In 1989, I was a teenager patiently waiting on line for a midnight movie showing of "THE 'BURBS" at my favorite local movie show house. I couldn't help but think that up until that point, nothing really meant a whole lot. That is, up until the point where the curtains slowly raised and the theater's United Artists Policy went up on the screen thus signaling the many fun previews to come. Not to mention the following 101 minutes of fun after that.
At that Friday Night midnight show, I remember seeing a rival classmate of mine. Let's call him Josh (keep in mind his name was not really Josh. I can't for the life of me remember that name...I'm bad at that, remember?...But for all intent and purpose, let's continue calling him Josh, and especially since I don't have a particular fondness for this name. Recently I was called this name by someone I had just met--he had mistaken me for someone else called that I suppose--and it kind of crushed me a bit. I survived...) Anyway, there he was, at that midnight show, alongside his parents. I of course was all alone watching this wacky dark comedy because the cinema and I had a mutual yet unsaid understanding... Josh and I did not get along for reasons that of course totally escape me now, but were probably earth-shattering then. Wasn't everything as such when you were 14? I do remember him darting me the dirtiest of looks, and me pretending to completely ignore him. And that was especially easy to do once the theatre's policy began because I was immediately gone... My world had begun, and promises of escape were fully realized. Josh just became a shadow in the darkness, and I never looked back. 20 Years ago in 1989 the real world as we know it was going through some really tough times. There was a stock market crash on Friday the 13th of October that year. The ongoing crisis in the world was heating up seemingly everywhere... We had the the leadership of newly elected President George Bush which only served to continue the Reagan era and send us further down a dark road. NYC's newly elected Mayor David Dinkins proved only to be as clueless, allowing NYC to fall into a steep decline, not seen since until this year... On a positive note, The cold war was finally coming to an end and apartheid was finally being addressed and dealt with as a new South African president was in office. 1989's biggest film was BATMAN, and we still are coming off those fumes some 20 years later with The Batman franchise and the huge success of THE DARK KNIGHT. Neither films are favorites of mine, but 20 years ago I had a few that captured my heart and have stuck with me ever since...
Heathers - Directed By Michael Lehmann Dark, funny and endlessly quotable. A perfect movie date for the teenager who feels like he doesn't belong, and probably doesn't care to. Plus Winona Ryder. Who wasn't in love with her by 1989?
Miracle Mile - Directed By Steve de Jarnatt The movie which prompted one critic to be quoted in the advertising promising that you should "Be prepared to be blown through the back of the movie theater" --And you know what, this movie was so effective that I totally was. Strange since I always sit at the 4th row, middle on the aisle. Kidding aside, it's a really moving film. And with the 1980's deep fears of impending nuclear war in the back of everyone's minds, who could not just be completely traumatized?
Apartment Zero - Directed By Martin Donovan Catching this artfully made film about a cinema running film lover's obsession with another was perfectly matched by the Arthouse Cinema I had seen it in and my full-blown obsession with films by that point in my life. It's an unusual film, usually labeled a thriller, but I find it to be more of a character study mixed with a nice dollop of noir. Although it's truly a loving homage to films of past, APARTMENT ZERO always felt completely original.
Lisa - Directed By Gary Sherman LISA is essentially a teenage film by way of stalker thriller, and I completely bought into it. It's almost exclusively told from a teenage girl point of view, yet somehow it manages to wring intelligent moments and real suspense. Especially interesting are the conversations between it's titular character and the strange man who she's exploring her teenage crush with. It's a neat little movie made by a filmmaker who's films in the 70s & 80s I had always really enjoyed (Raw Meat, Vice Squad and Wanted: Dead Or Alive being my favorite)
Camille Claudel - Directed By Bruno Nuytten I remember CAMILLE most because it was the first film I had seen Isabella Adjani in and it started a crush that will probably stay with me forever. It's especially brilliant to cast the mesmerizing Adjani as muse for an artist because who cannot see themselves being transfixed and inspired by her beauty? And 20 years later, does she ever age?
Fright Night Part II - Directed By Tommy Lee Wallace An occasionally silly yet appropriately gothic sequel to one of my favorite Vampire movies, FRIGHT NIGHT PART II separates itself from other sequels because it feels like a real continuation to the original's storyline. It really helped that Tommy Lee Wallace kept close to Tom Holland's first film and to have it's 2 leads back. Both William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall make great foils for each other. This go round finds more wacky villainous characters and you'll get treats like funny bits from the ever reliable Jon Gries, a completely gratitious vampires go bowling scene, vampire on roller skates, weird erotic performance art and the ever-cute Traci Lind speed reading Bram Stoker's Dracula. I think i've watched this one even more than the original, actually.
Chances Are - Directed By Emile Ardolino I've always had a real love for the studio classic screwball comedies of past and 1989's CHANCES ARE perfectly captured the spirit and energy of some of the best of those movies (conjuring up memories of Heaven Can Wait among others) It has witty and engaging performances throughout (especially by Robert Downey Jr. And Cybil Shepherd) and even though the film sometimes lays on some late 80's schmaltz, especially by way of it's very 1989 soundtrack (Hello Peter Cetera!) I still find myself enamored with the silliness and wit of it all.
Night Life - Directed By David Acomba I remember seeing NIGHT LIFE back in '89 and thinking that the idea of the popular kids in school, ever the stuck-up jerks, dying and coming back to life to haunt you was a complete hoot. The film serves up some interesting mood & atmosphere and allows it's story to unfold... You get a lot of time with it's lead character played by Scott Grimes (now found in Prime Time on ER) and the wacky antics he gets into with the ever mean people in his life... No wonder he turns to model slash tomboy auto mechanic Cheryl Pollack for some much needed help. The better of the zombie pictures to come out of the 1980s, fer shure.
Sea Of Love - Directed By Harold Becker SEA OF LOVE is one of those movies that I find I can watch many times and never seem to get bored of. Sure, it has Al Pacino going into over-acting mode (AKA: The beginning of the end) but it also has an engaging and surprisingly complex love story and the center of it's thriller plot. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable (I mean, the smokin' Ellen Barkin does make it seem pretty damn effortless) and I especially appreciated how the film takes New York and makes it a character but never goes for the obvious... You get a real sense of the city and the characters that inhabit it. For me it's the perfect meld of gritty 70's movie and glossy modern thriller.
Crimes And Misdemeanors - Directed By Woody Allen Another year, another Woody Allen movie. In 1989 Allen crystalized his flair for mixing drama and comedy in a witty and artful way with CRIMES, and the film for me captures best that period in his work where his version of New York was filled with interesting characters always making the wrong decisions in their life that they had to live with. His film goes for tragedy yet the comedy is ever present... It's a unique mix, and only someone so in touch with the worlds he creates like Woody can create such a delicate balance. And there's even nail-biting suspense! This film has woody spinning his wheels and they all go round brilliantly. Here's a still from the movie that features a scene where woody goes to a favorite of my cinemas, now long gone...