Kickin’ it Old School

_I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix recently. Well…maybe “A lot” isn’t the right term…it’s probably closer to “A metric fuckton,” which I know doesn’t make any sense. If the amount of Netflix I’ve watched recently WAS measured using the metric system, it’d be a term like a kilofuck or a gigafuck. Anyways, I’ve been watching a lot of movies and TV shows. Mostly, I’ve been given the opportunity to watch lots of old movies and shows that I normally wouldn’t get the chance to watch without knowing someone to borrow the DVD’s from or dropping down the money to purchase them or downloading them from perfectly legal and legitimate websites on the world wide web.

_Now, I can’t say whether old movies/TV shows are “better” than modern cinema. So much of media of any time period is influence by popular culture and events of the time, and as a child of the 90’s, a lot of 70’s and 80’s references go right over my head. A lot of the time, it’s more than just KNOWING the history. A movie like Dr. Strangelove, for instance…it doesn’t resonate for me the way it does for people that grew up in that era. I had a discussion with my uncle about growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, and he said that for his generation, nuclear war wasn’t an “if” but a “when.” It was assumed inevitable. Now, we know that the Cold War ended and we didn’t blow ourselves up and that the Fallout games are fiction instead of gazing into the future, so it’s hard to go into that mind-set and watch that movie unless you were there. So there’s that…plus I’m not a cinema major or anything. I don’t really know how to look for the intricacies in film-making. So I’m hardly qualified to try and fairly judge film of different eras. But I can tell you…film is different now. Shocker, I know. But the way movies are presented and made in different eras is so stark that even someone like me who doesn’t know jack can see the differences.

_Let’s take a movie I just watched earlier this week from the 80’s…The Secret of My Success, starring Michael J. Fox. First, we have Michael J. Fox playing a yuppie. This is supposed to be a movie geared towards hip, youngsters, and we have the main character being a would-be yuppie trying to make it in the business world. There’s nothing…wrong with that…but I don’t think this kind of character really works nowadays. Sure, Michael J. Fox tries to trick us, saying he appreciates offers for help, but he wants to earn his way to the top. Nice gesture, Mike…but you’re still trying to move up the ladder in the profession of Sleazy-Business Guy. It’s like trying to be a used car salesman or strip club owner that doesn’t want to get their hands dirty. It’s nice that you try, but the profession itself automatically makes you dirty. [It’s crazy that MJF was type-cast as a yuppie, wasn’t it? He played a yuppie in the making on Family Ties, he’s a yuppie in this movie, yuppie in Bright Lights, Big CityDoc Hollywood, Homeward Bound…wait, scratch that last one…nah, fuck it, Chance was totally a yuppie dog.]

_I’m going to back up for a second, because describing Michael J. Fox’s character in the movie actually skips over an important 80’s movie scene: the opening credits. First off, the movie HAS opening credits. I’m actually surprised when I see opening credits in movies now. Hell, we’re lucky if movies have a title screen in the first 5 minutes. I love movies that put “opening credits” at the end of the movie. Like, the movie ends, then you see…TRANSFORMERS, a Michael Bay Film, Paramount Pictures Presents…a Dreamworks Production…Shia LeBeouf…Megan Fox…and after the principal cast, they show the director or executive producer, and there’s the ACTUAL end credits scroll and a full cast list. What the fuck is that, anyways, is it a way to pad film length so people don’t feel jipped when they see the running time at “only” 100 minutes online? Anyways, if you miss the lost art of the opening credits scene, this one is a classic.

_The movie can’t even wait for the production studio cards to get off the screen to start playing the intro to the credits song. We are then treated to a 5 minute credits sequence that actually manages to set-up themes and characters, which is a smart move since someone was determined to not edit the song at all. We meet Brantley Foster’s [MJF] parents, worried about their farm bred son moving to the big city [Who actually got a business degree, so his parents are actually worrying about him trying to do something with his degree]. We’re treated to some shots of the hustle-bustle of the big city, then Foster doing farm work with no shirt on while his parents tell him of the corruption of city life. More shots of the city and the chorus hits…then we find out that this song was specifically made for this movie by way of the chorus containing the movie title within it. Not just contained…but the title has an entire line all to itself. Great stuff. I was about to say “I can’t even remember the last movie soundtrack that had songs written specifically for the movie” and then I remembered that the Transformers sequel had that Linkin Park song and that the soundtracks to the Twilight movies did too. Anyways, after another flashback back in Kansas comes my favorite part: The Hot 80’s Girls Montage. We’ve seen busy streets, tall buildings, trashy ghettos…all the staples of the big city…but who cares about the city if there aren’t hot, available women everywhere? Oh, you’ll start caring. The first couple shots are of powerful, sexy working women. Women walking places with portfolios in their hands, or ladies’ power suits with shoulder pads to showcase their strength. They’re going places with purpose. this is followed by 4 models, standing around in random places doing a patented head-turn. It’s as if…they’ve noticed something. Oh, but they HAVE noticed something. They noticed you! Hohohoho!

_Basically, what this really is is the encapsulation of the 80’s film: The montage. Yeah, the opening credits is basically a “Big city” montage. Montages are still around today, but they’re not thrown around movies with reckless abandon like they used to be. Take, for example, Rocky IV. Rocky goes off on a soul searching montage after the death of his friend Apollo Weathers in the ring at the hands of Dolph Drago. Cool beans. It’s like frosting on a cake we haven’t gotten yet, because we haven’t seen the pre-requisite training montage and we know it’s coming. Plot, plot, plot, Rocky goes to train in the U.S.S.R. Awesome. Then Adrian shows up for a scene…and we go straight into another training montage! Yeah, Adrian showed up only to give us a short reprieve from the montages. This kind of brilliant movie structure simply wouldn’t happen nowadays. The 80’s were quite simply the heyday for the montage.

_I had another paragraph about cheesy situational saxophone music, but WordPress hated it and wouldn’t let me save it. Honestly, it wasn’t important. I got everything out about this movie as a 80’s film study that I wanted to without it becoming work or effort. A few things are missing from this post, though: A couple more montage links because they don’t exist on Youtube or the internet, and some points on other 80’s movies or movies from different decades even. This just started getting long and I decided to save the latter for another time. Until that time comes…be excellent to each other =)

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