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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Five Best: 1983

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="228" caption="Original Apple ad in 1983 courtesy of"][/caption]

Well, Friday, August 27 is my birthday. One year older - one year more to watch films. So, let's take a look back at the five best films that came out the year I was born, good old 1983. It was a very different time then, as shown by the image here on the right.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="239" caption="Peter Billingsley in "A Christmas Story" courtesy of"][/caption]

A Christmas Story

It's a perfect encapsulation of the time period and what every child feels at Christmas. Outside of It's a Wonderful Life (my favorite movie of all time, not just holiday movie), it's the best holiday movie there is. Billingsley is fantastic as Ralphie, Darren McGavin is one of the best fathers ever on film, and so many scenes are so stuck in the American collective memory that even a 24-hour marathon Christmas Day on TBS is nowhere near enough to give it the time it deserves. But, be careful when you watch it - you could shoot your eye out.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="305" caption="Christopher Walken in "The Dead Zone" courtesy of"][/caption]

The Dead Zone

Make a movie based on a Stephen King novel, directed by David Cronenberg, and starring Christopher Walken and you are bound to make an undeniably creepy film. A movie with a Manchurian Candidate-type feel to it, Walken gives a performance that makes him the quintessential eerie leading man. Cronenberg gives the film his traditional uncomfortable feel, which is the perfect translation for a King novel, especially one that has psychic powers, assassination, and a graphic suicide scene at the hands of scissors in a drawer.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="314" caption="John Cleese in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" courtesy of"][/caption]

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

The most episodic of the Monty Python films, The Meaning of Life is a hilarious, albeit twisted, trip through time and space. With some of the most memorably crude songs in film history, it melds the beauty of Flying Circus with the style of a 50's musical. It may not be as smart as Life of Brian or as memorable as The Holy Grail, but it's still enjoyable the whole way through. And no movie has a better "middle of the film" intermission.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="310" caption="Al Pacino in "Scarface" courtesy of"][/caption]


The film that each wanna be gangster attaches himself to, Brain De Palma melodramatic tale of the American dream is borderline ridiculous, but entertaining from start to finish. Featuring a trademark over-the-top Al Pacino performance, Scarface is technically a mild remake of the 1932 film of the same name. Instead, De Palma sets it in southern California, throws in a "Hispanic" Pacino and pounds of cocaine and blends it up. What you get is a colorful tribute to America and the opportunities it provides, regardless of its legality. But, in this country, you gotta make the money first. Then, when you get the money, you get the power. You know the rest...

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="310" caption="Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger, and Shirley McClaine in "Terms of Endearment" courtesy of"][/caption]

Terms of Endearment

Best Picture winner of my birth year, there have been few movies made that try harder to rip your heart out of your chest, stomp on it, re-insert it, and bring you back to life just long enough for you to feel the pain and go quietly into the night. The definition of a tearjerker, this James L. Brooks directed movie covers years of life, friendship, death, and acceptance. The movie itself is like the five stages of grief. It was the directing debut for Brooks - he started it off with a bang and a tear. All this and it's set in Des Moines, Iowa , which you should try to get a look at before you die.

Others of Note in 1983

All the Right Moves

The Big Chill


The King of Comedy

National Lampoon's Vacation

The Outsiders

The Right Stuff

Risky Business

Return of the Jedi

Valley Girl


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