Saturday, October 22, 2005

All The Right Movies

There is a certain type of movie that holds a special place in my heart. I'm not quite sure what name to give them. They're not bad, but they're not good. They're often aired on late night cable stations, but a good majority of my peers still haven't seen them. They are cliche-ridden and predictable, but still amusing. They're incredibly dated, but....well, that may be the very reason I like them. They're the underappreciated movies of the '80s. They take me back to those days, allowing me to feel nostalgic yet glad those days are over at the same time. They never achieved the popularity of other favorites of the decade, like The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off or even Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. And while there are probably several good reasons for that,they are still just as big a part of my past. If I am flipping through the TV dial and any of these movies appears, I am guranteed to watch the whole thing. It makes no difference if it's already 1:00 am and I have to be up for work in the morning. I'm like a deer caught in headlights. I simply cannot turn away. Still, I won't go out and spend my hard-earned money the DVDs. I really should though, because as often as they are on TV, they're always edited to hell.

There are probably many movies that fit this description, but I will narrow it down to my Top Ten. These are the few, the proud, the cheesetastically delicious.

10. Just One of the Guys
It's hard for me to find anything truly gratifying about this movie. I guess it's just so ridiculous that I can't help but watch it every time it's on in the hopes that it will actually get better. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is the story of a girl who believes she has to masquerade as a boy in order to win a journalism contest. She becomes a pretty cool guy at his/her new school and offers to help a loser land the girl of his dreams. But guess what? She starts to fall for him! Yes, the old gender-switch/love mix-up plot. While it does have some amusing moments, the two leads are positively boring. Joyce Hyser as Terry (how lucky for her that she already has a unisex name) has about as much charisma as Mare Winningham had in St. Elmo's Fire. I actually find myself hoping throughout the whole movie that some guy beats the crap out of her before he realizes she's really a chick. Then there's the love interest, Rick, as played by Clayton Rohner. You may recognize Clayton as one of the Worst Actors in the World. There is a scene with him that actually makes me want to put my fist through the TV and beat him to a pulp. I can't remember it exactly, but I think it may be when Terry tells him she's a girl and he says something like, "Yeah right, and I'm Cyndi Lauper". But he pronounces it low (rhymes with cow) -per. That goes right through me, like nails on a chalkboard. However, in spite of those two idiots, the movie remains watchable simply for the silly plot and some of the supporting cast. Billy Jayne, who was on the late, great Parker Lewis Can't Lose, appears as Terry's younger, horny brother and Twin Peaks' Sherilynn Fenn is the school slut who knows so much about men that she didn't even realize she was lusting after a girl in boy's clothing. '80s uber-stud and uber-jerk, Leigh McCloskey and Billy Zabka respectively, also have supporting roles as they so often did in those days.

9. The Legend of Billie Jean
I will hand it to the writers of this one. They came up with a plot that hadn't been done over and over. Essentially, Billie Jean is a pretty girl who gets harrassed by some of the local boys. One of them ends up trashing her brother's scooter and when she tries to get the boy's father to pay them for it, he refuses to pay and then tries to rape her. Trying to get away, Billie's brother, Binx accidentally shoots the old perv and they, along with a couple of friends, go on the run from the law. When the story hits the media, the old perv (who wasn't seriously injured in the shooting) starts selling t-shirts and such, capitalizing on the incident. Since Perv won't pay up for the damage he caused to the scooter, the gang fakes a kidnapping, taking the D.A.'s poor little rich-boy son "hostage", eventually elevating Billie Jean to cult hero status. It's definitely a weird flick. It's all fairly enjoyable, but comparing Billie Jean to Joan of Arc is a bit much. At some point during the movie, I always laugh, throw up my hands and say, "All this over a damn scooter! It's a SCOOTER!" Still, Helen Slater is very likable as Billie Jean, which helps with the suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy many parts of this movie. As for the supporting cast, big star Christian Slater made his major movie debut here in the role of Binx. Keith Gordon, the psycho nerd from Christine, plays the D.A.'s kid and Yeardley Smith, best known as the voice of Lisa Simpson, is one of Billie Jean's fugitive friends. There are also a couple of established actors in this movie, Peter Coyote and Dean Stockwell. Sprinkling in a few well-knowns always gives an otherwise cheesy movie a little more credibility. One good song will give a movie more cred as well, which in this case is the over-dramatic but very singable theme, Pat Benatar's "Invincible".

8. Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Ever wonder what Sarah Jessica Parker did in between her transformation from geek on Square Pegs to chic, somewhere around Honeymoon in Vegas? Yes, she appeared in the much better, more popular Footloose, but let's not forget her other foray into the teen-dance movie genre. While she had to take a backseat to Lori Singer in that other film, she was front and center in this one. There are some plot similarities to both Footloose and the as-then unheard of classic, Dirty Dancing. As in the former, SJP plays a young girl whose love of dancing is squashed by her overprotective father. As in the latter, dancing allows the young woman to find love, find herself and stand up to said overprotective father. This really is quite a piece of fluff, but so good for a chilly night curled up in a blanket, eating a tub of popcorn. No thinking necessary! The plot has everything you would expect - a good girl trying to achieve her dreams, a snotty rich girl trying to buy her way into everything, the good friend/"bad" Catholic schoolgirl (in the form of a young Helen Hunt, no less), lots of bad music and plenty of slo-mo dance moves. Unlike Footloose and Dirty Dancing, the soundtrack is pretty horrible. The Cyndi Low-per song of the same name isn't even on it. However, I guarantee anyone who watches this movie will walk around for a week afterwards, against their better judgement singing, "dancing in Heaven I never thought I'd ever get my feet this far...". Damn, I had to start. Now that infernal song is embedded in my brain.

7. Heaven Help Us
I mentioned this movie briefly in my post about forgotten '80s characters, focusing on Stephen Geoffreys. Geoffreys actually has a pretty small role in this film. The stars are Andrew McCarthy and Mary Stuart Masterson. Andrew plays a teenager who moves to Brooklyn and enrolls in a Catholic school, and Mary is the shy, local diner girl who catches his eye. This is the first movie on my list that can actually elicit genuine belly laughs from me. Most of the comedy comes via Kevin Dillon, who is always so good as the stupid punk. Then there is the requisite nerdy, fat kid who inexplicably ends up in the gang even though he's still picked on, but who you can't quite feel sorry for because he's such a pain in the ass. It's basically just a coming-of-age story set in the '60s, and the repressive nature of the Catholic school only helps to make the boys more rebellious, resulting in more comedy. Hollywood heavyweight, Donald Sutherland, appears as the Big Monk on Campus and other well-known character actors like John Heard (Home Alone, Deceived) and Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless) have supporting roles. Many totally '80s folks show up also, including Calvert "Larry 'Bud' Melman" DeForest, Yeardley Smith and Patrick Dempsey.

6. Can't Buy Me Love
Speaking of Patrick Dempsey, his role in CBML is probably his most well-known, unless you're one of those Grey's Anatomy fans. And I have to give the boy props for growing up mighty fine. I always found him rather dorky back in the day. Anyway, this is pretty typical '80s teen fare. Nerdy Ronald is tired of being ignored, so in an attempt to win friends he offers the most popular girl in school, Cindy, $1000 to pretend to be his girlfriend. His plan works and Ronald is soon hanging out with the senior chic clique. As we all might expect, Ronald's popularity causes him to treat his old friends like crap, act like a jerk in general and decide that he'd rather bang every hot girl in school rather than stay with Cindy, who he is really falling in love with. It's actually pretty good as far as illustrating the class wars that go on in high school. Of course, there is that one absolutely laughable, ridiculously over the top moment where Ronald gives a cafeteria speech about how everyone should be friends which causes all the kids in the cafeteria to start clapping. Ugh. For the most part though, this is a fun movie to watch.

5. Making The Grade
I'll be honest. I haven't seen this comedy in years. But believe me, I am dying to see it again. I'm almost to the point where I might just have to go rent it. I remember this movie as being quite hilarious even though the plot was the biggest cliche of all: the switched-identity. Judd Nelson stars as tough kid, Eddie who is looking for a way to escape his gambling debts. Enter lazy rich kid, Palmer, who pays Eddie to go to prep school for him while he goes on vacation. Naturally, Eddie falls in love with a rich girl and starts turning into a stuffed shirt after getting accustomed to prep school life. I don't really know anything about Dana Olsen, who plays Palmer, but he is really funny in this movie. Judd Nelson is interesting enough, but he doesn't seem to have the same spark that he had in The Breakfast Club. It gets really good when Eddie's bookie shows up, who is played by Andrew Dice Clay. His character is named "Dice", oddly enough, and I'm fairly certain he is supposed to be the same character as the bouncer who briefly appeared in Pretty in Pink. He gets some more screen time in this one, and rightfully so. I've always been a fan of the Dice Man. And it's especially endearing that his character seems to want to be John Travolta so badly.

4. Some Kind of Wonderful
Here we have Mary Stuart Masterson in her standard role, the "tough but vulnerable girl", as she described it once on SNL. This is another exercise in high school kids wanting to be popular. Eric Stoltz stars as Keith, who really wants a date with Miss Popularity, Amanda Jones, played by Lea Thompson. Masterson is Keith's best friend, Watts, the tomboy who realizes that she's really in love with Keith. I don't like this movie as much as some of the others on the list, but it made #4 because I've seen it an obscene number of times. I still really don't get the point. It's apparent halfway through that Keith and Watts are diggin' on each other, so I don't understand why he still goes on the date with Amanda. I think it has something to do with the fact that he finds out her a-hole ex boyfriend (Craig Sheffer) and his gang are planning to beat him up if he shows up at their party. And of course he shows up, and he and Amanda embarass the ex at his own party by calling him out as a jerk and a coward. Oh yeah, and you can hear one of my favorite songs, "Beat's So Lonely" in the background at the party!

3. Red Dawn
Wolverines!!! This can really only be thought of as a cheesy movie because of the improbability of it. I mean, let's say that Russia and Cuba decides to invade us. Or at this point, any number of Middle East countries. Does anyone really believe that a small group of only 8 or 9 teenagers could go into hiding and effectively wage a counterattack against the invaders? Then again, not too many of them ended up surviving, so maybe it isn't so far off base. The ensemble cast is comprised of '80s mainstays such as Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey, and they all do a fine job.

2. Casual Sex?
This is probably the movie I have seen most often out of all of these. There was a time when this was airing on USA practically every night for three months straight. I don't know what it is I like so much about it, it's just fun. Stars Lea Thompson (again) and SNL alum Victoria Jackson play two women looking for love at the beginning of the "safe sex era". They decide to take a vacation at a health spa, assuming that they will find men who care about their bodies and would therefore be less likely to be harboring various STDs. Any single woman can appreciate this movie and will get a chuckle out of the loser guys that these girls encounter. The ladies may be the stars, but this movie belongs to Andrew Dice Clay, who steals every scene he's in. He plays Vinnie, an annoying, horny, loudmouthed Italian wannabe-stud (imagine that) who actually ends up having a sensitive side. I'm even left wanting to marry him after watching this.

1. Fraternity Vacation
Ah, yes....the best of the Spring Break flicks! I don't care what anyone says, this movie is hysterical. The plot is unimportant, but I will summarize. Dorky Wendell (Stephen Geoffreys, of course) befriends two frat boys by offering to let them stay with him at his father's beach house. The father makes his own deal with the frat brothers, agreeing to buy the fraternity a jacuzzi if they can get his son laid. Upon arriving in Palm Springs, they spot a foxy blonde chick who seems to be much more classy than the typical girls gone wild. The frat boys make a bet with two guys from a rival house to see which "team" can get her into bed first. Hilarity ensues. And I say that with absolutely no sarcasm! It's really just another teen hijinx movie, but there is something about this particular cast that makes it rise above the rest of the pack. If for nothing else, it's worth watching to see a very young, charming Tim Robbins as "Mother", the crazy half of the Good Frat Boy team. (That's him in the picture, wearing what I coveted most back Chuck Taylors.) Leigh McCloskey shows up again as, what else, the uber-stud and womanizing half of the Bad Frat Boy team. There are plenty of other familiar faces as well. Cameron Dye (Valley Girl) stars as the GFB team's ladies' man, Matt McCoy (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Police Academy 5&6) is the other half of the BFB team, Amanda Bearse (Married: With Children) is Wendell's would-be girlfriend, John Vernon (Animal House and a million other movies) plays the no-nonsense police chief and Sheree J. Wilson struts around in much skimpier clothes than she could ever wear on Walker: Texas Ranger. Please, if you haven't already seen this movie, go rent it. Now.

If you're wondering why Staying Alive isn't on dare you! That's not cheesy!! Like it's so hard to repeatedly watch a hot man with great hair writhing around in a loin cloth. Please.


onangelwings said...

I agree with you on the first movie you mention...I watch it every time it is on. Love to hate it kind of movie. I need to do a list like this.

Brian said...

Hi Beck. Just stumbled across your blog via the cool little "next blog" button.

Loved this post - it so took me back. I loved "Just One of the Guys," and "Some Kind of Wonderful." "Red Dawn" I still watch when it comes. Is there anyone in that movie who didn't become a big star?

I'd add "From the Hip" to the list. The courtroom battle over the admissibility of the a-word was classic.

Keep up the good work!

LoraLoo said...

This was a great list. I forgot all about The Legend of Billie Jean. Some Kind of Wonderful is one of my favorites.

Angie said...

I think I love you. In a strictly separated-at-birth kind of way. This could have almost been MY list!!!

Bar Bar A said...

Have to admit, I haven't heard of all of those but I love "Some Kind of Wonderful".

SkyeBlue2U said...

Hi! Thank you, you solved my haunting ? "Red Dawn", that movie has been bothering my cobwebs of my mind for two years, thankyou.

Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

Wow, I think I've seen all of those movies 100 times each, and in a true ME fashion, even was ashamed for watching the second through one-hundredth time. I still watch them on cable late at night.

And thank you for mentioning Girls Just Wanna Have Fun! It's famous in my neck of the woods (or was when it came out), because it featured a song by a local music band, Holland. In Chicago, Tommy Holland was slated to be our area's Bruce Springsteen (only, more fun), but alas, it did not happen. However, when you watch the movie, listen for the song "Wake Up the Neighborhood" and know that in Chicago, that scene was played on VCRs over and over because it was a local band we hoped was about to make it big.

thejake420 said...

I've always liked "Just One Of The Guys" and "Can't Buy Me Love".

Actually, it isn't so much that I actually like them, but more like I don't know why, but whenever I see them on TV, I just don't seem to change the channel. Maybe it's just that I'd prefer the familiarity of something so-so than risk watching something new that bites. ;)

So sayeth Angry Internet Guy, the only voice that "really" matters on the web.

Captoe said...

Haven't seen CBML in years and years.

I'd forgotten Red Dawn even existed!


cmhl said...

I loved heaven help us.....

Alice said...

i'm so pissed i haven't seen all these movies!! how can i be missing bad 80s films? must rent! now! or maybe just stay glued to USA for a few days :-)

Goan Pao said...

Gosh..maybe I am not a weirdo afterall...I bet a few people who I have told that I can watch a non sensical movie over and over again though of me as a low life form with no purpose in life.
I dont understand the urge I have tosee these darned movies...I always end up late for work the next day...Ive seen most of the movies a few times..but there are a few others that I have watched many a I can remember is crocodile dundee...

The Megan said...

OMG, I remember 'Just One Of The Guys'... I used to watch that all the time when I was a kid... I remember, there was a scene at the end where Teri/Terry flashes Rick her boobs to prove she's a she, and my mom walked in the room right at that moment... needless to say, I wasn't allowed to watch that movie again for quite a while...

ps I happen to be 'one of those Grey's Anatomy fans'... mmm mmm mmm, growing up certainly did THAT man good... =)

Lee Ann said...

Great list. I know what you mean about deer in the headlights syndrome. That same thing happens to me, and when it does, I lose all track of time. Just can't resist some those, even though you know what is going to happen, it still pulls you in.

Homer Jay said...

Eventhough I am 33 I often question whether I am a true child of the 80s. I mean, the whole decade I listened to the oldies station. But then I read your list and realized some of my favorite movies of all time are on in. Particularyl Red Dawn and Some Kind of Wonderful. Perhaps now I can admit my secret crush on Cyndi Low-per.

An80sNut said...

I have to say that I'd rate Just One Of The Guys a bit higher for one reason. She exposes a very impressive rack at the end of the movie to prove her femininity. I still adore the soundtrack to Some Kind Of Wonderful. After seeing the list, I do think that you could probably come up with a good Top 10 Judd Nelson films list.


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