#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%

#1629 Round Midnight (1986)

A fictional tale loosely based on African-American jazz musicians’ life and influence in late 50s Paris, Round Midnight feels an exercise too keen on substance and being accepted as a cool cat piece of French cinema.

Although I understand the intention for going for an atmosphere that can be sold to American cinema goers, it all frankly feels far too clichéd to be taken seriously: dark, smoke-filled rooms, a gloomy and dark Paris where it always rains, and characters (despite of battling with serious personal problems, like alcoholism) that feel naïve caricatures instead of actual persons.

The musical pieces composed by Herbie Hancock and performed by a bunch of skilled musicians are the best aspects of the movie, hands down. As I enjoyed the jazz pieces, but not so much the interludes between them, I could not but to think that for the selected fictional style of the movie it would’ve been better to go all in and make Round Midnight a full musical instead.

80s-o-meter: 17%

Total: 54%

#1627 Yes, Giorgio aka Bravo, Giorgio (1982)

Written as a vehicle for Luciano Pavarotti, Yes, Giorgio portrays a fictional tenor called Giorgio touring in America.

Giorgio is a big man child with superstition to ever singing at Metropolitan Opera, and so he desperately seeks the love and care of a female doctor. A world class singer, in private life he is something of a half-grown, with the inner life of a 5-year old: he throws tantrums when things don’t go his way, and gets into food fight with the opposite sex.

The only thing Yes, Giorgio has going for it are its opera numbers. But really – you’d be much better off watching any of Pavarotti’s opera performances on VHS, than to sit through this drivel.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 9%

#1555 Torch Song Trilogy (1988)

What makes Torch Song Trilogy an above the average movie about gays (and drag) is that is was conceived and lead acted by Harvey Fierstein, an openly gay actor and playwright. This results in a movie that does not aim to explain, sugar coat nor view the gay community through hetero lenses.

A result is refreshing take that portrays all of its characters and their shortcomings, insecurities and sometimes even sheer pettiness in a realistic fashion. Fierstein is a wonderful actor, and a persona on and off stage and his character that often goes from gorgeous to goofy in one scene, depending on the camera direction and his mood swing makes for one of the more interesting and multi-faceted personas seen on screen.

What I did not like about the movie though is how it’s divided in three acts between different eras and lovers as I’d much rather had the movie concentrating on just one time frame in the lifeline of this character.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 74%

#1476 Staying Alive (1983)

Sylvester Stallone (of all people) co-wrote and directed the sequel to the 1977 landmark movie Saturday Night Fever – and it remains one of the few misfires in his career.

Staying Alive picks the story up years later of the original storyline, as Tony Manero (John Travolta) is now trying to make it big in the Broadway. Akin to many musicals of the era, it’s a struggle of getting noticed from a fleet of talented dancers.

The original’s heavy disco approach along with the killer soundtrack is what made it a phenomenon, when again Staying Alive is an early 80s fast food take on the subject; light drama is constantly mixed up with lengthy musical numbers, and neither one have enough memorable aspects to really stick with the viewer for more than a minute or two.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 51%

#1459 One from the Heart (1982)

A well known misstep in the career of Francis Ford Coppola, One from the Heart – a drama, romance and a musical – does not work on a paper, much less as a movie.

While the initial conflict between the leads in relatable, even interesting, everything that follows is implausible and very unrelatable, and it’s especially the ending that feels very unfulfilling. Some of the choreography is nice, and songs by Tom Waits are nice, but wasted with the movie.

What works though is the whole Las Vegas set including downtown, street view and a desert scene meticulously build inside a studio, and helps to create that surreal, movie like look and feel that I love.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 51%

#1422 Hard to Hold (1984)

Back in 1983 Rick Springfield made a horrific career move: instead of taking part in the landmark movie The Right Stuff he opted for Hard to Hold.

Rick plays the world’s biggest rock star who is chased by the crowds and lust after by the all the women in the world, so he finds the only one that doesn’t like him and wants to make her his girlfriend no matter what it takes. I know that musicians can sometime ego trip a little, but Hard to Hold is one horrible, egomanical project so bad that it single handedly ended Springfield’s film career for a good decade.

It’s a painful thing to watch. All the drama in the movie feels super theatric as well as artificial, and Rick Springfield and Janet Eilber (seen licking Springfield’s throat on the movie poster) make together the least interesting couple I’ve seen to date.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 2%

#1411 Songwriter (1984)

A country drama-comedy featuring Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, Songwriter depicts Nelson as Doc Jenkins, a singer-songwriter tired of his life on the road and away from his son.

While the movie did not end up in my pile of movies to watch again, I did like how the movie depicts its subjects realistically, without neither glorifying or vilifying them; these country starts enjoy loose women, driving nice convertibles and a round of golf as much they enjoy putting on a show.

The musical talent of Kristofferson and Nelson make the movie one of the easier musicals to stomach.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 67%

#1349 Delivery Boys (1985)

The never-heard-before Delivery Boys is a comedy with a typical problem of the team not having a proper focus. This results as the movie being an uneven collection of adolescent sex comedy, a musical and a serious film about break dancing, as if it was patched together from the leftovers of three different movies.

The comedy bits are of your typical lowest common denominator type, with men dressing as women and horny men then trying to have sex with them, and the breakdance and training parts of the movie are much more interesting to watch.

Delivery Boys would’ve worked much better as a showcase to the 1985 New York and to its breakdance / hiphop scene with the comedy bits somehow related to that theme.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 29%

#1336 Hairspray (1988)

Somebody please explain me why movies like Hairspray exist.

Just kidding – I know, I know. They’re there to give a dose of nostalgia for those long for the bygone days when the sun always shone and the colors were much more vivid. You can spot useless nostalgic movie by reimagining it to the current day and figuring out if the concept still holds up.

Hairspray was definitely my cup of tea, even despite its favorable anti-segregation message.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 4%

#1299 Zoot Suit (1981)

Zoot Suit is the lavish and showy outfit with high-waist, wide-legged trousers and a ridilously long coat with wide, padded shoulders, coupled with a overlong watch chain dangling below the knee, and worn mostly by the youngsters of African-American, Latino, Italian American, and Filipino descent in the 1940s. What makes Zoot Suit interesting is its rebellious statement of self expression and the showiness of it by using excessive amount of materials, making them a luxury items and the way to show the neighbourhood (and the ladies) how much of a cool cat you were.

This is where the interesting part of Zoot Suit ends. The movie itself is an adaptation of a 1979 musical of the same name with possibly the worst music I’ve heard and the movie itself is shot with theatrical setting as if it was a play, likely to underline the fairy tale like nature of the movie, but to me it just did not work, give a take a few scenes. What worked though was the narrator and the ’Zoot Suit Spirit’ played by Edward James Olmos.

Like most of the musicals, Zoot Suit has a limited, but die hard fan base that rates it up there with the actual musical timeless classics.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 18%

#1296 Blame It on the Night (1984)

Look, I totally get what the team behind Blame It On The Night was trying to achieve by joining together a free spirited rock’n’roll star father and a high-strung son studying in a military academy.

But this obvious setup of mixing two very different elements together, having them going through a set of clashes before each one learns a lesson from each other pressed all the wrong buttons to make its point. The movie features useless and overlong segments of lame adult pop concert footage that serves no purpose after the first time the status of the father as a pop star figure was established and uses only a little time establishing believable relationship between the father and the son. The way the movie sets up the clashed feels very artificial, and the resolution of those clashes feel equally lame and forced.

The name of the movie remains a testament of how much of a misaligned mess Blame It on the Night is, as it has absolutely nothing to do with what’s seen on the screen.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 4%

#1273 Shock Treatment (1981)

A spiritual sequel to the 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment marches similar kind of bizarre imagery and zany characters on screen, but falls short every way our heads RHPS managed not to, despite its unorthodox setup.

Placed on a set of a TV show/hospital the music remains the only good point in Shock Treatment – and the music is not very good.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 2%

#1229 The Idolmaker (1980)

Based on the life of rock promoter/producer Bob Marcucci, The Idolmaker tells a story of a musician who after failing to become a music idol himself, ends up a producer talented in finding and sparring the next generation of stars.

While the movie and its late 50s, early 60s nostalgia wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, Peter Gallagher as the lead makes a perfectly magnetic performance as Caesare, who makes a transformation from a mere busboy to a star with enough charism to fill a big stage.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 61%

#1208 White Nights (1985)

White Nights cooks up a fairly lukewarm dish out of some top shelf ingredients: The synopsis is unique and interesting, soundtrack contains multiple tracks from the contemporary chart-topping artists and the movie pictures its Russian locations credibly, thanks to the footage shot actually in location by the Finnish 2nd camera crew. And most importantly, even if watching dancing isn’t your thing – it for sure isn’t mine – there’s no denying that Mikhail Baryshnikov’s seemingly effortless movement on the stage is pretty darn impressive.

Problem is that I felt really indifferent for all the characters in the film. The golden cage they were locked in felt something of a third world problem as they were still better off than 99,9% of the population – and knowing know that CCCP was only a few years away from collapse, the drama in White Nights did not catch me at all.

I could’ve also lived without Gregory Hines’ tap dancing defector character that added absolutely nothing to the story.

80s-o-meter: 33%

Total: 61%

#1206 The Jazz Singer (1980)

Based on the 1927 movie of the same name, The Jazz Singer depicts a 40-year old jewish cantor rebelling against his father in a story that did not beg to be told.

It’s not exactly a good sign if during a remarkably bad musical movie it’s the music parts that you end up wanting to fast forward.

Most people that have seen The Jazz Singer seem to agree that it’s worth watching only for Neil Diamond’s songs and performances. As someone to whom the monumental success of mr. Diamond remains one of the biggest mysteries of popular music, I don’t have even that.

80s-o-meter: 7%

Total: 3%

#1037 School Daze (1988)

Spike Lee’s School Daze makes a successful and interesting late 80s look on African-American college life that’s very convincingly portrayed from inside out.

Being quite far away from its frame of reference as a pale skinned European I probably missed a lot of the references and subtleties of the movie, but on the other hand many of the themes here are still universal enough for me to relate to, especially the way the young and somewhat misguided adults having to choose their side to belong, be it jigaboos, wannabes or fraternities. We’ve all been there.

I also love how many of the clashes on the movie are built around petty issues of the middle-class college students and thus feel like actual, interesting conflicts.

Lee makes admittedly many uniquely interesting insights about the interracial conflicts, principles, having to choose one’s side, fraternities and the petty power that corrupts. But if the movie was out there to make a clear statement, it’s lost in translation for me.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#1004 Grease 2 (1982)

Grease 2, the sequel for the original 1978 runaway musical hit starring John Travolta was a critical and a box office failure. Oh boy, I thought as I pressed the play on my remote, assured I was facing a torture even worse than having to watch through the original.

Pessimism be blessed, as the experience didn’t turn out to be nearly as bad as I’d anticipated. The movie is inept – that’s given – but it all seems to have been done in a good humour with a fair amount of tongue in cheek. Grease 2 does a remarkably bad work at establishing the early 60s setting and the movie never seizes to feel like 80s kids doing a cosplay of the former era.

Personally I count this only as a definitely plus for the movie.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 48%

#889 Vicious Lips (1986)

Vicious Lips is what happens when you gather a bunch of young models and promise them they’ll get to star in the talking pictures — and them at some point you have no choice but to have that movie made, with ideas on not.

Very little in this movie makes any sense, and it all feels like it’s been made up as they go along. There’s something about a crashed spaceship, topless women running around in a desert and an intergalactic girls band trying to find some venue while being harassed by something kind of resembling a monster.

If any of that managed to sound funny, I can assure you it’s not.

The only somewhat passable thing here are the musical numbers scattered around the movie, but honestly I really couldn’t be bothered by them either.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 12%

#866 Fame (1980)

After the first 15 minutes to the Fame I’d made up my mind what I going to say about it: Yet another pretentious and theatrical musical about the young performance artist suffering melodramatically while trying to make it to the top. While my initial impression still partly holds, I have to admit Fame wasn’t really all that bad.

Yes, there’s a lot of melodramaticism going on here, but also a lot of undeniable warmth to the way that the characters are written and presented in the movie, and it was that love for the characters that won me over eventually. The movie is noticeably lengthy at 134 minutes and would’ve gained from a bit more rapid pacing at times.

Young Irene Cara provides great vocals to the key songs and would go on to an even greater musical triumph with Flashdance three years later.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 73%