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Nerdflix/Amazon/The $5.50 Shelf At Target, I Love Thee: Childhood Revisited

Nostalgia lust comes in spurts. Flummoxing, terribly painful/satisfying spurts. A late night conversation with the GF, who many know I lovingly refer to as Jerksica, somehow got on the topic of childhood movies. Now, this is not a topic that usually incites such madness; in fact, it comes up quite often. On this particular evening, however, whether it was the combination of cheese dip and Pepsi or the fact that I had been awake for nearly 18 hours, I started getting deeper than the usual Jurassic Park or Honey, I Shrunk The Kids recollections. References to Explorers and Mac and Me (of which I did a rewarding double feature in my college days) spew forth from my mouth as I also listened intently to Jerksica's retellings. The movies she held close to her heart were films I had never heard of, much less seen. Intensely interested, I suprised her with some of the titles she mentioned via that old reliable horse of wishlisting, Amazon. Conveniently, she also convinced me into purchasing choice titles from that temptress $5.50 shelf at our local Target, which indirectly led me to forcing us to watch one final flickering childhood memory via the fantabulous Nerdflix Watch Now feature. Two films I shan't discuss, for they have been mentioned here and here, but here be the nostalgic findings of the others...
Baby Boom (1987): The second of Jerksica's picks that we viewed, after a surprisingly enjoyable viewing of Big Business, was this curious anti-feminist feminist parable, starring the usually delightful (before her streak of blandness in the 90s and 00s) Diane Keaton. Coming from a staunchly feminist family, Jerksica lamented that she had no idea why her mother encouraged her constant re-watching of this maternal-role-cementing film. The only argument I could muster was that the film's first half (in which Keaton confidently dominates her high-pressure workplace and personal relationships) is so blatantly "hey check out what women can do! Whoda thunk?" that its dreadful and frightening second half can easily go unnoticed if not watched carefully. So, as may easily be surmised, one day she hilariously inherits a baby. Seriously, she gets a mysterious phone call saying that a relative of hers has died and she must meet her at the airport to pick up her inheritance. Thrilled with the prospect of more possessions (because women can't be successful without being materialistic of course), she arrives at the airport gate (remember when you could do that?) and out comes a lady who hands her a baby. Wacky! Anyway, of course she can't handle the baby AND her job, so she quits and spends the last half of the movie canning fruit in Vermont while taking care of her new child. That's it. That's the movie. I was quite sleepy at the end of it all (on account of the boringness you see), but I could noticeably discern an inner turmoil writhing inside my dear Jerksica as the credits rolled. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Delete From Queue, unless it was a part of your childhood and you enjoy shattering your memories.

Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael (1990): This last entry in the recontextualization of Jerksica's filmic youth is far superior to the aforementioned blunderfest, but is just as meddlesome. It's infuriatingly and pleasantly genreless - a rarity for the sort of bland family-friendly fare that populates afternoon TBS programming and so many 8-year-olds' rainy afternoons. The plot is deceivingly simple: a small town prepares for a former resident, now a celebrity, to return home. The tone of the film's score, cinematography, and general pastelness implies a light comedy with a feel good ending about growing up, acceptance, or something trite but admittedly important. However, the issues that our cast of characters deal with are a lot messier than usually delved into in one of these films, plus there's an absence of that one thing that makes a movie a comedy...what is it? Oh yeah: jokes. And yet, the "issues" behind many of the characters' disappointments in life (Winona Ryder feels like an outcast, which surely was a stretch for her, Jeff Daniels feels like he missed his one chance at true love, etc.) are of course not fleshed out enough to make this a full-fledged drama. Anyway, the device of Roxy Carmichael's awaited return is put to good enough use (think Where's Fluffy? in Nick and Norah, the only interesting part of that movie) to make for a mildly interesting character study - definitely not something that I would have clung to as a youngster, but has distinct tinges of genuiness to it that made me forgive Jerksica for Baby Boom. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Add To Neverending Queue.

Short Circuit (1986): Awwww hellz yeah. Now I give you the first of two movies that no doubt help defined me as the wise-cracking/mess-making robot and/or sasquatch that I am today. Despite its glaring racism (Fisher Stevens playing an Indian with a heavy accent who's good at computers but not much else?) and astounding lack of plot (top secret military robot accidentally escapes and...that's it, they chase him for 100 minutes), Short Circuit holds up surprisingly well 22 years later. Steve Guttenberg plays the robot's designer who doesn't believe in using robots as death machines, but creates them for a living anyway (it's not like there's any company that would hire him to make peaceful robots, am I right?). Ally Sheedy plays the crazy cat lady (seriously) that befriends the robot, thinking it's an alien in an exoskeleton (seriously), when it happens upon her house during his aimless journey away from the military center. Oh and of course the robot has a heart (it got it from getting struck by lightning, you know, like you do) and there's an evil military general that wants to blow it to kingdom come. From the opening credits, it boggles the mind why a) Pixar didn't get sued for ripping off Johnny 5 for WALL-E, and b) why WALL-E will get an Oscar but Short Circuit never even got nominated. Really there's no reason not to like this movie, and if you haven't seen it, I'm lending it to you next time you come over. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Move To Top Of Queue, or borrow it from me.

Harry And The Hendersons (1987): And for every movie that turns out to be as awesome as you remember it from when you were a wee lad, there is surely a movie that is as painful to watch today as it was to get sat on by the mean fat kid on the bus, with your stop being the last on the driver's schedule. This, my friends, is that movie. Thankfully only a portion of my Nerdflix subscription fee went toward bringing it up on the ole online (oh how my face beamed when I searched for it on a whim after thoroughly enjoying my 100 minutes of nostalgic robot love), but still the goodness that once emanated from my childhood memory of this here "film" has now been scorched, decimated, corroded, many other adjectives that imply decay and existential suffering. And I should have known it when I saw John Lithgow's ugly mug pop up on my laptop's screen. Being the man that both called for the outlawing of dancing in Footloose and annoyed millions on TV in 3rd Rock From The Sun, I will now forever know Lithgow as the harbinger of broken dreams. Even when Rick Baker's masterfully designed Bigfoot, aka Harry, gets hit by the Lithgowmobile to start off the movie's stupefying course of events (arguably even less plot-driven than Short Circuit), the metaphorical tears of regret did not stop pouring down my face. Basically, we get 110 minutes (almost two hours!) of a non-talking giant version of ALF breaking everything in the Hendersons' house after they bring him home, thinking they've accidentally killed a mysterious monster from the woods. He wakes up, starts destroying everything in sight while slide whistles and various sound effect ephemera populate my eardrums, which relentlessly bled (not metaphorically) until I finally fell asleep in protest against my childhood getting ruined any further. Luckily I woke up just in time for a Joe Cocker original to soundtrack the closing credits alongside A-ha-esque animations of Harry and the gang, all of which deserved whatever certainly idiotic fate was given them in the film's finale. Oh wait, they probably all learned a lesson about how beauty's on the inside. And this was turned into a short-lived sitcom? Howwwww?!?!?! Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Delete From Queue, regardless of your penchant for shattering your childhood memories.

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  1. Blogger Brigitte | 10:25 AM |  

    Holy Crap I love Baby Boom. I'm commenting before even reading the post--just from that photo. what a film! memories...

  2. Blogger Brigitte | 10:29 AM |  

    ok...no, that's NOT it (the summary of Baby Boom). she turns the baby into a commodity--she sells this canned baby food, uses the baby as the spokesmodel, and creates a business out of it. maternal? the baby is just her little capitalistic whore (or whatever). also, what a freaking cute baby. if i inherited a baby that cute i'd think about ways to make money off it, too.

  3. Blogger Brigitte | 10:30 AM |  

    also, Big Business is wonderful. classic comedy of errors.

    also...you're a fool! Harry and the Henderson's is fantastic. Don't you get it chris?? he's BIGFOOT! BUT HE LOVES THAT FAMILY!

  4. Blogger Brigitte | 10:32 AM |  

    even that photo you chose of Baby Boom is symbolic! she's weighing the baby next to the produce. the baby is just another commodity. come on!

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:50 AM |  

    I agree. Baby Boom and Big Business are classics! There are so many jokes in Big Business that I didn't get at all until like last year (Euro trash, for example, and references to kimonos and Fire Island). But Baby Boom has a special place in my heart because she moved to a small town that was like where I lived growing up.

  6. Blogger chris | 11:56 AM |  

    That is a whole lotta Brig-club!

    I fell asleep as soon as she started flirting with Sam Shepard, who I couldn't bear to watch degrade himself. Haha so if you use your baby as a commodity, then you're not reinforcing maternal stereotypes? She still gave up everything for the baby, which the adoption agency was very willing to take, even though she met the parents-to-be and didn't approve of their hick ways (see Big Business for more examples of why hicks are terrible and stupid people).

  7. Blogger Brigitte | 12:02 PM |  

    Haha so if you use your baby as a commodity, then you're not reinforcing maternal stereotypes?

    how would doing that reinforce maternal stereotypes? explain that to me. how is that maternal exactly? also, you need to define "gave everything up" if that's your argument. she still ran a business, didn't she? maybe this is not just about anti-feminist stereotypes--it's also about work/life balance (an ever-so-popular 80s theme). why does a woman embracing a baby have to be anti-feminist? are you saying women don't have the right to choose a baby just as much as they have the right to choose a career? isn't that ultimately what she did? and she doesn't end up with a man in the end, does she? in fact, since it's a female baby, one could analyze the film in light of the french feminist theorists who paint the picture of a female utopia--she moves away from the man/men in her life to a retreat in the "wilderness" to live only among other women--this woman just happens to be an infant.

  8. Blogger Brigitte | 12:07 PM |  

    i also just want to comment on the fact that this film is obviously nostalgic for me as it is for Jerksica, though it came out in 1987...we would have been too young to see it at that time. I think it's interesting that our generation is "nostalgic" for things that it didn't actually experience until those things were already sort of old-news. we are a generation of video tapes and re-runs.

  9. Blogger Brigitte | 12:18 PM |  

    btw--good post. :) nothing like rehashing old movies.

  10. Blogger qualler | 1:18 PM |  

    I vaguely remember the scene where she was weighing the baby on the scale at the supermarket, and ever since, I've always wanted to weigh babies on scales at supermarkets for the rest of my life. My parents laughed at that part when they rented it when it was new, and I didn't get it.

  11. Blogger chris | 10:48 PM |  

    Sorry it took me a while to get back about this. A) She does end up with a man at the end: Sam Shepard and B) She turns down a multi-million dollar business deal with her canning dealy so she can stay in Vermont with her baby and her new boy toy.

    I do like the idea of the French female utopia though - get them all outta our towns!

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