It’s been a while, perhaps too long, since I threw together a list post. Having perused this weekend’s cinema listings I’m afraid to say there is nothing which potentially floats my boat – 12 Years A Slave I’ve already seen of course and although I got vaguely excited at seeing The Canyons on the schedule this glee was smothered when I realised that it is only showing at midnight screenings over at the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton – not convenient. This may well be the calm before the storm as after this weekend I have quite a demanding schedule movie wise throughout the rest of January, but one doesn’t wish to rest on their laurels so in the interests of utter plagiarism of a podcast series which I follow I’ve decided to copy their lead and select a year and extract a few movies from that period for a few scattered thoughts.
Why 1984? Well, obviously its been three long decades since the Orwellian marker, it’s widely seen as a year where the notion of the blockbuster really began to cement itself as the absolute dominant form of product with marketing budgets equalling production budgets, with focus grouped analysis gaining a new ‘maturity’ and something of a halcyon period as franchise were still being birthed, rather than revisited or rebooted. It’s also the year, roughly speaking, where a certain generation of critic came of age and started to go and see films more than once at the cinema given their new-found economic purchasing power, their cinema obsessions beginning to coalesce in earnest, I’m certainly a member of this movement that poured over film magazines and newspaper articles back in those unimaginable pre-internet days, where the only chance of seeing a trailer was actually at the cinema or if you were lucky as part of the closing titles of Film ’84. The year had a number of big budget smashes which I’m going to sidestep as they’ve already garnered a wealth of nostalgic adoration over the years, Gremlins and Dune I’ve already covered (this is quite amusing), Temple Of Doom has its own kali cult and Ghostbusters is a comedy classic which doesn’t need any further exorcism from me. So instead here are some scattered thoughts on my most memorable and favourite films of 1984 beginning with a positively chilly cult curio;
Ice Pirates (Stuart Raffill) – What a ridiculous premise, that in some far distant future precious and abundant resources would have eroded to such a meagre proportion that wars, conflicts and piracy will be conducted to control them eh? Trailing in the wake of the original Star Wars trilogy this sightly more tounge in cheek cube of bandwagon jumping at least has something of a sense of humor, and with a cast involving early Angelica Huston and Ron Perlman its cult credentials are cooled. This scene always froze in the memory….
Johnny Dangerously (Amy Heckerling) – After Airplane and Police Squad this johnny come lately has been somewhat airbrushed from comedy history, but like Top Secret it still holds a fond space in my and my friends hearts. It’s amusing seeing Michael Keaton before he went superstar at the end of the decade playing some nocturnal psychopath, see also early appearances from Griffin Dunne and the late, great Peter Boyle. The goofy humor still plays if you’re in a juvenile mood, it’s certainly more aligned to sheer gags per minute rather than some self-referential plundering of the gangster movies of the 1930’s which is the source milieu, and that’s probably why it still hangs tough.
Night Of The Comet (Thom Eberthardt) – Aside from the post doomsday setting which is always catnip to the menagerie I have no excuse for my love of this film, it’s just pure, stupid nostalgia, there is not much to praise this film for in terms of script, performance, photography or indeed anything other than a period filtered hazy bleached sky, but this excels as a guilty pleasure which is hardly the end of the world.
Starman (John Carpenter) – In terms of SF yes I’m overlooking The Terminator, Repo Man and Dune which also came to light in 1984, but as Carpenters crafts go this post E.T. effort always gets short thrift on JC’s roll-call. I distinctly remember seeing this on a Saturday night as a special treat VHS rental and being somewhat fascinated with Bridges birdlike performance, post Raiders I’m sure I bore a torch for the cute button nosed Karen Allen as well. A great, memorable soundtrack as always from JC, rumors still rumble of a sequel which of course will never fucking happen – we’ll see Plisken on the Moon before that happens…..
The Company Of Wolves (Neil Jordan) – After La Belle Et la Bete I must admit I’m anxious to revisit this frightening fairy tale, a movie with genuine brooding menace and murky mythic psychosis. It’s a shame Jordan never really seemed to fulfil his potential as an adult themed Tim Burton, even as the budgets shrank you can see the faint pulse of an auteur beating beneath the compromised visions, see for example the frustratingly flawed Byzantium which at least tried to put some bite back into the vampire movie.
Paris Texas (Wim Wenders) – Something a little more serious, it’s always instructive to see a culture through an outsiders eyes, and Wim Wenders cool observations on the American veldt, devoid of empathy, remains a sand blasted classic. The scene above may seem a little on the nose by todays standards but its the perfect encapsulation of the era, of a lone voice isolated in the wilderness, drowned out by the obliterating clamour of the Thatcherite & Reganite free market revolution of the self.
Once Upon A Time In America (Sergio Leone) – We’ve been here before of course but one of the all time great classics of the genre is always worth paying tribute, unless you wanna get discreetly garrotted in a West side tenement slum car-park. I’ve got my crew out on the street looking into these rumors about the longer Cannes anniversary cut being released from the penitentiary, nobody’s squealed yet but I’m a patient man….
Blood Simple (Joel Coen) – Who knew that this stylish, moody little neo-noir would be the inauguration of one of the most critically beloved American film brotherhoods of the past thirty years? It rarely gets much discussion these days, when delving into their back catalogue the likes of Millers Crossing and Barton Fink tend to get the attention, but this small town tale deserves more attention, if ony for M.Emmet Walsh’s brilliant performance of that horrendous figure who literally sweats slime….
2010 (Peter Hyams) – Once again, I have vivid memories of seeing this at the cinema, and I must have been a slightly weird kid (as opposed to now of course) as a SF film with a total lack of space battles, alien encounters, fainting princesses or heroic derring-do still ignited my rockets. Of course it’s inferior to the original – what isn’t – but as a slice of SF this works as a standalone translation of Clarke’s second in the series of Odyssey books, and the late great Roy Schnieder was always honorably trustworthy.