Official Nominations: Missing. Das Boot. Sophie’s Choice. The Verdict. Victor/Victoria
Das Boot is out – not a 1982 movie. That leaves us with a Legal Drama written by David Mamet, a turbulent movie with flashbacks to the Holocaust, a biography dealing with the search for a missing journalist, and a Blake Edwards musical. Victor/Victoria is a remake but also a musical coming in a post Cabaret world – it’s the same vibe as Cabaret but a more light movie. What was it with cross dressing this year? It’s fine, but forgettable for someone like me who’s not into musicals.
Biographies tend to be hit and miss for me, unless I’m interested in the subject. Missing is set in the aftermath of the Pinochet Dictator led and US backed overthrow of the Socialist Chilean government, leading to countless deaths and atrocities. Costa-Gavras adapts the book, detailing the disappearance of an American Journalist, but chooses to focus on the relationship between the journalist’s father and wife as they come from political opposites. It’s good, but doesn’t go deep enough in its pointing of fingers.
You can’t go wrong with David Mamet – he raises the quality of whatever he’s involved in, and rather than being a typical dull courtroom drama, we get the personal touches and sparkling one-liners regarding an alcoholic lawyer who develops a personal relationship with a malpractice suite involving the Catholic Church – his closing speech of the case is among the best you’ll hear in this sort of film.
Finally, Sophie’s Choice is an unflinching look at the long-lasting damage of the Holocaust on a woman who managed to survive and continue her life in the US. Everyone knows ‘that moment’, but the film is a series of such moments both in flashback and present day form which suggest that no amount of time or distance can free you from the past’s most decisive moments.
My Winner: The Verdict
My Nominations: The Verdict. Conan The Barbarian. The Thing. Blade Runner. Creepshow. Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The Wall.
A world away from the serious tone of the Official Nominations, my unlikely picks are a lot more fun. Along with ET, Fast Times is one of the movies which defined what the 80s was, early in the decade. Adapted from Cameron Crowe’s book in which he famously pretended to be a high school student (he was 22) and went back to school for a year to detail the lives of the kids he saw everyday. It’s a loose coming of age movie which deals with the always/never changing problems of teens as they cross into adulthood, given that LA gloss by Amy Heckerling.
The Thing is more of an adaptation of Who Goes There? than it is of the previous movie – albeit one which John Carpenter was a massive fan of. It doubles down on the paranoia of the story, sharing just enough of the characters thoughts that we learn about them but never enough to trust them – of course it helps that there’s a few great one-liners in there. Blade Runner features some of the most famous dialogue of the 80s and does arguably the best adaptation of any Philip K Dick story while The Wall is a visual extension of both the album and live show of the same name, adding more transparent detail.
Creepshow… probably doesn’t qualify as a true adaptation, but it still features stories written for another medium rewritten for the screen. Good enough for me. The stories come thick and fast, they get straight to the pulpy point from first frame and waste no time with periphery gubbins – you have the story, the characters, then the comeuppance. In a similar vein is my winner – not only an adaptation of the character and short stories of Conan by Robert E Howard, but also a story of individual strength in overcoming as written by Oliver Stone and John Milius, and again featuring some of the best cinematic one-liners and soliloquies of the decade.
My Winner: Conan The Barbarian
Let us know your winner in the comments!