Tag Archives: Harold Ramis

Movies We Still Care About – 1984 – Part 2 (N-Z)

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

As I mentioned previously, I am now splitting up the discussion of films for each year in order to keep the length of the posts manageable.  This post covers 1984 movies that started with the letters N-Z. The full yearly lists will be included with each post.

Movies We Still Care About

  • Amadeus
  • Ghostbusters
  • Gremlins
  • The Karate Kid
  • Neverending Story
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Police Academy
  • Red Dawn
  • Sixteen Candles
  • The Terminator
  • This is Spinal Tap

Other Notable Movies

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Revenge of the Nerds
  • Romancing the Stone

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Amadeus (Winner)
  • The Killing Fields
  • A Passage to India
  • Places in the Heart
  • A Soldier’s Story

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Beverly Hills Cop
  2. Ghostbusters
  3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  4. Gremlins
  5. The Karate Kid
  6. Police Academy
  7. Footloose
  8. Romancing the Stone
  9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spok
  10. Splash

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Terminator (100%)
  2. Amadeus (95%)
  3. Repo Man (98%)
  4. Blood Simple (94%)
  5. Ghostbusters (96%
  6. This is Spinal Tap (95%)
  7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (96%)
  8. The Karate Kid (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Neverending Story

I don’t have any commentary on this, and would put it in the “Other Fond Memories” section, except that i want to post this Neverending Party skit from Robot Chicken.

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Another of those slasher horror franchises that have reached the level of mythology.  This was interesting in that unlike Halloween or Friday the 13th, which feature (literally) faceless killers, Freddy Krueger is a real character who is able to make threats and quips.  That makes it a lot funnier than the other franchises.  And in my opinion, it also makes it a lot scarier.

As a real person, you don’t have any reason to fear Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers.  You’ve never been in a situation where you thought they were chasing you.  But late at night, when you’re falling asleep, and your rational thought is giving way to the realm of dreams – that is exactly when you think that Freddy might come after you.  Which is what makes these movies so terrifying.  Plus the children chanting the rhyme is damn creepy:

 

Sixteen Candles

The first of the John Hughes movies that would dominate the mid to late 80s, this perfectly captured the feelings of teenaged angst and alienation that we’ve all gone through.

The Terminator

One of the best intense action movies of all time.  In fact, if you look at my glossary page, it’s actually the example I give of the quintessential intense action film.  This established James Cameron as a titan of filmmaking (his only previous directing credit was “Piranha 2: The Spawning”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the biggest action stars of all time.  It’s also the origin of Arnold’s catchphrase.

It became part of our culture, and not just in art and entertainment.  As a matter of policy, people will still reference Skynet when discussing social and technological issues such as artificial intelligence and the power of tech companies such as Facebook and Google.

For a reminder of how intense this movie, just watch the final scene:

Better yet, watch the whole movie.

This is Spinal Tap

This more or less created the mockumentary genre, and is still the best example of the category.  One could even make the argument that every mockumentary since 1984 has been a futile attempt to imitate the genius of Spinal Tap.

This is also an excellent example of why you can’t necessarily judge a film’s quality by box office numbers.  There were 116 films that outgrossed Spinal Tap in 1984, and most of those have been completely forgotten.  But the legacy of Spinal Tap endures, to the point that everyone understand what “turn it up to eleven” means, even if they haven’t seen the movie or know where the reference is coming from.

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.)

  • Police Academy
  • Red Dawn

Other Notable Films

Revenge of the Nerds

This was popular in the 80s, but few people still watch it today.  I think the reason it hasn’t remained popular is because it is very mean-spirited.  The heroes of this film use chemicals to torture the genitals of their rivals, and install hidden cameras to spy on women in the shower and bathroom.  One of the heroes commits a flat-out rape, disguising himself as a woman’s boyfriend in order to trick her into having sex with him.  This rape is played off as a silly prank, and ultimately a good thing because she ends up liking it.

In the 80s, when people had a different sensibility, this worked as a revenge fantasy.  (Hence the title of the movie.) But modern audiences won’t tolerate such loathsome behavior from the heroes of a silly comedy.  Plus, in the 80s nerds were considered to be at the bottom of the social order.  But for modern adults, nerds are at the top, running businesses and becoming billionaires.  It’s a truism that people will root for an underdog who is punching someone bigger than him, but not for an overdog who is punching down.  So this abusive behavior no longer works in movies.

I know a lot of nerds, and very few of them still care for Revenge of the Nerds because of its mean-spiritedness.  But many still do love Real Genius, a movie with similar subject matter from 1985.  That treated its subject with affection, and thus has a lot more staying power.  (I highly recommend watching Real Genius if you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a long time.)

Romancing The Stone

This is an excellent movie that a lot of people have forgotten.  It’s a really solid and fun movie, expertly combining adventure, comedy, and romance.  I highly recommend that you revisit it.

– – – – –

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

Movies We Still Care About – 1984 – Part 1 (A-M)

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

As I mentioned previously, I am now splitting up the discussion of films for each year in order to keep the length of the posts manageable.  This post covers 1984 movies that started with the letters A-M. The full yearly lists will be included with each post.

Movies We Still Care About

  • Amadeus
  • Ghostbusters
  • Gremlins
  • The Karate Kid
  • Neverending Story
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Police Academy
  • Red Dawn
  • Sixteen Candles
  • The Terminator
  • This is Spinal Tap

Other Notable Movies

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Revenge of the Nerds
  • Romancing the Stone

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Amadeus (Winner)
  • The Killing Fields
  • A Passage to India
  • Places in the Heart
  • A Soldier’s Story

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Beverly Hills Cop
  2. Ghostbusters
  3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  4. Gremlins
  5. The Karate Kid
  6. Police Academy
  7. Footloose
  8. Romancing the Stone
  9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spok
  10. Splash

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Terminator (100%)
  2. Amadeus (95%)
  3. Repo Man (98%)
  4. Blood Simple (94%)
  5. Ghostbusters (96%
  6. This is Spinal Tap (95%)
  7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (96%)
  8. The Karate Kid (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Amadeus

This is kind of a weirdly structured movie, in that the protagonist is the villain, and the antagonist is the hero.  You follow Salieri in his jealous attempt to destroy Mozart, and as the audience you’re compelled by this even as you’re rooting for him to fail.

A lot of the critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning dramas of the 80s have fallen off the radar screen for modern audiences, but Amadeus has remained popular.  This is partly because being set hundreds of years ago lets it avoid becoming mired in its own time period, and partly because of the stunning visuals, sets, and music of the film.  But I think the stronger reason it endures is because of its universal theme of demonstrating just how destructive jealousy can be.

As an example of how this endures in our culture, here’s a scene from the 1993 film Last Action Hero where the kid warns Arnold Schwarzenegger not to trust F. Murray Abraham because he killed Mozart.

And just for fun, here’s Falco’s song Rock Me Amadeus.

 

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters combines the Laid-back comedy format that became popular in the early 80s with the stylings and tropes of an action-comedy, and ends up being among the best of both genres.  Written by its stars Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, and with Bill Murray ad-libbing most of his lines, it is hilarious while still having a compelling and original story.  Of the films to come out in 1984, this by far has the strongest cultural legacy and has achieved a level of Mythology. You can instantly visualize elements from this film such as Slimer, the proton packs, the uniforms and car, the song, and of course, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

As a testament to its legacy, it’s still quite common on the Internet for people to hold out hope that there will be a Ghostbusters 3, even thirty years after the original, when Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray are far too old and Harold Ramis far too dead for that to make any sort of sense.

Side note, my wife and I have had a years-long running argument over who would win a fight between the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the Michelin Man. I think she’s crazy for even arguing the point.  Stay Puft is a 100-foot tall incarnation of the demon-god Gozer.  He’s basically Godzilla.  While Michelin Man is just a 7-foot tall stack of tires. But that’s beside the point.

Gremlins

If you were alive in the 80s, you remember how stuffed Mogwai were everywhere, and you can recite the three rules of caring for them by heart. The cultural impact of this has faded over time, but it’s a fun movie and worth another viewing.

Also, it contains a rather odd scene where Phoebe Cates tells the story of the worst Christmas ever.

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.)

The Karate Kid

Other Notable Films

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I think that this is a movie that gets unfairly maligned.  It’s nowhere near as good as the other two movies in the Indiana Jones franchise.*  But that’s not really a fair comparison, because Raiders and Last Crusade are two of the best action movies of all time.  Temple of Doom is still pretty good.  I has a lot of fun action and characters you can’t help but root for.  I’d say that it’s much better than most action movies coming out today, and is definitely worth another look.

I wanted to embed the mine cart scene, but I could only find it online set to the song Wipeout.

* I continue to insist that there are only three Indiana Jones movies, as I refuse to acknowledge the existence of that alleged film that had aliens, fridge-nuking, and Shia LeBeouf swinging from vines with apes.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

See my comments regarding The Muppet Movie.

– – – – –

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

Movies We Still Care About – 1981

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

(This post was edited on April 6 to discuss Raiders of the Lost Ark’s role in the development of the fun action movie sub-genre, and to include Stripes in the Other Notable Movies section.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark

Other Notable Movies

  • Superman II
  • Clash of the Titans
  • The Great Muppet Caper
  • The Evil Dead
  • Stripes

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Chariots of Fire (Winner)
  • Atlantic CIty
  • On Golden Pond
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Reds

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. On Golden Pond
  3. Superman II
  4. Arthur
  5. Stripes
  6. The Cannonball Run
  7. Chariots of Fire
  8. For Your Eyes Only
  9. The Four Seasons
  10. Time Bandits

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Evil Dead (98%)
  2. Das Boot (98%)
  3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (95%)
  4. Diva (96%)
  5. An American Werewolf in London (91%)
  6. Blow Out (90%)

In the introductory post to this series, I mentioned that various factors can skew the Rotten Tomatoes rankings, and that seems to have happen here.  If you look at that Rotten Tomatoes list, #1 is a microbudget amateur film that would have been forgotten if it didn’t spawn two popular sequels.  #2 is a foreign film beloved by cinephiles but not known to a widespread American audience.  I’ve never even heard of #4 and have barely heard of #6.  And #5 is a cult film that is unknown to modern mainstream audiences.

Movies We Still Care About

Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is the best action spectacle movie of all time.  Like Star Wars, this is at the highest level of mythology for modern film.  Everyone knows Indiana Jones.  The hat, the whip, the ark, fear of snakes, etc.

It’s a spectacle movie because it isn’t structured like a normal film.  There’s no character development – Indy is exactly the same at the end as he is at the beginning.  And rather than the traditional three acts with rising action, it’s an episodic string of distinct action sequences.  In a lesser film, the audience would be bored and confused, even if they didn’t have enough film theory knowledge to explain why they felt that way.  But Raiders is so awesome that nobody cares about its lack of structure or character growth.

In fact, nobody cares that Indiana Jones is entirely superfluous to his own movie, as explained on The Big Bang Theory:

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a deliberate attempt by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to recall the Saturday morning movie serials that they loved as kids.  Those were in turn based on radio serials.  Which were based on pulp/dime novels.  Which were inspired by the late 19th century adventure novels by authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard.  Haggard’s character Allan Quatermain specifically is considered to be the template for Indiana Jones.  This came full circle in 1985 and 1986 with the Richard Chamberlain movies King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold.  These movies are blatant rip-offs of Indiana Jones, even though the character of Allan Quartermain predates Indy by a century.

 Raiders is important for the development of cinema as an art-form, as it established the sub-genre of the Fun Action Movie.  You can generally split action movies into those that are intense, and those that are fun.  These easiest way to see which category a film belongs in is to ask yourself if you would want to be the main character.  Would you want to be Indiana Jones, traveling the world having fantastic adventures and punching Nazis?  Of course you would.  Because the most important thing about Indiana Jones as a character is that even when things go wrong, when he’s captured, beaten up, or exhausted by a string of fights, he still absolutely loves being Indiana Jones,

Look at the bringing a gun to a sword fight scene.  He’s fatigued and exasperated, yet every single person watching the movie can live vicariously through him and would delight in being Indy in that situation.

(Side-note: That scene was ad-libbed.  The script called for Indy to get into an elaborate sword fight. But Harrison Ford was sick that day, and didn’t feel like doing it.  So he used his gun instead, Steven Spielberg realized that was much better, and cinema magic was born.)

In the 70s, action movies had taken a gritty turn, as exemplified by films such as The French Connection.  And prior to the 70s, action wasn’t quite so dark, but still was more dramatic than fun.  Films like The African Queen, North by Northwest, and John Wayne westerns.  Some excellent movies, but that sense of playfulness was mostly absent.

There were a few fun action movies before Raiders, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, James Bond films, and Star Wars.  But  It was really Raiders that brought this feeling of fun into its own, and sparked countless imitators trying to capture that high-spirited adventure.

Raiders expanded the medium, such that from the 80s through today and into the future, we are able to experience both fun action movies and intense action movies, and as fans we are all better off.

Also, if you ever get the chance to see the shot-for-shot remake of Raiders made by twelve-year-olds, do it.  It’s amazing.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find it online.  (I saw it 15 years ago on a VHS tape owned by someone who knew one of the guys who made it.)  The best I could find is the first 10 minutes with no audio.  (If any of you can locate the full version online, please link to it in comments.)

The official website for the Raiders remake is here, though unfortunately it doesn’t have the full movie.

Other Notable Films

Superman II

“Kneel before Zod.”  That’s all that needs to be said for this.  And all that really should be said.  Because aside from a great villain, this film is an incoherent mess that is much better in your memory than in reality.

Clash of the Titans

“Release the Kraken!”  This is a special-effects spectacle movie whose effects were amazing in 1981, but really don’t hold up today.  And without that to carry it, there’s not much point to watching this.

The Great Muppet Caper

I talked about this in my write-up of The Muppet Movie in the 1979 entry.

The Evil Dead

I love Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.  But the original Evil Dead isn’t in the same league.  It’s notable to see the clever techniques that Sam Raimi used to stretch his limited budget while still having a unique feel.  But the story’s generic, and the humor from the later films is lacking here.  Plus the entire events of Evil Dead are re-done with much better acting, humor, and production value in the first 10 minutes of Evil Dead 2.  So you can just watch the sequel and skip the original.

Stripes

Stripes continues the Laid-Back Comedy tradition developed by Caddyshack, featuring Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis being Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis.  While it doesn’t still enjoy widespread appeal after 33 years, it does have a small but devoted following of some who consider it among the all-time great comedies.  It’s certainly worth checking out or revisiting if you’re a fan of Murray/Candy/Ramis.

– – – – –

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