Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread, your place on the Avocado to discuss films with your fellow commenters. Want to make a recommendation? Looking for recommendations? Want to share your opinions of movies, both new and classic?
This week, we reflect on one of the greatest years for sci-fi films. Today’s bonus prompt: what is your favorite film of 1982?
1982 is the year that E.T: The Extraterrestrial broke all the box office records. The tale of a boy and his alien is everything we imagine when we hear the world “Spielbergian”. Kids ride around on dirt bikes in 80’s suburban California. The world always seems to be filmed at sunset. An alien that is cute in his ugliness constructs a telephone out of a sawblade and a Speak-and-Spell. And Reese’s Pieces gets a marketing home run when their candy is associated with 80’s Americana.
It’s not the only sci-fi film to hit that year. After a movie that can best be described as ponderous, Star Trek roars back with its most beloved entry: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Rather than being about the exploration behind being the exploration behind creating an artificial intelligence, Wrath of Khan takes things in a Horatio Hornblower direction and emphasizes naval action … in space! I think it could be argued that this movie is the one that defined the direction that Star Trek: The Next Generation would take in the upcoming years.
Even the flops would prove to be influential in the long term. Tron, Blade Runner, and The Thing would all be seen as flops upon release. They were perfect, though, for the age of the VHS. These films with striking visuals would gain an audience as cult classics… so much so that all three of them would get sequels/prequels in the 2010’s. Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal would go on to have a Netflix show in the same decade.
Then there are the less prominent franchise that still managed to stick around. Mark Singer would reveal his power to talk to beasts in The Beastmaster. Meanwhile, Ator would give use the answer to a question long asked but rarely answered: “How much Keefe is in this movie, anyway?”
On the action movie front, two quintessential stars of the 80’s would cement their roles this decade. Arnold Schwarzenegger finally found a role where his strong Austrian accent wouldn’t be too much of a distraction. As Conan the Barbarian, he found what was best in life. Meanwhile, Sylvester Stallone made the jump from drama to action. Rocky III was far more an action film than the original film (which was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor). And then there was the launch of his second signature franchise, the one that was a harrowing look at a man suffering from PTSD before it became the icon of the Reagan administration: First Blood, the first John Rambo film. Another unlikely future box office star would also debut this year when Eddie Murphy starred opposite Nick Nolte in 48 Hours.
Meanwhile, Ben Kingsley would impress audiences everywhere in his Oscar-winning role as the title character in Gandhi. Fast Times at Ridgemont High introduced audiences to many future stars, such as Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz, and Forest Whitaker (as well as the screen debut of one Nicolas Coppola, who we all know and love as Nic Cage).
Then there are the films that defy categorization. The “tone poem” Koyaanisqatsi would be a godsend to stoners everywhere. The World According To Garp starred Robin Williams and netted supporting actor nominations for John Lithgow and Glenn Close. I’ve never seen it, but the description on Wikipedia makes my head spin.
John Huston would direct a film this year… the musical Annie?!?!?! What is it with directors trying to do musical in the late stages of their careers? He wasn’t the only one, either. Colin Higgins (Harold and Maude, 9 to 5) would direct a musical as his final film: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which starred Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. Though he would last a while longer, Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther) would direct the musical comedy Victor/Victoria, starring Julie Andrews. In 1982, the musical was back, baby!
Martin Scorsese would continue to cement his legend with The King of Comedy. Tobe Hooper would direct Poltergeist, based on a story by Stephen Spielberg and the most family-friendly movie in Hooper’s filmography. Werner Herzog, meanwhile, would maniacally direct people to pull a ship up a mountain in Fitzcarraldo.
Is it possible that 1982 is one of the greatest years in film history?
Next week: Better as TV