Monday, November 15, 2010

My Cinema Autobiography

1987 starts with Mannequin.

Yes, I went to see Mannequin in the theaters. And, honestly, having watched it for one of my 80's Revisited entries, it seems like a movie that only a 10 year-old could love. Wow, is it silly. But Kim Cattrall is cute as hell in it; that attraction has never died. I remember going to see it with a fairly large audience, too. These kinds of silly movies always have large audiences. And then that Starship song was everywhere. I think we even had the 45. I liked it, but after a while it just became utterly inescapable.

I'm not sure how my parents decided which movies it was alright for me to go to. In March, all of my friends were going to see A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and Lethal Weapon, but I wasn't allowed to go to those kinds of movies. Mannequin was a sex comedy, but it was tame(ish) and though my parents didn't really want me seeing nudity, they certainly didn't want me seeing graphic violence. I wasn't one of those kids who was into those kinds of movies, because I couldn't go.

I did, however, go and see The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland, a movie that is even more forgotten than the previous two films are. Make of that what you will. And there was a reissue of The Aristocats that we probably went to. And I'm not whining about being some sheltered kid--I was sensitive and my parents had boundaries, but I've never considered my childhood sheltered. Besides, even today I'd rather see animated films instead of any others. But, you know, good ones. Those two movies suck.

Oh, speaking of bad animated movies, we also went to see The Chipmunk Adventure. It came out Memorial Day weekend, but I have a memory of going to see it for my birthday. Was it still out or did we see it second run? I think I remember going to see it at the Ogden 6, which was still a first run theater at the time. I was a big fan of the cartoon at the time; I wouldn't really bother watching it now, but the theme song still kind of excites me. Residue, I guess.

Fuck it, I dig that theme song. "Watch out, 'cause here we come..."

Harry and the Hendersons made me cry. Yeah, it did. Movies about animals--which this essentially was--always made me cry. It's a bad movie, but that Bigfoot costume is pretty sweet. Really well done. It was a big deal for me to see it, because it helped break me of my irrational Bigfoot fear. I used to read a lot of books about cryptids and my imagination would just completely run away with me. It seems lame now, but I was a soft touch for those kind of things. I remember reading a book on UFOs at night once, and at the same moment, a mosquito truck drove past my bedroom window. I took off running.

Did anyone watch the Harry and the Hendersons sitcom? That was pretty awful, too.

(By the way, Predator was released a week later. I didn't see that movie until it came out on tape, but it blew my mind when I read in Starlog that the same actor--the late Kevin Peter Hall--was both Harry and the Predator. I thought that was pretty cool.)

I got to see Spaceballs twice in the theater--or as I like to think of it now, the last actual good Mel Brooks movie. It played right to me as a kid, with all of its references to other science fiction movies. It was also the movie that made me love John Candy--that and the SCTV reruns I was watching at the time. Man, I still miss him. I had a poster of Barf hanging on my bedroom wall until my Mom did one of her periodic "cleanings" and got rid of it. She used to do that and throw stuff away that she either didn't like--such as posters--or didn't think I needed anymore--like comic books or my Masters of the Universe toys. This might have been the year I went to Boy Scout camp, so she probably did it then.

(I also miss Rick Moranis. He's not dead, but he's not in movies anywhere. Come back, Rick.)

Lots of people tease me for it, but I love Joe Dante. This was the summer Innerspace came out, which made three summers in a row (well, one skipped year) that Dante had thrilled me as a child--Gremlins, Explorers, and Innerspace.

Boy, this summer suddenly turns terrible. After getting to see a reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, my Mom finally relented on movie violence and let me go see an R-rated movie with my best friend (at the time) Shane and his little brother. (And his father; I mean, we were 10.) So I would finally end up having my first experience with graphic movie violence.

Unfortunately, that movie was RoboCop.

One of my all-time favorite movies today. But at the time, cruel nightmare fuel. I felt awful after seeing it. Like, sick to my stomach. This is not a movie for a kid on the brink of 11, it just isn't. It's not Lethal Weapon. It's violent in that special, extreme, trim a few second to avoid the X-rating kind of way. Rape, murder, gunshot wounds, mutations getting liquefied, hands getting blown off... yeah, I see the satire in it now, but at the time, I couldn't process that kind of thing. It was terrifying, and the worst part was, I had to act like it was cool because I didn't want my friend to make fun of me. Then I went home and practically cried.

To make matters worse, my Mom apparently felt going to see that was okay--because I didn't talk to her about how upset the movie made me--so she decided Jayne and I could go with her and Dad to see Jaws: The Revenge.

Yeah, it's a stupid, stupid movie. But again, to a kid like me, it was more nightmare fuel. Giant sharks popping out of nowhere and killing people, menacing children and the like. Sure, a dumb film when looked at as a teenager, but at the time, it was almost the E.T. experience all over again. It did end up leading me to my great interest in sharks, I'll say that. But it also made it hard for me to close my eyes in the shower for a couple of weeks.

Yes, I know, I was a pussy.

Also, I was a sensitive eater. Well, not really, but here's an eating problem I had that's movie-related.

Towards the end of that summer, my Mom took me and Jayne to see a double feature at the Palace Cinema of Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Boy, doesn't it seem like a Cannon double feature is the kind of thing the CIA would show at Gitmo? Anyway, I remember that was the same day that WGN was airing the DuckTales pilot movie. Though my interest in He-Man and Skeletor was waning, I really wanted to see the live action movie with Dolph Lundgren and, of course, I was a Superman fan and wanted to check out that movie, too. I was excited by the idea of seeing Superman in the theater for once.

Anyway, as I sat watching DuckTales, I was eating my Mom's coffee cookies, which is a very sugary treat. Like an asshole, I ended up eating a fuck-ton of them, and made myself nice and sick. So we go to the show, and I'm fitful and bored throughout the depressingly awful Masters of the Universe--none of the characters look right, it all takes place in back alleys on Earth, and with the notable exception of Bill Conti's score and Frank Langella's performance, it truly, truly sucks. And then, to make matters worse, I have to go to the bathroom. And I unleash a diarrhea torrent that is truly biblical. It all went in the toilet, yes, but it was taking my will to live with it. It was painful. It was the wrath of some Eldritch horror for gorging myself. All the joy in the world was darkened by it. It was the kind of shit that leaves you raw and tender, feeling like a sasquatch's weeping rape victim.

I like to think it was my commentary on a movie that even an 11 year-old couldn't love.

So, after that ordeal, we didn't stick around for Superman IV. Which is probably for the best, since it's even worse than Masters of the Universe, and I probably would've had to go back to the bathroom and puke up my own stomach, like a frog.

I had a much better time later seeing The Princess Bride. Now that's a movie. Remember when Rob Reiner could make a good movie? That's a perfect movie to see when you're 11, because it's thrilling and funny and adventurous, and then it only gets better as you get older and appreciate it on more and more levels.

Thanksgiving weekend: Three Men and a Baby, which I wrote about recently and which I remember seeing a few times. You already read my thoughts on that one.

And 1987 closed out with Overboard, which I've already revisited, and *batteries not included, which I probably will one day. I mainly remember that movie as cute special effects scenes wrapped up in long sequences of tedium. But I also developed a massive attraction to Elizabeth Pena. She had some sitcom or other on the air around that time, too. More kindling for my Latina fetish...


Dan said...

Innerspace is one of my all time classics, even despite Martin Short.

Michael said...

I laughed so hard while reading your description of Masters of the Universe. As usual your reviews are pretty entertaining. Did you ever see Ice Pirates?

GarrettCRW said...

I think that description of the MOTU movie is my new long form description of how bad the film is. (The short form answer being O. Sharp's: "When a big-budget, live-action movie can't stand comparison to the low-budget, animated TV series which spawned it, it's worth *thinking* about.")

SamuraiFrog said...

Dan: "Despite Martin Short" is a really good way to describe it.

Michael: You know, I still have never seen Ice Pirates.

GarrettCRW: Also a good description. And when you boil it down, the cartoon was really just about men in fur bikini bottoms grabbing each other from behind. How do they mess that up, honestly?

Tallulah Morehead said...

You thought SPACEBALLS was good? Yikes! I walked out on it, something I rarely do. I've met Mel a number of times, I once, this very year, made him laugh, I spent an afternoon on the set of YOUNG FRANKENST$EIN in January, 1974, and I love, love, love John candy and Rick Moranis, but what a lousy, lousy movie.

Why would anyone tease you for loving Joe Dante? He's wonderful. I adore him. And I loved INNERSPACE.

Many, many years ago, a comics artist friend of mine was working on the He-Man franchsie just as htey were creating the character who became known as She-Ra. They ahdn't named her yet, and I was asked for a name suggestion for the character. My suggestion was "She-Man," but they rejected that for some reason. (Or rejected HALF of it.)

GarrettCRW said...

You had to be a member of the right generation to "get" Spaceballs. It was targeted right at the nerd culture we '80s kids were most exposed to.

The idea of a name like "She-Man" flying at Filmation (the only animation studio that aimed to make educational cartoons that was able to make them entertaining at the same time) is pretty laughable, though I'm sure that Art Nadel had that on the "rejected before we even ask for names" list.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I "got" Spaceballs just fine. It's just not funny. It's Mel working with a sledgehammer, and it's obvious, labored, and witless. Mel's last halfway-decent movie was High Anxiety. (Well, it's possible that Life Stinks and his remake of To Be or Not To Be are good. I don't know, because after Spaceballs and History of the World Part One (which I also walked out on), I stopped going to see his films altogether, although I sadly made the error of seeing Dracula, Dead and Loving It, which may be one of the all-time worst movies anyone ever made. This from the man who made the masterpiece which is Young Frankenstein. I did enjoy the musical remake of The Producers.

Speaking of "getting" it, when I suggested She-Man as a name, I was joking with them. Of course it wouldn't fly there, but I didn't give a crap. It's not like it was a quality product to begin with. And the person who asked was very familiar with my sense of humor. And I can tell you he told me they had not thought of it on their own, even for an "already rejected" list.

SamuraiFrog said...

Tallulah: It does help that I was 11 when Spaceballs came out, but even as an adult I retain a soft spot for it. Maybe it's my sense of humor, but I think it's funny.

I do agree with you on History of the World, Part I, however; except for the Spanish Inquisition scene, I always thought it was lousy. I also made the mistake of seeing Robin Hood: Men in Tights at a second run theater during a bored night out in high school, and that was a real labor to get through. Ugh.

I didn't care for the musical remake of The Producers, but I love the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David plays Bialystock onstage. I thought it was brilliant the way the plot of the episode mirrored the plot of The Producers, with Mel Brooks and the late Anne Bancroft trying to sabotage the show intentionally by casting David, only for him to be a success.

Joe Dante does seem to be a name on the list of directors I'm not "supposed" to like. To me, he's the real Steven Spielberg; all of the heart and fun, none of the manipulation and bullshit.

The joke we always made as kids was "She-Male."

GarrettCRW: Granted, most of what Filmation did was pretty laughable, too...