Friday, July 02, 2010

GEEK PROJECT: 1981 - Part 3. THE RECKONING!

It's time to wrap this up with the twenty films that didn't make my Top 50 for 1981. Since Blogspot is screwing with me, I will provide another link to Part 1 (the 18 Best and Thoroughly Remarkable Films of 1981) as well as Part II (the Resolutely Worthwhile Ones Ranked from 19 to 50). Now, of course there is a reason the titles that follow didn't make the Top 50, they're well worth seeking out if you have a fascination for cultural relics (nos. 53, 55, 59, 61, 63) and compelling failures (nos. 51, 52) and hilariously tacky, strikingly misjudged failures (no. 64). Then there's also the outright failures, which have disturbingly managed to amass critical acclaim and which variously offend me as an arthouse moviegoer (no. 67), as a homosexual (no. 70), as a person with a set attention span (no. 65) and as a human being (70 again).

But do let's carry on.

  1. 51. KNIGHTRIDERS (George A. Romero)
    ***

    A young and beautiful Ed Harris heads an intinerant troupe of performing motorcyclists who put on odd medieval jousting homages on bikes across the mid-West. As writer-director Romero charts their family-like dynamics with much affection and detail. The characters themselves though, don't warrant explorations in such detail. And though difficult to dislike, the film itself doesn't warrant a 2½-hour running time.

  2. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (Lou Adler)
    **
    *

  3. DRAGONSLAYER (Matthew Robbins)
    **
    ½

  4. THEY ALL LAUGHED (Peter Bogdanovich)
    **½
    Bogdanovich spies on Audrey Hepburn for close to an hour and doesn't let her speak (while regularly cutting away to several people who just won't shut up). Then in a rush he piles her with melancholy, very much 'written' monologues that are meant to evoke a lifetime's half-suppressed regret. No amount of star charisma or imperious grace could make them resonate.

  5. BEAU PERE (Bertrand Blier)
    **½
    Polite aestheticised titillation. With clever dialogue and a lovely, melancholy piano score which too often succeeds in distracting you from the lechery.

  6. PRINCE OF THE CITY (Sidney Lumet)
    **½
    A polished fact-based testosterone-heavy police corruption exposé barely distinguishable from any other. Certainly the effort is to be admired, as is the moral complexity permitted to the protagonist. Alas, he is played by Treat Williams, who is frighteningly out of his depth.

  7. S.O.B. (Blake Edwards)
    **½
    (AKA. The One Where Julie Andrews Bares Her Tits!)
    Shrill, endless, casually sexist and – since we’re talking Blake Edwards, of course – racist. The actors are perpetually holding for laughs, except no one’s laughing. Other than the director presumably.

  8. GALLIPOLI (Peter Weir)
    **½
    ‘Gallipoli’ is to Australians as the Alamo is to Americans: gruesome historical events fetishised into grim, sacred legends to be approached only with hushed reverence. It isn’t shocking to find this script paralysed with such reverence, even if half of it is just fresh-faced recruits joshing around to parade their naivety (only so that their inevitable slaughter really cuts you up). Since the project comes charged with the kind of self-importance that is often mistaken for a legitimate goal in itself, Peter Weir is rarely compelled to contribute anything productive to the proceedings. Though when he does – through transporting, faintly surreal imagery – it’s quite something.

  9. HANDS UP (Jerzy Skolimowski)
    **½

  10. SOUTHERN COMFORT (Walter Hill)
    **½

  11. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (John Carpenter)
    **
    In the future, when everyone's hair still looks like the 80s and Manhattan is a giant maximum-security prison where the President is abducted, we ought to call on Kurt Russell to put on his spandex, refrain from smiling, converse exclusively in tacky catch phrases, and naturally save the world.

  12. CHARIOTS OF FIRE (Hugh Hudson)
    **
    The kind of decorous, stultifying triumph of the spirit tale that is a staple of afternoon TV programming around the Commonwealth. Thanks to countless parodies, it is now difficult - if at all possible - to keep a straight face during the hysterical slow-mo climax. Impressionable Ampass voters however, ranked this above Atlantic City and Raiders of the Lost Ark, not to mention the dozens of really exciting films that weren’t even nominated.

  13. THE PROFESSIONAL (Georges Lautner)
    **
    A greasy, overtanned Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a cross between James Bond and Rambo. He's so powerful and virile that when he punches a man (or the occasional lesbian), it sounds like a car crash.

  14. RICH AND FAMOUS (George Cukor)
    **
    Jacqueline Bisset is a New Yorker with unostentatious makeup, who dresses and speaks in exclusively flat tones. Candice Bergen on the other hand, dolled up like a House of West Coast Horrors, can barely end a sentence without throwing in some of Momma’s Down South folksy wisdom. The two are life-long frenemies who grow up to be prizewinning celebrity novelists. The great George Cukor’s final film is shapeless soap opera. It wants to be both witty and scarily poignant but – from middle-aged Bisset bedding a muscled teen off the street to the fact that neither of the stars convinces as a person who’s read a novel much less written one within the past thirty years – it’s all false.

  15. DAS BOOT (Wolfgang Petersen)
    **
    Maybe it’s my own fault for hiring the Director’s Cut... But I swear - I’ve seen Tarkovsky films where more things happen at a zippier pace, and certainly with more meaning. Hell, I’ve seen Bela Tarr films where solemn, bearded men take fewer, shorter pauses mid-sentence.

  16. GARDE A VUE (Claude Miller)
    **

  17. SMASH PALACE (Roger Donaldson)
    **
    In rural New Zealand, a rough mechanic type and his French schoolteacher wife have strained, oppressively literal fights, then separate. Because, like every woman, she is a fake, unrelenting bitch, she shacks up with his best friend and gets a court order to keep the child from him. He packs a gun and goes off the rails. But Roger Donaldson and his co-writers Peter Hansard and Bruno Lawrence want you to feel for him, because – dubious though his actions are – at least he’s not a woman.

  18. THE FOX AND THE HOUND (Richard Rich)
    *
    ½
    Blatantly half-assed Disney. The studio's lowpoint.

  19. ABSENCE OF MALICE (Sydney Pollack)
    *
    ½
    Sydney Pollack works off a sturdy framework of irreproachable prestige: an economical, colourless plot, Ampass-endorsed stars, sets and lighting borrowed from All the President’s Men. The self-satisfaction of all involved is solemn and prevalent. They even expect you’ll swallow the concept of Paul Newman and Sally Field (!) as compatible sexual partners.

  20. MAD MAX 2 (George Miller)
    *½
    You know what’s the most fucked up thing about the future? Gangs of malevolent sado-masochistic butless-chap-wearing homosexuals will rule the world. Unless solemn heterosexuals with family values are around to stop them. Even if you go past the ideology (not that you should), this is only a bloated, leaden do-over of the original, with George Miller falling for the credo that you don’t need to try as hard when you have a bigger budget.

...

And that's a wrap! Yaay!

My brain is a bit spent, so I will have to dole out my awards without comments. But I would like to point out that all of the year's most staggering acting was done by German actors and one French actress acting in Germany.


Best Director:
Eric Rohmer (The Aviator's Wife)
runner-ups: Francois Truffaut (The Woman Next Door)
Volker Schlondorff (Circle of Deceit)
Jean-Jacques Beineix (Diva)
Francesco Rosi (Three Brothers)


Best Actress:
Hanna Schygulla (Circle of Deceit)
runner-ups: Isabelle Adjani (Possession)
Barbara Sukowa (Lola)
Jutta Lampe (Marianne and Juliane)
Hanna Schygulla (Lili Marleen)


Best Actor:
Bruno Ganz (Circle of Deceit)
runner-ups: Armin-Mueller Stahl (Lola)
James Caan (Thief)
Ugo Tognazzi (The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man)
Robert Duvall (True Confessions)


Best Screenplay:
Eric Rohmer (The Aviator's Wife)
runner-ups: Francois Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman, Jean Aurel (The Woman Next Door)
Jean-Claude Carriere, Kai Hermann, Volker Schlondorff, Margarethe von Trotta (Circle of Deceit)
Dennis Potter (Pennies from Heaven)
Margarethe von Trotta (Marianne and Juliane)


Best Cinematography:
Pasqualino De Santis (Three Brothers)
runner-ups: Igor Luther (Circle of Deceit)
Philippe Rousselot (Diva)
Rodolfo Sanchez (Pixote)
Jan Weincke (The Tree of Knowledge)


Best Supporting Actress:
Maureen Stapleton (Reds)
runner-ups: Krystyna Janda (Man of Iron)
Anne-Laure Meury (The Aviator's Wife)
Barbara Sukowa (Marianne and Juliane)
Gila von Weitershausen (Circle of Deceit)


Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth McMillan (Ragtime)
runner-ups: Charles Durning (True Confessions)
Mickey Rourke (Body Heat)
Slobodan Aligrudic (Do You Remember, Dolly Bell?)
Kenneth McMillan (True Confessions)


Best Ensemble:
The Aviator's Wife
runner-ups: Marianne and Juliane
Circle of Deceit
The Woman Next Door
Pennies from Heaven



If you stuck with me all the way through this monster, I thank you dearly - you are remarkable.

And feel free at any time to revisit Part I (Top 18) and II (19-50) of the '81 Geek Project, or even head on over to the 1980 edition.

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