So last week I had a whirlwind vacation (?) in Los Angeles wherein I saw a lot of old friends, took a few meetings (I mean, come on, it is Los Angeles, after all), did some sightseeing and photography, and a bit of partying. All-in-all, a really great trip, and I can’t wait to head back down south again…Next trip is for Wondercon, the week after next, which should be about a zillion shades of awesome.
One of the events I attended while down there was an ’80s Movie Marathon Weekend, at my friend Kenny‘s house…Well, I actually went for the Saturday night portion, as I couldn’t be there for the whole thing.
Kenny’s movie marathons are legend…wait-for-it…dary. One of the best parts of going, as Kenny points out in his blog post about the weekend, is that we’ve been friends for years, initially through our involvement with ‘The Guild’, but never actually met IRL, as the saying goes, until this weekend. The Guildie involvement doesn’t just end with Kenny, as pretty much everyone there has been an extra on the show, or worked in the cast or crew. It was a great opportunity to meet other folks who are diehard Guild fans…Yeah, I worked on the show a number of years ago, but started out as, and continue to be, a fan, and friend, of the show. So it was fun to hang out with a bunch of folks who all share the same special geek affinity.
There was a whole line-up of great films for the marathon…I was crushed that I had to miss ‘The Princess Bride‘, due to an afternoon committment, as that is by far my favorite film from that period.
Although the event got me thinking about some of my other favorite films of the period, and that usually means compiling a list.
Both of you.
So here are a few, but by no means all, of my favorite movies from the ’80s, that weren’t on Kenny’s playlist …
1. ‘Local Hero’ (1983)
‘Local Hero‘ was a bit of a sleeper when it premiered in 1983. I was still in San Diego at that time, just finishing up at San Diego State, and working in local theater as a lighting and sound guy. The film played at a local art house in Ocean Beach, for what seemed like forever, and I kept hearing wonderful things about it, and decided to check it out.
It’s an oddball comedy that is both a romcom and a fish-out-of-water story, about a oil company guy (Peter Reigert from ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House‘) who is sent out by his boss, played by Burt Lancaster in a standout role, to buy up a little town on the coast of Scotland to build an oil refinery. It’s a tale of twists and turns that winds up with Reigert’s character, Mac, falling in love with the sleepy little town, and its collection of brilliantly quirky, but charming, people.
Great movie, but one of the things I love about it the most is the score by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame.
Mark is a genius…His music beautiful and lyrical, and, in fact, it is this music that links him together with my other favorite film of the period, ‘The Princess Bride’, for which he also composed the score (but not the title theme, ‘Storybook Love’, which was actually written by a fellow named Willie DeVille, but that is another story entirely.)
There is a fairly recent, digital, version of the soundtrack for ‘Local Hero’, as well as many recordings of the signature song, the ‘Wild Theme’, or the up tempo version of the ‘Wild Theme’, called ‘Going Home’ (The theme of the Local Hero), which Knopfler used to end all of his gigs with Dire Straits, and still plays as an encore in his solo gigs today.
I love ‘Going Home’ … I’ve got no less than ten different recordings of it, in different orchestrations, live and in the studio, and I never get tired of listening to it, especially when I’m on a road trip in the car. If you like ‘Local Hero’, and ‘The Princess Bride’, get a copy of Mark Knopfler’s album ‘Screenplaying‘…It’s great mood music, and has all of the hits from both movies.
‘Local Hero’ … Great film. Highly recommended.
2. ‘Dream a Little Dream’ (1989)
I’m a romcom guy, and not ashamed to admit it. I love a good romantic comedy, hope to edit (and create) many more of them. While I do toil in the fields of big-studio tentpole VFX films, I’d rather watch a small indie romcom any day of the week.
‘Dream A Little Dream’ is another quirky-as-all-getout film starring the ’80s dynamic duo of the the ‘2 Corey’s’, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman (yeah, I know … but still it works in this iteration, all odds be damned), along with an entirely enchanting Meredith Salenger.
It’s a tale of body-switches, dreamscapes, and romance, all backed up by one of the greatest pop tunes ever…’Dream a little dream with me’, which is another song that has been an all-time favorite of mine, ever since I first heard Mama Cass Elliot singing it in the late ’60s (Cass had this wonderful legato and could effortly bend notes notes to her will, especially in this song…)
To me, it’s often the the music that makes the movies memorable, especially a romantic comedy where the music can heighten the emotions of the story into something sublime, and that’s the case with ‘Dream a Little Dream’, which gets to some very, and delightfully, metaphysical places during the telling.
Get a hookah and a bottle of wine, and watch this one on a Friday night with someone you love (or would like to…)
3. Airplane (1980)
Do you remember back when comedies where balls-out funny, and so politically incorrect that they’d never see the (green) light of day in the 21st Century? Yeah, so do I.
Airplane probably influenced me more, in terms of my own brand of comedy, than any other film except for Mel Brooks’ ‘Blazing Saddles‘ (another film that would never get greenlit today) or ‘The Producers‘ (the original 1968 version, not the musical…The musical version on Broadway rocked, but the movie musical was like a rock…off a diving board…into the deep end of a pool. Mel should have directed it himself.)
There is every kind of the wrong kind of joke in this movie…From blow-up autopilot doll fellatio jokes, to dying kid-on-a-gurney and drug humor (‘Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue’), it is a non-stop laugh riot. Hell, they’ve even got ‘America’s Mom’, Harriet Nelson, doing ghetto humor.
Oh, and Leslie (“Don’t call me Shirley”) Nielsen … Pure win.
The movie is just so wrong that it’s totally right …
4. ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ (1982)
If you’re talking about comedies that define the ’80s, ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High‘ has got to be one of the first films that gets name-checked.
The Cameron Crowe/Amy Heckerling pairing not only defined the suburban teenage experience of life in the ’80s San Fernando Valley, but it also launched the careers of a number of fine actors, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Sean Penn, not to mention featuring a brilliant performance by the late Ray Walston, as grump history teacher, Mr. Hand.
One of the marks of a true classic is film is how many quotes from the film make it into the vernacular…’Fast Times’ is a movie that still gets quoted often (okay, maybe mostly by me, but that counts … )
5. ‘Heathers’ (1988)
Forget ‘Mean Girls’…Meet some really mean girls…and guys. ‘Heathers‘ is one of those black-as-night comedies that I just love so much.
Winona Ryder gets caught up with (psychotic) bad boy Christian Slater, and visits vengeance on a bunch of high-school bullies, drama queens, and lunk-heads. They even blow up the high school years before ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ (but there wasn’t any giant snake Mayor-meat involved.)
It’s quite the fun flick.
6. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986)
Got to finish this list with a musical … I love a good musical, and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is, IMO, one of the best movie adaptations of a stage musical ever made.
Directedy by Frank Oz (the voice of Yoda and Miss Piggy) this is the odd story of Seymour Krelborn and his ‘Mean Green Mutha’ from Outerspace’ house plant, Audrey II (voiced to hilarity by Levi Stubbs, the great baritone singer from the Motown group, The Four Topps.)
This is a classic musical in its own right…And has songs you will find yourself singing right out of the theater (‘Suddenly Seymour’ is one of my favorites for the shower), but the film is full of great performances from huge talents like Rick Moranis as Seymour, Ellen Greene as Audrey, and a brilliantly sadistic Steve Martin as the mad dentist, Orin Scrivello (D.D.S.) The cast also includes such greats as John Candy, James Belushi, Christopher Guest, and Bill Murray, just to name a few.
The thing that makes this movie stand out as a movie musical, is that there is no pretense to realism…Oz created a very stylized world from the get go, and carried the surrealistic, sci-fi comic book, look throughout every area of the production…It’s bloody brilliant.
One side note, the play, and the movie, all derive from a 1960 Roger Corman film of the same name, which features a young Jack Nicholson…It’s a horrible film, but so horrible that it’s worth watching.
Okay…So there’s a few of my favorites. Got some of your own? Please leave a comment!