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1981 Movie Reviews – American Pop

by Sean P. Aune | February 13, 2021February 13, 2021 10:30 am EST

Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1981 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.


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 1981 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 1981 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 Feb. 12, 1981, and we’re off to see American Pop!

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.

1981 Movie Project - American Pop - 01

American Pop

There are only two reactions to American Pop that I have ever encountered: You either love it or you hate it. I fall in the former.

Potentially Ralph Bakshi’s most groundbreaking film, American Pop follows generations of a family from Imperial Russia in the 1890s through to the early 1980s with their life story as well as that of the United States told over a backdrop of music. You watch as Zalmie Belinsky flees Russia with his mother to make his way on the streets of New York City, through to his great-grandson Pete Belinsky finally becoming a huge musical star following a life of hard knocks.

The main issue a lot of people have with most of Bakshi’s work is he used a process called rotoscoping. This is a process by which you film actors in black & white at 24 frames per second. You then take the film and blow it up into large photos that the animators draw over. It can lead to a bit of an “uncanny valley” at times, but it leaves you with a very striking and life-like form of animation.

I’ve always enjoyed this film as it mixes my loves of film, music, and history. It’s a powerful way to walk through the history of our country and how various musical genres have reflected the state of the world at the time. It also shows you the impact music can have on you and your common man and can be used as a way to bond to one another.

It’s a fantastic film, and one that should be seen. It’s a bit difficult to find these days on physical media, but it’s available on digital platforms.

The 1981 movie reviews will return on March 6 with Maniac!

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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