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 September 30h, 1983, and we’re off to see The Big Chill, Brainstorm, and Going Berserk.
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.
The Big Chill
Part of the reason I embarked on this crazy 1980s project of mine was not only to relive what I believe was a fantastic decade of film, but also to study trends of what was happening in entertainment at the time. One conclusion I am drawing, and not one I expected to, is that a lot of characters were not likable. Case in point: The Big Chill.
This film was filled with an amazing cast, and was nominated for a lot of awards, but every time I have tried watching it – which has been multiple times – I walk away thinking, “Why do I hate all of these people?”
The movie centers around college friends gathering for the funeral of Alex (played by an edited-out Kevin Costner), a friend of theirs who committed suicide. Chloe (Meg Tilly), his much younger girlfriend, is a new addition to the group who decides to spend the weekend together following the funeral and mount their friend and catch up.
Chloe is the first place I have issues with this story. This woman is clearly vulnerable with some potential mental problems, and while she has just lost the man she has loved, at least two of his so-called friends – Michael (Jeff Goldblum) and Nick (William Hurt) – are fairly clear in their desire to get her into bed.
Nick is going through issues of his own, having lost a promising career, and now deals drugs to stay afloat. So, of course, the perfect idea is for him and the bereaved Chloe to end the movie together where she will essentially replace one father figure with issues with another father figure with issues.
I enjoy the actors in this film. They all turn in good performances and are intriguing to watch. But at the end of the day, I hate their characters so much that I simply can’t get past it. If these were real people I would want nothing to do with any of them, and that does not make for a real fun viewing experience.
There is one inescapable thing that niggles at the back of your mind as you watch Brainstorm: “This is the movie Natalie Wood was filming when she mysteriously died.”
And while Brainstorm is entertaining, your mind does wander to what would have been different if she hadn’t died. Filming was not yet completed on the sci-fi thriller, and some changes had to be made. And kudos to the filmmakers because you really do feel as though you get a complete story here. If you didn’t know Wood’s backstory, you would very easily never suspect anything was amiss.
The story follows Dr. Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) as he and Dr. Lillian Raynolds (Louise Fletcher) put the final touches on their tech which will allow you to experience what other have through a special headset. If the person recording the experience tastes something, the person who later plays it back will taste it as well.
Quickly, the film goes in a lot of different directions with the technology and how something like it could be abused. Be it privately, such as seeing how someone else views you, or be it the government using it to torture people. And, of course, sexual experiences.
It’s fascinating how Brainstorm, despite being so early in the 1980s technology boom, nailed how such a technology would be immediately abused for porn. True, this is far enough down the road that society had seen what the invention of Betamax/VHS had done for the porn industry – and the fact the industry chose VHS as their format ended the format war – but it’s still interesting to see it become a story point this quickly.
Brainstorm does suffer slightly from a need to try to convey a bit too much (i.e. did we really need the collapsing marriage between Michael and Karen (Natalie Wood), but it is entertaining all the same.
Somewhere along the way I missed the news that three members of SCTV did a movie together in 1983. John Candy plays the lead in Going Berserk, but there is no shortage of Joe Flaherty and Eugene Levy in the film.
The plot of this film is useless. John (Candy) is engaged to a woman (Alley mils) who is the daughter of a senator potentially the next U.S. President (Pat Hingle). As per usual for the 80s, John isn’t good enough for his fiance, and the father is disapproving up until the end of the film. Mixed in somewhere along the way is a cult who wants to hypnotize John to kill the senator, but you really don’t care.
The film feels like a number of sketches tied together very loosely by a plot, and considering the backgrounds of these actors, that isn’t all that surprising. A few of them are amusing, and in particular when John is handcuffed to Muhammed Jerome Willy (Ernie Hudson) as the latter has sex is a genuinely laugh out loud bit of physical comedy.
It’s not overly surprising this film is pretty much forgotten, and you can definitely skip it, but if you’re a completist of SCTV content, you may want to give it a viewing.
1983 Movie Reviews will return on Oct. 7, 2023 with Never Say Never Again and Romantic Comedy!
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