How tragedy can destroy what was once a seemingly perfect family is exquisitely realized in this heartbreaking drama. As the story begins, we are placed in the middle of a family in the affluent surroundings of Lake Forest, Illinois. They’re struggling to come to terms with the death of their oldest son in a boating accident roughly a year after the fact. Flawless ensemble piece is a stunning achievement of acting. Timothy Hutton, in his film debut, won the Academy Award as the guilt ridden younger son who cannot absolve himself from the responsibility he feels over the incident. Donald Sutherland matches him as the passive father unable to keep his family from unraveling right before our eyes. But the most startling performance of all was that of Mary Tyler Moore as Beth Jarrett who seems more concerned with keeping the facade of a stable family life than dealing with the inner demons of her younger son. It is a shocking cast against type to anyone familiar with the personality on her TV shows. The somber mood is most affecting because the raw emotion of these characters is brutally real. We share an intimacy with these people. Rarely has the aftermath of a child’s death been handled with such honesty.
Archive for 1980
It’s difficult to judge a film trying so hard be ridiculously bad. Do you knock it for its cheesiness or do you celebrate it for its fun? I choose the latter as this always entertaining, never boring, update of the comic strip from the 1930s, manages to entertain by sheer spectacle. Flash is hijacked to the planet Mongo where he meets Ming the Merciless, intent on sending the moon out of orbit and toward the Earth to destroy it. Why? Oh he’s bored. The special effects aren’t of the technologically advanced Star Wars variety. No, this is retro 70s-style futurism. The explosion of colors and opulent costumes that Flash encounters when first entering the city of this new world recalls The Wizard of Oz, Superman and an Earth Wind and Fire concert. Words cannot do the production design justice. And what a cast! Everyone is in on the joke as the acting is way over the top. Max von Sydow makes a diabolically evil villain. Topol is a disheveled, wild-eyed scientist, Brian Blessed as prince of the Hawkmen, shouts his lines in bombastic tones as if he’s reciting Shakespeare and Italian actress, Ornella Muti is a seductive space princess that really gets around, if you know what I mean. If that wasn’t enough, there’s that rock opera title theme by Queen. “Flash! Ah-ahh, He’ll save every one of us!” Inspired lunacy.
Exhilarating psychological sci-fi about a university professor who encloses himself in a sensory-deprivation chamber and experiments with hallucinogenic drugs with drastic results. Seductively sets up a feeling of anticipation in the first half, then devolves into a rather amusingly ridiculous horror film in the second half. Filled with dreamlike images, stunning special effects and horrific makeup. Even at its most ludicrous, it is a thrilling roller coaster ride of a film. William Hurt gives a brilliantly unbalanced performance in his film debut.
Big budget musical fantasy based on the 1947 movie Down to Earth updated to Los Angeles, circa 1980. Graphic artist Sonny Malone finds his muse in the form of a stunning Olivia Newton-John sent down from Mount Halcyon [sic] to inspire him to open a roller disco club. The musical numbers, combining animation, 1940s big band, disco, country, rock and of course roller skating, must be seen to be believed. The production design is an unapologetic celebration of the glamour and excess of the late 1970s. The climactic scene reaches heights of such joy, rarely seen in a musical. It kept a smile on my face from beginning to end.