80’s Movie Week

Baseball? Elections? Who?

Here at The Lonesome Quill, we’re delving into matters of true importance—i.e., 80’s Movie Week.

It began with Better Off Dead. Which, who told me that was a good movie? Well, never mind, because John was on board, too. He had fond memories from high school and was prepared to relive them. And . . . he sort of did. At about five minutes in, when I began to glean that the film was not so much a classic 80’s romcom as groan-worthy slapstick with a dose of the surreal, John was matching my eye rolls with chuckles.

“Oh, no,” I said. “This could be a guy movie.”

“It could be,” he agreed.

It was.

A teenage guy movie.

Last night I watched The Pick-Up Artist, sans John, and . . . what do you say about a movie that makes no emotional sense and whose only quasi-meaningful dialogue is almost poetic in its repetition:

Robert Downey,  Jr.: It’ll never work. We’re both risk-takers. We’ll destroy each other.

Molly Ringwald: So you’re saying it’ll never work! Because we’re both too risky. We take too many risks. That’s not a good combination!

RD: Yeah, I’m saying we’re too risky. You and me equals risk. Lots of risk! Too much risk!

MR: We’ll destroy each other! Bad things will happen! With all that risk! Risk, risk, risk!

Also, is there a role less suited to Molly Ringwald? She plays the plucky, steely daughter of a falling-down drunk (Dennis Hopper!) in debt to the mob, when the porcelain-skinned Ringwald reads as protected and privileged. Her character’s plan: Keep the mobsters (Harvey Keitel!) at bay with a frowny face, and then make $25k in a single night by hitting the blackjack tables at Atlantic City. Among her barbed zingers: “For me, sex and money don’t mix.” Yeah, that’ll keep the baseball bats away.

It’s a shame, because Ringwald is such an appealing performer, and I wish her star hadn’t fallen so quickly. In junior high, I worshiped her in Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. I think I even saw (the utterly forgettable) Fresh Horses, just to get more of her. And Robert Downey, Jr. . . . I’ve never understood his reputation as a capital-A Actor, but there is something about him here that is easy and fluid.

In other news, holy cameo appearances! Denis Hopper and Harvey Keitel, as mentioned, but also Victoria Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Christine Baranski, Danny Aiello, Robert Towne, Polly Draper, and Lorraine Bracco—many of them pre-fame. FUN.

Next up: Working Girl. Today or tomorrow.

12 Responses to “80’s Movie Week”

  1. lisa says:

    better off dead was a cultural high point – we learned all about france and the products it boasts…please tell me you didn’t shut the movie before ‘Franch Fries. Franch Dressing. And to drink…Peru!”

    yes, i have seen that movie more times than i am able to count. and i can count really high.

  2. admin says:

    Lisa! Did you watch it . . . drunk? Because I feel that it was meant to be seen in an altered state. Also, it could conceivably improve upon multiple viewings. But I’ll never know!

  3. Tetine says:

    I also remember this movie as hilarious across many, many viewings, though admittedly none have been in the last 20+ years.

  4. admin says:

    OMG. Apparently I missed a big cultural moment in, roughly, 1985.

  5. Eric says:

    The three movies my sister and I used to watch non-stop together in the 80s were Sixteen Candles, History of the World Part I, and the Jerk.

  6. Melissa says:

    John and I watched *The Jerk* for the first time a couple of months ago. We wanted to like it more than we did . . . it felt like something that would grow on a person over time.

  7. Eric says:

    I think The Jerk and Steve Martin were a lot funnier 30 years ago.

    I rewatched it with the non-American wife a few months ago. A bit of a let down, though I will forever love the scene where Martin thinks that the sniper trying to shoot him is actually trying to shoot the cans of oil in the gas station. “Somebody hates these cans”.

    I also tried to show the wife St Elmo’s Fire, an 80s classic that took place in DC, and not only was she bored, I found the acting beyond horrendous.

    I wonder how I would feel about seeing Sixteen Candles now after so many years. That said, I saw Say Anything about year ago and still liked it.

  8. Melissa says:

    That was my favorite scene, too! And my favorite line: “Somebody hates these cans.” It still makes me laugh.

    I remember St. Elmo’s fire as being irredeemable, even with my big crush on Andrew McCarthy.

    And I can see how Say Anything would still hold up. Sixteen Candles might, too, although it’s racist. Sigh.

  9. Sour Fishie says:

    I’ve also seen Better Off Dead dozens of times. (It’s one of the few movies I own.) I can’t believe you didn’t like it! I want my two dollars! This mountain is pure snow! I’m not sure when I first saw it, but it was definitely later than ’85, and I’m pretty sure I was sober. I can’t think of anything more cheering than seventeen year-old Johnny Cusack showering in his socks and hanging himself behind the basement door. A total classic.

  10. Sour Fishie says:

    My favorite 80s movies were the Labyrinth and Some Kind of Wonderful. I still love the Labyrinth — still think David Bowie is hot in his tights with his obsessive wanting that girl. Although now his package seems totally ridiculous. I swear they stuffed his tights with socks. Haven’t seen Some Kind of Wonderful since high school. It did, however, have me wearing men’s underwear for many a year. I want to smack all the small-nosed girls in most of the other 80s movies, Say Anything included. Breakfast club still holds up though. And wasn’t Heathers the 80s? I loved that movie.

  11. Melissa says:

    Sarah, you were the one who recommended Better Off Dead to me — years ago, but I hadn’t forgotten. It might have gone better if I’d seen it with you, considering your appreciation for the surreal. 🙂 And Some Kind of Wonderful! I love that movie, too. Mary Stuart Masterson! Androgynous chic! I’ve never seen Labyrinth and, based on your description . . . might not.

  12. Sour Fishie says:

    Actually, I think you might like the Labyrinth a lot, despite David Bowie and his tights.

    I asked Nico why he thought you didn’t like Better Off Dead, and he replied, “When was the last time you saw it? It’s definitely been a while.

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