Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Come check out more Vaporwave, '80s Retro, and Nostalgia at my other site: Oblivion Foodcourt
Friday, December 6, 2019
This is a re-post of a post originally appearing on December 17, 2011.
One of my recently acquired Christmas obsessions is the fun and enjoyable 1983 movie A Christmas Story. Based upon writer Jean Shepherd's semi-fictionalized account of a young boy, Ralphie, experiencing the Christmas holidays in 1940s Indiana with his parents, his younger brother, and his neighborhood friends. I love movies that convey a time period with great detail, and A Christmas Story clearly fits into this category.
This movie contains one of the funniest scenes ever, where one of the young protagonist's friends gets his tongue stuck to metal pole in the cold of winter. The main story line, however, also full of funny moments, concerns Ralphie's ongoing quest to obtain a BB gun for Christmas, despite the objections ("you'll shoot your eye out, kid") of various adult figures, including his mother, his teacher, and a store Santa Claus.
But I think the main reason I find this movie so enjoyable is that its a rather realistic, yet fun, holiday movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. It involves a rather average family doing their best to enjoy the holidays amidst
dealing with everyday life. Ultimately, this movie is about having a Merry Christmas with what you have, and with those you have around you.
Friday, November 1, 2019
One of my favorite '80s movies is a somewhat forgotten sci-fi flick from 1985 called Explorers.
Explorers was part of a plethora of hopeful, positive sci-fi movies that came in the wake of the original Star Wars trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983), and the Spielberg classic E.T., the Extra Terrestrial (1982).
Explorers was about a trio of boys, all three misfits in different ways, who become friends and go on to do something fun and extraordinary. (It is a sci-fi flick, after all). The three boys were: Ben Crandall (played by a young Ethan Hawke), Wolfgang Muller (played by an equally young River Phoenix), and Darren Woods (played by Jason Presson). They were all different from one another: Ben was a dreamer who was into science fiction and fantasy, Wolfgang was a nerdy sort who was all into science and logic, and Darren was a practical sort who was into mechanics.
Yet they all found common ground in being outsiders in their school, and found a common goal when something very sci-fi-ish and remarkable happened: they started getting communications from extra terrestrials. This was the '80s, so were talking friendly aliens. Using the knowledge provided by the aliens, as well as their own various skills, they built a ramshackle spaceship.
You know what comes next: they go up in their ship, dubbed the "Thunder Road" (from a Bruce Springsteen song) and meet up with the alien ship.
It all ends with a wild a wacky meeting with the aliens themselves. Of course, you have to see the movie to know the rest.
One of the things I loved about this movie was that it was all about disparate misfits who join together, despite their differences, to overcome their problems and to do something extraordinary. It also came around at a time when some hopeful messages were very helpful, given that I was 15 at the time. And I loved sci-fi, so this movie just seemed wonderful when it came out.
Explorers has gained a cult following over the years, even though it was not as well remembered as so many other '80s films. But it will always remain a favorite with me.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Halloween is approaching, and thoughts turn to things scary and spooky. . . and horror.
Those of us who grew up in the 1980s and were into horror movies remember Freddy Krueger. The ghoulish star of the horror flick Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Freddy followed in the wake of slasher era flicks like Friday the 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978). During the late ‘70s and the ‘80s, these three movies produced numerous sequels which thrived among horror loving young people.
I first became acquainted with Freddy at an informal video-watching party among several members of my high school drama club, of which I was a member. We clustered together around a couch, munching on popcorn, and watching the first Nightmare on Elm Street. I always thought that, behind the blood and gore aspects of the Freddy movies, there was actually some psychological insight into all those dark thoughts and fears that young people live with.
Freddy represented the dark and scary stuff that lurked in all of our nightmares. Things that bother us. Things we run away from. The kind of stuff that we all are relieved to know doesn’t follow us into our waking lives. . . but in all of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, they did.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
The '80s were an era full of wonderful sci-fi movies. One great little movie that has developed a solid cult following is The Last Starfighter, a 1984 movie which exemplified the '80s in a number of ways. It was, along with Tron (1982), one of the first movies to feature computer animation. It was one of many space-related fantasy movies out at the time, and it featured the '80s fascination with video games.
The film's protagonist, Alex Rogan is a typical '80s teen with dreams and ambitions who lives in a trailer park with his mother and younger brother. He longs to leave for greener pastures, but in the meantime, he bides his time while engaging in that very '80s passion: video games. In particular, he becomes adept at a space oriented Starfighter video game located at the trailer park, where he gets very good at beating the bad guys in an epic space battle.
One day, he is approached by Centauri, who claims to be the inventor of the Starfighter video game. It turn out Centauri is actually a disguised alien who is scouting for starfighters to save the universe from the clutches of an evil space bad guys the Ko-Dan Empire. The part of Centauri was played by famed actor Robert Preston, most well known for playing traveling salesman Harold Hill in The Music Man (1962).
Alex is taken to the faraway planet Rylos, reluctantly recruited into the Rylan Star League, and introduced to Grig, a friendly repitilian alien who is to be Alex's navigator.
It is now up to Alex and Grig to save the universe.
Alex is trained to be a pilot and sent off with Grig to fight the Emporer Xur in a fighter craft called a Gunstar. Caution: Spoilers immediately ahead!
Thankfully, the Gunstar is equipped with a powerful new weapon, called the "Death Blossom."
Suffice it to say, the universe is saved and Alex returns to Earth a hero. Here he is with his girlfriend.
The movie has quite a following, and its a fun and positive little sci-fi adventure that was truly of its time. And true to its time, it encouraged you to look to the future with hope.
Friday, August 9, 2019
Some of my most pleasant memories of being a teen in the '80s came from some of the better teen movies which flourished at that time. Foremost among the creators of this genre of moviemaking was the great John Hughes whose work during the '80s was known for treating the minds and feelings of teenagers, and the situations that teens found themselves in, with seriousness and respect.
An account of several teens from very different cliques bonding with one another during their stay in detention, The Breakfast Club served for many of us as a protest against the walls that separated us from our fellow teens. It also had an unusual depth for a teen flick, allowing its characters to express the complexity which lay behind the facades of various teen stereotypes. Kids who were as different as a nerd, a stoner, an arty outsider, a jock and a preppie suddenly seemed more than just one dimensional. I remember getting great pleasure out of the way this movie made you think, as you chewed on the dialogue going on between the characters on the screen.
But the thing that made The Breakfast Club, and all of Hughe's movies, so wonderful for a teen loner like me, is that Hughes had a particular soft spot for the outsiders, the individualists, and the misfits, and he had a great way of exposing their dilemma through his movies, and ultimately empowering them in the process.
For example, there is this scene in the Breakfast Club, where the jock character, played by Emilio Estevez, tells about an awful thing, a pitiless prank that he played on this nerdy kid. He had done it to impress his fellow jock friends, but in the movie, he was expressing how bad he felt over his part in such a cruel prank, and how awful he must have made that hapless boy feel. At the conclusion of the jock's account, the nerd character, played by Anthony Michael Hall, quietly mentions that the boy who was the target of the prank was one of his friends. The scene is powerful, and there is this painful awareness as the nerd and the jock realize how close this awful prank struck each of them.
Thank you, John Hughes, for moments like that, which exposed the pain of being an outsider, and brought home just how much we had in common as teens from different backgrounds.
John Wilden Hughes (1950-2009)
A Follow Up To The Above:
I've been enjoying reading a book called Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the films of John Hughes. Its a collection of essays where different writers describe the effect that John Hughes movies have had on them as teens. Very often this effect is quite strong, and ground-breaking, causing an effect on the consciousness of those observers.
I, too, have found the teen films of the '80s to have had a significant and important effect on society, much more so than would be acknowledged by those who would casually dismiss them. One such essay described an experience the writer had which shows this effect. In the essay "A Slut or a Prude: The Breakfast Club as Feminist Primer," writer Juliana Baggott wrote about the following incident which happened after watching that seminal Hughes movie.
A few days after I saw the movie, I was in the cafeteria with my people- a group of field hockey girls, a few with eating disorders. Some idiotic football players were spitting spitballs at some band geeks. But they weren't just football players and band geeks, not after The Breakfast Club. We were all trapped in the same ugly, dying organism: high school.I walked over to the football players and said,”C'mon, knock it off.”One said,”Knock what off.”“The spitballs. Just grow up a little.”“Don't I look grown up to you, little girl.” He had me by a hundred pounds and more than a half foot in height.“Listen, asshole, just stop it with the spitballs.”“Oh, she's angry now.” He put his arm around me, rubbed my back. “Isn't she cute when she's angry?”“Cute” was my trigger word- often true for short people. “Don't call me cute again.”“What's wrong cutie. You're so cute!”“I mean it. Call me cutie again and I swear it won't be pretty. . . ”He paused and looked at me deeply in the eyes. “You're so cute.”I slapped him. He had a big head and a thick rubbery cheek. He was fair, and the skin went red fast. Friends told me later that my small handprint was on his cheek for the rest of the day.The long term result was astonishing. All of the boys at that table seemed to fall in love with me and treated me with enormous respect. They addressed me politely in the halls. I'd feel someone watching me, and when I turned around, it would be one of them- all agaze.It made no sense. It only encouraged me. To what? Refuse to accept a definition – a prude, a slut, a . I knew that definitions wouldn't work for me, that I was volatile, unwieldy, and that was the only way I'd survive.
This wonderful movie by John Hughes caused a typical American teenager to feel closer to the other teens in her school, to literally stand up for other teens who were different than herself, to confront a blustering bully, and to see her own self in a different light. Thank you, John Hughes, or your remarkable work.