The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Thursday, December 29, 2011
REAGAN YEAR ONE: I've posted my picks for the top 10 films of
2001 and 1991. Now onward (or is it backward?) to the '80s.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked at 1981, it gave its Best Picture award to Chariots of Fire, the film that appears in the dictionary next to the phrase "Oscar bait." Here are some better movies:

1. Coup de Torchon
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
Written by Tavernier and Jean Aurenche, from a novel by Jim Thompson

Apparently a Jim Thompson story still works when you transport it to colonial Africa.

2. The Decline...of Western Civilization
Directed by Penelope Spheeris

If this isn't the best rock doc ever made, it's certainly the funniest.

3. Blow Out
Written and directed by Brian De Palma

Imagine Blow Up crossed with a '70s conspiracy thriller.

4. Lola
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Written by Fassbinder, Pea Fröhlich, and Peter Märthesheimer

"I'm corrupt." "You most certainly are not." "I adapt. Same thing."

5. Mephisto
Directed by István Szabó
Written by Szabó and Péter Dobai, from a novel by Klaus Mann

In 2006 it emerged that Szabó had been an informant in the aftermath of Hungary's failed 1956 revolution. He claimed at first that he'd done it to save a friend's life, then admitted that this was a self-serving lie. I relate these unpleasant details not to criticize this absorbing film, but to suggest that its textured portrait of an opportunist adjusting to life under totalitarian rule might have a touch of self-lacerating autobiography to it.

6. Gallipoli
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by David Williamson, from a story by Weir

One of the great antiwar movies. Shame about the soundtrack.

7. Time Bandits
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Gilliam and Michael Palin

"Why does there have to be evil?" "I think it has something to do with free will."

8. Polyester
Written and directed by John Waters

Not many motion pictures are this cruel to a protagonist. Even fewer manage to be this funny in the process.

9. Modern Romance
Written and directed by Albert Brooks


10. Ms.45
Directed by Abel Ferrara
Written by N.G. St. John

If Death Wish had starred Valerie Solanas...

Honorable mentions:

11. Vernon, Florida (Errol Morris)
12. America is Waiting (Bruce Conner)
13. Pixote (Hector Babenco)
14. Das Boot (Wolfgang Petersen)
15. Pennies from Heaven (Herbert Ross)
16. Tango (Zbigniew Rybczynski)
17. Junkopia (Chris Marker, John Chapman)
18. Crac (Frédéric Back)
19. Gregory's Girl (Bill Forsyth)
20. Smothering Dreams (Daniel Reeves)

Of the films of 1981 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Aviator's Wife.

posted by Jesse 10:39 PM
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