Sunday, July 22

Random Cinematic Year in Review - 1983

A Random Cinematic Year In Review

Preface: I have decided to write this series at least in part because I don't make it out to see new films very often and I've found that I spent too much time at the end of the year attempting to see all the big releases (many of which I'm not even interested in) for no other reason than to make an obligatory 'year end list'... This is a way that I can continue writing about films without feeling the pressure to see a bunch of stuff that I wouldn't otherwise take the time to. I'll still see most of them eventually, just on my own time. I use a random number generator to pick a year and I use to determine the actual release year.


On May 13, 1983 a human head was discovered in a bog in Lindow Moss, England. The police, as they do, began questioning a local man whose wife had been missing and believed dead for over 25 years. The local man, Peter Reyn-Bardt made a full confession to the murder and dismemberment of his wife. “It has been so long I thought I would never be found out.” He said. Allegedly, he killed her after she caught him sharing his bed with another man and attempted to extort him. Homosexuality was still illegal in England in 1961 so Reyn-Bardt chose to eliminate the witness to his illicit affair.

Flash forward a few months, the police carbon dated a fragment of the skull and found it to be from the Roman period (around 250 A.D.). Reyn-Bardt tried to revoke his confession but the charges stuck. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Now, I’m not sure what the moral to this story is. It could be some sort of Poe-esque moral tale about the conscience of a guilty mind. Or, if I were a law student, I’d probably say that lesson here is to never talk to the police. I don’t know. It’s just a weird story and I like it.

In other worldly news, World War 3 was narrowly prevented by a Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Defense Forces named Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov. On September 26th, Petrov was the on-duty officer at a command center when its nuclear early-warning system indicated that up to six nuclear missiles had been launched by the U.S. Petrov made a judgement call to treat the warnings as a false alarm. He disobeyed official military protocol and did not report the warnings to his superiors, who may very well have quickly launched a very real counter-strike. As you would expect from 35-year-old information from behind the Iron-Curtain, the details seem to be unclear at best. But the consensus does seem to indicate that this incident was likely the closest this world ever came to an all-out nuclear battle in the four decades of the Cold War... 


A CHRISTMAS STORY (Directed by Bob Clark)

Bob Clark has somehow made two great films that have made it into my regular Christmas rotation. The other I’m referring to of course is his 1974 masterpiece BLACK CHRISTMAS, my all-time favorite horror film. But I digress. I’m talking this time about his “more traditional” holiday film. Like most my age, I grew up with this one on TV in the late eighties and early nineties. Now, this one usually finds itself on a constant loop at my house from the moment we wake up Christmas morning until someone finally gets way too sick of it, usually early afternoon, right after naptime. It’s like a warm blanket. 

STYLE WARS (Directed by Tony Silver)

This is a documentary exploring the earliest years of hip-hop culture that somehow, over thirty years later, still feels fresh and relevant. This is a subject that feels to be obviously foreign to the filmmakers. But to their credit, every perspective is treated with the respect and dignity that is somehow still lacking in modern discourse. Although the film touches on rap music and B-boying, its prime focus is on graffiti writing. It’s interesting to see how, although styles have changed and evolved over the years, the theories and motivations behind the culture remain true.

SANS SOLEIL (Directed by Chris Marker)

Do you ever feel like you’ve just been gaslit by a film? I’m not talking about the newest D’nesh D’souza debacle or the latest Washington/Pyongyang co-production. This film plays with its own perspective in a way that simultaneously deconstructs, reconstructs and thumbs its nose at conventional narrative structure. It’s hard to even describe what you’re really watching. Is it a documentary, a semi-fictional travel log or some sort of avant-garde experimental combination of both? I happened to rewatch this film right after the recent death of Anthony Bourdain. Since then, the film community has been sharing a list he made of his favorite movies. I was sad to see that this one is not on there because I can only assume that he never got around to watching it.

ANGST (Directed by Gerald Kargl)

There are plenty of films that are much more gory and bloody than this one. But this is disturbing on a whole new level. You are not likely to find many films in which the murderer displays this type of apathy for his victims. In that manner, it reminds me of MAN BITES DOG (’92). The camera work here serves to add to its upsetting nature. It’s frenetic floating point-of-view makes its audience complicit in our subject’s spree.

MEANTIME (Directed by Mike Leigh)

Bruce Robinson’s WITHNAIL & I (’87) made British poverty look like a lot more fun than this film does. This was a made for TV movie featuring great early career performances from Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. Oldman’s talent is undeniable. His supporting “Coxy”, an east-ender skinhead could probably be best described as a brilliant audition tape for the lead role in Alex Cox’s SID & NANCY three years later. I tend to compare every successful melodrama made after the 1930’s to the work of Yasujirō Ozu. Shouldn’t I? Mike Leigh’s work always seems to hold up to that comparison quite nicely. One particular shot, from a low angle, focusing on a fidgety washing machine door shows this inspiration rather clearly. 

SLEEPAWAY CAMP (Directed by Robert Hiltzik)

Camp is the overwhelmingly operative word here. Although I think this film is often unfairly lumped in with a slew of far more forgettable fair from the eighties. This one is a standout for me. I think it’s easy to identify with the ‘weird kid’ clumsily trying to hide their awkwardness. I also think that this particular story was in its own way ahead of its time, although this may have been incidental.

L'ARGENT (Directed By Robert Bresson)

One of the French New Wave’s most cherished and celebrated filmmakers gave us his swan song in ’83. This film is probably cinema’s most elegant condemnation of capitalism ever made. It’s a simple ‘money is the root of all evil’ moral tale in which necessity and desperation, rather than greed are what feed our abstract antagonist.

MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE (Directed by Nagisa Ōshima)

This film on the other hand, was not missed by the late Anthony Bourdain. And I wholeheartedly share in his enthusiasm. At its core, this is a story about empathy and how easily it is lost to war. The culture clash is on full display here as a group of British soldiers try to grasp their reality as prisoners of war in Japan. The heart of the film beats with the great performances of David Bowie Tom Conti and Takeshi Kitano.

NOSTALGIA (Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky)

“Feelings are unspoken and unforgettable.”

This is a film about faith and love, two very sane and rational aspects of humanity. And how expressions of faith and love tend to drive us further away from sanity and rationality. This is a beautiful film by a brilliant filmmaker. I love how his long shots are composed. Slow tracking and zooms that are perfectly timed to include more detail and characters that add description to the scene as the shot progresses.

VIDEODROME (Directed by David Cronenberg)

According to Elon Musk, we are in fact most likely digital beings living in a simulated reality. If this is true, (and why wouldn’t it be?) then maybe Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME is our only known portal into the real world. As if it’s some sort of artifact from another dimension prophesizing our overtaking. I mean,         does anyone actually remember this film being released?... Or has it always just been? And what is its real connection to that sarcophagus they just found in Egypt? Or maybe it’s just a really cool movie with great practical effects. Either way, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome and pledge my undying allegiance to my new overlords. Long Live the New Flesh.

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