#1912 Places in the Heart (1984)

With actors, it’s often the first impression that counts. For example, I only knew Sally Field from her work in Mrs. Doubtfire for a long time before I discovered her true acting skills.

The same goes for Danny Glover, who, upon seeing his other work, turns out to be a much more versatile actor than the Lethal Weapon series would have you believe.

Together, these actors make Places in the Heart work, with Field playing a recently widowed mother now struggling to pay the mortgage, and Glover portraying a vagabond. Together, they become an unlikely team, fighting fiercely to keep the family homestead.

80s-o-meter: 8%

Total: 75%

#1909 Enemies, A Love Story (1989)

Enemies, A Love Story is a rollercoaster of emotions in the life of Herman (Ron Silver), a holocaust survivor in the 1949 New York.

You see, Herman has tangled himself between women. And to make things worse, the third woman from the past is just around ther corner.

Silver does well in the role, portraying the low-key Herman with tons of mixed emotions storming below his calm facade. He never sells the character as heroic or likeable, but manages to make him relatable enough so that the audience finds themselves rooting for him, despite his morally questionable choices and actions.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 67%

#1907 Lobster Man from Mars (1989)

A spoof of 1950s monster scifi movies, Lobster Man from Mars was to my surprise a positive little comedy.

The movie successfully picks a few archetypes of the genre and parodises them with either expected or unexpected twist so almost everything you’d expect to find in the movie is there. The amateurish look and feel naturally goes with the picture, and the movie is often much more cheap and TV-series like than it needs to be to convey the message, but for once this did not take too much away from the overall experience.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 70%

#1901 Brenda Starr (1989)

I should have loved Brenda Starr a lot more: a fantasy adventure based on a comic strip taking place in distant, exotic places. But I didn’t.

Reason is, the movie makes a bad case of telling its story, all the way from the comic book artist getting sucked into the world of comics he created, as well as most of the events that follow. There’s baddies and chases and piranhas and all that but nothing that really grasps the viewer. There are a few funny moments of poking fun of the artificial cartoon world, so maybe they should’ve doubled down on this in the first place. To my understanding Brenda Starr not also not a known figure in Europe and is definitely not one in 2024, so this might have hindered my experience also.

Visually the movie is just about perfect, and grasps the sense of adventure well, and the period picture like South American scenes took me back to adventure games like Flight of the Amazon Queen. Brooke Shields and her clothing and mannerisms and stunning dreamy looks fit the role perfectly.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 42%

#1884 Dirty Dancing (1987)

Dirty Dancing I presume is a movie that everyone who lived on or are interested of the 80s know of. I definitely had been exposed to the concept, that it starred Patrick Swayze, and kind of put the dots together to know the movie was about dancing.

Expecting this to be a modern tale of ambitious young dancers trying to make it in a big city, what I did not know was that Dirty Dancing is a nostalgic period picture taking place in the summer of 1963 when a young girl nicknamed Baby travels to mountain resort with her parents to spend the summer holiday there. The upper middle class girl then gets involved with the dancers hired as staff to entertain the guests, and is shown a mambo like ”Dirty Dancing” the staff gets involved in their free time, after which Baby hits it up with the dance instructor Johnny.

In the end this was much lesser of a movie than I had anticipated. The dancing does not look that impressive, the two main leads seem to have zero chemistry between them and I also totally missed the point of the plot, especially how it all concludes at the end as they put on a show for a few campers. Is it Baby’s coming of age story, about her finding her own way and breaking social barriers? Or is it just about some nice nostalgic vibe of the movie, and watching the dreamy Patrick Swayze dance around?

Your guess is as good as mine.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 55%

#1878 Matewan (1987)

Another quality historic drama here!

Matewan depicts events that took place in a small coal town in West-Virginia back in 1920 when the workers who unified by young union organizer go on a strike against exploitative mining company and their gun-wielding corporate henchmen.

The movie looks and feels fantastic, and with the modern transfer it could still pass in any theatre. The story is told with seemingly realistic historical detailing, and it manages to bring the viewer very close to the subjects and grasp the feeling of them sitting on a powder keg.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 83%

#1878 Mrs. Soffel (1984)

Here’s another thing that I really enjoy: a movie based on real life events I was not aware of before, but that prompt me to really dig deeper and read more.

With Mrs. Soffel these interesting events unraveled back in 1902 when Kate Soffel (Diane Keaton), the wife of the warden of Allegheny County Jail befriended Jack (Matthew Modine) and Ed (Mel Gibson) Biddle, and ultimately falls in love with Ed and helps them to escape the hanging.

The movie seems to document the events somewhat faithfully and interesting fashion, but what I felt like missing out was really getting to understand Mrs. Soffel; her thinking, motives, fears and hopes, as speculative as they might have been.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 70%

#1864 Plenty (1985)

As much as I enjoy movies as a medium, at times I feel like a story would have worked better as a book.

Such is the case with Plenty, starring Meryl Streep. I sort of understand what the movie tries to convey through its nonconformist protagonist, portrayed beautifully by Streep, but I never really get to understand what drives the main character, and why she’s unable or unwilling to adapt or belong. Here I see a novel doing better job in taking its time to dig more deep into the psyche of the character. The story also encompasses events from 20 years of her life, which after the initial war segment were hard to track and here the movie failed for me to tell the whole saga in a relatable manner.

Admittedly a big part of the charm of the movie is trying to read between the lines and understand what drives the main character; her balancing between choosing to be a bohemian soul, reliable soul mate or a member of a system and upper class and the ability to just set herself free is relatable as I’m sure we’ve all had similar moments of feeling we are unwillingly living a life written for someone else.

80s-o-meter: 4%

Total: 70%

#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%