Movies 1990: Cheers & jeers

December 30, 1990|By Stephen Hunter

THUMBS UP (Listed in no particular order) "To Sleep With Anger," Charles Burnett's heartfelt fable of thblack middle class struggling with the difficulties and temptations of American culture.

"GoodFellas," Martin Scorsese's brilliant evocation of street-level Mafia life, featuring a breakout performance by Joe Pesci.

"Godfather III" doesn't quite return Francis Ford Coppola to the top of his form, but it's an emotionally drenching story, brilliantly acted and mesmerizing.

"Reversal of Fortune," the year's blackest, funniest movie, with an icy-brilliant turn by Jeremy Irons as the chilly upper-class Claus Von Bulow, who may or may not have tried to murder his wife, Sunny.

"Dances With Wolves." This leading Oscar contender is, despite a few cheap shots, an expansive and moving examination of Sioux culture during the 1860s and the year's most beautiful movie, visually and emotionally.

"Wild at Heart," David Lynch's white trash "Wizard of Oz," was violent, seedy and over the top, but completely absorbing from the first second; Lynch may be nuts, but he has an artist's true vision.

"Avalon," Barry Levinson's valentine to the way things once were, Baltimore-style, until along came TV and the suburbs to ruin it. Very touching meditation on family values by the American film industry's leading artist-businessman.

"Cinema Paradiso" was another tone-poem to childish innocence, as found in the temple of the small-town movie theater. Great performance from Phillip Noiret, even if it wore out its welcome camping at the Charles for about 19 months during the summer.

"Miller's Crossing," the Coen brothers' difficult but rewarding gangster story set in the anonymous '20s, with more double- and triple-crosses than a map of hell. Great performances by Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne.

"Without You I'm Nothing," Sandra Bernhard's one-woman show committed cleverly to film, hysterically funny and yet pointed and touching, too.

THUMBS DOWN (The worst movie of the year) "Blue Steel." This one wanted to have it both ways. It portrayed the gun as a ticket of madness -- one touch and you're a psycho killer. But the movie also loves guns, and photographs them with a devotional zeal more appropriate to a religious ceremony, and derives all of its power from images of guns blowing holes in people.

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