Film Brief: Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! is not without its occasional charms and the ability to fall into a pleasurable rhythm, but it will just as soon stall out.  Not surprisingly, it shares the same lackadaisical non-storytelling style of director Richard Linklater’s 1993 effort Dazed and Confused.  I felt a little better about this one than Dazed and Confused, but Linklater could take a lesson from American Graffiti on how to make a compelling version of the ambling youth film.

Everybody Wants Some - text blockSo my next statement you’d expect is that Linklater is a hack — but that’s not the case.  I liked, from what I saw, the charming Before Sunrise (1995), and Bernie was excellent.  So he’s just inconsistent.  Everybody wants some… good movies to watch.  A better story would help, but when Linklater goes out of his way to avoid any drama, the results are less than optimal.  4/10

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Cinematic Greats: 48 Hrs.

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A great movie and an 80’s flashback in one!  Sometimes a movie just hits all the right notes.  That may sound clichéd, but hear me now and believe me later: 48 Hrs. is a fantastic, funny as hell movie with a great Dirty Harry-inspired villain and a thrilling storyline — much more than one could expect in Eddie Murphy’s debut.

If you never saw it, do yourself a favor and catch 48 Hrs., an essential picture that holds its place among the many great movies of the period.

Availability: Netflix

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Flashdance Flashback

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Sundance HD has been airing Flashdance (1983) recently, which certainly puts the iconic 80’s hit in a new light.  Though it was one of my favorite films when it came out, the best viewing I could muster in my formative years was via VHS tape and 19″ Sony Trinitron.  55″ HD makes a big difference.

I was so impressed with what I saw that I considered a “Cinematic Greats” post.  Then I watched a little more and realized how meaningless that category would become once I threw Flashdance in with the likes of Bound, Fargo, and After Dark, My Sweet.  There is obvious cheese in no short quantity here — including the watered-down, Rocky-based plot — and Michael Nouri as the male lead is an absolute hack.

But the spirited dance numbers, original music, and Jennifer Beals’ winsome performance push it into positive territory.  I agree with the criticism out there, but when I see a Tomatometer rating of 33% while Blade Runner sits at 91% and is considered by many to be among the greatest of all films, well, that’s backwards-world.

Despite its flaws, Flashdance holds its place in the pantheon of iconic 80’s pictures, and, as such, is highly recommended and essential viewing — just make sure to watch in HD, and with decent sound.

80’s Flashback: The Sure Thing

The Sure Thing - poster

THIS TO ME is the defining young John Cusack role, though he doesn’t seem much matured in Being John Malkovich.

In any case, The Sure Thing (1985) is a terrific, warm-hearted romantic comedy and a quintessential 80’s classic.  Directed by Rob Reiner as the follow-up to his big-screen debut This Is Spinal Tap, he continued on with Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…, Misery and A Few Good Men.  Wow!  What a run of directorial triumphs by the Meathead.

Comparison Note: Prior post on Valley Girl

The trailers available for The Sure Thing are wanting, so here’s something much better, a hilarious clip!

Take Me to the Bagdad Cafe

Bagdad Cafe - posterThere are some movies that I have a long-seeded personal connection with, and Bagdad Cafe (1987) is one of those movies.  To give you an idea what this movie’s about, I’ll hand off again to Roger Ebert:

The heavyset German lady, her body and soul tightly corseted, her hair sprayed into rocklike permanence, is having a fight with her husband, right there in the Mojave Desert. They are in the middle of some kind of miserable vacation, touring America as a version of hell.

She can take no more. She grabs her suitcase and stalks away from their Mercedes, he drives away into the red, dusty sky, and she walks to a miserable truck stop and asks for a room.

An opening like that makes you stop and think, doesn’t it, about how cut-and-dried most Hollywood movies are. There would seem to be no place in today’s entertainment industry for movies about fat German ladies and homesick truck stops, and yet “Bagdad Cafe” sets us free from the production line of Hollywood’s brain-damaged “high concepts” and walks its own strange and lovely path. There is poetic justice in the fact that this movie, shot in English in America by a German, is one of the biggest box office successes in recent European history.

He ends his review:

Percy Adlon, the director, maintains a certain bleak undercurrent of despair, of crying babies and unpaid bills and young people who have come to the ends of their ropes.

He is saying something in this movie about Europe and America, about the old and the new, about the edge of the desert as the edge of the American Dream. I am not sure exactly what it is, but that is comforting; if a director could assemble these strange characters and then know for sure what they were doing in the same movie together, he would be too confident to find the humor in their situation. The charm of “Bagdad Cafe” is that every character and every moment is unanticipated, obscurely motivated, of uncertain meaning and vibrating with life.

This is a nice, sweet little movie.  Its charm and immigrant theme are reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch movies — think Mystery Train — or as a more recent example (on the charm aspect, not immigrants), perhaps Sunshine Cleaning, or, as an example further along the evolutionary chain, a Wes Anderson film (see prior posts).  Don’t expect a monumental, earth-shattering high drama.  But sometimes it’s nice to feel the sun-baked warmth of a good little comfort film.

* * *

A NOTE ON the Locale: Intending to visit the filming location, a small restaurant still in business off the main highway, I first stopped on my drive along I-40 toward Barstow to download “Bell Bottom Blues”, which perfectly set the mood.  Once there, I stepped inside to notice a suspect cleanliness level, with a number of the inhabitants, from an old geezer in the corner to an infant crawling about the floor — it’s as much a family home as a restaurant — looking like they hadn’t bathed in days.  The cafe interior also featured the requisite level of grit.  It was almost like a sun-bleached version of a scene from the movie that was shot there so long ago.  I was determined to eat lunch regardless of the conditions, so I ordered a hamburger and fries that, turns out, weren’t bad.  The Germans also seemed to be enjoying their lunch, as if for them this place were some landmark equivalent to Monument Valley or the Grand Canyon.

THE SOLAR COLLECTOR in the film also influenced my college days, but at last check had been decommissioned.  It used to be visible for miles around, just as depicted in the film.

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Jack Palance in Bagdad Cafe

Cinematic Greats: Miracle Mile

I was actually thinking of this movie before This Is the End was on my radar, but there is definitely some overlap — so a happy coincidence perhaps.  Miracle Mile (1988, Anthony Edwards & Mare Winningham) is one of the best movies ever made on the ever-popular apocalypse theme — and yet it’s a small production from long ago that most people will never be aware of.

In the midst of a sweet, burgeoning romance is thrust the panic and chaos of full nuclear annihilation.  Miracle Mile is a miracle of execution, a text-book example of how to develop a story on film.

Roger Ebert:

“Miracle Mile” has the logic of one of those nightmares in which you’re sure something is terrible, hopeless and dangerous, but you can’t get anyone to listen to you. Besides, you have a sneaking suspicion that you might be mistaken. The film begins as a low-key, boy-meets-girl story, and then a telephone is answered by the wrong person and everything goes horribly wrong. Much of the movie’s diabolical effectiveness comes from the fact that it never reveals, until the very end, whether the nightmare is real, or only some sort of tragic misunderstanding.

Miracle Mile is also a great L.A. story.  And to cap everything off it’s got a cool, very fitting soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.  Objectively, 9/10, but for me a 9+.  A sheer delight and one of my favorite movies.

Miracle Mile - still

Miracle Mile has a clean, crisp, 80’s Los Angeles contemporary look to it that is badly served by the available trailers, so bear that in mind if you click below (this is the best video quality I could find).  It’s a shame that this movie is not available in HD, but it’s a strong enough movie that standard upscaled DVD quality will suffice.  Seek this one out.

80’s Flashback: Valley Girl

There was a certain kind of pure, sweet romantic expression in a number of films of the eighties: Sixteen Candles, The Sure Thing, The Breakfast Club… and Valley Girl (1983).  For some, Nicolas Cage wore out his welcome in a way not unlike Tom Cruise, but I will always respect and admire his better performances, so many of which occurred before he leapt into super-stardom during the age of Face/Off.

With its share of standard 80’s goofiness, Valley Girl won’t be mistaken for a contemporary, overly sophisticated film.  That’s a good thing — it’s fun and romantic, and I like it.  The soundtrack featuring “I Melt with You” is a bonus.

A nice article on the picture at kleph.com begins:

Valley Girl is a film that really had no right to be as good as it actually turned out to be. It emerged from the odious low-budget teen flick genre that was almost inescapable [in] the early ’80s.

and ends:

…to a certain point, when you are 17-years-old there are just a handful of things in your world that really matter and mutually assured destruction dents that sense of priorities only intermittently.

More often it’s eclipsed by that terribly beautiful sense of possibility and optimism wrapped up in a litany of horrible embarrassments that are the hallmark of one’s teen years.Valley Girl, somehow, captures all of that and instead of trying it hammer the point home, has the grace to understand acknowledging it is sufficient and let it be.

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A “Graduate” scene for the 80’s