Other Notable Films from 1983
Return of the Jedi: The final chapter in the Star Wars trilogy and definitely the one that’s the biggest mixed bag. On one hand, the Luke-Vader-Emperor storyline is fantastic and one of the highpoints in the series (on paper…) and the opening part of the movie in Jabba’s palace is great; on the other hand, the Luke-Vader-Emperor storyline makes no sense-at the end of Empire, Vader is 100% ready to kill Luke for not joining him and shows no indications otherwise, but here Luke tells Vader he knows he can’t kill him and Vader suddenly cares about Luke’s well-being. We also have the ewoks and the whole endor plot in general which just feels like a way for Han and Leia to do something during the movie and to sell toys. Overall a very good movie with a great finish, but some cracks show in the series that would later be busted wide-open.
The Dead Zone & Videodrome: Two of David Cronenberg’s best films in the same year! The Dead Zone is probably the best movie with Christopher Walken as the lead (and he’s great); I also love Martin Sheen essentially playing alternate universe Jed Bartlet, where this time he’s a pure evil nutjob running for President. Videodrome is a prototypical Cronenberg from the period-lots of disturbing body horror, but with some real meat under the hood, this being a commentary on technology, TV and society in general.
The King of Comedy: Of the many collaborations between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, this is probably the only one to get mixed reviews upon its release, yet is as good as anything either of them have ever done. De Niro played an incredibly diverse series of roles in the 70s and 80s, and this is one of his boldest, playing a character remarkably similar to Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, but this one is a black comedy rather than a straight psychological thriller even if they deal with a lot of the same themes.
National Lampoon’s Vacation: Harold Ramis, John Hughes and Chevy Chase: three people who were all at the height of their powers when the collaborated to make this seminal 80s comedy, but who all turned to garbage right around 1991-1993. It launched the Vacation series (which produced two more solid films, especially Christmas Vacation), and solidified the National Lampoon label (after their first hit Animal House in 1979 and a few busts in between) which eventually became a cesspool of horrendous films that continues to this day.
Scarface: The remake with Al Pacino that’s much more famous than the original 1932 version with Paul Muni. Personally, the movie didn’t do all that much for me-while the character’s arc is solid if not pretty standard, but it’s way too long at 3 hours and 10 minutes, and I absolutely hate the ending with which undermines the entire message of the movie by making Pacino look like an awesome badass. It’s alright, but I consider it massively overrated except for the Push It to the Limit montage, which is one of the best ever.
Flashdance: Decent underdog story of a nightclub dancer trying to make it as a ballet dancer, but is mainly remembered for its two incredibly memorable songs accompanied by great dance scenes-What a Feeling and Maniac, the former winning Best Song at the Oscars.
Silkwood: This dramatization of a whistleblower case against a nuclear power plant was biggest critical hit that didn’t get a BP nomination-it was nominated for five Oscars with all of them coming from substantial categories-Director (Mike Nichols), Actress (Meryl Streep) Original Screenplay, Editing and Supporting Actress (Cher); the only reason I can think of why The Big Chill got a nomination instead is that it made more money, but it’s not like it crushed it or anything ($56 million vs. $35 million).
1983 Nominees in Review
The Dresser: B
Tender Mercies: B
The Right Stuff: B-
Terms of Endearment: C+ (Won Best Picture)
The Big Chill: C+
A bit better of a year than I was expecting coming in (mainly the first two movies which I had no real knowledge of beforehand) and the Best Picture winner was only the second worst of the nominees! Still, it’s pretty clear we have settled into the mediocrity of the 80s Best Picture category, although next year has at least two very promising films.
For 1984: The last movie to get multiple Best Actor nominations; the second and last film where an untrained actor won an Academy Award; David Lean’s final film, 42 years after his first film that was also nominated for Best Picture; A movie that is solely remembered as the answer to the question “what was the movie Sally Fields won an Oscar for that led her to say ‘you like me, right now you like me!’”; and Norman Jewison makes a film about a black man sent into the racist deep south to investigate a murder…no, not In the Heat of the Night, the other one.