I like trips, especially ones where I don’t have to leave my living room. And Hollywood Suite is giving that experience with a short series they call A Year in Film. Here, they pick an arbitrary year from the past 50 years. They then discuss the historical context behind each year’s greatest films. There’s a worry in retrospective shows that they’re yes man-ing to their boomer audience. But the premiere episode about 1978 lifted most of those worries away.
And that’s because four minutes in, after talking about Grease, A Year in Film takes time to discuss cultural clashes. One in particular is between the mainstream and the counter cultural movements, especially within the context of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee. Thank you for providing both a deep cut which also happens to be queer content. It’s a movie that I, as a gay man, need to see. Jubilee shows London’s punk scene, but the program doesn’t limit itself to that one movement. They quickly show and discuss disco and the films about it because of course they would – what 70s show would not?
The program’s job is to show the plurality of the movies that came out during 1978. At the same time, they speak to those films’ common themes. They frame 1978 as a year where Hollywood started feeling comfortable talking about the war in Vietnam. They don’t just show the war through movies like Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter. To demonstrate how these films fictionalize wars, they also have archive photos showing scenes of the war. 1978 doesn’t just encapsulate the decade but it shows that year in connection to previous historical trends.
While cinematic trends in 1978 included pornography and the occasional superhero film, the ones in 1983 showed the illusion of the market becoming more mainstream. 1983 had its share of blockbusters, one of them, surprisingly enough, was James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment. The program does its due diligence in talking about the rivalry between that films’ stars Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger. But those two are just a few comprising the star system in 1983.
A Year in Film: 1983 marks a branching branches out from North America, well, sort of. Without underlining it, the program shows the brain drain where a few international actors before they become big in Hollywood. One of those actresses is Nicole Kidman, whose filmography in 1983 included stuff like Bush Christmas, showing that North America doesn’t have the exclusive market on the teen exploitation films. Segments like this shows the knowledge that the talking heads can impart on us.
These talking heads also provide context to the anti-trends in 1983, like when Americans go to Canada and help local auteurs bring their visions to life. Actors like James Wood and Christopher Walked both starred in David Cronenberg films that year. As other countries bring blockbusters and exploitation films during the early 80s, Cronenberg showed us a different side to humanity. Stills from movies like The Dead Zone make for worthy calling cards, piquing our interests in these films.
A Year in Film premieres today on Hollywood Suite. For more information go to https://hollywoodsuite.ca/ayearinfilm/.