best film: Blade Runner is one of the greatest 10 films of all-time (#7 for me) and the second best film of the entire 80’s (raging bull). Ridley Scott’s masterpiece is perhaps cinema’s greatest showcase of production design and mise-en-scene. He uses elements of shadow and lighting like a noir (or like bertolucci’s the conformist), has some of cinema’s greatest establishing shots, a slow-motion glass-breaking sequence that has photography that still blows my mind, a brilliant Vangelis score, and a performance by Rutger Hauer to bring everything together during the epic finale. It’s a giant masterpiece. As you can tell with the movie posters for 1981 and 1982 I feel like I have to acknowledge Harrison Ford because he’s the lead in both the best film of 1981 and the best of 1982. Despite what you’ve heard, he’s very good in blade runner– but he’s also not really close to being as good as Rutger Hauer either.
most underrated: I think Barry Levinson’s diner is a borderline masterpiece and can’t find a spot on the TSPDT top 1000 list. That’s a travesty. Sam Fuller’s white dog also isn’t on the list and I think it’s a top 500 film so there are a lot of options here but I’ll pick diner for my spot. The opening tracking shot is always overlooked whenever any online magazine puts together a list of the best tracking or “oner” shots. I think the film would fare better today on this all-time list if Levinson had capitalized on this film (his debut) to have a better overall career (he’s a fine director but still or if his ensemble cast had gone on to be slightly more impactful (there was a time when it looked like mickey Rourke, kevin bacon, steve guttenberg, ellen barkin, Daniel stern and paul riser were going to be cinematic household names). The ensemble and jocularity reminds me of some of altman’s best work and levinson’s talent for authenticity of both Baltimore as a setting and these characters comes through
most overrated : I adore tootsie. I love the performances from Hoffman, Charles Durning, Teri Garr and Bill Murray. I think all four actors are superb. I also think some of the work from Pollock behind the camera is underrated (his telephoto wide angle lens shot walking down the street is not only gorgeous, works for the film, but a great homage (whether conscious or not) to perhaps the greatest wide angle walking/running shot in history, also with hoffman (hence the joke) from the graduate). I just can’t get behind tootsie being ranked at #512. I think it may be closer to 800-1000 so I’m putting it down as overrated though I thoroughly enjoy the film—I just think there are others with much artistic merit.
gem I want to spotlight: Fassbinder was a major figure in cinema from roughly 1972 to his death at 37 years old in 1982. In that time he made 11 archiveable films and I’m still discovering and arching more and more every year. He was incredibly prolific. I think his BDR trilogy is his best work and 1982’s veronika voss may be the crown jewel. I do have it as his best film and it’s the last archiveable film. It has influences of douglas sirk (he, Fassbinder and almodovar may be the greatest in cinematic melodrama—a sub-genre of drama), his trademark penchant for set pieces, and wild visual flourishes.
trends and notables: 1982 is one of the best years in cinema history. Years of this caliber come along once a decade (1939, 1960, 1973)—I have 7 films here that might be a masterpiece and my #7 film would be good enough to be #2 in most of the other years in the decade (it would be #1 of 1987). Of course any year with a film as good as blade runner is memorable for that film. 1982 is also noteworthy for the sole 1980’s entry into the archives for the great Ingrid Bergman. Fanny and Alexander is terrific. Bergman wouldn’t have a single archiveable film in the 1990’s and sadly his last and only other archiveable film would come in 2003 (saraband). John Carpenter’s the thing bests’ howard hawks’ version of the film and really puts him as one of the best 4-5 filmmakers of this era with his work. It’s worth noting that 1982 is the first woody allen/mia farrow film (a midnight summer’s sex comedy). Controversy a decade later aside, this would be one of the more fruitful auteur/muse or director/actor partnerships and collaborations. 1982 would give us the first archiveable film from Peter Greenaway. Greenaway was an important Hollywood/blockbuster counter-point in the 1980’s- an era known for franchises and big movies. There are a ton of acting debuts in 1982. Robin Williams broke on the scene with the lead in the world according to garp. Glen Close would have a smaller role in the film but debut in my archives with that film as well. I already mentioned him above but Bill Murray would make his archives debut in tootsie. Though it would take about a decade to find a suitable follow-up role, Ben Kingsley would break into the archives with a splash in his work, and oscar winning performance, in Gandhi. Fast Times at ridgemont high had an incredible young ensemble (I think for years people thought diner was the one but no) with jennifer Jason leigh, nic cage and forest whitaker all making their archiveable debuts.
best performance male: I’ve gone back and forth here on my top slot. Rutger Hauer is best on a per-minute ratio basis but Klaus Kinski is in every frame of the 2 hour 38 minute fitzcarraldo. If forced I guess I’ll go with Kinski but there’s nothing that beats the ending with Hauer’s monologue. I’m not sure the film is a top 10 film with any other actor. Jan Malmsjö plays one of cinema’s great villains as the evil zealot step-father in Bergman’s Fanny and alexander. Paul Newman and Robert De Niro, two all-time greats, carry films (the verdict and king of comedy respectively) from lumet and Scorsese that round out the year’s top 10.
best performance female: It’s a really weak year here—I can only muster 3 nominees. Meryl Streep was very deserving of her oscar for her work in sophie’s choice. Streep is known for her accents and she’s never been better than she is here. Sophie’s Choice isn’t pakula’s finest by any stretch but it’s a strong film—not just a one-woman show with her performance. Behind Streep I think Jennifer Jason Leigh gives an underrated authentic performance in fast times at ridgemont high. She’s the tender center of the film that allows flashier performances (like sean penn’s famous turn) to exist. Debra Winger is also very good in an officer and a gentleman to round out my mentions here.
- Blade Runner
- Fanny and Alexander
- The Thing
- Verionka Voss
- White Dog
- The King of Comedy
- The Verdict
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy- Allen||R|
|An Officer and a Gentleman||R|
|Blade Runner- R. Scott||MP|
|Blind Chance- Kieslowski|
|Come Back To the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean- Altman||R|
|Fanny and Alexander- Bergman||MP|
|Fast Times at Ridgemont High||R|
|My Favorite Year||R|
|Night Shift- R. Howard||R|
|Shoot the Moon- A. Parker||R|
|Sophie’s Choice- Pakula||HR|
|Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan||R|
|State of Things- Wenders|
|The Draughtsman’s Contract- Greenaway||R|
|The King of Comedy- Scorsese|
|The Man From Snowy River||R|
|The Thing- Carpenter||MS|
|The Verdict- Lumet||HR|
|White Dog- Fuller||MS|
|The World According To Garp||R|
|Veronika Voss- Fassbinder||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives