Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Quarter Back: February 1985

Quarter Back is a monthly feature looking back at the movies of 25 years ago. One movie will be watched for the first time, one will be revisited.

Seriously, what the hell? I was all prepared to actually publish this in February - had most of it written, and both movies watched two weeks ago. And then - well, screw stupid February with its stupid 28 stupid days.

Featured Movies

Heaven Help Us
Seen it before?: Don't think so, although I recognized certain scenes. HBO, maybe?
Release date: February 8, 1985
Actors: Andrew McCarthy, Kevin Dillon, Donald Sutherland
Director: Michael Dinner (Off Beat, Hot to Trot)
Box office: $6.0 million (#110 in 1985)

Straddling a fine line between the nostalgia of Diner and the raunchiness of Porky's, Heaven Help Us is actually a pretty good entry into the '80s teen derby. In his first lead performance, Andrew McCarthy is the new kid at an all-boys Catholic school, with future stars Patrick Dempsey and Kevin Dillon as classmates.

It's easy to guess the filmmakers based this on personal experiences, as the scholastic scenes are given more attention than the wannabe lascivious ones. In fact, though it shoehorns breasts onto the screen in typical '80s fashion, calling Heaven Help Us a sex comedy is misleading. Actually, the film's strong suit is examining the testy relationships between the kids and the monks in charge (no, there aren't any cliched Catholic priest/boy subplots, although I did like using the word "testy" just then). Donald Sutherland and John Heard, in particular, have fun with smaller roles. Grade: B

The Breakfast Club
Seen it before?: Of course.
Release date: February 15, 1985
Actors: Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson
Director: John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
Box office: $45.9 million (#16 in 1985)

Reviewing The Breakfast Club as a thirty-something defeats the purpose, really. The anguish seems melodramatic, the kids appear self-absorbed, the plot wraps up a little too nicely (I never bought Claire falling for Bender, sorry). But damn, it seemed true at the time - I'm not far enough away from high school to have forgotten that.

When you're a teen, the sorrows are amplified, the world revolves around you, and the teachers don't, can't, won't get it. John Hughes understood these simplicities, and his empathy is why The Breakfast Club resonates today. For anybody in their 30s and 40s, it's a 90-minute time capsule. It can't hit the same buttons it did in 1985 (that's impossible), but it reminds you they existed in the first place. Grade: A-

Other films 25 years old this month:

The Bay Boy - This long-forgotten Canadian (booooo!) drama is notable for one thing: Kiefer Sutherland's first significant film role. And the story of a murder-witnessing teen is probably 50 times more exciting than this season's snoozefest "24."

Fantasia - Walt Disney's classic briefly returned to theaters, but the coked-up teens of '85 didn't embrace it quite as much as their tripping-balls parents had.

Fast Forward - Hey, kids of today - you might have Step Up and You've Got Served, but '80s teens had retarded dance movies too! But is your A.D.D.-riddled, crumping/pop-locking/whatever garbage directed by Sidney Poitier? Hear that, you little assholes? Fast Forward, directed by SIDNEY POITIER. (He was a movie star once. Ask your grandparents.)

Heavenly Bodies - Oh '80s, how I miss you. When a small dance studio is endangered by a big corporate gym, scores are settled at a televised aerobics marathon! Yes, it's basically Dodgeball with a straight face.

Lust in the Dust - John Waters-mainstay Divine plays a wannabe saloon singer in this camp western, which hasn't been viewed by a straight person since 1986.

The Mean Season - Kurt Russell is a Miami journalist who begins receiving phone calls from a serial killer. I'd like to think it was a 15-year-old Dexter.

Mischief - This teen comedy is still talked about for only two reasons: Kelly Preston's right boob, and Kelly Preston's left boob. An otherwise lame attempt to cash in on Porky's, Mischief did in fact feature the future Mrs. Travolta's ample assets, and they were good. Google Image Search is your friend.

Turk 182 - I'd love to know what movie played more on mid-'80s HBO: Turk 182 or Just One of the Guys? This movie was impossible to avoid if you had cable, and my memories are actually pretty fond. Timothy Hutton feels wronged by New York City's mayor, and goes on a city-wide graffiti protest, becoming an anonymous folk hero in the process. A pre-op Kim Cattrall is his love interest.

Vision Quest - One of those, I don't know, very '80s movies. Vision Quest manages to package a popular Madonna song ("Crazy For You"), a decade-friendly "hot older woman seduces teen" plot, an at-the-time rising star (Matthew Modine, who would soon careen off the rails by turning down Top Gun), and wrestlin'. And in unusual form, the flick actually holds up.

Witness - Ah, the good ol' days when a Harrison Ford film was an event. I still remember standing next to a soccer field, begging my mom to let me see the R-rated drama. I mean, Han Solo, Indiana Jones - it was UNFAIR UNFAIR UNFAIR I wouldn't be allowed to follow the travails of Philadelphia cop John Book in Amish country. Alas, I would have to wait. And now that I'm 34 and can see anything I want, Ford's contribution to multi-plexes is PG-rated dreck like Extraordinary Measures. Fantastic.

Quarter Back: January 1985
Quarter Back: December 1984
Quarter Back: November 1984
Quarter Back: October 1984
Quarter Back: September 1984
Quarter Back: August 1984
Quarter Back: July 1984
Quarter Back: June 1984
Quarter Back: May 1984
Quarter Back: April 1984


Carrie said...

I love Fantasia. It is like my favorite Disney movie.

Carrie said...

Oh and the answer is definitely Just One of the Guys. No question. I have seen that movie like 100 times and never rented it. Never seen the other one.