File this one under the heading “What Were They Thinking?” Granted, 1981 was not exactly a banner year for cinema, American or otherwise. My favorites from that year are nearly all cult or exploitation films: Abel Ferrara’s Ms.45, John Waters’ Polyester, Joe Dante’s The Howling, Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising—none of them what one might call Best Picture material. I guess I can also see why Raiders of the Lost Ark, which did manage a Best Picture nomination, was probably thought to be too frivolous and lightweight ever to be a serious contender. None of this helps me to understand the appeal of Chariots of Fire, though, which fails to engage on the level of its characters, its subject matter, its style, or its performances. Why does this movie exist? And, more bafflingly, who liked/likes the thing? I did perk up when Brad Davis appeared in the final half hour, and my inner Savoyard appreciated the smatterings of Gilbert and Sullivan that punctuate the soundtrack. Good God, is this a slog, though, and it does nothing to disabuse audiences of the common misconception that English cinema is a generally prissy, bloodless affair. Avoid.