Monday, March 31, 2008

Quality 80s? Part VIII

It's been a couple of weeks, but the quest to catch up on 80s cinema continues with this next batch.

If you missed earlier reflections as 80s films are watched for the first time with a contemporary eye, check out: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII.

This edition contains some very different films from the earlier part of the 80s.

Gallipoli (1981)
Directed by Peter Weir
Recommended by Magnus, Ando, Will & Kat

I don't know exactly what I want to say about this movie, or even how I want to respond. It's definitely a different type of war movie, especially since it involves WWI (the less popular of the World War genre) and deals with army men from Australia (perhaps the least common choice) fighting in Turkey (another less popular war film location). And yet, it all makes sense when you're watching it, but in all honesty the film doesn't becoming engrossing until the final minutes when it's final character development moments all take form in their own horrific way.

Like many of the 80s films, it's interesting to see these still prevalent actors/actresses in their younger days. Mel Gibson as a youthful actor is interesting here. He looks totally different, but his voice is certainly the same. I can't say I loved this film, but I'm glad I watched this. It's amazing to me, especially after watching Mosquito Coast recently as well, to continue to see the different themes and ideas that Peter Weir tries to develop and play with in his films.

Sophie's Choice (1982)
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Recommended by Oscar (best actress Meryl Streep, plus 4 other nods), Will, jeremy

I'm glad I watched this. Of course Meryl Streep is fantastic. Plus it was also fun to see early Kevin Kline (you can see the beginning of many of his crazies characters developing in some of his performance in this film), as well as Peter MacNicol (who I loved in season 6 of 24). All three of these actors do an incredible job. There scenes together are very reminiscent of French films Band of Outsiders or Jules and Jim with the 2 male, 1 female acting trio. Or even at some points of something like Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, except instead of Louisiana it's New York.

Yet, while there's that "french-feeling" story line, there is also the long flash-back sequence which is probably the most powerful moments in the film. Yet with this "film within a film" style it certainly makes for an uneven viewing experience. It's too bad it's so uneven, because the performances are great, the story is interesting, yet the screenwriting and artistic elements limited the film from being cohesive.

The World According to Garp (1982)
Directed by George Roy Hill
Recommended by Oscar (2 nods)

Another unevenly told story, but I think it has far more to do with John Irving's unique writing and story telling skills. Skills that work in books, but with their "passing of time" often leave the viewer at a distance. I'm sure other's have drawn comparison's to The World According to Garp and to Irving's novel Widow for A Year (who's first 80 or so pages became the film The Door in The Floor).

The Academy Awards totally got it right by nominating Glenn Close as the nurse mother who is obsessed with fighting the concept of lust, and John Lithgow the former pro tight end who has undergone a sex change. Both of them do great work, and Glenn completely deserved this Oscar nod, her first of five she would receive in the 80s (although she still has not won an Oscar). Robin Williams is the same Robin Williams we see in other films, just with less finesse and's like pre-Mrs. Doubfire.

The story is kind of weird and quirky, much like Accidental Tourist (which started this entire post-series) but it's a little more cohesive and enjoyable, especially because Glenn Close is amazing.


RJ said...

Paris, Texas and Diva . . . both 80s, both amazing, neither too quirky

Anonymous said...

Gallipoli. That movie still gives me the shivers twenty years after I first saw it.

Notas Sobre Creación Cultural e Imaginarios Sociales said...

I know what you mean with Sophie.
Despite the fact that Meryl is absolutely brilliant, the overall film is weird and uneven.
I was shocked when the AFI put it in the best American films of all time.
But well, the power of Streep.

Glenn said...

Matt Lee - the one who's not Mel Gibson in Gallipoli - is now a director. His debut feature The Bet was released last year and it was quite good.

Gallipoli beach is one of the most important places for Australian culture because so many men died there. A lot of people still take the pilgramige over there on the day we celebrate the veterans (ANZAC Day).

Magnus said...

I never realised that Garp was a Hill film. Highly under appreciated in my book.

As for Gallipoli, perhaps you have to be in the Commonwealth to truly appreciate this one, from one of the former Dominions of the Empire. Canadians and the ANZACs (Australians and New Zealanders) were often used as fodder and given the really tough assignments - better us than born and bred, proper Britons. We are often overlooked in war films.