Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Crazy 80's Project

While watching Repo Man about a week ago, an odd, intriguing sci-fi film from Sid & Nancy director Alex Cox, I had a thought I often have when I think about cinema of the 80's: I have not seen enough from it. I'm sure I've talked about this before, but ever since I fell in love with the cinema, I have been a strict devotée of TCM. I have seen many, many, many wonderful films on that channel, so I would never say anything negative about the channel. However, the word "classic" is in the title and that means they show very little from the 80's (outside of their annual 31 Days of Oscar marathon). People are surprised when I, the huge film geek that I am, haven't seen such-and-such big, widely known film from the 80's.

I've thought about this "problem" before, but this is the first time I decided to do something about it. I came up with a list of five films from each year of the 80's I'm determined to see. In an attempt to keep this interesting, I tried to come up with a mix of box office hits, popular arthouse films and cult films from a variety of different genres (even from genres I'm not normally interested in). What I tried to stay away from was the major Oscar films of the decade; most of what I have seen from the decade have been the Oscar nominees in the major categories. When I did pick an Oscar nominee, it was either an atypical, genre film (Raiders, Aliens) or something I have been curious about for years (Last Temptation).

So, what should you, as a reader, expect from this big project of mine? I'd like to say I'll review each of these films, but I realize that is a farfetched goal. Hopefully I can manage at least a paragraph about each of them, when I do get around to seeing them. I don't have a set date to finishing this project because we all know that I'd never make it. I plan on taking my time and enjoying some of the high points of the decade.

Without further ado, here is the list. What do you all think? Are there any must-see films I'm missing? 

1980
The Shining Eerie, unsettling sense of environment lends much more grit to this horror film. A-
Cruising
Xanadu
Friday the 13th
Fame The precursor to nearly every great high school film made afterwards. B+

1981
Raiders of the Lost Ark Efficient filmmaking, everything lacks true passion. Sexism a joke. C+
Diva A film full of missed opportunities: bulky narrative when it should be as sleek as possible, dull lead characters, including a toned down, in-control diva (what?!). D+
Man of Iron
Raggedy Man
Excalibur

1982
Veronika Voss
First Blood
Fitzcarraldo All the elements of an epic never once come together to feel like an epic. Great set pieces, though. B-
Making Love Dated gay melodrama that has neither many highs or lows. Mostly ho-hum but a few moments in the lives of these "ordinary people" ring true. C+
One From the Heart

1983
Scarface
Ballad of Narayama
Risky Business
WarGames Not as silly as expected. No real sense of terror here but it is a sleek, engaging thriller. B-
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

1984
Beverly Hills Cop
Splash
The Times of Harvey Milk A lively and engaging portrait of a man who could honestly be called a visionary hero. A-
Once Upon a Time in America
Ghostbusters

1985
Shoah
Clue One of the finest comedic ensembles ever assembled. Raise what should have been lame cash-in on "brand" into a genuinely hilarious film. B+
Back to the Future
Brazil
The Official Story

1986
Top Gun
Aliens Brilliant sense of environment. True edge-of-your-seat excitement. Weaver is a motherfucking badass. A-
The Fly
The Sacrifice
Labyrinth

1987
The Last of England
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
Babette's Feast
Hollywood Shuffle Striking observations about race in Hollywood. Couldn't it have pushed a little harder? B
Withnail & I Comedic British Miserablism. Certainly has its merits but not for me. B-

1988
The Last Temptation of Christ
Hairspray Every bit as joyous as its musical adaptation with the added benefit of Waters' sly racial commentary and the glorious Divine. B+
Colors
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Grave of the Fireflies Haunting, paralyzing, tense, melodramatic, but never soft or overly sentimental. An exemplary look at the cost of war. *Breaks down in tears again* A

1989
When Harry Met Sally... The reinvention of the romantic comedy. Ryan & Crystal are the perfect romcom couple. Who'd have guessed? A-
Heathers Brings style and substance to high school comedy subgenre. Has a very unique voice that is sometimes completely stumbled over by actors. B+
Jésus de Montréal
Batman
Sweetie

5 comments:

Glenn Dunks said...

Well, it's difficult. Do you want films that are ostensibly "'80s" (like John Hughes, Wild Style/Beat Street), excellent films that may have gone under the radar (Star 80, Colors, Torch Song Trilogy) or films that went on to become great, important films of the '80s (Ruthless People, Galipoli, Videodrome, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior).

I can certainly recommend all of those, plus stuff like Gates of Heaven, The Thing, Purple Rain, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Mask, My Beautiful Laundrette, Dance with a Stranger, Babette's Feast, Dead End Drive-In, Superstar, Hairspray, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Roger & Me. And that's ignoring the big Oscar heavies.

Dame James said...

I'm really going for a combination of all three, plus major blockbusters that more or less defined the decade (whether or not they are any good). You do have some good recommendations though. I may have to add a couple to my list!

StinkyLulu said...

Glenn's suggestions are great.

As one who was there, I might add the following. Each of these U.S. films felt iconoclastic upon first sight and each have (in my estimation) had an enduring impact.

Bladerunner (1982)
First Blood (1982)
Poltergeist (1982)
Blood Simple (1984)
The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Parting Glances (1986)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Heathers (1989)

Glenn said...

Movies that defined the '80s? You'd have to go with stuff like Fatal Attraction, Heathers and Bladerunner definitely.

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