80’s Movie Mania: Radical Round 1

Annnnnd we’re back!! Today we finish up our first round matchups, but before we go forward there let’s go back and tie up some loose ends as usual. I posted two polls that absolutely no one voted on. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I’ll just go with the flow. So in the Gnarly Division it’s gonna be Weird Science taking out Raising Arizona and Biloxi Blues defeating Parenthood. Now let’s move on to the first round in the Radical Division. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Radical – Round 1

 

 

Fast Times at Ridgemont High               vs.              Brighton Beach Memoirs

fasttimesFast Times is the quintessential high school movie. Released in 1982, it was the first directing effort for bbmAmy Heckerling, who would go on to direct films like Clueless, European Vacation, & Look Who’s Talking, as well as the first screenplay written by Cameron Crowe, who has since had a solid career writing & directing movies such as Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, & Vanilla Sky. That’s already a pretty impressive pedigree for Fast Times, but then we must consider the cast, featuring the earliest work of some very talented performers…Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forrest Whittaker, Eric Stoltz, & Anthony Edwards. Oh, did I forget to mention the soundtrack?? It has great 80’s songs from folks like Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Don Henley, The Go-Gos, Sammy Hagar, Jimmy Buffett, Poco, Donna Summer, & Stevie Nicks. Not to be outdone, 1986’s Brighton Beach Memoirs features Jonathan Silverman, Blythe Danner, & Judith Ivey in the cast and is based on a Tony Award winning play by Neil Simon. It is the first entry in Simon’s Eugene Trilogy about his youth in Depression era Brooklyn. The movie is well written & acted, but I suspect that the theater production is even better.

 

The Verdict:       Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This is 80’s Movie Mania, right?? It only seems right that one of THE signature 80’s films makes it out of Round 1.

 

 

Fletch                            vs.              Night Shift 

Aside from blundering family man Clark W. Griswold, Chevy Chase’s most famous role is that of L.A. nightshiftTimes journalist Irwin Fletcher, aka Fletch. Based on a series of novels written in the 70’s, 1985’s Fletch follows the reporter as he investigates a drug ring on an L.A. beach. He is approached by a wealthy businessman offering him a big wad of cash to kill him because the businessman is ostensibly dying of cancer anyway. Things get complicated from there. The supporting cast includes Tim Matheson, George Wendt, Geena Davis, & Joe Don Baker and the VERY 80’s score was written by master of the synthesizer Harold Faltemeyer. Fletch isn’t really a traditional comedy…it’s more of a mystery/action flick with funny moments provided by Chevy Chase being…well…Chevy Chase. 1982’s Night Shift has an impeccable pedigree. It was written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, who have gone on to write such fantastic films as Splash, Parenthood, City Slickers, A League of Their Own, The Money Pit, Liar Liar, Fever Pitch, & Parental Guidance. It was the first film directed by Ron Howard that anyone remembers. And it stars Henry Winkler as a decidedly un-Fonzie-esque character, as well as Michael Keaton in his first leading role and Shelley Long right before Cheers made her famous. The story has a straight-laced morgue employee, his wild & crazy co-worker, & a “hooker with a heart of gold” team up to start their own escort service. Hilarity ensues. It was an indication of great things to come from Keaton.

 

The Verdict:       Night Shift. I don’t quite get the love for Fletch. It’s mildly amusing I suppose, but mostly quite forgettable. Meanwhile, Night Shift has a solid cast doing some of their best work supported by a really fun script and a director who was just beginning to demonstrate his immense talent.

 

 

 

Spaceballs                   vs.              Summer School

Spaceballs is a rather amusing Star Wars parody from the mind of the legendary Mel Brooks. Made in ssc1987 and starring Bill Pullman, John Candy, Brooks, Daphne Zuniga, Rick Moranis, & Dick Van Patten, it is chockful of amusing word play and funny sight gags that any Star Wars fan will appreciate & enjoy. A sequel has been discussed for many years, but half of the original cast is dead now so who knows what’ll happen with that. 1987’s Summer School is a lightweight yet sneakily entertaining comedy starring Mark Harmon (from NCIS) as a slacker gym teacher who gets roped into teaching remedial English to a group of less than stellar students during the summer. The cast also includes Kirstie Alley and a young Courtney Thorne-Smith. Word on the street is that a remake is in the works, which is a shame.

 

The Verdict:       I like both of these films and really don’t want to make a choice, so let’s see if we can get enough votes to take the decision out of my hands.

 

 

 

 

Sixteen Candles                              vs.              Red Dawn

16CJohn Hughes strikes again!! In 1984 Hughes wrote & directed Sixteen Candles, about a girl whose family  reddawncompletely forgets her 16th birthday. Molly Ringwald stars as Samantha, whose sister is getting married so she kind of gets lost in the shuffle. On top of that Samantha has a thing for the hottest hunk in school but her existence doesn’t even register on his radar…or so she thinks. Anthony Michael Hall is around too as a geek who has a thing for Samantha (he has NO shot). The supporting cast, including Samantha’s grandparents, their foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong, & the sister who becomes gooned on tranquilizers to calm her wedding day jitters are all quite humorous additions. Conversely, 1984’s Red Dawn is a very sobering action flick about a group of Colorado teens who go on the lam after their town is invaded by the Soviets in the midst of World War III. The movie is notable for its star-studded cast of youngsters, including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Leah Thompson, & Jennifer Grey. A remake was produced in 2012 but I’ve never seen it and likely never will.

 

The Verdict:       This one completely depends on a person’s taste in movies. Do you prefer teen comedy or violent war?? I have my preferences but I’m going to be generous and leave the decision in the hands of The Manoverse.

 

 

 

 

The Naked Gun           vs.              Dragnet

It’s police spoof vs. police parody!! 1988’s The Naked Gun is an alleged continuation of a long forgotten dragnetTV show from a few years earlier called Police Squad. No one remembers it because it only lasted six episodes on ABC. At any rate, Naked Gun follows inept police detective Frank Drebin (portrayed by the hilarious Leslie Nielsen) as he tries to prevent the assassination of England’s Queen Elizabeth while she visits Los Angeles. The film is wall-to-wall sight gags, word play, & slapstick comedy and features an intriguing supporting cast, including George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley (before she got too out of control with the plastic surgery), Ricardo Montalban, & O.J. Simpson (before he started murdering people). 1987’s Dragnet is a comedic big screen take on the legendary 1950’s/60’s TV show and stars Dan Aykroyd as the ultra-serious Sgt. Joe Friday (allegedly the nephew of the original) who is saddled with a quick-witted yet lackadaisical partner named Pep Streebeck (a GREAT name), played by Tom Hanks in one of his more underappreciated funny roles. Together the duo investigate a bizarre rash of thefts committed by a weird cult (which is a redundancy I know). The plot is silly and the reviews weren’t great, but I rather enjoyed the Aykroyd/Hanks chemistry and wish they would have gotten an opportunity to do a sequel with a better script.

 

The Verdict:       The Naked Gun. I probably enjoyed Dragnet more than the average person, but it is admittedly a flawed film. Meanwhile, The Naked Gun, for people who enjoy these kinds of movies, is a classic that spawned two sequels and ranks as one of the funnier flicks of the 80’s.

 

 

 

 

Revenge of the Nerds          vs.              Twins

nerdsIt’s a story as old as time…David vs. Goliath, unsophisticated vs. cool, ugly vs. good-looking, ostracized TWINS_320vs. popular, geeks vs. jocks. In 1984 it was presented as a battle between two fraternities…one full of socially awkward computer geeks, the other comprised of cocky football players. The hows & whys of their rivalry are unimportant…all that matters is that there is an abundance of conviviality, with an undertow of social commentary about discrimination & pride in being true to one’s self. The cast consists of second tier performers like Ted McGinley, Curtis Armstrong, Timothy Busfield, & James Cromwell, although Anthony Edwards would go on to brief moments of stardom and John Goodman has a small part as a football coach. A few sequels followed over the next decade, but none are as fun as the original. 1988’s Twins pairs diminutive Danny DeVito with brawny Arnold Schwarzenegger as long lost fraternal twins. DeVito’s Vincent is a hardened ne’er-do-well who was raised in an orphanage. Schwarzenegger’s Julius was raised on a small Pacific island by the professor who conducted the genetic experiment that resulted in the two men’s birth. Julius learns of Vincent’s existence and seeks him out. The two then go on quite the adventure in search of their long lost mother. Hilarity ensues.

 

The Verdict:       Revenge of the Nerds. It’s not the most unique concept but it works really well. Twins relies on a one-note joke about the obvious physical differences between its two stars, but that gag runs out of steam. Schwarzenegger is better than one might assume in comedies, yet it is very much a meta idea that it’s supposed to be hilarious seeing a muscle-bound tough guy doing comedy. Sorry…I need more.

 

 

 

 

Flight of the Navigator          vs.              The Goonies

navigatorFlight of the Navigator still flies under the radar three decades after its release. Made in 1986 and gooniesstarring Howard Hesseman (WKRP’s Dr. Johnny Fever) and Sarah Jessica Parker in one of her early roles, the story is an intriguing time travel tale about a young boy who falls into a ravine and wakes up the next morning to find that eight years have passed, though he hasn’t aged at all. It turns out that he was abducted by aliens. Folks, trust me…this is a seriously entertaining film. It strikes the perfect balance of action, drama, & whimsy. Meanwhile, The Goonies is a much celebrated film starring a group of youngsters (including Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, & Josh Brolin) who go on an adventure in search of a long lost treasure map. The film’s pedigree is first rate, with the script being written by Chris Columbus (who would go on to write and/or direct stuff like Mrs. Doubtfire, the first two Home Alone movies, Only the Lonely, the first two Harry Potter movies, & Jingle All the Way), directed by Richard Donner (Superman, Scrooged, Lethal Weapon), & produced by the iconic Steven Spielberg.

 

The Verdict:       Flight of the Navigator. This will probably be considered a pretty big upset by many. However, I’ve just never understood what the big deal is about The Goonies. Several 80’s films had ensemble casts with kids that would end up having memorable careers, but that’s not enough. The movie has to be engaging, with a plot that makes me want to enjoy repeat viewings. The Goonies isn’t that…atleast for me. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. I happen to believe that Navigator is a superior entertainment experience…escapism at its finest.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.16

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

So I guess the finale of the farewell season of American Idol has come & gone. I had planned on watching the last season just forAmerican-Idol old times’ sake, but that simply didn’t happen. My Idol viewership was hit & miss at best over the years, but like a lot of other folks I began to lose interest awhile ago, especially when turnover at the judges’ table started to be a bit much. As annoying as they could be at times, the lineup of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, & Randy Jackson had chemistry that was never as enjoyable with additions like Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and the last group of J-Lo, Keith Urban, & Harry Connick Jr. It didn’t help that the only two winners since 2007 that even came close to moving the needle for longer than 5 minutes were Jordin Sparks & Phillip Phillips…and I’m being rather generous to them. I suppose it’s possible that I’m just old, out-of-touch, & stuck in my ways, no longer within the target demographic that typically enjoys a show like American Idol.  I know what kind of music I enjoy & what performers I prefer, and that is unlikely to be impacted by the winner of a reality show who fades into oblivion not long after their made-for-TV victory. Having said all that, it is undeniable that for a brief moment in time American Idol was a pop culture phenomenon that gave us memorable stars like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, Katherine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, & Jennifer Hudson. One could even throw Cowell and Ryan Seacrest into that mix, although it is possible they may have found another launching pad to fame & fortune had Idol never existed. At any rate, a fond farewell to American Idol. Maybe we’ll see you again someday.

 

nc2There has been much controversy swirling about HB2, aka the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, that was recently passed in North Carolina. Essentially the bill…as I understand it…maintains the status quo and prohibits any special privileges for “the LGBT community”, especially “transgender” individuals seeking the right to use public bathrooms based on the sex with which they “identify” rather than what biology dictates. Bruce Springsteen is angry. Jimmy Buffett is as upset as a pothead gets. The NFL is unhappy. Everybody is throwing their weight around one way or another about the situation. I briefly pondered in-depth pontification on the issue, but I have decided it’s not worth my time or aggravation. I have my opinions. I know right vs. wrong. However I have been doing my best to back off certain hot button topics. I’ll live my life and let others live theirs. But let me offer one quick opinion. If this law stands (which is uncertain at best), I predict that in the next decade the state of North Carolina will experience faster economic & population growth than anywhere in the country. You heard it here first.

 

oj2Did you watch the recently concluded ten part miniseries American Crime Story: The People oj3vs. O.J. Simpson?? I had very low expectations at the outset and was prepared for a tacky yet entertaining cheesefest of epic proportions. However, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the writing and superb performances. How much of what was on my TV screen accurately reflected real life events?? Did attorney Robert Kardashian (sympathetically portrayed by former Friends star David Schwimmer) really have doubts about OJ’s innocence?? Is attorney Robert Shapiro (portrayed by the legendary John Travolta) really that much of an arrogant weirdo?? Did Marcia Clark & Christopher Darden really almost get it on?? I don’t know and neither do you, but who cares?? The show was fantastic and should end up winning multiple Emmys (especially for Sarah Paulson as Clark and Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran). It is fascinating to think about how different things might have turned out had LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman not been involved in the case or if those infamous gloves (if they don’t fit you must acquit!!) hadn’t been introduced as evidence. Cochran’s strategy to utilize the “race card” may have been morally questionable and sort of a straw man argument, but it turned out to be brilliant. Clark & Darden were seemingly solid lawyers who just got outmaneuvered by more devious opponents. The really sad part of the equation from my perspective is the jury. Everyone involved expected them to deliberate for weeks…maybe even months. Instead they returned a verdict in just a few hours. The American system of justice is the best in the world and provides an opportunity for a defendant to be judged by a jury of his/her peers…but what if those “peers” aren’t up to the task?? O.J. Simpson benefitted from his celebrity and from a jury who was bored, tired, frustrated, easily manipulated by Cochran, & after a year in the courtroom just wanted to go home. That’s my take anyway…you’re mileage may vary.

 

The 2015 Sammy Awards didn’t happen because Your Humble Potentate of Profundity spent the last couple of months of 2015 inthumb a hospital. However, while doing some way too early prep work for this year’s presentation I took a look back at the 2014 Awards and was amazed. We hand out what I call The DB Cooper Award (For the Person Who Most Needs to Disappear). In 2014 there were 11 nominees. As of right now one of them retired from Congress, one acrimoniously departed from MSNBC, one had their reality show cancelled, and one is dead. Damn I’m good.

 

jfkI wasn’t quite as enamored with Hulu’s eight part adaptation of Stephen King’s 2011 novel 11/22/63 as I became of the OJ Simpson miniseries, but then again the book is so fantastic that it would have been darn near impossible to equal. Casting James Franco in the lead was a mistake in my opinion (I envisioned Josh Lucas in the role as I was reading the book), though it certainly wasn’t a fatal flaw. As with any book that is adapted into a film or TV series there were alterations & omissions, but nothing unforgivable. King’s works are notoriously difficult to translate from page to screen, but it was definitely a wise choice to make a miniseries instead of a feature film as was the original plan. All in all it was a solid effort, but it could have been far better.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 1.16

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

FX just aired Part 1 of a ten part miniseries called American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, and I must say that I am ojhooked. As someone old enough to have lived thru the sordid saga (I watched the infamous Bronco chase at a favorite college watering hole with friends and may or may not have been somewhat inebriated) I’m interested to see how a fictional account of what was as dramatic of a real life tale as we’ve seen plays out over the next couple of months. I suppose it is kind of a macabre trip down memory lane, but after the first episode my initial reaction is that the cast (headlined by John Travolta & Cuba Gooding Jr.) is terrific and the story is well-written, although given the fact that the actual events were so…theatrical…it would seem difficult to screw it up too badly. For those that may be too young to vividly recall the Simpson case this show will be a great history lesson about the birth of reality TV and the beginning of our cultural descent into the abyss of voyeuristic mediocrity.

 

 

After the recent Hawkeye Cauci it is apparent that the race for the Republican nomination for President is down to three viabletrio candidates: Cruz, Trump, & Rubio. Oh I suppose one or two others might sneak back into the mix if they do well in New Hampshire, but ultimately I believe one of these three will be the nominee, and I’m okay with that. None are perfect but I can live with any of them. Trump has to have learned a lesson after skipping the last debate…I do believe it cost him votes. Rubio scares me a little on the immigration issue, but he appears to be somewhat more palatable to those bothered by the abrasiveness of his opponents. Cruz just needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s the solid conservative amongst the crowd and his message resonates when he receives a fair opportunity to convey it properly.

 

 

smithI haven’t paid much attention to The Oscars since Billy Crystal was hosting and Titanic won Best Picture. That was almost 20 years ago. But quite honestly I think the recent controversy about the show’s lack of “diversity” in its award nominations is a bunch of poppycock. I don’t care whether you’re white, black, Hispanic, male, female, gay, straight, or whatever else…just make good movies. The biggest problem with The Oscars is that they too often give recognition to films that average moviegoers in flyover country just don’t care about. Right now at my local theater Dirty Grandpa and Kung Fu Panda 3 are playing, as is Academy Award nominee The Revenant. Regardless of what critics say I’m betting that the former two movies end up making oscar2more money than the latter. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with entertainment. As a football fan I don’t deny that concussions are an issue, but I have no desire to go see Will Smith berate me about the issue for two hours on the big screen. I don’t dislike Smith because he’s black…I dislike the fact that his career choices have sucked for most of the past two decades. It really is that simple.

 

 

hillaryEvery time I see Hillary Clinton on TV it’s a nails on a chalkboard moment. Her obnoxious screeching is sanders2horrendous. In listening to what she says I don’t understand how anyone with more than a grade school education could even consider casting their vote for her. I’m no fan of Bernie Sanders, but the major difference between he & Hillary is that Sanders openly admits that he’s a socialist. She should be extremely embarrassed that she could do no better than what was essentially a tie in Iowa. Part of me thinks it’d be hysterically funny if Hillary were to lose the nomination AGAIN to someone that a year ago no one had ever heard of. Of course the other part of me realizes that the first time that happened we got stuck with Barack Hussein Obama for 8 years.

 

 

Let me take a moment to highly recommend a 2013 documentary called History of the Eagles. It is a must see for any fan of the eagles3legendary 70’s rock band. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard about or watched it before now. CNN was going to show it…presumably in the wake of Glenn Frey’s death…but it got pre-empted by…I don’t know…something they deemed more important. So I ended up checking it out on Netflix. Broken into two parts and coming in at about 4 hours it is an evening well spent. There is plenty of archival footage, snippets of home movies, and interviews with every band member as well as various associates. Some may say that, since Frey & Henley had a lot of control over the finished product, it is a bit sanitized and glosses over some of the more troublesome issues the group had over the years, and that is likely a fair assessment. However, it is probably just as well, especially considering Frey’s untimely passing. It is a shame that he & former bandmate Don Felder never reconciled, but maybe Henley will now get down off his high horse and make peace with Felder. Joe Walsh is the most impressive of them all in interviews. He’s had a long, tough road and made plenty of mistakes, but now appears to be clean & sober and, more importantly, introspectively grateful to have been provided an opportunity for a healthier life. If you like The Eagles you must check it out, and even if you aren’t a huge fan but just enjoy a really good documentary it is worth your time.