30 for 30: Empire of the Sun (1987)





“Whenever I look at Reuben or ask him a question in class – I always find that he’s in his own world – dreaming, or playing with his imaginary airplanes.” That’s what my teacher told my mom during a parent-teacher meet in middle school. Like all kids, I had a wild imagination. It’s just that I brought that imagination to class and indulged in it while everyone, including my teacher watched. It got me in a lot of trouble. I was the guy who made the sound effects while explaining things. Words weren’t my thing. I’ve gotten better since then but chances are that I’ll still talk in sound effect language whenever I’m excited about something. Perhaps it was a precursor of things to come – my fascination with airplanes, World War 2, and of course movies! Movies are as close as we’ll get to a window to that strange, crazy, and sometimes bizarre world we dub our “imaginations” and I’m glad I fell in love with them when I did.

As for my pick of the year – It’s EMPIRE OF THE SUN. No, I’m not talking about the stupid electronic band with the catchy singles but the Steven Spielberg film starring Christian Bale. Yea, that kid in the picture is future Oscar-winner and Batman, Christian Bale. One of Spielberg’s unsung greats – this marvelous movie is simultaneously a coming-of-age movie, a war movie as well as a prison film. Based on J.G.Ballard’s autobiographical novel of the same name, it follows a utterly pampered British kid named Jim who is forced to grow up after he is separated from his parents during the turmoil of World War 2 Shanghai. Notable for being Bale’s debut feature, the movie is also home to one of John Williams most underrated scores. I can listen to that theme song (“Cadillac of the Skies”) over and over again. This is a massive sentimental pick of mine and thus, it out-classes anything else from that year including my two runners-ups: the Coen’s laugh riot Raising Arizona and John Hughes’ best film – Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Other films I thought of include Brian De Palma’s extraordinary The Untouchables (Sean Connery plus David Mamet = gold!),  James L. Brooks’ best movie Broadcast News, plus The Princess Bride, Roxanne, Predator, the daddy of all buddy cop movies Lethal Weapon (which has aged well), Oliver Stone’s immensely entertaining Wall Street, and Angel Heart. If you’re wondering where Full Metal Jacket is, it’s not on this list for a reason: I don’t care for it.

About 30-for-30

Movies are a huge part of my life – I mean, why else would I be running a blog/site devoted to movies? To commemorate the occasion of my 30th birthday (later this month), I’ll be counting down to the big day by posting a photo of my favorite movie for each year of the last 30 years I’ve survived on this planet. These aren’t my favorite 30 movies EVER but merely the movie I consider my favorite (or the best) of each year. This is my 30 for 30. Click here to see the other 30 for 30 posts.


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