Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Reprise » “Fer Shur”… It’s an ’80 Thing


A few years ago, the film blogger over at Colonel Mortimer Will Have His Revenge wrapped up his 1980 Project. A personal proposal begun a few years back, my friend examined the lion’s share of films for that particular year (and posted on many of them).

“For the last few years I have had a slow moving film geek pursuit. The whole endeavor stemmed from my issues with the annual end of the year top ten film lists. I have nothing against them, I love reading them, though I never regard them as anything close to a true sense of what the ten best films of any given year is, but rather revealing the tastes and personality (or lack thereof) of the writer of said list. Does it contain the prerequisite foreign film that the viewer saw once at a festival and appears on the list pretty much solely in a possessive manner (it’s mine, and only mine!), does it contain an out of nowhere mainstream blockbuster to prove the writer’s ability to register and enjoy pop art (this from someone who would have included Talladega Nights on his non existent top ten list for last year)? No my issue is with my dogged completest attitude. How could I truly create a Top Ten List if I haven’t seen every film released in the year, or at least every film that provided me a modicum of interest or critical attention, since a viewing of say, Wild Hogs, would not have any effect on the process.”

For those of us who love cinema, his astute perspective on the batch of pictures he examined for that focal twelvemonth made for some thoroughly enjoyable reading. The start of his series can be found here. And since the Colonel graciously wanted to “know what [my] faves from 1980 are or were back then since I know you actually saw most of these films theatrically”, what could I say?

Tubular, totally tubular

1980 was a particularly pivotal year, if I do say so myself. One could look at it (if you count a decade starting from the *1 year to the *0, as some do) as the last year in the turbulent decade that was the 70s. Chronicled a bit last year, between Watergate, the oil crises of ’73 and ’79 (and its subsequent global recession), terrorism, Jonestown, and the tumultuous times — after-effects of the Vietnam War — you’ll have a good portion of the reason I use, “I survived the Seventies.”, as a byline for this blog.


Although, it could also be said that those same arduous times of the Me Decade served as the driving force that delivered some absolutely stellar films. Large and small. Especially in the crime genre, no less.

On the other hand, if you count ‘a period of ten years as beginning with a year ending in 0‘ (as I do), then it really was the start of a whole new era, and perspective. As I’ve mentioned before, whatever doldrums and cynicism the 70s decade left behind, films of that subsequent decade seemed to relish (and happily succeed in a semi-profane manner) in jolting that out of folk. That’s not to say the 80s were without their pitfalls and excesses, which directors like John Carpenter would deftly criticize on film, with They Live, towards the end of the period.

But the year 1980 seemed to herald that change.

The following would be my favorites for that very distinctive year. Just about all of these I saw in a theater, first-run. The small remainder was seen on good old VHS tape. Those on the list I’ve linked direct you to reviews I’ve enjoyed — those with parentheses indicated reviews by those bloggers I frequent regularly, with some emphasis on the those done by the Colonel). I’ve placed these films in three distinct categories, which hopefully makes some sense for those reading this.

“Ain’t that a kick in the butt?” Mentions

The Blues Brothers (John Cochrane on Ed Copeland)
Mad Max (1979 film, reviewed by John Kenneth Muir, that landed in the U.S. in ’80)
Any Which Way You Can (Mr. Peel)
The Dogs of War
The Final Countdown
Melvin and Howard
Somewhere in Time (John Kenneth Muir)

Pitch Perfect for the Time

Dressed to Kill (Mr. Peel))
The Fog (Colonel Mortimer)
The Stunt Man
Used Cars
The Long Riders (Livius)
The Ninth Configuration (guest contributor Kevin, includes his take of The Long Riders)
Airplane! (Colonel Mortimer)
Atlantic City (Roger Ebert)
The Shining (Colonel Mortimer)
The Long Good Friday
Superman II (Roger Ebert)
Fade to Black (Colonel Mortimer)

Those That Transcended the Year/Period

Kagemusha (Colonel Mortimer)
Bronco Billy (Mr. Peel)
The Elephant Man (Colonel Mortimer)
The Changeling
Breaker Morant
The Big Red One
Raging Bull (Colonel Mortimer)

And my top favorite is (as you’d expect from the lead graphic), The Empire Strikes Back. On just about every “…the sequel is better than the original film list” I’ve ever read, it has rippled the longest across time of any of the Star Wars films. For good reason, too. After the success of the first Star Wars film in ’77, just about everyone and their grandmother thought the sequel would be more of the same. They were wrong. And no one thought it could be better. It was.


The two best things George Lucas ever did for the series, IMO, was to place the next chapter of his story in screenwriters Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan‘s most capable hands, and entrusted the directorial leadership to Irwin Kershner. Afterwards, believe it or not, Lucas still didn’t understand how lucky he was in doing just that. I evidence that by recalling when he began promotion of its follow-up, Return of the Jedi, he actually promised fans he’d make up for Empire in the third film. Really.

There is a reason I still remember the day I saw the film: 5:30 AM showing the day after Memorial Day at The Egyptian Theatre. Went to work afterwards, a changed man.

4 Responses to “Reprise » “Fer Shur”… It’s an ’80 Thing”

  1. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael:

    Great post!

    One thing I do appreciate about the 1980s was the ebbing wave of the “Try anything” and “Throw it against the wall and see what sticks” attitude of the 70’s film and mindset making itself known.

    When CGI was still in its high tech, high dollar infancy and directors were making efforts to tell personal stories to the best of their abilities. With sometimes raw writing and characters enjoying a last Hurrah before corporations, its lawyers and committees glacially became part of the safer, homogenized, cookie cutter, cinematic “process”.

    And you covered some beauties with ‘Airplane’. As well as the criminally under rated, ‘Atlantic City’, and ‘The Long Good Friday’.

    Also nice to see that there are other fans of ‘The Dogs of War’, ‘Fade to Black’ and ‘Breaker Morant’!


    • le0pard13

      You nailed this, Kevin! What a year, especially “…before corporations, its lawyers and committees glacially became part of the safer, homogenized, cookie cutter, cinematic “process”.” What can I say, you have great taste in cinema! Many thanks, my friend.


  2. Morgan R. Lewis

    Great post, Michael. Naturally, 1980 is a year close to my heart, even if — as a child born just the year before — my film knowledge of the year is completely non-theatrical. There are some great films from 1980, but yes, I agree with you on your #1 pick — though The Blues Brothers comes mighty close.


    • le0pard13

      Thank you very much, Morgan. Certainly, The Blue Brothers was balls-to-the-wall filmmaking, let alone its fantastic soundtrack. Glad to hear we have these in common. 🙂



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