s somehow even more fun. I was definitely not alone in this assessment–the movie was so well-loved it had a short-lived Broadway Musical adaptation in 1996.
Granted, this film does cross a weird line when (spoiler-alert), Hank’s character sleeps with adult coworker Susan. This plot point that would likely disappear should the movie ever get a remake, and the film probably wouldn’t lose much if it did.
Oliver And Company
The 80s at Disney are often referred to as the tail end of the “the Bronze period” for the studio. Following the death of Walt Disney in 1966, the studios struggled to find their footing without their fearless leader. However, some of the most underappreciated movies also emerged from this time.
I don’t like movies about or starring animals sort of as a rule. However, for every rule there is an exception, and Oliver and Company is mine. Not only is the main human also named Jenny, but the soundtrack is exclusively work by the great William Joel.
Oliver and Company is Disney’s take on the Dickens tale Oliver Twist, with Oliver and Dodger played by an adorable orange cat and a lovably scruffy mutt, respectively. The movie shows its age from the first frame, a pan of the Manhattan skyline from 30 years ago.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Mention this movie to anyone and, almost unanimously, the first thing that pops into their head is a readhead in a sparkly fuchsia dress. What you may not know is that Jessica Rabbit really isn’t bad–and she was drawn that way for a reason wayyy beyond sex appeal. What I really love about Roger Rabbit is that it’s got something for everyone, from kids watching it for the obvious cartoony story, to film aficionados who pick up all the subtleties.
In addition to having a great storyline, Roger Rabbit was a feat of film technology for its time. It was one of the first films to combine live action and fully animated characters interacting with one another. The movie is loosely adapted from an obscure book series, apparently difficult to find in hard copy.
John Waters has created some truly vomit-worthy work. However, in 1988, the self-declared “King of Bad Taste” stepped back from his throne to write a love letter to his hometown. Thus, Hairspray was born. Waters is a staple here in Baltimore, where he still frequents Hamden and picks up fan mail from a local comics shop.
Early in his career, Waters was unpopular with pretty much everyone, constantly boycotted and booed out of public spaces, and full on hated by any organization with “family” in its name. He reveled in the attention. He’s having the last laugh though. Almost fifty years later, he’s still relatively active in the film industry.
Hairspray surprised almost everyone with its sweet protagonist Tracy Turnblad and her average-teenage goal of getting into the local dance program. A throwback to the early 60s, Hairspray’s main theme is oppression–civil rights are at the forefront for a variety of groups generally rejected by society. Hairspray reveals a softer side of Waters, though he certainly didn’t go easy on the folks at the top of the social food chain.
Unlike its subsequent adaptations, Hairspray only features digetic music. In other words, it’s the only non-musical version of the story. Don’t let that turn you away, though. It’s a (mostly) family-friendly film with a warm, fuzzy heart.
What are your favorite films from the year you were born?