Tag Archives: 1983 Movie reviews

National Lampoon’s Vacation-1983

National Lampoon’s Vacation-1983

Director-Harold Ramis

Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo

Scott’s Review #1,300

Reviewed September 19, 2022

Grade: A-

The film that spawned a slew of sequels, remakes, spoofs, and other things, National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) had more influence on 1980s movies than it probably should have. The slapstick road trip became overused familiar territory, a situation comedy rife with silly scenarios and possibilities.

Despite having started it all, my favorite National Lampoon will always be the Christmas Vacation installment from 1989 but for some snickers, hoots, and belly laughs, Vacation is fresh and authentic. holding up well in the nostalgia category.

So what if Chevy Chase was a douchebag in real life? His portrayal of Clark Griswold is his finest achievement and is firmly placed in the annals of slapstick comedy’s greatest characters. Endless quotes and impersonations of the bumbling dad have emerged over the years.

Great fun is looking for other comedy actors like Eugene Levy and  John Candy who later would forge their path into comedy legend.

Accompanied by their children Audrey and Rusty, played by Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall, Clark Griswold (Chase) and his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), decide to drive instead of fly from Illinois to a California amusement park named Walley World to enjoy a much-needed summer break.

Clark is convinced that some togetherness is just what the family needs.

As Clark increasingly fixates on a mysterious, sexy woman (the acting debut of Christie Brinkley) driving a red sports car, the Griswolds deal with car problems and the death of a family member, Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) as they face hi-jinks on the way to their vacation.

Exhausted, they finally reach Los Angeles, but, when Clark worries that the trip is being derailed again, he acts impulsively to get his family to the park.

National Lampoon’s Vacation is a rarity in screwball comedy where almost all of the setups and gimmicks work. Typically, the situations feel stale and tried and true but there is an authenticity brimming over its cup, and that’s largely thanks to Chase.

Don’t get me wrong. The film is hardly worthy of study in film school and the script is polished and patterned out but like other screwball comedies I love like Caddyshack (1980) and Clue (1985), it’s got something solid.

I think it’s because the characters are very relatable. Who doesn’t have a wacky Aunt Edna or a Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) somewhere in their family tree?

Long-suffering, suburban housewife Mom Ellen has a heart of gold and represents the classic 1970s or 1980s homemaker with a glimmer of progressiveness.

She dutifully scrambles eggs for breakfast and shops for cereal and dog food but also keeps Clark at bay before he does something ridiculous.

Chase and D’Angelo have tremendous chemistry bouncing one-liners off each other as naturally as a real-life conversation so that we buy them as husband and wife.

What kid who grew up in this period can’t relate to the horrid paneled oversized station wagon that ran rampant in suburbia? I sure remember those gas guzzlers eventually replaced by the minivan.

It’s perfection to see that style of car represented in this film as it adds to the hilarity and is a character in itself.

The fun continues because the Griswolds embark on travel across the United States. So, the film provides a slice of Americana and harkens back to a time when if you were an American you were united and bonded even if you had differences.

What National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) does so well watching in modern times is remind us what that felt like. An adventure across the good ‘ole USA was not such a bad thing and the folks you met along the way were friendly and warm without suspicion.

The film is like a dear old friend who has emerged from the woodwork, dusty, but still full of life.

Tender Mercies-1983

Tender Mercies-1983

Director-Bruce Beresford

Starring Robert Duvall, Tess Harper

Scott’s Review #1,279

Reviewed July 22, 2022

Grade: B+

Tender Mercies (1983) is a quiet, down-home film about a country musician struggling with alcohol addiction, god, and a tepid musical career. Anyone starting to elicit a yawn will have the same reaction I did when reading the premise.

It’s not the most original idea but the film works surprisingly better than I initially expected. The 1983 film is largely forgotten at this point but has a Cinderella story as its legacy.

Funding and a marketing push were limited, resulting in low box-office returns but the Academy sure took notice heaving five nominations its way.

It’s quite the departure for those expecting actor Robert Duvall to mirror his The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974) character.

Tender Mercies is an actor’s film, and it belongs squarely to Duvall who delivers a wonderful performance perfectly carved out for an Oscar nomination. He instills himself into the role of a drunken, washed-up, country star vowing to stay straight.

Duvall does more than act in it, crafting and performing his songs in a role standing side by side with his role in The Apostle (1998) as his very best.

He won the coveted Academy Award for Tender Mercies.

Though the tone is low-key, filming was anything but, and reports of disagreements and blow-ups between Duvall and director, Bruce Beresford, surfaced.

The Australian director was later made famous for Driving Miss Daisy (1989) at one point even considered quitting the production.

The story tells of alcoholic drifter Mac Sledge (Duvall), who awakens one day in the middle of rural Texas after a night of heavy drinking.

His surroundings are a run-down roadside motel and gas station.

He meets the owner, a young widow named Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), and offers to perform maintenance work at the motel in exchange for a room. Rosa, whose husband was killed in the Vietnam War, is raising her young son, Sonny (Allan Hubbard), on her own.

Mac and Rosa become smitten with one another, attending church, and forging a life of solitude together. Demons surface when it is revealed that Mac is a once-famous country singer with a currently famous ex-wife, Dixie Scott (Betty Buckley).

When the opportunity for a career comeback surfaces, Mac must choose between his new life and the life he let slip through his hands.

The story is very good for several reasons. At the forefront, Mac is a likable guy who the audience pulls for. Instead of the tried-and-true story of a man battling his demons and being ‘saved’ by a woman, Mac is already on the road to recovery and has the desire to stay sober.

Rosa Lee and Sonny merely serve as steady influences versus the bright lights and broken hearts of the country music world.

Mac also has a chance to be a father figure to someone. The bad stuff has already transpired in the past, so the audience is spared having to endure a pile of shit in exchange for a big payoff at the end of the film.

There are a couple of negatives that hold the film from being a masterpiece.

On the wagon, Mac is tempted to down a bottle of whiskey after a tragedy, but he resists the urge instead pouring the devil’s juice out onto the ground. is that a big surprise?

Buckley does her best with a one-note character, clearly in existence as an obstacle to Mac’s happiness.

But, at its core, Tender Mercies is about relationships, and though a slow under texture, delicious are the low-key scenes between Mac and Rosa Lee, and Mac and Sonny. The scenes prove that good crisp dialog with grace and heart trumps car chases any day.

They discuss life!

The cinematography of remote Texas is magical in its vastness and its loneliness. Key expressions on the face of Duvall perfectly match the western landscape.

I’m not a religious guy and I’m not a country & western guy but I enjoyed the story I was served up by Tender Mercies (1983) quite a bit.

The combination of superb acting, an emotionally charged character-driven story, and a fabulous glimpse at the dry state of Texas, made for a compelling, and relatively short viewing time of ninety minutes.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Bruce Beresford, Best Actor-Robert Duvall (won), Best Screenplay-Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Original Song-“Over You”

Yentl-1983

Yentl-1983

Director-Barbra Streisand

Starring-Barbra Streisand, Mandy Patinkin

Scott’s Review #1,144

Reviewed May 20, 2021

Grade: B+

Feeling slightly dated nowadays, perhaps for the year it was made, Yentl (1983) is nonetheless a very good watch if only for Barbra’s performance, in multiple ways, alone. Who else could I be talking about other than superstar Barbra Streisand?

Astounding is that she also directed the film, rare as hen’s teeth for a female to direct in those days. Even circa 2021, there have only been two women to win the coveted Best Director Oscar prize. Mind-blowing. Streisand was snubbed in this category and was understandably miffed.

But I’ll get down from my soapbox.

Streisand plays the title role. Yentl is a bookish girl and daughter of a respected Talmud teacher who instructs her although she is female and not male. This is forbidden in their culture. Her father dies leaving Yentl to her own devices and determinations. She disguises herself as a boy to gain entry to a yeshiva and meets Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), who she becomes fascinated by. But he only has eyes for Hadass (Amy Irving) who he is supposed to marry.

This results in a triangle of sorts but not in the traditional sense. Hadass develops feelings for Anshel (really Streisand as Yentl in drag). After they marry (unconsummated) Anshel falls in love with Avigdor. This may sound like a comedy rather than drama and it does contain a bit of each but the romantic interludes, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations are not really the best parts of the film.

The main themes of faith and romance are center stage. Streisand may have had feminism on her mind with the film but I didn’t find this a major point except for Yentl refusing to marry a man.

She pretends to be a boy because females are repressed in the religion. A real win would have been Yentl embracing faith as she really is, but for 1983 the message isn’t a bad one.

Still, we are supposed to want Yentl and Avigdor to live happily ever after but I never felt very much of a connection to the couple.

The best parts of Yentl are the musical score and the songs the audience is treated to. The highlight for me is the emotionally charged “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” which is a gorgeous moment for Yentl. Yentl leaves Europe on a boat bound for the United States, where she hopes to lead a life with more freedom. With a smile on her face, she rises above and into a new day.

It’s a dynamic singing performance and rises the film above where it would have been without the number. It’s like the perfect culminating Streisand moment.

The romantic moments are unfulfilling and predictable, but the film is about Streisand and Streisand alone. As good as Patinkin and Irving are they take a backseat to the illustrious star. We never even get to see Patinkin sing.

I’m okay with this. I watched Yentl (1983) for the enormous talents of its star. Her singing, acting and directing all make the film a worthwhile and engaging experience. It’s not a great film and other Streisand films are better- I’m thinking of Funny Girl (1968) and Hello, Dolly (1969), but it’s way above average.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Amy Irving, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score (won), Best Original Song-“Papa, Can You Hear Me?”, “The Way He Makes Me Feel”

A Christmas Story-1983

A Christmas Story-1983

Director-Bob Clark

Starring-Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon

Scott’s Review #968

Reviewed December 16, 2019

Grade: B+

A festive holiday film sure to be watched during late December, A Christmas Story (1983) is a wholesome family treat with heart and a good slice of Americana. A clever gimmick of an adult narrating the story of his childhood holiday experience feels both fresh and nostalgic.

Some hairstyles, looks, and camera styles feel more like the 1980s than the 1940s and the subject matter of a gun becomes questionable with the passing years, but the film enchants and warms the soul with famous cult classic moments mixed in making the film memorable.

The central character is Ralphie Parker (played as a child by Peter Billingsley and voiced as an adult by Jean Shepard). Nine-years-old and clad in distinguished eye-glasses, he anticipates the approaching Christmas holiday with both excitement and trepidation.

He longs for his dream gift, a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, which every adult he meets hazards “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Determined, he schemes to find a way to make his dreams come true and his parents to buy that gun, while avoiding the neighborhood bully.

The film has mass appeal in the casting department with each principal actor adding value, and the story just feels warm. With the lesser talent, the results may have been over-the-top, forced, or too melodramatic. Accolades are especially deserved by Billingsley, who carries the film with his sincerity and giant blue eyes.

He is a natural and fantastic actor, especially during the more emotional scenes. Ralphie’s mother, father, and the teacher are wonderful in their respective parts adding the right level of earnestness and pizzazz in support roles.

A Christmas Story gets props for avoiding any silly romantic story-line commonplace in “feel good” films of similar ilk. The plot is clearly defined and the antics of Ralphie make the film fun, but not too sentimental or corny. Cringe-worthy is the thought of a little neighborhood girl that Ralphie might want to impress. The little boy’s somewhat infatuation with his teacher is innocent and whimsical and not to be taken too seriously.

The incorporation of now-legendary props and story points add texture and comfort to the viewing experience, especially the lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg and a high-heeled shoe. The garish prize Ralphie’s father wins after entering a contest becomes his pride and joy making his wife and the neighbors cringe. Assuming the piece is lavish art mistaking the word “fragile” for a fancy Italian word, the scene is humorous.

The final scene of the family is reduced to eating Christmas dinner in a Chinese restaurant after their turkey is ruined still provides a smile. As the years pass the scene teeters on racist and has been changed during stage productions to avoid controversy. The Asian characters possess too many cliched stereotypes for my taste, but the intent is innocent and wraps the film nicely.

Peculiar and noticeable with each viewing experience, is the glaring locale of Hammond, Indiana when the film is clearly shot in and around Cleveland, Ohio. The famous Higbee’s Department Store in downtown Cleveland is pivotal to the story and world-renowned, so the Indiana locale is perplexing and out of place. Many may not realize the Cleveland surroundings, but eagle-eyed viewers will take notice. The exteriors look nothing like Indiana.

Known for having aired since 1997 on television stations TNT or TBS in a marathon titled “24 Hours of A Christmas Story”, the event has consisted of twelve consecutive airings of the film on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day each year. This has resulted in its being deemed one of the best Christmas movies ever made and exposed new generations to the work. I’m not convinced it is “the best”, but nothing feels cozier on a cold holiday night snuggled by the fire than this cult classic. 

Octopussy-1983

Octopussy-1983

Director-John Glen

Starring-Roger Moore, Maud Adams

Scott’s Review #716

Reviewed January 17, 2018

Grade: A-

Hardly regarded as one of the most stellar of entries in the James Bond franchise, 1983’s Octopussy is nonetheless a guilty pleasure of mine. This is undoubtedly due to the film being the first installment that I was allowed to see in the movie theater and is filled with exciting memories.

As the film stands in current days it is perfectly fine, containing all of the enjoyable elements necessary for a good Bond film- interesting villains, solid action, and gorgeous women. Perhaps at times suffering from a bit of silliness, Octopussy is still quite the fantastic watch.

Roger Moore, admittedly looking slightly aged and sagging, returns to the fold as 007, the shaken, but not stirred action hero known as James Bond. However, he is, true to form, as witty and suave as he always is with witty one-liners and mischievous smirk.

Interesting to note is how Moore ritualistically infuses the character with a measure of comedy- a wink of the eye or a raised eyebrow adds humor to the character-more so than any other actor who has portrayed Bond.

In this installment, Faberge eggs, clowns, and gorilla suits are featured. Attempting to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin, 009- dressed as a circus clown, is murdered on the estate of a British Ambassador while attempting to deliver a fake Faberge egg.

Assuming the Soviets are involved, MI6 instructs Bond to investigate the matter and a complex smuggling ring is uncovered- featuring a gorgeous female smuggler named Octopussy (Maud Adams), along with sinister Afghan exiled prince Kamal Kahn (Louis Jourdan), and his bodyguard, Gobinda.

Watching the film in 2018, and even though it was made in 1983, Octopussy does not suffer from the dreaded “1980’s look” that so many other films do and seems surprisingly clean and fresh. The colors are vibrant- especially the prevalent circus and clown scenes, and the best two scenes- the airplane and train scenes- still bristle and crackle with good action.

As the climax to Octopussy culminates, the inevitable heroine and main Bond girl- Adams’s “Octopussy”, has been bound and gagged and taken hostage by the baddies in a fleeing airplane, Bond grabs hold of the fuselage, and begins a harried flight over the mountains of remote India, clinging for dear life.

The scene climaxes with an exciting fight scene atop the rooftop of the speeding plane as Bond and Gobinda fight to the death as Kamal unsuccessfully attempts to twist and turn the plane and rid themselves of pesky Bond. The scene is still compelling and loses none of its appeal over the years, never appearing dated.

Additionally, the train sequence is still relevant but admittedly does suffer from a small dose of silliness. The action is plentiful as Bond races against time to prevent a Russian missile from detonating and killing thousands of American citizens, and worthy of note is the timely Cold War subject matter of the Russians versus the Americans- plentiful in American cinema during this time period.

As Bond dons a phony looking gorilla outfit- embarrassing even for the comical Roger Moore- he can successfully take off the costume and sneak out of a train car, all before the three seconds that it takes for Gobinda to turn around and slice the head off of the gorilla thinking it is Bond. Suspension of disbelief is required.

Impressive is the female empowerment slant that is evident throughout the film. From the strong businesswoman character that Adams portrays- she is decisive, intelligent, and savvy, she is neither cowering nor impressionable and cannot be bullied or pushed around.

Albeit her name, “Octopussy”, does teeter on male chauvinism. Be that as it may, her gang of feminist followers, all wielding assault rifles, are quite inspiring and, at this point, unusual for a Bond film- certainly typically masculine leaning.

Octopussy is an overlooked, under-appreciated, too easily dismissed slice of goodness served up with a bit of comedy, plenty of action, and good solid villains- everything that makes a Bond film a Bond film. Certainly, the film is worthy of a viewing.

Terms of Endearment-1983

Terms of Endearment-1983

Director-James L. Brooks

Starring-Shirley MacLane, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson

Scott’s Review #368

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Reviewed January 9, 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 the 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 with the beach scene that the two share.  Even though the duo is 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture (won), Best Director-James L. Brooks (won), Best Actress-Shirley MacLaine (won), Debra Winger, Best Supporting Actor-Jack Nicholson (won), John Lithgow, Best Screenplay Based on Material Based on Another Medium (won), Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing

Scarface-1983

Scarface-1983

Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Al Pacino

Scott’s Review #191

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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 1980s.

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 makeup 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.