Movies We Still Care About – 1986 – Part 1 (A-H)

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Aliens
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Highlander
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Stand By Me
  • Top Gun

Other Notable Movies

  • Back to School
  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • Crocodile Dundee
  • The Fly
  • Labyrinth
  • Star Trek IV
  • Three Amigos
  • Transformers: The Movie

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Platoon (Winner)
  • Children of a Lesser God
  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • The Mission
  • A Room With a View

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Top Gun
  2. Crocodile Dundee
  3. Platoon
  4. The Karate Kid Part II
  5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  6. Back to School
  7. Aliens
  8. The Golden Child
  9. Ruthless People
  10. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. Aliens (98%)
  2. Hannah and Her Sisters (93%)
  3. The Fly (91%)
  4. Stand By Me (91%)
  5. Little Shop of Horrors (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Aliens

This is one of the best intense action movies of all time.  I think what’s really interesting about this is that it’s a sequel to one of the best horror movies of all time.  I can’t think of another example of a sequel to an excellent movie that completely changed genres, and ended up even better than the original.  (The closest would be the mindless action film Rambo: First Blood Part II following the psychological drama First Blood.  But neither of those are in the same league as Alien or Aliens.)

Aliens was the first time James Cameron was given a big budget to play with, and he showed what he can do with it.

It also has one of my all-time favorite one-liners:

And one of my favorite speeches.  This is a great thing to watch/listen to when you want to get pumped up. (As long as you ignore that Hudson later turns into a sniveling coward.)

And one of the best openings to an action scene:

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This movie continues to resonate with audiences today because it perfectly captures the wish-fulfillment fantasy of absolute freedom.  Ferris is able to do whatever he wants with complete liberty and no consequences.  For both teenagers and adults, when we are at our most libertine we wish we could be Ferris Bueller.

The sad reality is that we spend far too much our lives trapped in a humdrum Ben Stein world:

And whenever we are in a situation like that, we wish we could instead twist and shout:

A few side-notes:  I was on Win Ben Stein’s Money in 2001.  It really annoyed me that one of the bonus round questions was about the Hawley-Smoot tariff.  I got it right, as did Ben Stein, but it didn’t seem fair to ask him a question that was more or less quoting one of his most famous lines.

Next side note: In the original script, Ferris talked about how he used to have a depressed friend who he tried to help, but failed.  The kid ended up dropping out of school and becoming a druggie.  This was Charlie Sheen’s character, who meets Jeannie at the police station.  It explains why Ferris was so eager to help break Cameron out of his depression.

And then there’s a fan theory saying that Ferris didn’t exist at all, and was just a figment of Cameron’s imagination.  Which makes the movie a whole lot more depressing if you buy into it.

Highlander

This isn’t a great movie and it doesn’t really hold up.  But the idea of highlanders has entered our culture, as has the phrase “There can be only one.”

And yes, I know that technically Highlander refers specifically to Connor MacLeod (and Duncan MacLeod from the TV show), who were from the Highlands of Scotland, and not to immortals in general.  But much like how Frankenstein is the scientist and not the monster, the incorrect terminology has made its way into our popular lexicon.

Other Notable Films

Back to School

This is a movie that a lot of people have forgotten about.  But it’s worth revisiting, sheerly for the comedic brilliance of both Rodney Dangerfield and Sam Kinison:

 

Big Trouble in Little China

This has more or less fallen to cult status.  It has its hard-core fans. (Including my former roommate, who runs the biggest BTiLC fan site on the internet, and will be happy to sell you a variety of t-shirts.) But most people have forgotten about it.  Which is a shame, as it’s a really fun comedic adventure of the sort you rarely see these days.  It’s certainly worth another look.

Crocodile Dundee

This doesn’t really hold up, but we all remember this scene:

I tried to find the Simpsons scene spoofing that, but my google-fu failed me.  So instead, here’s two random dudes reenacting the Simpsons scene spoofing Crocodile Dundee:

 

The Fly

A weird creepy cult horror movie that is still beloved by fans of weird creepy cult horror movies.

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Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

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Looking for feedback on my blog

I’ve had my blog going for a little over a month now, and I would be interested in feedback from my readers.

1. What do you think about the length of posts in the Movies We Still Care About series? 1986 A-M was 1250 words and 10 embedded videos. 1986 N-Z was 825 words and 6 videos. Which length do you prefer? In general, do you wish posts were longer, shorter, or about the same? (That’s actually two separate questions, now that I think about it.  Do you want me to write more or less about each year, and do you want each year broken up into more or less individual posts?)

2. How do you visit the blog? Checking the site periodically, an RSS feed, through my Facebook automatic links, or some other means?

3. Do you have a preference for what time posts should appear? I usually write the MWSCA posts ahead of time and schedule them for the next morning, so I can easily start scheduling them for a specific time if my readers prefer it.

4. Do you have any suggestions for improving the layout and formatting? I’m not very happy with these, but I’m not sure how to improve them. Note that complaints like “The layout is stupid, it’s hard to find old posts, and you should choose a different layout” are less helpful than suggestions like “Switch to the XXXX layout” or “You should add an navigation bar, which is an option that you can find in such and such a WordPress menu.” Even if you don’t know enough about WordPress to tell me *how* to make an improvement, suggesting specific improvements to make would be more helpful than vague complaints.

5. Are there any other suggestions or opportunities for improvement that you would like to bring up?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond to this.

Star Wars Episode VII

Ever since Star Wars Episode VII was announced, I was insisting it would be a terrible idea to bring back Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher.

Han and Leia are supposed to be swashbuckling sexy ass-kickers.  Seeing a grizzled and tired Han ravaged by age, or an old and fat Leia, completely undermines the point of the characters.  We want to dream of being like them, traveling the galaxy punching bad guys and having awesome sexy adventures.

That’s almost as terrible an idea as a movie featuring an old and decrepit Indiana Jones, which I still like to pretend never happened.

Even as various fan rumor sites were reporting that Ford and Fisher were in the cast, I clung to hope since there hadn’t been any official announcement.  I wanted the production team to be more sensible than the rabid fans.

But the official announcement just came, and Ford and Fisher are indeed in the cast.  Which is highly disappointing.

I didn’t have huge hopes for Episode VII.  It seemed incredibly unlikely that it would live up to the original series, and questionable whether it would even match the extremely low bar of the prequels.  But this latest news is making me reduce my already diminished expectations.

(They also announced that Mark Hamill is in the cast, but I don’t mind the idea of old Luke.  Luke’s journey was going from immature punk kid to wise Jedi master, so seeing him old and passing his knowledge on to a new generation is a fulfillment of the promise of his character, rather than a betrayal.)

Movies We Still Care About – 1985 – Part 2 (N-Z)

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Back to the Future
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Fletch
  • The Goonies
  • Ran
  • Rocky IV
  • Teen Wolf
  • Weird Science
  • Witness

Other Notable Movies

  • Brazil
  • Clue
  • Commando
  • Gymkata
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Real Genius
  • Young Sherlock Holmes

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Out of Africa (Winner)
  • The Color Purple
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Prizzi’s Honor
  • Witness

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Back to the Future
  2. Rambo: First Blood Part II
  3. Rocky IV
  4. The Color Purple
  5. Out of Africa
  6. Cocoon
  7. The Jewel of the Nile
  8. Witness
  9. The Goonies
  10. Spies Like Us

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. Ran (97%)
  2. Back to the Future (96%)
  3. Brazil (96%0
  4. Re-Animator (93%)
  5. The Breakfast Club (91%)

Movies We Still Care About

Ran

Ran is Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of King Lear set in feudal Japan.  While most Kurosawa films tend to be too slow for modern western audiences, Ran is full of stunning visuals and epic battles that are sure to hold an audience’s attention.  The trailer gives a pretty good sense of the scope of the battles and the beauty of the cinematography.

 

Rocky IV

This is the true story of how Sylvester Stallone won the cold war by punching a Communist.

Okay, maybe it’s not entirely a true story.  But it came at the turning point of the Cold War, right when it seemed like the Soviets were achieving dominance, and just before things in Russia started to collapse.  Coming when it did, and featuring a scrappy American underdog overcoming the dominant Russian through sheer pluck, it really fell into a place of cultural significance.  One thing to note in the montage I posted above is the contrast between Drago’s training, which is all high tech, and Rocky’s training, which is all primitive.  That tied into the American self-image of the time – Rugged individualist cowboys against an industrial machine.

Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf is a wish fulfillment fantasy, where the unpopular loser suddenly acquires magic abilities that make him powerful, cool, and the envy of everyone who previously looked down on him.  Thus it can be a reflection of the hidden desire of every teenager who feels like an outcast.  (Which as I mentioned in my write-up of The Breakfast Club, is most teenagers.)

(It’s also an obvious metaphor for puberty, but I won’t get into that.)

Follow up question: Is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a teen wolf?

Other Fond Memories

(These are movies that fit the category of “Movies We Still Care About,” but for which I personally can’t think of anything interesting to say. Please don’t take a movie’s inclusion in this category as any sort of criticism.  You are encouraged to voice your thoughts on these films in the comments section.)

  • Weird Science
  • Witness

Other Notable Films

Rambo: First Blood Part II

As I mentioned in the 1982 entry, all the iconography of Rambo comes from Rambo 2, rather than First Blood.  When you picture Rambo, this is what you’re imagining.  Shirtless Sly Stallone, with the headband, killing villages full of bad guys with exploding arrows.  You know, this:

 

Real Genius

As I mentioned in the 1984 entry, Real Genius tackles some of the same subject matter as Revenge of the Nerds, but with an air of affection rather than mean-spiritedness.  Real Genius made being a nerd seem fun, and inspired a generation of kids to embrace their intelligence and weirdness rather than be ashamed of it.

 

Young Sherlock Holmes

Chris Columbus exploded on the scene as a screenwriter in 1984 and 1985, with Gremlins, The Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes.  He then switched to directing and more or less gave up wriitng, which is a shame considering how brilliant his first three films were.

Young Sherlock Holmes is probably the least remembered of those three, but is still highly entertaining.  I think where it runs into trouble with audiences is in how different it is from the original Conan Doyle stories.  Fans of the original were turned off by the liberties taken, while people who weren’t into the literature didn’t have interest in seeing it in the first place.

But if you ignore the Holmes connection and just think of it as two Edwardian teenagers getting wrapped up in a crazy mystery and adventure, it’s a lot of fun. (For the record, I’m a fan of the original stories, and I don’t mind how different Young Sherlock Holmes is, because all of the changes are in service of making an excellent movie.)

And it’s also interesting for its pioneering use of CGI.  (And since the CGI was supposed to be people’s hallucinations, it made sense in the film that it was so crappy looking.)

– – – – –

Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

Movies We Still Care About – 1985 – Part 1 (A-M)

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Back to the Future
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Fletch
  • The Goonies
  • Ran
  • Rocky IV
  • Teen Wolf
  • Weird Science
  • Witness

Other Notable Movies

  • Brazil
  • Clue
  • Commando
  • Gymkata
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Real Genius
  • Young Sherlock Holmes

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Out of Africa (Winner)
  • The Color Purple
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Prizzi’s Honor
  • Witness

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Back to the Future
  2. Rambo: First Blood Part II
  3. Rocky IV
  4. The Color Purple
  5. Out of Africa
  6. Cocoon
  7. The Jewel of the Nile
  8. Witness
  9. The Goonies
  10. Spies Like Us

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. Ran (97%)
  2. Back to the Future (96%)
  3. Brazil (96%0
  4. Re-Animator (93%)
  5. The Breakfast Club (91%)

To get you in the mood, here’s Bowling for Soup’s song 1985

Movies We Still Care About

Back to the Future

This is one of those films that has become part of our culture.  It perfectly blends action, sci-fi, humor, and romance, all wrapped up in a sense of fun.  The theme to Back to the Future is the ringtone on my cell phone, as a reminder to myself of what movies should be and what I should aim to write.

The clocktower scene is one of the best action scenes of all time.  (One of my professors in film school actually showed it in class as an example of a perfect action scene.  True story.) It’s a reminder that action scenes don’t need fights, shootouts, explosions, car chases, or a cast of thousands.  It’s just Doc Brown trying to accomplish a difficult task before a deadline, cutting to Marty McFly, whose life is in his hands.

Here’s something that will blow your mind/make you feel old.  Marty traveled back in time 30 years to 1955, when his parents were teenagers.  If the movie were to be made today, he’d be going back to 1984, just one year before the actual movie came out.

Just for fun, here’s Tom Wilson, who played Biff, singing a song about how people always ask him the same questions regarding BTTF.

 

The Breakfast Club

This film spoke to teenagers at the time, and has continued to stick with them as they’ve grown up.  I think it’s quite common for teens to fall into certain stereotypical roles and cliques in high school, even while recognizing that the system of cliques and putting people into boxes is fundamentally messed up.  Breakfast Club shined a light on just how nonsensical those social divides really are.  That’s certainly not a unique perspective, but it’s one that had been rare in movies before this.

Only a small percentage of kids at any given school can be the popular kids.  Which means that the overwhelming majority of kids feel like outsiders of some sort.  Breakfast Club gave them the opportunity to say, “No, the problem isn’t with me.  It’s with the system that makes me an outsider.”

The Goonies

On a certain level, all fun action movies are about wish-fulfillment.  We put ourselves in the place of the hero, and use the film to vicariously escape our humdrum lives and go on an amazing adventure.

For this to work, we have to be able to imagine ourselves inhabiting the role.  But the more removed from our lives that the hero starts out as, the harder this is to do.  Sure, kids can make-believe they’re Luke Skywalker.  But this is tempered by the knowledge that they could never really be a magical space-wizard.  Maybe they can picture themselves being Indiana Jones once they grew up and learn a bunch of knowledge and how to fight (though it might be difficult to track down Nazis to punch), but it’s certainly not something a child can really imagine himself doing while a kid.

Which is why Goonies was so special.  By having a bunch of ordinary kids go on an adult cinematic adventure, it made it easy for us to believe in the wish-fulfillment aspect of the story.  When you were a kid watching the Goonies, you truly believed that you could be one of the Goonies the next day if only you happened to find a treasure map.  You don’t even have to smart, strong, handsome, or popular.  You could even be a fat loser like Chunk and still go on this adventure.

Other Fond Memories

(These are movies that fit the category of “Movies We Still Care About,” but for which I personally can’t think of anything interesting to say. Please don’t take a movie’s inclusion in this category as any sort of criticism.  You are encouraged to voice your thoughts on these films in the comments section.)

Fletch

Other Notable Films

Brazil

Terry Gilliam is a genius when it comes to unique visuals and interesting ideas.  There’s far more creativity in his films than you almost ever see elsewhere, in 1985 or today. Brazil is probably the most enduring of his non Monty-Python work.  It brilliantly takes the themes of George Orwell’s 1984, and twists them around so that instead of an all-powerful dictator that controls people down to their souls, there’s an absurd incompetent bureaucracy that has invaded every aspect of life and causes people to enslave themselves.  As exemplified in this scene where one of the few individualists remaining in society is literally consumed by paperwork, while the crowd goes about their business not paying the slightest bit of attention.

It also accurately predicted the rise of beauty-obsessed rich women getting so much plastic surgery that they fall into the uncanny valley:

However, while Terry Gilliam was marvelously creative, he was not especially skilled in developing story and character, which are the two most important factors in allowing the audience to truly care about a movie.  Because Brazil is lacking in these, it has remained a cult movie rather than becoming part of our culture.

Clue

A lot of people have forgotten about this film.  It’s probably best known for the gimmick of having three different endings, as a means to get audiences to see it in theaters multiple times. (The version released on video/played on TV includes all three endings.)  But this is an excellent madcap comedy-mystery.  See how expertly it cuts from tension to a silly murder, all in a 17 second clip:

And there’s so much zany fun in Tim Curry’s explanation of what happened:

 

Commando

This is the prototypical Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie.  I think this has faded from a lot of people’s memories over time.  Certainly there are better known Arnold movies, such as the Terminator series.  But if you like this style of hyper-violent fun action, this is worth revisiting.

It also features about eight-hundred-seventy-three mall cops getting killed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, which was the go-to mall for movies in the 80s.  (It was in Terminator 2, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, Inner Space, and many others.)  (My apologies, I couldn’t find the whole scene on YouTube, so that link it to a best-of compilation that was choppily edited by a fan.)

Gymkata

I have nothing to say about this movie, except to post the pommel horse fight, which is quite possibly the single most absurd and ridiculous action scene to ever appear in a major movie.

– – – – –

Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

Candy Review – M&M Birthday Cake Flavor

This is technically a second-hand review.  I was all set to write up my own review, but then I found someone else had already said exactly what I was planning to say.

So you can just read this review from the site GrubGrade instead.

The key points:

These M&M’s do a so-so job of replicating the frosted chocolate birthday cake flavor and not enough to really impress me.  Birthday Cake M&M’s taste way too much like regular milk chocolate M&M’s to be memorable.

I wish the Mars company went with a yellow cake, white frosting birthday cake flavor instead of milk chocolate.  Even though I have a personal bias against chocolate birthday cake, I still think these M&M’s tasted too much like the traditional M&M’s for me.  Regular M&M’s are still great, a classic, so these are by no means bad… just no wow factor.

That perfectly echoes my sentiments, right down for me not being a big fan of chocolate birthday cake.