March 28, 2013

Top of the ’80s movies

The most iconic film of the decade? It's no contest, says our Dennis Perkins.


Ah, the '80s. The decade where this film geek truly came of age (I may not be young), my teenage film geek self delightedly overwhelmed with the coming of home video rental, pay cable and some seriously lax mall cinema security, all leading to a decade of truly gluttonous movie bingeing on that decade's cinematic buffet. (And literal bingeing on oversized theater snacks.)

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Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”

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Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy and Jon Cryer in “Pretty in Pink.”

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An eye-opening era where, for good or ill, much of my movie mania was born, much of my movie taste determined.

Luckily, time has provided a little perspective. (For example, I sadly now no longer think that John Cusack is the greatest actor who ever lived.) With such hindsight in mind, I now present to you Dennis' '80s Awards:

Best Gratuitous Nude Scene In a Teen Comedy: "Sixteen Candles" (1984) – Back before the PG-13 rating arrived to put parents on their guard, a PG was usually seen as safe kid stuff that mom and dad could let the kids go see unsupervised. Suckers!

Nostalgic (and absent-minded) parents today who decide to share this childhood favorite with their children are no doubt abashed when Molly Ringwald's Samantha starts off by spying enviously on her more popular (and decidedly more womanly) romantic rival (Haviland Morris) in the showers. Nearly full-frontal nudity, accompanied by a comical "boing!" sound effect in a 1984 PG movie? John Hughes, a generation of teenage boys salute you. Honorable mention: "Airplane!"


Most Egregious '80s Cinematic Hate Crime: "Hardly Working" (1980) – This was a tough one, as the '80s were a period of enthusiastic onscreen insensitivity. Every character actor with a passable Russian accent and every Asian extra who could pass for Vietnamese got shot, pummeled or blown up multiple times by your Stallones, Norrises or Schwarzenneggers looking for simplistic geopolitical problem-solving.

Runner-up goes to poor Gedde Watanabe for his portrayal of cartoonish exercise in racial self-hatred as Long Duk Dong in "Sixteen Candles," but at least Watanabe was actually Asian. Nope, the statue (which I envision as a bronze likeness of Judge Reinhold for some reason) goes to venerable schtick-master Jerry Lewis who broke out, in 1980(?!), a caricatured Japanese hibachi chef complete with nonsensical jabbering, squinty eyes and huge buck teeth, and made even an 11-year-old suburban white boy think, "ummm" Picture "The Office"'s Michael Scott doing his Ping character, but with less sensitivity.


Most '80s "80s Hair": "Pretty in Pink" (1986) – This one almost broke me. There's just so much out there (and so much of it). Obviously, Richard Dean Anderson's MacGyver hockey mullet was the epitome of all '80s hair crimes, but he was a TV guy. So, after much deliberation, I have to go with Andrew McCarthy's perma-coif in this teen staple as nice-guy rich boy Blaine.

Sure, he had stiff competition even in his own film, with the somehow middle-aged high school villain James Spader's blonde evil-guy pouffe and the sticky new wave pompadour atop Jon Cryer's Duckie. But there's something so quintessentially '80s about Blaine's impeccably manicured, desperately casual salon cut that just epitomizes '80s guys who spent more time on their hair than their sisters did. (When McCarthy was forced to wear a bad wig for the re-shot finale, it looked like his hair had simply achieved sentience and was trying to escape.)


Most Representative '80s Oscar Travesty: "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989) – Look, I like this movie. Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy are great, and it's a quaintly moving little fable of tolerance. But winning Best Picture over Spike Lee's un-nominated masterpiece "Do the Right Thing" was just deliberately insulting (or tragically, terrifyingly out of touch – take your pick, Academy members!)

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Additional Photos

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Spike Lee in “Do the Right Thing.”

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William Zabka in “The Karate Kid.”

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Kurt Russell in “Big Trouble in Little China”

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Alan Rickman in “Die Hard”

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Billy Crystal in “Running Scared”

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Corey Haim in “Lucas”

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