80’s Movie Mania: Bodacious Round 1

So now we move forward with 80’s Movie Mania. I will post a few more polls along the way, but there will also be head-to-head matchups that are rather easily decided with no poll necessary. Each film has been put into one of four divisions: Tubular, Gnarly, Radical, & Bodacious. Let’s begin with the first round matchups in the Bodacious Division.

 

 

 

Bodacious – Round 1

Stand By Me   vs.   K-9

Stand By Me, in addition to being an excellent song originally recorded by Ben E King in the 60’s, is a 1986 coming-of-age film k9based on a Stephen King novella called The Body. The movie, in which four young lads go on a quest in search of the body of a presumed dead child, is notable for its superb cast, including Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack, & Casey Siemaszko, all of whom would go on to have varying levels of success in their careers. K-9 is a 1989 action comedy in which Jim Belushi plays a cop who gets partnered with a german shepherd to bring down a drug lord.

The Verdict: Stand By Me. It’s not that K-9 is a bad film…it’s just that Stand By Me is one of the preeminent movies of the 1980’s that has stood the test of time mostly due to a cast of youngsters that grew into fine performers and well regarded Hollywood personalities.

 
Weekend at Bernie’s   vs.   Bachelor Party
wabNot every movie has to be an Oscar contender chockful of gravitas & profound life lessons. Sometime it’s okay to just sit back bpand have stupid fun. Weekend at Bernie’s is a goofy 1989 comedy starring Andrew McCarthy & Jonathan Silverman as bean counters at an insurance company whose boss has been embezzling money. After the boss ends up being the victim of a mob hit the two minions must convince everyone he’s still alive to save their own skins. It’s all rather silly yet enjoyable, highlighted by the physical comedy of actor Terry Kiser as the ill-fated corpse. A sequel was made a few years later but the humor was kind of played out. 1984’s Bachelor Party is one of the earliest triumphs in the storied career of Tom Hanks. The title says it all, with the story revolving around a wild stag party and all the associated hijinks.

The Verdict: I’m going to let The Manoverse decide which film moves on. If I can’t get atleast 20-25 votes in the poll I will decide the victor.

 

 

Cocktail   vs.   Stripes
cocktailCocktail is a 1988 romantic dramedy starring Tom Cruise as a young Army veteran who bartends at night to put himself thru college. He has an entrepreneurial spirit and big plans, which get derailed when he falls in love with a rich girl while working at a beachside club in Jamaica. Cocktail is a bit more style than substance, but that’s okay because the style part is so much fun. Cruise has rarely been cooler or more charismatic. The supporting cast is solid and the soundtrack…featuring songs from The Beach Boys, Starship, The Georgia Satellites, & John Cougar Cougar Mellencamp Mellencamp…is really enjoyable. Stripes is a military comedy (a very popular theme in the 80’s) and was among a string of hits (along with Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, & Tootsie) that Billstripes Murray did in the early 80’s after his departure from Saturday Night Live. Stripes has an impressive cast full of folks that would go on to have respectable careers…names like John Candy, Judge Reinhold, Sean Young, PJ Soles, John Larroquette, Timothy Busfield, Bill Paxton, Joe Flaherty, & Dave Thomas. The film is directed by Ivan Reitman and stars Murray & Harold Ramis as guys who join the Army more or less because they have nothing else good going on in their lives. Hilarity ensues. It is undoubtedly one of Murray’s best efforts.

The Verdict: This one is up to you Manoverse. I assume votes will be sharply divided along generational lines so maybe we’ll see just how diverse this reading audience is. Please vote…don’t make me make this decision myself.

 
Eddie & The Cruisers   vs.   A Fish Called Wanda
ecThe one thing I cannot figure out about Eddie & The Cruisers is why a band that had its success in the early 60’s sounds so wandamuch like a Springsteen/Bob Seger/Bon Jovi hybrid. Probably because the film was produced in 1983. At any rate, the idea is fantastic, with a framing story of a VH1 style documentary being made about a band who had one big album two decades ago before the enigmatic lead singer died in a tragic car crash. We meet the surviving members of the band and see flashbacks about their rise & fall. The final scene isn’t necessarily shocking, as it is hinted at throughout the film, but it is a well done surprise that sets up a tepid sequel that would come six years later (about 5 years too late). A Fish Called Wanda is a critically acclaimed heist comedy starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Cline, & Monty Python’s John Cleese. The group of crooks continuously try to double-cross each other and gain sole possession of the loot, with things becoming even more complicated when a lawyer gets involved. Cline won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The Verdict: Eddie & The Cruisers. This would probably be considered a significant upset by many. Eddie & The Cruisers is viewed by most as a forgettable missed opportunity…a great story poorly executed. Conversely, A Fish Called Wanda has big stars and a strong pedigree. However, I believe that Eddie & The Cruisers does enough to be celebrated as the kind of solid popcorn entertainment that one would happily watch on a rainy Saturday afternoon whilst lazily keeping the couch warm. Meanwhile, A Fish Called Wanda contains a brand of Python-esque humor that has never been my particular cup o’ tea.

 
St. Elmo’s Fire   vs.   Romancing the Stone
sefSt. Elmo’s Fire finds members of the infamous Brat Pack (in this case Judd Nelson, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, rsAndrew McCarty, Rob Lowe, & Mare Winningham) as recent graduates of Georgetown University who must now put the halcyon days of collegiate frivolity behind them and face the harsh realities of the real world. Haven’t most of us been there in one form or another?? Romancing the Stone is a 1984 rom-com/adventure flick starring Michael Douglas as an exotic bird smuggler (how’s that for a profession??) who gets roped into aiding a romance novelist who has ventured to Columbia to rescue her kidnapped sister. There is hidden treasure, drug lords, rogue military, & romance…everything one could ask for in an adventure quest film. It was director Robert Zemeckis’ first big success as well as one of Douglas’ first big films.

The Verdict: St. Elmo’s Fire. The question I ask myself is this: If I am flipping thru the channels late at night and both of these films just happen to be on TV which one am I going to watch?? Romancing the Stone is a fun ride, but the cast & the soundtrack of St. Elmo’s Fire give it a photo finish victory.

 
Iron Eagle   vs.   An Officer & A Gentleman
ieHey…it’s Lou Gossett Jr. vs. Lou Gossett Jr.!! 1986’s Iron Eagle has Gossett as a retired Air Force pilot who is recruited by hisog young friend Doug to pull off a daring rescue mission. Doug’s father is an Air Force pilot who has been captured by Arabs and who will be executed in a few days because the U.S. government has decided not to intervene. It’s up to the retired colonel, Doug, & a group of Doug’s friends to rescue ol’ Dad. Gossett co-stars with Richard Gere & Debra Winger in the more celebrated 1982 film An Officer & A Gentleman. Gossett won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a hardass drill sergeant who comes into conflict with a troubled young grunt played by Gere, a man who is trying to balance military life and a budding romance with an employee at a local factory.

The Verdict: It is tempting to make this choice myself because I definitely have a preference. However, I am going to be fair and give The Manoverse an opportunity to weigh in.

 
Pretty in Pink   vs.   Broadcast News
PPKPretty in Pink is one of a plethora of Brat Pack films that permeate 80’s cinema. It is written by John Hughes and tells the newsstory of a gal from (literally) the wrong side of the tracks who falls for the rich guy at school while the requisite best friend has unrequited feelings for the girl. Formulaic?? Sure…but it works. Broadcast News has a love triangle as well, with Holly Hunter as a neurotic TV news producer who is attracted to a pretty boy reporter but whose best friend is a less attractive reporter with a secret crush on his gal pal. More formula…but it also works really well.

The Verdict: Pretty in Pink. This is a hard one. Broadcast News is a great movie with a tremendously entertaining performance from Albert Brooks as the dowdy best pal. But I can’t overlook one of the iconic films of its generation, with solid performances from Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, James Spader, & Jon Cryer. Pretty in Pink benefits from a well written script by Hughes and a generation defining soundtrack featuring songs by INXS, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, & The Psychedelic Furs.

100 Favorite Movies…..#85

Progress on this series had hit a noticeable standstill, but happenstance has intervened and given me motivation to move forward. Coinciding with the untimely death of director/producer/writer John Hughes, the next film in the countdown is actually three films, because I just couldn’t leave one out and also because the three share so much common ground. Hughes directed two out of three.

 

Anyone who came of age in the 80’s is familiar with John Hughes and The Brat Pack (Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and Emilio Estevez). Hughes was the master of capturing teen angst on film, and those 8 actors were apparently his muses. Hughes did a lot of other great stuff, and including his two films we’ll discuss here, nine of his films appear in my Top 100. But it’s the teen stuff, the Brat Pack movies, that he is most remembered for creating. All 8 Packers appear in this three pack.

 

Specifically I am talking about Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and St. Elmo’s Fire. Those were the three Brat Pack films that most resonated with my sensibilities.

 

Sixteen Candles is obviously aimed at a more female demographic. That’s okay…..I’m in touch with my feminine side I guess. Molly Ringwald stars as a teenager whose entire family forgets her 16th birthday because they are gearing up for her older sister’s wedding. The grandparents are hilarious, and even better is the exchange student one set of grandparents bring along. This exchange student, Long Duk Dong, takes Sixteen Candles over the top in my opinion. Anthony Michael Hall is also amusing as a total geek trying to win a bet involving a a pair of panties and a dozen floppy disks (wow…what an outdated reference lol).

 

The Breakfast Club is classic 80’s, prototypical John Hughes, quintessential Brat Pack. It epitomizes the zeitgeist of teen angst on film. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Does it really matter? The story involves 5 high schoolers (Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, & Judd Nelson) serving detention in the school library on a Saturday. The characters encompass archetypal high school clichés…..nerds, jocks, rebels, WASPS, and loners. The genius of the film is that it takes those clichés and makes us truly understand. It’s a deep message wrapped in an easily digestible and fun movie. And I’m not sure any song has ever been so closely associated with a movie as Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me.

 

St. Elmo’s Fire could have been a sequel to The Breakfast Club. It stars 3 of the 5 Clubbers (Nelson, Estevez, & Sheedy), as well as Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and Andrew McCarthy. This time the setting isn’t high school but college, where the group has just graduated and now needs to figure out what’s next. I’ve been there, done that. Actually, 14 years later and I’m still searching for answers, but that’s a whole other issue. The title alludes to an electrical phenomenon that appears to sailors. I’ve never really understood what exactly that had to do with events in the movie, but atleast the title is creative and easily remembered. St. Elmo’s Fire is understandably heavier and more intense than The Breakfast Club, but it’s also intended for a slightly older audience. It is often lost in the shuffle amongst more lighthearted and ostensibly better 80’s/Pack flicks, but I think it deserves to be recognized right up at the top of the list.

 

As an amusing aside, I will say that I literally just now noticed that this is number 85 in the countdown and that both St.  Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club came out in 1985. I’m good.

 

I toyed with the idea of doing a standalone tribute to John Hughes, but the timing of this entry (and the order of this list has been rock solid for months, so it really was coincidental) combined with the fact that a half dozen other Hughes films appear in the list will serve as a proper testament to the man’s pop culture influence and my enjoyment of his contributions.