Thursday, July 01, 2010

GEEK PROJECT: 1981 - Part 2


This one will have to evolve in instalments.

So - following on from Part 1 (the opener + the 18 Best Films of the Year), we continue with the Honourable Mentions.

  1. GREGORY'S GIRL (Bill Forsyth)
    ***
    ½
    The definitive Scottish take on awkward budding sexuality. Evidently a revelation at the time, and still funny and likable, even if at times it feels a bit too much like a sitcom pilot that accidentally stumbled onto a big screen.

  2. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Steven Spielberg)
    ***
    ½
    Plenty of fun, to be sure, though it could have done with a bit more of that 30s-pulp boys-own spirit and less of the textureless, distinctly-80s-blockbuster vibe.

  3. LOLA (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
    ***
    ½

  4. TAXI ZUM KLO (Frank Ripploh)
    ***
    ½
    A witty, brutally thorough (rectal-exam-in-close-up-thorough) assessment of gay life in Berlin on the cusp of the AIDS outbreak.

  5. FOUR FRIENDS (Arthur Penn)
    ***
    ½
    A Yugoslav immigrant and his colourful high school posse come of age and grow into fucked-up adulthood as America undergoes a jarring cultural shift. The script aims for, and often shakily achieves, guile and complexity that were rare in Hollywood around this time. Director Arthur Penn reaches for a sensibility that’s two parts Euro-arthouse, three parts Hollywood sheen. It works out to roughly one part success, two parts not quite – but even the failed strands contain a warm sense of place, grains of truth and wild inspiration, not to mention some of the more startling setpieces you’ll ever see in a high-pedigree American drama.

  6. THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER (Jim Henson)
    ***½
    Much more consistent and way more fun than the first Muppet Movie.

  7. SCANNERS (David Cronenberg)
    ***½
    If the cartoonish dialogue and miserable dubbing give you some reservations to begin with, by the time that firts head explodes you know you're under the spell of a singularly warped mind. Cronenberg maintains the tension despite the uniformly tuneless, merciless acting.

  8. MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (Louis Malle)
    ***½

  9. REDS (Warren Beatty)
    ***½
    To watch it is to marvel at three-hours-plus of unchecked ambition and a mind-boggling concept: Hollywood studio money shovelled into a righteous cause with no viable hope of recovery, much less profit. Beatty is a photogenic John Reed, Diane Keaton a slightly one-note if plucky Louise Bryant, and their tempestuous romance plays out against years of political turmoil, Greenwich Village free love, Bolsheviks uprising, American socialists in-fighting and a barely interrupted barrage of heated left-wing dialectics. A limp Jack Nicholson stands in for Eugene O’Neill, with Maureen Stapleton giving the film its freshest gusts of energy as anarchist Emma Goldman. Director-producer-co-writer-star-egomaniac-wide-eyed-idealist Beatty has no less than Stephen Sondheim score his obsessive venture, and Vittorio Storaro take care of the lensing (which is elegant, though not expressive). The film talks about the spirit of the times more than it captures it, but you have to admire how for so much of its running time it stubbornly prizes ideas over romanticism.

  10. TIME BANDITS (Terry Gilliam)
    ***
    ½
    Terry Gilliam moved to directing features (solo) with this time-travelling-dwarves adventure aimed at eight-year-olds of all ages. You have to slog through a glut of celebrity cameos to get to the good stuff: some sinister-wondrous surrealism, a fabulous villain and a delicious sense of danger. There are some creationist undertones though, that leave an aftertaste.
From here on, the mentions are less honourable, but generally interesting.

  1. THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN (Karel Reisz)
    ***
    A worthwhile experiment that never coheres into something more significant because neither of the two love stories is particularly developed.

  2. MAN OF IRON (Andrzej Wajda)
    ***
    The more thudding his project’s political significance the more likely Andrzej Wajda is to give into his more literal, synth-scored tendencies. The most satisfying aspect of this Palme d’or winner is that it delivers Man of Marble’s previously suppressed ending when the great Krystyna Janda turns up (about 100 minutes in) to deliver an effortless essay on how aggressive youthful idealism evolves into relaxed disillusionment. The documentary sequences also carry some force though not necessarily because of the way Wajda employs them.

  3. MODERN ROMANCE (Albert Brooks)
    ***
    An uncommonly radical American studio product: essentially a mumblecore movie with a budget and big names. (Well - one big name, which based on body-hair-coverage alone, would never be big today.) You have to admire it, though you can't necessarily enjoy it. For that you pretty much have to be a thirtysomething, Jewish-American, woman-hating, furry-backed neurotic with a job in the film industry.

  4. EYE OF THE NEEDLE (Richard Marquand)
    ***

  5. THE TRAGEDY OF A RIDICULOUS MAN (Bernardo Bertolucci)
    ***
    You know you're in the hands of a master, and equally, you know he is in the early stages of a decline.

  6. MOMMIE DEAREST (Frank Perry)
    ***
    Yes, it's every bit as tacky and misguided and inept as you've heard, and more. Few people on-screen and behind seem aware of what it is precisely that they are perpetrating. But there are several delightfully unhinged (albeit endless) sequences that hit a fever of pitch of such raw, tasteless, unremitting hysteria that you have to sit back and nod in outraged approval.

  7. THIEF (Michael Mann)
    ***
    Michael Mann's directorial debut: a bloated mashup of mafia thriller and charactre study. Depending on your sensibility, you'll find there is too much of one and not enough of the other, though you are bound to find it rewarding in patches.

  8. MEPHISTO (Istvan Szabo)
    ***
    An opulent serving of period highbrow Europudding, as much motivated by a fascination for Nazi Germany as by prestige lust. Like its lead performance by much-praised Klaus Maria Brandauer, it’s showy, reasonably compelling, and thoroughly smitten with its sense of achievement.

  9. MS. 45 (Abel Ferrara)
    ***

  10. LILI MARLEEN (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
    ***

  11. THE EVIL DEAD (Sam Raimi)
    ***
    In his notorious debut Sam Raimi demonstrates an efficiency that is reminiscent of Ed Wood, though of course in a knowing way. Your fondness of this ultimate in gruesome, ultra-low-budget, sequel-spawning gore-fests depends on your stomach for such things. But there are several very effective patches that signal a talent that could use some money and a competent cast.

  12. RAGTIME (Milos Forman)
    ***

  13. AGONY (Elem Klimov)
    ***
    You have to admire the guile, the hubris, the balls or whatever it takes to dub your movie ‘AGONY'(!!). It’s another look into the lechery and general creepiness of Rasputin. Alas, more of writer-director Elem Klimov’s considerable imagination goes into evoking the feel of the period and aestheticised horror effects than does into the characterisation.

  14. EIJANAIKA (Shohei Imamura)
    ***

  15. CHRISTIANE F. (Uli Edel)
    ***

  16. ON GOLDEN POND (Mark Rydell)
    ***
    Despite solid acting and the intriguing Fonda vs. Fonda pairing, it boils down to more of a Hallmark moment than a movie event.

  17. EXCALIBUR (John Boorman)
    ***
    A puffing, photogenic mess. John Boorman races through the Arthurian legend as if checking the major events off a list (in a matter of minutes, Arthur is conceived and grows besotted with Guinevere) and strips them of their mythical grandeur in a manner that feels more inept than revisionist.
    Merlin is a ham, Arthur is wooden, Lancelot and Guinevere pass for softcore porn stars. As Morgana, a young, spirited Helen Mirren snatches tiny Mordred from her own loins in what is cinema's funniest birth sequence. Later her face is strategically positioned to disguise a fog machine.
    Ultimately however, all the wooden dialogue and misconceived setpieces come at you so fast, it all becomes perversely entertaining. There may not be much dramatic weight to the proceedings, but there's plenty of swords and tits and bloodletting. And the vivid, vibrant lensing showcases all the most flattering bits of the cheap sets.

  18. CUTTER'S WAY (Ivan Passer)
    ***
    A murder mystery which has developed a limited but enthusiastic enough cult following to make you expect more flashes of personality than the movie really offers. It's well-acted and admirably committed to character as far as the central trio is concerned. But the characters in the sidelines never make a whole lot of sense, and there isn't enough atmosphere or insight to justify the plot's routine meandering.

  19. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (John Glen)
    ***
    A Bond addition that has caused much debate. Some argue it's the best of the post-Connerys, others argue the opposite. For all that, though it does slightly veer from certain Bond conventions, in the end it doesn't amount to anything more (or less) notable than the functional glamour spy package we were accustomed to prior to the solemn Casino Royale reboot.

  20. ARTHUR (Steve Gordon)
    ***

    When it isn't shrill, it's likable enough. But when you think of the kind of magic the studios once conjured up with ditzy broads, meet cutes, loony millionaires and wisecracking butlers, you want to weep.

  21. MONTENEGRO (Dusan Makavejev)
    ***
    Like a half-formed Bunuel sketch fluffed up with pubic hair. Made when the once-great Dusan Makavejev’s career was resolutely in decline, it’s rarely all that clever though it ambles along jauntily enough.

  22. POLYESTER (John Waters)
    ***
...

Soon to come, the curious and sometimes
inexplicably acclaimed also-rans, and my own 1981 awards ballot.

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