Can’t Stop The Music

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“This is the 80s,” says Valerie Perrine to someone over the phone. “Things are different now.” Right she was and one of the very first things that the new decade did to prove its independence was to toss that glittery emblem of the cocaine and free love 70s—DISCO—right on the trash heap. And this movie was one of the first casualties, grossing an anemic 3 million dollars at the box office only 36 months after Saturday Night Fever raked in $240 million. You gotta strike while the iron’s hot.

Still, 30+ years later this movie is a cult favorite. What can you say about a flick whose most accomplished actor is Bruce Jenner? Hell, his cut-off jeans shorts alone deserve a place in the Smithsonian. He exudes a genuine decency and likability throughout, and although the “love scene” between him and Perrine seems to be documenting the naive fumbling and nervous joking of two 14 year olds rather than the unleashed passions of full-grown adults, it fits in with the upbeat, child-like sweetness of the movie as a whole. Steve Guttenberg, on the other hand, only manages to shoot off beams of anti-charisma like some Studio 54 laser show run amok.

The Village People themselves seem like pretty cool guys, though, and although none of them really get to do much that is blatantly gay beyond prancing around in outrageous costumes, there’s no denying that Glenn Hughes’s Leatherman makes a great role model.

The script is one of the worst ever written, full of frivolous exchanges that push the narrative forward in ways most scriptwriters would never have the guts to think of. Some examples:

Jack: I don’t have anything to write my lyrics on, we ran out of paper.
Samantha: Use a paper napkin
Jack: Oh, right, good idea.

Samantha: Felipe, could you bring the rainbow wheel out back for me?
Felipe: Sure!

Felipe: Ok see you later, I gotta go shower and get ready to go to the club.
Jack: Ok, I’ll see you there.

In its defense, the movie does drag itself out of its morass of general incompetence for 4 brilliant musical minutes when the band perform their hit “YMCA” inside that very building itself. C’mon, name me one other PG-rated movie where you can see a bunch of soaped-up ding-dongs and Valerie Perrine’s cross-eyed floppies in rapid succession? Groundbreaking!

Oxford Blues

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It sounds crazy, but I’m convinced that way back in 1986, when Andre Agassi was just a skinny kid boarding at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, he and a couple of his fellow racket brats saw this movie somewhere like the DeSoto Square Mall in Bradenton one night, and just like that, the rebel “ANDRE AGASSI” was born.

In Oxford Blues, a cocky kid from Las Vegas with outrageous hair and a love of acid-washed denim falls through the looking glass and ends up at Oxford University in England. He doesn’t exactly fit in, and by refusing to give even an inch to his host country’s traditions and mores, he makes things extremely difficult for himself until he ends up being shunned and reviled by all. Then after a period of time, he realizes he was wrong, learns to embrace all those stuffy conventions he had once fought tooth and nail, eventually claiming victory in true underdog Yankee style.

I’m telling you, it’s the story of Andre Agassi and Wimbledon! Las Vegas native Andre saw this movie, immediately identified with Rob Lowe’s character Nick DeAngelo, and decided to be that character. Right from the start, he wielded a big Prince tennis racket of contention with the All-England Club—the dress code was “depersonalizing,” bowing towards the royal box “degrading,” forcing world-class athletes to subsist wholly on strawberries and cream for two weeks “downright dangerous.” He refused to even go there for a couple years, but he eventually (just like Nick!) came around, started behaving himself, and in 1992 won his first Grand Slam victory at the very Major he seemed least likely to.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Friday the 13th

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It’s pretty well established that the 80’s slasher flick phenomenon started in 1980 with a shabby little film called Friday the 13th. It was a summer camp movie, just like Meatballs was. But, you see, the counselors at Friday the 13th’s Camp Crystal Lake aren’t quite the innocent and playful nitwits that Bill Murray and his fellow Camp North Star counselors are. In fact, you could say they are downright rotten. They engage in unprotected sex, smoke “doobies” (home-made cigarettes packed full of the illegal drug marijuana) and swear like Marseille dockworkers. The whole lot of them are so absorbed in rabidly pursuing their own gratification that properly looking after their flock of campers becomes an afterthought. And because of this, a young boy drowns. Well, it’s a tragedy for sure, but, hey, what can you do? Accidents happen, right? And by the way, pass over that Thai stick, maaaaan.

It all would have ended then and there except for the old camp cook–mother to the drowned boy–who knows exactly what the counselors are like, and so takes action. Many deaths result. Friday the 13th is really a lesson of sorts for thoughtless, reprobate teens. If your job is to look after kids, tend to them, DON’T sequester yourself away playing strip Monopoly and shot-gunning cheap domestic beer. Because payback is a bitch, especially when it is rendered unto you by one mean bitch with a Dutch surname and unhindered access to archery equipment. Just ask Kevin Bacon.