Now on: https://letterboxd.com/jawhnb74/
Looking at the list of movie released in 1986 I realize how many of my favorites were comedies that colored my sense of humor (for better or cornier). To this day I look back fondly to being a young lad and what a treat it was to make that journey to the theater (it still is all these years later). I still use some of the quotes: “I got my Christmas goose early” (Armed and Dangerous) and use the dreaded monkey bite (Odd Jobs) which I learned from the fine movies of 86, they shaped me.
They really do not make movies like they used to, 30 years later most of these stories would be small indy films that we would be blessed to see on the big screen. But in 86 the studios put out some unique films, everything from the WTF of The Men’s Club to the terrifying The Hitcher to the truly silly comedy tour de force of Club Paradise and to the every emotion/ genre of Jo Jo Dancer This is your Life Calling.
What a magical time in my life to be a young lad with parents that did not believe in censoring too much (but some). Thanks Ma and Pa and my wonderful sis for watching the comedies with me multiple multiple times and quoting with me.
The Men’s Club: I remember many Friday nights with my Dad in the Popingo video store(Pop-in-Go get it?) trying to select our Beta tapes and seeing the poster for this movie. I thought it was Madonna (it is a young tarted up Jennifer Jason Leigh) for some time and just one scan at the poster I knew this movie was not for me, this was a movie for grown-ups about grown-up things and about the closet I would get to it was hearing muffled dialog from the living room as I drifted off to sleep.
Now I am a grown up (some would disagree) and I came across this for $2 at Goodwill, I was finally going to see it! Sure I could have looked to pick it up on DVD etc. but there was something time machine magical about buying this VHS that was an old heavy 80s one to view for the first time and I was blown away by it (I could see it going on Discovery of 2016 list for me).
The first half of the movie sets up to what you think is a buddy movie, an all guy Big Chill which I was down for. Roy Scheider’s opening story is really captivating and you prepare to watch a movie with a lot of stories about what men go through.
You get that but the second part when they leave the party just goes into bat shit crazy over drive that needs to be seen. You see Roy Scheider get down in two ways, Harvey Keitel in one of his naked uncomfortable scenes, cigarettes put out in palms and a puppet! Yes a true madam of a puppet.
Odd Jobs: My sister and I watched a lot of HBO in the 80s and I remember this one being on a lot in the afternoon after school. Without doing any research (what fun is that theories abound are more fun) I imagine this script/ movie was done as a vehicle for these rising stand-up comedians Paul Reiser, Paul Provenza and Robert Townsend.
The script is nothing ground breaking but it does set up and play to the comedians’ personalities, with the bonus of Scott McGinnis playing Woody who is pretty much the same caveman Romeo figure from Secret Admirer.
All of the characters are too old for this to be an accurate “home for the summer we gotta get jobs” movie but there are plenty of funny scenes involving nuclear vacuums, a young McGyverdoing magic and Wylie who well, he just needs to be experienced but is my personal favorite in this film.
This is a silly and fun movie and I re watched it to lower my pulse after seeing Green Room. It worked, it was nice to see thugs that handled their business like silly Bugs cartoons. Although it almost turned into a horror film when Big Brother Jake was suddenly planting banana peels while wearing a French maid outfit.
The Hitcher: I re watched this at the end of the last year thinking it would not hold up and boy was I wrong! This movie scared the daylights out of me when I was younger and it still left me with a shook up feeling.
The Hitcher is not a gore fest and it wasn’t until when I got older when I figured out why it has such a lasting effect. Simply, my mind filling in the blanks of what I didn’t see made it worse, except for the diner scene that is just an extra heaping case of the Willies.
The story is pretty simple and C. Thomas Howell is a likeable character who by a simple deed of picking up a hitchhiker in the rain ends up altering many lives. Rutger Hauer plays his role with an ice cold intensity that few could pull off, re watching I forgot what a beast Hauer truly was as an actor in the 80s. Jennifer Jason Leigh once again shines in a small role hinting at what an amazing talent she became.
Watching again all of these years later I still have the same thought at the end, what happens tomorrow? After all these events how would life ever be the same again and do you become something else after it all? My mind fills in all kinds of stories about this film and questions as well is that a wedding ring The Hitcher is wearing? I guess my mind will continue try to fill it all in.
Neon Maniacs: I never would have guessed this movie would have such a long lasting staying power in my life. I saw the beginning of it staying at a friend’s house at 3 AM on Cinemax. Me and my buddy Ty agreed it was the worst title for a movie ever and it became a punch line to jokes. “Hey what is the name of that new Stallone film?” “Uhh I think it is Neon Maniacs.”
Years and states later I finally watched it and it is a true gem of a movie. It doesn’t have hardly any back story or logic and it almost feels like this was a movie made for an upcoming toy line of MUSCLE like figures. First the toys are made and ready to roll out then the movie. But the monsters are fun and unique and pretty damn blood thirsty.
The monsters have to avoid the water but live by water and randomly attack and slaughter a group of kids and somehow track down the survivor. In the meantime a nerdy guy somehow in the course of a movie goes from awkward to musical genius hero who wins the girl who is said sole survivor. You also get some really cringe worthy musical performances and a cigar chomping desk pounding cop. It is a fun journey and the less questions and head scratching you do the more you will enjoy it.
I showed this to my twin nephews and this movie will now live on to the next generation as they also picked up quotes and oddities as well, Neon Maniacs has staying power.
Opposing Force: This is the roughest watch on this list. I stumbled upon this on Cinemax one night when I couldn’t sleep and viewing it did not help. On the surface it looks like a regular jungle action film from the 80s. Albeit one with a tough female character breaking barriers in the military. But it is really a brutal psychological film that deals with a POW training camp operator who goes mad played in a unique creepy way by Anthony Zerbe.
Lisa Eichhorn is really strong in the lead and believable as the strong achiever in the military. Tom Skerrit, as usual, is naturally likeable guy who has a strong sense of chivalry along with being a strong leader. The squad parachutes on an island and are to avoid capture by the military squad there and if they are captured they will be submitted to POW treatment, no surprise but things do not go well.
There are many uncomfortable POW scenes and one in particular paired with blaring PA organ music that is rough to get through. Eichhorn takes all of the abuse and then some of the men and is a major ass kicker 11 years before G.I. Jane.
X The Unheard Music: One of my favorite quotes about music (even though it is from a pretty big blow hard Henry Rollins) and X in particular is something to the effect of how the harmonies of John Doe and Exene are not only one of the most beautiful sounds in music but sounds in the world. I cannot argue with that and this hodge podge film kind of a documentary is a stunning tribute to just that and more.
It is an amazing mix of live performances, interviews and videos that were probably almost never aired on MTV (I can see how it would maybe be a hard sell to MTV of a video of a truck slowly moving a house down an LA street but the clip is poetic in its simple beauty).
Through the interviews and at home clips you get a sense of how different the band members are and how truly unique and talented they all are. The scenes of D.J. Bonebrake playing jazz and explaining musical theory to seeing John and Exene playing Rambling Man in their living room feel natural. This movie documents X just being X and not vamping and it just feels so damn earnest you just fall in love with these working class artists.