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Today in Movie History: December 5

Eddie Murphy was already a face to watch after his dynamic presence on Saturday Night Live and a pair of films (48 HRS and Trading Places) that partnered him with more established stars. Then came Beverly Hills Cop, putting Murphy front and center in the spotlight for the first time and turning into a monster hit in the process. It’s absolute 80s fluff, but director Martin Brest gives it some flash, and Murphy’s ability to hold the screen is incredible. It opened today in 1984.

Speaking of star-making turns today also saw the release of The Blue Angel, Joseph von Sternberg’s classic about a German professor who becomes obsessed with a local cabaret singer, played by Marlene Dietrich. It’s notable mainly for turning Dietrich into an international sensation, as well as being the first feature-length sound film to come out of Germany. (It also gave us the raw materials for Madeline Kahn’s pitch-perfect send-up in Blazing Saddles.) It opened in the United States today in 1930.

Flash Gordon was no one’s idea of a hit: intended to capitalize on the success of Star Wars but drowning in its opulent kitsch and barely making its budget back upon initial release. That kitsch provided it with a ton of staying power, however, and today it’s earned its status as a celebrated cult classic. (Thank you Freddie Mercury.) Flash Gordon opened today in 1980.

Good Will Hunting was released almost 20 years ago. Equally hard to believe that it scored its two writers (and co-stars) Matt Damon and Ben Affleck a shared screenwriting Oscar, and launched them into the stratosphere of superstardom that neither has yet to vacate. (Affleck’s also proven himself a talented director, though Damon does much better at keeping out of the tabloids.) The film also scored an acting Oscar for the late Robin Williams, whose straight dramatic term reminded the Academy that he could do more than be funny. The film opened today in 1997.

Ten years later, another Best Screenplay winner hit theaters: Juno, a very funny (and insightful) look at teen pregnancy and the pressures of adulthood. It handles a tough issue with delicacy and insight, while also providing a showcase for some very talented character actors (including Allison Janney, JK Simmons and Jason Bateman). Ellen Page is the straw that stirs the drink, and the diminutive actress scored an Oscar nomination of her own for her performance as the title character. (Dear Hollywood, please get the hell over your homophobia and give this woman more work.) Juno opened today in 2007.

 

 

 

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