The Lost Boys. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Just in time for Fright Night, I offer you some vampirical awesomeness in the form of this fun 80s flick. Jason Patric and Jami Gertz (the “can’t spare a square” girl from one of my favorite “Seinfeld” episodes), who play male and female leads Michael and Star, are certainly one of the sexier couples in teen-vampire filmdom. Kiefer Sutherland, fresh from his role as bully Ace Merrill in Stand by Me, is good as the teasingly ambiguous David. The character seemed more attracted to Michael than to Star, although that’s not shocking given the directions Schumacher took in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. (Google searches come up with a number of essays on the homoeroticism in those films.) On the other hand, one of my personal favorite 80s teen stars, Corey Haim, plays Michael’s younger brother Sam with a different gay-friendly approach: a Rob Lowe poster in his bedroom and a scene in which he sings Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “Ain’t Got No Home” while taking a bath, although the way I remember it, Sam was singing about not having a man. Along with Dianne Wiest (always outstanding in any role), Corey Feldman, Edward Herrmann and Alex Winter (aka BILL S. PRESTON, ESQUIRE!), The Lost Boys is what I call true can’t-miss cinema. Besides, the cheesetastic soundtrack – including a hilarious boardwalk concert scene involving Tim Cappello and his saxophone – is worth the price of admission.
Moonstruck. Directed by Norman Jewison. I must admit that I really loved Nicolas Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married; even though his casting was obvious nepotism on Francis Ford Coppola’s part (let’s not even speak of Sofia Coppola as Kathleen Turner’s kid sister…), Cage was really terrific in that movie, particularly because of the nasal voice he affects. In Moonstruck, Cage and Cher are a match made in heaven. Just the way Cher walks around New York makes the city look better, somehow more alive. Cage is heartbreaking in his first scene, explaining the tragedies of his life. Opera is used effectively to convey both characters’ sense of romance, especially in the first scene in Ronny’s apartment and in the scene at the Met. My favorite moment in the film would have to be when lonely professor Perry (John Mahoney, great in everything he does) walks Rose (Olympia Dukakis) home. The way Perry kisses Rose goodnight has so much meaning in it, even though it is just a small gesture. I also loved Louis Guss as Raymond, the friend of the Castorinis who twice sees “Cosmo’s moon,” the huge moon that inspires love and happiness in those who see it. I praise Norman Jewison’s direction; along with Only You (1994) and to a lesser extent Send Me No Flowers (1964), he has shown himself to be one of the kings of romantic comedies.
Radio Days. Directed by Woody Allen. The final piece of the puzzle in what I consider Allen’s sentimental New York quartet starring or featuring Mia Farrow: Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and this, one of Allen’s greatest films. Farrow is grand as the ditzy Sally White (“Who’s Pearl Harbor?” she memorably asks) as are Julie Kavner as the main character’s mother and Dianne Wiest as lovelorn Aunt Bea. Teenaged Seth Green, a decade before his popularity in Austin Powers and “Family Guy,” is pretty good as the young Woody Allen stand-in. For me, however, it’s the script that’s really the tops. The film is more an ode to New York than Manhattan or any of his other films because it feels real, with stories probably taken right from his own childhood. It is a tribute to a time that has long since passed, an era filled with dreams and possibilities. As much as we may lament the time gone by, we can still celebrate the joys of radio and its performers through Radio Days.
The Whales of August. Directed by Lindsay Anderson. Starring Hollywood legends Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Vincent Price and Ann Sothern, this little film looks at the twilight years of denizens of a small fishing community on an island off the coast of Maine. All four principal actors were 75+: Davis was 78, Gish was between 93 and 94 (and, might I add, looked terrific), Price was 75 and Sothern was 77. Davis, playing the aptly named Libby Strong, is as stubborn and headstrong as ever, even though her character is blind (perhaps because of the blindness, she is more determined to assert herself). The other three leads were all nominated for or won awards: Gish, who is fantastic in her simplicity and obviously still at ease in front of the camera, won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actress (tied with Holly Hunter in Broadcast News) and was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead; Price, adding a slight Russian accent to his eternally beautiful voice, was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male; and Sothern, bubbly and vivacious in her last movie role, received not only an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Male but also the coveted Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress – the first and last Oscar nomination of Sothern’s 60-year film career. I recommend this film not only to old movie buffs but to anyone who wants to see a human drama full of compassion and maybe a tinge of romance.
Wings of Desire. Directed by Wim Wenders. It is hard to explain the beauty of Wings of Desire if you have not seen it. For one thing, there are the technical achievements: the glowing cinematography by Henri Alekan (who was 77 at the time of filming) and the score by Jürgen Knieper, who also scored American cult classic River’s Edge and Wenders’ earlier film The American Friend. Then there are the performances: Bruno Ganz as the angel Damiel, the late Solveig Dommartin as the ethereal circus aerialist Marion, 85-year-old screen legend Curt Bois as elderly poet and philosopher Homer, Otto Sander as Damiel’s fellow angel Cassiel and – best of all – Peter Falk as himself, “der Filmstar.” Finally, there’s the script: so many of the lines are quotable, particularly Falk’s musings. The scene in which Falk gets coffee from a vendor and Ganz is present is perhaps my favorite. As this and the other 1987 films I chose suggest, I love a good romance with emotional resonance and depth. Wings of Desire is an enchanting journey, not only physically for the angels and humans but for those characters’ hearts. They learn, they love and they grow.