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Posts tagged ‘80s’

29
Jul

Everybody Wants Some!!


Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Those expecting a defined beginning, middle, and end, along with the standard parabolas of plot and pacing, are certain to be disappointed by “Everybody Wants Some!!,” written and directed by Richard Linklater, a delightful and fresh comedy about college baseball players simply living, bonding, and partying together before the first day of university.

In mainstream films, especially comedies, jocks are almost always a target of ridicule. They are often depicted are dumb, mean, and sexist, sometimes downright racist—with nothing on their minds but throwing balls, driving expensive cars, chasing girls, and getting some action. We are so aware of these stereotypes that we almost expect these assumptions to come to the surface every time we meet a character in the movies who just so happens to be passionate about sports or a specific sport. Linklater, a most humanistic writer-director, unveils a world where audiences do not have to settle for the lowest hanging fruit. Instead, he inspires us to look up and recognize alternatives that are much closer to reality.

The picture is an extended hangout with the guys. Aside from their shared athleticism, they are painfully ordinary which makes them all the more relatable. Our conduit to the story is pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), one of the five incoming freshmen who, like their seniors, were the best baseball players in their high schools. It is interesting to observe the dynamics of the team members as they live in two neighboring houses. All of them are competitive; all of them hate losing. When someone loses a game, even it is over something as silly as a pingpong match or a round of billiards, we get a chance to peek at their true characters. Hilarity ensues.

But the film is funny not because there are great gags that can only happen in the movies. Amusement often comes in our recognition of ourselves in characters we don’t image we can relate with on any level at first glance. Sometimes it is through a character’s specific sense of humor. Unlike mundane comedies we have been accustomed to being constantly subjected to, every jock we meet here has a personality, a perspective, a certain unpredictability. Each of them has a different “self” which can be observed when he is in a group versus conversing with only one other person. It is enjoyable to discover who they are in different environments and circumstances because sometimes they might not even know who they are just yet.

From a technical standpoint, most impressive is the writer-director’s confidence in modulating pacing and tone. Observe that about halfway through when the guys have started to become familiar with one another, there is a considerable slowdown of pace and the tone leans toward a more philosophical ground. There are still parties but the parties in the latter half are not only about getting drunk or hooking up any longer. There is a great exchange between Jake and Finnegan (Glen Powell) in a punk party where they acknowledge that experiences allow them to put on identities that they can choose to take away and cultivate. I loved that there are valuable lessons dispersed throughout the film that one cannot learn only by sitting in a classroom.

Notice I have not used to the word “nostalgia.” The story is set in end-of-summer 1980 and there are wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) music, clothes, hairstyles, slangs and phrases. But to define the picture as mere nostalgia is to deny it ample credit. Take away these so-called nostalgic elements and it remains a great picture because its core radiates humanism. “Everybody Wants Some!!,” like Linklater’s excellent comedy “Dazed and Confused,” is a piece of work that will, or should be, remembered many years down the line. Both films simply show young people as young people and such an honest approach transcends time.

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13
Apr

The Karate Kid


Karate Kid, The (1984)
★★★ / ★★★★

Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) was uprooted from New Jersey because his mother (Randee Heller) was hired by an up-and-coming company in California. When he started to have a crush on rich girl, Ali (Elisabeth Shue), who lived in a rich neighborhood, he found himself bullied by Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Johnny (William Zabka), and his meathead friends. We just knew they were a bunch of kids that were up to no good because they were only in high school yet they rode bikes–not the kid-friendly type but the kind with a motor and goes “Vroom!” Written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John G. Avildsen, “The Karate Kid” was deliciously 80’s. Everything about it screamed Southern California summer: The beach, the blondes, the soundtrack, and even the (outdated) slangs. It wasn’t difficult to root for Daniel because he was so scrawny and nice. Daniel being bullied by Johnny, who desperately needed anger management classes, was like watching an adorable puppy get thrown around for no reason. The polarized good versus evil worked because its target audience was the younger demographic. It had enough touching moments and it took the issue of bullying seriously. At times, however, the conflict involving the division of class felt forced. We needn’t be constantly reminded in conversations that Daniel was poor. We could see it from where he lived, his clothes, and his determination to prove himself. Although Daniel had a healthy self-esteem, Ali’s snobby friends constantly looked at him like he was dirt. So the new kid in the neighborhood began to feel like he wasn’t good enough for the girl next door. We all know how it feels to feel like we’re not be good enough because we think someone else having more is tantamount to superiority. Daniel initially wanted to learn karate from the enigmatic Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) because he wanted to fight his tormentors. Over time, in a non-heavy-handed way, Daniel’s motivations evolved. Fighting and winning meant a way for him to alter people’s perceptions and expectations. That was the reason why, I think, the film resonated to its audience. The screenplay was able to successfully tap into our insecurities and convince us that we are in control of our bodies and minds. I admired that the picture wasn’t just about the karate training disguised in household chores like scrubbing the floor and painting the house. It had a lot of surprising humor embedded in those scenes. I loved how Morita kept his constant poker face yet was able to deliver laugh-out-loud one-liners with precision. There was an air of authority about him but he remained lovable. The supporting scenes, such as when Daniel and Ali went on their first date, were cute but never syrupy. Its simplicity made us feel like we were watching a real date, awkwardness and all. “The Karate Kid,” despite its predictable plot, was a joy to watch because it managed to avoid hammering us over the head with the life lessons it had to impart. Most importantly, Daniel maturing just enough over one summer felt believable.

6
Sep

Take Me Home Tonight


Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Matt (Topher Grace) graduated from MIT but he recently moved back home because he didn’t know what to do with his life. While working in a video store at the mall, Matt’s high school crush, Tori (Teresa Palmer), walked in. Embarrassed to be seen as a clerk, Matt pretended to be another shopper and she almost immediately recognized him. Hoping to catch up, Tori invited Matt to attend a party. “Take Me Home Tonight,” written by Jackie Filgo and Jeff Filgo, was a trip back to the 80s where shoulder pads and big hair reigned supreme. I was instantly drawn to it because of the wild fashion, catchy soundtrack, and the story about a young man whose life was at a standstill was relatable. However, the writers’ decision to focus on the party and the crazy happenings took away some precious time for us to really understand the pain and frustration that Matt was going through. There was no doubt that the party had its share of laughs. I chuckled watching Barry (Dan Fogler), Matt’s best friend, deliberately put himself into embarrassing situations. The dance-off didn’t propel the story forward but it added to the nostalgia. When I can tell that the actors are having fun, I can’t help but have fun, too. There was also a very funny bit involving an older woman, Barry, and a German guy who had a fetish for watching people have sex. What the picture needed was more introspective moments. There were two scenes that moved me: when Matt tried to convince Wendy (Anna Faris), his twin, not to marry her slug of a boyfriend (Chris Patt) and when Matt’s father (Michael Biehn) had to perform some tough love to motivate his son to get out of the rut he had grown accustomed to. The two scenes stood out because I learned about Matt through other people. Learning about him from another perspective was important because Matt didn’t really know himself. There was only one thing he wanted for sure: Tori. I wished there were less scenes between she and Matt. I understood that our protagonist was so fixated at the fantasy of being together with his high school crush and he needed to get her out of his system. She was a nice character, sure, but that was the problem: she was so nice, she was almost dull. I was more interested in Wendy and the unopened letter she had received from a prestigious graduate school in England. She was interesting because, unlike Matt, she took action to pursue her passion as a writer. She knew her career path but was weighed down by the responsibility of a romantic relationship. She had to choose. The film would have been stronger if the screenplay and direction had taken the twins and allowed them to serve as character foils for one another. Grace and Faris had wonderful chemistry. They didn’t need to do physical comedy to be funny. A friendly banter and rolling of the eyes were enough to make me want to keep listening to whatever they had to say because I felt like they shared a history. The rest were filler.

3
Jan

The Breakfast Club


Breakfast Club, The (1985)
★★★ / ★★★★

Five high school students who personify a geek (Anthony Michael Hall), a princess (Molly Ringwald), a jock (Emilio Estevez), a basket case (Ally Sheedy) and a criminal (Judd Nelson) spent a Saturday in detention under the eyes of a begrudged principal (Paul Gleason). The picture’s argument was the fact that although we label ourselves (or others label us) to be in a specific category in the high school social strata, we can relate with each of the five characters because we share one commonality: in high school, all of us are just hoping to get by and waiting for our lives to actually begin. The film was astute in observing the teenagers while they interacted with each other and when they were on their own. Even if the characters were not saying anything or if they were just on the background, I was able to read them and I thought of things that they might have been thinking at the time. Having been released in era where typical teen flicks were abound, “The Breakfast Club” almost immediately gained a cult following because of its honesty, right amount of cheesiness, and cathartic quality. My favorite scene was toward the end when the five were in a circle and decided to share why they were sent to detention. I liked the fact that it wasn’t a typical “sharing time” where everybody was solemn and serious all the time. They were actually able to make jokes toward and around each other in between discussing their issues. It made me think of me and my friends when would do the same thing. Out of the five, I could relate to Hall’s character the most (and a bit of Ringwald’s because of her slight conceitedness). It made me think of the way I was in high school concerning my penchant (or perhaps even obsession) for getting straight A’s. It got to the point where getting straight A’s was something that I expected of myself instead of something that I had to strive for. I remember being so hard on myself for making small mistakes when, looking back on it, I didn’t really need to. Now that I’m older, I just think of grades as letters on a piece of paper and nothing more. They don’t define us and they certainly don’t dictate what we can offer the world. The difference between me and Hall’s character was my parents did not pressure me into getting the perfect grade point average. However, I can just imagine how it must have been like for other students who were not so lucky–those that jumped off buildings in college because they felt a need to have the “perfect academic record” to have a “secure future.” Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, I thought he did a wonderful job capturing the essence of teenagers despite their place in the high school hierarchy.

18
Sep

Some Kind of Wonderful


Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
★★ / ★★★★

“Some Kind of Wonderful” was about two best friends named Keith and Watts (Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson, respectively) who initially failed to see that they were perfect for each other. Watts being a hardcore tomboy certainly did not help their situation. But after popular girl Amanda (Lea Thompson) and popular rich boy Hardy (Craig Sheffer) broke up, Keith wanted to take Amanda on a date and Watts started to feel uncomfortably jealous. I did enjoy the movie as a whole but I think it came up short on delivering something unique. I love the whole 80’s thing going on with Keith’s eccentric family, the divide between the rich and the poor students, the big hair, and the nostalgic soundtrack but by the end of the movie, I didn’t feel like I knew the main characters that well. Since the picture was written by John Hughes, compared to his other projects, his characters in this film felt one-dimensional and the way the story unfolded (like most 80s teen movies) felt painfully obvious. But what made this movie work less for me was the fact that it didn’t even try to surprise me in terms of delivering something I didn’t expect from the characters. I also thought it was weird that I didn’t get emotionally involved with the characters’ lives. All of the drama was on the outside so as much as I tried to like it on another deeper level, I just couldn’t. Although there was tension between Keith and his dad (John Ashton) because Keith did not want to go to college, it felt like a distraction because the movie was more about (or should be more about) the relationship between the two best friends. I didn’t feel much chemistry between Keith and Watts so I thought it was necessary for the film to prove to me that there’s a compelling reason for the two of them to be together. There were times when I thought Thompson’s character outshined Masterson’s because of the popular girl’s shame of desperately trying to hide where she came from to the point where she was willing to hang out with snobby rich girls who could care less about her. I was more interested in Thompson’s character because I could see the pain she was going through and the reasons why she decided to make certain decisions. Although Watts had her share of insecurities in the locker room, I needed to know more about her, especially if Keith was going to choose her in the end. Still, there were some funny scenes especially when Elias Koteas (as a bully who looks like a skinhead) was on screen. Directed by Howard Deutch, “Some Kind of Wonderful” needed more sensitive moments that weren’t necessarily expressed in a highlighted manner. Sometimes, subtelty can go a long way. Ultimately, it’s a nice movie but there’s a fine line between sensitive and cheesy. At times it stepped on the latter’s territory.

5
Nov

Adventureland


Adventureland (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

This 80’s-inspired coming-of-age comedy-drama about James Brennan, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who was forced to work on a theme park after his parents (Jack Gilpin and Wendie Malick) revealed to him that they were having pecuniary issues. He also had to sacrifice his trip to Europe, a graduation present that he was obviously looking forward to. What I loved about “Adventureland” was it managed to focus the spotlight on James’ journey to maturity no matter how painful some realizations ended up being. The colorful characters from the theme park, including his romantic interest (Kristen Stewart), and the comedy felt secondary to journey. It was a nice change from typical teen comedies of today. I also really liked the music that were featured. It feels like once in a blue moon that I actually am familiar with 85-90% of the soundtrack. (Mainly because my parents are big on music of the 1980’s and I grew up listening to such.) Written and directed by Greg Mottola (“Superbad”), this film managed to paint all of its characters with a certain sadness which happened to unconsciously come out whenever they interacted with each other. Motolla actually gave his characters a chance to talk about their dreams, insecurities, and the things that were going on at home instead of just giving the audiences easy (and uninsightful) slapstick comedy. The only thing that did not quite work for me was Ryan Reynolds’ character and his relationship with James’ romantic interest. Not only did Reynolds and Stewart have too many scenes together, but the relationship somewhat felt forced. If I look back on the picture and not think about the scenes that mainly involved those two characters, pretty much everything else would have been the same. Having said that, this is still a strong movie about a college graduate who, through trials of hardwork and heartbreak in the theme park, actually learned more about himself and about life than if he had gone to Europe. And that’s a nice message for those who cannot quite leave their hometowns because of their many responsibilities or for whatever reason.