Before delving into my Top Ten Films of 1980 list (look for it starting this Sunday!) and the end of the 1980 Project (the 1981 Project is next), here are the ten films that just missed making the cut for the Best Of list.
20. Loulou (Maurice Pialit)
An upper class Parisian woman (Isabelle Huppert) leaves her husband and lifestyle for an affair with an aimless younger man (Gerard Depardieu) in Pialit’s film which strives for verisimilitude (no score, awkward staged fights) over theatrics or pat explanations. (My review)
19. The Changeling (Peter Medak)
A grief stricken professor (George C. Scott) purchases a dilapidated mansion that houses the spirit of a murdered child. As the slasher genre was really taking off (a genre for which I am a fan), Medak’s haunting, adult ghost story is subtly effective counter programming. (My review)
18. Blues Brothers (John Landis)
Following the tremendous success of their prior collaboration, Animal House, Landis and star John Belushi reteam for a loud over-the-top musical cum comedy road trip which incorporates every whim, favorite musical act and friend of the director and stars-writers Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, sparing no collateral damage to complete their mission from God.
17. Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges)
Candy colored, Queen scored and camp tinged, Flash Gordon is top shelf pop art comic book film adaptation, forgoing the seriousness of modern adaptations, Mike Hodges’ playful (and at times kinky) sci-fi throwback also was one of the first films I remember seeing theatrically. (An appreciation)
16. Times Square (Allan Moyle)
Two runaway teenage girls, one the daughter of a politician and the other a homeless girl with serious mental issues, form a punk band and a complement-each-other’s-deficiencies based friendship on the hard streets of New York. (My review)
15. Little Darlings (Robert F. Maxwell)
What could have been a forgettable teenage comedy with a tabloid plot synopsis (two 15 year olds enter a contest to see who will first lose their virginity) is actually a very potent, earnest, and at times solemn examination about how sex complicates matters and changes people. (My review)
14. The Fog (John Carpenter)
Carpenter follows up the massively influential Halloween with a ghost story and throwback to the EC Comics of his youth. (My review)
13. Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis)
Zemeckis’ second film as director has frantic energy, gleefully tossed around obscenities, endlessly quotable dialogue (“that’s too fucking high!”) and though there’s enough un-PC jokes to offend every one, the affable nature never leads to any actual offense. Most impressive, in contrast to the last two decades of Zemeckis films are the following aspects: no character arcs, a well-paced decent running time, and no special effects, save a fearlessly high-wired (and according to him, coked up) performance from Kurt Russel.
12. The Long Riders (Walter Hill)
This elegiac western tells the tale of the Younger-James gang, how they dissolved, and how they will always be connected. (My review)
11. The Ninth Configuration (William Peter Blatty)
Had this faded to black about ten seconds earlier and perhaps had a stronger directorial hand (Blatty, who’s making his directorial debut is certainly capable, but I’d love to live in the alternate universe where William Friedkin directed this) it might have snuck into the top ten. But as the film stands, it’s still quite an achievement: rife with over-the-top quirky characters and an otherworldly vibe (the film is set in “a castle” in the Pacific Northwest!), Blatty’s film balances humor, pathos, horror and big questions (like uh, the existence of a God and the meaning of life for two!) successfully in a way that Richard Kelly’s being attempting (and failing at) in each of his post-Donnie Darko films.