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

Monday, December 26, 2022
MOSTLY ON THE EDGE: I have reeled off my favorite motion pictures of
2012, 2002, and 1992. Now let's do 1982.

This was a surprisingly good year for movies. I say surprisingly because the '80s were a pretty bleak period for Hollywood, artistically speaking—and sure enough, the big American studios are mostly missing from the list below. Of the top 10, six are foreign imports, one is a documentary, and one is weirdo indie project (by an absurdist theater troupe cum new wave band) that was actually shot in the '70s. The only Hollywood studio efforts are a pair of genre flicks that were critically panned at the time.

But what a great pack of pictures this is. There are movies in the lower rungs of this top 10 that are on par with some other years' #1s. Filmmakers were still doing high-quality work in 1982. It's just that the studio suits usually weren't the people putting it out.

Nor, for the most part, were they honoring it at the Oscars. When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1982, it gave its Best Picture award to an excruciatingly bland biopic called Gandhi. You won't find that one on my list, and I say that not just as a movie buff but as an admirer of the man who gave his name to the film.

1. Fanny and Alexander
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

"It is necessary and not at all shameful to take pleasure in the little world."

2. Danton
Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Written by Wajda, Jean-Claude Carrière, Jacek Gasiorowski, Agnieszka Holland, and Boleslaw Michalek, from a play by Stanislawa Przybyszewska

A movie about the French Revolution. Any parallels to events in the director's native Poland are strictly intentional.

3. Blade Runner
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, from a novel by Philip K. Dick

In a blow to the director-as-auteur theory, this movie owes its greatness less to Scott's direction than to Dick's story and Lawrence G. Paull's production design. That said: If you haven't seen Blade Runner before, it's the director's cut that you should watch, not the studio's somewhat blandified original release.

4. Fitzcarraldo
Written and directed by Werner Herzog

My favorite Herzog, about a mad scheme to build an opera house deep in the Brazilian jungle.

5. Dimensions of Dialogue
Written and directed by Jan Švankmajer

Terry Gilliam praised Švankmajer's films for "moments that evoke the nightmarish spectre of seeing commonplace things coming unexpectedly to life." And, in this one, seeing them digest and regurgitate each other.

6. Say Amen, Somebody
Directed by George T. Nierenberg

I've never been to Heaven, but I kind of like the music.

7. Veronika Voss
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Written by Fassbinder, Pea Fröhlich, and Peter Märthesheimer

What if David Lynch made Sunset Blvd.?

8. Forbidden Zone
Directed by Richard Elfman
Written by Elfman, Matthew Bright, Nick James, and Nick L. Martinson, from a story by Elfman

What if John Waters made Hellzapoppin'?

9. The Draughtsman's Contract
Written and directed by Peter Greenaway

A feature-length puzzle-box about sex, sketches, and secret societies.

10. The Thing
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Bill Lancaster, from a story by John Wood Campbell Jr.

This is it: John Carpenter's best movie. Yes, of course, They Live has the best scenes. But as a movie, start to finish, this one is tops.

Honorable mentions:

11. Burden of Dreams (Les Blank)
12. Moonlighting (Jerzy Skolimowski)
13. Liquid Sky (Slava Tsukerman)
14. The Verdict (Sidney Lumet)
15. Honkytonk Man (Clint Eastwood)
16. Down to the Cellar (Jan Švankmajer)
17. The Atomic Café (Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, Pierce Rafferty)
18. Vincent (Tim Burton)
19. The Return of Martin Guerre (Daniel Vigne)
20. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling)

Best mess: Larry Cohen's Q: The Winged Serpent.

Of the films of 1982 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.

posted by Jesse 8:38 AM
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