Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Quality 80s? Part XIV

Still unsure when I will finish this project, it just seems like the more 80s films I watch, the well...more I want to watch or the more films I feel I much see to be more substantially "caught up" with the 80s. (Even when some are disappointing).

For those who are new this project was inspired by an attempt to "catch-up" on some 80s films and finding myself very disappointed. With the help of some recommendations and a little perseverance, I've definitely found a few gems...as well as some that can stay in the 80s.The previous quality 80s post can be accessed through the following links: Part I, Part II, art III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, & Part VII, & Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, and Part XIII.

Ordinary People (1980)
Directed by Robert Redford
Recommended by Oscar (nominated for 6 Oscars, won 4, including Best Picture), crackers and cheese, and ehome.

I liked this film, and I imagine that the film had much more of a punch when it was first released. In a way it reminded me of many of the themes in American Beauty, particularly the effort to make sure things looked good on the outside, while everything was falling apart on the inside, and that the home was the only place where all the messes collided. Timothy Hutton really does do a phenomenal job in this role, as does the rest of the cast as well. There are very few "contemporary" family dramas that are capable of packing an emotional or challenging punch without seeming like a Lifetime or Hallmark movie. You can really see how Ordinary People influenced later movies.

Mary Tyler Moore's character is incredibly disturbing, and the father portrayal of Donald Sutherland is certainly very powerful. It's incredible how all these characters carry the film.

Things Change (1988)
Directed by David Mamet
Recommended by no one.

This movie was so delightful. No one things was so astounding to make it a treasured classic, yet at the same time it's wacky play-like turns of events and coincidences make it so enjoyable. With the "plans-gone-wrong" theme, a strong sense of place, and William H. Macy's role as the blond haired Limo Driver it seemed like a toned-down Coen brothers picture. It didn't mater to me that Joe Mantegna acting was characteristically uninspiring, because somehow it matched the tone of the film.

Since no one recommended this film to me, I recommend it to you. It's a fun story of a an old shoe shine man (Don Ameche) who is going to take the fall for a crime he didn't commit, and when not-so-impressive Gangster (Joe Mantegna) decides to do the man a favor and take him to Lake Tahoe instead of holding him in a hotel room for the weekend. The events that follow get blown out of proportion. Watch it, let me know what you think.

Atlantic City (1980)
Directed by Louis Malle
Recommended by Oscar (5 nominations, including Best Picture)

Blah! This film is intriguing, that is for certain. Screenwriter John Guare does a great job of throwing you into the story full of unique and interesting characters from Atlantic City, but not quite knowing how they all fit together.

Yet the problem with this film is that as the intriguing roles, performed by talented performers unroll, the characters each end up being as unattractive as the dilapidated Atlantic City itself. Burt Lancaster and Susan Surandon certainly do a great job in their roles. Yet every character in this film is empty, shallow, selfish, and frankly unreedeming. The movie's story doesn't end with a huge finale, or satisfying tie-up, rather it just ends making you feel unsatisfied. It's worthy of a film discussion, but not necessarily casual entertainment. It is definitely not one of my favorites I have watched thus far.


crackers and cheese said...

Glad you enjoyed Ordinary People! I hadn't thought about it, but it probably has been an influential film for future "family dramas." It's strange to me that Timothy Hutton won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, when I feel like his character had the most screen time. But it truly is an ensemble drama, and like you said, every family member carried their part well.

I'm glad that this project has continued for you, but when it does have to end, I'd enjoy reading some sort of wrap up conclusion of your thoughts. Maybe a list of your Top 10 or 20 films from the 80's, and a list of 10 Films That Should Stay in the 80's?

Fox said...

I'm happy to see that you liked *Things Change*. I've always found that movie delightful too, especially coming after Mamet's *House of Games*.

Thing is, I'd never heard of it until I looked up Mamet's movies on IMDB one day. I guess it kinda went nowhere on release. And still, today, it kind of stands out from the rest of his work.

Lorna said...

I loved "Things Change". It's the movie that made me an everlasting fan of William H. Macy.

cathy b. said...

Ordinary People is on my list of Most Faithful to the Book. I was in awe when it came out. I took my Dad to see it and that night he gave me a goodnight hug - and he was not a hugger.

Darrell said...

I've been enjoying the "Quality 80's" series of posts, you've seen some of my favorite films and I've enjoyed reading your comments. I hope you'll be able to see the Sean Penn / Christopher Walken movie At Close Range at some point. It's a VERY 80's film, both in terms of it's own visual pallet and in terms of subject matter. But it's a wonderful, "quality" movie. It features some great performances and it's the kind of movie that really sticks with you after you see it.

RC said...

@ Darrell, I will definitly watch that soon. It's sitting right next to my DVD player :-)