Sunday, January 13, 2008

We Begin With Films of the 80's

This post was inspired by my friend Dave who recently gave me a DVD copy of License to Drive and Mischief ("this one you have to see because Kelly Preston is naked in it!") which had me considering the movies of that era. I wanted to address the myth that all 80's movies were teen sex romps, The Breakfast Club and Freddy Krueger sequels.

Nostalgia for all things 80's has become a current trend among twentysomething's. The children of the 80's have grown up and are now looking back, reflecting on movies, music and styles that were popular during this "plastic decade". Adoration for John Hughes' films and TV shows of the era are all the rage. Trendy clothing boutiques now specialize in jelly shoes, studded belts and leggings. Anyone in a who's-who in a circle of hipsters sports a Pat Benetar-do (although even that's become passe' now, like it's so 2004!).
I remember the 80's and it wasn't Molly Ringwald, Flock of Seagulls and Madonna rolling around in a wedding dress. The way the 60's are often misrepresented in a montage of U.S. troops in Vietnam, hippies at Woodstock and footage of a rallying Nixon (all to the tune of "All Along the Watchtower"), the 80's have now taken on this mythical representation by way of popular culture nostalgia.
I remember the 80's as a particularly mad period. The decade got off with a bang--literally, as the shot that killed John Lennon set things off with a cynical and avarice tone. I remember becoming a teenager and moving out of New York. I remember the culture shock I felt and the aftereffect of displacement. When asked, I always associate the 80's with the Cold War (does anyone remember the paranoia instigated by great TV films such as World War III and The Day After?). The 80's was Reagan and Reaganomics. It was poverty for the lower classes. It was an excess of Rocky movies. It was bad clothing, pollution, Iran-Contra, greed, android Republican politicians. But if the best that anyone can recall is Punky Brewster and Breakfast Club, let's at least celebrate what I think to be essential films of that decade. (Later I will recount the great and forgotten music of those years, and it wasn't Simple Minds or even The Art of Noise...)

This blog may just become an obsessive list. I find that to be poor journalism but then again, I've always thought of myself as a poor journalist.
Let's begin with the basic premise of films from the eighties. You had war movies (First Blood, Uncommon Valor, Rambo: First Blood Part 2, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, et al.); everybody was in some sort of post-'Nam war flick (even David Carradine (P.O.W. anyone?)). You had horror and slasher films (Nightmare on Elm St. parts 1 thru 256, and any other garbage by Wes Craven and Joel Schumacher, et al.). 90% of fantasy films were crap. There were two Star Wars movies, three Indiana Jones movies, a James Bond movie with Grace Jones, two Rocky movies and no less than three Missing in Action films starring Chuck Norris. I would require an additional blog just to list the movies starring the so-called Brat Pack, an yet another blog to illustrate a family of all of their common films.
  • Kirk Cameron was a commodity. He also helped to finish off Dudley Moore's career.
The 80's may have been plastic-coated and smothered in hairspray but the consensus seemed to be as naive as it was for white America in the 50's. Then again, I wasn't alive in the 50's so I can't fully support that statement. I do know that history does repeat itself. Looking back at the 80's is like looking at a time where everything was superficial and it was okay because the 80's were the future; the idea that there was a bomb looming overhead, but everything was F-I-N-E. We'd made it out of the 70's and we were going to be rich because the peanut farmer was out of the office and a movie star had replaced him...
  • Every girl wanted to grow up to be Molly Ringwald. (How come none of them wanted to be Sigourney Weaver?)
The following is my list of greatest films of the 80's. Try if you might to see if you spot a John Hughes film. You'll be surprised. (Because you won't find one). The list represents films which I found to be exemplary of the true culture of the time, artistic merit and historic significance. Films of the the first half of the decade were more "Everything is great!"; the second half was a more "Oh shit, we fucked this up, didn't we?"

The 80's gave us films that broke the mold and set the standard for other films which followed. Almost all film making could have ceased, seeing as some directors and their innovative films closed the deal on a lot of ideas. Ideas that previous filmmakers were reaching for but couldn't quite make it. Some directors were never able to dignify their careers with their follow-up films.

The list goes:
  • Blade Runner
  • Repo Man
  • Ran
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Raging Bull
  • Brazil
  • Do the Right Thing
  • The Thing
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Akira
To that, add:
  • Basket Case
  • Laputa: Island in the Sky
  • A Zed and Two Noughts
  • Santa Sangre
  • Blue Velvet
  • The Killer
  • Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior)
  • Bad Lieutenant
  • A Christmas Story
  • Beat Street
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
  • Aliens
  • Robocop
  • Stop Making Sense
  • The Abyss
And what's this? Fellini made four films in the 80's? Two of which I believe to be commendable output for his later work:
  • Citta delle Donna
  • E La Nave Va
  • Ginger e Fred
  • Intervista
(At best Woody Allen gave us Stardust Memories)

Next I will discuss the themes of some of these films and their historical significance.


Catch22 said...

I can always count on you to open my eyes to films that I would never think of watching. I would have definitely fit into the Molly Ringwald category. Do films that are made anout the 80's count? 200 Cigarettes

kane2o1 said...

Glad I could finally inspire someone to do something, even if it did take Kelly Preston being naked! Oh yeah, no mention of Red Dawn anywhere...?