October 15, 2010

Catching up on a lost cinematic childhood - #2

Some months back, I shared with you the terrible secrets of my movie-starved childhood. It wasn't that I wasn't watching movies; I just somehow managed to miss all the culturally important ones. But since I belive that 70s-80s blockbusters are just as important to film fluency as some of their loftier brethren, I'm holding myself accountable and trying to set things right. In my last installment I shared my progress catching up with classics from Star Wars to Dumb and Dumber, and here's more that I've either seen since or forgotten about for the first round. Again, these are films that seemingly everyone of my generation saw as a child or young teen (except me!).

Beetlejuice (1988)
Earlier this year, there was a Tim Burton exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that has since gone on tour. The exhibit featured drawings, designs, props, costumes, and any other film-related paraphernalia imaginable. Why do I mention this? Because sadly, I feel that Beetlejuice would have been more entertaining as an exhibit of this nature than as a film. The overall look of the thing is classic Burton and is a joy to revel in, but nothing seems to be gained from inserting people into the sets and costumes. I also found the character of Beetlejuice to be exceptionally grating. Sorry, Tim.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
This was my first John Carpenter movie, and I was pretty underwhelmed. Everyone has a different definition of good silly and bad silly, and I'm afraid that this was bad silly for me. The undeniable charisma of Kurt Russell is a strong point, but mostly it felt like an 80s arcade game with some arcane depictions of women and Asians. I didn't give up on Carpenter, however, and discovered that The Thing (1982) was much more on my wavelength.

Die Hard (1988)
And speaking of charisma, holy 80s Bruce Willis! For as epic and explodey as this gets, it effectively milks a really simple premise of one man against a handful of others. Many action films undercut their own impact by having a lot of characters, locations, and plot details, but less is definitely more here. Willis is at his peak, conveying not only gruff charm but the rare notion that the physical hell he goes through actually takes a toll on him (most action heroes perpetually seem like they've done nothing more than lift a gallon of milk). I was a bit underwhelmed by Hans Gruber, to be honest (maybe the notion of a sophisticated villain just isn't as novel to me?) but that might be partially because instead of experiencing the memorable debut of a new talent as 80s audiences did, it was more "why yes, that is noted thespian Alan Rickman."

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

I ran hot and cold on this one. I think a lot of it depends on how on board you are with the Pee-Wee Herman persona, and while I could mostly dig it I think I was held back a critical 10% or so. That said, I did enjoy spending time in a completely uncensored Burton world that predates his seemingly interminable "kooky macabre" phase. I probably could have enjoyed it as a kid, but only if I had a special edition that edited out the Large Marge scene, thus preventing the need for years of therapy.

Rocky (1976)
I admit I approached this one with apprehension, because its reputation as a corny-but-classic underdog sports flick wasn't really doing anything for me. Why it has that reputation I have no idea, because this is first and foremost a romantic drama and a terrific one at that. It's just a superbly written, acted, and directed blue collar love story, with Sylvester Stallone acing the role of a talkative dork who is rather incidentally a boxer. It's telling that after the big fight, Rocky seems somewhat disinterested in the outcome and is focused solely on finding Adrian. Definitely deserves its classic status.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

A movie that combines film noir and cartoons? Where has this been all my life?! A combination that shouldn't work is a true delight, laden with cheeky references and wonderfully wacky characters of both the real and animated variety. Special effects that could probably be done pretty effortlessly today still hold up well despite how much harder it must have been to create them, and the animation and live-action meld seamlessly. Seeing it when I did was definitely for the better, though, since the villain (Christopher Lloyd) would have scared the crap out of me.

Return of the Jedi, the Indiana Jones films and the Bond films remain embarassingly unwatched by me, but I feel that I am slowly earning back my right to be an American child of the 80s. Have you seen any childhood staples for the first time as an adult? What did you think?


Chris said...

I saw pee wee, and beetle juice this year, and both didn't work for me as an adult. I was impressed by the opening of who framed roger rabbit, but didn't finish that movie.

I guess I demand a more mature story these days. Although I can easily rewatch the ones I liked as a child like Big trouble in little china.

BTW, if you're trying to get in to Bond, I've listed my favorites on my A-Z nostalgic list on my blog.

Chris said...

A couple of films that come to mind, i saw a bit late, which i liked, are Say anything, The Sure Thing, wild hearts can't be broken, & Cinema Paradiso. They still work, I think, even though you are in your 20s.

joem18b said...

Hmm. There is young vs old with regard to movie tastes, and then there is male vs female. I watch some movies by myself and some with my spouse. Beetlejuice, Rocky, Big Trouble In Little China, Die Hard, Roger Rabbit, and Return of the Jedi are all movies I liked when young and still like when old, and they are all movies that my spouse wouldn't sit through, young or old.

That's just us two, of course, but it would be interesting to know which, of the movies that you missed when you were young, you would have liked then but not now.

And how important a viewer's gender tends to be, if at all, wrt watching a movie, of course.

Julie said...

I'm always hesitant to break down viewer reactions by gender, because unless it regards something fundamentally gender-related (i.e. childbirth, violence against women, etc), then there's really no solid link between gender and reaction. I was talking to a woman who says she abhors violence in movies; is this because she's female, or is it just a personal preference? I know tons of women who like violent movies, so it becomes difficult to categorize this as a gendered response. Similarly, I love musicals, but so does my completely heterosexual boyfriend. Ultimately, I doubt your spouse's tastes are indicative of anything other than...well, individual taste!

joem18b said...

Makes sense. Thanks.

Rules out the concept of "chick flicks," I guess.

DGB said...

Willy Wonka scared the crap out of me so much as a kid, I had to wait until I was an adult to watch it. (Love it now, by the way.)

Also...A Christmas Story. Never saw it until a handful of years ago.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

hey this is nice article.I liked as a child like Big trouble in little china.I was impressed by the opening of who framed roger rabbit, but didn't finish that movie.
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