Moments Out of Time 1987

[Originally published in Pacific Northwest, January 1988]

Hope and Glory: Down among the green leaves of his family’s backyard garden, young Bill Rohan (Sebastian Rice Edwards) confronts the wizard Merlin, while in the house the stillness of the adults ’round a grumbling radio signals that the Second World War has just been declared….

The Dead

• The Vietnamese woman’s voice scrapes relentlessly on our eardrums until we wish anything at all would shut her up: an unforgettable scene in Platoon makes us understand, by vicariously participating, how a My Lai might have happened….

The Dead: Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) turns from the snowy window to discover that his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston), after the most intense and revealing conversation of their life together, has fallen deeply asleep….

Barfly: Returning from the hotel bathroom down the hall, Henry (Mickey Rourke) sits on the bed and slowly begins to wonder why the music from his radio should sound so muted. Oh, right. He’s in the wrong room….

• The wind drifts leaves across the road as Gene Hackman’s car and the camera crest a rise together—Hoosiers….

• “I’m gonna tell you something, Bonanza is not an accurate depiction of the West”: earnest breakfast discourse in Tin Men

• Diane Keaton singing “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” New Year’s Eve 1943. Radio Days

Innerspace: Dennis Quaid sees his unborn child…

• On the battlefield at the end of Good Morning, Babylon, the dying brothers film each other in order that their sons will know what they looked like….

• Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) blows a dead man’s brains out: David Mamet’s most outrageous con job in The Untouchables

Full Metal Jacket: The sniper’s crushed-animal murmur of supplication and rage, the oily flicker of firelight, Joker’s confrontation with the ultimate there-it-is…

• Handcuffed between the wrong two guys in a police waiting room—Slamdance

My Life as a Dog: Ingemar’s breath fogging the skylight the instant before he crashes through onto the naked lady…

• Floorboards drinking blood, Hellraiser

• Jack Nicholson’s climactic fulmination to the church assembly, The Witches of Eastwick

• The long, saturnine, Keystone Kops silhouette of Constable Hatfield (David Strathairn): the unlikely symbol of civic rectitude in Matewan

• It should only be a Mel Brooks movie: informed that the heroine of Spaceballs is a Druish princess, dogman John Candy considers a moment, then remarks, “Funny … she doesn’t look Druish”….

The Big Easy: During the steamiest and funniest sex scene of the year, Ellen Barkin asks Dennis Quaid, “Please don’t do that.” He replies, ” What don’t you want me to do? … That? …Or that?”…

• A quiet conversation near the graveyard. Yves Montand’s face. Manon of the Spring

• The curve of road where Timothy Hutton hitches a ride—with his parents, one incarnation removed: Made in Heaven

• The passing of the unreported German sub, Radio Days

• With a there-I-go-again smile and shake of the head, the husband covers the telephone and asks his wife, “What’s my name around here?”: Terry O’Neill as The Stepfather

• The bridge above the fog, The Lost Boys

• Misty-focus palm frond, telephone wires and half moon—bisected horizontally: a moment of L.A. Zen in Slamdance

• Theresa Russell returns from the funeral of her latest husband, pours out the poisoned brandy, lies down on their bed one last time, and weeps: the beginning of Black Widow

• Al Capone (Robert De Niro) musing on “enthusiasms” and baseball—The Untouchables

• Murder at the opera, The Bedroom Window

Nadine, passing Vernon the cigarette…

A Man in Love: Rushing into the bathroom to tell his best friend’s mistress that the wife has just arrived, Peter Riegert has a tough time talking fast and subduing the joyous shock of seeing Greta Scacchi naked….

• Tomboy Saga embracing Ingemar while sparring, and caressing the back of his head with her boxing glove—My Life as a Dog

• The lace curtain blowing between Salvatore Giuliano and the Don during their single meeting—The Sicilian

La Bamba: Ritchie Valens’ eagerness to record the title song, despite the fact that he doesn’t speak Spanish: “Neither does Nat ‘King’ Cole!”…

• What do you say after a full day’s warring? “Who’s the leader of the club/That’s made for you and me?/M-I-C K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!”—Full Metal Jacket

• What do you say to your rabbi when he’s caught you pilfering Zionist donations? “You speak the truth, my faithful Indian companion!”—Radio Days

• What do you say to a neighbor girl whose mother has just been killed in the Blitz? “Do you want to play?”—Hope and Glory

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The rapture of place: The school, the roads, the seasons, Hoosiers; the beguiling widescreen asymmetries of Nelson, B.C., Roxanne; Provence in Jean/Manon; New Orleans in The Big Easy; Beckley, West Virginia, Matewan.

Oh right, I was standing there just last week: The unintentionally hilarious special-effects imposition of a gleaming snowcapped mountain range over I-5, Harry and the Hendersons.

Most delicious ensemble work: the Tin Men — Richard Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito, Jackie Gayle, John Mahoney, Seymour Cassel, Bruno Kirby, Stanley Brock, Matt Craven, J.T Walsh, Michael Tucker.

If he had two more scenes he could get a Best Actor nomination: Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride.

Best Supporting Actress: Charleen, Sherman‘s March.

Fun couple: Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin, The Big Easy. Runners-up: James Woods and Brian Dennehy, Best Seller.

Most gratifying comeback: Barbara Hershey, Hoosiers, Tin Men, and probably Shy People (which hasn’t been here yet). Actually, this comeback started at least as early as The Right Stuff in 1983 and certainly includes 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters, but if I want to mention Barbara Hershey, I’ll mention her.

Best line: “You’re fired!”—Robocop.

Best line reading: CIA agent Leon Russom’s “Well I’ll be damned” in No Way Out, after his boss (Fred Dalton Thompson) has told him that the aide to the Secretary of Defense is a homosexual.

Unclean! Unclean!: Lethal Weapon; Burglar; Summer School; Fatal Attraction.

Letdowns, major and otherwise: Full Metal Jacket; Angel Heart; Harry and the Hendersons; Good Morning, Babylon; Prick Up Your Ears; The Witches of Eastwick; Blind Date; Beyond Therapy; House of Games.

Overrated in a good cause: I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing; Maurice; Matewan; Waiting for the Moon.

Pleasant surprises: The Stepfather; Making Mr. Right; Hollywood Shuffle; The Big Easy; The Princess Bride; Ishtar; La Bamba; Eat the Peach; Barfly.

Loved the takeoff—too bad you ran out of gas: Outrageous Fortune; Extreme Prejudice; The Lost Boys; The Bedroom Window; Dragnet.

Letdown ending that worked just fine: The sense of anticlimax with which Debra Winger and the audience walk away from Black Widow nudges us toward recognizing how dangerous were the possibilities at large in the movie.

Busiest, and often most broadly reinterpreted, genre: The thriller: No Way Out, The Big Easy, Black Widow, Defence of the Realm, Stakeout, Fatal Attraction, Someone to Watch Over Me, Suspect, The Fourth Protocol, Best Seller, et al.

Most exultantly B-ish movie: The Hidden.

Production values you could eat: The Untouchables.

Best attempt (possibly ever) to create a color style for film noir: Conrad Hall’s cinematography for Black Widow.

—RTJ