The work of entertainment critics often provokes controversy and no less so than during the holiday season, when millions go out to compare notes or buy for themselves. Undeterred, Maclean’s Entertainment Section editors and critics pick their best of 1988:
1. Dead Ringers: Canadian director David Cronenberg casts a narcotic spell of high tragedy, as Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists taking a lethal fall through the looking glass.
2. A World Apart: With a poignant drama about a mother and daughter in South Africa, British director Chris Menges cuts through the barbed wire dividing private emotions from political issues.
3. Big: Tom Hanks shows that he is big enough to portray a 12-year-old trapped in an adult body—and get away with it.
4. The Thin Blue Line: A haunting documentary by U.S. director Errol Morris proves that an innocent man was sentenced for a crime that he did not commit.
5. Bull Durham: In the comedy that treats baseball as a metaphor for sex, Kevin Costner catches curves from Susan Sarandon.
6. Another Woman: With his third swing at existential drama, director Woody Allen—with the help of actress Gena Rowlands—finally connects.
7. Bird: With his affectionate saga of jazz legend Charlie Parker, Clint Eastwood proves that, even in the comfort of his director’s chair, he is tougher than the rest.
8. Tequila Sunrise: Directing Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell and Michelle Pfeiffer, Chinatown writer Robert Towne makes America safe for romantic melodrama.
9. Die Hard: Despite the obnoxious Bruce Willis, it is the one Hollywood movie that almost lives up to outrageous hype: “It will blow you through the back wall of the theatre.”
10. Pelle the Conqueror: Spectacular cinematography brings 19th-century Denmark to life in a father-son saga starring veteran Max von Sydow and 13-year-old Pelle Hvenegaard,
who was named after the character in the Danish classic on which the film is based.
1. The Arctic Grail: Pierre Berton’s 34th book offers a panoramic view of 19thand early-20th-century Arctic exploration—and vivid portraits of the men who conducted it.
2. Bernard Shaw: The Search for Love: Rarely has a biography sustained such a high level of grace, absorbing detail and pure narrative pleasure as Michael Holroyd’s first volume of a projected three-part study.
3. The Yellow Wind: In his searing account of the predicament of Arabs under Israeli military rule on the West Bank, novelist David Grossman describes the corrosive effect of the occupation on both occupied and occupiers.
4. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam: Journalist Neil Sheehan has created an exhaustive biography of a remarkable soldier, giving the Vietnam experience a gripping personal context.
5. Best Seat in the House: Memoirs of a Lucky Man: Coolly intelligent, opinionated and brimming with anecdotes, Robert Fulford’s account of his 35 years in Canadian journalism makes for intriguing reading.
6. A Brief History of Time: British mathematics professor Stephen Hawking sparked a publishing phenomenon with this study, which marries Einstein’s general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics in an attempt to explain the formation of the universe.
7. Tolstoy: A. N. Wilson has written an irreverent and lively study of the Russian author, suggesting that Leo Tolstoy often transformed his more painful experiences into art.
8. In the Sleep Room: The Story of CIA Brainwashing Experiments in Canada: Perceptive and lucid, the study by Toronto writer Anne Collins paints Montreal psychiatrist Ewen Cameron as a man whose humane
goals were tainted by excessive ambition.
9. Napoleon III and his Carnival Empire: Journalist John Bierman has created one of those rare books that turns history into an irresistible narrative.
10. Lost in America: In the latest and best of Studs Terkel’s oral histories, some 90 characters pour out their hopes, dreams and grief about their country.
1. Satanic Verses: At once wildly funny and exquisitely beautiful, Salman Rushdie’s latest novel revolves around the eternal tournament between good and evil.
2. Cat’s Eye: Margaret Atwood’s eighth and most personally revealing novel offers a vision of girlhood that is anything but sugar and spice.
3. Libra: In a coldly gleaming feat of imagination, Don DeLillo weaves public fact with fiction as he carries readers deep into the troubled mind of Lee Harvey Oswald.
4. The Lyre of Orpheus: Robertson Davies’s latest book, the third novel in a trilogy, proves once again that he is an exceptional storyteller.
5. Breathing Lessons: Anne Tyler’s 11th novel combines gentle delight with gritty detail in a rich portrait of a 28-year marriage.
6. The Child in Time: In a deeply moving exploration of the effects of a child’s disappearance on her parents, English writer Ian McEwan has constructed a superb fable about childhood and time.
7. Love in the Time of Cholera: A tender, humorous regard for the characters helps to make Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s latest work to appear in English a triumphant work of art.
8. A Casual Brutality: Torontonian Neil Bissoondath’s first novel, about a West Indian doctor caught up in political turmoil in a Caribbean island, firmly places him on the international literary map.
9. The Tenants of Time: Thomas Flanagan’s tale of an 1867 Irish uprising proves that an original mind can shape good history into brilliant fiction.
10. Stones: Populated by dream walkers treading close to madness, Timothy Findley’s latest collection of short stories conjures up a nightmarish image of Toronto.
1. Diesel and Dust: While other bands pay lip service to political issues, Australia’s Midnight Oil seethes with enough rage to claim a monopoly on socially conscious rock.
2. Sahara Electrik: Mixing.the ancient oud (an Arabic lute-like instrument) with modern synthesizers, the Berlin-based band Dissidenten conjures up the mystery of a Moroccan bazaar and sets it to a rivetting beat.
3. Irish Heartbeat: Teaming Van Morrison, rock’s grand old man of Celtic soul, with the Chieftains, Ireland’s esteemed traditionalists, is such
an inspired idea that it is a wonder no one thought of it sooner.
4. Shadowland: k. d. lang reveals her true talent: singing weepers with enough passion to recall her mentor, the late Patsy Cline, at her peak.
5. Lovesexy: Following on the heels of last year’s brilliant Sign o’ the Times, the new record from Prince shows the artist to be a visionary with a wicked beat.
6. Akwaba Beach: Mory Kante comes from Mali in West Africa and now lives in Paris, where he is making some of the most spellbinding music to be heard anywhere.
7. Volume One: The Travelling Wilburys, a troupe including Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison, provided Orbison, who died last month, with an intriguing vehicle for his plaintive voice.
8. Rattle & Hum: Despite a pretentious venture into celluloid, U2 redeems itself on vinyl by digging into rock’s roots and drawing strength from diverse sources.
9. Conscious Party: More than a mere heir to the throne of his father, Bob Marley, Ziggy Mar ley—with his siblings, the Melody Makers, singing backup vocals—is keeping reggae’s flag flying with his vibrant, uplifting sound.
10. Miss America: The stunning debut by Toronto singer Mary Margaret O’Hara is eccentric in the extreme, full of cackling, warbling and songs that bare her soul.
1. Destiny’s Song + The Image of Pursuance: Britain’s young saxophone wonder Courtney Pine demonstrates how he is almost single-handedly redefining British jazz.
2. Bordertown: Tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace’s New Orleans-flavored jazz proves that he has one of the best roadhouse combos.
3. For Ellington: Always the essence of subtlety and elegance, The Modern Jazz Quartet is an ideal vehicle for the Duke’s music.
4. Look Out for Hope: For years, guitarist Bill Frisell promised much but, finally, in 1988 he produced an album in which he has truly focused his talents.
5. In Dew Time: There were several impressive record debuts by Canadian jazz musicians in 1988, but that of Torontonian Jane Bunnett topped them by being simply the best domestic jazz releáse.
1. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (The Resurrection): Conducted by Simon Rattle and performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the record is a brilliant account of Mahler’s apocalyptic symphony.
2. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2:
The stellar performances by pianist Peter Donohoe and the Bournemouthe Symphony Orchestra under conductor Rudolf Barshai sweep cobwebs off a frequently scorned concerto.
3. Show Boat: Music by Jerome Kern: Conductor John McGlinn and operatic artists including Frederica von Stade offer a lavish recreation of one of America’s finest musicals.
4. J. S. Bach: Art of the Fugue: Vigorous brass arrangements by The Canadian Brass put new life into the great composer’s fugues.
5. Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6: Conductor Roger Norrington offers further iconoclastic revelations as his vibrant Beethoven series continues.
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