Best Cast – 1980

My Nominations: Altered States. The Blues Brothers. Caddyshack. The Elephant Man. The Empire Strikes Back. Heaven’s Gate. The Long Good Friday. Ordinary People. Raging Bull.

As always with this category, I present a range of films with either a combination of big names which must have been an extraordinary feat to pull together in a single film, or a smaller cast pulling off extraordinary feats of acting. Altered States features William Hurt in his film debut (and Drew Barrymore to a lesser extent), backed up by the (marginally) more established Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, and George Gaynes. More a film of ideas than people and performances, the cast nevertheless do well with a bizarre story.

The Blues Brothers takes a list of fully established comedians and throws them in the middle of some of the most famous musical icons of all time. When I was young I didn’t really know that most of the performers in the film were actual singers who had been around for decades, so believable are the performances. You could argue that outside of Fisher, Aykroyd, and Belushi the others are cameos, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that you have John Candy, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Charles Napier, James Brown, Ray Charles, Frank Oz, Chaka Khan, Paul Reubens, Kathleen Freeman, Twiggy, John Lee Hooker and others popping up. Caddyshack pulls a similar trick, upping the list of comedians instead of having Blues Legends. It’s the only film you’ll find Chevy Chase and Bill Murray together, throwing in Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Michael O’Keefe, Brian Doyle Murray, and Sarah Holcomb.

The Elephant Man is the actor’s dream – great story, great characters, and a great director behind it all – then you look at the cast around you, from John Hurt to Anthony Hopkins, and from Anne Bancroft to John Gielgud, Freddie Jones, and Wendy Hiller. Some of those give, arguably, career best performances. Raging Bull is in a similar vein, with De Niro, Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty leading the way. You can’t avoid Ordinary People thanks to its Awards success and list of names – Robert Redford directing Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch, Mary Tyler Moore, Elizabeth McGovern, Timothy Hutton, M Emmet Walsh, Adam Baldwin and others.

Likewise, you can’t ignore The Empire Strikes Back. The core cast returns (minus those killed off), and we have a few new faces and voices joining and instantly fitting in and making an impact. You all know it, no point saying any more. The Long Good Friday is probably the least known film here with only Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren known to audiences outside of the UK. For British viewers, there’s a host of familiar faces – Nigel Humphries, Derek Thompson, Brian Hall, Gillian Taylforth, with the likes of Dexter Fletcher and Pierce Brosnan popping up in cameos. Finally, Heaven’s Gate, if you want to find out why it was so derided for yourself beyond simply hearing the criticism and stories, has a cast you can’t balk at – John Hurt, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, Joseph Cotten, Kris Kristofferson, Brad Dourif, Geoffrey Lewis, Mickey Rourke, Terry O’Quinn – a mixture of big names and familiar faces most people will recognise even if they can’t place the name. Everyone is good too – not career best, but if you’re a fan of any of the performers, it’s a must see.

My Winner: The Elephant Man

Movie Review – The Elephant Man

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Makeup – 1980

My Nominations: Cannibal Holocaust. The Elephant Man. Inferno. Altered States.

It was the lack of a nomination, an award, any respect for the outstanding work on The Elephant Man in 1980 which prompted (finally) The Academy to introduce an official category. That means from next year I’ll have Official Nominations to look at for the first time, as well as my own picks. The Elephant Man is always going to be the winner this year, kicking off arguably the greatest decade of Makeup in Cinema’s history, with the great Christopher Tucker picking up my win. It’s not the only significant entry in Makeup this year, with Cannibal Holocaust’s realistic work enough to lead to official murder charges being placed on director Deodato’s head. Even now there is a gritty, disturbing realism to the blood and guts we are treated to. Inferno is less concerned with realism and more concerned with how memorable and shocking its kills are. This being Argento, you know you’re going to get some unforgettable set-pieces with garish makeup to boot. Finally, Altered States is something of a fever dream, and as such it relies on all manner of visual enhancement and trickery with Dick Smith’s makeup an important part of making the final product so trippy.

The Elephant Man review – David Lynch's tragic tale of compassion | The Elephant Man | The Guardian

My Winner: The Elephant Man

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Writing (Adapted) – 1980

Official Nominations: Ordinary People. Breaker Morant. Coal Miner’s Daughter. The Elephant Man. The Stunt Man.

A mixture of the interesting and the expected this year. Naturally, Ordinary People was the winner, the tale of suburban alienation striking a chord with those in charge. Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Elephant Man were dead certs to be nominated thanks to the calibre of people involved behind the scenes, and the same can be said for The Stunt Man. Breaker Morant is the offbeat choice, the tale of a (no matter which side of the argument you fall) bit of a scumbag military man who committed a series of War Crimes but claimed he was ‘only following orders’. The film was incredibly successful in its native Australia, possibly explaining this courtesy nomination.

My Winner: The Elephant Man

NEW The Elephant Man And Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick Treves | Elephant, Man, Joseph merrick

My Nominations: The Elephant Man. Airplane! Altered States. Raging Bull. The Shining.

Only The Elephant Man to me is really worthy of coming across to my list given its quotability and heart. Airplane! is one of the many quotable comedies of the 80s and one of the first and finest examples of sketch type humour which would be expanded upon in the decade. Altered States gets a nomination because it’s a marvel it was able to make its way to screen with any sort of coherence, while Raging Bull always felt like a strange snub given the other praise and awards heaped upon the film. My final choice, and perhaps my controversial winner, is The Shining – a much colder ghost story than King’s novel but one with an equal, if different power. There’s no escaping some of the one-liners either, even 40 years on.

My Winner: The Shining

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesdays – David Lynch


Greetings, Glancers! It’s been a while since my last TTT post, and as it’s October why not resume things with a director who is more than a little familiar with the darker side of life. David Lynch, for most people, is synonymous with weird – his films often dividing critics and fans due to their uncompromising dedication to non-linear, non-traditional storytelling. Some call it art, others call it shit, but most agree that his work will continue to spark debate.

Lynch’s movies have so far garnered over 10 Oscar nominations, but have yet to gain a single win, though his movies frequently appear on many ‘Best Movies Of The Year/Decade/Ever’ lists and generally feature notable or iconic performances or scenes, along with famous scores and unforgettable imagery. He has, at the time of writing, made 10 movies which is handy for today’s list as I can rank them all in order from my least favourite to my absolute favourite. As always, the numbers aren’t set in stone and may change slightly depending on my mood. Lets not wait 25 years for this gum to come back in style!



I wanted to start out by saying that this is possibly Lynch’s most divisive film… but i truth the same could be said for most films on the list. It’s one I looked forward, but one which I ultimately didn’t get. I haven’t read the source material and don’t have any sort of affinity or relationship with the story, but I loved the idea of Lynch tackling a fantasy epic – his attempt at a blockbuster. To be honest it’s a bit of a shambles and I struggled to get through it. I’m willing to give it another go as it has been years since I saw it, and many people don’t appreciate Lynch’s films upon first viewing – though in most cases it’s love at first sight for me. Dune has since gone on to be named as one of the worst movies of all time, and Lynch has pretty much distanced himself entirely from it, after saying that the Studio and Producers didn’t give him the control he needed.

Inland Empire


Lynch’s most recent feature is now 10 years old, and given the Director’s return to TV we may not see another movie from him. Hopefully that’s not the case. Inland Empire say Lynch going fully digital for the first time, but returning to old hallmarks such as the fish out of water, ambition crushing and cursing, seedy underbellies, dopplegangers, shadows, and tantalizing mysteries with creepy tangents. Laura Dern is superb as an actress who gets a part in big movie, but who life begins to unravel and seemingly merge with the plot of the movie. It’s possibly Lynch’s most dense and confusing work given that Lynch himself admitted that the writing and shooting process went almost hand in hand, rather than having a script ready before shooting. The loose structure is similar to Mulholland Drive in that the first part is mostly linear, while the second half collapses upon itself with multiple scenes tumbling over each other. The film gets more impenetrable as it progresses, but Dern’s performance gets stronger and more intense along the way, proving to be an anchor in the storm. It’s not advised to start your Lynch viewing with this one, but it’s essential nonetheless.

The Straight Story


What Lynch would amusingly call his ‘most experimental movie’, the ironically titled The Straight Story is of course Lynch’s most accessible work. Telling the true story of Alvin Straight, a WWII veteran who travels across North America on a lawnmower to visit his brother. Naturally the idea is going to put some people off watching the movie, but those people would be missing out on one of the most touching US movies of the decade a true story of heroism and the triumph of the human spirit. As you would expect, there are lots of vignettes and interesting characters met along the way, each offering something important about the human condition. With an Oscar nominated performance by Richard Farnsworth and support by Harry Dean Stanton and Sissy Spacek, this is a gentle introduction to Lynch – some of his humour and treatment of character, but in no way prepares you for his more well known work.

The Elephant Man


Lynch’s most successful feature, The Elephant Man was nominated for 8 Oscars, but somehow didn’t win anything. His other biographical tale, it recounts the life of Joseph Merrick, a man born with a horrendous deformity which meant he spent a large part of his life in a freak show. John Hurt gives possibly his best performance in the title role, alongside Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, and John Gielgud. As you would expect, the film is both tragic and hopeful, powerful and affecting, beautifully shot and with several standout moments of dialogue or incisiveness.



This is where it all began, and it would be difficult to argue against this being still Lynch’s most confusing and disturbing feature. I remember being haunted by the poster from an early age, before I knew anything about Lynch, just knowing that it would be an odd and frightening experience if I ever saw the film. Mostly financed by Lynch and his friends, the film took several years to make, and several years after release until it found its audience. None of this will be surprising to anyone who has seen the movie – what most people read as a fear of parenthood, fatherhood, isolation, commitment, family. Jack Nance stars as a young man who is left to look after his ‘child’ – a writing, lizard like creature which seems to exist just to scream and feel pain. As time passes he experiences unnerving visions and.. that’s about it really. It has to be seen to be believed, and once seen you will never forget it. It’s one of the few films which makes me genuinely uneasy and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to sit through it more than a couple of times. Why so high on my list then? Nance is brilliant as always, and the sheer creativity and audacity on show is alarming – it’s precisely because it is so difficult to watch that it is so good – it’s a calamitous nightmare, a shrieking cloud of imagery which comes closer to generating and understanding personal fear better than a hundred horror movies or books on the subject. Critical consensus on the movie is generally positive, but what is interesting is that critics are divided over whether this is his best work, to the point that nothing he made later comes close, or that his later work is much more refined and mature to the point that Eraserhead is a mere early experiment. Watch it and decide for yourself.

Blue Velvet


Famous, not least for bringing Dennis Hopper back into the limelight for good reasons, Blue Velvet is another critically acclaimed high point for Lynch – a bizarre stripping back of suburbia’s skin and an investigation of the flesh which writhes underneath. Lynch had already made a failed blockbuster with Dune, and a hit biographical drama with The Elephant Man, so wanted to make something more personal with story, character, and setting elements which were more familiar to him. What comes out is an extremely dark mystery, blending noir elements with moody jazz tones and a twisted vision of America filled with secrets and savagery. Hopper gives an extraordinary performance, the young Laura Dern and Kyle Maclachlan hold their own, and Isabella Rossellini is the most manic femme fatale you’re ever likely to see.

Lost Highway


I think Lost Highway has had a bad rap – at release it was largely dismissed. As a mystery, it is more impenetrable than Blue Velvet, there is less of an emotional connection with the audience, but I find it the more interesting film. With Lost Highway Lynch presents another warped vision of America, almost as if two separate but connected worlds which exist on both sides of a highway begin to blur and drip into one another. Where Lost Highway ‘fails’ is in it doesn’t feature a big, iconic performance. The trio of Arquette, Pullman, and Getty are very good, each evoking a bewildered, dreamy state as they struggle to understand the mystery they find themselves in. We also get notable performances from Robert Blake, Robert Loggia, and Richard Pryor – each terrifying in their own way. The story allows for many interpretations and nightmarish moments, and each viewing only serves to unlock more rooms and questions.

Mulholland Drive


I was late to the Mulholland Drive party. In fact, it was the last movie on this list I saw. I’m not sure why I’d held off for so long – unless the movie is something which really leaps out to me as something I desperately need to see, I wait for it to come to me via TV or streaming sites. Naturally I loved the film from first sight – the moody tones and textures, the assortment of scenes and characters all colliding with the central plot and offering tantalizing glimpses into something bigger. If you’re already reading this then you probably know that the film was originally supposed to be a pilot for a new TV show – hence the additional characters and plots which seem to go nowhere. Lynch is able however to weave it all together by allowing the film to disintegrate – time and space become liquid or air, and events merge together. There are memorable moments and a terrific cast – the Llorando theatre scene is a personal favourite and both Naomi Watts and Laura Harding are excellent – Lynch always seems to know how to get powerful performances from his female leads.

Fire Walk With Me


Speaking of female leads and powerful performances – do you remember when Sheryl Lee won the best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Laura Palmer in Fire Walk With Me? No? Well, that’s because it never happened. It it will go down in history as one of the biggest shambles of the Academy’s history that wasn’t even nominated. Do these people even watch movies? There are various reasons for this – the most notable being that the film received a critical mauling in the US upon release, and many people were upset that the movie was so drastically different in tone from the TV show. Make no mistake, Fire Walk With Me is a horror movie; one of the most emotionally draining, stunningly shot, well performed horror movies of all time, but a horror movie nonetheless. Lynch gets full reign and rather than wrapping up the many cliffhangers from the show he simply explores the last week of Laura Palmer’s life and delves deeper into the dark heart of Twin Peaks than the show ever did. Make sure you have seen the show before you watch the movie though, but if you like the show be prepared to have the rug pulled from under you – there are few, if any, quirky laughs to be found here.

Wild At Heart


While we’re on the topic of Oscar omissions I always found it odd that Wild At Heart was so abandoned. I mean, Diane Ladd got a Supporting Nomination, but what about Cage, Dern, and the writing team? I’m going to be ruthless and say that Wild At Heart is Lynch’s least essential film, but easily his most entertaining and mainstream. Sure there is weirdness, but nothing that would ever put the laziest viewer off. This is Lynch doing Tarantino before that was even a thing. This is a love, sex, and violence fueled, foul-mouthed road trip of mayhem with a manic assortment of comic book characters who leap off the screen with abandon, creating a gripping, thrill ride of laughter and drama the likes of which you’ll rarely see again.It isn’t his most essential, it isn’t his best, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and it’s one which is so easy to return to again and again.

Think I’ve got any of the above completely wrong? Let us know in the comments what your favorite Lynch films are, and if you think he has another classic up his sleeve!