21 January 2008

The greatness of 1982

When Ain’t-It-Cool-News did a retrospective on the year 1982 as the “Best Genre Year,” I remember thinking, “Yes! Finally somebody gets it!” I’ve always looked back on this year fondly, since it contains some of my favorite films of childhood (I was nine and just becoming a regular movie watcher) and many films that would become favorites as an adult.

Just at a glance, look how many gems came out in 1982: Poltergeist, Blade Runner, Conan the Barbarian, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Dark Crystal, First Blood, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, The Thing, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Road Warrior, The Secret of NIMH, Tron, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Man from Snowy River.

The only thing 1982 didn’t have was a James Bond film.

Looking at the list, I’m astonished how many of these films had, or would later have, a major effect me.

Tron: On just the basis of effects alone, the most important film of the year. The CGI revolution started here. But also a movie that defined the new computer generation, an expression of the Internet culture that now rules the world. This blog itself is a growth of that. Key line: “This isn’t happening. It only thinks it’s happening.”

Blade Runner: Like Tron, it was not a success at the time, for it was too far ahead of what people expected from futurism. (Wow, an odd phrase now that I think of it.) A foundational work of cyberpunk, and one of the most literate science fiction films ever made. It would take years to finally get the director’s true vision on video, but it was worth it. Key line: “It’s too bad she won’t live. But then again, who does?”

The Secret of NIMH: The favorite movie of my childhood. I obsessed about it so much as a nine-year-old that it annoyed my parents. They had no idea how many other fannish things I would obsess over in the coming years, so this was really just “training.” Although I can now objectively critique the movie—it has its flaws—I still think it’s the best animated film of its decade, and it’s a frequently dark and frightening tale that dodges many clichés of “family” animated movies. Key line: “None of the girls I meet want to get serious.”

Conan the Barbarian: ‘Cuz this how I first heard about this Robert E. Howard fella. This would really screw me up later. Key line: “Let someone else pass in the night.”

Poltergeist: E. T. made more money, but the other Spielberg project of the year ended up the long-run cultural winner. A genuinely great way to make a modern haunted house story, even if it goes somewhat illogically over the top in the finale. Key line: “Go into the light!”

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Is this the high point of the franchise? Not only is it great Trek, it’s plain great science fiction all around. Key line: “You are my superior officer. You are also my friend. I am and ever shall be yours.”

The Dark Crystal: I adore the Muppets and the spirit and humor that Jim Henson put into them, but I think this serious fantasy story is his masterpiece (and Frank Oz’s, who co-directed). Another movie that had a tremendous effect on me when I first saw it in the theater, its imagery has remained with me. Henson’s early death was a great blow to my childhood memories. Seventeen years later I still can’t believe he’s gone. Key line: “She is part of you, just as we are all a part of each other.”

I might go into deeper detail on each of these films later… the year’s films certainly deserve deeper attention.

End of Line, Time to Die, Go Into the Light, KHAAAAAAAAAAN!