The way the 80s were, we can’t always be all Strawberry-Shortcake-and-jelly-shoes around here. Occasionally we have to talk about less frivolous stuff, too… with good reason.
And in the early days on 1989 things got REAL serious down at the movie theater with the premiere of Mississippi Burning; not since Oliver Stone’s 1986 masterpiece Platoon had such a brutal, gritty, haunting movie come down the pike.
Based on the true story of the FBI’s investigation into the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in the summer of 1964, Mississippi Burning opened a lot of young people’s eyes to the way life used to be in the deep South… and for those people who were alive in the 60s, it served as a very harsh reminder.
Directed by Alan Parker (Pink Floyd – The Wall), it starred Willem Defoe as Mr. Ward (the straight-laced, liberal-minded G-Man) and Gene Hackman as Mr. Anderson (the former Southern sheriff who had a more… shall we say–– in-your-face approach).
With a supporting cast that included Brad Dourif as the town’s weasely deputy sheriff, Frances McDormand as his wife, and Michael Rooker as one of the most callous and bigoted people ever put on film, Mississippi Burning was just about as compelling as they come.
From the opening scene of the three boys being chased down at night and then shot in their car, to what is (in our mind) the best scene ever filmed in a barbershop chair, the movie was an honest, gritty, and superbly-written requiem to an ugly time in American history.
And then there was that particularly terrifying scene when the town’s mayor (played by Full Metal Jacket‘s R. Lee Ermey) was kidnapped by a ‘special’ FBI agent and taken to a little shack in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t flinch repeatedly, you’re simply not human.
Mississippi Burning didn’t do great in the box office (hmmmm… perhaps the subject matter was a little too, um, difficult to watch?). It only earned $34 million and finished the year as the #33 movie.
More importantly, though, it snared 7 Oscar nominations, and won one (for Best Cinematography). It may have lost out to Rain Man for Best Picture, but even today we still consider it the best and more important movie of its day.
Whew… think it’s time for us to go watch a couple episodes of Kissyfur.
We ♥ Mississippi Burning.