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: 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.