An X’ers Guide to the Throwback Films // 1987
A few weeks ago, one of my fellow writers, Miss Marina B, wrote an article about her favorite movies of 1987. A Millennial’s Guide to the Throwback Films // 1987, she called it. Her list of movies stuck with me. The movies she chose were obviously not the movies I would choose, but why? Maybe because we are opposite genders, but also perhaps because we come from two different generations.
She’s a Millennial. I was born in 1975, which, although I absolutely dislike the moniker, puts me squarely in Generation X. Couldn’t they have thought of a better name for my generation? Anyway, I have been thinking about my own list from 1987, and although there were many upon many that I remember fondly, but sadly did not make the cut for my Top 10: Dragnet, *batteries not included, Spaceballs, Nightmare 3, Innerspace, Can’t Buy Me Love, Harry and the Hendersons, Overboard, Three Men and a Baby, Mannequin, The Untouchables, Good Morning Vietnam, Black Widow, Blind Date, The Secret of My Success, Project X, Predator, Summer School, Stakeout, Who’s That Girl, The Pick Up Artist, Big Shots, Three O’Clock High. Jesus, the amount of memories I could list with each of these movies could be its own article. However, the following are the ones that I go back to time and again because 1) I like them, and 2) because they bring back to when I was 12; a simpler and less complicated time in my life. Though being in junior high school and fresh off my parents’ divorce, it certainly did not feel less complicated.
But, oh, how it was.
It’s funny how when I made the list how many memories were brought up by the movie titles. These movies are inextricably linked to these memories, so it is almost hard to judge these movies fairly and objectively. Is that the reason so many of us return to the same movies over and over again, not so much for the story, but for the memory of where we were in our lives when we saw that movie for the first time, who we were, what we were doing, who we were with?…
That’s a deeper question for a different article, I guess.
Anyway, without any further ado.
There is no way to rank this list in any kind of order. Short of that, I listed them in the order in which I rewatch them most:
The Princess Bride – This movie was on her list, too, and I expected some crossover, and that just goes to show the universal appeal of some of these movies. How can you not like this movie? It’s got so many great lines, great performances, funny moments, an awesome sword fight, and the true love wins out. This is a gorgeous movie.
Adventures in Babysitting – I think anyone who was my age when they saw this developed an immediate crush on Elisabeth Shue, and no doubt that plays into this movie being one of my favorites from that year. Also, “The Babysitting Blues.”
The Lost Boys – I just wrote about this movie recently. Yeah, it’s a favorite Halloween movie, but I can put it in just about any time of year. So many great quotes: “Burn rubber does not mean warp speed!” and “Holy shit! It’s the attack of Eddie Munster!”
The Monster Squad – Another movie that was on my Halloween list. This movie is just bad ass, and again it’s a thing that goes back to memory. When the kid is sitting on the roof watching the drive-in movies with his dad, they eat Burger King, and I remember when BK used that logo. That logo alone brings back memories of my childhood.
Raising Arizona – Another movie that appeared on Marina’s list as well. It has some of the same oddball, off-kilter humor as The Princess Bride. Nicholas Cage is a great playing a character who always seems to be about a half step behind what is happening. John Goodman and John Forsythe are hysterically primal as two escaped cons who finally come to realize they are better off on the inside. Then, there is the absurd brilliance of The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse!
La Bamba – My mom took my brother and I to see this movie in the theater. She remembered listening to Richie Valens when she was young, and she said when she was little she used to look like the little fat girl in the movie. Lou Diamond Philips does a great job as Richie Valens, but the movie belongs to Esai Morales as Richie’s older ne’er do well brother, Bob.
He owns not just every scene he is in, but the whole movie. He is brilliant in the way he loves and hates his little brother at the same time, the way he can’t help but to be jealous of his little brother, and the way he hates himself for being jealous. I can’t hear Santo and Jonny’s sleepwalk without thinking of this movie, and I can’t help but get a lump in my throat every time Bob shouts into the sky at the end;“RICHIE!!!!!”
RoboCop – When this movie came out, I remember everyone around me going off about how cool and awesome it was. I saw it, and though I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t fall in love with it. Over the next fifteen years or so, I would watch it here and there, but still it didn’t click with me. It wasn’t until I was teaching a college sci-fi film class, and I put that movie on the list. I sat and watched it with the class, and then this the movie worked for me.
Though it has a lot of action in it, RoboCop is not an action movie. It merely uses the action movie genre as a framework to hang its parody of corporate culture and greed, of the yuppie lifestyle of the ’80s, and of the act first think later consequences be damned of that entire era. The movie is genius in how it uses that, and how can you not love the Chiodo Brothers commercials in the movie. You don’t know the Chiodo Bros? Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on Killer Klowns From Outer Space right now.
Lethal Weapon – I saw this before I saw RoboCop. So, when I saw RoboCop, this is what I was expecting. THIS is an action movie.Roger Ebert called it a “Bruised Forearm Movies, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, a movie where you and your date grab each other’s arm every four minutes and you walk out black and blue and grinning from ear to ear. It’s a buddy movie about two homicide cops who chase a gang of drug dealers all over Southern California, and the plot makes an amazing amount of sense, considering that the action hardly ever stops for it.”
Danny Glover plays Roger Murtaugh, a buttoned down family man who just turned 50, and Mel Gibson is Martin Riggs, a wild-eyed, crazy haired loose cannon who just might have a suicidal streak. “The movie’s so tightly wound up,” Ebert concludes, “it’s like a rubber band ready to snap. Richard Donner, the director, throws action scenes at us like hardballs, and we don’t know when to duck. All of the elements of this movie have been seen many times before – the chases, the explosions, the hostage negotiations – but this movie illustrates a favorite belief of mine, which is that the subject of a movie is much less important than its style. I’m a guy who is bored by shootouts and chase scenes. I’ve seen it all. But this movie thrilled me from beginning to end.” Well said, Rog. Well said.
Note: the following trailer does not do the movie justice, but please enjoy it in all its cheesy ’80s glory.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles – This movie always reminds my best friend and I of each other. When we were younger, he was the persnickety Neal Page and I was the go with the flow Del Griffith. However, as the years have gone, it’s fair to say our roles have swapped; he is much more go with the flow, and I somehow have become ever more persnickety.
Anyway, the word that most easily jumps to mind with regards to this movie is pathos – a quality that evokes pity or sadness. When the movie begins, you pity John Candy. You can’t believe there is anyone like this guy, and yet you have stood next to them in line or sat next to them on airplanes. So, you know they do, and as the movie goes on, we, along with Steve Martin, replace the pity with sadness. John Candy’s Del Griffith has lost his wife, who knows how long ago, but she was clearly the anchor in his life. Since she’s been gone, he’s been aimlessly drifting across the country, doing his damnedest to befriend one weary, and hapless traveler after another.
By the end of the movie, when Martin’s Neal Page invites Del over for Thanksgiving dinner, it’s bittersweet at best. Del gets to share dinner with a family, but his wife is still gone, and she will never be replaced. Hopefully this newfound friendship will last, and Del can begin to move on with his life. Below is the moment when Neal Page has reached his threshold with, well, everything.
Roxanne – I was in seventh grade, attending John C. Fremont J.H.S., having just transferred there from Kit Carson sixth grade center where I spent the year previous. I was a new student, and the kids at the bus stop liked to tease me for having a big nose. (I’d like to think that in the years since I have grown into it.) It was in fourth period P.E. class that I met Roxanne. Yeah, in junior high we still had co-ed P.E. classes. I was taken by her blue eyes and long blonde locks immediately, and for the rest of my junior high years and part of my high school years, she was the one. I tried to woo her, but was not at all successful. (Secret admirer letters work in movies, but in real life they are creepy. Also, I was not the wordsmith in seventh grade that Steve Martin was when he wrote this movie’s script. Which is probably why she sticks out in my memory so much now. This is why this movie stands out so much. Steve Martin has a big nose in the movie; I was teased for that. He was in love with Roxanne in the movie, and I was love with a Roxanne in real life. It was like this movie was made for me! More than that, it was like they made a movie of my life!
Steve Martin plays CD Bales, the local fire chief in a small mountain town, in this modern day adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac (get it – CD Bailes), and Daryl Hannah plays Roxanne. This is one of my favorite roles for Daryl Hannah. It ties with Madison, the mermaid in Splash. Though, the entire movie is full of moments that make me laugh: “Goddammit, we’re supposed to put them out!” CD says when he walks into the fire department to find a fire in the trashcan. In fact, any moment involving CD’s dream to transform the fire department into something the locals would want to call in the event of a fire is funny; but the single best moment in the movie comes when Steve Martin challenges someone to come up with a more creative insult for him than “big nose.”
Roxanne is a sweet movie about a sweet romance presented in earnest, without cynicism and without mockery, and it’s the perfect answer to those days and weeks when life is knocking you around a bit too much.
Honorable Mention: The Hidden – This is an interesting movie. To be fair, I’ve only seen it once or twice. Maybe three times, but it was impressive enough that I remember it still. The premise is fairly standard: an alien lifeform jumps from host to host, committing a series of brutal crimes, while the police and an FBI agent try to track it down. However, this movie isn’t just what it is about, but how the movie is about it. This movie has style. It’s thrilling, it’s gripping, it’s exciting, and it’s good. If I ever find it on DVD, I will buy it!
Biggest Disappointment of the Year: JAWS: The Revenge – JAWS is without a doubt and unequivocally my favorite movie of all time. JAWS 2 works well as a slasher movie with the shark taking the place of the faceless killer. JAWS 3, while it has an interesting premise (a shark at Sea World), fumbles the ball when it makes the killer shark the mother of a baby shark they catch earlier in the movie.
Sharks have no maternal love like that. Though, it has a some good names in it, and at least one good performance (I defy anyone to name a movie in which Louis Gossett, Jr does not bring it, and that includes Iron Eagles!), the rest of the movie fails on every level. The shark looks even worse than fake. So, when I heard they were making a part 4, and after I read the screenplay, I was of course excited to see another JAWS movie on the big screen. However, I was disappointed; terribly. This movie is the reason there has never been another JAWS movie, ever.
That’s 1987 for me. Until next time, I’m–