The B+ Movie Guide: Part XXXVII
In May of 2012, Colin said I should make a list of movies that need to be seen, because he felt there were huge gaps in what he’d seen, and wanted something to do. The idea was that I’d make up a list, as “homework” for him, and he’d use that as things to watch.
So we came up with a giant list of 500 movies that worked, and Colin went about finishing it. And now that it’s finished, we’re gonna write it up. Because you don’t watch a giant list of movies without documenting that you did it.
We’re going through the entire list, little by little, for posterity’s sake. And here’s the next set:
The Shining (1980)
I honestly don’t even know what gif to pick for this. Let’s go with this one:
This movie scared the bejesus out of me the first time I watched it. Oh, and every other time. Nicholson is Nicholson, which is always creepy, but then there was the whole creepy story with the Delbert Grady character. For me, the best scene of the movie is him talking to Grady in the bathroom. “I… corrected them.” Or better yet, “Your son is trying to involve an outside party in this situation.” Cause you can’t allow children to involve outside parties in your situations.
Then there’s the naked old woman corpse and the scene of the kid on the big wheel running into the twins all murdered up.
On the other side of all that, there’s Scatman Crothers, because Scatman Crothers is really on the other side of all things in this world.
The Stunt Man (1980)
I love showing people this movie. This movie is a bag of tricks. It uses so many different film and editing gags throughout that it’s actually impressive. Since the whole movie is about the fantasy vs. reality of making movies. Here’s the pitch: a guy on the run from cops stumbles onto a movie set just as a dangerous stunt is being performed. The stunt man performing it dies. So the director (Peter O’Toole. Who is great here), knowing the situation and sensing an opportunity, hires the guy as his new stunt man. And throughout the rest of the movie, the guy has no idea what’s real and what’s not. And the film itself makes it really difficult to figure out. It’s amazing. (3)
That’s what’s so great about this. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not, and O’Toole is taking advantage of the fact that this guy can’t be found out by the cops and therefore needs to do anything he’s told without asking questions.
There are a few awesome performances that Peter O’Toole did that seem to get generally overlooked these days, even if people have heard of them. I’m thinking of this and My Favorite Year. The man was only with us for so long and only made so many movies — eventually, you should get around to all of them.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
It’s an essential movie you wouldn’t immediately think of as essential. But it is. It’s a great horror movie. Really well done. I didn’t see this until I was like, 23. I didn’t think I was gonna like it, but I loved it. That’s about as big an endorsement as I can give a movie like this. (3)
It’s cheapo horror with a sense of humor, and Jenny Agutter as a hot nurse. Yeah, I’m on board. I watched it when I was 24, thought I might enjoy it a tiny bit, but loved it. Again, hearing that from us about a horror movie is a major endorsement. Like, if I like a horror movie, it’s good.
When I saw this movie for the first time, my immediate thought was, “Where has this been all my life?” This movie was made for me. It’s about a guy who wants to do nothing but drink all the time and he says witty things. This movie is so fucking funny. And actually has a really big heart too. One of the great comedies. (3)
That’s what makes this. Dudley Moore is constantly drunk and John Gielgud takes care of him. Hilarious drunk and a straight man. As for the hilarious drunk, he’s got lines that sound like they came out of the 40s. “A real woman could stop you from drinking.” “It’d have to be a real big woman!” The moment I knew I was going to love this movie came a few minutes in, when Moore is at a fancy restaurant with a prostitute.
“My mother died when I was six. My father raped me when I was twelve.”
“So you had six relatively good years? I’m sorry. Listen, my father screwed me, too.”
Blow Out (1981)
Another movie about sound. One of De Palma’s best. John Travolta is a sound mixer who captures a tire blow out for a stunt, but also thinks he may have heard a murder during it as well. So the rest of the movie is him trying to figure it out. It’s like Blowup meets The Conversation. (3)
This totally was a slightly trashier version of The Conversation, which is only to say that it was an 80s version of The Conversation. How Travolta is a sound guy for slasher movies, looking for the perfect scream for a murder, which he then gets from a real murder. He goes through the this whole movie trying to capture a criminal and not get killed in the process, there’s this huge finale with a chase and stuff, and then the end is him coming back with the recording of a scream that his boss compliments him on. I was expecting a freeze frame sitcom finish, I’m not kidding. It was THAT on the nose.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
I love how this movie is both great and terrible at the same time. It’s just the story of Perseus, but it’s great. Ray Harryhausen and all his stop motion creatures. It’s so much fun. Laurence Olivier is Zeus! And also — Release the Kraken. (3)
Release the Kraken is all you need to know, really. I did enjoy this for the same reasons Mike did — primarily because it’s got the great actors and acting with some of the clunkiest effects you’ll ever see. The original Godzilla does it better, I’m not kidding. The effect is this bizarre combination of good live action scenes and ridiculous special effects that make the movie feel like an aircraft carrier with sails. It’s just weird, particularly because they made it in 1981, which is like twenty years late for the whole sword and sandal craze. Lots of fun, not to be missed.
Das Boot (1981)
This movie is the SHIT. It’s about a German submarine. But an old submarine. So it’s tiny, and metal, and about to fall apart at any second. It’s great. (3)
Holy mackerel, this movie. First of all, it’s crazy stupid long. Which is cool. I saw this as a kid and remembered thinking, “Isn’t it going to be over now? Aren’t they going to drown yet?” for like the last two hours of it. Rewatching it as an adult, I could see that the awesomeness was lost on my younger self. It’s a U-Boat, and a pretty tiny one at that. They were all pretty tiny, but the filmmakers do an amazing job of making it feel really claustrophobic. You’re just with the crew for the whole time they’re underwater doing tests and hiding from depth charges and stuff — the whole time, there’s a threat that the hull will rupture or something. Like, when they dive way below the test depth of their boat’s class, you hear the creaking and see gauges break and valves burst from pressure and stuff. It’s really tense for the whole movie, and then the ending… I’m going to leave it to you because when this movie ends, you’re either relieved or devastated or both.
Escape from New York (1981)
Snake motherfuckin’ Plissken. This movie is one of those that is better in theory than in execution. Every time I go back to it, I’m always expecting more. (Which is just cause Carpenter had no money.) It’s still great and iconic and totally essential. It’s just one of those movies that feels bigger than it is. Totally still works, though. (3)
President of the United States Donald Pleasence and Duke of New York Isaac Hayes. That is all I have to say about this.
On Golden Pond (1981)
Norman, the loons! (3)
This is the movie that you love, and people who sort of know what it is and what it’s about might try to make fun of you for loving. And you tell them to buzz off, because there’s nothing wrong with liking this movie. Katharine Hepburn, whoa. Henry Fonda, whoa. Jane Fonda, whoa. The most brilliant part of it is that Henry and Jane Fonda were actually having real issues when this was shot, so the tension in their scenes together is real.
It is a wonderful tribute to the challenge and terror of growing old, and how to get through it with the people you love. When Henry Fonda gets lost in the woods and starts freaking out, an awful person would laugh at him and call him a doddering old fool, but if you have an ounce of dignity, you’re crestfallen at what he’s experiencing and you’re hoping he comes out okay.
This is also the best movie in loon history, for what that’s worth. Someone did the incredible public service of putting every loon mention of the film into one video, and half of its views are probably mine.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
I’m torn between a gif, simply saying “fucking really” or plugging the fact that we went over this movie for Fun with Franchises. Either way, it’s Raiders. (2)
I had a great time blogging this movie during Fun with Franchises and wrote up a bunch of stuff in our Final Thoughts, which you should read.
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This section is a weird mash of some of my absolute favorite movies and then other ones that are essential, but aren’t necessarily the most fun of entries. But it doesn’t matter. Essential is essential.
Clash of the Titans, Blow Out and The Stunt Man might not be super essential in comparison with the others, but Clash of the Titans is really fun with its awful effects, Blow Out is De Palma’s 80s take on something that had been done in the 60s and 70s already (both on this list, too), and The Stunt Man is some of the best Peter O’Toole you’ll ever see. That should be endorsement enough for anyone. Aside from that, you can see that we’re starting to get into the action hero genre in a big way now with Indiana Jones and Escape from New York. I’m not huge on the cheesy 80s movies or the over the top action movies, but the good ones are good and need to be respected.
That’s been a consistent refrain, by the way — that regardless of era or genre, there’s always good stuff out there that deserves to be watched and loved. Like On Golden Pond.
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More movies tomorrow.