Category Archives: 1983 Movie reviews

Terms of Endearment-1983

Terms of Endearment-1983

Director-James L. Brooks

Starring-Shirley MacLane, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson

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Reviewed January 17, 2016

Grade: A

Terms of Endearment is a sentimental favorite of mine, and while I am slightly embarrassed to include this chick-flick to end all chick-flicks on my favorites list, it is also a damned good sentimental film and makes me a bit weepy each time I see it.  It is pure Hollywood mainstream formula, but somehow Terms of Endearment works for me (romantic films are not usually at the forefront) and even won the coveted Best Picture Oscar for 1983. That must say something.

So if it is so sappy what makes it so great? For starters, it has some exceptional acting all around, especially by  leads Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, and Debra Winger. How can you go wrong with talent of that caliber?  In the film, MacLaine and Winger play Aurora and Emma Greenway, a mother and daughter, (the father is deceased) who share a lifelong love/hate relationship, living in the mid-west in present times. Nicholson plays Garrett, a retired astronaut (and womanizer) and the object of Aurora’s affections. The chemistry among all three is apparent- I sinfully find it delicious that Winger and MacLaine apparently despised each other throughout filming, adding a layer of curiosity and intrigue to the film, and during their scenes.

Director James L. Brooks wisely balances the heavy drama with comedy so the film does not become too overwrought. For example, Garrett and Aurora  have a courtship that is humorous, constantly bickering or misunderstanding each other- he a womanizing playboy type and she a domineering, insecure woman- they end up needing each other, nonetheless. Unforgettable is the hilarious drive along the beach scene that the two share.  Even though the duo are tenuous and difficult,  I love them all the same.

The tear-jerker scenes are emotional and especially the death-bed scene at the end of the film. There is so much raw emotion going on at once and, a rarity in film, the child-actors involved  are real, believable, and flawless. The film really feels like watching a true, real-life, drama play out. The heartache feels real and the film as a whole feels very genuine.

Also interesting is Emma’s failing marriage to Flap (Jeff Daniels) and her subsequent affair with kind-hearted Sam (John Lithgow) as well as her departure from her mother’s hometown, the constant phone-calls, and being in one another’s life, just like a real mother and daughter relationship is oftentimes like.

Terms of Endearment has all of the elements that make a good, old-fashioned, dramatic tear-jerker, and I find myself a sucker for it each time that I watch it.

Scarface-1983

Scarface-1983

Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Al Pacino

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Reviewed November 13, 2014

Grade: B

Scarface is a 1983 mob film directed by Brian De Palma and is certainly an atypical film for the acclaimed director of several stylistic thrillers such as Dressed to Kill, Sisters, and Carrie. In this film, the subject matter centers on the mob and the world of drug trafficking, in this case cocaine, a very popular, powerful drug that ran rampant throughout the 1980’s. Jealousy, greed, and deceit are common characteristics of Scarface and the story focuses on a temperamental, cocky, and arrogant Cuban refuge sent to Miami by Fidel Castro, as a way of banishing criminals from Cuba and shipping them off to the United States to survive on their own.

Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, goes from dishwasher to crime lord by selling drugs and creating an empire for himself. He manipulates, tricks, and makes enemies left and right including stealing his boss’s girlfriend (Michelle Pfeiffer) and eventually falling into a troubled marriage with her. He loves his financially struggling mother and sister, giving them money and opening a salon for his sister, but he also controls them, especially his sister, and is filled with rage whenever she attracts the affections of a potential suitor. In his mind nobody is good enough for her and he is filled with machismo and over-protectiveness. Tony eventually self-destructs due to jealousy, rage, and heavy drug use. I found the film overall quite compelling but kept thinking to myself how much it resembles a lite version of The Godfather I or II and Goodfellas. I am fully aware that Scarface preceded Goodfellas, but seeing it for the first time in 2014 this was my initial reaction. I was also kept aware of the fact that it must have been influential in the creation of the popular NBC television series Miami Vice, which debuted a year or two after Scarface was released. Similarities such as crime lords, Miami Beach, and drugs mirrored the slick feel of the hit television drama as well as the look, style, and fashions.

The performance of Al Pacino is problematic- in my view this is not at all his best work. For starters his accent keeps going in and out and I found him slightly unbelievable in the role. A phenomenal actor, something with his performance did not sit well. The musical score to the film is terribly cheesy- almost shockingly so. Granted this was 1983, but the silly dance beats sporadic throughout now seem completely dated.

Parts of Scarface dragged a bit, however a sudden dramatic scene (the dismembering of Tony’s friend by mobsters and Tony’s meltdown in a fancy restaurant) more than make up for the occasional lags in drama. Scarface is certainly not on the level of other contemporary violent mob films, but for fans of the genre, it will be enjoyed.