Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '89 - James David Patrick ""

Friday, September 27, 2019

Underrated '89 - James David Patrick

James David Patrick is a writer with a lifelong moviewatching habit. His current projects include #Bond_age_, the James Bond Social Media Project (thejamesbondsocialemediaproject.com) and Cinema Shame (cinemashame.wordpress.com). Follow him on Twitter at @007hertzrumble.

Here's his Underrated '88 List as well:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2018/07/underrated-88-james-david-patrick.html

The year 1989 represents a landmark year in the history of cinema, but also a year on the brink of the future. In many ways that summer was the perfect Hollywood season - filled with blockbuster hits (BATMAN and LETHAL WEAPON 2), long-awaited sequels (GHOSTBUSTERS II and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE), and irreverent anomalies and cult favorites (WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S and EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY) that could not have existed outside this particular era of moviemaking. But it was also the last of its kind. The rise of sell-through VHS tapes coupled with a new style of advance marketing shortened theatrical runs, and the industry began an irrevocable shift toward commoditized entertainment intended to maximize global returns. Media conglomerates began to consolidate and consume each other, thus beginning the shift toward the homogenization of mainstream cinema. How can you not feel nostalgia for a time and place when a mid-budget movie about two working class stiffs who use their boss' corpse like a marionette could become a box office success?

Narrowing this list down to a manageable underrated few caused great distress. Have THE 'BURBS and UHF been redeemed? (Mostly.) How many times can I tell people to watch LET IT RIDE? (I'm just getting started.) Would anyone listen if I talk about POLICE ACADEMY 6? (I'll do it anyway.) Is Brian Saur going plug BREAKING IN and HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE so I can leave those off my list, thereby creating room for others? (Odds are good.) Do I really need to rant about my love of LICENCE TO KILL? (Bless your heart, but I'll refrain on this occasion.)

The Mighty Quinn (Carl Schenkel, 1989)
What an odd and transfixing piece of whodunnit. Densely plotted but oddly personal. The characters live and breathe and exist in a setting that doesn't generally get an autonomous genre film. Denzel's wonderfully offbeat as a Caribbean detective searching for a murder suspect who also happens to be his childhood best friend (Robert Townsend), and it's always refreshing to see him cut loose in a genre film that's not eyeing golden statues. It's an honest film about a wild conspiracy that ambles at a pace that reflects the island culture. It does not rush to hit narrative beats, and this lack of urgency sets THE MIGHTY QUINN apart from dozens of other competent films that all look and sound the same.
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Let It Ride (Joe Pytka, 1989)
I consider LET IT RIDE a perfect movie. In her screenplay, Nancy Dowd (writing as Ernest Morton) sets up a clever narrative device (based on the book by Jay Cronley) and Pytka executes every twist and turn with humor and warmth when he could have easily swung the picture cynical. The ensemble cast- Jennifer Tilly, Robbie Coltrane, David Johansen, and Teri Garr - props up Richard Dreyfuss's finest comedic performance. This simpleminded character movie plays off genre expectation and will leave you smiling like an idiot. One of the most underappreciated gems of the 1980's, if not ever. I made this the last movie of my 30's because I damn well needed that dose of happy. I plugged LET IT RIDE on RPS way back in 2013 on my underrated comedies list and if you didn't listen to me then, listen to me now. You need this movie in your life.
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Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (Peter Bonerz, 1989)
Dismissing the sixth entry in a series of dumb movies as dumb requires zero consideration. No one would look at you askance. No one would argue. In fact, you could dismiss each and every Police Academy movie in 2019 and the social media guardians of cinema would go, "Sounds right." Actually, they'd not even bother to acknowledge the statement of something so universally accepted. Just a nod. Nothing more. Even so-called Police Academy fans fail to hesitate before dismissing the post-Guttenberg trilogy. There are some lunatics, however, that are still holding court for POLICE ACADEMY 6. I am one such lunatic. POLICE ACADEMY 6 attempts plotting and story in ways the other PA movies didn't dare. The result is a light and (relatively) purpose-driven entry that brings longtime supporting players into the foreground. I'm not trying to convince anyone that CITY UNDER SIEGE or really any of the Police Academy movies are great cinema... or even great comedies. If you're tuned into this wavelength of no-aspiration, low-execution moviegoing, Hightower, Tackleberry, Jones, Callahan, Hooks, and even the low-rent Guttenberg demand that you unshackle this long-dismissed comedy.
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Gleaming the Cube (Graeme Clifford, 1989)
The general consensus surrounding this Christian Slater skater drama: it's awful but a lot of people really, really like it. I have thoughts. Most of us aren't in the business of opinions. We're voices on the Internet. What benefit could we possibly harvest by castrating our thoughts for the benefit of mass consumption. Kill the guilty pleasure; long live pure pleasure. Critics stake their reputation and livelihoods on opinions. Conversations I've had with writers and critics I very much admire have clarified that point further for me. To them it's not about getting the movie "right" - it's about having the conviction to convey your unique opinion and not drifting to the center based on expected audience response. So. Let's take that thought nugget and apply it to GLEAMING THE CUBE. Late 80's/early 90's Christian Slater entertains in singular and unexpected ways. A gang of skaters takes down a bunch of international arms dealers by being punk as hell and not kowtowing to the man (or the generally-held consensus regarding so-called bad movies we love).
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The Big Picture (Christopher Guest, 1989)
Despite positive reviews, Columbia dumped Christopher Guest's Hollywood satire into three screens before sweeping it into the home video dustbin. David Puttnam, president of Columbia Pictures, greenlit the project but was fired two weeks into production. The new regime felt they were the target of THE BIG PICTURE's brutal satire - which speaks to the unbelievable insight of Guest's farce.

Aspiring writer/director Nick Chapman (Kevin Bacon) wins a student film contest and Hollywood bigwigs desperately want to make a deal with the young auteur to make his dream project. The dream project becomes a nightmare when (stop me if you heard this somewhere before) a new studio head steps in and cancels it. Based on Columbia's disavowal of the project, it might suggest that THE BIG PICTURE comes off as some kind of lascivious insider tell-all, when in fact it's a warm comedy with film-within-a-film segments that detour into surreality. The supporting cast includes J.T. Walsh, Michael McKean, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and some fantastic one-off cameos, but it's Martin Short's uncredited turn as Nick's frazzled agent that belongs among the all-time great comedy performances.
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Teen Witch (Dorian Walker, 1989)
The movie bombed so badly at the box office and despite the litany of killer jams (the best-worst of overripe 80's pop) sprinkled throughout, the producers didn't even think to release a soundtrack for the film. Did I mention it's part musical? No one, not even the producers thought this movie was any good. In fact, before they realized that there was any demand for a soundtrack, they'd moved on to finance Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Top that, indeed.

Despite a reasonable budget, TEEN WITCH is plagued by production gaffes and dubbing issues. It's also an amalgam of all that was right and wrong with the 1980's. The movie hilariously misappropriates hip-hop culture, wants to be a female-empowerment flick but confuses the issue entirely, and doesn't have any clear idea what it wants to be. Is this parody? A musical? A straightforward teen comedy? The answer is that it's all of the above, rarely concurrently. I contend that TEEN WITCH's director Dorian Walker casts knowing winks and nods, but no other soul involved seems to be in on the joke. The disconnect makes it a beautiful disaster, the kind of movie that can't be planned - that can only be celebrated and cherished.
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Dr. Caligari (Stephen Sayadian, 1989)
From the visionary minds that brought you CafÇ Flesh. I'd planned to include Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH as my token horror offering, until I remembered this remarkably bizarre body-horror-psychosexual-gross-out-art comedy. A gaudy 80's color palette transplanted into German expressionism. The best description of DR. CALIGARI? It'll slap you in the face and when you touch the spot of contact, it'll be gooey. The actual narrative involves a man losing touch with reality when his wife enlists Dr. Caligari (the sultry Madeleine Reynal) for a cure. Description cannot properly service Stephen Sayadian's combination of cannibalism, Shakespearean soliloquies, and sexual nightmares. Sadly, DR. CALIGARI lacks a proper DVD release (bootlegs exist, buyer beware) - so you'll have to track down a version in the dark and seedy corners of the Interwebs. If you're into trash cinema of the highest aspiration, you owe yourself a viewing.
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