Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1980 as told by Cinema Du Meep & Amanda By Night

Recently Cinema Du Meep crossed the 300 postings mark (plus it's 2nd anniversary!) and to celebrate I thought it might be fun to take a look back at a favorite year for film with a fellow friend and blogger. Enjoy!

Nineteen Eighty. A new president was elected (not so good) Pac-Man invaded the arcades (awesome) Ordinary People gets released and eventually gets the gold. The Empire Strikes Back gets play in virtually every cinema. The US beats those "commies" on ice at the Olympics. Mount St. Helens blows her lid. Nothing comes between Brooke Shields & her Calvins. The Iran hostage situation grows worse. Christopher Cross's Sailing damages my impressionable young mind and my ears then start to bleed. McDonald's introduces the Chicken McNuggets and The Colonel from Kentucky Fried Chicken dies (coincidence? I think not) One of my favorite actors David Janssen dies unexpectedly of a heart attack. Braver people than I sit through all 15 hours of Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz. Taxi & Lou Grant win the Emmys and oh yeah...somebody shoots that J.R. guy.

Since the 80's made such the indelible impressions on our forming minds, I look to turn back the clock 30 years (!) to the year that started it all. Follow both Amanda By Night (of the totally awesome MADE FOR TV MAYHEM BLOG) and I as we take a trip back with Top 10 lists of our favorite Movies of that year. A TV version is now available via Amanda's blog, here.

1980 by Cinema Du Meep

1980 for me will always be the year I got ran over by a tractor trailer. Yes, a tractor trailer. In midtown Manhattan no less. I was pinned under the truck, my leg crushed, and all I could remember was that I was conscious, looking up at the truck and feeling absolutely no pain. I didn't know what to make of it; the truck came out of nowhere and I was merely crossing the street on a green light, my father on the other side of it waiting for me. After a few moments, I blacked out and woke up in a hospital.

Bandaged and leg cast, I was there for 6 months. During those months--a few of which where my leg held high in traction--the others where I was in intense rehabilitation, I got to watch as much TV as I wanted. Sometimes I'd race around on wheelchairs at night with the other kids in my ward. Who will make it down that long, dark corridor first? It was a very strange time to be young and in that situation, and a weird part of me feels nostalgic for it. My once shattered leg is now perfectly fine; complete with extra muscles to remind me of the extra effort I put in to rehabilitate. Sometimes it's good to be young. Especially when you can pop a wheelie in a darkened hospital like no one's business.

1980 was truly a new beginning. A new decade for film that would be impossible to match considering all the greatness in the decade that came before it. Yet, there were still many bright spots to be found. Here are my 10 favorites, the movies that helped me rehabilitate into the movie addict I now am, and always will be.

AIRPLANE is the kind of movie I can and will watch over and over again, and always laugh. It may have started as a spoof of those many Airport films of the 70's, but it's become a part of me. The part that will always opt for the fish while dining on the Airplane to just see what might happen. And yes, I would like to see those movies about gladiators!

I wanna live forever, and all of that, FAME is the movie that had me identifying with it's characters greatly growing up. I saw bits of myself in all of them. Kind of weird since I don't really sing, nor dance, nor act. Alan Parker makes a movie musical that feels honest and real, even if the cast is prone to break out into musical interludes. I'll gladly be a part of an impromptu Hot Lunch Jam at any given moment.

WILLIE & PHIL is Paul Mazursky's comedic take on Francois Truffaut's Jules Et Jim. I actually prefer it to Truffaut's film as Mazursky adds a kind of luxurious wistfulness to the story and all three leads are great. Margot Kidder + New York City locations = movie heaven. It's the kind of personal filmmaking you don't see much of anymore.

A New York story of a completely different kind, NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER is a non-stop action film that cannot be duplicated. It's gritty, tough and mean, but also fun, smart and well played by hero and villain. Cliff Gorman is god. I especially love those great chase scenes around the city, and also the interplay between Gorman and the girl he abducts. There's a strange broken quality to his character that had me glued to the screen.

COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER is my favorite bio-pic ever. I am not a fan of the bio-pic genre actually, but Coal Miner's Daughter gets it all right. It's the real deal. Sissy Spacek gives a mesmerizing, moving performance. So worthy of the Oscar (Reese Witherspoon on the other hand...) Spacek channels Loretta Lynn with heart and soul. Her vocals and performance are truly something special.

Sometimes it's easy to brush off a movie's value because it does so well financially or critically, and ORDINARY PEOPLE

John Carpenter's THE FOG is a ghost story that still haunts me every time I catch it. It puts me into a trance as the tension grows and the air thickens with atmosphere. Adrienne Barbeau's soothing voice over the radio lulls me in, and I'm instantly there in Antonio Bay with the cast, waiting for the killer lepers to strike. THE FOG may not be absolutely perfect, but it's masterful genre filmmaking nonetheless.

William Friedkin's CRUISING is obviously not for everybody, but it's the kind of movie that makes me the fan of his I still am today. By 1980, his popularity as a directed had cooled a bit. Sorcerer (a good film as well) didn't go over very well and The Brink's Job did just okay so he needed a project that was going to be a hit to remain in the good graces of Hollywood. Instead, Friedkin takes on a sure-to-be controversial movie and crafts a well made yarn in a sub-culture virtually ignored in cinema up until that point. The movie ended up offending a lot of people, and yet these days it might seem pretty tame. I look at it as a great piece of 70's filmmaking, not quite finding it's place in a new decade. Bravo, Friedkin.


R-Rated movies targeted at teenage girls? Such a thing existed? Back in 1980, filmmakers were still making films about people from all walks of life, so why not movie shows revolving around teenage girls that don't have to be watered down drivel (Oh, you know I'm talking to you Miley Cyrus or whoever is all the rage these days) These 2 films may represent the opposite spectrum of the teenage experience--LITTLE DARLINGS goes the comedy route while FOXES is much more serious, but both really understand their character's dilemmas and how important things might seem to you at a certain age. Both films sport excellent casts with rising talents and happen to feature tunes I adore. So Let your love flow and Turn On The Radio and then watch both back to back.

Runner ups:


Other 1980 goodness:


1980 by Amanda By Night

I was still in grade school when 1980 rolled around. I might not have had the most sophisticated tastes (in fact, I still don’t!) but I knew how to have a good time. And like a lot of enjoyable films from the decade, many of these movies still entertain me immensely. I’m not saying some of my choices aren’t dated, but a little overly blow-dried hair never put me off! I think there is a timeless quality to a lot of my choices here and not just because skinny jeans have made an unwelcome comeback. It’s because although the 80s dipped more than just their feet in traditional storytelling, they did it with class and a certain understanding that the plot beats might not be original, but the way it’s presented can breathe much fresh air into a stale concept. Therefore, this list has no real defining quality to it, this is simply an inventory of films made up by the eyes of a nine year old who still loved school (but loved recess even more) and who gazed at that silver screen with big, bright eyes of wonderment. Archie Bunker had it right. Those were the days.

Alligator – Even though I was too young to appreciate the great-googily-moogily-ness of Robert Forster’s distinct machismo driven charms, I found him an extremely affable leading man in a movie that seemed far less humorous when I was nine than it does now. Forster helps the city of Chicago defend themselves against a giant sewer lizard in this black-comedy-monster-gone-amuck classic.

Can’t Stop the Music – Let’s get one thing straight here. This movie was directed by Nancy Walker! Yes, that’s Rhoda’s mum! It was her theatrical debut and her big screen swan song and it was a doozy! Producer Allan Carr, just coming off the high of his hit film Grease, concocted something so odd, yet so dizzyingly addictive, it was destined to be a colossal bomb that deserved a cult success, which it got years later. The Village People prove why they made better singers, Steve Guttenberg was still pretty cute and Bruce Jenner was just… well, weird. But the sight of him in a half-shirt and Daisy Dukes never fails to make me scream. Oh, how I’d like a Milkshake right about now!

The Changeling – The best haunted house movie ever made. There I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I love This House Possessed and The Haunting comes in a close second, but (and much in the same vein) the way The Changeling deals with desperation and loneliness transcends its normal ghost story pigeon hole. It also doesn’t hurt that George C. Scott puts in an incredible performance a man dealing with the death of his wife and daughter while trying to solve the mystery of an apparition’s fraught plea for help.

Die Laughing – OK, I admit that I only remember a few moments of this movie, but I also remember not only where I was (my Godfather’s house in the guest room my parents were sleeping in) but also my exact reaction to the shot right before the main title appears (total terror). Dude. The title led me to believe it was a comedy (which apparently it is), but that lingering shot of the woman with the bloody smirk found its way into my nightmares and has remained there. **shudders**

The Fog – From 1978 – 1988, John Carpenter ruled the world of genre films. Ruled. That’s a pretty good run when you think about it - ten years of wonderful, terrifying horror films. And more importantly, the films released during his golden era still remain relevant and deeply scary. The Fog is a prime example of the director’s slow burn process. The film builds and builds until the audience can’t bear it and then it goes in for the kill. When the fog rolls in Carpenter’s film kicks goes into high gear and never lets go. The last few frames may seem predictable now, but were just as agonizingly horrific as the end of Carrie was when it was released. One of the  best horror films of the decade, The Fog started the decade off just right.

Foxes – One of the best teen angst films ever, Foxes is at once a love letter to the end of the 70s glitz and glamour, a look at a narcissistic Los Angeles and a tale about four lost girls who have nothing in this world except each other. Jodie Foster stars, but this movie belongs to Cherie Currie, who hit it big as the teenage lead singer of the awesome female rock band The Runaways. She’s fantastic here - utterly compelling and not completely likable but extremely sympathetic. This movie also pulled no punches with its tragic ending. It was a wild ride of a film that managed to capture the free-wheeling world of youth while also showing that the consequences of misguided angst.

Funeral Home – A neat little underrated slasher/mystery, Funeral Home was made by one of my favorite directors (William Fruet) and stars one of the greatest faces in 80s horror, Lesleh Donaldson, who is a bit of chameleon in her roles. If you’ve seen Psycho, you’ll have no problem guessing the twist about two minutes in, but if that’s all you’re investing yourself into, then you’re missing most of the fun. Funeral Home works because of the quirky side characters that filter through the movie. And of course, “Mrs. Chalmers the Embalmer,” is a hoot too!

Maniac – I didn’t see this movie until I was in my early 20s, more than a decade after its release but man, do I remember that poster, which evoked so much fear into my little heart! I have the most distinct memories of just staring at the ad in our local paper. The words “I warned you not to go out tonight,” still rings in my head. As an adult watching Maniac, I was surprised at how this film lived up to every childhood fear I had created over that poster. It’s probably the first and only time that has ever happened. I find myself still looking for a film that might one up Maniac, but it’s pretty doubtful that will ever happen. Joe Spinell puts in the performance of a lifetime as the disturbed Vinnie Durand, a scalping serial killer dispatching various women throughout the seediest parts of New York City. Absolutely unforgettable, and I’ve had the therapy to prove it!

9 to 5 – Not only is this wry comedy a pretty accurate portrayal of corporate America, but the theme song also kicks all kinds of ass! I think the combination of Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda made a perfect fit to go up against Dabney Coleman’s asshole bossy-ness. My favorite scene – the fantasy sequence featuring Tomlin as Snow White. She and some Disney-like cartoons poison the boss’ coffee!!! Now who hasn’t had that daydream?

Prom Night – As a kid, Prom Night was one of my first terrifying forays into the world of slashers. I enjoyed it, loved the disco and never thought much about it. As an adult, I realized that although the themes may not have come across as clearly as the writer might have hoped for, Prom Night at its heart is a tale of love, loss and vengeance. Although the premise may not have come across as well as the writer had intended, they are there – and told to some great disco music! Wait, did I mention how good the music is?

editors note: I also share a deep love and appreciation for Prom Night. A slasher movie that on the surface might not have aged well, but has totally aged to perfection in our crazy, movie-obsessed hearts.

Honorable Mention:
Midnight Madness – This didn’t quite make the list, but it’s so addictively fun, I wanted to mention it. Picture it: A young Michael J. Fox, a hunky David Naughton, a pretty Kristen Baker (Friday the 13th Part 2), a fat Stephen Furst and a hilarious Eddie Deezen in a scavenger hunt to the death make for great entertainment. Memorize that!


Amber said...

Foxes and Little Darlings. I love these movies. Matt Dillon is probably the cutest he's ever been in Little Darlings. It's embarrassing to say, but I cried at the end when Kristy McNichol calls Tatum O'Neal her best friend. And Foxes...every time I watch that, I can't get that "On the Radio" song out of my head.

Andrew Green said...

Ah, this was a great post....
Thanks for the memories!

Cinema Du Meep said...

Amber-- that song is STILL stuck in my head!

Andrew-- THANK YOU for stopping by as always!

Rob said...

Wow, nice choices, all. I just saw Foxes about a month ago on TV=it was darker and realer than I thought it would be. The Changeling, amazing!And I loves me some Ordinary People.

Amanda By Night said...

I'm sorry I didn't post a thank you on here sooner, but THANK YOU for making me a part of this. Too much fun revisiting the best movies ever! :)

Cinema Du Meep said...

Rob- Glad you enjoyed it!

Amanda - A Pleasure as always!

Ty said...

The Midnight Madness song is a classic! "Midnight Maaaadness, starts to get to you!"

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