Obstructed reView: Opening Day and 1985
Itâ€™s opening day in Royals Land and optimism couldnâ€™t be higher, which means that I am personally pessimistic. Thatâ€™s just how I roll. Iâ€™m a Royals fan, and kind of live by the motto â€œFool me once, shame on you, fool me 27 timesâ€¦.â€ Which is not to say that Iâ€™m down on my team, I love all of the players, coaches, fans, Hudlers, even the umpires. I believe that Alex Gordon will get MVP votes. I know that Sal Perez is rightly the most beloved catcher in my hometown since at least Duke Wathan, though heâ€™s unlikely to break that stolen bases record. Even if the bullpen regresses, which is almost a given, it will still be tops in the division and weâ€™ve owned the head-to-head against the White Sox the last two years. Still: Iâ€™m skeptical of my teamâ€™s ability to win. But Iâ€™ve never been less sure of being so unsure, if that counts for anything. I figure that todayâ€™s column will look back to more glorious times in the hopes that Iâ€™m wrong about today.
1985. What a year. What a rotation! What heart-stopping must-win playoff holes dug into and climbed triumphantly out of! Number 5, what was that guy all about?! Denkinger! Iorg! Fountains! Those were heady days, my friends, and 9-year-old me was sitting right in that Olathe living room, watching every moment. It really was a terrific year. The storyâ€™s been told: great pitching, no offense (well, that number 5 guy I was mentioning, but no one else), a couple of amazing moments and a dominating game 7. Voila! Trophy, banner, glory. Danny Manning was a Sophomore with huge potential. Stephone Paige and Deron Cherry were breaking records for another terrible Chiefs team, but hope was in the air as new starter Todd Blackledge won 3 of the final five games. Ugh, that sentence is just horrible, looking back. Woof.
But my beat is movies and TV. So weâ€™re also talking Cheers and Hill Street Blues. Weâ€™re talking Dallas and VH1 and David Lettermanâ€™s first top-ten list (top ten things that almost rhyme with â€˜peasâ€™). Nick at Nite became a thing, as did Elmo and Farm Aid. Courteney Cox gave little Midwestern minds something to deride as she was the first person to say â€œperiodâ€ on television in reference to menstruation. Gosh, this was a year of televised upheaval. Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman, Thundercats, Moonlighting, Small Wonder! The Dukes of Hazzard and The Jeffersons (of the East Side) were cancelled to make way for The Golden Girls and 227, MacGuyver and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Leaves turn, a time to reap, Royals win the world series.
But letâ€™s get down to it and call 1985 what it really was: one of the best years of film-making Hollywood has ever experienced.
Erikâ€™s Top Ten
The Breakfast Club: Are you a Brain, an Athlete, a Basket Case, a Princess or a Criminal?
Back to the Future: Iâ€™m afraid youâ€™re just too darn loud.
Brazil: Still might be my favorite De Niro performance.
The Color Purple: One of the best novel-into-movie accomplishments of all time.
A Room with a View: This Daniel Day-Lewis kid may make it.
Pee-Weeâ€™s Big Adventure: Way ahead of its time.
Fletch: May be due to generational factors, but this may be my favorite comedy, pound for pound.
To Live and Die in LA: Ditto my favorite Cop Thriller.
Next top Ten:
Kiss of the Spider-Woman: Weâ€™ll get to this one in a bit.
The Purple Rose of Cairo: Simple and just about perfect.
Fandango: Judd Nelson had a pretty good year.
Lost in America: My favorite low-budget film of all time.
Cocoon: Would be nominated for Best Picture if made today. Clearly as good as the worst nominees from the last two years. Family-friendly blockbusters are rare today.
Static: I havenâ€™t seen this movie in maybe 15 years, but I loved it. Strange and well-acted (of course that may describe every great thing Amanda Plummer has ever done), it doesnâ€™t seem to be in print anymore and only available on VHS. But if you run into it, watch it.
Right there are maybe 15 of my top 200 movies of all time. All from one year. Iâ€™m not going to actually make a top 200 list any time soon, but this feels pretty special. And honestly it doesnâ€™t stop there.
Freakinâ€™ Gymkata was made in 1985, as were Vision Quest and American Flyers. Rocky kicked the entire Soviet Unionâ€™s butt. I could even include such classics as Brewsterâ€™s Millions (baseball), Teen Wolf (basketball) and Better Off Dead (skiing). All are great (well, Freakinâ€™ Gymkataâ€™s a stretch) and worth remembering.
A sidebar on the surprising assurgence of Kevin Costner:
Weâ€™ve mentioned Fandango, one of the great coming-of-age movies and American Flyers, one of a surprising number of 1980s bike-riding flicks. Also in 1985, Costner gave his best early-career performance in the barely-too-long western near-masterpiece Silverado.
The already-mentioned Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, Cocoon and Brazil would be enough to call this year a success. Add to those Weird Science, My Science Project, Re-Animator, Explorers, Enemy Mine and The Quiet Earth; suddenly 1985â€™s a banner year. The Purple Rose of Cairo, for crying out loud. Even the bad ones are good in 1985. The â€œfantasyâ€ subset of the genre even gives us Legend and Ladyhawke, though here the bad ones are terrible.
Jackie Chan gave three of his best in 1985. Sylvester Stallone released two. Not wanting to be left out, Schwartzenegger made sure Sully got the boot (for good measure, Yankee fans, he also gruesomely killed Vernon Wells). Two men entered, one man left. Runaway Train is underrated and I think you all know where I stand with Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. If fighting the power is your thing, you can join Helen Slater or Timothy Hutton (who also had a pretty good year). Any attempt to encapsulate 1985 without The Journey of Natty Gann would be a total failure.
A note on 1985 Chuck Norris:
Hooray for horror!
Dario Argento brought his A Game to Phenomena. Day of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead are both cult favorites, while Fright Night and Once Bitten are campy crap but fun. Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddyâ€™s Revenge is the second and last good entry in that series. I can see a sentimental nod going to Sam Raimiâ€™s Crimewave, but the rest of the genre was unimpressive in 1985. Even Micheal Moriarty couldnâ€™t make this one watchable. (Ghoulies, thoughâ€¦ watch Ghoulies in Colorado or Washington State.)
Iâ€™ve got some soft-spot entries in the mystery section. Young Sherlock Holmes is one of Barry Levinsonâ€™s best. Clue is a movie that will always stop my channel-surfing and ensure that Iâ€™m not doing anything else for two hours. Fletch: weâ€™ll get back to you later. 1985 was a pretty strong year for thrillers, as a whole. Friedkin nailed it with To Live and Die in L.A. Frankenheimer had a late-career direct hit with Michael Caine in The Holcraft Covenant and so did John Huston with Prizziâ€™s Honor. After Hours is one of the first Scorsese films that I completely love. Even The Mean Season, Agnes of God and The Jagged Edge are strong entries.
You make me laugh:
Okay, letâ€™s talk about Chevy Chase. He was in mid-career form, here. European Vacation is roundly and justifiably mocked internet-wide. But this year also produced both Fletch and Spies Like Us. Iâ€™ve mentioned both Goonies and The Breakfast Club, the last two honest and perfect big Hollywood movies about kids (there have been honest movies since then, but theyâ€™re flawed). Iâ€™ve also listed Brewsterâ€™s Millions, Clue and Better Off Dead; then thereâ€™s The Man with One Red Shoe, Real Genius, Summer Rental, Desperately Seeking Susan, The Sure Thing, Volunteers (1985 was the height of goofy-version Tom Hanks, too) and The Coca-Cola Kid.
Other than Silverado, which weâ€™ve covered, thereâ€™s not much here. We could talk about Rustlerâ€™s Rhapsody which is unwatchable, but attention must be paid to Pale Rider. Clint was a terrific film-maker just coming into his voice, here, and Carrie Snodgress is terrific. Michael Moriarty had a busy year. I miss that guy.
Sturm und Drang:
Oh, the drama. So much of it. Dripping with pathos and hidden secrets, painful admissions and skeletons in pantries. We had Out of Africa for the old folks. We had The Color Purple for others who prefer their books on screen. Ran for those who love to read their movies (except the Japanese, of course; they could probably ignore the subtitles on this one). Witness taught us how to build barns. Mask taught us how a mustache should be worn. Sweet Dreams shows anyone who hasnâ€™t been paying attention just how good Jessica Lange and Ed Harris are. Iâ€™ll get into just how good Raul Julia was when I do my Career Day entry on him later this month, but let me just say that Kiss of the Spider Woman is a must-watch for every person who breathes. Desert Hearts and The Trip to Bountiful are great little 20th-Century period pieces. A quick glance at the subset one might call â€œBritish Dramaâ€ would produce My Beautiful Laundrette, The Shooting Party, Plenty, Dance with a Stranger, The Good Father (I love that movie and canâ€™t find it anywhere) and Wetherby. All great movies, if you can locate them.
For the reader in all of us:
Iâ€™ve mentioned Ran and the Japanese film industry also produced the great Tampopo in 1985, but letâ€™s talk about the other great non-English-language movies of the year. Colonel Rendl is one of my favorite movies of all time. It stars Armin Mueller-Stahl and the terrific Klaus Maria Brandauer (he had a pretty good year) and is one of the best fall-of-the-Austro-Hungarian-Empire movies youâ€™re ever likely to see. For the Francophiles out there weâ€™ve got Police, with great performances from Gerard Depardieu and Sophie Marceau; Jon-Luc Godardâ€™s Hail Mary was in 1985; also Rendez-vous because Juliette Binoche, thatâ€™s why. Vagabond, directed by Agnes Varda is a simple and painful movie; wonderful. In other languages, thereâ€™s When My Father Was Away on Business and My Sweet Little Village. Before researching this column, Iâ€™d had no idea how many of my favorite foreign films were released in this year (maybe because they didnâ€™t make it here until the 90s and I didnâ€™t see many of them until even more recently).
Some of the films Iâ€™ve listed above probably qualify as B-Movies, from Clue and Teen Wolf to Silverado and certainly Crimewave or Re-Animator. But these are also pretty clearly influential works that have stood the twin tests of time and homage. Iâ€™m more talking about movies that the studios didnâ€™t spend any money on (neither did audiences) and theyâ€™ve fallen through the cracks despite being pretty good flicks. Turk 182 qualifies under those parameters, as does Gotcha (Linda Effbomminâ€™ Fiorentino). The New Kids is the best street-gang amusement park thriller youâ€™ll ever see that stars James Spader and Lori Loughlin. White Nights and Just One of the Guys would be slotted in this category, as would St Elmoâ€™s Fire and A View to a Kill (yes, James Bond was relegated to B-Movie status from the early 80s to the mid-90s).
Itâ€™s possible (likely, even) that in the very long time since 1985 (no playoff appearances for the Royals, two playoff wins for the Chiefs) there have been a number of tiny eras that produced more great movies than this one year. In my totally-unscientific research, however, Iâ€™ve not found one. I recommend every movie Iâ€™ve listed (though some come with caveats of context and some should only be watched in specific moodsâ€”or in Colorado/Washington State), and I wouldnâ€™t hesitate to rewatch any, myself. Many are available on Netflix Instant, most are in print on DVD or Blu-ray and all are worth your time. Get to it. Oh, yeah, and go Royals.
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