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1980 Movie Reviews – Heaven’s Gate

by Sean P. Aune | November 19, 2020November 19, 2020 10:30 am EST

Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1980 was an exciting year for films giving us a lot of films that would go on to be beloved favorites and cult classics. It was also the start to a major shift in cultural and societal norms, and some of those still reverberate to this day.

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We’re going to pick and choose which movies we hit, but right now the list stands at nearly three dozen.

Yes, we’re insane, but 1980 was that great of a year for film.

The articles will come out – in most cases – on the same day the films hit theaters in 1980 so that it is their true 40th anniversaries. All films are also watched again for the purposes of these reviews and are not being done from memory. In some cases, it truly will be the first time we’ve seen them.

This time around it’s Nov. 19, 1980, and we’re off to see Heaven’s Gate!

Quick side note: Since we launched this series this year, we’ve discovered that Vintage Video Podcast is doing the exact same project with two differences: First, it’s audio (naturally), and second, they are doing every major film. We’ve listened to a couple of episodes and it’s fun checking off their thoughts against my own. Check them out over at Vintage Video Podcast.

1980 Movie Project - Heavens Gate - 02

Heaven’s Gate

Ever since this movie was originally released I’ve heard nothing but bad things about it. I debated skipping it because time is more precious to me than this insane venture of mine to watch all these movies. In the end I landed on the side of watching it, and… I didn’t hate it.

Lets be clear, I have a LOT of issues with Heaven’s Gate, but it is by no means “stands as one of the worst movies ever made” as some people have called it.

The biggest issues I had with the film is director & writer Michael Cimino didn’t know when to yell “cut” the majority of the time. The first 20 minutes of the film deal with Jim Averill (Kris Kristofferson) and Billy Irvine (John Hurt) graduating from Harvard and the entire day is shown in excruciating detail. While Jim and Billy are on opposite sides of the main story of the film, they barely interact for the majority of it, and so we didn’t really need to see an endless amount of setup of their friendship.

Meanwhile, we only learn halfway through the movie that are not only are Jim and Nathan (Christopher Walken) good friends, they are both in love with the same prostitute. And I am not kidding, it is at almost the exact middle minute of the film is this plot point for the remainder of the film revealed.

We do get a lengthy… and I mean LENGTHY… roller rink scene that includes someone playing the fiddle while skating for nearly 5 minutes. This is then followed by a seemingly endless dance scene between Jim and Ella (Isabelle Huppert) that just feels like it’s never going to end.

And despite all this, I still was engaged by the story, and visually it’s a gorgeous movie.

In the age of the limited series, this movie I feel was a bit easier to swallow I imagine. Four hours in the theater? That would be a definite pass for me and many others.

1980 movie reviews will return on Nov. 21 with The Apple, which, I’ll give you an advance taste… it’s WAY worst than Heaven’t Gate!


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Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing