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The Quest Continues: Wow, 1986 Rocked It Hard Yallz

Okay, everyone. Three weeks left with this feature. I've decided it. We're doing 1986 today, 1985 in June and 1984 in July. In August I will be debuting a new feature that has yet to have the kinks worked out of, so I will refrain from previewing it in any way until we get closer to end of The Quest For the Single Finest Film of Our Generation. I shall also take this introductory paragraph to mention that I have no qualms with the dwindling amount of votes I'm getting for this series. I'll admit, at first I felt scorned, but I have come to accept that the 80s just aren't as tenaciously loved by our generation as the 90s were, which is why Home Alone shall sit firmly atop its throne as the actual single finest film of our generation, while I simply delve into the leftovers from the 80s that helped embellish my childhood, and maybe a few others too. This is more the personal tract of the journey rather than part of the integral whole, if you will. So sit back, relax, and if you loved any of the movies below at any point in your upbringing, drop me a note via the comments so I know you're out there. Thanks!

Top Gun: The biggest blockbuster of 1986 is probably also my least adored of the five recounted here. That said, it's probably the only non-war military-themed movie I've ever liked, and whenever I find out someone I know loves it, I like them a little bit more. It's not the presence of Tom Cruise, obviously, even though I'm not one of his bigger detractors. But absolutely everything about this movie just screams communal movie worship. I don't even think I've seen this film since the last millennium ended and yet I remember Val Kilmer's gum-chewing smirk and Anthony Edwards' wide-eyed bromantic side like I've been hanging out with them non-stop since I first viewed the film via TBS or some junk in the early 90s. Also, the soundtrack. Like every major 80s Tom Cruise vehicle, the soundtrack kicks major derriere. Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" is a bit trite now, but still monumentally enjoyable. Then you add some Otis Redding, Loverboy, and Miami Sound Machine? Whoo boy. I'm set.

The Karate Kid Part II: I honestly don't remember much of anything about the second Karate Kid in comparison to the first, but I just have this gut feeling that I liked it more because there was far less exposition and so much more (ludicrously so even) actual karate that it sated my young kid's appetite for martial arts in a world where Segal and Van Damme could only release so many films for my brother and I to rent and eat Chinese food while watching in his downtown loft apartment. And really, once I emotionally connected to Daniel-son (oh is that where the band got their name?) and Mr. Miyagi, I could follow their next ill-fitting and sparse but ultimately inconsequential story line with a lot more interest: you know, the way movie sequels are supposed to work. It was a simply formula that Karate Kid didn't excel at but satisfied competently. And oh yeah! They had the balls to (spoiler alert? maybe?) kill off Mr. Miyagi, which in retrospect, took some cojones considering that nowadays they'd want to keep the most adored ethnic character of the decade around for as many sequels as possible. So props to the producers/writers for pulling that off!

Ferris Bueller's Day Off: The quintessential and most popular teen film of the 80s is also arguably the best, save possibly a 1985 movie that will get the Quest treatment next month. At first glance, it may seem weird (it did to me) that such a wildly successful and canonical teen film starred Matthew Broderick, someone I at least often automatically pigeonhole as a nervous actor that often plays broken men. He usually does this well, but his addictive carefree attitude as this film's titular character is undeniably magnetic, so much so that you almost wish this sprightly young fellow in the leather jacket without a worry in the world didn't turn into such a complex curmudgeon of a man in his later years. Oh well, I say, because it's possible that because Broderick put so much thoughtless perfection into this role that he experienced the very kind of slow motion decline into cinema apathy. In fact, he's actually much more versed and varied on the stage supposedly, and in many ways Bueller himself was much more a stage character than one from film: he oozed confidence and volume, audacity and idolatry. The camera never got close enough to him (unless he talked to it) to show the layers underneath and rather than that being a pratfall of Hughes' unforgettable masterwork, it exemplified the power of teenagerdom in a way that no one had ever done before and, possibly, will never do again. Uneffingtouchable.

Little Shop of Horrors: I hated musicals when I was a kid. I had absolutely no desire to watch anything in which people randomly decided to start singing and dancing in sync when there were explosions that could be happening or chase scenes that could be going down. Well before I even realized that most of those Disney movies I liked so much were actually musicals, my mom had to break the news to me upon my 7th or 8th viewing of Little Shop of Horrors that it was indeed a musical as well. "You've got to be essing me!" I shouted from the rooftops while I was in the middle of choreographing my own dance, to be performed for my family, to the tune of "Skid Row (Downtown)". But then I watched the movie again, this time with conscious knowledge that it was indubitably classified as a musical, and while I wanted to throw away my love for it, I could not. So I instead told my friends that it was about a killer plant and starred the guy from Honey I Shrunk the Kids so they would watch it with me. Sure they told me I was "gay" or "queer" when they much more quickly realized that it was a musical, but I told them it "broke genre boundaries" because it was "an indefinable and surreal yet emotional mish-mash of genres both exploitative and celebratory." That shut 'em up. So they helped me choreograph some stuff too and it was cool. Best movie of the 80s? Possibly. It gets my vote fo shozies.

Short Circuit: If I hadn't recently procured a five-dollar copy of this film at Target and watched it again with anticipatory glee, followed by a period of concentrated depression, I might argue this was the best of the 1986 bunch. But, unfortunately, with the new re-visited memory firmly lodged in my brain hole, I can say almost nothing but bad things about our beloved robotic star, Johnny 5. The most piercing attribute of the robot-with-feelings film is its ability to trick masses of children into thinking that the Indian-American stereotype is a tame one at best, if not out right encouraged to accept. I mean, c'mon: Fisher Stevens as an Indian computer geek that can't get laid? And is that black face? I dunno, can you call a bad tan and/or spray-tan (did they have that in the 80s?) black face if it's not straight-up paint and not specifically used to turn a white actor into an African-American one? Whatever; the point is that between shenanigans like this, Ally Sheedy slumming it up one year after her breakout role (the same film as the one mentioned in the previous paragraph), and Steven Guttenberg trying to act his way out of a paper bag, there is little to no reason to feel the feelings I once had for a robot with fluttery eyelids whose design possibly got ripped off for the new robot that people have soft feelings for: WALL-E.

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  1. Blogger Unspar! | 8:54 AM |  

    I still vote Short Circuit. I totally agree that it doesn't hold up at all for viewings as an adult, but I'll always love robot movies.

    It helps that I don't like John Hughes movies very much. Never really cared for Ferris Bueller.

  2. Blogger qualler | 10:04 AM |  

    Definitely gotta vote for Ferris Bueller, though I'm surprised you didn't touch on the genius that is Alan Ruck. I wish Matthew Broderick and Alan Ruck would work together again today.

  3. Blogger christine | 10:27 AM |  

    Ben got here first. But if he hadn't I would've saved him the time and voted Short Circuit for him. I so deeply associate Short Circuit with Ben that the robot like him in all my memories.

    Though I appreciate your affection for Little Shop of Horrors, my vote is for Ferris Bueller. Every scene is, as you say, untouchable.

  4. Blogger christine | 10:27 AM |  

    looks* like him

  5. Blogger Papa Thor | 2:09 PM |  

    I never liked Top Gun, probably because it was too popular for what it was, I mean come on! I made up better plots while looking at my big brothers airplane models. And I was already tired of the "look how cool it is to lip-sync to a song in public"
    And Rick Moranis is one of my favorites (you kids need to see his "Woody Allen auditioning for Taxi Driver")
    Karate Kid? Short Circuit? Not sure I would even bother recording on my DVR, let alone spend $5 in the bargain bin.
    But Ferris Bueller is classic. Ben Stein! Charlie Sheen! Ferris' sister! The principal! What classic supporting characters! That's what movies is about! Playing hookie in one of the greatest cities in the world! This movie is what "400 Blows" wishes it were!

  6. Blogger chris | 3:02 PM |  

    Ooh a 2-2 Bueller/Johnny 5 tie!! Wha'z it gonna be folks?

    Qualler, you are right. If I didn't spend so much time gushing about Broderick, I would have definitely gone on and on about Ruck. Cameron is possibly the most complex teenage character of all time. What a film!

  7. Anonymous .molly. | 7:47 PM |  

    AHH! It's so hard to pick between Ferris and Short Circuit. For real. But I think my vote must go to Ferris. Signed, sealed, submitted.

  8. Blogger Julie | 5:43 AM |  

    Oh Ferris Bueller, definitely. Although those are all good movies...I love that you are a fan of little shop...I don't find many people who even know what that is!

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