Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Drunk on Foolish Pleasures: 1985

1985 was a special year. How special? Read on, my friends, read on.

1985 was special. 1985 was the year I graduated from college. 1985 was the year I began teaching high school. I also saw 125 movies in a theater that year. How could I possibly remember this detail almost 30 years later? That was the year, gentle reader, that I started to keep The List.

Originally, The List was handwritten in a spiral notebook. I kept track of every movie I saw by writing down the date, the title, the theater, and a star rating based on a five-star system. I no longer have that battered notebook; I transcribed The List to a word-processing document long ago. I didn’t bother to include the star ratings; I wish I had. God, I wish I still had that notebook. It has been through a few format updates, but I do still have The List. It’s now 43 pages long. OCD can be a beautiful thing.

After reading Adam Riske’s column yesterday and consulting The List, I can safely tell Adam (and you, gentle reader) that I originally saw Witness on February 8th at the Coed Theater, Desperately Seeking Susan on March 29th at Stratford Square, Purple Rose of Cairo on April 2nd at the Old Orchard Theater, Vision Quest on April 9th at the Urbana Cinema, Cat’s Eye on April 13th at County Fair, Rambo on June 13th at Town & Country, Silverado on August 3rd at the Woodfield 2, Real Genius on August 15th at the Century Theater, After Hours on November 8th at the Coed, and The Color Purple on December 20th at the Woodfield 3.

I have never seen The Black Cauldron. (Sigh.) I’m just one man!
TANGENT: I’m glad Adam’s trip through 1985 included Real Genius. I once saw Real Genius at the School of the Art Institute on a double bill with Valley Girl. Director Martha Coolidge was there and hosted a lively Q & A session between the two films. After the screening, we had a chance to speak briefly. I said that, as a high-school teacher, I really appreciated Real Genius and how it was so much better and more intelligent than most other films of its ilk. Then I recited for her my favorite line in the film: “It’s good to be smart, Mitch. People depend on you.” Coolidge said that she had heard similar sentiments from a lot of teachers.

Looking at The List does more than just tell me what movies I saw in 1985.  In a way, it tells me who I was in 1985.  For instance, the first half of the year includes a bunch of “University Screenings”; that was my final semester at University of Illinois in Champaign. Many of the films I saw were either the type of influential “curriculum” films screened in a film studies class (Our Daily Bread, Triumph of the Will) or the kind of arty, underground films (Eraserhead, An Experiment in Television) shown by various campus groups in lecture halls and church basements all around town, sometimes for only a buck a ticket. A buck! Later in the year, the “Classroom Screening” entries on The List serve as a record of what I showed my first film studies class as a brand-new teacher.

1985 was the year my girlfriend stayed in Champaign to take summer classes and, thanks to The List, I can tell which weekends I drove down to visit. I can check how many weekends I made that long, boring drive – and I notice that I took her to see at least one movie every weekend I visited. No wonder she married me!

How do I know that Saturday, September 21 was a Saturday? The List. I returned to Champaign that weekend for a friend’s wedding, and the little lady and I blew off the church ceremony in order to see Godzilla 1985. Arriving late to the reception, I remember mumbling something about “car trouble.” Turns out we made the right decision; that couple later divorced. We’re still married.

What happens to certain films? Some of them seem to fall off the face of the Earth.  Looking over The List, I wonder what ever happened to Mrs. Soffel, The Mean Season, The River, Into The Night, A Soldier’s Story, Gotcha!, Summer Rental, American Flyers, Volunteers, Twice in a Lifetime, Compromising Positions, Creator, or Rustler’s Rhapsody (one of the worst films I have ever seen – some movies DESERVE to be forgotten.)
But there are other 1985 films on The List that are seldom screened or discussed anymore, but should be. Comfort and Joy (a Bill Forsythe film about a depressed radio deejay brokering a peace between two warring ice cream franchises), The Falcon and the Snowman, Choose Me, One From The Heart, The Quiet Earth, Birdy, Streetwise, Year of the Dragon, and White Nights are all wonderful films that deserve more repertory screenings.
I can also sing a sad, sad song for many of these theaters, which no longer exist.
Of the theaters in suburban Chicago, the Woodfield 1 & 2 is now a Discount Shoe Warehouse. Woodfield 3 & 4 is now a strip mall. The Woodfield 5, 6, 7, & 8 is now an Improv Comedy Club. The Century Theater, after a brief stint as a Harlem Furniture Outlet Store, is now a Super Chinese Hibachi Buffet. The Mount Prospect is now a banquet hall. The Golf Mill, Old Orchard, Town and Country, and 53 Drive-In were all demolished. In Champaign, the Coed Theaters were razed to make way for a luxury student apartment building; the Orpheum is now a children’s museum; Market Place and County Fair, two mall multiplexes, were demolished; the Urbana Cinema is now a coffee shop; and the Thunderbird is now a bar. Only the beautiful Virginia, now owned by the Champaign Park District, is still showing movies. It is the site of the annual Ebertfest film festival.
My God, The List could make a weaker man cry. Not me, though – I’ve had a great time reliving 1985 through the movies that shaped my year. And 1985, we ain’t done with you yet. Please join us this Saturday for F This Movie Fest III. We will be enjoying Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (which I first saw on August 4th at the Century Theater), Commando (November 4th at the Woodfield 2), Explorers (July 13th at the Century), The Goonies (June 30th at Golf Mill), and Back to the Future (July 25th at the Coed Theater). This just might be the perfect time to start Your List!

Oh – and for the insatiably curious, here’s my entire 1985:

January    02    1985    Johnny Dangerously            Woodfield Theaters3
January    04    1985    Stranger Than Paradise        Fine Arts
January    05    1985    Once Upon A Time in America    Biograph
January    07    1985    The Flamingo Kid            Stratford Square
January    11    1985    The River                Woodfield Theaters2
January    12    1985    A Passage to India            Woodfield Theaters1
January    19    1985    Comfort and Joy            Orpheum
January    22    1985    Blonde Venus                University Screening
January    25    1985    The Falcon & The Snowman        Code Theaters
January    25    1985    Eraserhead                University Screening
January    26    1985    That’s Dancing!            County Fair
January    27    1985    The Birds                University Screening
February    01    1985    Stop Making Sense            Thunderbird
February    02    1985    Choose Me                Orpheum
February    03    1985    The Killing Fields            Market Place
February    03    1985    One From The Heart            University Screening
February    05    1985    Our Daily Bread            University Screening
February    06    1985    Scarface (1933)            University Screening
February    08    1985    Witness                Coed Theaters
February    09    1985    Mrs. Soffel                Orpheum
February    12    1985    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington    University Screening
February    13    1985    The Rules of the Game        University Screening
February    17    1985    The Breakfast Club            County Fair
February    19    1985    Sullivan’s Travels            University Screening
February    20    1985    You Only Live Once            University Screening
February    20    1985    The Mean Season            Coed Theaters
February    22    1985    Places in the Heart            Urbana Cinema
February    25    1985    On The Town                University Screening
February    26    1985    Triumph of the Will            University Screening
March        03    1985    The Sure Thing            Coed Theaters
March        05    1985    Shane                    University Screening
March        06    1985    Rebel Without A Cause        University Screening
March        09    1985    Into the Night                Coed Theaters
March        12    1985    The Naked City            University Screening
March        13    1985    Pierrot le Fou               University Screening
March        13    1985    A Soldier’s Story            County Fair
March        14    1985    An Experiment in Television        University Screening
March        16    1985    Brother from Another Planet        Coed Theaters
March        19    1985    Touch of Evil                University Screening
March        20    1985    Distant Thunder            University Screening
March        21    1985    (illegible)                Coed Theaters
March        22    1985    Mask                    Coed Theaters
March        26    1985    Stardust Memories            University Screening
March        27    1985    Bonnie & Clyde            University Screening
March        29    1985    Desperately Seeking Susan        Stratford Square
April        02    1985    The Purple Rose of Cairo        Old Orchard
April        05    1985    Lost in America            Woodfield Theaters2
April        06    1985    Ladyhawke  (sneak)            Woodfield Theaters2
April        09    1985    Vision Quest                Urbana Cinema
April        13    1985    Cat’s Eye                County Fair
April        16    1985    Written on the Wind            University Screening
April        21    1985    Return of the Secaucus Seven        University Screening
April        24    1985    Gotcha!  (sneak)            Coed Theaters
May        08    1985    Young Mr. Lincoln            University Screening
May        08    1985    Code of Silence            Coed Theaters
May        09    1985    A Clockwork Orange            Classroom Screening
May        10    1985    Rustler’s Rhapsody            Mount Prospect
May        11    1985    The Quiet Earth            Woodfield Theaters5
May        12    1985    Martin                    University Screening
June        06    1985    Birdy                    Orpheum
June        08    1985    Brewster’s Millions  (sneak)        Woodfield Theaters3
June        10    1985    Fletch                    Town & Country
June        13    1985    Rambo: First Blood Part II        Town & Country
June        15    1985    Cocoon                    Woodfield Theaters2
June        18    1985    Lifeforce                Woodfield Theaters6
June        19    1985    Prizzi’s Honor                Town & Country
June        21    1985    Perfect                    Golf Glenn
June        28    1985    Blood Simple                Woodfield Theaters3
June        30    1985    The Goonies                Golf Mill
July        01    1985    A View To A Kill            Woodfield Theaters1
July        03    1985    St. Elmo’s Fire            Coed Theaters
July        04    1985    (illegible)                Market Place
July        11    1985    Streetwise                Biograph
July         13    1985    Explorers                Century Theaters
July        18    1985    Summer Rental            Woodfield Theaters2
July        25    1985    Back to the Future            Coed Theaters
August    03    1985    Silverado                Woodfield Theaters2
August    04    1985    Pee Wee’s Big Adventure        Century Theaters
August    10    1985    Compromising Positions        Woodfield Theaters3
August    12    1985    Return of the Living Dead        53 Drive-In
August    12    1985    Fright Night                53 Drive-In
August    15    1985    Real Genius                Century Theaters
August    16    1985    Pale Rider                Century Theaters
September    07    1985    Year of the Dragon            County Fair
September    08    1985    Volunteers                Orpheum
September    10    1985    Cops                    Classroom Screening
September    12    1985    Agnes of God                Old Orchard
September    17    1985    The Birth of a Nation            Classroom Screening
September    19    1985    Invasion USA                Town & Country
September    20    1985    National Lampoon's European Vacation            Coed Theaters
September    21    1985    Godzilla 1985                Virginia Theatre
September    22    1985    (illegible)                Coed Theaters
September    25    1985    Insignificance                Fine Arts
September    28    1985    Creator                Woodfield Theaters3
September    29    1985    The Battleship Potemkin        Classroom Screening
September    30    1985    American Flyers            Woodfield Theaters2
October    01    1985    Day of the Dead            Woodfield Theaters5
October    06    1985    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari        Classroom Screening
October    08    1985    Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome    County Fair
October    09    1985    The Gods Must Be Crazy        Orpheum
October    13    1985    Frankenstein                Classroom Screening
October    14    1985    Death Wish 3                Town & Country
October    20    1985    Invasion of the Body Snatchers    Classroom Screening
October    27    1985    Psycho                    Classroom Screening
November    04    1985    Night of the Living Dead        Classroom Screening
November    04    1985    Commando                Woodfield Theaters2
November    08    1985    After Hours                Coed Theaters
November    09    1985    Kiss of the Spider Woman        Orpheum
November    11    1985    Halloween                Classroom Screening
November    22    1985    Jagged Edge                Woodfield Theaters5
November    25    1985    White Heat                Classroom Screening
November    28    1985    White Nights                Esquire
November    31    1985    The Godfather                Classroom Screening
December    06    1985    Spies Like Us                Market Place
December    07    1985    Young Sherlock Holmes        Virginia
December    09    1985    42nd Street                Classroom Screening
December    11    1985    Rocky IV                GM
December    12    1985    Singing in the Rain            Classroom Screening
December    14    1985    A Hard Day’s Night            Classroom Screening
December    15    1985    Clue                    Town & Country
December    17    1985    Hair                    Classroom Screening
December    20    1985    The Color Purple            Woodfield Theaters3
December    23    1985    A Chorus Line                Woodfield Theaters7
December    27    1985    Twice in a Lifetime            Woodfield Theaters8
December    30    1985    Ran                    Biograph

1 comment:

  1. I wish I kept a list myself. Do you remember that mural they put up above the concession stand at the Town and Country theaters? I loved that!