Saturday, June 12, 2021

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More from '85

Ten more films from 1985...
Better Off Dead...
dir/scr: Savage Steve Holland
pr: Michael Jaffe
cin: Isidore Mankofsky

From what little I knew going in, I expected your typical 80s teen rom-com, perhaps darker due to the suicidal tendencies, and Curtis Armstrong. I did not expect this bizarre, absurdist take on the genre, with animated interludes, gloopy fantasy foods, dancing burgers, a paperboy gang, and homemade rocket ships, to name just a few eccentric details. I don't know if its whole intent is to take the piss out of tropes or to better dramatize the unsubtle hormonal highs and lows of teenage emotions, but it pulls off both feats very successfully. Very fun, very funny.

Desperately Seeking Susan
dir: Susan Seidelman
pr: Sarah Pillsbury / Midge Sanford
scr: Leora Barish
cin: Edward Lachman

Housewife Roberta Glass gets amnesia and assumes the identity of Susan, a free spirit pursued by gangsters. An excellent treatise on the way society projects onto women - a scene where Rosanna Arquette is mistaken for a prostitute, her pleas for help falling on deaf ears, incarcerated at a time when the police should be helping her, is particularly enraging. It is but one of many instances of the same: her husband thinks she's a doormat, Aidan Quinn thinks she's Susan (who he sees as a flighty seductress, not the independent, direct, honest woman she actually is) - hell, the whole plot hinges on the fact that Roberta has amnesia and therefore has no idea who she is, making her perfectly malleable to whatever role people want her to play (or so they think). Not just a film of mistaken identity, but forced identities. So smart, so sexy, such a riot!

Fool for Love
dir: Robert Altman
pr: Yoram Globus / Menahem Golan
scr: Sam Shepard
cin: Pierre Mignot

A woman running from the past, a man in hot pursuit, a secret that unites and destroys them. Takes its time getting to where it's getting, watchably weird throughout. Performances are great, though for me the showcase pieces are Stephen Altman's sets and Pierre Mignot's cinematography.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun
dir: Alan Metter
pr: Chuck Russell
scr: Amy Spies
cin: Thomas E. Ackerman

A new girl in town competes for a spot on a popular local TV show, behind the backs of her strict parents. Good soundtrack, charming performances from Sarah Jessica Parker and Lee Montgomery, great dancing, outfits so dated they're right back to cool, inventive sets, and Helen Hunt as the coolest girl in school. Yeah, recommended.

Lost in America
dir: Albert Brooks
pr: Marty Katz
scr: Albert Brooks & Monica Johnson
cin: Eric Saarinen

Man forces his wife on a road trip so they can find themselves after he doesn't get the promotion he banked on. A cancerous nastiness, by which I mean its hostility towards the modern yuppie, the false wisdom seekers, the man with the plan, privilege, is palpable but not necessarily direct. Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty are great scene partners, though it's Garry Marshall whose calm and quiet cameo steals the show in a brilliantly written scene.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure
dir: Tim Burton
pr: Richard Gilbert Abramson / Robert Shapiro
scr: Phil Hartman & Paul Reubens & Michael Varhol
cin: Victor J. Kemper

Pee-wee Herman goes on a road trip to recover his stolen bicycle. There just aren't too many characters like the bizarre, petulant, lovable man-child Paul Reubens created in Pee-wee. Unapologetically self-centered, impeccably tailored, surrounded by inventions and kitsch, he's a creature like no other. You can't believe, at first glance, he'd attract Dottie, inspire Simone, win the hearts and minds of a biker gang, but there's a charm, an enviable confidence, that draws you to him. Reubens' ability to sustain that character, and Burton's to sustain that unique tone, over a feature runtime is terrific.

dir: Fred Schepisi
pr: Joseph Papp / Edward R. Pressman
scr: David Hare
cin: Ian Baker

More end-of-the-Empire hand-wringing from England features fine performances from Charles Dance, Tracey Ullman, and John Gielgud. Meryl Streep, while not bad, feels surprisingly miscast here. Wish I liked it.

A Private Function
dir: Malcolm Mowbray
pr: Mark Shivas
scr: Alan Bennett, story by Alan Bennett & Malcolm Mowbray
cin: Tony Pierce-Roberts

A foot doctor and his wife see an opportunity for upward mobility on the eve of Princess Elizabeth's marriage to Prince Philip. Hilarious, I think, though in the end, a very grim look at the maintaining of class divide, no matter how small-scale, as well as an interesting look at the continuance of food rationing in the post-War years. Seems there's no room for actual decency, for moral consistency, in this world, not when it's inconvenient. Brilliant.

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird
dir: Ken Kwapis
pr: Tony Garnett
scr: Tony Geiss & Judy Freudberg
cin: Curtis Clark

After being relocated to live with other birds, Big Bird goes on a road trip to get back to Sesame Street. Good songs - "The Grouch Anthem," "Ain't No Road Too Long," "One Little Star," and "I'm So Blue" especially. I'm glad the Sesame Street performers got to do a movie!

Smooth Talk
dir: Joyce Chopra
pr: Martin Rosen
scr: Tom Cole
cin: James Glennon

A teen girl is impatient to grow up. That's the best way I can shorthand sum-up this coming-of-age story that deals honestly with the hormonal stirrings of teenagers, the want to be desired conflicting with the knowledge that you're not ready. Builds to a long third act that is suddenly thick with dread, the groundwork cleverly laid throughout the film in an aggressive attempted pickup at the mall, tense "parking," and a weird encounter with Treat Williams.

Tomorrow, we get into the Academy Award nominees, starting with the nominees from the crafts categories: The Journey of Natty GannLadyhawke, MaskRambo: First Blood Part II, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Return to Oz and Young Sherlock Holmes. Plus, one movie that missed out on a nod but still made Oscar history!

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