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The Quest Continues: 1985, Or A Penultimate Look At The Movies Of Our Youth

Many thanks to those of you out there that helped momentarily revive last month's edition of The Quest For The Single Finest Film of Our Generation. With your votes, Ferris Bueller's Day Off was semi-rightfully crowned the finest film of 1986 according to our generation. And despite my rooting for the underdog Little Shop of Horrors, I do concede that as far as canonical 80s films go, Matthew Broderick and co. do indeed deserve a heavy dollop of recognition for shaping our childhood. But like our youth once did right underneath our noses, so shall another beloved thing dissipate into the realm of the unknown. That's right, next month will be the final entry of this feature and in August I will attempt to regain the once bright glory of The Quest with a new interactive movie-related monthly column. Until then, however, let's focus on our second-to-last round of voting. For June, let us focus our attention on the year 1985 and its blockbusters, only two of which below, by the way, actually cracked the top ten box office champ list for that year. Nonetheless, all five were distinct parts of my childhood and so I ask for your input as well. Let the penultimate round of voting begin!

Back To The Future: I'm wondering if this will be a no-brainer for most readers. Five or so years ago, my official vote would have gone in a heartbeat to Marty McFly and friends for multiple reasons, but first and foremost because like many nerds, time travel has fascinated me ever since my initial viewing of this very film as a youngin'. Now ostensibly just a sci-fi plot device that always gets more convoluted than originally intended, back in my prime in-awe-of-storytelling days it was a concept that really astounded and moved me. The very idea of being able to alter our lives' events, and our parents' lives' events, but with irreparable consequences of the mind and heart, wowed me in a way that I still to this day cannot properly articulate. It's something that affected me so much that years later, shortly after I eagerly purchased the trilogy on DVD, my band and I extracted audio from a few key scenes to sample in our record when we realized how much of our lyrics centered around the almighty bastard Father Time. The one that of course always struck me the most was the infamous following quote: "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." Indeed, the same is true for the great art of cinema.

The Goonies: Now I love The Goonies as much as the next kid, especially the Truffle Shuffle, Sloth, and Cyndi Lauper's theme song. But I have to be honest, it's not even that I never felt a special connection to it and that's the end of the story. It's that I wanted to feel a special connection to it so bad that I continued to watch it over and over again, often finding myself so close to falling head over heels with it that I thought for sure this would be the viewing that got me on the Goonies bandwagon. But it just never happened. Now for the obligatory "don't get me wrong" backpedaling - the adventure is a rollicking good time, the underdog sense of victory is grand for a non-sports-centered movie, and overall it's just a solid enjoyable piece of entertainment with some strong emotional moments that caused me to second-guess my lack of deep link to the film. No, at the end of the day, all these things just didn't add up to what I find to be the most important aspect of a film about youth to resonate fully: these kid characters were just outlines of fully formed humans. There were sparks here and there of brilliance, for sure, but overall it just lacked the kind of authoritative authenticity that the film above and the film below explored all the better, possibly for the simple reason that their protagonists were older.

The Breakfast Club: And I understand that many throw away all notions of authenticity when discussing John Hughes' masterpiece The Breakfast Club due to its blatant use of cliques and social grouping as forms of identity, but I am one of those sticklers in the mud that can't help but shout from the rooftops that despite the tendency to stereotype by our book-cover-judging brains, this is the one 80s teen film that was able to delve into this touchy topic and instead of lampoon or defy cliche, try to understand why the jock, nerd, and burnout templates for teendom exist in the first place. Thus, my official vote goes to this immensely rewatchable work of art for more reasons than pure entertainment value, for more reasons than its undeniable magnetism and quotability, and certainly for more reasons than simply because it's the only film (for my money) of the decade that attempted not just to explore deep topics in a mainstream and accessible setting, but also break them apart until the tender core was left vulnerable and exposed to dangerous truth. I could go through (and I'm restraining myself because I want to so bad) every single actor's deft portrayal of their own subculture, not because it was representative of teenagers that looked like them, but because it was just one heartbreaking example of why they chose the disguise they chose. And this kind of raucous mind-blowing exploration, full of nostalgic emotion and entertainment, is kind of the reason I started the Quest in the first place. Not to sway your vote or anything! Honest!

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure: Oh, Paul Reuben. Honestly I don't care what you do in the privacy of your own public adult film theater. It's not that what you did was illegal. It's not even that it was viewed by many as "perverted" or "morally despicable". Because honestly, in the grand scheme of celebrity scandals, yours objectively ranks toward the bottom of the list in all of these categories. But you do realize that it was absolutely only because it completely altered everyone's view of you in the Pee Wee suit and bow tie after that. Right? If you were just another actor, hell if you were just another actor in a famous children's television show even, we would have let it gloss by and not let it affect our viewings of your wacky persona. But unfortunately, your character straddled the line so brilliantly (now we understand why) between creepy/insane and endearing/hilarious that when something from your real life brought back toward the more "edgy" end of the spectrum, this is why your fame was immediately ransacked from your pleated pockets. Sorry, Pee Wee. Your movie was awesome too. And I really wanted you to find that bike. But I just couldn't stomach many more viewings after "the incident." I know, it's partly my fault too. "The author is dead" blah blah. But I just...can't.

Teen Wolf: This is a film, in case you were ever confused, about a teenage boy on the school basketball team who turns into a werewolf. Because he turns into a werewolf, he becomes amazing at basketball. There's something wrong with the previous two cause/effect statements. I'll give you a clue: it involves the word "because". Now at first I wondered how in the hell Michael J. Fox was able to star in both this and Back To The Future in the same year. Then I realized that it was rather quite simple: he put 90% of his effort into one film and 10% into the other. I'll let you guess which percentage applies to which film. Seriously though, there are a number of films I could have chosen for the fifth slot in this ballot, including Fletch, European Vacation, and Spies Like Us. Then I realized all three of those films starred Chevy Chase and I thought, huh, I guess it was okay to make one great movie and 1-2 (insert adjective here) movie in the same year back in the 80s. But in all honesty, the mere fact that Teen Wolf subverted the whole "you must be scared of a werewolf" stereotype is the very reason I decided to include it. If you haven't seen it since back in the day, I recommend watching it again, but with friends please, and then never again.

P.S. Happy 900th post, co-Blogulator writers! We will def be having a party for #1000 this fall/winter.

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  1. Blogger Unspar! | 9:31 AM |  

    At this point, I don't remember what the criteria for the quest is, so I'm going to be perhaps more arbitrary than usual.

    There are three I'd like to vote for. Back to the Future, Pee Wee, and Teen Wolf.

    I feel like Back to the Future is too genuinely good to get my vote in this quest. I seriously always enjoy watching that movie.

    I watched Pee Wee again a few years ago, and it was not very good. Thankfully my childhood memories of it being awesome are more vivid than my current memories of it being mediocre, but I don't think it's enough.

    Teen Wolf I also watched again recently, and it was BAD. But it was also HILARIOUS. The basketball scenes were AWFUL. But the scene where he surfs on top of the van is AMAZING. I could go on, but I'll just leave it at that and vote for Teen Wolf.

  2. Blogger Bridget | 10:54 AM |  

    (Long-time reader, first-time commenter.)

    I have to agree with you, Chris, and go with The Breakfast Club. It is simply the movie that I most want to watch over and over. In fact, I'm really pissed that my VCR finally broke because now my VHS copy is useless, making me unable to watch it right now. TechnologyFAIL. I'll have to be satisfied for the moment by listening to the Simple Minds song.

    Also, it was awesome to run into you guys in Milwaukee.

  3. Anonymous LQ | 7:26 AM |  

    For my vote, it's a close contest between Back to the Future and The Breakfast Club, where Breakfast Club is probably the most socially relevant and life-lesson-y option Back to the Future is just one of the most likeable movies ever, in my opinion. I like it when a movie really gets in your head...Breakfast Club was somehow both a really funny and entertaining movie, and it's also very thought-provoking as you clearly pointed out here, so it gets my vote. Back to the Future is definitely entertaining, but that's really all it is.

  4. Blogger qualler | 10:26 AM |  

    I vote BTTF because it's the only one I've seen on this list. I reaaaally need to see Teen Wolf though.

  5. Blogger DoktorPeace | 2:17 PM |  

    I love wallpapers.

    I watched Back to the Future over and over again as a kid, it being one of the few VHS's we owned. I loved it every time, almost as much as I love wallpapers. It gets my vote.

    Unless I can cast a vote only for the extra who zips up his pants at the end of Teen Wolf. Then I pick that.

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