It’s hard to overestimate the impact a movie like Boys Don’t Cry can have over time: not only for giving voice to a vital social movement, but for putting a very human face on it. Hilary Swank vanquished a very crowded field to win the Best Actress Oscar, and the film itself spoke to the harsh realities facing the LGBT community in ways that more timid mainstream efforts couldn’t. Thanks to the human garbage heap in the White House, its message is still horrifyingly pertinent today. Boys Don’t Cry opened today in 1999.
The other “pedigree” picture opening today is The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich’s bittersweet portrait of a small Texas town in the process of shriveling up and blowing away. It was nominated for a slew of Oscars, and Cloris Leachman brought home the Best Supporting Actress award for her turn as an adulterous housewife. It opened today in 1971.
For better or worse, John Rambo became the symbol of the jingoistic ideals of the Reagan-era, which is why it’s surprising how good his first onscreen appearance actually was. The original First Blood was written as a condemnation of our treatment Vietnam War veterans. Stallone infuses it with a tad too much righteous victimhood, but the central message is powerful and delivered with a lot more panache than the sledgehammer wielded by its sequels. First Blood opened today in 1982.
That same day saw the release of a genuine oddity worth celebrating during the spooky season. It’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the only film in the series not to center around Michael Myers. It arose from the notion that the Halloween franchise should be an anthology, with a new spooky tale every outing. The result was a genuinely bizarre concept involving robots, Stonehenge, and an inexplicably popular series of masks with a nasty surprise lurking in wait. The film bombed when it was first released, but has since earned a cult following, and any fan of cinematic weirdness owes it to themselves to give it a look. It opened today in 1982.
We’ll close with The Grudge, the very popular English-language remake to the J-horror classic that’s earned itself a little respect. Critically maligned on release, it’s since become a touchstone for horror movies of the era, and while it can’t match the original, it taught a whole generation of wide-eyed kids why they should be afraid of the dark. It opened today in 2004.