Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Hate Your Childhood

This is a piece I wrote a little while ago for another site. I stopped writing for them when I got tired of it and they deleted all my material during their last site update. This is my favorite piece from the work I did for them. I'll probably have another up in the next couple of days, if I can find it.

Ten Nostalgic 1980s Classics That Suck

Every decade gets its moment in the sun, that brief period when people pine for the simpler time of their youth. They look back at their childhood and how innocent and heartwarming the pop culture was, and realize how deserving of veneration and preservation it is now. The 1980s is currently the decade of choice for nostalgic types, with every loser bit of pop-cultural detritus getting its own special DVD release and a reference on "Robot Chicken." This is a dangerous habit, since people will forgive a number of flaws for something that brings them back to the rose-tinted time of their youth and soon enough they become fully grown adults who spend a substantial portion of their waking hours watching "He-Man." Appreciating the time period ironically is no better, since it has long been known that irony is just a way for hipsters to hide their shitty taste in beer. I now offer to you a slight antidote, wherein I take a look at some veneered cinematic classics from the era so many of us grew up in, and telling you why they sucked balls.

10. "Spaceballs." Apart from providing some hilariously embarrassing Comic-Con costumes, this film has not done anyone any real favors. A smorgasbord of cheap jokes and Rick Moranis, the film has a special place in the hearts of many comedy fans for its spoofery of the "Star Wars" series, though as we have been able to see in recent years, doing a spoof of "Star Wars" is about as difficult as putting on a hat. For every solid bit of comedy from the film that gets repeated ad nauseum by fans, there are dozens of painful flops (funny names are the first sign of hack work in a comedy, and this film is full of them). The film's most painful legacy is what it would lead to later, with director Mel Brooks modeling both "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" after this, his last truly commercially successful film.

9. "Back to the Future." Logical paradoxes aside, this is a ripe piece of filth. It's odd that this would become a nostalgic classic for lovers of the 1980s when the film itself was trading in on the nostalgia for the 1950s that was rampant during its release. The storyline doesn't make one lick of sense when held to the most basic level of intellectual scrutiny, and I always spend the entire film wanting to do nothing more than kick Michael J. Fox in the nuts until he cries. This is the sort of simpering feel-good callback to "better times" that director Robert Zemeckis made his name on. As a side note, the idea that Chuck Berry needed some smug white boy's help inventing his sound is so blithely racist that it makes me want to puke all over Elvis Presley's grave.

8. "The Breakfast Club." We have now entered John Hughes country. Be sure to roll up the windows, because there are a whole lot of stray emotions flying around here. Aside from having one of the shittiest soundtracks of all time (hard not to if you're filling it up with 1980s chart-toppers), the film is such a blatantly obvious emotional play that it's almost laughable how strongly some people are tied to it. The collection of stereotypes who spend their day together in unsupervised detention feels market-tested to appeal to as wide a range of teenagers as possible, while the cheesy moral of the film is so far removed from the everyday life of a high school student that you wonder if the people who made this had ever actually experienced adolescence. However, watching Judd Nelson play the World's Oldest Teenager is hoot.

7. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." You're probably thinking, "He's not going to go there." Well, fuck you, Mr. Dissenting Opinion I Made Up. I'm going there. I hate this fucking movie. I hate this movie like fucking cancer. Another shitpile from the John Hughes Crap Factory with jokes about as subtle as a punch in the teeth, which is exactly what I want to give Matthew Broderick every time I see his smug face. I'll concede a few key moments in the film, but honestly if you think this is some kind of comedy classic then don't be surprised when your children call the release of "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle" a generation-defining moment.

6. "Top Gun." Does anyone actually like this movie anymore, or is it just some sort of long-running national joke? If you want a prime example of absolutely everything that was wrong with 1980s action cinema, this would be a good place to start. Aside from its much commented-upon homo-eroticism, the film is also a fawning piece of jingoistic propaganda, the sort that Hollywood seemed be almost sycophantically willing to put out during the reign of Ronald Reagan. Tom Cruise is at his block-of-wood best, while the the soundtrack is so cheesy it defies ironic appreciation. As an aside, while the most notable thing about the soundtrack is the presence of no less than two Kenny Loggins performances, the film also reeks of the 1950s nostalgia mentioned above, as the two big sing-along moments involve Jerry Lee Lewis and the Righteous Brothers.

5. "Pretty in Pink." This is every teen comedy ever. Unlike many young men of my generation, I'm not bitter about the fact that the film ends with the hunky guy getting the girl rather than the nice goof-off. Personally, I found Duckie annoying and kind of wanted the film to end with him being thrown into a thresher. That the film champions the worst sort of Cinderella myth as its primary plot point is a tad more irritating, but this is at least true to form. James Spader just about gives Judd Nelson a run for his money in the Old Teenager department, playing a high school senior who is very obviously in his early thirties.

4. "Flight of the Navigator." This is a beloved childhood classic for sci-fi geeks, but when you start looking at things with an eye cleared of the fog of nostalgia you begin to realize how deceptive the term "beloved childhood classic" really is. A boy wakes up 8 years in the future without having aged a day due to an accident with an alien spacecraft. He meets up again with the sentient craft by escaping from a government task force so intensely inept it makes you fear for our country's security. They go on some boring adventures. By the way, the spaceship is voiced by Pee-Wee Herman. No, I'm not kidding. Kind of pisses all over your fond memories of the film when you think about that, doesn't it. Glad I could be of service.

3. "Good Morning, Vietnam." Aside from being the most saccharine piece of sub-comedy that Robin Williams had done up to that point (he topped it with "Patch Adams," to the extent that "Patch Adams" can be considered to "top" anything), the "true story" of the film is mostly bullshit, a Vietnam War fairy tale with Robin Williams in the middle. Here's an idea: Take all of William's "hilarious" commentary in the film and edit it together in one long string, subtracting out all the reaction shots of soldiers finding it funny. Now how funny does it all seem? If you answered "not very" then you have won the award for the most obvious statement made during this article.

2. "Stripes." Quite your god-damned blubbering, it's not a good movie. It's another piece of military propaganda, this one going for a soft sell by seeming to make fun of the army while actually reinforcing its values and without actually questioning its authority. You could make a pretty convincing argument that the film is an ode to military arms spending, showing how even the most total of fuck-ups can win wars with the billions of dollars we spend on high-tech weapons, but it's much easier to just say that this is one of Bill Murray's weakest comedies, starting off strong enough but then having the laughs come to a complete and utter halt through much of its last half.

1. "Goonies." I'm going for the balls here. This movie is a long car ride through a hot desert with a group of young children suffering from bladder infections. It's a plane-ride with a convention of "Sex in the City" fans that has become delayed on the runway without drink service and won't be taking off until early next week. This movie grates on me like steel wool rubbing an exposed nerve ending. I want to take these children and shake them until they stop making noise.

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