80’s Movie Mania…A Fatal Four Way Finale

movies&TVI’m a pro wrestling fan, and occasionally, instead of the normal one-on-one or even a tag team match, they’ll stick four combatants in the ring and let them fight it out. That is how I’ve decided to conclude this project. We started out back in March 2016 with 84 films, and seven months later we’ve pared it down to four.

 

The choices made here over these months have been undeniably influenced by my own entertainment sensibilities, but I can 80s5assure you that I’ve done my best to be…if I may borrow a phrase…fair & balanced. I’ve given early eliminations to films that I really like, and conversely made other films victorious that aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, all out of respect for undisputable attributes like major awards, significant box office earnings, well-regarded critical praise, & enduring mass appeal. I stayed within a well-defined set of rules, which is why movies like Empire Strikes Back, Field of Dreams, A Christmas Story, & Back to the Future were not included. However don’t doubt my fanboy love for those & many others not involved in this competition.

 

80sAt the end of the day I believe that we’ve ended up with a fun & interesting trek down memory lane. I’m a movie buff. I like to sit in a darkened theater with a bucket of popcorn or in the comfort of my living room snuggling with Rocco and escape into what our old pal Willie Wonka would call a world of pure imagination. Oh sure…most of us can’t spend too much time doing that. There are bills to pay, families to care for, responsibilities to fulfill, & goals to reach. But every once in a while it’s good & necessary. The 1980’s represent the latter part of my childhood & my teenage years. Life is fairly simple & typically enjoyable for the vast majority of kids, but most don’t appreciate just how truly wonderful that time was until years later, after things have become complicated, loved ones have departed, health has deteriorated, & guilt free fun is a rare commodity. Occasionally though we can temporarily close Pandora’s box and return to those halcyon days. The 80’s were a great era for cinema, and I am happy to celebrate that accomplishment. I hope you have enjoyed reading along.

 

 

 

The Contenders

 

The Blues Brothers

bb5The Blues Brothers began as a Saturday Night Live sketch in January 1976. They made two additional appearances as SNL musical guests in April & November of 1978. Of course the band’s leaders…Joliet Jake & Elwood…were portrayed by SNL cast members John Belushi & Dan Aykroyd. Like so many other SNL skits that have followed in the ensuing decades an idea was hatched to evolve the characters into a movie. Aykroyd wrote the screenplay and John Landis was hired to direct. Belushi & Aykroyd formed an actual band with real & accomplished musicians, and The Blues Brothers released their first album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1978. Belushi had also become a movie star in 1978 after his role in Animal House (directed by Landis), and left SNL in 1979 along with Aykroyd. The film was released on June 20, 1980. The story follows Jake, upon his release from prison, and Elwood, as they put the band back together to raise money for the orphanage in which they grew up. If you are curious why a religious organization owed back taxes, well, at the time there was a proposed law in Illinois that would have stripped such entities of tax exempt status, so I suppose Aykroyd took that idea and ran with it. It’s a movie full of great music, memorable quotes, numerous car crashes, iconic imagery (dark sunglasses & fedoras), & a ton of cool cameos that modern youngsters might not understand but were bb7awesome back in the day. Critics really liked it and it was the 10th highest grossing film of 1980. Did you know that The Empire Strikes Back was released less than a month earlier?? Heavy competition indeed. Anyway, more than thirty years later The Blues Brothers is still shown on television with some frequency, something that I consider to be somewhat of a hallmark of greatness. The Blues Brothers won the Tubular Division by defeating European Vacation, The Big Chill, When Harry Met Sally, & The Breakfast Club. That last result is probably considered a controversial upset by some, but the decision is final.

 

Dead Poets Society

dps2Citizens of The Manoverse know that I am a huge Robin Williams fan, and while he was mostly known as a stand-up comedian and the star of some really funny comedy films (Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage), he was equally accomplished in dramatic roles (Awakenings, One Hour Photo, Insomnia). He won his only Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor, in 1997 for playing a quiet, introspective therapist in Good Will Hunting. By far my favorite dramatic Robin Williams movie is Dead Poets Society. It was released on June 2, 1989 and was the 10th highest grossing film of that year. Critics liked it very much. Williams stars as Professor John Keating, the new English teacher at a stodgy New England boarding school in the late 1950s. Keating isn’t your normal uptight teacher, and his methods & perspective on life inspire a group of students, who do some research and find out that Keating was a bit of a rebel even as a student. He attended the same school as a youth and was a member of a secret organization called the Dead Poets Society. The boys decide to revive that club and also use the things they’ve learned from the professor as encouragement to take some chances and rebel against the expectations of the school & their parents. When things don’t go well for one of the youngsters after he stands up to his domineering father the lad commits suicide and Professor Keating loses his job. It sounds much more depressing than it is…trust me. Dead Poets Society isn’t on TV as much as fans might prefer, but I understand. It isn’t dpsthe sort of silly comedy or mindless action flick that folks tend to enjoy during a lazy weekend. Even with some trademark comedic flourishes from Williams it is a serious film that some might consider kind of a downer, especially toward the end. But even without as many repeat viewings as a lot of other films discussed in 80’s Movie Mania I still have a deep fondness for Dead Poets Society. Perhaps it is the enchanting presence of Williams. Or maybe it’s the academic setting where people are learning about, discussing, & enjoying poetry & Shakespeare. I suppose the fact that it is a tale chockful of deep thoughts about life is appealing as well. Dead Poets Society topped the Radical Division, defeating The Naked Gun, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, & This Is Spinal Tap to get here.

 

National Lampoon’s Vacation

vacation2There have been five films in the Vacation series, but only two have really retained any lasting appeal. We’ll discuss the other one next Christmas, but for now this is the original, the one that started it all. Released on July 29, 1983, the script was written by John Hughes based on a short story called Vacation ’58 that he’d written for National Lampoon magazine in 1979. The story is available to read online, and while it is amusing and many of the broad strokes are retained in the film, what we ultimately get to enjoy onscreen is much funnier and less…intense. Harold Ramis, who many will remember as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters or Russell Ziskey in Stripes, directed. He had previously directed Caddyshack and written the screenplays for Animal House & Stripes. Of course the star of the movie is Chevy Chase, who plays Clark Griswold, a sincere yet clueless husband & father who just wants to drive his wife & children from Chicago to California for a fun time at America’s favorite amusement park Walley World. As with any road trip flick there are adventures, mishaps, & quirky characters along the way, leading to a fairly surprising conclusion that admittedly does seem out-of-date in the Internet Age. Vacation was the 11th vacationhighest grossing film of 1983, and received solid reviews for a “screwball comedy”. It bested Stand By Me, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, & Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to win the Bodacious Division. Despite its outdated final act Vacation has retained significance on the pop culture landscape more than thirty years after its initial release. It seems to be shown on television with some frequency, and the fact that the series was rebooted (with Ed Helms portraying middle-aged Rusty Griswold and cameos by Chase & Beverly D’Angelo) just last year proves its lasting popularity. The humor is accessible to a wide target audience and can be enjoyed by multiple generations.

 

Airplane!

airplaneI’m a big fan of parody & spoof films. Parody is derived from the Greek word paroidia, with para meaning “side by side” or “parallel to” and oide meaning “song”. A parody is a work that imitates the style of an earlier work, usually in a humorous manner. The Scary Movie franchise pokes fun at the Scream movies. The Naked Gun movies make fun of cop shows & films. The Austin Powers trilogy parodies James Bond. Spaceballs is a comedic ode to Star Wars. You get the idea. Parody films go all the way back to the 1930’s when Abbott & Costello did a number of movies that were a comedic take on monster flicks of that era. Then in the 70’s there was stuff like Blazing Saddles, a parody of westerns, and Young Frankenstein, yet another funny monster movie. Airplane! was released on July 2, 1980 (just a couple of weeks after The Blues Brothers) and parodies disaster flicks, which had been quite popular in the 70’s (The Swarm, Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, etc.). It is an odd remake of a 1957 film called Zero Hour!, a film most of us have probably never heard of much less seen. Airplane! was the 4th highest grossing movie of 1980. Hindsight being 20/20 it is understandable that The Empire Strikes Back topped that year, but how in the world 9 to 5 and Stir Crazy made more money than Airplane! is mind boggling and a testament to the popularity of Richard Pryor and…Dolly Parton (???). airplaneAnyway, the casting director deserves special kudos for choosing erstwhile tough guys Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, & Lloyd Bridges to star in deadpan comedic roles. It was a masterstroke. The writers too must be praised, as not only does the movie spoof the disaster genre, but it does so with such a plethora of amazing dialogue, funny cameos, & hilarious sight gags that Airplane! practically demands repeat viewings. Critics have loved the film since it came out nearly forty years ago, and it continues to be shown on television with some degree of regularity. Airplane! has thus far defeated Beetlejuice, Top Gun, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, & Uncle Buck.

 

 

 

 

Elimination 1

Dead Poets Society

As much as I love Robin Williams the fact is that, compared to the competition, I don’t know that this is a film that has resonated with the masses dps3nearly as much. I’m not at all sure that many of my friends or family would immediately choose Dead Poets Society as one of the greatest films of the 80’s. I think it appeals to a certain demographic and I just happen to be in that group. It isn’t repeated on television all that much, and I believe that is because most folks, when channel surfing on a rainy day, gravitate toward comedies or action films. Dead Poets Society is probably a bit too erudite to be a cult classic. Perhaps that is an indictment of our culture and/or our education system, but it is what it is.

 

Elimination 2

National Lampoon’s Vacation

Two strikes go against Vacation. First of all, many would agree that it might not even be the most beloved film in its vacation3own series. Secondly, because of the ending it doesn’t hold up as well as one would hope. Younger viewers probably watch it and think “Why didn’t they just go online and see that Walley World was going to be closed??”. Is it fair to hold that against the film since The Internet obviously didn’t exist in 1983?? Probably not. As a matter of fact I suppose some might say that the fact marks it as representative of the very era this competition purports to celebrate. Trust me…I rolled all of that around in my head. But at the end of the day if I’m splitting hairs I have to admit that I lean toward the ending, as funny as it is, being a mark against Vacation’s longevity.

 

The Runner Up

Airplane!

Here’s the problem with parodies/spoofs. Much of the humor comes from the audience’s familiarity with the source material that is being mocked. I airplane2love Airplane! yet I have never seen Zero Hour!, the original film from which it is derived. I’d probably appreciate the spoof even more if I’d watch the original. Not only that, but I wonder how many people, in 2016, have seen any of the disaster flicks that are also being parodied?? How many people these days are familiar with Peter Graves’ role in Mission: Impossible, Robert Stack in 1960’s TV show The Untouchables, Lloyd Bridges in Police Story, or Leslie Nielsen’s work in Forbidden Planet & The Poseidon Adventure?? Many of the jokes in Airplane! are dated references, like cameos from Ethel Merman & Leave it to Beaver’s Barbara Billingsley. We still laugh because it’s all so very silly, but many younger viewers would laugh even more if they knew why certain things are funny. I’m splitting hairs again…obviously…but that’s what happens when it gets down to separating greatness from greatness.

 

 

 

and finally…….

 

 

 

80’s Movie Mania Champion


The Blues Brothers

It’s repeated on television a lot for a movie that was released nearly forty years ago. It is SO quotable. It has great music. Even if the blues isn’t Layout 1necessarily your thing you’ll enjoy the tunes in this film. Much like Airplane! some of the cameos are a bit passé, but it’s atleast a draw on that point. Belushi & Aykroyd are fantastic. A sequel, called Blues Brothers 2000, was made in 1998, but of course John Belushi had died 16 years earlier so, as talented as John Goodman is, the magic just wasn’t there. When I was in college our fraternity had a traditional dance/chant thing we did using the song Gimme Some Lovin’. Now that song was written by Steve Winwood and originally recorded by the Spencer Davis Group in 1966, but our inspiration was the awesome Blues Brothers cover. Back then I’d occasionally see guys don the famous dark sunglasses & fedoras. It’s little things like that that help a film endure so that it can be enjoyed by new generations. This is a movie that has stood the test of time. It isn’t deep. It doesn’t challenge one’s mind or elicit reflection on values, philosophy, or a person’s moral compass. It’s just great fun, and when judged against modern standards of acceptability it is remarkably devoid of sex, violence, & profanity. You can watch The Blues Brothers with your children and not only will they not be corrupted by much depravity, they might actually develop a taste for good music. What a bonus!!

80’s Movie Mania…The Elite Eight

driveinAfter a little vacation from this series it’s time to focus on the finish line. I realize that things here have been very much sportscentric as of late, and that there are citizens of The Manoverse who aren’t really into that sort of thing. However long time readers know that this tends to occur in the fall and have hopefully modulated their expectations. At any rate, today we present the four division final matchups. Since I have said just about netflixeverything there is to say about these films I think I’ll just do a tale of the tape sort of thing this time around. Don’t worry…you’ll get a chance to enjoy more of my sparkling wit next time. Specifically I’m looking at five areas of influence that are important factors in deciding the stature of any movie:

Re-Watchability –       Is it on television a lot?? If it is on TV do I stop & watch??

Relevance            –        Does the story hold up well?? Or do modern societal norms & changes in technology make it feel dated??

Quotability          –        Fun, interesting, well-written movies of all genres are usually very quotable.

Cultural Impact  –        Is it one of those movies that everyone of a certain age has seen?? Is it familiar to multiple generations?? Do people still occasionally talk about it & watch it even many years after its release??

Pleasure              –        Do I enjoy watching this movie?? We’ve all read books or watched shows/movies just because we felt compelled to…because we wanted to be cool or seem educated. But what do you enjoy when no one else is around??

 

 

 

 

Radical

Dead Poets Society    vs.     This Is Spinal Tap

 

Re-Watchability                           rw4                                                         

Relevance       rw4                                                   

Quotability                spinal_tap_-_up_to_eleven                                                                               

Cultural Impact                           spinal_tap_-_up_to_eleven                                                            

Pleasure                                                    rw4                                                               

The Verdict:        Dead Poets Society. I think it comes down to timing. If Spinal Tap would have come out a few years later or Poets been released a few years earlier the coin may have flipped the other way.

 

 

Bodacious

National Lampoon’s Vacation       vs.     Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

 

Re-Watchability                               vacation4

Relevance                             fb                                                                    

Quotability                                 vacation4     

Cultural Impact                                                                    fb                    

Pleasure              vacation4                            

The Verdict:        Vacation. This is tough. Bueller probably deserves a better fate, but I have to be honest. Some might say that the invention of The Internet renders the conclusion of Vacation irrelevant, and I concede the point. In that one very significant way the film does not hold up well. However, I believe there is enough greatness there to balance out the one weakness. Bueller is a great time capsule that even modern high school students can enjoy, but I’m not sure it’s as relatable for adults.

 

 

Tubular

The Breakfast Club   vs.   The Blues Brothers

 

Re-Watchability                                      bb6

Relevance     bclub2

Quotability      bb6

Cultural Impact      bclub2

Pleasure  bb6

The Verdict:        The Blues Brothers. To be honest, this result surprises me. However, while The Breakfast Club is a great movie, its relevance & impact is limited to two demographics: high school students & those of us that were teenagers in the 80’s. Conversely, The Blues Brothers is a goofy comedy devoid of meaningful societal commentary, but it is jolly good fun for people of all ages. It is timeless in its own odd way, and has probably done more to advance interest in blues & jazz music than just about anything else in the past four decades.

 

 

Gnarly

Uncle Buck                  vs.          Airplane!

 

Re-Watchability                                                                               airplane3                              

Relevance                                                                                                      airplane3

Quotability                                        airplane3                                                                                                  

Cultural Impact                                                                 airplane3              

Pleasure                                                                     airplane3

                                            

The Verdict:        Airplane!. With all due respect to the memory of the late, great John Candy, this wasn’t a fair fight. Uncle Buck is a nice, underrated, above average comedy, but it’s not the best work of Candy, John Hughes, or MacCaulay Culkin. Heck, it’s not even Amy Madigan’s best film. Conversely, Airplane! birthed an entire subgenre in which everything that has followed in the past 36 years STILL  hasn’t measured up to the granddaddy of them all.

80’s Movie Mania…The Sweet Sixteen – Part 1

80sWe began with 84 of the coolest films from the 1980’s and now we have narrowed the field to 16. I feel like I have said everything there is to say about the remaining competitors, from rehashing the plot to giving props to the actors & directors to film reviews to box office grosses. I’ve even thrown in tidbits of interesting trivia. What else is left to say?? The next couple of rounds will be much less…loquacious…because I really don’t want to be monotonous, especially since this is the cream of the crop. These are the films that defined the youth of an entire generation. These are the films that 80’s kids are still watching over & over because they are that entertaining. These are the films that have lasted, that still resonate on some level…whether they make us laugh, think, rock out, or simply remember a simpler time…three decades after their initial run. That doesn’t happen often. I often wonder what kids growing up today will be watching when they are middle-aged. I am sure they have their particular touchstones, yet I can’t help but feel that no group of movie lovers had it better than my generation. I could legitimately end this exercise right now and call it a 16-way tie…but I won’t. Please join me as we move forward.

 

 

Radical

 

dps3

Released:     6/2/89

Starring:        Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles

Director:        Peter Weir (Witness, The Truman Show)

Awards:        Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, & Best Actor (Robin Williams), nominated for Golden Globes in all the same categories

Box Office:   $236 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  85% Fresh

Quotes:         “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering…these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love…these are what we stay alive for.”

“They’re not that different from you. Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But, if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it? Carpe – – hear it? – – carpe, carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Miscellaneous:        The part of John Keating was once intended for Dustin Hoffman. It was also going to be Hoffman’s directorial debut before he withdrew from the film. Robin Williams was in a sober mood during filming, as he was going through a divorce at the time, and there was no joking around between takes.

 

vs.

 

fast3

Released:     8/13/82

Starring:        Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Ray Walston, Phoebe Cates

Director:        Amy Heckerling (National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Clueless)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $27 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  78% Fresh

Quotes:         “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

Miscellaneous:        Awesome soundtrack, featuring songs from Sammy Hagar, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, The Go-Go’s, Don Henley, Quarterflash, Poco, Donna Summer, Stevie Nicks, Oingo Boingo, & Jimmy Buffett. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe, writer/director of hits like Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, & Almost Famous.

 

 

The Verdict:       Dead Poets Society. By any objective measure it is the better film. Fast Times deserves kudos for a cast that went on to have successful careers, a great soundtrack, & generally representing the quintessential 80’s vibe. Those are all good things, but I like Dead Poets Society more.

 

 

 

stap      

Released:     3/2/84

Starring:        Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer               

Director:        Rob Reiner (Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, The American President)

Awards:        on multiple lists as one of the funniest movies ever made

Box Office:   $5 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  95% Fresh

Quotes:         “I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.”

“There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.”

“We’re very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel. They’re like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They’re two distinct types of visionaries. It’s like fire & ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water.”

“He died in a bizarre gardening accident.”

“I think that the problem may have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. Alright? That tended to understate the hugeness of the object.”

“It’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where? Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? Eleven. Exactly. One louder. These go to eleven.”

Miscellaneous:        Not a box office hit, but found great success and a cult following when released on home video.

 

 vs.

et3

Released:     6/11/82          

Starring:        Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote

Director:        Steven Spielberg

Awards:        won Oscars for Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, & Best Visual Effects, nominated for Best Picture, won Golden Globes for Best Picture & Best Score, won L.A. Critics Award for Best Picture, won multiple Saturn Awards

Box Office:   $793 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  98% Fresh

Quotes:         “E.T. phone home.”

Miscellaneous:        ET’s face was modeled after poet Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein, and a pug dog. The filmmakers had wanted M&M’s to be used to lure E.T. instead of Reese’s Pieces, but the Mars Company denied their request so Reese’s Pieces were used instead. As a direct result Reese’s Pieces’ sales skyrocketed. More & more companies then began requesting that their products be used in movies. Thus, product placement was born.

 

The Verdict:       Spinal Tap. I suppose conventional wisdom would call this a pretty big upset. E.T. has the numbers, the accolades, & Spielberg. Spinal Tap has spontaneously combusting drummers, Lick My Love Pump, & Dana Carvey as a mime. Perhaps if I went back and watched E.T. again I’d remember why it was such a big deal and be convinced to make the predictable decision. But the fact is that I haven’t seen it in atleast two decades, and I shouldn’t have to be convinced to love something. I mean no disrespect…it’s just that I’ve seen Spinal Tap multiple times and it always makes me laugh, and in my world that means a lot.

 

 

Gnarly

 

khan

Released:     6/4/82

Starring:        William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban

Director:        Nicholas Meyer (The Day After)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $97 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  88% Fresh

Quotes:         “I have been . . . and always shall be . . . your friend.”

“He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him. I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!”

Of my friend I can only say this. Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”

“KHHHHAAAAAAAAN!!!”

“From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

Miscellaneous:        The computer simulation of Genesis transforming a dead planet into a habitable one is the first complete computer-generated sequence ever used in a feature film. It is the brainchild of ex-Boeing engineer Loren Carpenter, whom after Boeing went on to join George Lucas Industrial Light and Magic. At Boeing in the late 1970s Carpenter discovered that Mandelbrot fractals could be used to create realistic mountain landscapes for computer animations of new aircraft designs, a previously intractable problem, and started a revolution in computer graphics and simulation. It is a running gag that there is a Federation embargo against Romulan Ale, but this still doesn’t prevent resourceful people like Dr. McCoy from procuring some for Admiral Kirk as a birthday present. It is viewed it as a forbidden status symbol, akin to Cuban cigars in the United States.

 

 vs.

 

airplane2

Released:     8/2/80

Starring:        Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack

Director:        Jim Abrams, David & Jerry Zucker (Ruthless People, The Naked Gun)

Awards:        on multiple lists as one of the funniest movies ever made

Box Office:   $130 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  97%

Quotes:         “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!”

“Surely you can’t be serious?”       “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”

“We have clearance, Clarence.”   “Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?”

Miscellaneous:        The filmmakers chose the lead actors because of their reputation for playing no-nonsense characters. Until this film these actors had not done comedy so their staid personas & line delivery made the satire in the movie even funnier. This is an aspect of the film modern viewers miss out on. Cameos include Ethel Merman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barbara Billingsley, Maureen McGovern, & Jimmie Walker. A sequel was made two years later, but it isn’t even in the same league as its predecessor.

 

The Verdict:       Airplane!. As a Trekkie it breaks my heart, but this is a necessary decision. The fact is that no matter how dearly I love it or how much money it has made films like Wrath of Khan appeal to a niche audience. Put 100 people in a room. Maybe 50 of them…if we’re being generous…are Trekkies. Now all of those Trekkies will likely agree that Wrath of Khan is awesome, but we’re still left with 50 people who couldn’t possible care less about Star Trek specifically or sci-fi in general. Conversely, when it comes to Airplane! there will likely be two types…those who have seen it and those who haven’t. Those who have seen it will almost unanimously agree that it’s hilarious, and those who haven’t seen it will quickly join the consensus after they watch. You’d be hard-pressed to find many people who don’t have a positive opinion of Airplane!. Of course none of this would matter if I disliked Airplane!…but I don’t.

 

 

 

footloose

Released:     2/17/84

Starring:        Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, Sarah Jessica Parker

Director:        Herbert Ross (Funny Lady, The Goodbye Girl, Steel Magnolias)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $80 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  54% Rotten

Quotes:         “Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh and a time to weep. A time to mourn. And there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore. See, this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.”

Miscellaneous:        Our old pal Ebert didn’t much care for Footloose, calling it “a seriously confused movie that tries to do three things and does all of them badly.” He went on to opine that its efforts to tell a story about conflict, introduce flashy teen characters, & be a “music video” all fall short of the mark. On the bright side, there is a fantastic soundtrack with songs from Kenny Loggins, Mike Reno & Ann Wilson, Deniece Williams, Bonnie Tyler, Shalamar, & Sammy Hagar. Of course I admit that it is a soundtrack that might only be awesome to those of us that were pre-teens or teenagers in 1984.

 

 

vs.

 

buck2

Released:     8/16/89

Starring:        John Candy, MacCaulay Culkin, Amy Madigan

Director:        John Hughes

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $79 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  64% Fresh

Quotes:         “I don’t think I want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer, or a sillyheart. And I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job. But I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good. You so much as scowl at my niece or any other kid in this school and I hear about it, I’m coming looking for you! Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Good day to you, madam.”

“I’m on to cigars now. I’m on to a five-year plan. I eliminated cigarettes, then I go to cigars, then I go to pipes, then I go to chewing tobacco, then I’m on to that nicotine gum.”

Miscellaneous:        The scene where Miles interrogates Chanice through the mail slot gave director John Hughes the idea for Home Alone.

 

The Verdict:       Uncle Buck. This result surprises me. Footloose is one of the signature films of the 1980’s. It made Kevin Bacon a huge star. But I cannot in good conscience allow a film with such negative reviews to go further, atleast not against such good competition. While it is true that 80’s Movie Mania is my creation, and without participation from the masses my judgement has played an even larger role than expected, I do respect the greater public perspective. That viewpoint seems to be that Footloose has a good soundtrack and produced a big movie star, but it is largely style over substance. I also feel like Uncle Buck is more…accessible. Footloose is beloved by those of us who were 12-17 years of age in 1984, but I’m not sure anyone much older or younger would appreciate its greatness.

80’s Movie Mania: Gnarly Round 3

So let’s clean up some leftovers from the last installment, the Tubular Division’s Round 3. I posted a couple of polls, but unfortunately I am still not getting any response. Not poor response. Not underwhelming response. Not disappointing response. ZERO response. HEEEELLLLOOOO…Manoverse…are you there?!?!?!?? I allegedly have a couple hundred followers. Does ANYONE read this stuff?? I would really like to know. At any rate, I am now forced to make a couple of extremely tough decisions. I am giving When Harry Met Sally the victory over WarGames. It’s a purely personal preference for one of the preeminent rom-coms of all time, with a charming cast and a fun story. Also, I am awarding Dirty Dancing the win over Lethal Weapon. Dirty Dancing is one of the time capsule movies of the 1980’s. Meanwhile, Lethal Weapon had a few sequels that maybe didn’t match the originality of the first film, but they certainly came very close in quality. This is a franchise that we liked better with each passing film because of the comfort level we had with the characters. I’m definitely splitting hairs, but unfortunately that is the task being forced upon me. Anyway, let’s move on to the Gnarly Division. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Gnarly 3

 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan    vs.     The Outsiders

khanAllow me to reiterate my philosophy about something. You are not seeing trilogies in this competition. Specifically you aren’t seeing the Back to the Future trilogy oroutsiders the Star Wars trilogy. In both cases two of three films were produced in the 1980’s. However, it is my belief that trilogies need to be looked at as one unique entity. Sure one can break each film down individually, but essentially the whole is greater than each single entry. Conversely, when a film series evolves into four or more parts then all bets are off. There were six Star Trek films made with the original cast from 1979-1991. Of the four films made in the 1980’s two appear in this competition. 1982’s Wrath of Khan is considered by most Trekkies to be the best of the bunch. It is based on a 1967 episode of TOS called Space Seed, in which Khan Noonien Singh, a product of 20th century genetic engineering that is discovered after 200 years in suspended animation and  banished to a faraway planet after trying to hijack the Enterprise. In this film Khan escapes from that planet and is hellbent on revenge. He also seeks to gain control of a terraforming device capable of creating new planets. Ricardo Montalban might be most remembered for his role as Mr. Roarke on ABC’s Fantasy Island, and for Chrysler advertisements in which he trumpeted the vehicle’s “soft, rich Corinthian leather”, but I think it is safe to say that the role that best showcased his acting chops is than of Khan. The Outsiders defeated My Tutor and Weird Science to make it to this point. Everybody knows about the near legendary cast… Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, & Ralph Macchio. However, did you know that other actors that were considered include Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Timothy Hutton, Mickey Rourke, Brooke Shields, Adam Baldwin, Heather Langencamp (Nightmare on Elm St.), & Glen Scarpelli (One Day at a Time)?? The casting director certainly had an embarrassment of riches from which to choose.

 

The Verdict:      Wrath of Khan. It’s all about repeat viewings. Plus, I wonder if The Outsiders gets a lot of love simply because of the stellar cast and what they went on to become?? Is the quality of the film obscured or falsely elevated by their star power?? At any rate, this is an easy decision.

 

 

 

 

Footloose            vs.     Say Anything…

footlooseFootloose received byes thru the first two rounds. Released in 1984, it tells the story of a Chicago teenager who moves with his mother to a backwards SAOklahoma town. That alone would be a decent setup, but then add in the fact that the town has banned any kind of rock music & all dancing because of an auto accident that killed the local preacher’s son. That minister (brilliantly played by John Lithgow) is kind of the unofficial ruler of the town for some strange reason. Complicating matters even further…the troublemaking city boy falls for the preacher’s daughter. Footloose made Kevin Bacon a star, a wave he’s still riding three decades later. It was also the big break for Sarah Jessica Parker. And personally I like the character played by Christopher Penn, who is the younger brother of the infamous Sean Penn. Chris Penn died way too soon at the age of 40 in 2006, but his performances in Footloose and All the Right Moves live on in our memories. Say Anything… defeated 48 Hrs. in Round 2 after receiving a first round bye. It was the 52nd ranked film at the 1989 box office, behind…well…pretty much everything, although it did better than notables like Prancer, The Fabulous Baker Boys, & My Left Foot…the film that earned Daniel Day-Lewis his first Academy Award. Say Anything…was Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut, and it has a cool soundtrack with songs by Cheap Trick, Living Colour, Joe Satriani, Depeche Mode, and of course Peter Gabriel, whose song In Your Eyes is inextricably linked to the film. It has a stunning 98% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and upon its release Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of the year.

 

The Verdict:      Footloose. It saddens me because Say Anything… deserves a better fate, but it just ran into heavyweight competition.

 

 

 

 

Top Gun    vs.     Airplane!

tgTop Gun shot down Crocodile Dundee in Round 2 after receiving a first round bye. It was the #1 box office draw in 1986, making nearly $177 million. It airplanehas a 55% Rotten rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but an 83% Fresh rating from the moviegoing public…quite a disparity. Our old pal Roger Ebert loved the special effects and all the scenes in airplanes, but had nothing good to say about the rest of the story. I think this is one of those classic popcorn flicks, meant to thrill the audience with smoke & mirrors, convincing us to overlook a thin & unconvincing plot. Most of the time I hate that sort of thing, but on rare occasions it works. Airplane! received a first round bye then took out Beetlejuice in Round 2. It was the fourth highest grossing film of 1980, bested only by The Empire Strikes Back, 9 to 5, & Stir Crazy, but beating out the likes of The Blues Brothers, The Shining, Urban Cowboy, Caddyshack, Mad Max, Raging Bull, & Honeysuckle Rose. That’s quite impressive. Airplane! has a 97% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has ranked as the best comedy of all-time in multiple lists & polls.

 

The Verdict:      I’m going to give The Manoverse advanced warning. If you have a strong opinion about either of these films please express it. Make this choice for me, because if it is left in my hands people are going to be unhappy one way or another.

 

 

 

 

Uncle Buck                   vs.     Good Morning Vietnam

buckAfter receiving a first round bye Uncle Buck defeated The Last Starfighter in Round 2. It ranked 18th at the box office in 1989, behind inferior sequels gmvlike Ghostbusters 2 and Lethal Weapon 2, but ahead of worthy competition like Field of Dreams, Do the Right Thing, & Major League. As mentioned previously the film spawned a TV show in 1990 but it didn’t last long. Now they’re trying it again in 2016, trying to appeal more to “urban” viewers. I’m not a big fan of taking a perfectly good concept and making it black, gay, or female just to appease the PC Police, and I’m guessing this latest attempt will fail miserably.  Good Morning Vietnam beat out Biloxi Blues in Round 2 after receiving a first round bye. Director Barry Levinson had already had much Hollywood success by 1987, writing the screenplay for Tootsie and directing Diner, The Natural, & Young Sherlock Holmes. He has since gone on to win the best Director Oscar for Rain Man and helm notable films like Bugsy & Wag the Dog, as well as produce stuff like Donnie Brasco & The Perfect Storm. Although Good Morning Vietnam is said to be based on the life of real life DJ Adrian Cronauer, he has stated that it is really only about “45% accurate”. The screenplay was changed significantly to highlight the comedic talents of Robin Williams, who did a lot of improvisation.

 

The Verdict:      Uncle Buck. What’s that phrase I keep using?? That’s right…repeat viewings. I love Robin Williams, but if I am sitting at home chilling out and in the mood to watch a movie, I am quite sure I would choose Uncle Buck over Good Morning Vietnam 9 out of 10 times.

80’s Movie Mania: Gnarly Round 2

Welcome back to Round 2. Surprisingly enough I posted no polls for the Tubular Division so we have no loose ends to tie up.  That may change today…or it might not. So, without further ado…let’s roll.

 

 

 

 

Gnarly 2

 

Top Gun                                 vs.              Crocodile Dundee

topgun2Once upon a time, before Tom Cruise became a couch jumping whackjob, he was the epitome of cool. And hecroc2 just so happened to make some really good movies…something he hasn’t done with regularity for about 15 years. At any rate, in 1986’s Top Gun Cruise portrays a cocky pilot given the opportunity to train at the elite U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, more popularly known as Top Gun. Once there he annoys just about everybody with his arrogance, but his immense talent cannot be ignored. Oh, he also happens to get romantically involved with one of his instructors. The cast includes Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Kelly McGillis, Tom Skerrit, Meg Ryan, & Tim Robbins, and the soundtrack is amazing. With songs by Kenny Loggins, Cheap Trick, Berlin, Loverboy, Miami Sound Machine, Jerry Lee Lewis, & The Righteous Brothers it epitomizes the 1980’s while also giving a nod to the past. Crocodile Dundee did not receive a first round bye, narrowly defeating Purple Rain, a decision I feel slightly guilty about after the untimely death of rock legend Prince. Ah well…what’s done is done. Dundee was the 2nd highest grossing film of 1986…Top Gun was #1. What we must ponder is which film has aged better and I think the answer is obvious.

 

The Verdict:       Top Gun. As crazy as Cruise may be in real life credit must be given where it is due. While lots of movies get made every year the fact is that the vast majority of them are forgotten about five minutes after we leave the theater. And just like music’s “one hit wonders” there are a ton of actors who may get lucky enough to do one decent project and then they fall off the map. Tom Cruise has hung around for over thirty years and made atleast a dozen or more movies that people remember with varying degrees of affection. Top Gun is amongst his best work and holds a special place in the collective pop culture consciousness of a certain generation.

 

 

 

 

Uncle Buck                                      vs.              The Last Starfighter

buckJohn Candy passed in 1994 at the age of 43…far too soon. Fortunately he left behind a plethora of starfighter2unforgettable work, including 1989’s Uncle Buck. Candy portrays a slovenly bachelor who is called upon to babysit his brother’s children for a few days due to a family emergency. There are a handful of recognizable faces in Uncle Buck, including 8 year old MacCaulay Culkin in his first significant role, but make no mistake…Candy carries the film and does it well. Written, produced, & directed by the incomparable John Hughes, Uncle Buck spawned a short-lived TV show the following year, but without Candy it was doomed. The Last Starfighter upended Police Academy in Round 1 and is a criminally underrated sci-fi adventure. It ranked 31st at the box office in 1984, way behind more celebrated films like Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid, Footloose, Splash, & The Terminator. Admittedly its appeal is probably limited to sci-fi nerds like myself, but that’s okay. It is quirky & inspired and deserves more appreciation than it gets.

 

The Verdict:       Uncle Buck. John Hughes ruled the box office throughout the 1980’s, and John Candy was an underrated actor with a remarkable filmography. They made a great team and this is their best work together.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Morning Vietnam                  vs.              Biloxi Blues

gmvIt’s Vietnam vs. WWII! I have been effusive in my praise of the late Robin Williams and it makes me sad that we’ll never see any more new specimens of his genius. One of the first indicators of the immensity of his talent came in 1987’s Good Morning Vietnam. Williams portrays Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrien Cronauer in a film based on a true story. As with many of Williams’ films that would follow the subject matter is at times dramatic but always tinged with the star’s unique brand of humor. He received his first Academy Award nomination for the role. The cast also includes Forest Whitaker (who would win his own Oscar two decades later), Bruno Kirby, & JT Walsh, and a solid soundtrack has songs by The Beach Boys, Frankie Avalon, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, & The Supremes. Biloxi Blues edged out Parenthood in Round 1. It was the 23rd highest grossing film of 1988, ahead of competition like Mississippi Burning, The Accidental Tourist, & Mystic Pizza in what was a particularly strong year at the box office.

 

The Verdict:       Good Morning Vietnam. As much as I like the combo of Christopher Walken & Matthew Broderick I like Robin Williams 1000x more. It’s a different kind of war film that doesn’t completely ignore the violence & turmoil but doesn’t wallow in it either. This marks the moment Williams segued from legendary comedian to movie star.

 

 

 

 

Airplane!                                 vs.              Beetlejuice

airplane1980’s Airplane! received a first round bye and now enters the arena as the second oldest film in the beetlejuice2competition. It was inspired by a 1957 disaster flick called Zero Hour, but turns the idea on its ear by making it a hilarious parody. Four tough guy actors who had never before done comedy…Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, & Lloyd Bridges…were cast in lead roles. It’s the kind of thing Robert DeNiro has done with some regularity in the past decade. At any rate, the movie is loaded with sight gags, silly wordplay, & amusing cameos to the point that the plot sort of takes a back seat. Shakespeare it is not, but Airplane! does the yeoman’s work of making its audience laugh, which is sort of the point. Beetlejuice got the decision over Turner & Hooch in Round 1 even though it isn’t the kind of film normally in my wheelhouse. There is some buzz about a Beetlejuice sequel, especially since Michael Keaton is an even bigger star now than he was in 1988. Winona Ryder hasn’t had much career success in the past decade (or two) so she’s got to be praying hard that it happens.

 

The Verdict:       Airplane!. Say the words “parody film” and Airplane! almost immediately comes to mind. It set the standard for a genre that has seen its share of success with films like The Naked Gun, Spaceballs, the Austin Powers series, & Robin Hood: Men in Tights. They all surely owe a serious debt of gratitude to Airplane!.

 

 

 

Say Anything…                     vs.              48 Hrs.

sayanything1989’s Say Anything is in the mix after receiving a first round bye. It is a romantic dramedy that’s just a little…different…from the typical high school films that were so in vogue in the 80’s. John Cusack stars as Lloyd Dobler, a recent high school graduate with absolutely no plans for his future. He is hit by the thunderbolt at his graduation ceremony and becomes focused on pursuing Diane Court, the beautiful valedictorian who seemingly has it all together. Miraculously the quest works and the two begin dating during the summer before she intends to take off for a fellowship in England. There is a solid supporting cast, including Joan Cusack as Lloyd’s sister who is a single mother herself, the sublime John Mahoney (now better remembered as Frasier Crane’s Dad) as Diane’s overprotective and somewhat shady father, and smaller roles for folks we know better now than we did back then: Lili Taylor, Bebe Neuwirth, Eric Stoltz, Jeremy Piven, & Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson). At the end of the day though this is John Cusack’s show and he knocks it out of the park. 48 Hrs. narrowly beat out Teen 48-hrs_592x299Wolf in Round 1. The 80’s were very good to Eddie Murphy. He was THE star of Saturday Night Live before jumping into movies like Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, & Coming to America. Since then his career feels like it’s been two decades of mediocrity. One cannot help but wonder how the dominoes would have fallen if Richard Pryor had been cast as originally planned. A sequel…imaginatively titled Another 48 Hrs….was made in 1990, but no one remembers it even exists.

 

The Verdict:       Say Anything…. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s just something about this movie that has allowed it to remain in the 80’s pop culture consciousness. Maybe it is the performance of Cusack, who should have become every bit the superstar that contemporaries like Cruise, Swayze, & Michael J. Fox did but never quite got there. Perhaps it is the charm of Ione Skye, a beautiful lass that, much like fellow 80’s hotties Phoebe Cates, Mia Sara, & Jennifer Grey, shot to fame and then just as quickly fell off the map. Or possibly some credit should be given to the fact that every time we hear Peter Gabriel’s hit In Your Eyes we STILL picture Lloyd Dobler in a trenchcoat, boombox held high above his head, trying desperately to win back the love of his life. It’s probably all of the above.

 

 

 

 

The Outsiders                        vs.              Weird Science

outsiders2Both of these films overcame stiff competition in Round 1. Well okay, The Outsiders beat My Tutor, wswhich isn’t exactly stiff competition, while Weird Science got the nod over Raising Arizona, a film that a lot of people really enjoy. The Outsiders was only the 28th highest grossing film of 1983, behind two James Bond movies, something called Blue Thunder (????), and a bunch of bad sequels like Psycho II, Porky’s II: The Next Day, & Jaws 3D. However it did better than A Christmas Story, All the Right Moves, and re-issues of classics Rear Window & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hindsight is 20/20, and thankfully we have home video to help us catch up with good things we may have foolishly disregarded the first time. Weird Science did even worse in 1985, ranking only 38th in a very competitive year at the box office, although the fact that it made less money than forgettable schlock like Spies Like Us, White Knights, Jagged Edge, & Agnes of God should embarrass somebody…mainly the viewing public. I know which way I lean here, but I’m going to throw a bone to The Manoverse. You’re welcome.

80’s Movie Mania: The Combatants

80sOkay, I gave y’all a fair opportunity and, to be blunt, The Manoverse let me down. According to WordPress I have 238 followers. I’d love to have thousands, but until now I was rather content. Then I published the Intro to 80’s Movie Mania, an idea that I thought would be lots of fun. Within that little ditty there were some polls to vote on. Nothing big. Not time consuming. No deep introspection needed. I told myself that I’d go with the decisions of The Manoverse conservatively hoping each poll would receive 10-20 votes…not even 10% of presumed readership. Yet a few weeks later every one of those polls have only a couple of votes. So out of 238 “followers” hardly anyone could be bothered to simply click on a button?? I’ve spent some sleepless nights wondering if I should just forget the whole deal and delete The Manofesto altogether. Over the years I’ve written on a vast array of subjects, from serious to funny, about hot topics and fun frivolities. There is something here for everyone, yet I can’t get folks to spend five minutes of their time to vote on a simple set of polls?? It is extremely frustrating. However, I have decided to forge ahead. I enjoy what I do even if no one else gives a hoot, and I have learned in life that the person in the mirror is the only one that’ll never let you down.

 

So without further ado we will dive into 80s Movie Mania. I decided to forget the play-in idea altogether and make this a 80s5comprehensive super tournament. I’m generous like that. These selections heavily reflect my own entertainment sensibilities as well as previously noted omissions that have been purposely made for one reason or another (sports films, trilogies, Christmas movies). If you feel like there are glaring oversights tell me and let’s discuss it. The Manofesto is interactive and thoughtful opinions are appreciated.

 

80s6Sadly I am unable to utilize actual brackets within the limited WordPress format, so we’re just going to improvise. For now I am revealing the field for the competition broken down by years. For the tournament each film will be placed into one of four divisions: Tubular, Gnarly, Radical,& Bodacious. Five entrants in each division will receive a first round bye, an additional two films will receive byes thru the first & second rounds. The first round shall commence shortly. Enjoy!

 

 

1980
The Blues Brothers – Airplane!

1981
History of the World Part I – Stripes

1982
Porky’s – The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – 48 Hrs. – E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Fast Times at Ridgemont High – Night Shift – An Officer & A Gentleman

1983
WarGames – Scarface – Flashdance – Mr. Mom
The Outsiders – My Tutor – National Lampoon’s Vacation
Risky Business – The Big Chill – Eddie & The Cruisers

1984
Footloose – Purple Rain – Police Academy – The Last Starfighter
This Is Spinal Tap – Ghostbusters – Splash – Sixteen Candles
Revenge of the Nerds – Red Dawn – Romancing the Stone
Bachelor Party

1985
The Breakfast Club – European Vacation – Weird Science
Teen Wolf – Fletch – The Goonies – St. Elmo’s Fire

1986
Three Amigos! – Top Gun – Crocodile Dundee
Flight of the Navigator – Brighton Beach Memoirs
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Stand By Me – Iron Eagle – Pretty in Pink

1987
Lethal Weapon – Wall Street – Dirty Dancing
The Princess Bride – Three Men & A Baby – Moonstruck
La Bamba – Good Morning Vietnam – Raising Arizona
Spaceballs – Dragnet – Summer School – Broadcast News

1988
License to Drive – Beetlejuice – Biloxi Blues – Big
Rain Man – The Naked Gun – Twins – Coming to America
Cocktail – A Fish Called Wanda

1989
When Harry Met Sally – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Uncle Buck
Say Anything… – Turner & Hooch – Dead Poets Society
Batman – Weekend at Bernie’s – K-9 – Parenthood

80’s Movie Mania: An Introduction

80sCowabunga dudes!! Citizens of The Manoverse should know your Humble Potentate of Profundity pretty well by now, and two things you should have figured out are that I am a) a movie buff and b) a child of the 80’s. So I began pondering…what are the films from that decade that I enjoy?? Which ones are considered the best by the masses?? Which ones may be a bit overlooked or completely forgotten with the passage of time?? This train of thought sparked an idea: a March Madness-like tournament to decide the ultimate 80’s movie!!


80s2Now I must first set a few ground rules. Contrary to what one may believe, the 1980’s produced a plethora of memorable films. There were some critical darlings of course, and then there were a number of movies that may not have been “good” in the traditional sense but have just the right…je ne sais quoi…for inclusion in this competition. In order to pare down the pool of entrants I was forced to make some editorial choices. First of all…no sports films. I have already given love to Raging Bull, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Caddyshack, & Vision Quest on a previous occasion, so in the interest of fairness I am not including them here. Secondly…and this is a big one…no trilogies. I am of the opinion that film trilogies should be considered as80s3 one entity, and I don’t think it is fair to include such juggernauts against single entity competition. Plus, the Star Wars trilogy (2/3 of which was made in the 80’s) and the Back to the Future trilogy are so awesome that they’d probably run away with this thing, so why not make it just a bit more interesting?? As you may recall, I think of series differently, so anything with 4 or more films is fair game, although generally it’s hard to beat the original (there are exceptions).


80s4Even with those limitations in place I couldn’t narrow the field to 64, so I’m going to ask for some help from y’all. There are a dozen “vote-ins” pitting two films of some similarity head-to-head. Please click on your choice. I am going to wait for atleast a week and hope to get 10 or more votes on each of these, with the winners moving on to the tournament. Tell your friends!! Let’s grow The Manoverse and have some fun doing it!!

 

 

 

For about 5 minutes in the 80’s Steve Guttenberg was one of the bigger movie stars around. Lately though he’s kind of fallen off the face of the Earth, with his last notable role coming in…the mid-90’s if I’m being generous. However, we’ll always have these two Guttenberg gems. Police Academy spawned about a bazillion crappy sequels, but the original was hilariously stupid (and I mean that as a compliment). Three Men & A Baby had Guttenberg starring alongside Tom Selleck and Ted Danson as bachelors suddenly given the task of caring for an infant.

Michael Keaton is still one of the best in the business, but these days he wants to win awards and be taken seriously as an actor. I think I liked him better when he was making lightweight yet rather funny comedies. Mr. Mom is a role reversal kind of deal (atleast it was unique in the early 80’s) where Keaton becomes a stay-at-home father while his wife (portrayed by the lovely Teri Garr) tries to climb the corporate ladder. Gung Ho has Keaton as an auto executive trying to keep his Pennsylvania plant from being shut down by its Japanese owners. In Night Shift Keaton co-stars with Henry Winkler (Fonzie from Happy Days) and pre-Cheers Shelley Long as a NY City morgue employee who uses his workplace as a front for a prostitution ring,

Neil Simon is best known for his award winning plays, but several of those stage productions have been made into movies. This head-to-head battle pits 2/3 of the “Eugene Trilogy” against one another. It is said that the character of Eugene Jerome is an autobiographical representation of Simon and his youth in Brooklyn during The Great Depression. In Brighton Beach Memoirs Eugene (portrayed by Jonathan Silverman) is a teenager dealing with the ups & downs of family life. In Biloxi Blues Eugene (portrayed by Matthew Broderick) has been drafted into the Army near the end of World War II and endures basic training in Mississippi.

Only one police dog shall make it into the tournament…which one will it be?? Will you choose Jerry Lee, a german shepherd that helps Jim Belushi escape a drug kingpin?? Or do you prefer Hooch, a French mastiff that aids Tom Hanks in bringing down…well…another drug lord??

I’m a big fan of comedy, but within the genre there are different kinds of comedy. Airplane! is a spoof of dramatic disaster flicks and has plenty of sight gags and fun wordplay. It takes multiple viewings to really consume all the goodness the film contains. This Is Spinal Tap gave birth to the mockumentary…a movie that is presented as a documentary, usually in hilarious fashion.

Dragnet isn’t strictly a spoof, but it takes the old 1960’s TV show and turns it into a comedic parody starring Dan Aykroyd & Tom Hanks. The Naked Gun is a spoof of police procedurals based on a 1982 TV show called Police Squad that lasted only 6 episodes.

Tom Cruise did Cocktail immediately after Top Gun and just before Rain Man. He stars as an ambitious young man who is bartending to put himself thru college on the way to fulfilling his dreams. As usual a woman comes along and complicates things. Tom Hanks did Bachelor Party the same year he starred in Splash and four years before Big would really solidify his career. The title pretty much says it all, and its as funny as one would expect.


Films in the 1980’s oftentimes chronicled young men’s dogged chase of nookie, a theme that would continue to be popular into the 90’s and beyond. Porky’s is the story of a group of high schoolers in 1950’s Florida and their…misadventures. My Tutor is a bit more…subtle…in telling the story of a wealthy young man’s need to pass an exam in French to get into Yale. His father hires a beautiful female tutor and…well…the lad gets an education in more than just French.

I’ve never been much of a gamer, but the dudes in these films sure are. In War Games a precocious high school computer enthusiast (i.e. hacker) inadvertently starts WWIII. In The Last Starfighter a young man finds out the game he loves is real when he is whisked away to outer space to join the battle.

Hollywood likes to promote the idea that war is like sports…a game for young, good looking people. In Iron Eagle Lou Gosset Jr. leads a ragtag group of teenagers into a battle to rescue one of the youngster’s fathers, an Air Force pilot that has been captured by Arabs. Red Dawn, the story of high schoolers who fight back when their Colorado town is invaded by Russians, has a more well-known cast, including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, & C. Thomas Howell.

Molly Ringwald was an 80’s It Girl, but I can only allow one of these two films into the tournament. In Sixteen Candles Ringwald plays a girl whose family forgets her 16th birthday amidst the chaos of her older sister’s wedding. Pretty in Pink has Ringwald in the middle of a love triangle and dealing with other typical high school issues.

High school geeks were a staple of 80’s classics. In Teen Wolf Michael J. Fox plays an average teenager who suddenly becomes the cool guy at school when he discovers an ability to transform into a werewolf. Weird Science is about two young nerds who use technology to create the perfect woman.

100 Favorite Movies…..61-65

It dawned on me after I posted the previous installment of this series that I failed to write a pithy introduction. My apologies. It is difficult when one takes into consideration that by the time I’m finished with this project I will have written about 20 such intros. What makes it even harder is that my taste in movies tends to be so eclectic, something that is really being driven home to me as I write these little ditties, that usually there’s nothing to tie any 5 of these movies together. Today’s entry is a perfect example. There are virtually no similarities between any of these five films. I suppose the good thing is that with such a wide variety of things that I like I am bound to touch on atleast one thing or another that’ll be of interest to everyone.

 

 

 

65 Airplane!

If anyone were ever to build a Mount Rushmore of parody films, the first and foremost honoree would have to be Airplane!. Made in 1980, the film is meant to spoof a plethora of 70’s airline disaster flicks. It’s cast is a brilliant collection of heretofore tough guy types known for their dramatic roles, most notably Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Loyd Bridges, and Peter Graves, who areairplane very much cast against type. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar makes a super fun cameo as himself apparently trying to live a double life as an airline pilot under an assumed name. The plot involves many of the passengers and nearly the entire crew, including the pilot and co-pilot, becoming ill because of food poisoning and a passenger who just happens to be a pilot with post traumatic stress disorder being called into action to fly and land the plane. But this is another rare case where the story takes a back seat. This time though the centerpiece of hilarity are sight gags and side-splitting word play. One has to watch Airplane! a few times to take in all the visual and verbal gags. There’s Barbara Billingsley, the mother on Leave It to Beaver, speaking ebonics. The emergency autopilot is a blowup doll. A guy who thinks he’s Ethel Merman (played, in her final appearance on film, by Ethel Merman). Co-pilots named Roger and Captain Oveur (think about it). And the great thing is, it never gets old. After over a quarter century those of us who love this movie still laugh when we watch.

 

64 Raging Bull

Robert Deniro is such a brilliant actor that he could take the worst story imaginable and make it halfway compelling. Fortunately as real life boxer Jake Lamotta, in a film directed by the legendary Martin Scorcese, Deniro has a good story with which to work. He also has capable support from Joe Pesci in what was his first major film. I’m not a big boxing fan, but the acting and Scorcese’s style make this a modern classic. Maybe if I’d have been born a few years earlier or if I loved boxing as much as I do other sports Raging Bull would rank higher, as it does on most lists of this ilk. However, I must remain true to my own tastes and preferences, and this is where it falls on my spectrum.

 

63 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Readers of this series know by now of my affection for Jimmy Stewart. I’m also a bit of a political aficionado and an unabashed patriot, so Mr. Smith falls right into my wheelhouse. The story revolves around a small town yokel (a role Stewart showed many times he could play perfectly) who is handpicked to fill an open seat in the U.S. Senate. He is chosen by a corrupt political machine who believes he can be easily manipulated so they can achieve their selfish goals. The villain in this complex web of deceit is the elder senator from Stewart’s state, played by Claud Rains, who is probably better known for playing the corrupt police official in Casablanca. Rains played the role of conflicted slimeball several times and was apparently quite good at it. I’m not sure how a Frenchman snagged the role of a United States Senator, and the fact that he doesn’t really make much of an effort to hide the accent is somewhat distracting. Adding support as a caustic adminstrative aide is Jean Arthur. She is assigned the task of babysitting the doe-eyed new Senator and gradually falls for him. The plotline specifics, in which Stewart’s character wants to build a “national boys’ camp” on land that, unbeknownst to him, Rains’ character has more nefarious and profitable plans in store, are not necessarily all that crucial. The film is about political corruption, and in its time it was groundbreaking. We’ve become a much more cynical nation now. But 70 years ago a movie that took such a dark view of the inner workings of our government was quite controversial. Stewart’s performance show’s his range. Over the course of his career, from lighthearted comedies like Harvey and The Philadelphia Story through Hitchcockian fare such as Vertigo and Rear Window to hardscrabble westerns including Shenandoah and The Rare Breed Stewart did a bit of everything and proved himself to be a fine actor. With Mr. Smith he gives a small sampling of that range within one movie, goofy and fun in some scenes and dark and solemn in others. Because of the access the masses now have through things like CSPAN, the internet, and talk radio there’s not a whole lot that goes on in Washington DC that’s unknown or all that shocking. To some degree that hurts the legacy of Mr. Smith because we don’t see what the big deal is outside of Stewart’s winning charm. However, taken within the context of its time it’s quite a cinematic achievement.

 

62 Meet the Parents

DeNiro makes a second appearance in today’s group, so I guess I was wrong…there is a common thread after all. This time however, he’s doing comedy…and doing it surprisingly well. Meet the Parents stars Ben Stiller as a male nurse who goes home for the weekend with his girlfriend (who he is planning to make his fiancee) to…you guessed it…meet her parents. Unfortunately for Stiller, things get off on the wrong foot and get worse from there. Hilarity ensues. This is one of those movies that has more than its fair share of memorable scenes and lines, which is its main charm. Stiller has never been funnier in my opinion, and Owen Wilson has an hysterical cameo as the girlfriend’s former boyfriend. After watching this film water volleyball, Puff the Magic Dragon, airports, and cats can never be thought of like they were before…trust me. A sequel was made a few years later called Meet the Fockers. It was okay, but as with most sequels it failed to rise to the high level of the original.

 

61 Silence of the Lambs

Is it a horror film?? I suppose. I’m not necessarily sure how the experts categorize it. If it is officially a horror film it is most certainly on the high end…..sort of like how Dom Perrignon and Andre Extra Dry are both technically champagne but one is $150/bottle and the other is available at 7/11. Silence of the Lambs is based on a really great book about a young FBI agent who enlists the aid of a jailed, psychotic cannibal to track down a fellow serial killer. The psychotic cannibal is Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lechter and he is one of the creepiest yet most sublime creations in cinematic history as portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Unlike most maniacal killers in stereotypical gorefests (think Jason from Friday the 13th, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street), Hannibal doesn’t need knives or chainsaws, doesn’t wear a mask, and doesn’t have any kind of otherworldly nonsensical powers. He’s actually pretty realistic…almost like a normal person you or I may know, may work with, or who might live down the street…except for the fact that he likes to eat humans. Jodie Foster is fantastic as Clarice Starling, the agent who looks to be in way over her head. The whodunit part of the movie is secondary to the interactions involving Hannibal and Clarice, but it’s also what separates Silence of the Lambs from the rest of the cliched mass of blood-n-guts. Sure there is some violence, but there is also a compelling story and extraordinary performances. I won’t go so far as to say the movie is better than the book, but let’s call it a tie.