1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1151 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:43 pm

bamwc2 wrote:Yes, thanks, Swo. Any chance of unlocking that 90s thread?
Swo, if you're holding out for more Efron GIFs before unlocking, I got you

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Satori
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1152 Post by Satori » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:44 pm

I’m very happy my number one squeaked its way into the final list!

My top 15:
1. Johanna D’arc of Mongolia (Ottinger)
2. Videodrome (Cronenberg)
3. Chocolat (Denis)
4. Blue Velvet (Lynch)
5. Vagabond (Varda)
6. The Eighties (Akerman)
7. Stranger than Paradise (Jarmusch)
8. The Image of Dorian Gray in the Yellow Press (Ottinger)
9. Sleepwalk (Driver)
10. Routine Pleasures (Gorin)
11. My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett
12. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Haynes)
13. Le Pont Du Nord (Rivette)
14. Camp de Thiroye (Sembene)
15. The Shining (Kubrick)

Also, here is a belated defense for my orphans that I didn’t already discuss in the thread (Duras and the Sayles films). I’d love to read defenses of other people’s orphans if they have the time. I discovered some good stuff reading about orphans from the 70s project.

11. My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett)- I’d almost put this up there with Burnett’s masterpieces of the 70s and 90s. The minimalist narrative aesthetic unlocks a wide array of social issues without trying to provide answers. I see the end of the film, with the protagonist caught in between his brother’s wedding and his friend’s funeral, as something similar to the gap within Mookie in Do the Right Thing as he finds himself between multiple worlds. Burnett’s film is more subtle, though, demonstrating how racism structures society in more hidden ways by focusing on the contradictions produced within black communities by racist economic and social policy. A good complement to Do the Right Thing, then (which was on my list as well).

18. The Gold Diggers (Potter)- I believe this is Potter’s first feature. Amazing black and white photography juxtaposes wide open spaces and a foreboding bureaucratic interiors. Magnificent images abound.

19. The Virgin Machine (Truet)- the greatest anti-love film ever. Parodies sexology and psychiatry in the first half before transporting the narrative to San Francisco’s queer scene where the hapless protagonist undergoes a subjective transformation after going on a date with a woman who turns out to be prostitute.

21. The Wind (Cissé)- I don’t think this film is terribly well known, but I found it to be a remarkable examination of the intersection of familial oppression and neo-colonialism (similar to what we find in much of Sembène’s work). There is also this magical or supernatural element to it that I found exciting.

29. Agatha et les Lectures Illimitées (Duras)

30. Living Dead Girl (Rollin)- This movie has a lot going against it: the ridiculous American couple that appear constantly for no real reason, absurd gore effects, bizarre plot strands that go nowhere. But it’s also this incredibly sensitive portrait of a relationship that makes me cry every time I watch it. Lately I’ve been convinced that Rollin’s films become more interesting if we read as romances instead of horror films.

32. Born in Flames (Borden)- great, entertaining feminist sci-fi romp that is also a serious look at divisions within feminism at the time around issues of race, class, and sexuality.

33. Brother from Another Planet (Sayles)

35. A Dry, White Season (Placy)- I read this as a deconstructive critique of the liberal “white savior” nominally-antiracist-but-actually-racist film genre. The limits of the well-meaning white characters in the film are clear: they can expose the conditions and contradictions in society, but that is it. The end of the film—which I don’t want to spoil because is both jarring and powerful—is a reminder that real change always comes from the oppressed themselves.

36. Variety (Gordon)- About a woman who sells tickets at a porn theater in New York near Times Square. I love the scuzzy aesthetic of the movie and the setting in the milieu of pre-Giuliani New York. It’s also a complex mediation on desire and sexual fantasy with a great conspiracy plot tacked on.

38. Liliana (Sayles)

42. A Question of Silence (Gorris) Four women strangers join together and kill a man, leaving the male police and psychologists baffled because they can’t understand why women would feel oppressed. Another great feminist classic of the era.

45. Where the Green Ants Dream (Herzog)- I think this is great and under looked classic in the Herzog oeuvre. Has a brilliant sense of absurdity and this wonderfully Utopian, anti-colonial dimension.

46. A Girl’s Own Story (Campion)- a very disturbing film- not only the subject matter, but there is something about the film as a whole that I can’t shake. My favorite of the Campion shorts of the decade (all of which I really like, and I tend to like better than most of her features).

50. The Beyond (Fulci)- I love the gates of hell trilogy. I know they are typically read as nihilistic, but I think they could probably be rehabilitated by focusing how the bodies in the films are always in a state of becoming: there is something oddly liberating about Fulci’s obsession with bodily transformation, even if it is always through violence. (I'm sure this argument is made better somewhere else; it seems like Deleuze is all the rage in horror film scholarship these days). The “hell” at the end of The Beyond is thus only for the two protagonists who insist on science, rationality, and the illusion of their bodily boundaries (the doctor especially, who refuses to believe in the zombies and other supernatural happenings throughout most of the film). The sheer silliness of the films also eliminates the problematic elements present in other Fulci films like New York Ripper.

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swo17
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1153 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:54 pm

Tommaso wrote:the MoC release must have helped Rivette's "Pont du nord" a lot. On the other hand, the drastic drop of "La bande des quatre" is pretty inexplicable to me.

I'm also quite happy to see that at least one Ottinger film, "Johanna d'arc of Mongolia", has made the list, and that with only three people voting for it (and no, I wasn't the one who put it on first place of his list). The same for Ottinger's "Dorian Gray": only three people had it on their list, with two of them ranking it Top 10.

I guess this is another good example how much commercial availability has an influence on the listmaking in general, and how important it is to try to use the backchannels to get a more complete picture. This is probably less important for the coming lists, as far fewer (great) films from the 1990s onwards are missing commercial releases, but the issue will certainly come up again when we enter Vol.4, especially the 20s and 30s, I guess.
By the same token, there are at least a few unreleased films that fared moderately well here that I'm convinced would skyrocket to the upper reaches of the list if they ever got a proper release (I'm looking at you, Manoël on the Island of Marvels).

Gregory, did you ever review this list included in the first post? It mentions the Hara film. (And zedz didn't vote for it either.)

thirtyframesasecond, I originally wasn't going to vote for Society at all, but then one day I felt completely okay with it.

Re: Ms. 45, while I didn't vote for it, I did just watch it, and ended up having that saxophone riff play over and over in my head throughout the tabulation process, which helped to ease the pain.

I'll unlock the '90s thread soon, once I get through all of these Zac Efron gifs. But um, this is supposed to be "I Love the '80s" Day. Not "Domino Gets a Headstart on the '90s So That He Can Burn Out Three Months Before the Project Ends" Day.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1154 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:59 pm

swo17 wrote:I'll unlock the '90s thread soon, once I get through all of these Zac Efron gifs. But um, this is supposed to be "I Love the '80s" Day. Not "Domino Gets a Headstart on the '90s So That He Can Burn Out Three Months Before the Project Ends" Day.
Hey, I wasn't even the one to ask this time!

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swo17
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1155 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:05 pm

Gregory wrote:I suppose Do the Right Thing (like most other high-ranking films to one extent or another) ranked where it did due to the often-observed phenomenon of certain votes accruing many votes just because so many voters had placed them somewhere on their list, even if most of those ranked it in the lower part of the list and not near the top.
That explains why popular but not especially loved films break into the top 100, but not why a film tops the list. The fact is simply that it got more votes than any other film, and more than half of those votes were in the top 10. I didn't vote for it either (or even rewatch it for this project), though my excuse is that I'm still waiting for Criterion to put it out on Blu-ray.

For what it's worth, Berlin Alexanderplatz was the clear #1 pick for the first half of the lists submitted.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1156 Post by Tommaso » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:16 pm

That reminds me: how many lists were submitted? (Just curious)

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1157 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:19 pm

As I indicated in the first results post, 34.

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Gregory
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1158 Post by Gregory » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:26 pm

swo17 wrote:
Gregory wrote:I suppose Do the Right Thing (like most other high-ranking films to one extent or another) ranked where it did due to the often-observed phenomenon of certain votes accruing many votes just because so many voters had placed them somewhere on their list, even if most of those ranked it in the lower part of the list and not near the top.
That explains why popular but not especially loved films break into the top 100, but not why a film tops the list. The fact is simply that it got more votes than any other film, and more than half of those votes were in the top 10.
I just meant part of what helped it get to the top was the sheer number of lists it appeared on (same with Blue Velvet), but that's perhaps too an obvious point to be worth noting. I don't dispute that Do the Right Thing is a well-loved film, as I see it occurred in 10 top 10s.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1159 Post by bamwc2 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:31 pm

swo17 wrote:For what it's worth, Berlin Alexanderplatz was the clear #1 pick for the first half of the lists submitted.
As much as I love Do the Right Thing, I would have been sooooo happy if that stayed number one.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1160 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:41 pm

Gregory wrote:I just meant part of what helped it get to the top was the sheer number of lists it appeared on (same with Blue Velvet), but that's perhaps too an obvious point to be worth noting. I don't dispute that Do the Right Thing is a well-loved film, as I see it occurred in 10 top 10s.
Basically every high-ranking film had votes that fell toward the bottom of numerous lists. If this is worth anything though, here are a few films that had no bottom 20 votes:

05. Berlin Alexanderplatz (lowest vote: 28)
35. Broadcast News (22)
39. City of Pirates (28)
53. Modern Romance (22)
58. Broadway Danny Rose (28)
63. They All Laughed (19)
65. Chocolat (22)
71. Mystery Train (24)
74. Comrades (20)
79. Yellow Earth (27)
86. Fire Festival (29)

(All of these films had at least five votes.)

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domino harvey
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1161 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:51 pm

Gregory wrote:I just meant part of what helped it get to the top was the sheer number of lists it appeared on (same with Blue Velvet), but that's perhaps too an obvious point to be worth noting. I don't dispute that Do the Right Thing is a well-loved film, as I see it occurred in 10 top 10s.
I do think it's of some interest that it was no one's number one pick, at least. The same thing happened to Out of the Past in the Noir List Project (though that did one better and appeared on literally every submitted list, just not in anyone's number one slot)

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1162 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:55 pm

It's going to be my #1 noir though.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1163 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:58 pm

Can't believe you're going to bump Deadwood Season 1 for it

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1164 Post by Gropius » Mon Sep 29, 2014 9:54 pm

I'm away from a computer, so can't go through my list in detail, but I am surprised that Hou's The Time to Live... was an orphan (I put it at no. 2). Rewatching his 80s films for this round, it was the one that struck me the most, even if City of Sadness is more technically accomplished.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1165 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 10:38 pm

So I just received another list from someone (who only discovered the project last week) that says they thought they sent it to me before the deadline, but I never got it. I don't want to set a precedent for accepting lists after the results have been posted (no one else has the benefit of seeing everyone else's cards before playing their hand), but I made an executive decision in this case to tabulate this additional list without giving out any more points. In other words, none of the rankings change, but if you voted for any of the following films, then you are no longer burdened with an orphan:

Story of Women
Drugstore Cowboy
Pauline at the Beach
Prince of the City
Scanners
Time Bandits

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1166 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:54 am

Oh, there's a precedent for delivered lists not being counted and then tabulated after the deadline (glares at domino).

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1167 Post by swo17 » Tue Sep 30, 2014 1:27 am

I believe domino did that before when he realized he had inadvertently missed something. This isn't quite the same thing. However, if anyone feels I should handle this differently, let me know.

For future reference to everyone, I always send confirmation that I have received your lists right after I enter them. So if you don't get that from me, something's up.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1168 Post by the preacher » Tue Sep 30, 2014 5:44 am

Thanks for the hard work, swo. And thanks to everyone who contributed!

Orphans:

Well, lack of support for Latin America cinema is a tradition, so it is not surprising to find there Time for Revenge (my #22) or The City and the Dogs (30). At least Spanish language El Norte got another vote (Criterion helps, I suppose). Kudos to Cecilia's voter, which is indeed a very good film.

Terrible wallop of my East Asian darlings was more unexpected: Oro, plata, mata (1), Legend of Tianyun Mountain (4), A Distant Cry from Spring (9), When the Tenth Month Comes (19), Butterfly and Flowers (21). Not widely seen or not widely liked?

On the other hand my Hollywood choices did well... :P (Pale Rider aside, I knew that after the western poll)

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1169 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:06 am

1. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980) – C’mon, was there any alternative? Cimino’s maddening, sprawling, original American epic has fascinated and drawn me back to it like no other film this decade or perhaps any decade. It harks back to the naturalist spectacles of Stroheim or Griffith (don’t believe me? Ask Godard); attempts to bridge the lyrical dignity of Ford and the brutal pessimism of Peckinpah; trapezes through scenes worthy of Whitman, Wharton, Norris, London or Fitzgerald; and yet ultimately ends with a film that, in its storytelling structure and strategies, is as symphonic as it is novelistic. Let’s continue the hyperbole: Cimino was perhaps cinema’s Herman Melville: a singularly American artist who simply couldn’t tell a story or craft a novel/movie by any conventional yardstick, and who suffered for it. But all Melville needed was ink, paper and a publisher, hence his long list of rediscovered masterpieces. The real tragedy is not knowing if this was Cimino’s Moby Dick or simply his Redburn: a sign of extinguished greatness to come.

2. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985) – A film that’s too terrifying and traumatic to invite repeat viewings, which is why it was ultimately bumped down a spot. But how poorer you’d be for not seeing it at least once?! Somebody complained earlier that he was unsure of it using beautiful images to relate the experience of war, but 1) without the aestheticized power of those images, this film would be simply unbearable and nauseating, 2) Klimov’s “beautiful” image never falls into the trap of making war seem attractive or thrilling. Rather, this is a film that taps into Edmund Burke’s “the sublime”: a feeling of awe and hushed terror in the face of the vast and unknowable, but ultimately omnipresent, force of destruction that is war.

3. Manoel on the Island of Marvels (Raoul Ruiz, 1985) – I think this was my orphan last time, so that it made the leap to the list (with only four votes!) is hopefully a trend that continues with the next list. Raoul Ruiz was the MVP of the 1980s, and this is the closest thing he has to a clear-cut masterpiece… not just that it’s a great or brilliant film (he has plenty of those) but the manner it places most of his chief preoccupations into one grand canvas. As swo already alluded, by making an ostensible “children’s film”, Ruiz sheds some of the more aggressively obtuse or avant-garde aspects of his other films and creates a work of pure imagination, inventiveness and phantasmagoric wonder… all on his typically Ruizian shoestring budget. Save for maybe Rivette, no one could do enigmatic better than Ruiz; perhaps no one did it with as much magical and absurd aplomb; and he perhaps never did it more delightfully than here.

4. Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax, 1986) – On a strictly subjective, emotional level, perhaps no film gets it hooks in me this decade more than this, Carax’s rock-n-roll-sci-fi-policier-love-poem, addressed ostensibly to Juliette Binoche, but which really valorizes love in all its youthful, mad, consuming, obsessive, transformative glory. There’s a b-movie plot in here, but Carax, as always, uses it simply as a skeleton on which to craft his cinema-by-the-moment: a collection of ecstatic, swooning, anarchic epiphanies which erupt from the film any given second. Our own davidhare blasted these as “Carax’s cinematic erections”… but I’ll take that as a compliment!

5. Long Arm of the Law (Johnny Mak, 1984) ORPHAN – I guess I can’t blame anyone else for not watching – I certainly didn’t view anyone else’s spotlight (alas, the swapsie is dead) – but all the crime junkies on the forum owe it to themselves to track down this tough, grim masterpiece. Those who only know Hong Kong crime from John Woo’s graceful pyrotechnics or Johnnie To’s formalist rigor are bound for a revelation. To many, it’s a defining film of the era, sealing up the wild, wooly New Wave and launching an entire wave of slicker Heroic Bloodshed imitators. To the aforementioned Johnnie To, it’s one of the ten greatest film noirs to come out of Hong Kong. To the HKFA, it’s the sixth greatest Chinese film ever made. To me? It’s an ever-tightening vise-grip of a thriller, beginning in a state of low-key intensity, ending in a roar of urban violence and socio-political turmoil

6. My Friend Ivan Lapshin (Aleksei German Sr., 1984) ORPHAN – One of the maddening aspects of the utter disregard of Hard to Be a God here in the States - other than the movie event of the year being ignored - is the way it’s also put a kibosh on a long overdue A. German retrospective. This, undoubtedly, would be the centerpiece, a film called by some the greatest Russian film ever made (including, it is said, by Tarkovsky). It’s also a film that’s been said to be impossible for a non-Soviet audience to understand. I can see that: this study of ‘30s small-town Russia, as communist idealism is giving way to Stalinist terror, seems to be as deeply impressed by its conspicuous absences as by what it shows. Yet, there is much to admire here: German’s masterful camera pyrotechnics, a seemingly Russian tradition; his ability to bring the physical conditions of life into such sharp relief with his staging and black-white/sepia images; his control of the tragicomic and absurd that permeates the film. But above all, it’s the film's unusual fractured feel: scenes and even shots don’t come together the way we expect, small background detail and inconsequential gestures are treated with as much emphasis as those pertaining the central plot; even German’s camera roams around like a viewer unsure of what to look at. It’s this very confusion, perhaps mitigated for a Russian audience, which I find most striking and involving about the film, an almost Proustian (not quite) search through the rubble of memory – and with it, history – that permeates the film.

7. The Sword (Patrick Tam, 1980) ALSO-RAN – I’ve been eating and breathing wuxia pian for the last year or so, so believe me when I tell you this is one of the masterworks of the genre. In fact, everyone who sees it seems to think highly of it. So why hasn’t it made a leap into greater cult consciousness, let alone the general film canon? A grim and powerful study of the thirst for glory and power, even removed from its commentary on genre, it has all the trappings of a crossover critical hit. As much as any King Hu film, this could easily be slipped into the Criterion Collection. It certainly deserves it.

8. The Asthenic Syndrome (Kira Muratova, 1980) – Bursting with all the energy and exuberance of a panic attack or daylight mugging, this acerbic satire is dazzling for technique alone. It begins as a stark, black-and-white absurdist dramedy; expands into an expansive social-comedy ala Tati or Iosseliani (or Roy Anderssen, who I’m convinced studied this film; just look at the subway scene). Yet, it’s in the final stretch, where the film focuses its sight on a central character, that it passes from just dazzling to something deeper felt. When asked to describe what Asthenic Syndrome the film was about, Muratova said, “It’s about everything.”. I wonder if that’s not also true of Asthenic Syndrome the illness. Ultimately, the film captures a deeply emotional/spiritual/political/…./ feeling of malaise/confusion/aggression/…/ that permeates society, and that’s what sticks with you.

9. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985) – Do I need to say anthing? Shakespeare’s arguably best play makes Kurosawa’s arguably best work. It’s a no-brainer. The energy and “humanist” vigor of his earlier films is gone, replaced by a sad, resigned God’s-eye view of the world. If anyone’s going to make a convincing “God’s-eye”, its Kurosawa.

10. Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980) – After a certain hour-mark, it feels like a cheat to include a long-form work like this. Frankly, otherwise, this could have been higher. Nevertheless, not only does RWF fully encompass and explore the world of Doblin’s novel, in some places he arguably improves it (at least the English translation). Improving on a masterwork of Modernist 20th Century literature? Yeah, you’re probably going to make my top 10.

Orphans:

A Visitor to a Museum (Konstantin Lopushanskiy, 1989) – Tarkovsky made the most famous Sci-Fi adaptations, but it is Lopushanskiy who really nails Soviet Sci-Fi’s mix of satire, absurdity, philosophy, and spirituality. His Letters from a Dead Man made my list last time, but this masterpiece was easily the best of the (all-too few) new films I viewed for this project. Another Russian director long overdue for a retrospective and revival here out west.

Cruising (William Friedkin, 1980) – Honestly, don’t be surprised if this cracks my top 10 next go around. This film maudit among films maudites is simply the most endlessly fascinating of all of Friedkin’s films, and because of this, it’s probably his masterpiece. Part realistic police procedural, part giallo sleaze, part avant-garde abstraction (think Robbe-Grillet), Friedkin fractures his narrative, through calculated misdirection and shock effects, into a insoluble hall-of-mirrors. The result, whether intended or not, is a metaphysical mystery, radically subversive in tone, which has far more to say about heterosexuality and heteronormativity than queer life. I really wanted to do a huge write-up on this, but ultimately scrapped it once it became clear that it may have possibly ended up book-length (maybe I’ll beat you to press, Dom). To those who need more convincing, I’ll point to Robin Wood, Bill Krohn and Adrian Martin, whose writings on the film (some of it available online) are some of the most intelligent and acute on how the film works.

Favorites of the Moon (Otar Iosseliani, 1984) – Was that some other Iosseliani, or wasn’t someone praising this earlier? Either way, this is my first film by the guy, and probably not my last (even if I hear they’re not all like this). As mentioned above, there’s something of Tati here, the way the film is told in fleeting “decentralized” snapshots which slowly accumulate, until were left with something beyond a simple ensemble film, something with a greater breadth of totality in its vision of society and city life. Utterly charming and urbane, and easily available on Blu.

Docteur Jekyll et les femmes (Walerian Borowczyk, 1981) – C’mon people. I know its not in the set, but you’d think with all the flurry of activity surrounding the man, somebody would go through the trouble of tracking this down. Yeah, the current copy looks like crap, and the film makes the crucial mistake of dubbing Udo Kier, but this is arguably his masterpiece. Haunting, decadent brilliance. As someone who spent his early teens watching trashy horror films, and his late teens reading pretentious books from Dedalus Press, this is tailor-made. I’m sure the rest of you can dig it too, perhaps after you’ve all exhausted the film in the boxset.

Duel to the Death (Ching Siu-tung, 1983) – Every decade, the best swordsmen from China and Japan meet in an honourable duel. But this year, a conspiracy is laid to turn the fighters against eachother in all-out war. After The Sword, Ching struck out on his own with this influential film. Unfettered, he gives full reign to his highly imaginative, frenetic style of action choreography, full of wire work, trick weapons, and impossible feats of physics. It’s the most famous aspect of the film, casting a tall shadow on the following period of HK film, from big budget wire-fantasies, to no-budget gonzo ninja films. But what’s most striking is how grimly serious its China-vs-Japan duel is treated. Yes, it’s still a nationalistic film biased in China’s favor, but Ching shows quite a bit of sensitivity to Japan and even some sadness at the inevitability toward the title’s duel. And the boy does it come: the last 30 minutes is a masterclass of ‘80s HK action, an escalating series of mind-boggling incidences which crescendo in a literally earth-shattering finale. That Ching manages an effective drama of national differences admist all this near-Jodorowskian lunacy is ultimately why I consider it greater than the more famous A Chinese Ghost Story.

Route One USA (Robert Kramer, 1989)Ice and Milestones are more famous, but this might be Kramer’s masterpiece, another mix of documentary and fiction (leaning towards the former) that finds Kramer exploring his abandoned country along the length of the titular highway. But like most of Kramer’s work, it’s not the grand thesis, of a country transformed and for the worst, that makes it work; even in the right hands, it could be terribly condescending. No, its the poetry of individual shots, moments and scenes that slowly accumulate throughout his journey. At 4 hours+, there’s plenty of these moments to sift through. An intimate American epic hiding in plain sight, I’m shocked that this hasn’t gotten more attention here, given some of the forum’s predilections for this sort of docu-diary-fiction.

Project A (Jackie Chan, 1983) – With Jackie, votesplitting is inevitable – I nearly swapped this for sentimental fave Police Story – but I don’t think there can be no doubt he was one of the most important filmmakers to emerge this decade, even as his screen persona often overshadows his filmmaking talent. This landmark film, a point of no-return between the old-school and the new/second-waves, makes his debt to the grand tradition of Keaton and Lloyd explicit. The result is one of the most impressive entertainments of a decade built by them, and one of the quintessential examples of the ‘80s Hong Kong blockbuster. Some later films might be better, but if you’ve never taken Chan seriously as a film artist, this is a perfect declaration of intent.

Life Is a Dream (Raúl Ruiz, 1987) – Ruiz’s third “masterwork” to make my list (after the nightmarish City of Pirates), this is perhaps his most impressively “literary”… not in the way it’s typically meant, a short-form film that has the breadth of narrative and details of a longer-form written work. Rather, this film encapsulates the experimental, modernist (and post-) impulses you’d find in writers like Borges, Cortazar or Frish or whatever high-falutin’ name you wanna throw out… but ultimately it sings like a film, baby! A political dissident returns to his home country and tries to recall a list of fellow travelers that he once memorized; he learned it through the mnemonic use of the titular Calderon play which he had previously learned; having forgotten it, he now tries to recall the play; to do this, he returns to a childhood movie theater, showing the same matinee films as it did when he was once a kid. From this high-concept Ruiz moves effortlessly through the various layers of narratives – present, memories, the play, the films – as they collapse on each other and mix up. Brainy and enigmatic stuff, sure, but also absolutely delightful watching Ruiz trapeze through all realities. Ruiz’s Inception if you will.

Zegen (Shōhei Imamura, 1987) - With no subtitle version available I knew this was doomed to the orphanage. But I persisted anyways like some, um, airplane pilot, erh, not afraid of death… or some, say, madman in a, eh, silly Spanish hat…. Hell, I’m no good at metaphors! Yet this Quixotic saga of a decent man (Ken Ogata) who gets turned into a South Seas brothel magnate – and unwittingly becomes a patsy for Imperial Japanese colonial interests – is one of Imamura’s best work. For all its comic ribaldry, it’s a culmination of his serious documentaries from the ‘70s. And while not his most famous film of the decade, it’s perhaps the one that returns closest to his theme of the ‘60s: the lower portion of society and body. If it screens near you, see it. Otherwise, lets hope the backchannels come through with fansubs.

Killer Constable (Kuei Chih-Hung, 1980) – My continued viewers-block dovetailed nicely with the end of my ‘70s Shaw project so that I never got to my capsule write-ups on the HK Eighties. While the titles above might be expected to gain a few other votes, this one was certainly doomed to failure. It’s the second masterpiece of Kuei Chih-Hung, he of Boxer’s Omen fame, and his only swordplay film. It might not be as demented as that other film, but it packs arguably a bigger wallop. Shaw legend Chen Kuan-Tai gives an unusually intense performance as the titular constable, whose gained legend for the extreme extent of his cruelty in meting out justice. In most films, he could be a villain, but here he’s the protagonist journeying through a landscape of disillusionment and violence. A remake of Chang Cheh’s Invincible Fist (written up here), Kuei takes that film’s elemental plot and turns up the dread. The result is a macabre and decadent cruel wuxia-pian, one of the highlights of both Shaw and the genre’s end.

White of the Eye (Donald Cammell, 1987) – Another “WTF, forum?”. I thought the Arrow release gave this a bump. Guessed wrong. Either way, this is by far a more accomplished film than Performance and, as long as I’m throwing out fastballs, better than any of Roeg’s films this decade. Murder and psychosis. Love and commitment. Hidden vistas of reality behind our own. Not bad for another “psycho lover” pseudo-slasher from Cannon Films, eh?

La Maison assassinée (Georges Lautner, 1988) – Lautner was a workmen French director who nevertheless every few years managed to make one great film, the common denominator being the way they remind one of pre-New Wave tradition of quality thrillers. This was one of his last, a rural thriller which, while reminiscent of Jean de Florette/Manon of Spring, ultimately harks back to the great dark French tradition of Clouzot, Becker, Christian Jacque and company. Some people won’t see more than a good potboiler here, but those who love the old-guard of French filmmaking may very well find much to enjoy once they get into Lautner’s groove of old-world craftsmanship and exquisite cruelty.

Golem (Piotr Szulkin, 1980) – While not as impressive as the Lopushanskiy, this Polish sci-fi was one of the last films I saw, and another one that struck me deeply. In a world where beings are manufactured and synthesized by governmental overlords, a new cyborg that show human emotions like love and compassions throws a wrench in the system. That premise could have easily led to the preachiest of dramas, or the smugest of satires, but Szulkin knows better. When faced with an obvious premise, you respond by pushing that premise deep into strangeness and the grotesque. This movie has a palpable atmosphere of paranoia and absurdity than many peg as “Kafkaesque”, but is deeply rooted in that region’s Sci-Fi tradition. This, despite being inspired by the work of German occultist and horror pioneer Gustav Meyrink. I understand Szulkin went on to a famous trilogy of sci-fi satires, but this much more serious movie is highly recommended for fans of Stanislaw Lem or Philip K. Dick.

Five Element Ninjas (Chang Cheh, 1982) – My prized #50 pick, this realistically deserves much higher. There are few films on this or any list which are more sheerly entertaining than this “Chinese vs. Japanese” kitsch-epic. Bathed in camp artifice and homoerotic pathos, it’s Chang Cheh distilling his life’s work down to a finely concentrated reduction. So, it’s sorta like Ran, but with greasy pecks, neon-colored ninjas and casual dismembering. Some say the last great film from the master, some say his greatest… all I’ll say is that if you ever have a chance to see this in a theater with a receptive audience, even if you don’t like kung-fu films, try it… The experience may prove infectious. And no, I’m not being ironic: this is a great movie.
Last edited by Cold Bishop on Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:51 am, edited 7 times in total.

Numero Trois
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2009 5:23 am
Location: Florida

Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1170 Post by Numero Trois » Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:47 am

zedz wrote:I know the 80s is supposed to be the golden age of music videos, but there are none I'd want to include on my list - and I've included at least one on my 70s, 90s and 00s lists.
Not even Captain Beefheart's Ice Cream for Crow?

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NABOB OF NOWHERE
Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2005 12:30 pm
Location: Brandywine River

Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1171 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:10 am

or Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody '89 remix?

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Lemmy Caution
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:26 am
Location: East of Shanghai

Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1172 Post by Lemmy Caution » Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:28 am

I meant to submit a list, but mine only went up to 45.
The 80's about my least favorite decade for films.
And so few foreign films I like.

My unsubmitted list:

1. Veronika Voss
2. Purple Rose of Cairo
3. Raising Arizona
4. Mephisto
5. Red Sorghum
6. Zelig
7. Roger & Me
8. Do the Right Thing
9. Blood Simple
10. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
11. Better Off Dead
12. This Is Spinal Tap
13. Brazil
14. The Blues Brothers
15. A Christmas Story
16. Repo Man
17. A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit
18. Antonio Gaudi
19. Grave of the Fireflies
20. Drugstore Cowboy
21. Fish Called Wanda
22. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
23. Lola
24. The Icicle Thief
25. Heimat
26. Three Crowns of the Sailor
27. Mishima
28. Atomic Café
29. The Decalogue
30. My Life as a Dog
31. Mystery Train
32. Videodrome
33. 48 Hrs.
34. Sidewalk Stories (1989)
35. Alice
36. Vagabond
37. Berlin Alexanderplatz
38. When Father Was Away on Business
39. Cane Toads: An Unnatural History
40. Louie Bluie
41. Stand by Me
42. Coal Miner's Daughter
43. Camp de Thiaroye
44. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
45. Gandhi
46. Cinema Paradiso

I would really have helped Mephisto.
And I would have tinkered with the order a bunch probably.
I'm surprised by the relatively poor showing by Zelig and Raising Arizona.
I also would have expected a Christmas Story and Atomic Cafe to have fared better.
Not sure where Red Sorghum was on the final list.

Edit: I thought Sidewalk Stories was released in 1990.
Seems the general release was Jan 1990, but it had a Nov. 3 1989 NYC release, making it an 80's film. I would have made that an 80's spotlight. A chaplinesque silent film set in the Village with a black star was pretty unique for 1989/90.

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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1173 Post by swo17 » Tue Sep 30, 2014 10:54 am

Lemmy Caution wrote:I meant to submit a list, but mine only went up to 45.
The 80's about my least favorite decade for films.
I think several people here would tell you that they went into the project thinking that it was not a great decade for film but came out of it pleasantly surprised. There are a lot of great, somewhat obscure films included in the final tally. Please do check out the ones you haven't seen!

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YnEoS
Joined: Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:30 am

Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1174 Post by YnEoS » Tue Sep 30, 2014 5:39 pm

Cold Bishop wrote: Favorites of the Moon (Otar Iosseliani, 1984) – Was that some other Iosseliani, or wasn’t someone praising this earlier? Either way, this is my first film by the guy, and probably not my last (even if I hear they’re not all like this). As mentioned above, there’s something of Tati here, the way the film is told in fleeting “decentralized” snapshots which slowly accumulate, until were left with something beyond a simple ensemble film, something with a greater breadth of totality in its vision of society and city life. Utterly charming and urbane, and easily available on Blu.
I brought it up earlier on in the thread, but ultimately decided not to submit a list since I've seen way too few of the great 80s films and haven't had much time for movie watching lately. Probably could've helped some of your other HK orphans make a charge at the Also-Rans list as well. I still haven't seen The Sword yet, though it's been on my high priority watch list for a while now, so I'll be sure to get around to it sooner rather than later.

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swo17
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Location: SLC, UT

Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1175 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 01, 2014 12:04 pm

Here is my 1980s list, including the following orphans:

Thunder (Takashi Itō)
Spacy (Takashi Itō)
Mammame (Raúl Ruiz)
The Public Voice (Lejf Marcussen)
Virile Games (Jan Švankmajer)
The Garden of Earthly Delights (Stan Brakhage)
Media (Zbigniew Rybczyński)
Miami Connection (Park Woo-sang & Y.K. Kim)

I certainly picked the right spotlight titles! If you define "right" as films you like the most that no one else will vote for.

This project proved to be an interesting experiment, since the prior iteration was the first one I participated in after having just joined the forum. I had only seen about 350 films from the decade at the time, and have since somehow added roughly 800 to that count (not all in the past eight months, mind you). So how much of a top 50 survives after more than tripling the number of films seen? Less than half (22). Or perhaps more illustrative, here are the rankings from my prior list of my current top 10: N/A, 16, 1, N/A, 15, 11, N/A, N/A, N/A, 3. Three of these new entries I only discovered during this project (including my #1 pick).

So in conclusion, I look forward to the next iteration of this decade, at which time I presumably will have seen 4,000 '80s films, and will only be able to look at this list that I made now with mild embarrassment.

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