Best Movies of 1988 - The Year I Made Contact: Blogathon

This special feature by A Potpourri of Vestiges is a part of the blogathon, The Year I Made Contacthosted by Movie Waffler

The Year I Made Contact is a blogathon based on the movies released during the year of a blogger's birth. It can be a Top 5, Top 10, or just a general article about the year in cinema.

blogathon, year i made contact, hosted by movie waffler

Unfortunately, the level of exposure for a human being during an entire lifespan is quite finite, for he is bounded by the limitations of time and space. Thus, a man desperately needs a medium that can help extend his horizons. Among the different available media, cinema, with its infinite potential to entertain, educate and enlighten seems like the most obvious choice. Undoubtedly, cinema is the most effective medium of communication ever devised, for the message reaches to everyone and everywhere. Thus, I, like several other mortals, often look up to cinema in order to seek my quantum of solace.

Nineteen hundred eighty eight, the year I made contact, was a remarkable year for cinema which featured a handful of great motion-pictures that mesmerized the global audience. The year 1988 also saw some unforgettable performances that touched millions of hearts worldwide: be it legendary Swedish actor Max von Sydow’s poignant portrayal of a Swedish emigrant in Pelle the Conqueror, Jodie Forster’s powerful portrayal of a rape victim in The Accused, Bruce Willis’ larger than life portrayal of a NYPD cop in Die Hard, or Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning portrayal of an autistic genius in Rain Man. The year also marked the release of one of the most controversial movies ever made: Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Amidst such great abundance, it’s not only brutal but also virtually impossible to handpick a few movies. However, during the course of this article, I will, none the less, try to share a list of five movies that have touched me most intimately.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Directed by Phillip Kaufman

the unbearable lightness of being, directed by phillip kaufman

Plot: In 1968, a Czech doctor with an active sex life meets a woman who wants monogamy, and then the Soviet invasion further disrupts their lives.

Directed by American filmmaker Phillip Kaufman, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by renowned Czech novelist Milan Kundera. The movie stars British Actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Tomas—a liberal, debonair doctor with a Casanova-like image. Tomas, driven by the lightness of his being, goes about his philandering ways in the 1960s Prague. In Tomas, we see a man trying to fill the emptiness of his life by pandering to his wildest sexual desires. The libertine doctor falls in love with an ingenuous country girl, Tereza (played beautifully by Juliette Binoche) who demands absolute fidelity in return. A major part of the movie deals with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the devastating impact that it has on the people as the idyllic motherland gets transformed into a war zone. The movie questions the absurdity of free-will while simultaneously disapproving of a life spent in utter subjugation.  


Rain Man, Directed by Barry Levinson

rain man, dustin hoffman, tom cruise, directed by bob levinson, autism

Plot: Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt's father left a fortune to his savant brother Raymond and a pittance to Charlie; they travel cross-country.

Directed by American filmmaker Barry Levinson, Rain Man is a story of two brothers: a self-centered yuppie, Charlie Babbitt (played by Tom Cruise) and an autistic patient, Raymond Babbitt (played by Dustin Hoffman). After the sudden death of his estranged father, Charlie comes to know that his father has bequeathed his entire property to a mental institution. He subsequently realizes that he also has an elder brother who’s being treated at that mental institution for autism. Charlie visits the institution and abducts his brother with the hope of claiming the property as brother’s legal custodian. Despite the fact that Raymond’s understanding is limited to objects and numbers a strange bond of camaraderie develops between the two as both of them are forced to undertake a road trip (because of Raymond’s fear of flying) from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. Dustin Hoffman arguably gives the best performance of his life and is well complemented by Cruise who, at times, appears to portray his real-life persona. Hoffman, in his Oscar-winning portrayal, mesmerizes everyone with his innocent portrayal of an autistic genius. Such is the impact of his role that it has become an archetype in the world of cinema.


A Short Film About Killing, Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

A Short Film About Killing, directed by krzysztof kieslowsky

Plot: The movie deals with capital punishment (and the act of killing in general) more direct - a senseless, violent, almost botched murder is followed by a cold, calculated, flawlessly performed execution, while the murderer's idealistic young defense lawyer ends up as an unwilling accessory to the judicial murder of his client.

Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski is ubiquitously renowned for his ‘The Decalogue’—a ten episode television series with every episode trying to interpret each of the Ten Commandments respectively through the means of a short fictional story. Two of the short stories are available in form of full movies in their uncut form: A Short Film About Love and A Short Film About Killing. In A Short Film About Killing, I was awed by Kieslowsky’s uncanny ability to depict naked terror with an air of great subtlety and calmness. His sui generis work can undoubtedly be looked upon as a treatise on killing which also expatiates on its root cause: the dire circumstances that often make people lose their conscience, thereby transforming them into a pervert and making them choose the ignominious. In the movie, we see a young man getting transformed into a sadistic murderer after having witnessed the loss of innocence owing to the death of his baby sister.  The movie indeed serves to be a devastating experience, the impact of which can be felt even after days, weeks, and perhaps months.


Salaam Bombay!, Directed by Mira Nair

salaam bombay, directed by mira nair

Plot: The boy Krishna is abandoned by his mother at the Apollo Circus and she tells him that he can only return home when he can afford 500 rupees to pay for the bicycle of his brother that he had trashed.

Being an Indian, I am bound to have a natural bias for Mira Nair’s Oscar-nominated motion-picture, Salaam Bombay!—a naked take on the excruciating lives of the slum dwelling children in the glittering city of Bombay (now Mumbai). Behind the facade of razzmatazz and stardom that seems to engulf the financial capital of India hides an underbelly of destitution that’s rife with crime where the girls are forced to take up prostitution as an only resort to escape the abysmal penury, and the male children grow into thieves, pimps and drug peddlers. In this world of slums, the law of the jungle prevails: the strong exploit and annihilate the weak and they do so with utmost pride, for they know that their luck is not going to stay with them for ever. The movie’s protagonist is a young boy, Krishna, who is abandoned by his mother for deliberately damaging the bicycle under the possession of his bullying elder brother. He can only return home once he arranges 500 bucks needed for the repair. In order to earn such a hefty amount, he decides to travel to some big city. He arrives at the ticket counter of the railway station where the attendant inexplicably gives him a ticket to Bombay—the proverbial city of dreams. We follow him through the entire length of the movie as he too gets lost into the aforementioned underbelly of crime. His supposedly brief escapade slowly transforms into a permanent stay. Mira Nair uses Krishna and her other characters (most of whom are real-life slum kids) to highlight the cruelties and injustice associated with the lives of the hapless denizens of the all pervasive underbelly existing in the so called city of dreams.


The Last Temptation of Christ, Directed by Martin Scorsese

Plot: The life of Jesus Christ, his journey through life as he faces the temptations that all humans face during their lives, and his final temptation upon the cross.

the last temptation of christ, directed by martin scorsese, willem dafoe

Directed by veteran American auteur Martin Scorsese, The Last Temptation of Christ is an adaptation of the highly controversial 1953 novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis. The Last Temptation of Christ is arguably Martin Scorsese's boldest attempt at filmmaking that brilliantly highlights the dichotomy associated with Christ's life: the veracity pertaining to his divine existence and his fallibilities as a mortal being. The movie primarily focuses on Jesus’ struggle as a mere mortal being overwhelmed by the worldly temptations. The Last Temptation of Christ presents the perpetual battle that every mortal is forced to undertake: the struggle against his inner fears, weakness, disbelief, reluctance, dejection and lust. At its very core, the movie also serves to be a great learning lesson to mankind by accentuating the importance of keeping a check on the gift of free willsomething that even Christ struggled to fathom during the early going. Willem Dafoe is mesmerizing in the challenging portrayal of Kazantzakis’ Christ. During the portrayal, Dafoe effortlessly goes through an entire gamut of emotions. The Last Temptation of Christ represents a wonderful specimen of movie-making that can be truly savored by doing away with religious conservatism and bigotry. Scorsese, in his trademark style, has succeeded in leaving several artistic impressions on the movie that can best be analyzed only after the second or perhaps the third viewing.

—By Murtaza Ali

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  1. Wow Wonderful list. Haven't seen 'Unbearable lightness of being,' but the rest of the films are classics especially Kieslowski's 'A Short Film About Killing.' Really it's a great year that you made contact.

    1. I am really excited to know that you liked the list... Btw, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is highly recommended! :)

  2. Good year! I still need to see SALAAM BOMBAY. A few of my favorites from 88 include AKIRA, DEAD RINGERS, THEY LIVE, and CINEMA PARADISO

  3. Quite great films were released that year. Quite interesting and descriptive article.

  4. Thanks Bonjour... I have made a note of the movies :-)

  5. I am glad that you liked it... stay tuned for more such features :-)

  6. i cant believe that 1988 was the year u made contact!!! I thought you were much older!!!
    Anyway, once again a wonderful post! Enjoyed reading this as well.

  7. Well, I take it as a compliment :P

    Btw, I am really glad that you liked it!!! :-)

  8. Great list. I love that A Short Film About Killing is on here. It is a very underrated film (usually getting lost in the shuffle that is the Dekalog). My personal faves are Distant Voices, Still Lives & Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

  9. Thanks a ton, Kevyn! A Short Film About Killing is indeed brilliant. Btw, I have made a note of all of the above movies for my future viewing :-)

  10. haahaa...yeah it is a compliment!! : )

  11. Just wanted to acknowledge how much I'm enjoying this show as a podcast and
    how great this episode was in particular. Thanks!

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  12. I watch some movies that you shared. This was all great movies. Glad that you shared this to us.

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  13. Well... I am really glad to hear that!


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