Top Ten 1983

1. The Ballad Of Narayama
2. Tender Mercies
3. Entre Nous
4. Zelig
5. Testament
6.  L’Argent
7. The Dresser
8. The Right Stuff
9. To Be Or Not To Be
10. Carmen


I can’t imagine anything more appropriate than Robert Duvall winning an Academy Award for his career-topping performance in Bruce Beresford’s perfect drama Tender Mercies than the fact that he received the statue from the one and only Dolly Parton as co-presenter.  Duvall, usually a more obvious and mannered actor, fits perfectly into Beresford’s more subdued vision of the torments and tragedies that push families apart but keep love strong. It’s a wonderful film that has barely aged a day.

Honour Roll:  Tom Conti, Reuben, Reuben; Tom Courtenay, The Dresser; Albert Finney, The Dresser; Michael Keaton, Mr. Mom


Another career long overdue for tribute was the fabulous Shirley MacLaine, who deservedly won piles of acclaim and an Academy Award for her role as the feisty, wise and domineering matriarch whose exasperation with her daughter becomes fierce protection when she loses her to cancer in Terms Of Endearment.  The film’s strength is not in its storytelling, it’s basically a glorified television weepie, but what makes it a cut above the rest is the honesty with which it is told. What could easily have been ripe melodrama is actually very human, and MacLaine’s work is the most impressive for being the one role that could very easily have gone the campy route; by the time a sequel (The Evening Star) came along in 1996, the filmmaking quality had not been maintained but MacLaine’s portrayal of Aurora was as good as ever.

Honour Roll: Jane Alexander, Testament; Mariel Hemingway, Star 80; Isabelle Huppert, Entre Nous; Miou-Miou, Entre Nous


I suppose I could make a smarter choice, but I’ve been playing along quite well with Oscar so far and I see no reason to break the trend. Besides, I have a great time watching Jack Nicholson play the shit-grinning bad boy astronaut in Terms Of Endearment.  If for no other reason, the role is important for having put to rest Nicholson’s more cerebral seventies career and introducing him as the aging rake that he would play in countless movies in the years to come, a persona he now trades on in his sleep in movies like Anger Management and As Good As It Gets.

Honour Roll: Charles Durning, To Be Or Not To Be; Sam Shepard, The Right Stuff;Rip Torn, Cross Creek


One of the greatest actresses to grace the screen in the eighties had the richest role in one of the most talked about films in the eighties.  Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill encapsulated the yuppie generation so dead-on that its rather unstimulating content was easily overlooked; there’s a lot of great dialogue but most of the characters fail to really work their way into your heart as much as Glenn Close, whose internalization of the tragedy that has brought her back together with her friends is the closest the film comes to being truly poignant.

Honour Roll: Eileen Atkins, The Dresser; Amy Irving, Yentl; Lupe Ontiveros,El Norte; Alfre Woodard, Cross Creek


A village in Japan where old people are taken up a mountain and left to die in order to not be a burden on their children: talk about a tough town. This horror is incorporated into a celebration of the endlessness of life in The Ballad Of Narayama, a masterpiece by Shohei Imamura where people fight, copulate and struggle with morality and survival while around them nature is bursting in closeup. I don’t know if it’s the feel-good film of the year, but goodness knows it makes an impression.

Honour Roll:  Robert Bresson, L’Argent; Kon Ichikawa, The Makioka Sisters; Alan Johnson, To Be Or Not To Be; Diane Kurys, Entre Nous