Friday, August 4, 2023

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1984: The End of the Year

Our last day of non-Oscar-nominated 1984 films. Here we go:

Paris, Texas
November 2

Good ol' slow cinema. Will I tell you the plot? No - I went in knowing nothing except that everyone I know that'd seen it seemed to think it the greatest thing since the Lumiere workers left the factory. I can tell you there's a man wandering the desert, his brother comes to his rescue, and from there, unspoken but deeply felt revelations, wells of emotion, bubble up on Harry Dean Stanton's lined, seen-it-all face. And then there's a scene that I can only call The Phone Call, and if that doesn't knock you dead, I don't know how to help you. Everyone was right.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
November 9

I'm still not sure the rules or characters are consistent, but the idea that you're being stalked by a relentless predator and there's no safe place because to sleep is to die but to stay awake forever is to go mad is a genuine, well, nightmare. Clever kills (the justly famous Depp one!). Spooky score. I wish I liked these movies more. It's odd to me that Freddy vs. Jason is a perfect horror movie yet neither of those monsters' original movies do much for me.

A Sunday in the Country
November 16

An elderly painter in the countryside is visited by family, including a surprise drop-in from his daughter. Think I'll need to see it a second time: it didn't fully take, and while usually, I'd deduce from that that the movie was dull, there is this bittersweet serenity that I feel thinking about certain shots, a certain "hmm, that was probably sublime" feeling I have for Sabine Azéma's performance. But this is why I'm not a professional critic, you can't file beard-stroking on someone else's dime.

Falling in Love
November 21

Fate seems to bring Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep together, they are inexplicably drawn to each other, they're both married, but something is happening, and they can't resist it...or can they? Some will be automatically turned off by the entire premise: I'm gonna root for adulterers? I get that, but I think this film deals with that quite maturely. Yes, it is selfish, and would they even be considering this action were it not for other things happening around them, and does anyone think this could last beyond the fantasy of what-if? De Niro and Streep give masterful restrained performances; Jane Kaczmarek gets a dynamite scene in the second half. Great hemming-and-hawing dramatization. Finds eroticism in sustaining a lack of touch, a lack of eye contact, even as you feel the draw between them. Whew!

November 21

Superman's niece comes to Earth and must do battle with a powerful witch. Helen Slater seems nice, does OK, I don't think the movie thinks much of her character. Faye Dunaway is the villain, living with Brenda Vaccaro in an abandoned funhouse converted into an apartment: these broads are from an entirely different movie. I can't bag too hard on Supergirl, it's whatever, but The Faye & Brenda Show needed three uninterrupted hours of shenanigans. What a blast they're having! This might be my favorite Vaccaro performance?

Mass Appeal
December 14

Jack Lemmon is a popular priest who can make his homilies funny without ever really having anything of substance to say; Zeljko Ivanek is a young seminarian who wants to liberalize the Church while under Lemmon's wing. They clash, but they also bring out the best in each other. I thought it a thoughtful, funny dramedy about how we express our morality, how we engage with people who share our faith but not our principles, where the line is with those, the relationship between politics and preaching. Couldn't believe that if it wasn't for the National Board of Review putting it on their Top Ten of 1984, I wouldn't have even heard of it! This is a funny, lovely little movie!

Nineteen Eighty-Four
December 14

Adaptation of Orwell's dystopian novel. Wonderful blank-til-he-ain't John Hurt performance, perfectly grey cinematography/costumes/sets, a chilling National Anthem (the opening scene is one of the best I've seen), Richard Burton in great form as a seemingly sleepwalking menace. Not my favorite subgenre, not a book I'm into, but honestly, I really dug the movie.

December 21

Recommended by a number of people, including the National Board of Review and jury of the 1985 Cannes Film Festival. To them, I say: y'all are crazy, what on earth do you like about this movie?

Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo
December 21

Sequel to Breakin', this time filmed mostly in Boyle Heights, in which the local breakdance-friendly community center is under threat by a developer who wants to make it into a shopping center - it's up to our scrappy young heroes to save the center by putting on a show! Fantastical dance sequences, better executed than those in the original. Apparently inspired by actual threats to Radio-Tron, which still gets a number of showcase numbers here. In real life, I live near the original Radio-Tron: it's a shopping center now. Makes for a sober viewing experience, that.

Mrs. Soffel
December 26

True story of a warden's wife in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh who falls in love with a convict waiting to be executed for murder. What. A. Movie. Is the guy really an innocent given a bum rap, or is he just hot enough to inspire a movement for his release? Does he love Mrs. Soffel, or is he taking advantage of a desperately sad and lonely woman? Is Mrs. Soffel in her right mind? Does she believe he loves her, or is she looking for an excuse, any excuse, to blow up her life? And what of God??? Diane Keaton is extraordinary in this, scared and titillated all at once. Mel Gibson, dammit, is great! Keaton's youngest daughter is played by Jennifer Dundas, who 12 years later played her only child ("I'm a lesbian. A big one.") in The First Wives Club. Great, great, great movie. No notes.

Oscar-nominated films released during this period: The Killing Fields in November; Beverly Hills Cop, 2010, The Cotton Club, Dune, A Passage to India, Starman and The River in December.

Sunday, we start in on the Academy Award nominees as we discuss 2010, The Cotton Club, Dune, Romancing the Stone, and The Times of Harvey Milk.

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