Archive for the 1980s Category

River’s Edge (T. Hunter, 1986)

Posted in 1980s, 7/10 on April 16, 2014 by chrisfilm

River’s Edge (Tim Hunter, 1986)

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.  –Proverbs 22:24-25

Not quite the troubled teenage life film I thought it was going to be. Exaggerated in both the presentation of youth’s passive attitude and in the performances of the actor’s involved, it’s far from ‘real’ and instead lives in the realm of realistic surrealism. (Yes I just made up that oxymoronic term!) It really is bizarre watching the mostly passive reaction to learning one of their friends has killed another. There is definite internal moral wrestling occurring in almost every character, but it really does not detract from the important things like when they are getting their next hit, or who they are going to make out with next. Hunter’s odd and over-the-top depiction of troubled youth is neither completely successful nor a failure; I just couldn’t quite break its outer shell.  6.75/10

river's edge


My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett, 1983)

Posted in 1980s, 9/10 on February 4, 2014 by chrisfilm

My Brother’s Wedding (Charles Burnett, 1983)

A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?  –Proverbs 18:14

In a room lit only by a green-shaded lamp, the dim glow shines on the faces of two men and a woman. The woman and one man share a mechanical laugh together as they discuss in a near zombie-like quality how much they enjoyed the recently told joke. The other man stands by the window, distant, uninterested. The two men are brothers, and the woman one brother’s fiancée. And despite these brother’s being in an unbroken family, this is a broken family, and it’s illustrated no more perfectly than in this seemingly random scene – a dream, a memory, or perhaps just another chapter in the reality of cold familial relationships for our protagonist.

my brother's wedding

Many call this is a film about a man who just can’t quite get his life together. I think it’s a film about a man who has been slowly chipped away over the years by his relatives. The constant jabs about his work ethic and place in the world while giving him no praise for what seems to be a very willingly giving spirit have put him in a place where his one truly loving friend is who he views as real family, despite the friend being in and out of jail and trouble constantly. So as the film’s final scenes unfold, everything happens exactly as you expect, but it’s no less poignant as a result. If anything it’s even more tragic watching things continuously spiral out of control. Overall this honest life depiction is Burnett’s best and most complete work. Having seen the original 1983 version, I can’t imagine what he could have possibly cut out to trim 35 minutes for the director’s cut. But I recommend spending the extra time and seeing the original.  9/10

Major League (Ward, 1989)

Posted in 1980s, 4/10 and below on January 31, 2014 by chrisfilm

Major League (David S. Ward, 1989)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  –Ecclesiastes 4:9

A group of co-workers have been begging me to watch this since we are all baseball fans. I now consider none of them actual baseball fans or even friends. Like most sports movies, this is an embarrassment to the actual sport. This features actors whose execution of the game looks like a bunch of little leaguers, basic misunderstandings of the way the sport actually works, and an awful underdog storyline. Not to mention it’s just another comedy using walking clichés as characters in place of realistic humans with traits and mannerisms that are naturally funny. It doesn’t work as an all out spoof. (Entirely too much of this is to be taken seriously.) And it’s obviously not trying to be a subtle comedy. It’s just a mess in every way imaginable.  3.25/10


Track 29 (Roeg, 1988)

Posted in 1980s, 7/10 on August 27, 2013 by chrisfilm

Track 29 (Nicolas Roeg, 1988)

Another film in the hallucinating housewife “genre”. Well, maybe this isn’t a genre, but it feels like there are a lot of these. Usually I find them somewhat interesting and Track 29 is no different. What helps prevent this from sliding down a slippery slope in storytelling is that the hallucination aspect is revealed very early. We don’t spend the entire movie thinking her hallucination is a real person only to be shocked with a twist ending, and this approach allows viewers to fully enter her haunted world. And Roeg has no problem presenting a wild circus, mostly through Gary Oldman’s eccentric performance. He is intrusive, expressive, destructive, and jumps out of a closet naked; it doesn’t get much more wild than that. Then, when you remember these bizarre events are playing out in a world created by a disturbed woman, it becomes a realistic psychological nightmare. This doesn’t get points for being unique (as I said, I’ve seen this type of movie before, plus aesthetically, this isn’t up to Roeg’s usual standards), but it does everything right to avoid the many potential narrative pitfalls.  7.5/10

track 29

Bell Diamond (Jost, 1986)

Posted in 1980s, 9/10 on July 11, 2013 by chrisfilm

This review contains slight spoilers.

Bell Diamond (Jon Jost, 1986)

Another view of rural realism by Jon Jost – and yes, this stuff is still great. Truth be told, I was sold on this the minute it started and we learn the protagonist is a Royals’ fan. The voices of Bob White and Denny Matthews linger in the background while names like George Brett, Frank White, and Hal McRae pull me right in to the setting. But even with that connection aside, this is a sympathetically presented drama; a man and wife separate and we watch the two deal individually with the days that follow. As he always does, Jost creates an atmosphere that’s as real as it gets. Grainy yet beautiful cinematography matches the industrial town setting. Characters wander, talk slowly and at times nonsensically, with the occasional bit of poetic music thrown in to walk these characters from scene to scene. And the avoidance of painting any one character as ‘wrong’ is the film’s key, because when the final 15 minutes roll around and subtle glimmers of love start poking through (followed by a hokey last scene, but I won’t worry about that), it’s impossible to feel anything other than happiness and relief.  8.5/10

bell diamond

The Quiet Earth (G. Murphy, 1985)

Posted in 1980s, 8/10 on June 6, 2013 by chrisfilm

The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy, 1985)

A ‘last man on Earth’ post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick – yeah, I find this kind of stuff interesting. Having read Stephen King’s The Stand recently, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between this and the middle portion of that novel. Not just the setting is similar, but also the relationships. Both take a look at the idea of what would happen if a man and a woman thought they were the only two human beings they’d ever see again, and then another more desirable ‘mate’ is later thrown into the mix. The differences in how each react are interesting, and perhaps I’ll write an essay about that some other time. ;- ) What The Quiet Earth also has going for it is its nice cinematography – a serene look at a nearly unpopulated Earth photographed in some unique places and with a keen eye for both natural and man-made beauty.  7.75/10

the quiet earth

The Hit (Frears, 1984)

Posted in 1980s, 9/10 on April 16, 2013 by chrisfilm

The Hit (Stephen Frears, 1984)

A waterfall roars in the background as a barely audible Terence Stamp calmly unleashes his wisdom on life, death, and contentment to an onlooking William Hurt – a man tasked with the assignment of Stamp’s execution. A road movie unlike any other, with the company of one more hitman and one more victim, the film follows this group’s travels towards the kidnapped’s scheduled death. Despite its harrowing path, the trip is serene. Gorgeous and quiet surroundings coupled with unique and layered bonds (of both love and hate) that are in constant development make for an odd yet delightful and truthful portrayal of some strange human beings. And by the time the credits roll, the themes of life, death, and contentment rear their heads again in unexpected but poignant fashion. Frears has molded together a captivating and complex drama.  8.75/10

the hit