#1721 Bless Their Little Hearts (1983)

There’s mixed information in the internet of the movie’s release, IMDB stating 1983 and Wikipedia insisting on December 1984 release. Either way the theatrical release has been extremely limited and the movie is not the kind of popular movie to make it big on VHS, so it was more or less forgotten upon its release.

But make no mistake, Bless Their Little Hearts is a gem of an indie movie.

Following the life of an unemployed African-American father of three struggling to find work and make the ends meet, the real star of the movie is Kaycee Moore whose portrayal of his wife frustrated by having to provide to her family and her husband while trying to keep the family somehow functional. Watch her as she is having a 10-minute long, quite verbal argument with her husband and tell me she does not deserve an Oscar for her role play.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 81%

#1719 Sleepwalk (1986)

Done with every Jim Jarmusch movie of the 80s? You might then be interested to check out Sleepwalk, directed by Jarmuch’s partner Sara Driver that feels like having fallen from the same arthouse tree.

Sleepwalk presents us with an interesting concept – a woman is hired to transcribe an ancient Chinese manuscript, after which she slowly starts to discover the manuscript has powers that begin to take over her life. This is where the movie goes off the rails and wanders deep into the world of nonsense. The events that follow in the movie are interesting and visually appealing to watch, but totally disconnected from the main story line.

If you can accept that not much of the movie even tries to make sense, you might find Sleepwalk enjoyable piece of experimental, surrealist cinema. It just isn’t for everyone – nor does it try to be.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 55%

#1718 Listen to Me (1989)

Listen to Me is basically a sports movie, with physical college sports replaced with following events of an underdog debate team. And as such it’s a unique take on the sports genre, and it’s refreshing to see a sports movie that relies thought-provoking debates instead of the last second slowed down comebacks we’ve all seen way too many times over.

While the movie may not be nowhere accurate representation of real life college debate teams, it does tackle a controversial topic – pro life vs the right to abortion – which caused controversy among some parents upon the movie’s release.

It’s this controversial topic and well written dialogue that remains topical, making Listen to Me still relevant and thought-provoking to watch.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 71%

#1716 Buddies (1985)

I was delighted to find Buddies, the first movie about AIDS is a non-exploitative one. Directed by Arthur J. Bressan Jr., a director with a long history of gay movies, Buddies feels quite honest in its depiction of the events and characters, never robbing any of the characters their personal traits and sexuality.

The movie is muted in most of its expression as it follows the growing friendship and emerging romance and sexual interest between a young gay man volunteering to be a buddy for an AIDS patient abandoned by his friends and lovers in the final stages of the disease.

A sign of a good movie, Buddies is still thematically relevant, as well as an interesting look into the history of the mid-80s where humanitarian groups had to step in to help for the lack of wider support from the government, and a tribute to those who risked their own safety to help others.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 81%

#1715 Distant Thunder (1988)

Most people know John Lithgow for starring in 3rd Rock from the Sun or Dexter, but every movie I’ve seen him in furthermore underlines how he is one of the greatest actors of his era, a versatile performer who has excelled in a wide range of roles and genres.

What makes Lithgow such a great actor is his ability to fully inhabit a character and bring it to life in a believable and nuanced way. He has a talent for finding the heart and humanity in even the most complex and flawed characters, and he has a natural charisma and charm that endears him to audiences.

This shows in Distant Thunder which would not be much of a movie without Lithgow’s stellar performance, as he is able to elevate both mediocre manuscript and a pack of mediocre actors to excellence with his portrayal of the many Vietnam veterans failing to rejoin civilian life, living a vagabond life as one of the mountain men in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Lithgow perfectly captures all the right nuances of socially awkward and traumatised veteran’s clumsy efforts to once again rejoin the society and reach out to his son.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 84%

#1714 Split Decisions (1988)

Split Decisions is a boxing movie straight out of a pen of a angsty teenager and its sense of drama feels like a high school musical sans the music.

The father, a boxing trainer, has two sons who are both boxers. He is proud of one and helps him prepare for the Olympics, but he frequently has conflicts with the other son, who is rebellious and hard to deal with. When the troublesome son is killed by a criminal organization after he refuses to lose a match, his brother seeks to avenge his death by challenging the boxer who was involved in the crime syndicate to a fight.

It’s a sports movie so you know how the story will end up, so while waiting for that the personas or their relationships in the movie should be super interesting to watch. Unfortunately all the characters are paper thin, almost caricature like without any interesting growth in them, replaced by drama that feels plain melodramatic and forced.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 18%

#1713 Maria’s Lovers (1984)

Andrei Konchalovsky’s 1984 drama follows the story of Ivan, a Yugoslav-American soldier returning home to Pittsburgh traumatised after being held captive in a Japanese POW camp during WW2.

Despite being desperately in love with Maria (Nastassja Kinski) and overcoming his rivals in love, Ivan’s mental health struggles prevent him from fully embracing their relationship physically and mentally. As a result, Maria becomes attracted to a travelling musician casanova.

Maria’s Lovers is visually pleasing movie that has a promise of a great movie written all over it, but ultimately feels confused about what story does it want to tell. The movie is heavy on poetic symbolism that feels similarly intriguing at times, but woefully clumsy at others.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 63%

#1712 Rappin’ (1985)

Upon the recent reviewing of Beat Street, I was expecting a cringeworthy musical with gangs rivalling in 80s rappity rap battles and being all melodramatic and their life being oh so hard. Turned out Beat Street was nothing like this, but quite a solid hiphop movie of the 80s, and Rappin’ is the cringy one to avoid.

Or, to fully embrace, if you can appreciate the pissy poor plot of Mario Van Peebles getting out of juvie, being rivalled by a gang leader straight out of Grease musical, battling the big corporation trying to take over their hood and being pushed of doing a rap record and winning a rap competition, because he is so naturally good in the art of rappity rap.

But, like everybody else he would prefer to just be grim, distant, poetic and to suffer – and make the audience suffer with him.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 31%

#1676 Turk 182 (1985)

Young Jimmy Lynch (Timothy Hutton) starts to perform a series of public stunts behind masked identity and the pseudonym Turk 182 to get justice to his older brother, a NYC firefighter who was denied benefits by the city and humiliated by the mayor.

The movie was completely other than I anticipated by its title, but more or less this was a positive surprise altogether. It’s fun to be an insider in this prank, and to watch Jimmy plan and execute them to humiliate the mayor, and increasingly getting to be the hero of the common folk.

Timothy Hutton is always a delight to watch on the silver screen, and Turk 182 is no exception here. The ending of the movie feels like a lazy writing, and an easy way out, which left me unsatisfied .. but everything until that is completely enjoyable, if not spectacular.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 70%

#1675 The Competition (1980)

The first thing that strikes from The Competition is the love and devotion the team shows for its subject, competitive piano playing. The actors have been instructed and trained carefully, perform their roles as piano virtuosos very well and at least for me superficially the way the competitions are carried out seems quite plausible, and without those facepalm moments.

Although not one of the movies he is most known for, Richard Dreyfuss once again reminds me why he is one of my favourite actors of the era. Amy Irving whom I recently saw in Crossing Delancey is a good pair for Dreyfuss, and them getting involved in the strange mix of mutual interest, friendship and rivalry does not seem too far fetched.

The Competition sidesteps the obvious pitfalls of ending up boring (due to its classical music theme that’s not actually thrilling), or being untrue to the same theme, and for this reason it’s a success.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 74%

#1674 Hotshot (1986)

Hotshot is a football movie made in the vein of soccer almost becoming a household sport in America during the 80s, a trend that never did carry too far.

What makes the movie interesting is it featuring one Pelé, arguably one of the best football players in the history of the sport. This aspect of him not wanting to play the sport anymore, but upon a request of a young hothead American player becomes his protege and teacher is what makes Hotshot of any interest.

Other than that, Hotshot is pretty much your basic sports movie with nothing much surprising to it, coupled with way below average production values, especially for a movie made in 1986.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 52%

#1673 Frances (1982)

Other celebrity biographies well known in this side of the Atlantic ocean, while others, apparently well known in the stateside can remain relatively unknown here. The story and controversial life events of Frances Farmer falls at least to me in the latter category.

A sensation of her time, Farmer’s temperament and lack of respect for authority lead her to discord with Hollywood and a burnout that lead her to be arrested and put into a mental hospital where she was subjected to now-brutal methods of treatment.

As with many biographies, the 2-hour movie format is just too short to give a good treatment to a whole life of events, and the movie feels at many times rushing just to get the story told, and Frances as a character remains to the viewer quite distant and enigmatic.

80s-o-meter: 4%

Total: 60%

#1672 Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

A costume drama I was for once actually aware of for once, Dangerous Liaisons marches in a quite unexpected cast (at least for a historical drama) consisting of Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves.

Those familiar with my page know that historical romantic dramas aren’t exactly my cup of tea, so at least here the consolidation was the interesting cast I was looking forward to seeing. I perceived Dangerous Liaisons as it was: a drama taking place for some unexplained reason in the make believe history with bored aristocrats in funny wigs delivering an endless stream of witty and pretentious dialogue in a pompous manner.

But – fortunately – there’s an end to all the wittiness, and this is where Dangerous Liaisons actually becomes interesting, to the point of redeeming itself in the final act.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 70%

#1671 Beat Street (1984)

I love the NYC hiphop culture of the 80s that carried also distant waves all the way to Finland in the forms of graffiti, rap music, beatboxing and breakdancing. There are a few good documentaries out there about the era, but also some cringeworthy movies that haven’t really aged that well. And to be honest, I’ve been putting off watching Beat Street because I always thought it was a movie of the latter kind.

Far from it, Beat Street is actually the 80s hiphop drama to watch and it skilfully balances between showing street life and the struggle to make it out of the ghetto, without being patronising, and having some actual dramatic elements to it without being overly melodramatic and silly by accident.

The movie also features a wide bunch of actual hiphop breakdancers, musical acts and DJs which make it much more credible, and Beat Street has been later recognised as the movie that introduced and ignited hiphop culture around the globe.

80s-o-meter: 98%

Total: 91%

#1669 Apprentice to Murder (1988)

A US-Norwegian-Canadian co-production Apprentice to Murder portrays of Pennsylvanian folk healer and his apprentice getting far too deep into dark powers of their craft in a story that very successfully blurs the line between real and make-belief, wrong and right, and good and bad.

I was surprised to learn the movie was shot entirely in Norway, so my hat is off to the production team who very skilfully concealed this fact, and totally sold me the location of 1920s Pennsylvania.

Although shot in mainstream Hollywood fashion, Apprentice to Murder (apparently based on a real historic event) is a very untypical movie but in a good way. It boldly goes quite deep into religious fanaticism, dark sides of human psyche and superstition.

80s-o-meter: 11%

Total: 72%

#1668 Agnes of God (1985)

Agnes of God presents us with an enigma of a young, eccentric nun giving a birth, insisting the now dead infant was a result of virgin conception, but it never really gives a solid answer to the actual events, or who was the culprit behind it all.

It’s an interesting concept, but the movie never manages to tell it in an interesting way. The same dullness continues in the cinematography and the locations, and the movie is never quite entertaining to watch.

The most prominent feature of the movie is seeing the 80s fitness idol Jane Fonda smoking a truckload of (fake, as it turns out) cigarettes, lighting one up in pretty much every scene she is in.

80s-o-meter: 15%

Total: 31%

#1667 The Bostonians (1984)

I sigh audibly every time I’m to sit down and watch another period picture set in 19th century, especially one with a romantic theme to it.

The Bostonians wasn’t as bad costume drama as I feared, though. Its manuscript based on Henry James’ novel of the same name has some interesting aspects to it, like women’s rights movement and the implied one sided love story between the female leads, but as with many similar movies the end result is just plain dull, and the plot is stuck in the same place pretty much throughout the movie.

I was surprised by the ending, though.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 32%

#1666 Endless Love (1981)

Endless Love is one of those movies that you learn to appreciate much more after you realise it’s a pure work of fiction not even meant to resemble anything that might take place in real life.

It’s after this realisation that you might find yourself enjoying the movie, like myself. In fact the whole concept of a love story gone horribly wrong is a really interesting one, and one that I can’t find any resemblance from the movies I’ve seen.

It’s only the weak, open ended ending that felt to me keeping this movie from greatness; after creating such a bold plot twists I hoped the movie makers had the guts to ride the wave all the way to the ending.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 76%