Monday, July 03, 2017

7 Days in May | More Hughes and Cruise

Weird Science (1985)

It had been a while since I'd seen Weird Science and I wasn't sure how I was going to like a movie about a couple of teenage boys who create their own woman to do whatever they want with. And there's some weirdness about it, to be sure. It's a total nerd fantasy, so even when Lisa isn't doing the boys' exact bidding, she's still acting in their best interest: trying to improve their lives by boosting their confidence.

Taken for what it is, though, it's still very funny and even sweet. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith are loveable nerds who aren't as socially awkward as they are just unpopular. They like technology and aren't that good at sports, so kids at school don't like or know what to do with them. The boys have accepted this, so the movie is about Lisa's helping them get past it.

Bill Paxton has a great role as Mitchell-Smith's obnoxious older brother and Robert Downey Jr is one of the bullies who ruthlessly taunts the leads. It's a fun movie with a lot of imagination, and David - who is exactly the target audience of early teenaged boy - enjoyed it a lot.

Pretty in Pink (1986)

I'm moderating a panel this weekend (more on that later) about the concept of "timeless" art, so it's been a topic of conversation around the house and on Facebook lately. The John Hughes movies are especially appropriate to look at in that context. Breakfast Club feels timeless to me. Sixteen Candles feels very dated. And it's not about fashions or music.

Pretty in Pink is another one that doesn't feel timeless, though for different reasons than Sixteen Candles. It's not offensive to modern cultural mores, but there's something off about it and it's been off since 1986. So much so that John Hughes basically rewrote it with Some Kind of Wonderful.

I've always had a hard time identifying what it is that I don't like about Pretty in Pink, because there's so much more about it that I love. Molly Ringwald brings her usual earnestness and sincerity to Andie and I always like that about her characters. I identified with Jon Cryer's Duckie more than I'm comfortable admitting, but I love that he never plays the Nice Guy card by using his loyalty to Andie to shame her into liking him back. Oh sure, he gets pissed at her and behaves badly, but it's clear to me that he's doing it because he wants what's best for her and thinks she's making a huge mistake; not just because he's jealous.

Annie Potts is awesome as Iona, but easily my favorite character in the movie is James Spader's Steff. He's such an irredeemable cad, but I love that about him and I totally understand why he's popular. With most "popular bully" characters in teen movies, I don't get why people like them other than that they're just rich or skilled at sports. But Steff has an easy-going charm that pulls me in and even though he's evil underneath, there's also an element of humanity that sometimes peeks through. Spader's one of my favorite actors and that starts right here.

Andrew McCarthy I can take or leave, but he's perfect for the role he's given. Like in Mannequin, he just has to look pleasant and sincere. It's around his character Blane that the movie doesn't quite work, though. The conflict between his feelings for Andie and his loyalty to his friends is fine. But his redemption at the end is lame. To begin with, it's stupid that she has to show up at the prom by herself in order for him to apologize. If she hadn't done that, I assume that he would never have had the guts to fix things himself and that they'd have stayed apart. And then his weird apology is ruined by his claim that Andie didn't believe in him, either. It's possible that he's technically correct, but that's the wrong time to bring that up and tries to lay the blame on her when he's clearly the one who broke the relationship. I like Blane and I like that Duckie isn't rewarded for his obsession, but I like Blane less at the exact moment that I'm supposed to be excited that he and Andie have worked things out.

Better Off Dead (1985)

David's known about "I want my two dollars!" his entire life, but we just now got around to seeing the movie that that comes from. Better Off Dead throws a lot of jokes around, so not all of them work, but most of them do and are still funny all these years later. Just a lot of goofy fun.

Legend (1985)

Went back a little further in time for the next movies in our Cruiseathon. I often hear Legend as the punchline to jokes about bad '80s fantasy, but that's ridiculous. It's an awesome, gorgeous movie with a masterful performance by Tim Curry and a killer soundtrack by Tangerine Dream (with great, additional songs by Bryan Ferry and Yes' Jon Anderson). It's totally off model for Tom Cruise, but that's part of the fun. And I'll never complain about Mia Sara being in anything. Also: extremely quotable.

Top Gun (1986)

I don't know that this holds up quite as well for me, but it's still big, dumb fun. I get a little bored with the overwrought emotions, but the humor, dogfights, and volleyball are always worth revisiting.

Alien (1979)

Alien: Covenant gave me a reason to finally share the Alien movies with David. He’s known about them since like second or third grade, because a friend of his was all about Aliens and Predators, so he and David would play AvP during recess. Eventually - I don’t remember how many years later - I decided that David could handle the PG-13 movie from 2004 and he liked it quite a bit. But it only took about 10 minutes of AvP: Requiem to figure out that I was pushing him too fast. I mean, really no one should be made to watch Requiem, but it was especially inappropriate for whatever age David was at the time. We let the series sit for a few years.

The main thing that was concerning to David was the face-huggers. He can handle gore, but he has a real phobia about anything that attaches to or burrows into your body. Covenant got him interested in seeing Prometheus, though, so we did that and he handled it well. Even the part where a snake-like creatures crawls down a dude's throat. He hasn't seen Covenant yet, but we decided to go back and watch the original first. Which I think is best, because part of what's cool about Alien is knowing nothing about what these creatures are or where they come from. He had to leave the room right before John Hurt looks in that egg, but he loved the rest of it. As do I.

A Room with a View (1985)

John Hughes and Early Tom Cruise marathons have inspired me to revisit other of my favorite '80s movies with David. A Room with a View was too big a tonal shift for him to fully enjoy, but I was reminded of how much I love it. And it was something I was going to rewatch anyway, since I finally read the novel this Spring.

Room with a View not only started me on a major Helena Bonham Carter crush (and maybe a smaller one on Rupert Graves as well), it also launched my interest in period films in general; a genre that I still love to this day.

Diane asked me why I love it so much (besides Helena Bonham Carter, whom she totally knows about). I think it has something to do with my being able to relate to repressed British people who are desperate to drop convention and let themselves be themselves.

Zorro (1957-61)

Season Two of Zorro ended in 1959, but Walt Disney kept Guy Williams on salary and made four more episodes (hour-long this time) to run on the anthology series Walt Disney Presents. The first two ran in Autumn 1960 and formed a single story about a group of Mexican bandits who show up in Los Angeles to challenge Zorro's supremacy as local outlaw.

The next episode ran in January 1961, featuring Annette Funicello, who was back as a different character: a family friend of Diego's who's trying to elope with the wrong fella. And saving the best for last, an April 1961 episode had Ricardo Montalban and Wild Wild West's wonderful Ross Martin as a pair of scoundrels who know enough about Diego's past to suspect that he's Zorro. It's a great finale and makes me wish that there'd been a whole series just about those two characters.

Jam of the Week: "Secret" by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

In honor of Pretty in Pink. I love "If You Leave," but "Secret" was the first OMD song I ever heard and it made me an instant fan. I said that I identified with Duckie; I identified with this song for the same reason.

1 comment:

Jack Tyler said...

Michael, thank goodness I found you again! I missed your move, and got the dreaded "404" at your old site. Had to wait for you to return to Nerd Lunch, but it was worth it.

I spent the last 40 years of my career around navy pilots. Top Gun was the first time I encountered Tom Cruise, and I thought he nailed them perfectly. It was also the last time I saw him in anything I thought he was any good in. I'm not sophisticated enough to sort out how much of that is based on his off-screen antics, but there you are.

I know a steampunk and mystery author in the Minneapple (as he calls it). I'm going to turn him on to your website, and you guys can decide where you take it from there. As for me, it's great to be back among your readership. Don't do that again!

~ Jack


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