Rain Man

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Are there real-life “Rain Men” who actually walk among us? And just what is a Rain Man, anyway? If we can agree it is a generally hopeless person, who is still able to do one thing, and only one, superlatively well, then, yes, it can be said that there are real Rain Men. Let’s take a quick look at just, who, back in the 80s, might have served as inspiration for the now world-famous movie character that Barry Levinson created.

Greg Ginn–Plays guitar well. Has problems with “everything else.”

H. Ross Perot–Good at making money, not so good at making sense

Michael Richards–“Kramer” is apparently so golshdarn funny they paint oil portraits of him. It’s a shame the person who portrayed him is so maladroit in nearly every other phase of his existence, up to and including stand-up comedy.

Joe Piscopo–His Sinatra imitation was impeccable. When he’s not doing that, he’s about as charming as the guy slipping roofies to your sister on her L.A. vacation.

Oliver North–Had a sharp eye for picking attractive secretaries. Not entirely certain what other purpose he served.

J. Mascis–Plays guitar well. Has problems with “everything else.”

When original casting choice David Byrne dropped out of the project after only one week (citing “religious differences” with co-star Tom Cruise) Dustin Hoffman stepped in. And he ran with it–all the way to the Oscars, where, unable to break character, he dropped the statuette on his big toe and fell into the large Japanese Temple-shaped cake that had been baked to commemorate Akira Kurosawa’s Lifetime Achievement award. All whilst cawing “Don’t burn the baby!!!!” like a deranged mynah bird.

Of course not–what kind of person would scald an innocent baby??

Stupid, stupid Rain Man.

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Motorola DynaTAC 8000x Cell Phone

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The Brick. You would have had to have bricks in your head not to desire one of these in the latter part of the decade. With one of these in your grip, you could do anything. There was a kid I knew in college who had been bestowed with one by his rich parents and he got laid every night by a different girl. Because of the phone. He’d set it on his desk in class and when it would ring the teacher wouldn’t even yell at him but patiently put the lecture on hold until he was done. (Most of the calls were related to making plans for getting laid.) Restaurateurs would give him a window seat and a free meal, just so potential customers could see that his place of business attracted the most well-heeled clientele in town. Policeman stuffed already-written drunk and disorderly citations into their back pockets, choosing instead to drive this kid home in their squad car with just a verbal warning–all for the trade-off of allowing the officers to call their wives with the phone and ask “Guess where I’m calling you from?”

The age of mobile communication had arrived. It would evolve slowly at first, then ferociously snowball into the 24/7 “wired in” society we live in today. Some would say this clumsy device was the first step towards things “all going wrong.” I mean, sure we can email our boss that all important PowerPoint presentation from the top of a mountain we’ve just climbed and yes, girls and guys can both send racy pictures of their body parts to close friends to help break up said friend’s otherwise moribund day. But it’s not all good. No, not at all. I’ve seen raw footage of kids as young as five years of age literally tear a family Christmas tree apart when they realize they haven’t received the iPhone they had asked for. I’ve sat next to mental midgets watching UFC fights in a wooden pew during Midnight Mass. I’ve watched helplessly as a person was mowed down by a car while they were texting while crossing the street. And, oh my God and all His angels, have you ever heard about what a fella can get up to using an app they call Grindr???

Watching Gordon Gekko wielding his DynaTAC 8000x as a blunt instrument to break apart some regional airline company seems almost quaint now…

Satisfaction

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This is a tough one to write. I mean, Mallory Keaton (born in 1966 as “Justine Bateman”) obviously means the world to me and after her TV series ended, well, she had to do something, didn’t she? Apparently, she scrawled her John Hancock on the first script to come across her kitchen table, and in hindsight, it wasn’t the best choice she could have made. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but Mallory’s first post-Family Ties footstep sent her in the completely wrong direction and her subsequent career ended up being a voyage of about six or seven meters, a fair measure short of a thousand miles.

Okay, it may have been that she was bound and determined to shed her vaguely prep, barely sentient (but still so very, very hot) Midwestern good girl image, but for her to attempt to portray a rebellious rock n’ roll singer right out of the blocks was just too much and too sudden of a jump. Did we see Shelly Long hamming it up as Nancy Spungen in Sid and Nancy or Erin Moran breaking out the electrical tape to play Wendy O. Williams in The Story of the Plasmatics? No, we did not. I remember I happened to stumble upon this movie while it was playing in the background at some party during the scene where Mallory’s character is trying to stir things up by shouting out some anti-authority slogans during a high school graduation ceremony and instantly bursting into tears at how wrong it all was. It got even worse when she ends up being the lead singer in a “rock band” since neither she nor the people writing and filming the movie have the faintest idea of what a rock band, or even rock music, is. It’s all as genuine as margarine and just as sickening, I’m afraid, reaching a low point when Mallory starts banging on a cowbell with all the earnest ridiculousness of some bell-bottomed member of Foghat.

The entire project isn’t helped by having Julia Roberts slinking around its edges–playing bass guitar in mom jeans, of all things. I have never for a single second found this woman sexy, lovable, charismatic, or even a halfway decent actress. America’s Sweetheart?? You have got to be joking. I mean at least she’s tall, but I’ll take Sigourney Weaver or even Wendie Malick the next time I want to look up at a famous actress as we leave a fine restaurant hand in hand after enjoying a delicious meal I haven’t paid for. In fact, I blame HER for forever sullying Mallory’s good name. Sometimes, it’s okay to be irrational.