USA, 1980, 111 min, Dir. Allan Moyle
Because of the chaos that went on during post-production, Times Square is almost a really good cult movie. But the jumbled narrative (and a weird scene where the girls sing a racist song) makes the film lack a certain gut punch. However! The soundtrack is incredible (and perhaps the reason it isn't streaming) and the film captures the seedy era of Times Square before it got cleaned up by Giuliani in the '90s, practically making it a historical document. Release the gay scenes! JASMYNE KEIMIG
France | West Germany, 1981, 124 min, Dir. Andrzej Zulawski
There's a profound emptiness pervading the film. The streets, restaurants, subway stations, and apartment buildings of West Berlin seem completely devoid of people save for Anna and Mark. This emptiness—and camera operator Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz's dynamic Steadicam work—makes the couple's demonic marital breakdown the surreal center of a cold, blue-twinged universe located along the Berlin Wall.
And, my god, Adjani gives one of the most disturbing performances ever as Anna. A big moment for cinema. Possession (and Anna) will stay with me for a long time. JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 1982, 113 minutes, Dir. Arthur Hiller
Making Love's genre is the most pitied film genre that exists, the melodrama. Big-budget jerk-off action films like Netflix's Extraction seem to me to be the most pitiful type of movies to exist but I understand that not everyone's taste has imagination. Lately I've been repeat-listening to the song that was created for the closing ceremony at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics—Amigos para Siempre, a song that embodies melodrama—and if you let yourself go, this song can take you to unparalleled heights. The truth is that melodramas can really slap.
This is how I feel about Making Love, an exceptional melodrama directed by Arthur Hiller (NOT Miller) and starring Kate Jackson (Charlie's Angels) as a TV executive in love with highbrow tragedy, Michael Ontkean (Twin Peaks) as her doctor husband who is not-so-tragically gay, and Lisa Rinna's husband Harry Hamlin as that husband's hunky side piece. Making Love knows what it is—there are meta-references to it being lowbrow drama—but it's also something very rare: a self-possessed, generous film about a woman and man navigating their relationship as the man comes out of the closet. I'm not sure there's anything like it from the early '80s. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1983, 131 min, Dir. Mike Nichols
When we speak of Kurt Russell as a “Golden Globe nominated actor,” Silkwood is the movie we're referring to. While he does little more than look like a conservative American snack (blue jeans, Confederate flag and all), this is the movie that earned him his highest acting accolade. But Silkwood really belongs to Meryl Streep, who plays the real life Karen Silkwood, a whistleblower and labor organizer who worked at a nuclear facility in Oklahoma. In 1974, Silkwood died in a car accident under SuSpIcIoUs CiRcUmStAnCeS while driving to meet a New York Times reporter. Spooky, Big Daddy Capitalist shit. Cher (yes, that Cher) plays Streep’s butch lesbian roommate who dates a super femme funeral parlor beautician. Streep has the most intense—yet chic—mullet imaginable. And while the pacing can feel a bit meandering (this is the debut feature screenplay for Nora Ephron, who co-wrote the film), Streep gives a naturalistic, complex performance. As ever.
Also, shout out to Caitlin Lee of the Art Workers Union who tweeted about not being able to find Silkwood anywhere—this one is for you! JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 1984, 141 min, Dir. John Cassavetes
This column does not have enough space to contain my love for this film. Love Streams was my introduction to John Cassavetes, and from the first frame I knew I wouldn't be able to get it out of my brain. The story follows Robert (Cassavetes), a lonely and alcoholic writer of trashy novels who fears being alone and believes—and repeats several times throughout the film—that all beautiful women have a secret that they must offer to a man. Needless to say, he's deeply unhappy.
And in that unhappiness he's joined by his sister, Sarah (Gena Rowlands), a recent divorcee who's lost custody of her child, which only deepens her obsession with her own family and the concept of love. She fervently believes and often repeats that "love is a stream—it's continuous, it doesn't stop," an idea that's rebuked by other characters in the film. Over the two-and-a-half-hour runtime, both Robert and Sarah find themselves providing shelter for one another—in their failings, insecurity, and emotions. It's circuitous, unpredictable and—despite the plot line—it never once falls into melodrama.
It's worth noting that Rowlands completely bodies her performance. Watching her is like witnessing a flame take to kindling, becoming a giant fire. Also, how does her hair do THAT!? JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 1985, 108 minutes, Dir. Savage Steve Holland
When it was released, Better Off Dead got shit reviews and bombed at the box office. Famously, Cusack walked out of a screening of the movie, upset that the final product didn't reflect the dark or surreal nature of the script. In an interview, director Savage Steve Holland said that the film's regular screenings on HBO and popularity with video store dirtbags propelled it to beloved cult classic status. And in a 2013 Reddit AMA, Cusack dispelled any rumors that he still hates the film.
"No, I just thought it could have been better, but I think that about almost all my films," he said. "I have nothing against the film... Glad people love it still." We still do, John! JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA | France, 1986, 133 min, Dir. Bertrand Tavernier
Though I think Dale sometimes has a whiff of an inscrutable Magical Negro, Gordon plays him with so much charm and empathy that he becomes fully fleshed out. And, by God, the music. This is where the film really shines. Though a bit plotless, 'Round Midnight is a delightful snapshot of the Paris jazz scene in the '50s. And there's even a young Martin Scorsese who makes an appearance. I think he's kinda hot! JASMYNE KEIMIG
UK, 1987, 101 min, Dir. Stephen Frears
I could write 1,500 words on this film—veteran Stranger staffer Sean Nelson was planning on it—but we try to keep these blurbs around 200 words, so I'll stick with one point. When Sammy, a Pakistani, is told by his father to leave England and return home, he delivers an iconic line: "We love our city and belong to it. Neither of us are English; we’re Londoners, you see." It's a love letter to the city, a reminder that some of us pledge allegiance to urbanism before nationhood. But the film's London is so different from Seattle. The sexiest character in Sammy and Rosie happens to live in a homeless encampment (one that gets swept up, too), and he's still seen as sexy, radical, progressive, even aristocratic. His financial condition isn't a personal failure. It isn't the fault of London, either. Rather, those who rule the city are responsible. Sammy's London is a long way away from Mayor Durkan's Seattle.
The only copy I know that's available in Seattle is a VHS tape at Scarecrow Video. Since copies are hard to find, let me know if you find one in good condition! Please and thanks! CHASE BURNS
USA, 1988, 96 min, Dir. Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton
1988's D.O.A. is a remake of a 1950 classic film noir of the same name and stars prolific himbo Dennis Quaid as Cornell. Its source material gives the movie a pulpy, anachronistic feel that straddles the '50s and '80s style-wise. Quaid's hair is appropriately poofy, the shadows are ridiculously long, everyone looks simultaneously suspicious and horny, the poison glows a ridiculous slime green. It's a trashy neo-noir that's clearly having a lot of fun.
A pre-When Harry Met Sally Meg Ryan somewhat ludicrously plays freshman Sydney Fuller, a young woman who's hot for teacher, AKA Professor Cornell. Despite the gap between Ryan's age and her character's age, Ryan believably plays the wide-eyed student. Both actors have real chemistry—they allegedly fell in love on set and married soon after, making this outlandish movie a great unstreamable watch. JASMYNE KEIMIG
US, 1989, 96 min, Dir. Norman René
Thirty years ago, Longtime Companion premiered in the United States. It was the first major film to deal with the AIDS epidemic and remains a forceful and passionate look at a group of friends supporting each other as they battle the virus. It grossed $4.6 million at the box office, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and won a Golden Globe for the same category. The film was simultaneously ahead of its time and a decade too late, as the virus started ravaging the gay community in the early '80s. Frustratingly, Longtime Companion is unstreamable and out of print.
There are earlier U.S. films that confronted AIDS but didn't get a wide release: Buddies (1985) is credited as being the first film to deal with AIDS, although Bill Sherwood's extraordinary Parting Glances (1986), starring a young Steve Buscemi, comes to my mind first. Parting Glances and Longtime Companion are similar in many respects: Both focus on well-off white gay men living in or around New York City in the '80s, both value a "queer chosen family" over gay couples, and both of the films' directors died of AIDS complications a few years after their respective premieres. But unlike Parting Glances, which you can watch on Kanopy for free via the Seattle Public Library, Longtime Companion is almost lost to time. Thankfully, Yahoo Movies conducted an invaluable oral history with the surviving cast and crew in 2015, but we need to get this film back in the popular consciousness. CHASE BURNS