#1857 1918 (1985)

I’ve Horton Foote’s 1918 to thank for the most cryptic post title yet, which happens to be the peak of the praises I can give to this movie.

This period picture taking place in a small Texas town, coinciding two major world events – World War I and Spanish Influenza – and how they both affect the citizen of this small remote town. Of the cast we have Brother Vaughn (Matthew Broderick), a loud mouth local youngster who after failing his school now idolises the war and the soldiers and makes everyone know how eager he is to enlist. In the sort of direct opposite end we have Horace Robedaux (William Converse-Roberts), a calm business owner and family man who has no interest to take part in the war and to leave his wife and baby.

Both world events are very interesting, but here they end up feeling very remote. We hear people dying both due to war and the influenza, but as these are people who have never been even introduced to us, they just feel completely remote and disconnected. The few bits of drama here are relatable but never really struck the chord on the emotional level.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 42%

#1831 Halloween 2023: Attack of the Beast Creatures aka Hell Island (1985)

Attack of the Beast Creatures has one interesting aspect going for it: the atmosphere. Set in the 1920s the movie shares the same look and feel like the 1940s and 50s creature movies, which makes the (otherwise tame) gore effects much more impactful.

But it’s also in this same FX department where the movie fails the biggest; the little dolls thrown towards the actors for them to hold and pretend struggling is downright ridiculous, and the movie would have gotten much farther by just hinting the existence of the creatures.

80s-o-meter: 14%

Total: 28%

#1783 Little Miss Marker (1980)

I don’t know how great of a movie the original 1934 Little Miss Marker starring Shirley Temple is, but based on this 1980 version I really can’t see anything that warrants a remake – other than the team’s interest in nostalgia, that is!

More bizarrely, the movie is not even brought to the current day. But maybe the story of a gambler giving her daughter as a collateral to bet on a horse race would not fly today as it already seems quite implausible in the 1940s. But so does everything else in the movie, especially the love relationship between the characters played by Walter Matthau and Julie Andrews, and the denouement of them forming a family of some sorts.

On the positive side Matthau is probably the best actor of the era for the role, and his trademark grumpy tone makes his slowly evolving attachment to the now orphaned girl quite touching at best.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 37%

#1771 Desert Hearts (1985)

Feeling dissatisfied with her marriage a young Professor Vivian Bell arrives in 1950s Nevada ranch to seek a quickie divorce. In the middle of a big change in her life, Vivian finds herself unexpectedly and irresistibly drawn to Cay Rivers, a carefree and free spirited young lesbian who is the daughter of the ranch owner, disapproving her lifestyle. As their intimacy develops, Vivian’s insecurities about her feelings for Cay clash with the emotions they unleash.

Desert Hearts is a gem of a movie that totally grasped me and took me to another time, place and life. And for this along it’s a triumph.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 87%

#1752 Nijinsky (1980)

Nijinsky was a movie sat on my shelf for years and I never really felt like giving it a go as it looked like it’s going to be this woefully boring period picture about some obnoxious male ballet star of the past.

Given this background I find it almost a feat that Nijinsky manages to let me down even more than I had anticipated.

Instead of being a movie about world of ballet, we are forced to watch a tug and pull relationship of young Nijinsky who is romantically involved with the ballet company manager. Both of the men come across extremely unlikeable and never did I feel like rooting for either one of them, or their toxic relationship. Other people around them get a part of their tantrums, and when this Nijinsky isn’t shouting to ballet dancers or choreographing numbers that look more like modern dance than ballet and getting laughed off the stage, he marries a nice woman just to get even with his former protégé and then beats her up.

It’s not often that I’ve hated watching a movie as much as I did Nijinsky, and I will be quite happy to throw it one away and never be subjected to it again.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 0%

#1748 The Moderns (1988)

The Moderns is a dreadful movie about pretentious, obnoxious and horrible human beings trying to act the hipster artist life in the 1926 Paris.

I never understood the American movie makers’ affection to recreate a Paris that never was, and after seeing The Moderns I understand it even less. My guess is that it’s for getting some street credibility; put the same movie to the current day and location and one would immediately see there’s really nothing to this story but smoke and mirrors.

The only good thing I can think of this mind numbingly dull movie is the stylistic character played by John Lone. He may be pretentious and obnoxious like all the others, but at least he manages turns it all to his favour, totally dominating every scene he is in with sheer coolness.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 6%

#1745 Heart of Dixie (1989)

In 1957 Alabama was going through a change that hit the southern Dixie states in a big way, as segregation was coming to its end and integration took its first clumsy steps – often with the contempt of the white community.

It’s at this time when young university student Maggie (Ally Sheedy) finds herself awakening to a new social consciousness, after meeting with a photo journalist (Treat Williams) who’s documenting the ongoing change.

Heart of Dixie has been called a lightweight take on a big event and the cultural shift – which it is – but for me this approach feels much more believable purely from the point of view of a single youngster of that place and era.

80s-o-meter: 52%

Total: 70%

#1743 Far North (1988)

For North is one of those exercises whose purpose remains unknown for me even after rewinding the movie back and forth to make heads or tails of what I just saw.

Taking place in rural Minnesota, there a large family with Finnish heritage whose head of the family gets thrown off a horse, and he then assigns the women of the house to go after the horse and shoot it. Aaaand that’s pretty much it. Almost sounds like a Finnish movie, lol.

There’s nothing much interesting happening in the following events, and the movie is frankly quite a drab to look at. For us Finns the only interesting aspect of the movie is its depiction of the Finnish heritage shown here, with the family singing Finnish songs I’ve never heard with broken, but surprisingly understandable Finnish.

80s-o-meter: 20%

Total: 11%

#1740 Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989)

Directed by Uli Edel and based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr., Last Exit to Brooklyn is a raw and unflinching depiction of life in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn during the 1950s.

Not knowing at all what to expect, I was puzzled by the many interweaving storylines with no apparent lead character in the movie, but as these multiple stories evolved, I got drawn in by all of them and ultimately found the characters and their events interesting and touching.

Through its uncompromising portrayal of the more sinister facets of human conduct drawing strong resemblance to Hurbert Selby Jr’s other acclaimed book Requiem for a Dream, Last Exit to Brooklyn also resembles a distant relative of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with its characters being driven by a relentless pursuit for fulfilment, ultimately leading in a spiralling descent into madness and disillusionment.

80s-o-meter: 33%

Total: 86%

#1734 Butterfly (1982)

Looking at Butterfly, and the first few moments of it I assumed it to be one of those icky 80s sensuous erotic movies with the theme of teasing daughter of a mine guard moving in with his father and driving him crazy in a very off putting forbidden incest love relationship.

And here I was thinking; how on earth has Stacy Keach gotten himself involved in such a sleazy piece of celluloid.

But, Butterfly surprises positively as there’s much more depth in the story than first meets the eye. Sure, it takes a leap of faith to go with some of the wildest plot twists, but if you if you get over that Butterfly is surely one of those few rare, original movies that leave a lasting impression.

80s-o-meter: 23%

Total: 71%

#1730 Falling in Love Again (1980)

Not to be mixed up with totally unrelated Falling In Love released in 1984, Falling in Love Again is a look into a middle aged couple in a marital crisis, and even more into their past.

This is where the movie fails for the first time, as I would be much more content with the movie leaning totally with either one (although preferably the present moment – and pretty much primarily because it’s the part of the movie featuring Elliott Gould).

The movie feels like two movies in one, but disconnected – and despite them both being a-ok, neither one are nothing really that special.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 58%

#1729 The Chosen (1981)

On paper I could not have think of something less interesting than a movie about a Jewish kid becoming a friend with and orthodox Jew in 1940s Brooklyn. But as both start venturing and peaking into the strange and enticing world of the other the movie grasps one in a very unexpected way, like a good movie or book does.

The World War 2 era setting in The Chosen provides a dynamic and colorful background for the experiences of both conservative Jews, who are becoming less and less common, and liberal Jews, who are looking to maintain their traditions while also embracing modern ways of life. The clash between these two perspectives is effectively conveyed through the friendship between two young boys, as well as through the contrasting attitudes of their respective fathers, who despite their belief and heritage represent very opposing worldviews.

Robby Benson and Barry Miller perform their roles admirably and make the improbable friendship between the two young boys easy to buy into.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 79%

#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%

#1678 Halloween 2022: Doctor Hackenstein aka Dr. Hackenstein (1988)

A parody of Frankestein line of books and movies, Troma’s Doctor Hackenstein cannot be discussed without comparing it to the great Re-Animator that has a similar premise, and was released only three years earlier.

Where Re-Animator reinvents the mad doctor turning dead into living beings, and does so with hilarious results, Doctor Hackenstein remains strangely tame, only ending up a slightly gorier, more naked and a bit sillier version of its paragon.

If Re-Animator did not exist, Doctor Hackenstein would have been a nice breath of fresh air in horror comedies. Even though it’s nowhere near the stinkers often seen in this genre, the team should have really leveraged upon learnings from Re-Animator and try to do something much more outstanding, instead of settling for playing the second fiddle.

80s-o-meter: 0%

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%

#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%

#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%

#1664 The Killing Fields (1984)

A  biographical drama film about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, based on the experiences of journalists Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg, The Killing Fields may a British film taking place in Asia, but there are numerous things that make it interesting, and very much worth your time.

First of a all, it was nominated in seven categories in the 1985 Academy Awards, taking home awards for Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Actor in Supporting Role for Haing S. Ngor, for whom this was amazingly his first acting experience ever.

Secondly, it’s a good movie about an interesting historical events, told in a realistic – even nihilistic – way, but spiced up with interesting supporting characters we learn about, and soon learn to care for. Its story about journalistic integrity, human rights and inequality is every bit as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 87%

#1661 Mata Hari (1985)

After starring in Emmanuelle, Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel got typecast to movies of the similar nature, ie a sexually liberated young woman in seek of erotic moments, tied together by a very loose plot.

The value of these erotic movies in these days and times are close to zero, and Mata Hari is no exception. It is a shame since some real effort was done to put the movie together, and the locations, costume design and war scenes are pretty well done, considering how weak the movie is otherwise.

80s-o-meter: 13%

Total: 11%

#1652 In the Mood aka The Woo Woo Kid (1987)

In the Mood is another movie that very likely would not be made today due to its controversial theme of an underage boy falling in love and getting into relationship with married women.

In fact, I was at first curious how the movie was even made back in 1987, until learning that it’s based on the true story of one Sonny Wisecarver, and it was only after that that I begun to enjoy the movie a bit more, as it felt much more credible from thereon. Patrick Dempsey did not seem to mind to portray the young casanova, and it’s all done in a quite uplifting mood and good spirit, and I for one never felt like it was made to promote such activity. This is furthermore aided by the fact that the movie takes places in the 1940, when the times likely were a bit different.

In the Mood will not go into my pile of movies to watch again, but for what it is, it’s still a feel good movie with a lot of good things going for it.

80s-o-meter: 32%

Total: 63%