What can you say about a year that offered 15 movies with Roman numerals in the titles, remakes of everything from "The Glass Menagerie" to "The Blob" and even gave us a zombie movie supposedly based on a true story ("The Serpent and the Rainbow")?
Dirty Harry was back on the big screen in "The Dead Pool", four other movies made "Dirty Harry" jokes ("Dead Heat," "Shakedown," "Red Heat" and "Short Circuit 2"), a new animated rabbit named Roger won the box office sweepstakes, and Cher took home the Oscar for best actress ("Moonstruck").Oh, yes, and we musn't forget "Rambo III," though moviegoers apparently did, or the fact that Dan Aykroyd's box office stock dipped as the result of his starring in four consecutive clunkers ("The Couch Trip," "Caddyshack II," "The Great Outdoors" and "My Stepmother Is an Alien") or, after last year's "Like Father Like Son," the three films that used the same comic plot device - a young boy finds himself inside a grown man's body ("Vice Versa," "18 Again!" and "Big").
Actually, from where I sit, the two best films of the year were from other years - "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) and "Bambi" (1942).
The two next best were foreign-language films - "Babette's Feast" and "Manon of the Spring."
And of the Hollywood-financed pictures, I found "Cry Freedom" to be underrated by national critics, "Bull Durham" overrated and "Permanent Record," unfortunately, hardly rated at all.
There were some excellent new American movies released in 1988, of course, but, as we have come to expect, there were many more dogs.
And whether any '88 movies will become classics remains to be seen. Offhand, the only candidates I foresee as possibilities are "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Rain Man."
But we'll leave that for future generations to determine.
As for this year's best and worst lists - or more correctly, those films that Hicks personally loved and hated - it was a tough call. In fact, making the choices for the traditional "10 Best" was rather difficult.
Compiling the "10 Worst" was easier, but this year I eliminated horror movies automatically - they make too easy a target. And after drawing up the "Worst" list I discovered that all 10 are comedies.
Is there anything worse than comedy gone awry? Not this year.
Also, as in years past, I've tried to keep the "Best" to those American films that most moved me and the "Worst" to those American films that, despite budgets and talent that led us to expect otherwise, turned out to be megaturkeys.
So, herewith are 1988's top dogs and real bow-wows, along with some additional categories, all according to the extremely subjective Hicksometer, of course:
1. RAIN MAN - A sure-fire multiple Oscar nominee, a touching, humorous road yarn with knockout performances from Tom Cruise and especially Dustin Hoffman's sensitive portrait of an autistic savant.
2. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT - An amazing technical feat, a very funny picture and loaded with your favorite cartoon characters. Who could ask for more?
3. RUNNING ON EMPTY - An unusual story of a family on the run and a fabulous character study about the difficulty of letting go of our children. Christine Lahti is Oscar-worthy.
4. A CRY IN THE DARK - The bizarre true story of an innocent Australian woman accused of killing her baby, with Meryl Streep at her best.
5. MOONSTRUCK - A 1987 film that came to Salt Lake City in 1988; hilarious and warm romantic comedy.
6. THE LAST EMPEROR - Ditto; grand spectacle of the type we get all too seldom these days.
7. HOUSEKEEPING - Another fabulous Christine Lahti tour de force, this time in an offbeat Bill Forsyth comedy about an eccentric aunt who becomes "mother" to her two nieces.
8. A WORLD APART - Barbara Hershey is also Oscar-worthy in this stirring true story about a South African woman imprisoned for her anti-apartheid beliefs.
9. THE DEAD - John Huston's last film, a slow but engrossing character study set in Dublin shortly after the turn of the century.
10. EIGHT MEN OUT - John Sayles' tribute to baseball, a sympathetic look at the Chicago White Sox team members who threw the 1919 world series.
1. HOT TO TROT - Bobcat Goldthwait and a talking horse with John Candy's voice. The horse was more articulate than the star.
2. MEMORIES OF ME - Quickly forgotten; a sappy, sentimental autobiographical yarn by Billy Crystal, who should know better.
3. MOVING - Richard Pryor's annual bomb is a farce about a family's interstate move. Woody Allen did it better in a one-minute sequence in "Manhattan."
4. SHE'S HAVING A BABY - John Hughes' first dud of the year (followed by "The Great Outdoors"), about newlyweds who decide to have a child.
5. HIGH SPIRITS - A ghostly comedy that pales in comparison to the many classics in this genre. Are flatulence jokes still supposed to be funny?
6. THE COUCH TRIP - Dan Aykroyd, Walter Matthau and no comic chemistry whatsoever in a spoof of psychiatry and radio therapists. They should have their heads examined.
7. POLICE ACADEMY 5 - Suffice it to say that No. 6 is being readied for next year.
8. VIBES - Kooky rocker Cyndi Lauper's film debut. She tried hard, but got no help from her director and screenwriter.
9. MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN - Another Dan Aykroyd debacle; a forced, unfunny "Splash" rehash. Poor Kim Basinger.
10. SCROOGED - The year's most vulgar title; the year's most disappointing film. Mean-spirited and embarrassingly overblown. Also a big hit! Bill Murray's laughing all the way to the bank.
Top 10 Foreign-Language Films: "Babette's Feast," "Manon of the Spring," "Wings of Desire," "Au Revoir, Les Enfants," "A Taxing Woman," "The Kitchen Toto," "Family Business," "Oriane," "The Theme," "The Mozart Brothers."
"Best" Runners-Up (in no particular order): "Dominick and Eugene," "Without a Clue," "The Land Before Time," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Stand and Deliver," "The Glass Menagerie," "Punchline," "Matewan," "Cry Freedom," "House of Games," "Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll," "Permanent Record," "Switching Channels," "Big," "Da," "Clean and Sober," "A Fish Called Wanda," "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "The Milagro Beanfield War," "Betrayed," "Gaby - A True Story," "Madame Sousatzka," "Bird" and, the guilty pleasures of the bunch, "The Hidden" and "They Live."
"Worst" Runners-Up (in no particular order): "Off Limits," "Casual Sex?" "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking," "The Great Outdoors," "Mac and Me," "Sunset," "Outrageous Animation," "Killer Klowns From Outer Space," "Love Is a Dog From Hell," "Heartbreak Hotel," Pass the Ammo," "Tapeheads," "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark," "Iron Eagle II," "Caddyshack II" and "Fresh Horses."
Worst Horror Movie (15-way tie): "A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master," "Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood," "Critters 2," "Poltergeist III," "Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II," Phantasm II," "Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Meyers," "Return of the Living Dead, Part II," "Monkey Shines," "Bad Dreams," "Spellbinder," "Child's Play," "Dead Heat," "The Curse" and "The Unholy."
Best Documentary (two-way tie): "The Thin Blue Line," "Imagine: John Lennon."
Best English-Language Foreign Films: "A Handful of Dust," "A Month in the Country," "The Kitchen Toto," "The Lighthorsemen," "Stormy Monday."
Most Pleasant Surprise: "Jack's Back."
Biggest Disappointment: "Clara's Heart."
Best Performance in a Weak Movie: Jodie Foster, "The Accused."
Worst Performance in a Movie That Might Have Been Better: Rosanna Arquette, "The Big Blue."
Worst Comedy About Cannibalism (two-way tie): "Consuming Passions," "Lucky Stiff."
Worst Pierce Brosnan Movie (two-way tie): "Taffin," "The Deceivers."
Most Overrated Film of the Year: "Beetlejuice."
Most Underrated Film of the Year: "Betrayed."
Best In-Joke: Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Twins," flexing his muscles in front of a huge "Rambo III" poster.
Best Singer As Actor: Ruben Blades, "The Milagro Beanfield War."
Worst Singer As Actor: Deborah Harry, "Satisfaction."
Best Actor As Singer: Amy Irving, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (Jessica Rabbit's singing voice).
Worst Actor As Singer: Justine Bateman, "Satisfaction."
Best Movie Quote: "There's nothing wrong with G-rated movies, as long as there's lots of sex and violence," "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark."