Category Archives: 1980

Movies released in 1980.

Review: The Blues Brothers

Director: John Landis
Year: 1980
Score: 6.5/10

Fairly enjoyable comedy despite being overlong and often slow. The car chase scenes in particular grow tiresome; they don’t actually add much, and they’re quite long and repetitive. Calling the plot bare-bones is an understatement; it can fit in its entirety into about half a sentence. But John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are fun, with good chemistry between them, and the musical performances are mostly entertaining. Despite its flaws, it holds up better than many other comedies from the same era. It’s interesting to note the pace of this and compare it to comedies from the past decade or so; I doubt comedy directors could get away with slowing things down so much these days even if they wanted to, but I think it could be helpful in some cases.

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Review: The Elephant Man

Director: David Lynch
Year: 1980
Score: 5.5/10

Quite different to what I expected, this was actually quite disappointing. Large swathes of it resemble cinema of a much earlier time (and not just because it’s in black and white), but then there are more surreal elements that mark it out as a David Lynch film. This is the second-earliest performance I’ve seen from Anthony Hopkins (the earliest being The Lion in Winter) and he’s quite good as the doctor who cares for the title character, played by an understandably unrecognisable John Hurt. Ultimately I felt it was lacking in drama, pathos and narrative drive. Now that I’ve seen it, the fact that this is Karl Pilkington’s favourite film is rather bewildering. Dexter Fletcher, the child actor who has a small role as a boy assisting the villainous Bytes, looks like a cross between a young Mick Jagger and the actress Nicola Walker (Ruth from Spooks); incidentally, he later starred as Spike in Press Gang.

Review: Ordinary People

Director: Robert Redford
Year: 1980
Score: 7.5/10

Intelligent, thoughtful movie about a family in strife. At its centre is an excellent performance from Timothy Hutton as the teenager recovering from the death of his older brother in an accident he blames himself for, a suicide attempt, a stay in a psychiatric hospital, and a mother who appears to dislike him. Donald Sutherland is also very good as the father, and Mary Tyler Moore is effectively off-putting in a challenging role as the mother. The scenes between Hutton and his psychiatrist are always engaging as we wait for the breakthrough we know must eventually come. It’s a small story but it has big things to say about families, relationships, grief, loss, and personal responsibility. Recommended.

Review: The Stunt Man

Director: Richard Rush
Year: 1980
Score: 6.5/10

Interesting movie from Richard Rush about movie-making – but also about reality vs. illusion, perception, control, and war. Its production and release were somewhat troubled, as detailed in the documentary The Sinister Saga of Making The Stunt Man (a documentary which, incidentally, made me like Rush considerably less; he comes across as one of those artists who thinks their work is the Greatest Thing Ever and feels the need to tell you all about it). Steve Railsback is mediocre at best in the title role, Barbara Hershey is marginally better as his love interest, but it’s Peter O’Toole’s performance that engages the whole way through: he’s magnetic and intriguing and dominates every scene he’s in. It has a great jaunty score and some fun action scenes (though most lack tension since we know they’re being staged for the movie-within-the-movie). It’s certainly ambitious in what it’s trying to explore; unfortunately it doesn’t quite get there, and it doesn’t hold together all that well. It feels like its trying to be too clever – and worse, it thinks its succeeding (or, at least, Rush clearly does). Watch it for O’Toole though, he really is impressive.

Review: Heaven’s Gate

Director: Michael Cimino
Year: 1980
Score: 5/10

One of Hollywood’s most famous flops, this is a movie every film buff should watch (together, if possible, with the documentary Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate), even though ultimately it’s quite bad. There’s so much promise: an interesting subject (the Johnson County War), a cast studded with top-notch performers (including Christopher Walken, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Brad Dourif, etc.), lavish period detail in the costuming and set design, and some big action set-pieces. But there’s so much that doesn’t work: it’s bloated (I watched the full 217 minute version) and largely boring, it has no characters worth investing in, there’s no story momentum, the villains are entirely one-dimensional, and the ending is stupid. It works best as a lesson in film history, knowing the context of its production and the impact it had on the industry (not to mention director Michael Cimino’s reputation and career).