1987: The Year in Pictures

November 14, 2007

One of the areas in which Yesterday’s Salad surely excels is verisimilitude. Not only do we feature commentary on the issues of the day (the strike, Anne Hathaway, pretty feet, and cereal) and have scads of saladeers covering all that is good with society, we also occasionally feature reviews of the best picture/best director nominees as the awards occasionally dominate my life like nothing else. Still, somewhere between 17 and 20 awards years into my project (and Nate’s project) of watching every nominee for these categories, it is safe to say that there have been very few years like 1987. It was a year when Hollywood came of age, found romance, embraced the passive, and did so mostly in the form of light comedies. In fact, I’m still mystified at just how bizarre the year actually was. For the purposes of my sanity, I’m kind of glad that it’s not 1987 all the time.

Wildcard:

My Life as a Dog: As I mentioned in the 1988 review, the best way to describe most of the movies on this list is with the adje178_feature_350x180.jpgctives “light-hearted” and “charming.” And is there a movie more light-hearted and charming than My Life as a Dog? A coming of age story told against the backdrop of early cold war, semi-industrial Sweden, My Life as a Dog has been called one of the greatest movies ever made about children. In the Criterion essay, Michael Atkinson singled the movie out for its representations of “the contentious struggle to understand or at least withstand the bulldozing machinations of the adult world.” (see here) One of the ways this comes through is in the film’s structure, or rather it’s anti-structure. Like an anti-novel, the movie toys with the conventions of the act structure. Recognizable conflicts are avoided, and exchanged for other, more tangible struggles. The mother’s illness, which is in many ways the expected main conflict, is more of a pretense, a reason to explore the real conflict of displacement and fitting in. This theme is then further developed through the tomboy character, struggling with her emerging sexuality and its effect on her boyish life. Jacqueline Rose once said that Peter Pan, “shows innocence not as a property of childhood but as a portion of adult desire,” and the same mostly holds for My Life as a Dog. I say mostly because our protagonist’s innocence comes from his trust of others, an innocence that does not necessarily disappear with age, and his love of animals (see: Tony Soprano). Rose is right, in a sense; the childhood of My Life as a Dog is certainly an adult desire. Grade: A/A-

Nominees:

Fatal Attraction: There is some fa.gifdebate as to whether or not a director is the author of the movie (the auteur theory) or whether the writer should most correctly be termed the film’s author; as I’ve mentioned before, no-one gives credit to actors. In an article discussing this question, A Sanford and Michelle Wolf come to the conclusion that the director is at best a stylist, imparting a particular mis-en-scene and look on her film (source) and little more. If that is true, Fatal Attraction has pitch perfect direction. The movie is wonderfully executed: well acted, well set, and expertly paced. Adrian Lyne does an outstanding job with the pacing of this movie. It’s particularly impressive that many of these scenes still jolt us today, even after we’ve seen them mocked on some iteration of “I Love the 80’s.” But the most impressive thing about the movie is the way it walks the line between thriller and love story–which it is at heart. No matter how crazy Glenn Close gets, the palpability of her love is still present. A-

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