The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) Directed by Rob Epstein
Intersectionality is a word you might hear going around these days. This is the concept of recognizing how people represent multiple identities or how a political issue intersects with various communities and identities. In the United States right now, it’s become time to look at how issues like climate change and a lack of health care have become intersectional issues. The people first affected and most dramatically traumatized by climate change are and will continue to be low income and non-white people. Climate change becomes an intersectional issue, not just merely about cleaning up pollution but acknowledging that our society has allowed groups to become more vulnerable than others.
Sophie’s Choice (1982) Written & Directed by Alan J. Pakula
It’s been 38 years, but Streep is still associated with this film. It makes sense because it was the first film to win Streep the Best Actress Academy Award. It wasn’t her first award, that as Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer. But this was different, Streep was the first name in the opening credits the dramatic weight of the picture rests on her shoulders. She’s not the entire pool of talent in the movie, but the key moments often hinge on her ability to convey the depth of emotion and torment Sophie is feeling.
It’s Valentine’s Weekend, so that means people are buying cheap chocolate and flowers en masse to profess their love for one another. Love is an emotion that’s been present in cinema since its inception. In 1896, William Heise released the short film The Kiss, one of the first publicly viewable movies. Since then, many stories have been told about people falling in and out of love, both comedic and tragic. Even some horrific. Here are my favorite movies about Love.
A Woman Under the Influence (1974, directed by John Cassavettes) John Cassavettes paved the way for independent film in America and made a name for himself as an iconoclastic director. His muse & wife was Gena Rowlands, who he cast as Mabel, the titular woman. Nick (Peter Falk) is her devoted husband, who notices Mabel’s behavior becoming erratic. While the film never labels Mabel’s condition, it’s clear she’s somewhere in the realm of bipolar disorder. Mabel ends up in an institution after attempting self-harm, and Nick thinks life can just go back to normal when she returns home. Cassavettes understood that true love could endure the most trying of circumstances, that people who really love each other can do so even when the one they care about doesn’t appear to love them back.
Bashu, The Little Stranger (1986) Written & Directed by Bahram Beyzai
There is an emphasis on homogenizing foreign cultures into a monolith. This does a disservice to the broad diversity that exists inside these borders. We sometimes forget that national borders are artificial things, and people are often corraled inside sovereignties they have no direct connection with. Bashu, the Little Stranger, chooses to displace a Southern Iranian from the Khuzestan province due to the Iraq-Iran War. By moving this person into the Caspian north, we see how prejudices and cultural dissonance affect how we treat our fellow citizens.
8 Million Ways to Die (1986) Written by Oliver Stone, Robert Towne, and R. Lance Hill Directed by Hal Ashby
It’s pretty clear by this point that Hal Ashby’s career as a successful filmmaker was over. His glory had been in the 1970s, and now the 1980s were eating him alive. 8 Million Ways to Die is nothing like the way an old Ashby film felt. There’s no thoughtful contemplation or a focus on character. This is noir storytelling full of all the tropes and cliches you might expect. The treatment of women is disappointing when you look at more liberating pictures like Coming Home or Harold and Maude. This is the final journey of Hal Ashby, one into mediocrity.
The Slugger’s Wife (1985) Written by Neil Simon Directed by Hal Ashby
I truly despise this movie. It makes it hard not to dislike Hal Ashby entirely because it is so against everything he made at his peak in the 1980s. The characters are vapid and unlikeable. The story is terrible. I am still trying to make sense of how we ended up here. It’s honestly even more flabbergasting than anything we’ve seen before from Ashby. It is at complete odds with the moral sense the director brought to his early films and is absolute dreck.
Lookin’ To Get Out (1982) Written by Jon Voight Directed by Hal Ashby
For some reason, in the 1980s, Hal Ashby made three crime films and a pilot for a failed crime series. I have no idea why he was given this material or why he would be attracted to it. Throughout his 1970s work Ashby reflected a deeply anti-authoritarian theme, particularly toward law enforcement. That’s not to say these movies a pro-police, they traffic in annoying criminal cliches and don’t necessarily give their roguish protagonists anything interesting or unique to do.