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 December 16th, 1983, and we’re off to see Terms of Endearment, D.C. Cab, and The Keep.
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.
Terms of Endearment
Once again I find myself at a film that it feels like I should have watched before now. As I’ve said in the past, at this point in the 80s, I was 12, so seeing Terms of Endearment probably wasn’t high on my list of must-see movies that year.
But now, as a man in my 50s walking back through the 1980s, I feel as though I could have continued not seeing it.
Terms of Endearment follows the life of Emma (Debra Winger) from her birth to her death and her unhealthy relationship with her emotionally shut-off mother, Aurora (Shirley MacLaine). Despite whatever comes into their lives, it is always they that are each other’s core, and there is nothing they wouldn’t do for one another.
Yes, I know, Terms of Endearment won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress, and Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards. I get that. But I also found the characters so broadly painted that I never could understand their motivations. Why did Flap (Jeff Daniels) cheat on Emma? Was it a typical story such as he was taken with the adoration of a student story? We never know. He seemed content in his marriage, but yet this just comes out of the blue.
Why did Emma decide to sleep with Sam (John Lithgow)? She makes some half-hearted attempt at explaining, but never seems to really finish the thought. And then it’s impossible to tell if she actually liked Sam at any point or if he was just a body for her to use to take revenge on Flap without him ever even knowing about it..
And then there are the men that follow Aurora around including Vernon (Danny DeVito). Why are they here? Is it a hope that Aurora finally show them the least bit of attention?
What saves this movie, ultimately, are the performances of Winger and MacLaine. The actors famously did not get along in real life, but it never shows in the film for even a moment. You believe these are women who would do anything for one another. I just wish I knew why they would do it, or why anyone in their orbit do the things they do.
D.C. Cab should have been a funny movie, but someone forgot to tell nearly everyone in the film what they were making.
Albert (Adam Baldwin) moves to Washington D.C. following the death of his father to work with his army buddy, Harold (Max Gail). Harold runs the worst cab company in the city, but despite all of this, Albert somehow figures this is his path to a career once he shapes the company up.
It’s been a comedy trope for quite some time of the ‘loser’ group getting a glow-up and winning against all the odds. Just think of films such as The Bad News Bears or Revenge of the Nerds for examples. In the case of D.C. Cab, not only was it a simple concept, but the film was loaded with up-and-coming comics of the early 80s such as Bill Maher and Paul Rodriguez. What you end up with is a film that somehow ends up trying to be Ghostbusters by the end with the cab firm being beloved by the city for rescuing the children of a diplomat. (Although the kidnapping does lead to he best comedic delivery of the film, and it’s from one of the two kids.)
Overall, a sloppy, forgettable film that somehow includes Mr. T and Gary Busey.
Speaking of sloppy…
In 1941, a group of German soldiers were sent to a citadel in Romania to take up residence and guard a pass. They are warned bad things come to those who stay there, but they, of course, do so any way. Once the big scary thing starts doing its thing, the movie pretty much stops making sense or bothering to explain anything.
The Keep was the second film directed by Michael Mann, a director who would go on to some very big films in his career. The Keep, however, is one he apparently doesn’t even like to acknowledge. It seems his original cut of the film was 210 minutes. Paramount demanded it be cut to 120 minutes, but after that cut didn’t test well, it was cut down even further to 98 minutes. To call it a shambolic, disjointed mess would be an understatement. You have literally no idea why half the things happening are happening that way. People just show up, they do things, the movie plods along.
You can not cut nearly two-thirds of a film out and still expect it to make sense, but somehow Paramount thought that would work. Thankfully Mann was able to move on from this project, and I’m happy I never have to think about it again.
1983 Movie Reviews will return on Dec. 23, 2023 with The Man Who Loved Women, To Be or Not to Be, and Uncommon Valor!
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