At the Movies in 1981
1981 was a big year for the movies. The top 5 at the box office:
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
2. On Golden Pond
3. Superman II
The big kahuna, of course, was Raiders. I vividly remember watching that movie as a student in Harvard Square with my brother in June of 1981. In my estimation, Raiders is the best Spielberg film of them all, which is saying something given the menu of great films he has made. The movie was a fun, exciting, adventurous ride at the time, and it still is. This movie holds up well.
Superman II was a highly enjoyable follow up to the original Superman movie released in 1978. Christopher Reeves was at the pinnacle of his fame with this movie, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that he’s the best Superman of all the many actors who played the role. And who can forget Gene Hackman and his hilarious, bumbling sidekick Ned Beatty? Or the evil General Zod? With a script by Mario Puzo and great performances all around, the film checked so many boxes: romance, pathos, defeat, victory, and lots of well-timed humor.
I remember Arthur as a light-hearted rom-com, a feel-good movie. Dudley Moore delivered a first rate comedic performance, a great follow up to 10. Was Arthur really that good of a movie? Looking back on it today, no I don’t think so. The ups and downs of a falling down drunk, billionaire Manhattanite probably wouldn’t resonate very much today. Yes, John Gielgud is excellent, but would his performance have won a best supporting Oscar at any time in the last twenty years? I don’t see it. Still, if
you're yearning for a shot of early 1980s nostalgia, definitely check it out. A truly awful sequel, Arthur 2: On the Rocks, came out in 1988. And a mediocre remake was done in 2011 -- why, why, why?
What can you say about Stripes? It’s a comedy classic every film lover should see at least once. Bill Murray is at his hilarious best. Yes, it’s a bit wild and raunchy, but this and Caddyshack are two must-see comedies from the eighties. Plus, look at all the young up and coming actors in this film. It’s full of people who would go on to great careers, and it’s a real hoot seeing them just starting out.
So, I didn’t like On Golden Pond as much as others did (well, not at all, actually). I only saw it once years after its release and have no plans to ever see it again. Henry Fonda was excellent and no complaints with giving him a long overdue best actor Oscar, but this role was far from his finest. The movie, of course, was nominated for seemingly everything and ended up winning three Oscars, but just not my cup of tea.
What were my favorite 1981 films at the time? Back then, these were the top five:
1. American Werewolf in London (still an awesome movie)
2. Mad Max: the Road Warrior (stands the test of time fairly darn well)
3. Atlantic City (nice)
4. The Howling (“Silver bullets my ass!”)
5. Das Boot (and I was actually rooting for Nazis? Yes, I was)
And the worst movies I saw?
1. The Incredible Shrinking Woman (pass me an emesis bag, please)
2. Friday the 13th Part 2 (already I was praying for the slasher fad to die out)
3. History of the World, Part 1 (I never laughed once. Rolled my eyes a lot, though)
4. Time Bandits (sorry, thought it was stupid)
5. Caveman (Ringo does Neanderthal . . . badly)