In 1997’s Lost Highway, Fred (Bill Pullman) says of why he never makes, or watches, home videos: “I like to remember things my own way… How I remember them. Not necessarily the way they happened.”
For a wife-murdering psychopath, riding out a hallucinatory fugue state, he was a sharp guy. Sometimes returning to the reality of something is painful and disappointing – even if it was something we once loved. Here are a few examples from the Syndicate:
The Goonies (1985) – Mike, Chin Stroker VS Punter
I was the perfect age for The Goonies. I grew up on Amblin Films and was programmed to love the Lucas/Spielberg/Henson rollercoaster-theme-park-aesthetic of Spielberg-produced (but crucially not directed) joints like Back to the Future, Poltergeist, Gremlins and Young Sherlock Holmes. With The Goonies, I devoured all the usual merchandising accoutrements too; the glossy ‘story books’, novels and soundtracks. I was even was prepared for the film’s post-Temple of Doom aesthetic (hell, they even recycled one of that film’s kids). I remember enjoying it enough and have always held it in reasonable regard as a formative pop culture memory – but on rewatch it just had me reaching for the Solpadine.
What a messy, ugly, noisy and abrasive film this is. But most egregiously; what a charmless film. All the elements that make many movies of this era enjoyable to go back to (beyond the therapeutic assignment of nostalgia) such as; a memorable score, likable characters and sense of earnestness, innocence and wonder are almost completely absent. Many of the films of this era (and earlier) I find myself returning to still have something unique to offer; The Black Hole’s tumbling John Barry score and unique dreamlike vibe, Gremlins’ Christmas setting and semi-ironic Rockwellian suburbia, or even Flash Gordon’s straight-faced earnestness, Queen soundtrack and imaginative lava lamp aesthetic. The Goonies though, is ultimately just Temple of Doom without Indiana Jones, Cyndi Lauper instead of John Williams… and lots of kids shouting.
Oh man, I’m gonna catch some heat from Marc on this one, but here goes…
Look, by 1986, Sylvester Stallone could do pretty much whatever he wanted – and he did. He’d established two of Hollywood’s earliest and most successful movie franchises via (the triple Oscar-winning) Rocky I through IV, and First Blood parts I and II. Sure, he’d had mixed fortunes elsewhere, but he was fast becoming a legend of the silver screen and an icon of 1980s action cinema second only to the mighty Schwarzenegger.
Now, when Stallone is good, he’s great… but when he’s bad, he’s Lieutenant Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti. And don’t get me wrong, back in early ’87 when I first rented this on VHS, I loved it. Marion is a hard-nosed cop who doesn’t play by the rules. He doesn’t care if the DA is breathing down the chief’s neck and his badge is on the line, ‘cause he’s got a job to do. A job he’s going to do wearing mirrored aviators (at night), chewing a matchstick and shooting a custom Colt .45 with hand-painted cobras on the grip. What’s not to like about that, right? Well unfortunately, watched with older, more jaded eyes, there just doesn’t feel like there’s anything beyond all this tired cliché – so everything just feels sort of empty and lifeless.
Weird Science (1985) – Stefan, What’s on Tap podcast
It’s hard to think of a director that captures the 80’s teenage spirit better than John Hughes. Hughes embodied the zeitgeist of the decade’s American teen, but sadly his films suffer more than most from the changing times and emotions. As the world has become more enlightened, focused on equal rights and ending discrimination, Hughes’ films often fail to hold up.
Weird Science opens with two 15 year-old boys, Gary and Wyatt, creating a 23 year-old woman named Lisa. From there, the film delves into racial stereotypes, misogyny, homophobia – and that’s just the first 20 minutes. After getting drunk and hanging out at a club, Gary uses a ‘black voice’ to discuss “bitches” and driving drunk. When viewed through a modern lens, Weird Science lacks the charm, humour and wacky shenanigans that gave it an endearing ‘boys will be boys’ charm in the 80s, leaving it feeling like bad male wish fulfilment. At one point a character asks, “How come two unpopular dicks like you is having a party?” And that is the real question. Gary and Wyatt seem to learn nothing and don’t become more likeable by the end of the film. They’re just unlikable dicks that get the girls. On the plus side, it’s fun to see Robert Downy Jr. in one of his first roles.
Wayne’s World 2 (1993) – Jason, Entertainment Landfill
I assume everyone agrees the original Wayne’s World was a much better film than its sequel, I remember it fondly and watch it whenever it’s on TV from whatever point it happens to be on. It’s quotable, has that awesome Bohemian Rhapsody moment… but Wayne’s World 2 is a different story.
I remember seeing it during its theatrical run and finding it amusing but not much beyond that. There was a Village People gag… but I can’t remember much else. But then recently, I saw it again and realised – there’s something really wrong with this film. It’s flat. The beginning really drags, there’s not much plot (not that there was much in the first one so that’s not necessarily a rational critique) and the story gets going by giving Wayne a dream. That’s it. He dreams of a plot motivation because he’s bored.
I went down a Wayne’s World 2 rabbit hole and according to legendary studio chief Sherry Lansing’s biography, Mike Myers had to rewrite much of Wayne’s World 2 because his initial script was too close to that of another film, Passport to Pimlico – which Paramount didn’t have the rights to. In a 2017 article for The Hollywood Reporter, it was revealed that Lansing threatened to sue Myers and take everything he owned – so it’s no wonder his panicked second attempt resulted in a mediocre and unmemorable sequel!
Dunkirk (2017) – Ian, Film Basterds
OK… OK… hear me out.
One of the many things Christopher Nolan does well is spectacle. The man makes films which need to be seen on the biggest possible canvas and while his bizarre insistence on not allowing Dolby Atmos tracks for his films baffles me, the man is keeping the big screen spirit well and truly alive. Dunkirk was a seismic experience on the big screen but one which felt a lot less of a film when brought home.
Without the sheer ferocity of the large sound, vision encompassing form in the cinema, while still a decent time its place as more of an interesting experiment came to the fore. While the characters are essentially ‘ordinary guy number 3’ and ‘Harry Styles’, you don’t get behind them in the way you do with so many of his characters (just look at what Tom Hardy does with Inception, the fucker runs away with it), and while there are memorable moments, I found the lessened impact made the film overwhelmingly lesser, something which thanks to the intricate plots of his other films never happened before for me.
Sam Mendes’ upcoming 1917 looks like something which might take the cinematic edge but thanks to its “single take” nature should also bring you much closer to the characters involved and that’s why its one of the films I’m most looking forward to in the upcoming winter.