Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1983 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 four dozen.
Yes, we’re insane, but 1983 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 1983 so that it is their true 40th anniversary. 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 October 13th, 1983, and we’re off to see All the Right Moves and The Dead Zone. (Both of these came out on Oct. 20th, but I didn’t want to pile five movies into one day.)
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 numerous episodes and it’s fun checking off their thoughts against my own. Check them out over at Vintage Video Podcast.
All the Right Moves
I hope you like a lot of talk about high school football, because this movie has that, and not much else.
Tom Cruise plays Stereotypical High School Football Player From a Small Factory Town… I mean Stefen Djordjevic. And he is dating Lea Thompson who is playing Stereotypical High School Girl Who Will Sacrifice Her Happiness for Him… I mean Lisa Lietzke. But, lets not forget Stereotypical High School Football Coach Who Realizes at the End of the Movie What a Good Guy Stefan is… I mean Coach Vern Nickerson played by Craig T. Nelson.
There is not one original moment in this movie. It is the most paint-by-numbers high school sports movie I’ve watched in a long time, and it is just mind-numbingly boring. The fact I could even call out camera zooms – which I truly did – before they happened tells you just how jarringly unoriginal this film is.
It’s not that things came after this one made these moments into stereotypes, there were plenty of movies in the 50s and 60s that did that as well.
This movie didn’t have ‘all the right moves,’ it had all of the right, boring, safe story choices you could ever imagine.
The Dead Zone
Somehow in all of the 1980s Stephen King adaptations I had never gotten around to watching The Dead Zone. Cujo I missed for 40 years because I just don’t enjoy animal movies where they are the villains or get hurt. I think in the case of The Dead Zone I had always heard it was “weird,” but I think people have a much lower bar for weird than I do having finally watched the movie.
Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) gets a headache… boom, he’s psychic. That’s pretty much the extent of the explanation in the film, and you just have to roll with that. But it’s not that big of an issue. You aren’t here for some deep explanation, you’re here for the story and what he does with his new ability, and it’s interesting.
Walken walks an interesting path here of the ability being a burden. He isn’t out there using this for gains, he’s using it begrudgingly. There is a minor subplot that the power will slowly wreck his body that doesn’t really go anywhere and feels almost like an afterthought. The real throughline here is the burden of this. What do you do with this? And if you see something truly appalling, do you step in?
As Walken films go, I actually found this one of his best performances. There was much more nuance than you usually see from him, and he was engaging throughout.
The plot is fairly benign, and easily predicted, but it is Walken who shines here, which is something you don’t often get to say. As the years have passed he has become more and more of a punchline, but here he is doing some really terrific work.
1983 Movie Reviews will return on Oct. 21, 2023 with The Right Stuff, Rumble Fish, and The Wicked Lady!
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